Saturday, June 21, 2008

Tech Demo Part of Army Birthday at Pentagon

Naval Open Source INTelligence

News: New laser-guided bomb unveiled to Yuma Marines | laser, guided, yuma : YumaSun

News: New laser-guided bomb unveiled to Yuma Marines | laser, guided, yuma : YumaSun: "Several"Yuma units recently received their first look at the Department of Defense's new laser-guided variant of the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) system, which is scheduled to be sent straight to combat zones in October.

The improvements to the new bomb system allow it to hit moving targets traveling at speeds up to 70 mph, whereas previous versions could only hit stationary targets.

Ordnance technicians from Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 13, Marine Attack Squadron 211 and Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 learned how to put together the new system. JDAMs convert conventional free-fall bombs into guided "smart" bombs by attaching a navigation system and a propulsion system in an add-on tail section, according to Boeing, the JDAM's manufacturer.

The new version provides a modular laser sensor kit installed to the bombs.

Chief Petty Officer Sherard Stewart, guidance system trainer, brought a practice kit to Yuma for ordnance Marines to familiarize themselves with the system, so they'll be equipped to set up live bombs in combat.

According to Stewart, MALS-13 and VMA-211 will be among the first units in the Department of the Navy to use the laser JDAM during the squadron's upcoming deployments to Iraq later this year.

Although the guidance system will mean more capabilities for air combat, it will also mean slightly more work for ordnance Marines - at least initially.

The laser variant has a few more wires, electronic parts and tightening specifications past systems don't, said Stewart. Since the system is new, it will take a few builds for Marines to get as fast with this system as with older ones.

The key to getting faster with building the laser JDAM, as with any system, is to go by the book and learn all the ins and outs, said Sgt. Aaron Coley, MALS-13 ordnance technician.

Having someone demonstrate how to put it together also helps, said Sgt. Stephen Gentry, MALS-13 ordnance technician.

For now, the new system only works with the 500-pound MK-82 bomb. Older JDAMs can be added to several 500-, 1,000- or 2,000-pound bombs, according to Boeing.

The laser-guided variant responds to battlefield requirements for more versatile and less costly weapons, said Stewart. Instead of using expensive missiles, such as the Maverick, the Marine Corps can use this JDAM, which costs less than $50,000 each, for some of the same close-air support missions.

The Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force have used JDAMs since 1999 during Operation Allied Force in the Balkans and have increased use in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Since the start of their production in 1998, more than 190,000 JDAM tail kits have been sent to U.S. and other international military units.

[bth: basically if you can get a laser on the target, its toast for $50K.]

Taliban capture US helicopter parts

Taliban capture US helicopter parts - PakTribune: "ISLAMABAD"In a startling operation that shook the Pentagon, the White House and the US administration some weeks back, the Taliban in the tribal areas captured parts of three US helicopters — Chinook, Black Hawk and Cobra — while they were being shipped in huge containers from Peshawar to Jalalabad in Afghanistan.
Pakistani officials have confirmed the capture while the US diplomats stationed in Islamabad are trying to fudge the issue without denying it outright. US embassy spokesperson Elizabeth Colton commented: "The embassy has no comment on this as the information appears to be only hearsay."

When this correspondent informed the embassy spokesperson that he had seen pictures of the stolen parts of helicopters, she again said "no comment". Some diplomats in Islamabad are very much aware of this recent Taliban operation but they were not ready to speak on record.

Diplomatic sources say the recent US air strike in the tribal areas was actually an attack on the location where the unassembled parts of the two helicopters, owned by the US armed forces, were stored by the Taliban.

Sources told media US Assistant Secretary Richard Boucher was to visit Pakistan and Afghanistan soon in view of the situation in the region. What is shocking is the revelation that the US forces were transporting helicopters in unassembled form in containers, which landed at the Karachi Port and travelled all the way by road to Peshawar and then entered the tribal areas for onward journey to Afghanistan.

When these containers entered the Khyber Agency at Jamrud, the Taliban stopped the convoys and took away the helicopter parts. Pakistani paramilitary forces in the area tried to confront the Taliban but they suffered heavy losses due to darkness. This happened in the same area where Pakistan`s Ambassador to Afghanistan Tariq Azizuddin was kidnapped in February this year.

Chinook and Black Hawk were captured recently while the Cobra was hijacked some weeks back. When the Taliban first captured the Cobra helicopter, they filmed all the stolen parts and supplied the CD to their allies in Afghanistan.

Some people in the Farah province of western Afghanistan showed interest in purchasing the Cobra helicopter and subsequently its parts were smuggled to Farah. Taliban sold this Cobra to an unidentified customer for several hundred thousand dollars.

Following the latest ground hijacking, the Taliban have again filmed all the stolen parts of CH-47 Chinook and Black Hawk choppers. Chinook is a versatile twin-engine helicopter that was also used to help the earthquake victims in Kashmir in October 2005 by the US Army.

The Taliban have again sent the CD to people for attracting customers from neighbouring countries of Afghanistan. They do not seem to have hit any customer as the stolen parts with extra engines are still in their custody.

The Taliban captured some unexploded Tomahawk missiles in the Khost area of eastern Afghanistan in 1998. These missiles were fired on al-Qaeda hideouts after attacks on US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. The Taliban handed over some of the unexploded US missiles to the Chinese in 1998.

Top US military officials have demanded recently from Pakistan to start an operation in the tribal areas for the recovery of their stolen helicopters. They have expressed concern that instead of initiating an operation against the Taliban, the new government is negotiating peace with the Taliban. ...

[bth: our supply lines are fair game for Taliban and lucrative. Note also that our fuel tankers are being targeted.]

YouTube - Red State Update: Gas Prices

YouTube - Red State Update: Gas Prices: ""

Annie Lennox - Into the West Lyrics | Collection of Song Lyrics at Song Lyrics.com

Annie Lennox - Into the West Lyrics | Collection of Song Lyrics at Song Lyrics.com:
"Lay"down
Your sweet and weary head.
Night is falling.
you have come to journey's end.

Sleep now.
Dream of the ones who came before.
They are calling
From across the distant shore.

