Saturday, March 07, 2009

NASCAR Bed Bursts Into Flames

Saggy pants bring suspect to his knees

Saggy pants bring suspect to his knees
No ifs, ands or buts: Saggy pants are a crime-fighting tool

Riviera Beach residents might want to reconsider that city's law that bans the wearing of saggy pants.

Consider the case of Robert Pittman, 37, of Pensacola, who was chased by Escambia County sheriff's deputies one night this month as he was running from a burglarized store with several packs of cigarettes in his hands.

Pittman, who needed both hands to hold the stolen smokes, didn't have a free hand to hang onto his saggy pants.

The chase ended when Pittman's pants fell to his ankles, tripping him and leaving him sprawled on the pavement.

Maybe some people have been thinking of saggy pants the wrong way. They're not just outlandish fashion; they're trouser Tasers....

China Changes Calculus for Petro-Rulers

The Oil and the Glory by Steve LeVine - ABOUT THE BOOK: About The Oil and the Glory
Much has been written on how low oil prices will help to reverse the fortunes of resource-strapped Big Oil – if not precisely jolly over their new penury, closed-armed petro-powers, it's said, will now allow western oil companies at least to make a case why they should be permitted to conduct exploration and production. Atop the list of this ostensible new state of affairs have been Venezuela, Libya, and Russia.

But so far, the opposite appears to be happening -- resource-rich countries are not opening up to new deals with western oil companies. One reason is that the analyses appear to have played down two factors – the depth of discomfort among the petro-powers with Big Oil; and the deep-pocketed willingness of China to step in.

The implications of China's entry as cash savior include not only trouble for non- state oil companies; it also could exaggerate an expected resumption of relatively high oil prices once the global economy recovers....

[bth: this article is worth reading in full]

An Update On Afghanistan Logistics

M of A - An Update On Afghanistan Logistics
...Also note that fuel does not come in containers but is trucked in with tankers. Using official U.S. solicitations for fuel I calculated that 33 tankers need to deliver in Afghanistan each day to keep the U.S. troops supplied. The number of trucks that have to arrive per day is thereby over 133. Nice, big targets - all of them.

With the total needs increasing adding the Russia route at such a low rate as 20% means that the total traffic through Pakistan will increase due to the reinforcement, not decrease.

Sure, the truck losses in Pakistan have gone down last month. The last news I find of attacks on the route through north Pakistan is from February 7 and the last bad logistic news from the route through Quetta is from February 8 when a truck driver was shot. My assumption is that early in February someone spent real money to buy off the locals in Pakistan who facilitate the earlier attacks - Anbar tactics. But that will not hold for long. You can rent the Pashtuns, but you can not buy them. As soon as someone is willing to pay better, they will again be your enemies.

A 25-year-old man we will call Shakir has told IRIN he rues rejecting an offer of “work” from a Taliban agent whereby he would get 500 Afghanis (about US$10) a day for carrying out attacks on government offices in Farah Province, southwestern Afghanistan.
“The Taliban pay 500-1,000 Afghanis [$10-20] for a day of action against government and American forces,” said Lutfullah, 23, from Helmand Province.

By contrast, government employees get less than $2 a day.

When the Russian route was announced the U.S. said that it could eventually carry up to 20-30 trains per week with about 100 containers each. That would be much more than the total needs are. So why not use more of the Russian route? Yes that route is currently only for non-military goods. But Russia has offered to open it for military goods too and even offered Russian military air-transport.

Was the political price it demanded for that too high? I suspect the real reason to not use that new route in its capacity is institutionalized Russophobia.

Gareth Porter has this nugget for us:

[T]he Pentagon has made contingency plans for the use of the Iranian route, according to one well-informed former U.S. official. That suggests that the Russian-Central Asian route was regarded as far from certain.

Can someone send me those contingency plans please? I am really interested to flip through these.

But back to the WaPo piece:

Apart from the ground cargo, all lethal and sensitive U.S. military supplies, as well as all personnel, travel into Afghanistan by air. Such supplies include ammunition, weapons and vehicles with sensitive communications and other gear. Air cargo demands will increase significantly as fresh troops move into Afghanistan, according to McNabb. For example, when the Army's Stryker combat brigade heads to Afghanistan this summer, all of its vehicles will be flown into the country, he said. The military's mine-resistant armored vehicles are also flown in to avoid attacks, he said.

A Stryker brigade has (pdf, page 66) 309 Stryker vehicle that each weighing about 20 tons. Additionally it has some 1,200+ other vehicles from HMMVEE's over artillery pieces to large transport trucks. Let's assume that these vehicles have an average weight of 7.5 tons.

