Saturday, April 11, 2009

SPIEGEL Interview with Iranian President Ahmadinejad: 'We Are Neither Obstinate nor Gullible' - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

SPIEGEL Interview with Iranian President Ahmadinejad: 'We Are Neither Obstinate nor Gullible' - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International: "Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad spoke with SPIEGEL about what he expects from US President Barack Obama, why America's new Afghanistan strategy is wrong and why Iran should have a spot on the UN Security Council."...

[bth: this is an article worth reading in full]

Obama vs. Earmarks, Part II - Capitol Briefing

Obama vs. Earmarks, Part II - Capitol Briefing:... "'I also urge the Congress to focus on the needs of our troops and our national security, and not to use the supplemental to pursue unnecessary spending. I want the Congress to send me a focused bill, and to do so quickly. When this request returns to me as legislation ready to be signed, it should remain focused on our security. It is important that we follow the same approach we applied to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and keep extraneous and unnecessary projects out of this legislation.'"...

Hostage killed as French storm yacht held by Somali pirates | World news | guardian.co.uk

Hostage killed as French storm yacht held by Somali pirates | World news | guardian.co.uk:... "After a winter lull, the epidemic of piracy in the Indian Ocean has rapidly re-emerged in recent days. Various gangs along Somalia's coast are holding 18 foreign ships – including five taken this week – and more than 250 hostages. Success last year, when they netted tens of millions of pounds in ransoms, has allowed them to invest in new boats and equipment, enabling the pirates to attack far out to sea.

The hijacking of the Alabama is believed the first pirate attack on an American-flagged merchant ship in 200 years. Last night, a pirate source told Reuters that associates were heading towards the scene of the standoff on a captive German vessel with foreign hostages still on board to act as human shields.

'Knowing that the Americans will not destroy this German ship and its foreign crew, they [the approaching pirates] hope they can meet their friends on the lifeboat,' the pirate said."...

[bth: to ask the obvious, why aren't we seeking to free the German ship and rescue its crew? Aren't they allies? If American sailors risked their lives to rescue allies, what message would that send to the world - to friend and foe alike?]

Belmont Club » Who you talking to? Tabibans conditions for talks

Belmont Club » Who you talking to?: ..."“We have three conditions for negotiations: unconditional pull-out of foreign forces, formation of an interim government involving all sides and holding of free elections under its supervision,” he said. “If the expulsion of foreign troops is on the agenda of talks, we are ready to hold them with any one,” he added.

The Telegraph wrote that “Afghan media reported that Daud Abedi, his deputy, had met with the US official to discuss what role Hizb-i-Islami could play in ending the Afghan conflict. US State Department officials were not immediately available to confirm the reports.” This is something to watch. But the facts on the ground are still unclear"

Poll: Americans Overwhelmingly Favor Diplomatic Relations With Cuba | TPMDC

Poll: Americans Overwhelmingly Favor Diplomatic Relations With Cuba | TPMDC: "Check out this new poll from CNN:

Do you favor or oppose re-establishing U.S. diplomatic relations with Cuba?

Favor 71%
Oppose 27%

If you think this is a drastic turnaround from prior opinion against relations with Cuba...you're wrong. It's only a moderate change from when this question was asked three years ago, and it came out at the time as 62% favor, 29% oppose."

[bth: let's get on with it]

Taliban move on Buner despite promise to withdraw - Long War Journal

Taliban move on Buner despite promise to withdraw - The Long War Journal
...The Taliban have also made examples of local leaders who have dared to resist. In Swat, the Taliban executed a local tribal leader named Pir Samiullah, then returned to the village to dig up his body and hang it in the town square. The villagers were warned not to remove his body or they would face the same fate.

Samiullah's tribe was the showcase for Pakistan's "awakening," the indigenous tribal uprising against the Taliban modeled after Iraq's Sunni resistance to al Qaeda and allied jihadi groups. The Swat tribal resistance collapsed with Samiullah's death and desecration.

Problems with manpower, training, geography, coordination between the tribes, and support from the military and government plague the tribal efforts to oppose the Taliban.

The Pakistani tribes are operating as distinct, local fighting forces with no central coordination, while the Taliban can coordinate their activities across the northwest and even from inside eastern Afghanistan. The Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan, Baitullah Mehsud's unified Taliban command, was established to share manpower and resources and to coordinate activities.

"The tribes are limited by geography, the TTP [Pakistani Taliban] is not," a senior US military intelligence official told The Long War Journal in September 2008 [see LWJ report: Pakistan engages the tribes in effort to fight the Taliban]. "Moreover, the Taliban out-number and out-gun them by more than 20 to 1. The tribes may achieve tactics success in some areas, but likely will fail to achieve strategic success."