Why do you weep?
What are these tears upon your face?
Soon you will see
All of your fears will pass away.

Safe in my arms,
Your only sleeping.

What can you see
On the horizon?
Why do the white gulls call?
Across the sea,
A pale moon rises.
The ships have come to carry you home.

And all will turn
To silver glass
A light on the water,
All souls pass.

Hope fades
Into the world of night
Through shadows falling
Out of memory and time.

Don't say
We have come now to the end.
White shores are calling
You and I will meet again.

And you'll be here in my arms,
Just sleeping.

What can you see
On the horizon?
Why do the white gulls call?
Across the sea,
A pale moon rises.
The ships have come to carry you home.

And all will turn
To silver glass.
A light on the water,
Grey ships pass
Into the West.

Walk of the Fallen Labyrinth

By chance, by a friend of a friend, a came to this wonderful tribute to the fallen in this labyrinth of war.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A Friend In Deed? | The Agonist

A Friend In Deed? | The Agonist: "According"to published reports Pakistani nuclear scientists have been shopping around advanced nuclear technology to the highest bidders. Advanced blueprints have been found on computers that belonged to these scientists that were part of a nuclear smuggling network headed by Abdul Qadeer Khan. Our government has a knack of creating these madmen through a deliberate policy of benign neglect and a policy of supporting tyranny for the sake of political expediency. This is another example of how our unwillingness to gauge the world realistically and inability to access friends and foes has created a possible nightmare scenario in the near future.

The plans appear to closely resemble a nuclear weapon that was built by Pakistan and first tested exactly a decade ago. But when confronted with the design by officials of the International Atomic Energy Agency last year, Pakistani officials insisted that Dr. Khan, who has been lobbying in recent months to be released from the loose house arrest that he has been under since 2004, did not have access to Pakistan’s weapons designs. NY Times

So instead of confronting our so-called friends who are proliferating nuclear technology, we are allowing political and philosophical agendas to dictate our foreign policy. Can anyone say Saudi Arabia? So, lets see what our billions of dollars of public foreign aid has bought us. Pakistan has more instability than ever, they have been an indifferent ally in tracking Islamic extremists in their tribal regions, and we have known for a long time their involvement in the proliferation of nuclear technology. What bothers me the most is how many times this same scenario has been played out over the course of our nations history. It’s like for the last 30 years we have been executing the same whack foreign policy in country after country with the same disastrous results. Cuba, Panama, Iran, Argentina, Philippines, Haiti, and so on and so on.

Since 9/11, the United States has given over $10 billion in aid to Pakistan. The bulk of that amount—more than $6 billion—has come in the form of “Coalition Support Funds,” which are intended to reimburse U.S. allies for their assistance in the “war on terrorism.” Fifteen percent of the total aid has gone toward security assistance, which Pakistan has used primarily to purchase major weapons systems, while another 15 percent has gone toward budget support, which represents direct cash transfers to the Pakistani government. Foreign Policy Association

The time has come for us as a nation to destroy whatever document has been used to craft our foreign policy, because it has not worked. We are no safer as a nation, the countries have no more stability, and the world is no safer of a place. These Presidential doctrines have instead of fostering peace, democracy and world development have had the complete opposite effect. The only beneficiaries from these policies have been the arms manufacturers, war profiteers, and political cronies.

I wonder after reading these reports what the wing-nuts who were up in arms about Senator Obama’s statement about going into Pakistan after terrorists now have to say? We don’t treat our friends this way they exclaimed, well we now see how our friends treat us. The Pakistanis are understandably apprehensive about going after Khan who is considered a national hero by the people of Pakistan and the father of their nuclear development. The government of Pakistan has never really exerted a lot of pressure on Khan to disclose the degree of proliferation of his network. As these reports demonstrate while the Pakistanis may consider the episode closed the rest of the world will be dealing with the fall-out for years to come.

However, in recent days top American intelligence officials, who declined to speak about the discovery on the record because the information is classified, said that they had been unable to determine whether Iran or other countries had obtained the weapons design. Pakistan has refused to allow American investigators to directly interview Dr. Khan, who is considered a hero there as the father of its nuclear program. In recent weeks the only communications about him between the United States and Pakistan’s new government have been warnings from Washington not to allow him to be released. NY Times

As scarce as truth is, the supply has always been in excess of the demand. - Josh Billings

A Friend In Deed? | The Agonist

A Friend In Deed? | The Agonist: "According"to published reports Pakistani nuclear scientists have been shopping around advanced nuclear technology to the highest bidders. Advanced blueprints have been found on computers that belonged to these scientists that were part of a nuclear smuggling network headed by Abdul Qadeer Khan. Our government has a knack of creating these madmen through a deliberate policy of benign neglect and a policy of supporting tyranny for the sake of political expediency. This is another example of how our unwillingness to gauge the world realistically and inability to access friends and foes has created a possible nightmare scenario in the near future.

The plans appear to closely resemble a nuclear weapon that was built by Pakistan and first tested exactly a decade ago. But when confronted with the design by officials of the International Atomic Energy Agency last year, Pakistani officials insisted that Dr. Khan, who has been lobbying in recent months to be released from the loose house arrest that he has been under since 2004, did not have access to Pakistan’s weapons designs. NY Times

So instead of confronting our so-called friends who are proliferating nuclear technology, we are allowing political and philosophical agendas to dictate our foreign policy. Can anyone say Saudi Arabia? So, lets see what our billions of dollars of public foreign aid has bought us. Pakistan has more instability than ever, they have been an indifferent ally in tracking Islamic extremists in their tribal regions, and we have known for a long time their involvement in the proliferation of nuclear technology. What bothers me the most is how many times this same scenario has been played out over the course of our nations history. It’s like for the last 30 years we have been executing the same whack foreign policy in country after country with the same disastrous results. Cuba, Panama, Iran, Argentina, Philippines, Haiti, and so on and so on.

