Saturday, August 16, 2008

YouTube - Red State Update Hates Russia Again

YouTube - Red State Update Hates Russia Again: ""

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2008: The price per barrel - down, down, down.

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2008: The price per barrel - down, down, down.: "The"TV business channel 24/7 crowd have more or less lapsed into sullen quietude over the continuing fall in the price of the oil commodity. Why? They can't explain it in terms that they are willing to accept.

Some of the anchors are restive and asking embarrassing questions that are "slapped down" as quickly as they arise.

The rise of the dollar, the destruction of US demand, the unexpected decline of Asian demand, etc., etc., ad nauseam. These are the "herd" answers.

In fact, there was never really a short term shortage of petroleum. The talking heads and the mindless anchors on TV business shows hyped and hyped the long term shortages until the unthinking came to believe in oil shortages as every day fact. Talib, in "The Black Swan" describes this phenomenon. Once something like the phony oil shortage became "fact" then the oil commodity was a good candidate for the "play" of traders of the wild eyed variety. Now, they are getting out. This reveals the lack of "fundamentals" underneath todays prices.

A woman "talking head" on CNBC said today that oil is seeking an "equilibrium price" based on the real supply and demand situation. She was correct.

She was hooted down.

[bth: for all the idiotic talk on the news, no one has waited in a gas line that I'm aware of this year. The price was driven up by speculation and probably by hording in China running up to the Olympics. Well the Olympics are almost over.]

Brain Dead Bureaucrat Watch: VA Blocks Voter Registration at Vets' Hospitals - Yahoo! News

Brain Dead Bureaucrat Watch: VA Blocks Voter Registration at Vets' Hospitals - Yahoo! News: "When"it comes to making profoundly stupid bureaucratic decisions, the Department of Veterans Affairs is often in a class by itself. When VA bureaucrats aren't losing laptops with millions of veterans' personal data or forgetting to include Iraq and Afghanistan veterans in their budget calculations, they are giving themselves obscene raises. For all the hard working doctors and nurses in VA hospitals and clinics across the country, it's a real shame that some top level VA officials are dragging the VA name through the mud.

Today we have one more bureaucratic blunder to add to the list. The VA has banned voter registration at veterans' nursing homes and homeless shelters. The irony is almost too great. Disabled veterans, who have made such tremendous sacrifices in defense of democracy, are now being denied assistance in voting.

The VA is claiming that voter registration drives are partisan, and would interfere with the functioning of their facilities. But hundreds of nonpartisan organizations regularly participate in voter registration drives -everyone from the League of Women Voters to the Elks Club. Helping people vote is a civic duty, not a partisan activity.

And if voter registration drives interfere with an institution's functioning, someone should tell the Texas Hospital Association and the American Medical Student Association, both of whom run voter registration campaigns at hospitals and clinics. The "Rx: Vote Campaign," run by the National Physicians Alliance, argues:

"Without exercising the right to vote, patients and those who care for them lack the power to improve the health of their communities. As a result, patients' health, and the health of our democracy, suffer. The nation's community health centers, clinics, and hospitals have a unique ability and responsibility to empower patients to participate in the democratic process."

If doctors believe voter registration drives can and should be happening at their hospitals, why can't the VA accept voter registration at their facilities?

The VA doesn't have a leg to stand on morally or legally. But if the VA refuses to budge, Congress will have to act quickly to overrule the VA, before veterans start missing their states' voter registration deadlines.

It should not take an act of Congress for the VA to admit they made a mistake. But until they do, hospitalized veterans like Martin O'Nieal, "a 92-year-old man who lost a leg while fighting the Nazis in the mountains of Northern Italy," will have to struggle to exercise the very rights they helped defend on the field of battle.

How can you help protect the voting rights of our veterans? Keep an eye on IAVA.org. In the meantime, make sure that you are registered to vote. It only takes a second.

[bth: Paul is absolutely right. This is a ridiculous situation. My wife Alma is experiencing the same resistance, not from the VA, but from the town clerk with regard to the VA hospital in Bedford. Total bull shit.]

Friday, August 15, 2008

Russian soldiers in bank job | The Sun |News

Russian soldiers in bank job | The Sun |News: "The"band of gun-toting men were caught on CCTV forcing their way into the bank in Gori.

Once inside, the men are seen breaking into the teller offices and rifling through the desks.

They are then caught making off with what appear to be armfuls of equipment including laptop computers and perhaps even cash.

The outrage took place amid some of the bloodiest fighting in Gori, which is on Georgia’s main east-west highway.

In The Know: Is The Government Spying On Paranoid Schizophrenics Enough? | The Onion - America's Finest News Source

In The Know: Is The Government Spying On Paranoid Schizophrenics Enough? | The Onion - America's Finest News Source: "
In The Know: Is The Government Spying On Paranoid Schizophrenics Enough?"
In The Know: Is The Government Spying On Paranoid Schizophrenics Enough?

Tomgram: Andrew Bacevich, The Lessons of Endless War

Tomgram: Andrew Bacevich, The Lessons of Endless War: ..."Since"the end of the Cold War, the tendency among civilians -- with President Bush a prime example -- has been to confuse strategy with ideology. The president's freedom agenda, which supposedly provided a blueprint for how to prosecute the Global War on Terror, expressed grandiose aspirations without serious effort to assess the means required to achieve them. Meanwhile, ever since the Vietnam War ended, the tendency among military officers has been to confuse strategy with operations.

Here we come face-to-face with the essential dilemma with which the United States has unsuccessfully wrestled since the Soviets deprived us of a stabilizing adversary. The political elite that ought to bear the chief responsibility for crafting grand strategy instead nurses fantasies of either achieving permanent global hegemony or remaking the world in America's image. Meanwhile, the military elite that could puncture those fantasies and help restore a modicum of realism to U.S. policy fixates on campaigns and battles, with generalship largely a business of organizing and coordinating matériel.

The four lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan boil down to this: Events have exposed as illusory American pretensions to having mastered war. Even today, war is hardly more subject to human control than the tides or the weather. Simply trying harder -- investing ever larger sums in even more advanced technology, devising novel techniques, or even improving the quality of American generalship -- will not enable the United States to evade that reality.

As measured by results achieved, the performance of the military since the end of the Cold War and especially since 9/11 has been unimpressive. This indifferent record of success leads some observers to argue that we need a bigger army or a different army.

But the problem lies less with the army that we have -- a very fine one, which every citizen should wish to preserve -- than with the requirements that we have imposed on our soldiers. Rather than expanding or reconfiguring that army, we need to treat it with the respect that it deserves. That means protecting it from further abuse of the sort that it has endured since 2001.

America doesn't need a bigger army. It needs a smaller -- that is, more modest -- foreign policy, one that assigns soldiers missions that are consistent with their capabilities. Modesty implies giving up on the illusions of grandeur to which the end of the Cold War and then 9/11 gave rise. It also means reining in the imperial presidents who expect the army to make good on those illusions. When it comes to supporting the troops, here lies the essence of a citizen's obligation.

Andrew Bacevich, professor of history and international relations at Boston University, retired from the U.S. Army with the rank of colonel. This piece is adapted from his new book, The Limits of Power: The End of American Exceptionalism (Metropolitan Books, 2008). He is also the author of The New American Militarism, among other books. His writing has appeared in Foreign Affairs, the Atlantic Monthly, the Nation, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the Wall Street Journal. A TomDispatch interview with him can be read by clicking here, and then here. For part one of Bacevich's two-part series for TomDispatch, "Illusions of Victory," click here

Russia-Georgia: Early Take (SWJ Blog)

Russia-Georgia: Early Take (SWJ Blog): "The"impact of the Russian attack on Georgia is still being assessed around the world, in that slow-motion way that global events have on governments. Getting the full picture of what's going on will take a few weeks yet. But this much seems to be clear.

First, there's no illusion about who's running Russia. Vladimir Putin is clearly the effective head of state, flying from the Beijing Olympics to southern Russia to oversee military operations and to dominate Russian TV. The return of strongman rule to Russia, and particularly one who regards the demise of the Soviet Union as a historic catastrophe, is now a fact of international life to which we will all have to adjust to.