The problems are complicated by the tribes' unwillingness to cooperate with the government and the military. "We keep the government away," a senior tribal leader in Lakki Marwat told Geo News last fall.

The tribes fear cooperation with the government will further turn the Taliban and sympathetic tribes against them. "If we became part of the government they would become an excuse, a liability, a rallying cry against us," the Lakki Marwat tribal leader said. Similar sentiments were expressed by Buner tribal leaders earlier this week. This attitude prevents the military from providing the needed security to oppose massed Taliban attacks.


US Warships Block Help For Pirates Holding US Captain Hostage

US Warships Block Help For Pirates Holding US Captain Hostage:... "The pirates have threatened to kill their American hostage, Capt. Richard Phillips, if the U.S. attacks them, according to a Somali who has been in contact with the pirates.

The Somali said the pirates had called in four commandeered ships with hostages from a variety of nations including the Philippines, Russia and Germany.

The vice president of the Philippines, the nation with the largest number of sailors held captive by Somali pirates, appealed Saturday for the safety of hostages to be ensured in the standoff.

'We hope that before launching any tactical action against the pirates, the welfare of every hostage is guaranteed and ensured,' said Vice President Noli de Castro. 'Moreover, any military action is best done in consultation with the United Nations to gain the support and cooperation of other countries.'

U.S. rules of engagement prevent the Americans using their vastly superior fighting power to engage the pirates if there is any danger to civilians."...

[bth: it would seem we need new rules of engagement more in tune with reality]

YouTube - Cheney Spies On Obama

YouTube - Cheney Spies On Obama

Friday, April 10, 2009

Russia 'will buy Israeli drones'

BBC NEWS | Europe | Russia 'will buy Israeli drones': "Russia has signed a deal to buy Israeli unmanned spy planes to help the country improve its own drones, reports say.

The news comes after reports that Moscow was unhappy with the performance of similar Russian aircraft during the conflict last year with Georgia.

An industry source in Israel said Russian generals had been impressed with the Israeli drones used by Georgia in the conflict."...

[bth: ugv and uav technology is clearly becoming internationalized. We had better recognize this reality. We certainly do not have a monopoly on it.]

Captain Tried To Escape, U.S. Official Says

Captain Tried To Escape, U.S. Official Says : NPR
Defense Department officials say the American boat captain held by Somali pirates tried to escape but was recaptured. Captain Richard Phillips jumped over the side of the small lifeboat where he has been held for two days and began swimming.

Officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to talk about unfolding operations, say Phillips was retaken by the pirates after he jumped from the boat around midnight local time in open ocean off the Somali coast.

A U.S. Navy ship patrolling nearby was able to see Phillips moving around and talking after his return to the pirate's boat.

The defense officials think he is unharmed.

Escalating a dramatic Indian Ocean standoff, more U.S. warships — as well as pirate reinforcements with an international gallery of hostages — rushed Friday toward the spot where four Somali bandits are holding a U.S. sea captain aboard a drifting lifeboat.

The pirates apparently fear being shot or arrested if they hand over Capt. Richard Phillips — captured in a failed effort to seize the Maersk Alabama on Wednesday — and hope to link up with their colleagues who are using Russian, German, Filipino and other hostages captured in recent days as human shields.

U.S. Central Command chief Gen. David Petraeus said U.S. warships also are headed to the area, more than 300 miles (480 kilometers) off Somalia's Indian Ocean coast....

Mohamed Samaw, a Somali resident of the pirate stronghold in central Eyl town, who claims to have a "share" in a British-owned ship hijacked Monday, said four foreign ships previously captured by pirates are heading toward the lifeboat. A total of 54 hostages are on two of the ships, citizens of China, Germany, Russia, Ukraine, the Philippines, Tuvalu, Indonesia and Taiwan.

"The pirates have summoned assistance — skiffs and motherships are heading towards the area from the coast," said a Nairobi-based diplomat, who spoke on condition on anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media. "We knew they were gathering yesterday."

Samaw said two ships left Eyl on Wednesday afternoon. A third sailed from Haradhere, another pirate base in central Somalia, and the fourth one was a Taiwanese fishing vessel seized Monday that was already only 30 miles (48 kilometers) from the lifeboat.

He said the ships include the German cargo ship Hansa Stavanger, seized earlier this month. The ship's crew of 24 is made up of five Germans, three Russians, two Ukrainians, two Filipinos and 12 Tuvalus.

Another man identified as a pirate by three different residents of Haradhere also said the captured German ship had been sent to the rescue.

"They had asked us for reinforcement and we have already sent a good number of well-equipped colleagues, who were holding a German cargo ship," said the pirate who asked that only his first name, Badow, be used to protect him from reprisals.

"We are not intending to harm the captain, so that we hope our colleagues would not be harmed as long as they hold him," Badow said.

