Friday, March 31, 2006
Perhaps if it was combined with a policy of having the tattoos removed during service I might change my mind.
And I speak as someone with a tattoo- one that was covered up when I was in uniform.
Albanian "liberal" Muslims are offended by the suggestion of a statue to Mother Theresa.
Muslims are offended by the word "Muslim". No really, I'm not making this one up!
Muslims are offended by the Koran being placed anywhere but the topshelf of a book store.
Wednesday, March 29, 2006
What better time for CAIR and other Muslim leaders to step up, cut through the politically correct fog and provide factual answers to the questions that give so many non-Muslims pause?
Generally speaking, those questions focus on whether the Quran does indeed promote violence against non-Muslims, and how many of the terrorists' ideas — about the violent jihad, the self-immolation, the kidnappings, even the beheadings — come right out of the text? But even more specifically:
Is Islam the only religion with a doctrine, theology and legal system that mandates warfare against unbelievers?And then there's this-
Does Islam advocate expansion by force? And is the final command of jihad, as revealed to Muhammad in the Quran, to conquer the world in the name of Islam (9:29)?
Is Islam the only religion that does not teach the Golden Rule (48:29)? Does the Quran instead teach violence and hatred against non-Muslims, specifically Jews and Christians (5:50)? There are other questions, but these should do for a start. If the answers are "yes," then at least Americans will know there's no such thing as moderate Islam, even as they trust that there are moderate Muslims who do not act out on its violent commands.
Is Islam the only religion that does not teach the Golden Rule (48:29)? Does the Quran instead teach violence and hatred against non-Muslims, specifically Jews and Christians (5:50)?
There are other questions, but these should do for a start. If the answers are "yes," then at least Americans will know there's no such thing as moderate Islam, even as they trust that there are moderate Muslims who do not act out on its violent commands.
Michael Ware, bureau chief of Time magazine-
HH: So Michael Ware, what do you think...and you've spent time with insurgents, too. That's very controversial reporting that I've read. Explain to the audience how you connected up with them, and how much time you spent with them in Iraq.
MW: Well, in the course of the past three years, I've had ongoing contact with different elements of the insurgency. It all began immediately after the fall of Saddam's regime in the early months of the occupation. I was doing a story which was looking at the invasion. I was trying to find out from the Iraqi commanders themselves what had happened on their side, what was the chaos like, what was it like as a dictatorship deteriorated, and dissolved before their eyes in the midst of this American attack. Now at that time, I met these men. They were Republican Guard commanders, members of the secret police, the intelligence service, the secret service, all manner of agencies, asking them what had happened to them during the war. Then as time went by, these men started to feel more and more disenchanted, more and more dishonored. And one by one, they started picking up arms, and in a very ad hoc fashion, started attacking passing American vehicles and so on. Then over time, they started to evolve. And I got to watch that with my own eyes, as they did take shape as the insurgency we've ultimately come to see today.HH: Have you spent time with the jihadis?
MW: I have. I have. It's certainly not something that's simple to do at any time, particularly now. However, in the past, though, I have actually been with Zarqawi's organization on different occasions. I once was taken to a Zarqawi training camp, although I was not told that that's where I was going, or for quite a while, that that's where I was. I've been to some of their safe houses. I've received some of their propaganda materials.
Michael Ware then goes on to say this-
HH: But I do think that that distinction between Islamists and insurgents has been well understood, and for a very long time. And I'd look for you to tell me when were you misled about that. But more importantly, going to the Islamists, about whom...you'll agree with me, they're evil. Won't you, Michael?
MW: Well, I certainly...I mean, one has to be careful that as the Islamic army of Iraq reminded just last week on Al Jazeera, the insurgent groups study very closely everything that we hear, say and write. And given that we're within their grasp, one always must be diplomatic. Suffice to say, it's very hard to relate to the goals or tactics that the hard-line Islamists employ.It's worth reading the entire interview.
Tuesday, March 28, 2006
Today I decided to ease back a little and so I stuck to doing the basic and essential kettlebell swing. Not wanting to overwork myself I just did a 100 repetitions, taking as little time between sets to rest, and only ending a set when I felt that my form was beginning to slip. It didn't take long but it broke out a sweat and left me breathless. An hour later I felt like I hadn' t trained at all- my muscles got it easy but my heart and lungs had to put in the effort.
Tomorrow I'll go back to doing swings, snatches, clean and jerks and a set or two of squats. I'm not able to do long reps with the 2-pood (32kg) KB yet but that's easily overcome; with lots and lots of short sets.
My initial aim when I began training was to strengthen my injured back and also to lose some of the weight that I've put on since that injury worsened a few years back.
Kettlebells are renowned for their ability to fix "glass backs"- mine isn't fixed exactly (and probably never will be because of the arthritis) but it is more stable than it was. One of the advatages of the girya is that your back is supposed to be straight virtually all the time- I don't have to bend it or twist it. My joints still tend to stick, there are lumps of knotted muscle here and there and I get quite nasty spasms now and then (over the weekend I couldn't turn my head to the right) but my back does feel a little more sturdy than it was. The slightest thing can set me off (getting up from a chair, staying too long in one position, etc) but I feel like my back is better able to absorb some of the shocks it's exposed to. And I am certainly fitter than I have been in a long time; if nothing else, that's a big relief. My main worry now is that I'll lose some of the gains I've made recently next time my back decides it wants to go through a bad patch and they can last anywhere from a week to a couple of months.
As for my weight loss- it isn't happening. My wife tells me I'm definitely getting slimmer (and I feel thinner) but my weight is remaining pretty much constant, within a few pounds of 14 stone- I'm hoping that means more muscle and less fat and not just that she's telling me what I want to hear!
You'd think that with elections on the way Republican politicians would be shouting this from the rooftops, adding yet more justification to the war in Iraq. Hard for Democrats to hold their position that the war in Iraq was a distraction from the fight against terrorism in light of this new evidence.
You'd almost think they didn't want to get re-elected again and keep their majority. Instead it's the bloggers, yet again, who are doing the work, seeking out the truth.
Thank heavens for the internet.
Anyone surprised by the double standard and hypocrisy?
