July 31, 2005

The truth about Hiroshima and Nagasaki

August 6 will be the 60th anniversary of a human tragedy, the world's first use of nuclear weapons when the A-bomb was exploded over Hiroshima, Japan in 1945. Only following a second atomic bomb that devastated Nagasaki did the fanatical leadership of Japan choose to surrender.

Revisionist historians and political critics have now spent decades rewriting history books and altering public perceptions, claiming that these devastating attacks could have, and should have, been avoided. Historian Richard B. Frank explains that newly declassified WWII intelligence shows that there was, in fact, no other choice. Top secret Ultra (aka "Magic") radio intercepts were the key element in the fateful decision.

[R]ight to the very end, the Japanese pursued twin goals: not only the preservation of the imperial system, but also preservation of the old order in Japan that had launched a war of aggression that killed 17 million.

[I]t is clear that all three of the critics' central premises are wrong. The Japanese did not see their situation as catastrophically hopeless. They were not seeking to surrender, but pursuing a negotiated end to the war that preserved the old order in Japan, not just a figurehead emperor. Finally, thanks to radio intelligence, American leaders, far from knowing that peace was at hand, understood--as one analytical piece in the "Magic" Far East Summary stated in July 1945, after a review of both the military and diplomatic intercepts--that "until the Japanese leaders realize that an invasion can not be repelled, there is little likelihood that they will accept any peace terms satisfactory to the Allies." This cannot be improved upon as a succinct and accurate summary of the military and diplomatic realities of the summer of 1945.

Read the whole thing.

Related:

• Victor Davis Hanson - Remembering World War II: Revisionists get it wrong
• Richard B. Frank - Downfall : The End of the Imperial Japanese Empire

Posted by Alan at 01:31 PM

London: more attacks coming?

Here's serious news via The Times in London: strong evidence of a bigger terror network in Great Britain and renewed threats to London. "Londonistan" indeed.

A third Islamist terror cell is planning multiple suicide bomb attacks against Tube trains and other “soft” targets in central London, security sources have revealed.

Intelligence about a cell with access to explosives and plans to unleash a “third wave” of attacks was the trigger for last Thursday’s unprecedented security exercise. The operation saw 6,000 police, many armed, patrolling across London.

Senior police officers say that there was “specific” intelligence from several sources that an attack was planned for that day. The disclosure contradicts official statements by Scotland Yard that Thursday’s security exercise — the biggest since the second world war — was simply a precaution aimed at reassuring the public.

Details of a “third wave” terror plot to carry out multiple suicide attacks were disclosed to senior police commanders at an emergency Special Branch conference held at Scotland Yard last Wednesday. All police leave was cancelled and hundreds of officers were instructed to book into central London hotel rooms.

Members of the third cell are said to be independent of the July 7 and July 21 terrorists but have “associations” with some of the suspects who have been arrested in connection with the July 21 attacks. Deputy Assistant Commissioner Peter Clarke, head of the anti-terrorist branch, said that despite capturing the four suspected bombers and a fifth man linked to the cell “the threat remains and is very real”.

Another officer, a member of the Yard’s firearms unit, which captured three of the suspected suicide bombers in two raids in west London, said: “What we did on Friday was just the tip of the iceberg. There is some big stuff coming in the next few months. There’s a big network that’s got to be cracked.”

Posted by Alan at 08:15 AM

July 30, 2005

Evil intent

One prideful terrorist has confessed to the recent ineffective London bombings.

The man believed to be the fourth would-be bomber in the failed July 21 attacks said he and his accomplices wanted their attack to spread fear in London, in an apparent confession reported by Italian newspapers.

"We wanted to make an attack, but only as a demonstration," several newspapers quoted 27-year-old Osman Hussain as saying, without citing a source.

Italy's best-selling newspaper, the Corriere della Sera, expressed fears that the presence of one of the presumed London bombers could be linked to an planned attack here.

"Was he here just as part of his escape or to prepare a new attack?" it asked.

Rome daily Il Messaggero headlined: "The suicide bomber was among us," and reported that police believe Hussain could have been in Rome to prepare a terrorist attack.

"Only a demonstration"? Right. That's why they packed the bombs with nails and more.

New details have emerged of the "ball-bearing" bombs designed by the 7 July terrorist cell, which aimed to cause mass casualties.

The devices, consisting of acetone peroxide packed into jam jars wrapped with a band of metal, were found in a car rented by the suicide bomber Shahzad Tanweer. It was left at the car park of Luton railway station.

Robert Ayers, an explosives expert with 30 years of experience with the US Army and the British military, said: "It appears that the bombers were thinking ahead and had prepared a range of devices which could be used either as they are or adopted for other use.

"The nail bombs were anti-personnel weapons meant to cause horrific injuries or deaths. One lot in the new photographs are similar, with the ball bearings acting as the shrapnel instead of nails. The other ones could be turned into that easily by adding metal, or to detonate a larger bomb."

Posted by Alan at 11:45 AM

Junior Brown

Doughty nineteen yr-old daughter had three wisdom teeth out this morning. Big ouchie, but so far she's doing well. It does mean we won't be going to McGonigel's Mucky Duck in Houston tonight to hear ace guitarist Junior Brown (maybe next time). But you could go.

Posted by Alan at 11:36 AM

July 29, 2005

Got 'em

laun.jpg

Very good news indeed:

Without firing a shot, police raiding apartments Friday in London and Rome rounded up the last of the four suspected attackers from the failed July 21 transit bombings in Britain.

Two of the suspects were arrested in west London, near the trendy Notting Hill neighborhood, following raids by heavily armed police wearing gas masks and lobbing stun grenades.

Tracing cell phone calls across Europe, police in Rome arrested Osman Hussain, a naturalized British citizen from Somalia, said Italian Interior Minister Giuseppe Pisanu. Hussain, who reportedly fled London and stopped in Milan and Bologna en route to the Italian capital, was "the fourth attacker," he said.

With those arrests, as well as that of Yasin Hassan Omar on Wednesday in the city of Birmingham, authorities believe they have captured all four men whose photos they released following last week's botched bombings, a police official said.

Posted by Alan at 05:06 PM

Not a parlor game

Victor Davis Hanson explains why the lessons of history are so ill-used these days.

History is evoked more and more these days, even as fewer of us read it.

That apathy explains why when public figures turn to false historical analogies for political purposes, they're often given a free pass to exaggerate or distort. Take, for example, filmmaker Michael Moore, who once compared terrorists in Iraq to our own Minutemen; or Yasser Arafat, who implied that the taking of Jenin was as brutal as the battles for Leningrad and Stalingrad. Even Sen. Dick Durbin recently likened the conditions found in Guantánamo Bay to those in Nazi death camps.

So, the next time someone quotes philosopher George Santayana for the umpteenth time that "Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it," just assume that what follows will probably be wrong. Having a Rolodex of cocktail party quotes to beef up an argument is not the same as the hard work of learning about the past.

...

In our confusion during this war, why do we often ignore history or twist its details to fit our own particular needs?

First, in our schools, formal study of the past has given way to the more ideological agenda of the social sciences. Mastery of historical facts is seen as passe, while the less educated instead "do theory" to prove preconceived notions.

Second, good intentions don't always equal good history. Being politically correct often makes us plain wrong, relegating history to melodrama and negating history's power to put tragedy into context.

Third, we're in thrall to the present affluent age, convinced that our own depressing experiences are unique, naturally dwarfing all prior calamities.

But history is not a parlor game used to prove a political point. Instead, at its best, history should offer us solace that we are never really alone.

Posted by Alan at 06:22 AM

July 27, 2005

Mugabe must go

A recent U.N. report criticized the "few architects of the operation" within the government of Zimbabwe for the violent displacement of 700,000 poor and homeless residents. Claudia Rosett says the report missed the real point.

To whatever extent the recent United Nations report on Zimbabwe calls attention to the brutalities of the country's tyrant, President Robert Mugabe, the U.N. has performed a service. But as far as the report translates into nothing more than a fresh bout of aid funneled via Mugabe's regime, this U.N. initiative will only compound the suffering in Zimbabwe--where the government's latest atrocity has been to "clean up" the cities by evicting hundreds of thousands of poor people, destroying their dwellings and leaving them jobless, homeless and hungry.

The U.N. report does warn that its findings are incomplete. But they are rather worse than that. The eviction of hundreds of thousands was not, in Mugabe's universe, a policy mistake. It was, for Zimbabwe's murderous tyrant, a success--now yielding leverage over decent people who are indeed prone to send help to those suffering in Zimbabwe. We have seen this cycle before. It is what led to the U.N. devising, albeit on a far grander scale, with a far bigger cut for its own administrative services, the now scandal-ridden Oil-for-Food program in Iraq, which fortified Saddam Hussein and helped him keep power for years beyond what many in the early 1990s expected. What must be grasped in dealing with Zimbabwe is that the problem is Mugabe himself. And whatever welcome, warm or otherwise, he may provide to visiting U.N. delegations, the true recovery can only begin with his departure.

Posted by Alan at 11:59 AM

Got one

Here's good news from Great Britain: a would-be suicide bomber bas been captured and can now be interrogated.

Anti-terrorist officers believe that a man arrested in Birmingham today is one of the would-be suicide bombers who tried to attack the London transport network last week.

A witness said that the arrested man looked like Yasin Hassan Omar, 24, who has been named by Scotland Yard as the man who tried to explode a bomb on the Victoria Line Tube line last week.

The man was felled with a Taser stun gun after a scuffle with police officers who raided a house in Heybarnes Road in the Hay Mills area of Birmingham at 4.30am.

Police found a suspect package and more than 100 nearby homes were then evacuated on Army advice as the bomb squad moved in.

The suspect was taken to Paddington Green high security police station in Central London for questioning. Shortly after his arrest, three other men were held in a raid two miles away in Bankdale Road in the Washwood Heath area of Birmingham. The three are being held in Birmingham.

The arrests are thought to be of major significance in the hunt for the bombers. Detectives fear they may still be in possession of explosives after reports that on the day after the failed July 21 attacks they returned to the tower block flat rented by Omar that they had used as a bomb factory in New Southgate, North London.


Posted by Alan at 06:34 AM

July 25, 2005

China and Russia find common ground

Herman Pirchner, Jr., president of the American Foreign Policy Council, provided an interesting statement last week before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission. His topic: the growing strategic relationship between China and Russia.

All of us have watched strategic cooperation between Russia and China increase dramatically—growing to encompass military sales, joint military research and development, common diplomatic stances on an array of international issues, as well as non-military trade.

The precondition for this interaction was the progressive settlement of the long-standing Russian-Chinese border dispute. The bulk of the current border delineation, largely agreed to in the closing days of the Soviet Union, was formally settled on July 16, 2001. However, agreement on the last disputed parts of the border was not formalized until June 2 nd of this year.

The logic underpinning the settlement was compelling for both sides. Facing a potential future clash with the United States over Taiwan, China did not want the indefinite commitment of military resources required to protect a hostile 2,264-mile border with Russia. Russia, lacking the manpower, resources, and political will to station large numbers of troops along its border with China, also needed a border settlement that would permit it to focus on its long and traumatic domestic evolution.

The border settlement was also a prerequisite for bilateral trade. Russia was the only country able and willing to supply China with the sophisticated military equipment it coveted. Further, Russian sales of non-military items—such as lumber, ores and petroleum—were seen as central to the expansion of China’s economic and industrial activities. The border settlement also helped create the political environment necessary for Russian scientists and engineers to aid the development of Chinese military production.

Success in settling the border question and developing trade gradually evolved into strategic cooperation. Both Russia and China have sought the creation of a “multipolar world” as a means to prevent America’s unfettered global dominance. As a result, the two countries found benefit in blunting American initiatives by cooperating in areas as diverse as missile defense, Taiwan, Central Asia, and space policy.

These factors have formed the basis for a multi-faceted strategic partnership—one that, positive aspects of Russian-American and Chinese-American relations aside, has emerged as an unmistakable challenge to American interests in Eurasia and the Asia-Pacific.

Related: China's military power

Posted by Alan at 08:39 PM

Germany and Japan want in

Germany and Japan seem to be traversing the globe dangling incentives towards the goal of getting permanent seats on the UN Security Council.

Six decades after defeat in World War II banished them to the sidelines of the UN, Germany and Japan are using their combined $16.3 billion in aid to poor African, Asian and Latin American countries in a drive for insider clout.

The two governments, along with Brazil and India, are asking the UN's 191 nations to expand the council to 25 from 15 members, including six permanent seats. "The approach is that they are trying to get elected, and they are using whatever means that they have to try to get support, including aid," Ambassador Jagdish Koonjul of Mauritius said. "It is part of the game."

Debate over Security Council expansion, including resolutions from the African Union and a coalition led by Italy, Mexico, Spain and Pakistan, intensified this month, as did reports of aid offers. Lobbying by the Group of Four, as the German-Japanese coalition calls itself, would be "judged as unethical or worse" if it occurred in a national election, Pakistani Ambassador Munir Akram said in a July 11 speech to the General Assembly.

"It's gotten ugly," said Edward Luck, a former UN consultant who runs the Center on International Organization at Columbia University in New York. "It has become a bad habit that countries trying to become non-permanent members offer inducements, and now that some major powers are trying to become permanent members, they have upped the ante."

The U.S., while backing Japan for a permanent seat, opposes Security Council enlargement before achieving improvement in UN management and oversight. While the U.S. supports one more permanent seat in addition to Japan, it has questioned Germany's credentials and hasn't endorsed Brazil or India.

Shirin Tahir-Kheli, a senior aide to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on UN overhaul issues, told the UN that U.S. criteria for permanent seats include economic size, military capacity and geographic balance.

Brazil and India, which aren't major aid donors, haven't been as aggressive as Japan and Germany in their lobbying, according to Latin American and Asian diplomats.

Posted by Alan at 05:03 PM

Al Qaeda in London

The Times in London reports as the bombing mysteries continue to unfold. For one thing, evidence indicates that there was a fifth bomber.

Police fear that there may have been a fifth bomber who failed to carry out his suicide mission last Thursday after the discovery of a suspect package in bushes near Wormwood Scrubs prison in West London.

The package, found on Saturday morning, appeared to be packed with explosives, nails and bolts, similar to the device found at Warren Street. Police carried out a series of controlled explosions on it.

The four fugitives whose bombs failed to explode must know they cannot stay in one place for long. Their names are known to police, who are trying to find out if these are the men’s real identities. Many identification documents and other evidence had been cut into pieces but were carried in the rucksacks. Detectives are also studying telephone calls believed to link this cell with the four who blew themselves up on July 7.

Police still retain the authority to use deadly force.

More undercover marksmen will be deployed on the streets of London today after it emerged that a fifth bomber may be on the loose after Thursday’s failed bomb attacks.