Then the total tonnage that will have to come in by air for the hardware of one Stryker brigade is 15,000 tons (indeed such a number is corroborated here). To bring one ton to Afghanistan by air costs $14,000. To move the Stryker brigade in by air will thereby cost $210,000,000. (Transport by rail through Russia would be $500 per ton or $7,500,000 in total for the Stryker brigade.)

A Stryker brigade is only 3.900 soldiers strong. The total reinforcement now is 17,000 and may grow to 30,000. Barracks will have to be build for them too and mess halls. They will need fuel, food and ammunition. The financial costs are staggering.

The Taliban are reinforcing too and it is now estimated that 15,000 are active in Afghanistan with the same number available in Pakistan and ready to cross the border. At $10 per day for each of them they are less than an tenth as expensive than U.S forces. Donations from the Gulf countries and taxing the drug business sustains them....

[bth: so to get a Stryker brigade set up in Afghanistan will cost us $54,000 per soldier in transport costs.  I assume that the equipment will be left there and not rotated out which would bring this cost down over time. .. Another way of spending $54,000 is to double the bidding price of a local fighter to $20 per day and pay them to do our bidding instead of the Talibans.  $54,000/$20/365 days = 7.4 man years of local fighters compared to the cost of getting one soldier in a Stryker unit shipped to Afghanistan.  The economics just aren''t working out for a major troop surge.]

YouTube - Real Man of Genius: Joe Biden

YouTube - Real Man of Genius: Joe Biden

[bth: ouch]
Crooks and Liars

Pakistan in Denial is Its Biggest Security Obstacle

Pakistan in Denial is Its Biggest Security Obstacle - Middle East Times
....So, what is preventing the Pakistani security services from taking decisive action against the group?

Part of the reason is that most of the Pakistani elite are in denial. Too many authoritative figures simply refuse to face the extent to which the terrorist threat from Islamist radicals comes from within Pakistan.

Sardar Nabil Ahmed Gabol, the Pakistani minister of state for shipping, has blamed India for the attack. Hamid Gul, the retired general and former chief of the Pakistani security services, has said, "It's all too obvious that it is the handiwork of the Indian intelligence."

In Pakistan, these sentiments filter down to the streets and are widely believed.

Last year, I met a prominent member of the Pakistan National Assembly who was educated in the West. He told me that he sincerely believed that the 7/7 attacks in London in 2005 and the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks in the United States were both the work of Western intelligence agencies.

When I put it to him that Mohammed Siddique Khan, the leader of the 7/7 bombers, had made a video claiming responsibility, he just looked at me with a face of deep sympathy. To him, I was a young guy who was just naive.

Like much of the Muslim world, Pakistan is rife with conspiracy theories.

Pakistan People's Party leader Babar Awan was quoted as saying that former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto was killed with a laser gun.

Many Pakistanis believe that America wants the destruction of Pakistan because it is the only Muslim country with nuclear weapons, and that it is trying to enlist Pakistani help in Afghanistan only in order to trap it in a pincer movement between India and American troops there.

Even Gul believes that 9/11 was an inside job....

Thursday, March 05, 2009

US officer charged with stealing Iraq relief funds

The Raw Story | US officer charged with stealing Iraq relief funds: "A US military officer was charged Thursday with stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash intended for relief and reconstruction efforts in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Department of Justice said.

While stationed in Iraq between April 2007 and February 2009, 28-year-old Michael Dung Nguyen is alleged to have stolen more than 690,000 dollars in US currency, sending it back to his home in northwestern Oregon state, the department said in a statement.

The funds were swiped from the Commander's Emergency Response Program (CERP), designed to empower local commanders in Iraq and Afghanistan to respond to humanitarian relief and reconstruction efforts."...

Sufi Shrine 'blown up by Taleban'

BBC NEWS | South Asia | Sufi Shrine 'blown up by Taleban': "No casualties are reported but the poet Rahman Baba's grave has been destroyed and the shrine building badly damaged.

Rahman Baba is considered the most widely read and poet in Pashto speaking regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The Taleban had warned they would blow up the shrine if women continued to visit it and pay their respects."...

[bth: total intolerance. Hard to have a dialogue with folks who think like this.]
Media Channel - Home

UBS Says Had 47K Accounts for Americans - TIME

UBS Says Had 47K Accounts for Americans - TIME: "(WASHINGTON) — UBS AG now says it had about 47,000 accounts held by Americans who didn't pay U.S. taxes on their assets, but Switzerland's biggest bank is providing the names of only 300 American clients to the U.S. government in a showdown over secrecy"

Lines were drawn in the burgeoning cross-border dispute at a hearing Wednesday by a Senate investigative panel.

