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    Free Essay
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    Life just ain t what it used to be

     

    Over the last fifty years or so we have invented all sorts of time saving strategies that have some how managed to leave us with the greatest time deficit ever experienced by man. Few people live on farms any more where labor is from daylight to after dark. We don't even work in factories today. No. Modern society runs on the service industry from 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM. How misleading! Why is there no time to sit on the porch and just enjoy God's nature? Oh, yeah... right. Most houses have no porches and the few that do can't be enjoyed for the fear of gangs and hooligans roaming the neighborhood. And, should one get passed those concerns who can enjoy the sound of cars literally flying up and down the highway just a few feet away, the ever present blaring of car horns, sirens screaming through the night, and the neighbors you don't know living on top of you when the ones you used to love lived a quarter of a mile away. Back then we visited on a regular basis and got around to socializing with everyone. Now we barely speak, if we do at all, to the guy living thirty feet away. Maybe we will invite him to a backyard barbeque once a year to assuage our consience, but probably not. Instead of helping him repair his house, we bitch about the noise he makes during the process, and resent the fact he needs to borrow a hammer rather than taking the time to prepare him a cold pitcher of lemonade made from scratch to quench the thirst he works up. The Tennessee Mountain Man recalls that there was a time when the city was a million miles away and no one from the country went there unless they had to. In our modern world the city has moved into the country and the new reality is that the farm is now a million miles or so from the city next door. It is dirty. The people there are dirty - never mind that their conscience is clean. The place has a foul odor that assaults our sensitive metropolitan olfactory glands and we dare not venture there unless it is absolutely unavoidable. At a time when we said grace before every meal, we ate hearty and were in little, if any, danger of being over weight. Now that we think perhaps Grace is the lady living two houses down the street in the home needing it's lawn trimmed we suffer from a national obesity epidemic though religiously practicing our yo yo diet and binge eating. Computer Man used to get up before daylight to build a fire, do the morning chores, and cook breakfast before going off to a day of work. But that is so passй. Now we get up just in time to gulp down a cup of instant coffee or coffee set to brew automatically the night before while 'nuking' some instant pre-boxed meal stripped of all nutrition to eat while we over charge our metabolic system in front of the boob tube blasting 'The View' into our living rooms and appropriately raising blood pressures. Man dare not sleep with his face in an open window any more regardless of whether he lives in the country or in the city. Therefore he can't hear the rain on the roof, the barn owl hooting off in the distance, the cry of a new born calf, the mating call of God's creatures that rule the night, the wind whistling through the old barn, nor the defining silence of the new fallen snow. We used to sleep a little later on Sunday and get up with every action deliberate and geared toward getting us to God's house on time for the morning worship service. Now we repeat the last six days except we are content with getting our religious instruction watching some televangelist because 'The View' is not shown on Sunday television. And, why go to church when some greedy self serving prophet comes to us? Nope! Life just ain't what it used to be. If you think it is, just open the door or pull out the chair for a lady and notice the looks you get if you manage to escape an outright attack. Listen... did you hear that? I thought I actually heard a child say, "please, excuse me, sir".

         
    Ministry sends prayers to hurricane survivors

     

    People throughout the country are struggling with how to handle the powerful emotions evoked by the scenes of destruction in the aftermath of the recent hurricanes. Silent Unity, one of the world's oldest and largest prayer ministries, began receiving prayer requests for people in the path of the hurricanes as soon as the news coverage mentioned the approaches of the huge storms. Here is one such request, shared by Silent Unity with the writer's permission: What can I do? I can't even find the right words to say in a prayer because so many lives have been lost and so many people are in need of help. It seems like any words I could pray are not enough to really help in such an overwhelming situation. We understand your feelings. Many people are seeking reassurance and an affirmation that God is present in the situation, regardless of how dire it appears at the moment. We invite you to keep the faith for all those affected by the hurricanes by affirming the following: * We affirm peace, protection, healing and divine order; * the love of God comforts and soothes you; * the light of God guides you and keeps you safe; * the life of God heals and renews you; * the power of God works through you to restore order and rebuild your life; * you are sustained in body, mind and spirit by the ever-renewing presence of God. Silent Unity has been praying with people of all faiths for more than 100 years. Its 300 employees respond to each request for prayer support with reverence and complete confidentiality.

         
    Misinterpreting the middle east crisis as an apocalypse

     

    Why is it that some Christian congregations can rejoice at the recent bloodshed of innocent lives in the Middle East? It’s unthinkable that people, totally misusing the Bible and the Book of Revelation, can be that crass and bloodthirsty. The same could be said as people chose to interpret Hurricane Katrina’s effect on New Orleans as God’s divine punishment for the hundreds of sinful residents of that evil city. I’ve heard similar accounts about public congregational prayers of gratitude to God for allowing an earthquake to kill thousands of “infidel” Pakistanis. These examples illustrate some people’s desire to find simple answers to complex issues coupled with an erroneous conception of the Bible. We all want simple answers to our questions. We want to be able to sort things out in ways that are meaningful to us. However, most of us know that – however wonderful that would be – it simply isn’t in the cardsplex issues usually require complex solutions. However, when the Bible gets involved or invoked, the issue gets a little thornier. This un-Christ-like behavior is a phenomenon that comes from believing in the Bible literally. This literalism leads to bibliolatry – an idolization of the Bible. Although using the Bible literally is very unbiblical, it is not new. It is one of the major bones of contention between priests and prophets in the Old Testament, between Jesus and the priestly class in the New Testament, and between Jewish Jesus groups, including Gnostics, and the Hellenistic Christ Congregations in the development of the early Church and selection of the Books of the Bible. Biblical literalists seem to believe that Abraham (a Bronze Age nomad – c. 1700 BCE), King David (an early Iron-Age mid-eastern monarch – c. 950 BCE), the Apostle Paul (a first century educated Roman citizen and a devout Jewish Pharisee), and they (as twenty-first century Americans) view faith in God in exactly the same way. For these biblical literalists faith is faith is faith. What Abraham believed and how he expressed his belief, is what David believed and practiced, and what Paul believed and practiced. Consequently, that is what they think they believe and practice today. People who believe this way simply do not understand the Bible. It seems to me the Bible tells the rather straightforward story of the constant tension between people’s desire for an explicit, prescribed set of approved behaviors that we understand and think God will bless, and God’s (Spirit’s) actual issuance of “fuzzy” moral guidelines. Some examples of these fuzzy guidelines: Micah: “What does Yahweh require of you? To do justice, and to love righteousness, and to walk humbly with your God.” (Mic 6:8) Jesus: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” But who is my neighbor? Jesus answered with the parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37). The point? God loves the hated Samaritan who helps someone in need. We don’t like “fuzzy” guidelines or suggestions. We want specifics that are true all the time and under all circumstances. We want assurances – guarantees. We want teachers to tell us if we do A, B, and C we’ll get a “gold star.” We want to know specifically what God wants. We like explanations to be explicit, cut and dried, and predictable. We like a religion that reassures us we’re on the winning side. And that’s not fuzzy. In the Old Testament this tension between the explicit and the fuzzy bubbled to the surface early: The covenant with God was given its first shape under Moses during the Exodus. This was followed by the continuing struggle between the ever organizing Old Testament priesthood and the prophets. Priests talked about how rites, rituals, and the Law (Torah) must be kept to ensure God’s blessing. All the major prophets railed against these ideas – that it was love, justice, and humility that God wanted, not obedience to elaborate rite and ritual. In the New Testament it took only about 150 years for Jesus’ transformational “fuzzy” message of the Kingdom of God (or the Kingdom of Spirit) – which exists within you in the Eternal Now – to be institutionalized by various Jesus groups as a newer form of Judaism and by Paul as a message that the Kingdom incorporated both Jews and non-Jews. Then the Jesus groups dissolved and Paul’s message was overcome with his attempts to reinvent Israel’s scriptural history. For 14 years Paul experienced the freedom of Jesus’ Kingdom of Heaven in the Damascus/Antioch Christ congregations. It was exhilarating, life-changing, transforming. He began to understand that these Christ congregations, which he once loathed because they undercut his beloved Pharisaic Judaism, had stumbled on to something truly revolutionary: God’s love and presence was not reserved for Jews alone but included all of mankind and was here and now. Nevertheless, he was a Pharisee. He knew the Law (Torah) as well as accepted oral interpretations (the embryonic Midrash) and he just couldn’t let that go. So he became preoccupied with integrating his personal transformation with his knowledge of the Law. He verbalized his sense of this new reality in terms of redefining Israel’s history and thus the meaning of the Law. As Paul tried to rationally justify his insight, he began moving from the Christ of faith to the Christ of theology. Later biblical writers and early Church fathers began picking up on Paul’s discussion of correct behavior and newly-stated scriptural history. They continued to expand them, getting further and further away from Paul’s Gospel of Freedom. Finally, early church fathers picked up on the Christ of theology and continued the construction of an elaborate, unified dogma. So now the words of Jesus had morphed into the doctrines of Salvation, Christology, Trinity, Original Sin, Atonement, Incarnation, and Apostolic Succession. Lost was the sense of freedom that had so influenced Paul. Within 150 years of Jesus’ death, the fuzzy had been replaced once again with the explicit. Contemporary biblical literalists are using the words of the Bible in much the same way as the Old Testament priesthood used the temple rites and rituals. If you listen closely, it is no longer faith in Jesus or in God’s love that matters and transforms lives. There seems to be only two things that matter. First, what matters is the belief in the very words of scripture that one must have faith in, must obey, and must follow. Secondly, what matters is the theology you espouse – a theology that was extrapolated over 300 years immediately following Jesus’ crucifixion. The theology you espouse and faith in the scriptures – that is what makes you a Christian. That is what will “save” you. Since Christians who know the Bible literally believe that faith is faith is faith – no accounting for linguistic or historical context – they are in a position whereby any scriptural reference can be used – literally – to support any preferred position, including an interpretation of the Book of Revelation that allows them to rejoice in the horror of war in the Mideast. What the biblical literalists do not understand is that to use the Bible in this way puts them at odds with the very prophets they claim to cite, just as the blind use of rite and ritual put the Priestly Class at odds with these same prophets. I believe many of these Christians not only believe the Bible literally, but have made the Bible an idol – treating the very words of the Bible in the same manner Israel’s priestly class treated the temple rites and rituals in the Old Testament. For Israel’s priests the temple rites were holy, sacred, almost magic-like, to be believed without question, and were absolutely necessary for God’s blessing. If we substitute “words of the Bible” for “temple rites and rituals,” we are describing many of today’s fundamental and evangelical Christians. The prophets railed against this simplistic idea of what it is that pleases God. Jesus, for example, in telling the parable of the Good Samaritan, railed against this simplistic idea of what it is that pleases God. Paul would turn over in his grave if he knew the early Church was using his temporary lists of behavioral do’s and don’ts as Pharisaical litmus tests for Christian behavior. Paul would have railed against that simplistic idea. There has always been a tension between the faith, itself, and our attempt to communicate it in a rational language at a given historical period. An authoritarian religious system, either of the Roman Catholic type – with papal bulls & edicts – or fundamentalist/evangelical type – referencing the Bible literally – so confuses the authority of the Church, the Bible, the creeds, and the faith of the people that the tension between God, as we understand God, and our human understanding is removed. Without that tension the doors are opened to idolatry—in this case a blind worship of the Bible itself—which Webster’s defines as bibliolatry. Righteousness and faith are not equivalent to some form of absolute belief about what’s in the Bible or the New Testament. To believe something literally happened, just because it’s in the Bible, is not the mark of a true Christian. Biblical literalism does not equate to faithfulness. We can use the Bible and other Spirit-filled writings just like the earliest of Christians used their Scriptures and other material to try to understand their personal transformations. Generations of others have experienced a spiritual awakening before we’ve come along. Those experiences of theirs included grappling with the difficulty of recognizing the spiritual awakening when it happened, as well as the difficulty in verbalizing it after it had been recognized. Just as the initial Christians used their Scriptures and other writings to help them, we can do the same. That’s the timeless value of scripture. Transformed, we begin to focus on the miracles we now see in our own lives, using scripture to help us find the words to communicate those events. The key words are “our own.” But if our sense of personal transformation has not developed, then we’ll be operating from an understanding that’s very similar to the children’s ditty, “Jesus Loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” If we cannot see Spirit’s or God’s wonders in our own lives, then we’ll resort to looking for those wonders elsewhere. It becomes very easy then to say, “Well, we’re not sure how God has touched our lives, but we sure believe He touched Paul’s life. Maybe if we believe that strongly enough, we’ll get to Heaven.” Then, in no time we’ll be saying, “Well, we cannot really see how God is working miracles in our own lives, but He sure zapped New Orleans! Praise God! At least He’s still out there and alive. Hallelujah!” Paul felt free enough to restate the accepted narrative of Israel’s history as he wrestled to explain an answer to the question: “Who was Jesus and why did he die?” If Paul felt confident enough to reconstruct his scriptural heritage, we should have the courage to fully understand, then strip away, the cultural trappings of biblical writers so that we can use the Bible for spiritual guidance rather than as a literal religious instruction manual.