Since 9/11, the United States has given over $10 billion in aid to Pakistan. The bulk of that amount—more than $6 billion—has come in the form of “Coalition Support Funds,” which are intended to reimburse U.S. allies for their assistance in the “war on terrorism.” Fifteen percent of the total aid has gone toward security assistance, which Pakistan has used primarily to purchase major weapons systems, while another 15 percent has gone toward budget support, which represents direct cash transfers to the Pakistani government. Foreign Policy Association

The time has come for us as a nation to destroy whatever document has been used to craft our foreign policy, because it has not worked. We are no safer as a nation, the countries have no more stability, and the world is no safer of a place. These Presidential doctrines have instead of fostering peace, democracy and world development have had the complete opposite effect. The only beneficiaries from these policies have been the arms manufacturers, war profiteers, and political cronies.

I wonder after reading these reports what the wing-nuts who were up in arms about Senator Obama’s statement about going into Pakistan after terrorists now have to say? We don’t treat our friends this way they exclaimed, well we now see how our friends treat us. The Pakistanis are understandably apprehensive about going after Khan who is considered a national hero by the people of Pakistan and the father of their nuclear development. The government of Pakistan has never really exerted a lot of pressure on Khan to disclose the degree of proliferation of his network. As these reports demonstrate while the Pakistanis may consider the episode closed the rest of the world will be dealing with the fall-out for years to come.

However, in recent days top American intelligence officials, who declined to speak about the discovery on the record because the information is classified, said that they had been unable to determine whether Iran or other countries had obtained the weapons design. Pakistan has refused to allow American investigators to directly interview Dr. Khan, who is considered a hero there as the father of its nuclear program. In recent weeks the only communications about him between the United States and Pakistan’s new government have been warnings from Washington not to allow him to be released. NY Times

As scarce as truth is, the supply has always been in excess of the demand. - Josh Billings

Washington Times - Politics, Breaking News, US and World News - VA testing drugs on war veterans

Washington Times - Politics, Breaking News, US and World News - VA testing drugs on war veterans

Washington Times - Politics, Breaking News, US and World News - VA testing drugs on war veterans

Washington Times - Politics, Breaking News, US and World News - VA testing drugs on war veterans

Washington Times - VA testing drugs on war veterans

Washington Times - Politics, Breaking News, US and World News - VA testing drugs on war veterans: "UPDATE"Obama's office sent a letter Tuesday to James Peake, secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs, on the issue. You can read the full text of the letter here.

UPDATE II: Sen. John Cornyn, Texas Republican, issued his own letter to Peake as well. You can read it here.

The government is testing drugs with severe side effects like psychosis and suicidal behavior on hundreds of military veterans, using small cash payments to attract patients into medical experiments that often target distressed soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, a Washington Times/ABC News investigation has found.

In one such experiment involving the controversial anti-smoking drug Chantix, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) took three months to alert its patients about severe mental side effects. The warning did not arrive until after one of the veterans taking the drug had suffered a psychotic episode that ended in a near lethal confrontation with police.



ROD LAMKEY JR./THE WASHINGTON TIMES Veteran James Elliott arrives at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Washington for his scheduled substance-abuse class in April. Mr. Elliott, a chain smoker, served 15 months in Iraq as an Army sharpshooter and suffers post-traumatic stress disorder.


ROD LAMKEY JR./THE WASHINGTON TIMES Iraq war veteran James Elliott opted for a government clinical trial for a smoking-cessation drug for $30 a month, starting in November. Two weeks later, the FDA informed the VA of serious side effects.


ROD LAMKEY JR./THE WASHINGTON TIMES STILL SMOKING: Iraq war veteran James Elliott smokes on his porch in Silver Spring as he talks about his experiences in war and dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder. Mr. Elliott suffered a psychotic episode while taking the anti-smoking drug Chantix.

James Elliott, a decorated Army sharpshooter who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after serving 15 months in Iraq, was confused and psychotic when he was Tasered by police in February as he reached for a concealed handgun when officers responded to a 911 call at his Maryland home.

For photos, video of James Elliott, official FDA documents and more, visit the interactive site for the Disposable Heroes report.

Mr. Elliott, a chain smoker, began taking Chantix last fall as part of a VA experiment that specifically targeted veterans with PTSD, opting to collect $30 a month for enrolling in the clinical trial because he needed cash as he returned to school. He soon began suffering hallucinations and suicidal thoughts, unaware that the new drug he was taking could have caused them.

Just two weeks after Mr. Elliott began taking Chantix in November, the VA learned from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that the drug was linked to a large number of hallucinations, suicide attempts and psychotic behavior. But the VA did not alert Mr. Elliott before his own episode in February.

In failing to do so, Mr. Elliott said, the VA treated him like a "disposable hero."

"You're a lab rat for $30 a month," Mr. Elliott said. ...

[bth: ..."disposable hero." What a phrase. Roger Charles who is quoted in this story and who has been working on it for over a month is a highly credible and trustworthy friend. Sadly, he informs me that there is more to this story which will come out soon.]

Chill sets in over US arms sting - World - smh.com.au

Chill sets in over US arms sting - World - smh.com.au: "Bertil"Lintner in Bangkok meets an accused weapons dealer whose arrest has put the US on a collision course with Russia.

The Cold War has broken out again, and Thailand suddenly finds itself caught uncomfortably in the middle of competing US and Russian interests. At the centre of the conflict is the alleged Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout, who was arrested on March 6 in Thailand and is in detention in Bangkok.

The US wants Bout extradited to stand trial in New York, where he has faces charges of conspiracy to provide weapons to a foreign terrorist organisation. Russian interests, on the other hand, say he is innocent and should be free to return home. The Russian Foreign Ministry summoned the Thai ambassador in Moscow a few weeks after Bout was arrested to express its concern and desire that he receive proper legal treatment in Thailand.

Bout and his legal representatives have vigorously denied the charges. Extradition hearings were due to begin last week but have been postponed until the end of the month. Depending on what happens next, Thailand is bound to upset bilateral relations with either Washington or Moscow. Thailand is one of the US's oldest and strongest allies in the region, but Bangkok has also in recent years strengthened relations with Russia, a potential source of badly needed energy and military hardware.

