Saturday, January 26, 2008

Report: Army's Future Combat System plagued by software problems

EETimes.com - Report: Army's Future Combat System plagued by software problems: "WASHINGTON"— Congressional auditors are reportedly questioning the exploding scale of software development required to field the U.S. Army's Future Combat System.
In a report in Thursday's (Jan. 24) edition, the Washington Post quoted officials with the congressional Government Accountability Office (GAO) as saying the Army underestimated the size of the software effort. The amount of software code for the Future Combat System has reportedly doubled since development began in 2003.

According to GAO, the program has grown from 33.7 million lines of code to 63.8 million. The next largest DoD software development project is the Joint Strike Fighter, at about 23 million lines of code.

According to the Post story, investigators said the software portion of the Future Combat System was "started prematurely" and that the Army and prime contractor Boeing Co. "didn't really understand the requirements."

The Post reported that congressional investigators also have questioned Army oversight of the far-flung, $200 billion program, which reportedly includes dozens of contractors across the U.S.

The Post quoted Boeing's program manager, Dennis Muilenburg, as saying: "The scope and scale of the software job was well understood from the start."

The Future Combat System is the Army's premier modernization program, and its most expensive. The huge software development effort is intended to allow soldiers to communicate wirelessly in near real time on the battlefield

Former Russian Spy Says Government Stole $500 Million From U.N.'s Oil-For-Food Program in Iraq - International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News

FOXNews.com - Former Russian Spy Says Government Stole $500 Million From U.N.'s Oil-For-Food Program in Iraq - International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News: "UNITED NATIONS — A former Russian top spy says his agents helped the Russian government steal nearly $500 million from the U.N.'s oil-for-food program in Iraq before the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Sergei Tretyakov, who defected to the United States in 2000 as a double agent, says he oversaw an operation that helped Saddam's regime manipulate the price of Iraqi oil sold under the program — and allow Russia to skim profits.

Tretyakov, former deputy head of intelligence at Russia's U.N. mission from 1995 to 2000, names some names, but sticks mainly to code names. Among the spies he says he recruited for Russia were a Canadian nuclear weapons expert who became a U.N. nuclear verification expert in Vienna, a senior Russian official in the oil-for-food program and a former Soviet bloc ambassador. He describes a Russian businessman who got hold of a nuclear bomb, and kept it stored in a shed at his dacha outside Moscow.

The 51-year-old Tretyakov had never spoken out about his spying before this week, when he granted his first news media interviews to publicize a book published Thursday. Written by former Washington Post journalist Pete Earley, the book is titled "Comrade J.: The Untold Secrets of Russia's Master Spy in America after the End of the Cold War."

"It's an international spy nest," Tretyakov said of the U.N., during an interview this week with The Associated Press. "Inside the U.N., we were fishing for knowledgeable diplomats who could give us first of all anti-American information."

His defection was first reported by the AP in 2001. Shortly after, the New York Times broke the news that he was not a diplomat, but a top Russian spy who was extensively debriefed by the CIA and the FBI.....

EAG: no plans for special prosecutor to investigate CIA tapes

Eyewitness News WPRI / FOX Providence - Providence, Rhode Island News, Weather, Traffic and Sports | AG: no plans for special prosecutor to investigate CIA tapes: "WASHINGTON (AP) - Attorney General Michael Mukasey says he doesn't plan for a special prosecutor to investigate whether the CIA broke the law when it destroyed videotapes of terror interrogations.

His position runs against some in Congress who want an independent look at the politically charged case.

During a briefing with reporters today, he also ducked repeated questions about whether he considers waterboarding an illegal form of torture.

Senator Edward Kennedy demanded this week that Mukasey immediately clarify his stand on waterboarding.

The issue is expected to be at the top of the agenda when he appears next week before the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Wounded war vet making a difference

Wounded war vet making a difference: "DURHAM -- A Canadian war hero who lost both legs after a 2006 suicide bombing in Afghanistan says his quality of life has improved since his return.

Paul Franklin, author of 'The Long Walk Home', told a packed gym at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology Wednesday that the positive changes he's contributed to in the Canadian military and the personal challenges he's overcome have made his life much richer and more meaningful. Master Corporal Franklin's talk was part of Abilities Week, an attempt to raise people's awareness of what we all have in common, at the UOIT.

The first Canadian medic wounded since the Korean War, he was part of a team of 25 medics who travelled the length and breadth of the country, venturing into areas where air strikes had occurred and other battle zones in order to help the wounded and dying.

"Afghanistan gets into your soul. You drive through cities, the danger's all around you," said Master Cpl. Franklin, 40.

Five months into his tour in Afghanistan -- just a few days before he was to return home -- he and some of his fellow medics were blindsided by a suicide bomber. Both legs were so badly injured that he chose to have them amputated above the knees. He had 26 blood transfusions and 26 operations, contracted two superbugs while in hospital, and lost 70 pounds before having two mechanical legs attached, each worth $60,000.

Master Cpl. Franklin credits a simple combat application tourniquet with saving his life.

"We weren't given the tourniquets with our supplies, so we stole 130 of them from an American hospital's loading dock. The one guy who didn't have one asked me how to use it. He's the man who applied it to my leg as I lay on the side of the road determined to live," he said.

After 14 months, Master Cpl. Franklin learned to walk again with just one cane. After his recovery, the day finally came when he could walk his son, Simon, now 9, to school.

That walk received a lot of media attention and led to the writing of a book about his experiences.

Master Cpl. Franklin's mission since his return has been as an advocate of combat tourniquets, which he says have saved the lives of 60 soldiers, and the workplace rights of Canadian soldiers with disabilities, he said in response to questions from students.

"General Rick Hillier has said he'll issue an order for every Canadian soldier to get tourniquets, tactical medicine, and a powder which stops the bleeding," he said.


[bth: its a fucking crime that tourniquets weren't universally issued in the first place.]

Comment is free: A criminal idea

Comment is free: A criminal idea: "Five former Nato generals, including the former chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, John Shalikashvili, have written a "radical manifesto" which states that "the West must be ready to resort to a pre-emptive nuclear attack to try to halt the 'imminent' spread of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction."

In other words, the generals argue that "the west" - meaning the nuclear powers including the United States, France and Britain - should prepare to use nuclear weapons, not to deter a nuclear attack, not to retaliate following such an attack, and not even to pre-empt an imminent nuclear attack. Rather, they should use them to prevent the acquisition of nuclear weapons by a non-nuclear state. And not only that, they should use them to prevent the acquisition of biological or chemical weapons by such a state.

Under this doctrine, the US could have used nuclear weapons in the invasion of Iraq in 2003, to destroy that country's presumed stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons - stockpiles that did not in fact exist. Under it, the US could have used nuclear weapons against North Korea in 2006. The doctrine would also have justified a nuclear attack on Pakistan at any time prior to that country's nuclear tests in 1998. Or on India, at any time prior to 1974.

The Nuremberg principles are the bedrock of international law on war crimes. Principle VI criminalises the "planning, preparation, initiation or waging of a war of aggression ..." and states that the following are war crimes:

"Violations of the laws or customs of war which include, but are not limited to, murder, ill-treatment or deportation of slave labor or for any other purpose of the civilian population of or in occupied territory; murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war or persons on the seas, killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns, or villages, or devastation not justified by military necessity."...

American Woman Kidnapped in Afghanistan - International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News

FOXNews.com - American Woman Kidnapped in Afghanistan - International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News: "KANDAHAR"Afghanistan — Gunmen kidnapped a burqa-clad American aid worker and her driver while they were driving through a residential section of southern Afghanistan's largest city early Saturday, a provincial governor said.

The two were stopped by gunmen in the city of Kandahar around 8 a.m. while the woman was being driven to work, said Gov. Asadullah Khalid. He blamed the kidnappings on the "enemy of Islam and the enemy of Afghanistan."

Khalid said the 49-year-old American was wearing a burqa when she was taken.

Several Westerners — including two German construction workers and two Italian journalists — have been kidnapped in Afghanistan in the last year, but this was the first kidnapping of an American in recent memory.

The American worked for the Asian Rural Life Development Foundation, said Jeff Palmer, its international director. Palmer said the group hadn't been contacted by the kidnappers and that he didn't know their identity or demands.

"It is our hope that our worker will be released safely and quickly and we are doing all that we can to resolve the situation," Palmer said. "This is a first for our organization and we're really praying for a quick resolution."...

Army Off Target on Recruits

Army Off Target on Recruits - washingtonpost.com: "The"percentage of new recruits entering the Army with a high school diploma dropped to a new low in 2007, according to a study released yesterday, and Army officials confirmed that they have lowered their standards to meet high recruiting goals in the middle of two ongoing wars.

The study by the National Priorities Project concluded that slightly more than 70 percent of new recruits joining the active-duty Army last year had a high school diploma, nearly 20 percentage points lower than the Army's goal of at least 90 percent.