Second, Putin and his government are attempting to establish the legitimacy of a Russian sphere of influence that looks very much like a reestablishment of the old Soviet empire. This is the core of an enormously sophisticated information campaign that is having some success -- at least around Washington -- in appealing to the realpolitik crowd who look for excuses for inaction in the case of a Russian invasion of their democratic neighbor. The invasion of Georgia was accompanied by an information campaign based on the idea that Russia has a right to intervene anywhere that the "dignity" of Russian minorities is threatened. Since there are Russian minorities in every former Soviet state of the old empire, this is an attempt to establish a "sphere of influence" precedent that must chill newly independent states still struggling with democracy.

From a military perspective, the first impression is that the Russians laid an effective "strategic ambush" for Georgia President Mikhail Saakashvilli, inciting anti-government attacks in South Ossetia by local militias and then responding to the Georgian offensive with a well-planned and rehearsed offensive of their own. Even when viewed through the imperfect lens of news media scrambling to catch up to events, military experts understand that the joint and combined-arms attacks Russia staged in the opening hours of the war were anything but spontaneous. For historians, a retrospective on Nazi Germany's offensive to "protect" the Sudaten Czechs shows a striking similarity of purpose and method.

The Georgian armed forces were obviously not prepared for the Russian counteroffensive. Having recently purged older, Soviet-trained officers from its top commands, the Georgian military lacks doctrine, cohesion and experience; U.S. military assistance has been focused on preparing Georgian soldiers for duty alongside U.S. forces in Iraq, not in larger-scale, combined-arms warfare, and it shows. At this writing, the Georgian armed forces have virtually disappeared, their patrol boats sunk at their docks and their infantry collecting somewhere near the capitol city; Russian forces have broken contact and breakaway militias are rampaging in areas in and around South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

To observers familiar with the sight of Russian troops riding to battle on the back decks of BMPs, the Russian campaign looked like previous warfare in Afghanistan and Czchneya. But in this case, the familiar Soviet-style, firepower-intensive armed campaign was preceded by a sophisticated cyberattack against Georgian information systems and, more ominously, a prelaid global information campaign that both advanced the Russian argument for its right to intervene and fed both the news media and wavering Western politicians with trumped-up details of Georgian atrocities. Look for the information campaign to intensify as Russian troops settle into positions in Georgia, where their location will become negotiable in the next phase, which will clearly be to drive the pro-Western Saakashvilli government from power. The Russians have "got" modern war, however outdated their "kinetic" operations may appear. In their operational concept, the information war preceded, and is superior to, actual combat operations on the land and sea. Western military authorities, whose ability to influence information operations of this type are nonexistent, can only look on in frustration.

What does this mean for the U.S. and for U.S. strategy? The first, obvious, lesson is that great-power competition is back, and it is not only with a remote and only vaguely challenging trading partner like China. Russia is now an active menace. Whether "old Europe" quite understands the problem is for the moment moot -- the newly-formed ex-Soviet democracies have the message loud and clear, as their timely and courageous support for the Saakashvilli government shows. As scholar Fred Kagan said recently, there is a "new axis" of anti-Russian democracies around the edge of the old Soviet empire. Supporting those states and securing their future must be a top priority for the U.S. and NATO, while Russia passes through the Putin phase and perhaps into a more benign future -- the encouragement of which should be the top priority for U.S. and Western diplomacy. If this sounds like containment, well, it is.

For military strategy, the U.S. should immediately revamp its foreign military assistance programs to those countries, including a post-invasion Georgia. The intent of U.S. aid now should not be aimed not only at preparing forces for low-intensity conflict -- because most of these states have their own problems with breakaway militias and extremist terrorism -- but also at deterring Russian high-intensity, combined-arms attacks. Advanced integrated air-defenses (the Georgians had none), antitank munitions, precision weapons all must be provided so that Russia can no longer plan a walkover like the one we have witnessed. Military assistance groups should be stationed in frontline states, and m military exercises conducted calibrated to bolster the defensive capabilities of local armies. The Russians will cry foul, but their military authorities will understand what they are seeing -- no more easy campaigns. Military aid must include methods and training in our best techniques for computer network defense, a move that -- given the global nature of computer networks -- will integrate our allies' defenses with ours.

Finally the U.S. government, even in this time of political transition, must be steadfast in exposing for the world's media the true story of what is happening here. This is not a time to surrender the information field to the Russians in a futile effort to "protect sources" or surrender to reflexive classification. The war for history has started, and the Russians are already leading by several laps. Given the nature of an inquisitive and pervasive worldwide news media -- that the Russians so far have manipulated brilliantly -- the truth will eventually out, but only if the Western democracies insure that the facts are out there
.
Informed Comment

U.S.: Iraqi Shiite Terror Squads Receiving Training in Iran - International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News

FOXNews.com - U.S.: Iraqi Shiite Terror Squads Receiving Training in Iran - International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News: "WASHINGTON"— Iraqi Shiite explosive and assassination teams are being trained in at least four locations in Iran by Tehran's elite Quds force and Lebanese Hezbollah, according to intelligence gleaned from captured militia fighters and other sources in Iraq.

A senior U.S. military intelligence officer in Baghdad also said the fighters planned to return to Iraq in the next few months to kill specific Iraqi officials as well as U.S. and Iraqi forces.

The intelligence officer described the information Thursday in an interview with The Associated Press. He spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the intelligence information.

The officer on Wednesday provided Iraq's national security adviser with several lists of the assassination teams' expected targets. The country's intelligence service is now preparing operations to determine where and when the specially trained fighters will enter Iraq and will provide an assessment to Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, the intelligence officer said.

Iran, Hezbollah's mentor, denies giving any support to Shiite extremists in Iraq.

The U.S. official disclosed the information in an attempt to create political pressure on Iran to suspend the training and prevent the militia fighters from returning to Iraq.

The U.S. military also wants the Iraqi government to take steps to protect the targets. "Wanted" posters picturing men believed to be heading the special groups are being posted around Baghdad, the military officer said.

The fighters are expected to return to Iraq between now and October, but the officer said there's no intelligence suggesting they are actually in Iraq yet.

Many of the fighters fled to Iran this spring after Iraqi government forces cracked down first on militia sanctuaries in Basra and Sadr City in Baghdad, then Amarah, and now in Diyala province, the military officer said.

One of the reasons the U.S. believes the special groups moved out during that period is the sharp decline in the number of deadly roadside bombs using explosively formed penetrators.

In March, there were 55 such attacks. By July, that number had dropped to around 18, the officer said. U.S. intelligence believes those sophisticated bombs can be traced back to Iran.

The officer said training is going on in at least four locations in Iran: Qom, Tehran, Ahvaz and Mashhad.

The elite Quds Force is a branch of Iran's Revolutionary Guard. The Islamic militant group Hezbollah, based in Lebanon, is believed to receive weapons from Syria and Iran.

The number of "special group criminals" — the U.S. name for Iraqi fighters sponsored by Iran — is unknown but is estimated to be in the hundreds and possibly more than 1,000.

According to the officer, the training camps are operating under the direction of Quds force commander, Brig. Gen. Ghassem Soleimani, with the knowledge and approval of Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The training includes how to conduct reconnaissance to pinpoint targets, small arms and weapons training, small unit tactics, and terrorist cell operations and communications.

They are also learning how to use explosively formed penetrator bombs and other improvised explosive devices and rocket propelled grenades, including the RPG-29, a signature weapon of Lebanese Hezbollah and the Quds force.

Lebanese Hezbollah conducts much of the training in the camps because its members speak Arabic, the dominant language in Iraq.

The U.S. officer said there were no confirmed reports of Lebanese Hezbollah members crossing into Iraq.

That conflicts with what Iraqi Shiite lawmakers and a top Army officer told The AP last month: Hezbollah trainers were running training camps in southern Iraq until April, when they were pushed into Iran by the Iraqi crackdown.

The trainees in the Iranian camps include three Iraqis already wanted by the Iraqi government for terrorist attacks: Haji Mahdi, Haji Thamir, and Baqir al Sa'idi, the officer said. He identified two Iraqi Shiite militia groups in Iran by name: "The League of the Righteous," or "Asaib al Haq," and the "Kataib al Hezbollah."

The "special group criminals" are offshoots of cleric Muqtada al-Sadr's Jaysh al-Mahdi militia. They spun off their own groups after al-Sadr declared a cease-fire with the Iraqi government in August 2007 and are not thought to be under his control now.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Peace Plan Offers Russia a Rationale to Advance - NYTimes.com

Peace Plan Offers Russia a Rationale to Advance - NYTimes.com: "TBILISI", Georgia — It was nearly 2 a.m. on Wednesday when President Nicolas Sarkozy of France announced he had accomplished what seemed virtually impossible: Persuading the leaders of Georgia and Russia to agree to a set of principles that would stop the war.

