Saturday, June 09, 2007

Army agrees to test Dragon Skin body armor, reports -

Army agrees to test Dragon Skin body armor - Military News, Army News, opinions, editorials, news from Iraq, photos, reports - Army Times: "The Army will test Dragon Skin vests – along with products from any other bidder – if the maker of the controversial flexible body armor submits its product to a request for proposal that’s open until late July, officials said Wednesday on Capitol Hill."

During an almost five-hour hearing in front of the House Armed Services Committee, Lt. Gen. Ross Thompson, military deputy to the assistant secretary of the Army for acquisition, logistics and technology, and representatives from each of the other services testified about the merits of the Interceptor body armor worn by all service members.

Also testifying Wednesday were Murray Neal, chief executive officer of Pinnacle Armor Inc., the maker of Dragon Skin, and Philip Coyle, a senior adviser at the Center for Defense Information who served as a witness for a test commissioned by NBC that the news agency said shows Dragon Skin is superior to the Interceptor.

The NBC report, which aired May 20, prompted lawmakers to call Wednesday’s hearing.

“Recent media reports have suggested that we may not be providing the best body armor available,” Rep. Ike Skelton, chairman of the committee, said in his opening statement. “We’re here today to gain a better understanding of the facts and to reassure our constituents that our goal remains ensuring that their sons and daughters are being provided the best body armor available.”

Neal, who was on the first panel of the day, was grilled by lawmakers for three hours.

“The bottom line for me ... is Dragon Skin is the best body armor in the world,” he testified.

Neal insisted during and after the hearing that all he wants is a fair, unbiased test to show what his product can do.

“Despite all the high emotions, I think the House Armed Services Committee will do the right thing and do a third-party validation,” he said. “That’s all we’re looking for. As I always say, the proof is in the pudding. At the end of the day the third-party will prove what’s going on.”

The Army’s RFP is for “any and all offers” from manufacturers who believe they can improve on the Enhanced Small Arms Protective Inserts and Enhanced Side Ballistic Inserts now worn by soldiers, Thompson said.

“If Pinnacle wants to be evaluated they have to respond to the RFP,” he said. “Otherwise it won’t be fair to the other [competitors] if we test Pinnacle even though they don’t respond to the RFP.”

Brig. Gen. Mark Brown, commander of Program Executive Office Soldier, who oversees all body armor development for the Army, said the Interceptor has proven itself in tests and in combat.

But he added the Army is always looking for ways to improve body armor.

“We’re very interested in flexible body armor and Pinnacle is one of the leading [companies] but it’s not ready yet,” he said.

[bth: what's needed is independent testing - there is reason to think that the army tests are skewed.]
MountainRunner: "Victory smiles upon those who anticipate the changes in the character of war, not upon those who wait to adapt themselves after the changes occur.
—Giulio Douhet "

U.S. Soldier's Creed

U.S. Soldier's Creed - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:
I will always place the mission first.
I will never accept defeat.
I will never quit.
I will never leave a fallen comrade.

Yipee Kay Yaaaaaayyy

Jon Soltz: Peter Pace is Out. Good.

Jon Soltz: Peter Pace is Out. Good. - Politics on The Huffington Post: "General Peter Pace was let go today as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. That's a good thing. But the administration has tolerated his poor performance for too long, and dismissed him fearing his anticipated reconfirmation hearing would be ugly."

If the administration was hoping to avoid answering the tough questions, by avoiding a reconfirmation hearing for Pace, they can forget it.

General Pace grossly overstepped his bounds and poorly represented the military with his political actions and misguided statements.

The straw that broke the camel's back, for us, was his defense of a convicted felon, Scooter Libby, when it was entirely improper for him to do so, as a top leader in the military, who must remain non-partisan.

General Pace has made a number of other missteps that reflected poorly on the military as of late:

On Memorial Day, Pace seemed to defend the President's failed policy by deliberating fudging American death numbers from Iraq to sound not as high as they really are.

On March 11, Pace chose to publicly air his personal views on homosexuality, calling the lifestyle "immoral," and said that was justification for the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy on gays openly serving.

In today's press conference announcing the move, Secretary of Defense Gates maintained that one of the reasons for letting Pace go was to avoid a contentious reconfirmation hearing. They won't avoid the tough questions, if VoteVets.org has anything to do with it.

This president has to, and will, be held accountable. It doesn't matter how many people they let go. Congress has a job to do, and we expect that they will do it. We'll be there to be sure they do.

Friday, June 08, 2007

America looks for ways to fight its worst enemy: IEDs

The Daily Star - Opinion Articles - America looks for ways to fight its worst enemy: IEDs: "The photographs gathered by The Washington Post each month in a gallery called 'Faces of the Fallen' are haunting. The soldiers are so young, enlisted men and women mostly, usually dressed in the uniforms they wore in Iraq and Afghanistan. What's striking is that most of them were killed by the roadside bombs known as 'improvised explosive devices,' or IEDs."

The United States is losing the war in Iraq because it cannot combat these makeshift weapons. An army with unimaginable firepower is being driven out by guerillas armed with a crude arsenal of explosives and blasting caps, triggered by cell phones and garage-door openers. This is Gulliver's torment, circa 2007. The US has thrown its money and technology at the problem, with limited effect. The Pentagon in 2004 created a special task force known as the Joint IED Defeat Organization (or JIEDDO, in Pentagon-ese). It has spent $6.3 billion and assembled a staff of nearly 400, but every day more of our brave young people die, and we seem unable to stop it.

"Once the bomb is made, it's too late," says Representative Ellen Tauscher, a member of the House Armed Services Committee who has studied the IED problem. She says the best hope is to disrupt the money and supplies that allow the bombs to be constructed.

Low-tech seems to trump high-tech. The military is now operating nearly 5,000 robots in Iraq and Afghanistan, compared to 150 in 2004. The latest model, known as "Fido," has a digital nose that can sniff explosives. Yet the bombs are so cheap and easy to make, and the robot sniffers are so expensive and finicky to operate, that the cost-benefit ratio seems to work in favor of the insurgents.

We have dozens of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) over Iraq at any given time, monitoring highways and ammunition dumps and suspected terrorists. And we have many hundreds of additional sensors, adding more data. But the flow of this intelligence information is now so vast that it overwhelms our ability to analyze it. We need new machines to explain what the existing machines are seeing, at still more expense.

Someday, perhaps, the Pentagon will track and target bombers by identifying biological tags - smells or DNA traces that are unique signatures. Someday, we will be able to examine the microbes on an insurgent's skin or in his gut to find out if he was trained in Iran or the Bekaa Valley or Afghanistan. But in a world with an ever-expanding supply of suicide bombers, will such technology make any difference?

The insurgents who kill our young soldiers are ruthless, but we have sometimes been cautious in our response. Take the question of targeting bomb-makers: There may be an unlimited supply of explosives in Iraq, but there is not an unlimited supply of people who know how to wire the detonators. In 2004, CIA operatives in Iraq believed they had identified the signatures of 11 different bomb-makers. They proposed a diabolical - but potentially effective - sabotage program that would have flooded Iraq with booby-trapped detonators designed to explode in the bomb-makers' hands. But the CIA's general counsel's office said no. The lawyers claimed the agency lacked authority for such an operation, one source recalled.

There are technologies that would allow American soldiers to detonate every roadside bomb in Iraq by heating the wires in the detonators to the point that they triggered an explosion. But these systems could severely harm civilians in the area, so we're not using them, either. "We are constrained by the environment we're in, and by the issue of collateral damage," says Tauscher.

We wrote the book for the insurgents, in a sense. By arming and training the mujahideen in Afghanistan to fight the Soviets in the 1980s, we created the modern dynamics of asymmetric warfare. That extends even to the fearsome armor-piercing "explosively formed penetrators," or EFPs, which we have accused the Iranians of supplying to Iraqi insurgents. The CIA referred to these tank busters as "platter charges," back when we were covertly helping provide them to the Afghan rebels.

The simple, low-tech answer to the IED threat is to reduce the number of targets - by getting our troops off the streets during vulnerable daylight hours, to the extent possible. It's an interesting fact that very few IED attacks have been suffered by our elite Special Forces units, which attack Al-Qaeda cells and Shiite death squads mostly at night, with devastating force. They blow in from nowhere and are gone minutes later, before the enemy can start shooting. That's the kind of asymmetry that evens the balance in Iraq and Afghanistan.


Syndicated columnist David Ignatius is published regularly by THE DAILY STAR.

Gingrich Warns of GOP Losses in 2008

My Way News - Gingrich Warns of GOP Losses in 2008: "WASHINGTON (AP) - Republican Newt Gingrich, in a jab at President Bush, warned on Friday that the GOP will lose the White House and Congress in 2008 if the nominee is perceived as a continuation of the Bush presidency."

Addressing a conservative organization, the former House Speaker never mentioned the president by name, but his political point was clear.

"If the Republicans run a stand-pat presidential candidate who ends up being on defense for all of September and October and who is seen by the country as representing four more years, the fact is that Republicans are not going to" win, Gingrich told the American Enterprise Institute....

[bth: Gingrich is right, but this doesn't just apply to Republicans - Democrats have either got to become an agent of change, or they will be viewed as part of the problem.]

