Saturday, October 04, 2008

The Ballad of Sarah Palin from warpedcorp

The Ballad of Sarah Palin from warpedcorp: "
See more funny videos at Funny or Die
See more funny videos at Funny or Die

Sarah Palin Struts that Ass from FOD Team

Sarah Palin Struts that Ass from FOD Team: "
See more funny videos at Funny or Die
See more funny videos at Funny or Die

Bailout Rejected: Please Help the Rich from FOD Team

Bailout Rejected: Please Help the Rich from FOD Team: "
See more funny videos at Funny or Die
See more funny videos at Funny or Die

Lasers Stop Snipers Before They Fire (Updated) | Danger Room from

Lasers Stop Snipers Before They Fire (Updated) | Danger Room from

Infantry: The Robot On Your Back

Infantry: The Robot On Your Back: "October"3, 2008: The U.S. Army is developing a one pound sniper detector that can be carried by individual infantrymen. The two sound sensors are on the shoulders, while the cell-phone sized electronics package is clipped to the uniform. An ear bud provides verbal information ("shooter at 7 o'clock, 125 meters"). There might also be a small visual display worn on the wrist. The main problem at this point is not the technology, which has been around for a while and can be miniaturized, but putting it together so that the soldiers will be able to use the information quickly and effectively enough to locate the sniper.

Sniper detectors have been a work in progress for the last five years. So far, vehicle borne acoustic detectors have had the most success, and over a thousand of them have been shipped to Iraq and Afghanistan. Another 8,000 are on order.

Sniper detection systems provide directional information about where the snipers are. Several generations of these systems have showed up over the last four years. The usefulness of these anti-sniper systems has increased as the manufacturers have decreased the number of false alarms, and improved the user interface. There other reasons for all this progress, including major advances in computing power, sensor quality and software development. The latest improvement is providing nearly instant, and easy to comprehend, location info on the sniper.

Not all the manufacturers are American. The French firm Metravib, has been turning out several generations of their Pilar system, since the 1990s. This is a high end system, costing about $70,000. That gets you the acoustic array, a laptop size device containing the signal processor (specialized computer) and a laptop that displays the results, and controls the system. Pilar has recently received a companion system, Pivot, which will automatically point a camera at the source of the fire, and display the video wherever it is needed. Pivot costs $200,000, and could substitute a machine-gun for the camera. But no one wants to go there just yet.

The U.S. firm, iRobot, which makes the most widely used combat robot, the PackBot, has developed a similar system. Called REDOWL (for Robot Enhanced Detection Outpost with Lasers), it mounts a 5.5 pound device on a PackBot that contains an infrared (heat sensing) video camera, laser rangefinder and acoustic gunfire detector. When the device is turned on, the camera and laser will point to any gunshot in the area. This makes it a lot easier for nearby troops to take out the sniper. REDOWL can also be mounted on vehicles, or anywhere, for that matter. In tests, REDOWL has been right 94 percent of the time. Some developers suggested equipping REDOWL with a machine-gun in place of the laser. But the U.S. Army isn't ready for an armed robot that will identify and fire on targets all by itself. Pilar has one edge over REDOWL, longer range. Pilar can find snipers who are as far as a thousand meters out, about twice the range of the iRobot system.

Israel has produced a similar system, SADS (Small Arms Detection System), that also has a thousand meter range. On the low end of the cost scale, there is the U.S. Boomerang system. This one has been around for several years, costs about $5,000 each, and has been effective enough to get new orders and lots of work from troops that are used to it. The Boomerang has been the most successful sniper detector, and is the most widely used.

For decades, sniper detectors were theoretical darlings of military R&D geeks. But now, with lots of need, better technology and money to buy several generations of a system, the devices are actually making themselves useful. Not all units have officers or troops who can make the most of sniper detection systems. But those that do, are hell on the local sniper population.

sdkfz 303 goliath pictures from military photos on webshots

sdkfz 303 goliath pictures from military photos on webshots: "sdkfz 303 goliath"sdkfz 303 goliath


YouTube - NASA ATHLETE: ""

YouTube - X-VEAAT Vehicle Explorer Adaptable All Terrain

YouTube - X-VEAAT Vehicle Explorer Adaptable All Terrain: ""

YouTube - Goliath Light Demolitions Carrier Sd.Kfz.302

YouTube - Goliath Light Demolitions Carrier Sd.Kfz.302: ""

YouTube - SdKfz 303 Leichte ladungsträger "Goliath"

YouTube - SdKfz 303 Leichte ladungsträger "Goliath": ""
Armchair Generalist
Informed Comment

Blog: Nukes & Spooks - Purported Spanish intel report: ISI helped Taliban

Blog: Nukes & Spooks: "A"Spanish radio station has published on its web site what it says is a 2005 Spanish Defense Ministry intelligence report _ replete with official insignia and stamped "confidential" _ that says Pakistan's premier intelligence service supplied the Taliban with explosives with which to assassinate senior Afghan officials.

News reports say the Spanish government declined to comment on the document. Such silences usually speak for themselves.

U.S. military and intelligence officials have long privately alleged that officials of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate continued supporting the Taliban after Islamabad officially ended its patronage of the Islamic movement following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

The document published on the web site of Cadena Ser, Spain's main station for news and information, appears to be the first official report to enter the public domain that makes that allegation. There are more than 700 Spanish troops with NATO's International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan.

Pakistan has repeatedly denied ISI complicity with the Taliban post-Sept. 11, although the agency's director was replaced this week under pressure from the United States. The shakeup follows charges by unnamed U.S. officials that ISI operatives were involved in the July 2008 bombing of the Indian Embassy in Kabul. The Afghan government also accused the ISI of complicity in a June 2008 attempt to assassinate President Hamid Karzai.