"All we need, first, is a safe route to escape with the captain, and then (negotiate) ransom later," he added....

[bth: so the US navy had better have a plan for dealing with this situation.  I mean for goodness sakes the captain actually escapes and starts swimming to the US navy vessel and we apparently did nothing?  Now we have a multi-ship, multi-hostage, multi-national game of chicken going on.]




Think Progress - Gen. McInerney wants $335 Million in aircraft to escort a ship near Somalia

Think Progress » Home Page: "Last year, the New York Times revealed that numerous cable news “military analysts” never disclosed their ties to military contractors. Yesterday, Lt. Gen. Tom McInerney appeared on Fox News to discuss the Somali pirates situation, and managed to use it as an opportunity to shill for the F-22:

McINERNEY: I’d put F-22s and combat air patrol out there, two of them, with tankers. … The reason I’d put the F-22s is because they can go 1.6 to mach 2, and they have a very quick reaction time and a 20 millimeter canon.

Gawker flagged the appearance and noted that McInerney, conveniently, worked as a consultant to Northrop Grumman, a major contractor for the F-22."...

[bth: corrupt and stupid. only on Fox News]

General Ray Odierno: we may have to ignore Iraq deadline to halt al-Qaeda terror - Times Online

General Ray Odierno: we may have to ignore Iraq deadline to halt al-Qaeda terror - Times Online: "The activities of al-Qaeda in two of Iraq’s most troubled cities could keep US combat troops engaged beyond the June 30 deadline for their withdrawal, the top US commander in the country has warned."....

[bth: Odierno needs to be careful with his statements. He isn't President and he shouldn't be contradicting him.]

FBI raids 3 Minneapolis money-transfer shops

FBI raids 3 Minneapolis money-transfer shops: "Federal agents raided three Minneapolis money transfer businesses that mainly serve the Somali community Wednesday, seeking records of financial transactions to several African and Middle East countries."...

Gordon Brown points finger at Pakistan

Student visa link to terror raids as Gordon Brown points finger at Pakistan | UK news | guardian.co.uk
Suspects being questioned today after one of the biggest anti-terror operations since the July 7 attacks exploited lax student visa regulations to enter the UK from Pakistan, Whitehall sources said yesterday.

As police continued searches in ­Liverpool, Manchester and Clitheroe, Lancashire, after the raids on Wednesday, the Home Office said student visa checks had been tightened in the last fortnight because of widespread abuses of the system.

There are concerns inside government and the security services that the 11 Pakistani nationals being held in the north of England could have gained entry on student visas in order to form a sleeper cell. Gordon Brown talked of the police having foiled a "very big terrorist plot".

The operation which led to the arrest of the men, along with one Briton who is said to have roots in the same tribal area, was rushed forward after the country's top anti-terror officer carried papers under his arm detailing the raids as he walked into 10 Downing Street in full view of photographers.

Apologising for the blunder, Bob Quick, the Met's head of specialist operations, resigned from his post yesterday. His departure reignited tensions over the running of the force after London mayor Boris Johnson broke the news of the resignation on BBC Radio 4, angering the home secretary, Jacqui Smith, and Scotland Yard....


Thursday, April 09, 2009

U.S. warship near boat carrying pirates - CNN.com

U.S. warship near boat carrying pirates - CNN.com:... "'They're making more money in piracy than the gross national product of Somalia, so it's not going to go away any time soon until there's international concern and international law enforcement,' said Murphy, an instructor at the Massachusetts Maritime Academy."...

Pro-Taliban cleric pulls out of peace deal - CNN.com

Pro-Taliban cleric pulls out of peace deal - CNN.com: "ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- Pro-Taliban cleric Sufi Mohammad has announced he has pulled out of a peace deal in the violence-plagued Swat Valley, saying the government is not serious about implementing Islamic law, or sharia, in the region."

Mohammad brokered the cease-fire in late February between the Pakistani government and his son-in-law, Maulana Fazlullah, who commands the Taliban in Swat Valley.

With the deal, the area would come under sharia law, which -- under the Taliban's strict interpretation -- would prevent women from even being seen in public without their husbands or fathers.

Speaking to reporters Thursday, Mohammad expressed frustration that President Asif Ali Zardari had not signed off on the peace deal. He blamed the Pakistani government for any bloodshed that might follow....

North Korea celebrates launch, makes new threat | International | Reuters

North Korea celebrates launch, makes new threat | International | Reuters: ..."Analysts said North Korea went ahead with the launch knowing it would not suffer serious repercussions, while its leader, Kim Jong-il, would see an enormous boost at home for the defiant act.

'The successful launching of the satellite ... is not a mere fruition of wisdom and talent but a fierce confrontation with those who disliked it,' KCNA said in a separate report.