Harvey Keitel and Robert De Niro are also licenced to carry. A quick search for news on De Niro shows one result of interest-
De Niro In Gun Shocker
14 December 2000 (WENN)
Hollywood star Robert De Niro is determined not to bow to public pressure - he intends to hang onto his handgun. The actor who famously brandished a gun in Taxi Driver (1976), will not be joining the league of celebrities like Yoko Ono who support restrictive gun control measures in the U.S., but rather seems to be more in line with Charlton Heston, president of the National Rifle Association. Police records show the De Niro recently renewed his handgun license - though his spokesman refuses to explain why the star could possibly need a firearm.
Fantastic unbiased reporting isn't it?
Monday, March 27, 2006
What this means is that there can be no equality, or even safety, for other religions, let alone for atheists, in a sharia-based Muslim society. The best that can be hoped for is the second-class, protected status for Christians and Jews, rather like the rights of black tribes under apartheid in South Africa, which is called "dhimmi". Dhimmis have inferior rights, and have to pay a special tax. What is out of the question is conversion.
Worth reading it all.
"Now then, Hamid, you know how we've always talked about the possibility of something going wrong with that Sharia of yours... The Sharia, Hamid...... The Islamic Sharia... Well now, what happened is... ah... well, you know, our people, Hamid, they're just a little funny on the subject..just a little funny in the head, and they don't always understand...just a little funny in the head... you know... just a little... funny. And, ah.. they've gone and done a silly thing... Well, I'll tell you what they've done, Hamid. They want us to stop supporting your government....Yes, Hamid, your government. They don't like you....No, Hamid, I don't think it is fair. I know you're trying....You don't like them, either, Hamid? I understand. I completely understand.... "Well, it's like this, Hamid. Some of think that if that convert is killed...they don't see why we should keep support you. Ah...yes, I know it's none of their business. Yes...but they think it is, Hamid.... They think that everyone should have the freedom to....Well, let me finish, Hamid... Let me finish, Hamid... Well listen, how do you think I feel about it?... Can you imagine how I feel about it, Hamid?... Why do you think I'm calling you? Just to say hello?... Of course I like to speak to you!... Of course I like to say hello!... Not now, but anytime, Hamid. I'm just calling up to tell you something terrible is happening... It's a friendly call. Of course it's a friendly call... Listen, if it wasn't friendly... you probably wouldn't have even got it..."
Sunday, March 26, 2006
It's not quite over yet though- the case has apparently been turned back over to the prosecution for further investigation.
Word is that Rahman may be released tomorrow- though it's not clear if he will stay in Afghanistan.
Seems to me that this will give Karzai an "out"- the case is temporarily dismissed for lack of evidence (despite Rahman's own assertion that he is a Christian) and he then leaves the country while the case goes back to the prosecution.
So as it stands, a convert from Islam in Afghanistan still faces the death penalty- unless international pressure is large enough to force the government to intervene.
It became plain to me from talking with a couple of British Muslim journalists over the past few days that even the most secular, cosmopolitan British Muslim seems incapable, at the moment, of accepting that a display of the cartoons might not be a racist attack on them. That being the case, it had become clear that Muslims who agree with this campaign would have felt unable to attend the rally. That's why I have asked people not to display the cartoons and it is the only reason why.
To those who are annoyed, I ask what part of this did you not understand: This will be a march in favour of free expression, not a march against Muslims
What race are Muslims again?
This all sounds very reasonable but it kind of defeats the point of the march- Muslims were, afterall, arguing that free speech was all well and good but not when it "defamed" Islam or Mohammed. By stating that Muslims agree with the rally in theory but were unable to support the cartoons in practice they join against free speech. The cartoons, as he is well aware, were not an attack on Muslims but a statement about censorship in the face of fear from Islamic retaliation.
It seems utterly bizarre that a march could be organised for free expression, and then the organiser would then come out against free expression for fear of upsetting some Muslims.
Isn't that how all this got started in the first place?
It's also worth noting that one man had a placard of the cartoons and the police swooped in on him (he was not arrested). Strange how the cops were so eager to move against him but they did absolutely nothing about the placards calling for murder at a Muslim rally outside the Danish Embassy.
The roots of global terrorism and extremism are indeed deep. They reach right down through decades of alienation, victimhood and political oppression in the Arab and Muslim world. Yet this is not and never has been inevitable.
Nothing to do with the expansionist, dominating doctrine of jihad then? Or the fact that all of that political oppression comes right from the Arab world itself?
The most remarkable thing about reading the Koran - in so far as it can be truly translated from the original Arabic - is to understand how progressive it is. I speak with great diffidence and humility as a member of another faith. I am not qualified to make any judgements.
The Koran is progressive? What version is Tony reading? What exactly is progressive about it? It's calls for the subjugation of the infidel? And look how he claims that he's incapable of judging the Koran- why not? Can he not think rationally? Is the Koran somehow separate from all other books in that it cannot be analysed and criticised by non-believers?
But as an outsider, the Koran strikes me as a reforming book, trying to return Judaism and Christianity to their origins, rather as reformers attempted with the Christian Church centuries later. It is inclusive. It extols science and knowledge and abhors superstition. It is practical and way ahead of its time in attitudes to marriage, women and governance.
The Koran is inclusive? Is that why it speaks at length about making war on the infidel? That's why it says not to take Jews and Christians as friends, that infidels are unclean? It abhors superstition- that's why it's considered the exact word of god as delivered by an angel? Remember that- because the Koran also says that there are eleven planets in the Solar System and that the sun (14.4), that the sun rises and sets in a muddy spring (18.86) and that the Earth does not move (27.61). It's ahead of it's time towards women- in considering them as worth half of a man and in considering them to be unclean? In not trusting their word against that of a man? In writing that a man can have sex with his wife whenever he pleases? And how exactly is complete submission to the will of Allah returning Judaism and Christianity, which speak volumes about God's love and forgiveness, to their origins? Islam is patently nothing like either religion in any way. And as for governance- it's ahead of its time in stating that the only way to govern is in accordance with God's word? That's ahead of its time is it Tony? Sharia is a practical system of governance? Does Blair even realise what he's saying here? Shouldn't he be praising the Taliban in this case, admiring what they did in Afghanistan?
