Good Riddance?

I hate to say this and may be I shouldn’t. On the other hand, Azam Tariq was a crazy guy who was a leader of a group which murdered hundreds of Shia in Pakistan. He died the way his followers killed so many others.

Maulana Azam Tariq, chief of the Millat-i-Islamia and MNA, was assassinated by unidentified gunmen on Monday afternoon along with four others as his car drove into the capital. […]The attack occurred at a toll plaza in Golra on the southwestern outskirts of the capital, the police said, and added that the Maulana was returning from his constituency Jhang to attend Monday’s National Assembly session.

According to doctors, who conducted his external postmortem, the Maulana, who had escaped several assassination attempts in the past, received 40 bullet injuries, mostly in the head and cervical region. Islamabad’s Inspector-General of Police, Major(retired) Mohammad Akram, described the incident as sectarian. He refused to accept it as a security lapse by the police or other security agencies.

He said the assailants, who were three in number, intercepted the Maulana’s car and sprayed bullets with AK-47 assault rifles. According to eyewitnesses, the assailants who were in a white Pajero escaped. All five people in the car, including Maulana Azam Tariq, died on the spot.

Maulana Azam Tariq previously headed Anjuman Sipah-i-Sahaba, which was banned by President Musharraf because of allegations of sectarian violence. The Sipah-i-Sahaba had been blamed by police for more than 400 killings in sectarian violence in Pakistan in recent years.

He was elected to the National Assembly during last year’s elections as an independent candidate. Despite being a religious leader, he refused to join Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal, a conglomerate of six religious parties.

This is probably part of the Sunni-Shia tensions in Pakistan. There are a number of extremist violent organizations on both sides. Azam Tariq was injured before in such an attack.

This was second attempt on Maulana Azam Tariq’s life. He was seriously wounded in a bomb explosion in Lahore High Court premises on January 18, 1997. Maulana Zia-ur-Rehman Farooqi and 25 others were killed in that incident.

Sipah-e-Sahaba and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi have been involved in drive-by shootings of quite a few innocent Shias, including doctors in Karachi, in recent years.

Iraq, Media, Politics and Public Opinion

Via Balkinization, I found a survey of US public opinion of the Iraq war and related matters. This survey has a lot of interesting information regarding public beliefs about the Iraq war and their correlation with media and political beliefs.

Regarding Iraq’s connections to al-Qaeda, 22% thought that Iraq was directly involved in carrying out the September 11th attacks while 35% believed Iraq gave substantial support to al-Qaeda, but was not involved in the September 11th attacks. Only 7% were of the opinion that there was no connection while 30% believed that a few al-Qaeda individuals visited Iraq or had contact with Iraqi officials. This was well-known as I have posted about it before. What’s surprising is that 48% think that the US has found clear evidence in Iraq that Saddam Hussein was working closely with the al-Qaeda terrorist organization.

Also, 24% of the people surveyed in September believe that the US has found Iraqi weapons of mass destruction. And it seems all of them live in some bizarro-world because 20% think that Iraq used chemical or biological weapons in the war that just ended.

I have mentioned before that Americans have a very high opinion of their effect on the world. It seems it can sometimes extend to hallucinating about world opinion. A quarter of the people think that a majority of the people of the world favored the US going to war while another 31% believe that world opinion was equally divided on the matter.

The survey looks at three major misconceptions related to the war:

  • Evidence of links between Iraq and al-Qaeda have been found.
  • Weapons of mass destruction have been found in Iraq.
  • World public opinion favored the US going to war with Iraq.

Their findings were scary:

Misperceptions were not limited to a small minority that had repeated misperceptions. A majority of 60% had at least one of these three unambiguous misperceptions, and only 30% had no misperceptions. […]Thirty-two percent had just one of the misperceptions (and no more), 20% had two of the misperceptions and just 8% had all three of the misperceptions.

It seems that the support for the war was heavily dependent on these misperceptions.

