Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Fred Thompson will run, advisers say - Print View

Fred Thompson will run, advisers say - Print View
Fred Dalton Thompson is planning to enter the presidential race over the Fourth of July holiday, announcing that week that he has already raised several million dollars and is being backed by insiders from the past three Republican administrations, Thompson advisers told The Politico. - Arabic translations and terrorism analysis - Arabic translations and terrorism analysis
There are a couple of typos here, but all in all it's at least a full transcript of what that Gadahn loser has been spewing:

Legitmate demands

A message from the mujahid brother Adam Yehiye Gadahn (Azzam)

This is not a call for negotiations. We don’t negotiate with baby killers and war criminals like you. No, these are legitimate demands which must be met

All praise is due to Allah creator of the heavens and the earth and prayers and peace be upon the messenger of Allah, and his companions, family, and followers until the day of judgement.

Bush. You thought you would be remembered by history as the President who waged a series of successful Crusades against the Muslims. Instead, you will go down in history not only as the president who embroiled his nation in a series of unwinnable and bloody conflicts in the Islamic world but as the President who sent the United States off on its death march towards breakdown and disintegration.

Oh, I’m sure there will be some partisans who believed your lies and some fanatics who shared your murderous Crusader ideology who will remember you fondly and mourn for you when this world is at long last rid of you, just as there were those who heaped praise on your fellow bloodthirsty nation destroying crusaders Milosovich and Yeltsin when they passed on to Allah’s anger but such minority sentiments can do nothing to cover up the ugliness of your crimes, the truth about your Empire of Evil, and the colossal failure of your Global Crusade.

You may or may not be aware of it but today, nearly four years after you hastily declared victory in Iraq, and more than five and a half years after you fell into the Afghanistan trap, things aren’t going too well for your Crusader Coalition. In fact, things are going really bad.

From Kanduz to Diyala, you and your mercenary hirelings and loyal but stupid allies are easy prey for our martyrdom-seekers. In East Africa, where many of the wars opening battles were fought years ago, the blood of your Ethiopian proxies is making the sand run red from Mogadishu to Ogadeen, and from the Levant, Egypt, and the Sudan to the Islamic Magrhib and Nigeria new fronts are being opened and old fronts are being reinvigorated and you and your are feeling the heat.

And, as confirmed by a new poll of Muslims in four major regional countries conducted by the Center for International Security Studies at the University of Maryland, Muslims continue to support and defend the goals, efforts, and sacrifices of their brothers and sisters, the Mujahideen and continue to demonstrate broad awareness of the evil nature of America and the threat posed by it.

This despite your worst efforts to distort out image in the eyes of Muslims and camoflauge your true intentions

In other words, you’re losing on all fronts and losing big time.

Bush, the die has been cast and the blood has been spilled and there is no way to undo what you have done.

There are, however, some steps you can take to curtail your losses and prevent the number of American casualties at home and abroad from rising even higher.

The Champions of Islam, defending their faith and brethren against your evil doing have repeatedly made clear these steps but because I know you live in a cocoon of your own making, and prefer to remain ignorant of what goes on in the world, I shall summarize them here. I strongly suggest you heed and implement them for your own good and the good of your people.

One, pull every last one of soldiers, spies, security advisors, trainers, attaches, and so on out of every Muslim land from Afghanistan to Zanzibar. Should so much as one single American soldier or spy remain on Islamic soil, it shall be considered sufficient justification for us to continue our defensive jihad against your nation and people.

Two, stop all support and aid - military, political, economic, or otherwise – to the fifty-six plus apostate regimes of the Muslim world and abandon them to their well-deserved fate at the hands of the soldiers of Islam. Should you fail to comply in full we will deem it sufficient justification to continue to fight and kill Americans.

Three, end all support, moral, military, economic, political, or otherwise to the bastard state of Israel and ban your citizens, Zionist Jews, Zionist Christians, and the rest from traveling to the occupied Palestine or settling there. Even one penny of aid will be considered sufficient justification to continue the fight .

Four, cease all interference in the religion, society, politics, and governments of the Muslim world and leave us alone to establish the Islamic Shura State which will unite the Muslims of earth in truth and justice. A single word of American protest shall be silenced by a thousand Islamic bombs.

Five, put an end to all forms of interference in the educational curricula and information media in the Islamic world and impose a blanket ban on all broadcasts to our region, especially those designed to alter or destroy the faith, minds, morals, and values of our people.

And six, free all Muslim captives from your prisons, detention facilities, and concentration camps regardless of whether they have been recipients of what you call a fair trial or not. Your refusal to release them will mean the continuation of our just struggle against your tyranny until the last kidnapped Muslim has been liberated.

This is not a call for negotiations. We don’t negotiate with baby killers and war criminals like you. No, these are legitimate demands which must be met. And your failure to heed our demands and the demands of reason means that you and your people will - Allah willing- experience things which will make you forget all about the horrors of September 11th, Afghanistan, Iraq, and Virginia Tech.

And let us be clear. A pull-out from Iraq alone in the absence of compliance with the remainder of our legitimate demands will get you nowhere and will not save you from our strikes.

SO stop wasting your time, and trying to save face with these futile, farsical maneuvers on Capitol Hill and start making some serious moves.

It’s your choice, Bush, cutting your losses and saving some face by getting out now with what you’ve still got, or continuing to coun t your dead and pursue a bloody fight to the very end. Your end, not ours.

By the grace of Allah, and with his help and power, we’ve struck back hard these past several years and with Allah’s permission we shall continue to strike back hard.

This year, next year, the year after that, and so on, until the last Crusader goes home whether waving a white flag or lying in a flag covered casket.

And our final prayer is that all Praise is due to Allah, who gives victory to the believers.

Monday, May 28, 2007

God by the Numbers: Coincidence and random mutation

God by the Numbers: Coincidence and random mutation
The kind of stuff I could eat up with a spoon.

Just because I don't fully understand it, doesn't mean it's not delicious.

= )

God by the Numbers
Coincidence and random mutation are not the most likely explanations for some things.
by Charles Edward White

Math and theology have had a long and checkered relationship. The Babylonians and Mayans both associated numbers with God. In fact, both societies named their gods with numbers. The Mayans used 13 and the Babylonians used 60. In the Greek world, followers of Pythagoras prayed to the first 4 numbers and thought they were the creator. On the other hand, in the 18th century, the French mathematician Laplace told Napoleon he had no need of God even as a hypothesis, and in 1744, John Wesley confessed: "I am convinced, from many experiments, I could not study either mathematics, arithmetic, or algebra … without being a deist, if not an atheist."

No one knows what Wesley saw in 18th-century mathematics that he feared would lead him away from the God of the Bible, but today, many Christian mathematicians think that numbers point to God. Three numbers in particular suggest evidence for God's existence. They are 1/1010123, 10162, and eπi.

Fine-tuning the universe
The first recent number that points to God is 1 in 10 to the 10 to the 123. This number comes from astronomy. Oxford professor Roger Penrose discusses it in his book The Large, the Small, and the Human Mind. It derives from a formula by Jacob Beckenstein and Stephen Hawking and describes the chances of our universe being created at random. Penrose spoofs this view by picturing God throwing a dart at all the possible space-time continua and hitting the universe we inhabit. The Beckenstein-Hawking formula is too complicated to discuss here, but another approach to the same problem involves the fine-tuning of the universe and the existence of habitable planets.

The fine-tuning of the universe is shown in the precise strengths of four basic forces. Gravity is the best known of these forces and is the weakest, with a relative strength of 1. Next comes the weak nuclear force that holds the neutron together. It is 1034 times stronger than gravity but works only at subatomic distances. Electromagnetism is 1,000 times stronger than the weak nuclear force, and the strong nuclear force, which keeps protons together in the nucleus of an atom, is 100 times stronger yet. If even one of these forces had a slightly different strength, the life-sustaining universe we know would be impossible.

If gravity were slightly stronger, all stars would be large, like the ones that produce iron and other heavier elements, but they would burn out too rapidly for the development of life. On the other hand, if gravity were weaker, the stars would endure, but none would produce the heavier elements necessary to form planets.

The weak nuclear force controls the decay of neutrons. If it were stronger, neutrons would decay more rapidly, and there would be nothing in the universe but hydrogen. However, if this force were weaker, all the hydrogen would turn into helium and other elements.

The electromagnetic force binds atoms to one another to form molecules. If it were either weaker or stronger, no chemical bonds would form, so no life could exist.

Finally, the strong nuclear force overcomes the electromagnetic force and allows the atomic nucleus to exist. Like the weak nuclear force, changing it would produce a universe with only hydrogen or with no hydrogen.

In sum, without planets, hydrogen, and chemical bonds, there would be no life as we know it.

Besides these 4 factors, there are at least 25 others that require pinpoint precision to produce a universe that contains life. Getting each of them exactly right suggests the presence of an Intelligent Designer.

