Saturday, September 10, 2005

Bush vacation. Sick but funny. Posted by Picasa

Comedy Central: A new kind of public servant Stewart discusses a new form of public servant. "Meet the F**kers"

Whoopsi Gras 9/7/05

Whoopsi Gras 9/7/05Political sarcasm. Carnival of ineptitude. Go to the link.

Thirty suspected militants killed, 60 captured in Afghanistan

"At least 30 suspected Taliban fighters were killed and 'a large number' of militants captured during a fresh operation by Afghan and US-led forces in southern Afghanistan..

'During an operation in Grishk district of Helmand on Friday, Afghan and coalition forces killed 30 enemies and captured... 60 others,' defence ministry spokesman Mohammad Zahir Azimi told reporters Saturday."

Afghanistan. Note girl in middle with head completely covered. Posted by Picasa

Soldier not killed in action; Kin not told

"WASHINGTON --The Army said Saturday it knew for more than a year after 1st Lt. Kenneth Ballard's death in Iraq in May 2004 that he was not killed in action, as it initially reported. The family was not told the truth until Friday."...

...On Memorial Day in 2004, the day after Kenneth Ballard died, the Army informed his family that he had been killed by enemy fire while on a combat mission in the south-central Iraqi city of Najaf. In a casualty announcement from June 1, the Pentagon said Ballard died "during a firefight with insurgents."

The Army disclosed on Saturday that Ballard, 26, actually died of wounds from the accidental discharge of a M240 machine gun on his tank after his platoon had returned from battling insurgents in Najaf.

He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery last Oct. 22.

An Army spokesman, Col. Joseph Curtin, said in an interview that separate investigations by the local commander and by the Army's Criminal Investigation Division concluded days after Ballard's death that it was an accident.

The tank accidentally backed into a tree and a branch hit the mounted, unmanned machine gun, causing it to fire, Curtin said. Ballard was struck at close range and died of his wounds, he added.

For reasons that are not clear, the Army did not correct the public record and inform the family until Friday.

Curtin said the matter was a regrettable mistake and that Harvey, the Army secretary, has ordered a review of procedures in reporting accidental deaths.

"Furthermore, the Army regrets that the initial casualty report from the field was in error as well as the time that it has taken to correct the report and to inform his family," Curtin said in a statement issued Friday night....

The 1st Armored Division, which also investigated the death, said in a written statement from its post in Wiesbaden, Germany, on Friday night that investigations had "revealed additional information of the cause" of Ballard's death. It did not mention that the investigations were conducted more than a year ago.

[bth: if this were a one-off event, I would be more patient, but it isn't. Its a systemic problem within the military. My deepest sympathy to his family. ... And the Pentagon can't figure out why it is losing the trust of the people.]

German Plane With Katrina Aid Turned Back

" German military plane carrying 15 tons of military rations for survivors of Hurricane Katrina was sent back by U.S. authorities, officials said Saturday.

The plane was turned away Thursday because it did not have the required authorization, a German government spokesman said.

The spokesman, speaking on customary condition of anonymity, declined to comment on a report in the German news magazine Der Spiegel that U.S. authorities refused the delivery on the grounds that the NATO military rations could carry mad cow disease.

The spokesman said U.S. authorities had since given approval for future aid flights, but it was unclear whether the German military would try again to deliver the rations.
Since Hurricane Katrina struck the United States, many international donors have complained of frustration that bureaucratic entanglements have hindered shipments to the United States.

A U.S. Embassy official, who agreed to discuss the matter only if not quoted by name, blamed the German flight's rejection on temporary technical and logistical problems that have accompanied recovery operations in the devastated region.

German military planes have flown several loads of rations to the Gulf Coast. Berlin is also sending teams equipped with high-capacity pumps to help clear floodwaters. "

Police foils explosion bid, arrests three alleged ...9/9/2005

"ISLAMABAD, Sept 9 (KUNA) -- Pakistani Police Friday foiled a bid to detonate a high-intensity bomb near main bus terminal in eastern Punjab province and arrested three alleged Al-Qaeda linked militants, said police on Friday.

Rana Naukhel, Asif Saeed, and Amir Iqbal, residents of eastern Punjab province and all in their late 30s, were arrested today morning while planting bombs at the main Bus Station in Lahore city, 370 kilometers from Islamabad, said city police chief at a press conference.

He said police also seized huge cache of ammunition including 30 electric detonators, several hand-grenades, bomb-making explosive and pistols, adding, they also recovered Jihadi literature, compact disks, cassettes, fake identity cards, and a booklet about bomb making methods.

Without mentioning the name, he said that they are militants of some outlawed group, having links with Al-Qaeda, wanted in different terrorism case.

However, a police source told KUNA that they are active members of Lashkar-i-Jhangvi (LJ), an outlawed militant group who had strong ties with Al-Qaeda terror network.

The arrest of three more militants follows the arrest of a militant, Mufti Mohammed Sabir, wanted in a car-bomb explosion that killed 15 people including 11 French engineers on May 8, 2002, near Sheraton Hotels in Southern Karachi port city. (end) amn."

Note the shadow on the wall. Posted by Picasa

Stepped Up Crackdown on Islamic Terrorists in Paki?

I note an increase in arrests of Islamic terrorists with Pakistan by the government there. The step-up seems to be linked to indigenous groups training or assisting foreigners like the Brits. It might be just a fluke or my imagingation but here are some examples in the last day.

