Saturday, September 06, 2008

YouTube - Black-i-Robotics testing a green laser system

YouTube - Black-i-Robotics testing a green laser system: ""

Fuel supply to Nato forces ‘suspended’ -DAWN - Top Stories; September 06, 2008

Fuel supply to Nato forces ‘suspended’ -DAWN - Top Stories; September 06, 2008: "LANDI"KOTAL, Sept 5: The government is reported to have decided to stop fuel supplies to Nato forces in Afghanistan via the Torkham highway with effect from Saturday.

“An order to this effect has come from Islamabad and the Frontier Corps has been asked to stop oil supplies to Nato forces forthwith,” a senior government official said.

Sources said the federal government did not cite any reason for the move, but the decision was apparently taken in the wake of the US ground and missile attacks in North and South Waziristan tribal regions.

The US-led forces have intensified assaults in the tribal region over the past few days and five attacks, including the ground assault in Angoor Adda, have been launched, killing over 50 people, including foreign and local militants and civilians.

The Torkham highway, linking Peshawar with Kabul and northern parts of Afghanistan and Central Asian states, is a major supply route for the International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) in the war-ravaged country.

Over 20 heavily-loaded vehicles, including oil tankers, were stranded at the border town of Torkham following the government’s decision.

However, an official told Dawn in Peshawar that the supplies had been suspended only temporarily because of the law and order situation in the Khyber tribal region.

“Why would Pakistan suspend oil supplies due to increased US attacks in the region? It goes against conventional wisdom,” the official said.

“Torkham highway has become extremely dangerous due to militancy in Jamrud and Landi Kotal. The administration needs to beef up security of the highway. When we have enough troops on the ground to ensure safety of oil tankers, the supplies would be allowed to go through,” he added.

He denied that the decision to suspend oil supplies had come from Islamabad and said it was taken at the local level in view of the security situation.

The sources said that militants had increased their activities in the Khyber region after the military operation in Bajaur

[bth: given the recent change of government, I guess we have to sort out who and how much to bribe our Pakistani allies. Given the financial incentives and political atmosphere, is there any reason to think Pakistan would actually capture or kill Osama Bin Laden?]

Pakistan cuts supply lines to Nato forces

Pakistan cuts supply lines to Nato forces: "BARA" In a major development, the federal government on Friday announced disconnection of supply lines to the allied forces stationed in Afghanistan through Pakistan in an apparent reaction to a ground attack on a border village in South Waziristan agency by the Nato forces.

Political authorities of the Khyber Agency claimed to have received verbal directives to immediately halt transportation of all kinds of goods meant for the US-led Nato forces in Afghanistan for an indefinite period.

Authorities claimed the decision was taken in the wake of the growing unrest in the Khyber Agency that provides for the only ground link of the country to the war-torn Afghanistan. "Until now, drivers of the vehicles carrying goods meant for the foreign forces in Afghanistan were directed to reach the tribal agency between 7am to 10am, which were then escorted to the border town of Torkhum by the Khassadar force," the authorities told The News.

The authorities claimed that due to repeated attacks on the personnel of the Khassadar forces during the last one week and abduction of a few personnel, it had become difficult for the security forces to provide foolproof security to the supply lines.

Independent sources, however, claimed that the government feared retaliation by the tribesmen against a recent ground attack conducted by the Nato forces in Angoor Adda of the South Waziristan Agency that triggered condemnation from various quarters, including the government of Pakistan itself.

NWFP Governor Owais Ahmad Ghani had likened the attack to an aggression against a sovereign state, saying the people of the country expected the Pakistan Army to give a befitting reply to the attack. He said that some twenty innocent people lost their lives — most of them were women and children.

The US government had accepted responsibility for the attack but did not offer any apology for the same and instead announced to launch more such attacks against the militants across the border, if so required in future

YouTube - Sabok-baal (Light Wing) is an iranian micro-UAV

YouTube - Sabok-baal (Light Wing) is an iranian micro-UAV: ""

YouTube - Hizbolla UAV wreckage

YouTube - Hizbolla UAV wreckage: ""

YouTube - Mystery of the Georgian UAV is solved

YouTube - Mystery of the Georgian UAV is solved: ""

YouTube - FanWing Demonstration Flight at ParcAberporth International UAV/S Event June 2008

YouTube - FanWing Demonstration Flight at ParcAberporth International UAV/S Event June 2008: ""

YouTube - Lite Machines' Voyeur VTOL UAV - the real thing

YouTube - Lite Machines' Voyeur VTOL UAV - the real thing: ""

YouTube - Garrow Aircraft's Verticopter VTOL concept

YouTube - Garrow Aircraft's Verticopter VTOL concept: ""

YouTube - Dean Kamen's Robotic "Luke" Arm

YouTube - Dean Kamen's Robotic "Luke" Arm: ""

Corps awards $752M MRAP contract - Marine Corps News, news from Iraq - Marine Corps Times

Corps awards $752M MRAP contract - Marine Corps News, news from Iraq - Marine Corps Times: "Navistar"won the competition to provide the Pentagon’s first batch of smaller Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) vehicles.

A contract announced Thursday awards $752 million to Navistar International for an unspecified number of vehicles. Navistar officials put the number at 822.

But Navistar may not remain the Pentagon’s sole source for the smaller MRAPs. The contract also provides $7 million apiece to General Dynamics Land Systems-Canada and Force Protection for five test vehicles.

All vehicles are slated to be delivered by February, according to the contract announcement. The vehicles will be deployed to Afghanistan, a senior Pentagon official said.

In August, Pentagon officials asked industry to redesign MRAPs to be more maneuverable and less prone to roll over, the official said.

Most of the 822 vehicles will be MaxxPro Dashes, 4X4s that are 2 tons lighter, 2 feet shorter in height and 8 inches shorter in length than the previous three MaxxPro variants, which weighed about 17-19 tons.

“We’ve reduced the center of gravity, yet really the survivability has not been impacted at all. This vehicle can absorb EFP [explosively formed penetrators] protection and it has also been designed to absorb an anti-RPG kit, like an APS [active protection system],” Navistar vice president Patrick MacArevey.

He also said the turning radius was smaller and its top speed greater.

“The torque-to-weight ratio is very high because the Dash has a similar engine to the one which runs in the 25-ton MaxxPro Plus,” Navistar spokesman Tim Touhy said.

Navistar “engineers did a ride optimization and took the opportunity to upgrade the air conditioning,” MacArevey said.

The Dash carries a 10,000-pound payload, and is designed to be 85 percent common with previous MaxxPros to ease the logistics burden.

The Dash was blast-tested in Israel by Plasan, an Israeli company that makes the armor for the MaxxPros.

Pentagon officials said program officials have tweaked the MRAP since the first requirements went out in fall 2006.

“The program has gone a long way and continuously upgraded things that needed to be done and made light changes in order to adjust to different situations,” a Pentagon spokeswoman said. “We’ve always said that we will be flexible and we’ve always said that we will look at the requirement needs we they go along.”

Crooks and Liars

Crooks and Liars

'No Values Voters' Looking To Support Most Evil Candidate | The Onion - America's Finest News Source

'No Values Voters' Looking To Support Most Evil Candidate | The Onion - America's Finest News Source: "
'No Values Voters' Looking To Support Most Evil Candidate"
'No Values Voters' Looking To Support Most Evil Candidate

Friday, September 05, 2008

Wounded Soldier Forced to Sleep in Car After Hotel Denies Him a Room - International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News - Wounded Soldier Forced to Sleep in Car After Hotel Denies Him a Room - International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News: "A"wounded British soldier home from Afghanistan on sick leave was forced to spend the night in his car after a hotel refused him a room.

Corporal Tomos Stringer was told by staff at Metro Hotel, in Woking, that it was company policy not to accept members of the armed forces as guests. The 24-year-old had traveled to the Surrey town to help with funeral preparations for a friend killed in action.

It was so late that Cpl Stringer, who had broken his wrist jumping off an Army truck as it was attacked, had no choice but to sleep in his tiny, two-door car, arm covered in plaster.

Cpl Stringer, of 13 Air Assault Support Regiment, The Royal Logistic Corps, has now returned to Afghanistan, but his mother, Gaynor Stringer, from Criccieth, north Wales, told The Times that she is still furious about the incident.