Handshakes and congratulations were offered all around. But by the time the sun was up, Russian tanks were advancing again, this time taking positions around the strategically important city of Gori, in central Georgia.

It soon became clear that the six-point deal not only failed to slow the Russian advance, but it also allowed Russia to claim that it could push deeper into Georgia as part of so-called additional security measures it was granted in the agreement. Mr. Sarkozy, according to a senior Georgian official who witnessed the negotiations, also failed to persuade the Russians to agree to any time limit on their military action.

By mid-morning, European officials were warning of the risks of appeasing Russian aggression, while Georgian officials lamented the West’s weak leverage.

“I’m talking about the impotence and inability of both Europe and the United States to be unified and to exert leverage, and to comprehend the level of the threat,” said the senior Georgian official, who had sat in on the talks between Mr. Sarkozy and Georgia’s president, Mikheil Saakashvili.

The senior Georgian official later made a copy of the deal available to The New York Times with what he said were notes marking changes the Georgians had asked for but failed to attain.

Of gripping importance to the Georgian government now, Western diplomats and Georgian officials said, is whether the agreement gave the Russians room to interpret the occupation of Gori and a zone around the city as agreed upon in the cease-fire, thus allowing them to control the main east-west road through the country, isolating the capital, Tbilisi, from the Black Sea coast and cutting off important supply routes....

[bth: Putins a chess player, Bush is a cheer leader, the EU are appeasing pansies. Welcome to the new order. The interesting this is the the EU gets its natural gas from Russia. We don't. Georgia offered an alternative pipeline for the EU. That pipeline is now hostage to Russia. .... One wonders what a shipment of anti aircraft missiles, anti-tank weapons and smart mines would do to the dynamics of this conflict.]

Conflict Narrows Oil Options for West - NYTimes.com

Conflict Narrows Oil Options for West - NYTimes.com: ..."A"bumper sticker that American diplomats distributed around Central Asia in the 1990s as the United States was working hard to make friends there summed up Washington’s strategic thinking: “Happiness is multiple pipelines.”

Now energy experts say that the hostilities between Russia and Georgia could threaten American plans to gain access to more of Central Asia’s energy resources at a time when booming demand in Asia and tight supplies helped push the price of oil to record highs.

“It is hard to see through the fog of this war another pipeline through Georgia,” said Cliff Kupchan, a political risk analyst at Eurasia Group and a State Department official during the Clinton administration. “Moving forward, multinationals and Central Asian and Caspian governments may think twice about building new lines through this corridor. It may even call into question the reliability of moving existing volumes through that corridor.”

At the very least, the analysts warn, a newly emboldened Russia may figure even more prominently in shaping the region’s energy future.....

US Cyberspace Command Put On Hold, May Be Axed By Pentagon

US Cyberspace Command Put On Hold, May Be Axed By Pentagon: "The"Pentagon this week delayed and may kill the Air Force's nascent Cyberspace Command, according to a memo obtained by The Associated Press. This comes as Russia used a major computer network attack to begin its assault on Georgia.

The service's Cyberspace Command is meant to coordinate computer network defense and, more controversially, offensive attacks on enemy networks. The goal, according to senior officials, is to be able to take control of adversary computer networks to thwart attacks or otherwise influence their behavior_ either with or without that adversary realizing it.

The Russian computer takedown served the same purpose as a traditional air attack on enemy radars and communications antennae, said Michael Wynne, the former U.S. Air Force Secretary who made cyberwar a central mission of the Air Force.

"The Russians just shot down the government command nets so they could cover their incursion," said Wynne. "This was really one of the first aspects of a coordinated military action that had cyber as a lead force, instead of sending in air planes. We need to figure out a way not only see the attack coming but to block it, and in blocking it chase it home."

"I think this is a very poor time to send a signal that the United States is not interested in focusing on warfighting in the cyber domain," Wynne added.
...

[bth: shutting down this command is a real stupid idea. Its like the air force just can't get it right these days.]

Pakistani troops retreat after Taliban onslaught in Bajaur - The Long War Journal

Pakistani troops retreat after Taliban onslaught in Bajaur - The Long War Journal: "Pakistan's"paramilitary Frontier Corps retreated from the Loisam region in the Bajaur tribal after heavy fighting with the Taliban over the past four days. Scores of Pakistani paramilitary troops have been reported killed and scores more captured.

The fighting in Bajaur began on Aug. 7 after government forces moved to occupy the Loisam region. A large Taliban force surrounded and ambushed a 200-man convoy of Frontier Corps forces moving into the region.

Heavy fighting broke out after the Frontier Corps troops attempted to break the encirclement. Pakistani aircraft, helicopters, and artillery joined the fray, reportedly causing heavy casualties among the large Taliban force, estimated at several hundred fighters

The Frontier Corps claimed more than 100 Taliban fighters were killed in the fighting. But Taliban spokesman Mullah Omar disputed the charge, saying no more than 10 of its fighters were killed.

The Frontier Corps also said eight troops were killed and 15 wounded during the four-day battle. But a variety of sources told the Pakistani media that the Frontier Corps was bloodied during the heavy fighting.

Mullah Omar claimed between 80 and 100 paramilitary troops were killed, and another 35 were taken hostage. A security source told Dawn that 55 Frontier Corps troops were taken captive. The Taliban turned over the bodies of 22 troops to tribal elders.

The Frontier Corps force was nearly routed, taking an estimated 60 percent casualties if the Taliban’s account holds up. The Pakistani military has hidden casualties taken during fighting in the tribal areas in the past.

The Taliban also claimed to have captured two armored vehicles as well as ammunition trucks. In all 25 vehicles were reported to have been captured by the Taliban and another 10 were set fire.

The remaining Frontier Corps force broke the Taliban cordon and fled to their base in Khar, the seat of the tribal agency. Frontier Corps and military officials described the retreat as "a strategy" and refused to admit defeat. “We cannot say we have failed," said military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas.

The Taliban quickly began consolidating their positions, and hundreds of fighters are digging in on the outskirts of Kharnear the Frontier Corps headquarters. Taliban forces are also seizing some abandoned check posts and blowing up others along the road to Peshawar.

Bajaur fell under Taliban control after a series of peace deals were signed beginning in 2007. Loisam is near the town of Damadola, where US Predator unmanned aircraft targeted Ayman al Zawahiri in January 2006.

The Bajaur tribal agency is al Qaeda’s command and control hub for operations across the border in northeastern Afghanistan. Bajaur is run by Faqir Mohammed, who assumed control of the radical Tehrik Nifaz-e-Sharia Mohammadi (the TNSM, or the Movement for the Implementation of Mohammad's Sharia Law) after the arrest of Sufi Mohammed.

The TNSM is known as the "Pakistani Taliban" and is the group behind the ideological inspiration for the Afghan Taliban. The TNSM sent over 10,000 fighters into Afghanistan to fight US forces during the opening stages of Operation Enduring Freedom in late 2001 and 2002. Sufi was jailed by the Pakistani government after the TNSM was banned. He was later released as part of a peace deal in May 2008.

Faqir has close links with the Pakistani and Afghan Taliban, as well as senior al Qaeda leaders. He is believed to shelter senior al Qaeda leaders such as Ayman al Zawahiri
. The US has conducted at least two airstrikes against safe houses and camps run by Faqir since January 2006.

In December 2007, Faqir rolled the TNSM under the banner of Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, or the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, which is led by South Waziristan Taliban commander Baitullah Mehsud. Faqir is also second in command of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan.

[bth: one wonders how the Taliban are able to concentrate such troop formations? Isn't there some air asset or artillery that can be brought to bear?]

The Chai count - The Long War Journal

The Chai count - The Long War Journal: "The"U.S. military loves metrics to measure success or failure. Vietnam had its dubious enemy body counts, the Gulf War its measure of smart bombs accuracy. Troops today in Iraq may have come across their most accurate technique to gauge the current campaign: the Chai count.