The National Priorities Project, a Massachusetts-based research group that examines the impact of federal budget policies and has been outspoken against the Iraq war, said the number of high school graduates among new recruits fell from 83.5 percent in 2005 to 70.7 percent last year.

"The trend is clear," said Anita Dancs, the project's research director, who based the report on Defense Department data released via the Freedom of Information Act. "They're missing their benchmarks, and I think it's strongly linked to the impact [of] the Iraq war."

The study also found that the number of "high quality" recruits -- those with both a high school diploma and a score in the upper half on the military's qualification test -- has dropped more than 15 percent from 2004 to 2007. After linking the recruiting data to Zip codes and median incomes, it found that low- and middle-income families are supplying far more Army recruits than families with incomes greater than $60,000 a year.

"Once again, we're staring at the painful story of young people with fewer options bearing the greatest burden," said Greg Speeter, the project's executive director....

Urgent Manhunt Across Europe for Terror Plotters

Urgent Manhunt Across Europe for Terror Plotters: "ABC News has learned that the manhunt that began in Spain for suspected terror cell members has now extended to France and other European Union countries.

The attorney general in Spain said today that there are three cell members they are urgently searching for and that the missing members could be suicidal terrorists with a mission to attack somewhere outside of Spain.

Investigative sources tell ABC News the cell members are Spanish residents, including both nationals and foreigners. They are believed to have recently traveled to Spain from Waziristan, Pakistan, an area known as a hotbed for al Qaeda training and Taliban resurgence.

The 14 suspected terrorists arrested last weekend in Spain were in the final stages of preparing a suicide attack using multiple bombs, according to sources close to the investigation being conducted by Spanish Central Intelligence (CNI) and the Guardia Civil Islamic Counterterrorist Unit.

The men were of Pakistani, Indian and other ethnic backgrounds. Many appear to be legal residents of Spain, but some of the suspects' legal statuses are still unknown. One of the men arrested, Maroof Ahmaed Mirza, is described as an Imam, a legal resident of Spain and a Pakistani national.

The raids capped what was known as Operation Cantata and took place in the Raval neighborhood of Barcelona after authorities established the readiness of the group based on intercepts and informant information, sources told ABCNews.com.

Seven searches were conducted, including searches of two mosques, according to police reports. Investigators seized four timers, described as "mechanical clocks without numbered spheres," various empty pyrotechnic cartridges, multi-colored wires, latex gloves, kitchen gloves, severe batteries of varying voltages, cables used for detonators and other various materials, according to an inventory of the searches.

Spanish authorities believe the intended target was the Barcelona subway system and that the plot would have used two to four suicide bombers wearing explosive vests that were to be detonated simultaneously while another plotter detonated three to four more devices placed in the subway, investigative sources told ABC News. The Barcelona rapid transit system has 150 stations along nine lines and runs over 71 miles. It serves 1.6 million residents in Spain's second largest city.

"For this reason, the Barcelona rail system makes a great target for the Islamic radicals coming to Spain," said a source close to the case. "The (Raval) area of Barcelona has become a great location for the al Qaeda cells for recruitment, financial support and possible targets."

Army searches for hijacked ammo trucks | Herald Sun

Army searches for hijacked ammo trucks | Herald Sun: "ABOUT"30 rebels and two soldiers were killed as Pakistani troops searched for hijacked trucks that were laden with ammunition.

Helicopter gunships were also involved in the clashes in Dara Adam Khel, a lawless area of North West Frontier Province near the city of Peshawar where the lorries were seized by rebels a day earlier.

Unrest is spreading along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan, with troops separately engaged in a major operation in the tribal stronghold of an al-Qaeda-linked militant blamed for the assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

The instability prompted US Defence Secretary Robert Gates to offer that the United States is "ready, willing and able" to conduct joint combat operations in the troubled region, if Islamabad agreed.

Pakistan's Western allies are increasingly concerned about the situation in the nuclear-armed Islamic republic since Bhutto's killing last month, with President Pervez Musharraf under pressure to keep a lid on the violence.

In the latest flare-up, Pakistani troops launched a search-and-cordon operation in Dara Adam Khel - the site of a major tribal weapons bazaar - to find four trucks containing munitions and supplies.

"Reportedly, 25-30 miscreants have been killed... Two Frontier Corps personnel embraced shahadat (martyrdom) and 10 others were injured," the army said.

Chief military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas said skirmishes were continuing in the region including near a landmark Japanese-built tunnel leading from Peshawar to the northwestern city of Kohat.

Residents said all markets were closed and gunship helicopters were pounding militant bunkers in the hills around the arms bazaar and the tunnel. The main road was also closed, they said.

Security officials said Dara Adam Khel had recently become a stronghold of the banned Sunni Muslim extremist group Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, which has links to al-Qaeda.

Separately, troops on Friday continued to comb mountains in the tribal region of South Waziristan around the hideout of Islamist warlord Baitullah Mehsud, officials said.

Mehsud is accused by Pakistani officials and the US Central Intelligence Agency of orchestrating Bhutto's killing in a gun and suicide bomb attack at a political rally on December 27.

He has denied any involvement.

More than 200 militants and 30 soldiers are said to have died during three weeks of fighting in South Waziristan.

[bth: this appears to have erupted into a full rebellion in this region.]

US military says wanted militant killed in Pakistan - Yahoo! News

US military says wanted militant killed in Pakistan - Yahoo! News: "KABUL"AFP) - The US military in Afghanistan said that a Taliban-linked militant leader wanted by Washington had been killed in neighbouring Pakistan.

Darim Sedgai was ambushed by unknown gunmen on January 16 and died of his wounds, the military said in a statement.

The military described him as a "powerful commander" linked to a top Taliban leader, Siraj Haqqani, but did not provide any further details of the incident.

The US military here reportedly announced a 50,000-dollar bounty for Sedgai in October last year, saying he was wanted for his ties to Taliban and Al-Qaeda militant groups.

Sedgai was the third rebel commander in Haqqani's network to die in recent months, the statement said.

Haqqani, the son of famous anti-Russian commander Jalaluddin Haqqani, joined the Taliban during their advance towards Kabul in 1996 and is their top commander in eastern Afghanistan. He has a 200,000 dollar bounty on his head....

[bth: perhaps we are hiring assassination/bounty hunters.]

Father of missing Lawrence soldier keeps hope for a safe return - The Boston Globe

Father of missing Lawrence soldier keeps hope for a safe return - The Boston Globe: "LAWRENCE"- Every few weeks, US Army officers call Ramon "Andy" Jimenez to deliver the latest bit of news about his son, Alex R. Jimenez, who was kidnapped in Iraq last May: The military found Alex's Army ID. Recovered his gun. Arrested an insurgent suspected of kidnapping him.

more stories like thisAndy Jimenez, a carpenter who lives in a modest basement apartment in Lawrence, charts his life from one such phone call to the next. The elder Jimenez, who once went to a protest to call for the return of American troops from Iraq, attends every meeting of local veterans, puts together care packages for American troops deployed oversees, and calls soldiers from his son's 10th Mountain Division his family.

More than 250 days have passed since Specialist Jimenez, a Lawrence native, and two other American soldiers were kidnapped on a deserted highway south of Baghdad. The body of one of the soldiers was found in the Euphrates River shortly after the disappearance, and a group linked to Al Qaeda boasted that it had executed the others. But Jimenez clings steadfastly to his belief that Alex is still alive and has rearranged his life around that conviction.

Thousands of American parents have lost children to the Iraq war, but Jimenez has no body to bury, no grave at which to weep. There has been no 21-gun salute for Alex.

"When somebody dies, you know they're dead," he said. "Alex is missing in action. Nothing compares to waiting."....


[bth: my heart goes out to Mr. Jimenez.]

Friday, January 25, 2008

10 Die in Mistaken Afghan Firefight

10 Die in Mistaken Afghan Firefight - New York Times: "At least nine Afghan police officers and a civilian were killed early Thursday in a firefight between American forces and the officers in Ghazni Province, just south of the capital, local officials said.

The American forces were searching houses in a village on the outskirts of Ghazni town and blew open the gates of a house, according to local Afghan officials. District police officers heard the explosion and rushed to the scene, suspecting that the Taliban were in the area, but were themselves mistaken for Taliban and shot by the American soldiers, the officials said. Aircraft supporting the operation fired on one of the police cars.

The killings set off protests in the town on Thursday afternoon, and demonstrators blocked the main highway and prevented a government delegation from reaching the town from a nearby airfield, local officials said....

Arms and the man: Something rotten at IAI - Haaretz - Israel News

Arms and the man: Something rotten at IAI - Haaretz - Israel News: "Attorney"General Menachem Mazuz is till pondering the investigation of Moshe Keret, who was the CEO of Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) for 20 years, until 2005. A few months ago Mazuz decided to close the case that the police had submitted, which dealt with Keret's ties with an arms dealer. According to a legal source, there was difficulty in making the findings, which aroused the suspicion of serious offenses, into legal evidence. And a police source said some witnesses avoided giving answers or claimed they don't remember details.