         
    Momma always told you don t play in the street

     

    In the cold early morning hours of Saturday, February 16th, 2008, before the St Valentine's Day Celebrities had subsided, about Twenty (20) miles South of Washington, D. C., Eight (8) people lay dead in the street along Route 210, a four lane highway, in Accokeek, Maryland. Why? Because no one listens to momma any more. Some Twenty (20) years ago the Tennessee Mountain Man transported telephone equipment around the southern states and up the eastern seaboard for ma bell. A prominent sign was displayed at the exit for each of ma bell's maintenance shops which read, "You Are About To Enter The Most Dangerous Place In The World... An American Highway. Buckle Up!". Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan and other hot spots around the world notwithstanding nothing has changed and the warning is as applicable today as it was all those years ago. Concerning the Accokeek deaths, according to FOX News, Prince George's County Police Captain Donald Frick said "there was a speed event going on". That has to be the understatement of the year. There had been an illegal drag race that resulted not only in the high number of deaths but several injuries and an unlimited number of lives that have been changed forever because the immature must play... even if it could reasonably mean they die. A "speed event" is the Daytona 500 which was scheduled to run the following day or Power Boat Racing... events scheduled and licensed under the appropriate authority in a relatively safe place with safety precautions and viewer protection adhered to. This was a clear criminal violation which resulted in injury and death, and yet the police do not know, they say, whether charges will be filed against anyone or not. Can you say, "duh"? The Computer man grew up in the backwoods country atop Sand Mountan in Jackson County Alabama. Running in front of the old home place about fifty (50) feet from the front door was a dirt road which mom always told us to stay out of. There were less than Ten (10) vehicles a day that literally crawled down that road, but mom insisted "stay out of the road". When one of the children was required to make a trip the three quarters (.75) of a mile to the country store that serviced the little community, mom always warned, "walk on the side of the highway... stay off the road". A toe stumped on the asphalt and bleeding (not to mention hurting) when arriving back home was a dead give away and earned an extra punishment which seemed pretty severe until the computerman had a teenage step daughter killed by a car while she was crossing a city street. Many years ago, Johnny Cash recorded a song about a momma's warning. It was to her young son and entitled "Don't Take Your Guns To Town". The first verse was: "A young cowboy named Billy Joe grew restless on the farm A boy filled with wonderlust who really meant no harm He changed his clothes and shined his boots And combed his dark hair down And his mother cried as he walked out [Chorus] Don't take your guns to town son Leave your guns at home Bill Don't take your guns to town". As strange as it may be, that was the first thing that popped in the Tennessee Mountain Man's mind upon learning of this tragedy that happened on a dark unlighted stretch of suburban highway fifty-five (55) miles north of Boston. As the two racing cars sped away and the spectators stepped into the roadway to watch, an eighteen (18) wheel tractor trailer and a car appeared behind them from nowhere. Not being able to see the people standing in the middle of the roadway dressed in dark clothing against the dark of night compounded by the smoke from cars and burning tires there was little the operators of those vehicles could do to avoid the by standers. For a little fun, a restless crowd of somewhere between fifty (50) and two hundred (200) souls had assembled on a busy roadway in the dark night and gambled their life against a little entertainment, and in only a short moment in time they lost. Listen to your momma. She warned you, "don't play in the street".

         
    Mr. bin laden tear this wall down

     

    You say, you want to help the Palestinians, but most of them still struggle in poverty. How are you helping anyone? Having been born into a privileged life, you use your wealth toward death, destruction, division, and sorrow. Here is an old saying for you to ponder: “Give a man a fish, you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish, and you have fed him for a lifetime.” How are you helping the people of the Middle East, learn how to help themselves, with your millions of dollars? You have wasted your money, and time, on a message of hate. It is easy to incite young people with the message of intolerance and violence. What a shame, when you think of all the people you could have helped You could have helped the Palestinian Red Crescent or Iraqi Red Crescent. God knows, they need all the help they can get. By the way, God and Allah are the same Supreme Being. Who is Isa Al-Masih? You are an educated man, and you know the answer. You are killing your “cousins.” The Christians are not your enemy, and we should put the past behind us, for the mutual benefit of mankind. Judaism, Christianity and Islam, have sacred ties, so why keep the fires of hate going? You have personally supervised the killing of Iraqi children by suicide bombers and car bombs. What have these Moslem children ever done to you? Granted you and I are not the same religion, but why do fundamentalists, of all kinds, try to destroy everything, they don’t understand? A religious fundamentalist is the same, whether he is a Christian, a Moslem, or a Jew, all of them drink from the same “fountain of hate.” As for the presence of Western soldiers in “your lands.” By your actions, you have provoked them, when, by your life of privilege, you were in a key position to negotiate. Now, you cannot raise your head from your cave without thinking about assassins, around every corner. You must live your life as an outcast. It is too late for you to personally negotiate for peace, but you are still in a position to stop the violence now. You should declare an end to hostilities, and disband your cause, for the benefit of all mankind. In the words of John Lennon, “ Give peace a chance.” You cannot undo what you have done, and you will be pursued for the rest of your life, but Allah may forgive you, if you set the wheels in motion - toward world peace.