“Do you know how many times I drank Chai in Anbar in 2005 and 2006,” US Army Captain Scott Polasek asked Hussam Alwan Abed, the head of the Sons of Iraq program in Miqdadiyah, 60 miles north of Baghdad in the Diyala province. “Once -- only one cup of Chai. We were too busy shooting and killing people.”

Chai is Iraqi tea, usually drunk from a small glass tumbler with a saucer and thick layer of refined sugar at the bottom which, if stirred, will double your blood sugar. Any serious guest in Iraq will be offered two Chai during which business or old times are discussed. In Iraq, drinking tea with friend or acquaintance is a sign of civilized life. Life without Chai may not be worth living.

During his second tour in Iraq, Polasek has had tea with Abed several dozen times, debating politics, who should become a member of the local Sons of Iraq -- the “neighborhood watch on steroids” that has been so important in employing military-age, poorly educated males in Iraq -- or how security will proceed in the run-up to provincial elections, tentatively scheduled for later this year.

This method of engagement with Iraqi community leaders is a core goal laid out by General David Petreaus, who in the past several years has set the rules for the US-led coalition’s counter-insurgency, creating what been called in some quarters “a political campaign with guns.”

The “surge” of about US 30,000 troops last year received the headlines. Yet it was the tactical change in the way US forces operated, borrowing from British and French experiences in Malaysia, Algeria and Northern Ireland that pushed US troops off their large bases, onto the streets and into the homes of community leaders. The boost in security has created enough trust among the population to improve intelligence gathering while draining the pool of underemployed males that were targets of al Qaeda recruiters.

“If the government doesn’t use the sectarian issue in the upcoming election, then things will work well,” said Abed, a Sunni, who is running for a seat on the Diyala Provincial Council and is the contractor in charge of several hundred Sons of Iraq. “Hopefully, the theme in the next year will be reconstruction and redevelopment.”

The change in techniques has worked. US deaths in July were at their lowest since the war began while Iraqi security death also fell in the face of increased operations. Life has become so peaceable in Anbar, the former core of the Sunni insurgency, the US Marines offered to leave the region in order to fight in Afghanistan.

The change in focus has been nowhere more dramatic than in Diyala, where the Iraqi Army and Police are currently carrying out its largest military operation since the fall of Saddam Hussein’s government in 2003. Nearly 50,000 Iraqi troops are clearing al Qaeda safe havens and weapons caches in upper Diyala, near the Iranian border, with little direct US support....

Bombing on Pakistani Air Force bus kills 13 in Peshawar - The Long War Journal

Bombing on Pakistani Air Force bus kills 13 in Peshawar - The Long War Journal: "The"Taliban have taken credit for today's deadly bus bombing on a Pakistani Air Force bus in Peshawar. Thirteen Pakistanis, including 10 security officials, were killed and more than a dozen were wounded after a bomb was detonated as the bus drove over a bridge in the provincial capital of Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province.

The Taliban immediately took credit for the attack. "[The] Taliban Movement has warned that we would react across the country" if operations were not halted in Swat and the tribal agency of Bajaur, said Mullah Omar, the spokesman for the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan. During previous threats, the Taliban said it would set the provinces of Sindh and Punjab "on fire."

The Pakistani military went on the offensive in Swat and Bajaur after the Taliban violated the terms of recent peace agreements and conducted attacks against the military and the government. Fighting has stalemated in Swat, as the Taliban continues to conduct attacks and target infrastructure such as bridges, girls’ schools, and police stations.

The Frontier Corps has suffered a string of defeats in the Bajaur tribal agency since launching an operation last week. A large Taliban force surrounded and ambushed a 200-man convoy of Frontier Corps forces moving into the region. Heavy fighting broke out after the Frontier Corps troops attempted to break the encirclement. Scores of Pakistani soldiers have been reported killed or captured, and more than a hundred Taliban have been reported killed as well. Pakistani forces retreated from the region and the Taliban are digging in around Khar, the administrative seat for Bajaur....

Cross-border strike targets one of the Taliban's 157 training camps in Pakistan's northwest - The Long War Journal

Cross-border strike targets one of the Taliban's 157 training camps in Pakistan's northwest - The Long War Journal: ..."There"are currently 157 training camps and "more than 400 support locations" spread throughout the tribal areas and the settled districts of the Northwest Frontier Province, senior intelligence officials speaking on the condition of anonymity told The Long War Journal. This number does not include Taliban camps and support locations in Baluchistan province.

Other officials refused to give an exact number, only saying there are "well over 100 camps in northwestern Pakistan." Earlier this year, US intelligence sources told The Long War Journal that there were more than 100 camps inside northwestern Pakistan.

The camps vary in size and specialty, and some are temporary. An estimated 25 to 50 camps are considered "permanent," meaning they are at a fixed location, with buildings, and sometimes a barracks and a headquarters.

Some camps are devoted to training the Taliban's military arm, some train suicide bombers for attacks in Pakistan and Afghanistan, some focus on training the various Kashmiri terror groups, some train al Qaeda operatives for attacks in the West, and one serves as a training ground the Black Guard, the elite bodyguard for Osama bin Laden.

Most of the camps are temporary in nature. The trainers may establish a camp in a home for a short period of time, or gather a group of fighters and take them to a location for weapons training and ideological indoctrination. One such camp in Khyber was recently described by The Wall Street Journal.

The support locations provide the Taliban, al Qaeda, and allied Islamist groups with the logistical support to carry out operations. Support facilities tend to be fixed, and include safe houses, weapons storage facilities, motor pools, and prepositioned weapons caches along the Afghan-Pakistani border....

[bth: one wonders what would happen if we air blitzed these camps one evening? All 150 or so of them.]

Blog: Nukes & Spooks - Things heat up in the Philippines

Blog: Nukes & Spooks: "Talk"about timing. I've been arranging for months to embed with a small U.S. Special Operations unit in the Philippines, known as the Joint Special Operations Task Force (pronounced jay-sot-off).

I arrived in the capital of Manila on Saturday night and woke up the next morning to discover that the worst fighting in five years had broken out between the Filipino military and a rebel group, known as the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. The MILF, as it's known, is fighting for an expanded autnonomous Muslim region in the southern Philippines, or for a separate Islamic state, depending on whom you talk to.

American troops here are barred from combat, as every U.S. soldier and diplomat I encounter is constantly reminding me. The US military came here six years ago to stop the Philippines from becoming a safe haven for terrorist groups such as Jemaah Islamiyaah and the Abu Sayyaf Group that have al Qaida links. They provide intel support, help train the Filipino military and work with the Filipino government to build roads, conduct medical clinics and other efforts that increase the population's confidence in the government. (In fighting terrorism, that's called "draining the swamp.")

Still, from my bunk here at a base in Cotabato City, I can hear planes and helos coming and going from the conflict area. Two Filipino soliders and an unknown number of MILF fighters have been killed, and perhaps 100,000 people have been displaced (estimates differ slightly).

Philippine Army Maj. Gen. Raymondo Ferrer, the local commander, told me the fighting could well get worse, especially if the country's Supreme Court completely junks a draft peace agreement that the court put on hold earlier this month.

All this may seem like small potatoes compared to Russia's gobbling up of portions of Georgia, the medal race at the Olympics and the presidential campaign.

But the Muslim-Christian conflict here, more over land and resources than religion, mirrors sectarian conflicts in places as far-flung as Baghdad and the Palestinian territories. And while major acts of international terror have been absent from the region lately, groups with roots in Southeast Asia have played a role in the worst terror attacks of the 21st Century, from the 9/11 plot to the Bali bombings.

Amid promise of peace, Georgians live in terror | World news | The Guardian

Amid promise of peace, Georgians live in terror | World news | The Guardian: ..."Those"who fled expressed a feeling of betrayal. They said Russia's president, Dmitry Medvedev, had duped them. "I believed him when he said there was peace. That's why we stayed in our homes. But it isn't true," Lamzika Tushmali, 62, said. She added: "There is no ceasefire."

At the end of the Russian column, a group of volunteers arrived in a shabby mini-van flying a Russian flag. One of them had his face covered with a balaclava; all were heavily armed; their mood was exuberant. What were they doing? "We've come for a holiday," one said.

For most of the day there was no sign of the Georgian army. After five days of ferocious bombardment by Russian warplanes, it appears not to exist. With rumours swirling of an imminent Russian attack on Tbilisi, however, Georgia mustered a platoon of 50 soldiers, who took up positions 10 miles down the road from where the Russians appeared to have parked up for the night.

