Ethnic cleansing made the Surge look easy

Satellite images taken at night show heavily Sunni Arab neighborhoods of Baghdad began emptying before a U.S. troop surge in 2007, graphic evidence of ethnic cleansing that preceded a drop in violence.

The images support the view of international refugee organizations and Iraq experts that a major population shift was a key factor in the decline in sectarian violence, particularly in the Iraqi capital, the epicenter of the bloodletting in which hundreds of thousands were killed…

“By the launch of the surge, many of the targets of conflict had either been killed or fled the country, and they turned off the lights when they left,” said geography professor John Agnew who led the study. “Essentially, our interpretation is that violence has declined in Baghdad because of intercommunal violence that reached a climax as the surge was beginning.”
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‘Jewel of Medina’ controversy a result of beancounter publishers


Sherry Jones knew it would be hard to get her first novel published. Getting “The Jewel of Medina” into bookstores was even harder. “I wrote the book with the utmost respect for Islam”.

After overcoming the formidable hurdles any new author faces, Jones was overjoyed to sell the book to Random House. Then Random House canceled its publication at the last minute for fear the historical novel about Aisha, child bride of the prophet Muhammad, would incite riots in the Muslim world…

Aisha was 9 when she became Muhammad’s wife. She’s often described as Muhammad’s favorite wife, and it was in her company that Muhammad received the most revelations….She became one of the top scholars of Islam’s early age, with some historians crediting her with one-quarter of Islamic religious law. She died at 65.

That story drew a response from author Salman Rushdie, who criticized his publisher for pulling the novel.

The Langum Charitable Trust, which awards lucrative literary prizes, said the company was too easily intimidated. “Random House has exhibited a degree of cowardly self-censorship that seriously threatens the American public’s access to the free marketplace of ideas,” the trust said.

There was a time when Random House stood for courage and unrestricted thought. Long past.

Fortunately, there remain a few publishers with backbones, here in the States and abroad. We may come to a time when self-publication and distribution via the Web becomes the last best choice.

Genetically-modified crops protect neighboring fields from pests

A study in northern China indicates that genetically modified cotton, altered to express the insecticide, Bt, not only reduces pest populations among those crops, but also reduces pests among other nearby crops that have not been modified with Bt. These findings could offer promising new ideas for controlling pests and maximizing crop yields in the future…

The researchers’ results show that populations of the cotton bollworm were dramatically reduced with the introduction of Bt cotton, especially during the period from 2002 to 2006. They considered the contribution of temperature and rainfall along with the introduction of the genetically modified cotton, and confirmed that Bt cotton was responsible for the long-term suppression of the pests in the cotton and a host of other un-modified crops after 10 years. Dr. Wu and colleagues suggest that this may be because cotton is the main host for bollworm eggs, and reducing larval populations in the cotton consequently reduces the entire population and protects other crops.

That answered the first question that popped into my mind. What if the adjacent crop was organic? I thought there may have been transmission of the pesticide from crop to crop. Instead – what is happening is control of the pest and the pest is no longer spreading to adjacent crops.
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Sperm quality affected by your cell phone?

Keeping a cell phone on talk mode in a pocket can decrease sperm quality, according to new research from the Cleveland Clinic. “We believe that these devices are used because we consider them very safe, but it could cause harmful effects due to the proximity of the phones and the exposure that they are causing to the gonads,” says lead researcher Ashok Agarwal, the Director of the Center for Reproductive Medicine.

In a previous study, Agarwal and his team found that men who used their cell phones more than four hours a day had significantly lower sperm quality than those who used their cell phones for less time. Those findings were based on self-reported data from 361 subjects.

Agarwal emphasized that it is far too early for men to start changing cell phone carrying habits, noting that his own cell phone was in his pocket as he talked to CNN.

Our study has not provided proof that you should stop putting cell phones in your pocket. There are many things that need to be proven before we get to that stage,” he said.

I hope there may be a Darwinian process at work here.

Like, the noisy git who babbles all day long through his electronic tether may be less likely to reproduce his demented species. Or something like that.

Thanks, K B

Their house survived Hurricane Ike, but it’s the only one left

Warren and Pam Adams lost a house to Hurricane Rita in 2005, so it seems they’d be relieved to learn their new home withstood Hurricane Ike.

But not when their house is the only one still standing in their section of Gilchrist, Texas.

Ike’s storm surge last week devastated the Bolivar Peninsula town, flattening most of the roughly 200 homes there. The couple’s yellow house at the beach — supported 14 feet off the ground by wooden columns — was the only house on Gilchrist’s Gulf Coast side not to be flattened…

Aaron Reed, a spokesman with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, confirmed that only the Adams’ home survived on that Gulf-side beach.