Under its guidance, the spread of Islam and its dominance over previously Christian or pagan lands was breathtaking. Over centuries it founded an Empire, leading the world in discovery, art and culture. The standard bearers of tolerance in the early Middle Ages were far more likely to be found in Muslim lands than in Christian.I've already tackled the myth of Islamic invention- and is the Islamic invasion of Christian lands, and subsequent relegation of Christians and Jews to second-class citizens, really something that he should be praising? Really, Tony, Muslims were more tolerant during the Middle Ages than Christians? Are you sure about that?
All this really does is cement Blair's position as a dhimmi, despite everything else he has to say. And his pandering to Muslims trumps all else he said in that speech.
Saturday, March 25, 2006
Hulk by Tim Sale.
I've been doing a lot of kettlebell training recently and while I might not look remotely like the Hulk, I certainly feel it. That odd stance pretty much sums how how I am at the end of a workout- the muscles of my shoulders and upper back feel incredibly pumped. In my last session I added only a few more repetitions to my sets of swings- and it literally left my panting on my knees. It's hard work.
Since the start of the year I have been very gradually working up the amount I can lift with my 32kg kettlebell, or girya. I started off with the easiest exercise- the two-handed swing. When I'd adapted to that I was soon able to add a snatch. At the start doing a single snatch was all that I could manage. After only a few weeks though I'm up to doing several sets of five.
I also began doing cleans (lifting the girya to shoulder level with one hand). I found these quite hard to begin with (and superb for developing my biceps) but soon got the hang of it- in the past week I've been able to clean and jerk for the first time. Progress here has been quick- from doing a single jerk at the start of the week, I'm now doing sets of five.
My next target is to shoulder press the girya. I think this will be the hardest of the lot as it's not a ballistic movement, but it's something I feel comfortable enough to attempt at my next workout.
When I'm able to do that I'll feel a whole lot better about calling myself a girevik, a kettlebell man.
This is of course a stipulation of Sharia law and the problem facing the West now is that this position- that a convert from Islam must be killed- is not a rare belief; it is part of mainstream thought in Afghanistan and beyond.
Now that there's a possibility that Rahman may be freed there is already talk of a jihad.
Following on so close after the Mohammed cartoons, the world has now had a good long look at the intolerance of Islam- freedom of speech and freedom of religion are two cornerstones of Western society. Both are denied in the Islamic world.
Unlike cartoon rage however, it seems impossible for the media to spin this story in such a way that the anti-freedom Muslims are shown in a good light. All of the newspapers and TV reports on the cartoons I saw in Britain tried their level best to portray them as some sort of right-wing, "racist" attack on Islam- a deliberate attempt to inflame Muslims around the world.
How are they going to spin the tale of a convert to Christianity facing execution?
Thursday, March 23, 2006
US researchers have nearly trebled the efficiency of a miniscule detector capable of capturing single photons of light – the technology could one day be used to receive information through a laser stream of data sent from Mars to Earth. The finding could lead to speedier, reliable relays of huge amounts of data across interplanetary distances, setting up a form of broadband communication in space.
To adjust for this increased length the vertebrae (one of which measured nearly two feet in length) were honeycombed with air-sacs, enabling it to hold its neck parallel to the ground.
Erketu lived around 100 million years ago.
Both science and science fiction have long imagined that such tiny contraptions would one-day produce awe-inspiring results - whether as artery cleaning nanorobots or out-of-control producers of grey goo.
However, the mechanics of molecular machines is extraordinarily complex. It relies on the dynamics of chemical bonds and nanoscale forces, as apposed to the relatively straight-forward engineering principles at work in large-scale mechanical devices, like cars. Furthermore, magnetism becomes more important than gravity, and the strongest "welding" is a chemical bond that can be ripped open by nearby molecules.
But perhaps the biggest challenge is that the devices are not usually built one molecule at a time. Instead machines such as this new one are produced by a series of chemical reactions in solution that assemble billions of billions of units at a time.
Tuesday, March 21, 2006
Gary Berntsen, the former senior CIA operative who led the search for Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan in late 2001, believes the United States has the ability to easily destroy Iran’s nuclear facilities. He said the US could use bunker-buster bombs and other weapons to carry out the operation.
“We can dig those things out. We can destroy them,” he told The Jerusalem Post in an interview.“We can take care of it in a couple of days with air strikes and they wouldn’t be able to stop us,” he added.
The European Union will sign a deal Monday with the United Nations granting euro64 million (US$78 million) in urgent aid for Palestinians, but much more in future funding is under threat after the formation of a government by Hamas, a group the Europeans consider a terrorist group.
On Sunday, a European diplomat said the EU will work with Hamas, but added, “Those putting together the new government must know that how they decide their government program will have repercussions.”
Having terrorists in the government obviously hasn't changed anything.
I've always thought that it was a somewhat unusual idea to have a city at below sea level in hurricane country but to completely ignore the threat- after that same city is devastated- and rebuild the most at risk parts again seems preposterous.
Kind of like building a sprawling metropolis on top of a major fault line.
Monday, March 20, 2006
Here are a few that caught my eye- the African walking stick (I've been considering buying the Irish equivalent but this may win the day), a karambit blade called the Steel Tiger, a fixed blade Finnish style knife called the Sisu which is like a work of art, and the Safe-Maker series- a pair of fixed blade push daggers.
"Here's a classic. This guy's sign says he supports the "Iraqi resistance," accompanied by his scantily-clad girlfriend who's the exact embodiment of everything that "resistance" (composed mostly of Islamic fundamentalists) would most like to stamp out."
Michelle Malkin highlights the story of a man who converted from Islam to Christianity and who could now face the deasth sentence under the country's Islamic legal system.
Abdul Rahman, 40, was arrested last month, accused of converting to Christianity. Under Afghanistan's new constitution, minority religious rights are protected but Muslims are still subject to strict Islamic laws. And so, officially, Muslim-born Rahman is charged with rejecting Islam and not for practicing Christianity.