On Georgian radio, meanwhile, military experts were discussing the possibility of a new partisan war against the Russians - suggesting that the government's failure meant that it was time for ordinary Georgians to take the initiative.

It's an idea that may take root. "I spent two years in the Soviet army. If there is a partisan army I'll be in the first row," Koba Chkhirodze, 41, said yesterday

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2008: "Fear of Russia ends Israeli support for Georgia"

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2008: "Fear of Russia ends Israeli support for Georgia": "A"top Georgian envoy in Israel on Sunday urged the Jewish state to use whatever leverage it has to put pressure on Russia to pull its forces out of the small Caucasus nation. But while voicing support for Georgian territorial integrity, Israel decided instead to appease Russia by halting all arms sales to Tbilisi.

Israel has sold some $500 million worth of military equipment to Georgia over the past few years, and top Israeli military experts have been involved in training Georgian armed forces.

Israeli soldiers who participated in training Georgian forces as recently as four months ago told Ha'aretz that they were not surprised when hostilities broke out. "There was an atmosphere of war about to break out. ...From my point of view, the battles of the past few days were to be expected," said one soldier.

As Russian forces invaded Georgia late last week and the two nations engaged in what is increasingly being called a full-scale war, Israel's leadership expressed concerns that Moscow could retaliate for continued Israeli military support of Georgia by selling advanced arms to Iran and Syria. " Israel Today

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"A friend in need is a friend indeed."

The Israelis should be careful or they will acquire a reputation for dumping their allies unde pressure.

Until now the US has held the record for consistency in that field of political action.

Is it coincidence that the US and Israel both acted over the last few years to encourage Georgia in defiance of its giant neighbor?

Israel has 80,000 immigrant Georgian Jews in its population. The defense minister of Georgia is reported to be a "former" Israeli citizen.

Bravado is the Israeli style in international relations and in managing occupations. Rashness bordering on adolescent conceit is another way to describe the style.

I guess Russia doesn't frighten as easily as some of the entities that the Israelis usually deal with.

What did the US think it was doing encouraging little Georgia to provoke the bear?

Ask the Jacobins. pl

http://www.israeltoday.co.il/default.aspx?tabid=178&nid=16875

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2008: Let's make a deal - NATO and Russia

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2008: Let's make a deal - NATO and Russia: "In"spite of the "jelly donut" (Berliner) talk from McCain it is probably time to discuss a methodology for avoiding similar possible flash points between the United States and Russia.

It appears to me that Russia's behavior is largely the result of 20 years of angst over the loss of what the Russians thought was their patrimony in the non-Russian parts of what had been the Russian Empire and then the USSR. Central Asia, the Trans Caucasus, the Ukraine, the Crimea, the Baltics, the list is long.

The 90s were a hard, hard time for Russians, hard emotionally and very hard in terms of the reduction in what had already been a pitifully low standard of living under the Communists.

The boom in oil money has erased a lot of the economic hardship, but the scabs are still there over wounded national pride.

The United States has done little to help those wounds heal. Instead, we have insisted on measures like; the missile shield system in former Warsaw Pact countries. The Russians are neither stupid nor unsophisticated. They know that the difference between the defensive and offensive meanings of most weapons systems lie wholly in the intention of the possessor.

At the same time, we have pushed the boundaries of NATO as close to Russia's shrunken borders as we could manage to do. NATO was always an anti-Soviet alliance. It was a necessary and useful thing. Now, the Russians see NATO pushed right up to their frontiers. Surprise! They now see NATO as an anti-Russian alliance. Its expansion is viewed as a symbol of their continuing humiliation.

The Deal: No expansion of NATO on the borders of Russia in return for a commitment on the part of Russia that there will be no further introduction of Russian Republic forces or "volunteers" into former parts of the USSR that are now independent. pl

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/georgia_russia

Russia angered by Israeli drone sale to Georgia

World Tribune — Russia angered by Israeli drone sale to Georgia: "TEL"AVIV — Israel has acknowledged the sale of unmanned aerial vehicles and other Israeli security support to Georgia which has prompted complaints and threats from Moscow.
Officials said the Defense Ministry approved the sale of several tactical UAV systems to Georgia in 2007. They said Georgia has used the unidentified UAVs for border reconnaissance missions. ...

[bth: interesting article and general description of Russian/Israeli tit and tats on arms sales to Iran, Syria and Georgia respectively.]

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

US has little influence in Georgia crisis, Rice won't interrupt holiday

The Raw Story | US has little influence in Georgia crisis, Rice won't interrupt holiday:... "US"Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has also been noticeably absent on the diplomatic scene, having failed to interrupt her holidays to fly to Tbilisi in support of the Georgian government.

Instead senior State Department official, Matthew Bryza, who oversees the Caucasus region was sent, two days later than planned, to join a joint EU-US mediation effort to win a ceasefire.

French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, who is leading the mediation mission for the EU, said Monday the United States was "in a sense part of the conflict," between Russia and Georgia.

"You talk about the Americans, of course they are in a sense part of the conflict, that is why we must emphasise the presence and the strength of the European Union," Kouchner told French radio.

But State Department deputy spokesman Robert Wood sought Monday to dismiss the notion that the US was relatively powerless in face of the escalating conflict.

"We and the Europeans have leverage ... The Russians know how seriously we take the situation," he said....

[bth: so Rice hasn't come back from vacation. The Russians know how serious we are/aren't.]

US releases 250,000 dollars for emergency aid in Georgia

The Raw Story | US releases 250,000 dollars for emergency aid in Georgia: "The"United States has made available 250,000 dollars in aid for ally Georgia aimed at providing emergency supplies for thousands of people affected by the Georgia-Russia conflict, the State Department said Monday.

The United States began bringing the urgently needed humanitarian aid to Georgia, but "it is expected that supplies (distributed by the US embassy in Tbilisi) will be exhausted by the end of the day" Monday, State Department spokesman Robert Wood said.

The embassy issued a disaster declaration Sunday "releasing 250,000 dollars in initial funding that can provide emergency relief supplies that can assist up to 10,000 people," Wood told reporters.

Washington expects to raise the amount of aid as needed, he added.

Some medicines and other emergency supplies remained at pre-positioning sites in Germany, and US officials were consulting with the United Nations to have the supplies transported to Georgia as soon as possible, said Wood.

The US embassy in Tbilisi has already distributed emergency supplies that had been prepared for use in the aftermath of a natural disaster: tents, blankets and sheets, hygiene kits, clothes, beds and medicines.

Tensions have flared since Russia sent thousands of troops, tanks and air support into South Ossetia on Friday after Georgia launched an offensive to seize control of the breakaway province.

The conflict has since escalated sharply, and on Monday dozens of Russian warplanes staged air raids in Georgia while Georgian forces shelled South Ossetia.


[bth: you can just feel the love. Deafening silence that fear brings. And the Europeans? Ukranians?]

After setbacks, Sadr redirects Mahdi Army | csmonitor.com

After setbacks, Sadr redirects Mahdi Army | csmonitor.com: "Baghdad"- Moqtada al-Sadr has taken yet another step in an attempt to transform his Mahdi Army militia from a force intent on battling US soldiers into a much broader social and political network that can still hold sway in the shifting landscape of Iraq.

During Friday prayers in Sadr City, clerics read instructions from the young anti-American leader ordering his militiamen to join a new religious and cultural wing of the movement that he is calling the Momahidoun, or "those who pave the way."

The move comes just months after Mr. Sadr's movement was dealt a serious blow in springtime battles with both American and Iraqi forces in Baghdad and Basra that ended when Sadr called off his fighters after the deaths of hundreds of his followers and innocent Iraqis.

"The Mahdi Army is in a real crisis," says Abdul Kareem al-Mohmedawi, a native of Sadr City and deputy editor of Al-Jamaher, a liberal newspaper in Baghdad. "There is a weapons shortage and a shortage of volunteers."

Additionally, since last summer at least 30 senior Mahdi Army members have been killed and some 60 detained, according to an internal document attained by the Associated Press late last month. Now, most of the group's top officials, including Sadr, are in Iran.

Mr. Mohmedawi adds that local residents have become less tolerant of the group's insurgent activities and have begun reporting them to American and Iraqi security forces with increasing frequency.

"If they continue killing people, they won't win any seats in the next election," he says. Sadrists currently hold 32 of the 275 seats in the Iraqi parliament. It remains unclear how this change will affect the Sadrist bloc in parliament.

