Friday, November 30, 2007

Death of a Daredevil: Evel Knievel, RIP

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In a decade largely absent of heroes, Evel Knievel was a real-life superhero.

Evel Knievel

Knievel, the caped 1970s showman who, thanks to a trusty chopper and sheer abandon, jumped land and water masses with a single bound (and sometimes a few bounces), and landed among the Watergate era's pop-culture elite, died Friday, the Associated Press reported.

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Annapolis ongoing

I received dozens of emails from friends and colleagues in response to the notes on Annapolis below, many with salient and valuable information, insight, and opinion. I wish to express my sincere thanks to my correspondents on this vital matter.

It is never proper or reasonable utterly to dismiss events of this magnitude, indeed any efforts to resolve crisis and difficulty. I expressed great reserve regarding the Annapolis meeting, and hold by this. Press today similarly seems to continue in a similar vein, for which I list major and respectable media reportage. For all who wish to see the commentary in context, the links wherever it reads "clipped by," always take the reader to the entire article or commentary.

More importantly, I will address important issues that have been identified by those who wrote me above.

Thank you sincerely.

Here is a sampling of today's views on Annapolis:

International Herald Tribune
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Polls show Israeli skepticism over Annapolis peace summit

JERUSALEM: Less than one in five Israelis believe this week's U.S.-hosted peace conference was a success, and more than 80 percent of the public thinks the Israeli and Palestinian leaders will not meet their goal of reaching a peace agreement next year, according to two polls released Thursday.

Despite the dire outlook, the polls showed that a majority of Israelis still favor a peace agreement creating a Palestinian state alongside Israel.

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San Francisco Chronicle
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Annapolis packs skeptical punch for Arab media

Few give much hope for Mideast peace by end of next year

In cafes and blogs in the Arab world, the Annapolis conference prompted little more than wisecracks. Commentators made much of a linguistic coincidence: In Arabic, ana polis means "I am the police."

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The Wall Street Journal
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Mr. Bush and Ms. Rice run the risk of repeating the mistakes of the Clinton Administration, which made a fetish of photo-ops, left the hard issues to the end and tried to substitute atmospherics for substance. That was the road map to failure at Camp David in 2000, the squandering of Presidential prestige and the bloody five-year intifada. Barack Obama's assertion that talk alone can make things better is not always true.

Only the churlish could wish the sincere Annapolis peace makers ill. But neither does it help to cheer them down a path that has led to failure so many times before.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007


This morning U.S. President George W. Bush will revive long-stalled Israeli-Palestinian peace talks at a White House summit.

You will note from the following major press that the 50 nation event is long on intent and sentiment, and short on substance.

This author is doubtful of positive developments for two reasons.

1. State representatives in isolation are now known to be an insufficient cross-section of social leadership to positively advance ideals of peace and shared prosperity. Quite urgently and unequivocally powerful representatives of religions, at the very least must be involved in such negotiations and peace efforts. Beyond that leaders in several other non-governmental spheres are vital. These political shows, even when sincere, are like trying to build a house with only mortar, or only bricks. It is not a sufficiently broad cross-section of representative leadership.
2. It is the personal experience of this author that positive intent without overt review, shared understanding, and explicit agreement and commitment regarding substantial points of difference is actually a negative. The imagination of agreement (when sentiments touch) is a formula on a number of fronts for rapid breakdown into worse fracture.

It should be known by those reading the news of this conference that W's declaration was NOT empty platitudes. Something significant and of genuine substance WAS in the statement, and all should be aware of this. The US replaced the 4 previous, established monitors of the roadmap (US, EU, USSR, and UN ) with itself as the sole monitor of Israeli Palestinian efforts to collaborate. This too in the opinion of this author is a negative that invites further fracture among already fragile and deteriorating relationships. (Even US/EU relationships are heading toward horrible clash over the subprime assault on the dollar's value, and the EU Airbus cost calamity on the horizon).

So as not to present singular bias, or pure negativity, I include at the end of this list below of major media identifying vacuousness in the W launch, a link to WaPo writer, David Ignatius who argues positively for the results of Annapolis.

Voice of Amcerica

The announcement gave no indication of progress on the core issues of the Israeli-Palestinian dispute such the status of Jerusalem and the rights of Palestinian refugees, and U.S. officials concede that the peace timetable announced by the leaders will be difficult to keep.

Los Angeles Times

As a result, a day that began with handshakes and hopes for peace ended with undispelled doubts over the prospect for success of the renewed effort to end decades of strife in the Middle East.