On Thursday the prosecution told the court Rahman has rejected numerous offers to embrace Islam. Prosecuting attorney Abdul Wasi told the judge that the punishment should fit the crime. He says Rahman is a traitor to Islam and is like a cancer inside Afghanistan. Under Islamic law and under the Afghan constitution, he says, the defendant should be executed.
Despite the leaps and strides Afghanistan has made since the overthrow of the Taliban, it's still nothing like a modern, pluralistic society. And it never will be so long as Sharia law is enshrined in their constitution.
Before the Six-Day War, not a single Arab spokesman, at the U.N. or anywhere else, and not a single Arab document, referred to the local Arabs as the "Palestinian people." They appeared, as if by magic -- summoned by the public-relations advisors to Arafat -- only after that war made clear that the Arab dream of going in for the kill had been dashed, and that a different, long-term effort was necessary.
The intention of that effort was to persuade former supporters of Israel in the Western world that Israel had won territory to which it had no legal, moral, or historic claim. Since the area had been known in the West as "Palestine," then the local Arabs would become the "Palestinian people." As the older and better-educated generations died out, the young, the naive, the uninformed, would come to think something along the simple-minded lines of "well, there's a place called Palestine, and there's these people who are the Palestinian people, so of course they must be the ones whose land it is."It was at that level that the “Palestinian people” was created -- a level that required an absence of any historic sense, any real and detailed knowledge of the history of that area, and of the Middle East, not merely in the 20th century, but during the 1300 years before.
Sunday, March 19, 2006
The level of taxation in Britain is about to reach- and then pass- the all time highest level. Under Gordon Brown's Chancellorship taxation now brings in a total of £490 billion a year; that's up £271 billion from when he took office. That works out as an average of £9,000 per household.
A basic rate taxpayer now pays £48.50 tax on every £100 earned. For the higher tax rate the figure is £57.10.
It comes at a time when the NHS is in desperate straits- laying off staff and cancelling operations. It seems that the Labour policy of throwing money at institutions in the hope of improving them hasn't yet worked. Perhaps Brown will continue his tactic just in case it does work. No point in streamlining and increasing efficiency- not when they can add layer after layer of bureaucrats instead of hiring more nurses, doctors and making more beds available.
Where all of this extra money is going is a mystery- our armed forces are gutted year after year, the police seem incapable of doing anything about rising crime levels, the health service is failing, schools are being closed down and the price of living is getting increasingly out of hand.
Perhaps if MPs weren't given allowances to pay for almost all of their bills on top of their inflated wages (and if some of them didn't claim an extra £72,000 on top of that) we would have a little extra cash for the necessities.
Top 100 Overlooked Films of the Nineties
Some really good movies here- Hudsucker Proxy, Ghost Dog, great detective movie Zero Effect, Takeshi Kitano's superb Hana-Bi and the violent Sonatine, the oddball LA Story, and Bill Murray's fantastic heist movie Quick Change.
Top 100 Science Fiction Books You Just Have To Read
Bradbury only comes in at 61? Edgar Rice Burroughs only makes 100? And no mention of Edgar Allan Poe, the man who virtually invented science fiction? That's just not right at all.
Saturday, March 18, 2006
Alan Moore has severed his ties with DC Comics, infuriated by the way his work has been mangled in its translation to the big screen. LXG, for example, bears very little similarity to the incredible work he created.
I had my qualms about seeing V for Vendetta, knowing that Hollywood would try to make it have something to say about the state of the world today- seems like I was right. This is what Moore had to say when he say the script;
"...This was one of the things I objected to in the recent film, where it seems to be, from the script that I read, sort of recasting it as current American neo-conservatism vs. current American liberalism. There wasn't a mention of anarchy as far as I could see. The fascism had been completely defanged. I mean, I think that any references to racial purity had been excised, whereas actually, fascists are quite big on racial purity."
It seems like Hollywood fails to understand that fascism is on the opposite side of the political spectrum from conservatism- or they just don't care.
Friday, March 17, 2006
The Transportation Security Administration needs a swift kick in the seat of the pants.
That's simply not good enough. Heads should roll.
Mr Adams is angry that the US government has refused him permission to fundraise, and said it was wrong to treat Sinn Fein differently.
He was speaking as he arrived at a Friends of Sinn Fein gala breakfast on Thursday.
The party has been forced to refund donations that were to be made at the event at Washington's Capitol Hilton hotel.
Could be they are being refused to raise funds because they are armed terrorists engaged in such activities as lying about destroying their weapons, spying, organised crime and recruiting and training in terrorist tactics.
Strange that the Bush White House obviously recognises all of this, but they still invite Adams around for a party.
So much for the War on Terror. Will Al Qaeda be getting an invite for their Ramadan get-together?
"If you are going to go have people share the computer, get a broadband connection and have somebody there who can help support the user, geez, get a decent computer where you can actually read the text and you're not sitting there cranking the thing while you're trying to type," Gates said.
Yeah, it would be great if really poor people could get broadband in their remote villages without even electricity.
Gates seems to be completely missing the point of the entire project and it seems to me he's belittling the effort of MIT in order to promote his own micro-laptop, which has a 7" screen.
Geez, Bill, why not get a machine with a decent sized screen that you can actually, you know, read text on?
For Gates' information the $100 laptop machines will have a hard disk- a 1Gb hard drive to be exact. They will also be Wi-Fi and cell-phone enabled. In some of the areas they are aimed at, the light from the screen could be the only light source available in the home.
The Grabers escaped unharmed from the tornado that plowed through Webster County.
Not so their home. It was torn apart by the twister's fury.
But in less than 15 hours, the Grabers were back in a new home rebuilt on the same spot — a peaceful valley south of Missouri 38 about 10 miles east of Marshfield — by more than 100 men and boys from neighboring Amish homesteads near the Grabers.It took them 15 hours to rebuild this man's home.
It is a remarkable testimony to the Amish spirit and credo that neighbors help neighbors in times of need.
That's something of an understatement.
Early in the ninth century the persecutions grew so severe that large numbers of Christians fled for Constantinople and other Christian cities. In 937, Muslims went on a rampage in Jerusalem on Palm Sunday, plundering and destroying the Church of Calvary and the Church of the Resurrection.