“I’m very, very angry. It’s discrimination. They would never get away with it if it was against someone of ethnic origin,” she said.

She said they had received neither an apology nor an explanation from the hotel, which is part of a family entertainment center called The Big Apple and owned by a company called American Amusements.

In America, they treat soldiers as heroes,” said Stringer, whose son joined the Army when he was 16 and has done multiple tours of duty in Iraq, Northern Ireland and Afghanistan.

The incident has prompted widespread condemnation from senior members of the Government, MPs, servicemen and their supporters.

Legions of army men and enthusiasts are rising up in the forums of the unofficial British Army Web site to call for a boycott of the hotel.

[bth: just when you think the US has the world beat, the Brits rise up and take the lead in the poor treatment of enlisted personnel.]

US navy ship steams into port where Russian troops stationed - Times Online

US navy ship steams into port where Russian troops stationed - Times Online: "A"US navy flagship has steamed into a Georgian port where Russian troops are still stationed, stoking tensions once again in the tinderbox Caucasus region.

A previous trip by American warships was cancelled at the last minute a week ago amid fears that an armed stand off could erupt in the Black Sea port of Poti.

The arrival of the USS Mount Whitney came as Moscow accused Dick Cheney, the hawkish US vice-president, of stoking tensions during a visit to Tbilisi yesterday, in which he vowed to bring Georgia into the Nato alliance. Russia sees any such move as a blatant Western encroachment on its traditional sphere of influence. ...

[bth: people need to be keeping an eye on Cheney and where he is going. He tracks trouble]

CBS Poll: McCain, Obama Tied, McCain Closes Eight-Point Gap From Poll Taken Last Weekend - CBS News

CBS Poll: McCain, Obama Tied, McCain Closes Eight-Point Gap From Poll Taken Last Weekend - CBS News: "The"presidential race between Barack Obama and John McCain is now even at 42 percent, according to a new CBS News poll conducted Monday-Wednesday of this week. Twelve percent are undecided according to the poll, and one percent said they wouldn't vote.

This is in contrast to a poll conducted last weekend, where the Obama-Biden ticket led McCain-Palin by eight points, 48 percent to 40 percent. ...

Military officials: No troop cuts this year -

Military officials: No troop cuts this year - "Senior"U.S. military leaders say it would be "impractical" to reduce U.S. troop levels in Iraq further before the end of the year because of the logistics required in the redeployments, two military officials told CNN Thursday.

The assessment comes as President Bush is considering still-secret recommendations about troop levels from his top commander in Iraq, Gen. David Petraeus, as well as senior Pentagon officials including Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen.

The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, would not disclose the specific recommendations. They confirmed a consensus among senior military leaders that the soonest troop reductions in Iraq could be accomplished would be early in 2009 when a brigade from the 10th Mountain Division is scheduled to deploy to Iraq.

One option under consideration is sending the soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division to Afghanistan instead to provide reinforcements there....

[bth: ridiculous. just compare casualty rates this summer between Afghanistan and Iraq. A major shift needs to be occurring now.]

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2008: Tom Brokaw and the emperor.

Sic Semper Tyrannis 2008: Tom Brokaw and the emperor.: "In"the War on Terrorism President George W. Bush has used these war powers to justify several controversial acts, such as the NSA electronic surveillance program and enhanced interrogation techniques. The administration, on several occasions, has promoted a legal theory known as the unitary executive theory, to explain that in his duty as Commander-in-Chief the President, with his inherent powers, cannot be bound by any law or Congress. Advocates of this theory opine that since the primary task of the President, during a time of war, is protecting US citizens, anything hindering him in that capacity can be considered unconstitutional. In the NSA warrantless surveillance controversy this was used to suggest he was not required to abide by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). The same rationale was used to deny detainees in the War on Terror protection by the Geneva Conventions resulting in a global controversy surrounding apparent mistreatment. Also it is thought that the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005, which was adopted to address prisoner abuse, might be ignored after President Bush added a signing statement, invoking his rights as Commander-in-Chief, to that bill" Wiki


Tom Brokaw made a reference on MSNBC today to the "commander in chief of the United States."


The president is commander in chief of the armed forces of the United States, not of the country. We have no emperor. To think of the president of the United States as commander in chief of the country is to make this person the sovereign and we his subjects.

Tom Brokaw has made himself press agent for the veterans of World War Two. Did they struggle for this, Tom, to be "subjects?" pl

Fake Soldiers Used In RNC Video, Patriotic Montage Shown At RNC Featured Actors Hired For One Day Shoot, Not Military - CBS News

Fake Soldiers Used In RNC Video, Patriotic Montage Shown At RNC Featured Actors Hired For One Day Shoot, Not Military - CBS News: "It"was a video that was supposed to elicit soaring patriotism and real emotions about the Pledge of Allegiance. But to do that, it used fake soldiers and a staged military funeral instead of the real thing.

On Tuesday night, 15-year-old Victoria Blackstone, a sophomore at the St. Agnes School in St. Paul, led the crowd at the Xcel Energy Center in the Pledge of Allegiance. The audience heard her 434-word essay, “Pledging myself to the Flag of the United States of America,” an essay she’d entered in the “Wave the Stars & Stripes” essay contest and won. The RNC turned that essay into a three and a half minute video, a visually stirring montage rolling over Victoria’s words about sharing the Pledge with Americans who have stood at important moments in history.

There’s the Continental Congress…A real WWII vet…Photos of workers at Ground Zero. A close-up of a folded flag presented to a grieving widow at a military funeral… profiles of soldiers swelling with pride in slo-motion.

But CBS News found that the footage of the ‘funeral’ and soldiers is what is called ‘stock’ footage. The soldiers were actors and the funeral scene was from a one-day film shoot, produced in June. No real soldiers were used during production.

The footage, sold by stock-film house Getty Images was produced by a commercial filmmaker in Chicago. Both Getty and the production company, Mr. Big Films, confirmed that the footage was shot on spec and sold to the Republican National Committee.

Politics and Power Blog:

Politics and Power Blog: "One"of the persistent memes in the Republican line of attack against Barack Obama is the notion that he is an elitist, whereas the G.O.P. represent real working Americans like Levi “F-in’ Redneck” Johnston.

It caught our attention, then, when First Lady Laura Bush and would-be First Lady Cindy McCain took the stage Tuesday night wearing some rather fancy designer clothes. So we asked our fashion department to price out their outfits.

Laura Bush
Oscar de la Renta suit: $2,500
Stuart Weitzman heels: $325
Pearl stud earrings: $600–$1,500
Total: Between $3,425 and $4,325

Cindy McCain
Oscar de la Renta dress: $3,000
Chanel J12 White Ceramic Watch: $4,500
Three-carat diamond earrings: $280,000
Four-strand pearl necklace: $11,000–$25,000
Shoes, designer unknown: $600
Total: Between $299,100 and $313,100

Wow! No wonder McCain has so many houses: his wife has the price of a Scottsdale split-level hanging from her ears.

(All prices except Laura’s shoes and Cindy’s watch are estimates, and the jewelry prices are based on the assumption that the pieces are real.)

Thursday, September 04, 2008

YouTube - Sharks with lazers

YouTube - Sharks with lazers: ""

Washington Times - COMMENTARY: Israel of the Caucasus?

Washington Times - COMMENTARY: Israel of the Caucasus?: "NATO"guarantees that an attack against one member country is an attack against all are no longer what they used to be. Had Georgia been inside NATO, a number of European countries would no longer be willing to consider it an attack against their own soil.

For Russia, the geopolitical stars were in perfect alignment. The U.S. was badly overstretched and had no plausible way to talk tough without coming across as empty rhetoric. American resources have been drained by the Iraq and Afghan wars, and the war on terror. The European Union is still a military dwarf that swings no weight in the Kremlin. And the ineptitude of Georgia's leadership gave Russian leaders a huge new window of opportunity.

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili evidently thought the U.S. would come to his side militarily if Russian troops pushed him back into Georgia after ordering an attack last Aug. 8 on the breakaway province of South Ossetia. And when his forces were mauled by Russia's counterattack, bitter disappointment turned to anger. Along with Abkhazia, Georgia lost two provinces.