Bout has not agreed to see any Western journalist since his arrest, but he made an exception for this correspondent, who recently visited him in Bangkok's Klong Prem prison, where he is in a cell with accused drug traffickers, thieves and murderers. He is noticeably upset about his predicament and appears to have lost a lot of weight.

"I am innocent," Bout insists. "I used to admire the Americans, I looked up to them. But today I despise the Americans, and so does the entire world. They think they can do whatever they want anywhere."

The US has apprehended and held in secret detention foreign terrorist suspects in Thailand.

Bout was arrested in a sting operation initiated by the US Drug Enforcement Administration a few hours after he arrived in Bangkok. The agency says he came to Thailand to negotiate the sale of Igla surface-to-air missiles to two undercover agents posing as officers from the Colombian narco-rebel movement known as FARC.

The official extradition request dated April 30 from the US Department of Justice says the meeting in a conference room in a five-star Bangkok hotel was "recorded" and that "Bout indicated that he understood that CS-2 and CS-3 [confidential sources or US agents] wanted to buy the arms for the use by FARC against US forces in Colombia. Bout then stated that the US was also his enemy."

That contradicts Bout's version of events. "I thought they were interested in buying two transport aircraft," he says. "But then the agents started talking about surface-to-air missiles, and the room was raided, by the Americans."

Bout also denied that he was ever involved in illegal arms trafficking. "I used to run an air transport company. Perhaps there were guns on board, but I was only a transporter. If I was guilty of smuggling guns, then any taxi driver in Bangkok would have to be arrested if he has had a drug trafficker or arms merchant as a passenger."

Yusill Scribner of the US Attorney-General's Office in New York says that as a matter of policy her office cannot comment on cases still underway. Ernst Jan Hogendoorn, a former researcher with Human Rights Watch's arms division and a former member of the United Nations expert panels investigating arms embargo violations, doubts Bout's claims of innocence.

"Viktor Bout has been named since the mid-1990s in a slew of United Nations, individual government, and [non-governmental organisation] reports as an arms trafficker and major arms embargo buster. His aircraft have repeatedly shipped weapons to numerous conflicts in Central Asia and Africa, including UN-embargoed Angola, Liberia and Sierra Leone."

Why would Bout come to Thailand, a known US ally where he would run a high risk of arrest and deportation to the US? Bout said in the interview that he came to Thailand "only on a holiday" with some friends.

He says he was lured into the sting operation meeting by an associate, a Briton named Andrew Smulian, who was also arrested. Smulian, a few days after his arrest, appeared in New York in what appeared to be a plea bargaining arrangement with US authorities. Smulian is identified as the second defendant in the indictment, issued in February in the Southern District of New York and made public following the March 6 raid on the Bangkok hotel.

Bout presents himself as just an ordinary, conscientious businessman. During the interview he said his only businesses were an airport maintenance company and a farm in the Caucasus, where he rears goats to make cheese for restaurants in Moscow. He was a vegetarian and concerned about the disappearance of rainforests in Africa, he said.

An article in the Moscow newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda in February 2002 said Bout was born in 1967 in Dushanbe in the then Soviet republic of Tajikistan. He graduated from the Military Institute of Foreign Languages in Moscow and until 1991 served as an interpreter in the now disbanded military transport aviation regiment in Vitsebsk, Belarus.

After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 he went abroad and set up several air transport businesses, first in Belgium, then in South Africa and finally in the United Arab Emirates. He speaks at least five foreign languages, among them English, French and Portuguese. It is believed that the negotiations in Bangkok were conducted in Spanish and Portuguese, with the undercover DEA agents speaking the former and Bout the latter.

Bout is not the only alleged global arms dealer to be targeted by the US. On June 7 last year the Syrian millionaire and alleged arms dealer Monzer al-Kassar was arrested in Spain in a similar sting operation organised by US authorities. He had also been indicted on charges of seeking to sell weapons, including surface-to-air missiles, to FARC.

In September 2006 the Indonesian arms dealer Hadja Subandi and a group of Sri Lankan Tamil and Singaporean associates were arrested in a sting in Guam. They are accused of trying to sell $US900,000 worth of surface-to-air missiles and other sophisticated weaponry to the Sri Lankan separatist rebels the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam.

It has been clear since the early years of the decade that Western security services have been concerned over the proliferation of man-portable air defence systems, such as the shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles Bout was allegedly trying to sell to FARC. The US has been more active than any other country in trying to secure stocks of these missiles, persuading governments to destroy obsolescent stocks while cracking down on arms merchants dealing in them.

"When you have al-Kassar last year and Viktor Bout this year caught in strikingly similar sting operations, a pattern clearly emerges," says Anthony Davis, a security analyst with Jane's Information Group. That pattern is precisely why the US is on a collision course with Russia, where many surface-to-air missiles are manufactured and later somehow find their way onto black markets. (China is another, even more important, source of surface-to-air missiles and other sophisticated weaponry that is bought and sold on underground international markets.)

"While Bout undoubtedly was a major arms trafficker with many resources at his disposal, he could not have conducted most of his business without the support and/or collusion of high-ranking government officials," Hogendoorn says. "This assistance may be provided in exchange for money, geopolitical interests, or both."

So will Bout eventually be extradited to the US? If the recent Kassar case is any indication, it will be a difficult process, even with Thailand's close strategic ties to the US.

On October 26 last year a Spanish court authorised the extradition of Kassar, and The New York Times reported that he arrived in New York on Friday.

Thailand finds itself in a different strategic dilemma. The government of the former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra was close to signing a deal to buy Russian advanced Su-30 air fighters. But the deal fell through when Thaksin was ousted in a coup in 2006 and the military government instead bought Swedish JAS-39 Gripen fighters.

But other deals with the former Soviet bloc countries are expected to be put back on the table by the Thai Government. In recent months there has been a move to acquire 96 BTR-3E1 Ukrainian armoured personnel carriers.

On March 17, less than two weeks after Bout was arrested, Thailand's Prime Minister, Samak Sundaravej, held talks with Russia's ambassador in Bangkok about the sale of crude oil and natural gas to Thailand. Samak said he would be prepared to travel to Russia to discuss the deal because Thailand needed to diversify its energy resources in the face of skyrocketing global oil prices.