  • Two nearly simultaneous explosions went off early Friday at a McDonald's and a KFC fast-food restaurant in Pakistan's commercial capital of Karachi, authorities said. ... He said the attacks may have been linked to a nationwide strike called for Friday by a hardline Islamic coalition opposed to President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, a key ally in the U.S.-led war on terrorism, AP reported. U.S. fast food outlets in Karachi have been targeted before. On May 30, a KFC restaurant was burned and six workers inside were killed during an outbreak of religious sectarian violence in the city.
  • Here is a Fox article saying 3 suspected foreign militants were arrested after a thootout with Pakistani forces in a remote tribal region near Afghanistan. ... Earlier Friday, Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf told The Associated Press that Islamabad has proposed setting up a barbed-wire fence along the Afghan border to help keep militants from crossing freely.
  • Pak arrests a student for suspected al-Qaeda links, meeting them in the Northwest Frontier. The student was an engineering student in Britain.
  • Associated Press released this article titled, "U.S.: Pakistani extremists air terrorists". Al-Qaida leaders in hiding and foot-soldiers preparing for terrorist attacks are turning to outlawed Pakistani extremist groups for spiritual and military training, shelter and logistical support, say U.S. officials who see them as an emerging threat.
    One group - Lashkar-e-Tayyaba, or Army of the Pure - is an example of how Osama bin Laden's followers take advantage of scattered Islamic militant allies to maintain momentum, four years after a U.S.-led military campaign destroyed al-Qaida camps in Afghanistan.... Elements of Pakistan's intelligence services have supported Lashkar in the past. Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, banned Lashkar in 2002 for its alleged links to an attack on India's parliament. Pakistan's ambassador to the U.S., Jehangir Karamat, said in an Associated Press interview that he considers Lashkar incapable of international terrorism and particularly of working with al-Qaida because the groups have different languages and agendas.
    Al-Qaida has "no linkage with any organization in Pakistan," Karamat said. "They don't need it and they don't have it - never had it." The Lashkar organization represents a classic example of the diffusion of Islamic extremism - based in Afghanistan until the U.S. toppled the Taliban in 2001 - that CIA Director Porter Goss and other intelligence officials have warned of.
    Ken Katzman, a Middle East expert at the Congressional Research Service, said groups including Lashkar have revived the training structure once found in Afghanistan, setting up "Afghanistan East" in northern Pakistan. Some in Pakistan deny the camps' existence.
    "I think this is emerging as the next theater to test whether Pakistan is serious about eliminating the al-Qaida presence," Katzman said.
    Some examples of high-profile moments where Lashkar's fingerprints are suspected or spotted:
    -International authorities are looking into whether an Islamic school run by Lashkar trained at least one of the bombers who attacked four London buses on July 7. Officials are also looking closely at the associations of the three other bombers. Pakistani authorities have yet to find direct links and say any tie may be a small piece of the investigation.
    -In Virginia, a prominent Islamic scholar was sentenced to life in prison this summer for encouraging his followers to join the Taliban and fight the United States after Sept. 11, 2001. After one fiery speech, several attendees went to Pakistan and received military training from Lashkar. The young men were part of the "Virginia jihad network" that sometimes trained for holy war by playing paintball games in the woods.
    -U.S. officials say Abu Farraj al-Libbi, a top al-Qaida operational leader picked up in Pakistan in May, ran from a site associated with Lashkar before Pakistani forces captured him in a graveyard shootout. He is in U.S. custody, accused of planning two assassination attempts on Musharraf. Some Pakistani officials have said al-Libbi was sheltered by another Muslim militant organization.
    -In March 2002, a senior al-Qaida lieutenant and planner, Abu Zubaydah, was captured at a Lashkar safehouse in Faisalabad, Pakistan.
    - The Australian Taliban, David Hicks, whom U.S. forces captured fighting with the Taliban in Afghanistan, was trained by Lashkar in the late 1990s. He is being held in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
    The Bush administration is cautious about pushing too hard on Pakistan, an ally in the fight against terrorism.
    The United States added Lashkar to its list of terrorist groups in 2001 and extended the designation in December 2003. ... "What's crazy is that these groups, because they are a little bit more low key than al-Qaida, they have been able to operate, in Pakistan especially without hindrance," said Evan Kohlmann, an international terrorism consultant who has studied Lashkar.

The noted uptick in tempo makes me wonder what's up.

Face of freedom Posted by Picasa

Grappling with Islamic Terrorism in Bangladesh

Last month backwater Bangladesh was blasted by several hundred small bombs planted by Islamic terrorists. Some were captured and the police have been urgently seeking others still at large.

In the last week a few articles surfaced. I want to note them together and perhaps highlight a few of their more concerning points:

  • Police seized 200 more bombs, two female bomb makers and linked them to the August 17 serial bombing and to a brother of Shayek Abdur Rahman, a spiritual leader and commander of militant Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen group blamed for the serial blasts, but he escaped. Besides the seized bombs, bomb-making material, weapons and CDs containing training manuals were taken.
  • Police have arrested the son of a former Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh leader. In several other arrets, at least five sons of other islamic clerics were arrested and linked to the bombings. These arrests are linked to the August 17 bombing and seem to have occurred since August 31.
  • Intelligence agencies have identified 10 Islamist non-governmental organizations that are channelling funds to various Islamist extremist outfits and fuelling Islamic militancy in Bangladesh. The organisations are Revival of the Islamic Heritage Society, Rabita Al Alam Al Islami, Society of Social Reforms, Qatar Charitable Society, Al Muntada Al Islami, Islamic Relief Agency, Al Forkan Foundation, International Relief Organisation, Kuwait Joint Relief Committee and the Muslim Aid Bangladesh. All these organisations are based in different Middle Eastern countries and have been active in Bangladesh for years. The report recommended immediate banning of the Revival of Islamic Heritage Society. The report detected a ‘deep-rooted’ relation of some leaders of Jamaat-e-Islami and Islami Oikya Jote, two major components of the alliance government, and their other affiliated organisations with these Islamist NGOs.
  • A component of the four-party ruling alliance — the Islami Oikya Jote faction led by Mufti Fazlul Haque Amini MP — on Wednesday urged the prime minister, Khaleda Zia, not to harass innocent Islamic clerics over the August 17 chain bombings across the country.

The police seem to be decidedly determined to track these bombers down. I find this refreshing if not surprising as radical islam seems to thrive in an environment of corruption and poverty. I hope our government is paying attention and assisting this government in its attempt to bring terrorism to heel in Bangladesh.

Quote under this picture was "If it's alll the same with you God, I'd rather have a sandwich." Posted by Picasa

More than 140 rebels killed in Tal Afar: Dulaimi

"Iraqi and US forces have killed 141 rebels and arrested 197 others in the past two days in the northern town of Tal Afar, according to Defense Minister Saadun al-Dulaimi.

'Their (rebels) losses in the past two days include 141 killed and 197 arrested,' Dulaimi said Saturday.