Georgia also had a special relationship with Israel that was mostly under the radar. Georgia's Defense Minister Davit Kezerashvili is a former Israeli who moved things along by facilitating Israeli arms sales with U.S. aid. "We are now in a fight against the great Russia," he was quoted as saying, "and our hope is to receive assistance from the White House because Georgia cannot survive on its own."

The Jerusalem Post on Aug. 12 reported, "Georgian Prime Minister Vladimir Gurgenidze made a special call to Israel Tuesday morning to receive a blessing from one of the Haredi community's most important rabbis and spiritual leaders, Rabbi Aaron Leib Steinman. "I want him to pray for us and our state," he was quoted.

Israel began selling arms to Georgia seven years ago. U.S. grants facilitated these purchases. From Israel came former minister and former mayor of Tel Aviv Roni Milo, representing Elbit Systems, and his brother Shlomo, former director-general of Military Industries. Israeli UAV spy drones, made by Elbit Maarahot Systems, conducted recon flights over southern Russia, as well as into nearby Iran.

In a secret agreement between Israel and Georgia, two military airfields in southern Georgia had been earmarked for the use of Israeli fighter bombers in the event of preemptive attacks against Iranian nuclear installations. This would sharply reduce the distance Israeli fighter bombers would have to fly to hit targets in Iran. And to reach Georgian airstrips, the Israeli Air Force (IAF) would fly over Turkey.

At a Moscow news conference, Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn, Russia's deputy chief of staff, said the extent of Israeli aid to Georgia included, "eight types of military vehicles, explosives, landmines and special explosives for clearing minefields." Estimated numbers of Israeli trainers attached to the Georgian army range from 100 to 1,000. There were also 110 U.S. military personnel on training assignments in Georgia. Last July 2,000 U.S. troops were flown in for "Immediate Response 2008," a joint exercise with Georgian forces.

Details of Israel's involvement were largely ignored by Israeli media lest they be interpreted as another blow to Israel's legendary military prowess, which took a bad hit in the Lebanese war against Hezbollah two years ago. Georgia's top diplomat in Tel Aviv complained about Israel's "lackluster" response to his country's military predicament, and called for "diplomatic pressure on Moscow." According to the Jerusalem Post, the Georgian was told "the address for that type of pressure is Washington."

The daily Haaretz reported Georgian Minister Temur Yakobashvili - who is Jewish, the newspaper said - told Israeli Army radio that "Israel should be proud of its military, which trained Georgian soldiers" because he explained rather implausibly, "a small group of our soldiers were able to wipe out an entire Russian military division, thanks to Israeli training."

The Tel Aviv-Tbilisi military axis was agreed at the highest levels with the approval of the Bush administration. The official liaison between the two entities was Reserve Brig. Gen. Gal Hirsch, who commanded Israeli forces on the Lebanese border in July 2006. He resigned from the army after the Winograd commission flayed Israel's conduct of its Second Lebanon War.

That Russia assessed these Israeli training missions as U.S.-approved is a given. The U.S. was also handicapped by a shortage of spy-in-the-sky satellite capability, already overextended by the Iraq and Afghan wars. Neither U.S. nor Georgian intelligence knew Russian forces were ready with an immediate and massive response to the Georgian attack Moscow knew was coming. Russian double agents ostensibly working for Georgia most probably egged on the military fantasies of the impetuous President Saakashvili's "surprise attack" plans.

Mr. Saakashvili was convinced that by sending 2,000 of his soldiers to serve in Iraq (that were immediately flown home by the U.S. when Russia launched a massive counterattack into Georgia), he would be rewarded for his loyalty. He could not believe Mr. Bush, a personal friend, would leave him in the lurch. Georgia, as Mr. Saakashvili saw his country's role, was "Israel of the Caucasus."

The Tel Aviv-Tbilisi military axis appears to have been cemented at the highest levels, according to YNet, the Israeli electronic daily. But whether the IAF can still count on those air bases to launch bombing missions against Iran's nuke facilities is now in doubt.

Iran comes out ahead in the wake of the Georgian crisis. Neither Russia nor China is willing to respond to a Western request for more and tougher sanctions against the mullahs. Iran's European trading partners are also loath to squeeze Iran. The Russian-built, 1,000-megawatt Iranian reactor in Bushehr is scheduled to go on line early next year.

A combination of Vladimir Putin and oil has put Russia back on the geopolitical map of the world. Moscow's oil and gas revenue this year is projected at $201 billion, a 13-fold increase since Mr. Putin succeeded Boris Yeltsin eight years ago.

The Bush administration's global democracy crusade, as seen by the men in the Kremlin, and not an insignificant number of friends, is code for imperial hubris. The Putin-Medvedev tandem's response is a new five-point doctrine that told the U.S. to butt out of what was once the Soviet empire, not only former Soviet republics, but also former satellites and client states.

Only superannuated cold warriors saw a rebirth of the Cold War's Brezhnev Doctrine, or the right to intervene in the internal affairs of other "socialist states," e.g., the 1968 invasion of Czechoslovakia. But it does mean the Russian bear cannot be baited with impunity - a la Georgia.

[bth: lest people forget Cheney has been running around this area of the world over the last week. If an attack on Iran is coming, it may very well come from Georgia or an adjacent location in exchange for US and Israeli military support. People better be paying attention.]

Max Blumenthal: Juno From Juneau: A Video Report From The RNC Floor On Palin's Problem

Max Blumenthal: Juno From Juneau: A Video Report From The RNC Floor On Palin's Problem

Iraq war, gas line are God's will, Palin said: Gov. Sarah Palin |

Iraq war, gas line are God's will, Palin said: Gov. Sarah Palin | "Alaska"Gov. Sarah Palin told ministry students at her former church that the United States sent troops to fight in the Iraq war on a "task that is from God."

In an address last June, the Republican vice presidential candidate also urged ministry students to pray for a plan to build a $30 billion natural gas pipeline in the state, calling it "God's will."

Palin asked the students to pray for the troops in Iraq and noted that her eldest son, Track, was expected to be deployed there.

"Our national leaders are sending them out on a task that is from God," she said. "That's what we have to make sure that we're praying for, that there is a plan and that plan is God's plan."

A video of the speech was posted at the Wasilla Assembly of God's Web site before finding its way on to other sites on the Internet.

Palin told graduating students of the church's School of Ministry, "What I need to do is strike a deal with you guys." As they preached the love of Jesus throughout Alaska, she said, she'd work to implement God's will from the governor's office, including creating jobs by building a pipeline to bring North Slope natural gas to North American markets

"God's will has to be done in unifying people and companies to get that gas line built, so pray for that," she said.

"I can do my job there in developing our natural resources and doing things like getting the roads paved and making sure our troopers have their cop cars and their uniforms and their guns, and making sure our public schools are funded," she added. "But really all of that stuff doesn't do any good if the people of Alaska's heart isn't right with God."

Palin attended the evangelical church from the time she was a teenager until 2002, the church said in a statement posted on its Web site. She has continued to attend special conferences and meetings there. Religious conservatives have welcomed her selection as John McCain's running mate.

Rob Boston, a spokesman for Americans United for Separation of Church and State, lamented Palin's comments.

"I miss the days when pastors delivered sermons and politicians delivered political speeches," he said. "The United States is increasingly diverse religiously. The job of a president is to unify all those different people and bring them together around policy goals, not to act as a kind of national pastor and bring people to God."

The section of the church's Web site where videos of past sermons were posted was shut down Wednesday, and a message was posted saying that the site "was never intended to handle the traffic it has received in the last few days."
Informed Comment

Armchair Generalist

Armchair Generalist

Iran tightens screws on Iraq's Kurds

Asia Times Online :: Middle East News, Iraq, Iran current affairs: ..."Many"believe the crackdown is a message from Iran to the Kurdish parties in parliament, with Kurdish lawmaker Mahmud Othman saying, "With no doubt, the Iranians have a role in the Khanaqin crisis." He is critical of Iran's proxy in Iraq, the SIIC and its leader Hakim, adding that he never supported the four-party alliance between the Kurdish parties, the SIIC and Maliki's Da'wa Party. Speaking on behalf of the government, Maliki's advisor, Sami al-Askari, said, "The government insists on its position: withdrawal of the Peshmerga from Khanaqin."