Despite statements of mutual support, the vague wording of the joint declaration signaled that the Israelis had emerged from the conference with more of what they wanted than the Palestinians. It also underscored the wide chasm separating the two sides as they begin trying to reach a deal.

The Guardian (London)

The Palestinian president and Israeli prime minister both pledged "good faith, bilateral negotiations," to secure a peace treaty by the end of 2008.

However, the Maryland conference has done little to dispel doubts about their ability to strike deals on the tough core issues of the conflict in the face of powerful domestic opposition.

The Boston Globe

But beyond the strong emotional statements - and a warm, lingering handshake on stage - there were few hints of agreement on substance, even after months of informal, face-to-face talks between the two men.


Abu Rudeina called the joint understanding a ``failure,'' foreshadowing how tough negotiations will be, and dismissed the significance of the statement read by Bush. ``We failed to conclude a document for the last three, four months,'' he said. ``We couldn't agree on one single point.''

David Ignatius - Washington Post

But in this case, I take the contrarian view: Something real did happen in Annapolis. The process that began Tuesday may not lead to peace, but that doesn't mean that Annapolis was simply a gaudy, empty show. A careful reading of the "Joint Understanding" that was announced by Bush reveals the achievements and the failures. I find several important steps forward:

David's article here

Monday, November 26, 2007

4 main issues that divide Israel, Palestinians

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The first focal point will be the so-called Green Line, which divides Israel and the West Bank, but the future boundaries are more likely to be determined by what former Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon called "facts on the ground."


It may be easier to draw hundreds of miles of Israeli-Palestinian border than it would be to decide the future of a single city.


Israel is opposed to allowing Palestinians to return to Israel, a migration that would threaten the country's status as a majority Jewish nation, and it's generally accepted that few, if any, Palestinians will be allowed a "right of return" to what's now Israel. At best, Israel seems prepared to allow only a token number of returnees.


Israel, only about the size of New Jersey, has lived its entire life in a state of hot or cold war with its much larger Arab neighbors, and Israelis are reluctant to accept a well-armed Palestinian nation next door.

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Where Boys Grow Up to Be Jihadis

ANDREA ELLIOTT wrote an extensive must-read piece in yesterday's New York Times. Please click through to this long article.

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That summer, Muncif told his mother he was going to Mauritania, the parched Muslim country south of Morocco. He wanted to study Islam. She saw no reason to worry. He was a good boy; this seemed just another fit of wanderlust. But three days after he left, he called home.

“Forgive me if I have done wrong,” Muncif said. It was a phrase Moroccans use to bid farewell. He was going to Iraq, he said. He wanted to do jihad.

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Muslims, Catholics Reach Accord

Reports on positive developments from a local interfaith effort
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Concluding a three-day gathering at the nation's largest mosque, a collection of Muslim and Roman Catholic leaders emerged with a 114-word blueprint for greater understanding between the two faiths.

Several dozen participants weighed tough questions - including ideas for guidelines governing attempts to convert Muslims to Catholicism and Catholics to Islam - and approved a mission statement to guide future dialogue.

"Our common belief in the one God of mercy and love calls us into relationship with one another," the statement reads. "Therefore we see our dialogue as a spiritual journey. Common ethical concerns compel us to take responsibility for our relationship within U.S. society."

With today's attack both Iraq and Afghanistan make 2007 the deadliest year for US

I am sorry for our young people having to work in such difficult and dangerous environments.

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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- Six U.S. troops were killed when insurgents ambushed their foot patrol in the high mountains of eastern Afghanistan, officials said Saturday.
''They were attacked from several enemy positions at the same time,'' said Accetta, a spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force and the U.S. military. ''It was a complex ambush.''

The six deaths brings the total number of U.S. troops killed in Afghanistan this year to at least 101, according to a count by the AP. That makes this year the deadliest for Americans here since the 2001 invasion, a war initially launched to oust Taliban and al-Qaida fighters after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, but one that has evolved into an increasingly bloody counterinsurgency campaign.

The death toll mirrors the situation in Iraq, where U.S. military deaths this month surpassed 850, a record high since the 2003 invasion there.

Eye-Fi: How One Little Chip Will Change the Way You Share Pictures

This is a chip that automatically sends your snapshots to wherever you want them stored or posted.
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We all know why: Booting-up your computer, plugging in your camera, uploading pics to the hard drive and finally choosing what to send to the web is universally annoying.