The second component to be considered when calculating the likelihood of this life-supporting universe is the presence of habitable planets. In addition to the fine-tuning of the whole universe, there needs to be a carefully specified place where life can reside. Life as we know it can only exist within certain limits. There are at least 45 parameters, from the size of our galaxy to the mass of the moon, which permit the presence of life on a planet. A huge galaxy erupts with too many stars and thus disturbs planetary orbits, but a tiny galaxy does not produce enough heavy elements for a planet to form. At the other end of the spectrum, too large a moon destabilizes a planet's orbit, while having no moon or one that is too small permits a planet to wobble as it spins and disrupts the planet's climate.

From these 45 planetary characteristics alone, Hugh Ross, in his chapter in Mere Creation, calculates there is less than 1 chance in 1069 of habitable planets occurring at random.

The fine-tuning of the four physical forces and the presence of one habitable planet are just two of the components that would go into a formula to predict the probability of a life-supporting universe. The first one to try to calculate this number was Frank Drake in 1961, when he listed fewer than ten factors. Coming at the same problem from a different direction by calculating the entropy of black holes, Penrose says the number is 1 in 10 to the 10 to the 123. This number is beyond human comprehension. 10 to the 10 to the 3 would be written as 10 followed by 999 zeros.

To write 10 to the 10 to the 123 in one line would extend beyond the bounds of the universe. If Penrose is right in calculating the odds of a life-supporting universe at 1 in 10 to the 10 to the 123, then a strong case for a Creator emerges.

Not enough time
The second number that points to God comes from the field of biology. William Dembski, in The Creation Hypothesis, suggests the following argument.

Darwin thought that all life, including humans, arose from a one-celled organism. But to get from a one-celled organism to a human being with a least a trillion cells, there would have to be many changes. Darwin says these changes were produced at random, but they would have had to occur in the right order. It doesn't do any good to give an organism a leg until it has a nervous system to control it. Even if we limit the number of necessary mutations to 1,000 and argue that half of these mutations are beneficial, the odds against getting 1,000 beneficial mutations in the proper order is 21000. Expressed in decimal form, this number is about 10301.

10301 mutations is a number far beyond the capacity of the universe to generate. Even if every particle in the universe mutated at the fastest possible rate and had done so since the Big Bang, there still would not be enough mutations.

There are about 1080 elementary particles in the universe. The fastest they could mutate would be Planck time, or 10-42 seconds. Planck time is the smallest unit of time and can be approximated as the time it would take two photons traveling at 186,000 miles per second to pass each other. If every particle in the universe (1080) had been mutating at the fastest possible rate (1042) since the Big Bang about 15 billion years ago, or 1017 seconds ago, it would produce 1080 x 1042 x 1017 or 10139 mutations. But to have a chance at even 1,000 beneficial mutations takes 10301 tries. Thus, the chance of getting 1,000 beneficial mutations out of all the mutations the universe can generate is 10139 divided by 10301, or 1 chance in 10162.

For Darwin's theory to have a chance of being right, the universe would have to be a trillion quadrillion quadrillion quadrillion quadrillion quadrillion quadrillion quadrillion quadrillion quadrillion quadrillion times older than it is. Because the universe is so young, Darwin's argument fails, and William Paley's contention that design presupposes a designer becomes more persuasive.

Connecting the constants
The final number comes from theoretical mathematics. It is Euler's (pronounced "Oiler's") number: eπi. This number is equal to -1, so when the formula is written eπi+1 = 0, it connects the five most important constants in mathematics (e, π, i, 0, and 1) along with three of the most important mathematical operations (addition, multiplication, and exponentiation).

These five constants symbolize the four major branches of classical mathematics: arithmetic, represented by 1 and 0; algebra, by i; geometry, by π; and analysis, by e, the base of the natural log. eπi+1 = 0 has been called "the most famous of all formulas," because, as one textbook says, "It appeals equally to the mystic, the scientist, the philosopher, and the mathematician."

The reason for this wide-ranging appeal is its utter serendipity. First, there is the ubiquitous number e, which pops up in the most unexpected places. It was first discovered in an attempt to make multiplication easier. In 1614, John Napier figured that adding exponents was easier than multiplying multi-digit numbers, so he (and others) calculated the logarithms of all integers from 1 to 100,000, expressing these numbers as powers of 10. Later mathematicians found it more convenient to express logarithms as powers of the natural log e, a number close to 2.71828.

This number also appears in banking, because it is the limit for growth of compound interest. Let's say one invested $1,000 in a very generous bank that paid an annual interest of 100%. If interest were compounded annually, at the end of the year, the money would have grown to $2,000. If, however, the bank compounded interest four times a year, the money would grow to $2,441.41. If the bank compounded interest continually, the deposit could grow to $2,718.28, which just happens to be the value of e times the original investment.

Finally, e turns up at the origin of calculus, where it is the function equal to its own derivative (if y = ex then dy/dx = ex), and it equals the limit of (1+ 1/n)n as n approaches infinity. e is irrational, so it can never be written exactly in decimal form, but it is a very useful and fascinating number in its own right.

When we combine e with π, we are introducing the oldest irrational number. Two thousand years before Christ, the Greeks knew that π was the ratio of the circumference of a circle to its diameter and that it could not be expressed as the ratio of any two integers. It is essential in geometry, but it also turns up in waves of air, water, electricity, and light, and it even helps actuaries calculate how many 50-year-old men will die this year.

The number i is a relative latecomer, proposed in the 1600s as an imaginary number and defined as the square root of -1. It was proposed to help solve equations like x2+ 1 = 0, but today it is useful in science and engineering. George Gamow, in his book One, Two, Three … Infinity, even uses i to locate buried treasure with an outdated map.

The idea that these two irrational numbers should combine with an imaginary one to yield so utilitarian a result is breathtaking. It is like deconstructing a chemical necessary for life (salt) and finding that it consists of two deadly poisons (sodium and chlorine). That these three strange numbers with such diverse origins should work together to produce a result so basic to mathematics argues that there is a profound elegance or beauty built into the system.

The discovery of this number gave mathematicians the same sense of delight and wonder that would come from the discovery that three broken pieces of pottery, each made in different countries, could be fitted together to make a perfect sphere. It seemed to argue that there was a plan where no plan should be.

Because of the serendipitous elegance of this formula, a mathematics professor at MIT, an atheist, once wrote this formula on the blackboard, saying, "There is no God, but if there were, this formula would be proof of his existence."

Today, numbers from astronomy, biology, and theoretical mathematics point to a rational mind behind the universe. To be sure, they do not point to the personal God of the Bible as such. Yet they are not inimical to the biblical God, either. The apostle John prepared the way for this conclusion when he used the word for logic, reason, and rationality—logos—to describe Christ at the beginning of his Gospel: "In the beginning was the logos, and the logos was with God, and the logos was God." When we think logically, which is the goal of mathematics, we are led to think of God.

Charles Edward White is professor of Christian thought and history at Spring Arbor University in Michigan.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Al Gore at the Marin Civic Center

Al Gore at the Marin Civic Center
More fun from Zombie.

(The link at the bottom of the page to the photoshop submissions is pretty great, too.)

Test unAustralian, say Muslims

Test unAustralian, say Muslims
THE controverisal citizenship test being introduced by the Federal Government has been branded "biased" and "unAustralian" by the nation's key Muslim body. Australian Federation of Islamic Councils today released a statement strongly questioning the proposed test, saying members "share the serious concerns" it has raised in "the wider Australian community". "While AFIC does not oppose regulated immigration, it believes that a test with biased questions targeting particular cultural or ethnic groups goes against the very values of democracy and a fair go that the government is trying to inculcate," said President Ikebal Adam Patel. He agreed that would-be migrants should demonstrate reasonable proficiency in the English language, familiarity about the history and population of this country, and knowledge about the Australian lifestyle. But he said he it is "unfair and un-Australian to expect them to study about Anglo-celtic and Judaeo-Christian values, especially when those migrants are coming from a different religious and cultural background."

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

'Explore as much as we can': Nobel Prize winner Charles Townes on evolution & intelligent design

'Explore as much as we can': Nobel Prize winner Charles Townes on evolution & intelligent design

Charles Townes is the Nobel Prize Physics winner whose pioneering work led to the maser and later the laser.

The University of California, Berkeley interviewed him on his 90th birthday where they talked about evolution, intelligent design and the meaning of life.

I thought this would be good to share...


BERKELEY – Religion and science, faith and empirical experiment: these terms would seem to have as little in common as a Baptist preacher and a Berkeley physicist. And yet, according to Charles Hard Townes, winner of a Nobel Prize in Physics and a UC Berkeley professor in the Graduate School, they are united by similar goals: science seeks to discern the laws and order of our universe; religion, to understand the universe's purpose and meaning, and how humankind fits into both.

Where these areas intersect is territory that Townes has been exploring for many of his 89 years, and in March his insights were honored with the 2005 Templeton Prize for Progress Toward Research or Discoveries about Spiritual Realities. Worth about $1.5 million, the Templeton Prize recognizes those who, throughout their lives, have sought to advance ideas and/or institutions that will deepen the world's understanding of God and of spiritual realities.