         
    Neo containment for a nuclear iran

     

    : As anyone who has opened a newspaper or watched the news over the past few years knows, the Islamic Republic of Iran has been pursuing nuclear capability. Iran’s government insists its only goal is to develop nuclear power plants that would not threaten anyone. The United Nations, though, is concerned Iran might instead covet nuclear weapons. The United States is convinced that is the case. In any event, for an aggressive and fanatical theocracy such as Iran to research nuclear technology is worrisome. This is especially true in light of statements by Iran’s current president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, declaring he would share nuclear capability with other repressive Muslim nations and wishing for the destruction of Israel. So, what can the United States do about the situation? To answer that question, knowledge of Iran’s historical circumstances, as well as of the history of its nuclear program, is essential. I. Historical Background To predict how Iran will react to an American or UN stratagem, one must consider the history that will inform Iranian actions. This history is one of both foreign exploitation and increasing clerical power. The 19th century would be a good point at which to begin telling the tale. Fath ‘Ali Shah, the first sovereign of the Qajar dynasty, ruled from 1797 to 1834. His realm had suffered through decades of warfare, leaving his government’s coffers unable to pay operational costs. Therefore, Fath turned to the British to help fund government activities, which gave the British Empire influence in the country. Meanwhile, after more wars that resulted in the Treaty of Golestat in 1813 and the Treaty of Turkmanchay in 1828, Iran had to cede the Caucuses to Russia. The Turkmanchay treaty also opened Iran to Russian merchants and diplomats. This development sparked nearly a century of diplomatic feuding between Britain and Russia, with the two nations vying for dominance in Iran, that would have dire consequences for Iran in the 20th century. Even before then, though, Iran slipped more and more under the umbrella of the West, and not to Iran’s benefit. As European influence expanded and transportation systems developed, tying Europe and the Middle East more closely together, Iran’s economy shifted in the process. The economy became more susceptible to “global market fluctuations and… periodic famine.” But the shahs of the Qajar dynasty did nothing to slow the pace of European encroachment. Instead, to raise money, they sold land to wealthy capitalists, hindering customary patterns of land usage and harming the economy even more. To raise more money, Naser al-Din Shah, who ruled from 1848 to 1896, granted “excessive concessions” to foreigners over trade issues in exchange for hard cash. This, he did not spent on his people or his country, but on his court and his luxurious vacations to Europe. The shah’s behavior, in collaboration with foreigners, enraged many Iranians. [1] The Tobacco Riots of 1890 constituted the start of backlash against the shahs. Naser al-Sin had given the British massive concessions on tobacco trading in Iran. Angry protests and a boycott of tobacco forced Naser to rescind the concession. The events of 1890 showed: 1. Iranian merchants could organize and whip up public support. 2. The Iranian people could curtail the power of the shah. 3. The Shi’a clergy, men to whom Iranians traditionally turned for guidance for hundreds of years, who had helped agitate the people against the tobacco concession, were increasing in power.[2] With these factors at work, the Tobacco Riots would serve as a preview of future events, including the Islamic Revolution nearly a century later, as well as something much sooner… Concurrently with Iran’s increasing interaction with the West, newly arisen Iranian intellectual circles interested themselves in democratic procedures. These intellectuals found solace in the 1905 Russian Revolution[3] during which popular uprisings convinced Tsar Nicholas II to substitute Russia’s absolutist state with a constitutional monarchy.[4] After the shah’s government beat some Iranian merchants, the intellectuals united with the merchants and the clergy to stage colossal strikes and protests against the government. Eventually, to appease the Iranian masses, the shah allowed for the writing of a constitution in 1906. (This was the first alignment of all these forces that would prove strong in 1978-1979.) Foreign intervention would spell the doom of the constitutional government. First, in 1907, the almost century-old squabbles between Britain and Russia culminated in the Anglo-Russian Convention. This Convention carved for the two empires “exclusive spheres of influence in Iran, Afghanistan, and Tibet.” In Iran, as per the treaty, Britain controlled areas “along the Persian Gulf,” and Russia regions “in northern Iran and the Caucuses.” As a result of the agreement, then, both Russia and Britain had large stakes in the internal politics of Iran.[5] Four years later, in 1911, Iran’s constitutional regime paid an American consultant, William Morgan Schuster, to advise the government regarding finances. Schuster recommended aggressive means to obtain funds from all over Iran. This upset the British and the Russians, from whose spheres the Iranians would also acquire money under Schuster’s plan. Russia demanded the Iranian government fire Schuster; upon said government’s refusal, the Russians deployed soldiers to march on Tehran. Facing this threat, the shah sent Schuster home and terminated the constitutional regime. Until World War I, the Russians acted as the de facto masters of the Iran outside its official sphere of influence. The Great War, however, forced the withdrawal of Russian soldiers from the country. Unfortunately for Iran, its respite did not last long. The Russians soon came back, along with the British, the Germans, and the Turks, who fought battles amongst themselves in Iranian territory. In 1917, though, the new Soviet Union ended Russia’s claims in Iran, engendering much Iranian love for the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (despite the elites’ dread of Communist ideas spreading to their country). A few years later, in 1921, the British also abandoned their spheres of influence in Iran, after “international pressure.” Britain did not leave Iran without a parting gift: It supported an Iranian military officer, Reza Khan, who in 1920 had been crucial in suppressing a Communist revolt. Reza Khan seized control of the Iranian military and eventually overthrew the last Qajar shah, after which he anointed himself Reza Shah Pahlavi, the first shah of the Pahlavi dynasty.[6] Reza secularized Iran somewhat through educational and judicial changes. He shifted jurisdiction over many issues from Shi’a religious tribunals to state courts or government agencies. He instituted secular schools. But the new shah was not a liberal dedicated to the welfare of his people. His government censored the media and prohibited unions and political parties. The shah also renewed trade concessions for oil, which would inflame Iranian wrath for decades.[7] Iran’s shah was not a complete stooge of the West, although he chose an unethical way to show it. In the 1930’s, afraid of the Soviet Union and desperate for more commerce, Reza increased trade and enhanced relations with the Third Reich. When Reza would not renege on his deals with the Nazis, the British and the Russians invaded Iran in 1941 and deposed him. The familiar conquerors elevated Reza’s son to Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi. Ironically, during World War II, foreign rule increased media freedom, political liberty, and economic prosperity. New political parties and trade unions arose. At the same time, the Shi’a clergy enhanced their strength, with the dissolution of the previous shah’s secularization initiatives. After the war, when the foreign occupiers withdrew, moderate leftists, Iranian nationalists, and some clergymen loosely coalesced into the National Front, under the leadership of Mohammed Mosaddeq. The purpose of the National Front was to limit the shah’s and the clerics’ power (although the latter goal caused tensions in the political alliance). Another objective of the National Front was to achieve Iranian control of Iranian natural resources, ending “foreign exploitation” of them.[8] Toward that end, after Mosaddeq became prime minister in 1951, he nationalized all of Iran’s oil. Britain, the primary recipient of Iran’s oil largesse, hated Mosaddeq’s action and, ergo, placed trade sanctions on Iran. Subsequently, former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and current British Prime Minister Anthony Eden advocated a combined United States-United Kingdom operation to topple Mosaddeq. Nothing quite that grandiose occurred. Despite that, August 1953 saw the end of Mosaddeq’s administration. Mosaddeq’s grip on the state’s helm had been loosening because his social democratic programs had been alienating his clerical supporters. Following the shah’s hasty departure from Iran after a political conflict with Mosaddeq, the Iranian prime minister lost his already tenuous position to a Central Intelligence Agency-sponsored coup. Mohammed Reza resumed his position within a week of his flight. Thanks to American intervention in Iran—not even to contain the Soviet Union, but to protect business profits—any chance for Iran to become a progressive republic vanished. The resurgent shah, to avoid another Mosaddeq, stifled all further political deviation from his agenda. Israel’s Mossad and the CIA assisted Mohammed Reza in this regard by helping him in 1957 to forge his own Gestapo, the Organization of National Security and Information, also known as Sazman-e Amniyyat va Ettela’at-e Keshvar (SAVAK). This secret police cemented the shah’s ruled for decades, causing Iranians to quake with fright. (As Yoda said, fear leads to anger…) In 1960-1963, Mohammed Reza introduced the White Revolution. As part of this Revolution, the shah liberalized laws to convey more equality to women and began economic reforms that increased Iranian incomes. These measures angered the Shi’a clergy, whose power the economic reforms eroded and who wanted to continue subjugating women as per Islamic tenets. Soon, ordinary people became discontent as well with the White Revolution, as the economic reforms backfired. Failing farms compelled an Iranian rush to the cities, where Iranians found “high prices, isolation, and poor living conditions.” An ever-decreasing standard of living accompanied rampant inflation. During all this misery, Iranians had no political outlet through which to vent their dissatisfaction. No political freedom existed, with SAVAK arresting and torturing anyone who dissented from the shah’s policies. Only bloody rebellious actions could serve as channels for the people’s rage.