Five members of the Iraqi security forces were also killed and three others wounded, he added.

The defence minister said the operation could be finished 'within three days'."...

Make levees, not war. Posted by Picasa

Iraq sees U.S. troop withdrawal in two years

"WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Iraqi President Jalal Talabani urged the United States on Friday not to withdraw hastily from Iraq and said U.S. forces should be reduced gradually over the next two years.

'For those who call for an immediate pull-out of American troops, we say that we honour the sacrifices the United States has made,' Talabani said in a speech at a Washington hotel.

'A withdrawal of American and multinational forces in the near future could lead to the victory of the terrorists in Iraq and create grave threats to the region,' he added.

Asked how long he would like U.S. and other forces to stay in Iraq, Talabani said the plan was to gradually reduce U.S. forces over the next two years.

'Not only would we need American forces to fight against terrorism, we need some of them to frighten our neighbours and prevent them from interfering in our internal affairs,' he said.

The United States has about 140,000 troops in Iraq and is training Iraqi forces to take over but recent U.S. military assessments question the capability of Iraqi forces.

U.S. President George W. Bush has said America will stay in Iraq for as long as it takes, but U.S. public support has eroded in recent months and public scepticism is expected to grow in the disorganised aftermath of Hurricane Katrina which devastated the U.S. Gulf Coast.

Later, Talabani told a joint news briefing with Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld that in two years from now, he foresaw Iraq's government asking the United States to keep 'small groups of Americans' in 'two, three small bases.'

Talabani was not specific when asked how many American troops he believed should stay in Iraq after two years.

"We want (an) American presence. Not the big number -- only the presence (that) is enough to prevent others from interfering in our internal affairs," he said.

Rumsfeld did not endorse Talabani's vision for the future of U.S. troops in Iraq. "Lest my silence indicate anything at all, which it should not, let me simply say that the president of Iraq is free to say whatever he wishes. And he has done so," Rumsfeld said.

Talabani complained of interference from Syria and "terrorists" infiltrating Iraq. He also blamed the Arab media "without exception" for supporting terrorism.

Talabani said Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had invited him to go to Syria amid concerns expressed by the United States that Syria is allowing foreign fighters and funding for the insurgency to cross its border into Iraq.

"We still hope that by bilateral dialogue we see that we can solve this problem," said Talabani, who is scheduled to meet Bush next week.

[bth: Sen. Carl Levin was the first to note that the Iraqi's no longer want the US to leave, but to stay. On the theory that Iraqi's say this for their self-interest and not ours, I ask why? This seems to lay out the case: 1. help fight their civil war and 2. help keep the neighbors out. Keeping in mind that Talabani is Kurdish and has concerns about Turkey, Iran and Syria in that order, I can understand his perspective. Presumably the large air base outside Kirkuk is going to become a permanent installation for the U.S. I wouldn't be surprised to see the British with a permanent naval base outside Basra. To the west near Syria, who knows? Perhaps the Jordanians have a few thoughts.]

FEMA Called. Posted by Picasa

The jihadist who needed no brainwashing to blow up Aldgate train

"To his friends he was known simply by his Urdu nickname 'Khaka'. In the two months since detonating a bomb that killed six people on the London Underground, Shahzad Tanweer has been portrayed as the naive victim of brainwashing by a svengali, his fellow bomber Mohammad Sidique Khan.

But The Independent has uncovered a different picture of Tanweer, one in which the Aldgate bomber is a highly focussed, motivated and independent jihadist, who spent time - without Khan - at a terrorist training camp in Pakistan run by a group linked to the kidnap and murder of an American journalist. He also helped lead a gang in the Beeston district of Leeds that introduced radical Islam to Asian youths and engaged in battles with whites.

The training camp Tanweer visited in Pakistan was run by Harkat-ul-Mujahedeen (the 'Movement for Holy Warriors'), a group that had been involved in the kidnap and beheading of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in 2002 and which trains fighters operating alongside the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan."

One of Tanweer's former associates said the bomber had received lessons in handling arms and explosives at the camp in Mansehra, a remote area near the Kashmir border, in December and January. ...

The man who organised the kidnapping of Pearl, Omar Saeed Sheikh, was another British-born Muslim who had joined Harkat. Security sources in Britain say they have not yet found any link between Tanweer and Sheikh.

Tanweer, travelling on passport number 453897014, and Khan, number 04069095, arrived in Karachi via Istanbul on Turkish Airline flight TK-1056 on 19 November last year. They left for Lahore by train a week later before moving on to Faisalabad where, according to Pakistani security sources, their trail disappeared before they surfaced again in Britain on 8 February. [bth: note same train and plane yet British intel can't find a link!]

A month before he showed up at Mansehra, Tanweer is known to have been in Chak 477, 28 miles from Faisalabad, where he visited his father's family. His time there provides more evidence of his obsessive pursuit of jihad.

...The link between the two men dates back to the 1980s. In recent years their friendship had developed into membership of a 15-strong group of Asian youths known as "The Mullah Crew".

The group's meeting points included a local Iqra Islamic bookshop, which was raided by police after the bombings, and a gym beneath Beeston's Hardy Street mosque. Their radicalism was so blatant that the gym became known as the "al-Qa'ida gym", according to Tanweer's associates. But many were prepared to overlook this because the leaders of the Mullah Crew were known for energising many disenchanted Muslim boys whose heroin abuse was giving the Asian community a bad name.

Tanweer seems to have been integral to this process. "He and the Mullah Crew cleared up the area," said a source. "Lads would be taken by the group and put through cold turkey by locking them in a room for five days."

The Mullah Crew's emphasis was on strengthening the young Asians physically, often through outdoor activities like paintballing, climbing in the North Yorkshire Moors and canoeing in North Wales. Tanweer was more committed than most and he is particularly remembered for a paintballing trip in which he proved superb with the gun. "He was approaching it like a proper soldier," said the source.

Islam was also a part of the Mullah Crew's creed of clean living. "To be invited on one of these outings you had to be a part of their religious set," said another source. "They would not take lads who had become too 'Westernised' for their liking."...