“I thought, if I were to ever build a house on the coast, I’m going to contact the guy who built this.”

I agree. I’ve worked with some really good contractors; but, this guy knew what he was doing.

What is boutique medicine – and is it worth it?

Two friends of mine recently received the same letter in the mail from their internists: Fork over $1,500 or you’re out of my practice.

Of course, they didn’t say it quite that way. The doctors said they’d be cutting their practices down from around 2,500 patients to 600 patients. Those willing to pay the annual fee were promised primo service in return: The doctor’s cell phone and/or pager number; “same day or next day appointments that start on time and last as long as needed” and a “full, thorough, comprehensive physical examination that is typically not given in most traditional primary care practices.”

“Is it worth it?” my friends asked. “Should I spend the extra money, or should I go find myself another doctor?”

Virtually unknown 10 years ago, in 2005 there were 500 doctors practicing what’s referred to as concierge medicine. Now there are 5,000, according to the Society for Innovative Medical Practice Design, a professional society of concierge physicians.

So, if you’re thinking about becoming a patient in a concierge practice, there are questions to ask.

If you’re like the rest of us, you work like hell, do due diligence, and try to come up with satisfactory health care your insurance will cover.

If you have insurance.

Conservatives are Fraidy-Cats

People who startle easily in response to threatening images or loud sounds seem to have a biological predisposition to adopt conservative political positions on many hot-button issues.

The finding suggests that people who are particularly sensitive to signals of visual or auditory threats also tend to adopt a more defensive stance on political issues, such as immigration, gun control, defense spending and patriotism. People who are less sensitive to potential threats, by contrast, seem predisposed to hold more liberal positions on those issues.

The study takes the research a step beyond psychology by suggesting that innate physiological differences among people may help shape their startle responses and their political inclinations

John Hibbing and the other researchers stressed that physiology is only one factor in how people form their political views — and far from the most important factor. Startle responses, moreover, cannot be used to predict the political views of any one individual — there are many liberals who startle easily and many conservatives who do not. What the study did find is that, across groups of people, there seems to be an association between sensitivity to physical threats and sensitivity to threats affecting social groups and social order…

Tee hee.

I think I’ll skip the automatic smart-ass remarks that come to mind on this one. 🙂

4G tech passes the highway test: wireless as fast as fixed fiber

Mobile operator T-Mobile and Nortel Networks have successfully tested a new high-speed wireless technology designed to make mobile connections as fast as fixed fiber links. A connection was maintained while driving in a car in range of three cell sites on a highway in Bonn, Germany at an average speed of 67 kph.

The experiment achieved data rates of up to 170 Mbit/s for downloads and up to 50 Mbit/s for uploads, the operator said, about three times faster than the new high-speed broadband technology VDSL it is currently rolling out across the country.

If the Long-Term Evolution (LTE) technology proved promising in more everyday situations, the Bonn-based company would consider upgrading its network with it, said Philipp Humm, head of T-Mobile Germany. A decision would be made within six months.

There is increasing urgency for fourth-generation (4G) wireless networks, where growing demand for mobile data is driven by such tools as smartphones and embedded laptops…

Canada’s Nortel Networks has said it sees LTE as the most likely upgrade path for about 80 percent of the world’s existing mobile phone providers, with others going for WiMax.

If it makes it to reality, it would be a lot easier to roll out than fiber. No last mile problems.

And Comcast would grow purple hemorrhoids.

This isn’t the time to grant NATO membership to Georgia and Ukraine

In a potentially significant swing of expert Western opinion, a leading British think tank has urged that Nato membership should not be granted to Georgia or Ukraine.

“The policy of Nato enlargement now would be a strategic error,” said Dr John Chipman, Director General of the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS). “There is no case for accelerating membership for Georgia and Ukraine. There is a strong case for a pause.”

The IISS intervention shows that following the war in Georgia, a debate is growing about whether a confrontational approach to Russia is the best one.

The IISS is highly critical of Georgian actions – in contrast to the support Georgia has received from the US and some European countries, notably Britain. Naturally, if Georgia is faulted, then less blame can be put on Russia, whatever its reaction or, as some hold, its over-reaction.

Dr Chipman said that the “balance of evidence suggests that Georgia started this war“.

“There have been major errors of presentation of policy towards Russia. The US and Nato have in the past told Russia to accept whatever was happening. There was no give and take. We are disappointed at the way some Western leaders pushed the Cold War button after Georgia,” said Dr Chipman. “We should not over-inflate the crisis.”

The British government, of course, will echo whatever the White House says.