Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The War Within Islam


The War Within Islam

Several recent articles in The New Yorker, The New Republic, and Newsweek have explored the growing rifts within and between Muslim extremist factions over the use of violence against civilians in the waging of jihad. A major al Qaeda theorist and former comrade of Ayman al-Zawahiri's, Sayyid Imam al-Sharif, has condemned al Qaeda's terrorism as un-Islamic. In Newsweek, Christopher Dickey and Owen Matthews write that "important Muslim thinkers, including some on whom bin Laden depended for support, have rejected his vision." This debate within the jihadist community was ongoing well before 9/11, but has become more pronounced as Arab publics have expressed revulsion at al Qaeda's brutality against civilians in Iraq, Pakistan, and elsewhere. While it is important not to overstate the ideological cleavage within al Qaeda (its Islamist critics do not question the justice of resistance in Iraq, the Palestinian Territories, or Afghanistan, only the tactics used), this is certainly a welcome phenomenon, which the United States should encourage as much as possible. These developments offer a rebuke to President Bush's anti-terrorism policies, as they demonstrate that victory against al Qaeda's ideology will not come from the barrel of an American gun but from the condemnation of fellow Muslims. 

CONSERVATIVES MISREPRESENT THE EVIDENCE: In the past several weeks, several prominent conservative voices, including the Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post's Fred Hiatt, and former Bush administration officials, have conflated the revolt within jihadist groups with recent events in Iraq to falsely represent them as a vindication of the Bush administration's so-called "war on terror," and to argue for staying the course in Iraq. A May 31 Wall Street Journal editorial cited CIA Director Michael Hayden's acknowledgment of "significant setbacks for al Qaeda globally" and then claimed that "the U.S. offensives in Afghanistan and especially Iraq deserve most of the credit." On June 1, the Washington Post's editorial page, which has long supported the Iraq war, joined in, celebrating "the Iraqi upturn," praising the recent successes of the U.S. and Iraqi armies against al Qaeda in Iraq, but ignoring the fact that the stated goal of the surge -- political reconciliation -- has not been met. The focus on the drop on violence, welcome as it is, also obscures the fact that increased Iraqi security has come through the creation of numerous Sunni militias that express no loyalty to the central government. Peter Wehner, a former assistant to Bush, wrote that "the tide within the Islamic world is turning strongly against al Qaeda and jihadism," and gave credit to "the success of the Petraeus-led strategy in Iraq." Wehner also claimed last March that "large drops in support for Mr bin Laden...have occurred since the Iraq war began."  

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Colbert tells grads: Please don't change the world


PRINCETON, N.J. - Stephen Colbert, the host of his own Comedy Central show, Emmy winner, faux presidential candidate and best-selling author, added to that esteemed collection an award from Princeton University: "The Great Princeton Class of 2008 Understandable Vanity Award."

The award was mounted on a mirror.

"I have to say, I've never seen anything more beautiful," Colbert on Monday told the 2,611 Princeton graduates-to-be assembled at Class Day, which is held each year the day before commencement. Senior Class President Tom Haine pointed out that the ceremony was held in front of ivy-covered Nassau Hall in an area where Gen. George Washington defeated the British in the Battle of Princeton.

"Mr. Colbert is, as George Washington was, a great patriot," Haine said. "He stands firm against the liberal tyrannies of our time. In other words, he fits right in."

During his speech, Colbert — in character as a right-wing, blowhard political commentator — tweaked the customary message of graduation speeches by imploring students to maintain the status quo.

"You can change the world," he said. "Please don't do that, OK? Some of us like the way things are going now."

And instead of telling graduates to conquer their fears, he admitted his. "I'm scared of you," he said. "I can tell you are go-getters. At my college, for instance, no one got out of bed before 11 o'clock."

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All Indicators Point to a Softening of America's Harsh Marijuana Laws


With key medical marijuana ballot initiatives likely to pass, and a more pot-friendly majority in Congress, there is room for optimism.

By Alexander Zaitchik

You have to hand it to the Republican National Committee: Those guys really know how to pick the wrong fight.

John McCain, already running against the public opinion grain in support of the Iraq War and Bush tax cuts, received no help from headquarters last month when the RNC made medical marijuana a campaign issue. After Barack Obama told an Oregon weekly that he would end federal raids on medical marijuana users and providers in states with compassionate use laws, the RNC pounced. Obama's position, said an RNC statement, "reveals that (he) doesn't have the experience necessary to do the job of President (and) lacks the judgment to carry out the most basic functions of the Executive Branch." Because the Supreme Court has ruled that federal drug laws trump state drug laws, the RNC reasons that halting federal raids would be tantamount to ignoring the law.

