Saturday, May 23, 2009

Female Air Force Academy graduate dies in Afghanistan

Female Air Force Academy graduate dies in Afghanistan - CNN.com
The U.S. Air Force Academy is mourning its first female graduate to be killed by enemy forces in Afghanistan or Iraq.

First Lt. Roslyn L. Schulte, 25, died Wednesday near Kabul, Afghanistan, of wounds suffered in a roadside bomb attack.


She was an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance operations
officer assigned to the 613th Air and Space Operations Center, the Air
Force said Friday in a news release.

Schulte was deployed to
Combined Security Transition Command-Afghanistan. She was traveling in
a convoy to Bagram Airfield to participate in an intelligence sharing
conference...
First Lt. Roslyn L. Schulte, 25, graduated from the Air Force Academy in 2006.

Insurgents crossing into Pakistan

Insurgents crossing into Pakistan - Yahoo! Canada News: "BAGRAM AIR BASE, Afghanistan - The top U.S. general in eastern Afghanistan said Friday he saw 'some very interesting movement' of insurgents across the border into Pakistan this spring, possibly to join Taliban militants battling government troops.

Maj.-Gen. Jeffrey Schloesser's comments come amid concern in Washington and Islamabad that the buildup of 21,000 additional U.S. forces in Afghanistan may push Taliban militants into Pakistan, further destabilizing the border region in that country.

The U.S. administration has declared eliminating militant havens in Pakistan vital to its goals of defeating al-Qaida and winning the war in Afghanistan.

Fighters have historically moved back and forth across the border to back Taliban insurgencies in both countries.

But Schloesser's remarks in an interview with The Associated Press suggested a larger transfer into Pakistan than has been seen previously, as the fighting between Pakistan's troops and the Taliban has intensified.

He suggested that most of the movement in the past has been from Pakistan into Afghanistan, calling the new development 'an interesting movement backward.'"...
Informed Comment

Victims helping victims

Victims helping victims - The Sun Chronicle Online - News




Local residents who lost loved ones on Sept. 11 reach out to help families of those lost in war
BOSTON - Eight years ago, Cindy McGinty's world turned upside down when her husband, Michael, was among those killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York.

And, Sally White lost her daughter, Susan Blair, who had also been working at the landmark twin towers when two hijacked jetliners struck, killing almost 3,000 people.

Now McGinty, formerly of Foxboro, and White, a former North Attleboro resident, are looking beyond their own crushing losses to help military families whose loved ones have died in the line of duty fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The two women were in Boston Thursday to help launch the Massachusetts Military Heroes Fund, a non-profit organization founded to help families of fallen U.S. military personnel get back on their feet and deal with the trauma of losing a loved one in combat.

McGinty is on the board of directors of the new group and White was on hand to lend her support to the organization prompted by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy and supported by Bay State 9/11 families.
"As a collective group of families who had experienced the outpouring of support from Sen. Kennedy and numerous organizations and individuals after 9/11, we wanted very much to help the families of the military men and women who gave their own lives because of what happened to our loved ones," McGinty said.

Both McGinty, who moved to Connecticut last December, and White, who now lives in Walpole, said they were conscious of the fact that many of the fallen soldiers, marines, sailors and airmen had been inspired to join the service in response to the threat of terrorism spurred by the 9/11 attacks.

The new charity will receive money from private donations and a portion of the revenue from the United We Stand Massachusetts automobile license plate, which features a billowing United States flag and the letters US on the left side, said Stephen Kerrigan, president of the new group.

Proceeds will provide clinical case management to help families of fallen servicemen and women obtain psychiatric counseling and other benefits and services, provide referrals and advocacy and hold "community building" events, such as an outing to a Red Sox game for families of military personnel and their children.

Joining McGinty and White in marking the occasion at the Omni Parker House Hotel Thursday were Christie Coombs, an Abington mother of three whose husband, Jeff, died in the 9/11 attacks; Alma Hart, of Bedford, whose son, Army Pfc. John Hart, was killed in an ambush in Iraq in 2003; and Kevin and Frances Hart, of Taunton, whose son, Army Sgt. Shane Duffy, was killed in action a year ago June 6.

The Duffys said they were deeply touched by the generosity of 9/11 families and others in supporting families of fallen military personel.

There's no way to prepare for such a loss, Frances Duffy said.

"Before Shane was gone, I'd watch the news reports, hearing there was one killed here, two killed there, hoping that one day I wouldn't get a knock on my door," she said. "Then one day, it came."

Kerrigan said the Massachusetts Military Heroes Fund plans to open a public campaign for donations in the near future. Donors can also contribute to the fund by ordering the special United We Stand license plate.

Plates have an initial registration fee of $36 and a special plate fee of $40. Renewals cost $81 every two years.
For more information or to order a plate, call 617-351-4500.

Rootless Cosmopolitan - By Tony Karon » Blog Archive » The Writing on the Wall for Obama’s ‘Af-Pak’ Vietnam

Rootless Cosmopolitan - By Tony Karon » Blog Archive » The Writing on the Wall for Obama’s ‘Af-Pak’ Vietnam: ...."The military launched its current offensive both to satisfy its patron in Washington, and also in response to growing alarm in Pakistan’s urban middle classes at the Taliban’s excesses, and apparent intention to expand its writ. But the operation already appears to be following a familiar pattern: Anger at the Taliban will quickly give way to revulsion at the military operation to dislodge the militants in Swat, which has now — together with similar operations in Bajaur Agency, has turned 1 million Pakistanis into refugees in their own country. (The Islamists — not the Taliban, but groups associated with the likes of Lashkar e-Toiba, authors of the Mumbai massacre — have typically done a far better job than the state of caring for Pakistanis rendered destitute by catastrophes…)"

That’s why Nawaz Sharif, the most popular politician in Pakistan right now, is not exactly full-throated in his endorsement of the military campaign, although is indicating sufficient support to convince Washington that he deserves U.S. backing to replace Zardari.

As public opinion turns against the current offensive, it will be blamed on America. The Taliban fighters in Swat will be driven out of the towns and into the hills and back into the Tribal Areas, which will allow for a new truce — the subtext of which will be that the Pakistani Taliban, should they want to wage war, should do so over the border in support of their Pashtun brethren in Afghanistan. (That, after all, is a point of consensus between them and the military establishment.)

The current military campaign is designed to enforce a limit on the Taliban’s reach within Pakistan, confining it to the movement’s heartland — which is in a northwestern part of the country which has always been beyond the government’s control.

The fallout from the operation, though, is likely to be an intensified terror campaign in the cities (where the Taliban can’t launch an insurrection, but can blow things up), and expanded hostility towards the U.S. which various Islamist forces will exploit. And Pakistan’s military will be no more likely to act against Taliban activities in Afghanistan than they are now.

The majority of Pakistanis are hostile to the Pakistani Taliban — which while aligned, is organizationally distinct from the Afghan Taliban, even though the latter operates on both sides of a border never recognized by the Pashtuns — but they see it as a problem stirred up by the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. Pakistanis don’t blame the Taliban
for the U.S. drone strikes that kill Pakistani civilians. I suspect they won’t blame the Taliban for the civilian suffering inflicted in the battle to retake Swat. While they may loathe the Taliban, their loathing for the United States is even greater — as Anatole Lieven recently noted. He found that the best-educated and most cosmopolitan yuppies he met in Pakistan believe that the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated by Washington and Israel. So, ordinary Pakistanis and the commanders of the military believe the Taliban uprising on their soil will dissipate once the U.S. leaves Afghanistan — Pakistan’s military, in other words, has an incentive to see the U.S. go home.

Pakistanis have every reason to expect that the U.S. will sooner or later tire of spinning its wheels in the Hindu Kush, and their outlook is based on that assumption. That’s why the Pakistani military establishment continues to back the Afghan Taliban, which represents its interests in its strategic competition with India for influence in Kabul. President Hamid Karzai, for his part, appears to recognize the limits on U.S. involvement, too, breaking sharply with the U.S. and maneuvering to remain in power, with some very unsavory allies, even as Washington has been trying to ease him out. Karzai, too, expects the U.S. to leave some time soon, and is jumping into bed with various warlords to hedge his bets against going the way of Najibullah, the president left in place by the departing Soviets who was unceremoniously lynched in the streets of Kabul by the Taliban.