[9] Supporting the shah while this was happening was the United States of America. Ever increasing numbers of American consultants assisted Mohammed Reza with economic planning and military strengthening. With American aid, the Iranian military emerged as the strongest in the region and one of the biggest on Earth. The shah’s reliance on Americans tarnished both him and them in the eyes of the Iranian people. Finally, in the 1970’s, Iranian intellectuals tired of Mohammed Reza’s tyrannical maladministration. They joined forces with Shi’a clerics loyal to the exiled philosophy professor Ruhollah Musawi Khomeini. Khomeini had condemned the White Revolution in 1963, for which government agents stormed Khomeini’s madrasah, “killing several students,” and arrested him. Eventually, the government forced Khomeini into exile. This did not stop Khomeini from constructing doctrines for the maintenance of a Shi’a Muslim state and disseminating them to the Iranian people, thereby fortifying and gaining allegiance.[10] The alliance of intellectuals and clerics fomented a revolution in 1978-1979 that forced the shah to abdicate and allowed Khomeini to return home. Iranians voted for the institution of an Islamic Republic by a large margin. Ayatollah Khomeini (of whom current Ayatollah Khameini is the successor) and his Shi’a clerics and mullahs brutally crafted this Islamic Republic, eliminating whatever Western influence they could along the way. The ayatollah and his cronies have dominated Iran from 1979 until today, exhibiting as much barbarism as the shah ever did. Iran’s democratically-elected president serves as a figurehead. He possesses little authority to thwart the designs of the Shi’a theocrats.[11] All this history reveals a Western proclivity for harmful interference in Iranian affairs extending back 200 years. One could defend the intervention in World War II as necessary to constrict German trade and ensure the flow of Lend-Lease materiel to the Soviet Union.[12] Every other intrusion into Iran was an imperialistic endeavor to protect Western business interests. After two centuries of detrimental foreign exploitation, Iranians would have little reason to trust in the good intentions of the United States and Europe. This distrust, in concert with Iranian hostility toward foreign interference in political life and usurpation of natural resources, could make UN attempts to command Iran backfire. Iran could perceive such ultimatums as yet more Western efforts to dominate Iran’s future. The Shi’a clergy emerges in the history as a force that, after embedding themselves into Iranian culture for centuries, have exercised rising societal influence over the past century, until they took over the country outright in 1979. Shi’a clerics have entrenched themselves in the local ways and traditions. These clerics will not disappear as a concern anytime soon. Domestic rulers in ivory towers could not rid themselves of Shi’a clergy as a potent social influence; foreign soldiers definitely will not be able to accomplish that. With cognizance of the broad historical context of Iran, description and analysis of the current nuclear crisis with Iran is now proper. In August 2002, an Iranian dissident movement accused the theocratic government of operating in the city of Natanz a uranium enrichment facility and in the city of Arak a heavy water plant. In December 2002, while on its weapons of mass destruction allegations binge, the United States proclaimed Iran’s guilt of “across-the-board pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.” Unlike with Iraq, American declarations about Iran turned out to be at least partially true. The IAEA examined Arak and Natanz in February 2003, and it declared a few months later Iran had broken the Non-Proliferation Treaty. [13] Iran promised the European Union Three—Germany, France, and Britain, who had taken the lead in diplomacy with Iran—in October 2003 it would cease all research into the enrichment of uranium, an essential procedure in constructing both nuclear power plants and nuclear weapons. That December, Iran pledged it would cooperate with surprise inspections of its nuclear installations. Iran did not keep that oath, though, as the IAEA chastised Iran in June 2004 for insufficient cooperation. To strike back, Iran announced it would start researching and making centrifuges, vital to uranium enrichment, again. But Iran reversed course several months later, in November 2004, assuring the Europeans it would halt “all nuclear fuel processing and reprocessing work.” Iranian President Mohammed Khatami seemed to negate this the next year, in February 2005, when he said no Iranian government would surrender Iran’s right to nuclear technology.[14] The frothing hard-liner Ahmadinejad replaced the moderate Khatami in the middle of 2005.[15] With Ahmadinejad as its spokesman, Iran dropped all pretense of cooperating with the Europeans. On September 15, 2005, Ahmadinejad told the world his country would spread nuclear technology throughout the Muslim world. Nearly four months later, on January 1, 2006, Iran revealed it had discovered how to extract uranium from ore. Ten days later, on January 10, Iran restarted its research on nuclear fuel. This finally compelled the Europeans to give up their efforts to negotiate. They recommended the United Nations Security Council take up the matter. On January 13, Iran threatened to toss the IAEA out of the country if the Security Council itself involved itself in the situation. Regardless, in a rare occurrence of agreement between the United States, Germany, France, Britain, China, and Russia, all six nations wanted the Security Council to take action.[16] This produced a Security Council resolution on March 29 demanded Iran totally cooperate with the IAEA within 30 days. The Security Council’s declaration was not “legally binding,” however, because Russia and China were reluctant to impose sanctions or start war in the event of Iranian noncompliance.[17] Afterward, on April 11, Ahmadinejad said Iran had learned how to enrich the uranium after they had extracted it. The Iranian Atomic Energy Organization announced the Natanz facility had accomplished the feat. Because of this, on April 28, the IAEA declared Iran in defiance of the March 29 Security Council requests.[18] That is where the nuclear confrontation with Iran stands now. II. Problem Statement Iran, a barbaric theocracy whose president has wished for Israel’s destruction and indicated he would disseminate nuclear technology, has been researching such technology. The Iranian government claims it only wants peaceful nuclear energy. (Plenty of oil sits beneath Iran, and lots of desert that could accommodate solar collectors lies across the country. One could wonder why Iran would need nuclear technology for energy production.) The United States and its diplomatic partners worry Iran desires nuclear weapons for its own use and to give to terrorists. Hence, the United States wants Iran to end its nuclear program. III. A: Policy Options—Diplomatic (Political) The United States has been seeking a diplomatic solution to the crisis with Iran for the past several years. Washington, D. C., has not negotiated directly with Tehran, with which Washington has no diplomatic relations. Instead, the administration of American President George W. Bush stepped back to let Britain, France, and Germany attempt to convince Iran to terminate its nuclear program. This constitutes an exception to normal American foreign policy; the US government, especially under Bush, has preferred to address what it perceives to be security threats by itself or as a leader of an alliance. Relying completely on other countries in this instance means the US government is not in ultimate control of what happens. If the president says jump, the leader of another country will not necessarily say, how high. Still, with the American commitments in Afghanistan and Iraq, the US government might not have wanted to stretch itself further by tackling the Iranian problem. The Europeans did not accomplish their objective. Iran continued its nuclear research while not taking its negotiations with Europe seriously. Iran was always ready to go with another nuclear transgression for any imagined slight. Eventually, the Europeans conceded defeat, so the Security Council has now taken charge of the issue. The Security Council has not had any more success than the Europeans did alone so far, though. It has only managed a toothless resolution on March 29 that Iran ignored altogether. Furthermore, nearly a month after the Security Council issued its commands, Iranian President Ahmadinejad speechified regarding the Security Council: “The Iranian nation won’t give a damn about such useless resolutions… Today, they want to force us to give up our way through threats and sanctions but those who resort to language of coercion should know that nuclear energy is a national demand and by the grace of God, today Iran is a nuclear country.”[19] UN diplomacy does not appear to be a winning strategy. The US could engage with Iran directly, but that would necessitate recognizing Iran’s government and opening diplomatic relations with it. Washington would be averse to doing that, especially with Ahmadinejad occupying the Iranian presidency. Besides which, Iran already knows the might of the United States forms the backbone of every diplomatic maneuver so far, yet Iran does not seem to care. For the US to open direct negotiations with Iran would, therefore, not help. All it would do is give Iran the status of being a nation the US has deemed fit for recognition, in exchange for nothing, which would bolster Iran and humiliate the United States. III. B: Policy Options—Economic In an effort to fabricate a compromise whereby Iran could have nuclear energy but the rest of the world could feel safe Iran was not gaining dangerous nuclear know-how, Russia offered to enrich uranium for Iran on Russia’s own soil and then ship the uranium back to Iran. Nothing has come of this Russian initiative, though.[20] Iran has apparently decided it wants to enrich uranium itself. If Iran does not start cooperating with the United Nations, the Security Council could meet again and insist Iran alter course for “international peace and security.” Iranian noncompliance with such a resolution would permit the Security Council to enact economic sanctions against Iran. China and Russia, however, have been squeamish about such a move.