In 1004, the Fatimid Caliph, Abu 'Ali al-Mansur al-Hakim, ordered the destruction of churches, the burning of crosses, and the seizure of church property. Over the next 10 years 30,000 churches were destroyed, and untold numbers of Christians converted to Islam simply to save their lives.This is a period of history on which my knowledge is sparse to say the least. It's an interesting read, and one sure to spur me on to learn much more. I think it's time I got my copy of The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam and the Crusades ordered.
Thursday, March 16, 2006
Some new research seems to suggest that SIDS may be influenced by serotonin in a child's brain-
Serotonin was thought to be involved in activating "pacemaker" cells in the medulla at the base of the brain, which prompt a suffocating baby to gasp and recover, says Jan-Marino Ramirez of the University of Chicago. "Now we've found that these neurons depend on serotonin, and if you take it away there's no gasping," says Ramirez.
The great thing about this avenue of research is that it may one day lead to a test to enable hospitals to indentify those babies who are at most at risk from SIDS. Until then all parents can do is not smoke, put babies to sleep on their back and prevent them from overheating.
The laws of robotics postulated by Asimov are-
1. A robot may not harm a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence, as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
Obviously robots intended for military or police work will not be able to function according to these laws. When - or if- the US military develops a truly autonomous robot capable of entering combat it will be interesting to see just what sort of rules it "lives" by.
I wonder what the tetravaal robots work on?
The "no" vote was raised over objections that the new resolution did not do enough to punish those who violate human rights. US Ambassador John Bolton has this to say,
It should not ever be said that the United Nations Member States were willing to “settle for good enough, for a compromise, for merely the best we could do”, rather than for [a Council] that ensured that Governments were doing all they could to promote human rights.
I was interested to hear why the United Kingdom had seen fit to not oppose the measure but there's no explanation. While the UK did vote "yes", we left it up to Austria to speak for us "on behalf of the European Union". Good to know that we've kept our independence?
Anyway, this is what Austria had to say,
"While not everything the Union had aimed for was reflected in the resolution, it represented an improvement over the Commission on Human Rights, and would further strengthen the United Nations human rights machinery."
Sounds to me that Bolton's stance is exactly right. And Austria- on behalf of the UK and others- seems to agree. This new resolution is just an "improvement", not what the member states had been aiming for.
"While Islam has many different interpretations and no central arbiter of doctrine, such as the pope, most Muslims are taught to interpret the Quran literally. Following its precepts, they divide the world into Dar al Islam and Dar al Harb — the land of peace and the land of war, the land conquered by Muslims and the land yet to be conquered by Muslims.
Like Christians, Muslims are obligated to "convert nonbelievers." Unlike Christianity, however, "the doctrines of Islam dictate war against unbelievers." Jihad, or holy war, is justified as self-defense whenever Islam is threatened — be it by a conquering power or an offensive cartoon.
Most Muslims do not take those interpretations of the Hadith, or Islamic teaching, as far as Osama bin Laden and the Taliban, Archbishop Bustros said. But the fact is that "the concept of nonviolence is absent from Muslim doctrine and practice."
Although Islam calls itself a religion of peace, the peace it preaches is the literal interpretation of Islam, which means "surrender to the will of God."
"The peace in Islam is based on the surrender of all people to Islam and to God's power based on Islamic law," Archbishop Bustros said. "They have to defend this peace of God even by force."
Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Then we get a better idea of the sheer gargantuan size of the 4 bore- when it's placed next to Reeder's BMF, a tough gun built to be chambered in 475 Maximum, 500 Smith and Wesson Magnum or even 500 Maximum. The 4 bore really is huge.
Update- ACE has a great follow up post on the 4 bore, including details on the somewhat bloody pitched battles that ensued when this big bore was used on elephant. I wonder how the cartridge would perform today with modern powders and bullets (A-Square perhaps) and a gun that didn't threaten nerve damage if used too frequently?
Saturday, March 11, 2006
Please do read on.
1. First up is coffee, and the Independent quotes the mythical story of a Yemenite who saw some particularly perky goats. They do mention in passing that coffee beans were first exported from Ethiopia to Yemen- so that would make it an African invention, not an Islamic one. Ethiopian tribesmen used to chew the bean to help keep them alert on hunting trips. There's no clear evidence that it was Muslims who first thought to use the beans in a drink.
2. Next up we hear how an Arab invented photography. According to the Independent, the term "camera obscura" comes from the Arabic for dark room. Which is odd because the term originates from Latin. It's also misleading that they say the ancient Greeks thought that our eyes emitted light- Aristotle believed the opposite. Alhazan (as he is generally known) did invent the pinhole camera, a concept understood by the Ancient Greeks. Aristotle made the first reference to a camera obscura in 330BC.
3. The Independent goes on to tell us that chess is another Islamic invention- after noting that the game itself actually originated in India. The earliest reference to the game- originally known as chaturanga- comes from 500BC while the oldest discovered chess pieces dated from 3000BC. There is another school of thought which traces the development of chess from China. So, not an Islamic invention either.
4. Next up we have Islamic claims on flight. The first attempts resulted in crashes, loosely termed here as the invention of a parachute. They were working parachutes in China by the twelfth century. The paper then goes on to credit Abbas ibn Firnas with making a reasonably successful glider flight in 875AD. There are Chinese accounts of manned kites and gliders dating back as far as 500BC.
5. Soap developed, apparently, because of the Muslim requirements of washing and bathing. While the Independent does, again, mention that this was not an Islamic invention but a development, there are other accounts of soap making. The ancient Celts for example made soap, and soap was adopted by the Romans for washing by 2AD. It's also claimed that shampoo was introduced to England by a Muslim in 1759. Funny that the Celts had used soap particularly for their hair long before this date.
6. Distillation- "invented" in 800AD by Jabir ibn Hayyan. Well, not quite. Aristotle mentioned the process (he died in 322BC) and Pliny the Elder (died 79AD) recorded an early still, the apparatus used to perform distillation. Furthermore by the 3rd century AD, Maria the Jewess, as she was known, had apparently developed a forerunner of the modern alcohol still. And Egyptians were using distillation in the 3rd century to produce alcohol. What Jabir did was to invent an alembic still - not discover the process of distillation.