However, in September, 2007, Ometz (the nonprofit Citizens for Proper Administration, Judicial and Social Justice) appealed to the AG on his decision. The Justice Ministry says there is no decision yet on the matter.

About five years ago IAI employees complained about their "all-powerful" CEO and his close and peculiar relationship with an arms dealer (whose name is under gag order), who had been appointed the marketing agent of the aeronautics industry in Russia. Ometz lodged a complaint with the National Fraud Investigation Unit, where it sat like a bump on a log. Meanwhile the State Comptroller's Office launched an examination of IAI sales and marketing agents and their commissions.

Some of the state comptroller's serious findings about Keret and the agent were published in the report. But others were not for fear suspicions of bribes and illegitimate deeds abroad might harm Israel and IAI, in particular with Russia. Yehiel Horev, the head of the Defense Ministry security arm (MALMAB) delegated to investigators the task of examining the findings. He concluded there was cause for concern: apparently not only improper administrative arrangements but also criminal acts. Mazuz and the Israel Police were told.

The police again procrastinated. Police Major General Alex Ish Shalom, who had been seconded to serve as a special adviser to the state comptroller, had to intervene. Ish Shalom met with Police Brigadier General Yohanan Danino, then head of the International Crime Unit, and urged him to order an investigation be opened. Danino demanded (unnecessary) authorization from his superiors and from the Defense Ministry. The red tape continued to tangle until Danino was reassigned and replaced by Police Brigadier General Amichai Shai. He discovered that his predecessor had done nothing and ordered the desired investigation. He entrusted the task to Superintendent Aviad Dor-Hai, head of an investigation team at the security department of the International Crimes Investigation Unit.

Keret and the agent were arrested in September, 2005. The agent twice won a gag order to block publication of his name, the last time in August 2007, but Haaretz recently obtained information on the two that gives a glimpse into the murky world of arms dealers.

How it works

Here are the main points of the findings from the state comptroller, MALMAB and the Israel Police. IAI, the largest arms manufacturer in Israel, has in recent years been exporting up to $3 billion annually to dozens of countries. To promote sales it hires about 300 external agents and marketing consultants in addition to the market specialists it employs. The agents were to be a barrier between the manufacturer and the customer so the former could claim clean hands should suspicions of impropriety arise.

The arms dealer (say the reports) was appointed by IAI early in the 1990s as a sales promoter to the Confederation of Independent States (the former Soviet Union). Afterward the IAI factories and its subsidiary Elta also signed on his employment as a marketing agent. The contracts with him were renewed periodically until 2005 - when the police investigation was opened.

"There were expectations that the agent would bring extensive deals from the CIS and therefore a large number of contracts were signed with him - but in fact, the extent of the deals was less than expected. Nevertheless, the contracts with him were renewed," states one of the reports. The investigations, which were based on internal IAI documents, indicated that over 11 years, "IAI and Elta paid the agent millions of dollars." Elta made payments so as to acquire a plane in Russia that would serve as a "carrier" for innovative espionage equipment for the early-warning Phalcon plane that IAI and Elta built for China. The value of the April 1996 deal with China was an estimated $289 million. Acquiring the plane cost Elta $46 million.

A senior IAI official, David Lampert, recommended that the agent dealing with the matter would be selected from among six candidates. However, for some reason, the management of IAI appointed the agent in question instead. Another director, the head of the CIS desk at the Bedek Aviation Group (which mainly does aircraft renovation and maintenance) said it was possible to acquire the plane without an agent, in return for $3 million. Why the huge difference in price? One of the reports says: "There is a suspicion that the inflated price for the Phalcon deal served as a "special payment" for officials in the CIS in return for authorizing the deals. In addition, IAI paid millions of dollars to the agent, with some of these sums ostensibly intended for the same purposes."

Why was the marketing agent in question chosen for the deal? One of the reports states that "Lampert himself did not know who had chosen the agent and why, what the considerations were at all and whether alternatives that he had proposed had been examined. No documentation and/or justifications for choosing him rather than someone else have been found."

The contract for the purchase of the plane, in Russia, was signed in 1997. It did not stipulate the commission though an appendix said the rate would be 15 percent. The agent, with Keret's approval, even demanded 17 percent, but this was refused. But the calculations done by the State Comptroller's Office and the police show the agent received 17.61 percent - even more than he had demanded. "According to Keret's authorizations," says a report, "the agent was paid several million dollars, more than could have been paid."

The deal with China was ultimately scuttled under pressure from the United States, and China received $375 million in compensation. But Israel and IAI found a new customer for the Phalcon deal - India - at four times the price, a deal for about $1.1 billion. The India deal is still in the implementation phase, but the agent has received an advance of millions of dollars with many more millions promised.

Hefty commissions

Another perplexing finding, which is indicative of a vast network of relations that the agent developed with Keret, is that he was allowed "to receive a commission on all the deals that were made in the CIS by other IAI sales agents - even if he had made no contribution to these deals." (The reference Is to aircraft maintenance contracts - Y.M.) Nevertheless, the investigation found that "for those deals (he) is continuing to receive a commission of 10 percent on the receipts to this day." The police probe and the comptroller's check found, for example, that the agent received a hefty commission on the acquisition of an engine even though the deal was brought in by a Bedek employee. The reports from the state comptroller, MALMAB and the police give rise to questions about the fact the man was appointed at all to serve as an agent of IAI, "even though in the past suspicions had been raised as to his entanglement in financial matters."

And something else to wonder about: In agreements between IAI and the agent commission percentages were set for him, for the duration of the contract that were "excessive in comparison to what is customary for other agents," note the reports. And contracts with other agents explicitly stated they would receive no compensation if a deal was not implemented.

Moreover, IAI turned a blind eye to the fact that the agent "had collaborated with competitors of IAI, and therefore sometimes deals were not made between potential customers and IAI."

The agent's deeds are known to many IAI employees, and some expressed objections to him.

However, Keret and his senior directors ignored their protests, and complainers were even "punished" by being forbidden to travel to Russia. The agent "threatened IAI employees," says one of the reports, "saying he had power in the industry and therefore if they don't do as he demands, he will cause them harm."

The affair's various investigators concluded that the appointment of the agent was "flawed" and says "it would have been possible to have dispensed with his services altogether."

So why did IAI and CEO Keret do what they did? The reports suggest a possible answer and indicate a problematic, four-way relationship: Keret's bureau chief was Ilana Kind. Her father, who has since died, was Adiv Aviram - an IAI acquisitions agent. Aviram, who was a failed businessman, had served as vice president of the Astor company and was active, in addition to other places, in Romania. The father and daughter incurred debts and faced bankruptcy. "The agent helped him with a loan," states one of the reports, according to the testimony of a legal adviser to IAI, who said the agent also came to Aviram's aid by hiring him as a salaried employee in one of his companies.

The IAI management has sent a laconic response: "The action and decisions in the matters in question have been taken by the official authorities."

A source at IAI said that the moment the police investigation began, all relations with the agent were suspended.

Keret has said in response that he has cooperated with the police: "I answered all the questions. I have been informed that the case has been closed and, as far as I am concerned, that's the end of the story."

Beirut Bomb Kills Terrorism Investigator

Beirut Bomb Kills Terrorism Investigator - The Huffington Post: "A car bomb Friday killed one of Lebanon's top terrorism investigators who was probing assassinations of prominent anti-Syrian figures and a series of other attacks in recent years.

Capt. Wissam Eid, 31, worked for the police intelligence agency which is closely tied to the Western-backed government and had survived two previous assassination attempts. The attack also killed his bodyguard and three passers-by and wounded 37 people, police said.

A huge plume of black smoke rose from the site of the attack in the Lebanese capital. Television footage showed orange flames shooting up into the sky, as several cars burned and firefighters struggled to put out the flames....

Police defuse bomb on Nawaz’s convoy route

Daily Times - Leading News Resource of Pakistan - Police defuse bomb on Nawaz’s convoy route: "Police defused a roadside time bomb just minutes before Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief Nawaz Sharif was due to pass the spot here on Thursday, Senior Superintendent of Police (Operations) Imtiaz Shah told Daily Times on Thursday.

The former premier was travelling in a convoy to address a lawyers’ convention and a political rally in Peshawar in connection with the February 18 general elections.

He said, “The NWFP police found the time bomb weighing 400 grams around 20 minutes before Nawaz’s caravan was to reach Suray Pul (bridge). The bomb was placed under the bridge. The police stopped the caravan near Gulbahar Chowk for 25 minutes because of security reasons.”

Imtiaz Shah said the bomb was without a detonator and was only meant to harass the people.