At least one family member has suggested there were hints of what he planned in his demeanour. "[The family] were watching a documentary on Muslims in Britain [in May]," she said. "Shahzad was convinced there would be a battle between Muslims and the West. [He said] 'You'd better get out of here. Everyone's going to hate you'."

[bth: all the clues were there including knowledge within the muslim community. "Moderate" muslims have got to step up to the plate.]

American soldiers refuel a tank at a US Army base, Friday, Sept. 9, 2005 in Tal Afar, Iraq, 150 kilometers (93 miles) east of the Syrian border. A joint U.S.-Iraqi force punched deep into Tal Afar, a key insurgent staging ground near the Syrian border, and the Iraqi army said it arrested 200 suspected militants in the sweep - three-fourths of them foreign fighters. (AP Photo/Jacob Silberberg) Posted by Picasa

Chinese warships make show of force at protested gas rig

"Five Chinese naval ships, including a guided-missile destroyer, were spotted Friday morning near the Chunxiao gas field in the East China Sea, where Japan and China have a dispute over demarcation, the Maritime Self-Defense Force said."...

It is the first time Japan has spotted Chinese warships near the gas field, although its research ships have often been sighted in those waters, the MSDF said. The ships' mission was unknown....

The ships' sighting comes amid rising bilateral tensions after a Chinese consortium said last month it could begin drilling for natural gas in the field as early as this month despite Japan's calls not to do so.

"We perceive it to be an intentional act, not a chance occurrence," a senior official at the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry reckoned, adding that the matter would be brought up the next time the two nations hold working-level talks on the drilling issue.

Tokyo has called on Beijing to temporarily suspend its gas exploration projects under way in the East China Sea and disclose more information about them.

Japan maintains that the Chunxiao gas field rigs, which are just on China's side of a median line Tokyo claims divides the two nation's exclusive economic zones, are attempting to tap into a field that stretches into Japanese territory.

Tokyo has granted Teikoku Oil Co. rights to tap on Japan's side of the line, which Beijing does not recognize. China claims its EEZ extends almost up to Okinawa to the edge of the continental shelf, encompassing Taiwan.

There are two other Chinese gas rigs in the area.

The Chinese navy has become increasingly active in the East China Sea in recent years....

[bth: the coming clash. China and Japan over energy.]

Slug: Na/GUARD: Date: 09/09/2005: Credit: Michel duCille/TWP: Location: Alexandria, Louisiana. Summary: First Battalion 141 Field Artillery of the Louisiana National Guard from New Orleans who served in Iraq come home to Hurricane Katrina's devastation. Caption: Sgt. Michael Benefield gets a big kiss from his whife Joanna after he arrive from Iraq at the Louisiana National Guard Armory in Alexandria, LA.
StaffPhoto imported to Merlin on Fri Sep 9 18:01:06 2005 Posted by Picasa

Regime change slowly advances along the road to Damascus

... "But in a stunning display of the regime's vulnerability, the Syrian President has aborted the visit. Assad was terrified that he might be indicted while in New York off the back of the inquiry into the Hariri killing conducted by the chief UN investigator, Detlev Mehlis. The dour but dogged German had already fingered four pro-Syrian Lebanese security officials and is now - with the help of the French and other secret services - following the powder trail all the way back to Damascus. This is likely to bring him very close to Assad himself. "

There was a second, connected reason for Assad’s unwillingness to travel at this time: fear of a coup. Some Baathist old stagers are desperately unhappy with his ineptitude. First, overplaying his hand in Lebanon and effectively getting caught — in political terms if not in policing terms — and then being forced to overcompensate by agreeing belatedly to admit UN investigators into Syria.

Some regime figures even worry that a single cruise missile attack — say, on the secret police headquarters — could topple the regime by proving its inability to protect Syrian sovereignty. To stave off such an eventuality, the Baathists have been trying to send out emollient signals: advertising loudly the gun battle between security forces and Muslim radicals in Hama (the old Baathist game of presenting themselves to the West as the only alternative to a theocracy and a useful ally against fundamentalist terror); and, following meetings with Hezbollah representatives, indicating that they urged Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Hezbollah, to hint that he might contemplate disarmament. ...

[bth: this is a fascinating article about instability and uncertainty in Syria. It is worth a full read. I sit and wonder what would happen if the US turned the electricity off in Damascus with cruise missiles targeting their electrical grid whenever insurgents attacked Iraqi oil or electrical systems. I suspect in short order the power would be restored in Baghdad.]

LOCATION--New Orleans Louisiana
CAPTION: Mandatory evacuations take place in New Orleans. Firefighters from Task Force 8 in San Diego CA search for survivors. J.C. Williams (left) from Pueblo County Sherriff's office and Gerald LeRay from Pueblo Police in Colorado, kick in a door to a home where they had info people were still staying
StaffPhoto imported to Merlin on Fri Sep 9 19:07:03 2005 Posted by Picasa

Malaysia ex-PM sparks UK walkout

"His remarks on the Iraq war prompted the British high commissioner and several other diplomats to walk out.

Dr Mahathir said US and UK pilots in Iraq were 'murderers' and compared the war to rocket attacks on Palestinians.

Dr Mahathir, often criticised for his poor human rights record in office, was making the speech at a conference on the subject in Kuala Lumpur.

...He said the UK and the US invaded Iraq on a lie and compared what they had done to Israeli attacks on Palestinians.

The former prime minister accused British and American pilots of returning to base to celebrate after bombing civilians.

"The British and American bomber pilots came, unopposed, safe and cosy in their state of the art aircraft, pressing buttons to drop bombs, to kill and maim.

"And these murderers, for that is what they are, would go back to celebrate 'mission accomplished'.

"Who are the terrorists? The people below who were bombed or the bombers? Whose rights have been snatched away?"

Dr Mahathir also turned on Western human rights campaigners, who he said had ignored the plight of the Iraqi people during a decade of sanctions that followed the first Gulf war.

Half a dozen European diplomats joined the British High Commissioner, Bruce Cleghorn, in walking out.

Mr Cleghorn said: "I found myself listening to abuse and misrepresentation about my country. I therefore left."

A Foreign Office spokesman told BBC News: "We don't believe his [Dr Mahathir's] views represent those of the Malaysian government and we therefore do not think that they will affect our good relations with the Malaysian government."