The Peshmerga, which runs Iraqi Kurdistan, was long tolerated by the Maliki government, at a time when relations were flowery between Maliki and the Kurds. Showing just how sour matters have become, Askari spoke about the Kurdish-Shi'ite four-party alliance, saying, "This alliance cannot survive at the expense of the unity of Iraq and its government." According to parliamentarian Humam Hamudi of the SIIC, Maliki escalated the crisis by threatening the Peshmerga with severe punishment if it was found within Iraqi territory.

Back to the Iranian meeting, al-Zaman claims that Tehran is interested in weakening the Kurdish bloc in parliament (in the absence of Talabani) and transforming it into a dwarf so that it doesn't threaten the supremacy of the pro-Iranian Shi'ite bloc, the United Iraqi Alliance. Iran does not want to break the Kurdish bloc, however, nor does it want to eject it from parliament, unless rapprochement with Iraqi Sunnis is made, to serve as a substitute ally for Maliki.

Taming the Kurds will take place through direct measures, as the crackdown in Khanaqin, or indirect ones, such as getting the prime minister to further delay the issue of Kirkuk.

The Iranians are furious that talks with the Americans over a long-term military pact between Washington and Baghdad are being handled by Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari, a Kurd. Tehran believes a lot of important information is being kept from them by the Kurds. They are concerned that if such an agreement materializes, it will bring the Americans one step closer into Iran's backyard. Last week, Maliki dismissed the negotiating team with the Americans and appointed a new one from his private team (all of whom are strongly affiliated with Tehran).

It has been a difficult summer for Maliki and it looks as if it is going to be a difficult Ramadan as well. Fasting for Muslims starts at sunrise, and lasts until 7:30 pm. Electricity still goes off 10 to 12 hours a day (but probably not in the Green Zone), making fasting all the more difficult. The last thing Maliki needs is a feud with the Kurds.

Palin meets with AIPAC

Palin meets with AIPAC - First Read - "Alaska"Gov. Sarah Palin today met with the board of directors of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, NBC/NJ has confirmed.

The meeting took place inside Palin's hotel, sources said.

A campaign official would not say who asked for the meeting, but said it was geared towards putting the American Jewish community at ease over her understanding of US-Middle East relations.

"That's obviously going to be an issue," the aide said. "It's not like being the senator from New York, obviously. But these aren't issues that are off her radar."

Palin, joined by Sen. Joe Lieberman, expressed her "heartfelt support for Israel" and spoke of the threats it faces from Iran and others, the campaign official said.

"We had a good productive discussion on the importance of the U.S.-Israel relationship, and we were pleased that Gov. Palin expressed her deep, personal, and lifelong commitment to the safety and well-being of Israel," AIPAC spokesman Josh Block said. "Like Sen. McCain, the vice presidential nominee understands and believes in the special friendship between the two democracies and would work to expand and deepen the strategic partnership in a McCain/Palin Administration."

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Daily Kos: State of the Nation

Daily Kos: State of the Nation

Old, Grizzled Third-Party Candidate May Steal Support From McCain | The Onion - America's Finest News Source

Old, Grizzled Third-Party Candidate May Steal Support From McCain | The Onion - America's Finest News Source: "
Old, Grizzled Third-Party Candidate May Steal Support From McCain"
Old, Grizzled Third-Party Candidate May Steal Support From McCain

Iraq expects to gross $55 bn in China oil deal

Trade Arabia - Middle East business information | Trade news portal: "Iraq"expects to gross $55 billion in a new 20-year oil deal it recently renegotiated with China, the government said.

"Iraqi gross revenues obtained in the contract will be $55 billion, equal to 87 percent of total revenues of $63 billion," government spokesman Ali Al-Dabbagh said in a statement.

The estimate of Iraq's take in the $3 billion service contract for the Ahdab oil and gas field south of Baghdad is based on projected oil prices of $100 a barrel....

Think Progress » Bachmann tells Pelosi to give up on global warming because Jesus already saved the planet.

Think Progress » Bachmann tells Pelosi to give up on global warming because Jesus already saved the planet.: "TPM"notes that Rep. Michele Bachmann (R-MN) told OneNewsNow that the U.S. doesn’t need environmental advocates such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) because Jesus saved Earth already:

[Pelosi] is committed to her global warming fanaticism to the point where she has said that she’s just trying to save the planet. … We all know that someone did that over 2,000 years ago, they saved the planet — we didn’t need Nancy Pelosi to do that.

[bth: according to that logic you don't need to wear seat belts either]

Iraq: Iraqi army readies for showdown with Kurds

Iraq: Iraqi army readies for showdown with Kurds | World news | The Guardian: "Iraqi"troops and Kurdish peshmerga forces are bracing for conflict in the disputed city of Khanaqin in the most serious threat of clashes between Arabs and Kurds since the fall of Saddam Hussein.

A delegation flew from Erbil, the capital of the Kurdish regional government, to Baghdad at the weekend to try to resolve the crisis. The two main Kurdish parties are allied and form part of Iraq's coalition government.

However, Massoud Barzani, the president of the Kurdistan region, and leader of the Kurdish Democratic party, said Iraq was still living under the influence of Saddam's regime and the central government was not serious about sharing power with Kurds. He claimed many military decisions were made without consultations with General Babakir Zebari, a Kurd who is the Iraqi army's chief of staff.

Gen Zebari, apparently torn between competing loyalties, visited Khanaqin on Monday and was quoted in the Baghdad media as saying Iraqi troops had the right to launch operations in the area.

The crisis has grown since July when the Iraqi government ordered peshmerga forces to withdraw to Kurdistan from Diyala. It also told the two main Kurdish parties to move out of the numerous government buildings in Diyala which they had taken over when Saddam's regime fell.

The Iraqi president, Jalal Talabani, is a Kurd and the two Kurdish parties have been firm allies of the prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki's Shia-led government since its inception. But on Sunday, the government in Baghdad shocked its Kurdish partners by announcing it would send finance ministry auditors to check customs revenues levied by Kurdish officials on the Turkish border. Transit traffic and smuggling are the main sources of revenue for some Kurds.

Parts of northern Diyala are claimed by Kurds as part of their ancient homeland. An estimated 85% of the population of Khanaqin, which is situated on a dusty plateau close to Iran, are Kurds and Kurdish leaders insist that Khanaqin must remain under peshmerga control.

"The Iraqi army still wants to enter, and the peshmerga is present," said Ibrahim Bajelani, a Kurd who heads the provincial council. "Everyone is on edge. If the Iraqi army tries to enter without prior agreement, we can't be held responsible for the consequences."

[bth: timing of these events is always interesting. Why now? Well the Republican convention and the on going negotiations with Iraq's government for two. I think Petreaus' announcement that we could be pulling troops from Baghdad was a signal that Maliki can't assume he can rely on America's troops to control Baghdad, or especially Kurdish troops, without filling in the holes. And he can't take over Anbar province from the Americans without more troops to keep an eye on the Sunnis, and he can't try to push the Kurds around all at the same time. Also of note a group of US special forces crossed into Pakistan to raid a series of houses. This cross border incursion addresses to a limited extent Obama's statements that he would cross the border and it may be an attempt by Bush to grab Osama Bin Laden before the November US elections are decided. The idea of posting a picture to the world of OBL's dead head would be a huge morale boost at the Republican convention.]

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Khalid Aziz.Com :: Economic & Development Consultant - Winning Hearts and Minds

Khalid Aziz.Com :: Economic & Development Consultant: "This"asymmetric war is being waged at different levels in FATA and NWFP. Unlike a conventional war where success and failure is measured in term of enemy area captured, the success or failure here is measured in term of the number of people supporting the militants or the government. This war is thus not about control over land area but winning the support of a larger number of people than the opposing side. In other word this is a conflict for the hearts and minds. Failure or success in this area is crucial- the central point for focusing if Pakistan wants to emerge out of this conflict successfully will be governance.

The militants in Waziristan, Kohat, Mohmand, Swat and Bajaur have tried to retain control over their strong holds by launching a reign of terror based on assassination and defeating the morale of the security forces as well as to provide a system of justice and security.

The approach adopted by them has been to whittle away at the security services by capturing or killing them and by adroit propaganda amongst the population that the militants were the soldiers of Islam while government forces were fighting in support of a non Muslim power. This propaganda has been effective in obtaining the goodwill of Pakistanis for the militants overall objectives. However, a majority also decry the militant’s recourse to violence. For the last few years the militants adopted a clever strategy by exploiting the weakness within the Pakistani system. If you examine the circumstances preceding the many “agreements,” between the militants and government forces, four things become apparent.