Townes first wrote about the parallels between religion and science in IBM's Think magazine in 1966, two years after he shared the Nobel Prize in Physics for his groundbreaking work in quantum electronics: in 1953, thanks in part to what Townes calls a "revelation" experienced on a park bench, he invented the maser (his acronym for Microwave Amplification by Stimulated Emission), which amplifies microwaves to produce an intense beam. By building on this work, he achieved similar amplification using visible light, resulting in the laser (whose name he also coined).

Even as his research interests have segued from microwave physics to astrophysics, Townes has continued to explore topics such as "Science, values, and beyond," in Synthesis of Science and Religion (1987), "On Science, and what it may suggest about us," in Theological Education (1988), and "Why are we here; where are we going?" in The International Community of Physics, Essays on Physics (1997).

Townes sat down one morning recently to discuss how these and other weighty questions have shaped his own life, and their role in current controversies over public education.

Q. If science and religion share a common purpose, why have their proponents tended to be at loggerheads throughout history?

Science and religion have had a long interaction: some of it has been good and some of it hasn't. As Western science grew, Newtonian mechanics had scientists thinking that everything is predictable, meaning there's no room for God — so-called determinism. Religious people didn't want to agree with that. Then Darwin came along, and they really didn't want to agree with what he was saying, because it seemed to negate the idea of a creator. So there was a real clash for a while between science and religions.

But science has been digging deeper and deeper, and as it has done so, particularly in the basic sciences like physics and astronomy, we have begun to understand more. We have found that the world is not deterministic: quantum mechanics has revolutionized physics by showing that things are not completely predictable. That doesn't mean that we've found just where God comes in, but we know now that things are not as predictable as we thought and that there are things we don't understand. For example, we don't know what some 95 percent of the matter in the universe is: we can't see it — it's neither atom nor molecule, apparently. We think we can prove it's there, we see its effect on gravity, but we don't know what and where it is, other than broadly scattered around the universe. And that's very strange.

So as science encounters mysteries, it is starting to recognize its limitations and become somewhat more open. There are still scientists who differ strongly with religion and vice versa. But I think people are being more open-minded about recognizing the limitations in our frame of understanding.

You've said "I believe there is no long-range question more important than the purpose and meaning of our lives and our universe." How have you attempted to answer that question?

Even as a youngster, you're usually taught that there's some purpose you'll try to do, how you are going to live. But that's a very localized thing, about what you want with your life. The broader question is, "What are humans all about in general, and what is this universe all about?" That comes as one tries to understand what is this beautiful world that we're in, that's so special: "Why has it come out this way? What is free will and why do we have it? What is a being? What is consciousness?" We can't even define consciousness. As one thinks about these broader problems, then one becomes more and more challenged by the question of what is the aim and purpose and meaning of this universe and of our lives.

Those aren't easy questions to answer, of course, but they're important and they're what religion is all about. I maintain that science is closely related to that, because science tries to understand how the universe is constructed and why it does what it does, including human life. If one understands the structure of the universe, maybe the purpose of man becomes a little clearer. I think maybe the best answer to that is that somehow, we humans were created somewhat in the likeness of God. We have free will. We have independence, we can do and create things, and that's amazing. And as we learn more and more — why, we become even more that way. What kind of a life will we build? That's what the universe is open about. The purpose of the universe, I think, is to see this develop and to allow humans the freedom to do the things that hopefully will work out well for them and for the rest of the world.

How do you categorize your religious beliefs?

I'm a Protestant Christian, I would say a very progressive one. This has different meanings for different people. But I'm quite open minded and willing to consider all kinds of new ideas and to look at new things. At the same time it has a very deep meaning for me: I feel the presence of God. I feel it in my own life as a spirit that is somehow with me all the time.

You've described your inspiration for the maser as a moment of revelation, more spiritual than what we think of as inspiration. Do you believe that God takes such an active interest in humankind?

[The maser] was a new idea, a sudden visualization I had of what might be done to produce electromagnetic waves, so it's somewhat parallel to what we normally call revelation in religion. Whether the inspiration for the maser and the laser was God's gift to me is something one can argue about. The real question should be, where do brand-new human ideas come from anyway? To what extent does God help us? I think he's been helping me all along. I think he helps all of us — that there's a direction in our universe and it has been determined and is being determined. How? We don't know these things. There are many questions in both science and religion and we have to make our best judgment. But I think spirituality has a continuous effect on me and on other people.

That sounds like you agree with the "intelligent design" movement, the latest framing of creationism, which argues that the complexity of the universe proves it must have been created by a guiding force.

I do believe in both a creation and a continuous effect on this universe and our lives, that God has a continuing influence — certainly his laws guide how the universe was built. But the Bible's description of creation occurring over a week's time is just an analogy, as I see it. The Jews couldn't know very much at that time about the lifetime of the universe or how old it was. They were visualizing it as best they could and I think they did remarkably well, but it's just an analogy.

Should intelligent design be taught alongside Darwinian evolution in schools as religious legislators have decided in Pennsylvania and Kansas?

I think it's very unfortunate that this kind of discussion has come up. People are misusing the term intelligent design to think that everything is frozen by that one act of creation and that there's no evolution, no changes. It's totally illogical in my view. Intelligent design, as one sees it from a scientific point of view, seems to be quite real. This is a very special universe: it's remarkable that it came out just this way. If the laws of physics weren't just the way they are, we couldn't be here at all. The sun couldn't be there, the laws of gravity and nuclear laws and magnetic theory, quantum mechanics, and so on have to be just the way they are for us to be here.

Some scientists argue that "well, there's an enormous number of universes and each one is a little different. This one just happened to turn out right." Well, that's a postulate, and it's a pretty fantastic postulate — it assumes there really are an enormous number of universes and that the laws could be different for each of them. The other possibility is that ours was planned, and that's why it has come out so specially. Now, that design could include evolution perfectly well. It's very clear that there is evolution, and it's important. Evolution is here, and intelligent design is here, and they're both consistent.

They don't have to negate each other, you're saying. God could have created the universe, set the parameters for the laws of physics and chemistry and biology, and set the evolutionary process in motion, But that's not what the Christian fundamentalists are arguing should be taught in Kansas.

People who want to exclude evolution on the basis of intelligent design, I guess they're saying, "Everything is made at once and then nothing can change." But there's no reason the universe can't allow for changes and plan for them, too. People who are anti-evolution are working very hard for some excuse to be against it. I think that whole argument is a stupid one. Maybe that's a bad word to use in public, but it's just a shame that the argument is coming up that way, because it's very misleading.

That seems to come up when religion seeks to control or limit the scope of science. We're seeing that with the regulation of research into stem cells and cloning. Should there be areas of scientific inquiry that are off-limits due to a culture's prevailing religious principles?

My answer to that is, we should explore as much as we can. We should think about everything, try to explore everything, and question things. That's part of our human characteristic in nature that has made us so great and able to achieve so much. Of course there are problems if we do scientific experiments on people that involve killing them — that's a scientific experiment sure, but ethically it has problems. There are ethical issues with certain kinds of scientific experimentation. But outside of the ethical issues, I think we should try very hard to understand everything we can and to question things.

I think it's settling those ethical issues that's the problem. Who decides what differentiates a "person" from a collection of cells, for example?

That's very difficult. What is a person? We don't know. Where is this thing, me — where am I really in this body? Up here in the top of the head somewhere? What is personality? What is consciousness? We don't know. The same thing is true once the body is dead: where is this person? Is it still there? Has it gone somewhere else? If you don't know what it is, it's hard to say what it's doing next. We have to be open-minded about that. The best we can do is try to find ways of answering those questions.

You'll turn 90 on July 28. What's the secret to long life?

Good luck is one, but also just having a good time. Some people say I work hard: I come in on Saturdays, and I work evenings both at my desk and in the lab. But I think I'm just having a good time doing physics and science. I have three telescopes down on Mt. Wilson; I was down there a couple nights last week. I've traveled a lot. On Sundays, my wife [of 64 years] and I usually go hiking. I'd say the secret has been being able to do things that I like, and keeping active.


'Faith is necessary for the scientist even to get started, and deep faith is necessary for him to carry out his tougher tasks. Why? Because he must have confidence that there is order in the universe and that the human mind — in fact his own mind — has a good chance of understanding this order.'

-Charles Townes, writing in "The Convergence of Science and Religion," IBM's Think magazine, March-April 1966

Monday, May 21, 2007

Edwards charges $55,000 to speak to UC Davis students about poverty

Edwards charges $55,000 to speak to UC Davis students about poverty
I just loved the headline.

Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards, who as a Democratic presidential candidate recently proposed an educational policy that urged "every financial barrier" be removed for American kids who want to go to college, has been going to college himself -- as a high paid speaker, his financial records show.

The candidate charged a whopping $55,000 to speak at to a crowd of 1,787 the taxpayer-funded University of California at Davis on Jan. 9, 2006 last year, Joe Martin, the public relations officer for the campus' Mondavi Center confirmed Monday.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Muslim outrage over Judeo-Christian values (Australia}

Muslim outrage over Judeo-Christian values (Australia}

MUSLIMS are outraged that prospective citizens will have to acknowledge the Judeo-Christian tradition as the basis of Australia's values system.