They're right. But the RNC might want to get some new pollsters. What they and their candidates don't seem to realize is that a steadily shrinking minority of Americans oppose the controlled medicinal use of cannabis -- around 20 percent, according to the last Gallup poll. It's a safe bet that an even smaller number considers paramilitary raids on the homes of peaceful cancer patients to be a "basic function of the Executive Branch." During the New Hampshire primary, every Democratic candidate recognized this political reality by promising to end federal harassment of state-approved medical marijuana facilities and users. Republican candidates Tom Tancredo and Ron Paul pledged the same.

And John McCain? When pressed by activists from the group Granite Staters for Medical Marijuana, the Arizona senator responded in lockstep with most of his GOP peers, sounding less like a maverick than a Reagan-era after-school special. "I do not support the use of marijuana for medical purposes," McCain said. "I believe that marijuana is a gateway drug. That is my view, and that's the view of the federal drug czar and other experts."

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Middie McCain More Moron than Maverick

by Alec Sokolow

There's an old joke. What do you call the person who graduates last from medical school? Doctor. Well, I got a new one. What do you call the person who graduates fifth from the bottom of his class at Annapolis? The Republican Party nominee for President. That's right. Senator John McCain actually graduated 894th out of 899 middies at the Naval Academy. Only five other crew cuts achieved less than John McCain did in his class at Annapolis. And he was the son and grandson of U.S. Navy Admirals! He was a legacy, which means they probably had to keep his sorry dumb ass in the Navy!

Now, there are several ways to look at this little tidbit: he didn't want to be there, he hated his father, he was an entitled Navy brat who knew that because of his father's power and position he was never going to be kicked out, he was immature. But, seeing as I'm not a Dr. Phil and due to the staggering lowness of his ranking, I logically must infer something else: This man is dumb. I mean, McHale's Navy dumb. Gomer Pyle dumb. Sit on the TV and watch the couch dumb. Fart into your own telephone to nail a friend dumb. 894 out of 899! That's not "C" student. That's "D" student. If the Navy graded on a curve, maybe even "D-" student. We're talking a "special" kind of dumb. And I mean "special," as in retarded. That's "Run, Forrest, Run" dumb. That's "I enlisted because I didn't want to get drafted." "There is no draft." "There was one?" dumb.

894th! Statistically, he wasn't even in the top of the bottom 1% of his class. Compared to John McCain, George W was a fucking Rhodes Scholar!

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Brooks: Obama Doesn't Pass the Applebee's Test

Forget beer. This morning on MSNBC, David Brooks created the "Who would you like to share an Awesome Blossom Onion with" meme:

"Obama's problem is he doesn't seem like the kind of guy who can go into an Applebee's salad bar and people think he fits in naturally there."

PSSST! HEY! DAVID! Come close. Um...Applebees doesn't have salad bars. If you're going to use this as a vehicle to test someone's folksiness, at least know what the hell you're talking about. Okay, bud?

Again, I don't want my president eating at Applebees. I don't want my president to have a beer with me. I want my president to have the biggest brains, be the most elite and have the least desire to have a beer at Applebees as possible.

Eugene Robinson on MSNBC just now: "I tend to take this sociology a little more seriously when it's delivered by people who actually eat at Applebees more than once in a decade."

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The Great Immigration Panic

Someday, the country will recognize the true cost of its war on illegal immigration. We don't mean dollars, though those are being squandered by the billions. The true cost is to the national identity: the sense of who we are and what we value. It will hit us once the enforcement fever breaks, when we look at what has been done and no longer recognize the country that did it.

A nation of immigrants is holding another nation of immigrants in bondage, exploiting its labor while ignoring its suffering, condemning its lawlessness while sealing off a path to living lawfully. The evidence is all around that something pragmatic and welcoming at the American core has been eclipsed, or is slipping away.

An escalating campaign of raids in homes and workplaces has spread indiscriminate terror among millions of people who pose no threat. After the largest raid ever last month — at a meatpacking plant in Iowa — hundreds were swiftly force-fed through the legal system and sent to prison. Civil-rights lawyers complained, futilely, that workers had been steamrolled into giving up their rights, treated more as a presumptive criminal gang than as potentially exploited workers who deserved a fair hearing. The company that harnessed their desperation, like so many others, has faced no charges.