[bth: Dr. Mahathir has never been a friend of the United States. That such a populated country shares his views is revolting to me.]

Note no one is standing with him in this photo which is odd for signing a piece of legislation. Curious. WASHINGTON - SEPTEMBER 2: President George W. Bush signs a supplemental bill providing relief aid for victims of Hurricane Katrina September 2, 2005 in Washington DC. Bush got a look at the devastion along the Gulf Coast today, before flying back to sign the $10.5 billion package. (Photo by Paul Morse/The White House via Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** George W. Bush Posted by Picasa

IRAQ THE MODEL - Estimating Voter Turnout in Iraq - Oct 15

... "It's worth mentioning that the process of registering the voters has ended and there will be an extra million voter this time with a total of over 15.5 million voters. In Anbar province around 50,000 voters registered their names in the voter's lists in addition to the names that already exist."

[bth: So this usually reliable blog source "Iraq the Model" says there are an additional 1 million registered voters from earlier this year but then he says there are 50,000 new registrants in Anbar (the western Sunni province). This is significant. It means that 95% of the new registrants are likely in Shiite and Kurdish regions likely to vote for the constitution and in the rebellious Sunni regions there has been virtually no increase in voter registration. One the one hand, it should be noted that Sunni clerics were encouraging registration so that they could vote down the agreement and on the other hand, the increase is registration is so small, one wonders what has happened. It appears to me that the Sunnis in the west have largely decided to ignore the election regardless of the results.]

Corps: Reports of Qaim capture are false

"Published reports that al-Qaida forces have taken over the Iraqi city of Qaim are false, a Marine official in Iraq said on Sept. 9.

Witnesses and residents in Qaim, as well as people living in the surrounding villages, said Abu Musab Zarqawi's al-Qaida forces brazenly took control of the city, according to a Sept. 5 Washington Post report."...

But Maj. Neil Murphy, a spokesman for II Marine Expeditionary Force, told Marine Corps Times that reports detailing an all-out al-Qaida takeover in Qaim were a “crock of crap.”...

[bth: curious. The Washington Post isn't a random internet posting. I wonder what is true?]

Holdouts. Posted by Picasa

Guardsmen Return to a Disaster Area

"For the past year, the 256th Brigade of the Louisiana National Guard had lobbed artillery shells at suspected insurgent hideouts in Iraq. It had patrolled the country's dusty highways, losing soldiers to roadside bombs. All the while, its members had dreamed of returning home.

On Friday, some of them did, to be greeted by the governor, tearful and smiling relatives -- and Katrina's devastation."

"We had all kinds of plans to come home and do all kinds of things," said Spec. Kaywon Jones, 24, whose family in New Orleans is either scattered in shelters or missing. "All of your motivation just died because you've got to go and work to help your family get back together."

Among those guardsmen arriving Friday were 100 soldiers, most of whom are assigned to Jackson Barracks, which is on the border between New Orleans's 9th Ward and St. Bernard Parish -- both of which suffered catastrophic damage and numerous deaths in the hurricane.

It's is like going from one war zone to another. New Orleans is an uninhabitable mess, and more than a million Louisiana residents around the state and the nation are in search of new homes, schools and churches....

"We needed to have them home," she said. "We needed them to help rebuild."

Lt. Gen. H. Steven Blum, chief of the National Guard Bureau, who toured disaster areas in coastal Mississippi and Louisiana on Friday, said he is developing troop rotations that would keep as many as 50,000 National Guard troops in the region for four months, if necessary. He said National Guard troops likely would spend 30-day tours in the area, which means as many as 200,000 of the available 319,000 troops currently in the United States could serve in the region by the end of the year....

[BTH: if I read ths right, 2/3rds of this United States National Guard will rotate through New Orleans in the next six months.]

Afghan soldiers in helicopter Posted by Picasa

Saudi says five most-wanted militants killed in protracted battle

"RIYADH - Saudi Arabia said on Thursday that five Al Qaeda suspects on a most-wanted list were killed in a three-day battle with security forces in the eastern city of Dammam, the latest in a series of offensives against the militants.

Four security men also died in the operation, which began with a shootout Sunday in a commercial thoroughfare in the main city of the oil-rich Eastern Province and ended Tuesday with the storming of a militants hideout in another neighborhood."...

IRAQ GILBERT STORY NEWS TRIBUNE photographer Peter Haley rides through the southern gate to Mosul with the advance party from headquarters company of the Army's 62nd Medical Brigade from Ft. Lewis on March 23, 2003. The city was considered barely secure at the time. (Peter Haley/The News Tribune) Posted by Picasa

Coalition Forces Aim to Retake Rebel Town

"TAL AFAR, Iraq (AP) - Iraqi government forces and U.S. troops began a major operation Saturday to retake a northern town largely under rebel control since the 2003 invasion. "...

Troops combed the streets of Tal Afar, using Bradley armored vehicles to smash down walls in a house-to-house search for insurgents. Gunfire could be heard from the Sarai district, the oldest part of the town.

``At 2 a.m. today, acting on my orders, Iraqi forces started an operation to remove all remaining terrorist elements from the city of Tel Afar,'' Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari said in a statement. ``These forces are operating with support from the Multinational Force.''

The town, located on the Euphrates River 260 miles northwest of Baghdad, lies along one of the main infiltration routes from Syria. It has been largely outside the control of occupation forces since the 2003 invasion.

The U.S. military carried out a major campaign in the area a year ago, eventually pulling out to concentrate forces for the assault on the rebel-held town of Fallujah.

The Tal Afar offensive has been expected for several weeks, and the U.S. military has carried out air and artillery strikes in the area. Most of the city's 200,000 people reportedly have fled to the surrounding countryside.

On Friday, the government hinted the operation was imminent, and the U.S. military reported killing 11 insurgents during raids over the past two days.

An estimated 5,000 U.S. and Iraqi troops, mostly members of the 2nd Division from the Kurdish city of Irbil, surrounded Tal Afar. They were reported to be facing several hundred lightly armed guerrillas.