Australia's peak Muslim body said the proposed citizenship question - revealed in the Herald Sun - was disturbing and potentially divisive.

Australian Federation of Islamic Councils president Dr Ameer Ali said the "Abrahamic tradition" or "universal values" would be less divisive ways of describing the nation's moral base.

Dr Ali said use of the term Judeo-Christian was the result of "WWII guilt", and before 1945 Australia would have been called only Christian.

"That question must be rephrased," he said.

Dr Ali was backed by Democrats senator Lyn Allison, who said the answer to the question was highly debatable.

But Immigration Minister Kevin Andrews stood firm on the merit of the question.

Mr Andrews said Australia's Judeo-Christian heritage was indisputable historical fact.

"We are not asking people to subscribe to the Judeo-Christian ethic," he said.

"We are simply stating a fact that this is part of the heritage of Australia in terms of its foundation.

"This is not an exercise in political correctness. It is trying to state what has been the case and still is the case."

But Health Minister Tony Abbott confused the issue, saying the modern Australian values system was secular, or of no particular religion.

The Herald Sun yesterday revealed 20 key questions, developed in consultation with Mr Andrews, that are likely to be asked of would-be citizens.

Mr Andrews said the test, to begin by September, would help immigrants integrate into society better.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Five killed in India mosque explosion (Shocking)

Five killed in India mosque explosion (Shocking)

HYDERABAD, India (Reuters) - A bomb exploded during Friday prayers at a historic mosque in the southern Indian city of Hyderabad, killing at least five people, police said.

Another 35 people were injured at Mecca Masjid, the main mosque in Hyderabad, the capital of Andhra Pradesh state.

Police said the death toll could rise and two other bombs were defused in the area.

Hundreds of men and boys in white prayer caps rushed out of the mosque following the explosion, local television showed.

Men in blood-soaked long white shirts were seen rushing through the crowds and getting into an ambulance.

After the blast, angry crowds fought pitched battles with police around the mosque, pelting stones and shouting "Allah is great!" Police fired tear gas and opened fire in the air.


Thursday, May 17, 2007

A Two-Time Universe? Physicist Explores How Second Dimension of Time Could Unify Physics Laws

A Two-Time Universe? Physicist Explores How Second Dimension of Time Could Unify Physics Laws
This is just an excerpt.... but gosh I love this stuff.

For a long time, Itzhak Bars has been studying time. More than a decade ago, the USC College physicist began pondering the role time plays in the basic laws of physics — the equations describing matter, gravity and the other forces of nature.

Those laws are exquisitely accurate. Einstein mastered gravity with his theory of general relativity, and the equations of quantum theory capture every nuance of matter and other forces, from the attractive power of magnets to the subatomic glue that holds an atom’s nucleus together.

But the laws can’t be complete. Einstein’s theory of gravity and quantum theory don’t fit together. Some piece is missing in the picture puzzle of physical reality.

Bars thinks one of the missing pieces is a hidden dimension of time.

Bizarre is not a powerful enough word to describe this idea, but it is a powerful idea nevertheless. With two times, Bars believes, many of the mysteries of today’s laws of physics may disappear.

Of course, it’s not as simple as that. An extra dimension of time is not enough. You also need an additional dimension of space.

It sounds like a new episode of “The Twilight Zone,” but it’s a familiar idea to most physicists. In fact, extra dimensions of space have become a popular way of making gravity and quantum theory more compatible.

Extra space dimensions aren’t easy to imagine — in everyday life, nobody ever notices more than three. Any move you make can be described as the sum of movements in three directions — up-down, back and forth, or sideways. Similarly, any location can be described by three numbers (on Earth, latitude, longitude and altitude), corresponding to space’s three dimensions.

Other dimensions could exist, however, if they were curled up in little balls, too tiny to notice. If you moved through one of those dimensions, you’d get back to where you started so fast you’d never realize that you had moved.

“An extra dimension of space could really be there, it’s just so small that we don’t see it,” said Bars, a professor of physics and astronomy.

Something as tiny as a subatomic particle, though, might detect the presence of extra dimensions. In fact, Bars said, certain properties of matter’s basic particles, such as electric charge, may have something to do with how those particles interact with tiny invisible dimensions of space.

In this view, the Big Bang that started the baby universe growing 14 billion years ago blew up only three of space’s dimensions, leaving the rest tiny. Many theorists today believe that 6 or 7 such unseen dimensions await discovery.

Only a few, though, believe that more than one dimension of time exists. Bars pioneered efforts to discern how a second dimension of time could help physicists better explain nature.

“Itzhak Bars has a long history of finding new mathematical symmetries that might be useful in physics,” said Joe Polchinski, a physicist at the Kavli Institute for Theoretical Physics at UC Santa Barbara. “This two-time idea seems to have some interesting mathematical properties.”

If Bars is on the right track, some of the most basic processes in physics will need re-examination. Something as simple as how particles move, for example, could be viewed in a new way. In classical physics (before the days of quantum theory), a moving particle was completely described by its momentum (its mass times its velocity) and its position. But quantum physics says you can never know those two properties precisely at the same time.

Bars alters the laws describing motion even more, postulating that position and momentum are not distinguishable at a given instant of time. Technically, they can be related by a mathematical symmetry, meaning that swapping position for momentum leaves the underlying physics unchanged (just as a mirror switching left and right doesn’t change the appearance of a symmetrical face).

In ordinary physics, position and momentum differ because the equation for momentum involves velocity. Since velocity is distance divided by time, it requires the notion of a time dimension. If swapping the equations for position and momentum really doesn’t change anything, then position needs a time dimension too.

“If I make position and momentum indistinguishable from one another, then something is changing about the notion of time,” said Bars. “If I demand a symmetry like that, I must have an extra time dimension.”

Simply adding an extra dimension of time doesn’t solve everything, however. To produce equations that describe the world accurately, an additional dimension of space is needed as well, giving a total of four space dimensions. Then, the math with four space and two time dimensions reproduces the standard equations describing the basic particles and forces, a finding Bars described partially last year in the journal Physical Review D and has expanded upon in his more recent work.

Bars’ math suggests that the familiar world of four dimensions — three of space, one of time — is merely a shadow of a richer six-dimensional reality. In this view the ordinary world is like a two-dimensional wall displaying shadows of the objects in a three-dimensional room.

Jihadi Chic - “Bridge-Building Between the Left and Islam"

Jihadi Chic - “Bridge-Building Between the Left and Islam"

At the annual Cairo antiwar conference in Egypt, the hot panel discussion this year was “Bridge-Building Between the Left and Islam.” John Rees, a British Trotskyite, observed: “Where else can you sit down in a single evening and listen to senior people from Hamas, Hezbollah, the Muslim Brotherhood, people from the revolutionary left and the antiwar movement from around the globe?”

Gosh, it sounds great. I’m just sorry I missed the rollicking game of Pictionary between the Castroites and the jihadis afterwards.

Steven Stalinsky, executive director of the Middle East Media Research Institute, recently reported in the New York Sun on the growing alliance between elements of the hard left and the Islamist extremists. “The roster of Islamist-left alliances quietly grows every day,” Stalinsky writes. For example, “Massachusetts Institute of Technology linguistics professor Noam Chomsky praises Hamas and denounces America on Hezbollah’s Al-Manar television. London Mayor Ken Livingstone invites a leading Islamist, Sheikh Yosef Al-Qaradawi, who is known for supporting suicide attacks, to visit his city. And Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad “calls for a world without America even as he plays host to a Tehran peace conference” well attended by American members of the religious Left.

The aim of those “bridge-building” sessions in Cairo was, according to literature at the event, to address “the challenges and prospects facing the international antiwar and pro-intifada movements” and planning “strategy and tactics for bridging the gap and uniting Islamist and leftist ranks in the face of U.S. imperialism and Zionism.”

Now, it’s way too early to start talking about the “Taliban wing of the Democratic party” or anything like that, but this is a fascinating and largely ignored phenomenon.

Of course, if you’ve followed the anti-Israel movements on college campuses, you already know there’s a strong alliance — both ideological and strategic — between Islamic and leftist radicals. Indeed, anti-Zionism and anti-Americanism are often inextricably linked dogmas.

I’m a big believer in the importance of ideas and the notion that ideology matters. But I can’t help but think ideology isn’t everything. Something else is going on. For example, I recently participated in a debate at the Oxford Union (the subject of the debate: “This House regrets the founding of the United States of America”). Two of my opponents were British Islamists. One was the head of the moribund Islamic Party of Britain, the other the head of the British branch of the radical Hizb ut-Tahrir organization. Both men were more interested in spouting ancient socialist chestnuts about America’s greedy individualism than in saying anything particularly interesting about Islam itself.

