Saturday, February 21, 2009

YouTube - Wall Street Crooks Take Big Bonuses

YouTube - Wall Street Crooks Take Big Bonuses

Minstrel Boy - Blackhawk Down Version

Conan O'Brien Final "Late Night" Show: Will Ferrell, Classic Skits, Andy Richter, Tribute To Staff (VIDEO)

Conan O'Brien Final "Late Night" Show: Will Ferrell, Classic Skits, Andy Richter, Tribute To Staff (VIDEO)

Conan O'Brien Final "Late Night" Show: Will Ferrell, Classic Skits, Andy Richter, Tribute To Staff (VIDEO)

Conan O'Brien Final "Late Night" Show: Will Ferrell, Classic Skits, Andy Richter, Tribute To Staff (VIDEO)

Conan O'Brien Final "Late Night" Show: Will Ferrell, Classic Skits, Andy Richter, Tribute To Staff (VIDEO)

Conan O'Brien Final "Late Night" Show: Will Ferrell, Classic Skits, Andy Richter, Tribute To Staff (VIDEO)

Two guilty of water contract rigging

FayObserver.com - Current Article Page
A Bladenboro man and a Florida man have been convicted in federal court in Atlanta of multiple charges related to rigging water contracts for U.S. military troops overseas.

Mack S. Smith, 57, of Bladenboro, was convicted of 38 counts of bribery, 15 counts of wire fraud and one count of money laundering, according to a release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

Richard E. Long, 65, of St. Augustine, Fla., was convicted of 18 counts of bribery, six counts of wire fraud and one count of money laundering, the release said.

A third defendant, Long’s wife, Debra, was acquitted of all charges.

The three were indicted in February 2008....

According to the indictment, Smith owned WATEC Inc., a Tennessee company that provided water-purification equipment, training and servicing. Richard Long was a civilian employee of the Army Forces Command. He was the water and petroleum program manager from approximately November 1996 through December 2004. While in that position, he was based at Fort McPherson in the Atlanta area.

Starting in approximately October 1998, Long entered into an agreement by which Smith would make secret payments or wire transfers in exchange for Long’s recommendation that all water-purification contracts be awarded to his company

During Long’s tenure as the water and petroleum program manager, WATEC was continually awarded contracts on which he bid, either as the primary contractor or as a subcontractor. At least one contract was valued at more than $32 million.

From 2001 to 2007, Smith made payments to the Longs totaling approximately $549,700.


Informed Comment

Informed Comment

IED factory found inside house in Mosul : Aswat Al Iraq

IED factory found inside house in Mosul : Aswat Al Iraq: "NINEWA / Aswat al-Iraq: A large laboratory used for the manufacturing of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) was found inside a house in Mosul city, according to an army source.

“The factory was found inside a house in Haramat area, western Mosul,” the source told Aswat al-Iraq news agency.

“Two wanted men were arrested inside the factory, which contained more than 50 IEDs, 40 hand grenades, 2 tons of TNT explosives, 2 tons of chlorine….,” the source noted.

Mosul, the capital city of Ninewa province, lies 405 km north of Baghdad."

Accountants, Guidance Counselors, and Lion Tamers (The Britannica Blog "Guide" to Careers) | Britannica Blog

Accountants, Guidance Counselors, and Lion Tamers (The Britannica Blog "Guide" to Careers) | Britannica Blog

MacKinnon - Cina's Censorship 2.0: How companies censor blogger

MacKinnon: "This study explores an under-studied layer of Chinese Internet censorship: how Chinese Internet companies censor user–generated content, usually by deleting it or preventing its publication. Systematic testing of Chinese blog service providers reveals that domestic censorship is very decentralized with wide variation from company to company. Test results also showed that a great deal of politically sensitive material survives in the Chinese blogosphere, and that chances for its survival can likely be improved with knowledge and strategy. The study concludes that choices and actions by private individuals and companies can have a significant impact on the overall balance of freedom and control in the Chinese blogosphere."...

Econbrowser: First Reading on (part of) Q1 GDP

Econbrowser: First Reading on (part of) Q1 GDP: "Here's a compilation of e-forecasting's January GDP estimate, Macroeconomic Adviser's December GDP estimate and forecast for 2009Q1. E-forecasting's estimate is that January real GDP was declining at an 11.8% at annual rates."...

PTSD Combat : Winning the War Within

PTSD Combat : Winning the War Within

Happy Darwin Day: Evolution Explainer | Rocketboom

Happy Darwin Day: Evolution Explainer | Rocketboom

Martyrs & Broken Bones - upcoming Lebanon elections

Martyrs & Broken Bones « Qifa Nabki
... “So how’s the political situation these days? You see I’m…”

“The situation is very difficult to read. Very difficult. In the south, there is no contest, as Hizbullah and Amal will take everything. In Beirut 2 and 3, Hariri will triumph again. Same with Tripoli. Any differences between Safadi and Hariri will be settled in advance of the elections, and deals will be cut to ensure that Tripoli remains in the March 14th camp. The only place where you’ll see some contests is in the Mountain. For example, in Jbeil there will be bone-breaking. In Batroun there will be bone-breaking. In Keserwan Aoun is very strong, but if Michel al-Murr and the Armenians form an alliance with Sheikh Amine, then there will be bone-breaking. So you see, the election will come down to a few Christian seats.”