Bush mantra: Be afraid, be very afraid

McClatchy Washington Bureau | 06/06/2007 | Bush mantra: Be afraid, be very afraid: "The Democrats in Congress wring their hands, gnash their teeth and wail that there was nothing they could do but cave in and vote to continue funding the war in Iraq. After all, that crafty George W. Bush had maneuvered them into a corner and they didn't have the votes to override his veto. "

Horse manure.


All they had to do was keep passing a war funding bill with a hard-and-fast timetable for beginning - and ending - the complete withdrawal of the more than 150,000 American troops fighting in that far-away place. Over and over and over, throwing it back into the face of a president who mistakes stubborn and hardheaded for principled resolve.


If that president continued to veto all the bills Congress sent to him, the money eventually would run out, although with a Defense Department budget of half a trillion dollars a year the administration could and probably would keep robbing Peter to pay Paul until both Peter and Paul were broke.


By which time it should be apparent to all who the real problem was and where the blame properly rested for failing to provide the money for an orderly end to the war that George W. Bush started and is determined will not end in his lifetime or ours.


Texas friends of the president told columnist Georgie Ann Geyer that it's the president's intention to arrange things so that his successors for half a century will never be able to pull out of Iraq. That George W. Bush intends that his blighted and bloody legacy of an unnecessary war that's hurt us more than it's hurt our enemies will continue, just as America's more rational and less costly commitment in Korea has continued.


Throwing a wrench into such misguided machinery isn't all that hard when you have check-writing authority. All it takes is courage and integrity and an absence of fear. Alas, that was lacking on Capitol Hill when the Democratic leadership, or what passes for such, cratered and caved.


Their eye is on the 2008 presidential elections, and their fear is that the White House spinmeister Karl Rove will portray the Democratic nominee and all Democrats as soft on terror; will accuse them of stabbing the American troops in the back.


The operative word here is "FEAR" and fear is the true legacy that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney and their neo-conservative chickenhawk corps will leave behind them.


They've instilled fear in the American people, beginning the day after 9/11, and they've played it like a Wurlitzer organ every day since then. Every time bad news looms on their horizon, up goes the red flag. Or the orange flag. Or the yellow flag. The national terror threat alert system became a 24/7 traffic light, except that it never turns green.

Whenever the truth threatens to intrude on the White House pipe dreams, suddenly the Federal Bureau of Investigation seems to uncover another huge and scary terrorist plot. A dirty bomb to be planted in the heart of an American city. A plot to bring down the Brooklyn Bridge with a blowtorch. Another plot to blow up Chicago's premier skyscraper. A plan for steely eyed killers disguised as pizza delivery boys to attack Fort Dix, N.J., and kill American soldiers.


The latest: A plot to blow up the jet fuel pipeline to John F. Kennedy Airport.


Dangerous enemies are out there, but at the heart of all these journeys into darkness were bumbling fools without money, weapons or even a mastermind. Without everything but an FBI informant keeping them talking for a year or so.


Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in the darkest days of the Depression, declared that the American people had nothing to fear but fear itself. The only thing George W. Bush apparently fears is the absence of fear.


Just as they believe that a lie repeated often enough will somehow become the truth (ask Vice President Cheney about Iraq's non-existent alliance with al-Qaeda for example), so also do they apparently believe that if they cry "wolf" often enough most Americans will willingly trade their freedoms for the illusion of security. That such a deal usually results in the victims ending up with neither freedom nor security seems lost in this transaction.


This administration has injected fear into the American people; into much of the media, whose duty it is to speak truth to power, not cower before the powerful; into a mighty nation's foreign policy; and now even into the Democratic majority in Congress.

Fear saps the will and decision-making power of humans. Fear blurs all that is good and decent, and blinds us to evil being done in our name.

Enough is enough. We have lived for more than six years in fear of our neighbors, fear of a world turned hostile by the words and actions of our own leaders, fear of a future that once was a bright and shining dream.

What we must do is give up fear for the 600-odd days that remain in this president's lease on the White House. As those old bumper stickers declared: NO FEAR! We can be, we must be, alert, on guard and observant because there are evildoers in this world. We need not be foolhardy - but we must be clear-eyed and clear-headed and determined that never again will we be manipulated by a crew of cynical politicians who know only how to hate, not how to love.


No fear!


---


ABOUT THE WRITER


Joseph L. Galloway is former senior military correspondent for Knight Ridder Newspapers and co-author of the national best-seller "We Were Soldiers Once ... and Young." Readers may write to him at: P.O. Box 399, Bayside, Texas 78340; e-mail: jlgalloway2@cs.com.

[bth: as usual Mr. Galloway is spot on.]
 
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Bushed Army - Our forces strain under a surge of new missions.

Bushed Army: "by Andrew J. Bacevich
Courting the soldier vote during the 2000 presidential campaign, the candidate made this simple promise: “Help is on the way.” Throughout the 1990s, Republicans had regularly lambasted the Clinton administration for misusing America’s military and for failing to show soldiers proper respect. Electing George W. Bush was supposed to fix that."

The electoral strategy paid off handsomely: the absentee votes of soldiers helped Bush carry Florida and claim the Oval Office. Yet rather than delivering help, the Bush administration has since subjected the Armed Forces of the United States to sustained abuse. The scandal at Walter Reed is not some isolated blemish on an otherwise admirable record. It is emblematic of the way that this administration has treated soldiers.

Granted, President Bush never passes up the chance to pose with the troops or express his warm regard for those who serve and sacrifice. But to judge by results rather than posturing, no commander in chief in American history has cared less about the overall health of America’s Armed Forces.

President Bush will hand over to his successor an Army and Marine Corps that are badly depleted and verging on exhaustion. The real surge is not the one that involves sending more U.S. troops to Baghdad. It is the tidal wave of unsustainable demands that are now engulfing America’s ground forces.

Last year retired Gen. Colin Powell declared that the Army is “about broken.” A growing chorus of other senior officers, active and retired, has chimed in, endorsing Powell’s view. Unless the Bush administration finds ways to ease the strain, retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey recently told a Senate committee, “The Army will unravel.” Lt. Gen. Clyde A. Vaughn, chief of the Army National Guard, complains, “we have absolutely piecemealed our force to death.”

There is plenty of evidence to support these gloomy assessments. Only a third of the regular Army’s brigades qualify as combat-ready. In the reserve components, none meet that standard. When the last of the units reaches Baghdad as part of the president’s strategy of escalation, the U.S. will be left without a ready-to-deploy land force reserve.

The stress of repeated combat tours is sapping the Army’s lifeblood. Especially worrying is the accelerating exodus of experienced leaders. The service is currently short 3,000 commissioned officers. By next year, the number is projected to grow to 3,500. The Guard and reserves are in even worse shape. There the shortage amounts to 7,500 officers. Young West Pointers are bailing out of the Army at a rate not seen in three decades. In an effort to staunch the losses, that service has begun offering a $20,000 bonus to newly promoted captains who agree to stay on for an additional three years. Meanwhile, as more and more officers want out, fewer and fewer want in: ROTC scholarships go unfilled for a lack of qualified applicants.

To sustain the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Pentagon has resorted to a variety of management techniques, all of which have the effect of increasing the strains on the force and watering down its quality. In April, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates ordered the standard combat tours of Army units extended from 12 months to 15. More time in the combat zone means less time to refit and retrain between tours and to reconnect with families.

As the Army depletes its inventory of equipment—some $212 billion worth has been destroyed, damaged, or just plain worn out—the best of what’s left ends up in Iraq and Afghanistan. One consequence is that units preparing to deploy don’t have the wherewithal needed to train. As military analyst Andrew Krepinevich told the Senate Armed Services Committee, “The Army is forced to play a shell game with its equipment.” The problem is especially acute in National Guard and reserve units, some now being activated for second combat tours.

There’s also a second shell game. The Army is incrementally easing its recruiting standards, enlisting thousands of volunteers that the service would previously have classified as unfit. Last year, the Army raised its maximum enlistment age from 35 to 40 and then to 42. The percentage of high school drop-outs entering the force has reached its highest level since 1981. The number of “CAT IV’s”—potential recruits scoring at the lower end of the military’s standardized aptitude test —has also spiked. Perhaps most troubling is the increase in “moral waivers” issued to would-be recruits with criminal records, a history of drug use, and the like. Between 2005 and 2006, the number of waivers that the Army issued to convicted felons jumped by 30 percent.

Once you get in, there’s next to no chance of washing out. Whereas in 2005, the graduation rate in Army basic training was 82 percent, the following year it rose to 94 percent—a clear indication that training standards are eroding as the war drags on. Similarly, re-enlistment criteria are becoming more lax. The Pentagon proudly reports that each of the services continues to meet its re-up goals (helped, of course, by the offer of generous bonuses that are tax-free if the soldier re-enlists while overseas). By comparison, it does not broadcast the fact that the services meet those goals by permitting those with disciplinary infractions and mediocre records of performance to re-enlist.