The newspaper The Nation quoted Samak saying on March 19: "Russia has said its prices will not be as high as other oil producers, because it is not a member of OPEC [Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries]," the newspaper The Nation quoted Samak saying on March 19.

The Russian daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta speculated in a commentary on May 19 that Bout's arrest might be an attempt to undermine improved relations between Bangkok and Moscow because "Thailand, a long-time ally of the United States, now is showing more independence and is interested in buying military hardware from Russia".

That may or may not be the case, but Bout's extradition to the US would certainly have diplomatic implications for the recent warming trend in Thai-Russian relations. His fate is inextricably wrapped up in the emerging larger geo-strategic competition between the US and Russia for regional influence.

Thailand will inadvertently be seen as choosing between the US or Russia, even if the court's final decision is based solely on the legal standing of the case....

[bth: fascinating. Viktor Bout in jail. How the worm turns.]

McClatchy Washington Bureau | 06/18/2008 | Documents confirm U.S. hid detainees from Red Cross

McClatchy Washington Bureau | 06/18/2008 | Documents confirm U.S. hid detainees from Red Cross: "WASHINGTON"— The U.S. military hid the locations of suspected terrorist detainees and concealed harsh treatment to avoid the scrutiny of the International Committee of the Red Cross, according to documents that a Senate committee released Tuesday.

"We may need to curb the harsher operations while ICRC is around. It is better not to expose them to any controversial techniques," Lt. Col. Diane Beaver, a military lawyer who's since retired, said during an October 2002 meeting at the Guantanamo Bay prison to discuss employing interrogation techniques that some have equated with torture. Her comments were recorded in minutes of the meeting that were made public Tuesday. At that same meeting, Beaver also appeared to confirm that U.S. officials at another detention facility — Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan — were using sleep deprivation to "break" detainees well before then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld approved that technique. "True, but officially it is not happening," she is quoted as having said.

A third person at the meeting, Jonathan Fredman, the chief counsel for the CIA's Counterterrorism Center, disclosed that detainees were moved routinely to avoid the scrutiny of the ICRC, which keeps tabs on prisoners in conflicts around the world.

"In the past when the ICRC has made a big deal about certain detainees, the DOD (Defense Department) has 'moved' them away from the attention of the ICRC," Fredman said, according to the minutes.

The document, along with two dozen others, shows that top administration officials pushed relentlessly for tougher interrogation methods in the belief that terrorism suspects were resisting interrogation.

It's unclear from the documents whether the Pentagon moved the detainees from one place to another or merely told the ICRC they were no longer present at a facility....

[bth: given the failure to find OBL or Omar or just about any other high level target, one wonders what intel we actually received in exchange for flushing our credibility with the rest of the civilized world right down the drain?]

Army Overseer Tells of Ouster Over KBR Stir - NYTimes.com

Army Overseer Tells of Ouster Over KBR Stir - NYTimes.com: "WASHINGTON"— The Army official who managed the Pentagon’s largest contract in Iraq says he was ousted from his job when he refused to approve paying more than $1 billion in questionable charges to KBR, the Houston-based company that has provided food, housing and other services to American troops


The official, Charles M. Smith, was the senior civilian overseeing the multibillion-dollar contract with KBR during the first two years of the war. Speaking out for the first time, Mr. Smith said that he was forced from his job in 2004 after informing KBR officials that the Army would impose escalating financial penalties if they failed to improve their chaotic Iraqi operations.

Army auditors had determined that KBR lacked credible data or records for more than $1 billion in spending, so Mr. Smith refused to sign off on the payments to the company. “They had a gigantic amount of costs they couldn’t justify,” he said in an interview. “Ultimately, the money that was going to KBR was money being taken away from the troops, and I wasn’t going to do that.”

But he was suddenly replaced, he said, and his successors — after taking the unusual step of hiring an outside contractor to consider KBR’s claims — approved most of the payments he had tried to block.

Army officials denied that Mr. Smith had been removed because of the dispute, but confirmed that they had reversed his decision, arguing that blocking the payments to KBR would have eroded basic services to troops. They said that KBR had warned that if it was not paid, it would reduce payments to subcontractors, which in turn would cut back on services.

“You have to understand the circumstances at the time,” said Jeffrey P. Parsons, executive director of the Army Contracting Command. “We could not let operational support suffer because of some other things.”

Mr. Smith’s account fills in important gaps about the Pentagon’s handling of the KBR contract, which has cost more than $20 billion so far and has come under fierce criticism from lawmakers.

While it was previously reported that the Army had held up large payments to the company and then switched course, Mr. Smith has provided a glimpse of what happened inside the Army during the biggest showdown between the government and KBR. He is giving his account just as the Pentagon has recently awarded KBR part of a 10-year, $150 billion contract in Iraq...

[bth: crooks wrapped in a flag.]

War and Piece: Sheldon Adelson GOP and China ties

War and Piece:: "As"previously reported by Ha'aretz, the LA Times reports that Sheldon Adelson's ties to Tom DeLay said to have eased his Macao casino bid. In return for China giving Adelson the Macao casino license, Adelson allegedly helped Beijing by getting DeLay to kill a Lantos-backed House resolution which would have called for Beijing not to get the Olympics games, on human rights grounds. According to a recent George Will column, Adelson is now the single largest foreign investor in China. Hawks who cite China threat still lining up to tap Adelson ATM.

'Curveball' speaks, and a reputation as a disinformation agent remains intact - Los Angeles Times

'Curveball' speaks, and a reputation as a disinformation agent remains intact - Los Angeles Times: ... "During"breaks, he told stories about what a big man he was in Baghdad," said Hamza Hamad Rashid, who remembered an odd scene with the pudgy Alwan in his too-tight Burger King uniform praising Hussein in the home of der Whopper. "But he always lied. We never believed anything he said."

Another Iraqi friend, Ghazwan Adnan, remembers laughing when he applied for a job at a local Princess Garden Chinese Restaurant and discovered Alwan washing dishes in the back while claiming to be "a big deal" in Iraq. "How could America believe such a person?"

But an unrepentant Alwan is unfazed.