“Whose chances do you like most?”

“I personally think that Aoun’s going to lose. Don’t get me wrong, I used to like Aoun. I liked him during the war, I liked him when he was in Paris, and I liked him when he first returned to Lebanon. But then we discovered that he came back after making a deal with the Syrians. So how can I like him anymore? He is working for Syria and Iran. I mean, in all honesty, oh General, aren’t you ashamed?”

“So I take it you’re not going to vote for him.”

“No. And I don’t think he will win. A lot of Christians have changed their mind about him.”

“Where do you vote?”

“In Achrafieh.”

“So your vote will actually make a difference.”

“Yes, there will be much bone-breaking in Achrafieh.”


Nasrallah Tips His Hand

Nasrallah Tips His Hand « Qifa Nabki
One of the most interesting parts of the speech, from my perspective, came toward the end, when Nasrallah discussed the upcoming elections. He said (and I paraphrase): Lebanon is not Switzerland. We are not a nation of political parties. We are a nation of sects, and even those parties established on the basis of a political identity are de facto sectarian parties because their constituents come primarily from one sect (i.e. like the PSP and the FPM). Perhaps, one day, Lebanon will have evolved to the point where its parties are purely political; in that scenario, it would be possible for a party or coalition to rule in a dominant manner after winning an election in a decisive fashion. However, we are not at that stage yet, and therefore, a ruling coalition must govern through a process of consensus, respecting the concerns of its opposition.

He continued: This is why we are telling you from now, that should our coalition win a majority in the upcoming elections, we will be prepared to form a national unity government with the other side, granting them a blocking veto. We do this in the spirit of consensus, and in the spirit of confronting together the many economic, political, and security-related challenges that face our nation.

Nasrallah then threw down the gauntlet, saying: If the other side rejects our offer and chooses to boycott the new government, our coalition will not hesitate to rule on its own (while respecting the interests of the nation.) In making this point, Nasrallah was sending a very clear message to those on the March 14th side who had been publicly contemplating boycotting the government in the event of a March 8th win. In all cases, Nasrallah mused, Hizbullah is not even that interested in getting involved in the cabinet, and would be happy if its allies in the opposition were to occupy its share of seats, leaving the Hizb to manage the resistance.

Translation? Hizbullah would like to avoid a Hamas-style coming out party at all costs, in the event of a March 8th win. They would like, more than anything else, to go back to the old arrangement: we’ll mind our business if you mind yours.


Indian pub attacks prompt pink knickers protest

Indian pub attacks prompt pink knickers protest | World news | guardian.co.uk


India pink undies protest

It was a protest that spawned a movement. Fed up with moral policing by radical Hindu groups who had attacked women in pubs and targeted unmarried couples celebrating Valentine's Day, a group of women decided to fight back – with pink knickers.

The result was a remarkably successful dirty dissent. Not only did 40,000 items of rose-tinted underwear, much of it apparently unwashed, end up flooding the offices of the Sri Ram Sena (Lord Ram's Army), the non-violent act defused much of the tension surrounding the acts of vigilantism by self-appointed guardians of "Indian culture".

Spearheading the new movement is "A Consortium of Pub-going, Loose and Forward Women", a group of young female journalists, lawyers and academics, who began with a Facebook group protesting at the attacks on several young women last month in a pub in Mangalore, a university town in the southern state of Karnataka. Yesterday it had nearly 50,000 members.....




Mumbai attackers had hit list of 320 world targets

Mumbai attackers had hit list of 320 world targets | World news | guardian.co.uk
The plotters behind the Mumbai attack, which left more than 170 people dead, had placed India's financial capital on a list of 320 worldwide locations as potential targets for commando-style terror strikes, the Guardian has learned.

It suggests that Lashkar-e-Taiba, the outlawed terror group that planned much of the attack from Pakistan, had ambitions well beyond causing mayhem in India.

Western intelligence agencies have accessed the computer and email account of Lashkar's communications chief, Zarar Shah, and found a list of possible targets, only 20 of which were in India....


Nato supply facilities in Punjab shutdown

DAWN.COM | – Punjab | Nato supply facilities in Punjab shut
LAHORE: Two Nato supply facilities in Attock and Mianwali in Punjab have been closed down. Law Minister Rana Sanaullah Khan on Thursday conceded in the Punjab Assembly, the presence of what he said was a privately owned resting area in Attock for trucks carrying supplies to Afghanistan saying orders had been issued to immediately close it down....