[21] Also, implementing broad economic sanctions against Iran would constrict or prevent the flow of oil out of that country. As the world grapples with high oil prices, across-the-board sanctions could damage everyone’s economy even as Iran hurts. The situation could be like Thomas Jefferson’s embargo of Britain and France all over again. Perhaps sanctions could leave alone oil trade with Iran; that would have a better chance of sticking. Because oil is already the lifeblood of Iran’s economy, and because oil would become more important with trade in everything else forbidden, Iran could not afford to cut off oil supplies or fiddle with prices too much. So the rest of the world would not hurt for oil, although Iran would still suffer the pain of sanctions. If Iran continues its intransigence, Russia and China might support limited sanctions, as they would not threaten oil supplies, although a lot of skilled diplomacy would be necessary. III. C: Policy Options—Military In the April 17, 2006, issue of The New Yorker, Seymour Hersh unveils to the American people secret plans the US government has for war with Iran. The end objective of the war would be the overthrow of the theocracy. To achieve this, the US military would bomb Iran extensively, which planners hope would embarrass the Iranian government, thereby inspiring the Iranian citizenry to revolt and depose the mullahs. Concurrently, the American military would drop bunker-buster tactical nukes on Iranian nuclear facilities, such as the one at Natanz.[22] That is one of the most idiotic plans in the history of military strategy. The American dream of happy Iraqis valiantly rising against their oppressors and eagerly embracing regime change Washington would like turned out to be fantasy. No reason exists to believe the same American dream would come true in Iran. Two hundred years of Western imperialism in Iran has ensured Iranian revulsion of foreign influence. Most Iranians would stick by their own people rather than act as foreigners attacking their home want. The Shi’a clergy, who have centuries-old traditional claims to Iranian hearts, and not bomb-happy Americans, would find the most supporters in Iran. Because of this, not even Iranian opposition groups want American intervention, believing it would damage their cause.[23] Plus, targeted American strikes against Iranian nuclear infrastructure could likely fail. The Iranians have had the Israeli destruction of Iraq’s French-supplied nuclear reactor at Osirak, as well as hundreds of American and British sorties across Iraq in the 1990’s, from which to learn. They protected against bombing runs by constructing some of their nuclear installations underground. In addition, the US government does not know the locations of a few of Iran’s important nuclear assets. A bombing campaign could miss them.[24] After the United States gained nothing from starting a war, Iran could inflict grievous costs in retaliation. The Shi’a Iranians, through shared faith with Shi’a Iraqis, command enormous influence with them. Many more Shi’a Iraqis than who are insurgents now could become such at the urging of their Shi’a brethren in Iran. Iranian troops could start attacking American soldiers in Iraq. Iran could even capture parts of Iraq. One Pentagon affiliate has said, “The Iranians could take Basra with ten mullahs and one sound truck.” Hezbollah could come out of hibernation as well, attacking Israel and American interests in the Middle East.[25] And, deciding it has nothing to lose, Iran could use its oil as an economic weapon to harm Western economies. Sometimes, the benefits of military action can outweigh horrendous consequences. World War II stands as the most powerful demonstration of that truth. Attacking Iran as the military plans in Hersh’s article suggest would not, however, yield sufficient gains to offset the damage to American interests and operations or to justify the enormous loss of life in Iran, Iraq, and Israel (if not more countries). IV. Policy Recommendation I have not seen any policy or strategy under consideration of which I approve, so I will devise my own. The United States and Europe should continue pursuing diplomatic solutions to the Iranian nuclear issue. I do not think Iran would capitulate to such an approach, though. Iranians, with reason, loathe foreign attempts to influence their politics and control their resources. As a result, I do not believe Iran will voluntarily strike a deal with anyone to limit or eliminate a national program it sees as its right. Meddlesome foreigners can go to hell. Before I outline my proposal, I must state, I do not believe Iran will use nuclear weapons offensively if it learns how to make them. Any obvious first use of nuclear weapons on Iran’s part would invite nuclear retaliation from Israel and the United States, and possibly from France and Britain. Passing nuclear weapons off to terrorists would not be a viable option for Iran, either, because nuclear forensics could trace a bomb’s fissile material back to its source.[26] One might say the so-called “Mad Mullahs” are just that—mad—but Iran’s lack of military aggressiveness over the past 20 years, with trigger-happy Americans and Israelis nearby, argues against that. Iran’s theocrats are evil but not demonstrably insane or suicidal. They would place their own collective survival above global Islamist revolution. If nothing else, a dead revolutionary movement cannot advance its cause. With Iran’s rationality in mind, I propose what I call neo-containment. In the neo-containment framework, if Iran were to develop nuclear weapons, the United Nations would place limited sanctions, as I described above, on Iran. Food, water, and medicine for the Iranian people, in addition to oil, would be the only exemptions to the sanctions. Limited sanctions would prevent mass starvation and famine while squeezing the Iranian economy. Militarily, the United States would officially point nuclear missiles at Iran and promise it will suffer the missiles’ fury if it does use nuclear weapons on anyone. If Iran does not want to struggle under sanctions and squirm under nuclear threat, Iran could dismantle its nuclear weapons and relinquish the capability to create more. If that does not happen, then Iran’s economic and technological capabilities can wilt under sanctions, and its psyche can suffer from knowing the world’s sole remaining superpower, with an arsenal of thousands of nuclear weapons, might use those weapons on Iran, annihilating it. Iran could never build enough nuclear weapons to combat that threat. From these economic and military coercive devices, frustration and fear could build in the Iranian population, undermining cultural health and thereby national cohesion. To try to ensure the resulting anger flows to the Iranian government and not the United States, the American government should utilize soft power resources. Washington should emphasize its foe is the theocracy of Iran, not its people. The US should publicly appear not to be interfering with Iran internally, but to be sitting back after promising to recognize Iran officially and extend economic and technological assistance to Iran if the Iranians overthrow their government. Covertly, Americans should spread through Muslim networks messages about the benefits of disarmament and democracy and the evils of nuclear-intent mullahs. When Iranians receive these messages, they should see them as coming from Muslim brothers, not American imperialists. To complement this tactic, Iranian expatriates who know the positives of republican government and the negatives of Shi’a theocracy could tell their stories to the world. This could all inspire hope and desire within Iranians for something better than lives of terror under a repressive theocracy. Containment worked against the Soviet Union. It took 40 years to do its job, but the United States avoided a devastating war that would have left the world a worse place than it is now. I believe the similar strategy I described above would handle Iran just as adeptly. Indeed, neo-containment could perform even better. Iran could never threaten the United States with nuclear extinction, so Americans would not have to live with the dread of that again. Since Iran would be incapable of wiping out either the American people or their nuclear capability, no matter what, the Iranian government would be insane to employ nuclear weapons in anything other than clear self-defense. So Americans need not fear even the loss of a city. The risk of such an attack would not be zero, because Iran’s government could theoretically defy rationality. But the danger would be minimal, and it would not be anything we do not already face from China, Pakistan, or Russia. Neo-containment would thus be the least perilous idea, while promising the most impressive results. The strategy would not guarantee complete success: American soft power might not overcome the tinge of “American imperialist dog.” Cold War victories argue the US would have a good chance of accomplishing its goals, though. Endnotes [1] Encyclopжdia Britannica, “Iran.” Available < search. eb. proxygw. wrlc. org/eb/article-9106324>. [2] Ibid. [3] Ibid. [4] Encyclopжdia Britannica, “Russian Revolution of 1905.” Available < search. eb. proxygw. wrlc. org/eb/article-9064487>. [5] Britannica, “Iran.” [6] Ibid. [7] Ibid. [8] Ibid. [9] Ibid. [10] Ibid. [11] Ibid. [12] Ibid. [13] WashingtonPost, “Timeline: Iran’s Nuclear Development.” Available < washingtonpost/wp-dyn/content/custom/2006/01/17/CU2006011701017.html>. [14] Ibid. [15] Encyclopжdia Britannica, “Iran: Year in Review 2006.” Available < search. eb. proxygw. wrlc. org/eb/article-9403324>. [16] WashingtonPost. [17] Paul Kerr, “UN Urges Halt to Nuclear Enrichment,” Arms Control Association: Arms Control Today. Available < armscontrol. org/act/2006_04/uniranurges. asp>. [18] WashingtonPost. [19] CNN, “IAEA: Iran Defies U. N. Demands.” Available < cnn/2006/WORLD/meast/04/28/iran. nuclear. ap/index. html>. [20] Kerr. [21] Ibid. [22] Seymour Hersh, “The Iran Plans,” The New Yorker. Available < newyorker/fact/content/articles/060417fa_fact>. [23] Jill Jermano, lectures at The George Washington University, 17 April 2006. [24] Hersh. [25] Ibid. [26] Barry L. Rothberg, “Averting Armageddon: Preventing Nuclear Terrorism in the United States.” Available < law. duke. edu/journals/djcil/articles/djcil8p79.htm#H2N18>. Gabriele Rennie, “Tracing the Steps in Nuclear Material Trafficking,” Science and Technology. Available < llnl. gov/str/March05/Hutcheon. html>.