Sure, the U.S. has now appointed a hard-charging Special Forces general to lead its mission in Afghanistan. Perhaps, as a result, they will be able to strike more blows at the Taliban, but they’re unlikely to alter the overall outcome of the war. In fact, you could make a speculative case that appointing Stanley McChrystal, whose resume highlights include the capture of Saddam Hussein and the elimination of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq, Washington may be looking for a “bring me the head of Osama bin Laden” scenario to create a pretext for beginning to dramatically scale back the U.S. mission in Afghanistan. But that would be a wild hunch.

In the interim, amid rising political chaos and social unrest spurred by ethnic tension and economic hardship, Pakistan’s generals may, once again, feel compelled to take charge of the political space in a new coup, and install a technocratic government charged with managing the impact of the economic crisis outside of the self-destructive party political competition that bedevils Pakistani governance, while enforcing security itself. But that’s unlikely to alter the equation in favor of Pakistan acting on Washington’s demands. On the contrary, the Pakistanis are simply treading water, doing the minimum necessary to keep U.S. aid flowing, and waiting for the Americans to leave Afghanistan.

Tomgram: The Pressure of an Expanding War

Tomgram: The Pressure of an Expanding War:

..."An Expanding Af-Pak War

Of course, there are now so many bulls in this particular China shop that smashing is increasingly the name of the game. At this point, the early moves of the Obama administration, when combined with the momentum of the situation it inherited, have resulted in the expansion of the Af-Pak War in at least six areas, which only presage further expansion in the months to come:"

1. Expanding Troop Commitment: In February, President Obama ordered a "surge" of 17,000 extra troops into Afghanistan, increasing U.S. forces there by 50%. (Then-commander McKiernan had called for 30,000 new troops.) In March, another 4,000 American military advisors and trainers were promised. The first of the surge troops, reportedly ill-equipped, are already arriving. In March, it was announced that this troop surge would be accompanied by a "civilian surge" of diplomats, advisors, and the like; in April, it was reported that, because the requisite diplomats and advisors couldn't be found, the civilian surge would actually be made up largely of military personnel.

In preparation for this influx, there has been massive base and outpost building in the southern parts of that country, including the construction of 443-acre Camp Leatherneck in that region's "desert of death." When finished, it will support up to 8,000 U.S. troops, and a raft of helicopters and planes. Its airfield, which is under construction, has been described as the "largest such project in the world in a combat setting."

2. Expanding CIA Drone War: The CIA is running an escalating secret drone war in the skies over the Pakistani borderlands with Afghanistan, a "targeted" assassination program of the sort that McChrystal specialized in while in Iraq. Since last September, more than three dozen drone attacks -- the Los Angeles Times put the number at 55 -- have been launched, as opposed to 10 in 2006-2007. The program has reportedly taken out a number of mid-level al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders, but also caused significant civilian casualties, destabilized the Pashtun border areas of Pakistan, and fostered support for the Islamic guerrillas in those regions. As Noah Shachtman wrote recently at his Danger Room website:

"According to the American press, a pair of missiles from the unmanned aircraft killed 'at least 25 militants.' In the local media, the dead were simply described as '29 tribesmen present there.' That simple difference in description underlies a serious problem in the campaign against the Taliban and Al Qaeda. To Americans, the drones over Pakistan are terrorist-killers. In Pakistan, the robotic planes are wiping out neighbors."

David Kilcullen, a key advisor to Petraeus during the Iraq "surge" months, and counterinsurgency expert Andrew McDonald Exum recently called for a moratorium on these attacks on the New York Times op-ed page. ("Press reports suggest that over the last three years drone strikes have killed about 14 terrorist leaders. But, according to Pakistani sources, they have also killed some 700 civilians. This is 50 civilians for every militant killed, a hit rate of 2 percent -- hardly 'precision.'") As it happens, however, the Obama administration is deeply committed to its drone war. As CIA Director Leon Panetta put the matter, "Very frankly, it's the only game in town in terms of confronting or trying to disrupt the al Qaeda leadership."

3. Expanding Air Force Drone War: The U.S. Air Force now seems to be getting into the act as well. There are conflicting reports about just what it is trying to do, but it has evidently brought its own set of Predator and Reaper drones into play in Pakistani skies, in conjunction, it seems, with a somewhat reluctant Pakistani military. Though the outlines of this program are foggy at best, this nonetheless represents an expansion of the war.

4. Expanding Political Interference: Quite a different kind of escalation is also underway. Washington is evidently attempting to insert yet another figure from the Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld era into the Afghan mix. Not so long ago, Zalmay Khalilzad, the neocon former American viceroy in Kabul and then Baghdad, was considering making a run for the Afghan presidency against Hamid Karzai, the leader the Obama administration is desperate to ditch. In March, reports -- hotly denied by Holbrooke and others -- broke in the British press of a U.S./British plan to "undermine President Karzai of Afghanistan by forcing him to install a powerful chief of staff to run the Government." Karzai, so the rumors went, would be reduced to "figurehead" status, while a "chief executive with prime ministerial-style powers" not provided for in the Afghan Constitution would essentially take over the running of the weak and corrupt government.

This week, Helene Cooper reported on the front page of the New York Times that Khalilzad would be that man. He "could assume a powerful, unelected position inside the Afghan government under a plan he is discussing with Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, according to senior American and Afghan officials." He would then be "the chief executive officer of Afghanistan."

Cooper's report is filled with official denials that these negotiations involve Washington in any way. Yet if they succeed, an American citizen, a former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. as well as to Kabul, would end up functionally atop the Karzai government just as the Obama administration is eagerly pursuing a stepped-up war against the Taliban.

Why officials in Washington imagine that Afghans might actually accept such a figure is the mystery of the moment. It's best to think of this plan as the kinder, gentler, soft-power version of the Kennedy administration's 1963 decision to sign off on the coup that led to the assassination of South Vietnamese autocrat Ngo Dinh Diem. Then, too, top Washington officials were distressed that a puppet who seemed to be losing support was, like Karzai, also acting in an increasingly independent manner when it came to playing his appointed role in an American drama. That assassination, by the way, only increased instability in South Vietnam, leading to a succession of weak military regimes and paving the way for a further unraveling there. This American expansion of the war would likely have similar consequences.

5. Expanding War in Pakistan: Meanwhile, in Pakistan itself, mayhem has ensued, again in significant part thanks to Washington, whose disastrous Afghan war and escalating drone attacks have helped to destabilize the Pashtun regions of the country. Now, the Pakistani military -- pushed and threatened by Washington (with the loss of military aid, among other things) -- has smashed full force into the districts of Buner and Swat, which had, in recent months, been largely taken over by the Islamic fundamentalist guerrillas we call "the Pakistani Taliban."

It's been a massive show of force by a military configured for smash-mouth war with India, not urban or village warfare with lightly armed guerrillas. The Pakistani military has loosed its jets, helicopter gunships, and artillery on the region (even as the CIA drone strikes continue), killing unknown numbers of civilians and, far more significantly, causing a massive exodus of the local population. In some areas, well more than half the population has fled Taliban depredations and indiscriminate fire from the military. Those that remain in besieged towns and cities, often without electricity, with the dead in the streets, and fast disappearing supplies of food, are clearly in trouble.

With nearly 1.5 million Pakistanis turned into refugees just since the latest offensive began, U.N. officials are suggesting that this could be the worst refugee crisis since the Rwandan genocide in 1994. Talk about the destabilization of a country.