Immigrants in detention languish without lawyers and decent medical care even when they are mortally ill. Lawmakers are struggling to impose standards and oversight on a system deficient in both. Counties and towns with spare jail cells are lining up for federal contracts as prosecutions fill the system to bursting. Unbothered by the sight of blameless children in prison scrubs, the government plans to build up to three new family detention centers. Police all over are checking papers, empowered by politicians itching to enlist in the federal crusade.

This is not about forcing people to go home and come back the right way. Ellis Island is closed. Legal paths are clogged or do not exist. Some backlogs are so long that they are measured in decades or generations. A bill to fix the system died a year ago this month. The current strategy, dreamed up by restrictionists and embraced by Republicans and some Democrats, is to force millions into fear and poverty.

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Climate Findings Were Distorted, Probe Finds

Appointees in NASA Press Office Blamed

By Juliet Eilperin

An investigation by the NASA inspector general found that political appointees in the space agency's public affairs office worked to control and distort public accounts of its researchers' findings about climate change for at least two years, the inspector general's office said yesterday.

The probe came at the request of 14 senators after The Washington Post and other news outlets reported in 2006 that Bush administration officials had monitored and impeded communications between NASA climate scientists and reporters.

James Hansen told of being censored.James E. Hansen, who directs NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies and has campaigned publicly for more stringent limits on greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming, told The Post and the New York Times in September 2006 that he had been censored by NASA press officers, and several other agency climate scientists reported similar experiences. NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are two of the government's lead agencies on climate change issues.

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McCain: I'd Spy on Americans Secretly, Too

By Ryan Singel


If elected president, Senator John McCain would reserve the right to run his own warrantless wiretapping program against Americans, based on the theory that the president's wartime powers trump federal criminal statutes and court oversight, according to a statement released by his campaign Monday.

McCain's new tack towards the Bush administration's theory of executive power comes some 10 days after a McCain surrogate stated, incorrectly it seems, that the senator wanted hearings into telecom companies' cooperation with President Bush's warrantless wiretapping program, before he'd support giving those companies retroactive legal immunity.

As first reported by Threat Level, Chuck Fish, a full-time lawyer for the McCain campaign, also said McCain wanted stricter rules on how the nation's telecoms work with U.S. spy agencies, and expected those companies to apologize for any lawbreaking before winning amnesty.

But Monday, McCain adviser Doug Holtz-Eakin, speaking for the campaign, disavowed those statements, and for the first time cast McCain's views on warrantless wiretapping as identical to Bush's.

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Scalia Decries Drift of Court On Religion

U.S. Tradition Not Neutral, Justice Tells Torah Sages


Justice Scalia, speaking at a time when gay marriage, public education, and the war on terror are creating cases that test the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, chose the banquet of a large group of Orthodox Jews here to declare that the Constitution should not be read to "banish the Almighty from the public forum."

In a speech delivered last night from a dais on which he was surrounded by venerable, bearded rabbis dressed in black and wearing elegant hats, Justice Scalia drew a sharp distinction between America and Europe. But he decried what he saw as the Supreme Court's prevailing, if recent, jurisprudence that holds that government "cannot favor religion over nonreligion."

"That rule does not, of course, represent the American tradition," Justice Scalia said.

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Tadamun: IOF troops killed 45 Palestinians including five children last month


GAZA, (PIC)-- International Tadamun (solidarity) society for human rights reported that the IOF troops killed 45 Palestinian citizens during last May including five children and two women, adding that most of the victims were murdered in the Gaza Strip.

In a monthly report received by the PIC, the society said that this large number of victims in one month clearly indicates that the Israeli occupation is persistent in its aggression through pursuing the policy of execution and assassination against the Palestinians despite it is proscribed by international conventions and charters.

Tadamun expressed its deep concern over this high number of victims killed by Israel in Gaza, considering what is happening part of the Israeli policy of ethnic cleansing and war crimes against humanity.

The society called on all parties concerned with human rights to urgently intervene to stop the humanitarian catastrophe in Gaza and the West Bank through pressuring Israel to cease its aggression and violations against the Palestinian people there.

For its part, the Palestinian center for the defense of prisoners revealed Sunday that the IOF troops kidnapped last month 372 Palestinians including 32 children during 96 raids in different areas of Gaza and the West Bank.