58% of those who believed that Iraq was directly involved in carrying out the September 11th attacks approved of the US going to war without UN approval. These guys sure are crazy. What were the other 42% thinking? No, Iraq attacked us but we are nice people, we don’t want to go to war. Wholly irrational! This support for war reduced to 37% among those who thought that Iraq gave substantial support to al-Qaeda, but was not involved in the September 11th attacks. It was similar (32%) if one believed that a few al-Qaeda individuals visited Iraq or had contact with Iraqi officials while 25% of those who didn’t see any connection between al-Qaeda and Iraq still wanted war.

Another irrationality: A full 33% did not support war (i.e., 67% supported war) among those who believed that the US has found clear evidence in Iraq that Saddam Hussein was working closely with the al-Qaeda. These 33% get an award for holding two contradictory thoughts as well as believing in falsehoods. Only 29% of those who thought that the US has not found clear evidence support the war.

74% of the people who think that the US has found Iraqi weapons of mass destruction support the Iraq war, while 42% who believe that WMD have not been found do.

Looking at the three misperceptions, it is clear that support for war was bigger among those who were misinformed:

No misperceptions 23%
Only 1 misperception 53%
Only 2 misperceptions 78%
All 3 misperceptions 86%

The most interesting part of their analysis has to do with the correlation between the misperceptions about the war and their news source.

Misperceptions Fox CBS ABC CNN NBC Print NPR/PBS
None 20% 30 % 39% 45% 45% 53% 77%
1 or more 80% 71% 61% 55% 55% 47% 23%
2 or more 69% 51% 41% 38% 34% 26% 13%
All 3 45% 15% 16% 13% 12% 9% 4%

Seems like Fox News viewers have lots of problems with facts!

The number of respondents for this table was 1,362 only which can be a problem especially for NPR/PBS (3%), so they analyzed the larger data:

To check these striking findings, we analyzed the data a different way, using the larger sample of 3,334 who had answered at least one of the three questions just mentioned. For each misperception we determined how widespread it was in each media audience […], and then for each media audience averaged this frequency for the three misperceptions. […]Again, the Fox News audience showed the highest average rate of misperceptions—45%—
while the NPR/PBS audience showed the lowest—10%.

Is the explanation politics then? Do Republican watch more Fox News than Democrats? Possibly, but not completely.

Looking just at Republicans, the average rate for the three key misperceptions was 43%. For Republican Fox viewers, however the average rate was 54% while for Republicans who get their news from PBS-NPR the average rate is 32%. This same pattern obtains with Democrats and independents.

Could it be demographics?

Among those with a bachelor’s degree or more, the average rate of misperceptions was 27%. However among those who get their news from print media the average rate was 20%, while among those who get their news from PBS-NPR the average rate was 10%. This pattern obtains at other educational levels as well.

May be it is because some people pay more attention to the news than others.

While it would seem that misperceptions are derived from a failure to pay
attention to the news, overall, those who pay greater attention to the news are no less likely to have misperceptions. Among those who primarily watch Fox, those who pay more attention are more likely to have misperceptions [almost doubling for each of the 3 misperceptions from those who don’t follow news closely at all to those that follow it very closely — ZA]. Only those who mostly get their news from print media, and to some extent those who primarily watch CNN, have fewer misperceptions as they pay more attention.

Going back to political views, it seems that support for Bush is the critical factor in having these misperceptions, not Republican identity.

Here is the average frequency of key misperceptions among those who plan to vote for:

Supporter of Average misperception frequency
President George Bush 45%
Democratic nominee 17%
Misperception support Bush support Democrat
Evidence of links to al-Qaeda 68% 31%
WMD found 31% 10%
World public opinion favorable 36% 11%

And it doesn’t matter whether you are Republican, Democrat or independent.

Among Bush supporters, Republicans, Democrats and independents were similarly likely to believe that the US has found clear evidence that Saddam Hussein was working closely with al-Qaeda (pro-Bush Republicans 68%, pro-Bush Democrats 77%, pro-Bush independents 66%).