Despite calls for an inquiry into Scotland Yard’s tactics after the killing of an innocent Brazilian, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, insisted that shoot-to-kill orders will stay in force.

Security forces fear that the four gang members — all believed to be London-based and of East African origin — will strike again before they are found or the explosives degrade.

Sir Ian said that his force took full responsibility for the death of Jean Charles de Menezes, a 27-year-old electrician, but said that there would be no change of orders to his 2,000 armed officers. Politicians and police chiefs believe that the risk of more mass killings is graver than another blunder.

Contrary to some "experts" who say the London attacks were local responses to British support of the Iraq war, a known jihadist operative considered to be the British leader of al Qaeda has been nabbed and may have been the mastermind.

Haroon Rashid Aswat has emerged as the figure that Scotland Yard have been hunting since he flew out of Britain just hours before the attacks which killed 56 people.

Aswat, 30, who is believed to come from the same West Yorkshire town as one of the bombers, arrived in Britain a fortnight before the attacks to orchestrate final planning for the atrocity. He spoke to the suicide team on his mobile phone a few hours before the four men blew themselves up and killed fifty-two other people.

Intelligence sources told The Times that during his stay Aswat visited the home towns of all four bombers as well as selecting targets in London.

Aswat has been known to Western intelligence services for more than three years after the FBI accused him of trying to set up al-Qaeda training camps in the US. When he was arrested in a madrassa (religious school), Aswat is understood to have been posing as a businessmen and using a false name. He was picked up in a raid at a madrassa at Sargodha, 90 miles from Islamabad, by Pakistani intelligence officials and flown to a jail in the capital.

Security sources there told The Times that he was armed with a number of guns, wearing an explosive belt and carrying around £17,000 in cash. He had a British passport and was about to flee across the border to Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, The Guardian reports that both groups of bombers had a connection: whitewater rafting in Wales. Charming.

Links have been uncovered between the two teams of bombers who have brought terror to the streets of London over the past two weeks, say security sources.

Police now believe some of the men they are pursuing for last week's abortive attacks - on Shepherd's Bush, Oval and Warren Street tube stations and on a No 26 bus in Hackney - attended a whitewater rafting trip at the same centre as two of the 7 July bombers, Mohammad Sidique Khan and Shehzad Tanweer.

This raises the distinct possibility that the two operations were connected as part of a larger plan to bring carnage to the capital.

Evidence discovered in the rucksacks left behind by the failed bombers led police to three addresses in London. When investigators cross-referenced them with the electoral register they discovered names that tallied with those of individuals who attended the outdoor adventure course in Snowdonia last summer.

Posted by Alan at 12:48 AM

July 24, 2005

Tsunami warning

Breaking news: tsunami warning for the Indian Ocean.

A tsunami warning has been issued for the Indian Ocean, sparked by an earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 7.3 located in the Nicobar Islands, India, the Japan Meteorological Agency said Sunday.

"There is a possibility of a destructive local tsunami in the Indian Ocean," the agency said in a written statement about the earthquake, which struck at 12:02 p.m. ET.

In an hour or less, a tsunami could hit all coasts of the Andaman and Nicobar Islands of India and, in Indonesia, the Indian Ocean coast and Malacca coast of Sumatra.

The U.S. Geologic Survey measured the quake at a preliminary 7.0 magnitude and said it was centered about 690 miles southwest of Bangkok.

Related:

• International Tsunami Information Center - Tsunami Information Bulletin - July 24, 2005

UPDATE: Good news: warning canceled.

A powerful 7.2-magnitude earthquake hit India's southern Nicobar Islands on Sunday, triggering panic in the islands and prompting Thailand to issue a tsunami warning for the region devastated by December's earthquake and tsunami.

There were no immediate reports of casualties or damage. The islands are in the Indian Ocean between India and Thailand, where some 5,400 people died in the Dec. 26 Indian Ocean tsunami. By late Sunday, no tsunami was seen and Thailand withdrew its warning.

Posted by Alan at 12:03 PM

Civil war in Iraq?

NY Times reporter John Burns offers a wary assessment of trends in Iraq. It's a race between progress and those trying to pull everything down.

From the moment American troops crossed the border 28 months ago, the specter hanging over the American enterprise here has been that Iraq, freed from Mr. Hussein's tyranny, might prove to be so fractured - by politics and religion, by culture and geography, and by the suspicion and enmity sown by Mr. Hussein's years of repression - that it would spiral inexorably into civil war.

If it did, opponents of the American-led invasion had warned, American troops could get caught in the crossfire between Sunnis and Shiites, Kurds and Turkmen, secularists and believers - reduced, in the grimmest circumstances, to the common target of a host of contending militias.

Now, events are pointing more than ever to the possibility that the nightmare could come true. Recent weeks have seen the insurgency reach new heights of sustained brutality. The violence is ever more centered on sectarian killings, with Sunni insurgents targeting hundreds of Shiite and Kurdish civilians in suicide bombings. There are reports of Shiite death squads, some with links to the interior ministry, retaliating by abducting and killing Sunni clerics and community leaders.

The past 10 days have seen such a quickening of these killings, particularly by the insurgents, that many Iraqis are saying that the civil war has already begun.

Posted by Alan at 10:51 AM

Time to accept responsibility

Egypt-born and London-raised, Muslim journalist Mona Eltahawy says "The July 7 London bombings did it for me" and adds her voice to those of other moderate Muslims speaking out against jihadist terrorism.

I never bought the explanation that U.S. foreign policy had "brought on" the Sept. 11 attacks, and I certainly don't buy the idea that the Iraq war is behind the attacks in London. Many people across the world have opposed U.S. and British foreign policy, but that doesn't mean they are rushing to fly planes into buildings or to blow up buses and Underground trains in London.

I was against the invasion of Iraq and would not have voted for George Bush if I were a U.S. citizen, but I'm done with the "George Bush made me do it" excuse. We must accept responsibility for this mess if we are ever to find a way out.

And for those non-Muslims who accept the George Bush excuse, I have a question: Do you think Muslims are incapable of accepting responsibility? It is at least in some way bigoted to think that Muslims can only react violently.

Tip via Athena at Terrorism Unveiled

Unfortunately, there are many voices of denial, like Osama Saeed, "a spokesman" for the Muslim Association of Britain.

By putting the onus on Muslims to defeat terror, the prime minister absolves himself of responsibility. Muslims are not in denial of our duties, but who are we meant to be combating? The security services had no idea about all that has gone on in London, so how are we as ordinary citizens to do better?

It is not Muslims but Mr Blair who is in denial.

The war of ideas continues.

Posted by Alan at 10:19 AM

July 23, 2005

Brits get wrong man

Here's harsh news for both the victim and the British police: they killed a non-terrorist on the Tube, in the mistaken belief that he was a suicide bomber.

Scotland Yard have revealed that the man shot dead by police in south London on Friday is not connected to attempted terror attacks on the capital.

A spokesman said: "For somebody to lose their life in such circumstances is a tragedy and one that the Metropolitan Police Service regrets."

The fatal shooting happened in Stockwell at 10am when armed plain clothes police officers shot a man as he tried to board a train at the underground station.

He had emerged from a nearby house that was under surveillance because of a suspected link to Thursday's attempted bomb attacks on three Tube trains and a bus.

The man, whose name has not yet been released, was then followed by surveillance officers.

He is thought to have caught a bus to Stockwell Tube station where he was challenged by officers, who told him to stop.

He apparently tried to get on a train before he was, according to witnesses, shot five times in the head by an officer with an automatic pistol.

Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair had said that the shooting was "directly linked" to anti-terror operations.

However, in a statement, Scotland Yard have now said: "We believe we now know the identity of the man shot at Stockwell Underground station by police on Friday, July 22, although he is still subject to formal identification.

"We are now satisfied that he was not connected with the incidents of Thursday, July 21, 2005."

The fact that the cops were plainclothes may have contributed to the confusion, but under current conditions in London, it's a big error in judgement to ignore police warnings to stop. Vaulting a barrier in the station isn't a normal behavior.

No matter the cause of the mistake, the incident will no doubt make it harder for police to do what needs to be done, often with only seconds to decide.

Posted by Alan at 03:12 PM

Houston Astros support wounded veterans

Nicely done: Drayton McLane and his Houston Astros raised some spirits recently.

The Houston Astros won their game against the Washington Nationals on Friday night, but earlier that morning they scored in an even bigger way.

Several players, along with owner Drayton McLane and a half-dozen members of the Texas congressional delegation, lit up the faces of seriously wounded soldiers when they visited and hosted a barbecue at Washington's Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

"These are the heroes, these are the guys I feel privileged to meet," relief pitcher Brad Lidge said. "They were so optimistic about everything. You don't feel sorry for them at all because they won't let you."

The visit, during the Astros' four-game series against the Nationals this weekend, was McLane's idea. Reporters were not permitted to attend.

McLane sounded like a proud papa as he described the sight of his athletes eating hot dogs and hamburgers with soldiers their own age who are learning how to get by without arms and legs, or the lives they knew before the fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"At first, they were apprehensive because these are soldiers who are badly injured," said McLane, who, visiting on his birthday, shared a surprise cake with a young soldier who lost most of one leg and all of the other. "But when they got here, they just lit up. It lifted my heart."

The Astros also hosted several soldiers from Walter Reed at each game and will visit the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md.

Posted by Alan at 11:17 AM

Sharm el-Sheikh carnage

Islamist terrorists struck again during the early hours, this time in the Egyptian resort area of Sharm el-Sheikh. Casualties are enormous, almost all ordinary Egyptian citizens, plus some foreigners. Ha'aretz reports:

Three explosions ripped through the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh early Saturday, tearing through a hotel and a coffeeshop packed with European and Egyptian tourists. Police and medical officials said that at least 88 people were killed in the deadliest attack in Egypt in nearly a decade.

Shaken European tourists spoke of mass panic and hysteria as people fled the carnage in the early hours, with bodies strewn across the roads, people screaming and sirens wailing.

The bombings appeared well coordinated. Two car bombs, possibly suicide attackers, went off simultaneously at 1:15 A.M. some 4 kilometers apart. A third bomb, believed hidden in a sack, detonated around the same time near a beachside walkway where tourists often stroll at night.

At least 120 people were wounded and that at least eight foreigners were among the dead. Officials said that the victims included British, Russian, Dutch, Kuwaitis, Saudis, Qataris and Egyptians.

Police said the explosions were caused by three car bombs in Sharm el-Sheikh and the nearby resort of Naama Bay. One blast went off in the driveway of the Ghazala Gardens hotel, a 176-room four-star resort on the main strip of hotels in Naama Bay, said the governor of South Sinai province, Mustafa Afifi.

El-Adli later said that the bombers had shot dead the security guard at the entrance to the hotel before detonating the bomb.

The reception hall of the luxury Ghazala Gardens hotel collapsed into a pancaked pile of concrete, sending terrified guests fleeing for safety, according to an Associated Press reporter at the scene. Rescue workers hours later said they feared more victims may be buried under the rubble.

A second car bomb exploded in a parking area near the Movenpick Hotel, also in Naama Bay, said a receptionist there who declined to identify himself.

The third detonated at a minibus parking lot in the Old Market, an area about four kilometers away, killing 17 people. A security official in the Cairo operations control room monitoring the crisis said he believed most of these casualties were Egyptians sitting at a nearby outdoor coffee shop.

A group citing ties to al-Qaida claimed responsibility for Saturday's Sharm el-Sheikh bombings that killed at least 83 people, according to a statement posted on an Islamic Web site.

The group, calling itself the Abdullah Azzam Brigades, al-Qaida, in Syria and Egypt, said that its "holy warriors targeted the Ghazala Gardens hotel and the Old Market in Sharm el-Sheikh."

The authenticity of the statement could not be immediately verified.

The brigades were one of two Islamist groups that claimed responsibility for the October 7 bombings at Sinai Peninsula Taba and Ras Shitan that killed 34 people.

"Your brothers, the holy warriors of the martyr Abdullah Azzam Brigades succeeded in launching a smashing attack on the Crusaders, Zionists and the renegade Egyptian regime in Sharm el-Sheikh," said the statement.

Despite the terrorists' own statements, Muslim spokesmen naturally and immediately blamed... the Jews, or America, or whoever.

Less than 24 hours after terrorists killed at least 88 people in attacks on the Sinai resort town of Sharm el- Sheikh, Egyptian sources claimed that Israel was responsible for the deadly bombings.

The claims were apparently based on the fact that most of the victims were Egyptian nationals.

Egyptian media analysts, sources in Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood and Egyptian parliamentarian Ala Hasnin, in an interview with the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera television network, all suggested Israel was responsible for the attack.

One Egyptian analyst interviewed by Al-Jazeera said that is was in Israel's interest to carry out such a terror attack and thus Jerusalem was thus responsible for Saturday's bombings.

The analyst told Al-Jazeera there is an abnormal concentration of Israelis visiting in Sinai and that they pose a security threat.

"Why are Israelis able to enter Sinai without undergoing stringent security checks?" the analyst asked.

He went on to add that the United States also has a motive to carry out such an attack.

The analyst closed his Al-Jazeera interview by saying that Israel wants to prove what he described as its fallacious claim that terrorism is spreading throughout the region.

Following the bombings, rumors spread across Egypt indicating that the bomb-laden cars used to attack the Sinai resorts sported Israeli license plates.

Related:

• Wikipedia - Sharm el-Sheikh
Ghazala Gardens Hotel
Moevenpick Sharm El-Sheikh Jolie Ville Resort & Casino

Posted by Alan at 08:36 AM

July 22, 2005

"Enough is enough"

Here's indispensable Victor Davis Hanson on the idea that London somehow deserved to be bombed because of its support for the war in Iraq.

In the West, the new orthodoxy is that removing the theocratic Taliban in Afghanistan was the "correct" war that enjoyed widespread European and American support. In contrast, George W. Bush, in a "unilateral" and "pre-emptive" fashion, unnecessarily attacked the "secular" Saddam Hussein.

The terrorists, unlike us, make no such distinctions. Both actions, they insist, were equal affronts to radical Islam.

The killers always allege particular gripes -- Australian troops in Iraq, Christian proselytizing, Hindu intolerance, occupation of the West Bank, theft of Arab petroleum, the Jews, attacks on the Taliban, the 15th-century reconquest of Spain, and, of course, the Crusades.

But in most cases -- from Mohamed Atta, who crashed into the World Trade Center, to Ahmed Sheik, the former London School of Economics student who planned the beheading of Daniel Pearl, to Magdy Mahmoud Mustafa el-Nashar, the suspected American-educated bomb-maker in London -- the common bond is not poverty, a lack of education or legitimate grievance. Instead it is blind hatred instilled by militant Islam.