"Everything I said was true," he said. "And everything that's been written about me is wrong. It's all wrong. The main thing is, I'm an honest man."

[bth: read the full story and vomit. Our President and our intel service believed the lies of a Burger King dishwasher in Germany fired repeatedly because he was a petty con and a pathological liar! We went to war with all its negative consequences over this petty little man? The Powell UN speech came down to this? Had this war not had such deadly consequences for our family and to our friends I'd be laughing along with the rest of the world. Instead I cry alone. For this. For us.]

Deaths of up to 60 British servicemen linked to 'poor equipment', Tory inquiry finds | Mail Online

Deaths of up to 60 British servicemen linked to 'poor equipment', Tory inquiry finds | Mail Online: "As"many as 60 British servicemen have lost their lives in Iraq and Afghanistan because the Government failed to provide adequate equipment, a Tory inquiry has claimed.

Frederick Forsyth, the author and former RAF pilot chairing the special investigation into the treatment of the armed forces, accused ministers of 'frittering away billions' on pet projects while refusing to give troops fighting overseas the resources they need.

He said the work of the Military Covenant Commission - set up by David Cameron to help develop a Tory defence manifesto - had uncovered 'inadequate' policies towards the military in virtually every area it examined, from healthcare and education for troops' families to housing and legal support.


But the poor standards of operational equipment was the most serious, he said, as it made the difference between life and death - and was implicated in around a fifth of the 278 deaths of servicemen and women in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Government ministers hit back, insisting they had invested massively in new equipment for the forces, and accusing the Conservatives of stealing policies they had already announced.

The Commission's interim findings follow fierce criticism from some British coroners at inquests into the deaths of servicemen abroad, criticising shortcomings in equipment for frontline troops.

'He provided the funds for his personal favoured projects, but they didn't include the armed forces. There is a responsibility here, there is a blame here and there ought to be a guilt here, which they don't feel.

'It's not good enough for the sixth largest economy in the world.'

The report warned that the so-called Military Covenant between Government, society and the armed forces was 'under serious and unprecedented strain.'

An exodus of experienced personnel is being fuelled by a range of factors which worsen the plight of service families, including: ...

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Rocketboom : Tuesday, June 17, 2008: Battle of the Browsers - Firefox 3 vs Internet Explorer 7

Rocketboom : Tuesday, June 17, 2008: Battle of the Browsers - Firefox 3 vs Internet Explorer 7

Blog: Nukes & SpooksWhat's happening around Kandahar?

Blog: Nukes & Spooks: "This"morning there were reports out of Afghanistan that the Taliban had swarmed a town near Kandahar and taken it over. The Afghan Minister of Defense said 400 militants moved in. And residents reportedly were fleeing to neighboring towns after government leaflets reportedly urged them to leave. That the Taliban could be moving into towns, even with U.S., NATO and Afghan troops nearby would be an ominous sign that traditional military forces cannot contain the Taliban's influence. It appeared the Afghan government was concerned; it sent one of its battalions to the area after this morning’s report.

And yet NATO and the U.S. military said it didn’t happen.

"Recent reports of militant control in the area appear to be unfounded," a NATO statement said. And at a Pentagon briefing, Defense spokesman Geoff Morrell said there was not “any imminent concern that Kandahar is about to fall to the Taliban."

Huh? How could there be such starkly contrasting versions of what happened? Conflicting reports is an everyday happenstance in Washington, but most of the time the differences are not so stark.

This is the second time in a week where reports out of Afghanistan raised more questions than answers. A few days ago, U.S. forces said they launched an air strike after insurgents attacked them from the Afghan/Pakistan border. U.S. officials said they notified their Pakistani counterparts before the attack began, and yet the Pakistani government was outraged, saying the U.S. killed 11 of its paramilitary members.

On the face of it, Monday’s news out of Kandahar could be another sign that the violence in Afghanistan is undeniably burgeoning. After all, last week the Taliban help as many 1,200 inmates escape from Kandahar’s main prison.

But it also may signal how little the U.S. knows about what is happening in a country it has fought in since 2001. To be fair, the rugged terrain makes seeing movements in Afghanistan extremely difficult. That said, could the Taliban have moved in, destroyed crops and forced residents out of their homes right under the coalition forces’ noses? Or is the Afghan government playing politics, using today’s report to show its people that it can move forces to them quickly?

It’s been 14 hours since the reports first came in, and no one at the Pentagon seems to know.

[bth: what the?]

Monday, June 16, 2008

YouTube - IGVC 08 Viper Robot Vehicle Demo

YouTube - IGVC 08 Viper Robot Vehicle Demo: ""

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2008: King Abdullah and the speculators

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2008: King Abdullah and the speculators: "Saudi"Arabia, Opec's largest oil producer, moved to take some of the heat out of rising fuel prices yesterday with plans to increase production next month.

The Saudi move followed a weekend of talks between the UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon; the Saudi ruler, King Abdullah, and the country's oil minister Ali al-Naimi.

The news is expected to help depress the crude oil price, which hit a record high of $139 a barrel last week, ahead of an unprecedented meeting of oil producers and importers to be held in the Red Sea port of Jeddah on Sunday." Guardian

----------------------------------------------------------------------------

Sooo, the Saudi king is going to increase production at the margin on crude oil going into the spot market and this is expected to lower the market price on deliveries of crude to refiners. That, in turn, is expected to cause a failure in confidence in the whole nasty complex of capitalist hedge fund managers, index fund managers, bankers, advisers to same, and individual mega-investors. It is hoped/believed that this failure in confidence will cause the players to lose faith in their ability to pass the risk along to the greater fools waiting somewhere in speculator limbo. After that set of developments the price per barrel is supposed to fall, a lot. I believe this to be true. We will assemble here afterwords to gloat, or not.

A couple of things...

- This declaration by the Saudis means that the Saudi gremlins (something like the gnomes of Zurich but more colorful and with bigger boats at Nice) believe that they can affect the price by doing this. It is intuitively obvious that they thought that all through the time that they assured the cretins in the Bush Administration that they could not possibly increase oil production since they were already at the top of their production limit. I seem to remember that some of you believed that.