Your illness becomes worse if you are both a supporter of President Bush and watch Fox News.

78% of Bush supporters who watch Fox News thought the US has found evidence of a direct link to al-Qaeda, but only 50% of Bush supporters in the PBS and NPR audience thought this. On the other side, 48% of Democrat supporters who watch Fox News thought the US has found evidence of a direct link to al-Qaeda, but not one single respondent who is a Democrat supporter and relies on PBS and NPR for network news thought the US had found such evidence.

Also, being a supporter of President Bush has the same effect on you as watching Fox News. The more you follow the news, the more misinformed you become.

Exposure to news support Bush support Democrat
Not closely at all 40% 22%
Not very closely 43% 20%
Somewhat closely 44% 16%
Very closely 54% 11%

Moral of the story: Stay away from Fox News. If you can’t, don’t follow the news on it closely. You’ll be less misinformed if you don’t watch their news.

I Wish!

I wish our school had stuff like this.

Students now get massages, pedicures and manicures at the University of Wisconsin in Oshkosh, while Washington State University boasts of having the largest Jacuzzi on the West Coast. It holds 53 people.

Play one of 52 golf courses from around the world on the room-sized golf simulators at Indiana University of Pennsylvania —- which use real balls and clubs.

Only about 100 miles away, Pennsylvania State University’s student center has two ballrooms, three art galleries, a movie theater with surround sound and a 200-gallon tropical ecosystem with newts and salamanders. Oh, and a separate 550-gallon salt-water aquarium with a live coral reef.

Ohio State University is spending $140 million to build what its peers enviously refer to as the Taj Mahal, a 657,000-square-foot complex featuring kayaks and canoes, indoor batting cages and ropes courses, massages and a climbing wall big enough for 50 students to scale simultaneously. On the drawing board at the University of Southern Mississippi are plans for a full-fledged water park, complete with water slides, a meandering river and something called a wet deck —- a flat, moving sheet of water so that students can lie back and stay cool while sunbathing.

Actually, not at the cost of terribly higher fees. But these things sure are tempting. Are you listening, Mr. President of my school?

On the other hand, there was no pay raise this year for University System of Georgia employees (that includes teaching and research assistants). In fact, quite a few TAs got their stipends reduced because they are now working one-third time (13 hrs/week) instead of one-half time (20 hrs/week) because of budgetary constraints.

Immigration Arbitrariness

This news story is about a Turkish physician whose visa extension hit some snags at BCIS until his congressman intervened. I think it shows how arbitrary of the immigration process in the US is and how much depends on the specific immigration officer examining your case.

An impressive career, a 1,000-page visa application and 10 letters of support from some of the top names in medicine apparently weren’t enough evidence for U.S. authorities considering whether to allow a Houston doctor to stay in the country.

It took a Thursday phone call between a congressman and a high-ranking federal immigration official to cut through red tape that immigration lawyers say is increasingly common since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

[…]Dr. Remzi Bag, a Turkish physician who heads Houston’s two lung transplant programs, was granted an extension of the special visa that allows him to work in the United States after a delay that prompted worries about a possible shutdown of the transplant centers.

[…]Bag has been working as a Baylor College of Medicine physician on a three-year, O-1 visa. O-1 status is granted to foreign nationals — 25,000 in 2002 — who demonstrate extraordinary achievement or ability in science, education, business, the arts or athletics.

According to BCIS, an O-1 visa is granted to

  • An individual alien who has extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics which has been demonstrated by sustained national or international acclaim and who is coming temporarily to the United States to continue work in the area of extraordinary ability; or
  • An alien who has a demonstrated record of extraordinary achievement in motion picture and/or television productions and who is coming temporarily to the United States to continue work in the area of extraordinary achievement.

