Novak (novak) wrote,

Personal/Random: News Stories-Brit Army Finished in N Ireland; Pope's Text-Messages; Horny Students

Never in my life, I realized with a shock, had I seen a deployed soldier before. Oh, sure, I'd seen ROTC students saddle up for weekend, or the National Guard on summer training manuvers, but an actual, armed, deployed soldier? Never. Not until I reached the age of 27. And when I realized it, I was suddenly grateful and amazed to have reached such an edge in such security, when I knew how different so much of the rest of the world was. But there they were: two British paratroopers, crossing the park in Armagh, Northern Ireland as I was setting up a photograph. I thought, "Oh, that's to be expected," as I watched them looking back and forth as they walked, and then it hit me. A day or two later, standing in the drizzle in Derry, I watched as the armoured personnel carriers went by on their patrol, where even the A.P.C.s went in pairs for safety.... It's great to see it have come to an end.

The other stories I added are just amusing.

British Army Ends NIreland Mission
Jul 31, 1:07 PM (ET)

BELFAST, Northern Ireland (AP) - The British army marked a milestone of peacemaking Tuesday as it formally ended its 38-year mission to bolster security in Northern Ireland.

The military's longest-running operation officially was ending at midnight. But the symbolic moment came months after the reality - no British troops have been on patrol on Belfast streets for two years.

As of Wednesday, all 5,000 soldiers remaining in this long-disputed corner of the United Kingdom will be committed to training for operations in Iraq, Afghanistan or elsewhere overseas.

Analysts and ex-soldiers are debating whether British security forces defeated the outlawed Irish Republican Army, which waged a 1970-1997 campaign to overthrow Northern Ireland by force. But all sides agree the IRA's 2005 decision to renounce violence and disarm has permitted British soldiers to beat their own retreat.

"We don't need them any more," said Chief Constable Hugh Orde, commander of the Police Service of Northern Ireland, which increasingly can operate in most of the IRA's Roman Catholic power bases. For decades, police patrols in these areas required backup from troops.

The central goal of the Good Friday peace accord of 1998 - a joint Catholic-Protestant administration that includes the IRA-linked Sinn Fein party - was revived in May and has been operating harmoniously.

The other key goal, forging a police force supported on both sides of the community, is more than midway through a 10-year reform program. Catholic numbers in police ranks have more than doubled to 21 percent, and Britain hopes to transfer control of Northern Ireland security to local hands next year.

Two dissident IRA groups continue to plot attacks. But Orde and Lt. Gen. Nick Parker, who commands the new "peacetime" army garrison, say the dissidents will be defeated by gathering intelligence, not by deploying troops.

"There are still places where, sadly, a very small number of people are determined to wreck all that has been achieved," Orde said. "We have to be very mindful of that threat, but we can cope with that."

The British army once had 106 bases and 27,000 troops in Northern Ireland, and had 44 bases here only two years ago. It now has fewer than 20 bases and expects to have just 10 by April.

"The change in the political and security reality of Northern Ireland since ... 2005 has been even more dramatic than we could have hoped," said Irish Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern.

The official end of Operation Banner - the codename used for the deployment of troops as peacekeepers 38 years ago - has triggered introspection throughout Britain and Ireland, where tens of thousands bear physical and psychological scars from a conflict that left 3,700 dead. Among those were 763 soldiers and 309 people killed by soldiers, chiefly Catholic civilians and IRA members.

Britain deployed troops in August 1969 to end Protestant mob attacks on Catholic homes in west Belfast and street battles between Catholic civilians and Protestant police in Londonderry, the second-largest city. Most soldiers, welcomed by the Catholic minority, expected to stay for only weeks.

Instead, Britain permitted Northern Ireland's Protestant government of the day to wield control over how British forces were used. A newly formed Provisional IRA began launching attacks against police and, eventually, the army, killing its first soldier in 1971. Protestant leaders used the army to impose internment without trial almost exclusively against IRA suspects.

In 1972, the army committed its deadliest act, the Bloody Sunday massacre in which 13 unarmed Catholic demonstrators were shot to death in Londonderry. That year proved the deadliest for both the army and Northern Ireland as a whole: 470 slain, including 102 soldiers.

Sinn Fein justice spokesman Gerry Kelly, who led the IRA's first car bomb attacks on London in 1973, accused Britain of repeatedly spurning offers to negotiate.

"It could have come to a conclusion much sooner ... but the British political establishment kept pushing for a military victory that the British army itself knew was impossible to achieve," he said.

Protestant leaders said the problem was prolonged by local hatreds, and the army's presence prevented a collapse into civil war.