Undoubtedly, selling their vision of a world caliphate where Jews and Christians would be thrown into official ghettos and homosexuals executed wouldn’t have been a smart strategy in appealing to an audience that tends to think America is too oppressive already. But I got the distinct impression that something else explained their run-of-the-mill socialist twaddle. Both men seemed to be Muslims because that’s where the action is for lefty radicals today. Indeed, the Islamic Party of Britain’s website reads like a 1920s socialist pamphlet with Muslim buzz phrases penciled into the margins.

In the 1960s, every would-be revolutionary called himself a Marxist, usually without any serious regard to what Marx wrote, said or believed. The specifics of the ideology didn’t matter, because Marxism was the oogah-boogah word radicals used to scare the fat, lazy bourgeoisie. In 1969, Stuart Schram, a specialist on Chinese Communism, wrote that “never in the course of the past century has the name Marx been so widely invoked; never has this name served to justify so many ideas and actions totally foreign to the genius of Marx.”

Today, Marxism has lost its oomph. Yuppies drinking five-dollar lattes put Che Guevara t-shirts on their private-school toddlers.

And because nobody thinks Marxists are scary anymore, radicals consumed with hatred for the status quo — for America, for Western civilization or for the plain old dreariness of their boring lives — don’t bother calling themselves Marxists anymore. It’s not that they’re any more or less Marxist then they were before. It’s just that Marxism won’t get a rise out of your in-laws the way it used to.

But Islamic radicalism? Hooboy, that’s where the action is. Of course, not everybody follows the John Walker Lindh route and actually converts to Islam, just as not every Black Panther supporter became a bank robber. But who can deny that this post-colonial, anti-imperialism, indigenous-peoples-and-the-suburban-revolutionaries-who-love-them-unite! stuff is in many respects just a magnet for the same riffraff and rabble rouses of yesteryear?

Sure, there’s much to fear in Jihadism. But there’s also something deeply pathetic about it, too. And that’s worth pointing out.

Marxists and Radical Muslims of the World Unite!--The Unholy Alliance shows its face

Marxists and Radical Muslims of the World Unite!--The Unholy Alliance shows its face

Forget the proletariat! Now it is Marxists and radical Muslims of the world unite!

If any doubt still existed regarding bonds being formed between the hardcore left and elements within Islam, one needed to look no further than the leftist “Festival of Resistence” conference held at the University of Toronto last weekend for confirmation.

As indicated by the causes they represented, the contemporary Marxists gathered there seem to have given up on the Western proletariat ever becoming revolutionary and placed their hopes elsewhere in their unending, hate-filled struggle to destroy capitalism. In the audience were members from such stimulating groups as the environment, First Nations, the anti-war movement and the transgendered (Was Marx a cross dresser?). But while diverse in nature, the one commonality they all possessed, one can be assured, was hatred of capitalism, Israel, the United States and of Western civilization.

But, as reported in the Canadian newspaper, The National Post, the conference’s opening night was not given over to any of these ragtag, would-be revolutionaries to rail against the ills of capitalism or George Bush, as one would expect, but rather was dedicated to forging unity between Marxists and Muslims. To this end, the keynote speaker the first evening was a controversial local Muslim, Zafar Bangash, a Muslim imam and the director of the Institute of Contemporary Islamic Thought.

Bangash is currently at the center of a controversy to bring a mosque to Newmarket, a town north of Toronto. The people opposing the project say they are not objecting to their community getting its first Muslim place of worship but rather are against Bangash himself, whom they regard as an Islamic extremist.

In an interview earlier this year with a Toronto newspaper, the imam defended himself against the charge, saying he was definitely neither a racist nor a terrorist nor an advocator of violence. But the Pakistan-born immigrant admitted he is against “Israeli state policies”, since they are responsible for crimes committed against the Palestinian people.

“How could that be radical?” he said. “Is it permissible to starve millions of people?”

However, in the same story, Bangash is cited for having written after 9/11, as the editor of a Muslim newspaper, that Osama bin Laden was someone who “stands up to the West in the name of Islam” and that there was a “far greater tragedy taking place in Iraq, Palestine and Afghanistan.” In the same interview, Bangash also called stories, in which he was supposed to have said America knew about 9/11 beforehand and that Canada is a “fully paid-up member of the Anglo-Saxon Mafia, which is responsible for most of the genocides in the world”, fabrications.

At the Marxism conference, Bangash, according to The National Post reporter, “railed” against a Jewish group that complained the teams in his soccer league had lovely names like Jihad and Hezbollah. But despite the violent, warlike messages these names send, the controversial imam said his presence at the event was to due to humane reasons like “…justice, inequality and poverty”, common themes that concerned all the participants.

It was an irony of the evening, however, that Bangash interrupted his delivery to his audience of atheists in order to go and pray. And while Marxism has always been virulently anti-religious, the heirs of Marx and Lenin present said not a word. On the contrary! According to the newspaper report, they shouted down a Trotskyist who said he opposed all religions, indicating how much times have changed for the radical left.

But as much as things appear to have changed, they still remain the same for the class haters. The supposedly humane causes they now espouse conveniently serve as cover for their eternal hatred of capitalism and of the United States, much like the cause of the “oppressed” working class did before the fall of the Berlin Wall. These Western Marxists are also ignoring and betraying their brother Iraqi communists who have good reason to oppose Muslim extremists and ironically, unlike their Western counterparts, want American troops to stay in their country.

Moreover, the radical left is also still willing to make alliances with anyone who can further their goals of destroying both objects of their animosity, a tradition stretching back to Lenin. And while Marx, author of the famous words ‘religion is the opiate of the people’, would probably never have advocated an alliance with Islam, his modern followers see a staunch ally in Muslim radicals, since both sets of extremists share a rabid hatred of the United States.

Muslim moderate Tarek Fatah, a critic of Bangash according to the newspaper story, perhaps summed up best the essence of such an alliance of hatred when he said: “For atheists, considered worthy of the death penalty by Islamists, to team up with their ultimate opponents in attacking Canadian civic society, demonstrates the fundamental bankruptcy of these two political ideologies.” Bankrupt, indeed!

2 killed in gunfight at Hamas funeral

2 killed in gunfight at Hamas funeral

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - Gunfire erupted at a Hamas funeral procession Thursday, killing two people and wounded 14 others, Palestinian medical officials said.

The funeral was for two Hamas fighters killed during the latest wave of Palestinian factional violence. The officials said it was unclear who fired the bullets during the funeral, but the unrest threatened to unravel a lull in the fighting.

Witnesses said members of the procession were firing their weapons into the air — a common practice at Palestinian funerals — when unknown assailants began shooting at them.

In local radio broadcasts, Fatah and Hamas officials accused each other of violating the latest cease-fire meant to halt this week's factional fighting in Gaza.

A total of 22 people were killed on Wednesday, as gunfire and explosions raged across Gaza City in the most widespread fighting in nearly a year of clashes between Hamas and Fatah.

Raging street battles have turned the densely populated seaside city into a war zone, putting terrified civilians increasingly at risk. During the fighting, masked gunmen took over otherwise deserted streets, trapping frightening residents in their homes.

The violence has left the fragile unity government in tatters, though Fatah and Hamas leaders have said they hope to preserve the coalition. A main goal of the alliance, formed in March, was to halt months of factional violence, but the unity deal never addressed a key area of dispute — control over Palestinian security forces.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Venezuelan Oil Losing Share of Key U.S. Market

Venezuelan Oil Losing Share of Key U.S. Market
Boo hoo.

CARACAS, Venezuela -- When the state oil company recently took over the last privately run oil fields in Venezuela, President Hugo Chávez declared it a victory against Washington and a giant leap toward a new energy policy that would diversify the market for Venezuelan crude to include rising powers like China.

"Down with the American Empire!" shouted Chávez, who often warns that he'll shut off the oil spigot to the United States if the Bush administration invades Venezuela or hatches an assassination plot against him.

But new study of trade and oil consumption data shows that Venezuela appears ever more dependent on selling its oil to the country Chávez calls "the cruelest, most terrible, most cynical, most murderous empire that has existed." And U.S. government energy trade data show the United States is slightly less dependent on Venezuela, which at one time challenged Canada, Mexico and Saudi Arabia as the No. 1 provider of foreign oil but now tussles with up-and-coming Nigeria for the fourth spot.

Fort Dix: The Backlash that Wasn't

Fort Dix: The Backlash that Wasn't

In the wake of the Fort Dix jihad plot arrests, the mainstream media featured numerous news articles focusing on the fears of other Muslims in America.

Philadelphia’s CBS3 reported: “Muslims in the region are bracing themselves for a possible backlash in response to the terror plot arrests.” There was no shortage of Muslim spokesmen available to confirm these fears. “What we’re all afraid of is a new backlash,” said Hesham Mahmoud of the New Jersey chapter of the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. An official of the South Jersey Islamic Center, the spiritual home of several of the jihadist suspects, also expressed fears that they “are going to face a backlash.” A Muslim in New Jersey, Tajwar Roomi, expressed fear for her family: “My husband works for the state. My son, my daughter, they all work. I do get worried about them because some people are nice, [but] some people are not.” As far away as Iowa, the imam of Des Moines’ Islamic Center, Ibrahim Dremali, said: “Some are afraid backlash may be coming. People are becoming cautious again. I’ve told them they have to be careful.”