Civilization has only two choices. It can continue appeasing these murderers, looking in vain for "root causes" of the mayhem. Maybe Mohammed Bouyeri did not have equal opportunity in the Netherlands? Maybe $50 billion in past American aid to Mohamed Atta's Egypt was too little? Maybe Britain was too insensitive to its Muslim minorities? Maybe the price paid for Middle East oil really is too low?

Or the United States and its allies can deny suspect Middle Eastern males entry into the West while distancing themselves from all Middle East dictatorships, which neither punish nor even shame thousands of their citizens whose money and psychological support fuel murderers across the globe.

We wait for a Western leader with the intellectual integrity and guts at last to say, "Enough is enough."

Posted by Alan at 05:44 PM

London: the hunt is on

laun.jpg

Lots is happening in London today.

Police have issued CCTV images of four men they believe tried to detonate bombs on three London Tube trains and a bus on Thursday. Met Assistant Commissioner Andy Hayman said anyone who knew who or where the men were should contact police.

The bombers fled after detonators went off but failed to set off explosives.

The fatal police shooting of a man at Stockwell Tube station on Friday was linked to anti-terrorist operations, Met Police chief Sir Ian Blair said.

Officers raided three addresses across the capital on Friday as part of anti-terrorist operations.

That included a search of an address in Harrow Road, west London, where area resident Patricia Osbourne said she heard six shots fired.


Posted by Alan at 11:47 AM

China's military power

The DoD has released its annual report (PDF) on China's military capabilities and (insofar as we can tell) intentions.

This report outlines what we know of China's national and military strategies, progress and trends in its military modernization, and their implications for regional security and stability. But, secrecy envelops most aspects of Chinese security affairs. The outside world has little knowledge of Chinese motivations and decision-making and of key capabilities supporting PLA modernization. Hence, the findings and conclusions are based on incomplete data. These gaps are, of necessity, bridged by informed judgment.
Posted by Alan at 11:39 AM

July 21, 2005

London again

London attacked again, but this time by either copycats or second stringers -- the damage was minimal, no thanks to the evil perps.

Explosions struck three London Underground stations and a bus at midday Thursday in a chilling but less deadly replay of the suicide bombings that killed 56 people two weeks ago.

Only one person was reported wounded, but the lunch-hour explosions caused major shock and disruption in the capital and were hauntingly similar to the July 7 bombings by four attackers.

The London police commissioner confirmed Thursday that four explosions took place in what he described as “a very serious incident.”

“We’ve had four explosions — four attempts at explosions,” Metropolitan Police Commissioner Ian Blair said outside police headquarters at Scotland Yard.

At a news gathering, Prime Minister Tony Blair appealed for calm. He said the people behind the incidents are trying to "scare people" and "make them anxious."

Minutes before the prime minister spoke, police with their weapons drawn escorted a man away from the gates at the end of Downing Street.

A police officer drew a firearm and aimed it at a target beyond the range of television cameras. Another officer then led away a man whose black shirt was undone. The man also wore black trousers and appeared to be of Asian or Middle Eastern origin.

Meantime, police were searching a London hospital Thursday for a man wearing a blue shirt with wires protruding from a hole in the back, a TV report said.

More at Blogs of War and Command Post.

Posted by Alan at 11:37 AM

Bush's "smirk"

Why did President Bush look so amused during his announcement of the John Roberts nomination? The truth can now be told. Too funny.

(Tip via the omniscient InstaPundit.)

Posted by Alan at 06:08 AM

Uniting Against Terror

Check out Unite Against Terror, a new site where articulate author/citizens are explaining how and why they each utterly oppose terrorism.

Terrorist attacks against Londoners on July 7th killed at least 54 people. The suicide bombers who struck in Netanya, Israel, on July 12 ended five lives, including two 16 year old girls. And on July 13, in Iraq, suicide bombers slaughtered 24 children. We stand in solidarity with all these strangers, hand holding hand, from London to Netanya to Baghdad: communities united against terror.

These attacks were the latest atrocities committed by terrorist groups inspired by a poisonous and perverted politics that disguises itself as a form of the religion of Islam. The terrorists seek a closed society of fear and conformity. They are opposed by Muslims the world over. Muslim community leaders have condemned the London attacks unequivocally. We reject the terrorists' claim that they represent authentic Islam. They do not.

The eloquent contributors include Christopher Hitchens, Oliver Kamm, Stephen Pollard, and more.

Posted by Alan at 01:21 AM

Peter Jennings lung cancer - update

Alert readers have been asking about the status of Peter Jennings and his battle against lung cancer, first announced last April. It has in fact come up in several media reports recently.

USA Today quoted ABC News host Charlie Gibson last week.

[A]side from surprising staffers at ABC News headquarters in New York a few weeks ago, thinner but in good spirits, [Jennings] has stayed out of sight, refused interview requests and not talked publicly about his illness.

That has prompted a steady flow of inquiries from a wide variety of people — the second-place World News Tonight draws 9 million viewers a night — who are curious about how the veteran anchor is doing.

"Everybody asks me," says Gibson, 63, who has been filling in for Jennings along with 20/20 anchor Elizabeth Vargas. "Chemotherapy is a long slog, and there's not much you can say that is new. 'Today was a good day. Yesterday was a bad day.' That doesn't really help, so we've been sparing in what we've said."

But Gibson says Jennings "was quite heavily involved" in last week's coverage of the terrorist bombings in London, which Gibson anchored. Jennings spent 15 years reporting from London for ABC. "It's his turf," Gibson says.

Tim Cuprisin, TV & radio columnist for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, quoted an ABC News producer along the same lines.

Jon Banner, executive producer of "World News Tonight," tells Inside TV & Radio that Jennings remains a regular player in the nightly newscasts - just not on camera.

"Peter continues to be very involved with the broadcast," says Banner. "In fact, we had a pretty healthy debate about who our person of the week should be.

"He participates often in our 9 o'clock editorial call, which he calls in on from home."

Jennings has dropped by the office a couple times since starting treatment. But there's no word on when he'll return to the broadcast. Banner says: "We have said always that whenever he wanted to come back, if he gave us 45 minutes' notice, we'll make sure we're ready for him.

"He's still involved in treatment, and I think that's where his focus lies."

UPDATE: Peter Jennings has now passed away.

Posted by Alan at 12:58 AM

July 20, 2005

RIP, James Doohan

Today, the 36th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing, James Doohan has died. He'll be missed.

He was a D-Day veteran, versatile actor, master of dialects, and beloved as Montgomery "Scotty" Scott, chief engineer of the Federation starship USS Enterprise (that's "NCC 1701. No bloody A, B, C, or D.")

The NY Times has a mostly snarky obituary (shame on you, John Schwartz), but this part is moving.

Mr. Doohan influenced a generation of engineers, who saw him as a role model. The Milwaukee School of Engineering awarded Mr. Doohan an honorary doctor of engineering degree in 1993 "after a survey of students revealed that a large number of respondents said the character Scotty's 'engineer' title piqued their interest in the field," said Kathleen McCann, a spokeswoman for the school. "He brought the field of engineering to the forefront of pop culture," she said in an e-mail response to questions.

When he attended a special James Doohan Farewell Star Trek Convention last summer, using a wheelchair but alert, one of the people who spoke at the ceremony was Neil Armstrong, the first person to actually walk on the soil of another world and a "Star Trek" fan. According to accounts of the event, Mr. Armstrong said he hoped his next command would be a Federation starship, and added "if I get that command, I want a chief engineering officer like Montgomery Scott."

Related:

• StarTrek.com - Remembering James Doohan
• TrekToday - James Doohan dies at 85

Posted by Alan at 05:36 PM

Lunar anniversary

Cool: Google Moon.

All in honor of the Apollo missions, including the July 20, 1969 Apollo 11 landing. Thanks, Google.

Note: zoom all the way in. Also read about Google Copernicus.

Related: NASA History - The Apollo Program.

Posted by Alan at 06:51 AM

Hoover's legacy

History lesson: former judge Laurence Silberman had the responsibility to review FBI chief J. Edgar Hoover's notorious "secret files" and is still repulsed by what he learned.

The House Judiciary Committee demanded I testify about those files, so I was obliged to read them. Accompanied by only one FBI official, I read virtually all these files in three weekends. It was the single worst experience of my long governmental service. Hoover had indeed tasked his agents with reporting privately to him any bits of dirt on figures such as Martin Luther King, or their families. Hoover sometimes used that information for subtle blackmail to ensure his and the bureau's power.

I intend to take to my grave nasty bits of information on various political figures--some still active. As bad as the dirt collection business was, perhaps even worse was the evidence that he had allowed--even offered--the bureau to be used by presidents for nakedly political purposes. I have always thought that the most heinous act in which a democratic government can engage is to use its law enforcement machinery for political ends.

Former Director Louis Freeh initiated the practice of taking new FBI recruits through the Holocaust Museum to show what can happen when the law enforcement apparatus of a country becomes corrupted. I have always thought that sort of extreme example was a bit farfetched for our country, but there is an episode closer to home. I think it would be appropriate to introduce all new recruits to the nature of the secret and confidential files of J. Edgar Hoover. And in that connection this country--and the bureau--would be well served if his name were removed from the bureau's building. It is as if the Defense Department were named for Aaron Burr. Liberals and conservatives should unite to support legislation to accomplish this repudiation of a very sad chapter in American history.

Who was Hoover's most voracious customer for politically useful dirt? LBJ.

Posted by Alan at 06:39 AM

July 19, 2005

Roberts Supreme Court nomination

President Bush nominated highly qualified John G. Roberts Jr. tonight for the U.S. Supreme Court seat being vacated by retiring Associate Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.

[A] nominee to that Court must be a person of superb credentials and the highest integrity; a person who will faithfully apply the Constitution and keep our founding promise of equal justice under law. I have found such a person in Judge John Roberts.

And tonight, I'm honored to announce that I am nominating him to serve as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. John Roberts currently serves on one of the most influential courts in the nation, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Before he was a -- before he was a respected judge, he was known as one of the most distinguished and talented attorneys in America. John Roberts has devoted his entire professional life to the cause of justice and is widely admired for his intellect, his sound judgment, and personal decency.

Judge Roberts was born in Buffalo and grew up in Indiana. In high school, he captained his football team, and he worked summers in a steel mill to help pay his way through college. He's an honors graduate of both Harvard College and Harvard Law School. In his career, he has served as a law clerk to Justice William Rehnquist, as an Associate Counsel to President Ronald Reagan, and as the Principal Deputy Solicitor General in the Department of Justice.

In public service and in private practice, he has argued 39 cases before the Supreme Court and earned a reputation as one of the best legal minds of his generation. Judge Roberts has earned the respect of people from both political parties. After he was nominated for the Court of Appeals in 2001, a bipartisan group of more than 150 lawyers sent a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee. They wrote:

"Although as individuals we reflect a wide spectrum of political party affiliation and ideology, we are united in our belief that John Roberts will be an outstanding federal court appeals judge and should be confirmed by the United States Senate."

The signers of this letter included a former counsel to a Republican President, a former counsel to two Democratic Presidents, and a former -- and former high-ranking Justice Department officials of both parties.

Bush seemed more than self-confident, as shown in the White House video. If it's possible to swagger while standing still, that was it.

John at Blogs of War has started a comprehensive list of links and resources.

It will be tough for the Democrats to mount credible opposition to a judicial candidate who received unanimous Senate approval as a Washington, D.C. federal appellate judge only two years ago. They'll try like crazy, of course, as promised by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NJ) to his cell-phone buddy a few weeks ago. But it isn't going to fly with the public.

Posted by Alan at 09:22 PM

Truth about Harry Potter

Here's very smart Meghan Cox Gurdon on the sixth Harry Potter novel.

There is maturity of another kind in this book that sets it apart from the rest of the series thus far, and that is the depth of its moral message. This may comfort readers made uneasy by claims that the Harry Potter books are somehow satanic or by Pope Benedict XVI's recently publicized criticism of the series as potentially harmful to children's religious formation.

For gone is the implied but relatively crude Manichaeism of the earlier books. The struggle between Good and Evil is enriched, this time, by explicit talk of free will, the power of love and the sanctity of the soul.

What leaps out from the intricate storyline and wonderfully fresh prose--still, after six books!--of "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" is the jaw-dropping scope of J.K. Rowling's achievement even before she publishes the last in the series.

With each book she has revealed progressively more of her brilliantly clever parallel world, from the first and comparatively simple volumes for and about younger children through the darker and more detailed later books. It is only as we proceed--and ideas seemingly thrown casually into the mix ripen into great significance--that it becomes clear that it's a world she has seen in its fantastic complexity all along. We enthusiasts, we happy millions, can only marvel at her skill at sustaining innumerable narrative skeins and wrapping them ever more tightly together--in the process keeping us. . . rapt.

Book Moot identifies two major themes. One involves slapping.

Still haven't been able to start it myself; perhaps by this weekend there will be time. It's getting more difficult to avoid spoilers.

Posted by Alan at 06:37 AM

Catholic Church vs. Hugo Chavez

A Catholic cardinal in Venezuela speaks truth to power: strongman president Hugo Chavez is well on his way to re-creating Castro's Cuba.

A Venezuelan cardinal accused President Hugo Chavez of accumulating too much power amid growing tensions between the government leaders of the Roman Catholic Church.

Cardinal Rosalio Castillo Lara said Sunday that Chavez's administration "has seized control of all the branches of government" in Venezuela, which is deeply divided over the president's populist policies and increasingly close relations with communist-led Cuba.

The president and the church have crossed words in the past. The Roman Catholic Church has been one of the most vocal critics of Chavez, who has in turn called the church leadership a "tumor."

Castillo Lara's statements came after Chavez, speaking during his weekly radio program, accused the cardinal of siding with Venezuela's "coup-plotting" opposition while ignoring his obligations to the poor.

The cardinal told the local Union Radio broadcaster "true democracy" does not exist in Venezuela and warned the president is steering the world's 5th largest oil exporter toward a Cuba-style dictatorship.

"The only solution is democratic, which must involve the resistance of all the people," Castillo Lara said.

Posted by Alan at 12:42 AM

Tragedy thwarted

The Shi'ite citizens of Iraq were cynically targeted again by terrorists, but this time the attack was thwarted.

[O]n Saturday, during a funeral for children who died in the bombing on Wednesday, a unit of the Iraqi police stopped a suspicious-looking man approaching the funeral procession and discovered that he was wearing a suicide vest filled with explosives and ball bearings, the American command reported Sunday.

An explosives team disarmed the man, a Libyan, and no one was hurt, according to the American military.

"The bomber was high on drugs and is being treated for the potential overdose," said Col. Joseph DiSalvo, an American commander. The bomber, he said, "came here to kill the grieving parents of the children who were killed on Wednesday."

"I cannot imagine a worse crime."