Helplessly hoping - Belmont Club

...Belmont Club » Helplessly hoping
So why are the Chinese dissidents worth less than the Gazans? We guess the answer and it saddens us. Left to themselves politicians have the tendency to take up causes which can produce money flows. Reparations for slavery, oil money, Chinese investments — these are good leads. What have they to do with human rights in principle? Everything and nothing. To the extent that “human rights” are a claim on political attention and clout, they follow the sad and predictable pattern of human history. The people with the most rights are those whose plight can create the most lucrative political play. What distinguishes Middle Passage slavery from all other forms is there’s money in it. That Tibet is beautiful, ancient and exalted don’t matter none. What matters is mazooma; cash on the barrel — and it ain’t got none of that.

Human society is not going to change any time soon. In a world where ideals are only roughly approximated, it is the occasional triumph of justice that provides the surprise. As a species we are sustained in our history by the one unselfish act in a thousand sordid ones. History is a catalogue of dark days occasonally punctuated by joy only because it can’t be locked down. The role of publics is to provide randomness: to supply the outbreak of heroism and generosity that the great can never be counted on to provide.

T. Kumar of Amnesty International USA said the global rights lobby was “shocked and extremely disappointed” by Clinton’s remarks.

He ought not to be. What was surprising was that he hoped in Hillary Clinton. Those in China who want their freedom must fight on to hope on. And when they get it, it won’t be a “gift” from Hillary Rodham Clinton. It will be entirely theirs.

[bth: Richard Fernandez's writing is almost poetic at times]


Obama Widens Missile Strikes Inside Pakistan

Obama Widens Missile Strikes Inside Pakistan - NYTimes.com
.... But American officials may also be prompted by growing concern that the militant attacks are increasingly putting the civilian government of Pakistan, a nation with nuclear weapons, at risk.

For months, Pakistani military and intelligence officials have complained about Washington’s refusal to strike at Baitullah Mehsud, even while C.I.A. drones struck at Qaeda figures and leaders of the network run by Jalaluddin Haqqani, a militant leader believed responsible for a campaign of violence against American troops in Afghanistan.

According to one senior Pakistani official, Pakistan’s intelligence service on two occasions in recent months gave the United States detailed intelligence about Mr. Mehsud’s whereabouts, but said the United States had not acted on the information. Bush administration officials had charged that it was the Pakistanis who were reluctant to take on Mr. Mehsud and his network.

The strikes came after a visit to Islamabad last week by Richard C. Holbrooke, the American envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan....

Under standard policy for covert operations, the C.I.A. strikes inside Pakistan have not been publicly acknowledged either by the Obama administration or the Bush administration. Using Predators and the more heavily armed Reaper drones, the C.I.A. has carried out more than 30 strikes since last September, according to American and Pakistani officials.

The attacks have killed a number of senior Qaeda figures, including Abu Jihad al-Masri and Usama al-Kini, who is believed to have helped plan the 1998 American Embassy bombings in East Africa and last year’s bombing of the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad.

American Special Operations troops based in Afghanistan have also carried out a number of operations into Pakistan’s tribal areas since early September, when a commando raid that killed a number of militants was publicly condemned by Pakistani officials. According to a senior American military official, the commando missions since September have been primarily to gather intelligence. ....

Bomber Kills More Than 30

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — The police on Friday blamed a suicide bomber for a powerful explosion that killed more than 30 people and wounded at least 50 in the Pakistani city of Dera Ismail Khan, according to residents and Pakistani television reports.

The bombing, aimed at the funeral of a Shiite man who had been shot, set off chaos in the city of a million people on the edge of Pakistan’s tribal areas. Mobs attacked security forces, ransacked shops and surrounded hospitals said the mayor, Abdur Rauf.

[bth: Why can't we recuit Shiite spies in Pakistan?  Why aren't we supporting the Pakistani government more with our drones?  The government there sucks but it beats the alternatives.  There have been virtually no senior al Qaeda or Taliban killed.  Why? Given the upcoming visit by Paki officials, look for a publicized capture of some midlevel henchman - its part of the Paki PR campaign, but the guy will not really go to trial and if he did he'll be traded out later. Pakistan isn't' serious about the Taliban problem.]


Friday, February 20, 2009

YouTube - Real Estate Downfall

YouTube - Real Estate Downfall

Madoff Ponzi Scheme: No Indication Stocks Were Ever Purchased

Madoff Ponzi Scheme: No Indication Stocks Were Ever Purchased: "NEW YORK — The trustee in charge of untangling the mess left behind by Bernard Madoff told a packed auditorium Friday there was no indication the disgraced money manager had bought securities for his clients for over a decade.

'We have no evidence to indicate securities were purchased for customer accounts' in the past 13 years, said Irving Picard, the court-appointed trustee overseeing the liquidation of Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securities LLC. 'This is a case where we're going to be looking at cash in and cash out' _ the definition of a Ponzi scheme.