In the long run, this may only increase the anger of Pashtuns in the tribal areas of Pakistan at both the Americans and the Pakistani military and government. The rise of Pashtun nationalism and a fight for an "Islamic Pashtunistan" would prove a dangerous development indeed. This latest offensive is what Washington thought it wanted, but undoubtedly the old saw, "Be careful what you wish for, lest it come true," applies. Already a panicky Washington is planning to rush $110 million in refugee assistance to the country.

6. Expanding Civilian Death Toll and Blowback: As Taliban attacks in Afghanistan rise and that loose guerrilla force (more like a coalition of various Islamist, tribal, warlord, and criminal groups) spreads into new areas, the American air war in Afghanistan continues to take a heavy toll on Afghan civilians, while manufacturing ever more enemies as well as deep resentment and protest in that country. The latest such incident, possibly the worst since the Taliban was defeated in 2001, involves the deaths of up to 147 Afghans in the Bala Baluk district of Farah Province, according to accounts that have come out of the villages attacked. Up to 95 of the dead were under 18, one Afghan lawmaker involved in investigating the incident claims, and up to 65 of them women or girls. These deaths came after Americans were called into an escalating fight between the Taliban and Afghan police and military units, and in turn, called in devastating air strikes by two U.S. jets and a B-1 bomber (which, villagers claim, hit them after the Taliban fighters had left).

Despite American pledges to own up to and apologize more quickly for civilian deaths, the post-carnage events followed a predictable stonewalling pattern, including a begrudging step-by-step retreat in the face of independent claims and reports. The Americans first denied that anything much had happened; then claimed that they had killed mainly Taliban "militants"; then that the Taliban had themselves used grenades to kill most of the civilians (a charge later partially withdrawn as "thinly sourced"); and finally, that the numbers of Afghan dead were "extremely over-exaggerated," and that the urge for payment from the Afghan government might be partially responsible.

An investigation, as always, was launched that never seems to end, while the Americans wait for the story to fade from view. As of this moment, while still awaiting the results of a "very exhaustive" investigation, American spokesmen nonetheless claim that only 20-30 civilians died along with up to 65 Taliban insurgents. In these years, however, the record tells us that, when weighing the stories offered by surviving villagers and those of American officials, believe the villagers. Put more bluntly, in such situations, we lie, they die.

Two things make this "incident" at Bala Baluk more striking. First of all, according to Jerome Starkey of the British Independent, another Rumsfeld creation, the U.S. Marines Corps Special Operations Command (MarSOC), the Marines' version of JSOC, was centrally involved, as it had been in two other major civilian slaughters, one near Jalalabad in 2007 (committed by a MarSOC unit that dubbed itself "Taskforce Violence"), the second in 2008 at the village of Azizabad in Herat Province. McChrystal's appointment, reports Starkey, has "prompted speculation that [similar] commando counterinsurgency missions will increase in the battle to beat the Taliban."

Second, back in Washington, National Security Advisor James Jones and head of the Joint Chiefs Admiral Mike Mullen, fretting about civilian casualties in Afghanistan and faced with President Karzai's repeated pleas to cease air attacks on Afghan villages, nonetheless refused to consider the possibility. Both, in fact, used the same image. As Jones told ABC's George Stephanopoulos: "Well, I think he understands that... we have to have the full complement of... our offensive military power when we need it... We can't fight with one hand tied behind our back..."....

Saudi Gazette - Obama worsening Afghan-Pak state

Saudi Gazette - Obama worsening Afghan-Pak state: ..."The Pakistani army is more than capable of maintaining state power against tribal militias and to defend its own nukes. Only a convulsive nationalist revolutionary spirit could change that - something most Pakistanis do not want. But Washington can still succeed in destabilizing Pakistan if it perpetuates its present hard-line strategies. A new chapter of military rule - not what Pakistan needs - will be the likely result, and even then Islamabad’s basic policies will not change, except at the cosmetic level.

In the end, only moderate Islamists themselves can prevail over the radicals whose main source of legitimacy comes from inciting popular resistance against the external invader. Sadly, US forces and Islamist radicals are now approaching a state of co-dependency.

It would be heartening to see a solid working democracy established in Afghanistan. Or widespread female rights and education - areas where Soviet occupation ironically did rather well. But these changes are not going to happen even within one generation, given the history of social and economic devastation of the country over 30 years.

Al-Qaeda’s threat no longer emanates from the caves of the borderlands, but from its symbolism that has long since metastasized to other activists of the Muslim world. Meanwhile, the Pashtuns will fight on for a major national voice in Afghanistan. But few Pashtuns on either side of the border will long maintain a radical and international jihadi perspective once the incitement of the US presence is gone. Nobody on either side of the border really wants it.

What can be done must be consonant with the political culture. Let non-military and neutral international organizations, free of geopolitical taint, take over the binding of Afghan wounds and the building of state structures. If the past eight years had shown ongoing success, perhaps an alternative case for US policies could be made. But the evidence on the ground demonstrates only continued deterioration and darkening of the prognosis. Will we have more of the same? Or will there be a US recognition that the American presence has now become more the problem than the solution? We do not hear that debate. – Global Viewpoint

Graham E. Fuller is a former CIA station chief in Kabul and a former vice-chair of the CIA’s National Intelligence Council. He is author of numerous books on the Middle East, including “The Future of Political Islam.”

[bth: worth reading in full]

NYT Reporter: Maybe 1 In 7 Detainees Didn't "Return" To Terrorism | TPMMuckraker


NYT Reporter: Maybe 1 In 7 Detainees Didn't "Return" To Terrorism | TPMMuckraker

NYT Reporter: Maybe 1 In 7 Detainees Didn't "Return" To Terrorism | TPMMuckraker: ..."Bumiller and her editors seem to have realized the possibility that they might have gotten spun -- though too late to change the front-page story in the print edition.

The paper has changed the lead and headline of the Web version of the story to reflect the uncertainty. The new headline reads: 'Later Terror Link Cited for 1 in 7 Freed Detainees.' And the lead: 'An unreleased Pentagon report concludes that about one in seven of the 534 prisoners already transferred abroad from the detention center in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, are engaged in terrorism or militant activity, according to administration officials.'

Compare that to the original version: 'An unreleased Pentagon report provides new details concluding that about one in seven of the 534 prisoners already transferred abroad from the detention center in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, has returned to terrorism or militant activity, according to administration officials.'

The new version of the piece still uses 'returned to terrorism' in the 12th paragraph....

[bth; NYTs appears to have been spun.... again.]

Times earns public service award for VA investigation - Washington Times

Times earns public service award for VA investigation - Washington Times: "'We cannot do our oversight job without the kind of investigative journalism exemplified by Audrey Hudson's reporting,' said Rep. Bob Filner, California Democrat and chairman of the House Veterans' Affairs Committee. 'Many Americans assume that our country is taking adequate care of our veterans - but we're not, and we depend on the media to expose the truth and build support for change.'

The nonprofit veterans foundation that first alerted the Times to Mr. Elliott's case applauded the award as well. Eilhys England Hackworth, chairperson of Soldiers For The Truth Foundation (SFTT), said she was gratified to see Mr. Elliott's case get such the recognition it deserved, calling Mr. Filner's work in correcting the problems inside the VA as 'an extraordinarily refreshing display of congressional oversight at its best, and one appropriate to the Times' robust efforts to reintroduce accountability journalism to Washington.'"...

YouTube - Future Weapons-SIMON breach grenade

YouTube - Future Weapons-SIMON breach grenade

YouTube - Future Weapons Season 3 Premier Aquaram Part 2

YouTube - Future Weapons Season 3 Premier Aquaram Part 2


6 "Non-Lethal" Weapons That'll Make You Wish You Were Dead - Page 2 | Cracked.com

6 "Non-Lethal" Weapons That'll Make You Wish You Were Dead - Page 2 | Cracked.com

6 "Non-Lethal" Weapons That'll Make You Wish You Were Dead - Page 2 | Cracked.com

Discus Glider

A desirable feature in gliders is the ability to be both mobile and
bottom-resting as gliders today must remain in constant motion. A
mobile to stationary conversion will allow a traditional, bottom
mounted sensor platform to be deployed from over the horizon, covertly
move into position, and then become a bottom fixture. Webb Research is
currently developing a mobile, ellipsoidal glider with bottom-resting
capabilities. A vehicle of lenticular shape (see figure), having low
drag in the horizontal bottom current, can have a rugged exterior to
resist buffeting due to bottom currents.