Tip via Chrenkoff, who observes:

Really, it's all about the American occupation of Iraq, which has inflamed feelings in Iraq itself and across the Muslim world. Which is why foreign Sunnis are coming to Iraq to join an organization led by a Jordanian so they can blow up children, and then blow-up their parents, while drugged up to their eyeballs. Clear?
Posted by Alan at 12:24 AM

July 18, 2005

Clinton vs. McCain?

David M. Shribman, editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette presents his take on the only two potential candidates with any buzz (as of now) in the 2008 presidential race.

Here are the two most prominent people in presidential politics three summers away from the national nominating conventions: A Republican who very likely can win the general election but likely can't win his own party's nomination. And a Democrat who very likely can win her party's nomination but likely can't win the general election.

The pronouns provide a hint, but even if they didn't, you would probably guess that we're talking about Sen. John S. McCain of Arizona and Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York. They're not as unalike as you think. They're not really from the states they represent. They're not really in the mainstream of their own parties. They're not really what they seem to be.

But they are the most intoxicating figures in American politics today -- and together they personify the problems the political establishment has as the 2008 campaign approaches and underline the power the conservative movement possesses.

Tip via ABC's The Note

Read the whole thing. Not exhaustive, but it's a good take.

Posted by Alan at 05:50 PM

New site alert

Jeff Quinton at Backcountry Conservative writes to say that he is contributing to a new web site: World Defense Review. It's described by editor W. Thomas Smith Jr. as a "global military/defense publication" and looks quite interesting.

Check it out.

Posted by Alan at 12:15 PM

July 17, 2005

Hurricane Emily

Hurricane Emily is now a very strong Category 4 and barreling towards Mexico. It'll be a long night in Cancun.

Two people also were killed in a helicopter crash on the Gulf of Mexico as more than 15,500 workers were evacuated from offshore oil platforms.

The Category 4 storm, which pounded Jamaica's southern coast, then made a jag to the south that spared the Cayman Islands before it set course for Mexico, was expected to land near Cancun Sunday night or early Monday.

Emily was likely to make landfall again on Wednesday anywhere from northeastern Mexico to southern Texas, Jack Beven, the hurricane specialist at the Miami-based center said, but cautioned it was too early to make a precise prediction.

State oil company Pemex was removing the last few hundred workers from oil platforms on the Gulf of Mexico. Strong winds downed a helicopter participating in the evacuation on Saturday night, killing a pilot and co-pilot, the company said.

The platform evacuations closed 63 wells and halting the production of 480,000 barrels of oil per day.

Related links:

National Hurricane Center
HurricaneTrack.com

Posted by Alan at 05:33 PM

Tragedy, again

Say a prayer for the unfortunate citizens of Musayyib in Iraq, who are among the latest victims of terrorist fanatics acting out their own psychopathic fantasies. More children are dead to satisfy jihadist bloodlust.

A suicide bomber detonated an explosive belt Saturday night inside a Shiite Muslim mosque in a town south of Baghdad, igniting cooking gas in a tanker parked outside and setting off a massive fireball that killed at least 98 people and destroyed or damaged homes more than a half-mile away, police said.

The unidentified bomber struck at 8 p.m. in Musayyib, a town about 35 miles south of Baghdad in a largely lawless part of Babil province that has come to be known as the triangle of death. A spokesman for the provincial police, Capt. Muthanna Ahmed, said by telephone that the attacker detonated his belt inside the mosque and could not have known the fuel tanker had been parked nearby while its driver was eating dinner at a local restaurant. As a result, Ahmed said, the apparent attempt at killing a relatively small group of worshipers resulted in a conflagration that was "just like a nuclear bomb explosion."

Ahmed said many of the wounded were critically burned and that Musayyib's medical facilities could not handle the huge number of casualties. Some of the wounded were taken to clinics in Hilla and Karbala, while provincial officials appealed for medical workers in the area to go to Musayyib as quickly as possible.

Firefighters converged on the town to battle blazes that were still raging late Saturday night, said Ahmed, who estimated that the devastation extended from the mosque for about 1,100 yards in every direction.

Posted by Alan at 12:09 PM

Londonistan still

"Denial ain't just a river in Egypt." Some in the British government still don't get it.

Britain's government rejected criticism that lax policies toward Muslim political refugees helped facilitate terror recruiters, while police Sunday searched an Islamic bookstore in the northern city of Leeds, hometown of three of the London suicide bombers.

As the investigation continued into the July 7 mass-transit terror attacks, a newspaper reported that Britain's domestic secret service, MI5, had scrutinized one of the four suspected bombers in 2004 but did not regard him as a threat to national security or put him under surveillance.

Police declined to comment on the report, as did a spokesman for Prime Minister
Tony Blair's office.

But Charles Falconer, the Secretary for Constitutional Affairs and Lord Chancellor, dismissed a suggestion that the government had been lax in its policies toward political refugees from Muslim countries, thereby helping to make Britain a fertile recruiting ground for Islamic terrorism.

"In terms of asylum, our policy is: If you are in fear of persecution, you are entitled to come here," the minister said Sunday on British Broadcasting Corp. television. "Obviously, if you then seek to attack the very state that you come to, that gives rise to different questions.

Here's that report from The Times in London.

ONE of the four suicide terrorists behind the London bomb attacks was scrutinised by MI5 last year, but was judged not to be a threat to national security, a senior government official said yesterday.

As a result, MI5 failed to put him under surveillance and his plans to become a suicide bomber remained undetected.

Mohammed Sidique Khan, a 30-year-old teaching assistant from Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, who killed six other passengers when he blew himself up on a Tube at Edgware Road, was the subject of a routine threat assessment by MI5 officers after his name cropped up during an investigation in 2004.

That inquiry focused on an alleged plot to explode a 600lb truck bomb outside a target in London, thought to be a crowded Soho nightclub.

The government official said a “quick assessment” had been made of Khan at the time. Like hundreds of others linked to the inquiry, he was judged to be “on the periphery” of the suspect cell’s network.

“You made quick assessments of them to decide whether or not they were a threat. None of the other people were a threat, including Khan,” the official said.

Two American intelligence officials said last Friday that Khan was known to Mohammed Junaid Babar, who pleaded guilty in June 2004 to providing material support to Al-Qaeda.

Babar has admitted setting up a training camp for Islamist terrorists in Afghanistan. He has told prosecutors that he worked to aid a plot to blow up pubs, train stations and restaurants in Britain.

Posted by Alan at 11:56 AM

Using RICO for border control

This Idaho county commissioner is on the right track. One way to get a grip on illegal immigration across the southern border is to focus on those making the real money from the deal: the employers who exploit the immigrants and break the law every day with (so far) impunity.

Faced with the costs of coping with illegal immigrants, one county is looking to the courts for help — by filing a racketeering lawsuit against the businesses that hire such workers.

The legal theory: a pattern of immigration violations is costing Canyon County millions for law enforcement, education and social services.

"Their presence lowers the labor wage for American citizens and removes employment opportunities," said county Commissioner Robert Vasquez, an ambitious politician who just started a bid for Congress, in reference to illegal workers.

The county's attempt to recoup its expenses would be filed under the federal Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, commonly called the RICO Act, which has been used against targets ranging from organized crime to Internet spammers.

It would be the first time that a government has sued a business under RICO, enacted in 1970, legal experts say.

On the surface, Canyon County seems to have a solid case, said G. Robert Blakey, one of the authors of the RICO Act and a law professor at the University of Notre Dame.

"If people are knowingly bringing in and exploiting undocumented immigrants, they are creating a federal crime," Blakey said.

Think this is an overreaction? Read these:

Do Your Own Dishes
Mexifornia

Posted by Alan at 10:29 AM

July 16, 2005

Cyber-jihad

Listen to NPR's Mike Shuster's report on how jihadists are using the Internet.

Terrorism experts now see the Internet as a virtual training camp for international jihad, as well as a possible command and control mechanism. Several significant postings since last year pointed to attacks in London, like those last week. One, "Iraqi Jihad -- Hopes and Dreams," anticipated attacks in Madrid and London. It also suggests the strategy of expanding violence in Western Europe in an effort to separate the United States and its allies.

Possible next targets in Europe for al Qaeda's strategy of "vex and exhaust" include Denmark, Poland, and Italy.

Posted by Alan at 08:25 AM

China warning

The increasingly confident and assertive Chinese are rattling sabres again, this time about their nukes.

A senior general in the Chinese army threatened to use nuclear arms against the United States in a conflict over the Taiwan Strait, prompting the Bush administration to call the remarks "highly irresponsible."

"If the Americans draw their missiles and position-guided ammunition onto the target zone on China's territory, I think we will have to respond with nuclear weapons," Maj. Gen. Zhu Chenghu said in yesterday's editions of the Financial Times and the Asian Wall Street Journal.

The comments were the most explicit statement of strategic intent by a Chinese military official since 1995, when another officer, Gen. Xiong Guangkai, implicitly threatened to use nuclear arms against Los Angeles if the United States intervened in a Taiwan conflict.

"If the Americans are determined to interfere ... we will be determined to respond," said Gen. Zhu, head of China's National Defense University. "We Chinese will prepare ourselves for the destruction of all of the cities east of Xian [in central China]. Of course the Americans will have to be prepared that hundreds ... of cities will be destroyed by the Chinese."

The comments come as the Pentagon is prepared to release its annual report to Congress on China's military. The report, according to Pentagon officials, will be the harshest assessment since 2000 on China's arms buildup, which includes a rapid deployment of ships, aircraft, missiles and other high-tech weaponry since 2002.

Gen. Zhu told the papers that his comments were personal remarks and not official policy, and that he did not believe China and the United States will go to war.

A Pentagon official, speaking on background, said Chinese generals normally express only official positions and that Gen. Zhu's comments represent the views of senior officers.

"These comments are a signal to all of Asia that China does not fear U.S. forces," the official said, adding that the general may have inadvertently disclosed elements of a Chinese war plan, or the disclosure was calculated and cleared in advance by senior political leaders.

China's current nuclear arsenal is believed by U.S. intelligence agencies to include an estimated 45 to 57 missiles that can reach American cities. However, China's military is rapidly building up its forces and is developing at least three new strategic missile systems, including the DF-31 and DF-31A road-mobile missiles, and the JL-2 submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

It's not clear that the Chinese leadership would actually be crazy enough to unleash a nuclear attack on an American city, given the still overwhelming general superiority of America's military might. But just the idea of such a thing, combined with a known capability, might be more than enough to deter an American president from taking action. And that deterrent effect is what they want.

It's another reason why missile defense is so important. Faster, please.

Related note: today is the 60th anniversary of Trinity, the first atomic bomb test by the Manhattan Project.

Posted by Alan at 07:57 AM

Potter fever

We went to our local independent bookstore at about 11:00 p.m. last night to enjoy the Harry Potter festivities and pick up our copy of the new book: much joy for all involved. The store seemed to have more than 400 pre-orders.

Arrived home before 1:00 a.m. and the youngest settled in to read. She was still going when I went to bed at 2:00 a.m. It'll be interesting to see what she says when she emerges from the Chamber of Reading... sometime today.

UPDATE: Results as of Sunday afternoon: youngest daughter sat in 10 minutes of thoughtful silence yesterday afternoon after finishing the tale and then wordlessly handed it off to sister.

Daughter no. 2 ripped through the book in about four hours and then, tightlipped and misty-eyed, transferred custody to her mother, who has been reading steadily. So far, confidentiality has been well-preserved.

UPDATE 2: Lovely and talented wife had to wipe away tears near the end of the book. She and the girls stayed up late Sunday night to debate and discuss. Mine to read now, as work allows this week.

UPDATE 3: More here.

Posted by Alan at 07:18 AM

July 15, 2005

Dumbledore and Churchill

More thoughts on Harry Potter: a deliberate evocation of 1930s Britain, the rise of fascism in Europe, and the response of the British elite? So says Jonathan Last.

[T]he early Potter tales were essentially Hardy Boys stories--each book confronted Harry and his friends with a series of small puzzles, the solving of which led to the resolution of a big case.

In the fifth book, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," something interesting happened. The author, J.K. Rowling, abandoned the mystery genre and gave her readers something more challenging: a historical allegory. Through sleight-of-hand, Ms. Rowling took a children's book and transformed it into a parable about 1930s England. We've heard a lot recently about London and the Blitz. Ms. Rowling's unfolding saga may illuminate that dark historical moment, not only the ordeals that led up to it but also--who knows?--the triumphs that followed.

The parallels between this volume and Britain's prewar dithering are so great that the book is perhaps best read as a light companion to "Alone," the second volume of William Manchester's biography of Winston Churchill.

Posted by Alan at 06:10 AM

July 14, 2005

Launch windows

NASA's launch of space shuttle Discovery was delayed yesterday due to a faulty fuel-tank sensor. NASA's challenge now is to solve the problem fast in order the meet the available launch window: either this weekend or wait for weeks.

So, what's a "launch window" and what would they have to wait? Here's an explanation.

The margin of time when a space shuttle can be successfully launched is exactingly narrow — a mere 10 minutes or less.

When it lifts off, Discovery must take the shortest route to its destination, the international space station, which orbits Earth at thousands of miles per hour.

The space station crosses 240 miles above the launchpad twice a day, providing two windows for Discovery to hit its target. Because the space station moves so quickly, the launch windows are narrow. Wait too long, and the shuttle will burn all its fuel trying to catch up.

The number of launch windows is further reduced from two to one because of the way the space station orbits Earth, traveling from about 51 degrees above the equator to 51 degrees below.

This means that during one launch window the space station is moving from north to south across Florida and from south to north the next.

The space station's path must be from south to north to permit a shuttle launch; otherwise Discovery could not safely shed its external tank into the ocean or reach emergency landing sites in New Mexico, California, Spain or France.

After Columbia's disintegration, another factor limits the number of launch windows. The spacecraft must leave Earth during the day, so high-definition cameras can capture images of any debris.

As a result, Discovery must launch by by 7:40 a.m. on July 31, or the launch will have to be put on hold again for several weeks until those daytime windows return.

Posted by Alan at 06:31 AM

Potter power

Harry Potter fever continues to build anew. Now Great Britain's Chancellor of the Exchequer weighs in:

Chancellor Gordon Brown has said the Harry Potter books are one of Britain's "greatest exports".

"I think JK Rowling has done more for literacy around the world than any single human being," he added.

Given the ongoing enthusiasm by millions of youngsters around the world, including scads of previously non-reading boys, that may not be hyperbole.

Even Hollywood fears Harry's power.

Eleven-year-old Cassie Todd is looking forward to the new movie version of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory," based on the beloved children's book by Roald Dahl. But Cassie has priorities. When "Charlie" opens this weekend, she will be poring over "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince," the sixth installment in J.K. Rowling's blockbuster book series.

