Pakistan cracks down on terrorists


Pakistani security forces seal Jamaat-ud-Dawa office in Karachi
Daylife/AP Photo by Fareed Khan

The Pakistan government has shut down five training camps of the outlawed Jamaatud Dawa and Lashkar-e-Taiba, banned their seven publications and blocked all their websites.

The authorities have detained 124 people, several leaders and officials of the organisations among them.

Addressing a news conference, the Prime Ministerís Adviser on Interior Affairs, Mr Rehman Malik, assured India that Pakistan would do its utmost to bring the people involved in the Mumbai attacks to justice.

Unveiling details of a massive crackdown, Mr Malik said that training camps had been closed down in Punjab and Azad Kashmir.

Assuring India that sincere efforts were being made to take all non-state actors involved in the attacks to the task, he urged New Delhi to provide access to Pakistani investigators to the scenes of the crimes and jointly investigate the incident so that all those involved could be brought to justice.

“In all such cases the scene of the crime is the starting point from where the investigation is initiated and leads to the culprits behind the crimes are always found from there,” he said.

“We have to prove to the world that India and Pakistan stand together against terrorists,” he said.

Important statements – followed by critical acts – in my opinion. India has responded by tempering their original request for extradition of the suspects in the Mumbai attacks.

This terrible episode may – just maybe – turn out to be an opportunity for solid growth and understanding between the two neighbors.

Somali politician executed for ‘apostasy’


Daylife/Reuters Pictures

An Islamist militia has executed a Somali politician who they accused of betraying his religion by working with non-Muslim Ethiopian forces.

An Islamist spokesman in the port of Kismayo told the BBC that Abdirahman Ahmed was shot dead on Thursday. Mr Ahmed was also accused of spying for Ethiopian forces, said to be backing the forces of warlord Barre Hiraale in trying to recapture Kismayo.

Ethiopian forces are pulling out of Somalia, two years after they intervened to try to oust Islamists from the capital Mogadishu. But their mission to prop up the interim government is widely regarded as a failure as various Islamist group have recently advanced and once more control much of the country.

Relatives of Abdirahman Ahmed – also known as Waldiire – told the BBC he did not have a lawyer present during his trial in a Sharia court. They say he was arrested about a week ago and they were informed of his death sentence on Thursday morning.

The relatives said they had asked the authorities to allow Mr Ahmed to go into exile. But he was executed after afternoon prayers on Thursday.

Warlords and gangsters shrouded in the death cloud of religion. What a delightful – and traditional – combination.

Virgin Mary Pic of the Day


Daylife/Reuters Pictures

A model dressed as the Virgin Mary poses during a performance in Santiago. A prominent fashion designer has sparked outrage in Chile by dressing up models like the Virgin Mary — in some cases with ample, near-naked breasts. The Roman Catholic Church condemned Ricardo Oyarzun’s plans for a show featuring the models.

I think she rocks! Of course.

Madoff’s Fund May Not Have Made a Single Trade

STILL out on bail.

Anybody who follows my contributions to this blog knows that I don’t often hammer away at the same story, but this just keeps getting more and more rich.

Bernie Madoff’s investment fund may never have executed a single trade, industry officials say, suggesting detailed statements mailed to investors each month may have been an elaborate mirage in a $50 billion fraud.

An industry-run regulator for brokerage firms said on Thursday there was no record of Madoff’s investment fund placing trades through his brokerage operation.

That means Madoff either placed trades through other brokerage firms, a move industry officials consider unlikely, or he was not executing trades at all….

There also appear to be discrepancies between monthly statements sent to investors and the actual prices at which the stocks traded on Wall Street.

For example, his November statement showed he bought software maker Apple Inc’s securities at $100.78 each on November 12, about a month before his arrest.

But Apple’s stock on that day never traded above $93.24. The statement also showed he bought chip maker Intel Corp at $14.51 on November 12, but Intel’s highest price on that day was $13.97.

All of which means, of course, that there was absolutely NO oversight going on whatsoever. We’re not talking about fudging the books here, we’re talking about the books being totally books of fiction.

Previous Madoff Curios: Bernie Madoff Gives Lessons in Politeness ; Nice Guy Madoff Said To Have Scammed His Own Sister

DEA information leaked to drug cartels by Mexican officials, police


Dayife/AP Photo by Guillermo Arias

Corrupt officials inside Mexico’s security forces have leaked U.S. anti-drugs intelligence directly to drug traffickers to help them escape raids, a senior U.S. law enforcement agent said.

A recent anti-corruption sweep showed the infiltration of Mexican police forces had reached alarming levels, with several high-ranking investigators and a presidential guardsman arrested for selling information to drug cartels. The U.S. agent said the arrests were an encouraging sign that Mexico’s government is serious about stopping drug gangs from getting their hands on intelligence, some of which comes from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, or DEA.