A Justice Department official signaled that UBS could still be subject to criminal prosecution if terms aren't met under the bank's recent agreement with the U.S. government. A key senator, meanwhile, noted improving prospects, including the backing of President Barack Obama, for U.S. legislation to fight offshore tax-haven abuses.

"The rest of the world is getting fed up with offshore tax havens that turn a blind eye to tax evasion and allow their financial institutions ... to profit from tax dodging," said Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. ...

[bth: this isn't going to stop until corporate officers including the board of directors are criminally indited and UBS banned from the US.]

Brain-injured troops may reach 360,000 - The Boston Globe

Brain-injured troops may reach 360,000 - The Boston Globe: "WASHINGTON - The number of US troops who have suffered wartime brain injuries may be as high as 360,000 and could cast more attention on such injuries among civilians, Defense Department doctors said yesterday."

The estimate of the number injured - the vast majority of them suffering concussions - represents 20 percent of the roughly 1.8 million men and women who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, where blast injuries are common from roadside bombs and other explosives, the doctors said....

[bth: a figure like this needs to be further qualified so that a better understanding of the problem can be made.]

Nation's Blacks Creeped Out By All The People Smiling At Them

Nation's Blacks Creeped Out By All The People Smiling At Them | The Onion - America's Finest News Source
WASHINGTON—A majority of African-Americans surveyed in a nationwide poll this week reported feeling "deeply disturbed" and "more than a little weirded out" by all the white people now smiling at them.

First witnessed shortly after President Obama's historic victory, the open and cheerful smiling has only continued in recent months, leaving members of the black community completely unnerved.

"On behalf of black people across this nation, I would like to say to our white brethren, 'Please stop looking at us like that,'" said Brown University psychology professor Dr. Stanley Carsons. "We're excited Barack is president, too, and we're glad you're happy for us. But giving us the thumbs up for no reason, or saying hello whenever we walk by, is really starting to freak us out."

Added Carsons, "We just want to be able to stand in line at Home Depot without getting patted on the back."

According to the poll, more than 92 percent of African-Americans have noticed a dramatic increase in the number of beaming Caucasians in their vicinity, as well as a marked rise in the instances of white people making direct eye contact with them on the bus, engaging them in pleasant conversation, and warmly gazing in their general direction with a mix of wonder, pride, and profound contentment. All respondents reported being "petrified" by the change.

"Yesterday, I'm pretty sure the cashier at the Giant Eagle winked at me," said Eddie Wilkes, a Pittsburgh resident who described himself as "not a politics person." "Then she said something about what a happy day it was and tried to bump fists. The whole thing gave me the willies."...

[bth: love the Onion]

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Pakistani terrorists assault Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore

Pakistani terrorists assault Sri Lankan cricket team in Lahore - The Long War Journal
A terrorist assault team attacked a bus carrying the Sri Lankan cricket team in the eastern city of Lahore in Pakistan's Punjab province.

The "well-trained terrorists" killed five policemen and two civilians, and wounded seven Sri Lankan cricketers and 11 security and rescue personnel. Two of the Sri Lankans "received serious bullet injuries" while the head coach received minor injuries, the Associated Press of Pakistan reported.

The attack took place as a bus transporting the Sri Lankan team was traveling to the Gaddafi Stadium. Twelve well-armed "masked gunmen" ambushed the bus and its police escorts, sparking a 25-minute gun battle, Lahore's police chief told AFP....

Pakistani security officials and pundits have tried to shift the blame for today's assault to India. Khushro Pervaiz, Lahore's Commissioner, said that India's involvement in the assault cannot be ruled out.

Hamid Gul, the former chief of Pakistan’s notorious Inter-Services Intelligence agency who has strong ties to the Taliban and al Qaeda, told Geo News that the attack was part of a conspiracy by India to paint Pakistan as a terror state. Gul is thought to be one of the Pakistanis behind the Mumbai assault, intelligence officials told The Long War Journal last year

[bth: when you read the last two paragraphs one loses all respect for Pakistan's officials.]

Yemen: New terror camps as a city falls to jihadists

Yemen: New terror camps as a city falls to jihadists - The Long War Journal
In January, Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh asked his network of loyalist jihadists to prepare for offensive operations against domestic “enemies of the state.” In return, Saleh has ceded authority to fundamentalist fanatics who seek to impose a neo-Salafi theocracy in the religiously pluralistic country. It is unclear if this is the full extent of the quid pro quo....