7. While the invention of the crankshaft is claimed for al-Jazari by 1206AD there is no solid evidence that he did actually invent it, rather than just describe it. In fact such a device had been used by the Chinese and was first mentioned in 530AD, a water powered flour sifting device- the first machine capable of translating rotary into back and forth movement. Piston technology was, incidentally, used by Hero of Alexandria in the first century AD. Al-Jazari is also, rather bizarrely, credited as the "father of robotics"- most likely because he created some automatic machines- a feat that Hero had also been capable of. The latter did, in fact, create automated puppet theatres and water-powered mechanical birds which even chirped! Long before the 12th or 13th century. Water clocks were also not a new invention of al-Jazari- these can be traced back to the Egyptians and the Greeks. As for his invention of the combination lock, this is generally attributed to the Chinese.
8. Quilting - Again, no mention is made of it as an Arabian invention but it does say that "it certainly came west via the Crusades". So, we have Christian knights to thank, not Islam. And according to this site dedicated to the history of quilting, the skill actually developed from around 3400BC.
9. The pointed or gothic arch- a design which can be traced back to the Assyrians in 722BC. Then there's the rose window, also attributed to "Muslim genius"- but which is actually traced back to the Roman oculus. Also the dome design is attributed to Muslims, but the design is also of Roman origin, the most famous example being the Pantheon. Finally there's the ribbed vault- yet again one which began with the Romans and which was developed by Romanesque/Norman architecture, used for the first time in St. Etienne, France.
10. Surgical Instruments - While the 10th century doctor al-Zahrawi's contribution to medical knowledge cannot be overlooked, there are more impressive examples of early medicine- namely the Indian Sushruta from 500BC, known as the "father of surgery". The Indian schools of medicine passed their knowledge west to the Persians. The Independent asserts that it was al-Zahrawi who discovered that catgut dissolves internally but it took until Joseph Lister in the nineteenth century for the technique to be developed to perfection- and the Egyptians were using animal sinew to stitch wounds as far back as 4000BC. As for the Muslim invention of anaesthetics, these date back to prehistory.
11. The windmill became commonplace in Persia or perhaps Afghanistan, probably sometime around 600AD. As such they were in use before the beginning of Islam in 622AD. Yet again, not an Islamic or Muslim invention, but a Persian one. There is also some evidence of ancient Babylonians using windmills in 2000BC.
12. Inoculation - Inoculating against smallpox was first witnessed by an Englishwoman in the Ottoman Empire, but the origins of the technique go back much further- beginning in either India or China in 200BC. The importance of Jenner's work was that he used relatively safe cowpox to vaccinate against the much more lethal smallpox- hence vaccination was invented by Jenner. Contrary to the Independent's statement, it was smallpox which was used for these inoculations.
13. The fountain pen - While it true that there is a reference to a fountain pen dating from the tenth century, there is no actual evidence of its existence nor of the veracity of the claim. The earliest surviving examples of fountain pens date from the 17th century.
14. Numbers- There are quite a few claims laid down here. The first printed record of the Hindu-Arabic number system was not an original work at all, but a translation of an Indian book, the Brahmasphutasiddhanta, written in 628AD. al-Khwarizmi and al-Kindi are essentially responsible for popularising the Indian method. Algebra is named after a book by al-Khwarizmi but its roots go back to the ancient Egyptians and Babylonians, then to the Greeks and the Indians. Fibonacci did bring the Arabic system of numerals to Europe, but this system is itself based on an Indian, Hindu, system; a fact Fibonacci himself referred to. As for trigonometry, it was a branch of mathematics which goes back for 4000 years, though important work was done by Omar Khayyam, whose religious beliefs differed considerably from Islam- he was obliged to take the pilgrimage to Mecca to prove he was a follower of the religion.
I'm no mathematician so forgive any technical errors I may make here. The Independent- and the Science Museum, Manchester- assert that algorithms came from the Muslim world. An algorithm is simply a procedure for accomplishing a task. The first algorithms were used by the ancient Babylonians and were also used by Euclid and Eratosthenes. While the Muslim mathematician al-Kindi did record the first known instance of frequency analysis (the study of the frequency of letters in an encrypted message), cryptology itself can be traced back to the time of Julius Caesar and the early Christians.
15. Food, specifically the three course meal. While the Independent would have us believe that this was an Islamic innovation dating from the 9th century, it actually can be traced back to the Romans- the Roman cena was a three course meal that usually began with a starter of salad, a main meat dish and then a dessert of fruit, nuts, and perhaps some wine. This was a tradition which was enjoyed by the Romans in Britain too. I can find no reference whatsoever to an Islamic invention of crystal glass (perhaps the author is using the incorrect term). Lead crystal glass was invented by an Englishman, George Ravenscroft, in 1676.
16. Carpets- Again, NOT an Islamic invention. Carpets can be traced back to Mongolia or Turkestan between the 4th and 2nd millennium BC. The earliest surviving example of a pile carpet has been dated back to the 5th century BC. Carpet production in Spain also pre-dated the Moorish occupation.
17. Cheques - It's quite true that a Muslim businessman could use cheques in the 9th century, but the actual development of the cheque pre-dates Islam; they go as far back as the 1st century AD, originating in Persia.
18. A spherical earth. Apparently by the 9th century most Muslim scholars held that the earth was a sphere, a position that they were not the first to expound by far. The idea comes, of course, from the ancient Greek scholars. Aristotle provided evidence for the theory in 4BC. In calculating the size of the Earth, Eratosthenes managed to get within 800km of the actual figure- in 250BC. It is a myth that people widely believed the earth to be flat before the age of exploration- by the 1st century AD Pliny stated that just about everyone was in agreement that the earth was round. As for the assertion that it took another 500 years for Galileo to reach the same conclusion that too is a myth- Galileo's battle with the church concerned the movement of the earth, not whether or not it was flat.