The document published by Cadena Ser is dated August 2005. It says that the ISI supplied improvised explosive devices to the Taliban "to assassinate high-level" Afghan government officials "from a distance."

"They (Taliban) are going to place them (bombs) in vehicles although their targets have not been specified," says the document.

The document says it "is possible" that the ISI was training Taliban fighters to use improvised explosive devices at camps inside Pakistan.

The use of the devices in Afghanistan was "inspired" by the use of similar bombs in Iraq, it says.

Blog: Nukes & Spooks - US commander in Afghanistan can finally command all US troops

Blog: Nukes & Spooks: "On"Thursday, the U.S. Senate confirmed Gen. David McKiernan as commander of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan. On its face, this does not seem like big news. After all, Gen. McKiernan has been the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan for four months, and all this confirmation does is change his title.

But at the Pentagon and in Afghanistan, this was long-awaited good news. Because, believe or not, up until yesterday, McKiernan was not actually in command of all U.S. troops there. That’s right-- the top U.S. commander didn’t actually command some U.S. troops. ...

Exclusive: The methane time bomb - Climate Change, Environment - The Independent

Exclusive: The methane time bomb - Climate Change, Environment - The Independent: "The"first evidence that millions of tons of a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide is being released into the atmosphere from beneath the Arctic seabed has been discovered by scientists.

The Independent has been passed details of preliminary findings suggesting that massive deposits of sub-sea methane are bubbling to the surface as the Arctic region becomes warmer and its ice retreats.

Underground stores of methane are important because scientists believe their sudden release has in the past been responsible for rapid increases in global temperatures, dramatic changes to the climate, and even the mass extinction of species. Scientists aboard a research ship that has sailed the entire length of Russia's northern coast have discovered intense concentrations of methane – sometimes at up to 100 times background levels – over several areas covering thousands of square miles of the Siberian continental shelf.

In the past few days, the researchers have seen areas of sea foaming with gas bubbling up through "methane chimneys" rising from the sea floor. They believe that the sub-sea layer of permafrost, which has acted like a "lid" to prevent the gas from escaping, has melted away to allow methane to rise from underground deposits formed before the last ice age.

They have warned that this is likely to be linked with the rapid warming that the region has experienced in recent years.

Methane is about 20 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide and many scientists fear that its release could accelerate global warming in a giant positive feedback where more atmospheric methane causes higher temperatures, leading to further permafrost melting and the release of yet more methane.

The amount of methane stored beneath the Arctic is calculated to be greater than the total amount of carbon locked up in global coal reserves so there is intense interest in the stability of these deposits as the region warms at a faster rate than other places on earth...

[bth: very disturbing article]

M of A - The Rescue Money Flow

M of A - The Rescue Money Flow: "The"Paulson plan, aka TARP or the bailout, may well get through the House today. Paulson will then have loads of money to spend until January 20, 2009. We can only hope that the satirist Tucholsky is wrong and Paulson will work for the benefit of all and not only a few.

What has been little noticed is that the action the Paulson plan prescribes is already happening by abusing the Fed balance sheet.

A friend asked me to deliver a simple short talk today about the recent Fed action and the Paulson plan. I came up with a few simplified charts to explain what is going on. They concentrate on what changed within the system ...

[bth: this is a must read article regarding the fed bail out and the implications for Main Street. Recession seems certain, depression a possibility. Real companies are having their credit lines pulled.]

Friday, October 03, 2008

Commander in Afghanistan Wants More Troops -

Commander in Afghanistan Wants More Troops -"Afghanistan is not Iraq," said Gen. David D. McKiernan, who led ground forces during the 2003 Iraq invasion and took over four months ago as head of the NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan.

Speaking in Washington yesterday, McKiernan described Afghanistan as "a far more complex environment than I ever found in Iraq." The country's mountainous terrain, rural population, poverty, illiteracy, 400 major tribal networks and history of civil war all make for unique challenges, he said.

"The word I don't use for Afghanistan is 'surge,' " McKiernan stressed, saying that what is required is a "sustained commitment" to a counterinsurgency effort that could last many years and would ultimately require a political, not military, solution. ...

Tribal engagement in Afghanistan is also vital, McKiernan said, but it must be carried out through the Afghan government and not by the U.S. military.

"I don't want the military to be engaging the tribes," he said. Given Afghanistan's complicated system of rival tribes and ethnic groups and the recent history of civil war, allying with the wrong tribe risks rekindling internecine conflict, he said. "It wouldn't take much to go back to a civil war."

Overall, McKiernan offered a sober view of Afghanistan, saying the violence is more intense than he had anticipated, particularly in the east and south. The U.S. military death toll has risen to more than 130 this year, exceeding the 117 killed last year and reaching a new annual high since the war began in 2001.

Attacks into Afghanistan from Pakistan have escalated, but the coordination of U.S., Afghan and Pakistani forces in the border region remains weak. "We are just scratching the surface, if you will" in coordinating actions along the porous border, he said.

An influx of foreign fighters across the border is bolstering the Taliban insurgency and has shown a "significant increase from what we saw this time last year," he said, pointing to intelligence that picked up fighters speaking Uzbek, Chechen, Arabic and other languages.

"We are in a very tough fight," he said. "The idea that it might get worse before it gets better is certainly a possibility."

Additional U.S. and other international troops, helicopters and intelligence-gathering equipment are needed "as quickly as possible" to counter the insurgency, McKiernan said. He said he has asked for four more U.S. military combat brigades to fight the insurgents and train the Afghan army and police. One brigade will deploy to Afghanistan in January, although Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates said last month that the other three might not be available until next spring or summer, as more troops leave Iraq.