Secretary Gates has announced plans to expand both the Army and the Marine Corps. That expansion will be modest—fewer than 100,000 overall—and it will occur over a five-year period, providing no meaningful relief to the troops currently headed back to the war zone for their second, third, and even fourth tours. Almost certainly, recruiting those additional troops will mean an even greater degradation of enlistment standards.

President Bush has nickeled and dimed the nation’s fighting forces to the verge of collapse. Even today he remains oblivious to the basic problem that his administration has confronted for the past four years—too much war and too few soldiers.

The president’s attitude seems to be: sure, the military is overstretched, but let’s see if we can stretch it just a little bit more. Perhaps he figures that when the rubber band breaks, dealing with the consequences will be someone else’s problem. It’s almost enough to make one nostalgic for Bill Clinton.
____________________________________________

Andrew J. Bacevich is professor of history and international relations at Boston University.

June 4, 2007 Issue

[bth: Bacevich's comments are accurate. The current war is unsustainable. Murtha told me in May that the tours will go to 18 months.]

If You Think Bush Is Evil Now, Wait Until He Nukes Iran - by Paul Craig Roberts

If You Think Bush Is Evil Now, Wait Until He Nukes Iran - by Paul Craig Roberts: "The war in Iraq is lost. This fact is widely recognized by American military officers and has been recently expressed forcefully by Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq during the first year of the attempted occupation. Winning is no longer an option. Our best hope, Sanchez says, is "to stave off defeat," and that requires more intelligence and leadership than Sanchez sees in the entirety of our national political leadership: "I am absolutely convinced that America has a crisis in leadership at this time."

More evidence that the war is lost arrived June 4 with headlines reporting that "U.S.-led soldiers control only about a third of Baghdad, the military said on Monday." After five years of war the U.S. controls one-third of one city and nothing else.

A host of U.S. commanding generals have said that the Iraq war is destroying the U.S. military. A year ago Colin Powell said that the U.S. Army is "about broken." Lt. Gen. Clyde Vaughn says Bush has "piecemealed our force to death." Gen. Barry McCaffrey testified to the U.S. Senate that "the Army will unravel."

Col. Andy Bacevich, America's foremost writer on military affairs, documents in the current issue of The American Conservative that Bush's insane war has depleted and exhausted the U.S. Army and Marine Corps:

"Only a third of the regular Army's brigades qualify as combat-ready. In the reserve components, none meet that standard. When the last of the units reaches Baghdad as part of the president's strategy of escalation, the U.S. will be left without a ready-to-deploy land force reserve.

"The stress of repeated combat tours is sapping the Army's lifeblood. Especially worrying is the accelerating exodus of experienced leaders. The service is currently short 3,000 commissioned officers. By next year, the number is projected to grow to 3,500. The Guard and reserves are in even worse shape. There the shortage amounts to 7,500 officers. Young West Pointers are bailing out of the Army at a rate not seen in three decades. In an effort to staunch the losses, that service has begun offering a $20,000 bonus to newly promoted captains who agree to stay on for an additional three years. Meanwhile, as more and more officers want out, fewer and fewer want in: ROTC scholarships go unfilled for a lack of qualified applicants."

Bush has taken every desperate measure. Enlistment ages have been pushed up from 35 to 42. The percentage of high school dropouts and the number of recruits scoring at the bottom end of tests have spiked. The U.S. military is forced to recruit among drug users and convicted criminals. Bacevich reports that wavers "issued to convicted felons jumped by 30 percent." Combat tours have been extended from 12 to 15 months, and the same troops are being deployed again and again.

There is no equipment for training. Bacevich reports that "some $212 billion worth has been destroyed, damaged, or just plain worn out." What remains is in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Under these circumstances, "staying the course" means total defeat.

Even the neoconservative warmongers, who deceived Americans with the promise of a "cakewalk war" that would be over in six weeks, believe that the war is lost. But they have not given up. They have a last desperate plan: Bomb Iran. Vice President Dick Cheney is spearheading the neocon plan, and Norman Podhoretz is the plan's leading propagandist with his numerous pleas published in the Wall Street Journal and Commentary to bomb Iran. Podhoretz, like every neoconservative, is a total Islamophobe. Podhoretz has written that Islam must be deracinated and destroyed, a genocide for the Muslim people.

The neocons think that by bombing Iran the U.S. will provoke Iran to arm the Shi'ite militias in Iraq with armor-piercing rocket propelled grenades and surface-to-air missiles and unleash the militias against U.S. troops. These weapons would neutralize U.S. tanks and helicopter gunships and destroy the U.S. military edge, leaving divided and isolated U.S. forces subject to being cut off from supplies and retreat routes. With America on the verge of losing most of its troops in Iraq, the cry would go up to "save the troops" by nuking Iran.

Five years of unsuccessful war in Iraq and Afghanistan and Israel's recent military defeat in Lebanon have convinced the neocons that America and Israel cannot establish hegemony over the Middle East with conventional forces alone. The neocons have changed U.S. war doctrine, which now permits the U.S. to preemptively strike with nuclear weapons a non-nuclear power. Neocons are forever heard asking "what's the use of having nuclear weapons if you can't use them?"

Neocons have convinced themselves that nuking Iran will show the Muslim world that Muslims have no alternative to submitting to the will of the U.S. government. Insurgency and terrorism cannot prevail against nuclear weapons.

Many U.S. military officers are horrified at what they think would be the worst-ever orchestrated war crime. There are reports of threatened resignations. But Dick Cheney is resolute. He tells Bush that the plan will save him from the ignominy of losing the war and restore his popularity as the president who saved Americans from Iranian nuclear weapons. With the captive American media providing propaganda cover, the neoconservatives believe that their plan can pull their chestnuts out of the fire and rescue them from the failure that their delusion has wrought.

The American electorate decided last November that they must do something about the failed war and gave the Democrats control of both houses of Congress. However, the Democrats have decided that it is easier to be complicit in war crimes than to represent the wishes of the electorate and hold a rogue president accountable. If Cheney again prevails, America will supplant the Third Reich as the most reviled country in recorded history.

Remote-controlled robot to rescue injured or abducted soldiers

What's Next In Science & Technology - Remote-controlled robot to rescue injured or abducted soldiers: "I will never leave a fallen comrade.” So states the US Soldier’s Creed, and true to that vow, 22-year-old Sergeant Justin Wisniewski died in Iraq last month while searching for soldiers abducted during an ambush on 12 May."

A remote-controlled robot that will rescue injured or abducted soldiers, without putting the lives of their comrades at risk, is being developed for the US army. The 1.8-metre-tall Battlefield Extraction-Assist Robot (Bear) will be able to travel over bumpy terrain and squeeze through doorways while carrying an injured soldier in its arms.

[More:]

The prototype Bear torso can lift more than 135 kilograms with one arm, and its developer, Vecna Technologies of College Park, Maryland, is now focusing on improving its two-legged lower body. The robot recently showed how it can climb up and down stairs with a human-size dummy in its arms. “We saw a need for a robot that can essentially go where a human can,” says Daniel Theobald, Vecna’s president. But Bear can also do things no human can, such as carrying heavy loads over considerable distances without tiring. The robot can also carry an injured soldier while kneeling or lying down, enabling it to move through tall grass or behind a wall without being spotted.

The robot’s hydraulic arms are designed to pick up loads in a single smooth movement, to avoid causing pain to wounded soldiers. While the existing prototype slides its arms under its burden like a forklift, future versions will be fitted with manoeuvrable hands to gently scoop up casualties.

Tracks on both the thighs and shins allow the robot to climb easily over rough terrain or up and down stairs while crouching or kneeling. It also has wheels at its hips, knees and feet, so it can switch to two wheels to travel efficiently over smooth surfaces while adopting a variety of positions. To keep it steady no matter what position it adopts, Bear is fitted with accelerometers to monitor the movement of its torso, and gyroscopes to detect any rotation of its body that might indicate it is about to lose its balance. Computer-controlled motors adjust the position of its lower body accordingly to prevent it toppling over.

The robot’s humanoid body and teddy bear-style head give it a friendly appearance. “A really important thing when you’re dealing with casualties is trying to maintain that human touch,” says Gary Gilbert of the US army’s Telemedicine and Advanced Technology Research Center in Frederick, Maryland, which provided the initial funding for Bear’s development. Congress has since added a further $1.1 million.

Although rescuing injured soldiers will be its most important role, Bear’s work will also include mundane tasks such as loading trucks and carrying equipment for soldiers. “The robot will be an integral part of a military team,” says Theobald. Bear is expected to be ready for field testing in less than five years.

Source: www.newscientist.com

In Iraq, MASH units for robots

In Iraq, MASH units for robots | Crave : The gadget blog: "In dangerous places like Iraq and Afghanistan, robots help to save soldiers' lives and limbs by ferreting out hidden explosives. In return, the soldiers help put the robots back together after a rough day of bomb-sniffing."

One of the main places that fix-up work takes place is the Joint Robotics Repair Facility at Camp Victory in Baghdad. The U.S. Army describes the JRRF as an "all-volunteer workshop" where the goal is quick turnaround--the shop adheres to a four-hour turnaround standard for repairs. If a given robot can't be rebuilt that fast, the soldiers who brought it in will head back to the field with a comparable unit.