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Environmental huddle riles Modoc County locals

by Kevin Fagan

Malcolm Margolin, owner of Heyday Books in Berkeley, is o... The "Common Ground" symposium in Modoc County will presen... Chronicle Graphic

Pasted into that mountainous northeastern corner of forestland and high desert where California rubs both Nevada and Oregon, Modoc County is a proudly rugged backwater that defines what's left of the frontier way.

Locals describe it as: "Where the pavement ends, and the West begins." Not much room for hippies, beatniks and environmental city slickers here.

But that's just who the cowboys and small-town folks say will be invading come Thursday.

They're not happy about it.

A four-day "Common Ground" symposium begins that day in Modoc County's bucolic Surprise Valley, and it will present a panel of prestigious writers and scientists to discuss how to more wisely use the area's natural resources. To most ecologically minded city folks, the speakers that include Pulitzer Prize-winning Beat-era poet Gary Snyder and maverick Berkeley book publisher Malcolm Margolin would be positively exciting - as would the sessions such as "Honoring the Land and the People On It," and "Western Water Crisis."

Not to the muddy-booted, Stetson-wearing crowd, they're not.

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Voter Registration Exceeds Expectations

by Tina Tedesco

Sacramento, CA -- The number of registered voters in California has exceeded 16 million for the first time in more than three years, according to the Secretary of State's latest Report of Registration.

The report includes data gathered 15 days before the June 3 statewide Primary Election.  It also reflects updates to voter registration rolls, including the removal of registrants who have passed away, moved out of state, or have been determined to be ineligible to vote, as well as the addition of new registrants. 

California now has more than 16.1 million voters, an increase of more than one million voters since the close of voter registration before the statewide primary four years ago.

The percentage of eligible voters who are registered to vote also has increased from 68.95 percent in 2004 to 70 percent now.  The last time California had 16 million registered voters was in early 2005.

"This unique election year is inspiring Californians to register to vote in numbers we haven't seen in years," said Secretary of State Debra Bowen, the state's chief elections officer.  "Many people are already focused on the November presidential election, but I hope these newly energized voters remember the June primary and turn out in large numbers Tuesday."

You can see the latest report, including a breakdown of registrants by party, by clicking here.

Six Reasons Why Women Are the Most Important Audience for Changing the World

Reproductive Justice and Gender

By Lisa Witter and Lisa Chen

Contrary to popular belief, women make a lot of money -- and they spend a good amount of it on charitable causes.

The following is an excerpt from Lisa Witter and Lisa Chen's new book, The She Spot: Why Women Are the Market for Changing the World -- And How to Reach Them (Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc. 2007).

The Home Depot of today is a lot different than it was ten years ago. The stores feel less cluttered and more airy. Everything, from light fixtures to carpet samples, is more stylish and varied. Home d├ęcor departments have been expanded. The company's ad campaigns and catalogues, which used to simply showcase products, now feature more people. In its first six months, a new store feature, "Do-It-Herself" workshops, drew 40,000 women.

Stonyfield Farm grew from being a seven-cow organic farming school in the early '80s into a company with $250 million in annual sales. Every cup of Stonyfield yogurt bears a personal message from the CEO and founder Gary Hirshberg. Turn the lid over and you'll find tips on how to make the world a better place. Stonyfield was ahead of the curve when it came to products that had special appeal to moms, like Yo-Baby yogurt and calcium-fortified yogurt. All of this has been critical to the company's surge as the fastest-growing yogurt company in the world.

The success of these companies is representative of a sea change in the business world in the past 10 years as business leaders have come to recognize women as much more than an "emerging" or niche market. Today, women represent the largest and most important consumer market there is.

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Power Q&A: Jamie Hyneman

By Kiera Butler and Ben Whitford

On the Discovery Channel's MythBusters, Jamie Hyneman slays urban legends with the greatest of ease. Since he's also a weird-energy enthusiast (he once powered a small rocket with a salami), we asked him to help us separate the big ideas from the duds on the energy frontier.

Cow manure ENERGY SOURCE: Cow manure
HOW IT WORKS: In an anaerobic digester, bacteria break down manure and produce methane, which is trapped and used to generate electricity.
PLAUSIBLE: It's already being used in California. "nasa actually investigated this, because if you're going to Mars and you've got people on board, you've got poo," says Hyneman.

ENERGY SOURCE: Human motion
HOW IT WORKS: Create a "crowd farm" like the Sustainable Dance Club in Rotterdam.
BUSTED: JH: "Go for the babies. Just put them on a little treadmill and let 'em rip."