A sizable international force will be required in Afghanistan for years until a "tipping point" is reached that allows the Afghan army and police to take responsibility for security, he said. An effort is underway to double the size of the Afghan army, now about 67,000 strong, McKiernan said.

The decision to increase U.S. troop levels came after Gates tried to persuade NATO allies and other countries to boost their contributions, with limited success. McKiernan voiced frustration yesterday that restrictions on the combat roles of some international forces degrade the coalition's efforts. "Some come to conduct war; some come to summer camp, quite frankly," McKiernan said.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Gates vs. the Pentagon Bureaucracy: Déjà Vu - TIME

Gates vs. the Pentagon Bureaucracy: Déjà Vu - TIME: "On"Monday Defense Secretary Robert Gates gave a speech at the National Defense University in Washington excoriating the military establishment he inherited on taking the job almost two years ago. Many saw the address as an attack on his predecessor in the job, Donald Rumsfeld. But while Gates did upbraid the Rumsfeldian fascination with high-tech weapons and the slimming down of fighting forces these would supposedly allow, the prime target of his address was something Rumsfeld himself had railed against as well, the Pentagon bureaucracy, in a speech to Pentagon bureaucrats on September 10, 2001, only hours before a hijacked airliner crashed into the building and killed 184 people. What's remarkable is how little has changed since 9/11.

Gates, of course, spoke to a military embroiled in two difficult wars, which gives his words greater urgency. Yet some of the problems he's denouncing are rooted in the same ones decried by his predecessor. Rumsfeld had spoken during peacetime, which meant he focused on inefficiencies in the way the Pentagon buys its weapons and uses uniformed personnel to perform duties — such as guarding gates at military bases and cooking for the troops — that he argued could better be done by civilians.

"In this building, despite the era of scarce resources taxed by mounting threats, money disappears into duplicative duties, bloated bureaucracy, not because of greed, but gridlock. Innovation is stifled not by ill intent but by institutional inertia," Rumsfeld warned in 2001. "Just as we must transform America's military capability to meet changing threats, we must transform the way the department works and what it works on." He spoke of launching a major push to wring inefficiencies from the way the Defense Department does business, although that effort was sidelined the next morning when American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the Pentagon.

In this week's speech, Gates blamed that same Pentagon inertia for hampering U.S. success in Afghanistan and Iraq. He cited the laggard efforts to develop better armor to protect soldiers, and drones to tell them where the enemy is hiding. "Why did we have to bypass existing institutions and procedures to get the capabilities we need to protect our troops and pursue the wars we are in?" Gates asked. "For every heroic and resourceful innovation by troops and commanders on the battlefield, there was some institutional shortcoming at the Pentagon they had to overcome."

Gates stressed that for the foreseeable future, the U.S. is likely to be fighting an unsavory stew of insurgents and terrorists rather than modern militaries armed with columns of tanks, armadas of ships and fleets of planes. "As then-Marine Commandant Charles Krulak predicted 10 years ago today, instead of the beloved 'son of Desert Storm,' Western militaries are confronted with the unwanted 'stepchild of Chechnya,' " Gates said. Combat in that messier realm, he argued, requires lots of cheap weapons and not so many of the glamorous ones.

High atop Gates' hit list of such unneeded weapons are F-22 fighters beyond the 183 already deployed or in the pipeline. The Air Force insists it needs perhaps twice as many of the $350 million fighters for possible wars with China or Russia. Lockheed Martin, the F-22 Raptor's builder, announced Tuesday that the plane had passed a major milestone by accumulating more than 50,000 flight hours. "The war fighter has put the Raptor to the test," the company said. "F-22s have flown in multiple Red Flag events, Northern Edge exercises, deployed to Kadena Air Base Japan, Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, and flown in the Royal International Air Tattoo and the Farnborough Air Show." But wait — there's more: the F-22 recently dropped "a small-diameter bomb at supersonic speed for the first time." Yet don't let that reference to "war fighter" fool you: the F-22 has yet to fly a single real-world combat mission, even as the Army and Marines have been stretched tight by waging war for close to seven years.

Such gleaming trophies, Gates acknowledged, "are strongly supported in the services, in the Congress, and by the defense industries" — the so-called "iron triangle" that makes reshaping Pentagon spending so difficult. The F-22, for example, is assembled from parts made by 1,000 subcontractors spread across 44 states. That's why even as Gates spoke, Congress was sending the White House a defense budget for the fiscal year that begins October 1. Although Gates has repeatedly said the Air Force's planned buy of 183 is sufficient, Congress included $523 million in the 2009 budget to begin building 20 more

Women in Afghanistan: Dying for the job - The Scotsman

Women in Afghanistan: Dying for the job - The Scotsman: "Women"in Afghanistan are being murdered simply for going out to work. Those in high-profile jobs are particularly at risk, as the assassination of a high ranking policewoman this week brutally reiterated, writes Emma Cowing
LIKE MANY working mothers, Malalai Kakar followed a routine most mornings. She would get her six children up and dressed, cook them a thin pancake filled with green onions for breakfast, see them off to school or settled into their daily chores, then head to work herself. But on Sunday morning, as Kakar walked out of her front door on her way to the office, she was shot dead. Her son, who had been due to give her a lift, was critically injured. Her murderers were members of the Taleban. Their target was Afghanistan's most senior policewoman.

The death of Commander Kakar, who at 41 was head of Kandahar city's department of crimes against women, has sent shockwaves through the international community. The European Union mission described the attack as "particularly abhorrent" and said she was an "example" to her fellow citizens. Hamid Karzai, the Afghan President, described the killing as "an act of cowardice by enemies of peace, welfare and reconstruction in the country". But to many, not least her family, Commander Kakar's death comes as little surprise.