But none of the backlash reports included news of any actual backlash incidents, because four days after the arrests, there hadn’t been any. Richard Sparaco, the attorney for one of the accused jihad plotters, Serdar Tatar, came closest to actually reporting one. Sparaco said that the restaurant owned by Tatar’s father, Muslim Tatar, had suffered a sharp decline in business, and that someone kicked in his door and, according to New Jersey’s Star-Ledger, “shouted a racial slur.” Muslim Tatar, according to Sparaco, had also been threatened.

That was it, as far as backlash went. The contrast is stark: when cartoons of the Muslim prophet Muhammad appeared in a Danish newspaper, there were international riots, in which several innocent people were killed; when Pope Benedict XVI repeated a medieval emperor’s negative characterization of Muhammad, there were again riots and killings. When a mentally impaired Christian in Nigeria tore a copy of the Qur’an, rampaging Muslims burned ten churches to the ground. But when six Muslims in America were arrested for plotting to kill as many American soldiers as possible, there have been no killings. No mob action. No riots. No mosques have been torched, and no Muslims have been beaten or (with the possible lone exception of Muslim Tatar) harassed.

Of this Americans can justly be proud. The paucity of backlash incidents after the Fort Dix arrests and other jihad terror arrests – as well as after 9/11 -- shows that Americans are still essentially decent people who generally do not victimize people on the basis of their identity or associations. Yet statistics cited by the Des Moines Register painted a very different picture: “a nationwide survey by the Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations…counted 1,972 incidents of anti-Muslim bias in 2005, up from 1,522 in 2004. The 2005 figure, from the group’s most recent tally, represents the largest number reported to the council, also known as CAIR, in its 12-year history.”

So are Muslims really facing an increasing climate of hostility and harassment in the United States? Unlikely. Daniel Pipes and Sharon Chadha studied an earlier CAIR hate crimes report in 2005 and discovered that “of twenty ‘anti-Muslim hate crimes’ in 2004 that CAIR describes, at least six are invalid.” These included one incident of a bombing outside a mosque for which no police report exists, and which seems not to have taken place at all; one of an arson attack against a mosque that police had determined was a simple robbery, with no “hate” motive; and two incidents of Muslim store owners destroying their own stores.

Why would CAIR trump up hate crimes? Because victimhood is big business. The Department of Homeland Security recently unveiled a $24 million grant program for non-profit organizations who are deemed high-risk for a potential international terrorist attack” – and CAIR immediately issued an “Action Alert” urging American mosques to apply for money for surveillance and security systems. What’s more, if CAIR succeeds in its attempt to portray Muslims in America as innocent victims of “Islamophobic” persecution, they will have deflected attention away from the question of whether or not the Fort Dix Six and other jihadists learned to hate and betray America in American mosques. Thus American mosques, seen as victims rather than as possibly abettors of seditious activity, won’t face any scrutiny over what they are doing, and not doing, to halt the spread of the jihadist ideology of Islamic supremacism among Muslims in America.

CAIR’s Nihad Awad recently told a Muslim audience: “There were 196 cases reported by the Justice Department for Muslims in civil rights cases. There were over 1008 cases reported by the Jewish faith. We need to do a much better job not only in recognizing our civil rights but also in reporting it to the government. Which is very critical and very important.” Important for the victimhood game: winners receive torrents of money, favorable media coverage, and moral authority that must never be questioned. In this effort Awad can count on the help of the mainstream media, which continues in the wake of the Fort Dix arrests to report on Muslim fears of backlash, as if those fears in themselves constitute an indictment of American society.

It’s worthwhile in light of this to step back and consider some of the media reports we are not seeing. Amid the steady stream of backlash articles, there has not been even one article about Muslims pledging to redouble their efforts to teach against the jihad ideology in American mosques. While many have reaffirmed that Islam is a religion of peace and scolded authorities for linking Islam with militancy, no Muslims have explained how this peaceful religion keeps being so outrageously misunderstood by those who are often its most devout adherents, or what they propose to do to keep this from happening in the future. No reporters – consumed as they are with their search for backlash incidents -- are even asking questions like this.

And that makes it likely that the Fort Dix jihad plotters will not be the last Muslims in America to “misunderstand” their religion and think it enjoins them to commit acts of violence against unbelievers.

National Media's Refusal to Cover White Couple's Murder Suggests PC at Work

National Media's Refusal to Cover White Couple's Murder Suggests PC at Work

The sudden force that the liberal press brought to bear on the falsely accused Duke lacrosse team has been curiously absent on a much more grisly crime committed against a white couple by a group of black youths.

Personally, I don't think that local crime issues should ever be covered in the national press but if the media are going to cover them, they need to be consistent. My friend La Shawn Barber has a must-read post on the matter:

Early this year, a white couple was carjacked, tortured, raped, and murdered by a group of black thugs. Christopher Newsom (23) was gang-raped, shot and set on fire. There are unconfirmed reports that the killers cut off his penis while he was still alive. The going-to-straight-to-hell murderers made Channon Christian (21) watch, and then they gang-raped her over four days and left her to die. There are unconfirmed reports that her breasts were cut off while she was still alive. (Also see this story and the Wikipedia entry)

I’ve been getting e-mail about this case since it happened, but I’ve been hesitant to blog about it. Flopping Aces

published a big post about the case last night, which probably accounts for why I received a few more Christian-Newsom e-mails this morning. Here goes!

I’ve noticed that mainstream media are reluctant to report this story, especially when it first happened. In light of the blanket coverage the Duke “rape” case received, the paucity of coverage in this case seems a bit unbalanced. I mean, isn’t the brutal, black-on-white gang-rape, mutilation, and murder of two people more than or at least as newsworthy as a white-on-black gang-rape (which obviously was phony)? Even if the stripper’s allegations had been true, why was the Duke case burning up the airwaves while the Christian-Newsom case barely emits a spark?

What’s up with the lack of blanket media coverage? I’m not talking about a story here or there with case updates. The media should be swarming around this story. What happened to Christian and Newsom should be all over the airwaves and printing presses.

Hamas mistakenly kills 5 of own fighters

Hamas mistakenly kills 5 of own fighters

Associated Press Published: 05.16.07, 13:30 / Israel News

Hamas gunmen kill five of own fighters in ambush of Fatah jeep as Gaza seems to be sliding into an all-out civil war with 41 Palestinians killed in four days of internal fighting between the rival factions

Hamas gunmen mistakenly ambushed on Wednesday a jeep carrying their own fighters, killing five of them, in the bloodiest day of Palestinian infighting since violence erupted in the Gaza Strip four days ago.

But according to other accounts, the five victims were members of the Fatah-affiliated Preventive Security force.

Gunmen from the hardline Islamist group also fired barrages of rockets at Israeli towns, an apparent attempt to draw Israel into the internal Palestinian conflict that has sent the coastal territory spiraling into chaos.

At midday Wednesday, policemen from the Preventive Security organization arrested five Hamas men and were driving them through Gaza City when the vehicle was ambushed by Hamas fighters, Preventive Security officials said.

Five of the Hamas men were killed, along with two Fatah men, they said. The exact circumstances of the incident were not immediately clear.

Hamas radio reported that a Hamas man was killed in another clash, and a nurse traveling in an ambulance was shot in the head after being caught in the crossfire, hospital officials said. Her family said she was brain dead and being kept alive by a respirator.

In four days of fighting, 41 people have been killed and dozens more have been injured. The majority of the fatalities have been from Fatah. Launching Breakthrough Digital Music Store Launching Breakthrough Digital Music Store says it will launch a digital music store later this year without copy restrictions on songs...Amazon’s DRM-free MP3s will free customers to play their music on virtually any of their personal devices — including PCs, Macs™, iPods™, Zunes™, Zens™ — and to burn songs to CDs for personal use...

American College of Pediatricians Calls for End to Embryonic Stem Cell Research

American College of Pediatricians Calls for End to Embryonic Stem Cell Research

GAINESVILLE, May 14, 2007 ( - The American College of Pediatricians (ACP) has called for an end to embryonic stem cell research and recommends the exclusive support of already proven effective adult stem cell research. "Not only does embryonic research require taking the life of human embryos, it also prolongs needless suffering by delaying the development of more promising adult stem cell treatments and cures," stated Michelle Cretella, MD, Fellow of the American College of Pediatricians.

Research using non-embryo sources of stem cells, including amniotic fluid, umbilical cord blood, placenta and adult blood, fat and various organs, have yielded impressive results, the organization suggests.

"Adult stem cells are now routinely used in certain forms of cancer therapy. Over the last decade, these cells have been used to successfully treat spinal cord injuries, heart failure, Parkinson's disease, diabetes and dozens of other conditions in human trials."

The group noted further that "This has not been the case with any embryonic stem cell trial. Instead, there have been catastrophic results with these cells producing the wrong tissue, forming tumors and triggering immune rejection."