ENERGY SOURCE: Magnetic motors
HOW IT WORKS: Evangelical entrepreneur Dennis Lee claims his 500%-efficient motors will bring free energy and "an abundance of wealth for worldwide end-times evangelism."
BUSTED: There's no sign the technology actually works, but Lee has gotten rich selling dealerships to true believers. JH: "I've gotten so that I can smell these things a mile away."

ENERGY SOURCE: Unicellular green algae
HOW IT WORKS: Deprived of sulfur and oxygen, they produce high yields of hydrogen.
PLAUSIBLE: JH: "Algae are such basic, simple organisms. If you optimize them, they are going to produce massive quantities of whatever you have tailored them to."

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The Science of Sarcasm (Not That You Care)


There was nothing very interesting in Katherine P. Rankin's study of sarcasm — at least, nothing worth your important time. All she did was use an M.R.I. to find the place in the brain where the ability to detect sarcasm resides. But then, you probably already knew it was in the right parahippocampal gyrus.

What you may not have realized is that perceiving sarcasm, the smirking put-down that buries its barb by stating the opposite, requires a nifty mental trick that lies at the heart of social relations: figuring out what others are thinking. Those who lose the ability, whether through a head injury or the frontotemporal dementias afflicting the patients in Dr. Rankin's study, just do not get it when someone says during a hurricane, "Nice weather we're having."

"A lot of the social cognition we take for granted and learn through childhood, the ability to appreciate that someone else is being ironic or sarcastic or angry — the so-called theory of mind that allows us to get inside someone else's head — is characteristically lost very early in the course of frontotemporal dementia," said Dr. Bradley F. Boeve, a behavioral neurologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

"It's very disturbing for family members, but neurologists haven't had good tools for measuring it," he went on. "That's why I found this study by Kate Rankin and her group so fascinating."

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Ben Stiller tries to make a viral video with his Tropic Thunder co-stars.

Conscious Eating, Okay, But Where (On Earth) Do You Get Your Protein?

Kathy FrestonWhen I tell people that I'm a vegan, the most popular question, by far, inevitably follows: "But, how do you get enough protein?"

There it is again, I think, the meat industry's most potent weapon against vegetarianism--the protein myth. And it is just that--a myth.

In fact, humans need only 10 percent of the calories we consume to be from protein. Athletes and pregnant women need a little more, but if you're eating enough calories from a varied plant based diet, it's close to impossible to not get enough.

The way Americans obsess about protein, you'd think protein deficiency was the number one health problem in America. Of course it's not--it's not even on the list of the ailments that doctors are worried about in America or any other countries where basic caloric needs are being met.

What is on the list? Heart disease, cancer, diabetes, obesity--diseases of affluence. Diseases linked to eating animal products. According to the American Dietetic Association, which looked at all of the science on vegetarian diets and found not just that they're healthy, but that they "provide health benefits in the prevention and treatment of certain diseases."

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What's the Difference Between Dan Bartlett, Brian Williams and David Gregory? A Lot Less Than You Think

by David Fiderer

David FidererThere's a difference between lying and dissembling. Dan Bartlett lied on Wednesday. Brian Williams and David Gregory merely dissembled. Yet the statements of all three are discredited by the same smoking gun, the one that has been hiding in plain sight for more than five years, and has been subject to a virtual news blackout at NBC News. This White House is beyond redemption. But it's time for NBC and other major networks to come clean.

The White House Lie:

"The fact of the matter was the weapons of mass destruction weren't there. The intelligence was wrong. But that doesn't make people out to be liars or manipulators or propagandists. It makes them wrong." Dan Bartlett on CNN, May 28, 2008

The Smoking Gun: Anyone who read the newspapers with an ounce of common sense could figure out that the case for WMD was a sham. On March 7, 2003, 11 days before Bush invaded, the nuclear weapons inspectors reported that there was zero evidence that Saddam had ever done anything to develop nuclear weapons since losing the Gulf War in 1991. Muhamed ElBaradei and the International Atomic Energy Agency went far beyond offering an alternative analysis of the notorious aluminum tubes or those "documents" from Niger. He categorically said that they found no evidence. The Bush administration's response: Nothing, or at least nothing substantive. (ElBaradei's findings were subsequently validated by Bush's own inspections team, headed up by Charles Deufler.)