``The terrorist elements being targeted by this operation are guilty of blatant crimes against its people,'' Jafaari's statement said. ``They want to deny the citizens of Tel Afar their future in a democratic and peaceful Iraq. We want to guarantee those rights. These operations are being conducted precisely for that purpose.'' ...

[bth: Note that the Iraqi soldiers are Kurds and Tal Afar is not. Also note we took this town last year, but then left it to the insurgents. They in turn killed those that cooperated with us. We cannot use a sweep technique that then leaves the cities exposed to the return of our enemies. This strategy only kills our allies and ourselves without meaningful gain. If we take a town we must hold it. We do not have enough troops to accomplish this in all locations.]

Friday, September 09, 2005

Giant Ass Posted by Picasa

UN criticizes human rights situation in Iraq ...9/8/2005

"UNITED NATIONS, Sept 8 (KUNA) -- The UN on Thursday sharply criticized the situation of human rights in Iraq saying it continues to give cause for serious concern, it was announced here at the daily press briefing.

Without blaming a particular party in Iraq, Ashraf Qazi, the UN Special envoy for Iraq, said in a bi-monthly report released today that there is a 'continuing concern over the lack of protection of basic human rights in Iraq'.

'Each Iraqi citizen should enjoy the rights and protections stipulated in international treaties and agreements that Iraq has ratified,' he said."...

[bth: this agency largely sat quiet while Saddam murdered Kurds and Shiites. It played a willing hand in the looting of Iraq of cash for almost ten years. It now discovers there are human rights issues in Iraq but as usual will do little or nothing to stop it.]

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Vice President Cheney was told to "go fuck himself" twice on national tv. Bill Millon made this headline with a 'creole' dialect. Posted by Picasa

Whiskey Bar: Good Will Gesture

"Vice President Dick Cheney, in Gulfport, Mississippi on a tour of the Katrina hurricane zone, was told to 'go fuck yourself' twice on live television, RAW STORY has learned.

During a discussion on hurricane relief efforts, an off camera protester shouts, 'Go fuck yourself, Mr. Cheney. Go fuck yourself.'

The camera remains on Cheney while we hear scuffling in the background. Cheney continues speaking."

Poll: Huge Racial Divide Over Katrina and its Consequences; Two-In-Three Critical of Bush's Relief Efforts

"The American public is highly critical of President Bush's handling of Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, according to the latest national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press. Two-in-three Americans (67 percent) believe he could have done more to speed up relief efforts, while just 28 percent think he did all he could to get them going quickly. At the same time, Bush's overall job approval rating has slipped to 40 percent and his disapproval rating has climbed to 52 percent, among the highest for his presidency. Uncharacteristically, the president's ratings have slipped most among his core constituents - Republicans and conservatives.

The disaster has triggered a major shift in public priorities. For the first time since the 9/11 terror attacks, a majority of American say it is more important for the president to focus on domestic policy than the war on terrorism. And the poll finds that Katrina has had a profound psychological impact on the public. Americans are depressed, angry and very worried about the economic consequences of the disaster. Fully 58 percent of respondents say they have felt depressed because of what's happened in areas affected by the storm. In recent years, this percentage is only surpassed by the 71 percent that reported feeling depressed in a survey taken just days after the Sept. 11 attacks.

The national survey , conducted Sept. 6-7 among 1,000 Americans, including an oversample of African Americans, finds a huge racial divide in perceptions of the disaster and lessons to be learned from Katrina's aftermath. For example, 71 percent of blacks say the disaster shows that racial inequality remains a major problem in the country; a majority of whites (56 percent) feel this was not a particularly important lesson of the disaster. And while 66 percent of blacks think that the government’s response to the crisis would have been faster if most of the storm’s victims had been white, an even larger percentage of whites (77 percent) disagree.

The survey finds that while the hurricane has drawn broad public attention, spiraling gas prices have attracted as much interest as reports on the storm’s impact. Roughly seven-in-ten are paying close attention to each story (71 percent gas prices, 70 percent hurricane’s impact). That represents the highest level of interest in gas prices in the two decades of Pew’s News Interest Index.

Fafblog Presents: The Do-It-Yourself Emergency Management Guide!

"If you're gettin worried that the government won't be there to help you out durin the next hurricane or earthquake or terrorist attack, don't panic! Fafblog is here with our Do-It-Yourself Emergency Management Guide! Today we're gonna show you how to get through a major disaster just usin stuff you've got lyin around the home.

You will need:

construction paper

glue or glue sticks

a can of baking soda

some play-doh (optional)

200 gallons of distilled water and 100 pounds of canned food

Make-And-Bake Clay Levee!

Make flood prevention easy AND fun with this emergency arts and crafts project!

1. Mix some cornstarch, baking soda, and water in a large bowl. Make sure it's evenly mixed!
2. Cook over low heat, stirring for about 15 minutes
3. When your mixture starts to thicken, take it off the stove and let it cool
4. Mold into an 8 foot high 20 foot wide levee
5. Decorate with seashells and macaroni!

How to Make a Paper Helicopter

For a quick homemade evacuation you just can't beat a paper helicopter. Make one on your own with the ancient Japanese folding art of oragami! Instructional drawings below. Follow closely!"

Ta-da! For best results crease edges sharply. Carries up to four passengers weighing half an ounce each or eight passengers weighing a quarter ounce each.

Do-It-Yourself National Guard!

First get some old socks. Sew on some buttons for the eyes. Use yarn for the hair but keep it trimmed short on accounta disipline! Add some felt uniforms for a touch a flair. The striped sock is the sergeant, he is gruff but loyal. The fancy dress sock is the general, he commands the others with his fabricky leadership skills! The white running sock is the medic, he doubles as a bandage when you get hit by falling rubble. Now you're all set to be escorted out of the disaster zone with your new puppet pals! Be careful, though: they're armed... with imagination.

The Fafblog Terrorist Voting Guide

"Ayman al-Zawahiri:

STRONGEST CAMPAIGN ISSUES: Tort reform, faith-based initiatives

GAY MARRIAGE: Supports constitutional amendment banning gay marriage; supports civil unions.

WOMEN'S RIGHTS: Opposes Roe v Wade on strict constructionist grounds; also calls for the mandatory wearing of burkas and the execution of adulteresses."