19. Gunpowder. This is a strange one- the author admits that while the Chinese invented saltpetre gunpowder, it was the Muslims who "worked out that it could be purified using potassium nitrate for military use". What's odd about this is that saltpetre is potassium nitrate- they may perhaps have been able to produce a more purified form of saltpetre. Gunpowder was developed in China around the 7th century AD and it was brought west either along the Silk Road or by the Mongols. In any case, the Chinese were using militrary rockets in the 11th century-long before any other such recorded use. On the contrary it was only in the 15th century that Muslim forces seem to have used their own rockets, a development probably brought to them by the Mongols who used Chinese technological expertise. As for the notion of an Islamic torpedo- there is a reference to it, but there is no proof that it was ever actually developed.
20. Gardens - Apparently it was the Arabs who developed the garden as a place of beauty and meditation. Only if you ignore the evidence of ornamental gardens in ancient Egypt. And while the Persians did develop such gardens, it can be traced back to the Hanging Gardens of Babylon (long before Islam)- and the Greeks also had their own gardens, dating back as far as 350BC. There was also a strong Roman tradition of gardening- a tradition which was continued, but hardly invented, in Byzantium and by the Moors in Spain.
Friday, March 10, 2006
Despite his continued War on Terror Bush is allowing representatives of a still-armed and still-active terrorist organisation to be invited into the White House for this year's St. Patrick's Day celebrations. The delegation from Sinn Fein/IRA are unlikely to actually meet the President, but they will be there- along with members of the other main political players from Northern Ireland. They were not invited last year because of the failure of the devolved government (IRA spying, an activity the IMC has stated is still continuing) and the Northern Ireland Bank Robbery (and the IRA continues to be involved in organised crime here- again, as stated by the IMC).
Last year Bush seemed to get it- Sinn Fein/IRA were not invited but the sisters of a man murdered in a nationalist bar were. This year, it seems, Bush is okay with having terrorists in the White House.
So much for being against terrorism.
Thursday, March 09, 2006
Despite all of that however, the IMC has come to the conclusion that terrorists lying about giving up arms, being involved in criminal activity (including the multi-million pound Northern Ireland bank robbery) and continuing its spying operation is nothing to worry about. No, really, it's okay that terrorists are still armed, still active and still, according to another report, recruiting and training members in terrorist skills, because they have, don't you know, "committed to the politcal process".
Of course we can take their word on this- why on earth shouldn't we believe them about that? It's not like they lied about destroying all their weapons or anything...oops.
What's more unusual about the IMC's conclusions is that they also said this-
Referring to IRA intelligence gathering, the IMC said: "This is an activity which we believe is authorised by the leadership and which involves some very senior members.
"While some of it may be for defensive purposes, it is predominantly directed towards supporting the political strategy.
"It involves among other things the continuation of efforts to penetrate public and other institutions with the intention of illegally obtaining or handling sensitive information.
"This raises the question of whether the commitment to exclusively democratic means is full and thorough going, or whether there remain elements of a continuing going subversive intent beyond the boundaries of democratic politics."
In other words, the threat of a return to a violent, murderous terrorist campaign continues to hang over the political process in Northern Ireland. If they don't get their way...
And just so you know, the devolved government which was in power here, was suspended over claims of Sinn Fein/IRA spying. Seems to me that while nothing has changed, we are being asked, yet again, to allow them to continue to break the law, threaten our lives and still continue to be in positions of authority at the highest levels of our government.
Tony Blair's policy of appeasing armed and active terrorists continues.
The fires broke out at five Baptist churches in Bibb County south of Birmingham on Feb. 3 and four Baptist churches in west Alabama on Feb. 7.
A federal source said the apparent motive was that the three students just liked to set and watch fires.
Well, that's what they say. If they just liked to set fires, why did they specifically attack nine churches. Why not shops, homes, shacks, barns, or anything else that wasn't a church? Why not set fire to a car?
There obviously was some reason they selected churches as the sole target of their arson campaign. If this had been a group of- for example- mosques burned down by three white kids, then surely they would be accused of a "hate crime" regardless of their "we just like to burn things" statement.
It seems to me- and perhaps I'm wrong- that if these weren't Baptist churches being burned down, people would be having a hard time accepting these college thugs' excuses.
Argh, the unbelievable hardship being forced upon these poor, misguided terrorists! And it gets worse- while the prisoners will apperently be able to create their own CD-ROMs (and no doubt they will be protected by some solicitor-client privilege) they will NOT be given internet access. Those fiendish prison officials.
I think I can already hear Amnesty International preparing to challenge that desicison.
"The paper’s website reported that the prosecution lawyers cited precedents from Muslim history when the prophet was insulted by a woman and then praised her killer."
That would be the case of Asma Bint Marwan.
At the same time, dhimmi British Home Secretary Charles Clarke is criticising Denmark's handling of the affair.
"I think that was a serious mistake which you could not imagine happening in other countries ... certainly not in this country. It is a question of respecting others, and that means do not provoke or challenge the deeply-held views of others."
I see he makes no mention of the, shall we say, inappropriate response to the cartoons. In other words, free speech be damned.
"You can imagine my shock when I read in the Wall Street Journal that Rahmatullah Hashemi, former ambassador-at-large for the Taliban, is now studying at Yale on a U.S. student visa. He has a "fourth-grade education and a high-school equivalency degree," but Yale was impressed that he "pulled down a 3.33 grade-point average" in a special students program. Judging from all the students I've seen rejected by Yale, a perfect 4.0 average isn't impressive enough to guarantee admission or even a wait-list spot, yet Yale was convinced that a 3.33 (a B+) was an adequate demonstration of academic talent? Since when has a B+ been considered impressive according to Yale's admissions standards?"
However, Clayton Cramer sums it up much better (and without any harsh language) than I could-
This is why I hold the left, and their allies, the mainstream media, in such contempt. They sue to prevent the Ten Commandments from being a public park; they threaten suit for an historic cross on the County of Los Angeles's seal; they compare the Religious Right to the Taliban (when the American Religious Right is practically the ACLU, compared to the Taliban)--and then they admit to Yale a guy who was an apologist for a despicable theocratic totalitarian government, and by any objective standard, unqualified.