An article on this vehicle entitled "Design of a mobile and
bottom-resting autonomous underwater gliding vehicle" can be found in
the Proceedings of the Unmanned
Underwater Submersibles Technology 2003 conference






discus glider

Slocum Glider

Webb Research Corporation - designs and manufacturers scientific instruments for oceanographic research and monitoring
Conceived by Douglas C. Webb and supported by Henry Stommel and others, the class of Slocum Gliders is named after Joshua Slocum, the first man to single-handedly sail around the world.

The Slocum Glider is a uniquely mobile network component capable of moving to specific locations and depths and occupying controlled spatial and temporal grids. Driven in a sawtooth vertical profile by variable buoyancy, the glider moves both horizontally and vertically.

The long-range and duration capabilities of Slocum gliders make them ideally suited for subsurface sampling at the regional scale. Carrying a wide variety of sensors, they can be programmed to patrol for weeks at a time, surfacing to transmit their data to shore while downloading new instructions at regular intervals, realizing a substantial cost savings compared to traditional surface ships.

The small relative cost and the ability to operate multiple vehicles with minimal personnel and infrastructure will enable small fleets of gliders to study and map the dynamic (temporal and spatial) features of subsurface coastal waters around the clock and around the calendar.

* Electric Glider - Versatile, maneuverable, and powered with alkaline batteries.
* Thermal Glider - Long range and endurance using environmental energy (Thermal Engine).

slocum

India, Pak sharing intelligence at US prodding: Report - India - The Times of India

India, Pak sharing intelligence at US prodding: Report - India - The Times of India:... "He said the CIA was initially used as a conduit but the two countries now work directly with each other, while keeping the CIA in the loop.

The official cautioned,' We're not going to tell them everything we know and they are not going to tell us everything they know. Nobody expects that to happed. But we are talking about (the attack). We were not doing that in December,' the official said.
The paper said Washington hopes the cooperation will get a lift from the last weeks victory of the incumbent Congress party, which is seen as more moderate than BJP, which is traditionally more hostile to Pakistan.

A US official said Washington isn't 'under any illusions' about the difficulty of erasing decades-old suspicions between India and Pakistan, but sees some progress.

US officials hope that a calming of tensions can allow India's Congress Party government, strengthened by its election victory, to resume peace talks with Pakistan. Some US officials believe Lashkar-e-Taiba orchestrated the assault specifically to undermine the peace process.

The US has been concerned that Lashkar could carry out a second strike on India in a bid to stoke a war....

[bth: trust, however unlikely, must start somewhere. Common interests are a good place to start.]
"

Afghanistan seeks 400,000-strong force to relieve Western troops | U.S. | Reuters

Afghanistan seeks 400,000-strong force to relieve Western troops | U.S. | Reuters:... "Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak said the small size of the domestic security force was the reason militants have been able to hold sway over whole sections of the country.

'We can take any territory. We don't have enough to hold it,' Wardak said in an interview this week.

Counter-insurgency warfare textbooks suggest that Afghanistan should have about 600,000 soldiers and police to protect the population, he said, adding while that was probably impossible, the country needed at least 400,000-450,000."

"The enemy is counting on one thing. They are counting on that sooner or later the international community will lose its interest, that they can be waited out," he said.

The new U.S. strategy for Afghanistan envisions training more Afghan soldiers and police, although U.S. officials have not provided firm figures for how big they anticipate the Afghan security forces will eventually grow.

Washington is sending 4,000 additional instructors to Afghanistan this year, with particular focus on training police.

DEPENDENT ON DONORS

Unlike Iraq, which pays for its army and police from its own oil income, Afghanistan depends on international donors not only to train its troops but also to pay and equip them.

Wardak said it was still "about 70 times" cheaper for Western countries to train, equip and pay an Afghan soldier than to dispatch one of their own.

In addition to more manpower, Afghanistan needs its own armored vehicles to protect its troops from roadside bombs and its own air transport and attack capabilities if Western troops are to be able to withdraw, he added.

Wardak said the next few months should see decisive progress in the south of the country as thousands of U.S. reinforcements arrive. He estimated the area under control of militants would shrink by about 50 percent by the end of this year.

But he also said the next few months would be violent as insurgents resort to suicide and roadside bombings and occasional spectacular "commando raids" on Afghan towns, and that the reinforcements will not bring a complete victory this year....

[bth: this makes perfect sense to me. Increase Afghan troops and police becuase 1. they are cheaper, 2. they provide a quantity and staying power foreign troops do not and 3. its their country. So why aren't we stressing this like we did in Iraq?]

CTV.ca | Terror plot suspects have lengthy criminal records

CTV.ca | Terror plot suspects have lengthy criminal records: "NEWBURGH, N.Y. -- The four men accused of plotting to bomb New York City synagogues and shoot down military airplanes with missiles are down-and-out ex-convicts living on the margins in a faded industrial city.

One is a petty criminal who spent a day in 2002 snatching purses and shooting at people with a BB gun from an SUV. His lawyer calls him 'intellectually challenged.'

Three have histories of drug convictions, one of them for selling narcotics in a school zone. The man prosecutors portrayed as the instigator of the scheme said he smoked pot the day he planned to blow up the temples."....

Friday, May 22, 2009

6 Great Martial Arts for Killing a Man With Your Bare Hands - Page 2 | Cracked.com

6 Great Martial Arts for Killing a Man With Your Bare Hands - Page 2 | Cracked.com

6 Great Martial Arts for Killing a Man With Your Bare Hands | Cracked.com

Torture prompts soul-searching among some Christians - CNN.com

Torture prompts soul-searching among some Christians - CNN.com:... "A survey conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life found that white evangelical Christians are more likely to support torture than people who rarely or never attend religious services.

The survey said that 62 percent of white evangelical Protestants say that the use of torture against suspected terrorists can be often or sometimes justified in order to gain important information.

When asked the same question, 40 percent of the 'religiously unaffiliated' say torture can be often or sometimes justified. The survey, however, did not define torture or say whether 'enhanced interrogation techniques' like waterboarding are torture.

The survey comes at a time when the debate over torture is intensifying after the Obama adminstration released Bush-era memos that gave legal justification to 'enhanced interrogation techniques' such as waterboarding.

The survey's results have also sparked a debate within the Christian community that revolves around one question: How can a Christian support torture?"...

Rep. Tsongas seeks lighter body armor for troops - 2008 Presidential Campaign Blog - Political Intelligence - Boston.com

Rep. Tsongas seeks lighter body armor for troops - 2008 Presidential Campaign Blog - Political Intelligence - Boston.com: ..."And many soldiers exhibit lasting health effects from wearing their personal gear for long periods of time.

In 2007, the Army reported 257,000 injuries attributed to the stress of bearing heavy loads during repeated deployments. The service's vice chief of staff, Gen. Peter Chiarelli, estimates that such injuries are currently sidelining 20,000 soldiers.

'With the increased emphasis on Afghanistan in the coming years the load that soldiers must carry will no doubt become more of an issue,' said John Noble, a spokesman for the two-term congresswoman.

Tsongas' bill would also establish a separate program in each branch of the military dedicated to the research and procurement of body armor. Such efforts are now included in multi-billion dollar research accounts that cover all types of military equipment.

By establishing a stand-alone funding stream Tsongas believes Congress will be able to monitor how much money is being spent on body armor and better identify shortcomings.

'This is so we know exactly what is there and that it is being spent appropriately,' she said."

[bth: good idea]

Nonprofit launched to help fallen soldiers' families - Framingham, MA - The MetroWest Daily News

Nonprofit launched to help fallen soldiers' families - Framingham, MA - The MetroWest Daily News: "BOSTON —

The extended family created on Sept. 11, 2001, has much in common with the extended family created by the wars spurred by the terror attacks.