Firstly, that such agreements normally occur when the military, after initial difficulties begins to regain supremacy but has yet not attained it. The “agreement” thus interrupts a trend line which is heading towards success. Secondly, in return for releasing government captives, the militants obtain the release of many of their rank and file who were arrested in the area of operation or on charges of sabotage in other parts of Pakistan. Militants also force the security forces to withdraw from dominant positions which had been won after much bloodshed and sacrifice. Thirdly, many of the agreements are reached after a good deal of money is transferred to militants as facilitating fees or as compensation for loss of lives and property. Fourthly, which is important to understand is that for first ‘convincing’ the government to attain peace and secondly to weigh decisions in favor of militants, great reliance is placed on the tribal MNAs and Senators who act as the first as a pressure group within the assemblies and later as members of peace jirga negotiating between government and the militants

This political group thus can be classified as those with leanings toward the militants. It cannot be otherwise since they live in areas under the militant’s domination. In support of this contention is the figure of more than 600 tribal Maliks executed by the militants since 2002. However, not a single of the MNA or Senator has been so proscribed. Another attribute of such “agreements,” is the pre-eminent role which the JUI (F) plays on the floor of the assembly or during subsequent negotiations.

A few weeks ago the security forces in Bajaur agency came under a severe attack from a well organized group of Arabs and Central Asian fighters. When matters reached a critical level with the imminent capture of Khar the agency headquarter a possibility, the military and the air force retaliated strongly. It resulted in heavy casualties to the militants and lead to their dispersal. An unintended consequence of the fighting was the departure of more than 250,000 residents of Bajaur who are now refugees. Today, the tribesmen are holding jirgas in Salarzai and other places against the militants. They have forced the militants to evacuate their areas since they are accused of bringing pain to the residents of Bajaur. Furthermore, the military action has resulted in the death of more than 800 militants. Regrettably there have also been a number of innocent deaths. Molvi Fakir Mohammad the leader of the militants in Bajaur is either dead or injured and is not traceable. In Swat the community protected the veteran political stalwart Afzal Khan against the militants. In Koza Banda in Swat when Sikander Khan and Qayyum two locals were injured by militants, the community retaliated and killed those responsible for the attack. Similarly, in Buner, Dir, Peshawar, Mardan and other places, the communities have organized themselves to defend against the militants. Thus a situation has arisen where the ascendency of the radicals has seen challenges for the first time by the communities with only marginal government assistance.

However, when the government is near success the old game of using parliament as a prop to defeat the will of the state is brought into play. Any revision of policy at this stage will be a great blow to the government. At the same time Pakistan is in the midst of a severe political crisis. This has occurred due to a breakdown of the coalition at the time of a Presidential election. The tribal areas have 20 electoral votes in this contest. The tribal MNAs and Senators have said that they would like the military activity stopped in Bajaur as a precondition for casting their votes for the PPP candidate. In short the Presidential contest has become a negotiable item in the path of security operations. The JUI (F) which has more than 30 Electoral College votes has categorically asked for a halt to all military operations.

What will be the consequences if the military action is stopped? It will not only letdown the military but all those who have accepted the challenge to fight the militants at the community level. We have seen that while the government adheres to cease fires the militants do not. Under the excuse of cease fire the militants retaliate against those who risked attacking the militants. The government’s ascendancy that now prevails would be lost.

One is not for war and would wish an end to the killing but if there has to be a cease fire then the militants must surrender their core leaders and weapons and promise to end all violence. Secondly, this narrative clearly suggests that implementation of Pakistan’s security policy after the guidelines have been fixed should not become a part of the political calculus.

At the start I had mentioned that the final determinant of an insurgency is winning the hearts and minds of the people. If you examine the militant’s narrative it relates to the story of a rich person, bin Laden who gave up his wealth, family and privileges to come and defend the poor who live marginalized lives in a world where they believe their religion is under challenge.

The ‘valiant’ bin Laden is seen pitched in battle against those who have greater personal and private interest in retaining power for themselves rather than for the public good. Clearly under these circumstances the battle for the hearts and minds will be in favor of bin Laden than the leadership in Pakistan which is portrayed as self centered in such a narrative. This is indeed a huge challenge but one which is overlooked by the ruling elite. In this battle for the hearts and minds the side which is moral, fair and bases its policies on principles than expediency will win the hearts and minds battle.

If Pakistan is to have a fighting chance of coming on top of the insurgency it must improve governance and help the poor. Secondly, it must protect its security policies from the vagaries of selfish political actors. A contrary course will spell disaster

Pakistani tribesmen organize private armies to fight Taliban |

Pakistani tribesmen organize private armies to fight Taliban | "Pakistan's"Taliban might be getting stronger, wreaking havoc along the country's border with Afghanistan, but they are also growing wildly unpopular, inciting their own tribesmen to turn against them.

In the latest of a series of incidents, a lashkar, or private army comprised of Pakistani tribesmen, torched the houses of Taliban commanders in Bajaur, near the Afghan border, vowing to fight them until they are expelled, the Daily Times, a Pakistani newspaper, reports.

Tribesmen in Bajaur Agency's Salarzai tehsil on Sunday formed a private army (lashkar) of around 30,000 people against the local Taliban. A local jirga decided to form the lashkar in the wake of the increasing presence of the local Taliban in the area. The lashkar torched 14 houses, including the house of a local Taliban commander. Tribal elder Malik Munsib Khan, who heads the lashkar, said tribesmen would continue their struggle until the Taliban were expelled from the area, adding that anyone found sheltering Taliban militants would be fined one million [rupees] and his house would be torched. The tribesmen also torched two important centres of the Taliban in the area and gained control of most of the tehsil.

Dawn, another English-language daily in Pakistan, cited the lashkar at a much lower number.

The tribe has raised a lashkar of more than 4,000 volunteers. Malik Munasib Khan, who is leading uprising against the militants, said that the houses destroyed by the volunteers included one of militant leader Naimatullah, who had occupied several government schools and converted them into seminaries.

The development comes in the midst of the Pakistan Army's bombardment campaign, which has been unfolding for weeks in the tribal agency of Bajaur, a militant stronghold where some top commanders of the Taliban and Al Qaeda, including Osama bin Laden, are believed to be hiding. The bombardment, which has left some 400 militants dead according to The New York Times, highlights the rising power of the Taliban some seven years after they were first ousted from power in Afghanistan. But it also showcases why the Taliban are highly unpopular: Some 200,000 people have been displaced because of fighting, while dozens of citizens have been killed in clashes between the militants and military.

The Bajaur lashkar might be the largest of its kind, but it is not the only such force to have turned against the Taliban, according to recent reports. The News, a leading Pakistani daily, reported two weeks ago that several such lashkars have arisen throughout the North West Frontier Province, where the Taliban are increasing their hold.

In an unprecedented development, an armed lashkar in Buner district recently hunted down and killed six militants allegedly involved in killing cops in Kingargali. The operation shows that the people of Buner, Dir Upper and Dir Lower have stood up against the Taliban militants sneaking into these hitherto peaceful areas after Bajaur and Swat military operations.

A grand jirga of the elders of Maidan area in Lower Dir district's headquarters, Timergara, asked more than 150 foreign fighters and their tribal Taliban supporters to leave the area or face strong action from the local people.

A similar jirga in Barawal, a town of Dir Upper district, sharing border with Afghanistan, warned the militants to stay away from the area or they would take up arms against them.

The Buner incident took place on Khel Mountain in Shalbandai when hundreds of local people picked up arms, locally called 'Appa,' on information of the presence of the Taliban militants, who had brutally killed eight policemen in Kingargali last Friday.

The armed lashkar of 200 locals threw a cordon around the militants and asked them to surrender but the Taliban challenged it. The official sources told The News that the militants' refusal triggered a gunfight and they hurled hand grenades at the lashkar, prompting a retaliatory action from local armed men, which resulted in the killing of all the six militants. ....

Monday, September 01, 2008

Sun Makes History: First Spotless Month in a Century

DailyTech - Sun Makes History: First Spotless Month in a Century: "The"sun has reached a milestone not seen for nearly 100 years: an entire month has passed without a single visible sunspot being noted.

