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Osama bin Laden

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This is happening. Pornography found in bin Laden hideout:

The pornography recovered in bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan, consists of modern, electronically recorded video and is fairly extensive, according to the officials, who discussed the discovery with Reuters on condition of anonymity.

The officials said they were not yet sure precisely where in the compound the pornography was discovered or who had been viewing it. Specifically, the officials said they did not know if bin Laden himself had acquired or viewed the materials.

Three other U.S. officials familiar with evidence gathered during investigations of other Islamic militants said the discovery of pornography is not uncommon in such cases.

One issue I’ve noticed personally with some conservative Muslims is that their threshold for what is ‘pornographic’ is different from those of typical Westerners. I have an uncle who is a member of Tablighi Jamaat who considers the outfits worn by ballerinas to be pornographic and instances of crass nudity. I do wonder if outbreaks of extreme sexual deviance and psychopathy, such as the notorious Saudi gang rape, might be as much due to the peculiar collapse of what seem clear and distinct categories to us, as much as garden-variety repression. A woman can dress in a sexy and alluring manner in public without being assumed to be a prostitute, but in some societies that’s really not an accepted category. So the occasional porn caches found in the possession of Islamic militants might be part of the constellation of ‘perversion’ which they make little distinctions across. My thinking here is informed by friends in secondary school from religious conservative Christian backgrounds, who also seemed to have an antinomian tendency once they crossed their strict “lines” (this is like my conservative Christian friends who sometimes talked joyfully about murdering people for fun and having same sex relations if there wasn’t a god; it’s all talk, but I think this mindset is illustrative of a “brittle” moral-ethical framework).


Of course there is a high likelihood that the porn had some sort of encrypted message. But that begs the question: couldn’t they find something else besides porn? I wonder if there was double motive….

Finally, I thought of this SNL sketch about Bin Laden:

(Republished from Discover/GNXP by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Science • Tags: International Affairs, Osama bin Laden 
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How they determine Osama bin Laden really is Osama bin Laden:

Once samples from all sources are in hand, analysts isolate a bit of DNA from each sample, make lots of copies of it, and then process the copies through a machine that analyzes genetic markers — DNA fingerprints — that have been passed down through a subject’s family. Typically, Bieber said, DNA tests examine around 15 of these markers.

It typically takes several hours to complete each step of the analysis process, Bieber said, though he noted that in high-profile cases like this one, law enforcement agencies might already have genetic profiles of the relatives available — which means they’d only have to complete one additional test.

I checked and it seems that there are paternity testing outfits that offer one day turnaround. So I guess it’s not implausible that they could have pulled this off. I assume they still use variable number tandem repeats for DNA profiling?

Update: Yeah, short tandem repeats.

(Republished from Discover/GNXP by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Science • Tags: DNA, Genetics, Genomics, Osama bin Laden 
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Chris Mooney:

The news stream of the country just shifted dramatically. I was up late last night, putting on hold an article deadline, unable to take my eyes off CNN–and remembering what it was like to be in D.C. on 9/11, huddled in a hotel watching the news, and then for more than a month afterwards, as we were all additionally terrorized by the anthrax mailings.

Blogging itself was largely born in the wake of 9/11–the fear and the insatiable demand for news and information, combined with the Internet, set the stage. I started blogging shortly afterwards when I and others created Tapped, the blog of the American Prospect magazine.

People will rightly point out that the tech blogosphere was robust well before 9/11. But I think it is valid to assert that the non-tech blogosphere’s coming of age was really 9/11. Many of the prominent bloggers today (Matt Yglesias and Megan McArdle for example) come out of the “warblogger” milieu of that period (whether pro or anti “warblogger”). Myself, I began blogging a few weeks before Chris at Tapped on a pre-GNXP weblog I had for all of two months, from April to May of 2002. At that point my concerns were Java Server Pages, the War on Terror, and genetic engineering (in particular the anti-genetic engineering arguments of Francis Fukuyama and Bill McKibben). 9/11 had perturbed me from my general isolationist orientation, but over the years I’ve shifted back to my old equilibrium.

Below is a Google Trends result restricted to the USA for the terms blog, magazine, and newspaper.


(Republished from Discover/GNXP by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Science • Tags: Blog, Osama bin Laden 
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Razib Khan
About Razib Khan

"I have degrees in biology and biochemistry, a passion for genetics, history, and philosophy, and shrimp is my favorite food. If you want to know more, see the links at http://www.razib.com"