"We make it a point that no one leaves this facility without an actual working robot," Chuck Burns, JRRF shop manager, said in an Army report from the robot facility. "As long as we have a serial plate we can rebuild a robot. We can rebuild from just about anything (and) create a robot from mix and match parts."

With the U.S. presence in Iraq now in its fifth year, the number of robots has grown to counter the rising use of improvised explosive devices by insurgents and other local fighters. The robot repair program is now three years old, and includes a number of forward repair facilities as wells as the one at Camp Victory.

"The initial requirement was for 162 systems (bomb-detecting robots)" that would be used to visually inspect IEDs, facility manager Maj. Stephen Mufuka said in the Army report. "Now we have more than 4,000."

One of the robots singled out by soldiers for its abilities in finding, and sometimes detonating, IEDs is the Talon, made by Foster-Miller. That device scopes out suspicious areas with cameras, night-vision capabilities and a microphone, and can provide its operator with information such as the position of its arm and the grade of the ground on which it's maneuvering.

Qinetiq, the parent company of Foster-Miller, says that personnel at robot hospitals in Iraq repair more than 400 robots a week. All told, Qinetiq says, U.S. military personnel conduct more than 30,000 counter-IED missions per year in Iraq and Afghanistan. The need for more robots and repair parts prompted the Naval Air Warfare Training Systems Division last week to boost its contract with Foster-Miller from $63.9 million to $150 million.

[bth: I believe there are about 1000 functioning robots in Iraq, the rest have been destroyed.]

AP Poll: Bush Approval Matches Low Point

AP Poll: Bush Approval Matches Low Point - The Huffington Post: "WASHINGTON — Public approval of the job President Bush is doing now matches its all-time low, an AP-Ipsos poll says. The survey, released Thursday, reflects widespread discontent over how Bush is handling the war in Iraq, efforts against terrorism and domestic issues. It also underscores challenges Republican presidential and congressional candidates will confront next year when they face voters who seem to be clamoring for change."

Only 32 percent said they were satisfied with how Bush is handling his job overall, the same low point AP-Ipsos polling measured last January and a drop of 3 percentage points since May.

Bush still wins approval from seven in 10 Republicans, though that is near his historic low for GOP support of 67 percent in January. Only a quarter of those initially identifying themselves as independents expressed satisfaction with the president, about equaling his low with them reached in February. Eight percent of Democrats gave him their approval.

On issue after issue, approval of Bush's efforts matched previous all-time lows in the survey....
 
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Tomgram: How Permanent Are Those Bases?

Tomgram: How Permanent Are Those Bases?: "Finally,the great American disconnect may be ending. Only four years after the invasion of Iraq, the crucial facts-on-the-ground might finally be coming into sight in this country -- not the carnage or the mayhem; not the suicide car bombs or the chlorine truck bombs; not the massive flight of middle-class professionals, the assassination campaign against academics, or the collapse of the best health-care service in the region; not the spiking American and Iraqi casualties, the lack of electricity, the growth of Shia militias, the crumbling of the "coalition of the willing," or the uprooting of 15% or more of Iraq's population; not even the sharp increase in fundamentalism and extremism, the rise of al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the swelling of sectarian killings, or the inability of the Iraqi government to get oil out of the ground or an oil law, designed in Washington and meant to turn the clock back decades in the Middle East, passed inside Baghdad's fortified Green Zone -- no, none of that. What's finally coming into view is just what George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, the top officials of their administration, the civilian leadership at the Pentagon, and their neocon followers had in mind when they invaded and occupied Iraq in 2003.

But let me approach this issue another way. For the last week, news jockeys have been plunged into a debate about the "Korea model," which, according to the New York Times and other media outlets, the President is suddenly considering as the model for Iraq. ("Mr. Bush has told recent visitors to the White House that he was seeking a model similar to the American presence in South Korea.") You know, a limited number of major American bases tucked away out of urban areas; a limited number of American troops (say, 30,000-40,000), largely confined to those bases but ready to strike at any moment; a friendly government in Baghdad; and (as in South Korea where our troops have been for six decades) maybe another half century-plus of quiet garrisoning. In other words, this is the time equivalent of a geographic "over the horizon redeployment" of American troops. In this case, "over the horizon" would mean through 2057 and beyond.

This, we are now told, is a new stage in administration thinking. White House spokesman Tony Snow seconded the "Korea model" ("You have the United States there in what has been described as an over-the-horizon support role… -- as we have in South Korea, where for many years there have been American forces stationed there as a way of maintaining stability and assurance on the part of the South Korean people against a North Korean neighbor that is a menace…"); Defense Secretary Robert Gates threw his weight behind it as a way of reassuring Iraqis that the U.S. "will not withdraw from Iraq as it did from Vietnam, ‘lock, stock and barrel,'" as did "surge plan" second-in-command in Baghdad, Lt. General Ray Odierno. ("Q Do you agree that we will likely have a South Korean-style force there for years to come? GEN. ODIERNO: Well, I think that's a strategic decision, and I think that's between us and -- the government of the United States and the government of Iraq. I think it's a great idea.")

David Sanger of the New York Times recently summed up this "new" thinking in the following fashion:

"Administration officials and top military leaders declined to talk on the record about their long-term plans in Iraq. But when speaking on a not-for-attribution basis, they describe a fairly detailed concept. It calls for maintaining three or four major bases in the country, all well outside of the crowded urban areas where casualties have soared. They would include the base at Al Asad in Anbar Province, Balad Air Base about 50 miles north of Baghdad, and Tallil Air Base in the south."

Critics -- left, right, and center -- promptly attacked the relevance of the South Korean analogy for all the obvious historical reasons. Time headlined its piece: "Why Iraq Isn't Korea"; Fred Kaplan of Slate waded in this way, "In other words, in no meaningful way are these two wars, or these two countries, remotely similar. In no way does one experience, or set of lessons, shed light on the other. In Iraq, no border divides friend from foe; no clear concept defines who is friend and foe. To say that Iraq might follow ‘a Korean model' -- if the word model means anything -- is absurd." At his Informed Comment website, Juan Cole wrote, "So what confuses me is the terms of the comparison. Who is playing the role of the Communists and of North Korea?" Inter Press's Jim Lobe quoted retired Lieutenant-General Donald Kerrick, a former US deputy national security adviser who served two tours of duty in South Korea this way: "[The analogy] is either a gross oversimplification to try to reassure people [the Bush administration] has a long-term plan, or it's just silly." ....
 
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How deceit won the war for Israel

Gulfnews: How deceit won the war for Israel: "Occupied Jerusalem: The Israeli government has decided to celebrate the anniversary of the 1967 war by publishing secret documents about it. Occupied Jerusalem: The Israeli government has decided to celebrate the anniversary of the 1967 war by publishing secret documents about it. "

The six-day war, which changed history for Israelis, was the worst defeat for Arabs.

The released documents, which are made available in the Israeli archives, show how Arabs had been deceived and manipulated by Israel, which led them to the war and subsequent defeat.

Israeli Army historian Ariah Yetzke, who documented all Israel's wars, said that the war began after Israel deceived Egypt by placing dozens of paper tanks and building empty camps on the frontline.

According the Yetzke, the Israeli intelligence was surprised at the Egyptian Army's mobilisation between May 16 and 23, especially as the Israelis were expecting the Egyptian Army to deploy its forces on the southern front.


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Unprepared

What happened was that the Egyptians deployed their forces near Gaza, face to face with the Israeli forces, which were not prepared to face the Egyptian Army.

A plan had to be made to divert the Egyptian army to the southern front and allow the Israeli forces to enter Sinai. A bogus brigade was set up, led by General Shalom Anbar, which placed the 'illusionary' tanks and camps at the southern front.

Five days before the war, the Egyptian Army was tricked into moving the artillery and tanks brigade to the southern front to face the 380 new Israeli tanks, according to the documents. This caused a state of confusion in Sinai, causing the Egyptian leadership to lose control over the mobilised forces there. The Israeli intelligence expected the confusion to reach its worst on June 5, and suggested the date to start the war, which was accepted.

Israeli historian and journalist Tom Segev believes that the Zero Hour was decided based on political information relating to the US support for Israel, as Israeli prime minister Levi Ashkol was waiting for the head of Mossad to return from the US on June 3, to confirm whether the US was supporting Israel in the war. Another document revealed that the army leaders were prepared and eager for the war, while the political forces were opposing it.

Journalist Zaif Sheef said that Ariel Sharon, a brigade leader at the time, said the army leaders considered locking up ministers in a room in the Defence Ministry if they objected to the war.

The army leaders did not conceal their real target, which was to occupy East Jerusalem at any cost, and this is why the Jerusalem battle was the toughest, as the Jordanian Army's resilience stunned the Israelis. Moti Gore, who led the army, said he ignored the leadership's orders and insisted on attacking Jordanian locations.

According to General Yosse Ingetzi, who was leader of the Jerusalem patrol, the forces just wanted to occupy the old city based on emotional, religious and political judgment, and the glorified target of occupying the city.

Israeli intelligence was surprised at the Egyptian Army's mobilisation... Israelis were expecting the Egyptian Army to deploy its forces on the southern front.
 