He said he has recovered $950 million so far."...

[bth: you know I realize an audit won't necessarily catch fraud, but good grief! Didn't they even due a transaction reconciliation over the last decade?]

Swat Taliban demands military withdrawal, prisoner release - The Long War Journal

Swat Taliban demands military withdrawal, prisoner release - The Long War Journal: "The Swat Taliban have issued their opening list of demands in order to implement a peace agreement, agreed upon by a pro-Taliban group and the Pakistani government, that would end the fighting in Swat and impose sharia, or Islamic law, in more than one-third of the Northwest Frontier Province.

As a precondition to ending the fighting in the region, the Taliban have demanded that the Pakistani Army withdraw from Swat and that the government release all Taliban prisoners, withdraw all criminal cases, and clear the way for sharia, or Islamic law, the Pak Tribune reported.

The Taliban issued similar demands for past Pakistan peace agreements in North and South Waziristan, Swat, Mohmand, and Arakazi. The government complied by releasing prisoners, dropping criminal charges, and pulling out the military. But in each case the Taliban failed to lay down their weapons."...

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Sufi Mohammed "hates democracy" and calls for global Islamic rule - The Long War Journal

Sufi Mohammed "hates democracy" and calls for global Islamic rule - The Long War Journal: "Sufi Mohammed, the leader of the pro-Taliban group behind the peace agreement between the government and the Taliban, has advocated Islamic rule throughout the world and said his followers would work with the government to eliminate Indian intelligence agents operating in the region

The statements were made while Sufi was addressing a rally supporting his peace agreement in Swat, according to a report in an Urdu-language Pakistani newspaper. Sufi arrived in Swat yesterday after conducting a 'peace march' from neighboring Dir.

‘‘We hate democracy,' Sufi told the crowd of thousands of followers in Mingora. 'We want the occupation of Islam in the entire world. Islam does not permit democracy or election.’’"...
Informed Comment

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

K-Y Introduces New Line Of Jam

K-Y Introduces New Line Of Jam | The Onion - America's Finest News Source
NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ—Johnson & Johnson, manufacturer of the nation's most popular personal lubricant, K-Y Jelly, held a press conference Monday to unveil its new line of K-Y Jam, which the company has touted as having "that thick, homemade feeling you've been craving."


KY


"Our new K-Y Jam contains no additives and is made from only the finest natural ingredients, resulting in a luscious blend that's packed with rich, jammy goodness," Johnson & Johnson CEO William Weldon said as he spooned out a dollop of the clear, glycerin-based jam. "A heaping spoonful of this stuff every morning will help you start your day off right." Weldon went on to say that Johnson & Johnson had also begun production on a new line of K-Y Preserves targeted at the 65-and-over set.


POLITICS: Commanders in Iraq Challenge Petraeus on Pullout Risk

POLITICS: Commanders in Iraq Challenge Petraeus on Pullout Risk
WASHINGTON, Feb 17 (IPS) - CENTCOM Commander General David Petraeus and Multinational Force Iraq (MNF-I) Commander General Ray Odierno have submitted assessments of Iraq combat troop withdrawal plans to President Barack Obama based on the premise that his 16-month withdrawal plan would pose significantly greater risk to "security gains" than the 23-month plan they favour.

But a senior commander in Iraq appeared to contradict that premise last week by declaring that security gains in the Shi'a provinces of Iraq are "permanent", and a field commander in Iraq says there is no objective basis for any Petraeus-Odierno finding that Obama's plan carries greater risk than their 23-month plan.

Maj. Gen. Michael Oates, U.S. commander for the eight southern provinces of Iraq, denied in remarks to reporters Feb. 12 that the security gains in that region were fragile, contrary to the premise that Odierno has publicly asserted. Oates cited the dramatic reduction in activities by Shi'a militia fighters and the holding of the Jan. 31 elections without any major attacks....

[bth: one can tell that this situation isn't going to work put well between Petraeus-Odierno and Obama.   Petraeus for all his good qualities is very ambitious and plans to run for president. This has made presidents at least as far back as Lincoln nervous and irritable.]


UCLA professor explains why he thinks he's found Osama bin Laden

The Raw Story | UCLA professor explains why he thinks he's found Osama bin Laden
It's a question many are still pondering: Where is Osama Bin Laden hiding? Rachel Maddow talks to UCLA geography professor Thomas Gillespie, who might have the answer.

"Using patterns of how animal species spread, the world's most wanted terrorist can be tracked down to a town in the tribal region of North West Pakistan it is claimed," The Telegraph reported. "By factoring in his need for security, electricity, high ceilings to accommodate his 6ft 4in frame and spare rooms for his bodyguards, the search can be further narrowed to three walled compounds."