Kim is expected to ride a wave of patriotic fervor generated by the launch at the annual meeting of the North's rubber stamp parliament on Thursday."...

Rocketboom

Rocketboom

Extremists relocating to big cities to avoid drone attacks

Daily Times - Leading News Resource of Pakistan - Extremists relocating to big cities to avoid drone attacks
WASHINGTON: Al Qaeda, Taliban and other militants have been relocating from the Tribal Areas to Pakistan’s overcrowded and impoverished cities, which is likely to make it harder to find and stop them from staging terrorist attacks, officials say.

Concerns are growing among US intelligence and military officials that CIA’s drone strikes are bolstering the insurgency by prompting radicals to disperse from the Tribal Areas into Pakistan’s heartland.

“Putting these guys on the run forces a lot of good things to happen,” said a senior US defence official. “It gives you more targeting opportunities. The downside is that you get a much more dispersed target set and they go to places where we are not operating....


US has promised no drone strikes in Balochistan: Zardari

Daily Times - Leading News Resource of Pakistan - US has promised no drone strikes in Balochistan: Zardari
LAHORE: The United States has assured Pakistan it will not carry out drone attacks in Balochistan, President Asif Ali Zardari said in an interview with Daily Times Editor Najam Sethi for Dunya TV on Wednesday.

“Not only the people of Pakistan, but also the government is concerned over the drone attacks,” Zardari said. He said the US had incorporated several of Pakistan’s suggestions in its new policy for Afghanistan, but the two countries disagreed on the drone strikes. However, he said Washington “has assured us it will not carry out drone attacks in Balochistan”....


Fed sees no economic recovery this year

Fed sees no economic recovery this year: "WASHINGTON (AFP) – The Federal Reserve no longer sees signs of recovery this year from a prolonged recession and only weak growth in 2010, minutes of a policy-setting meeting said.

Despite massive interventions by the Fed and other government bodies to jumpstart the moribund economy and unblock tight credit, policymakers at a March meeting viewed grimmer projections than those made two months earlier."...

Men's Underwear Sales, Greenspan's Economic Metric, Reveal Crisis

Men's Underwear Sales, Greenspan's Economic Metric, Reveal Crisis:... "'If you look at sales of male underpants it's just pretty much a flat line, it hardly ever changes,' Krulwich recounted after the publishing of Greenspan's book, 'The Age Of Turbulence.' 'But on those few occasions where it dips that means that men are so pinched that they are deciding not to replace underpants. And [Greenspan] said 'that is almost always a prescient, forward impression that here comes trouble.''

Well, here comes trouble.

A revised survey by the leading global research company, Mintel, shows relatively large drops in the sales of men's underwear in the United States. The study, to be released April 9, projects a 2.3 percent drop in sales of all men's underwear products in 2009. Underscoring just how quickly the market has gone south, in November 2008, Mintel had forecast sales to grow by 2.6 percent in 2009. A serious downturn led to a serious revision.

Officials in the business say a variety of factors are to blame, including an influx of private label products from China. But the truth is, the psychology of the recession plays the biggest role."...

Taliban will soon capture Islamabad, says Mullah Nazeer

Daily Times - Leading News Resource of Pakistan - Taliban will soon capture Islamabad, says Mullah Nazeer
MINGORA: Pakistani Taliban commander Mullah Nazeer Ahmed said in an interview with Al Qaeda’s media arm, Al-Sahab, that the Taliban would soon capture Islamabad.

Pakistani Taliban factions had united and would take their war to the capital, he said.

“The day is not far when Islamabad will be in the hands of the mujahideen.”

He accused the Pakistan Army of sending spies to facilitate US drone strikes against Al Qaeda and Taliban, and said Pakistani authorities were misleading the public by saying it was the United States carrying out the attacks....


Terror raids follow files blunder

BBC NEWS | UK | Terror raids follow files blunder
Twelve men have been arrested in the north west of England after Britain's most senior counter-terrorism police officer sparked a security alert.

Assistant Commissioner Bob Quick said he "deeply regretted" revealing a secret document to photographers when he arrived for a briefing at No 10.

The document, clearly marked "secret", carried an outline briefing on an ongoing counter-terrorism operation.

The 12 suspects were later arrested at locations across north-west England....
Ass Com Bob Quick

[bth: incredible that the raids which were probably premature come down to the way this counter terrorism commissioner held his documents when he got out of this car.]