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Man-made microbe 'to create endless biofuel'

Man-made microbe 'to create endless biofuel' | Uk News | News | Telegraph: "A scientist is poised to create the world's first man-made species, a synthetic microbe that could lead to an endless supply of biofuel."

Craig Venter, an American who cracked the human genome in 2000, has applied for a patent at more than 100 national offices to make a bacterium from laboratory-made DNA.

It is part of an effort to create designer bugs to manufacture hydrogen and biofuels, as well as absorb carbon dioxide and other harmful greenhouse gases.

DNA contains the instructions to make the proteins that build and run an organism.

The J Craig Venter Institute in Rockville, Maryland, is applying for worldwide patents on what it refers to as "Mycoplasma laboratorium". based on DNA assembled by scientists. Yesterday, Mr Venter said: "It is only an application on methods."

As for whether the world's first synthetic bug was thriving in a test tube in Rockville, all he would say was: "We are getting close."

The Venter Institute's US Patent application claims exclusive ownership of a set of essential genes and a synthetic "free-living organism that can grow and replicate" that is made using those genes.

To create the synthetic organism his team is making snippets of DNA, known as oligonucleotides or "oligos", of up to 100 letters of DNA.

To build a primitive bug, with about 500 genes in half a million letters of DNA, Mr Venter's team is stitching together blocks of 50 or so letters, then growing them in the gut bug E coli. Then they turn these many small pieces into a handful of bigger ones until eventually two pieces can be assembled into the circular genome of the new life form.

The synthetic DNA will be added to a test tube of bacteria and the team hopes that one or more microbes among the one hundred thousand million starts moving, metabolising and multiplying.

The Canadian ETC Group, which tracks developments in biotechnology, believes that this development in synthetic biology is more significant than the cloning of Dolly the sheep a decade ago.

Yesterday, an ETC spokesman, Jim Thomas, called on the world's patent offices to reject the applications.

He said: "These monopoly claims signal the start of a high-stakes commercial race to synthesise and privatise synthetic life forms. Will Venter's company become the 'Microbesoft' of synthetic biology?" A colleague, Pat Mooney, said: "For the first time, God has competition. Venter and his colleagues have breached a societal boundary, and the public hasn't even had a chance to debate the far-reaching social, ethical and environmental implications of synthetic life."

However, Mr Venter did ask a panel of experts to examine the implications of creating synthetic life. His institute convened a bioethics committee to see if its plans were likely to raise objections.

The committee, led by Mildred Cho at Stanford University, had no objections to the work but pointed out that scientists must take responsibility for any impact their new organisms had if they got out of the lab. The organisms can be designed to die as soon as they leave laboratory conditions.

Mr Venter first announced the project to build a synthetic life form in 2002. In theory, by adding functionalised synthetic DNA, the bacterium could be instructed to produce plastics, drugs or fuels.

Mr Venter's institute claims that its stripped-down microbe could be the key to cheap energy production. The patent application specifically claims an organism that can make either hydrogen or ethanol for industrial fuels. The research was partially funded by the US Department of Energy.

PFC John D. Hart Memorial Humanitarian Award & Lance Corporal Travis Desiato Memorial Scholarship

Last night Bedford High School held its 50th Commencement Exercise for the 2007 graduating class.

As part of that ceremony Bedford allowed the presentation of two awards in honor of recent Bedford High School graduates who were killed in action in Iraq, PFC John D. Hart, a 2002 graduate of BHS was killed in Taza, Iraq, Oct. 18, 2003. Lance Corporal Travis Desiato, his friend and a 2003 graduate, was killed Nov. 14, 2004 in Fallujah, Iraq.

John Hart's award is granted for humanitarian actions above and beyond what is expected for a high school student and was awarded this year to Sara Hartwell. Prior year recipients have been Sheldon Ayala 2004, James Iandoli 2005, and Justin Pespisa 2006.

Travis Desiato's memorial scholarship was awarded to graduating senior Jeffrey McGrath.

The awards were made together by the younger sisters of John and Travis.

D-Day

Thursday, June 07, 2007

U.S. hands over a $10m bounty in briefcases for the killing of Muslim leaders

U.S. hands over a $10m bounty in briefcases for the killing of Muslim leaders | the Daily Mail: "The United States handed over US$10 million (£5million) in bounties to four Muslim men in the southern Philippines today for their role in the killing of two leaders of the country's deadliest Islamic militant group. "

U.S. ambassador Kristie Kenney handed over briefcases containing crisp 1,000-peso bills to the men on the southern island of Jolo, the bastion of the Abu Sayyaf militants. They wore black hoods during the ceremony to conceal their identities.

Two of the men were former Abu Sayyaf rebels who turned themselves in and led Philippine soldiers to the grave of their leader. They shared $5 million.

Two Muslim farmers who tipped off army commandos about another militant leader who was then killed in a gunbattle in January shared another $5 million bounty.

"I will be proud to give another $10 million to any citizen who will step forward to keep the rest of us safe," Kenney said. The briefcases contained only a symbolic amount of money, and each man would receive $2.5 million, officials said.

It was the highest bounty ever given in the Philippines.

The two former rebels led troops to the exact spot where Abu Sayyaf chief Khaddafy Janjalani was buried after being mortally wounded in a gunbattle on Jolo last year.

Information from the two farmers helped troops track down and kill Abu Solaiman, the spokesman for the group and also known as "the engineer". Both men were on the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation's list of wanted terrorists.

The al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group was blamed for the worst terrorist attack in the Philippines, the bombing of a ferry near Manila bay in February 2004, killing more than 100 people.

General Hermogenes Esperon, the Philippine military chief, said three of the informers had opted to be relocated outside the tiny island of Jolo for safety reasons.

"One of them was brave enough to stay behind with his family but we're committed to provide him adequate security," Esperon told reporters. Esperon said the hunt for the remaining leaders of Abu Sayyaf and a handful of Jemaah Islamiah leaders, including Indonesians Dulmatin and Umar Patek, would continue without let up until "we have crushed them".

Jemaah Islamiah is a pan-regional group which aims to set up a Islamic state across large parts of Southeast Asia.

‘DESPICABLE,’ ‘UNPATRIOTIC’ - Infamous Kansas sect to picket funeral of Pembroke soldier

‘DESPICABLE,’ ‘UNPATRIOTIC’ - Infamous Kansas sect to picket funeral of Pembroke soldier: "PEMBROKE - While his hometown prepares for a hero’s farewell, a handful of members of a controversial religious sect plan to picket the funeral of a 22-year-old soldier cut down by a sniper in Iraq."

A huge crowd of family, friends, neighbors and residents will pay tribute to Army Pfc. Matthew Bean today at his wake at the Shepherd Funeral Home in Kingston.

Tomorrow police, firefighters and veterans will escort his body to the funeral at a Pembroke church.

The Patriot Guard Riders, a national organization of motorcyclists, including many military veterans, will also participate in the escort.

Bean died last Thursday, a week after he was shot in the head while searching for three missing servicemen in Iraq.

As the community says goodbye, the Topeka, Kan.-based Westboro Baptist Church is planning to demonstrate.

Shirley Phelps-Roper, an attorney and spokeswoman for the group, said about 10 members will carry signs tomorrow outside the North River Community Church on Old Oak Street.

Phelps-Roper said the group has protested at more than 280 military funerals over the past two years to call attention to its anti-gay message. It has not showed up at previous military funerals on the South Shore.

‘‘The curse of God is upon this nation,’’ Phelps-Roper said in a telephone interview last night. ‘‘It’s a curse when a child comes home dead from battle.’’

Asked if she felt the protest would cause more pain for Bean’s family, Phelps-Roper, the mother of 11 children, dismissed the question as coming from someone who is ‘‘Bible-ignorant.’’

‘‘I will be a hook into the jaw and drag you into a war that you cannot win and I will turn back the weapon that is in your hands,’’ she said, referring to God. ‘‘We have false gods. God says man shalt not lie with mankind. America teaches that it’s OK.’’

Phelps-Roper, whose father founded the group, was arrested Tuesday in Nebraska for allowing her 10-year-old son to stomp on the U.S. flag during a protest at the funeral of another soldier killed in Iraq. She is charged with flag mutilation, disturbing the peace and contributing to the delinquency of a minor.

Michael Hurney, the incoming commander of the Pembroke American Legion Post 143, said last night he was disgusted by the planned protest.

‘‘It’s appalling,’’ Hurney said. ‘‘I can’t believe they would do that.’’

Julie Caruso, founder of the Pembroke Military Support Group, was also outraged.

‘‘It’s not the time or the place,’’ Caruso said. ‘‘How much more pain can they put on this family? Shame on them. Shame on them.’’

David Smith of Pembroke, American Legion District 10 commander for Plymouth, Barnstable, Nantucket and Dukes counties, called the protest ‘‘despicable’’ and ‘‘unpatriotic.’’

‘‘Groups like this are not what the United States is about,’’ he said.

A sniper’s bullet pierced Bean’s helmet May 19 while he and other members of the 10th Mountain Division searched door-to-door for three missing U.S. soldiers in the Sunni Triangle. One of those three has since been found dead, and insurgents liked to al-Qaida claim to have killed the other two.