Cassie, who turns 12 next week, is hosting a Harry Potter-theme birthday sleepover at her Takoma Park, Md., home. "We'll watch a Harry Potter movie, have dinner, then read chapter-by-chapter aloud," she says. Seeing "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" will have to wait.

So despite anticipation for "Charlie," a $150 million product of Time Warner Inc.'s Warner Bros. Entertainment, the movie this weekend will be competing for the same family audience that is slavishly devoted to Harry Potter. If book buyers behave as they have during past outbursts of Pottermania -- staying up late to buy the latest installment at midnight, then rushing home to spend the weekend feverishly reading -- it could damp Charlie's debut.

In the movie business, that is crucial, as the all-important opening weekend typically sets the pace for a film's overall performance and establishes the word-of-mouth that helps generate hits.

Posted by Alan at 06:08 AM

July 13, 2005

Biological warfare

Need more to worry about? Try this:

The knowledge needed to engineer new weapon-usable biological agents is common around the world, and the United States must seek the proper balance between agility of response and countermeasure stockpiling in defending against biological terrorism, experts told a U.S. House of Representatives subcommittee this morning.

Programs to protect against known threats are not “bad things,” [Molecular Sciences Institute Director Roger] Brent added, but “what’s going to come at you is impossible to predict.”

The threat is underscored by the wide dissemination of biological-engineering knowledge around the globe, Brent said.

“There are now tens of thousands of people who could engineer drug-resistant anthrax,” said the scientist, who as a consultant to the U.S. government has received numerous briefings on U.S. and Soviet biological weapon programs.

Posted by Alan at 05:19 PM

Stanching the flow

Jihadists struck out today at Iraq's children and their would-be benefactors: American soldiers.

A suicide car bomber sped up to American soldiers distributing candy to children and detonated his explosives Wednesday, killing up to 27 other people, U.S. and Iraqi officials said. One U.S. soldier and about a dozen children were among the dead.

At least 21 others, including three U.S. soldiers, were wounded in the attack, the second major suicide bombing in Baghdad this week.

The fireball from Wednesday's blast also set a nearby house ablaze, the U.S. military said. The attack stunned the impoverished east Baghdad neighborhood of mostly Shiite Muslims and Christians.

Almost all the suicide assaults in Iraq are carried out by foreign fanatics, as reported just last month.

The vast majority of suicide attackers in Iraq are thought to be foreigners - mostly Saudis and other Gulf Arabs - and the trend has become more pronounced this year with North Africans also streaming in to carry out deadly missions, U.S. and Iraqi officials say.

The bombers are recruited from Sunni communities, smuggled into Iraq from Syria after receiving religious indoctrination, and then quickly bundled into cars or strapped with explosive vests and sent to their deaths, the officials told The Associated Press. The young men are not so much fighters as human bombs - a relatively small but deadly component of the Iraqi insurgency.

''The foreign fighters are the ones that most often are behind the wheel of suicide car bombs, or most often behind any suicide situation,'' said U.S. Air Force Brig. Gen. Don Alston, spokesman for the Multinational Force in Iraq.

Officials have long believed that non-Iraqis infiltrating the country through its porous borders with Syria, Iran and Saudi Arabia were behind most suicide missions, and the wave of bloody strikes in recent months has confirmed that thinking.

U.S. strategy may soon tilt strongly towards stanching that flow of human sacrifice.

Some government analysts have concluded that U.S. forces in Iraq will never defeat the ubiquitous improvised explosive devices (IEDs) with new technologies and should augment the fight with a full-fledged border war to stop bombers at the source.

The analysts also believe the U.S. must start identifying the foreign fighters as invaders, which would better justify the redeployment of American and Iraqi forces along the border with Syria, aided by more use of spy drones and satellites to watch for incursions 24 hours a day.

"Until the invaders are stopped or the traffic reduced, there will always be violent people willing to sacrifice themselves to advance the schemes of others," said a defense official who has brainstormed the problem with analysts in the U.S. intelligence community. "I think the trick is to dry up the source of those willing to commit acts of unspeakable violence."

The idea would not be to "seal" the Syrian border, a mission that would be practically impossible. The goal would be to set up forces and spy sensors to such a degree that most crossings could be spotted and attacked.

The U.S. military has already conducted numerous offensive operations near that border and along the Euphrates. But why hasn't this already been pursued more comprehensively?

Charles Krohn, a former Army official who spent time inside the green zone in Baghdad working on strategies, said military commanders had wanted to conduct more border operations but did not have sufficient troops.
Posted by Alan at 06:59 AM

Compare and contrast

Daniel Pipes draws a surprising but ultimately realistic conclusion.

Thanks to the war in Iraq, much of the world sees the British government as resolute and tough and the French one as appeasing and weak. But in another war, the one against terrorism and radical Islam, the reverse is true: France is the most stalwart nation in the West, even more so than America, while Britain is the most hapless.

British-based terrorists have carried out operations in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kenya, Tanzania, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Israel, Morocco, Russia, Spain, and America. Many governments - Jordanian, Egyptian, Moroccan, Spanish, French, and American - have protested London's refusal to shut down its Islamist terrorist infrastructure or extradite wanted operatives. In frustration, Egypt's president Hosni Mubarak publicly denounced Britain for "protecting killers." One American security group has called for Britain to be listed as a terrorism-sponsoring state.

Read the whole thing to understand why the contrast between the two "makes Britain the Western country most vulnerable to the ravages of radical Islam whereas France, for all its political failings, has held onto a sense of self that may yet see it through."

Meanwhile, authorities in Great Britain are facing unnerving facts.

Four suicide bombers, at least three of them British, were responsible for the explosions that killed more than 50 people in London, senior security sources said last night.

The three were all thought to be of Pakistani ethnic origin and said by neighbours to have lived modest suburban lives in West Yorkshire.

The revelations realised the worst fears of police and the Muslim community. It confirmed the men as western Europe's first suicide bombers and the first Britons to attack their own countrymen with explosives since the ceasefire in Northern Ireland.

British journalist Melanie Phillips has received disturbing correspondence from a reader, and has this essential thought:

It cannot be stressed too much that the hatred that fuels Islamic terrorism does not derive solely from religious texts but is incited and inflamed by lies and distortions about the history and present actions of the west and above all about the Jews and about Israel — a world-view based on a wholesale denial and inversion of the truth which has poisoned the minds of millions.

Bill Roggio and Marvin Hutchens have assembled a Flash presentation detailing al Qaeda's bloody record of terror since 1998. Their summary:

The facts presented speak for themselves.

There have been 30 major mass casualty attacks directed against the United States, Britain, France, Spain, Pakistan, Kenya, Tanzania, India, Iraq, Morocco, Yemen, Tunisia, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and North Osetia. 14 of the 30 attacks were conducted prior to the invasion of Iraq, making claims of the occupation of Iraq as a casus belli for al Qaeda’s terrorism to be disingenuous at best. 4,895 people have been killed in these attacks, and 12,345 plus have been wounded. The majority of the countries attacked are Muslim countries. And although not stated, the vast majority of the victims of al Qaeda's violence are Muslims.

Posted by Alan at 12:27 AM

July 12, 2005

Root out the cancer

Mansoor Ijaz adds his voice to others on what Muslim communities must do if they genuinely want to eradicate terrorism, with a recommended three-part plan of action.

(Published in full by the Financial Times in London (subscribers only) and summarized by NewsMax.)

"That moderate Muslims do not take meaningful steps to irradicate al-Qaeda's cancerous metastasis in their communities is a stunning failure of leadership and lies at the heart of the increasing distrust secular societies have for all Muslims."

"Real action is needed and fast," the Pakistani-American investment banker urges.

"First, forbid the use of mosques and other religious institutions to discharge bigotry and hatred. As France has done already, Britain should require each imam to pass minimum competency exams. ... Those that pass must accept their citizenship responsibilities to become resources for authorities seeking data on criminal elements residing in Britain's Muslim communities.

"Any imam failing to comply should be shown politely to the departure lounge at Heathrow airport," says Ijaz.

"Second, open Britain's Islamic charities to greater financial scrutiny to identify those that fund terrorism. Charities should be asked to limit foreign donations to 10 per cent of operating budgets and certify that the remainder of their donors are British citizens who give from taxable and transparent income sources.

More.

UPDATE: A version of Mansoor Ijaz's full article has been reprinted by the Christian Science Monitor.

Posted by Alan at 07:16 PM

Firing both barrels

Mark Steyn succinctly says something very important:

Terrorism ends when the broader culture refuses to tolerate it. There would be few if any suicide bombers in the Middle East if "martyrdom" were not glorified by imams and politicians, if pictures of local "martyrs" were not proudly displayed in West Bank grocery stores, if Muslim banks did not offer special "martyrdom" accounts to the relicts thereof, if schools did not run essay competitions on "Why I want to grow up to be a martyr".

We can take steps to prevent Islamic terrorists killing us, most of the time. But Islamic terrorists will only stop trying to kill us when their culture reviles them rather than celebrates them.

Christopher Hitchens wrote this the day after last week's terrorist assault on London.

We know very well what the "grievances" of the jihadists are.

The grievance of seeing unveiled women. The grievance of the existence, not of the State of Israel, but of the Jewish people. The grievance of the heresy of democracy, which impedes the imposition of sharia law. The grievance of a work of fiction written by an Indian living in London. The grievance of the existence of black African Muslim farmers, who won't abandon lands in Darfur. The grievance of the existence of homosexuals. The grievance of music, and of most representational art. The grievance of the existence of Hinduism. The grievance of East Timor's liberation from Indonesian rule. All of these have been proclaimed as a licence to kill infidels or apostates, or anyone who just gets in the way.

For a few moments yesterday, Londoners received a taste of what life is like for the people of Iraq and Afghanistan, whose Muslim faith does not protect them from slaughter at the hands of those who think they are not Muslim enough, or are the wrong Muslim.

It is a big mistake to believe this is an assault on "our" values or "our" way of life. It is, rather, an assault on all civilisation.

The grievances I listed above are unappeasable, one of many reasons why the jihadists will lose.

They demand the impossible - the cessation of all life in favour of prostration before a totalitarian vision. Plainly, we cannot surrender. There is no one with whom to negotiate, let alone capitulate.

We shall track down those responsible. States that shelter them will know no peace. Communities that shelter them do not take forever to discover their mistake. And their sordid love of death is as nothing compared to our love of London, which we will defend as always, and which will survive this with ease.

Tip via the omniscient InstaPundit

Posted by Alan at 12:20 AM

July 11, 2005

Nigeria's gunman

The Telegraph in London profiles the Nigerian rebel/gangster who is having a big impact on us from a part of the world we rarely think about.

If the rising cost of the world's oil can be blamed on any one man, a portly African militia leader with a poster of Osama bin Laden glowering from his wall is the most likely culprit.

Al-Haji Mujahid Dokubo Asari, the leader of a motley collection of gunmen styling themselves the Niger Delta People's Volunteer Force, managed to push the world oil price above $50 a barrel last year.

His homeland in the verdant Delta region of southern Nigeria holds the largest oil reserves in sub-Saharan Africa and Mr Asari aims to seize this wealth for his Ijaw tribe.

Last September his gunmen rocked the international oil market by launching attacks across the Delta, costing hundreds of lives and threatening some of the world's largest companies.

Mr Asari, 40, who shuns military fatigues and sports a trilby and a silver-topped cane, is an unabashed admirer of bin Laden. Songs praising his "gallantry" echo from a stereo in his spacious home in Port Harcourt, the Delta's largest city.

Mr Asari's last round of bloodletting won him direct talks with President Olusegun Obasanjo and forced Shell, the Anglo-Dutch oil giant, to evacuate 254 staff from the Delta.

During earlier fighting, in March 2003, a collection of militias briefly halted almost 40 per cent of Nigeria's daily output of 2.3 million barrels. Mr Obasanjo had to deploy the army and navy to restore order.

Posted by Alan at 08:33 PM

Lost in translation

This report from The Washington Times doesn't sound like a good situation.

The federal Bureau of Prisons is holding 119 persons with "specific ties" to international Islamist terrorist groups, yet has no full-time Arabic translators or a system to monitor their communications, The Washington Times has learned.

A congressional aide said Bureau of Prisons officials maintain an informal list of 17 employees who are proficient in Arabic. The prison officials acknowledge, however, that none of the workers had been tested to determine Arabic fluency or undergone a special screening or background check, the aide said.

Since the September 11 attacks, authorities have identified prisons as security threats because of recruitment efforts by al Qaeda and other terror groups. But convicted terrorists in federal penitentiaries, including those behind the 1993 World Trade Center bombing, retain communication privileges and have had direct contact with other terrorists.

The 119 inmates linked to terror groups include 40 thought to be members of al Qaeda and 23 who are "identified as linked to 9/11," according to a document prepared by the Bureau of Prisons. It is not clear from the document how many fall under both categories.

Although the agency limits the use of Arabic in some communications within prison walls, the lack of full-time translators makes it difficult for the bureau to learn efficiently and promptly the contents of phone calls or letters, which are monitored and can be in Arabic.

It may be as simple -- and as difficult -- as the scarcity of qualified translators who can pass a security clearance. That's a problem that took a long time to develop (thanks again, Sandy Berger) and will take a while to ameloriate. One can only hope that all the available translators are already working... for the CIA.

Posted by Alan at 11:41 AM

The liberationist spirit

Retired judge Robert H. Bork has been observing the U.S. Supreme Court with dismay. He says a majority of Court justices have made a fundamental error in judicial philosophy:

Once the justices depart, as most of them have, from the original understanding of the principles of the Constitution, they lack any guidance other than their own attempts at moral philosophy, a task for which they have not even minimal skills. Yet when it rules in the name of the Constitution, whether it rules truly or not, the court is the most powerful branch of government in domestic policy. The combination of absolute power, disdain for the historic Constitution, and philosophical incompetence is lethal.

The court's philosophy reflects, or rather embodies and advances, the liberationist spirit of our times. In moral matters, each man is a separate sovereignty. In its insistence on radical personal autonomy, the court assaults what remains of our stock of common moral beliefs. That is all the more insidious because the public and the media take these spurious constitutional rulings as not merely legal conclusions but moral teachings supposedly incarnate in our most sacred civic document.

What does this mean for the upcoming nomination and confirmation process?

The court's critics are not angry without cause; they have been provoked. The court has converted itself from a legal institution to a political one, and has made so many basic and unsettling changes in American government, life and culture that a counterattack was inevitable, and long overdue. If the critics' rhetoric is sometimes overheated, it is less so than that of some Democratic senators and their interest-group allies. The leaders of the Democratic Party in the Senate are making it the party of moral anarchy, and they will fight to keep the court activist and liberal. The struggle over the Supreme Court is not just about law: it is about the future of our culture.