Yesterday, a member of the state's 9/11 family helped announce the creation of an organization to support families of fallen soldiers."

"Nine-11 made us part of this large family we'd rather not have been part of," said Christie Coombs, whose husband, Jeff, was aboard American Airlines Flight 11, along with more than 20 people from Acton, Concord, Framingham, Hopkinton, Sudbury, Needham, Newton, Wellesley and Westborough. But, as a family, those left behind supported one another through times when "we felt isolated and afraid in a world that seemed foreign to us," said Coombs.

"Since Sept. 11th, 140 men and women with ties to Massachusetts have made the ultimate sacrifice serving our nation," Sen. Edward Kennedy said in a statement read by Stephen Kerrigan, president of the newly launched Massachusetts Military Heroes Fund. "They were patriots who put themselves in harm's way to protect us all, and we must support the families they left behind in every way possible."

Offering support is "the least we can do for these families," Kerrigan said.

Funded by donations and part of the proceeds from "United We Stand" Massachusetts license plates, the Massachusetts Military Heroes Fund is "not trying to recreate services that are out there," said Coombs, but will be a place families can turn for information and guidance.

A staff social worker will be available to help coordinate services for fallen soldiers' families. Services provided by the private nonprofit will include referrals, advocacy and social events.

Like the 9-11 families, Gold Star families often have little in common with one another politically, socially or economically, said Alma Hart of Bedford, whose son, PFC John Hart, was killed in Iraq in October 2003. But the way in which they lost a loved one brings them together and "we comfort each other by mourning the loss."

While the military and other Gold Star families offer assistance, the Military Heroes Fund is needed because "it's the little things that'll get you," said Hart. "I only know of two Gold Star moms who didn't lose their jobs" after they lost a child.

"It's really hard to get into the chair" for counseling, she said.

"We do have a lot in common" with 9-11 families, Hart said, and many in military service say they were inspired to enlist because of the attacks.

"A public loss is very different from a private loss," said Coombs, a resident of Abington and a member of the Military Heroes Fund board of directors. "The pain is the same," but the issues are different when a loved one's death is front-page news, she said.

"We pledge to help in any way we can," Kerrigan said.

More information about the organization is available at www.massmilitaryheroes.org.

(Julia Spitz can be reached at 508-626-3968 or jspitz@cnc.com.)

YouTube - banned 7-up commercial

YouTube - banned 7-up commercial

YouTube - banned commercial by Mercedes

YouTube - banned commercial by Mercedes

Digital Video & Imagery Distribution System

Digital Video & Imagery Distribution System: ..."Throughout the course of the operation, which started May 19, combined forces have discovered almost 15,000 kilograms of various high-grade narcotics, including 14,750 kilograms of black tar opium, 11 kilograms of processed heroin and 30 kilograms of morphine. The forces also have found a massive supply of heroin-refining products, including 15,900 pounds of poppy seeds, 275 gallons of acidic anhydride, 250 kilograms of activated charcoal and 12,800 kilograms of soda ash.

The only other narcotics discovery comparable in size to the Marjeh operation was a 260-ton stockpile of hashish with an approximate street value of approximately $350 million, which was destroyed by coalition and Afghan forces in Kandahar Province in July 2008.

The combined forces, including the Afghan national army's 205th Corps, also uncovered a large amount of bomb-making materials, including a combined 40,000 kilograms of ammonium nitrate, ammonium chloride and homemade explosive material. The HME was packaged into gallon-size drums and prepared for use in vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices.

Supporting their suspicions that the bazaar was a nucleus of militant activity, the combined forces found two 'war rooms' stocked with maps, communication equipment, Russian-made night vision goggles and U.S. military vehicle parts. They also found weapons, including 10 rocket-prop"...

Caucasus jihad: Terror tactics back on the horizon? - The Long War Journal

Caucasus jihad: Terror tactics back on the horizon? - The Long War Journal: "Recent attacks in the Caucasus and statements by the leader of the Caucasus Emirate indicate the jihadist movement is reverting back to the use of terror tactics that plagued the second war of Chechnya. This potential return to terror tactics may be an attempt to implicate the governing elites as illegitimate and incapable of effective rule or security over the region, in response to Moscow's claims that the insurgency is officially defeated."...

[bth: looks like terror tactics are back on the menu in the Caucasus. Preferred modality seems to be suicide bombings.]

Afghan and US forces battle Taliban in northern Helmand stronghold - The Long War Journal

Afghan and US forces battle Taliban in northern Helmand stronghold - The Long War Journal: "Afghan commandos and US troops are battling the Taliban for control of a region in northern Helmand province that serves as a command and control center as well as a major drug processing center.

The combined forces launched an attack against the Taliban in the town of Marja in the Nad Ali District late at night on March 18. The town is described by the US military as 'a main command node' and a 'hub of narcotics processing' for the Taliban in Helmand province. According to Quqnoos, an English language Afghan news outlet, Marja has been under Taliban control for more than a year and a half.

Afghan commandos and US forces took control of the center of the town and targeted the bazaar, which is described as 'a nucleus of militant activity.' There the forces discovered two 'war rooms stocked with maps, communication equipment, Russian-made night vision goggles and US military vehicle parts,' as well as a variety of weapons.

The soldiers also discovered a large amount of home made explosives and 'packaged into gallon-size drums and prepared for use in vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices,' as well as 14,750 kilograms of black tar opium, 11 kilograms of processed heroin and 30 kilograms of morphine.

Thirty-four Taliban fighters have been killed during what the US military called heavy fighting to control the town. Sixteen fighters were killed in an airstrike in the bazaar as the Taliban attempted to retake control of the town. Six more Taliban fighters surrendered during Coalition raids in the town.

The Taliban have vowed to keep fighting in Marja. "We will never leave Marja and we will fight them [The Afghan and NATO troops] till we are alive," a Taliban spokesman told Quqnoos....


[bth: also worth reading in full. Bill Roggio has really become an excellent source of news about Afghanistan and Pakistan among others. His blog far exceeds the performance of the main stream media.]

Moving Target: The Pitfalls Facing U.S. Air Power in Afghanistan -- Politics Daily

Moving Target: The Pitfalls Facing U.S. Air Power in Afghanistan -- Politics Daily: "Precision air strikes have come a long way since an early aviator heaved a brick over the side of his biplane almost a century ago. Thanks to lasers and satellite guidance systems, the Air Force now can hit a dime from 20,000 feet with a guided bomb, after the bomb has flown into the center window of a two-story house, the one with the goat in the doorway.

The problem, painfully obvious with the rising civilian death toll from air strikes in Afghanistan, is that almost nobody knows who is inside that house -- Taliban insurgents, local militiamen, or schoolchildren.
In Iraq, the war against insurgents was largely fought on city streets, by infantrymen, and the role of air power was limited. In Afghanistan, there are fewer U.S. troops and a lot more territory to cover -- perfect conditions, it would seem, in which to use America's formidable power to strike from the air. But it is more difficult than it seems.

This is bad news for the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan. It's not something easy to fix, like tweaking strategy, inventing a new target sensor, or selecting a 250-pound bomb instead of the 2,000-pounder. The problem is that the United States doesn't know who, exactly, it is fighting in Afghanistan, and it doesn't know where they are"...

[bth: excellent article by David Wood worth reading in full. He now writes for Politics Daily after a long gig at the Baltimore Sun. He is one of the few reporters worth following on these important subjects]

Raw Story » Obama defiant on Guantanamo closure, slams Bush ‘mess’

Raw Story » Obama defiant on Guantanamo closure, slams Bush ‘mess’: "President Barack Obama Thursday vowed no retreat on closing Guantanamo Bay despite raging debate, branding the prison a “mess” and charging Bush-era anti-terror tactics were rooted in fear and ideology.