Bean was treated for a massive brain injury before being flown to National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md, where he died a week ago. He was taken off life support a day earlier.

Several of Bean’s organs were donated to others.

A 2003 graduate of Silver Lake Regional High School in Kingston, Bean was awarded a Bronze Star for valor and a Purple Heart.

He was the 11th serviceman from the South Shore killed in Iraq. Two others were killed in Afghanistan.

Dennis Tatz may be reached at dtatz@ledger.com .

Copyright 2007 The Patriot Ledger
Transmitted Thursday, June 07, 2007

Soldier Funeral Protester Arrested, Funeral Protester Arrested For Letting Son Step On Flag; Vows Court Battle

Soldier Funeral Protester Arrested, Funeral Protester Arrested For Letting Son Step On Flag; Vows Court Battle - CBS News: "AP) A member of the Kansas group that has drawn criticism for protesting at soldiers' funerals has been arrested for letting her 10-year-old son stomp on a U.S. flag during a demonstration. She promised Wednesday to challenge the state's flag desecration law in court."

Shirley Phelps-Roper, 49, will be charged with flag mutilation, disturbing the peace and contributing to the delinquency of a minor, Sarpy County Attorney Lee Polikov said Wednesday.

Phelps-Roper, a member of the Westboro Baptist Church, acknowledged that she allowed her son Jonah to stand on the flag Tuesday _ something she says is protected by the U.S. Constitution.

"It's utter nonsense," said Phelps-Roper, a lawyer. "I don't know what else to tell you other than that we'll see them in federal court."

Phelps-Roper is a daughter of Westboro's founder, the Rev. Fred Phelps. Members have protested at more than 280 military funerals in 43 states since June 2005, she said.

The group says the deaths of U.S. soldiers are God's punishment for a nation that harbors gays and lesbians. Nebraska and 37 other states have laws restricting how close protesters can get to funerals, inspired at least in part by the Westboro protests.

Tuesday's funeral in suburban Bellevue was for Nebraska Army National Guard Spc. William "Bill" Bailey, who was killed May 25 when an explosive device struck his vehicle in Iraq.

Phelps-Roper was arrested because she was involved in a potentially volatile situation in the presence of Bailey's friends, relatives and fellow soldiers, Polikov said. Bellevue has a strong military presence, with Offutt Air Force Base located at the south edge of town.

"To come into that environment and communicate what I would call fighting words _ provocative language and acts _ you can't do that," Polikov said. "You might illicit a violent response. That's against community peace and community law."

Phelps-Roper was arrested about an hour before Bailey's funeral when an officer observed the boy stomping on the flag, Bellevue Police Capt. Herb Evers said. She was booked and released after posting $150 bail.

Nebraska's flag law says: "A person commits the offense of mutilating a flag if such person intentionally casts contempt or ridicule upon a flag by mutilating, defacing, defiling, burning, or trampling upon such flag."

Flag mutilation and disturbing the peace are each punishable by 90 days in jail, a $500 fine or both. Contributing to the delinquency of a minor is punishable by a year in jail, a $1,000 fine or both. All three are misdemeanors.

Polikov said he was considering filing a negligent child abuse charge because Phelps-Roper put her son in a dangerous situation.


Copyright 2007 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


[bth: such hate. imagine going to a funeral every 2 days for two years and protesting soldiers killed serving their country. What kind of hateful religion are these people promoting?]

Lawmakers Want Army Body Armor Retested

Lawmakers Want Army Body Armor Retested - The Huffington Post: "WASHINGTON — Lawmakers on Wednesday requested additional independent tests to determine whether standard-issue body armor for U.S. soldiers is more effective than an alternative."

At issue are conflicts between year-old test results released by the Army last month and comparisons made by NBC News and broadcast in May.

"Let's get right down to the nuts and bolts here," Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., ranking member of the House Armed Services committee, said at a hearing on the issue. "Which test is right? Or, maybe, are both of them right?"

NBC News tests conducted May 3 at a ballistics laboratory in Germany, and reviewed by retired U.S. Gen. Wayne Downing, showed that in simulated combat conditions Dragon Skin, made by privately held Pinnacle Armor Inc., outperformed Interceptor, the Army's standard-issue armor....

[bth: this is an excellent step in the right direction]
 
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Turkish Officials Say Troops Enter Iraq

Turkish Officials Say Troops Enter Iraq | World Latest | Guardian Unlimited: "ANKARA, Turkey (AP) - Hundreds of Turkish soldiers crossed into northern Iraq on Wednesday pursuing Kurdish guerrillas who stage attacks on Turkey from hideouts there, Turkish security officials and an Iraqi Kurd official said. "

The reports came amid worries Turkey might launch an offensive against the rebel bases, touching off a conflict with U.S.-backed Iraqi Kurds in one of Iraq's most stable regions. The U.S. is urging its NATO ally not to strike, and Turkey's foreign minister denied any incursion occurred.

An American intelligence official in Washington, who agreed to discuss the tense situation along the frontier only if not quoted by name, said the reports of a border crossing should be treated with skepticism.

The official said some Turkish officials might be feeling pressure to show increasingly angry Turks that the government is responding to a recent escalation of attacks by PKK rebels, who are fighting for autonomy in Turkey's heavily Kurdish southeast. On Monday, for instance, Kurdish rebels assaulted a Turkish outpost and killed seven soldiers.

Three Turkish security officials said troops crossed the border Wednesday. But they described the operation as just a ``hot pursuit'' raid that was limited in scope, and one said the soldiers left Iraqi territory by the end of the day.

The officials, all based in southeastern Turkey, spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to journalists.

Turkish authorities rarely acknowledge such military operations against the PKK, but the army has conducted brief raids across the border in the past.

Despite the dispute over whether an incursion happened, the reports were likely to heighten anxieties over whether Turkey is planning a large-scale invasion. The last such operation was in 1997 and involved 50,000 soldiers.

Turkish leaders have said they are considering an offensive, and have sent more troops and equipment to the frontier. But they hope the U.S. and Iraqi Kurds will stage their own crackdown on the separatists, who raid southeast Turkey after resting, training and resupplying in Iraq.

Washington lists the PKK as a terror group, but most U.S. troops in Iraq are busy dealing with violence elsewhere and most of the 16,500 U.S. soldiers in the north are engaged in training Iraqi forces.

The Iraqi Kurd administration, meanwhile, has testy relations with Turkey, which has accused it of backing the PKK movement.

One Turkish security official said 600 commandos entered Iraq before dawn after Kurdish rebels shot at Turkish patrols near the Turkish border town of Cukurca. The commandos returned to Turkey later in the day, the official said.

Two other officials said troops went less than two miles into a remote, mountainous area in Iraq.

An Iraqi Kurd security official in the Shanzinan area said 150 Turkish soldiers occupied a mountain about a half mile inside Iraq for an hour and then left. The official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said 200 other Turks staged a similar cross-border operation around the same time in the nearby Sirzeri area.

It was not immediately clear whether the Kurdish official referred to the same raid cited by the three Turkish officials.

Turkey's private NTV television quoted Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul as saying the reports of a cross-border operation were false.

``There is no such thing, no entry to another country. If such a thing happens, then we would announce it,'' Gul said. ``We are in a war with terror. We will do whatever is necessary to fight terrorism.''

Several officials at the Pentagon said they had seen nothing to confirm a border crossing by Turkish troops. But one said small numbers of Turkish soldiers occasionally conduct counterinsurgency operations inside Iraq. The officials insisted on speaking anonymously.

The White House also said there had been ``no new activity'' in northern Iraq. But Gordon Johndroe, a spokesman for the National Security Council, repeated that Washington remains ``concerned about the PKK and the use of Iraq as a safe haven.
 
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BAE accused of secretly paying £1bn to Saudi prince

BAE accused of secretly paying £1bn to Saudi prince | The Guardian BAE investigation | Guardian Unlimited: "The arms company BAE secretly paid Prince Bandar of Saudi Arabia more than £1bn in connection with Britain's biggest ever weapons contract, it is alleged today."

A series of payments from the British firm was allegedly channelled through a US bank in Washington to an account controlled by one of the most colourful members of the Saudi ruling clan, who spent 20 years as their ambassador in the US.

It is claimed that payments of £30m were paid to Prince Bandar every quarter for at least 10 years....

Friend of the world's leaders: man at the centre of arms deal | The Guardian BAE investigation | Guardian Unlimited

...Friend of the world's leaders: man at the centre of arms deal | The Guardian BAE investigation | Guardian Unlimited: "Successive British governments have fought to keep the exact deal with Prince Bandar secret for more than 20 years. But the latest allegations will add pressure for a full disclosure."

BAE, with 42% of its potential turnover from the lucrative US arms market, is currently bidding to buy Armor Holdings, a US arms contractor. It has promised since 2000 to abide by the provisions of Washington's Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, which bans payments to overseas public officials to win contracts.

While ambassador to Washington, Prince Bandar became a close personal friend of the Bush family, as both father and son became US president.

He opened multimillion dollar accounts at Riggs Bank in Washington DC following his diplomatic appointment in 1983. Hundreds of boxes of Riggs records were seized by the FBI after the terrorist attacks of September 2001, in an inquiry into possible terrorist funding.