         
    New early warning system uses artificial intelligence

     

    Rather than risk more human lives in the ongoing war against terrorism, advances in computer technology are enabling contractors to create remote-controlled machines to do reconnaissance and risk management. Created by H7 Security Systems Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Global General Technologies, the Silent Soldier is an advanced early warning system that applies artificial intelligence to threat detection and prevention. It uses intelligent video surveillance to detect movement and track the source, then determine whether it is human or machine and whether it's a threat. This system is part of a growing number of artificially intelligent machines that use automated decision-making in the field. Silent Soldier makes its own assessment of the problem, based on decision parameters provided by its programmers, then sends the information to the command center in the form of video. Proper personnel can then use the information to take action. Designed for the protection of mission-critical assets, Silent Soldiers are cameras set on tripods that adjust to the terrain and allow them to move up or down as the situation dictates. For protection, the lead unit is provided with information about the area and uses that information to instruct other units on where to focus their attention. The individual units can be controlled by wireless, satellite or other Internet Protocol-based communication technologies, and video can be retrieved from them or forwarded as necessary. The system includes intelligent communication nodes that enable the units to communicate peer to peer and collectively form a decision if a threat is present. The units, set up in a stationary formation in areas of concern, share the same bandwidth. Each system also generates a heartbeat, or signal, which is created while the unit is operating, so that other units can tell if there has been a disruption or another system has been disabled. H7 developed the Silent Soldier for a variety of applications, including maximizing surveillance and mission-planning for oil and gas installations, border surveillance, seaport entry terminals and military installations.

         
    New orleans my home katrina my nightmare

     

    Whether Katrina is seen as a disaster, a scourge or a purge it is hard to believe that it can dislodge the deep culture and uniqueness that makes up this city known as New Orleans. From its long history in the hands of the Spanish the French and then the Americans it has formed a character that cannot be compared to any city in the entire nation. Every thing is different in New Orleans. This is the City of Lagniappe (something extra), romantic paddle boats, the French Quarter, muffelattas and Mardi Gras. Even the street names speak of New Orleans unusual character. Names like Tchoupitoulas, Melpomene, Chef Menteur, and Terpsichore. The dialects and colloquialisms spring from Creole, French, African, Irish and many other tongues too numerous to mention. Perhaps most noticeable of all is the common Brooklynese spoken by most New Orleanians as a result of Brooklyn middle school teachers being imported to New Orleans over a hundred years ago to help educate New Orleans children. Nothing in New Orleans is like any other city in our nation but that also includes its susceptibility to the ravages of Gulf storms and hurricanes. Parts of the city are only three feet below sea level and others are up to twenty feet below sea level. Ducks may love water but this city was a sitting duck for more water than it could ever handle. I knew that like everyone else living there but I thought preparations and contingencies had been properly made. As the water begins to recede and people are evacuated and the dead are counted another storm has begun. The storm of criticism now rages throughout the nation. FEMA, the President, the National Guard are all coming under intense scrutiny for their performance or the lack of it. For those of us down here we didn't mind seeing Jesse Jackson cut short by our news commentators as he flew into tirade about President Bush's slow or inadequate responses. We stand behind Mayor Nagin even though it is reported that he vented a great deal of anger towards both Governor Blanco and President Bush. We don't blame Sheriff Jack Stephens of St. Bernard Parish for wailing at the FEMA rep who showed up days after his deputies had worked alone and under the worst of conditions and exclaimed he was there to make an assessment. We felt like crying when we saw Governor Blanco holding back her tears as she described the situation in the first hours after Katrina danced its dance of death. We are listening to our local leaders and our President not to the nay Sayers and critics who comment from afar and above sea level, seeking to further the interests of their party or their own profile. Contrary to what is being said we both hear and see that the help is flowing in and the effort is quite real. Even as I write this article I have stepped outside at the beckoning of my wife to see convoys of military vehicles, electric utilities, tree utilities, passenger busses and police all streaming toward the city of New Orleans down Highway 190 in Baton Rouge. If I had a flag I might have chosen to go out and wave it as I cheered them on. Critics at this point are like salt on the wound. Hey, its America so they have the right to say whatever they want, but discretion might be calling for a little better timing. Hold off until the dust has settled, or in this case at least until the water recedes. Between this paragraph and the last my wife and me went to a little church in a small town near Baton Rouge called Erwinville. The Sharon church, a tiny little congregation nestled between fields of sugar cane and soy beans were praying for victims of Katrina when we walked in. With only a small number of people they had already raised over twelve hundred dollars to help feed people staying in a local civic center housing Katrina refugees. They had bought uniforms for children of the victims and helped to enroll them in school classes. Additionally they were bringing supplies and funds to the red cross in New Orleans. These are Louisianans helping Louisianans and that alone made going to church an inspiration. I have made my own situation known in more detail on my website. But just in case you think this is the opinion of just another outsider looking in, then I should tell you this. Our church, our house and the houses of almost all our friends and relatives are under ten feet of water as I write this article. We escaped the wrath of Katrina by a hair and were able to bring out an older gentleman who surely would have perished if we had not. I will not criticize anyone who has made an effort to help us down here from the President to the kind soul who put a dollar in an offering plate set for the relief for Katrina's victims. Some of the people and agencies who responded to this crisis may have been a bit slow, confused by poor communications and caught off guard by the shear enormity of the disaster but from their first intentions to their long journey to the deepest part of the deep south they have shown themselves to be good neighbors. On behalf of thousands of us beleaguered at this hour in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama I offer not criticism but thanks.

         
    Oil crisis affects more than just gas prices

     

    Did you know that petroleum is used to manufacture an enormous number of products that we use in our everyday lives? Less than 20 percent of all recovered oil is used for any type of fuel. Over 30 percent is used for the creation of food via fertilizers. Nearly the same amount is used to manufacture plastics. If you were to walk through your home or office, you would be overwhelmed by the thousands of items you use every day that would not be available without access to oil. Now think about what you would do without those things. What would life be like without telephones, antiseptics, deodorant, ballpoint pens, shoes or toilet seats? And life would certainly be more difficult without antihistamines, artificial limbs, heart valves, hearing aids, dentures, umbrellas, insecticides, eyeglasses and contact lenses. As President Bush has said in his State of the Union Address: "America is addicted to oil." "The problem is that the list of oil-importing countries grows every year and the list of oil-exporting countries shrinks every year," said Roger L. Cory, president of Mammoth Resource Partners, a Kentucky-based oil and gas exploration company. "Fewer oil producers are supplying more oil to consumers, and that is putting great stress on the supply-demand equation for world oil. That's why we are seeing crude oil prices remain near historic highs." For example, although China's and India's flourishing business sectors are using more oil, they're actually producing very little. Europe and Japan, meanwhile, are completely oil dependent. The situation isn't expected to get any better, even with conservation efforts. However, it is possible to benefit from higher oil prices by investing in oil and gas partnerships. Investors own a percentage of the resources extracted from the wells they have funded. Drilling partnerships, like those with Mammoth, offer tax advantages because they are located in the United States.

         
    Preparing for the next terror attack are we ready

     

    Intelligence experts believe that it is only a matter of time before there is another terrorist attack in the U. S. With the recent scares in New York and Baltimore and the deadly terrorist bombings in Bali, Egypt, London and Madrid, these attacks are aimed at striking terror among millions of people. Of rising concerns is the fear that terrorists will use biological chemicals against us. What if this suspicious package contained a deadly chemical, such as smallpox or anthrax, are we ready? It appears not. A study listed in Archives of Internal Medicine showed 631 doctors, mostly medical residents, were given a test prior to completing an online training course. On the pretest, half the doctors misdiagnosed botulism, 84 percent misdiagnosed plague and a case of routine chickenpox was misdiagnosed as smallpox by 42 percent of the doctors. "We've got a dangerous gap here and we need a much clearer strategic game plan," said Shelley Hearne, executive director of Trust for America's Health, which tracks how well states are prepared for bioterrorism or pandemic. In addition to the lack of bioterror knowledge in health care professionals, high-ranking officials in the US Health and Human Services Department have stated major concerns about the government's ability to deliver medicines in the event of a bioterror attack. In response to these concerns, steps are being taken to address these issues. To improve the delivery of medicines in the event of a national emergency some suggested steps include the delivery of medicines from local fire stations, police stations, and even via the US Postal Service. In the book Sledgehammer, Dr. Paulo J. Reyes describes a Smallpox outbreak, and how rapidly the disease can spread, the potentially devastating effects of air-borne contaminants, and the potential for extremely large numbers of fatalities. The point in writing the book, according to Reyes, is to bring to light the high potential for bioterrorist attacks in the United States and to demonstrate how critical it is to develop emergency response strategies to handle the delivery of medicines and the medical treatment. The combined efforts of the United States government and the medical community are crucial in preventing millions of deaths in the event of such a disaster. Despite global efforts to eradicate terrorism, the threat of a bioterror attack remains high. The United States must prepare emergency response strategies and develop effective means of delivering medicines to all parts of the country. Let’s prepare now so our nation can respond rapidly and effectively resulting in minimal damage and loss of life.