Ten principles for a Black Swan-proof world

FT.com / Comment / Opinion - Ten principles for a Black Swan-proof world

  1. What is fragile should break early while it is still small.
  2. No solialisation of losses and privatisation of gains.
  3. People who were driving a school bus blindfolded and crashed it should never be given a new bus.
  4. Don't let someone making an incentive bonus manager a nuclear plant or your financial risks.
  5. Counterbalance complexity with simplicity.
  6. Do not give children sticks of dynamite even if they come with a warning.
  7. Only Ponzi schemes should depend on confidence.
  8. Don't give an addict more drugs if he has withdrawal pains.
  9. Citizens should not depend on financial assets or fallible expert advice for their retirement.
  10. Make an omelette with the broken eggs.
[bth: worth a full read]


Former FBI chief defends flow of money to Saudi ambassador

Former FBI chief defends flow of money to Saudi ambassador - Los Angeles Times
Reporting from Washington -- Former FBI Director Louis J. Freeh says $2 billion that flowed from a British arms manufacturer to U.S. bank accounts controlled by Prince Bandar bin Sultan, then Saudi ambassador to the U.S., was not a bribe, but was instead part of a complex barter involving the exchange of Saudi oil for British fighter jets.

The transfer of funds to accounts at Riggs Bank in Washington, D.C., has come under scrutiny as the Justice Department continues an international corruption investigation involving British arms manufacturer BAE Systems. Freeh, who is now a lawyer and consultant for Bandar, made his comments to the Public Broadcasting Service for a "Frontline" documentary to be broadcast this evening. Bandar is now a national security advisor to the Saudi king. He has denied any wrongdoing, as have other Saudi officials.

Freeh said that a 1985 treaty between Britain and Saudi Arabia allowed the trade of oil for weapons. BAE signed an $86-billion contract with the Saudis under the provisions of the treaty, and the funds that flowed between Britain and the Bandar-controlled bank accounts in the U.S. may have come from the sale of Saudi oil under the terms of the contract. As part of the deal, BAE also supplied an Airbus 340 plane, which for years has been used by Bandar....

[bth: Nonsense. Bribes]


Informed Comment

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

TheHill.com - Report: Pakistan rejects U.S. plan, wants drones

TheHill.com - Report: Pakistan rejects U.S. plan, wants drones: "U.S. envoys met with Pakistani leaders on Tuesday to ensure that the $7.5 billion that President Obama plans to send their way over the next five years will be used to achieve common goals in the fight against extremism.

But according to a Pakistani newspaper, regional envoy Richard Holbrooke and Joint Chiefs Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen came up empty-handed and received a 'rude shock' when a proposal for joint operations against al Qaeda and Taliban forces in the volatile tribal regions was rejected.

Dawn newspaper reported that Pakistan also asked the U.S. to turn over the unmanned drone missions over the territory to them, saying that the drone strikes were fueling extremism."...

[bth: Pakistan has such a corrupt government. No telling what the real story is other than some bribery is involved. Likely this is part of that discussion]

Killer Drones Now Officially Fighters .... David Axe at War is Boring

War Is Boring
It happened without many people noticing. While increasing costs and diminishing utility sapped Pentagon support for the traditional jet fighter — leading to a shrinking and increasingly geriatric fleet — unmanned combat aircraft improved by giant leaps and bounds, rising to meet the challenges of irregular warfare. With quiet engines, long loiter time, sophisticated sensors and precision weapons, a comparatively small force of drones could do the same work as an old-school fighter squadron, better and cheaper.

Today in Iraq and Afghanistan, nobody is begging for more fighter jets to fight insurgents. But everyone wants more Predator and Reaper drones.

The Pentagon under Robert Gates appreciated this. The Air Force’s old senior leadership, hung up on the mythical glory of pilot-on-pilot dogfighting, did not. The Air Force made more manned F-22 fighters its number-one priority, instead of more and better drones.

But reality has a way of overcoming nostalgia. This week Gates announced deep cuts to the Air Force’s manned fighter fleet. More than 200 old fighters will retire early. The stealthy, $150-million F-22 Raptor will end production at just 187 examples, 200 short of what the Air Force wanted just a year ago, but could never afford. The future Air Force manned fighter fleet will include only 1,900 F-22s and F-35s, versus today’s 2,500 F-22s, F-15s, F-16s and A-10s.

But now the Pentagon is directing the Air Force to include $20-million MQ-9 Reaper drones, pictured, in its fighter count. “Heretofore, they were not included in the analytic side of the mission space that the F-16, F-15 and F-15E were occupying,” Joint Chiefs vice James Cartwright, a Marine general, told Aviation Week. “Given the conflicts we are in and are likely to be in the next couple of years are conflicts in which being on station for a long period of time and not delivering maximum loads every sortie — those platforms [Reapers] do, in fact, give you a qualitative edge.”

So it’s official: Reapers are now fighters. The first fighters without areaper-front_s.jpg pilot on board.
The Air Force has around 30 Reapers in its inventory, in addition to some 200 smaller Predators. This combined fleet will double in the next couple years. Reaper production could eventually reach the hundreds of airframes before improved drone designs replace it....