For months she had been the target of death threats, and there had been several previous attacks on her life. She carried a pistol underneath her burqa, and often wore the traditional form of Islamic dress in an attempt to remain unrecognised when travelling within Kandahar. As the first female graduate of Kandahar Police Academy – no mean feat in a city that was once the headquarters of the Taleban and is still home to many of its sympathisers – she became the first woman investigator in Kandahar Police Department, and at the time of her death headed a team of around ten female police officers who made it their priority to protect women's rights. In Afghanistan, even seven years after the fall of the Taleban regime, such a career does not go unnoticed.

Today, in theory at least, Afghan women can participate in all walks of life. Where once women were confined to the house and – under the Taleban – given no voice, no rights, and certainly no employment, they are now able to play a far more active role in their country's society. Of Afghanistan's 361 MPs, 91 are women. Women are once again working – in schools and hospitals, even in police departments, and taboo issues such as honour killings, abortions, forced marriages and rape are being discussed more openly than ever before. There are human rights organisations fighting for women's rights, and a government that recognises the right for them to be heard.

But for many working women in Afghanistan, particularly those with a public profile, a life of employment is far from safe. Kandahar's own MP, Zurghana Kakar (no relation to Commander Kakar), recently narrowly survived an attempt on her life which killed her husband. One of Commander Kakar's closest friends, Safia Ahmed-jan, the provincial director of the Ministry of Women's Affairs and an outspoken advocate on women's rights described by George W Bush as "a leader who wanted to give young girls an education in Afghanistan", was killed in front of her home in September 2006. In June, a policewoman named Bibi Hoor, was shot and killed in Herat after ignoring warnings that she must give up her job.

Commander Kakar, for one, appeared gloomy about the future. In one interview, she said: "We are trying to apply the law and the constitution is supposed to protect women's rights. But I fear that we are going backwards. More and more obstacles are being put in our path. Instead of becoming more confident, women are becoming more afraid of the threats."

One woman who puts her life on the line every day is Kabul MP Shukria Barakzai, a former journalist who was inspired to join politics when, as a young woman under the Taleban, she was whipped by the religious police for being out on a Kabul street without a male chaperone. As the death threats against her have increased – the most recent saying she would be the target of a suicide bomber, she has been forced to reconsider her political career, during which she has spoken out against the country's warlords and spoken up vociferously for women's rights.

"When I leave home these days on work, I am not quite sure whether I will be back (alive]. Life has become so insecure. I am not planning to leave the country yet, but I do have to think about my kids," she said recently. The government, she adds, does little to help, other than letting her know she is at risk.

"That is all that the government does – send a letter by mail once every month saying my life is under threat. There isn't talk of even providing security. I am going crazy. My friends are telling me to leave the country. My husband is worried. After all, I am also a mother and a wife."

Then there is Afghanistan's own Aung Sang Suu Kyi, Malalai Joya. Dubbed 'the most famous woman in Afghanistan', Joya was an MP until last May when she was thrown out of the parliament for likening her colleagues to farmyard animals. In 2003 she rose to international attention when she spoke out publicly against the domination of warlords in the country during the formation of the country's new government, objecting that war criminals were being given a free pass to influence the new regime. Her words caused outrage among the country's religious elders, and she has survived four assassination attempts since then. Yet she remains uncowed, and continues to campaign both at home and abroad while many – including the American writers Naomi Klein and Noam Chomsky – clamour for her reinstatement.

"Never again will I whisper in the shadows of intimidation," she stated recently. "I am but a symbol of my people's struggle and a servant to their cause. And if I were to be killed for what I believe in, then let my blood be the beacon for emancipation and my words a revolutionary paradigm for generations to come."

And there are other strong women, campaigning for the rights and safety of Afghan women. There is Fatana Gailani, the founder of the Afghanistan Women Council, which she established in Peshawar, Pakistan, in 1978 while in exile from her home country and now runs health clinics and schools, campaigns for women's rights and those of refugees crossing the border into Pakistan.

And there is Soraya Sobhrang, a former gynaecologist who runs the women's rights department of the Afghan Human Rights Commission and campaigns vociferously on the current practice of (all-male) tribal councils deciding the fate of women caught up in legal cases in many rural areas – often ruling against them.

Joya, for one, remains pragmatic about her future, and knows that she may one day be killed. Yet her hope remains that the seeds of change have already been planted, if only because women such as herself, and Commander Kakar, are willing to take such huge personal risks to improve the lives of women across Afghanistan.

"They will kill me but they will not kill my voice, because it will be the voice of all Afghan women," she said recently. "You can cut the flower, but you cannot stop the coming of spring."

[bth: America and its allies should be championing women's rights instead of pretending there isn't a problem.]

Pro-War Group Offering Cash For Frats To Demonstrate At VP Debate

Pro-War Group Offering Cash For Frats To Demonstrate At VP Debate: "In"hopes of organizing a robust demonstration for the vice presidential debate this Thursday in St. Louis, the pro-Iraq War (and ostensibly pro-McCain) organization, Vets for Freedom, is resorting to offering local college fraternities hundreds of dollars if their members come and hold signs.

In an email obtained by the Huffington Post, Vets for Freedom field staffer Laura Meyer offered a fraternity at St. Louis University a "sizable donation" - plus free lunch - if it could use their pledges to demonstrate outside the VP debate.

"I was emailing you today," wrote Meyer, "because I am trying to find people who would be willing to hold up signs for a few hours in the afternoon this Thursday outside the VP debate site. It's only for a few hours and you can gain a lot from it.... first off, lunch for any guys who agree to volunteer will be on me. Secondly, they will get lots of media attention! My organization did a similar thing in Mississippi last week and a ton of them were on TV. Meaning, the guys could wear their [REDACTED] gear while holding up our signs and get attention for their frat. Also, they will get to hang out with a bunch of really cool Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans.