Continuing with Dr. Bag’s travails:

Bag, who graduated as valedictorian from medical school in Turkey, is medical director of the lung transplant programs at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital and The Methodist Hospital. The 39-year-old doctor is board-certified in pulmonary medicine, critical care medicine, nuclear medicine and internal medicine.

He is a lung transplant physician — a rare expert in pre- and post-operative care for lung transplant patients — a specialty that is federally required of all lung transplant centers. Because Bag is one of only two such qualified doctors in the city and one of only 100 in the country, Baylor officials said the possibility that he might be deported threatened local lung transplant programs.

Bag’s request for a visa extension was kicked back earlier this year with a letter from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services stating the application did not establish that Bag had won a major award, “such as the Nobel Prize,” and that, in short, Bag “has a career he can be proud of, but the evidence does not establish he meets the very high standard of O-1A in his medical speciality.” Federal officials invited Bag to submit more evidence.

A Nobel Prize? Are there thousands of Nobel Prize winners trying to get the O-1A visa?

Bag said he was puzzled by the snag because, in being named medical director of the two transplant programs, he has achieved even greater distinction in his career than when he was first granted O-1 status.

This is the most surprising part. The regulations and requirements for the visa have not changed recently. Therefore, if he was eligible 3 years ago, shouldn’t he still be eligible?

Via Perverse Access Memory who also has a good post about the alarmist stories in the press nowadays about the reduction in the H-1B cap next year.

Popular Posts

I have added two different ways of looking at popular posts on the sidebar.

One looks at my webserver logs and selects the posts who individual entry archive pages have been visited the most in the past 3 days. (Extension to longer times is possible if I knew Perl. [UPDATE: Used a nasty solution to extend the time frame. It is 8 days right now, but I am thinking about a 30-day period.]) Thanks to Rambles In The Brambles for the Most Visited plugin.

The other ranks the posts based on the number of comments. I am using the hack by ScriptyGoddess for this purpose. After I implemented it, I found out I could use Brad Choate’s MTSQL plugin to do this better.

UPDATE II: I have made changes to the MostVisited plugin so that it works with the server logs we have at Dreamhost. The log files are named by date and all logs older than 2 days are gzipped. After my modifications, the plugin copies the gzipped files (we don’t have write permissions in the log folder), unzips, parses and then deletes the files to save space. This is important as my single-day log file of around 1MB is reduced to less than 100KB because of compression.

Kashmir Photos

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Disclaimer: All photographs are copyrighted by their photographers. You can visit their sites and view their galleries by clicking on the images.

Plame Affair

You probably already know about the leaking of a CIA operative’s name by administration officials. It has become a big story as a result of CIA request for an investigation.

At CIA Director George J. Tenet’s request, the Justice Department is looking into an allegation that administration officials leaked the name of an undercover CIA officer to a journalist, government sources said yesterday.

The operative’s identity was published in July after her husband, former U.S. ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV, publicly challenged President Bush’s claim that Iraq had tried to buy “yellowcake” uranium ore from Africa for possible use in nuclear weapons. Bush later backed away from the claim.

The intentional disclosure of a covert operative’s identity is a violation of federal law.

The officer’s name was disclosed on July 14 in a syndicated column by Robert D. Novak, who said his sources were two senior administration officials.

Yesterday, a senior administration official said that before Novak’s column ran, two top White House officials called at least six Washington journalists and disclosed the identity and occupation of Wilson’s wife. Wilson had just revealed that the CIA had sent him to Niger last year to look into the uranium claim and that he had found no evidence to back up the charge. Wilson’s account touched off a political fracas over Bush’s use of intelligence as he made the case for attacking Iraq.

“Clearly, it was meant purely and simply for revenge,” the senior official said of the alleged leak.

Talking Points Memo has been covering the story very well and in lots of detail: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29.

Brad DeLong has some interesting speculation about the CIA. Billmon follows up on the implications of a CIA-White House war.

But if you want some hilarious commentary with references to Gollum, the One Ring and Mordor, The Poor Man is your man.