Archive for February 18, 2008

Al Qaeda in Iraq Killing Off Former Allies

BALAD, Iraq (CNN) — Video provided to CNN shows an al Qaeda in Iraq firing squad executing one-time allies — fellow Sunni extremists — who were not loyal enough to the terror organization, coalition military analysts said.

Analysts say the video shows al Qaeda in Iraq operatives executing nine Sunni men deemed disloyal.

In the video provided by coalition military officials, armed men wearing masks are shown standing behind nine kneeling men, all of whom are wearing blindfolds or hoods with their hands presumably tied behind their backs. The video shows the men being executed.

“Al Qaeda in Iraq, which is foreign led and foreign dominated here inside Iraq, is killing off other Sunni groups that are certainly not supportive of the government of Iraq, currently, or of the foreign occupation, but are not sharing the same ideology that al Qaeda in Iraq has,” Rear Adm. Gregory Smith said.

The video was recovered late last year during a raid on a compound near Samarra that was being used for killing and torture, a coalition official said.

A number of documents — some found in the same raid — bolster the coalition notion that al Qaeda in Iraq is waging a violent campaign against its former allies, intelligence analysts said. Watch how the documents could aid coalition forces »

Samarra is the site of a February 2006 attack on al-Askariya Mosque, revered by Shiites. The attack set off a wave of sectarian violence between Shiites and Sunnis, who were suspected of perpetrating the attack. The northern Iraqi city lies in Salaheddin province, one of four provinces where coalition forces have beefed up operations against Sunni militants.

Coalition officials say the documents are indicative of a deep rift among the militant groups fighting coalition forces. Al Qaeda in Iraq “would like nothing more than to aggravate the situation,” Smith said last week.

Al Qaeda in Iraq has a history of documenting its actions, the analysts said.

One document found in the Samarra raid shows the execution of a woman believed to have helped Iraqi police. Another describes the murders of 12 men who al Qaeda in Iraq felt were not sufficiently loyal.

In another document, al Qaeda in Iraq criticizes jihadist groups that it says are following “a false path,” according to the analysts.

The analysts said one document also describes the stance of six Sunni splinter groups being targeted by al Qaeda in Iraq. The document, signed by leaders of the groups, outlines their opposition to the U.S. presence in Iraq but includes a pledge to avoid attacks on civilians.

Coalition officials said the documents and video may reflect a move toward reconciliation among some Sunni factions.

In recent months, the U.S. has paid Sunnis and some Shiites $148 million to help fight extremists, military officials said. These groups have taken on many monikers, including Awakening Councils, Concerned Local Citizens and Sons of Iraq.

Coalition officials said they are trying to determine whether the documents found last year are a reason to expand efforts to bring more Sunnis into the fight against al Qaeda in Iraq.

Source: CNN

I’m going to go out on a limb here and speculate that “How to Make Friends and Influence People” isn’t on the jihadi mandatory reading list.

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Is Transgenic Cotton More Profitable?

NO.

Source: Agronomy Journal

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Pizza Fusion Aims to Save the Planet

Two years ago on Valentine’s Day, two Florida Atlantic University business school buddies were having lunch, complaining about their miserable, soul-less jobs, when they had one of those ideas that would ultimately shape their destiny.

Forgo their reliable paychecks and open a pizza joint.

But this wouldn’t be just any pizza palace. It would be one in keeping with the times — an organic, earth-sustaining franchise that delivered its pizza pies in hybrid cars and would eventually become the nation’s first chain of organic pizzerias.

Two years after opening Pizza Fusion in Deerfield Beach, Michael Gordon and Vaughan Lazar have sold 55 franchises in eight states, with a new Weston store that is certified as meeting Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design standards of the U.S. Green Building Council.

A NOBLE CONCEPT

”We thought about creating a concept that was all about doing better and more, and pizza turned out to be the instrument,” said Gordon, a seasoned entrepreneur who for a time had owned his own candle store before going into real estate holdings. At the time of the idea for the pizzeria, Lazar was running his own printing and design firm.

”It was one of those stupid conversations. We can do this, being narcissistic and all,” Gordon said. “We didn’t know how difficult it was.”

For some perspective, consider this: Nationally, there are about 65,000 pizzerias, making the market highly saturated, said Pizza Today editor-in-chief Jeremy White. Restaurant industry estimates put the failure rate at somewhere between 60 percent and 80 percent.

”It’s a risky proposition to open a restaurant,” White said.

A furious four months followed that Valentine’s Day lunch, as the two put together the concept — ”Saving the Earth, one pizza at a time” — and secured the financial backing to open their first store.

The most difficult part, said Lazar, was solving the logistical nightmare of obtaining enough organic food from local farmers to run the restaurants.

”We had 18 distributors when we started,” he said.

Ultimately, they settled on United Natural Foods and its sister company, Albert’s Organics, which handles produce, meat and cheeses.

AN EDIBLE MISSION

Next the pair had to work on selling consumers on both their pizzas and their business model, Lazar said.

‘Our second challenge was educating people on what `organics’ is and what it is to be a green business and trying not to put the mission before the food,” he said. “People don’t like to chew on a mission.”

Because market studies can be so costly, they sought locations already scouted out by Whole Foods Market, the supermarket chain that made organic an everyday convenience.

”Obviously, they did the demographic studies that we can’t afford, [showing] that there was a market there to support organics,” Lazar said. “Their distribution was already set up, and we could just jump on that.”