"Lastly, and here's the kicker.... if you guys can get us at least 20 volunteers for those few hours, my organization will make a sizable donation to your fraternity. If you use pledges you could look at it as 'free money and free publicity'. If this sounds like something you may be willing to help us out with, please let me know ASAP!"

Reached by phone, Meyer said the total amount of cash the frat could earn was between $200 and $250 for organizing 20-plus members. She also noted that the program was a success in generating publicity during last Friday's presidential debate.

Judy Mayka, a spokesperson for the national chapter, said that the practice of paying for demonstrators had been going on without their knowledge and would subsequently end. ...

British envoy says mission in Afghanistan is doomed, according to leaked memo - Times Online

British envoy says mission in Afghanistan is doomed, according to leaked memo - Times Online: "Britain’s"Ambassador to Afghanistan has stoked opposition to the allied operation there by reportedly saying that the campaign against the Taleban insurgents would fail and that the best hope was to install an acceptable dictator in Kabul.

Sir Sherard Cowper-Coles, a Foreign Office heavyweight with a reputation for blunt speaking, delivered his bleak assessment of the seven-year Nato campaign in Afghanistan in a briefing with a French diplomat, according to French leaks. However sources in Whitehall said the account was a parody of the British Ambassador’s remarks.

François Fitou, the deputy French Ambassador to Kabul, told President Sarkozy’s office and the Foreign Ministry in a coded cable that Sir Sherard believed that “the current situation is bad; the security situation is getting worse; so is corruption and the Government has lost all trust”.

According to Mr Fitou, Sir Sherard told him on September 2 that the Nato-led military operation was making things worse. “The foreign forces are ensuring the survival of a regime which would collapse without them . . . They are slowing down and complicating an eventual exit from the crisis, which will probably be dramatic,” the Ambassador was quoted as saying.

Britain had no alternative to supporting the United States in Afghanistan, “but we should tell them that we want to be part of a winning strategy, not a losing one”, he was quoted as saying. “In the short term we should dissuade the American presidential candidates from getting more bogged down in Afghanistan . . . The American strategy is doomed to fail.”

The Foreign and Commonwealth Office said that the cable did not accurately reflect the views of the Ambassador. It is understood that the meeting between Sir Sherard and the French envoy did take place, but that the French account of is regarded in Whitehall as a gross distortion. The French Foreign Ministry did not deny the existence of the cable but it deplored its publication by Le Canard Enchaîné, the investigative weekly. “I am not alarmed because I know that this is not the official British position,” a spokesman told The Times.

Claude Angeli, the veteran Canard journalist who reported the cable, said that he had a copy of the two-page decoded text, which was partly printed in facsimile in his newspaper. “It is quite explosive,” he told The Times.

“What I did not say is that our French diplomats quite agree with the British.” Mr Angeli also reported that the French had been told that Britain aimed to withdraw its forces from Afghanistan by 2010.

The pessimistic view in the cable is common among French diplomats and military officers who are concerned by President Sarkozy’s strong support for the Nato operation in Afghanistan and his recent reinforcement of the French contingent. There was suspicion in Whitehall that the British position was exaggerated for French purposes.

Sir Sherard, 53, a former Ambassador to Saudi Arabia,was sent to Kabul last year to beef up Britain’s role in the campaign to secure the Government of President Karzai and combat the resurgent Taleban. In an interview last year he said that Britain could expect to stay in Afghanistan for decades.

According to the French cable, he said that the only realistic outlook for Afghanistan would be the installation of “an acceptable dictator” within five or ten years and that public opinion should be primed for this. British insiders said that the Ambassador never uttered these words. “The trouble with the British Ambassador is that he is always at the high end of gloom and doom when in fact it’s not that bad,” a diplomatic source said.

After a summer of violent clashes with the Taleban alliance sources admitted that the perception was that the enemy was gaining in confidence. But, said one military source, “ in combat terms Nato is still kicking a***”.

— Britain is withdrawing the children of its diplomats from Pakistan after last month’s suicide bomb attack, which killed 55 people at the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad, the Foreign Office said.

Foreign Policy: "Caracas top in the list of crime in the world"

Daily News - EL UNIVERSAL: "Caracas"tops the list of the five cities in the world with the highest rates of "brutal and murderous violence." The city of 3.2 million people has a rate of 130 homicides for every 100,000 residents, according to official statistics published in the review Foreign Policy (FP).

According to FP, the other four capital cities are Cape Town, South Africa, with a rate of 62 murders for every 100,000 of its residents; New Orleans, United States, with a rate of 67 to 95 murders for every 100,000; Moscow, with a rate of 9.6 for every 100,000 residents and Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, with a rate of 54 for every 100,000 inhabitants.

"Caracas has become in recent years far more dangerous than any other South American city, surpassing even the once notorious criminal rates of Bogota, Colombia," said the article published in the magazine, Efe reported.

AFP: US frees 2,400 detainees in Iraq during Ramadan

AFP: US frees 2,400 detainees in Iraq during Ramadan: "US"authorities have freed 2,404 detainees in the four weeks of Ramadan, the American military said on Monday, still short of the 3,000 they promised to release during the Muslim fasting month.

Releases accelerated in the past week as 955 were freed, compared to a total of 1,449 for the first three weeks of Ramadan, the military said in a statement.

At the begining of the fasting month, the US military promised to free about 3,000 detainees during Ramadan which ends this week.

However, the US military said they expected more people to be released in the next few days.

"The projections for the final few days of the Ramadan release period are ambitious and assume no delays or unexpected interruptions to the release process," the statement added.

The US military, however, warned against haste.