[bth: not good at all.  Note this doesn't seem to be showing up in mainstream media.  I wonder why not?]

Israel is Crossing the Line

Israel is Crossing the Line - The Washington Note
...Iran's pretensions in the region are a problem in my view -- but Iran, which fears regime change efforts by the US and other of its neighbors, is responding to an "ecosystem" that many around the world have complicity in building.

Israel should be rebuffed by Hillary Clinton. She should listen to Israel's views on the region of course -- and consider proposals. But this kind of instruction manual on what red lines can be tolerated or not is pretty outrageous -- and borders on the type of irresponsibilty and consequences of what a Taiwanese declaration of independence from China would mean.

In other words, if Taiwan wants to declare independence from China -- so be it, but America will not be there as a stabilizer, defender or buffer. And if Israel has the audacity to make America's strategic choices -- particularly in public -- then Israel can bomb away -- but needs to know that such an act will irreparably harm US-Israel relations. A collision with Iran has nothing to do with Israel -- despite Obama's and Lieberman's and Cheney's and Clinton's and McCain's rhetoric.

A potential war with Iran will have other drivers than Israel's circumstances and will have truly global ramifications that reach far beyond Israeli security. Such a conflict could happen -- and depending on Iran's course in the future perhaps even should happen (though that's clearly not the case today) -- but such a move would need to be weighed and managed hyper carefully. Israel can not be allowed to determine such a consequential choice for the United States.

Israel can help a lot by trying to become a constructive participant in changing the climate of tension and hostility in the Arab region. Right now, Israel's performance leaves a lot to be desired -- and the act of the victimized, bullied superpower is growing old. Israel controls a great deal of temperature in the Middle East and could significantly change the views of many Arabs towards the US, the West, and even Israel if it tried. Not doing so actually animates the bravado from and tension with Iran's political leadership.

Israel is crossing the line by instructing the American Secretary of State and President where there lines "should be".

-- Steve Clemons

Israel to present Clinton with 'red lines' on talks with Iran

Israel to present Clinton with 'red lines' on talks with Iran - Haaretz - Israel News
Israel plans to present U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton with a series of "red lines" it wants Washington to incorporate into its planned dialogue with Tehran about Iran's nuclear program.

Clinton arrived in Israel Monday night and will meet with various Israeli officials Tuesday.

The red lines were jointly formulated by the Foreign Ministry and the defense establishment, and Prime Minister-designate Benjamin Netanyahu has been briefed on them. The document recommends that Israel adopt a positive attitude toward the planned U.S.-Iranian dialogue, but proposes ways of minimizing what Israeli officials see as the risks inherent in such talks. Its main points are as follows:
1. Any dialogue must be both preceded by and accompanied by harsher sanctions against Iran, both within the framework of the UN Security Council and outside it. Otherwise, the talks are liable to be perceived by both Iran and the international community as acceptance of Iran's nuclear program.

2. Before the dialogue begins, the U.S. should formulate an action plan with Russia, China, France, Germany and Britain regarding what to do if the talks fail. Specifically, there must be an agreement that the talks' failure will prompt extremely harsh international sanctions on Iran.

3. A time limit must be set for the talks, to prevent Iran from merely buying time to complete its nuclear development. The talks should also be defined as a "one-time opportunity" for Tehran.

4. Timing is critical, and the U.S. should consider whether it makes sense to begin the talks before Iran's presidential election in June.

The red lines were approved by Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni and Defense Minister Ehud Barak at a meeting with senior defense officials last week. All three plan to raise them at their respective meetings with Clinton Tuesday....

'Impossible' to set date for Afghan withdrawal: Gates

The Raw Story | 'Impossible' to set date for Afghan withdrawal: Gates: ..."The defense chief said a review of US strategy now underway was examining the goals of the Afghan mission and how progress towards those objectives could be measured.

'And I think we will have a much better idea of the way forward, at least as far as the United States is concerned, when that review is complete,' Gates said."...

Auto sales slump persists as consumers stay scared

Auto sales slump persists as consumers stay scared: "DETROIT – Major automakers' U.S. sales continued their deep slump in February, putting the industry on track for its worst sales month in more than 27 years as huge rebates and low-interest financing failed to spur fearful consumers to make a major purchase.

General Motors' sales tumbled 53 percent from a year earlier, while Ford's U.S. sales fell 48 percent and Chrysler's fell 44 percent. The major Japanese automakers fared only slightly better.