The article added, "Their research published in MIT International Review also concluded he should also be in a large town with a similar culture to Afghanistan where he can remain largely anonymous. The most likely candidate is in Parachinar, 12 miles inside Pakistan, which housed many mujahideen during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the 1980s."

Maddow asked Gillespie, "Now, what else about that city is useful in terms much finding where he might be? What else do you need to know about what kind of place he could be hiding in?"

"Well, that's a great question," Gillespie said. "Once you get to this point we have a city picked out, the next thing is we use life history characteristics of Osama Bin Laden to figure out a structure that matches his life history characteristic."

Gillespie continued, "So for instance, the man is 6‘4”. Obviously, we have to look for buildings over 6‘4”. He needs electricity for dialysis machine. We selected buildings within Parachinar that had electricity. We looked at things like protective structures so you can see on this one, there is a wall around it. You can actually see turrets on this one."

"And then, we looked to other things like privacy," Gillespie added. "And in general, finally, we looked for - you know, there has to be a tree. Because if he goes outside, I‘m sure his positive that people can look down on him. So when you apply these life history characteristics for every building in the city of Parachinar, three popped out as being, you know, places where, hypothetically, he could be. And this proposes a hypothesis that can be tested and rejected."

Maddow asked, "In terms of testing the hypothesis, anybody in Pakistan reading your study and knocking on the door of any of these buildings since this came out?"

"Well, that‘s a good question," Gillespie said. "I guess they have a chance to win $25 million if they do go in there and take a look."

Gillespie's study was published by the MIT International Review and is available here (pdf)....

[bth: fascinating.  one wonders]


Tuesday, February 17, 2009

UN: Afghan civilian deaths rose 40 percent in 2008

UN: Afghan civilian deaths rose 40 percent in 2008

An Afghan woman begs on a street in the outskirts of Kabul, ...

KABUL – The number of Afghan civilians killed in armed conflict rose 40 percent last year to a record 2,118 people as the Afghan war turned increasingly bloody, the U.N. said in a new report Tuesday.

The report said insurgents were responsible for 55 percent of the deaths, but that U.S., NATO and Afghan forces killed 829 civilians, or 39 percent. Of those, 552 deaths were blamed on airstrikes.

Civilian deaths have been a huge source of friction between the U.S. and President Hamid Karzai, who has increased demands that U.S. troops avoid killing civilians.

[bth: in candor this is a pretty low annual figure, probably comparable to a month of violence in Iraq.]



Can the intel community defuse India-Pakistan tensions?

Can the intel community defuse India-Pakistan tensions? | The Cable
The CIA played a back-channel role in serving as an arbiter and vehicle for intelligence sharing in order to ease tensions between India and Pakistan after the Mumbai attacks, the Washington Post reports today. "In the aftermath of the Mumbai terrorist attacks, the CIA orchestrated back-channel intelligence exchanges between India and Pakistan, allowing the two former enemies to quietly share highly sensitive evidence while the Americans served as neutral arbiters, according to U.S. and foreign government sources familiar with the arrangement," the paper writes....

"The Indians are almost certainly going to do something before [their] elections," said AEI military analyst Thomas Donnelly. "They will strike camps in Pakistan. They are really pissed about the incompetence of the response to the [Mumbai] attacks.  .... It doesn't look like the Pakistanis are willing to or even can do anything that will satisfy the Indians. I would really be surprised if something doesn't happen, unless that changes. They got an election coming up in March or April. It will be an interesting test for the United States."

A spokesman for the Office of the Director of National Intelligence said it would have no comment on travel taken by the DNI.




Israel launches covert war against Iran

Israel launches covert war against Iran - Telegraph
It is using hitmen, sabotage, front companies and double agents to disrupt the regime's illicit weapons project, the experts say.

The most dramatic element of the "decapitation" programme is the planned assassination of top figures involved in Iran's atomic operations.

Despite fears in Israel and the US that Iran is approaching the point of no return in its ability to build atom bomb, Israeli officials are aware of the change in mood in Washington since President Barack Obama took office.

They privately acknowledge the new US administration is unlikely to sanction an air attack on Iran's nuclear installations and Mr Obama's offer to extend a hand of peace to Tehran puts any direct military action beyond reach for now.

The aim is to slow down or interrupt Iran's research programme, without the gamble of a direct confrontation that could lead to a wider war.

A former CIA officer on Iran told The Daily Telegraph: "Disruption is designed to slow progress on the programme, done in such a way that they don't realise what's happening. You are never going to stop it.

"The goal is delay, delay, delay until you can come up with some other solution or approach. We certainly don't want the current Iranian government to have those weapons. It's a good policy, short of taking them out militarily, which probably carries unacceptable risks."

Reva Bhalla, a senior analyst with Stratfor, the US private intelligence company with strong government security connections, said the strategy was to take out key people....