Later, addressing the Peshawar High Court Bar Association, former premier Nawaz Sharif said, “The government is terrifying the people and opposition parties through threats of bombing and suicide attacks to disrupt the election campaign and lawyers’ movement.”

“The bomb’s recovery points to the fact that President Pervez Musharraf and his team are planning to rig the upcoming general polls but this incident will not sabotage our election campaign,” Nawaz said.

He said the PML-N and the lawyers should conduct an inquiry to expose hidden hands behind this “cowardly act”.

Criticising the former ruling party, he said, “The PML-Quaid (PML-Q) is a group of a few individuals that will not win even a single seat if the government conducts fair, free and transparent general elections in the country.” He added that the PML-Q’s popularity among the people had decreased.
Informed Comment
Presidential Candidates Still Depend On TV Ads - Political Capital with John Harwood - CNBC.com
I won't vote for Huck but I like his ad with Chuck
GOP: You Should Be "Channeling" Bob Hope (At Least His Movie) - Funny Business with Jane Wells - CNBC.com

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

YouTube - How It All Ends

YouTube - How It All Ends: ""

Hopes for Vehicle Questioned After Iraq Blast

Hopes for Vehicle Questioned After Iraq Blast - New York Times: "From the blast and the high, thin plume of white smoke above the tree line, it looked and sounded like any other attack. The bare details were, sadly, routine enough: a gunner was killed and three crew members were wounded Saturday when their vehicle rolled over a homemade bomb buried beneath a road southeast of Baghdad.

Yet, it was anything but routine. Over a crackling field radio came reports of injuries and then, sometime later, official confirmation of the first fatality inflicted by a roadside bomb on an MRAP, the new Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected armored vehicle that the American military is counting on to reduce casualties from roadside bombs in Iraq.

The military has been careful to point out that the new vehicle is not impervious to attack, and that a sufficiently powerful bomb can destroy any vehicle. Still, a forensic team was flown in immediately to inspect the charred wreckage, from which wires and tangled metal protruded, to determine whether the bombing had revealed a design flaw.

“It’s a great vehicle, but there is no perfect vehicle,” said Lt. Col. Kenneth Adgie, commander of the battalion that lost the soldier.

Three of the four people aboard suffered only broken feet and lacerations. Pending the results of an investigation, it is unclear yet whether the gunner was killed by the blast or by the vehicle rolling over.

But officers on the scene noted that he was the member of the crew most exposed, and that the vehicle’s secure inner compartment was not compromised and appeared to have done its job by protecting the three other crew members inside. “The crew compartment is intact,” said Capt. Michael Fritz. He said the blast would have been large enough “to take out” a heavily armored Bradley Fighting Vehicle.

Roadside bombs have been the single deadliest weapon insurgents have directed against American forces in Iraq, and have grown increasingly sophisticated and powerful over the years. As a result, reducing the carnage from the bombs became a strong military and political imperative for the Bush administration.

So important is the mine-resistant vehicle to the United States military that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates singled it out in his holiday-season message in December, saying, “To ensure that troops have the best protection available on the battlefield, MRAPs became the military’s highest acquisition priority, and thousands of these vehicles are in production and en route to theater.”

On Friday, Mr. Gates toured an assembly facility for the vehicles in Charleston, S.C., where he described them as “a proven lifesaver on the battlefield.” He cited Army reports that there had been 12 attacks on the vehicles with homemade bombs since a push began last summer to send more of them into combat zones, mostly in Iraq. No soldiers died in those attacks, he said.

The vehicles have distinctive, armored V-shaped hulls that are designed to deflect the force of the explosion from roadside bombs out and away from the vehicle, sparing the occupants in the compartment.

The underbody sits about 36 inches off the ground, higher than the Humvees that have proved susceptible to roadside bombs despite the additional armor added to many of them in combat zones.

The vehicles are much bigger than Humvees, standing 12 feet high, weighing up to 18 tons, and carrying 6 to 10 soldiers, depending on the model. There are more than 1,500 of them in Iraq now, and the military plans to purchase more than 15,000 of them at a cost of $22.4 billion.

Saturday’s deadly attack came on the first day of an operation to clear insurgents from southern Arab Jabour, a rural, overwhelmingly Sunni area less than 10 miles southeast of Baghdad on the Tigris River. The primary target is Al Qaeda in Mesopotamia, the homegrown extremist group that American intelligence says is foreign led.

The bomb went off at 4:45 p.m., as engineers were driving beside an irrigation ditch to support soldiers of the First Battalion, 30th Infantry Regiment, Second Brigade Combat Team, Third Infantry Division, who had been clearing farmhouses and villages since a dawn air assault. The blast threw the vehicle into the air and spun it 180 degrees, with its shattered nose coming to rest beside the ditch.

Pvt. Matthew Hall, 19, saw the bombing while standing on the roof of a nearby farmhouse. “I heard a loud boom,” he said Sunday. “I looked over and I saw pieces of vehicle and smoke. I saw a tire flying into the field.”...

[bth: so the article goes on to describe the fact that an identical bomb had been pointed out by a farmer and disarmed and that we had checked but did not find this one. That is disturbing. Also I would have expected the damage to be from an EFP or conventional explosives instead of a fertilizer bomb. Given the amount of unsecured artillery and so on, it is interesting that insurgents have had to go to fertilizer bombs. Are IED stockpiles becoming less? That the crew compartment was unbreached is a good sign. That the injuries were to the crews feet probably has to do with the suspension of the seats. South Africans resolved this by suspending the seats and foot rests from the ceiling. An explosion like this probably would have killed the entire crew of a fully armored humvee. Instead we have one dead and multiple injuries.]

IRAQ: Iraq toll mounts as forces fight cult

IRAQ: Iraq toll mounts as forces fight cult « War Victims Monitor: "Some 276 people were killed, wounded or captured by government forces fighting a millenarian Shia cult in southern Iraq over the past three days, the Iraqi Ministry of Defence said in Baghdad yesterday.

The heavy losses in gun battles between the ‘Supporters of the Mahdi’ group and the police and army in Basra and Nasiriya underlines how swiftly violence can explode in Iraq where everybody is heavily armed. In Nasiriya three senior officers were among the dead.

The movement, led by Ahmad al-Hassani, also known as Ahmad al-Yamani, believes in the imminent return of the Messiah but exactly why its members should have taken to the streets in several cities remains unclear. In Basra they reportedly first killed several traffic policemen and commandeered six empty vehicles and two police cars. They later captured an oil facilities building and a hospital. At one point there was fighting in 75 per cent of Basra, a city of two million people, according to the police chief Abdul Jalil Khalaf.

It is a measure of the lack of information on what is happening outside central Baghdad that casualty figures vary widely with one source claiming that 97 died and 217 were wounded in Basra alone. In Baghdad the National Security Adviser Muwafaq al-Rubaie was trapped in a Shia mosque in the Sh’la district in west Baghdad but it is not clear if his attackers were also from the ‘Supporters of the Mahdi’ movement, that appears to have supporters in every Shia city.

Southern Iraq, which is overwhelmingly Shia, is riven by rivalries between different Shia parties that sporadically leads to turf battles. The most powerful militia is the Mehdi Army of the nationalist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr who this week threatened to end a six-month truce he declared last August after fighting with government security forces controlled by the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) in the holy city of Kerbala. ISCI, though never very popular among Shia, controls the police and local government apparatus in much of southern Iraq, and has long feuded with the Sadrists.

The US military said yesterday in Baghdad that Iran was supplying less weaponry to insurgent groups in Iraq, but was continuing to train and finance them. The US has long accused Iran of being the source of sophisticated roadside bombs used by Shia militias against US troops. In practice, however, Iran has always supported almost every Shia party including ISCI, an important US ally, which was originally established under the auspices of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards during the Iran-Iraq war in 1982. ...

[bth: note how the figures are wildly higher than earlier reports from government sources. Also how nuanced the US military statement is on Iran.]

Suicide bomber kills one, injures 20 at Iraq school - Middle East

Suicide bomber kills one, injures 20 at Iraq school - Middle East: "A suicide bomber wearing an explosive belt attacked a school in the Iraqi city of Baquba early on Tuesday, killing its guard and injuring 20 students and teachers, according to witnesses.

The bomber blew himself up as students were entering a high school in the centre of Baquba, 60 kilometres north-east of Baghdad, the witnesses said.

This attack comes a day after another suicide bomber killed at least 17 people and injured 20 at a mourning ceremony in the village of Hajaj near the northern Iraqi city of Bayji in the province of Salahaddin. ...

[bth: why does a Muslim think he gets a free pass to heaven for blowing up high school kids?]

Asylum Program Falls Short For Iraqis Aiding U.S. Forces - washingtonpost.com

Asylum Program Falls Short For Iraqis Aiding U.S. Forces - washingtonpost.com: "Thousands"of Iraqi translators have assisted U.S. forces since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, risking their lives and leaving their families vulnerable to retaliation from insurgents who see them as accomplices of American troops.