Obama also raised the prospect of holding the most dangerous Al-Qaeda detainees indefinitely in US “super-max” jails, in a major speech designed to recapture the initiative in a row over his national security policies.

“The terrorists can only succeed if they swell their ranks and alienate America from our allies — and they will never be able to do that if we stay true to who we are,” Obama said."...

[bth: Obama pretty much cratered on such a key issue. Very disappointing.]

Sic Semper Tyrannis : Obama administration creates South Caucasus supply network - By Richard Sale

Sic Semper Tyrannis : Obama administration creates South Caucasus supply network - By Richard Sale: "As the United States prepares to boost its military presence in Afghanistan, the Obama administration is using all means to secure alternative routes to supply U.S. and NATO forces as the security situation continues to deteriorate in Pakistan, according to U.S. officials who asked that they not be named.

So far Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, and Turkmenistan have all agreed to provide new supply routes to Afghanistan, all anxious to boost their international profiles, these sources said.

Teresita Schaffer, director of the South Asia program at the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies, told The Times, “These new routes reflect a necessary fallback position since Pakistan is becoming more and more unstable. We relied on the Paks for seven years, but routes became more and more insecure.”"...

[bth: worth a full read]

Senate Passes $91.3 Billion War Funding Bill

Senate Passes $91.3 Billion War Funding Bill: "WASHINGTON — The Senate on Thursday passed a $91.3 billion military spending bill, shorn of money President Barack Obama wants to close the Guantanamo Bay prison but allowing him to significantly ramp up the U.S. war in Afghanistan.

The Senate voted 86-3 to pass the bill, which provides money for military and diplomatic operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, setting up House-Senate talks on a compromise measure to present to Obama next month.

The spending measure closely tracks Obama's request for war funds, although the $80 million he was seeking to close the U.S. naval prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, was dropped Wednesday."....

Chris Kenndy is in for Senate seat :: CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: Michael Sneed

Chris Kenndy is in for Senate seat :: CHICAGO SUN-TIMES :: Michael Sneed: "Translation: Sneed has learned the Merchandise Mart's Chris Kennedy, son of the late U.S. Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, will announce he is running for the U.S. Senate early next week."

• • Tip 'em: Sneed tipped (April 28) that Kennedy, who will be the first member of his famous family to run for office from Illinois, had commissioned Obama pollster John Anzalone -- and talked to media consultants Larry Grisolano and John Kupper, who now run the AKPD firm once headed by David Axelrod, President Obama's senior adviser.

• • To wit: Kennedy will be running for Barack Obama's old Senate seat, now held by Roland Burris, the beleaguered appointee of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

• • The upshot: The AKPD firm has reportedly prepared an Internet commercial, which will be aired next week introducing Kennedy's candidacy.

• • The sureshot: "I'm told [Kennedy] will announce he is running -- rather than start off by forming an exploratory committee," said a top Dem source. "He feels if ever there was a time to run, it's now."

• • The backshot: Kennedy, who lives with wife, Sheila, and his four children in Kenilworth, was reportedly "very encouraged" by the results of his recent poll, a Kennedy source said.

• • The rationale: Top Dem party sources tell Sneed a Kennedy candidacy would come with instantaneous name recognition. "He's also lived here for 25 years, is in his late 40s, comes from a business background, and has that Kennedy magic," the source added.

• • The pol shot: The battle for Obama's old seat is up for grabs. Former U.S. Commerce Secretary Bill Daley just opted out of the race; state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias held a fund-raiser for his Senate exploratory committee starring rocker Pete Wentz May 11 in Chicago, and U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky is now seriously eyeing a bid.

• • The irony: Some polls show Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan is the top candidate for the Senate seat, although Madigan insists she is more interested in running for governor.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

AFP » Four arrested for planning New York terror attacks

AFP » Four arrested for planning New York terror attacks: "Four men were arrested on charges linked with planning attacks against a Jewish synagogue and US warplanes based at a New York military base, prosecutors said.

The men, who according to a US congressman were all born in the United States, were arrested “on charges arising from a plot to detonate explosives near a synagogue in the Riverdale section of the Bronx, New York,” according to the complaint filed at a White Plains, New York federal court."...

[bth: curious timing]

Raw Story » Poll: 91% of conservatives think Obama is socialist, Marxist, communist or fascist

Raw Story » Poll: 91% of conservatives think Obama is socialist, Marxist, communist or fascist: "The results of a new online poll offer cold comfort for anyone hoping that Barack Obama’s election might be the beginning of a post-partisan era for American politics.

A total of ninety-one percent of self-identified conservatives described Obama’s political philosophy as “Socialist,” “Marxist,” “Communist” or “Fascist,” according to the poll, which was conducted between May 12 and 19 on ConservativeHQ.com.

Nearly 2,600 people voted in the poll, including 1,848 individuals who identified their own political philosophy as “conservative.” Only a total of 7 percent of participants described Obama to be liberal (5 percent) or progressive (2 percent)."...

[bth: one wonders if they even know what a socialist or a fascist is. Obama can't waste time trying to win over this group.]

MoD mistakenly sends man top secret files - Telegraph

MoD mistakenly sends man top secret files - Telegraph: "The 12 boxes of files, marked 'MoD: Bristol', were sent in error to Mark Chambers' firm, Metal Ornaments in Swadlincote, Derbys.

However, when he called to ask what he should do with them, he said he was first told no-one knew, before an operator suggested he put his question into the Q&A section of their website."

Eventually, he put them back in the post marked 'return to sender' only to receive a phone call from someone at the MoD berating him for his slapdash handling of military secrets.

Mr Chambers said: "You could see that there were building lay-outs with people's names, saying who occupied offices.

"It's amazing really. I have a receptionist who is Russian and she said if this happened in Russia heads would roll. It's ridiculous that stuff like this goes astray."

The delivery firm that brought the containers - thought to be an MoD contractor - has since taken them back, he added.

A Ministry of Defence spokeswoman said: "We take any reports of this kind extremely seriously and we are investigating urgently....

1 in 7 Transferred From Guantánamo Returns to Terrorism, Pentagon Report Says - NYTimes.com

1 in 7 Transferred From Guantánamo Returns to Terrorism, Pentagon Report Says - NYTimes.com: "WASHINGTON — An unreleased Pentagon report concludes that about one in seven of the 534 prisoners already transferred abroad from the detention center in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, has returned to terrorism or militant activity, according to administration officials."...

[bth: so just release the report. The previous ones turned out to be bogus. If this one isn't then it should stand up to scrutiny and will not be sadly disproved like the others. The timing of the release of this unreleased study is highly suspicious.]

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Sic Semper Tyrannis : Haaretz Article on Iranian Realities

Sic Semper Tyrannis : Haaretz Article on Iranian Realities: "A strike mission on the three nuclear facilities would require no fewer than 90 combat aircraft, including all 25 F-15Es in the IAF inventory and another 65 F-16I/Cs. On top of that, all the IAF's refueling planes will have to be airborne: 5 KC-130Hs and 4 B-707s. The combat aircraft will have to be refueled both en route to and on the way back from Iran. The IAF will have a hard time locating an area above which the tankers can cruise without being detected by the Syrians or the Turks.

One of the toughest operational problems to resolve is the fact that the facility at Natanz is buried deep underground. Part of it, the fuel-enrichment plant, reaches a depth of 8 meters, and is protected by a 2.5-meter-thick concrete wall, which is in turn protected by another concrete wall. By mid-2004 the Iranians had fortified their defense of the other part of the facility, where the centrifuges are housed. They buried it 25 meters underground and built a roof over it made of reinforced concrete several meters thick."...

[bth: worth reading in full]

The coldest war: Russia and U.S. face off over Arctic resources | Mail Online

The coldest war: Russia and U.S. face off over Arctic resources | Mail Online: "As the oil wells run dry, the planet's last great energy reserves lie miles beneath the North Pole. And as the U.S. and Russia race to grab them at any cost, the stage is set for a devastating new cold war"...