[bth: usually when you read something from the Telegraph about Israel it is an information feed from the government or those within the Israeli government trying to influence it or take credit.  This is probably no different.  Note the picture of Livni in the original article - woman of mystery and action...  Anyway, one has to wonder if this isn't the more rational approach for Israel given the poor set of alternatives.]


Senior US soldiers investigated over missing Iraq reconstruction billions

A 'fraud' bigger than Madoff - Americas, World - The Independent
....So far, US officers who have been successfully prosecuted or unmasked have mostly been involved in small-scale corruption. Often sums paid out in cash were never recorded. In one case, an American soldier put in charge of reviving Iraqi boxing gambled away all the money but he could not be prosecuted because, although the money was certainly gone, nobody had recorded if it was $20,000 or $60,000.

Iraqi ministers admit the wholesale corruption of their government. Ali Allawi, the former finance minister, said Iraq was "becoming like Nigeria in the past when all the oil revenues were stolen". But there has also been a strong suspicion among senior Iraqis that US officials must have been complicit or using Iraqi appointees as front-men in corrupt deals. Several Iraqi officials given important jobs at the urging of the US administration in Baghdad were inexperienced. For instance, the arms procurement chief at the centre of the Defence Ministry scandal, was a Polish-Iraqi, 27 years out of Iraq, who had run a pizza restaurant on the outskirts of Bonn in the 1990s.

In many cases, contractors never started or finished facilities they were supposedly building. As security deteriorated in Iraq from the summer of 2003 it was difficult to check if a contract had been completed. But the failure to provide electricity, water and sewage disposal during the US occupation was crucial in alienating Iraqis from the post-Saddam regime.


Monday, February 16, 2009

Alec Baldwin is jerking off with that Wii from FOD Team

Alec Baldwin is jerking off with that Wii from FOD Team

US airstrike in Pakistan's Kurram tribal agency kills 30

US airstrike in Pakistan's Kurram tribal agency kills 30 - The Long War Journal
The US appears to be expanding its campaign of cross border strikes into Pakistan after several unmanned US Predator aircraft conducted multiple attacks in the Taliban-controlled tribal agency of Kurram.

More than 30 people have been reported killed after four Predator aircraft launched at least four Hellfire missiles at a training camp in the Sarpal region that is run by Bahram Khan Kochi, a commander of Taliban forces operating inside Afghanistan, Geo News reported. The toll is expected to rise as more bodies are thought to be under the rubble.

No senior al Qaeda or Taliban commanders have been reported killed at this time.

The Taliban have expanded its control into Kurram by backing the wave of sectarian fighting between Sunni and Shia in the region. The Shia have been forced into small enclaves in Parachinar and other areas as the Pakistani military has refused to come to their aid.....




US airstrike in Pakistan's Kurram tribal agency kills 30

US airstrike in Pakistan's Kurram tribal agency kills 30 - The Long War Journal
The US appears to be expanding its campaign of cross border strikes into Pakistan after several unmanned US Predator aircraft conducted multiple attacks in the Taliban-controlled tribal agency of Kurram.

More than 30 people have been reported killed after four Predator aircraft launched at least four Hellfire missiles at a training camp in the Sarpal region that is run by Bahram Khan Kochi, a commander of Taliban forces operating inside Afghanistan, Geo News reported. The toll is expected to rise as more bodies are thought to be under the rubble.

No senior al Qaeda or Taliban commanders have been reported killed at this time.

The Taliban have expanded its control into Kurram by backing the wave of sectarian fighting between Sunni and Shia in the region. The Shia have been forced into small enclaves in Parachinar and other areas as the Pakistani military has refused to come to their aid.....




US troops kill Taliban's shadow governor for Badghis province

US troops kill Taliban's shadow governor for Badghis province - The Long War Journal
US forces killed the shadow governor of Afghanistan's northwestern province of Badghis and eight other Taliban leaders and fighters during an airstrike on a village near the border with Turkmenistan.

Mullah Dastagir, the shadow governor of Badghis province, was killed in the Sunday night airstrike in the Balamurghab district along with his brother Mullah Nabi Jan, Dastagir's brother, another known Taliban commander named Mawlawi Hayatullah, and five other Taliban fighters. US and Afghan Army forces called in teh airstrike after surrounding Dastagir's compound. Dastagir commanded more than 300 full-time Taliban fighters and another 300 part-time fighters.

Dastagir's rise to power in Badghis was facilitated by an order issued last year by President Hamid Karzai. Dastagir was released from National Security Directorate custody after Karzai receiving an order from Karzai last September 2008. Karzai was responding to the appeals of local tribal leaders in Badghis, who appear to have been coerced by the Taliban....