The slide casts further doubt on the financial viability of GM and Chrysler, which need to sell cars and generate critical cash to supplement the $17.4 billion in government loans that are keeping them in business."...

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

A new memo shows just how far the Bush administration considered going in fighting the war on terror.

Bush Adm. Weighed Restricting 1st Amendment | Newsweek National News |
... But the memo from the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel—along with others made public for the first time Monday—illustrates with new details the extraordinary post-9/11 powers asserted by Bush administration lawyers. Those assertions ultimately led to such controversial policies as allowing the waterboarding of terror suspects and permitting warrantless wiretapping of U.S. citizens—steps that remain the subject of ongoing investigations by Congress and the Justice Department. The memo was co-written by John Yoo, at the time a deputy attorney general in the Office of Legal Counsel. Yoo, now a professor at the Boalt Hall School of Law at the University of California, Berkeley, has emerged as one of the central figures in those ongoing investigations.

In perhaps the most surprising assertion, the Oct. 23, 2001, memo suggested the president could even suspend press freedoms if he concluded it was necessary to wage the war on terror. "First Amendment speech and press rights may also be subordinated to the overriding need to wage war successfully," Yoo wrote in the memo entitled "Authority for Use of Military Force to Combat Terrorist Activity Within the United States."

This claim was viewed as so extreme that it was essentially (and secretly) revoked—but not until October of last year, seven years after the memo was written and with barely three and a half months left in the Bush administration....

Memos Reveal Scope of the Power Bush Sought

Memos Reveal Scope of the Power Bush Sought -
....The opinions reflected a broad interpretation of presidential authority, asserting as well that the president could unilaterally abrogate foreign treaties, ignore any guidance from Congress in dealing with detainees suspected of terrorism, and conduct a program of domestic eavesdropping without warrants.

Some of the positions had previously become known from statements of Bush administration officials in response to court challenges and Congressional inquiries. But taken together, the opinions disclosed Monday were the clearest illustration to date of the broad definition of presidential power approved by government lawyers in the months after the Sept. 11 attacks.....

[bth: Presidents asserting near dictatorial powers is not new.  What is new is the Congress and especially the Judicial branch of our government rolling over and letting it happen. The balance of powers failed to work for the first time in my life.]

Monday, March 02, 2009

4 Tons of Fertilizer Stolen From Store

Four Tons of Fertilizer Reported Stolen in Maryland
At least four tons of fertilizer was stolen over the weekend in Frederick, city police said. No motive had been determined.

A ton of urea and three tons of other fertilizer were taken from the Southern States store on South Street between Saturday night and Sunday morning, police said.

According to police, the fertilizer was contained for the most part in white 50-pound bags with a company logo.

Fertilizer thefts have attracted increased attention from law enforcement officials in recent years because some types of fertilizer can be used in making explosives. It was not immediately clear whether the materials taken could be used for such a purpose....

[bth: this is not good]

Options for Afghanistan

Armchair Generalist: Options for Afghanistan
...Instead of floundering in search of a strategy, we should consider removing the bulk, if not all, of our forces. The alternative is to hope blindly, waste more lives and resources, and, in the worst case, see our vulnerable supply route through Pakistan cut, forcing upon our troops the most ignominious retreat since Korea in 1950 (a massive air evacuation this time around, leaving a wealth of military gear).

Ranked from best to worst, here are our four basic options going forward:

• Best. Instead of increasing the U.S. military "footprint," reduce our forces and those of NATO by two-thirds, maintaining a "mother ship" at Bagram Air Base and a few satellite bases from which special operations troops, aircraft and drones, and lean conventional forces would strike terrorists and support Afghan factions with whom we share common enemies. All resupply for our military could be done by air, if necessary.

Stop pretending Afghanistan's a real state. Freeze development efforts. Ignore the opium. Kill the fanatics.

• Good. Leave entirely. Strike terrorist targets from over the horizon and launch punitive raids when necessary. Instead of facing another Vietnam ourselves, let Afghanistan become a Vietnam for Iran and Pakistan. Rebuild our military at home, renewing our strategic capabilities.

• Poor. Continue to muddle through as is, accepting that achieving any meaningful change in Afghanistan is a generational commitment. Surge troops for specific missions, but not permanently.

• Worst. Augment our forces endlessly and increase aid in the absence of a strategy. Lie to ourselves that good things might just happen. Let U.S. troops and Afghans continue to die for empty rhetoric, while Pakistan decays into a vast terrorist refuge....