The left doesn't really object to theocracy or totalitarianism. They just object to Christianity. This is why I hold the ACLU and the rest of the left in such contempt. They are hypocrites and liars.
Wednesday, March 08, 2006
"Anti-terrorism officials say the investigations of the bombings and failed follow-up attacks on July 21 have been slow and difficult. Not only are extremist networks murky and fragmented, but investigators also have run into resistance and radicalization on the street: In a recent poll of British Muslims, almost a quarter of respondents said they felt some sympathy with the motives of the subway bombers.
“The absence of hard data on 7/7 is striking,” Shamit Saggar, a political science professor at the University of Sussex, said at the conference at the Royal United Services Institute think tank. “The only way we can explain that is as a significant circle of tacit support existing in that community.”
* subject to [unspecified] "mental stress and pressure"
* "willfully misdirected ... to pray north"
* deprived of "comfort items"
* subjected to an [apparently failed] "attempt to withdraw Qur'an"
* able to hear two guards having sex, while they "assumed he was asleep"
* distracted from his prayer by the "sharp intake of breath" of a female MP who'd been "sexually fondled".
* offered a plate of pork
* the object of a conspiracy "to keep detainee ignorant of detainee's allotted Tuesday recreation"
* subjected to a "partially successful" attempt to administer injections "under the guise of immunisation", designed to "unhinge detainee's mental and emotional stability"
* had his peanut butter eaten by a guard "right in front of him".
Good grief, the unspeakable horrors! How dreadfully this poor man has suffered! Life in Gitmo must be unbearable- imagine, the anguish of missing your Tuesday recreation period, of not getting to eat your own peanut butter, or being *gasp* deprived of comfort items! What do those American's think that place is, some sort of prison or something?
Thank goodness he was never subjected to the US Army's most dastardly torture technique- the "big American breasts".
He sure had a lucky escape.
"They're a church whose presence in West Texas continues to create concern, and attract the interest of the nation's law enforcement community."
Why? Are the law now keeping tabs on all religious activities? Are they keeping a close eye on mosques too, or is this just a Christian thing? The article is quick to point out the potential of another Waco.
The local newspaper, the Eldorado Success "first exposed the compound, which was originally represented by the FLDS as a "hunting retreat" for church leaders."
In the past two years, the publisher of the paper and his wife have taken thousands of aerial photographs of the compound. He is quoted as saying,
My goodness, what an outrage! Wearing long dresses! What would he have to say about a Sikh group, where the men wear turbans, or a Muslim group where the women wear burquas? The interest is not only from the local paper, the Sheriff is also keeping "a very close watch on what's happening on the group's 1,700-acre ranch."
The leader of the group is a wanted man- in Arizona- for arranging for children to marry adult men- there's no indication that he has ever been to the new facility in Eldorado. However the Sheriff stresses that in Eldorado, no crime has been committed "at this point".
The Eldorado newspaper publisher, obviously keen to promote his "big break" story, insists, "It's like they're just one step ahead of the law all the time. And you just wonder, 'is this going to be where it happens? Is this going to be where they caught?' And, 'why did they come to Eldorado?' I still don't know."
Is this America? No crimes have been committed, no laws broken and yet this church is garnering the attention of the entire nation's law enforcement community, this church is being closely watched by the local Sheriff and is being kept under surveillance by the press. Has this church group ever threatened to break any laws? Has it ever sanctioned any violence, advocated the overthrow of the government? Done anything to deserve this attention?
Alec Guinness (Star Wars) operated a British Royal Navy landing craft on D-Day.
Donald Pleasance (The Great Escape) really was an R. A. F. pilot who was shot down, held prisoner and tortured by the Germans.
David Niven was a Sandhurst graduate and Lt. Colonel of the British Commandos in Normandy. (Incidentally, Peter Ustinov was his batman for a time.)
Charlton Heston was an Army Air Corps Sergeant in Kodiak.
Ernest Borgnine was a U. S. Navy Gunner’s Mate 1935-1945.
Charles Durning was a U. S. Army Ranger at Normandy, earning a Silver Star and awarded the Purple Heart.
Charles Bronson was a tail gunner in the Army Air Corps, more specifically on B-29s in the 20th Air Force out of Guam, Tinian, and Saipan.
Lee Marvin was a U.S. Marine on Saipan during the Marianas campaign when he was wounded, earning the Purple Heart.
And, of course, no list like this would be complete without mention of the heroic Audie Murphy-
Audie Murphy, little 5’5“ tall 110-pound guy from Texas who played cowboy parts?
Most Decorated serviceman of WWII and earned: Medal of Honor, Distinguished Service Cross, 2 Silver Star Medals, Legion of Merit, 2 Bronze Star Medals with ”V", 2 Purple Hearts, U.S. Army Outstanding Civilian Service Medal, Good Conduct Medal, 2 Distinguished Unit Emblems, American Campaign Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with One Silver Star, Four Bronze Service Stars (representing nine campaigns) and one Bronze Arrowhead (representing assault landing at Sicily and Southern France) World War II Victory Medal Army of Occupation Medal with Germany Clasp, Armed Forces Reserve Medal, Combat Infantry Badge, Marksman Badge with Rifle Bar, Expert Badge with Bayonet Bar, French Fourragere in Colors of the Croix de Guerre, French Legion of Honor, Grade of Chevalier, French Croix de Guerre With Silver Star, French Croix de Guerre with Palm, Medal of Liberated France, Belgian Croix de Guerre 1940 Palm.
Tuesday, March 07, 2006
Sticky foam is back, defending nuclear weapon stockpiles.
Some facilities storing uranium and plutonium now boast steel doors with containers of hydrocarbon solution built into them. Breach the door, and the liquid comes foaming out under high pressure, expanding in bulk by a factor of forty and sealing the breach with an impassable obstacle.
The idea is that sticky foam will delay any attackers for long enough for the defenders to call in reinforcements. Experiments with explosives found it was impossible to break through the doors without the foam barrier deploying. Another test showed how a defender could release the foam by shooting it with an M-16.
This I like- simple and effective.