More than 250 of the interpreters working with the United States -- or with U.S. contractors -- have been killed. But the U.S. asylum program for translators seeking to leave the country has fallen far short of demand and, at times, short of what other coalition countries have offered their Iraqi staff.

This month, Denmark will complete the process of granting asylum to 120 Iraqi interpreters who worked for Danish troops in Iraq, as well as their families. "Interpreters who had been working for the Danish military were given the choice of resettling within [Iraq] with financial help, of being given jobs at Danish mission in the region, or of going to Denmark to apply for asylum with their families," said Thomas Bille Winkel, representative of the Danish Ministry of Refugee, Immigration and Integration Affairs. Most chose to go to Denmark, he said.

Denmark's rapid handling of its Iraqi employees and their families -- 364 people -- contrasts with the fate of thousands of Iraqis who have worked, or are working, for the U.S. government or its contractors in Iraq and who also wish to leave the country.

Initially, the U.S. asylum initiative covered only 50 individuals a year beginning in 2006, rising to 500 annually for 2007 and 2008, and scheduled to drop back to 50 next year. Through September of last year, 429 Iraqi and 71 Afghan translators -- plus 482 of their family members -- have been admitted to the United States as refugees, according to the State Department. An additional 43 special visas for translators were issued in October and November. The Los Angeles Times has reported that about 7,000 interpreters have worked for U.S. forces since the war began.

According to the office of Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.), a sponsor of the refugee legislation, 257 Iraqi interpreters working for U.S. forces have been killed since the March 2003 invasion. An amendment by Kennedy to the 2008 defense authorization bill would raise the refugee cap to 5,000 interpreters over the next five years. A revised version of the bill, originally vetoed by President Bush, still contains the measure and is expected to pass. ...

[bth: so where are the warhawks over in the Republican aisle on this important piece of legislation?]

Monday, January 21, 2008

Breitbart.tv » Bill Clinton Caught Nodding Off During Service to Honor MLK

Breitbart.tv » Bill Clinton Caught Nodding Off During Service to Honor MLK

U.S. Soldiers and Shoppers Hit the Wall - New York Times

U.S. Soldiers and Shoppers Hit the Wall - New York Times: "Wars"in Afghanistan and Iraq have pushed the U.S. armed forces to the limit. Many soldiers have scarcely seen their families in recent years. But a much larger American army, the one that's spent this century shopping, is even more overextended and its pain is now coming home to roost.

Nobody ever made money exhorting people to save. But U.S. banks and financial institutions have spent huge amounts in recent years telling people debt is good and savings are dumb.

Their ads - to the effect that "good daughters go into debt to take their mothers on vacation," as Elizabeth Warren, a Harvard law professor, put it - paid off handsomely as consumers went on a debt-financed shopping spree. Consumption has driven the U.S. economy; the only problem is consumers ran out of money years ago even as they did not run out of credit cards.

And here we are, with the rainy day our grandparents always droned on about appearing in the form of a deluge, and no savings stashed for it, and President George W. Bush, the debt-spender par excellence, conjuring up a $150-billion stimulus package that evokes the injection of steroids into a prone athlete wrecked by a marathon.

This "shot in the arm," as Bush put it, may dampen a little pain. But this patient will be in intensive care for a long time.

As Stephen Roach, the chairman of Morgan Stanley Asia, said to me: "The very low U.S. savings rate, and related huge balance of payments deficit to attract funds from overseas, are not sustainable things." The adjustment is likely to be long and painful.

Think of it as getting the sacrifice of U.S. soldiers and the obliviousness of U.S. shoppers a little more in sync. The non-relation between expensive wars and exempt non-warriors, a mirage Bush has fostered, has become unsustainable.

Roach estimated U.S. net national savings at a tiny 1.4 percent of national income and household debt at 133 percent of personal disposable income. That last figure means middle class families are tapping into home equity - borrowing against their homes - to buy their kids socks. And if they can't pay the resulting never-sleeping debt, they lose not a room or two, but the house.

Headlines in recent weeks have focused on the international investors - from Japan to Kuwait - riding to the rescue of such American symbols as Citigroup and Merrill Lynch. The Asian financial crisis of the 1990s has gone into reverse.

This turnabout has provided eloquent evidence of the Asian-tilted power shift of the past decade and of the way countries from Korea to Singapore have built up dollar war chests as the United States has plunged into debt.

Beneath the staggering U.S. corporate losses - over $100 billion since the credit crisis began - lie the individuals suckered into taking on debts they won't be able to pay, whatever Bush hands back in tax rebates.

As my colleague Floyd Norris has written of ballooning (and now plunging) property prices: "The only way prices got so high was that people who could not afford to buy those homes were given mortgages they could not hope to repay unless home prices kept rising."

A staggering number of these mortgages were either interest-only or so-called "negative amortization" contracts that left the principal owed either unreduced or mounting after monthly payments.

"The median American family is going into what looks like a recession owing more than 100 percent of its income," Warren said. No wonder Citigroup just set aside $4.1 billion to cover possible defaults on home-equity loans, credit cards and auto loans - shoes that have yet to drop.

A weak dollar, outsized personal debt, a massive current account deficit, cash-strapped banks and Asian governments purchasing U.S. Treasury bonds to finance the national debt are not signs of American strength. Nor are they necessarily signs of American decline, because inherent U.S. vitality remains enormous.

But as Benn Steil, an economist at the Council on Foreign Relations, suggested: "We could be seeing a secular shift in confidence in the dollar as a store of value as the impression grows that the United States, to some degree, is losing control of its destiny."

[bth: the response is going to blame the poor for being poor. Corporations, high net worth individuals, they just escaped the taxes, the war, the sacrifice. They got theirs. They will blame the poor who can't afford health care, who leveraged their houses, who used credit cards, with all the negative ramifications that entails. In the meantime Wall Street will shunt off its bad debts to the government (the taxpayer) somehow, probably through the Federal Reserve. Eight years of Republican oversight has ridden on the back of the middle class family until they staggered and fell. No one gives a damn about the middle class family. Halliburton moves to the Middle East - they follow the money. Hedge funds will move next.]
Welcome To Red State Update with Jackie Broyles and Dunlap

National Town Hall Meeting - WAR WITH IRAN: Preventable or Inevitable? (12/4/07) - Google Video

National Town Hall Meeting - WAR WITH IRAN: Preventable or Inevitable? (12/4/07) - Google Video: " "
Crooked Timber

Report: Petraeus In Line For NATO Post - Breaking News: The Post Chronicle

Report: Petraeus In Line For NATO Post - Breaking News: The Post Chronicle: "Gen"David Petraeus, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, is reportedly being considered for the top NATO command this year.

A senior Pentagon official said the Defense Department was considering Petraeus' "next assignment," and said the NATO command is a possibility.

"He deserves (a high-level post) and (the NATO command) has also always been a highly prestigious position," the official said. "So he is a candidate for that job, but there have been no final decisions and nothing on the timing."

Such a promotion would put Petraeus in a top post in the next administration -- a prospect that has raised concerns about the way in which war commanders are rotated, the newspaper said.

The Pentagon is considering a number of top-level assignment changes this year, the Times reported.

Some observers said President George W. Bush might want to keep Petraeus in Iraq as long as possible, since Bush largely credits the general with the troop surge and a reduction in violence in Baghdad in 2007. (c) UPI

[bth: Petraeus was caught making private side briefings to Republican Senators earlier in 2007. He's being set up as a the next Republican general and president. Mark my words. He'll run for the office and the party will back him. So consequently they've got to get him out of Iraq before the surge melts and people find out there was no political settlement to solidify the peace in Iraq.]

Saudi Arabia to lift ban on women drivers - Telegraph

Saudi Arabia to lift ban on women drivers - Telegraph: "Saudi Arabia is to lift its ban on women drivers in an attempt to stem a rising suffragette-style movement in the deeply conservative state.

Government officials have confirmed the landmark decision and plan to issue a decree by the end of the year.

The move is designed to forestall campaigns for greater freedom by women, which have recently included protesters driving cars through the Islamic state in defiance of a threat of detention and loss of livelihoods.

The royal family has previously balked at granting women driving permits, claiming the step did not have full public support. The driving ban dates back to the establishment of the state in 1932, although recently the government line has weakened.

"There has been a decision to move on this by the Royal Court because it is recognised that if girls have been in schools since the 1960s, they have a capability to function behind the wheel when they grow up," a government official told The Daily Telegraph. "We will make an announcement soon."

Abdulaziz bin Salamah, the deputy information minister, said the official reform programme had been dogged by debate over the issue.

"In terms of women driving, we don't have it now because of the reticence of some segments of society," he said. "For example, my mother wouldn't want my sister to drive.

"It's something she cannot grapple with. But there is change on the way. I think the fair view is that one can be against it but one does not have the right to prevent it."

If the ban on women driving is lifted, it could be years before the full impact is seen. Practical hurdles stopping women obtaining licences and insurance must be overcome....