Default Count Rises to Highest Since Great Depression (Update1)

Default Count Rises to Highest Since Great Depression (Update1) - Bloomberg.com
April 7 (Bloomberg) -- Thirty-five companies defaulted in March, the highest number in a single month since the Great Depression, according to Moody’s Investors Service.

The rate at which speculative-grade corporate borrowers worldwide failed to meet their obligations rose to 7 percent from 4.1 percent at the end of last year, Moody’s said in a report today. So far this year, 79 companies rated by Moody’s have defaulted, the New York-based ratings firm said.

Almost $1.3 trillion of losses and writedowns at financial institutions worldwide, combined with the deepest economic slowdown since World War II, have weakened companies’ finances, reducing their ability to pay debt. The global default rate will peak at 14.6 percent in the final quarter of this year, Moody’s predicted, lower than last month’s 15.3 percent forecast.

“There was a triangle of leverage between companies, banks and investors that was higher than at any time in history,” said Gary Jenkins, a strategist at Evolution Securities Ltd. in London. “It’s clear the default rate is going to be significant.”

In the U.S., the default rate at the end of the first quarter was 7.4 percent, up from 4.5 percent at the end of 2008, and in Europe it jumped to 4.8 percent from 2 percent.

European defaults are expected to peak at 21 percent in the fourth quarter, down from the 22.5 percent the ratings firm’s model calculated last month....


Protests in Moldova Explode, With Help of Twitter - NYTimes.com

Protests in Moldova Explode, With Help of Twitter - NYTimes.com: "MOSCOW — A crowd of more than 10,000 young Moldovans materialized seemingly out of nowhere on Tuesday to protest against Moldova’s Communist leadership, ransacking government buildings and clashing with the police."

The sea of young people reflected the deep generation gap that has developed in Moldova, and the protesters used their generation’s tools, gathering the crowd by enlisting text-messaging, Facebook and Twitter, the social messaging network.

The protesters created their own searchable tag on Twitter, rallying Moldovans to join and propelling events in this small former Soviet state onto a Twitter list of newly popular topics, so people around the world could keep track. ...

[bth: an article worth reading to understand the impact of Twitter and Facebook on the face of social change.]

Gates’s Cuts to an Array of Weapons Bring a Fight - NYTimes.com

Gates’s Cuts to an Array of Weapons Bring a Fight - NYTimes.com:... "Analysts said Congress could use a supplemental war-financing request that Mr. Obama is likely to send to Capitol Hill this week as a vehicle to restore spending for more F-22s and other systems that Mr. Gates wants to cut, including Boeing’s C-17 cargo planes."...

[bth: article worth reading in full]

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Electricity Grid in U.S. Penetrated by Spies - WSJ.com

Electricity Grid in U.S. Penetrated by Spies - WSJ.com: "WASHINGTON -- Cyberspies have penetrated the U.S. electrical grid and left behind software programs that could be used to disrupt the system, according to current and former national-security officials.

The spies came from China, Russia and other countries, these officials said, and were believed to be on a mission to navigate the U.S. electrical system and its controls. The intruders haven't sought to damage the power grid or other key infrastructure, but officials warned they could try during a crisis or war.

'The Chinese have attempted to map our infrastructure, such as the electrical grid,' said a senior intelligence official. 'So have the Russians.'"...

[bth: again one needs to ask, why is this a breaking story when it is over a year old? It's about the budget discussion going on in Washington right now. Get the fear up so the spending will follow.]

Taliban advance on Buner - The Long War Journal

Taliban advance on Buner - The Long War Journal: "Flush with success in forcing the Pakistani government to implement sharia, or Islamic law, in a large region in Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province, the Taliban now seek to coerce the tribes in a small nearby district into implementing sharia there as well."...

On North Korea

War and Piece:
...Instead, the Obama administration should do three things:

First, it needs to state that it is prepared to resume the Six Party Talks whenever the North is ready to do so -- and then say nothing else. There is really not much more to say, anyway. For once, we should at least try to be as patient as the North Koreans.

Second, the United States needs to repair relations with our two major allies in Asia, Japan and South Korea. Both relationships have been bruised in recent years and Seoul and Tokyo are anxious about whether the new team in Washington will fully consult and coordinate on its North Korea policy. In this sense, the North Korean nuclear issue is not about North Korea at all. It is about the United States preserving alliance relations. After all, we can't control what the North does, but we can control what we do in relation to Seoul and Tokyo.

Third, we ought to welcome South Korea's joining the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI) and encourage China to do so. ...