Sheikh Salah al-Obeidi, Sadr's chief spokesman, says that the new direction is part of a gradual shift.

"We've been seeing a change in the position of politicians," he says, referring to the possibility of a firm timetable for the withdrawal of US troops. If there is a plan in place, he says, "there will be no need for more opposition."

Sadr also said he would consider disbanding his Mahdi Army altogether if the Americans name a date to leave Iraq.

While the new decree calls for the Mahdi Army's rank and file to disarm, the militia says it will maintain an elite group of fighters for emergency situations.

The new social efforts will center on literacy programs and assistance to those in need, such as orphans or individuals who lost family members during Saddam Hussein's rule. It will also offer general Islamic education, not just Shiite teachings, and ethics courses to counter the culture of killing that Mr. Obeidi says Al Qaeda brought to Iraq.

Courses and services will be available for everyone, regardless of their religious or political beliefs, say leading Sadrists.

"We want to change the views of ordinary people who are against the Sadr movement," says Sayeed Fares al-Jazari, leader of a Sadrist mosque southeast of Sadr City. "I expect it will be a successful political shift for the Sadr movement and a change from guns to culture."

However, there is concern, both in and outside the Mahdi Army, about criminal elements who reportedly falsely identify themselves as members of the Shiite group. These rogue elements have traditionally ignored direction from Sadr, but continue to act in his name.

"The problem is that these terrorist groups are not motivated by only one or two reasons," says Michael Kanner, a professor of political science at the Colorado University in Boulder who specializes in security studies. "The leadership is not always in complete control."

Many people who become involved with violent resistance groups like the Mahdi Army or even the Irish Republican Army have criminal inclinations that create problems when the group tries to move into the mainstream, says Professor Kanner.

"There are groups that say they are from the Mahdi Army, but they are not and they've destroyed what Mahdi Army has built," says Sheikh Shawkat al-Rubbai, a Sadrist and leader of Al-Zihara Mosque in Sadr City.

Sadrists say that they will work to rein in these groups, reporting them to the authorities if necessary. They are in the process of starting a community policing program modeled after the Sons of Iraq, but will use a different name.

"If [Sadr] can't control the special groups, how can [he] expect to disarm them? His call to disarm them will disappear with the wind," says Mohmedawi, who speculates that fighting could emerge between Sadrists and the breakaway groups or that the Mahdi Army is abstaining from violence only until after the Iraqi elections this fall.

The US military, which was engaged in intense combat with the Mahdi Army until a cease-fire agreement in late May, shares in Mohmedawi's reservations.

"We welcome this announcement that appears to be an effort to help the Iraqi people," said a spokesman for the Multi-National Force – Iraq, the US-led military coalition, in an e-mail. "The proof is always in the actions and not just the words."

[bth: its about cash flow or lack thereof from Basra and Iran]

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2008: Outpost "Margha"

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2008: Outpost "Margha": "Corsi"is hampered in what he can do - with only 18 soldiers, he cannot allow his men to patrol the vicinity. There are several reconstruction projects ongoing, but the Americans are largely unable to protect them. All Corsi can do is radio headquarters and ask for air support if he hears of an attack. But in such mountainous terrain reports of incidents can take hours to filter through, by which time the Taliban are long gone.

And with military helicopters and jets stretched to the limit on other operations, support is not guaranteed. Margha is resupplied by private contractors using civilian aircraft. Supplies are parachuted into the base by light aircraft or dropped off by a Ukrainian crew using an old Russian helicopter, flying at high altitude to avoid enemy fire." Telegraph

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Half a platoon on a hilltop resupplied by civilian contractors in light planes and Ukrainians using an old Russian helicopter? This is a "shoestring" operation. Clearly there are not enough coalition troops in Afghanistan. What is the mission for Outpost "Margha?" Border surveillance? The officer in charge does not have enough men or fire support to patrol or ambush toward the nearby border. One "heavy" mortar? The miniaturization of this effort is disturbing.

In Vietnam, an equivalent position, similarly sited, was Bu Dop Special Forces Camp in Phuoc Long Province. It was two miles from Cambodia and the rear base area of North Vietnamese Army units that, depending on circumstance, numbered several thousand at any given time.

Bu Dop Camp had about 30 US and Vietnamese Special Forces soldiers and several hundred Civilian Irregular Defense Group (CIDG) militia IN THE CAMP. These CIDG "strikers" were full timers who had been recruited from all over the country. The camp covered a couple of acres, was star or triangle shaped ( I forget which), had two concentric lines of defenses, both heavily dug in, underground tunnels running everywhere, underground living facilities and massive fire support available within the camp. This consisted of half a dozen 4.2 inch and 81mm mortars in dug in positions and a 105mm howitzer. There were M2 .50 caliber machine guns in positions all over the inner perimeter and .30 caliber Brownings in similar positions in the outer perimeter. Everything was deeply entrenched with double apron barbed wire fences all around the outside and between the two lines of defense. Anchored concertina wire was piled up between the fences. The wire was booby trapped. Fougasse and claymore mines abounded in the wire obstacle as well as aircraft flares situated to use their cylindrical metal shipping container halves as reflectors to shine 25 million candlepower in the faces of an assault force when needed. In addition to this, the place sometimes had available the fires of American artillery temporarily in the area. Then there was available air support, especially the ubiquitous AC-47 "Spooky" gunships with their gatling guns. A formidable place, but not all that unusual. In spite of this the North Vietnamese tried several times to capture the post. They tried with regimental size attacks backed by a lot of artillery and rockets. They failed although it was a close thing at times.

What was Bu Dop's mission? It was surveillance of the border and North Vietnamese infiltration and supply of their forces in South Vietnam. To that end the garrison of Bu Dop patrolled and ambushed right up to the border across a wide swath of border country. It was dangerous work. A secondary mission was the protection of the nearby district town of Bo Duc and the Vietnamese government apparatus there. These were reasonable missions given the resources available.

Outpost "Margha" is ridiculously under-resourced. Not enough men, very little readily available fire support for the protection of either the outpost or any civilians who could be persuaded to become friendly. The junior officer in command has a thankless task. All he can do is hold on, try not to be over run and pray for his relief to show up.

Air power is lovely as a source of logistical and fire support, but "Margha" is resupplied by civilian contractors and has one mortar as its available indirect fire support? There is obviously not enough US air power available for either job.

Men living on combat rations for months at a time? Constipation must be a problem.

Both the foreground ridge in the picture and the one behind it should be covered with pre-registered artillery and mortar fires so that every attack by fire will be answered so rapidly that it will be extremely dangerous to fire from those positions. Dare I think of an aggressive program of ambush patrols on the part of these paratroops? There would have to be a lot more of them. They are now now more or less pent up in their little fort. The Taliban must think they have already died and gone to paradise. This is eerily reminiscent of old British experience in this same area.

A counter-battery mortar radar would be a good idea at "Margha" if they do not already have one. There should be US artillery positioned to support places like this, but in today's army that kind of thinking seems to have gone away.

Too little, too much risk, disaster waiting to happen. pl

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/portal/main.jhtml?xml=/portal/2008/08/09/sm_afghanistan09.xml

[bth: thanks Col. Lang for the post and analysis. Maybe someone still in authority will read the report and be so embarrassed that they do something about it. Its a ridiculous situation to put soldiers in. A true no win situation.]

Sunday, August 10, 2008

'Lifesaver' Bottle Purifies Water in Seconds - International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News

FOXNews.com - 'Lifesaver' Bottle Purifies Water in Seconds - International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News: ..."Other"filters use ceramic pores and can’t catch most bacteria and viruses, but the Lifesaver uses microscopic pores a mere 15 nanometers across — about one-hundredth the width of a spider’s silk — narrow enough to stop the tiniest threats. That means virtually nothing — not even bacteria and viruses — can get through.

And since the bottle uses a carbon filter, it makes water safe and sterile without any chemicals, removing that iodine or chlorine taste.

The bottle weighs about 1.5 pounds and can filter one and a half pints of clean drinking water each go. Its replaceable filter can handle more than 1,500 gallons of dirty water before it has to be replaced. And since it won’t process any water once the filter has expired, it will be impossible to drink contaminated water by mistake.