BIG DAVE’S HELP

They also hired an expert in traditional pizzerias: ”Big Dave” Ostrander, who ran his own pizza joint in Michigan for 25 years and has written four books on the industry. He also coached the U.S. Pizza Team to a silver medal at the World Championships in 2003. Ostrander, who was initially wary of the whole green thing, gave them a two-week crash course on the pizza industry and its potential for generating impressive revenue. (The top-earning independent pizza restaurant, Amid’s East Coast Pizzeria in San Mateo, Calif., raked in $30 million in gross sales in 2006, according to Pizza Today.)

”It’s a very big tossup when you go green and turn the cost of the concept over to your customers. I had immediate reservations,” Ostrander said. “I was freaked out the first time they brought a $10 or $11 steak into the restaurant and a $4 pepper. I said we’re going to have a hard time making ends meet.”

But Gordon and Lazar were adamant, and after Ostrander spent several days in South Florida, he, too, became convinced that customers would pay more (the cost is about 20 percent higher) for organic food.

”I deal almost exclusively with indies — chains have guys like me who do the trouble shooting — and for an indie to do well and grow so well is amazing,” he said. “It’s phenomenal, actually.”

Within three weeks of opening, Gordon said, they received an offer of $1 million to buy a 25 percent stake in the company — an offer they rejected.

Read the rest here.

Heh.  Interesting marketing concept and development of a niche market catering to suburban angst.  Somebody *really* interested in “saving” the “environment” would probably not be eating delivered pizza regardless of the hybrid vehicle delivery or how “organic” it was.

Anybody else out there have a rather unlikely idea that turned into a cash cow that you’re still milking?  I need to do something different and I’m slap out of ideas.

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Bird Flu Death in China

BEIJING, Feb. 18 (Xinhua) — China’s Ministry of Health on Monday confirmed a human case of H5N1 bird flu in the central Hunan Province.     A 22-year-old man surnamed Li in Jianghua County, Yongzhou City, suffered fever and headache on Jan. 16 and was hospitalized on Jan. 22. His symptoms worsened despite treatment.

    Li died at 5 p.m. on Jan. 24 after all rescue measures failed.

    His specimens tested positive for the bird flu virus strain H5N1, said the country’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention. The report didn’t identify how he might have contracted the disease.

    The virus is most commonly passed from sick poultry to humans who have close contact with infected birds.

    Statistics by the World Health Organization (WHO) show there have been 18 human deaths from the H5N1 strain, and 28 confirmed cases of infection in China since 2003.

    By Feb. 1, of the total of cases of confirmed human bird flu infections worldwide, 225 have been fatal.

    The local government undertook prevention and control measures once the case was reported. Those who had close contact with Li were put under strict medical observation. So far, none have shown signs of the disease, the ministry said.

    The case has been reported to the WHO, authorities in Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan, and some foreign governments.

    The latest confirmed case of human bird flu took place in the worst snow-stricken province of Hunan, where prolonged low temperatures, icy rain and heavy snow have caused blackouts and traffic chaos.

    On Feb. 15, the Ministry of Health said that no cases of infectious epidemic or mass food poisoning were reported in China’s snow-stricken areas by Feb. 14, and that the death toll caused by infectious diseases in the snow-stricken areas showed no year-on-year increase in the past month.

Source:  Xinhua

I hope that China’s reassurances are accurate, but I wouldn’t want to place any wagers on that.  China has a long history of being less than open about health matters.  

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Spread of Bird Flu in Bangladesh Leaves 1/2 Million Poultry Workers Jobless

DHAKA (AFP) — The spread of deadly bird flu in Bangladesh has forced the closure of 40 percent of the nation’s poultry farms and left half a million poultry workers jobless, industry officials said on Monday.

Government authorities said the virus was still “under control”, although it has spread to 43 out of the country’s 64 districts, forcing authorities to slaughter some 800,000 birds.

“It’s a natural disaster like cyclone or floods. The poor farmers who raise chickens in their backyards are particularly hard hit by the bird flu,” said Abdul Baki, principal scientific officer of the livestock department.

“But we still think things are under control,” Baki said, adding the government was launching a massive plan to compensate affected farmers.

Baki’s comments came as the authorities struggled to slaughter another 160,000 birds in one of the largest farms in the capital Dhaka. Officials said it would take another day to complete the slaughter.

The outbreak at Omega farm showed the disease was out of control, industry officials said.

“Omega is one of the top farms which rigorously maintained international bio-safety regulations but it was not spared by the deadly flu,” said M.M Khan, a senior official of the Bangladesh Poultry Association.

“The situation is so bad nobody is buying any poultry these days. They’re panicking. The crows and migrant birds are spreading the flu everywhere, leaving authorities simply hopeless,” Khan said.

Already some supermarkets in the capital have suspended poultry sales, he said,

The flu has forced closure of at least 40 percent of the country’s estimated 150,000 commercial farms, leaving at least half a million people jobless, Khan said.

The government has repeatedly urged people not to be frightened and begun a major drive to assure people that eating cooked poultry poses no health dangers.

It is also giving farmers 1.50 dollars compensation for each chicken slaughtered because of the virus.

Bangladesh was first hit by bird flu in February 2007 but the disease became dormant. Officials said outbreak resurfaced in January when 20 new districts were hit. So far in February another 11 have been hit.

Bangladesh’s poultry industry is one of the world’s largest, producing 220 million chickens and 37 million ducks annually.

Source:

Dang.  Chicken and duck is a relatively inexpensive and quick maturing source of protein to a poverty-stricken nation.  Even if bird flu does not mutate into a form that can easily infect humans, it is still causing considerable economic hardship.

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