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Terminator 5?: Big Dog and the rise of combat robots

Baltimore Personal Finance Examiner: Terminator 5?: Big Dog and the rise of combat robots

Cartel war rages in Mexico

Video - Breaking News Videos from

[bth: its surprising that this hasn't spilled across to El Paso already. We need a more comprehensive policy for dealing with this problem. Some call for drug legalization, but would that solve this problem? I doubt it.]

U.S. Plans Afghan Effort to Thwart Road Bombs

With Afghan Buildup, U.S. Expands Effort Against Roadside Bombs -
.... More than 175 American and allied troops were killed by roadside bombs in Afghanistan last year, more than twice as many as the year before, and American commanders say the 17,000 extra troops ordered to Afghanistan by President Obama last week will offer additional targets.

While improvised roadside bombs have been a greater threat in Iraq, the Taliban-led insurgency has begun to use them on a wider scale in Afghanistan. Four American soldiers died Tuesday in an attack involving an improvised explosive device, or I.E.D., in southern Afghanistan, where most of the new American troops are headed. On Wednesday, three British soldiers patrolling in southern Afghanistan were killed by an explosive device.

Senior military officers say Afghanistan’s topography and primitive infrastructure play to the insurgents’ advantage. Unlike Iraq, where more of the streets are paved, Afghanistan has a network of undeveloped roads where it is far easier to lay traps.

“Dirt roads give you plenty of softer places to dig in, then for the weather to settle it, and then for dust to camouflage it,” said Lt. Gen. Thomas F. Metz, director of the Pentagon’s organization in charge of seeking ways to counter improvised explosives.

Even Afghanistan’s most vital paved highway, the Ring Road, the primary route for commercial and military convoys between Kabul and other major cities, was built with thousands of culverts — any of which could conceal explosives.

The military plans to use satellites and portable Global Positioning System devices to show convoys the exact location of each culvert, and to install monitoring systems that can detect hidden bombs, General Metz said.

His unit, the Joint I.E.D. Defeat Organization, tallied 3,611 instances in which improvised explosives were used in Afghanistan in 2008, a 50 percent increase over the previous year. Besides coalition forces, even larger numbers of Afghan civilians were killed last year.

In Iraq, there were more than 9,000 I.E.D. attacks last year, but that is far below the number in 2006, when they peaked at 2,500 a month. Today, insurgents in Iraq are planting fewer I.E.D.’s, and only one in nine produces an American casualty. In Afghanistan, where as many as one in three bombs causes a casualty, American officers say they hope a combination of technology, intelligence, armor and training can help them drive down the casualty rate.

The improvised bombs — buried in roads, packed into cars or bicycles and hidden in trash cans or animal carcasses — are made from materials readily available in war zones, whether abandoned bombs, construction explosives or fertilizer. They are the weapon of choice for an insurgency: cheap and easy to build, but hard to detect and counter....

Tally of Roadside Bombs

Family keeps county soldier's memory alive

Family keeps county soldier's memory alive

Click here to see the video

Nearly three years after the tragic loss of their daughter during a tour of duty in Iraq, the parents of the Fort Washington woman said they are dedicated to keeping their daughter's memory alive as they move forward with a foundation to honor her memory and legacy.

U.S. Army 2nd Lt. Emily Perez, 23, a 2001 graduate of Oxon Hill High School, was killed in September 2006 after her Humvee hit a roadside bomb. Emily Perez's parents, Daniel and Vicki Perez of Fort Washington, said they set out to ensure that their daughter would be remembered, and that year founded the Emily J.T. Perez Foundation, which held its first fundraising banquet Saturday.

"Most parents kind of wallow in their grief, and Emily wouldn't have wanted us to do that," Vicki Perez said.

The foundation's mission is to preserve Emily Perez's faith, life and legacy by empowering young women in their community to strive for success and reach their full potential, something that embodied who she was, said the foundation's secretary, Tiffany Martin, 26, who was Emily Perez's roommate at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point in New York.....

Down economy boosts military - The Boston Globe

Down economy boosts military - The Boston Globe: "WASHINGTON - The faltering US economy is fueling a dramatic turnaround in military recruiting, with new statistics showing that the Army is experiencing the highest rate of new enlistments in six years."...