Concluding the ACP said, "Every dollar spent on the failed and unnecessary process of embryonic stem cell research steals resources away from the established utility and potential of adult stem cell research. This is fiscally irresponsible and medically unconscionable."

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Comments on the death of Jerry Falwell (Pro and Con, including Jesse, Newt, Gays)

Comments on the death of Jerry Falwell (Pro and Con, including Jesse, Newt, Gays)
RIP, Reverend Falwell.

Some comments on the death of Jerry Falwell:

"Jerry has been a tower of strength on many of the moral issues which have confronted our nation." — evangelist Pat Robertson.


"Dr. Falwell's shadow falls across the face of the rebirth of conservative values in our nation, in the Southern Baptist Convention, and in the entire evangelical world. Only once in a generation will a man of his stature arise. We all owe him a debt of eternal gratitude." — Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.


"Unfortunately, we will always remember him as a founder and leader of America's anti-gay industry, someone who exacerbated the nation's appalling response to the onslaught of the AIDS epidemic, someone who demonized and vilified us for political gain and someone who used religion to divide rather than unite our nation." — Matt Foreman, executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force.


"I think the proper attitude at this juncture is to pass on our condolences and prayers. And we'll try to do the fixing in place in history a little later." — White House spokesman Tony Snow.


"An American who built and led a movement based on strong principles and strong faith has left us. He will be greatly missed, but the legacy of his important work will continue through his many ministries where he put his faith into action." — Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney.


"Dr. Falwell was a man of distinguished accomplishment who devoted his life to serving his faith and country. Our thoughts and prayers are with Dr. Falwell's family at this difficult time." — Republican presidential candidate and Sen. John McCain


"His life is a testament not only to the power of faith to move hearts, but to the strength of the American ethos that stresses the importance of citizenship ... He was a great leader, a person totally sustained by his faith but able to work with many people from many different backgrounds without imposing rigidity on anyone else." — Former U.S. House Speaker Newt Gingrich.


"He was a man who set a direction. He was someone who was not afraid to speak his mind. We all have great respect for him ... he is a person who told you what he thought, and you knew where he stood." — Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani.


"Over the years we became friends; sometimes we had polar opposite points of view. ... I have many fond memories of him. He leaves a great legacy of service and a great university behind. He's left his footprints in the sands of time." — The Rev. Jesse Jackson.


"Jerry Falwell was a close personal friend for many years. We did not always agree on everything, but I knew him to be a man of God. His accomplishments went beyond most clergy of his generation. Some of my grandchildren have attended and currently attend Liberty University. He leaves a gigantic vacuum in the evangelical world." — Evangelist Billy Graham.


"My mother always told me that no matter how much you dislike a person, when you meet them face to face you will find characteristics about them that you like. Jerry Falwell was a perfect example of that. I hated everything he stood for, but after meeting him in person, years after the trial, Jerry Falwell and I became good friends. ... I always appreciated his sincerity even though I knew what he was selling and he knew what I was selling." — Hustler magazine founder Larry Flynt.


"Jerry Falwell politicized religion and failed to understand the genius of our Constitution, but there is no denying his impact on American political life. He will long be remembered as the face and voice of the religious right." — The Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

Pro-Iraq war Bernard Kouchner is Foreign Minister of France

Pro-Iraq war Bernard Kouchner is Foreign Minister of France
Bernard Kouchner, the man behind Medecins sans Frontieres (Doctors without Borders), a one-time U.N. administrator and ex-health minister, is highly skilled in the art of global management. He has played a crucial role in international humanitarian efforts for more than 30 years, supervising people and projects in many of the world's war-ravaged areas from El Salvador to Rwanda.

Frustrated with the charity's strict code of neutrality and reliance on the permission of the host government to give assistance, he and like-minded medics set up Medecins sans Frontieres (MSF) three years later. And in 1999 MSF -- an organization that believes in the right to intervene with medical aid in any conflict or disaster -- received the Nobel peace price for its humanitarian work.

"To be alone as a we were, was difficult. My strategy was not only to help the people, or transform the world, but to do both," Kouchner explains. The first United Nations administrator in postwar Kosovo also puts his success down to teamwork.

"All my activities were collective activities -- like setting up MSF and Doctors of the World. I am not able to act alone...I have my style listening to the people," he says. Contrary to popular French opinion, the 64-year-old strongly approved of regime change in Iraq, after witnessing the plight of the Kurds for decades. "In my country it's not easy at all. If you are a pioneer you are a target and if you are the winner you are more targeted than before," he says. Kouchner has already accepted Sarkozy's proposition of being Foreign Minister.

A rumor spread by AFP about anti-US Hubert Védrine was in fact not true. Good news for the USA and the free world. Kouchner wrote a book condemning Saddam Hussein and supported every overthrow of tyrannic regimes.

Send in the assmonkeys (latest environmentalist fad: going childless)

Send in the assmonkeys (latest environmentalist fad: going childless)
Send in the assmonkeys
Behold the latest environmentalist fad: going childless

Jonathan Kay, National Post
Published: Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Last Tuesday, I wrote a column for this space entitled "At a restaurant near you, the war between Daters and Breeders." It was one of those airy, self-indulgent pieces of cultural commentary that otherwise self-important op-ed pundits publish every few months to "show their human side." (See: I eat in restaurants with my kids --just like you!)

My basic point was that restaurant diners shouldn't go hard on parents whose kids emit the odd yelp at dinner time. I know, I know -- not exactly Pulitzer material. But I can't solve the Middle East conflict every week.

Besides, vapid as it was, the column hit a nerve: In the days following publication, I got a flood of e-mail feedback. The messages came in two flavours: (1) Brief, appreciative comments from fellow parents, often punctuated with smiley-faced emoticons; and (2) searing, cuckoo-pants rants like this one from a certain Gaby Kaplan:

"Mr. Kay, I hope we never have the misfortune to have your family ruin a nice restaurant near us, because I could hardly resist the compulsion to empty ice water into the faces of both you and your broodsow of a partner. Attention, Mr. Look-My-Sperm-Works, your job as a parent does not end at ejaculation: Would you please show the rest of us the Get Out of Courtesy card that they gave you when your wife grunted out your first replicant? Polite parents do not assault diners with their loud brood of assmonkeys."

I got so many eccentric messages of this type that I suspected an outside writing campaign: The Post's rank-and-file readership couldn't be this weird.

Sure enough, after a little ego-surfing, I found my column had been posted as flame-fodder on, Reprodcutive Ruckus and other Web sites catering to the "Childfree" lifestyle. (Whatever you do, don't call them "childless." As one site puts it, "'Childless' implies that we're missing something we want -- and we aren't. We consider ourselves Childfree -- free of the loss of personal freedom, money, time and energy that having children requires.")

This is apparently a vibrant niche on the Internet. And skewering "pathetic, self-congratulatory, over-entitled asses" (to quote the above-cited Welcome Back, Cotter name-alike) is the favored pastime. Masochist that I am, I spent much of the weekend surfing their many complaints about broodsows, replicants and the travails of living in a "kidcentric" society. (Sadly, none were as well-written and amusing as Mr. Kaplan's.)

For now, Childfree remains something of an obscure movement. But as environmentalism gradually becomes the West's secular religion, that may change. Indeed, if Stephane Dion and other Kyoto fanatics get into power, a sanitized version of Gaby Kaplan's complaint that I've "burden[ed] our humanity- clogged planet with [my] obnoxious seed" may become the stuff of public-service campaigns.

Here in Canada, the most militant enemy of human fecundity is environmental activist Paul Watson, president of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. Earlier this month, he declared that the world's human population -- "the AIDS of the earth," as he puts it -- should be cut by 85%. Humans would revert to a car-free "primitive lifestyle" and, under the creepiest part of his plan, only "a very small percentage of humans" would be permitted to reproduce.

In Britain, the more polite face of this movement is represented by the respected Optimum Population Trust, which last week put out a briefing statement exhorting the world's parents to have fewer children. Noting that a British baby born today can be expected to produce about 744 tons of planet-warming CO2 (the equivalent of 620 return flights from London to New York) over the course of a lifetime, the trust concluded that "Population limitation should therefore be seen as the most cost-effective carbon offsetting strategy available to individuals and nations." (Penny-pinching paramours take note: Given the expected cost of global warming, the Trust calculates that the use of a 35-pence condom produces a "9,000,000% potential return on investment." How's that for safesex pillow talk?)

On an intellectual level, I have a certain amount of respect for anyone who truly would forsake reproduction in the furtherance of "carbon offsets": Unlike the hypocrite yuppy who drives his Hummer to three different malls so he can pick the right kind of "carbonneutral shampoo" (yes, the product exists), the Paul Watsons of the world are at least trying to make good on their convictions.

But in my gut, I am well and truly weirded out. As George Orwell wrote, the surest sign of dangerous extremism is the willingness to pursue ideological purity and societal perfection at the expense of fundamental human imperatives. All things considered, I would much rather live in an overheated world teeming with assmonkeys than a Kyotofied utopia in which human life was measured against carbon credits.