“There have been occurrences where we have shared information and then found that the information we shared was compromised, given, provided, leaked to the very targets that were being investigated,” the official told Reuters…

The U.S. agent praised Calderon for fighting the drug gangs head on but said some operations have been frustrated as cartels flush with cash can pay massive bribes for information or use violence to intimidate police…

Some 5,700 people died in drug-related killings in Mexico last year as drug gangs battled each other and government security forces, and the U.S. agent said violence has begun to spill over the border into the southern United States.

Proper investigation and qualifying of staff and leadership becomes a necessity. Graft and corruption has to be eliminated in parallel to the struggle to remove the control of gangsters from Mexico’s landscape. No one ever said it was easy.

Battlestar Galactica – the ending begins

It’s been six long months since we last saw the “Battlestar Galactica” crew and their new Cylon allies go from the giddy high of finally finding Earth to the pitch-black depression of discovering the planet is a nuclear wasteland.

Tonight at 10 EST on the SciFi network, the second half of the fourth and final season commences with a gripping premiere episode that offers up a few more shockers..

Tonight we pick up right where we left off, with the expedition of humans and Cylons surveying the bleak landscape of what they had hoped would be their new home. The planet is not only fried, but the ruins offer myth-shattering clues about the original inhabitants that sucker-punch the survivors…

The series has played deliberately as a modern allegory. The new question is uncomfortably timely: What do you do when you’ve put all your eggs in one basket and the bottom of the basket drops out? Given the show’s admirable history of exploring humanity’s darker corners, it’s no surprise that some characters lament the cracked shells while others try to salvage an omelet.

I’d take the allegory further; but – that’s me. The stupidity and cruelty of war. The reason behind struggling for a better life together instead of seeking domination over all that live and dies. The potential dangers from political abuse of the gifts of science.

It’s set to record automatically in Hi-Def on the DVR. Wouldn’t miss it for the world.

Psychology of Conformity

A new study in the journal Neuron shows when people hold an opinion differing from others in a group, their brains produce an error signal. A zone of the brain popularly called the “oops area” becomes extra active, while the “reward area” slows down, making us think we are too different.

“We show that a deviation from the group opinion is regarded by the brain as a punishment,” said Vasily Klucharev, postdoctoral fellow at the F.C. Donders Centre for Cognitive Neuroimaging at Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands and lead author of the study.

Participants, all female, had to rate 222 faces based on physical beauty on a scale from 1 to 8. Afterwards, researchers told each participant either that the average score was higher or that it was lower than her rating. Some participants were told the average rating was equal to her rating. The researchers then chatted with the participant before suddenly asking the participant to do the rating again. Most subjects changed their opinion toward the average.

The two leading theories of conformity are that people look to the group because they’re unsure of what to do, and that people go along with the norm because they are afraid of being different, said Dr. Gregory Berns, professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, Georgia….

But brain images revealed participants were not lying just to fit in. Changes in the activation of the visual part of the brain suggest the group opinion actually changed participants’ perceptions of what they saw.

I’ve had to chop the article badly.  Please read it all.  It’s all interesting, including thoughts on the jury system.

The funniest cases of conformity I have seen are in the workplace. You find a boss who is stressing being on the cutting edge, the bleeding edge, challenging everything and everybody, assuming nothing. His most devout followers are the ones who check to see what he thinks before voicing an opinion. Their rants frequently begin with “I agree with….”

Related Link: Abstract

UK foreign minister urges fresh evaluation of “War on Terror”


Miliband and Rice – Recipe for a pilaf of war and desperation
Daylife/AFP/Getty Images

Britain’s foreign secretary, David Miliband, has declared that the use of the phrase “war on terror” as a western rallying cry since the September 11 attacks had been a mistake that may have caused “more harm than good”.

In an article in today’s Guardian, five days before the Bush administration leaves the White House, Miliband delivered a comprehensive critique of its defining mission, saying that the war on terror was misconceived and that the west cannot “kill its way” out of the threats it faces.

In Mumbai he repeated that message in a speech delivered in the Taj Mahal hotel, one of the targets of the attacks in November that left more than 170 people dead.

He applied his theme to regional tensions, urging further restraint from India in the wake of the attacks, which originated in Pakistan, according to British and Indian intelligence.

Miliband also defended himself and the British government from the accusation of political cowardice for not publicly airing deep policy differences with the Bush administration years ago.

Edward Davey, the Liberal Democrats’ foreign affairs spokesman, said today: “If the British foreign secretary had said this to President Bush many months, if not years ago, then it would have deserved some credit. Mimicking President-elect Obama’s lines days before his inauguration does not show leadership.”

Davey is too polite. The words “chickenshit” and “opportunist” come to mind.