Wikileaks cracks NATO's Master Narrative for Afghanistan

Wikileaks cracks NATO's Master Narrative for Afghanistan - Wikileaks
Wikileaks has cracked the encryption to a key document relating to the war in Afghanistan. The document, titled "NATO in Afghanistan: Master Narrative", details the "story" NATO representatives are to give to, and to avoid giving to, journalists.
An unrelated leaked photo from the war: a US soldier poses with a dead Afghani man in the hills of Afghanistan
An unrelated leaked photo from the war: a US soldier poses with a dead Afghani man in the hills of Afghanistan

The encrypted document, which is dated October 6, and believed to be current, can be found on the Pentagon Central Command (CENTCOM) website [UPDATE: Fri Feb 27 15:18:38 GMT 2009, the entire Pentagon site is now down--probably in response to this editorial, parts of the site can still be seen in google's cache ]

The encryption password is progress, which perhaps reflects the Pentagon's desire to stay on-message, even to itself.

Among the revelations, which we encourage the press to review in detail, is Jordan's presense as secret member of the US lead occupation force, the ISAF.

Jordan is a middle eastern monarchy, backed by the US, and historically the CIA's closest partner in its extraordinary rendition program. "the practice of torture is routine" in the country, according to a January 2007 report by UN special investigator for torture, Manfred Nowak.[1]

The document states NATO spokespersons are to keep Jordan's involvement secret. Publicly, Jordan withdrew in 2001 and the country does not appear on this month's public list of ISAF member states.[2]

Some other notes on matters to treat delicately are:

* Any decision on the end date/end state will be taken by the respective national and/or Alliance political committee. Under no circumstances should the mission end-date be a topic for speculation in public by any NATO/ISAF spokespeople.
* The term "compensation" is inappropriate and should not be used because it brings with it legal implications that do not apply.
* Any talk of stationing or deploying Russian military assets in Afghanistan is out of the question and has never been the subject of any considerations.
* Only if pressed: ISAF forces are frequently fired at from inside Pakistan, very close to the border. In some cases defensive fire is required, against specific threats. Wherever possible, such fire is pre-coordinated with the Pakistani military.

Wikileaks has cracked the encryption to a key document relating to the war in Afghanistan. The document, titled "NATO in Afghanistan: Master Narrative", details the "story" NATO representatives are to give to, and to avoid giving to, journalists.

The encrypted document, which is dated October 6, and believed to be current, can be found on the Pentagon Central Command (CENTCOM) website [UPDATE: Fri Feb 27 15:18:38 GMT 2009, the entire Pentagon site is now down--probably in response to this editorial, parts of the site can still be seen in google's cache ]

The encryption password is progress, which perhaps reflects the Pentagon's desire to stay on-message, even to itself....

Iran Is Much More Bark Than Bite - Moscow Times
... In reality, though, selling military hardware to Iran fully meets Russia's commercial and military interests. Sales are falling rapidly to China and India, which have been the two largest buyers of Russian weaponry over the past 15 years. China is largely able to manufacture the weapons needed for its own military, and India is increasingly looking for high-tech weaponry, a market in which Russia is weak. Moreover, India is open to buying from almost any weapons exporter, making the competition fierce. The bulk of Russia's weapons exports in recent years have gone to supplying the enormous demand for equipment using mid-range technologies sold at moderate prices. Those clients include Algeria, Venezuela and Malaysia. But the size of those markets is limited and cannot perpetually compensate for Russia's losses on the Chinese market or the lack of growth on the Indian market.

Under such conditions, it would be foolish to ignore the large Iranian market, worth roughly $300 million to $500 million per year. In addition, what Iran needs the most in terms of weapons systems is precisely what Russia's weapons manufactures can offer. But if Russia continues its restrained policy toward Iran, Tehran will likely turn to China, which will soon be able to offer competitive products in this segment.

What's more, Tehran is trying to develop its own military-industrial complex. That opens up prospects for expanding commercial cooperation between Iran and Russia, including the licensing and organization of Iranian factories for making Russian products, as well as joint production of military weaponry. For now, Ukrainian aircraft manufacturers lead in this form of cooperation with Iran. They are working with Iran's HESA company to produce a regional version of the An-140 and An-148 aircraft.

The commercial and military components of Russian-Iranian relations compliment the two countries' shared political interests. Both countries oppose a U.S. and NATO presence in the Caucasus, Central Asia and the Middle East. Both want to contain the expansion of Sunni radical extremism.

Moreover, if Moscow weakens its military and technical ties with Tehran, this may open the door for reconciliation between Iran and the United States. That could lead to Iran increasing its military and trade contacts with the United States and Western Europe. Russia could also lose the Iranian card to Ukraine and Eastern Europe, which may be very interested in increasing their ties to Tehran as well.