Secret accounts
Prince Bandar and his family were completely exonerated on that point, but investigators discovered financial irregularities at the bank. These led to Senate hearings and Riggs' demise. The bank was discovered operating secret accounts for dictators round the world, including General Pinochet in Chile and President Obiang of Equatorial Guinea.

The US Department of Justice was recently asked to give UK investigators access to the Riggs records. But the SFO was ordered to halt its Saudi inquiry before it could happen.

The prince's biographer, William Simpson, claims in his book that the prince feels justified over the nature of the Al-Yamamah deals by the military benefits the Tornado purchase brought to Saudi Arabia. "The prince is convinced that the [1990] eviction of Saddam from Kuwait ... vindicates whatever allegations of corruption were propagated by Al-Yamamah".
 
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Litany against fear

Litany against fear - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia: "

I must not fear.

Fear is the mind-killer.

Fear is the little-death that brings total obliteration.

I will face my fear.

I will permit it to pass over me and through me.

And when it has gone past I will turn the inner eye to see its path.

Where the fear has gone there will be nothing.

Only I will remain
. "
 
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Random Thoughts published by "Outside the Wire"

Random Thoughts: "...All the grunts dig my Dragon Skin body armor by Pinnacle and wish they had Dragon Skin. It fits well and the fit takes a lot of the load off my shoulders which makes it a lot more comfortable. The flexibility is also nice when traversing walls and rooftops. "...

More of the grunts are reenlisting than I expected. A lot of the guys are ready to do their four and hit the door, but there are more sticking around than I expected at this point.

The Army sure does have a lot of Sergeants and Staff Sergeants--way more than the Marines.

The infantrymen are universally amazing. Even the few who have decided the work is not for them and hate Iraq and the military still do the job well and have not slacked off.

This current crop of Company and Battalion commanders could be one of the best ever. Nearly every company commander in theater has already been a platoon commander in combat. Most of the Battalion commanders have been here previously on a Battalion or Regimental staff. ...

Iraq has shown that the DoD bureacracy is too big, too slow and out of touch with the realities of the modern battlefield.

Up until just recently the military was built for a set-piece battle against like forces. But our enemy does not want to cooperate with the geniuses in the Pentagon who came up with the plans and procured the equipment to execute those plans and developed training platforms to prepare soldiers for those plans.

The bureacracy--even in combat--is staggering. To get some things done the request has to go through 15! steps of approval.

One Company Commander summed it up like this:

"They trust me with the lives of 100 men, humvees, weapons, ammo, civil affairs negotiations, classified intelligence, radios, everything. But I cannot be trusted with $20k worth of Dinar to hire a crew to build up an IP station?"

Which is interesting, because I keep hearing that the appeal of JAM and AQIZ is the money.

I saw one sheet listing the rewards for tips. But the rewards were lower than what JAM and AQIZ pay.
Is the coalition losing a bidding war? ...

The big bases have gotten bigger which is a shame. They are populated by many people for whom the war is merely a concept and may not even need to be in Iraq.

It takes--supposedly--4-10 non-combat personnel to support one grunt.

But when you go out to the outposts you don't see that much support.

It appears the majority of the funds being spent in Iraq are to sustain the people who are not providing that much support to the grunts.

Which makes one ask--are all those people really necessary?

But there are more outposts than ever before. Some of the outposts are little more than a house with some c-wire, sandbags and a generator to recharge the batteries on the radios.

Others, the company sized outposts, have Army cooks who actually cook really good food, showers, electricity and occasionally semi-reliable internet.

There are some places where infantry units are almost tripping over each other--which is a good thing.

I haven't bumped into any Infantryman Bloggers. Why? Because there are no internets at COP Battle.

The internet at OP Omar is shared by 70 guys and only works from 1800 to 0600--and even then is slow, unreliable and often non-existent. There is nothing at PB 548 and OP Delta's system only works on dot-mil sites.

Fobbits (base working personnel) should have to pull their own security, which would free up more combat power to work the streets. In Baghdad, some Brigades require the infantry Battalions to supply platoons for FOB security.

Some of the FOB (forward operating base) types who are supposed to be the political/civil affairs types never leave the FOB. In one instance a team from the Green Zone was supposed to meet with an infantry officer and Iraqi neighborhood council members about a project. The Green Zone guys cancelled the meeting. The threat level was too high that day so they didn't want to leave the fortress.

I walked and rolled around that area with a platoon of soldiers and a video camera when the threat level was just as high.

There are several wars going on at the same time. The one unseen by Americans is the virtual war where everything is summed up nice and neat on power point slides sent to the Colonels and Generals.

I wonder how many Staff Officers and NCOs will spend their deployments building power point presentations.

The Colonels and Generals then do old fashioned battlefield circulation--hopping from outpost to outpost, Mahala diving all day--to get the bottom line that doesn't always translate well into a power point presentation.

I met more Field Grade and Flag officers outside the wire on this trip than the previous two combined. ...

The other non-think tank Matrix I use are:

Census/Data in a unit database
Women shopping in a market unescorted by a male
Women running stands in a market
Number and quality of tips from informants. When they start giving license plate numbers and detailed descriptions of people complete with names, then a unit is making progress.
The number of informants who provide that kind of reliable information.
The personal relationships between a Commander and the tribal/civic leaders.
Depth of trash piles and sewage.

...The IEDs and EFPs used now make the IEDs of 2005 look like firecrackers. The triggering devices used now are factory made, not the home-rigged devices of the past. The EFPs which shoot a fist-sized chunk of molten metal are precision explosives--milled and machined to a level of craftsmanship that is just not found in Iraq.

The strategy of ever spiraling countermeasures will never elminate the threat or achieve an end state. We add more armor, they make bigger bombs. We put radio jammers on humvees, they go to pressure plate or wire det by remote. We turn humvees into bank vaults they use EFPs. We will come up with a counter measure to the EFP, and they will build something else.

The safest place in Iraq is down in the village or mahala on your own two feet. But I have always thought that. ...
 
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Animal cruelty case yields 'doggone' dismissal:

Animal cruelty case yields 'doggone' dismissal: Times Argus Online: "CHELSEA – A woman facing jail time for 'staring' at a police dog had charges against her dropped Monday after an Orange County prosecutor viewed videotape of the alleged crime"

Jayna Hutchinson, now of Lebanon, N.H., was scheduled for a jury trial this week on a misdemeanor charge of cruelty to animals.

A Vermont State Police sergeant said Hutchinson was intoxicated and stared at his police dog in a "taunting/harassing manner" last July while officers were in the process of investigating a reported melee outside a West Fairlee establishment."

Prosecuting a woman for staring at a police dog is absurd," said Kelly Green, a public defender appointed by Vermont District Court in Orange County to represent Hutchinson.

She likened the act to giving a police officer the finger – a form of expression protected by rights accorded under the First Amendment."After looking at the video, I did not think it was worthwhile proceeding," Orange County State's Attorney Will Porter said Tuesday.

He said it would be difficult to prove that Hutchinson's behavior met the statutory standard for cruelty to animals, which in this case would have required that Hutchinson "intentionally torment(ed) or harass(ed) an animal owned … by a police department."

According to an affidavit, Hutchinson approached Sgt. Todd Protzman on the night of July 31 as he and at least three other officers were investigating a fight.

Hutchinson, who later registered a .218 blood-alcohol content, told Protzman she wanted to report that she had been beat up the night before by one of the men involved in the fight, according to Green.Green said the video showed Protzman mocking Hutchinson's appearance."I think his comment about Jayna's looks revealed the real reason he arrested her,"

Green said. "I'd venture a guess to say that if she'd been small and pretty and had been complaining of being assaulted, he may have done more to investigate her claims."

Porter said he saw no indication of improper behavior by Protzman and that he was doing his best to deal with a very intoxicated person."

Ms. Hutchinson was very intoxicated. Did he have some abrupt comments toward her? Yeah," Porter said. "He had some curt responses to get her out of his hair so he could attend to what he was there for."

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Document: Iran Caught Red-Handed Shipping Arms to Taliban

The Blotter: "NATO officials say they have caught Iran red-handed, shipping heavy arms, C4 explosives and advanced roadside bombs to the Taliban for use against NATO forces, in what the officials say is a dramatic escalation of Iran's proxy war against the United States and Great Britain."

"It is inconceivable that it is anyone other than the Iranian government that's doing it," said former White House counterterrorism official Richard Clarke, an ABC News consultant.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates stopped short earlier this week of blaming Iran, saying the U.S. did not have evidence "of the involvement of the Iranian government in support of the Taliban."

But an analysis by a senior coalition official, obtained by the Blotter on ABCNews.com, concludes there is clear evidence of Iran's involvement.

"This is part of a considered policy," says the analysis, "rather than the result of low-level corruption and weapons smuggling."

Iran and the Taliban had been fierce enemies when the Taliban was in power in Afghanistan, and their apparent collaboration came as a surprise to some in the intelligence community.

"I think their goal is to make it very clear that Iran has the capability to make life worse for the United States on a variety of fronts," said Seth Jones of the Rand Institute, "even if they have to do some business with a group that has historically been their enemy."