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi:

STRONGEST CAMPAIGN ISSUES: Tax reform, faith-based initiatives

GAY MARRIAGE: Supports constitutional amendment banning gay marriage; does not support civil unions.

WOMEN'S RIGHTS: Opposes Roe v Wade on strict constructionist grounds; supports the amputation of all female limbs not strictly required for procreation.

John al-Kerry:
STRONGEST CAMPAIGN ISSUES: Health care reform, weakening America in the fight against terror

GAY MARRIAGE: John al-Kerry opposes gay marriage but would leave this issue to the states, while weakening America in the fight against terror.

WOMEN'S RIGHTS: John al-Kerry would only appoint Supreme Court justices who would uphold the Roe decision and weaken America in the fight against terror.

Reflection on a peace vigil. Posted by Picasa

Afghanistan. 173rd airborne. 2005. 2nd Platoon, Charlie Co. 1-508th. Posted by Picasa

Navy: Iraqis Know MIA Pilot's Whereabouts

[bth: I'll bet money there is some link between getting information from Saddam's former regime and Saddam's upcoming trial. They will want to negotiate with the Americans before he is handed over to the Shiites. I feel sorry for the Speicher family which has been jerked around by the Iraqi government of Saddam and our own. I would encourage Sec. England to keep the faith with this family.]

"A Navy pilot shot down over Iraq in January 1991 may have been captured by Iraqi forces, and members of the former Iraqi government 'know the whereabouts' of the officer, the Navy has concluded.

A Navy board of inquiry concluded that there is no credible evidence that Capt. Michael 'Scott' Speicher is dead, and it reaffirmed his official status as 'missing/captured,' according to the board's final report.

The board also recommended that the Pentagon work with the State Department, the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad and the Iraqi government to 'increase the level of attention and effort inside Iraq' to resolve the question of Speicher's fate.
Navy Secretary Gordon England approved the report on Wednesday, according to Lt. Erin Bailey, a Navy spokeswoman.

The Iraqi government under President Saddam Hussein maintained from the start that Speicher perished at the site where his F/A-18 fighter jet crashed in the desert. No evidence to contradict that has surfaced since the fall of Baghdad in April 2003, but the new Navy inquiry concluded there was no credible evidence of his death, either.
'In view of the above findings, the board concludes as to the current whereabouts and status of the person that the person missing/captured,' the report said. A copy of the report was provided to The Associated Press.

After the fall of Baghdad, a team of U.S. investigators searched for evidence of Speicher's fate, but reported finding nothing conclusive.

The board of inquiry noted that years after the shootdown, which happened on the opening night of the 1991 Gulf War, the Iraqi government turned over a flight suit and other items associated with Speicher's aircraft.

That fact "leads us to conclude that elements of the former Iraqi regime know the whereabouts of Captain Speicher," the report said.

The board of inquiry also said that a March 2005 U.S. intelligence report on the Speicher case contained unanswered questions, and it recommended that a POW/MIA analytical cell continue its efforts to resolve those questions. It did not provide details on this, noting that the March report is classified secret.

The Navy has changed its position on Speicher's status over the years. Hours after his plane went down, the Pentagon declared him killed in action. Ten years later, the Navy changed his status to MIA, citing an absence of evidence that he had died. In October 2002, the Navy switched his status to "missing-captured," although it has never said what evidence it had that he was in captivity.

A Pentagon team assigned to search for evidence of Speicher after the fall of Baghdad completed its efforts in May 2004. In congressional testimony shortly afterward, Marine Brig. Gen. Joseph J. McMenamin, who led the search team, said all in-country leads regarding the pilot's fate had been exhausted.

McMenamin also said, however, that some leads could not be fully pursued because of the security threat from the Iraq insurgency. Another problem, he said, was that nomadic Bedouin tribesmen who may have information of value are difficult to find. And some who might have information about Speicher may be intimidated by the threat of retribution by members of the former Saddam regime who are still at large.

M1117 produced by Textron in New Orleans Posted by Picasa

$129.4M for more M1117 Guardian ASVs - from New Orleans Firm - orison_mc

"Textron Marine & Land Systems in New Orleans, LA was awarded on Aug. 31, 2005, a $129.4 million modification to a firm-fixed-price contract for M1117 'Guardian' Armored Security Vehicles, which are well regarded by military police in Iraq as improved alternatives to the up-armored Hummers. See this post for key DID coverage of the M1117, and we also have a link for all of DID's M1117 ASV-related coverage.

Even before this modification, contracts from the US military had already exceeded 1,000 M1117s at aproximately $700,000 per vehicle. Bell Textron subsidiary Cadillac Gage was working hard to ramp production back up and cope with this flood of orders, after pre-war budget cuts in 2002 had put a large crimp in the program. Unfortunately, this flood of orders has now been followed by a flood of a different kind. Work on all M1117 contracts is performed at Textron Marine & Land Systems sole location... New Orleans, LA.

The corporate recovery status page states, however, that 'At this time, no TM&L employee should attempt to travel to the facilities, until they are deemed safe.' That could take quite a while, and may push this and other M1117-related contracts past the target end date. This particular contract was originally intended to be complete on June 30, 2007, and was a sole source contract initiated on June 14, 2005 by the U.S. Army Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command in Warren, MI (W56HZV-05-C-0470)."

[bth: this program was actually canceled by the Army in 2003. It was resurrected from the dead in 2004. These are excellent vehicles for convoys and MPs. 1000 vehicles already contracted is a tremendous effort and program. Regrettably their plant is now damaged by the hurricane and flooding. I feel confident that Textron will get this up and running asap.]

Helicopters in Afghanistan. Note mud and stone compound in the distance. Posted by Picasa

Saudi says five most-wanted militants killed in protracted battle

"RIYADH - Saudi Arabia said on Thursday that five Al Qaeda suspects on a most-wanted list were killed in a three-day battle with security forces in the eastern city of Dammam, the latest in a series of offensives against the militants.

Four security men also died in the operation, which began with a shootout Sunday in a commercial thoroughfare in the main city of the oil-rich Eastern Province and ended Tuesday with the storming of a militants hideout in another neighborhood.