         
    Recession answers

     

    Are you concerned about inflation, a recession, or even a depression in the early 21st Century? If you are concerned about either one or the real possibility of all the economic woes that potentially face the United States you are surely not alone as more and more people find they are having real trouble paying their mortgages and putting food on the table as money dries up, home values plummet, grocery prices escalate and petroleum prices sky rocket. America's economic picture is driving the election primaries of both parties as well as the independents. As Tip O'Neill once opined, all politics are local. If your perception is, "it's the economy stupid" you want one candidate. If housing prices are holding in your neighborhood, you want another candidate. It was not many days ago that our collective major concern was the War in Iraq and American service members scattered around the world in harms way as Islamic Jihadists swore their destruction. If you have a son, daughter, wife, husband, mother or father on their fourth or fifth tour of duty with the United States Military in Iraq as the Tennessee Mountain Man and Computer Man do that may well remain your driving force and you probably support yet another candidate. But it appears to be more and more clear that across the board, America's primary concern in the 2008 election year rightly or wrongly is the economy. There is a raging disagreement between those well heeled gurus in the know who live on the upper side of town about whether or not we are in a recession. Many on the Fox Business Channel seem to believe we are and that Chairman Ben Bernanke of the United States Federal Reserve Bank is behind rather than in front of the curve. Bernanke disagrees although he did seem to tell congress in middle January, 2008, that we could be in danger of sliding in that direction. The federal government apparently agrees with the view that a recession is imminent if not in full throttle otherwise why would the captain of the ship be ordering the life rafts deployed with all haste. Both political parties are rushing to get cash back in the hands of the people hoping they will spend it on new purchases driving the economy forward. Grand ma who was already having a problem deciding whether to buy the medicine her doctor prescribed or the food her body needed and who remembers the great depression don't have any doubts. She has seen the horse and buggy, the model T, the iron horse, the air plane, Sputnik, the man in the moon and a man on the moon and air conditioning (although she can't afford any) replace the funeral home fan along with a recession or two in her life time, and she knows a recession when it comes roaring through her family. Since Grand ma knows little to nothing about GNP/GDP. She basis her observations on the real life of real Americans struggling to survive, not on the fancy mathematical maneuvering and stats of professors and practitioners isolated in their ivory towers or professional politicians lost in the bowels of government hidden inside the Washington Beltway. The truth is real people are hurting. There is plenty of blame to go around and probably more than one solution to the recession issue. It is after all a complicated issue, and some business types like auto manufacturers and home builders are hurting more than others. It does not help that we have shipped so many manufacturing jobs off shore and over taxed and imposed other burdens on businesses to the point many have been forced to either close their doors or move their operations outside the United States. Remote Helpdesk 1 has seen many businesses come and go over the years. We have seen a recession or two ourselves, and we have learned that there are some fairly safe options for entrepreneurs during an economic turn down. In fact there are some who do much better in tough times. Tired of punching a clock, lost your job or just want to be your own boss? In bad times there are always ways to thrive if you are perceptive and agile. Never feel that because a recession is under way that there are no opportunities for you. You might want to consider one of these: the health industry, collections, funeral parlor, auto repair, used furniture outlet, used clothing and household items store, pawn shops also thrive in such times, tutoring, selling on an online auction, internet ad business... use the computer between your shoulders as well as the one on your desk to come up with options. If you are already in business, this is not the time to become despondent. It is time to drive forward. You can't sit and wait for your ship to come in. There are opportunities! Increase advertising, get more personally involved in your community and your church and business and professional organizations, slash your prices to bare bones if you need to, visit current and dormant accounts and customers and make sure they know you are still around and that you appreciate them. Remember, we have been here before. You are not going through this alone. It is cyclical, and this too shall pass. In the mean time, make up your mind to enjoy the ride. You have little choice but to take the trip so determine to arrive stronger, happier, and richer as a result of the experience that God, in His wisdom has allowed you to conquer with His provision and guidance.

         
    Russia s idled spies

     

    On November 11, 2002, Sweden expelled two Russian diplomats for spying on radar and missile guidance technologies for the JAS 39 British-Swedish Gripen fighter jet developed by Telefon AB LM Ericsson, the telecommunications multinational. The Russians threatened to reciprocate. Five current and former employees of the corporate giant are being investigated. Ironically, the first foreign buyer of the aircraft may well be Poland, a former Soviet satellite state and a current European Union candidate. Sweden arrested in February 2001 a worker of the Swiss-Swedish engineering group, ABB, on suspicion of spying for Russia. The man was released after two days for lack of evidence and reinstated. But the weighty Swedish daily, Dagens Nyheter, speculated that the recent Russian indiscretion was in deliberate retaliation for Swedish espionage in Russia. Sweden is rumored to have been in the market for Russian air radar designs and the JAS radar system is said by some observers to uncannily resemble its eastern counterparts. The same day, a Russian military intelligence (GRU) colonel, Aleksander Sipachev, was sentenced in Moscow to eight years in prison and stripped of his rank. According to Russian news agencies, he was convicted of attempting to sell secret documents to the CIA. Russian secret service personnel, idled by the withering of Russia's global presence, resort to private business or are re-deployed by the state to spy on industrial and economic secrets in order to aid budding Russian multinationals. According to the FBI and the National White-collar Crime Center, Russian former secret agents have teamed with computer hackers to break into corporate networks to steal vital information about product development and marketing strategies. Microsoft has admitted to such a compromising intrusion. In a December 1999 interview to Segodnya, a Russia paper, Eyer Winkler, a former high-ranking staffer with the National Security Agency (NSA) confirmed that "corruption in the Russian Government, the Foreign Intelligence Service, and the Main Intelligence Department allows Russian organized criminal groups to use these departments in their own interests. Criminals receive the major part of information collected by the Russian special services by means of breaking into American computer networks." When the KGB was dismantled and replaced by a host of new acronyms, Russian industrial espionage was still in diapers. as a result, it is a bureaucratic no-man's land roamed by agents of the GRU, the Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), and smaller outfits, such as the Federal Agency on Government Communications and Information (FAPSI). According to Stratfor, the strategic forecasting consultancy, "the SVR and GRU both handle manned intelligence on U. S. territory, with the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) doing counterintelligence in America. Also, both the SVR and GRU have internal counterintelligence units created for finding foreign intelligence moles." This, to some extent, is the division of labor in Europe as well. Germany's Federal Prosecutor has consistently warned against $5 billion worth of secrets pilfered annually from German industrial firms by foreign intelligence services, especially from east Europe and Russia. The Counterintelligence News and Developments newsletter pegs the damage at $13 billion in 1996 alone: "Modus operandi included placing agents in international organizations, setting up joint-ventures with German companies, and setting up bogus companies. The (Federal Prosecutor's) report also warned business leaders to be particularly wary of former diplomats or people who used to work for foreign secret services because they often had the language skills and knowledge of Germany that made them excellent agents." Russian spy rings now operate from Canada to Japan. Many of the spies have been dormant for decades and recalled to service following the implosion of the USSR. According to Asian media, Russians have become increasingly active in the Far East, mainly in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and mainland China. Russia is worried about losing its edge in avionics, electronics, information technology and some emerging defense industries such as laser shields, positronics, unmanned vehicles, wearable computing, and real time triple C (communication, command and control) computerized battlefield management. The main targets are, surprisingly, Israel and France. According to media reports, the substantive clients of Russia's defense industry - such as India - insist on hollowing out Russian craft and installing Israeli and west European systems instead. Russia's paranoid state of mind extends to its interior. Uralinformbureau reported earlier in 2002 that the Yamal-Nenets autonomous okrug (district) restricted access to foreigners citing concerns about industrial espionage and potential sabotage of oil and gas companies. The Kremlin maintains an ever-expanding list of regions and territories with limited - or outright - forbidden - access to foreigners. The FSB, the KGB's main successor, is busy arresting spies all over the vast country. To select a random events of the dozens reported every year - and many are not - the Russian daily Kommersant recounted in February 2002 how when the Trunov works at the Novolipetsk metallurgical combine concluded an agreement with a Chinese company to supply it with slabs, its chief negotiator was nabbed as a spy working for "circles in China". His crime? He was in possession of certain documents which contained "intellectual property" of the crumbling and antiquated mill pertaining to a slab quality enhancement process. Foreigners are also being arrested, though rarely. An American businessman, Edmund Pope, was detained in April 2000 for attempting to purchase the blueprints of an advanced torpedo from a Russian scientist. There have been a few other isolated apprehensions, mainly for "proper", military, espionage. But Russians bear the brunt of the campaign against foreign economic intelligence gathering. Strana. ru reported in December 2001 that, speaking on the occasion of Security Services Day, Putin - himself a KGB alumnus - warned veterans that the most crucial task facing the services today is "protecting the country's economy against industrial espionage". This is nothing new. According to History of Espionage Web site, long before they established diplomatic relations with the USA in 1933, the Soviets had Amtorg Trading Company. Ostensibly its purpose was to encourage joint ventures between Russian and American firms. Really it was a hub of industrial undercover activities. Dozens of Soviet intelligence officers supervised, at its peak during the Depression, 800 American communists. The Soviet Union's European operations in Berlin (Handelsvertretung) and in London (Arcos, Ltd.) were even more successful.