The coalition analysis says munitions recovered in two Iranian convoys, on April 11 and May 3, had "clear indications that they originated in Iran. Some were identical to Iranian supplied goods previously discovered in Iraq."

The April convoy was tracked from Iran into Helmand province and led a fierce firefight that destroyed one vehicle, according to the official analysis. A second vehicle was reportedly found to contain small arms ammunition, mortar rounds and more than 650 pounds of C4 demolition charges.

A second convoy of two vehicles was spotted on May 3 and led to the capture of five occupants and the seizure of RPG-7mm rockets and more than 1,000 pounds of C4, the analysis says.

Also among the munitions are components for the lethal EFPs, or explosive formed projectiles, the roadside bombs that U.S. officials say Iran has provided to Iraqi insurgents with deadly results.

"These clearly have the hallmarks of the Iranian Revolution Guards' Quds force," said Jones.

The coalition diplomatic message says the demolition charges "contained the same fake U.S. markings found on explosives recovered from insurgents operating in the Baghdad area."

"We believe these intercepted munitions are part of a much bigger flow of support from Iran to the Taliban," the message says.

The Taliban receives larger supplies of weapons through profits from opium dealing, officials say, but the Iranian presence could be significant.

"It means the insurgency in Afghanistan is likely to be prolonged," said Jones. "It would be a much more potent force."

Turkish Officials: Troops Enter Iraq

Turkish Officials: Troops Enter Iraq: "ANKARA, Turkey (AP) - Several thousand Turkish troops crossed into northern Iraq early Wednesday to chase Kurdish guerrillas who operate from bases there, Turkish security officials told The Associated Press. "...

Technology Review: Easier Detection of Explosives

Technology Review: Easier Detection of Explosives: "Researchers at MIT have created a molecule that glows a distinctive light-blue color in the presence of two common but difficult to detect explosives. The compound could be incorporated into small, easy-to-use devices for detecting traces of hidden explosives at airports and on the battlefield. "

In experiments recently reported in the Journal of the American Chemical Society, the researchers demonstrated that the substance fluoresces in response to RDX and PETN, explosives used by the military in warheads. RDX is also a component of plastic explosives. Both explosives are among those that cause the most concern for security officials guarding against terrorists. The explosives can be detected now, but they typically require bulky and expensive instruments such as ion-mobility spectrometers used in airports today. The new substance produces an easy-to-read signal that could allow for a small, simple device.

The reaction of the new compound, says Timothy Swager, a professor of chemistry at MIT, is "sort of like seeing a very small light in a completely dark room." The substance fluoresces brightly at a specific wavelength of light. Although the sensitivity limits of the new compound have not yet been determined, other fluorescence-based detectors have proved extremely sensitive in the past.

The new compound could be even more sensitive than other fluorescence-based compounds because it uses a different mechanism. With the others, a fluorescent material that is already glowing becomes dimmer in the presence of explosives. The new compound is dark at a particular wavelength until the explosive is present, producing a signal that's easier to read. "The fact that we can make a new fluorescence on a dark background suggests that we can expect very high sensitivity," Swager says.

Previously, Swager and his coworkers developed a highly sensitive device based on a novel polymer for sensing TNT and other explosives; it's now being used in Iraq. (See "Stopping Roadside Bombs.") The technology can register the presence of an explosive by detecting the TNT vapors even if the explosive device is inside a sealed container. To identify liquid explosives, the Transportation Security Administration is now testing another fluorescent detector in airports using the same device platform.

The new compound was inspired by a known enzyme that produces a green-glowing substance in the presence of the explosives. But that enzyme reacts with oxygen and isn't stable enough to be used in sensors. So the researchers synthesized a similar molecule based on zinc that is much more stable.
They demonstrated that the new compound fluoresces brightly at a wavelength of 480 nanometers in the presence of RDX or PETN in a solution, but not when exposed to other materials often associated with explosives. This suggests that the reactions are selective, and therefore less likely to register false positives. Swager says that he believes the selectivity will prove good enough to be used in environments such as battlefields and airports.

So far, the MIT researchers have only detected the explosives in solution. The next step is to optimize the molecules for use in a device that can detect dry particles of explosives. Then the researchers can establish the device's sensitivity. If those tests prove successful, the first device could be similar to handheld devices now being used in Iraq for sensing explosives. It could have two potential advantages over the current device, says Aimee Rose, a researcher at ICx-Nomadics, a company based in Stillwater, OK that makes the device used in Iraq based on Swager's earlier research. First, while the ICx-Nomadics device can detect RDX, the new compound shows the promise of being much more sensitive--even able to detect RDX vapors, which are about 1,000 times more difficult to detect than TNT vapors. Second, the new compound can distinguish between TNT and RDX, which could help first responders know how to deal with the threat they face.

U.N.: 4.2M displaced by Iraq war

United Press International - International Intelligence - Briefing: "GENEVA, Switzerland, June 5 (UPI) -- The office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees says 4.2 million people have been displaced due to the Iraq war. "

Jennifer Pagonis, a spokeswoman for UNHCR, said Tuesday in Geneva millions have fled their homes seeking refuge either inside the country or beyond its borders as the situation deteriorates.

The reason for the announcement Tuesday was the U.N. agency's plea for countries to do more to help.

"The situation in Iraq continues to worsen, with more than 2 million Iraqis now believed to be displaced inside Iraq and another 2.2 million sheltering in neighboring States," she said. "UNHCR is rapidly expanding its operations and presence in the region, but the magnitude of the crisis is staggering."

Calls for increased international support for governments in the region have so far brought few results, and access to social services for Iraqis remains limited, the agency said, noting most of the burden is being carried by Jordan and Syria.

"Recognition rates of Iraqis in various countries outside the region, particularly in Europe, remain low," Pagonis said. "UNHCR repeats its call for all borders to remain open to those in need of protection."

Some 85 percent of the displaced are in the central and southern regions, with the bulk of them from Baghdad and surrounding districts.

Since February 2006 an estimated 820,000 people have been displaced, "including 15,000 Palestinians who have nowhere to go," Pagonis said.

Number Of U.S. Airstrikes In Iraq More Than Double Rate For 2006

Number Of U.S. Airstrikes In Iraq More Than Double Rate For 2006: "...In the first 4 1/2 months of 2007, U.S. aircraft dropped 237 bombs and missiles in support of ground forces in Iraq, already surpassing the 229 expended in all of 2006, according to Air Force figures obtained by The Associated Press."

At the same time, the number of civilian Iraqi casualties from U.S. airstrikes appears to have risen sharply, according to Iraq Body Count, a London-based antiwar research group that maintains a database compiling media reports on Iraq war deaths.

The rate of such reported civilian deaths appeared to climb steadily through 2006, the group reports, averaging a few a month in early 2006, hitting some 40 a month by year's end and averaging more than 50 a month so far this year.

Those are maximum tolls based on news reports, and they count civilians killed by Army helicopter fire as well as by warplanes, said John Sloboda, of Iraq Body Count. The count is regarded as conservative, since it doesn't include deaths missed by the international media.

The U.S. military says it doesn't track civilian casualties.

"The reality of civilian deaths is a year-on-year increase," said Sloboda,. "This particular part of it, airstrikes, have rocketed up more than any other."...

2 New Arrests in Daniel Pearl Murder

2 New Arrests in Daniel Pearl Murder TIME: "(ISLAMABAD, Pakistan) — Police said Tuesday they have arrested two men suspected of involvement in the 2002 kidnapping and murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. "

Attaur Rehman and Faisal Bhatti were arrested Monday in Kashmor, a town some 300 miles northeast of Karachi, said Saghir Mugheri, an area police officer.

Mugheri said both men were alleged members of Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a militant organization linked to al-Qaeda.

A senior detective among the team investigating Pearl's case said Rehman was suspected of leading the gang that kidnapped Pearl in Karachi on Jan. 23, 2002.

Rehman, also known as Naim Bukhari, supervised the reporter's detention in a shack where he was held for several days before he was killed, said the detective, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media.

Mugheri said police seized the pair in a car traveling toward Baluchistan province and that weapons and explosives were found in the vehicle. He said they would be transferred to Karachi for further investigation.

However, Maqboolur Rehman, a human rights lawyer who is not related to Attaur Rehman, claimed the two suspects had been in custody since police seized them from Karachi's Nazimabad neighborhood in 2003.

Rehman said the men's families had heard nothing from or about them ever since and that they had filed complaints to the provincial High Court in Karachi.

Pearl was abducted from Karachi while researching a story on Islamic militancy. His remains were later found in a shallow grave in Karachi's eastern outskirts.

Pakistan has convicted several men in the case. British-born Islamic militant Ahmed Omar Saeed Shaikh was sentenced to death in July 2002 and his three accomplices were given life prison terms. Their appeals are pending before the Sindh High Court.

Khalid Shaikh Mohammed — al-Qaeda's No. 3 leader, who was caught in Pakistan and is now being held at the U.S. prison for terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba — said he personally beheaded Pearl, according to a partial Pentagon transcript of his testimony at a milit..

[bth: so which is it? arrested in 2007 or held since 2003 and only now announced for a reason we do not know?]