The five Al Qaeda suspects were Zaid Al Samari, Saleh Al Fraidi, Sultan Al Haseri, Nayef Al Jeheishi and Mohammad Al Suwailmi, all Saudis, some of whom took part in attacks against Westerners last year, the interior ministry said in a statement read on state television.

They all figured on a list of 36 most-wanted militants issued by the ministry in June."...

Iraqi Military: 200 Insurgents Arrested

"U.S. and Iraqi forces have encircled the insurgent stronghold of Tal Afar, and Iraqi authorities on Thursday announced the arrest of 200 suspected insurgents there - most of them foreign fighters.

The Iraqi military said 150 of those arrested Wednesday in this town near the Syrian border were Arabs from Syria, Sudan, Yemen and Jordan."...

Probe: Saddam's Regime Pocketed $10.2B

"A yearlong investigation of the U.N. oil-for-food program issued a strong indictment of the United Nations and its top leadership Wednesday, concluding they tolerated corruption and allowed Saddam Hussein's government to pocket $10.2 billion.

Secretary-General Kofi Annan called the findings ``deeply embarrassing to all of us'' and said he accepted the criticism leveled at him personally. But he said he had no intention of resigning. "...

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

One small step for New Orleans. Excellent. Some lights came on due to some clever engineers. Read the article below. Posted by Picasa

Hurricane Katrina - Engineers turn to air-con plant for electricity source

"Louisiana engineers were on Wednesday on the brink of turning the lights back on in New Orleans in an imaginative plan to use the emergency generator of an air conditioning plant."

Operation Jump Start New Orleans entails jerry-rigging the air-conditioning plant’s huge diesel-powered backup generator to provide enough power to light and air condition several large hospital, administrative and dormitory buildings.

Some of the generator’s power will be rerouted to buildings that will be used to house emergency workers, National Guard troops, the US Army Corps of Engineers and federal agencies.

A triage medical centre and temporary shelter could also be up and running within days. Many of the buildings are connected by an elevated walkway.

The backup generator had worked throughout the hurricane to provide air conditioning to the Louisiana State University Medical Center and several other medical buildings. It survived the flooding without damage. Since then, however, the buildings it supplied have been evacuated.

That changed when the Jump Start plan was hatched by Bengt Järlsjö, a vice-president at the Shaw Group, the engineering and construction company, and the man who designed the plant for Entergy seven years ago. It took less than a day for Entergy, the local utility, and Louisiana State University to get on board.

“You want to provide hope. That New Orleans is alive, not dead,” said Mr Järlsjö, who is Shaw’s vice-president of project development, concepts and solutions. “Think of it in concentric circles. You start getting the plant up and running; you get a small centre up; get command and control up; get the medical facilities up – the emergency room – and then start opening up living quarters.”

The 8MW plant has 40,000 gallons of diesel fuel on site and can provide air conditioning and electricity for 2m sq ft.

Other potential power sources are now beginning to emerge. A.J. Finnin, a New Orleans engineer who consults utilities, hospitals and universities, pointed to possibilities at the University of New Orleans, Tulane University and Xavier University. “What we are looking for are three things: You need a site with potential. One of the things all of these sites have is dormitories to put workers in. Second, can these sites make electricity? Third, is their cooling system operable?” he said.

Also important, but more easily securable, are clean water, proper sewage and communication capabilities. “If you have power you can get all these,” he said.

Tulane fits all three criteria and the other universities have dorms, cooling systems, but no power generation on site. But, providing the cooling systems have not been too damaged by the hurricane and flood, Mr Finnin said power generation could be secured within the time it took to truck generators in.

[bth: outstanding!]

New Orleans Posted by Picasa

Anonymous Donor Thanks America for Rescue

"WASHINGTON -- The anonymous donor turned up at a U.S. diplomatic office and presented an envelope with 1,000 euros (about $1,245) for Hurricane Katrina relief efforts.

It was a way of repaying a debt to the United States for being liberated by American soldiers from a concentration camp and treated more than 60 years ago, Sean McCormack, the State Department spokesman, said Wednesday in relating the incident.

The donor was 90 years old, but that is all McCormack would say by way of identification. 'This is a person who is not seeking any publicity for this act _ which in the time we live makes it even more extraordinary,' he said.

'This is a selfless act by somebody who is repaying what they felt was a deeply felt debt of gratitude to the United States,' the spokesman said.

This is one of many stories from around the world of individuals being very generous with the American people at a time of need, McCormack said.

"It's extraordinary," he said.

Afghan widow. Posted by Picasa

Search for "terror tunnels"in North Waziristan

"MIRAMSHAH, Sept 6: Security forces on Tuesday mounted a search operation in Zoi Naray and Kund Gher area of North Waziristan Agency after cordoning off several residential compounds near the Afghan border, sources said.

Regular and paramilitary forces in collaboration with tribal elders took part in the operation. Until late Tuesday evening there were no reports of any arrests.

An official told Dawn that the operation was launched following reports about the existence of tunnels and bunkers in the hilly area adjacent to Afghanistan's Paktika province.

The official cited intelligence reports as saying that these tunnels and bunkers were being used for terrorist activities in the area.

These facilities were once used by the Mujahideen in their battle against Soviet troops in Afghanistan."

1st Lt. Derek Hines. Killed in action. Afghanistan Sept. 2005. Lt. Hines will be buried in Newburyport, MA on Friday. Posted by Picasa

FEMA Blocks Photos of New Orleans Dead

"NEW YORK Forced to defend what some critics consider its slow response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, the Federal Emergency Management Agency said on Tuesday it does not want the news media to take photographs of the dead as they are recovered from New Orleans.

FEMA, which is leading the rescue efforts, rejected requests from journalists to accompany rescue boats as they went out to search for storm victims, Reuters reported.

A FEMA spokeswoman told the wire service that space was need on the rescue boats and assured Reuters that 'the recovery of the victims is being treated with dignity and the utmost respect.'

'We have requested that no photographs of the deceased be made by the media,' the spokeswoman told Reuters via e-mail."

These firemen were flown down from Atlanta to stand next to the President for a photo shoot. See the article below for shocking details. FEMA has 1000 firefighters being trained to hand out brochures instead of searching for victims. Its nuts. Posted by Picasa