British media confirms FBI whistleblower Edmonds' account of secret file

The Raw Story | British media confirms FBI whistleblower Edmonds' account of secret file: "The Sunday Times has obtained a document that confirms that a file, which the FBI denied existed, could contain information about American officials stealing nuclear secrets for Turkish and Israeli spies, who would then sell the secrets to Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

Earlier, FBI whistleblower Sibel Edmonds, 37, approached the Times about "explosive" communications she discovered between high-up American officials and Turkish and Israeli spies. A FOIA request to the FBI, for case number 203A-WF-210023, was answered with a claim that the case number did not exist.

"I can tell you that that file and the operations it refers to did exist from 1996 to February 2002," says Edmonds.

One high-ranking official, identified by RAW STORY's Larisa Alexandrovna as Marc Grossman, Ambassador to Turkey from 1994 to 1997. Grossman is said to have warned his cohorts not to do business with Brewster Jennings, a front company set up by the CIA. Brewster Jennings was also the "employer" of CIA operative Valerie Plame, whose cover, with Grossman's help, was blown in what is widely believed to be a political hit job by the Bush Administration on her husband, Ambassador and Iraq war critic Joseph C. Wilson.

[bth: when viewing media complicity and propaganda, one needs to watch for what isn't reported.]

ABC News: General Got $100K to Endorse 'F' Vet Charity

ABC News: General Got $100K to Endorse 'F' Vet Charity: "Retired"U.S. Army Gen. Tommy Franks, who led the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, was paid $100,000 to endorse a veterans charity that watchdog groups say is ripping off donors and wounded veterans by using only a small portion of the money raised for veterans services, according to testimony in Congress today.

Gen. Franks' involvement was revealed as members of Congress questioned Roger Chapin, who operates Help Hospitalized Veterans and the Coalition to Salute America's Heroes Foundation, charities that congressional investigators say spend only 25 percent of the money they raise on projects for wounded veterans.

The charities were graded "F" by the American Institute of Philanthropy because so little of the money is used for actual charity projects or services.

Chapin testified he approached Gen. Franks in 2005, and he agreed to let his signature be used on mass mailings seeking contributions to his charities.

"He helped us raise millions and millions of dollars more than we would have," Chapin told the hearing, chaired by Congressman Henry Waxman, D- Calif.

Congressman Waxman said Gen. Franks had since disassociated himself from Chapin's charities and asked that his name be removed from the solicitation.

"General Franks was paid $100,000 to lend his name. We understand he developed misgivings and asked that his name be taken off," Congressman Waxman said.

"Gen. Franks did support the Coalition to Support American Heroes back in 2004 and 2005. The General made several speeches for the organization because he supports the idea of taking care of our disabled veterans. He also premitted the use of his name in direct mailings for about a year," Michael Hayes, chief of staff for Franks & Associates LLC, said. "He ended his support for the CSAH in late 2005 when he learned that the percent of money raised that was going to the troops was less than 85 percent, a figure which was then and remains today his critertia for supporting charitable organizations."

Chapin also revealed that his charity paid $5,000 a month for the endorsement of retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Arthur "Chip" Diehl.

Contacted by ABCNews.com, Gen. Diehl said he had "no comment."

Chapin said it was "an insult" to suggest that Gen. Franks or Gen. Diehl had "sold their integrity."

Congressional investigators say they found that of the $168 million that Chapin has raised in donations to help veterans, only 25 percent "has been expended on goods and services for veterans." The remainder, investigators say, went for administrative costs, salaries and to pay for direct mail fundraising.

Under questioning today, Chapin also acknowledged the charity paid his $17,000 membership in a California golf club and salaries for himself and his wife of $561,971.

Congressional investigators also reported that the charity reimbursed the Chapins for more than $340,000 in expenses for meals, hotels and entertainment. The charity also purchased a $444,600 condominium in northern Virginia that is used by the Chapins, investigators said.

[bth: What scumbags. For anyone out there wanting to make donations there are plenty of local and legitimate groups where every penny will go to soldiers or veterans. Every cent. Franks has cost this country so much. This dirt bag invaded a country with no plan for occupation. The impact on our nation will be felt for years and years. Now he 'donates his name' for $100K while good hearted Americans get ripped off. Scumbags.]

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Armored Vehicle Supply Better After Early Delays - New York Times

Armored Vehicle Supply Better After Early Delays - New York Times: "The Defense Department has now delivered more than 1,500 heavily armored ground transport vehicles to Iraq and Afghanistan in an accelerated program to protect American troops from improvised explosives, senior Pentagon officials said Friday.

Production problems initially plagued the effort to speed the mine-resistant vehicles to Iraq and Afghanistan under a program begun last May. Pentagon officials and members of Congress have complained about the delay and about the time it has taken to equip the vehicles with specialized radios and advanced jamming transmitters, ship them to combat zones and train soldiers on how to operate them.

But Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, who flew here on Friday to inspect the factory that completes the armored troop transports, said he had been told that early glitches in acquiring enough of the vehicles had been resolved.

As workers at the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center in Charleston installed sensitive tracking systems, satellite communications equipment and bomb-jamming antennas into the armored vehicles, Mr. Gates described them as “a proven lifesaver on the battlefield.”

The effort to buy what are officially known as Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected vehicles is the largest current one-year acquisition program in the Department of Defense, with $22.4 billion set aside for a fleet of more than 15,000 vehicles.

While it initially took 30 days to outfit each vehicle with specialized equipment once it had been manufactured, Mr. Gates was told, that time has been reduced to 7 days in most cases. About 50 vehicles per day now leave the factory here with all of their required equipment.

Mr. Gates cited Army reports that there had been 12 attacks on the heavily armored vehicles with improvised bombs since the new push began to send more of them into combat zones, mostly to Iraq. Mr. Gates said all of the soldiers in the vehicles during those attacks walked away afterward.

“The need for these vehicles will not soon go away,” he said.

John J. Young Jr., the under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, said that civilian contractors and the military built 1,187 of the vehicles in December, finishing the month just eight short of the production target.

The basic armored vehicle costs about $500,000, but adding antennas, radios, jammers and other specialized equipment can double that amount.

The new vehicles tower over Humvees, the military’s standard troop transport vehicles, and their undercarriages are far higher off the ground. In addition to carrying more armor, they are designed with a V-shaped hull to deflect blasts away from the troops inside. Even armored Humvees have proven far more vulnerable to roadside bombs than the new vehicles.

Mr. Gates acknowledged that the Pentagon would continue to assess how to deploy its fleet of tanks, other armored vehicles and Humvees to assure the proper mix and the best tactics to protect the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan.

[bth: so let's do a little math. This says the vehicles are $500,000 each before radios and systems but $22.4 billion divided by 15,000 vehicles is $1.49 million per vehicle. .... Also We've delivered 1500 to Iraq since May. We are producing 50 per day so about 1,000 per monthin December. That essentially means we've only delivered 1.5 months of product to Iraq. Not very impressive numbers. Finally we're breaking into stride. Its only been longer than WWII since we entered Iraq. Amazing.]

YouTube - Redback Metal Storm Robot.

YouTube - Redback Metal Storm Robot.: ""

Surge to Nowhere - washingtonpost.com

Surge to Nowhere - washingtonpost.com: "As the fifth anniversary of Operation Iraqi Freedom nears, the fabulists are again trying to weave their own version of the war. The latest myth is that the "surge" is working.

In President Bush's pithy formulation, the United States is now "kicking ass" in Iraq. The gallant Gen. David Petraeus, having been given the right tools, has performed miracles, redeeming a situation that once appeared hopeless. Sen. John McCain has gone so far as to declare that "we are winning in Iraq." While few others express themselves quite so categorically, McCain's remark captures the essence of the emerging story line: Events have (yet again) reached a turning point. There, at the far end of the tunnel, light flickers. Despite the hand-wringing of the defeatists and naysayers, victory beckons.

From the hallowed halls of the American Enterprise Institute waft facile assurances that all will come out well. AEI's Reuel Marc Gerecht assures us that the moment to acknowledge "democracy's success in Iraq" has arrived. To his colleague Michael Ledeen, the explanation for the turnaround couldn't be clearer: "We were the stronger horse, and the Iraqis recognized it." In an essay entitled "Mission Accomplished" that is being touted by the AEI crowd, Bartle Bull, the foreign editor of the British magazine Prospect, instructs us that "Iraq's biggest questions have been resolved." Violence there "has ceased being political." As a result, whatever mayhem still lingers is "no longer nearly as important as it was." Meanwhile, Frederick W. Kagan, an AEI resident scholar and the arch-advocate of the surge, announces that the "credibility of the prophets of doom" has reached "a low ebb."