Ruslan Pukhov is the publisher of Moscow Defense Brief.

[bth: interesting to read this from the Russian perspective]

The Pentagon Meets the Real World

Editorial - The Pentagon Meets the Real World -
...How much the expansion and pay increases will cost will not be known until the full budget is released in April. What is already clear is that to stay within the $534 billion ceiling, the Pentagon will have to finally face the real world and make cuts in expensive and outdated cold-war weapons systems. President Obama and his advisers have a few more weeks to figure out which weapons to cut. But we are ready now with suggestions.

We would start by killing off the Air Force’s F-22 fighter and the Navy’s DDG-1000 stealth destroyer. We would also scale down the Army’s Future Combat Systems and hold back the deployment of unproven missile defense systems. Those four steps could save well over $10 billion a year. Billions could be saved by halting construction of unnecessary attack submarines, and dropping the Marines’ troubled tilt-rotor Osprey aircraft.

Cutting weapons programs takes political courage — that is why so many have survived so long after their military rationales evaporated. President George W. Bush was not willing to face down industry lobbyists and their carefully cultivated Congressional allies...

Leaving Iraq: Shift to south, exit through desert

Leaving Iraq: Shift to south, exit through desert: "BAGHDAD – The U.S. military map in Iraq in early 2010: Marines are leaving the western desert, Army units are in the former British zone in the south and the overall mission is coalescing around air and logistics hubs in central and northern Iraq.

Meanwhile, commanders will be shifting their attention to helping Iraqi forces take full control of their own security.

The Pentagon has not released the full details of President Barack Obama's plan to end America's combat role in Iraq by Aug. 31 of next year, but the broad contours are taking shape.

Statements from military officials, U.S. government reports and interviews by The Associated Press with Iraqi and U.S. planners offer a wide-angle view of the expected American formation in Iraq when the pullout quickens early next year."...

FUMENTO: F-22 Raptor imperative

Washington Times - FUMENTO: F-22 Raptor imperative
President Barack Obama must soon decide whether to order the building of more F-22 Raptors or let the production lines close. Only 203 of the aircraft described by the think tank Air Power Australia as "the most capable multirole combat aircraft in production today" have been built or ordered.

Support for the aircraft is not limited to defense hawks. Last month, 44 U.S. senators, including Edward Kennedy and John Kerry, sent the president a letter requesting an additional order of unspecified size to prevent the planned 2011 shutdown. Bowing to political reality rather than true military needs, the Air Force now claims it could possibly get by with just 60 more aircraft.

Despite this, the Raptor may well have its wings clipped. The main reason: Strategists plan to fight the next war based on the last (or current) one. Where once we planned for massive set-piece battles, now it seems many can't see beyond guerrilla warfare with lightly armed insurgents.

The F-22, which entered service three years ago, blends key technologies that formerly existed only separately on other aircraft - or not at all. Its stealthiness will make trigger-happy combatants shoot at birds. It has agility, air-to-air combat abilities and penetrability far beyond that of the F-15 Eagle which entered service 33 years ago. It cruises at Mach-plus speeds without using fuel-guzzling afterburners.

But the end of the Cold War, the current guerrilla wars, and what Air Power Australia calls a deliberate campaign of "concocting untruthful stories about its capabilities, utility and cost," has devastated Raptor purchases. Originally the Air Force requested up to 762, but that was progressively cut to 648, 442, 339, then 277 before the current 203, of which 134 have been built....

[bth: wings are falling of the F15 with age and wear.  That said the Air Force has consistently been dishonest on the cost of its aircraft and for that matter its procurement process.  Its contracting officers were virtually decapitated a few years ago by wave after wave of corruption allegations. Air Force has an equipment need and a credibility issue to sort out.]

Report: Obama helicopter security breached - White House-

Report: Obama helicopter security breached - White House- ..."Employees of Tiversa, a Cranberry Township, Pa.-based security company that specializes in peer-to-peer technology, reportedly found engineering and communications information about Marine One at an IP address in Tehran, Iran.

Bob Boback, CEO of Tiversa, told WPXI-TV: 'We found a file containing entire blueprints and avionics package for Marine One, which is the president's helicopter.'
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The company was able to trace the file back to its original source.

'What appears to be a defense contractor in Bethesda, Md., had a file-sharing program on one of their systems that also contained highly sensitive blueprints for Marine One,' Boback said."...

[bth: wow]

Lehrer and President Obama Part 2

Informed Comment

Lehrer and President Obama Part 1

Informed Comment

Brave New Films on Afghanistan

Informed Comment