- Believing that, they still did not choose to increase production enough to take the steam out of the commodity/financial market upward spiral in price. That spiral gained speed as marginal scarcity fed the greed and confidence of the players.

- Now they are going to boost production because the accelerating rate of destruction of the world economy threatens everyone, including them. Even 300 foot yachts can be threatened by instability.

- Why did they play this game? The Saudis are angry with us and have been for some time. They are tired of being treated like poor relatives at the family reunion. They are tired of being ignored in the matter of policy with regard to Shia triumphalism, Iran and the Palestinian question. The Saudis don't care about that last one? Only a neocon or a State Department hack toadying his way towards promotion would even try to believe it to be true that the Saudis do not care about Palestine or Jerusalem. Ask the Saudis.

Foreign policy doesn't matter to the "little people?" Ask yourself if that is true next time you fill up mama's Explorer. pl

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2008/jun/16/oil.saudiarabia

Tomgram: Why We Can't See America's Ziggurats in Iraq

Tomgram: Why We Can't See America's Ziggurats in Iraq: ..."Think"of this as the greatest American story of these years never told -- or more accurately, since there have been a few reports on a couple of these mega-bases -- never shown. After all, what an epic of construction this has been, as the Pentagon built a series of fortified American towns, each some 15 to 20 miles around, with many of the amenities of home, including big name fast-food franchises, PXes, and the like, in a hostile land in the midst of war and occupation. In terms of troops, the President may only have put his "surge" strategy into play in January 2007, but his Pentagon has been "surging" on base construction since April 2003.

Now, imagine as well that hundreds of thousands of Americans have passed through these mega-bases, including the enormous al-Asad Air Base (sardonically nicknamed "Camp Cupcake" for its amenities) in the Western desert of Iraq, and the ill-named (or never renamed) Camp Victory on the edge of Baghdad. Troops have surged through these bases, of course. Private contractors galore. Hired guns. Pentagon officials. Military commanders. Top administration figures. Visiting Congressional delegations. Presidential candidates. And, of course, the journalists.

It has been, for instance, a commonplace of these years to see a TV correspondent reporting on the situation in Iraq, or what the American military had to say about Iraq, from Baghdad's enormous Camp Victory. And yet, if you think about it, that camera, photographing ABC's fine reporter Martha Raddatz or other reporters on similar stop-overs, never pans across the base itself. You don't even get a glimpse, unless you have access to homemade G.I. videos or Pentagon-produced propaganda. ...

America's prison for terrorists often held the wrong men

McClatchy Washington Bureau | 06/15/2008 | America's prison for terrorists often held the wrong men: "GARDEZ"Afghanistan — The militants crept up behind Mohammed Akhtiar as he squatted at the spigot to wash his hands before evening prayers at the Guantanamo Bay detention camp.

They shouted "Allahu Akbar" — God is great — as one of them hefted a metal mop squeezer into the air, slammed it into Akhtiar's head and sent thick streams of blood running down his face.

Akhtiar was among the more than 770 terrorism suspects imprisoned at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. They are the men the Bush administration described as "the worst of the worst."

But Akhtiar was no terrorist. American troops had dragged him out of his Afghanistan home in 2003 and held him in Guantanamo for three years in the belief that he was an insurgent involved in rocket attacks on U.S. forces. The Islamic radicals in Guantanamo's Camp Four who hissed "infidel" and spat at Akhtiar, however, knew something his captors didn't: The U.S. government had the wrong guy.

"He was not an enemy of the government, he was a friend of the government," a senior Afghan intelligence officer told McClatchy. Akhtiar was imprisoned at Guantanamo on the basis of false information that local anti-government insurgents fed to U.S. troops, he said.

An eight-month McClatchy investigation in 11 countries on three continents has found that Akhtiar was one of dozens of men — and, according to several officials, perhaps hundreds — whom the U.S. has wrongfully imprisoned in Afghanistan, Cuba and elsewhere on the basis of flimsy or fabricated evidence, old personal scores or bounty payments.

McClatchy interviewed 66 released detainees, more than a dozen local officials — primarily in Afghanistan — and U.S. officials with intimate knowledge of the detention program. The investigation also reviewed thousands of pages of U.S. military tribunal documents and other records.

This unprecedented compilation shows that most of the 66 were low-level Taliban grunts, innocent Afghan villagers or ordinary criminals. At least seven had been working for the U.S.-backed Afghan government and had no ties to militants, according to Afghan local officials. In effect, many of the detainees posed no danger to the United States or its allies.

The investigation also found that despite the uncertainty about whom they were holding, U.S. soldiers beat and abused many prisoners.

Prisoner mistreatment became a regular feature in cellblocks and interrogation rooms at Bagram and Kandahar air bases, the two main way stations in Afghanistan en route to Guantanamo....

[bth: there is nothing satisfactory about this situation except for the quality reporting again - from McClatchy - which stands in stark contrast to the worthless reporting from almost all the other news agencies.]

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Clay Shirky at Web 2.0 Expo SF 2008

Clay Shirky at Web 2.0 Expo SF 2008

Beth's Blog: How Nonprofits Can Use Social Media

Beth's Blog: How Nonprofits Can Use Social Media

Beat Blogging

Beat Blogging

Daniel Nichanian: McCain Strategy Unveiled: Another New Map - Off The Bus on The Huffington Post

Daniel Nichanian: McCain Strategy Unveiled: Another New Map - Off The Bus on The Huffington Post: "Showcasing"its general election strategy, the McCain campaign released data, slides and maps from a recent briefing. The strategy plan now runs basically as a PowerPoint presentation given by Campaign Manager Rick Davis at the McCain website. In addition to basically indicting the Bush Administration ("Today's political environment is among the worst in modern history for Republicans. Voters are frustrated with the current administration. The wrong track numbers for our country are at a historic highpoint."), the material confirms that McCain will portray Obama as "outside the mainstream" and will seek to use his opponent's clear problems in Appalachia (which include Southeastern Ohio and Southwestern Pennsylvania) to take control of the states Democrats have been hoping to contest. The campaign released the following electoral map of the states it believes McCain will be able to strongly contest: ...