The event is significant as many climatologists now believe solar magnetic activity – which determines the number of sunspots -- is an influencing factor for climate on earth.

According to data from Mount Wilson Observatory, UCLA, more than an entire month has passed without a spot. The last time such an event occurred was June of 1913. Sunspot data has been collected since 1749.

When the sun is active, it's not uncommon to see sunspot numbers of 100 or more in a single month. Every 11 years, activity slows, and numbers briefly drop to near-zero. Normally sunspots return very quickly, as a new cycle begins.

But this year -- which corresponds to the start of Solar Cycle 24 -- has been extraordinarily long and quiet, with the first seven months averaging a sunspot number of only 3. August followed with none at all. The astonishing rapid drop of the past year has defied predictions, and caught nearly all astronomers by surprise.

In 2005, a pair of astronomers from the National Solar Observatory (NSO) in Tucson attempted to publish a paper in the journal Science. The pair looked at minute spectroscopic and magnetic changes in the sun. By extrapolating forward, they reached the startling result that, within 10 years, sunspots would vanish entirely. At the time, the sun was very active. Most of their peers laughed at what they considered an unsubstantiated conclusion.

The journal ultimately rejected the paper as being too controversial.

The paper's lead author, William Livingston, tells DailyTech that, while the refusal may have been justified at the time, recent data fits his theory well. He says he will be "secretly pleased" if his predictions come to pass.

But will the rest of us? In the past 1000 years, three previous such events -- the Dalton, Maunder, and Spörer Minimums, have all led to rapid cooling. One was large enough to be called a "mini ice age". For a society dependent on agriculture, cold is more damaging than heat. The growing season shortens, yields drop, and the occurrence of crop-destroying frosts increases.

Meteorologist Anthony Watts, who runs a climate data auditing site, tells DailyTech the sunspot numbers are another indication the "sun's dynamo" is idling. According to Watts, the effect of sunspots on TSI (total solar irradiance) is negligible, but the reduction in the solar magnetosphere affects cloud formation here on Earth, which in turn modulates climate....

Canadian-designed makeshift tourniquet aimed at saving Afghan lives

The Canadian Press: Canadian-designed makeshift tourniquet aimed at saving Afghan lives: "KANDAHAR"Afghanistan — Canadian Forces medical mentors are hoping a simple contraption they've created will help save the lives of seriously injured Afghan soldiers and police officers who are dying in large numbers compared to coalition troops, often because they haven't got the tools needed to handle a medical emergency.

It all started in February, just weeks after the latest batch of Canadian troops arrived in Kandahar. An Afghan soldier accidentally set off a rocket-propelled grenade inside a bunker at a base in Zhari district while cleaning his weapon following a patrol.

Three of the four soldiers who died that day bled out because they didn't have tourniquets, a simple device used to cut off circulation to an injured limb, effectively stopping the bleeding.

While tourniquets are controversial, even in western countries, as they can lead to loss of limb if kept on too long, they're considered essential on the battlefield.

"I was pretty pissed off about it," said Capt. Mike McBride, a member of Canada's Operational Mentor and Liaison Team who is helping to train Afghan medics as well as infantrymen in tactical first aid.

"Most of us are carrying two, three, four (tourniquets) with us in our kit. These poor guys didn't have any. They had a rifle and there was no way for them to make an expedient tourniquet. It just wasn't in their training."

By the time Canadian soldiers arrived on scene there was little they could do.

"Massive injuries like that, it doesn't take long for someone to bleed out," McBride said.

Following the incident, McBride's medical team looked into the cost of acquiring Canadian army-issued tourniquets, enough for the brigade of 3,900 plus training stock, but at $33 apiece, they had to come up with a less expensive alternative.

"Nobody was going to come up with (the money). We decided to design our own and see if we could get them manufactured in Kandahar City," he said.

"It covers a lot of bases. One, it saves lives, and two, it pumps some money into the local economy."

The medics reviewed the types of materials available in Kandahar, consulted with a materials technician and parachute riggers and determined it would be possible to produce a simple tourniquet locally.

It consists of a piece of army green nylon webbing with two loops sewn in using high quality thread. It's wrapped around the limb above the wound, McBride and a colleague demonstrated, and is tightened using a section of a C7 rifle cleaning rod which acts as a windlass. It costs a mere $3.

The design was finalized in April and an initial production run of 100 tourniquets was introduced to the first aid training program.

About 1,900 of them have already been distributed among Afghan soldiers and police who are being mentored by Canadians and there are some 8,000 in the pipeline. McBride is hoping the project will be extended throughout the Afghan security force.

The Canadian tourniquets also come with a simple pictorial instruction chart and practical training session.

"We wanted to make it very simple. Pictures work well for these guys because literacy is a huge issue," McBride said.

"We actually put them on the clock and the goal is to get it done in 30 seconds or less to save the limb."

In the middle of a firefight, McBride said that's about as much time a soldier has to save an injured comrade from bleeding to death before he has to pick up his rifle and continue fighting the enemy.

"It's amazing what a bag of Jolly Ranchers will do," he said. "There's prizes for the top student of the morning. They're very competitive once you get them spooled up."

Using photographs of a western model as opposed to an Afghan for the instruction sheet was also a conscious decision, McBride said.

If Afghans see coalition forces using the tourniquets, they're more likely to use the same piece of equipment.

"They're looking for role models," he said. "It's funny. They try to emulate us. If they see something that we think is cool, they think it's cool too."

Training the Afghan police and army so they can take over responsibility for the country's security is key to Canada's 2011 combat exit strategy from Afghanistan.

Soldiers receive three days of basic medical skills training and the Afghan medics get three weeks of first aid training aimed at bringing them to combat life saver standard.

McBride's team mentors a company of about 72 medics who will accompany infantry patrols much the same way Canadian medics do.

While the Afghan army's medical capabilities have "increased incredibly," since McBride's team began working with them, he said they continue to rely heavily on their mentors for air lifts and advanced medical care.

Properly training intensive care nurses and trauma surgeons will take years, he said, noting Canada does seem to have a "reasonable plan" in place to get the Afghan security force to where it needs to be.

Still, he believes a major impediment to the process, at least from his perspective as a medical mentor with 33 years of experience and seven overseas operations under his belt, is Canada's six-month rotation.

"There's a lot of turmoil in their life and we keep switching up mentors," he said, noting a nine-month rotation would make more sense.

"Socialization is a huge part of being a mentor and it takes a couple of months to get into their head space and timing and for them to get into yours."

[bth: much to like about this initiative.]

Rubbery conductor promises robots a stretchy skin - tech - 08 August 2008 - New Scientist Tech

Rubbery conductor promises robots a stretchy skin - tech - 08 August 2008 - New Scientist Tech: "Giving"robots skin as soft and sensitive as a cosmetics model is difficult when it must be built using tough, inflexible electronics. But Japanese researchers have created super-stretchy circuits from a new elastic conductor material that could be the solution.

The rubbery conductor was developed by Takao Someya's team at the University of Tokyo. They aim to produce "e-skin" – an affordable layer of pressure and temperature sensors flexible enough to completely cover a robot without limiting its movement.

"Without human skin-like sensitivity, robots cannot be used in everyday life. Imagine the danger if a robot did not recognise when it had accidentally bumped into a young child," says Someya....

YouTube - DSTA TechX Challenge Qualifying Rounds in the News

YouTube - DSTA TechX Challenge Qualifying Rounds in the News: ""

CQ Politics | Pollsters Say Americans Ready to Back Attack on Iran if Diplomacy Fails

CQ Politics | Pollsters Say Americans Ready to Back Attack on Iran if Diplomacy Fails: "A"pro-Israel organization argued Wednesday that a majority of Americans would support military action against Iran under certain circumstances, in a rare concurrence of message between some Democrats and Republicans at the Democratic National Convention.

Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg and Republican pollster Frank Luntz joined under the banner of the Israel Project to release data from a poll of voters in the United States, Great Britain, and Germany. They aimed to make the case that a U.S. consensus exists on Iran’s regime and the need for tough measures to combat it.

The Israel Project officials say the group is pushing for a diplomatic approach to dealing with Iran. But they prominently presented data portraying that a majority of Americans could eventually get behind an Israeli or U.S. strike on Iranian nuclear facilities.