"These are not mass releases, but fair releases," US military spokesman Brigadier General David Quantock said in a separate statement. He added they have speeded up the process of reviewing cases against detainees.

With the latest releases, the number of detainees in US custody has dropped to 17,900, the statement said. Since the start of 2008, some 14,200 detainees have been freed....

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Auto sales plunge as credit crunch hits | Reuters

Auto sales plunge as credit crunch hits | Reuters: ..."The"26-percent drop in industry-wide auto sales was sharper than expected and coincided with a crisis on Wall Street that automakers said rocked consumer confidence and made it harder for remaining shoppers to finance vehicles.

Sales were down 24 percent at Honda Motor Co, 32 percent at Toyota Motor Corp and 37 percent at Nissan Motor Co. Chrysler LLC sales were down 33 percent.

General Motors Corp, which was more aggressive in its discounting by offering an employee-price sale, posted a 16-percent sales decline. That was a narrower decline than analysts had expected, and it made GM the only major player to gain significant share in a collapsing market.

Across the board, auto executives said Americans had either walked away from vehicle purchases or been stymied by a lack of financing or requirements for larger down-payments.

The bleak sales results represent one of the earliest readings of the impact on Main Street from a now global credit crisis that has triggered a consolidation on Wall Street.

Toyota's sales decline was its steepest since 1987. The Japanese automaker's sales were down by over 40 percent in key regional markets, including California, where the drop in housing prices has hit consumers the hardest

As the stock market fell and the debate in Washington on a financial bailout raged this week, some buyers of Toyota's luxury Lexus models asked for deposits back.

"We saw the trend steadily decline," Toyota sales chief Bob Carter said of the uncharacteristically weak demand at the end of the month when sales normally peak at dealerships.

Ford also said the debate over the still-pending, banking bailout stopped buyers in their tracks by injecting a new note of uncertainty. "It was tantamount to a natural disaster," said Ford sales analyst George Pipas....

The top U.S. auto dealership group AutoNation Inc said on Tuesday that car loan approval rates had dropped to about 60 percent from 90 percent a year ago...

[bth: forgetting Wall Street, this is Main Street. This is a big, big problem.]

Somali Pirates Tell All - They’re in It for the Money -

Somali Pirates Tell All - They’re in It for the Money - "The"Somali pirates who hijacked a Ukrainian freighter loaded with tanks, artillery, grenade launchers and ammunition said in an interview on Tuesday that they had no idea the ship was carrying arms when they seized it on the high seas.

We just saw a big ship,” the pirates’ spokesman, Sugule Ali, said in a telephone interview. “So we stopped it.”

The pirates quickly learned, though, that their booty was an estimated $30 million worth of heavy weaponry, heading for Kenya or Sudan, depending on whom you ask...

[bth: this is an interesting interview conducted by satellite phone from the deck of the seized ship. They do it because they can and it makes them money.]

09/30/2008 | Surge test: Will Iraq's government back Sunni militias?

McClatchy Washington Bureau | 09/30/2008 | Surge test: Will Iraq's government back Sunni militias?: ..."Al"Qaisi and the other roughly 100,000 men of the mostly Sunni paramilitary groups — which were formed by U.S. troops after tribal sheikhs in Anbar province turned against al Qaida in Iraq and quieted a province once thought lost to insurgents — are now in a delicate balance.

The security gains of the past year — violence in Baghdad is down by 85 percent — are far from secure, although American politicians claim that President Bush's surge of additional U.S. troops has put the United States on a path to victory in Iraq. Unemployment in Sunni areas remains high, basic services are still poor, distrust of the United States and the Shiite-led Iraqi government is widespread and fears of Shiite militias persist.

On Wednesday, al Qaisi and 54,419 other men in Baghdad province will transition to Iraqi government control. That's more than half of the Sons of Iraq (SOI) who're now being paid by the U.S. military to protect neighborhoods — and in some cases not to shoot at American troops.

In its quarterly report on the security situation in Iraq, released Tuesday, the U.S. military found that integrating the Sons of Iraq is one of that nation's biggest security obstacles. It called the slow transition "a concern" and said, " . . . the integration and employment of SOI remains a significant challenge."

The Sons of Iraq worry that putting them under the control of Shiite Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki is a ploy to detain and disband them. Already, Sons of Iraq leaders in the northern province of Diyala are hiding in neighboring Syria. In Baghdad, only 3,400 Sons of Iraq have transitioned into the security forces, and barely any have entered the Iraqi army or national police.

Al Qaisi swears that he won't report to the Iraqi Army, despite the fact that he and his men are among the 50,000 or so Sunni militiamen who gave their names to the Iraqi government for registration.

A man with a gruff face and a sharp tongue, al Qaisi said he speaks for a series of armed groups and for some 30,000 men across the country who once fought American troops and the Iraqi government. He's an ally of the U.S. military now, but if he's betrayed he'll become an enemy of the Americans again, he said.

"We would not like to see them fighting the Sons of Iraq again," he said, sitting next to the head of the Sons of Iraq from a neighboring Shiite area. The two groups brought down the concrete wall between their neighborhoods last week in a ceremony to mark the end of the tit-for-tat killings of Shiites and Sunnis that used to happen here.

"I hope the Iraqi government does not commit a mistake against us," he warned.

"Because we fight militias and terrorists, the Sons of Iraq must go," he said. "They (the Iraqi government) worry that we will be the ones who will be elected in the parliament. We are the ones loved in the neighborhoods."

The U.S. government has put backstops in place, said Army Lt. Col. Jeffrey Kulmayer, who's responsible for the program. Currently the plan is to transition the men on Oct. 1, and the Iraqi government has promised to pay their salaries, currently about $300 a month apiece, until they find "meaningful employment."