Unfulfilled promises haunt Afghanistan

BBC NEWS | South Asia | Unfulfilled promises haunt Afghanistan:... "Driving"through west Kabul, you can still see the destruction wrought during the factional infighting between warring Mujahideen factions in 1992, which left at least 70,000 Kabulis dead and the Afghan capital destroyed.

One of the most pervasive problems in post-Taleban Afghanistan is corruption.

Cabinet ministers and parliamentarians vow to fight it at every level. President Hamid Karzai has established several anti-corruption offices.

But, for Afghans like Ajmal Haidary, 42, a shopkeeper in West Kabul, this is another empty promise. "Every night, I hear ministers and MPs talk about corruption; this is all talk."


One aide to President Karzai admits the government has failed and that it needs to attend to the plight of the people.

But he says you have to remember the strains on Kabul, a city originally built for 400,000 that is now home to almost four million people.

"From traffic jams to corruption to a lack of electricity, it's a failure that needs to be fixed before it is too late," he says. "However, don't forget the improvements we have achieved."

One judicial official warns that there is a culture of impunity in Afghanistan now that creates a climate of mistrust among common Afghans.

Seven years after the Taleban were removed from power, the worry is that for many Afghans the promises of a better future seem to be becoming a distant dream.

[bth: an article worth reading in full. Are we at a point where we have let the corrupting influence of bad government, of drug lords and the compounding effect of layer upon layer of corruption destroy Afghanistan?]

May's combat deaths in Afghanistan outnumber Iraq

The Associated Press: May's combat deaths in Afghanistan outnumber Iraq: "It's"a grim gauge of U.S. wars going in opposite directions: American and allied combat deaths in Afghanistan in May passed the monthly toll in Iraq for the first time.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates used the statistical comparison to dramatize his point to NATO defense ministers that they need to do more to get Afghanistan moving in a better direction. He wants more allied combat troops, more trainers and more public commitment.

More positively, the May death totals point to security improvements in Iraq that few thought likely a year ago.

But the deterioration in Afghanistan suggests a troubling additional possibility: a widening of the war to Pakistan, where the Taliban and al-Qaida have found haven.

By the Pentagon's count, 15 U.S. and two allied troops were killed in action in Iraq last month, a total of 17. In Afghanistan it was 19, including 14 Americans and five coalition troops. One month does not make a trend, but in this case the statistics are so out of whack with perceptions of the two wars that Gates could use them to drive home his point about Afghanistan.

Even when non-combat deaths are included, the overall May toll was greater in Afghanistan than in Iraq: a total of 22 in Afghanistan, including 17 Americans, compared with 21 in Iraq, including 19 Americans, according to an Associated Press count.

The comparison is even more remarkable if you consider that there are about three times more U.S. and coalition troops in Iraq than in Afghanistan. Since the Iraq war began in March 2003, there have been just under 4,100 U.S. deaths — including more than 3,300 killed in action — according to the Pentagon's count. In the Afghan campaign, which began in October 2001, the U.S. death total is just over 500, including 313 killed in action.

"It's important that we live up to our pledges in both the civilian and military spheres as necessary for success in Afghanistan," Gates said Friday, concluding two days of NATO defense minister talks that produced few signs of optimism about the Afghan war.

Gates made a point upon taking his Pentagon post in December 2006, amid great and growing U.S. public doubt about Iraq, that he was deeply concerned about backsliding in the less publicized and less unpopular war in Afghanistan. He seems even more troubled now.

And he appears less patient with the allies, aware that much of the European population is unconvinced by the American argument that al-Qaida in Central Asia — whether it's Afghanistan, Pakistan or the largely ungoverned areas along their mountainous frontier — poses a grave danger to Europe as well as to the United States.

Gates said that when it came his turn to talk at Thursday's defense ministers meeting on Afghanistan he tossed aside the remarks his aides had prepared for him and stated his case as sharply and directly as he could.

"I told them my expectations are simple: I expect government decisions and actions to match government rhetoric," he said. It was then that he mentioned the May casualty figures. And he noted that since the NATO meetings got under way on Thursday, three more coalition troops — reportedly two from Britain and one from Romania — had been killed in Afghanistan.

In Afghanistan the United States has ceded overall command authority to a NATO-led force known as the International Security Assistance Force, although that force is led by an American general. In Iraq the military effort is overwhelmingly U.S., partnering with Iraqi forces.....

Don't Be Fooled by Wall Street's Happy Talk | The Agonist

Don't Be Fooled by Wall Street's Happy Talk | The Agonist: "The"next phase of the financial and economic crisis is creeping up on us. You can see the signs in the U.S. stock market, where all the major indexes have reversed a three month rally and are now declining back to their March lows. This decline is led by the Dow and is in fact accelerating, taking with it last month’s cheerful prognostications that the U.S. not only has escaped a recession, but is bouncing back into full growth mode for the second half of this year.

The economic data do not confirm this picture at all. The employment situation continues to worsen, industrial production and factory utilization are lodged firmly in recessionary territory, and the only retail stores showing any sign of life are the deep discounters like Wal-Mart, benefiting temporarily from the tax rebates. Wall Street executives are telling us that the credit crisis is halfway over, but their behavior suggests otherwise. Lehman Brothers, for example, assured us last week that it was well-capitalized and fully in control of its future, but a few days later it announced a $2.8 billion loss and was forced to turn to the stock market and private investors to raise $6 billion more in capital. Where have we heard this story before?...

[bth: worth reading in full]

Arms and influence - A poem for warriors

Arms and influence

Smugglers Had Design For Advanced Warhead

Smugglers Had Design For Advanced Warhead: "An"international smuggling ring that sold bomb-related parts to Libya, Iran and North Korea also managed to acquire blueprints for an advanced nuclear weapon, according to a draft report by a former top U.N. arms inspector that suggests the plans could have been shared secretly with any number of countries or rogue groups.

The drawings, discovered in 2006 on computers owned by Swiss businessmen, included essential details for building a compact nuclear device that could be fitted on a type of ballistic missile used by Iran and more than a dozen developing countries, the report states....