Presumably Kagan and his comrades would have us believe that recent events vindicate the prophets who in 2002-03 were promoting preventive war as a key instrument of U.S. policy. By shifting the conversation to tactics, they seek to divert attention from flagrant failures of basic strategy. Yet what exactly has the surge wrought? In substantive terms, the answer is: not much.

As the violence in Baghdad and Anbar province abates, the political and economic dysfunction enveloping Iraq has become all the more apparent. The recent agreement to rehabilitate some former Baathists notwithstand ing, signs of lasting Sunni-Shiite reconciliation are scant. The United States has acquired a ramshackle, ungovernable and unresponsive dependency that is incapable of securing its own borders or managing its own affairs. More than three years after then-national security adviser Condoleezza Rice handed President Bush a note announcing that "Iraq is sovereign," that sovereignty remains a fiction.

A nation-building project launched in the confident expectation that the United States would repeat in Iraq the successes it had achieved in Germany and Japan after 1945 instead compares unfavorably with the U.S. response to Hurricane Katrina. Even today, Iraqi electrical generation meets barely half the daily national requirements. Baghdad households now receive power an average of 12 hours each day -- six hours fewer than when Saddam Hussein ruled. Oil production still has not returned to pre-invasion levels. Reports of widespread fraud, waste and sheer ineptitude in the administration of U.S. aid have become so commonplace that they barely last a news cycle. (Recall, for example, the 110,000 AK-47s, 80,000 pistols, 135,000 items of body armor and 115,000 helmets intended for Iraqi security forces that, according to the Government Accountability Office, the Pentagon cannot account for.) U.S. officials repeatedly complain, to little avail, about the paralyzing squabbling inside the Iraqi parliament and the rampant corruption within Iraqi ministries. If a primary function of government is to provide services, then the government of Iraq can hardly be said to exist.

Moreover, recent evidence suggests that the United States is tacitly abandoning its efforts to create a truly functional government in Baghdad. By offering arms and bribes to Sunni insurgents -- an initiative that has been far more important to the temporary reduction in the level of violence than the influx of additional American troops -- U.S. forces have affirmed the fundamental irrelevance of the political apparatus bunkered inside the Green Zone.

Rather than fostering political reconciliation, accommodating Sunni tribal leaders ratifies the ethnic cleansing that resulted from the civil war touched off by the February 2006 bombing of the Golden Mosque in Samarra, a Shiite shrine. That conflict has shredded the fragile connective tissue linking the various elements of Iraqi society; the deals being cut with insurgent factions serve only to ratify that dismal outcome. First Sgt. Richard Meiers of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division got it exactly right: "We're paying them not to blow us up. It looks good right now, but what happens when the money stops?"

In short, the surge has done nothing to overturn former secretary of state Colin Powell's now-famous "Pottery Barn" rule: Iraq is irretrievably broken, and we own it. To say that any amount of "kicking ass" will make Iraq whole once again is pure fantasy. The U.S. dilemma remains unchanged: continue to pour lives and money into Iraq with no end in sight, or cut our losses and deal with the consequences of failure.

In only one respect has the surge achieved undeniable success: It has ensured that U.S. troops won't be coming home anytime soon. This was one of the main points of the exercise in the first place. As AEI military analyst Thomas Donnelly has acknowledged with admirable candor, "part of the purpose of the surge was to redefine the Washington narrative," thereby deflecting calls for a complete withdrawal of U.S. combat forces. Hawks who had pooh-poohed the risks of invasion now portrayed the risks of withdrawal as too awful to contemplate. But a prerequisite to perpetuating the war -- and leaving it to the next president -- was to get Iraq off the front pages and out of the nightly news. At least in this context, the surge qualifies as a masterstroke. From his new perch as a New York Times columnist, William Kristol has worried that feckless politicians just might "snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory." Not to worry: The "victory" gained in recent months all but guarantees that the United States will remain caught in the jaws of Iraq for the foreseeable future.

Such success comes at a cost. U.S. casualties in Iraq have recently declined. Yet since Petraeus famously testified before Congress last September, Iraqi insurgents have still managed to kill more than 100 Americans. Meanwhile, to fund the war, the Pentagon is burning through somewhere between $2 billion and $3 billion per week. Given that further changes in U.S. policy are unlikely between now and the time that the next administration can take office and get its bearings, the lavish expenditure of American lives and treasure is almost certain to continue indefinitely.

But how exactly do these sacrifices serve the national interest? What has the loss of nearly 4,000 U.S. troops and the commitment of about $1 trillion -- with more to come -- actually gained the United States?

Bush had once counted on the U.S. invasion of Iraq to pay massive dividends. Iraq was central to his administration's game plan for eliminating jihadist terrorism. It would demonstrate how U.S. power and beneficence could transform the Muslim world. Just months after the fall of Baghdad, the president declared, "The establishment of a free Iraq at the heart of the Middle East will be a watershed event in the global democratic revolution." Democracy's triumph in Baghdad, he announced, "will send forth the news, from Damascus to Tehran -- that freedom can be the future of every nation." In short, the administration saw Baghdad not as a final destination but as a way station en route to even greater successes.

In reality, the war's effects are precisely the inverse of those that Bush and his lieutenants expected. Baghdad has become a strategic cul-de-sac. Only the truly blinkered will imagine at this late date that Iraq has shown the United States to be the "stronger horse." In fact, the war has revealed the very real limits of U.S. power. And for good measure, it has boosted anti-Americanism to record levels, recruited untold numbers of new jihadists, enhanced the standing of adversaries such as Iran and diverted resources and attention from Afghanistan, a theater of war far more directly relevant to the threat posed by al-Qaeda. Instead of draining the jihadist swamp, the Iraq war is continuously replenishing it.

Look beyond the spin, the wishful thinking, the intellectual bullying and the myth-making. The real legacy of the surge is that it will enable Bush to bequeath the Iraq war to his successor -- no doubt cause for celebration at AEI, although perhaps less so for the families of U.S. troops. Yet the stubborn insistence that the war must continue also ensures that Bush's successor will, upon taking office, discover that the post-9/11 United States is strategically adrift. Washington no longer has a coherent approach to dealing with Islamic radicalism. Certainly, the next president will not find in Iraq a useful template to be applied in Iran or Syria or Pakistan.

According to the war's most fervent proponents, Bush's critics have become so "invested in defeat" that they cannot see the progress being made on the ground. Yet something similar might be said of those who remain so passionately invested in a futile war's perpetuation. They are unable to see that, surge or no surge, the Iraq war remains an egregious strategic blunder that persistence will only compound.

Andrew J. Bacevich is a professor of history and international relations at Boston University. His new book, "The Limits of Power," will be published later this year

[bth: Andrew is a career army officer. His son was killed last year in Iraq. Andrew is a smart and well reasoned individual and his comments deserve to be read and studied in full. If I had a criticism of his article it would be that it does not propose a constructive path forward.]

New Armed Robot Groomed for War | Danger Room from Wired.com

New Armed Robot Groomed for War | Danger Room from Wired.com

Use of airstrikes boosted in Iraq

Use of airstrikes boosted in Iraq - Washington Post- msnbc.com: "The U.S. military conducted more than five times as many airstrikes in Iraq last year as it did in 2006, targeting al-Qaeda safe houses, insurgent bombmaking facilities and weapons stockpiles in an aggressive strategy aimed at supporting the U.S. troop increase by overwhelming enemies with air power.

Top commanders said that better intelligence-gathering allows them to identify and hit extremist strongholds with bombs and missiles from above, and they predicted that extensive airstrikes will continue this year as the United States seeks to flush insurgents out of havens in and around Baghdad and to the north in Diyala province.

The U.S.-led coalition dropped 1,447 bombs over Iraq last year, an average of nearly four a day, compared with 229 bombs, or about four each week, in 2006....

[bth: Seymour Hersch had predicted this a few years ago and had anonymous sources also confirming it, but he was ridiculed for his reporting. Obviously bombing in cities is picking up, but what doesn't seem to be mentioned in this article is that we've developed new small bombs - 250 lbs - that can be guided to the target. This allows air power to be used in urban areas with surgical precision.]
 
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JCS Chairman Wants Gitmo Shut Down

JCS Chairman Wants Gitmo Shut Down: "GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba - The chief of the U.S. military said he favors closing the prison here as soon as possible because he believes negative publicity worldwide about treatment of terrorist suspects has been "pretty damaging" to the image of the United States.

"I'd like to see it shut down," Adm. Mike Mullen said Jan. 13 in an interview with three reporters who toured the detention center with him on his first visit since becoming chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff last October.

His visit came two days after the sixth anniversary of the prison's opening in January 2002. He stressed that a closure decision was not his to make and that he understands there are numerous complex legal questions the administration believes would have to be settled first, such as where to move prisoners.

The admiral also noted that some of Guantanamo Bay's prisoners are deemed high security threats. During a tour of Camp Six, which is a high-security facility holding about 100 prisoners, Mullen got a firsthand look at some of the cells; one prisoner glared at Mullen through his narrow cell window as U.S. officers explained to the Joint Chiefs chairman how they maintain almost-constant watch over each prisoner.