Michael Pritchard, a British entrepreneur, designed the Lifesaver in the wake of freshwater shortages that followed the 2004 tsunami and Hurricane Katrina.

Delivering bottled water to disaster areas is difficult, especially in places like Myanmar, where the government is currently interfering with efforts to distribute supplies and aid. If disaster victims had access to the Lifesaver, they could have ongoing access to clean water without the need for airlifts.

Delivering those planeloads of water is expensive, too. A U.S. Army study revealed that the cost of delivering bottled water to Afghanistan was $4.69 per gallon. Pentagon figures on Hurricane Mitch showed the cost of air freight was even higher: $7.60 per gallon.

Just one Boeing C-17 transport plane full of Lifesaver bottles would provide 500,000 people with access to safe drinking water for up to 16 months — saving millions and saving lives.

[bth: don't you wonder why after all this time we're not purifying water in Afghanistan and Iraq instead of importing it at a $1 a gallon?]

Russia seeks military presence in Cuba in response to U.S. missile shield_English_Xinhua

Russia seeks military presence in Cuba in response to U.S. missile shield_English_Xinhua: "MOSCOW"Aug. 7 (Xinhua) -- Russia's seemingly newfound interestin resuming its positions in Cuba has appeared at a time when Moscow is growing increasingly apprehensive about the proposed U.S. missile defense system in Eastern Europe, analysts say.

"We need to reestablish positions on Cuba and in other countries," Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said earlier this week after hearing a report from Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin, who had just ended a three-day visit to the Caribbean state, along with Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev.

Deputy Chairman of the State Duma Committee for International Affairs Andrei Klimov seemed more unequivocal about the topic. "Russia should take advantage of all its capabilities to protect its national interests, including the interests in the field of security," he said after the talks in Cuba between Russian and Cuban officials.

Russia should "own its supporting points" in different regions in the world, Klimov said, noting that "Cuba's location has geopolitical importance" and that a presence in both economic and military affairs must be built in America.

Klimov did not rule out the possibility of a military presence on the Caribbean Island just off the U.S. coast. "If America deploys its AMD systems closely to our border, Russia can also deploy its systems on the territories of the states which will accept it," he said.

But he quickly added that Russia's plans would not involve targeting its missiles at the United States.

Leonid Ivashov, a Russian political analyst and former top defence ministry official, said the retrieval of the Russian military presence in Cuba may pose as a response to growing U.S. military and political pressure on Russia.

"It is not a secret that the West is creating a 'buffer zone' around Russia, involving in the process countries in Central Europe, the Caucasus, the Baltic states and Ukraine," Ivashov was quoted by the RIA Novosti news agency as saying.

"In response, we may expand our military presence abroad, including in Cuba," he said.

Ivashov, also president of the Academy of Geopolitical Sciences,said "there are convenient bays for reconnaissance and battleshipsand a network of so-called forward staging posts in Cuba. We can resume the operation of the radar center in Lurdes upon the agreement of the Cuban administration."

Analysts said huge pressures are building on Moscow, especiallyin security field, after the United States proposed to place its missile defense shield in Poland and the neighboring Czech Republic last year -- a step Washington insists are necessary to prevent possible attacks from "rogue states" such as Iran.

Some media reports also drew attention to the repercussions of the U.S. foreign policy, like supporting the "color revolutions" in the former Soviet republics of Georgia, Kyrgyzstan and Ukraine,as well as the deployment of the missile shield.

According to media reports, some of Russia's top military brass,angered by the U.S. plans to install a missile defence shield in eastern Europe, suggested last month that Russia should use Cuba as a refueling stop for nuclear-capable bombers.

The Russian defense ministry then denied the reports, but the United States warned that such a move would cross the "red line."

U.S. State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos said Monday Washington continued to oppose improving relations with Cuba but that countries were free to conduct their own bilateral relations,according to the DPA.

The U.S. could have more reaction to Russia's plan "if it movesforward," Gallegos said, adding that "we don't see dealing with the Cuban government as particularly productive."

Analysts said a Russian military presence in Cuba would make Washington extremely uneasy, although there is still a long way togo for any military cooperation between Russia and Cuba to be put in place.

The Cuban missile crisis in 1962 shows that the United States won't allow any real threat deployed in a place as close as Cuba. In October 1962, the United States and the then Soviet Union went on the brink of war after a U.S. spy plane revealed missile bases being built in Cuba.

Cuba, however, appears to be indifferent toward Moscow's intention to restore its military presence there.

Concerned about the fueled speculation over a possible deployment of Russia's military facilities on the island, a high-ranking Cuban diplomat denied that military cooperation between Moscow and Havana are underway.

Havana "is ready to cooperate with Russia in civil branches, but it is unlikely to be in favor of resuming military cooperation," the diplomat was quoted by the RIA Novosti as saying.

M of A - Endgame Plans for South Ossetia

M of A - Endgame Plans for South Ossetia: "The"'western' endgame plan for the current conflict in Georgia comes into view. The aim is to declare Russia a 'combatant' in the fight over South Ossetia and to illegitimate it as the peacekeeper in the region. Russia, so the plan, could thus be pushed out of Georgia and its soldiers there replaced by 'western' forces.

Under the Sochi Agreement Russia is a recognized peacekeeping force and mediator in South Ossetia. A yet to be revised U.S. state department page explains:

The June 24, 1992 Sochi Agreement established a cease-fire between the Georgian and South Ossetian forces and defined both a zone of conflict around the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali and a security corridor along the border of South Ossetian territories. The Agreement also created the Joint Control Commission (JCC), and a peacekeeping body, the Joint Peacekeeping Forces group (JPKF). The JPKF is under Russian command and is comprised of peacekeepers from Georgia, Russia, and Russia’s North Ossetian autonomous republic (as the separatist South Ossetian government remained unrecognized).

The Georgian president (and U.S. puppet) Saakashvili used some skirmishes to open a surprising all out artillery barrage on the town of Tskhinvali. Some 1,500 people have been killed in that attack. Russia immediately tried to get a UN resolution to condemn the strike and to demand a return to peace.

When that failed because the 'west' delayed a resolution, Russia sent in armored troops and later reinforced these with paratroopers and special forces. It also bombed military sites in Georgia where preparations were ongoing to activate more troops against South Ossetia. Unfortunately the bombs also hit an apartment building in Gori killing 50 people. As an eyewitness describes it for the BBC:

We saw the impact of the air strikes - buildings on fire. We could hear the Russian jets above us. In one air strike the pilot missed the intended military base, instead hitting two apartment blocks.
...
One air strike had hit a military base, where apparently most of the soldiers had managed to get out before the bombs landed.

Georgian soldiers told the BBC the targets were military bases in the town. There are three military bases, where thousands of Georgian troops are currently stationed.

The hit was certainly an error. Nevertheless, the pictures of those burning apartments will now lead the 'western' news, not the pictures of the obliterated town of Tskhinvali. Now all death in this war will be blamed on Russia.

For an example how this works see this obfuscating headline from the British Independent:

1,500 dead as Russian troops raid Georgian town.

Who might have killed those 1,500 people? You will not learn that from the Independent piece at all. Read it! To any casual readers the impression is left that the Russian's did so. This is clearly outright manipulation of news. (The same scheme was used when Chinese Han people were burned to death by Tibetian rioters in Lhasa earlier this year. The 'western' press, after first reporting correctly that the rioters were the culprits, took about two days to blame those death on Chinese state forces.)

But I digress. So what is the 'western' endgame? Via Reuters:

OSCE head: Russian mediator days over in S.Ossetia

Russia's armed intervention means it cannot return as an honest broker between the sides in the South Ossetia conflict, the head of Europe's main security and human rights group said on Saturday.

"Russia is at the moment a party in this conflict, not a mediator, and that has to be mirrored when ceasefire and peace talks begin," Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb, current chairman of the 56-nation Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, told a news conference.

That statement is incorrect. Russia is the official peacekeeping force in South Ossetia. South Ossetia was attacked. Now the peacekeeping force tries to return the situation to the status quo ante:

"They must retreat to the place where they were before they started this aggression; they must retreat to where they were three days ago," [Russian ambassador to NATO, Dmitry] Rogozin told reporters in his residence in a Brussels suburb.

Otherwise, there will be no contacts and consultations, he said.

Unlike the Dutch in Sebreniza, the Russian's here do not simply turn away. They try to prevent further slaughter. To use that in an attempt to kick them out is disingenuous and will not work.