To restore the court's integrity will require a minimum of three appointments of men and women who have so firm an understanding of the judicial function that they will not drift left once on the bench. Choosing, and fighting for, the right man or woman to replace Justice O'Connor is the place to start. That will be difficult, but the stakes are the legitimate scope of self-government and an end to judicially imposed moral disorder.

Posted by Alan at 06:17 AM

July 10, 2005

Hurricane Dennis

Hurricane Dennis: Category 4 and on its way.

Related links:

HurricaneTrack.com
National Hurricane Center
WKRG-TV - Mobile
WPMI-TV - Mobile
WEAR-TV - Pensacola
Pensacola Beach Cam
Pensacola News Journal

Posted by Alan at 09:13 AM

No fear

Here's a splendid show of worldwide solidarity with Londoners: We Are Not Afraid. Send in your own contribution.

Posted by Alan at 08:53 AM

Wetchard revealed

Blog secret revealed: Wretchard at The Belmont Club "outs" his own hitherto hidden identity, but still with few details to explain the excellence of his insights.

Posted by Alan at 08:42 AM

Iraq and al Qaeda

The Weekly Standard has published a lengthy review of recent evidence of deep linkages between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda, belying once again the widespread but mistaken notion that the 9/11 Commission "proved" there was none.

John Lehman, a 9/11 commissioner, spoke to The Weekly Standard at the time the report was released. "There may well be--and probably will be--additional intelligence coming in from interrogations and from analysis of captured records and so forth which will fill out the intelligence picture. This is not phrased as--nor meant to be--the definitive word on Iraqi Intelligence activities."

Lehman's caution was prescient. A year later, we still cannot begin to offer a "definitive" picture of the relationships entered into by Saddam Hussein's operatives, but much more has already been learned from documents uncovered after the Iraq war. The evidence we present below, compiled from revelations in recent months, suggests an acute case of denial on the part of those who dismiss the Iraq-al Qaeda relationship.

[M]ore than two years after the Iraqi regime of Saddam Hussein was ousted, there is much we do not know about the relationship between Iraq and al Qaeda. We do know, however, that there was one. We know about this relationship not from Bush administration assertions but from internal Iraqi Intelligence Service (IIS) documents recovered in Iraq after the war--documents that have been authenticated by a U.S. intelligence community long hostile to the very idea that any such relationship exists.

All of this is new--information obtained since the fall of the Hussein regime. And yet critics of the Iraq war and many in the media refuse to see it.

Posted by Alan at 08:35 AM

July 09, 2005

Diabetes + Iacocca

Chrysler Corp. made some headlines this week when it announced a prominent spokesman role for former chairman Lee Iacocca.

Chrysler Group completed an agreement for former chairman Lee Iacocca to appear in commercials for the carmaker's offer of an employee discount to buyers as it competes with similar deals from General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co.

Chrysler is using Iacocca to draw attention to a discount that matches a 5-week-old program from General Motors. GM's program boosted the automaker's June U.S. sales by 47%. Chrysler first said Wednesday it was negotiating with the 80-year-old Iacocca, who was Chrysler chairman from 1979 to 1992. Iacocca appeared in television commercials in 1980 that helped Chrysler recover from near bankruptcy.

The GM program hurt Chrysler's June sales, Chrysler sales chief Gary Dilts has said. Sales of Chrysler, Dodge and Jeep vehicles rose 5%, less than the 16% industry average for the month.

More interesting to those of us who have no interest in Chrysler's cars is that Iacocca's motivation is to raise money for diabetes research, in memory of his late wife.

The accord reached Thursday calls for all payments to go to Iacocca's diabetes foundation, which he formed after the 1983 death of his wife Mary due to complications of the disease.

Iacocca says the focus of his work on behalf of diabetes is research at Massachusetts General Hospital, where Dr. Denise Faustman has cured diabetes in mice.

Drs. David Nathan and Denise Faustman and their team at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) have identified the defects in the immune system involved in the destruction of insulin-producing cells and are working to develop a therapy that stops the autoimmune system from attacking these cells.

Although Dr. Faustman’s research has yielded astounding results, it is not without its obstacles. To complete the Phase I, II and III trials over the next six years will cost at least $30 million. The first three years will cost roughly $11 million. The Iacocca Foundation is hoping to continue its existing support for this research by raising the initial $11 million.

That's a worthy cause.

Posted by Alan at 12:05 PM

Explosions within seconds

London investigators are starting to understand how Thursday's coordinated terrorist attacks happened.

The bombs used in the attacks on London were composed of "high explosive" -- probably not homemade material, police said Saturday.

The bomb blasts that rocked the city Thursday also exploded almost simultaneously -- within seconds, not minutes, according to computer software pinpointing the time of the blasts, officials said at a news briefing. More bodies are still trapped in the subway tunnels, they said.

The three bombs went off within 50 seconds of one another starting at 8:50 a.m. -- suggesting that the bombers used synchronized timing devices rather than setting off the explosions by hand and killing themselves, Deputy Assistant Commissioner Brian Paddick of Metropolitan Police said.

Officials originally thought the explosions occurred within 26 minutes.

Posted by Alan at 08:57 AM

July 08, 2005

London bus bombing

The driver of the London passenger bus that was targeted for destruction yesterday survived and has spoken out publicly.

The driver of a double-decker bus in which 13 people were killed by a terrorist bomb said Friday that he had been diverted from his route because of the explosions on the subway.

The blasts on Thursday hit three subway trains within 26 minutes, starting at 8:51 a.m. An explosion ripped the roof off the No. 30 bus less than an hour after the first bombing.

"My bus had been diverted because there were thousands of people coming out of the Tube. There were many people who were trying to get on the bus at once," said 49-year-old George Psaradakis. "Suddenly there was a bang, then carnage. Everything seemed to happen behind me."

The Stagecoach bus company said Psaradakis suffered minor cuts and bruises, and appeared to be in shock immediately after the explosion.

Psaradakis said he tried to help his passengers.

"There were many injured people and at first I thought, 'how am I alive when everyone is dying around me?'" Psaradakis was quoted as saying by the British news agency Press Association. "The police then had to take me away because they were concerned there might be further explosions."

Sir Ian Blair, commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, said Friday that 13 bodies were recovered from the mangled wreckage of the bus.

Eyewitnesses among the bus passengers say there was definitely a suicide bomber on board.

Shocked survivors told how they saw a "suicide bomber" on board the double-decker bus destroyed in Thursday's terrorist outrage.

Terence Mutasa, 27, a staff nurse at University College hospital, said: "I treated two girls in their 20s who were involved in the bus bomb.

"They were saying some guy came and sat down and that he exploded. The girls received minor injuries and were in shock and distressed.

"They said the guy just sat down and the explosion happened. They thought it was a suicide bomber."

Passenger Richard Jones was convinced he saw the bomber setting his device.

He said he became suspicious of the olive-skinned man because he looked anxious and was fiddling constantly with his bag.

Richard, 61, said: "I noticed him as he looked nervous. He was continually diving into his bag, rummaging round and looking in it. I did not see his face because he was constantly looking down."

Alexandria, VA-based information services company IntelCenter speculates about the bus bombing:

One possible reason for the targeting of the bus may have been to allow the media to have the visuals to shoot as well as possibly providing an opportunity for the group to film its own attack, something that would have been difficult to impossible for the tube bombings.

Tip via American Daughter

Posted by Alan at 04:40 PM

Stiff upper lip or death wish

Mark Steyn is another keen observer who is concerned about Britain's response to yesterday's bombing outrage.

Traditional terrorists - the IRA, ETA - operate close to home. Islamism projects itself long-range to any point of the planet with an ease most G8 militaries can't manage. Small cells operate in the nooks and crannies of a free society while the political class seems all but unaware of their existence.

Did we learn enough, for example, from the case of Omar Sheikh? He's the fellow convicted of the kidnapping and beheading in Karachi of the American journalist Daniel Pearl. He's usually described as "Pakistani" but he is, in fact, a citizen of the United Kingdom - born in Whipps Cross Hospital, educated at Nightingale Primary School in Wanstead, the Forest School in Snaresbrook and the London School of Economics. He travels on a British passport. Unlike yours truly, a humble Canadian subject of the Crown, Mr Sheikh gets to go through the express lane at Heathrow.

Or take Abdel Karim al-Tuhami al-Majati, a senior al-Qa'eda member from Morocco killed by Saudi security forces in al Ras last April. One of Mr Majati's wives is a Belgian citizen resident in Britain. In Pakistan, the jihadists speak openly of London as the terrorist bridgehead to Europe. Given the British jihadists who've been discovered in the thick of it in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Palestine, Chechnya and Bosnia, only a fool would believe they had no plans for anything closer to home - or, rather, "home".

Most of us can only speculate at the degree of Islamist penetration in the United Kingdom because we simply don't know, and multicultural pieties require that we keep ourselves in the dark. Massoud Shadjareh, chairman of Britain's Islamic Human Rights Commission, is already "advising Muslims not to travel or go out unless necessary, and is particularly concerned that women should not go out alone in this climate". Thanks to "Islamophobia" and other pseudo-crises, the political class will be under pressure to take refuge in pointless gestures (ie, ID cards) that inconvenience the citizenry and serve only as bureaucratic distractions from the real war effort.

Since 9/11 most Britons have been sceptical of Washington's view of this conflict. Douglas Hurd and many other Tory grandees have been openly scornful of the Bush doctrine. Lord Hurd would no doubt have preferred a policy of urbane aloofness, such as he promoted vis à vis the Balkans in the early 1990s. He's probably still unaware that Omar Sheikh was a westernised non-observant chess-playing pop-listening beer-drinking English student until he was radicalised by the massacres of Bosnian Muslims.

Abdel Karim al-Tuhami al-Majati was another Europeanised Muslim radicalised by Bosnia. The inactivity of Do-Nothin' Doug and his fellow Lions of Lethargy a decade ago had terrible consequences and recruited more jihadists than any of Bush's daisy cutters. The fact that most of us were unaware of the consequences of EU lethargy on Bosnia until that chicken policy came home to roost a decade later should be sobering: it was what Don Rumsfeld, in a remark mocked by many snide media twerps, accurately characterised as an "unknown unknown" - a vital factor so successfully immersed you don't even know you don't know it.

This is the beginning of a long existential struggle, for Britain and the West. It's hard not to be moved by the sight of Londoners calmly going about their business as usual in the face of terrorism. But, if the governing class goes about business as usual, that's not a stiff upper lip but a death wish.

Posted by Alan at 01:27 AM

July 07, 2005

Round-up

Here are some of the more notable responses to today's horrific events in London from the blogroll.

Wretchard at Belmont Club considers three reasons why the strike was less violent than it could have been. Here's the third:

[A]llied forces are in contact with the enemy all over the world, buying intelligence with their blood, just as a SEAL team in Afghanistan did. Nothing yields as much information as the act of grappling with the enemy. Liberals often talk about the need to improve intelligence capability without admitting that you can't gather it without being in action against the enemy.

The Al Qaeda have characterized the attack on London as 'punishment' for Britain's temerity to resist the inevitability of Islam. It is the kind of punishment these self-ordained masters of the universe are accustomed to meting out against harem women and insolent slaves. A few administered licks, and no doubt the cowardly kuffar will crawl back to his place. The tragedy is that Al Qaeda's perception is perfectly correct when applied to the Left, for whom no position is too supine, no degradation too shameful to endure; but incorrect for the vast majority of humans, in whom the instinct for self-preservation has not yet been extinguished. It will result in history's greatest case of mistaken identity; the mismatch that should never have happened. The enemy is even now dying at our feet, where we should kick him and kick him again.

Melanie Phillips is waiting and worried.

Our friends in America look at Tony Blair, whom they admire so much for his staunchness in the struggle to defend the west, and they imagine that Britain overall is in that same mould. Well, it is not. It is impossible to overstate the pernicious influence of the viciously anti-American, defeatist, appeasement-minded media and intellectual class, which has quite simply shifted the centre of moral gravity and subjected the country to a remorseless diet of distortions, lies and illogicality.

As a result, Britain has never properly understood or faced up to the nature and scale of the threat it faces, or indeed that it was always a target of attack along with the US. This lack of understanding of the war against the west may well lead the British to blame not al Qaeda but Blair and Bush - the very outcome desired by al Qaeda, and which therefore makes it so much more likely that it will attack countries where the population is perceived to be flaky. Every utterance since 9/11 by an appeasenik, it has to be said, made today's attacks that much more certain.

On the other hand, the British who are so slow to anger are bloody-mindedly warlike when finally roused. How they react to today's obscenity will be a critical turning point in this war. As we grieve for those who have lost their lives or who have sustained terrible injury in today's act of war, we must also hold our breath.

Michael Cutler at The Counterterrorism Blog is thinking about American security.

A lack of jail space plus a lack of special agents to enforce the critical immigration laws from within the interior of the United States are enabling aliens from virtually every country in the world to head for the interior of the United States with little fear of interference by the agency that is charged with enforcing the immigration laws. London fell victim to a series of bombing this morning, committed by terrorists who once again have clearly demonstrated an absolute disregard for human life. How more clearly must the message be driven home to our nation's leaders before we see an end to the madness known as "Catch and Release?"

Iain Murray at The Corner wonders if the "Diana era" is over:

Today, there has been no maudlin sentimentality displayed at all. Blair's upper lip has been firm where when Diana died it was famously aquiver. It will be interesting to see if mounds of flowers and teddy bears spring up at the crime scenes or whether rather more respect is paid. If the flowers fail to mount up, then it could be the sign that the "Diana era" is over and Britain is returning to normal.

An alert reader at NRO's The Corner asked:

Would it be inappropriate for the president to point out that this is what the people in Gitmo would rather be doing?

Donald Sensing warns:

Note well, though: al Qaeda has no exit strategy but victory or death, and no timetable except to kill us as soon and as often as possible.
Posted by Alan at 08:59 PM

London: Possible key evidence found

This info, as reported by ABC News, could be very significant.

In what appears to be the first major break in the London terrorist attacks, U.S. authorities tell ABC News that British police have recovered two unexploded bombs in London.

In addition, British investigators say that parts of timing devices have been recovered from several of the blast sites. The unexploded devices and timing mechanisms should provide important evidence that could help determine who was behind the attacks, sources told ABC News.

Officials also found remnants of timing devices left behind on the subways, and officials now believe that all the bombs were detonated by timing devices. Earlier today, British investigators believed that the bomb on the bus was the work of a suicide bomber, sources said.

Posted by Alan at 05:02 PM

London still stands

Intense coverage of the London attacks continues at your favorite blog or news site. Find many links via Blogs of War, the omniscient InstaPundit, and the Wall Street Journal.

Here's what President Bush had to say:

The contrast between what we've seen on the TV screens here, what's taken place in London and what's taking place here is incredibly vivid to me. On the one hand, we have people here who are working to alleviate poverty, to help rid the world of the pandemic of AIDS, working on ways to have a clean environment. And on the other hand, you've got people killing innocent people. And the contrast couldn't be clearer between the intentions and the hearts of those of us who care deeply about human rights and human liberty, and those who kill -- those who have got such evil in their heart that they will take the lives of innocent folks.