         
    Senator breaux calls for ceasefire on health care

     

    The country's health care system is in crisis. The number of uninsured Americans is at an all-time high, health insurance premiums are rising, health disparities are plaguing our nation and Medicaid is under major strain. While I wholeheartedly support broad health reform, we'll never get there if policymakers can't even implement gradual reforms that have broad-based support. We all remember the television program "Crossfire," where the moderator's goal was to encourage heated debate between people on opposing sides of an issue. I've come up with an alternative: the "Ceasefire on Health Care: Finding Common Ground for the Uninsured" series to stimulate dialogue among leading bipartisan policymakers and advocates. Over the last year, I have moderated several events in which participants are encouraged to come to an agreement on health care issues and public policies. Since the inauguration of Ceasefire, I have held forums featuring prominent health care reform advocates, among them former HHS Secretaries Donna Shalala and Tommy Thompson, and Senator Hillary Clinton and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. I can report that there are indeed practical solutions to the nation's health care problems that have bipartisan support. But for progress to be made, members of Congress must put aside their differences and focus on these areas of agreement. First, Americans want Congress to work together to end the crisis of the uninsured. Lawmakers must talk to each other so that they can develop a meaningful solution to the problem. The answer lies not in a government-run system or a fend-for-yourself marketplace, but, instead, a middle path that combines the best of both. This incremental, market-based approach will also stipulate that individuals take greater responsibility for their own health. Another idea that has bipartisan support is the modernization of health information technology. Providers of health care services should be able to access a patient's medical record on a computer and systems should be able to "talk" to each other; health care costs will be reduced, as will medical errors. Making children a priority is a message we have received loud and clear in our forums. The State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) was created in 1997 to expand health care coverage to needy children. It has been very successful, yet there are still millions of children who remain uninsured. Expanding SCHIP will help them significantly gain access to health care, but it must be done in a responsible manner. It also creates an opportunity for the states and federal government to work together. We must shift our health care system away from being treatment-focused to concentrating on prevention and wellness. Chronic diseases are among the most common and expensive health problems, yet they are also often preventable. Given the enormous toll chronic diseases are taking on our health care system, I believe that there could be bipartisan support for programs that study the causes of these diseases and promote healthy behaviors. The nation as a whole strongly supports bipartisan health care reform. Eighty-eight percent of those recently surveyed by Ceasefire support this proposition. I also personally believe most of our legislators have a proven interest in healing our ailing health care system and that the first step in any reform is dialogue. Now it's time for Congress to quit fighting each other and in a bipartisan fashion fight to solve this major problem. • Former Senator John Breaux (D-LA) served in the United States Senate from 1987 to 2005.

         
    Should illegal immigrants be allowed

     

    As the nation sputters forward into a new problem of illegal immigrants, neo-conservatism and budget crisis we must wonder what to make of it all. The signals are confusing. On the one hand we have illegal immigrants who have had to hide from the law, work in poverty like conditions and do not have the same access to education that we have. We believe they are hardworking people truly trying to make the best life they can. They have the American work ethnic that has been lost on so many native born Americans. However, there is a negative side to illegal immigrants that isn’t always mentioned. Illegal immigrants have made a choice to come and live under the conditions they now find themselves. No one forced them to move from their native lands and hide away in the U. S. Recently, immigrants took to the streets and protested potential laws that would make it a felony to be an illegal immigrant in the U. S. They sang the national anthem in Spanish and waved Mexican flags. Is this appropriate to insult the country you want to join? A total of 11 million illegal immigrants hit the street having major protests in excess of 400,000 in Los Angeles and Chicago. Similar gatherings were found in Houston and San Jose. They chanted, “We are not criminals” and “We want to stay!” As Muslims we have two responsibilities when it comes to immigration policy. We must support our host nation in policies that are deemed to protect our collective whole and we must thwart those efforts that are destructive to people. What does this mean? Illegal immigrants are simply illegal. They have broken the law; have traveled hundreds of miles to sneak into the country and work for cash under the table. They use our schools, our medical benefits and take away jobs from our countrymen. Hypothetically, if we opened up our borders and let everyone immigrate to the U. S. without hindrance than our country would cease to be one of the wealthiest in the world. That means your wages would decline because there will always be someone else to do the work for cheap. In essence, employers would use their workers until they were worn out and then get another truck load full. Workers would loose their bargaining power. Would it be such a great place to live then? We must understand that the laws are enacted to protect our American standard of living, maintain fair employment and keep the nation competitive. Once this batch of illegal immigrants becomes citizens there will be another group forming behind them. Where will the cycle end? Does that mean we should abuse them? No! It does mean that they should be removed and sent back to the countries in which they came. It does mean that we have consistently and routinely treated illegal immigrants much better than any other nation. In what other great nation can illegal immigrants gather in such a public display of protest and not be put under mass arrest? This may not be the answer that we are looking for nor may it be what many of the Islamic and Muslim papers are reporting yet they may be more concerned with U. S. bashing than protecting. No matter which way you slice the onion we need borders no matter how much it makes us cry.

         
    Solving the immigration problem

     

    : Nothing President Bush said last night (5/15/06) will have any real impact on illegal immigration. I hate to criticize the President but that’s my professional opinion. I have several payroll companies that prepare payroll for businesses around the country. Immigration, legal and illegal, is driven by the opportunities offered in this country. Those opportunities exist because we have the “Three Rules of Wealth” as I use to call them when I taught High School.

    1. “Rule of Law” You know the rules and they don’t fundamentally change, and you know the consequences of your behavior if you violate them.
    2. “Private Property” You get to own the tools of wealth creation. Tangible and intangible assets that let you create profits. “”Rule Number One” guarantees this”
    3. “Free Enterprise” You are not restricted to what you can do as long as you follow “Rule Number One” using “Rule Number Two.”
    You are not going to keep people out when these rules apply to them even if they are illegal. If they did not apply employers would steal from illegal immigrants, banks would just seize their accounts, school districts would turn away their children, hospitals would refuse to treat them, etc. So how do you keep illegal immigrants out of the country? Cut them off from the opportunities that the “Three Rules of Wealth” provide. How do you do that? First you must have a perfect system of identifying citizens and legal aliens. Sorry, but it means a national identity system. Which, by the way, solves the big ongoing criminal problem of identity theft. Why not just make the illegal immigrants carry an ID card, because they won’t. Second, penalize businesses that hire illegal immigrants severely. Make it a felony to hire an illegal. All businessmen like an edge. Some currently get the edge by hiring cheap illegal labor and taking advantage of it. No business is wrongly hurt if the playing field is leveled. If average wages go up they go up for every company and everybody raises their price to compensate. This will also appeal to the conservatives because once illegal immigrants can’t get a job many will go home. Third cut off all benefits for illegal immigrants. No schools, no free hospitals, no food stamps, no welfare, no sanctuary, no government benefits no nothing. No prison either. Hard labor until they pay for there transportation out of country. If their country of origin wont take them hard labor till they someone does or they die. Fourth seize their bank accounts, seize any property they own, take their cars and houses. Remember they are criminals the moment they cross the border without documents or overstay their visa. Give half to the person that identifies them as an illegal and half to the government. My guess is in 30 days after this plan is enacted that 90% or more of all illegal immigrants will have left the country. When you take away all opportunity in this country, the opportunity however meager, in their country of origin will seem desirable. Children of immigrants that are citizens can not be deported. That is part of the “Rule of Law”. If their parents who must leave don’t want to take them then set up orphanages until they are 18. Educate, feed, house, cloth, and care for them. They are fellow citizens after all. Is this harsh, yes of course. Nothing else will stop people from seeking a better life. You must make what they have where they came from to appear to be better than what is available in the United States. Nothing less will do. Otherwise the strong, motivated, hard working people of the world that want a better life for themselves and their families will continue to come hear regardless of the current penalties that they know are not enforced. Do I agree that this is what we should do. Absolutely Not. This is no way to treat people. But nothing less will stop them from coming and coming and coming. Which is not necessarily bad. If people are going to come here we want strong, hard working, motivated people like our own ancestors that emigrated here or survived the imposed hardships of slavery and lived through it. How to integrate them into the “American Dream” is a whole different discussion.

         
     
         
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