Pakistan and Taliban Appear Near Deal - NYTimes.com

Pakistan and Taliban Appear Near Deal - NYTimes.com: "PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Government officials and Taliban militants appeared to be near a deal Sunday on the violent Swat region of northern Pakistan, where the militants declared a unilateral 10-day cease-fire and the government indicated it was willing to accept the imposition of Islamic law"

Any formal truce would be a major concession by the government, which, despite a military operation in Swat involving 12,000 Pakistani Army troops, has been losing ground to a Taliban force of about 3,000 fighters. The militants have kept a stranglehold on the area for months, killing local police officers and officials and punishing residents who do not adhere to strict Islamic tenets....

Since then, Taliban leaders have proscribed what they call un-Islamic activities by residents, including watching television, dancing and shaving beards, and they have sometimes beheaded offenders. The penalties are regularly, and terrifyingly, announced over radio stations under the militants’ control. Tens of thousands of residents of the area, which was once a popular tourist spot and considered a mainstream part of the country, have fled the intimidation and violence....


[bth: there is a point where a beard is more than a beard and a scarf is more than a scarf.]

Embattled Lobbying Firm PMA Targeted Members of Defense Committees

OpenSecrets | Embattled Lobbying Firm PMA Targeted Members of Defense Committees - Capital Eye
The close ties between Rep. John Murtha and a Washington lobbying firm raided by the FBI have put the powerful Pennsylvania Democrat under greater scrutiny. The lobbyists at PMA Group have been Murtha's fifth most generous campaign donor over time, but he is just one of 284 members of the 111th Congress who have collected money from the firm, which specializes in securing federal earmarks for its clients. In total, PMA Group's employees and its political action committee have given current members of Congress $3.4 million since 1989, with 79 percent of that going to Democrats.

As the chair of the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, Murtha and others on the subcommittee helped deliver more than $100 million in defense-related earmarks in appropriations bills for 2008, according to government watchdog group Taxpayers for Common Sense. The Center for Responsive Politics has found that at least seven of Murtha's top 20 contributors over time are also PMA clients in the defense sector, including General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin and DRS Technologies. At $167,400, Murtha and his political action committee have received more money from PMA than all but two other members of Congress: Rep. Pete Visclosky (D-Ind.), who has received $271,500 for his campaign and PAC, and Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), who has collected $171,200. Both sit on Murtha's subcommittee, which allocates the defense budget. In fact, every member of the subcommittee but one, Rep. Carolyn Kilpatrick (D-Mich.), has collected money from the lobbying firm's PAC or employees, for a total of $1 million.

PMA hasn't broadened its sights beyond its primary targets, Congress's defense-related committees. Members of the House Armed Services Committee have received a total of $398,200 from PMA since 1989, while members of the Senate Armed Services Committee have brought in $171,600 from the firm. (For a complete list of current members of Congress who have received money from PMA, see the chart below.)

Murtha and PMA have more in common than just campaign contributions. The founder of PMA, Paul Magliocchetti, worked under Murtha on the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee before starting the lobbying firm. The former chiefs of staff for both of the top recipients of PMA cash, Visclosky and Moran, went on to work for PMA. In true revolving door style, other PMA employees have worked for the Department of Defense, the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines and the Senate Armed Services Committee. Last year PMA Group's clients paid the firm $13.5 million to represent them on Capitol Hill and elsewhere in the federal government. The firm has collected more than $113 million from clients since 1998, ranking its receipts 10th among all lobbying firms in that time. Since the FBI investigation was revealed, lobbyists have been splitting off from the firm....


The Real News Network: Create Custom Video Embed Code

The Real News Network: Create Custom Video Embed Code

Mike Mullen - Building Our Best Weapon - Trust - washingtonpost.com

Mike Mullen - Building Our Best Weapon - Trust - washingtonpost.com: ..."We don't always get it right. But like the early Romans, we strive in the end to make it right. We strive to earn trust. And that makes all the difference.

The writer is chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff"

[bth: an article worth reading in full if for no other reason than to understand the way Mullen thinks. He's right - despite the analogies and DOD structured phrases of his article - trust is the key.]

Japan Economy Shrinks at Fastest Pace in 35 Years

Japan Economy Shrinks At Fastest Pace In 35 Years
TOKYO — Japan's economy contracted at the fastest pace in 35 years in the fourth quarter as a collapse in export demand drained life from the world's second-biggest economy.

Japan's gross domestic product, or the total value of the nation's goods and services, dropped at an annual pace of 12.7 percent in the October-December period, the government said Monday.

That's the steepest drop for Japan since the oil shock of 1974 and far outpaces declines of 3.8 percent in the U.S. and 1.2 percent in the euro zone. A survey of economists by Kyodo news agency had projected an 11.6 percent contraction.

Japan now faces "the worst economic crisis in the postwar era," said Economy Minister Kaoru Yosano, according to Kyodo.

Already, Toyota Motor Corp., Sony Corp. and a slew of other companies have announced deep job cuts and projected net losses for the full fiscal year through March. The yen's appreciation, which erodes income from abroad has only intensified the pain.