If the Maliki government doesn't pay the mostly Sunni Arab men, the United States is prepared to continue paying the men until the Iraqi government does, Kulmayer said. U.S. officials also have asked the Maliki government not to act on arrest warrants that are more than six months old.

"We have expressed to (Iraqi) officials that, as a part of reconciliation, they should not detain SOI for alleged crimes that occurred prior to them being SOI," Kulmayer said. "They understand what is at stake. We are in agreement that the GOI (Government of Iraq) will detain SOI only in accordance with Iraqi law and with a current warrant, issued within the previous six months, by a competent Iraqi judicial official."

This is the test of reconciliation, Kulmayer said.

"We're not going to abandon them," he said. "It's not about just taking these men and giving them work, it's about taking a population that was considered separate and then reintegrating them and offering them hope and a future and a part of the new Iraq. That's why we think it's so important that the right percentage, this 20 to 30 percent, gets into the Iraqi security forces."

For the transition to work and violence to remain at bay, however, Maliki, who's been pushing for a faster withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraqi cities and demanded the early transition of the Sons of Iraq, must make concessions, and so must the Sunni men being absorbed into the security forces.

The United States must maintain a combat troop presence for a time as trust is built between the Shiite-led government and the newly absorbed Sunnis.

Maliki would like to transition the Sons of Iraq into the Iraqi government and by many accounts eliminate them, but it's important that the United States make sure that doesn't happen, said Stephen Biddle, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

"Critical to the success of the surge is that the Sunnis at large remain in cease-fire, and central to their remaining in cease-fire is that they have security they can trust," he said. "With respect to the U.S. government in Iraq, a sizable presence is absolutely essential for a couple years to prevent a return to warfare.

"Maliki's ideal preference and the Sons of Iraq ideal preference are obviously incompatible with each other; neither party is going to get exactly what they want here without a return to warfare, and what is going to have to happen if there is not a return to warfare is compromise."

For now, Khaled al Qaisi will wait and see whether transition means betrayal. He still calls himself a member of the "national resistance." There's no trust between him and the government, he said.

"We have an agreement with the Americans, not the government of Iraq," he said.

Pakistan replaces chief of powerful spy agency

The Raw Story | Pakistan replaces chief of powerful spy agency: "Pakistan"has appointed a new head of its powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, amid US accusations that the military spy organisation secretly backs Taliban rebels on the Afghan border.

Lieutenant General Ahmed Shujaa Pasha, formerly head of military operations, was named director general of the ISI late Monday, a terse military statement announced. He replaces Lieutenant General Nadeem Taj.

The move is part of a major shake-up of the army's top brass after US, Afghan and Indian officials alleged in recent months that the shadowy organisation was complicit in the Taliban insurgency wracking the region.

Pasha is considered to be a close aide to the relatively reformist Pakistani military chief Ashfaq Kayani, who ran the ISI until October 2007. Taj, by contrast, was a key lieutenant of former president Pervez Musharraf.

The army insisted the 14 new appointments announced on Monday were routine.

"These were the changes due over a period of time. This is how the system works in the army," chief military spokesman Major General Athar Abbas told AFP.

But movements in Pakistan's military and intelligence services are closely watched by the United States and other allies for signs of the nuclear-armed nation's stability and commitment to the "war on terror".

"The change comes at a time when there was a lot of talk about ISI in the Western media," security analyst Talat Masood, a retired Pakistan army general, told AFP.

"With the new ISI chief, General Kayani has completed a team of his choice. He will be able to now lead the army with greater confidence."

In his previous job, Pasha was responsible for military offensives against Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants in northwest Pakistan and the troubled tribal belt bordering Afghanistan.

The ISI has helped capture or kill hundreds of senior Al-Qaeda militants in Pakistan since Musharraf joined the "war on terror" in 2001, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-confessed 9/11 mastermind.

But many Western officials suspect that, having helped to create Afghanistan's hardline 1996-2001 Taliban regime, the organisation is still playing a double game.

In August, the NATO commander in Afghanistan, US General David D. McKiernan, told AFP there "certainly is a level of ISI complicity" in Taliban militancy along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.

Whether US forces should strike militant targets in Pakistan if the ISI and other agencies fail to do so has become an issue in the US election race, with Democratic candidate Barack Obama backing such attacks.

Afghanistan, which is supposed to be Pakistan's ally against extremism, and India, Islamabad's historic foe, accused the ISI of involvement in the deadly bombing of the Indian embassy in Kabul in July.

Pakistan strongly denies any such links, although Musharraf admitted in 2006 that some retired Pakistani intelligence officers may have been abetting extremists.

The ISI is feared at home as it plays a central, although covert, political role in a country that has spent more than half of its 61-year history under military rule.

The change in the ISI comes after the government led by President Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of slain former premier Benazir Bhutto, tried to put the elite agency under the control of the interior ministry in July.

That move was hastily withdrawn after a protest by Pakistan's powerful military establishment.

In theory ISI works under the control of the prime minister, but in practice its functions are mainly run by Pakistan's pervasive security set-up.

[bth: I believe this is part of a negotiated deal involving factions within Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the US. I wouldn't be surprised to see a sharp drop in cross border US raiding; something to the effect, we won't cross your border if ISI will stop coopering so heavily with the Taliban.]

Monday, September 29, 2008

Army creates suicide prevention board -

Army creates suicide prevention board - "The".S. Army is establishing a suicide prevention board to examine the mental health of its recruiters around the country after the fourth suicide in three years by Houston, Texas-based recruiters, according to Army officials.

The board will look at how to handle the high-stress climate facing recruiters who may be both under pressure from their job and victims of post-combat deployment stress, according to Douglas Smith, a spokesman from the U.S. Army Recruiting command.