Pakistan could collapse within six months: US expert - Pakistan - World - The Times of India

Pakistan could collapse within six months: US expert - Pakistan - World - The Times of India: "NEW YORK: Pakistan could collapse within six months in the face of the snowballing insurgency, a top expert on guerrilla warfare has said.


The dire prediction was made by David Kilcullen, a former adviser to top US military commander General David Petraeus.

David Kilcullen is the best known practitioner of counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency operations and had advised Gen Petraeus on the counter-insurgency programme in Iraq. Few experts understand the nature of the insurgency in Af-Pak as well and he is now advising Petraeus in Afghanistan."...

[bth: my guess is that this statement is designed to end debate about giving Pakistan aid. You always have to ask yourself, who said it, why and why now? So this guy is a Petraeus gnome, he is saying it in front of congress,and he says it now during budget time. ... I rate this up there with the chinese ballistic missiles that can take out our navy carriers. ... Next up will be some dire statements regarding the resurgence of Russian ground forces hence the need for FCS equipment.]

The Raw Story | Virginia terror assessment targets 'historically black colleges' as 'radicalization nodes'

The Raw Story | Virginia terror assessment targets 'historically black colleges' as 'radicalization nodes': "A newly leaked terrorism assessment from a law enforcement fusion center in Virginia shows that police and feds are targeting 'historically black colleges' as 'radicalization nodes' for terrorists."...

Monday, April 06, 2009

'Turkey foils plot to assassinate Obama' | Middle East | Jerusalem Post

'Turkey foils plot to assassinate Obama' | Middle East | Jerusalem Post: "Turkish security services have arrested a man of Syrian descent who was planning to assassinate US President Barack Obama during his current trip to Turkey, the Saudi daily Al Watan reported Monday."

According to the report, the man, who was arrested on Friday, was carrying a press card identifying him as an employee of Al Jazeera. He reportedly confessed to his intention to stab Obama with a knife and said that he was aided by three accomplices. ...

US Banks 'Basically Insolvent': Soros - Economy * US * News * Story - CNBC.com

US Banks 'Basically Insolvent': Soros - Economy * US * News * Story - CNBC.com: "The U.S. economy is in for a 'lasting slowdown' and could face a Japan-style period of relatively low growth coupled with high inflation, billionaire investor George Soros said on Monday.

Soros, speaking to Reuters Financial Television, also warned that rescuing U.S. banks could turn them into 'zombies' that draw the lifeblood of the economy, prolonging the economic slowdown."...
Informed Comment

U.S. bank woes just the start, Whitney says

reportonbusiness.com: U.S. bank woes just the start, Whitney says
...The latest rally doesn't have her fooled. It may keep going this month, thanks in part to those accounting rule changes and one-time tax gains. But it can't last.

That's because 2009 isn't looking any better for the big U.S. banks or the economy than did 2008. And it could be worse “because so much credit is coming out of the system,” she said.

What Ms. Whitney is referring to is the black hole of consumer credit debt. She recently warned that personal credit card lines in the United States could shrink by more than 55 per cent in the next two years. And with that will go the spending wedded so closely to those heavily used credit lines.

As recently as six months ago, she was forecasting that at least $2-trillion (U.S.) of available credit card lines would be eliminated by nervous bankers by the end of next year. Now she thinks she underestimated the cutback and has revised the number to $2.7-trillion. Although it's not possible to gauge the direct impact on spending by already depressed consumers, the effect is bound to be enormous.

“Since 2006, you've had liquidity coming out of the market. That's caused consumer credit to worsen. Liquidity continues to come out of the market. Therefore, consumer credit continues to worsen,” she said logically.

And the effect on the banks? “The assets on bank balance sheets are worth less and less. And they need more and more capital.”

Without doubt, more U.S. banks will fail or end up effectively nationalized. And if that's not enough grim news, there's another black hole still to come – commercial real estate. No wonder she recently opined: “It remains clear to us that core liquidity fundamentals are deteriorating at an accelerated pace.”


US Envoy Writes of Israeli Threats

US Envoy Writes of Israeli Threats: "In the wake of the accusation by Chas Freeman that his nomination to lead the National Intelligence Council was derailed by an 'Israeli lobby,' a forthcoming memoir by another distinguished ambassador adds stunning new charges to the debate. The ambassador, John Gunther Dean, writes that over the years he not only came under pressure from pro-Israeli groups and officials in Washington but also was the target of an Israeli-inspired assassination attempt in 1980 in Lebanon, where he had opened links to the Palestine Liberation Organization."...

Turkey Wants U.S. ‘Balance’

Op-Ed Columnist - Turkey Wants U.S. ‘Balance’ - NYTimes.com
.... This will lead to tensions with Israel, which had conveniently conflated its long national struggle with the Palestinians within the war on terror, but is an inevitable result of a rational reassessment of U.S. interests.