But the U.S. pushes for it anyway:

"We call on Russia to cease attacks on Georgia by aircraft and missiles, respect Georgia's territorial integrity, and withdraw its ground combat forces from Georgian soil," U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in a statement.

The 'western' media reporting will now align with the official U.S. policy. Russia is the culprit for all these dead and it must be pushed out of South Ossetia aand punished to regain peace. Then the 'west' will come in and oversee the ethnic cleansing of Ossetians by Georgian forces. Kosovo anyone?

People who read those 'left' media like the Independent might fall to that line. The Russians will not and there is no chance that this U.S. policy will be implemented

RUSSIAN RAILROAD TROOPS COMPLETE MISSION IN ABKHAZIA - Eurasia Daily Monitor

RUSSIAN RAILROAD TROOPS COMPLETE MISSION IN ABKHAZIA - Eurasia Daily Monitor: "On"July 30, it was announced that Russian Railroad Troops have completed their mission in breakaway Abkhazia and are withdrawing. A battalion of some 400 men of reportedly unarmed Railroad Troops was sent to Abkhazia to repair the railroad on May 31 without warning or the consent of the Georgian government. Despite strong protests from Tbilisi and Western capitals, the Railroad Troops continued their work in Abkhazia for two months.

The troops have repaired 54 km of Soviet-built tracks with 20 tunnels and bridges south of the Abkhaz capital Sukhumi to the coastal town of Ochamchire. The railroad was out of use since the early 1990s, a period which witnessed the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Georgia-Abkhaz war. At a colorful official ceremony in Dranda, south of Sukhumi, the commander of the Railroad Troops General Sergei Klimets told journalists that the railroad operation was “purely humanitarian” to help the people of Abkhazia, but Abkhaz officials said there is much more work left to do before this one-track railroad will have any commercial usage (RIA-Novosti, Interfax, July 30).

The Russian military uses railroads to deploy heavy weapons and armor to the battlefield. The acute military, strategic and tactical importance of the railroad system in Russia explains the existence of special Railroad Troops whose task is to keep the tracks in order during and in preparation for war and to organize makeshift armor battlefield disembarkment points (see EDM, June 12).

The German government at present is working to organize a Georgian-Abkhaz peace conference in Berlin in an attempt to defuse the prewar situation in the region and has hailed the withdrawal of the Railroad Troops from Abkhazia as a positive development. But the Georgian minister of reintegration, Temur Yakobashvili, told journalists that the conference in Berlin planned for this week has been postponed indefinitely—for a month or more—because the Abkhaz side did not agree to come. The conference in Berlin was to consider a German-sponsored peace plan for Abkhazia that Sukhumi has already rejected (RIA-Novosti, July 30).

The Russian military and Abkhaz officials have announced that Moscow and Sukhumi are in negotiations about the possible return of the Railroad Troops to Abkhazia for more restoration work (Interfax, July 30). Today the mission is indeed fulfilled—the tracks in Abkhazia are ready for rapid deployment of additional Russian troops, supplies, heavy weapons and armor direct to the possible future battlefield. The restored tracks today end some 35 km from the Georgian-Abkhaz separation line on the Inguri River, just out of reach of the Georgian artillery, which makes perfect military sense. The scene in Abkhazia is all set for major military action. The railroad unit that was deployed in Abkhazia has not been removed far—it has been withdrawn to a base a couple of kilometers north of the Abkhaz (Georgian) border at Gumaria close to Adler, south of Sochi (RIA-Novosti, July 30). If in the future Railroad Troops are required to support possible action in Abkhazia, they may move in at short notice.

While the tracks were repaired and peace negotiations stalled, the Russian military has been running major military maneuvers Kavkaz-2008 in the North Caucasus close to the Georgian border since July 15. It was announced that some 8,000 servicemen, 700 pieces of armor and artillery, and 30 aircraft are taking part in the exercises that officially are to prepare for encounters with terrorists. But there have been reports in the Russian press that the number of troops is substantially higher (Nezavisimaya Gazeta, July 18). The maneuvers involve airborne, motor-rifle and mountain troops of the North Caucasian Military District as well as paratroopers from the 76th airborne division from Pskov and marines of the Black Sea and Caspian fleets. Paratroopers were deployed on the border with South Ossetia on the Roki and Mamisoni mountain passes of the main Caucasian ridge. The paratroopers were reinforced by mechanized and mountain troops. Black Sea fleet marines landed near Adler, supported by airpower and Black Sea battle ships firing artillery and antiaircraft missiles—all, allegedly, to prepare to fight “terrorists” (ITAR-TASS, July 23).

Officially, the maneuvers ended last weekend, but it is not clear if all the troops have indeed withdrawn from the border with Georgia. The Kavkaz-2008 exercises are a preparation for a possible large-scale military confrontation in the region and may be a cover for a deployment of combat troops at border positions for an imminent outbreak of hostilities on Georgian territory.

While the Russians were playing war games in the north of the region, Georgian and U.S. soldiers had their own military exercises—Immediate Response 2008—on a much lesser scale in the south of Georgia near the Turkish border. At the same time in South Ossetia, constant shooting incidents continued, with both sides blaming the other (RIA-Novosti, July 29). There are abundant pretexts to begin a conflict. The coming weeks will be critical: A war of words and provocations may turn into the real thing.

[bth: so this article was written about 10 days ago before the war broke out. It is now obvious that the Russians had prepared and prestaged troops under the guise of humanitarian missions and that the Americans and Georgians had been planning a counter move -"Immediate Response 2008". So here we are, a nice little pre-planned war in the Caucuses. So within days and before the Democratic convention I predict that Bush will announce sizeable troop withdrawals from Iraq.]

Russia expands bombing blitz in Georgia

My Way News - Russia expands bombing blitz in Georgia: "TBILISI"Georgia (AP) - Russia expanded its bombing blitz Sunday against neighboring U.S.-allied Georgia, targeting the country's capital for the first time while Georgian troops pulled out of the breakaway province of South Ossetia, as Russia has demanded.

Georgia's Security Council chief Alexander Lomaia says that Georgian troops have relocated to new positions outside South Ossetia.

"They are outside the region entirely," he said in a telephone conference.

Russia has demanded that Georgia pull out its troops from South Ossetia as a condition to negotiate a cease-fire. It also urged Georgia to sign a pledge not to use force against South Ossetia as another condition for ending hostilities...

Russian Ships Steam Toward Georgia as Conflict Grows (Update1

Bloomberg.com: Worldwide: "Russia"sent warships from the Black Sea fleet toward Georgia as it stepped up its conflict with the former Soviet republic over the separatist South Ossetia region.

The ships included a vessel based in the naval port of Sevastopol and four others from Novorossiysk, Komsomolskaya Pravda reported, without saying where it got the information. Georgian Economic Development Minister Eka Sharashidze said a ship carrying grain to the Georgian port of Poti was turned away by a Russian warship, suggesting an economic blockade.

``Russia has shown itself capable of crossing every line in this conflict,'' Sharashidze said in a telephone interview late yesterday from Tbilisi, the Georgian capital. ...

Russian jets crossed the border to attack military and civilian targets in as many as six locations simultaneously, Georgian Security Council Secretary Kakha Lomaia said. Russia's actions amounted to ``full-scale war,'' he said. Russian planes today bombed a military airfield near Tbilisi, Georgian Security Council secretary Kakha Lomaia said in a telephone interview.

``It's all going to hell,'' Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said yesterday in an interview on CNN in which he appealed for international help. ``We are willing to do cease- fire immediately providing the other side stops to shoot and to bomb.''

The Pipeline War: Russian bear goes for West's jugular | Mail Online

The Pipeline War: Russian bear goes for West's jugular | Mail Online: ... "Georgia’s"war with Russia is a David and Goliath battle that, military experts say, the Black Sea state has no chance of winning.

The Georgians are outnumbered and outgunned in every department. Russia has about 697,000 troops, while Georgia has only 19,500 full-time regulars.


And with Russia’s 1,200 combat aircraft confronting Georgia’s seven outmoded support planes, and 6,000 tanks against 100 ageing machines, there is no contest.


Matthew Clements, Eurasia editor for Jane’s Defence journal, said last night: ‘The Georgian military cannot withstand a full Russian assault.


'The Russians have total air superiority and their coordinated operation gives the Georgians no chance of resisting.’