Two-and-a-half years of intense work later, they produced a 2-GB SD memory card mated with a Wi-Fi chip. Just sync the card to a hard drive or Wi-Fi network, and plug it into a digital camera and start snapping away. Pics are then routed to the hard drive or to one of 17 photo vendors (like Facebook or Flickr.) The card's software deftly handles scaling and compression while privacy settings at the individual sites allow you to filter what gets published.

"Businesses realize that device margins disappear quickly," says Jonathan Gaw, an IDC analyst who covers home networking. "One way to combat that is to integrate upwards with services via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. We’re going to see networking in all kinds of devices."

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Remarkable website

Please go look at this person's website.


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Lenticular Clouds Gallery

Lenticular clouds are simply one more example of the beauty and complexity that can be the result from a simple process in nature.These lens-shaped clouds are often mistaken for UFO's because of their weird shape that seems to mandate a prior design.

Friday, November 2, 2007

Rice: Kurdish rebels are 'common threat'

Turkey represents an absolutely indispensable military base of operations in the region (including of course Iraq and Afghanistan).

The thorny diplomatic crack up with the Armenian genocide deal surely didn't help matters.

There's Condi again. Representing US military and geopolitical interests in yet another tinderbox.

Do we have attacks on American boys and girls in uniform in Iraq now also from Kurds to look forward to?

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ANKARA, Turkey - Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice assured Turkish officials Friday that Kurdish rebels based in northern Iraq were a "common threat" and that the United States would help Ankara in its fight against them.

Speaking after meeting with both Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Ali Babacan, Rice said she had emphasized that the United States is "committed to redoubling its efforts" to help Turkey in its struggle against the rebel fighters.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Former Hamas spokesman decries group's extremism

Who knows if this will add up to anything. Still any voice a little more moderate in that part of the world is more than welcome.

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In his letter, Hamad criticized Hamas for squandering an opportunity to establish itself a modern model for political Islam.

Hamas leader Ghazi Hamad at his home in Rafah, Gaza Strip.
Ghazi Hamad has been a reliable champion for Hamas and its hard-line Islamist ideology,Now, however, Hamad has emerged as one of Hamas' most caustic critics.

In an open letter to Hamas leaders, he criticizes the group as an uncompromising movement that's lost its way. His criticism reflects frustration with the ideological dominance of hard-liners and militants within Hamas.

Hamad has been among moderates who've sought to nudge Hamas from extremist militancy toward a more politically accommodating tone.

"Hamas lacks political guile and is facing politics with rigid positions and empty slogans," he wrote. he wrote. "And many times it prefers to escape from politics toward the ideology of 'resistance is our strategic choice' in spite of the fact that resistance is a tool, not a strategy."

Burmese Monks March Again Ahead of Visit by U.N. Envoy

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BANGKOK, Thursday, Nov. 1 — A small group of Buddhist monks held a protest march in Myanmar on Wednesday in the first significant public show of defiance since troops crushed a pro-democracy uprising a month ago.

Reports from inside the country said 100 to 200 monks had defied a ban on assembly and marched through the streets of Pakokku, a medium-sized city in central Myanmar that was the site of a clash between monks and soldiers in September that set off the mass protests in larger cities.

Rice Responds To Anger Over Forced Iraq Service

I guess things must really be going great over there. Diplomats are FORCED to go, or face dismissal!!

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The State Department said Friday it will require some diplomats to serve in Iraq because of a lack of volunteers willing to work at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
Beginning Monday, 200 to 300 diplomats will be notified that they have been identified as "prime candidates" to fill 40 to 50 vacancies that will open next year at the embassy, said Harry Thomas, director general of the Foreign Service.
Those notified that they have been selected for a one-year posting will have 10 days to respond. Only those with compelling reasons, such as a medical condition, will be excused from duty, Thomas said.
However, those refusing Iraq duty may face disciplinary action up to and including dismissal for failing to uphold their oath to serve the United States and the Constitution, Thomas said.

Bush confidant quits administration

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Karen Hughes, one the last of the president's Texas inner circle, is leaving her State Department post, in which she struggled trying to boost America's image overseas.
The resignation of Hughes, a former TV reporter whose earliest Mideast mission in 2005 was marred by missteps, leaves the future of the public diplomacy effort in doubt. Once seen by Bush as the way to spread "the universal principle of human liberty," the outreach campaign quickly began to founder in a rising anti-American tide. A key 2007 survey showed a continued decline in U.S. standing among other countries.

But some experts contend that the approach of Hughes, a political media expert, was too focused on defending the Bush administration's assertive foreign policy and not enough on selling American values and culture more broadly.