The war on terror goes on. I was most impressed by the resolve of all the leaders in the room. Their resolve is as strong as my resolve. And that is we will not yield to these people, will not yield to the terrorists. We will find them, we will bring them to justice, and at the same time, we will spread an ideology of hope and compassion that will overwhelm their ideology of hate.

That's the polite version. This sentiment at The Londonist blog is more direct:

Yeah, they hit us. But we didn't go down. Londonist's sympathies go to the victims, and we like to think of the hot sweat that is breaking out across the brows of a fair few terrorist nutters right now - we're coming for you, you fuckers.

America will be there too.

Posted by Alan at 02:28 PM

Why

In his first statement after this morning's terrorist attack that killed dozens and wounded 1,000 or more, an emotional Tony Blair said:

"It's particularly barbaric that this has happened on a day when people are meeting try to try -- to try to help the problems of poverty in Africa and the long-term problems of climate change and the environment.

"Barbaric" is the right word. Blair's halting, haunted words are also yet another bitter reminder that the Islamists' grudge is not against what we do, but who we are. This struggle will continue, no matter what our external policies or actions might be, until the penultimate resolution: death for one side or the other. That's our choice.

Posted by Alan at 12:19 PM

Terror in London

Multiple, at least six, explosions hit London's bus system and the Underground this morning. Simultaneous, coordinated attacks against civilians: sounds like Madrid all over again, carried out by al Qaeda or affiliates. Casualties will be higher as the day unfolds.

Large numbers of casualties have been reported after at least six explosions on the Underground network and a double-decker bus in London.

Scotland Yard confirmed one of several reports of explosions on buses in the city - in Tavistock Place - but said the cause was not yet known.

UK Home Secretary Charles Clarke said several explosions in central London had caused "terrible injuries".

All Tube services and bus services in central London have been suspended.

Sky News reports the double-decker bus was ripped apart. That sounds like a suicide bomber.

One eyewitness described "half a bus flying through the air" as an explosion ripped apart a London bus.

The incident happened in Russell Square.

Belinda Seabrook said: "I was on the bus in front and heard an incredible bang, I turned round and half the double decker bus was in the air.

Mrs Seabrook said the bus was travelling from Euston to Russell Square and had been "packed" with people turned away from Tube stops.

"It was a massive explosion and there were papers and half a bus flying through the air, I think it was the number 205," she said.

"There must be a lot of people dead as all the buses were packed, they had been turning people away from the tube stops. We were about 20 metres away, that was all."

Posted by Alan at 05:40 AM

Risky Houston

Don't feel safe from mega-terror attacks if you live or work in Houston, especially anywhere downwind from the Houston Ship Channel.

No other state has more industrial facilities that could potentially harm more people than Texas, should they be attacked or have a catastrophic chemical release, a congressional report released Wednesday concluded.

Texas is home to as many as 29 of the 106 to 111 plants nationwide located near population centers of 1 million people or more — more than twice that of any other state.

Many of these facilities are along the Houston Ship Channel, where private properties and parks abut chemical plant fence lines, and where public roads in some places bisect industrial facilities.

The vast majority of the state's industrial facilities — more than 1,100 plants — are located near communities of less than 1 million people, according to the report.

The industry claims it has stepped up measures, installing surveillance cameras and roadway barriers, and increasing car inspections.

But critics say there is little external oversight of how companies choose to protect their facilities from accidental and intentional explosions, and some who have visited plant sites say critical safeguards are missing.

Even the Department of Homeland Security is worried about the vulnerability of the industry to a terrorist attack.

The report, requested by U.S. Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., and completed by the Congressional Research Service, was based on risk management reports filed to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency by companies possessing quantities of 140 toxic and flammable chemicals above federally set reporting limits.

For each facility, companies estimate how many people in the surrounding community would be at risk if a worst-case scenario were to strike a plant. These scenarios do not take into account emergency response measures, weather and people's individual response to contaminants, which could significantly lower the numbers.

Although specific facilities and locations were not published for security reasons, the report is one of the first to reveal how many high-risk facilities there are in each state as of May 2005. After Texas, California and Illinois have the most plants that could harm the most people.

The industry remains in denial.

However, a chemical industry trade group Wednesday cautioned against drawing conclusions about security from the report.

"The data is not intended to accurately predict the results of any single chemical release, even a worst-case one," a written statement from the American Chemistry Council said.

Full CRS report

Posted by Alan at 05:33 AM

July 06, 2005

The (un)lucky shot

Here's the first, still sketchy public recounting of what happened in Afghanistan to take down a SEAL recon team and then 16 rescuers in a helicopter crash.

Nine days after the ambush and subsequent downing of a U.S. special forces helicopter with 16 troops aboard, U.S military officials in Kabul and Washington are starting to draw a clearer picture of what happened and have revealed some details.

The four commandos — one of whom was rescued, two killed and one who still missing — were on a reconnaissance mission on June 28 as part of Operation Red Wing, searching for Taliban-led rebels and al-Qaida fighters in Kunar province, U.S. military spokesman Col. James Yonts said.

The SEAL team — specially trained “not only in the art of combat, but also in medicine and communications” — were attacked by a “pretty large force of enemy terrorists” and radioed for reinforcements, Yonts said at a press conference.

After the radio call for help, eight Navy SEALs and an eight-member crew from the Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment, known as the Night Stalkers, flew toward the mountains in a special forces MH-47 Chinook helicopter.

It was dusk as they neared the high-altitude battlefield.

Suddenly, militants hiding in the thick forest fired what is believed to have been a rocket-propelled grenade at the massive chopper, hitting it, he said.

Lt. Gen. James Conway, director of operations for the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, described the shot as “pretty lucky.”

Though damaged, the chopper flew on for about a mile before landing badly on a small ledge on the side of the mountain, then tumbling into a steep ravine. All 16 onboard are thought to have died in the crash. Militants then swarmed over the wreckage.

Related: Belmont Club ponders whether or not the Talibani used a "new weapon."

Posted by Alan at 10:12 PM

Preventing heat death

Here's research evidence to back up what we all should already realize: NEVER leave children in a parked car. Or pets or perishables either, for that matter.

Even on a relatively cool day, the temperature inside a parked car can quickly spike to life-threatening levels if the sun is out, researchers at the Stanford University School of Medicine have found. They hope their findings will put to rest the misconception that a parked car can be a safe place for a child or pet in mild weather.

McLaren collaborated with James Quinn, MD, associate professor of emergency medicine, and Jan Null, an independent certified consulting meteorologist, to measure the temperature rise inside a parked car on sunny days with highs ranging from 72 to 96 degrees F. Their results, published in the July issue of the journal Pediatrics, showed that a car's interior can heat up by an average of 40 degrees F within an hour, regardless of ambient temperature. Eighty percent of the temperature rise occurred within the first half-hour.

Null said a substantial number of caretakers intentionally leave children behind because they mistakenly think conditions are safe.

In such cases, the caretaker sometimes takes certain precautions, such as cracking a window or running the air conditioner prior to parking the car. But the researchers found that such measures are inadequate: a cracked window had an insignificant effect on both the rate of heating and the final temperature after an hour, and the air conditioner trick only delayed the temperature spike by about five minutes.

Posted by Alan at 12:14 PM

Persistent space-like effects

Here's some imaginative work by the USAF.

The Air Force is eyeing a seldom-used region of Earth’s atmosphere called “near space” for communications and intelligence-gathering with one of the oldest types of aircraft — balloons.

The air at 65,000 feet and higher is too thin for most traditional airplanes, so military officials are testing unmanned helium balloons at those altitudes. This frigid part of the atmosphere is above most weather but well below low Earth orbit, where the far costlier space station and satellites operate.

“It’s a region of the atmosphere that historically has really not been exploited,” said Lt. Col. Toby Volz, who oversees near-space programs at Air Force Space Command at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo.

A key advantage of balloons and blimps is they may be able to stay aloft much longer than an airplane, providing a communications or surveillance platform that can last days or even weeks. They are also much cheaper than satellites, and could let ground forces communicate over far greater ranges than the line-of-sight radios they often carry.

“I’ve been intrigued by near space’s potential for persistent space-like effects on the battlefield ever since I first heard about it,” the Air Force’s chief of staff, Gen. John Jumper, wrote earlier this year in a forward to a paper on the subject. “Near-space has been a cultural blind spot — too high up for aircraft, but too low for satellites.”

Posted by Alan at 12:51 AM

"Half a calamity is better than a whole one"

Re-learning the lessons of history: the highly adaptable U.S. military studies the past to better deal with the present.

The US military has turned to the wisdom of Lawrence of Arabia for guidance on how to win the war in Iraq and understand the mindset of its insurgents.

In the latest list of books recommended to commanders, T E Lawrence's Seven Pillars of Wisdom, his first-person account of the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Turks between 1917 and 1919, is number two out of 100.

Extracts from the memoir and his essays have also been e-mailed directly to senior officers in the field.

So highly does the Pentagon consider the relevance of his insights that it has officially adopted one lesson he preached on Middle Eastern warfare as a recipe for success in Iraq.

"Do not try to do too much with your own hands," it runs. "Better the Arabs do it tolerably than that you do it perfectly. It is their war, and you are to help them, not to win it for them."

Related:

• T.E. Lawrence - Seven Pillars of Wisdom: A Triumph
• T.E. Lawrence - Revolt in the Desert
• John E. Mack - A Prince of Our Disorder: The Life of T. E. Lawrence

Posted by Alan at 12:27 AM

July 05, 2005

China speaks up

Watch China's burgeoning assertiveness and newfound confidence in geopolitical economics.

The Chinese government on Monday sharply criticized the United States for threatening to erect barriers aimed at preventing the attempted takeover of the American oil company Unocal Corp. by China's CNOOC Ltd.

Four days after the House of Representatives approved a resolution urging the Bush administration to block the proposed transaction as a threat to national security, China's Foreign Ministry excoriated Congress for injecting politics into what it characterized as a standard business matter.

"We demand that the U.S. Congress correct its mistaken ways of politicizing economic and trade issues and stop interfering in the normal commercial exchanges between enterprises of the two countries," the Foreign Ministry said in a written statement. "CNOOC's bid to take over the U.S. Unocal company is a normal commercial activity between enterprises and should not fall victim to political interference. The development of economic and trade cooperation between China and the United States conforms to the interests of both sides."

Those words, the latest rhetorical volley in an escalating trade battle, officially elevated the takeover battle for Unocal into a bilateral issue involving Washington and Beijing, raising the stakes of the outcome.

This is what happens when we let them -- nay, ask them to -- buy billions of dollars of our debt and rack up massive trade deficits. China wants to invest in American-owned oil; we want to send them McDonalds and buy t-shirts. Note also their savvy media strategy to wait four days and release the salvo after our long holiday weekend. Which side is more clever?

Posted by Alan at 06:16 AM

July 04, 2005

Happy 4th of July 2005

hp-bullseye.jpg

Today is Independence Day. Many thanks to NASA for providing early fireweeks in deep space.

On this day in 1776, fifty-six courageous patriots affixed their names to Thomas Jefferson's bold Declaration of Independence, an obviously treasonous document under British colonial rule. We still owe them a debt of thanks.

John Adams was wary, but hopeful, in letters written to his wife Abigail after the decision was taken on July 2nd.

I am well aware of the toil, and blood, and treasure, that it will cost us to maintain this declaration, and support and defend these states. Yet, through all the gloom, I can see the rays of light and glory; I can see that the end is more than worth all the means, and that posterity will triumph, although you and I may rue, which I hope we shall not.

Everyone should read the full text of the Declaration at least once per year; there's no better day than today. Note, among other things, the numerous references to God.

National Public Radio has a tradition of letting their correspondents and other on-air personalities read the Declaration aloud.

NPR also featured historian Stanley Weintraub last weekend, talking about his new book Iron Tears, describing how the American Revolution was experienced by the British.

PBS has a nice website to accompany its A Capitol Fourth program, broadcast live tonight from Washington, D.C. Included are remarks from several American Presidents, among them Franklin D. Roosevelt in the dark days of 1942:

"For 166 years this Fourth Day of July has been a symbol to the people of our country of the democratic freedom which our citizens claim as their precious birthright. On this grim anniversary its meaning has spread over the entire globe--focusing the attention of the world upon the modern freedoms for which all the United Nations are now engaged in deadly war.

"On the desert sands of Africa, along the thousands of miles of battle lines in Russia, in New Zealand and Australia, and the islands of the Pacific, in war-torn China and all over the seven seas, free men are fighting desperately--and dying--to preserve the liberties and the decencies of modern civilization. And in the overrun and occupied nations of the world, this day is filled with added significance, coming at a time when freedom and religion have been attacked and trampled upon by tyrannies unequaled in human history.

"Never since it first was created in Philadelphia, has this anniversary come in times so dangerous to everything for which it stands. We celebrate it this year, not in the fireworks of make-believe but in the death-dealing reality of tanks and planes and guns and ships. We celebrate it also by running without interruption the assembly lines which turn out these weapons to be shipped to all the embattled points of the globe. Not to waste one hour, not to stop one shot, not to hold back one blow--that is the way to mark our great national holiday in this year of 1942.

"To the weary, hungry, unequipped Army of the American Revolution, the Fourth of July was a tonic of hope and inspiration. So is it now. The tough, grim men who fight for freedom in this dark hour take heart in its message--the assurance of the right to liberty under God--for all peoples and races and groups and nations, everywhere in the world."

At the National Archives, you can learn more about the Declaration, including a Flash section that lets you see your name join those of the Signers onscreen.

The Library of Congress has, as one would expect, an in-depth collection of historical resources -- it's very well done.

The Washington Post has links to MP3s of "The Star Spangled Banner" as sung by seven very different musical performers.

For fun, there will be various celebrations in the Houston area. The biggest single event in Houston today will be Freedom over Texas, featuring Clint Black and LeAnn Rimes. If you don't want to brave the mosquitos, watch on KTRK-13.

Here in west Houston, we'll get a fireworks display at the mammoth Katy Mills Mall.

If you want to indulge your inner pyrotechnic child, there seem to be plenty of Exploding Bin Laden Noggins and such this year. Enjoy -- just keep all your fingers.

Posted by Alan at 08:02 AM

July 03, 2005

Saudi oil reserves - more

The debate about the status of Saudi Arabia's oil reserves continues today on the op-ed pages of the Houston Chronicle. This time scholar Michael T. Klare weighs in to cry havoc, based on the controversial new book by investment banker Matthew Simmons.

The problem is, if you take away Saudi Arabia's 12.3 million barrels, there is no possibility of satisfying anticipated world demand in 2025.