And thankfully, my broodsow feels the same way.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Islamic Rule Benefits Christians and Jews: Hamas Mickey Mouse Creator

Islamic Rule Benefits Christians and Jews: Hamas Mickey Mouse Creator

The force behind Hamas TV's controversial Mickey Mouse clone said today that his children's television program will continue to promote worldwide Islamic supremacy, for everyone's benefit, including Christians and Jews.

In a long interview on Hamas TV, Hazim Al-Sha'arawi, Deputy Director of Al-Aqsa TV and one of the creators of the Hamas children's TV show Tomorrow's Pioneers, said that using the program to promote Islamic rule over other religions is actually promoting "justice, goodness and world love."

Al-Aqsa TV and the Palestinian Authority have been under fire since PMW reported last week that Tomorrow's Pioneers was using a character named Farfur, a knockoff of Disney's Mickey Mouse character, to convey messages about Islamic supremacy as well as hatred of Jews, Israel and the U.S. Despite public statements by PA Minister of Information Mustafa Barghouti that the show would be taken off the air until it could be reviewed and revised, a new episode of the program - featuring Al-Sha'arawi as one of the hosts - ran Friday.

Al-Sha'arawi said in yesterday's interview that he wants to raise Palestinian children so that they can achieve "Islam's natural place" of world rule - in essence saying that although the Christians and Jews do not understand this yet, Islamic world rule is really best for them as well.

From interview of Hazem Al-Sha'arawi, Deputy Director of Al-Aqsa [Hamas] TV:

"What is being asked, so that the Americans and Zionists will be satisfied with you, is to follow their lead ... We [on this program] have a message, and we understood from the beginning that it is a difficult path... But we were sure that we had to go this way, because this [young] generation needs someone to direct it ...and this generation is the most worthy of the position of leadership...

Let's ask history: ...which time period was good to all communities? The Jews lived in the time of Islam [under Islamic rule] and were happy. The Christians lived in the time of Islam [under Islamic rule] and were happy. Look at the history, the prophet [Muhammad]... ordered the army: 'Do not kill a monk in his prayer room.' Even the Caliph Umar Bin Al-Khattab, [Islamic conqueror of Jerusalem in 638] when he came into the Al-Aqsa Mosque, he secured the churches and the prayer rooms.

Therefore, when we talk [on the program] about the mission of the restoration of Islam to its natural place [of world rule], we [are] calling for justice, and for goodness, and for world love... so that the Christians will live in peace, and that even the Jews will live in peace and security."

The New Media Journal | Springtime in Islamberg by Dr. Paul Williams, PhD

The New Media Journal | Springtime in Islamberg by Dr. Paul Williams, PhD

Editor's Note: Douglas Hagmann, Bill Krayer and Michael Travis contributed to this article.

Situated within a dense forest at the foothills of the Catskill Mountains on the outskirts of Hancock, New York, Islamberg is not an ideal place for a summer vacation unless, of course, you are an exponent of the Jihad or a fan of Osama bin Laden.

The 70 acre complex is surrounded with “No trespassing” signs; the rocky terrain is infested with rattlesnakes; and the woods are home to black bears, coyotes, wolves, and a few bobcats.

The entrance to the community is at the bottom of a very steep hill that is difficult to navigate even on a bright sunny day in May. The road, dubbed Muslim Lane, is unpaved and marred by deep crevices that have been created by torrential downpours. On a wintry day, few, save those with all terrain vehicles, could venture forth from the remote encampment.

A sentry post has been established at the base of the hill.

The sentry, at the time of this visit, is an African American dressed in Islamic garb – a skull cap, a prayer shawl, and a loose fitting shalwat kameez. He instructs us to turn around and leave. “Our community is not open to visitors,” he says.

Behind the sentry and across a small stream stand dozens of inhabitants of the compound – the men wearing skull caps and loose fitting tunics, the women in full burqa. They appear ready to deal with any unauthorized intruders.

The hillside is blighted by rusty trailers that appear to be without power or running water and a number of outhouses. The scent of raw sewage is in the air.

The place is even off limits to the local undertaker who says that he has delivered bodies to the complex but has never been granted entrance. “They come and take the bodies from my hearse. They won’t allow me to get past the sentry post. They say that they want to prepare the bodies for burial. But I never get the bodies back. I don’t know what’s going on there but I don’t think it’s legal.”

On the other side of the hill where few dare to go is a tiny village replete with a make-shift learning center (dubbed the “International Quranic Open University”); a trailer converted into a Laundromat; a small, green community center; a small and rather squalid grocery store; a newly constructed majid; over forty clapboard homes; and scores of additional trailers.

It is home to hundreds – all in Islamic attire, and all African-Americans. Most drive late model SUVs with license plates from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, South Carolina and Tennessee. The locals say that some work as tollbooth operators for the New York State Thruway, while others are employed at a credit card processing center that maintains confidential financial records.

While buzzing with activity during the week, the place becomes a virtual hive on weekends. The guest includes arrivals from the inner cities of New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania and, occasionally, white-robed dignitaries in Ray-Bans from the Middle East.

Venturing into the complex last summer, Douglas Hagmann, an intrepid investigator and director of the Northeast Intelligence Service, came upon a military training area at the eastern perimeter of the property. The area was equipped with ropes hanging from tall trees, wooden fences for scaling, a make-shift obstacle course, and a firing range. Hagmann said that the range appeared to have been in regular use.

Islamberg is not as benign as a Buddhist monastery or a Carmelite convent. Nearly every weekend, neighbors hear sounds of gunfire. Some, including a combat veteran of the Vietnam War, have heard the bang of small explosives. None of the neighbors wished to be identified for fear of “retaliation.” “We don’t even dare to slow down when we drive by,” one resident said. “They own the mountain and they know it and there is nothing we can do about it but move, and we can’t even do that. Who wants to buy a property near that?”

The complex serves to scare the bejeesus out of the local residents. “If you go there, you better wear body armor,” a customer at the Circle E Diner in Hancock said. “They have armed guards and if they shoot you, nobody will find your body.”

At Cousins, a watering hole in nearby Deposit, a barfly, who didn’t wish to be identified, said: “The place is dangerous. You can hear gunfire up there. I can’t understand why the FBI won’t shut it down.”

Islamberg is a branch of Muslims of the Americas Inc., a tax-exempt organization formed in 1980 by Pakistani cleric Sheikh Mubarak Ali Gilani, who refers to himself as "the sixth Sultan Ul Faqr," Gilani, has been directly linked by court documents to Jamaat ul-Fuqra or “community of the impoverished,” an organization that seeks to "purify" Islam through violence.

Though primarily based in Lahore, Pakistan, Jamaat ul-Fuqra has operational headquarters in New York and openly recruits through various social service organizations in the U.S., including the prison system. Members live in hamaats or compounds, such as Islamberg, where they agree to abide by the laws of Jamaat ul-Fuqra, which are considered to be above local, state and federal authority. Additional hamaats have been established in Hyattsville, Maryland; Red House, Virginia; Falls Church, Virginia; Macon, Georgia; York, South Carolina; Dover, Tennessee; Buena Vista, Colorado; Talihina, Oklahoma; Tulane Country, California; Commerce, California; and Onalaska, Washington. Others are being built, including an expansive facility in Sherman, Pennsylvania.

Before becoming a citizen of Islamberg or any of the other Fuqra compounds, the recruits – primarily inner city black men who became converts in prison – are compelled to sign an oath that reads: “I shall always hear and obey, and whenever given the command, I shall readily fight for Allah’s sake.”

In the past, thousands of members of the U.S. branches of Jamaat ul-Fuqra traveled to Pakistan for paramilitary training, but encampments, such as Islamberg, are now capable of providing book-camp training so raw recruits are no longer required to travel abroad amidst the increased scrutiny of post 9/11.

Over the years, numerous members of Jamaat ul-Fuqra have been convicted in US courts of such crimes as conspiracy to commit murder, firebombing, gun smuggling, and workers’ compensation fraud. Others remain leading suspects in criminal cases throughout the country, including ten unsolved assassinations and seventeen fire-bombings between 1979 and 1990.

The criminal charges against the group and the criminal convictions are not things of the past. In 2001, a resident of a California compound was charged with first-degree murder in the shooting of a sheriff’s deputy; another was charged with gun-smuggling’ and twenty-four members of the Red House community were convicted of firearms violations.

By 2004 federal investigators uncovered evidence that linked both the DC “sniper killer” John Allen Muhammed and “Shoe Bomber” Richard Reid to the group and reports surfaced that Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was captured and beheaded in the process of attempting to obtain an interview with Sheikh Gilani in Pakistan.

Even though Jamaat ul-Fuqra has been involved in terror attacks and sundry criminal activities, recruited thousands of members from federal and state penal systems, and appears to be operating paramilitary facilities for militant Muslims, it remains to be placed on the official US Terror Watch List. On the contrary, it continues to operate, flourish, and expand as a legitimate nonprofit, tax-deductible charity. Paul Williams is the author of "The Al Qaeda Connection" and forthcoming "The Day of Islam".


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