I asked Erdogan if Islam and modernity were compatible. “Islam is a religion,” he said, “It is not an ideology. For a Muslim, there is no such thing as to be against modernity. Why should a Muslim not be a modern person? I, as a Muslim, fulfill all the requirements of my religion and I live in a democratic, social state. Can there be difficulties? Yes. But they will be resolved at the end of a maturity period so long as there is mutual trust.”

The problem is, of course, that Islam has been deployed as an ideology in the anti-modern, murderous, death-to-the-West campaign of Al-Qaeda. But Erdogan is right: Islam is one of the great world religions. Obama’s steps to reassert that truth, and so bridge the most dangerous division in the world, are of fundamental strategic importance.

Synthesis begins with understanding, which is precisely what never interested his predecessor.


Sunday, April 05, 2009

Sic Semper Tyrannis : The Obama/Saudi king bow

Sic Semper Tyrannis : The Obama/Saudi king bow:... "American presidents do not bow to foreign leaders, ESPECIALLY kings. If Ms Starr chose to bow to King Abdullah, that is her business. She is not president of the United States. If I choose to bow to the pope, that is my business. I would expect the president of the United States NOT to bow to the pope.

When the president bows to a foreign ruler he bows for all Americans. The United States is the world's foremost republic. It is utterly inappropriate for our head of state to make a gesture of submission to any kind of foreign ruler.

The Saudi king is an absolute monarch. Saudi Arabia has no constitution but the Shariah. Saudis are not citizens. They are subjects. The king's subjects bow to him in his presence in much the same way that President Obama did"...

[bth: Lang's right the President shouldn't be bowing to monarchs]

How do we save NATO? We quit - Los Angeles Times

How do we save NATO? We quit - Los Angeles Times:... "Present-day NATO is a shadow of what it once was. Calling it a successful alliance today is the equivalent of calling General Motors a successful car company -- it privileges nostalgia over self-awareness."...

[bth: Andrew wr itesan article worth a full and careful read.]

Is the worst behind us?

March auto sales

DNA Evidence Frees Black Man Convicted Of Bear Attack | The Onion - America's Finest News Source

DNA Evidence Frees Black Man Convicted Of Bear Attack | The Onion - America's Finest News Source
DNA Evidence Frees Black Man Convicted Of Bear Attack

Gates Prepares ‘Fundamental Shift’ in Defense Funding Priorities

CQ Politics | Gates Prepares ‘Fundamental Shift’ in Defense Funding Priorities
....Gates’ hope is that by revealing it all at once and by explaining it in depth and explaining the strategic rationale for all of these decisions, that people will view it as a whole and not get focused on the individual decisions and not let their parochial interests overcome the fact that it is in our national interests to make these adjustments to the whole of the budget,” Morrell said.

Although Gates repeatedly has warned that no final decisions have been made about specific program cuts, defense officials have noted that some are at serious risk — particularly those that are poor performers or cannot be connected with a current threat.

The programs that many expect to face huge cuts or cancellation include the Army’s Future Combat Systems program; the Transformational Communications Satellite program; the Navy’s DDG-1000 destroyer program; and the VH-71 presidential helicopter program. Some cuts or procurement delays are also expected for the Joint Strike Fighter aircraft program.

Ballistic missile defense, which represents the Pentagon’s largest acquisitions program, also could be on the chopping block. Futuristic missile defense components are at particular risk, including the Airborne Laser Program, the Kinetic Energy Interceptor, the Space Based Interceptor, along with plans to begin construction on two missile defense sites in Eastern Europe.

Many observers on Capitol Hill are also anxiously awaiting what Gates might say about the fate of the Pentagon’s troubled effort to buy a new fleet of aerial refueling tankers, whether or not the new administration wants to build a new bomber aircraft, and whether the president wants to continue buying F-22 Raptor fighters.

Sources said that the president wants to cap the number of F-22s at around 250, which would ensure three more years of production after the current limit of 183 planes is reached this year.....


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Spooky murder in Loudon County, VA connected to 1999 Chinese embassy bombing? | The Cable

Spooky murder in Loudon County, VA connected to 1999 Chinese embassy bombing? | The Cable: "Last month, former Army officer William Bennett was found murdered after being out with his wife on an early morning walk in a residential neighborhood in Lansdowne, Virginia. His wife Cynthia was badly injured but survived the March 22nd attack, which is being investigated by local and federal authorities.

In 1999, sources bring to our attention, Bennett was a retired Army lieutenant colonel working at the CIA on contract as a targeter during the 78-day NATO air war on Kosovo. He was one of the people, according to a former U.S. intelligence source, who was later found responsible by the Agency for feeding the target into the system that resulted in the May 7, 1999 NATO bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade."...