The Saudis vehemently deny their fields are in decline. The DOE, with no independent verification, backs them up. In the end, it comes down to this: America's entire energy strategy, with its commitment to an increased reliance on petroleum as the major source of our energy, rests on the unproven claims of Saudi oil producers that they can continuously increase Saudi output in accordance with the DOE predictions.

The moment that Saudi production goes into permanent decline in the not-too-distant future, the Petroleum Age as we know it will draw to a close. Oil still will be available on international markets, but not in the abundance to which we have become accustomed and not at a price that many of us will be able to afford.

Only if we act now to limit our consumption of oil and develop nonpetroleum energy alternatives, can we face the "twilight" of the Petroleum Age with some degree of hope; if we fail to do so, we are in for a very grim time.

Klare implies a cover-up is in progress.

There is no doubt that intense efforts will be made to refute Simmons' findings. With his book, however, it will no longer be possible for oil aficionados simply to chant "Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia, Saudi Arabia" and convince us that everything is all right in the oil world.

The Chronicle identifies Klare only as "a professor at Hampshire College" and the author of "Blood and Oil: The Dangers and Consequences of America's Growing Petroleum Dependency." So, Klare must be an expert, right?

Well, a quick Web search turns up this from his faculty site:

Michael T. Klare is the Five College Professor of Peace and World Security Studies (a joint appointment at Amherst College, Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst), and Director of the Five College Program in Peace and World Security Studies (PAWSS), a position he has held since 1985. Before assuming his present post, he served as Director of the Program on Militarism and Disarmament at the Institute for Policy Studies in Washington, D.C. (1977-84).

Professor Klare is also the defense correspondent of The Nation, a Contributing Editor of Current History. He has contributed articles to the two aforementioned journals and to Arms Control Today, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, Harper's, International Security, Issues in Science and Technology, Journal of International Affairs, Le Monde Diplomatique, Mother Jones, Scientific American, Technology Review, Third World Quarterly, and World Policy Journal.

Michael Klare serves on the board of directors of the Arms Control Association, and the advisory board of the Arms Division of Human Rights Watch; he is also a member of the Committee on International Security Studies of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Klare may (or may not) be an expert on petroleum economics and reservoir engineering, but Chronicle readers might want to know that he's apparently deeply into a leftist policy agenda.

Note: this isn't the first time the Chronicle has given a misleading description of an op-ed author. It's odd and unfortunate.

Posted by Alan at 09:47 AM

Got one

Here's good news from Saudi Arabia.

Security forces killed al-Qaida's leader in Saudi Arabia, who topped the nation's list of most-wanted militants, during a fierce gunbattle Sunday, an Interior Ministry official said.

Younis Mohammed Ibrahim al-Hayari, a Moroccan, was killed during a dawn raid by security forces on an area in the capital where suspected militants were hiding, the official was quoted by the official Saudi Press Agency as saying.

Three other unidentified suspects were arrested, and weapons, ammunition, computers and documents were seized, he said.

This oil-rich kingdom has suffered a series of heavy terrorist attacks since May 2003 when suicide bombers attacked three housing estates for foreigners in the capital Riyadh. The kingdom then launched a wave of retaliatory raids against the militants, and issued a list of 26 most wanted in December 2003. Security forces have killed or captured 23 of the 26 figures on that list.

Note his Moroccan origin -- al Qaeda in Saudi Arabia is having to import its leadership cadre. That's interesting.

Posted by Alan at 08:03 AM

July 02, 2005

Deep Impact: It's clobbering time

Space.com reports that NASA is on schedule to smash a comet Sunday night.

With a little more than two days left in its six-month journey, managers for NASA’s Deep Impact mission said the spacecraft is on course to make its historic encounter with a comet late Sunday evening.

The mission is slated to crash an 820-pound (371-kilogram) Impactor probe into Comet Tempel 1 and record the event via a Flyby mothership. The impact is expected to take place at 1:52 a.m. EDT (0552 GMT) on July 4.

“I’m pleased to report that both the Flyby and the Impactor spacecraft are ready for encounter operations,” Dave Spencer, Deep Impact’s mission manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), announced today at a mission briefing.

The announcement follows several major mission milestones that were achieved over the past two weeks.

There's a milestone tonight.

On late Saturday evening, 24 hours prior to its estimated collision with Tempel 1, the Impactor will separate from the Flyby mothership and begin its final approach on the comet. The mothership will then adjust its course to monitor the Impactor’s mission, Spencer explained.

“Twelve minutes later the flyby spacecraft—now flying on its own—will turn and perform its largest maneuver of the entire mission,” Spencer said. “It will slow itself down by about 220 miles per hour relative to the Impactor … this slowdown will allow it to witness the impact events itself and subsequent crater formation for about 13 minutes after impact.”

Should something go wrong and the Flyby craft fail to break away from Tempel 1 after Impactor's release, there is a contingency plan to ram both vehicles into the comet's surface, Spencer added.

Related:

Video - Deep Impact: To Poke a Comet (Quicktime)
NASA - Deep Impact mission site

Posted by Alan at 03:14 PM

Iran's terrorist president

Not only was Iran's newly "elected" president a ringleader in the 1979 seizure of the U.S. embassy in Tehran, he may have been directly involved in murder. I think this fits the definition of "terrorist."

Austrian authorities have classified documents suggesting that Iran’s president-elect may have played a key role in the 1989 execution-style slayings of an Iranian Kurdish leader and two associates in Vienna, a newspaper reported Saturday.

Austria’s Interior Ministry and the public prosecutor’s office are investigating alleged evidence pointing to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s possible involvement in the attack, the daily Der Standard reported.

The allegations against Ahmadinejad come as some of the Americans who were taken captive in Iran in 1979 implicate the newly elected leader in the hostage crisis. Radical Iranian students took over the U.S. Embassy and held 52 Americans hostage for 444 days.

In Austria, Green Party leader Peter Pilz told the newspaper he wants a warrant issued for the arrest of Ahmadinejad, who he alleged “stands under strong suspicion of having been involved.”

Pilz accused the hard-liner of planning the murders of Kurdish resistance leader Abdul-Rahman Ghassemlou and two of his colleagues, all of whom were shot in the head at a Vienna apartment by Iranian commandos on July 13, 1989. A fourth victim survived the attack and was able to crawl out of the apartment and alert Austrian authorities.

Posted by Alan at 10:34 AM

Help Isabel Jurado

Jeff at Backcountry Conservative writes to say that young Isabel Jurado is in trouble and needs support.

Posted by Alan at 09:53 AM

The way forward

Historian Victor Davis Hanson says if those in the international smart set -- France, Germany, the U.N., Canada, South Korea, and others -- mean what they say about the superiority of their own judgment vs. ours, we should let them go on ahead.

Rather than worry about the supposed new unpopularity of the United States from Canada to France, or constantly badger supposed allies to at least be neutrals, we should very gently strengthen our alliances with nations that are self-confident and without neuroses of various sorts. That would mean to accept that an ankle-biting Belgium, Canada, Egypt, France, Germany, Mexico, or Turkey has a perfect right as a neutral to distrust the United States and craft its own independent path.

If they all see statism, socialism, and big government as the better solutions to their own problems, or Islamic fascism as largely an American bogeyman, again more power to them all. In the meantime, we should begin to draw closer to true allies — a Japan, India, Australia, Britain, a very few Eastern and Western European countries, Taiwan, and Israel — who agree that the world is a scary, often crazy place, with the United States far better and more reliable than the alternatives.

When future crises arise outside the orbit of our own bilateral arrangements with real allies, we should bring matters before the U.N. or ask for EU leadership. Indeed, we can see the seeds of such a policy germinating already. The United States seems willing to act in Darfur — when a utopian Europe acts first. Condoleezza Rice gives an honest, blunt speech to the Egyptians about the need for reform (which, if it falls on deaf ears, should be followed by a staggered cut-back in American aid and military assistance). We wish the Europeans well with Iran, but should worry only whether its missiles pose a threat to our genuine friends, and let others sort our their own perceptions of risks.

What should we do to prepare for this new world order?

To establish such a muscular independence and let our former dependents and erstwhile allies get a life, or at least what they wish for, the United States will have to embrace three broad goals that should be the centerpiece of our foreign policy. We need increased defense spending, especially in transport, mobile forces, missile defense, and carriers that both require as little dependence as possible on foreign basing and provide maximum protection for the U.S. mainland.

Second, we must find a middle path to energy independence that embraces conservation, nuclear power, more exploration, alternative fuels, coal — anything other than sending billions more to god-forsaken regimes abroad that will only recycle those easy dollars in ways to weaken or destroy us as they deny that’s what they’re doing.

Finally, we must seek similar financial independence, and get our annual deficits and national debts under reasonable control to ensure immunity from creditors who increasingly are turning hostile.

Sounds excellent; let's start immediately. After all, how can they miss us if we don't go away?

Posted by Alan at 08:43 AM

Shuttle remains dangerous

The leader of the Gehman Commission says the space shuttle needs to go.

Though he believes NASA has taken adequate steps to resume space shuttle launches, the chief Columbia accident investigator said Friday he believes the aging spacecraft is so risky that it should be replaced as soon as possible.

"I don't think the American people and the Congress of the United States realize how dangerous this is," said Harold Gehman, the retired Navy admiral who led the 13-member board that determined the causes of the 2003 Columbia breakup.

"We didn't realize how dangerous it was when we started the investigation," Gehman said in a telephone news conference.

"It remains dangerous. We, the country, have got to replace this vehicle as soon as possible with a vehicle that is optimized to get humans into and out of low Earth orbit."

Another fact few people remember is that this platform is old: the shuttle was designed in the 1960s. So the pathetic thing is that NASA has labored away on this for almost forty years and there's still not a new vehicle under construction.

Posted by Alan at 07:45 AM

Be afraid

The judicial system runs amok again: read about Fitzroy Barnaby via Blogs of War and be mind-boggled.

Posted by Alan at 06:32 AM

July 01, 2005

O'Connor retires

Here's the core of what President Bush said following the announcement of Sandra Day O'Connor's retirement from the U.S. Supreme Court.

Under the Constitution, I am responsible for nominating a successor to Justice O'Connor. I take this responsibility seriously. I will be deliberate and thorough in this process. I have directed my staff, in cooperation with the Department of Justice, to compile information and recommend for my review potential nominees who meet a high standard of legal ability, judgment and integrity and who will faithfully interpret the Constitution and laws of our country.

As well, I will continue to consult, as will my advisors, with members of the United States Senate. The nation deserves, and I will select, a Supreme Court Justice that Americans can be proud of. The nation also deserves a dignified process of confirmation in the United States Senate, characterized by fair treatment, a fair hearing and a fair vote. I will choose a nominee in a timely manner so that the hearing and the vote can be completed before the new Supreme Court term begins.

Reuters described this as "a thinly veiled warning to the U.S. Senate not to block his choice." That's probably correct. The summer will almost certainly be a slugfest given O'Connor's key role as a "swing voter" on the court. The omniscient InstaPundit said earlier today:

O'Connor's, um, variable voting pattern means that if whoever replaces her is more consistent it will make a disproportionate difference. That also means that this fight is likely to be nastier than the fight over, say, a replacement for Rehnquist.

Aside from the political and legal implications is O'Connor's personal story. Many people don't know that she grew up on the Lazy B ranch in Arizona as a genuine cowgirl, eventually managing the ranch herself. She's even a member of the Cowgirl Hall of Fame.

Her Supreme Court opinions may have been controversial but no one could ever say she wasn't strong.

Posted by Alan at 12:15 PM

Symbols and reality

Daniel Henninger ponders what has happened at home since September 11, 2001.

In time even Pearl Harbor became more a symbol than the bloody reality that ultimately hurled American forces against a Germany that didn't attack us at Pearl Harbor. But time seems to pass faster today. The first Fourth of July after September 11 was a day of national unity, in sorrow but also in belief that the U.S. had to go on offense, over there, against the force that had hit us. Now there is no unity; September 11, the war in Iraq, pretty much anything George Bush does and even Afghanistan is a fair target.

After Mr. Bush delivered the speech on Iraq that many said, rightly, was overdue, David Letterman made jokes about the war. DNC Chairman Howard Dean dismissed it as the "darkness of divisiveness" and "pandering to fear." John Murtha, the party's top spokesmen on military affairs, said, "I believe they are going to cut and run." A Times reporter announced as well that "for the first time," Afghans are "feeling uneasy about the future."

We've watched September 11 drift from unity of purpose to unhinged vituperation. The partisanship is easy to dismiss, but I believe the Bush team's deep disdain of a hostile opposition media has caused it to miss--until now--the need to organize a home front to support the remarkable sacrifice in Iraq. This failure may prove to be the one unforgivable thing.

Posted by Alan at 06:36 AM

Ray Bradbury speaks out

Beloved author Ray Bradbury has spoken out against book-burning and the brutal repression of independent librarians in Cuba, something the so-called defenders of intellectual freedom at the American Library Association still refuse to do.

After giving a keynote speech this week at the American Library Association's annual convention, science fiction author Ray Bradbury joined a growing list of international writers and human rights activists in condemning the persecution of Cuba's Independent Library Project.

The American Library Association, or ALA, has ignored a request by imprisoned Cuban counterparts to demand leader Fidel Castro release them, but the author of "Fahrenheit 451" responded after viewing evidence of court-ordered book burning.

"I stand against any library or any librarian anywhere in the world being imprisoned or punished in any way for the books they circulate," Bradbury said. "I plead with Castro and his government to immediately take their hands off the independent librarians and release all those librarians in prison, and to send them back into Cuban culture to inform the people."

Seeking to stay out of internal politics, Bradbury did not make his comments during his ALA appearance. But he hopes the ALA will support him in his call for Castro to stop intimidating the independent library movement, which receives funding through congressionally-approved USAID and other agency grants.

The author made his remarks after American librarians showed him recently translated court documents from 2003 show-trials that discussed how "subversive" books and magazines held by the librarians should be destroyed, and, in several cases, "incinerated."

Posted by Alan at 06:24 AM

Kelo backlash

Congressional backlash against the Supreme Court's wrongheaded Kelo decision is picking up steam.

The House voted yesterday to use the spending power of Congress to undermine a Supreme Court ruling allowing local governments to force the sale of private property for economic development purposes. Key members of the House and Senate vowed to take even broader steps soon.

Last week's 5 to 4 decision has drawn a swift and visceral backlash from an unusual coalition of conservatives concerned about property rights and liberals worried about the effect on poor people, whose property is often vulnerable to condemnation because it does not generate a lot of revenue.

The House measure, which passed 231 to 189, would deny federal funds to any city or state project that used eminent domain to force people to sell their property to make way for a profit-making project such as a hotel or mall.

Posted by Alan at 12:34 AM