"The United States Army Recruiting Command is deeply concerned by the instances of suicide within the Houston Recruiting Battalion," said a statement released by the Recruiting Command. "The board's objective will be to prevent future suicides, increase suicide awareness, analyze trends and highlight additional tools and resources to combat suicide within the Recruiting Command."

The Army's examination comes after a sergeant first class, a member of the Houston Recruiting Battalion and an Iraq combat veteran, killed himself at his home earlier this month.

CNN has chosen not to name any of the recruiters.

The sergeant's was the second suicide within the ranks of the battalion within weeks, Army officials said. In August, a staff sergeant, a combat veteran in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, also killed himself.

Another Houston recruiter killed himself in 2007 and a yet another in 2005, Army records show....

HMS Exeter destroyer retired early amid Navy budget fears - Telegraph

HMS Exeter destroyer retired early amid Navy budget fears - Telegraph: "HMS"Exeter, used to shoot down Argentina Skyhawk jets in the Falkland War in 1982, sailed back to Portsmouth harbour last month, fuelling fears the Navy is suffering from defence budget cuts.

It has reportedly been downgraded to a "lower state of readiness" several months before it was due to be taken out of service.

Although the Ministry of Defence insists the Type 42 destroyer remains an important part of the fleet, there are fears the move demonstrates the fears over cuts in the defence budgets.

Last month a report by the UK National Defence Association said the Armed Forces were all "woefully under-funded" and the defence budget needs to be increased from the current £34 billion to £50 billion over the next three years.

Defence funding has hit the lowest level since the Thirties with no increase expected despite worsening world events.

The 1998 Strategic Defence Review specified a requirement of 32 frigates and destroyers. Today, there are 25 and the planned withdrawal of HMS Exeter and HMS Southampton next year will reduce it to 23.

Although the Type 42s will eventually be replaced by the more capable Type 45s, the current shipbuilding plans include only six 45s, down from an original number of 12.

Admiral Lord Boyce, former chief of defence staff, said: "Defence as a whole is desperately inadequately funded for the task the armed forces are required to do and have been required to do for the last five [or] six years.

"We are falling very short, in naval terms, of meeting up to the boast of being a first class power."

The MoD said: "The Royal Navy is meeting its global operational commitments with ships deployed across the world on a variety of tasks... The Royal Navy remains one of the world's most powerful maritime forces."

[bth: here is another example of the gross inadequacy of UK defense spending. US spending on defense is grossly inefficient. Britain's has an army now the size of our Marine Corp. Its Navy has no money to keep its ships at sea. This situation will lead to disaster.]

Taliban assassins kill ranking Afghan policewoman

Taliban assassins kill ranking Afghan policewoman: "Two"Taliban assassins on a motorbike shot and killed a senior policewoman as she left for work in Afghanistan's largest southern city Sunday and gravely wounded her son.

Malalai Kakar, 41, who led Kandahar city's department of crimes against women, was leaving home Sunday when she was killed, said Zalmai Ayubi, spokesman for the Kandahar provincial governor. Her 18-year-old son was wounded, he said.

The Taliban claimed responsibility.

Militants frequently attack projects, schools and businesses run by women. The hard-line Taliban regime, which was ousted in the 2001 U.S.-led invasion, did not allow women outside the home without a male escort.

President Hamid Karzai condemned the assassination, as did the European Union, which said it was "appalled by the brutal targeting" of Kakar.

"Any murder of a police officer is to be condemned, but the killing of a female officer whose service was not only to her country, but to Afghan women, to whom Ms. Kakar served as an example, is particularly abhorrent," the EU said in a statement....

Report: Taliban, Afghans in secret talks -

Report: Taliban, Afghans in secret talks - "The"Taliban and the Afghanistan government have been involved in secret peace talks to bring an end to the conflict, The Observer reported Sunday.

The British newspaper said it had learned a senior former Taliban leader has been talking to Kabul officials in a loose peace process facilitated by Saudi Arabia and given logistical support by Britain. The unnamed Taliban negotiator has been shuttling between the militant Islamist group's bases, Saudi Arabia and European capitals, sources told The Observer.

The revelation contradicts British government statements that negotiations with the Taliban, denounced as a terrorist organization, could only happen when it had given up violence, the newspaper said.

The secret talks, however, have lost momentum in recent weeks, unnamed Afghan officials said.

"They keep changing what they are asking for," one official told the newspaper. "One day it is one thing, the next another."

He said one aim of the talks was to drive a wedge between the Taliban and Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorist organization.

Report: Taliban, Afghans in secret talks -

Report: Taliban, Afghans in secret talks - "The"Taliban and the Afghanistan government have been involved in secret peace talks to bring an end to the conflict, The Observer reported Sunday.

The British newspaper said it had learned a senior former Taliban leader has been talking to Kabul officials in a loose peace process facilitated by Saudi Arabia and given logistical support by Britain. The unnamed Taliban negotiator has been shuttling between the militant Islamist group's bases, Saudi Arabia and European capitals, sources told The Observer.

The revelation contradicts British government statements that negotiations with the Taliban, denounced as a terrorist organization, could only happen when it had given up violence, the newspaper said.

The secret talks, however, have lost momentum in recent weeks, unnamed Afghan officials said.

"They keep changing what they are asking for," one official told the newspaper. "One day it is one thing, the next another."

He said one aim of the talks was to drive a wedge between the Taliban and Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida terrorist organization.

New Attack Ad: McCain and Computers 2.0 - - Video

New Attack Ad: McCain and Computers 2.0 - - Video

WATCH: Sarah Palin drives her handlers insane during the Couric interview - - Video

WATCH: Sarah Palin drives her handlers insane during the Couric interview - - Video

Get Your War On: Bailout?! - - Video

Get Your War On: Bailout?! - - Video
Informed Comment