ElBaradei's report put the world on notice that the case for nuclear WMD was fatally flawed. When Dan Bartlett, John McCain, and everyone else at the White House refused to acknowledge that the U.N. inspectors had punctured their case for war, they became, to use Bartlett's words, "liars or manipulators or propagandists."

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Joe Bob Parties With the Atheists

By Joe Bob Briggs

AAI Poster

The biggest security guard I've ever seen in my life–this guy could work for Blackwater, and he's got the coiled listening device spilling out of his left ear to prove it–has parked his burly self squarely in front of me, making it clear that I'd best slink back against the wall while the Rock Star of Atheism makes her entrance and a hundred entranced admirers take a collective breath, not quite believing they're in her presence.

The exotically beautiful Ayaan Hirsi Ali travels with not one but two Blackwater types, part of a security contract supplied by the government of the Netherlands at the rate of two-point-five mill a year, and she's clearly the main attraction at the opening-night fundraiser for the Atheist Alliance International, an umbrella group of 59 atheist organizations in 10 countries that have all come together in a spooky section of Arlington, Virginia, called Crystal City, which looks like some Nordic vision of the perfectly planned society–hermetically sealed high-rise apartment buildings, underground shopping malls, and claustrophobic hotels, with streets devoid of pedestrians but elaborately landscaped, like a Brobdingnagian potted plant.

We're all wedged into the Arlington Ballroom of the Crowne Plaza Hotel at an event that's been sold out for weeks, with hundreds more tuning in on the Internet, and we've been warned not to pet the bomb-sniffing dogs. The heavy security is specifically the result of a fatwa declaring open season on Ayaan Hirsi Ali, but there's a little paranoia even when she's not around, perhaps because any well-placed explosive device in this low-ceilinged meeting hall could wipe out the entire sanhedrin of the atheist movement, and, after all, you never know what those abortion clinic bombers are likely to do next. Besides Ali, the assembled pantheon includes Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion), Sam Harris (Letter to a Christian Nation), Christopher Hitchens (God Is Not Great) and Daniel Dennett (Breaking the Spell), which, if you've been paying attention, collectively amount to about 2 million New York Times best-selling copies during the past year with variations on the themes of "There is no God," "Belief in God is a plague on society," and "The religionists must be stopped." So I guess there's one other reason we need security: Any attack on the building would result in an extremely low afterlife quotient–we have to party now!

Ayaan Hirsi AliAt last Ayaan Hirsi Ali makes her entrance–she's actually kind of bashful, so she sidles awkwardly toward her assigned table as Burly Two bumps off dawdlers like a human mine-sweeper, clearing a path through the cocktail jungle–and as her presence slowly dawns on people (there she is! she's so slender! don't pet the dog!), there's a little wave of spontaneous applause and then a jostling for position for what will be a solid hour of effusive outpourings ("Thank you for your courage," "I admire you so much," "My family is Muslim and you give me strength"), mostly from women, many of them clutching Ali's book Infidel, the story of her odyssey from Somalia to Saudi Arabia to Ethiopia to Kenya to the Netherlands as she evaded an arranged marriage, denounced the religion of her family, became a member of the Dutch Parliament, and made a film on the oppression of Muslim women with director Theo Van Gogh, who was knifed to death by an Islamic fanatic as a result. I notice a man in line who looks remarkably like Tom Wolfe–only to realize it is Tom Wolfe. He chats with her for about five minutes, and she looks alternately embarrassed and joyful. On this night, it's good to be an atheist in Crystal City.

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UCR research team sees climate threat under Arctic ice


Global warming could release long-dormant stores of methane gas trapped beneath the Arctic permafrost, causing an abrupt and catastrophic climate change like one that occurred 635 million years ago, UC Riverside researchers have determined.

Back then, the sheets of ice that covered Earth started to collapse, releasing methane gas that warmed the planet and caused the ice to retreat over a period of 100 to 1,000 years, said Martin Kennedy, a geology professor in UCR's Department of Earth Sciences. Kennedy led the research team.

"It was the greatest global-warming event of Earth's history almost certainly," he said.

The researchers' findings are published in today's issue of Nature.

They suggest that methane ice sheets still exist beneath Arctic ice sheets that are being degraded by rising carbon-dioxide levels in Earth's atmosphere.

Recent research indicates that the ice sheets are melting and methane gas is being released at a much higher rate than previously thought, he said.

"It doesn't make one feel a lot better about the future," Kennedy said.

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