“63 percent of U.S. voters support military action against Iran if diplomacy fails,” read the headline of the press release distributed during the event.

The Israel Project used the Wednesday event to kick off a national ad blitz aimed at publicizing the nuclear threat from Iran.

The pollsters said European countries are less supportive of Israel and less willing to contemplate military action or even economic sanctions against Iran.

“The Germans oppose military action for historical and cultural reasons and the British do not want another Iraq,” Greenberg said, “Yet the American are more open to military action, especially if a diplomatic solution fails to become a reality.”

Support for Israel
Obama’s support for Israel and popularity among Jewish voters has been an issue in this election season, and he has made great efforts to reassure that demographic that his support for the Jewish state is solid.

Rep. Robert Wexler , D-Fla., focused on that point for the totality of his floor speech early Wednesday evening.

“In his heart, in his gut, Barack Obama stands with Israel. Not only his words, but his deeds, bear testament to this fact,” said Wexler, adding, “ John McCain offers more of the same failed policies that endanger both America and Israel.”

[bth: prolude to war?]

Russia threatens to supply Iran with top new missile system as 'cold war' escalates - Telegraph

Russia threatens to supply Iran with top new missile system as 'cold war' escalates - Telegraph: "US"intelligence fears the Kremlin will supply the sophisticated S-300 system to Tehran if Washington pushes through Nato membership for its pro-Western neighbours Georgia and Ukraine.

The proposed deal is causing huge alarm in the US and Israel as the S-300 can track 100 targets at once and fire on planes up to 75 miles away.

That would make it a "game-changer", greatly improving Iranian defences against any air strike on its nuclear sites, according to Pentagon adviser Dan Goure. "This is a system that scares every Western air force," he said.

Senior US intelligence operatives believe that Russia is planning to use a stand-off over the S-300 to create a foreign policy showdown that would test the mettle of a new US president.

Republican candidate John McCain has taken a strongly anti-Kremlin line on a series of international issues and backed Georgia's desire to join Nato. His Democratic rival Barack Obama has also indicated he supports Nato membership for Georgia.

"The message from Moscow is very clear," said George Friedman, director of Stratfor, a leading US private intelligence agency. "They are saying if you don't stop meddling in our sphere of influence, this is what we are going to do.

"Back Georgia and Ukraine for Nato membership and you'll see the S-300 to Iran. It is a very powerful bargaining chip and a major deterrent to US actions in the region. Moscow is playing very strategically on America's obsession with Iran."

Moscow has been infuriated by the steady encroachment of Nato into the former Soviet bloc and the recent granting of independence to the ex-Serbian province of Kosovo against its wishes.

After American condemnation of Russia's foray into Georgia, Moscow invited Syria's dictator Bashar al-Assad, a long-time US foe, to discuss military deals in a deliberate signal of how it could cause trouble for Washington.

A senior US intelligence operative who recently returned from the Middle East said Russia is believed to have struck a tentative deal to sell the S-300 to the Islamic regime. There are reports that Russia has already moved some basic components for the system to its close ally Belarus, ready for possible transfer to Iran.

"Moscow cannot simply threaten to strike the deal," the official told The Sunday Telegraph. "Iran certainly thinks it has a deal. And the Israelis believe that a deal has been reached but that they can still block it."

The outgoing Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert is expected to pass that message on to his counterpart Vladimir Putin and President Dmitri Medvedev when he visits Moscow next month. Israel has already ended military assistance to Georgia in an effort to placate Russia.

Russia has denied previous assertions by senior Iranians that a deal has already been finalised on the S-300.

Dan Goure, a long-time Pentagon adviser, said: "If Tehran obtained the S-300, it would be a game-changer in military thinking for tackling Iran. That could be a catalyst for Israeli air attacks before it's operational."

Dr Friedman said that if it became operational, it would effectively rule out Israeli air raids and seriously complicate any US aerial bombardment.

The system would take up to a year to become operational. In the meantime, Israel would come under heavy domestic pressure to launch an attack on Iranian nuclear plants, which the West believes are part of a secret atomic weapons programme but which Tehran claims are for civilian energy.

A senior Iranian military commander warned yesterday that any attack on Iran would start a major conflict. "Any aggression against Iran will start a world war," deputy chief of staff for defence publicity, Brigadier General Masoud Jazayeri, said in a statement. "The unrestrained greed of the US leadership and global Zionism... is gradually leading the world to the edge of a precipice."

Russia anounces ‘spheres of interest’ / World - Russia anounces ‘spheres of interest’: "Russia’s"president Dmitry Medvedev on Sunday announced Moscow’s intention to preserve geographical spheres “of privileged interest” on or near its borders as part of a five point foreign policy statement in a television interview.

The announcement, in the wake of the recent conflict in Georgia, is likely to raise the political temperature in neighbouring states, especially those with significant Russian minorities, as they try to gauge Russia’s appetite for future conflicts in the region.

He said that Russia would defend “the life and dignity” of Russian citizens “no matter where they are located”. He was referring to Russia’s intervention in Georgia with the declared aim of defending Russian citizens in South Ossetia against Georgian forces.

Mr Medvedev announced that Russia would provide aid – including military help – to the enclaves of South Ossetian and Abkhazia.

In the announcing his five-point foreign policy, he emphasised Russia’s wish to avoid confrontation or international isolation as the result of the recent conflict, which has been widely criticised in the west. “Russia does not intend to isolate itself. We will develop, as much as possible, our friendly relations with Europe and the United States, and other nations of the world”

He also focused on a commitment to international law, and again expressed Moscow’s now familiar antipathy to a “unipolar” world dominated by Washington, saying “this type of world is unstable and threatens conflict”.

Mr Medvedev’s announcement that Russia has “regions of priviledged interest” is likely to be greeted with concern in the west, where it might be interpreted as the announcement that Moscow has imperial ambitions in the former Soviet Union. It is also likely to resonate in Crimea, the province of Ukraine that is dominated by ethnic Russians, ethnically Russian northern Kazakhstan, and Baltic states with large Russian minorities.

"Russia, like other countries in the world, has regions in which it has privileged interests” said Mr Medvedev. “In these regions are located countries which have friendly relations…Russia will work attentively in these regions" he said, adding these "privileged" regions included states bordering Russia, but not only those

[bth: the bear stretches]

5 buried alive 'tradition'

5 buried alive 'tradition' - Pakistani pol: "A"Pakistani lawmaker defended a decision by northwestern tribesmen to bury five women alive because they wanted to choose their own husbands, telling stunned members of Parliament to spare him their outrage.

"These are centuries-old traditions, and I will continue to defend them," Israr Ullah Zehri, who represents Baluchistan province, told The Associated Press Saturday.

"Only those who indulge in immoral acts should be afraid."

The women, three of whom were teenagers, were first shot and then thrown into a ditch.

They were still breathing as mud was shoveled over their bodies, according to media reports, which said their only "crime" was that they wished to marry men of their own choosing.

Zehri told a packed and stunned Parliament on Friday that Baluch tribal traditions helped stop obscenity and then asked fellow lawmakers to stop making such a fuss about it.

Several lawmakers stood up in protest, describing the so-called honor killings as "barbaric."

Human rights groups accused local authorities of trying to hush up the executions, which according to local media reports and activists took place a month ago in Baba Kot, a remote village in Jafferabad district.

[bth: Pakistan's government should make it a tradition to hang men that do such things to women.]

Dutch withdraw spy from Iran because of 'impending US attack' - Telegraph

Dutch withdraw spy from Iran because of 'impending US attack' - Telegraph: "According"to reports in the newspaper De Telegraaf, the country's intelligence service, the AIVD, has stopped an espionage operation aimed at infiltration and sabotage of the weapons industry in Iran.

"The operation, described as extremely successful, was halted recently in connection with plans for an impending US air attack on Iran," said the report.

"Targets would also be bombed which were connected with the Dutch espionage action."

"Well placed" sources told the paper that a top agent had been recalled recently "because the US was thought to be making a decision within weeks to attack Iran with unmanned aircraft".

"Information from the AIVD operation has in recent years been shared with the American CIA secret service."

Brig Gen Seyyed Massoud Jazayeri, deputy chief of the Iranian armed forces, warned at the weekend that military attacks against Iran would trigger a Third World War.