"The reason the army came into Northern Ireland in the first place was because we couldn't find a way to live together, so let's not blame the army for what happened," said Protestant lawmaker Jeffrey Donaldson. "We shouldn't forget their sacrifices. There were families who sent their boys over here to hold the line - and they came back in a wooden box."

Retired Col. Mike Dewar, a security analyst who served several tours in Northern Ireland, called the death toll in the early 1970s "horrific - a much higher casualty rate than what we have suffered in Iraq or Afghanistan."

Intelligence agents eventually built a detailed picture of the IRA, and undercover army squads wiped out several IRA units in ambushes in the 1980s and early 1990s - a brutal strategy that Dewar credits with spurring the IRA's cease-fire.

"The IRA were clearly infiltrated. The pressure became unbearable for the IRA," Dewar said.

But a former soldier, John Moore, who was paralyzed from the waist down by an IRA bomb in 1981, said he felt no sense of triumph, only relief.

"There were no victories. Surely no one in their right mind wants to go back to those dark days," said Moore, who served in the Royal Green Jackets Regiment. "All it brought was pain, death and destruction."

Church Offers Text Messages From Pope
Jul 30, 9:43 PM (ET)

VIENNA, Austria (AP) - Organizers of Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Austria next month are offering the faithful a foretaste: daily cell phone text messages with quotes from the pontiff.

The Archdiocese of Vienna said the service, which began Sunday and will continue through the pope's Sept. 7-9 visit, will provide free excerpts of his sermons, blessings and writings.

Some of the quotations will date to the pope's days as a cardinal in Germany, church leaders said.

"Right through the summer vacation period, there will be carefully selected quotations for thinking about God, the Christian faith, human nature and the meaning of life," organizers said Monday in a statement.

The archdiocese said people can sign up for the text messages and there's no extra charge apart from the usual costs to send messages.

Benedict's trip to Austria, which is overwhelmingly Roman Catholic, includes a stop at the Mariazell shrine to mark the 850th anniversary of its founding, a Mass at Vienna's St. Stephen's Cathedral, and a visit to an abbey in Heiligenkreuz outside the Austrian capital.

The pilgrimage will be the seventh foreign trip in his two-year papacy.


On the Net:

Papal visit to Austria,

237 Reasons We Have Sex
Jul 31, 5:54 PM (ET)

WASHINGTON (AP) - After exhaustively compiling a list of the 237 reasons why people have sex, researchers found that young men and women get intimate for mostly the same motivations. It's more about lust in the body than a love connection in the heart.

College-aged men and women agree on their top reasons for having sex - they were attracted to the person, they wanted to experience physical pleasure and "it feels good," according to a peer-reviewed study in the August edition of Archives of Sexual Behavior. Twenty of the top 25 reasons given for having sex were the same for men and women.

Expressing love and showing affection were in the top 10 for both men and women, but they did take a back seat to the clear No. 1: "I was attracted to the person."

Researchers at the University of Texas spent five years and their own money to study the overlooked why behind sex while others were spending their time on the how.

"It's refuted a lot of gender stereotypes ... that men only want sex for the physical pleasure and women want love," said University of Texas clinical psychology professor Cindy Meston, the study's co-author. "That's not what I came up with in my findings."

Forget thinking that men are from Mars and women from Venus, "the more we look, the more we find similarity," said Dr. Irwin Goldstein, director of sexual medicine at Alvarado Hospital in San Diego. Goldstein, who wasn't part of Meston's study, said the Texas research made a lot of sense and adds to growing evidence that the vaunted differences in the genders may only be among people with sexual problems.

Meston and colleague David Buss first questioned 444 men and women - ranging in age from 17 to 52 - to come up with a list of 237 distinct reasons people have sex. They ranged from "It's fun" which men ranked fourth and women ranked eighth to "I wanted to give someone else a sexually transmitted disease" which ranked on the bottom by women.

Once they came up with that long list, Meston and Buss asked 1,549 college students taking psychology classes to rank the reasons on a one-to-five scale on how they applied to their experiences.

"None of the gender differences are all that great," Meston said. "Men were more likely to be opportunistic towards having sex, so if sex were there and available they would jump on it, somewhat more so than women. Women were more likely to have sex because they felt they needed to please their partner."

But this is among college students, when Meston conceded "hormones run rampant." She predicted huge differences when older groups of people are studied.

Since her study came out Tuesday, people are coming up with new reasons to have sex.

"Originally, I thought that we exhaustively compiled the list, but now I found that there should be some added," Meston said.


On the Net:

University of Texas study "Why Humans Have Sex":

Cindy Meston's Sexual Psychophysiology Laboratory:
Tags: benedict xvi, computing, historical, ireland, personal, random, sexuality, travel-1997 ireland/northern ireland/uk

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