Japan's economy has now contracted for three straight quarters. Compared to the third quarter, GDP fell 3.3 percent. If that rate continued for a full year, the economy would contract 12.7 percent....


Sunday, February 15, 2009

SNL Republican Meeting Mocked In Opening Skit, Dan Akroyd Guest Stars (VIDEO)

SNL Republican Meeting Mocked In Opening Skit, Dan Akroyd Guest Stars (VIDEO)

Drone mows down 28 in S. Waziristan -DAWN - Top Stories; February 15, 2009

Drone mows down 28 in S. Waziristan -DAWN - Top Stories; February 15, 2009: "WANA, Feb 14: Two missile strikes on a site suspected to be housing militants loyal to Baitullah Mehsud killed 28 people and injured 15 others in Ladha sub-division of South Waziristan on Saturday.

Official and local sources said that a missile strike by drones flattened a ‘hujra’ (guest house) of Roshan Mehsud, an associate of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan chief Baitullah Mehsud, in Showngai Naserkhel area. The compound was situated in an isolated area.

Residents said that three unmanned aerial vehicles were hovering over the area when two loud explosions were heard at about 8.30am.

This is the third and the deadliest drone strike in the tribal region near the Afghan border since US President Barack Obama assumed power on Jan 20.

The region is considered to be a safe haven of local and foreign militants and suspected drones have carried out five attacks in North and South Waziristan since Jan 1.

Local Taliban sources told Dawn by phone that 28 people, including Arabs, Uzbeks and Afghans, were killed. Condition of 10 wounded persons was stated to be serious. A child passing the compound was also injured.....

Feinstein's remarks on Predator likely to embarrass Pakistan - On Deadline - USATODAY.com

Feinstein's remarks on Predator likely to embarrass Pakistan - On Deadline - USATODAY.com: "Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, likely made Pakistan squirm by indicating that the armed, unmanned U.S. drones operating in Pakistan are based there, the Los Angeles Times reports.

For months, Pakistani leaders have criticized the use of Predator-launched CIA missiles against Islamic extremists along the northwest border.

The California Democrat's remarks came during a Congressional hearing in which she expressed surprise over Pakistani opposition to the use of the missiles.

'As I understand it, these are flown out of a Pakistani base,' she said.

Philip J. LaVelle, a spokesman for Feinstein, said her comment was based solely on previous news reports that Predators were operated from bases near Islamabad, the newspaper reports."

[bth: stupid to say - true or not]

Congressional Offices Don't Have the Stimulus Bill, Lobbyists Do - Washington Whispers (usnews.com)

Congressional Offices Don't Have the Stimulus Bill, Lobbyists Do - Washington Whispers (usnews.com): "We're receiving E-mails from Capitol Hill staffers expressing frustration that they can't get a copy of the stimulus bill agreed to last night at a price of $789 billion. What's more, staffers are complaining about who does have a copy: K Street lobbyists. E-mails one key Democratic staffer: 'K Street has the bill, or chunks of it, already, and the congressional offices don't. So, the Hill is getting calls from the press (because it's leaking out) asking us to confirm or talk about what we know—but we can't do that because we haven't seen the bill. Anyway, peeps up here are sort of a combo of confused and like, 'Is this really happening?'' Reporters pressing for details, meanwhile, are getting different numbers from different offices, especially when seeking the details of specific programs.

Worse, there seem to be several different versions of what was agreed upon, with some officials circulating older versions of the package that seems to still be developing. Leadership aides said that it will work out later today and promised that lawmakers will get time to review the bill before Friday's vote."

[bth: figures. good thing there aren't any earmarks to hold those lobbyists interest through all 1000+ pages. Wonder what they are reading it for?]

Copy of a friend's letter to the editor regarding the Senate stimulous bill vote

Editor,


I am outraged at what transpired on the floor of the United States Senate on Friday evening. The vote count on the compromise Stimulus Bill stopped at fifty-nine votes, one shy of the sixty needed for passage. The sixtieth vote belonged to Senator Sherrod Brown of Ohio, who had been called away by the death of his mother.


Thirty-eight Republican Senators voted against the bill. Yet, with Senator Brown’s vote, passage was assured. So the Senator had to called away from his own mother’s funeral to return to Washington to cast the deciding vote.


Now rabid partisanship is one thing, but are these thirty-eight Republicans so bereft of even the tiniest crumb of human decency that not one of them would change his or her vote in order to allow Senator Brown to remain at his own mother’s funeral? What is wrong with these people? Shame on them!


Ron

Three suicide jackets recovered in Islamabad

Three suicide jackets recovered in Islamabad: "ISLAMABAD: Police have recovered three suicide jackets from a bag here on Saturday.

According to sources, the police was informed of a suspicious bag lying outside a bakery in sector G-11.

The police, upon inspection, recovered three suicide jackets from the bag. Police said further investigation is underway."