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Ted Kennedy's Cancer In Remission | TPMDC

Ted Kennedy's Cancer In Remission | TPMDC: "Some pleasant news from Capitol Hill: The Hill reports that Ted Kennedy's cancer is now in remission, and he should be back to work full time soon.

Harry Reid told reporters that he spoke with Kennedy's wife, and was told that the Senator will return to work the first week of June.

Kennedy is expected to have a big order of business to deal with, too: The markup for health reform legislation in his Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee."

Cheney said in 2004 Gitmo detainees revealed Iraq-al Qaida link | McClatchy

Cheney said in 2004 Gitmo detainees revealed Iraq-al Qaida link | McClatchy: ..."A 2004 Senate Intelligence Committee report said that the two were questioned about the relationship between al Qaida and Iraq, and that both denied knowing of one.

A U.S. Army psychiatrist, Maj. Paul Burney, told the Army Inspector General's office in 2006 that during the same period, interrogators at Guantanamo were under pressure to produce evidence of al Qaida-Iraq ties, but were unable to do so.

'The more frustrated people got in not being able to establish that link . . . there was more and more pressure to resort to measures that might produce more immediate results,' Burney said, according excerpts of an interview published in a declassified Senate Armed Services Committee report released on April 22.

A key proponent of the Iraq invasion and of harsh interrogation methods, Cheney has become the leading defender of such measures, which included forced nudity, prolonged sleep deprivation, stress positions and waterboarding, which simulates drowning."...

Ex-U.S. Envoy May Take Key Role in Afghan Government - NYTimes.com

Ex-U.S. Envoy May Take Key Role in Afghan Government - NYTimes.com: "WASHINGTON — Zalmay Khalilzad, who was President George W. Bush’s ambassador to Afghanistan, could assume a powerful, unelected position inside the Afghan government under a plan he is discussing with Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, according to senior American and Afghan officials."

Mr. Khalilzad, an American citizen who was born in Afghanistan, had considered challenging Mr. Karzai for the presidency in elections scheduled for this summer.

But Mr. Khalilzad missed the May 8 filing deadline, and the American and Afghan officials say that he has been talking with Mr. Karzai for several weeks about taking on a job that the two have described as the chief executive officer of Afghanistan.

Such an alliance would benefit Mr. Karzai by co-opting a potential rival. For its part, the White House has made no secret of its growing disenchantment with Mr. Karzai, and some Afghanistan experts said that enlisting Mr. Khalilzad would have the virtue of bringing a strong, competent leader into an increasingly dysfunctional Afghan government. ....

[bth: we cannot become Afghanistan's government.]

Monday, May 18, 2009

Tensions Stoked Between Iraqi Kurds and Sunnis - NYTimes.com

Tensions Stoked Between Iraqi Kurds and Sunnis - NYTimes.com: "BASHIQA, Iraq — Tensions between Sunni Arabs and Kurds are boiling over in Nineveh, the northern Iraqi province that includes Mosul, as Kurds fight the result of a provincial election in January that shifted power to Arabs."....

Huge New York rehearsal for next terror strike

Huge New York rehearsal for next terror strike: "Hundreds of firefighters and police swarmed Ground Zero Sunday, the site where the World Trade Center once stood, in the largest security exercise here since the September 11, 2001 attacks.

As part of an elaborate dress rehearsal for a possible future terror strike, rescue workers exploded simulated bombs in a commuter train tunnel linking Manhattan to neighboring New Jersey, burrowed beneath the Hudson River."...

[bth: Is the simultaneous scheduling of this drill and the visit of the Israeli leadership a prudent coincidence?]

Sunday, May 17, 2009

YouTube - Worst Fight Scene Ever

YouTube - Worst Fight Scene Ever

Brad Setser: Follow the Money » Blog Archive » Minus twenty, minus twenty, minus twenty …

Brad Setser: Follow the Money » Blog Archive » Minus twenty, minus twenty, minus twenty …: "US non-oil imports in the first quarter: down a bit over 20% when compared to the first quarter of 2008 (-23.1% to be precise)

US exports to Europe in the first quarter: down around 20% y/y (-19.0% to the eurozone, -18.8% to the EU)

US exports to China in the first quarter: down around 20% y/y (-19.8% to be precise)"....

Econbrowser: Dow Jones Economic Sentiment Index

Where's my recovery, dude? : Econbrowser

Econbrowser: Where's my recovery, dude?new_claims5_may_09.gif
retail_sales_may_09.png

[bth: recovery?  Not yet]

Informed Comment

Informed Comment

Econbrowser: Oil shocks and recessions

Econbrowser: Oil shocks and recessions

......Why does it matter whether, in the absence of the oil shock, the experience over 2007:Q4-2008:Q3 might have been a bit better in terms of such measures as GDP or employment? My answer is that the drops in overall spending that were caused by higher oil prices proved to be the knockout punch for an economy that was already wobbly. Whatever your preferred culprit might be for our current difficulties-- loan default rates, falling house prices, debt burdens, or pessimistic sentiment-- that measure would have had a more favorable value going into the fall of 2008 if we had experienced more favorable fundamentals in terms of income and jobs over 2007:Q4-2008:Q3. And there's no question that more favorable fundamentals are exactly what we would have had if the price of oil had never gone over $100 a barrel.

The fact that the biggest drop in output didn't occur until well after the oil price went up, and resulted not from the oil price itself but instead from the interaction with other factors and the dynamic forces unleashed when the overall level of economic activity began to decline, is also exactly the same pattern we saw in each of the previous recessions.

Was the oil shock of 2007-08 the sole cause of the recession? Certainly not. But did it make a material contribution? In my opinion, the answer unquestionably is yes.

Amira Hass / Israel bans books, music and clothes from entering Gaza

Amira Hass / Israel bans books, music and clothes from entering Gaza - Haaretz - Israel News
Israel allows only food, medicine and detergent into the Gaza Strip. Thousands of items, including vital products for everyday activity, are forbidden.

Altogether only 30 to 40 select commercial items are now allowed into the Gaza Strip, compared to 4,000 that had been approved before the closure Israel imposed on Gaza following the abduction of Gilad Shalit, according to merchants and human rights activists.

The number of items changes according to what is determined by The Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories. COGAT has refused the PA representative's request for an updated list of the items permitted into Gaza in writing, and passes the information only via the telephone.
Advertisement
Gaza merchants are forbidden to import canned goods, plastic sheeting, toys and books, although the United Nations Relief and Works Agency and other aid organizations are permitted to bring them into the strip.

The few items merchants are allowed to trade in are divided into three categories: food, medicine and detergent. Everything else is forbidden - including building materials (which are necessary to rehabilitate Gaza's ruins and rebuild its infrastructure), electric appliances such as refrigerators and washing machines, spare machine and car parts, fabrics, threads, needles, light bulbs, candles, matches, books, musical instruments, crayons, clothing, shoes, mattresses, sheets, blankets, cutlery, crockery, cups, glasses and animals. Many of the banned products are imported through the tunnels and can be found in Gaza's markets.

Pasta, which had been forbidden in the past, is now allowed, after U.S. Senator John Kerry expressed his astonishment at the ban during a visit to Gaza in February. But tea, coffee, sausages, semolina, milk products in large packages and most baking products are forbidden. So are industrial commodities for manufacturing food products, chocolate, sesame seeds and nuts. Israel does allow importing fruit, milk products in small packages and frozen food products as well as limited amounts of industrial fuel.

The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs reported that during the first week of May, 2.2 million liters of industrial fuel - some 70 percent of the weekly supply required to operate the power station - was allowed into Gaza. UNRWA receives petrol and diesel supplies separately. A daily 270-300 tons of cooking gas - 54 percent of the required amount - is allowed.

Petrol and diesel for private cars and public transportation have not been imported from Israel since November 2, 2008, except for a small amount for UNRWA. The union of Gaza's gas station owners estimates that some 100,000 liters of diesel and 70,000 liters of petrol are brought through the tunnels daily.....