Mullen, whose previous visit was in December 2005 as head of the U.S. Navy, noted that President Bush and Defense Secretary Robert Gates also have spoken publicly in favor of closing the prison. But Mullen said he is unaware of any active discussion in the administration about how to do it.

"I'm not aware that there is any immediate consideration to closing Guantanamo Bay," Mullen said.

Asked why he thinks Guantanamo Bay, commonly dubbed Gitmo, should be closed, and the prisoners perhaps moved to U.S. soil, Mullen said, "More than anything else it's been the image - how Gitmo has become around the world, in terms of representing the United States."

Critics have charged that detainees have been mistreated in some cases and that the legal conditions of their detentions are not consistent with the rule of law. ...

[bth: why now? well I'm told that the US government is about to lose some major court battles. Gitmo will no longer be exempt from US law. Its going to close down. Its a shameful blot on our country. Close it.]

The American war dead

The American war dead - Los Angeles Times: "As"of wednesday, 3,915 U.S. service members had been killed in Iraq. You may not have heard about this, because it isn't a nice, round, milestone-type figure -- unlike, say, 2,000, a number that inspired headlines across the country when that body count was reached in 2005.

Another thing you probably haven't seen lately is images like the front-page photograph in Wednesday's Times, which showed the flag-draped coffin of Army Sgt. David J. Hart of Lake View Terrace as it arrived on an airport tarmac. Such images are rare, partly because of a media tendency to see the commonplace as unworthy of coverage and partly because of a calculated effort by the Bush administration to prevent the American people from seeing them.

Wednesday's photograph was possible because Hart's body was flown into Long Beach Airport rather than a military facility, where media photographers are forbidden from chronicling the ongoing human cost of the Iraq war. A lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act forced the Pentagon in 2005 to release more than 700 pictures of coffins and honor guard ceremonies that were taken by military photographers, but it did nothing to ease the 1991 ban on media coverage of returning casualties.

You also may not have heard that 2007 was the deadliest year yet for U.S. troops in Iraq: 899 lost their lives, surpassing the previous high of 850 in 2004. A few newspaper and TV websites continue to list casualties, but these have nowhere near the effect of "Nightline" anchor Ted Koppel's 2004 recitation of the names of the then-721 dead. The Tyndall Report, which monitors network news broadcasts, shows that less time was devoted to Iraq coverage in 2007 than in any previous yearof the conflict.

The war remains an important issue in the presidential campaign, but candidates from both parties have stopped raising it as often as they once did. The apparent success of the "surge," which has reduced both the overall violence in Iraq and the number of U.S. casualties, has unnerved critics who last spring were calling for an immediate pullout. If there's still a chance of victory, doesn't it argue for staying the course? As politicians dither, the C-17s keep delivering a steady cargo of coffins.The vast majority of them are seen only by military personnel and the families of the dead.

Supporters of the war charge that media images of the fallen are inherently political statements. But suppressing those images in defense of a war policy is no less a political act.

YouTube - "I Got a Crush...On Obama" By Obama Girl

YouTube - "I Got a Crush...On Obama" By Obama Girl: ""

So over 5.3 million people have watched this video. The internet is definitely changing the way campaigns are run.

Discontent Surging In Iraq

Discontent Surging In Iraq - Politics on The Huffington Post: "In"the depths of a strangely cold winter in the Middle East, Iraqis complain that the lights are not on, the kerosene heaters are without fuel and the water doesn't flow _ and they blame the government.

And with the war nearing its fifth anniversary, Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is feeling the discontent as well from the most powerful political centers in the majority Shiite community.

It's a pincer movement of domestic anger that yet again could threaten al-Maliki's hold on his Green Zone office.

"Where's the kerosene and the water?" asked Amjad Kazim, a 56-year-old Shiite who lives in eastern Baghdad. "We hear a lot of promises but we see nothing."

Little kerosene is available on the state-run market at the subsidized price of $0.52 a gallon. But the fuel can be found on the black market, where it goes for more than $3.79 a gallon.

Overnight temperatures since the first of the year have routinely fallen below freezing when normally they only dip into the upper 30s Fahrenheit.

An average household needs at least 1.32 gallons a day to stay warm, which translates into a monthly expense of $150, or half what an average Iraqi earns.

"I have had no electricity for a week, and I cannot afford to buy it from neighborhood generators," said Hamdiyah Subeih, a 42-year-old homemaker from Baghdad's Shiite Baladiyat district. "I would rather live in Saddam Hussein's hell than the paradise of these new leaders."

Even during the shortages of last summer's heat, most Iraqi's were counting on electricity for air conditioners, fans and refrigeration about half the day. Now it's off for days at a stretch in many areas and on only a few hours daily on average, residents say.

"My children are so happy when the power comes back on they dance," said Marwan Ouni, a 34-year-old college teacher from Tikrit, Saddam's hometown north of Baghdad. "For me, the nonstop power cuts have made my life tedious. It's depressing."

That's the view from below, despite a considerable reduction in violence across the country. The view among those who hold power here is growing equally bilious.

Stinging criticism late last week from Abdul-Aziz al-Hakim, leader of parliament's largest Shiite bloc, was a stark break with the past. And a threat by Muqtada al-Sadr, the maverick Shiite cleric who once supported al-Maliki, not to renew an expiring six-month cease-fire he imposed on his feared militia could upend recent security progress.

In admonishing tones, al-Hakim called on the government and parliament not to be "entirely focused on political rivalries at the expense of the everyday problems faced by Iraqis." He also demanded that lawmakers quickly adopt key legislation divvying up the country's oil wealth and setting the rules for provincial elections to be held later this year.

He spoke of administrative and financial corruption, saying Iraqis were now forced to pay bribes to get business done with ministries and government agencies.

"It makes one's heart bleed ... it's a violation of man's freedom and dignity," he told tens of thousands of supporters in Baghdad on Friday.

Al-Hakim's harsh words carry considerable weight because his party, the Supreme Iraqi Islamic Council, is al-Maliki's most important backer after al-Sadr pulled ministers loyal to him from the Cabinet last year and took his 30 lawmakers out of the Shiite bloc.

Al-Hakim's focus on the daily hardships of most Iraqis finds a ready audience among those struggling to keep warm through one of the coldest winters in years _ it snowed across Baghdad for the first time in living memory on Jan. 11. And al-Sadr's huge following among more radical Shiites could close the pincer on al-Maliki.

YouTube - Metal Storm Mortar

YouTube - Metal Storm Mortar: ""

12 Pakistanis held in Spain for planning attack

News: "MADRID"Fourteen suspected Islamic militants, including 12 Pakistani nationals, arrested in Spain on Saturday may have been planning a terrorist attack in Barcelona, Interior Minister Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba said. He said more arrests were expected and the country was on high alert. The arrests in Barcelona were prompted by information from several unspecified European intelligence agencies, and there was evidence the suspects – 12 Pakistanis and two people from India – could have been planning “a terrorist action” in the northern city, Rubalcaba told a news conference. He said police also found four timers. “When someone has timers at home you have no option but to think violent acts are being planned,” he said. Civil Guard officers made the arrests as part of raids planned with the National Intelligence Centre, the Spanish equivalent of the CIA, Rubalcaba said, adding that five homes were searched overnight. ...
 
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Army Plans to Court-Martial Fort Hood Leader in Soldier's Training Death - Local News | News Articles | National News | US News

FOXNews.com - Army Plans to Court-Martial Fort Hood Leader in Soldier's Training Death - Local News | News Articles | National News | US News: "FORT HOOD, Texas — An Army officer is headed for a military trial on charges of lying to investigators about when he last spoke with a soldier who disappeared during a training exercise and later died, his attorney said Saturday.

Master Sgt. Terry Peggins was charged last fall with four counts of making false official statements, and the military decided last week that he would face a court-martial, said attorney John Galligan.

Galligan said Peggins, who has served more than 20 years in the military, had hoped he could retire but the Army is trying to make a scapegoat out of him for an accidental death. Peggins was removed for cause from his position, he said.

Peggins is one of six leaders of Fort Hood's Noncommissioned Officers Academy disciplined in September, three months after Sgt. Lawrence Sprader, 24, went missing during a solo navigation exercise and was later found dead. Sprader, who had been in good health and served two tours in Iraq, died from dehydration and hyperthermia, an autopsy found.

Galligan said Peggins is innocent of the charges, which were filed after the military obtained the soldier's cell-phone records from the day he was lost on the training course.

It was not immediately clear what Peggins had told investigators, or what the military learned from the records.

"There's no intent to deceive here," Galligan said. "Sgt. Peggins is a leader — not a liar."

If convicted, Peggins faces a maximum penalty of a bad conduct discharge and one year in military jail.

Fort Hood officials didn't immediately return a phone call from The Associated Press.