"The exorbitant demands of the US leaders and the global Zionism which have created the current situation in Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan and Caucasus are gradually directing the world to the edge of the cliff," he said.

The US has refused to rule out a military attack against Iran if its government continues to enrich uranium as part of its civilian nuclear programme, which the West suspects has the clandestine objective of developing atomic weapons.

Iran has warned it would close the strategic Strait of Hormuz, the entrance to the Gulf and a major oil shipping route, if it is attacked.

On Friday, the Israel newspaper Ma'ariv reported that Israel has stepped up preparations for a contingency plan to attack Iran, should diplomatic efforts, via the United Nations, fail to derail Tehran's suspected nuclear weapons programme.

'J'lem worried over Biden's Iran stance' | Iran news | Jerusalem Post

'J'lem worried over Biden's Iran stance' | Iran news | Jerusalem Post: "Army"Radio reported that the Delaware senator was heard saying in closed conversations with Jerusalem officials three years ago that he was firmly opposed to an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities.

Biden, the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, reportedly claimed that Israel would likely have to come to terms with a nuclear Iran. He reportedly expressed doubt over the effectiveness of economic sanctions imposed on the Islamic Republic and said he was against the opening of an additional military and diplomatic front, saying that the US had more pressing problems, such as North Korea and Iraq.

The Jerusalem Post could not confirm the report.

Biden has a solid 36-year Senate record of pro-Israel leadership. He has called Israel "the single greatest strength America has in the Middle East" and declared himself a Zionist in an interview with a US Jewish television channel last year, saying that "you don't have to be a Jew to be a Zionist."

Army Radio said that Jerusalem officials expressed amazement at the comments and were wondering which position to take seriously, that of Biden or Obama, who declared last Monday that the world must press Iran through sanctions and diplomacy to stop its nuclear program, so that Israel does not feel its "back is against the wall" and that it therefore has no choice but to attack.

The officials said that they had believed Biden's nomination would give a feeling of security to the Israeli government, which was concerned that the US would give Israel the cold shoulder regarding the Iranian threat following the end of the Bush Administration's term.

Nevertheless, reports of Biden's comments have now cast doubt over this sentiment and officials said that "this feeling of security has been undermined."

"The position of the vice presidential candidate puts a huge question mark over the degree of empathy the Obama administration would display concerning one of the greatest threats Israel faces," they said.

Russia's Foreign Ministry Says U.S. May Have Sent Arms to Georgia With Humanitarian Aid - International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News - Russia's Foreign Ministry Says U.S. May Have Sent Arms to Georgia With Humanitarian Aid - International News | News of the World | Middle East News | Europe News: "MOSCOW"— Russia is suggesting U.S. ships that brought humanitarian aid to Georgia may have also carried weapons.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko said such suspicions are among the motives for Russia's call for an arms embargo against Georgia.

Nesterenko told a news conference there are "suppositions" that the cargo of U.S. military ships that have brought aid for war-battered Georgia may also have included "military components."

Nesterenko also said that Russia would welcome an international police presence and more Western military observers in what is now a Russian-controlled zone around South Ossetia, the focus of the war earlier this month. But he indicated it will be a long time before Russia is ready to reduce its military presence.

[bth: this has to be a very real fear of the Russians.]

Sunday, August 31, 2008

IRAQ: Kidnappings Now Become ‘Unofficial’ « Gorilla’s Guides

IRAQ: Kidnappings Now Become ‘Unofficial’ « Gorilla’s Guides: "BAQUBA"Aug 29 (IPS) - Residents of Baquba deny police claims that kidnappings are now a matter of the past.

“There are fewer people disappearing, but it continues,” a trader who asked to be referred to as Abu Ali told IPS. “All of us know that several people are still being kidnapped every week.”

A local sheikh, speaking to IPS on condition of anonymity, said that many from his tribe have been kidnapped in just the last three weeks.

“This sectarian security operation is targeting Sunnis,” the sheikh said. “At least ten people from my tribe alone, all of them Sunnis, have been kidnapped, and we suspect it is by people with the government.”

A police captain, Ali Khadem, told IPS that “no kidnapping actions were reported in the city in the last four months.” Baquba is capital of Diyala province, just north-east of Baghdad.

Residents say that while the number of kidnappings may have declined, the fear continues. Underscoring the volatility of the province, the Iraqi government issued an order Aug. 27 banning residents from keeping weapons.

Baquba has seen more than its share of kidnappings. Those responsible are believed widely to be members of various militias, or simply common criminals looking for quick money.

“When we were going to our jobs, we did not know whether we would get back home or not,” Hisham Ibrahim, a local labourer, told IPS. “Everyday, we felt the same fear and horror. And now, even though it’s better, we don’t know when this horror will return.”

The usual kidnapping style is for armed militants to drive up with their faces covered to the victim’s house, office or shop, or sometimes corner him on the street. The victim is overpowered, and dumped into the boot. The kidnappers then demand ransom, usually making video films of the victim.

Often a killing is also filmed. “Near our house, there was a place we used to call the execution zone,” a trader told IPS on terms of anonymity. “I myself saw a cameraman with the militants in every action.”

Another resident, also speaking on terms of anonymity, told IPS he had witnessed executions of kidnapped men. “They brought kidnapped men blindfolded, with their hands tied, lined them up on the street, and shot them one by one.”

“My wife has been sick ever since she saw these killings from our house,” Nasir Abbas, a local resident who lives on Majara Avenue told IPS. Many kidnapped persons have been executed here.

Some of the kidnappings have been at random. “The militants might ask anyone on the street about his identity,” says Abdul-Jalil Khalil, a local trader. “They take him to their stronghold for questioning. When they find he is their sect, they release him. If not, they kill him.”

A local man who was kidnapped told IPS what he went through.

“Militants attacked me in the market. They forced me into the boot of a car. After reaching their place, they got me out of the boot, tied my hands and covered my eyes. They poisoned me with something that made me sick, along with several other people in a room.

“They were shouting and insulting us. They whipped me with a cable and a nylon tube on my back and legs. After a few hours, they took me to another room. There I met the leader, they called him the prince. He asked me about my sect, tribe, job, relatives, etc. The prince decided to release me after three days.”

Many others are never released. Or even recorded as ever having been kidnapped

Relations sour between Kurds and central government « Gorilla’s Guides

Relations sour between Kurds and central government « Gorilla’s Guides: Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has asked Kurdish militias known locally as peshmerqa to evacuate areas south of the “green line*” demarcating the autonomous Kurdish enclave in northern Iraq.

Maliki has went as far as sending Iraqi troops to flush out the Kurdish militias from villages, towns and cities officially not part of the Kurdish region.

Iraqi troops have reportedly spread their control in the string of towns and villages in the restive Province of Diyala which the Kurds claimed as their.

Kurdish self-rule areas include the provinces of Arbil, Sulaimaniya and Dahouk but the Kurds have sent in their militias to the oil-rich city of Kirkuk and scores of villages and towns in the provinces of Mosul and Diyala.

Maliki’s move has brought almost all Arab political factions, whether Sunni or Shiite together, demanding stringent measures to curtail Kurdish ambitions.

Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose militia known as Mahdi Army fought both U.S. troops and Iraqi forces, has likewise thrown his weight behind Maliki.

In his latest Friday sermon, read for him by a representative in Baghdad, Sadr urged the government to hoist “the Iraqi flag in predominantly Kurdish areas” outside the Kurdish autonomous zone.

The Kurds see the move as “muscle twisting” by Maliki.

Kurdish politicians including Massoud Barzani, head of the Kurdish autonomous region, have protested the move by the Iraqi army against Kurdish areas in Diyala.

But the central government seems determined to spread its control over these areas and says troops will be deployed everywhere outside the Kurdish self-rule region.

Maliki is also reported to have even questioned budgetary allocations to Kurds which amount to 17% of the country oil revenues.

The government says the Kurds should not get more than 14% of the budget in proportion to the number of people in their areas. - brand new:hezbollah brigades in iraq -EFP vs american vehicle in baghdad -mouammed alkassem street - brand new:hezbollah brigades in iraq -EFP vs american vehicle in baghdad -mouammed alkassem street: ""
Note the smoke rising from two point on the roof immediately beside and behind the targeted vehicle. As the video indicates, EFPs were used, it would appear that the EFPs were fired from the roof agains the sides and tops of the vehicle