[bth: very disturbing]

DAWN.COM | US drone attack kills 29 in North Waziristan

DAWN.COM | Provinces | US drone attack kills 29 in North Waziristan: "MIRAMSHAH: Twenty-nine people were killed when a US drone fired two missiles at a residential compound in the Mirali tehsil of North Waziristan tribal region here on Saturday.



Residents said that a remotely-piloted US aircraft which was hovering over the area fired two missiles at the house of Hikmat Roshan in the Khaisore village of Mirali at around 8am, killing 29 tribesmen present there. The house was reduced to rubble, while a religious seminary near it was also damaged.



They said that it was the third drone attack on the Khaisore village, about five kilometers to south of Mirali town, since the US forces fighting Taliban in Afghanistan started drone attacks in the Pakistan tribal belt. The village is populated by the Khushali Torikhel clan of Wazir tribe.



In another incident, helicopters gunship shelled houses of suspected militants in the Pir Kalli area, 10 kilometers east of Miramshah on Saturday.



Sources said that the security forces blocked the Bannu-Miramshah road from both sides during the air strikes. A number of houses were damaged in the attack."....

[bth: if roads are being blocked by Pakistani authorities while the air attack is carried out by the US, I think any doubt that the US and Pakistan are coordinating the air attacks together should be put to rest.]

Rootless Cosmopolitan - By Tony Karon » Blog Archive » The Writing on the Wall for Obama’s ‘Af-Pak’ Vietnam

Rootless Cosmopolitan - By Tony Karon » Blog Archive » The Writing on the Wall for Obama’s ‘Af-Pak’ Vietnam: ..."As public opinion turns against the current offensive, it will be blamed on America. The Taliban fighters in Swat will be driven out of the towns and into the hills and back into the Tribal Areas, which will allow for a new truce — the subtext of which will be that the Pakistani Taliban, should they want to wage war, should do so over the border in support of their Pashtun brethren in Afghanistan. (That, after all, is a point of consensus between them and the military establishment.)"

The current military campaign is designed to enforce a limit on the Taliban’s reach within Pakistan, confining it to the movement’s heartland — which is in a northwestern part of the country which has always been beyond the government’s control.

The fallout from the operation, though, is likely to be an intensified terror campaign in the cities (where the Taliban can’t launch an insurrection, but can blow things up), and expanded hostility towards the U.S. which various Islamist forces will exploit. And Pakistan’s military will be no more likely to act against Taliban activities in Afghanistan than they are now.

The majority of Pakistanis are hostile to the Pakistani Taliban — which while aligned, is organizationally distinct from the Afghan Taliban, even though the latter operates on both sides of a border never recognized by the Pashtuns — but they see it as a problem stirred up by the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. Pakistanis don’t blame the Taliban
for the U.S. drone strikes that kill Pakistani civilians. I suspect they won’t blame the Taliban for the civilian suffering inflicted in the battle to retake Swat. While they may loathe the Taliban, their loathing for the United States is even greater — as Anatole Lieven recently noted. He found that the best-educated and most cosmopolitan yuppies he met in Pakistan believe that the 9/11 attacks were orchestrated by Washington and Israel. So, ordinary Pakistanis and the commanders of the military believe the Taliban uprising on their soil will dissipate once the U.S. leaves Afghanistan — Pakistan’s military, in other words, has an incentive to see the U.S. go home.

Pakistanis have every reason to expect that the U.S. will sooner or later tire of spinning its wheels in the Hindu Kush, and their outlook is based on that assumption. That’s why the Pakistani military establishment continues to back the Afghan Taliban, which represents its interests in its strategic competition with India for influence in Kabul. President Hamid Karzai, for his part, appears to recognize the limits on U.S. involvement, too, breaking sharply with the U.S. and maneuvering to remain in power, with some very unsavory allies, even as Washington has been trying to ease him out. Karzai, too, expects the U.S. to leave some time soon, and is jumping into bed with various warlords to hedge his bets against going the way of Najibullah, the president left in place by the departing Soviets who was unceremoniously lynched in the streets of Kabul by the Taliban.

Sure, the U.S. has now appointed a hard-charging Special Forces general to lead its mission in Afghanistan. Perhaps, as a result, they will be able to strike more blows at the Taliban, but they’re unlikely to alter the overall outcome of the war. In fact, you could make a speculative case that appointing Stanley McChrystal, whose resume highlights include the capture of Saddam Hussein and the elimination of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi in Iraq, Washington may be looking for a “bring me the head of Osama bin Laden” scenario to create a pretext for beginning to dramatically scale back the U.S. mission in Afghanistan. But that would be a wild hunch.

In the interim, amid rising political chaos and social unrest spurred by ethnic tension and economic hardship, Pakistan’s generals may, once again, feel compelled to take charge of the political space in a new coup, and install a technocratic government charged with managing the impact of the economic crisis outside of the self-destructive party political competition that bedevils Pakistani governance, while enforcing security itself. But that’s unlikely to alter the equation in favor of Pakistan acting on Washington’s demands. On the contrary, the Pakistanis are simply treading water, doing the minimum necessary to keep U.S. aid flowing, and waiting for the Americans to leave Afghanistan.

Gitmo general told Iraq WMD search team to torture - Salon

Gitmo general told Iraq WMD search team to torture - War Room - Salon.com
It’s one thing if, as former Vice President Dick Cheney keeps saying, the United States brutally interrogated people to keep our kids safe from another strike by Osama bin Laden. If folks got tortured to provide a rationale for going to war with Iraq, though, that's a whole different story.

Recent news reports have suggested the possibility that the Bush administration might have endorsed torture to prove an Iraq-al Qaida link. And a recent report from the Senate Armed Services Committee shows that months after then-President Bush had declared Mission Accomplished in Iraq, an Army general working hand in glove with top administration officials tried, albeit unsuccessfully, to convince a unit charged with finding weapons of mass destruction to get tough on its prisoners.

In August and early September of 2003, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, the man in charge of the Pentagon’s torture laboratory at Guantanamo Bay, was dispatched to Iraq, allegedly to Gitmoize operations there.

It seems to have worked, at least in one place. Soon after Miller visited with officials in charge of Abu Ghraib, guards there began to use working dogs, stress positions, extremely lengthy interrogations, isolation, yelling and nudity in order to try to wring information from prisoners -- all techniques that had been used at Guantanamo and that the world would later see in photos released from an investigation in to what had gone on at the prison.

But according to the Senate committee's report, before Miller met with the Abu Ghraib officials, he first made a little-known visit to the Iraq Survey Group, which was in charge of the hunt for WMDs in Iraq after the invasion.

Miller told the ISG they were “running a country club” by not getting tough on detainees, Chief Warrant Officer Brian Searcy, the ISG interrogation chief, told the Senate committee. Searcy said Miller suggested shackling detainees and forcing them to walk on gravel. Mike Kamin, another ISG official, told committee investigators that Miller recommended temperature manipulation and sleep deprivation.

Miller also told the ISG’s Maj. Gen. Keith Dayton that Dayton’s unit was “not getting much out of these people,” and complained that the ISG had not “broken” their detainees psychologically. Miller offered to send along suggested techniques, Dayton recalled, that would “actually break” the prisoners.

Dayton demurred, saying his unit wasn’t changing anything and that lawyers would have to carefully vet anything Miller suggested. The ISG generally balked. One of its debriefers threatened to resign if Miller got his way. After the cool reception, Miller appears to have dropped the effort with respect to the ISG.

On his return from Iraq, Miller was sent directly to the Pentagon to personally brief then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz and Under Secretary of Defense for Intelligence Steven Cambone.

When interviewed by the committee, Miller couldn’t remember much about that visit. But in retrospect, it is pretty clear why the ISG wasn’t “getting much” out of their detainees on WMDs in Iraq: There weren’t any. Though with enough abuse, the detainees probably would have claimed otherwise.
― Mark Benjamin

[bth: Benjamin is putting the pieces together. The torture wasn't about getting the truth.]