Saturday, May 30, 2009

DARPA working on inertial-nav 'Smart Boot' tech • The Register

DARPA working on inertial-nav 'Smart Boot' tech • The Register: "Elite Pentagon deathnerds have just awarded a contract for development of a highly accurate inertial navigation module which will fit in the heel of a shoe.

Massachusetts sensors'n'tracking company Intersense were chuffed to announce the deal this week, in which the firm will work with Case Western university to deliver tiny yet highly accurate inertial-nav units under a programme called Micro Inertial Navigation Technology (MINT)."...

Congressman subpoenaed in corruption probe | ®

Congressman subpoenaed in corruption probe | ®: "WASHINGTON — A federal grand jury has subpoenaed a Democratic congressman in a corruption probe, the first concrete indication that a long-simmering Justice Department investigation of a top lobbying firm also has the potential to seriously damage congressional careers.

On Friday, Rep. Pete Visclosky, D-Ind., acknowledged the grand jury has demanded documents from his office, some employees and his campaign committees.

The probe focuses on the PMA Group, a now-defunct lobbying firm that specialized in securing federal contracts for defense firms from Visclosky, Rep. John Murtha, D-Pa., and others on the House Appropriations defense subcommittee that Murtha chairs."...

Defense contractor with ties to Murtha suspended

The Associated Press: Defense contractor with ties to Murtha suspended
JOHNSTOWN, Pa. (AP) — A Pennsylvania defense contractor who got millions of dollars in congressional earmarks from Rep. John Murtha has been blocked from doing business with the Navy amid allegations of fraud.

Word of the suspension came during an annual defense contractor trade show in Johnstown, Pa., the heart of Murtha's congressional district. Seven of the world's largest defense contractors, who have been among the veteran Pennsylvania Democrat's biggest campaign contributors over the years, are helping to bankroll this week's "Showcase for Commerce."

During a brief news conference Friday at the trade show, Murtha turned aside questions about the suspension of Kuchera Defense Systems Inc., a family-run business that has supported him with $60,000 to his campaign and to his political action committee since 2002.

Over the past two years, Murtha has secured $14.7 million in congressionally directed funds known as "earmarks" for Kuchera to perform work for the military.

Asked about Kuchera's troubles, Murtha said, "What's that got to do with me? What do you think, I'm supposed to oversee these companies? That's not my job. That's the Defense Department's job."

Murtha is chairman of one of the most powerful panels in Congress, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, where he has been a member for over two decades.

Kuchera is one of two firms with longtime ties to Murtha that were raided by the FBI in recent months in a criminal investigation of campaign fundraising involving defense contractors.

In remarks to defense contractors before the news conference, Murtha spoke out in favor of congressional earmarks, saying that they go for purposes such as road and sewer improvements and improving water quality in the western Pennsylvania region. Murtha said the annual trade show helps promote economic development. In the last two years alone, Murtha has directed $78 million in earmarks to clients of a Washington-area lobbying firm, PMA, the other business raided by the FBI in recent months in an ongoing Justice Department probe.

At the Pentagon, Navy spokesman Lt. Clay Doss said the Navy suspended Kuchera Defense Systems on April 23 for "alleged fraud, including multiple incidents of incorrect charges, defective pricing and ethical violations." Doss declined to elaborate....

DC4S: At last, the phrase 'killer app' takes on some meaning

Smart-map battle network for footsoldiers gets $12m demo • The Register
Weaponry globocorp Raytheon has announced the inking of a $12m deal with the US Army, under which the firm and its subcontractors will demonstrate nifty networked smart-map computers for use by American footsoldiers in combat. Troops will be able to see enemies and each other on the digital maps even where GPS satnav is unavailable.

The new kit is known as "Ground Soldier Ensemble" (GSE).

"GSE will provide decisive tactical awareness to the infantry soldier through real-time display of networked battlefield information ... finally linking the most important element, the dismounted soldier [to the battlefield network]" said Glynn Raymer, Raytheon war-net veep.

Weaponry globocorp Raytheon has announced the inking of a $12m deal
with the US Army, under which the firm and its subcontractors will
demonstrate nifty networked smart-map computers for use by American
footsoldiers in combat. Troops will be able to see enemies and each
other on the digital maps even where GPS satnav is unavailable.

The new kit is known as "Ground Soldier Ensemble" (GSE).

"GSE will provide decisive tactical awareness to the infantry
soldier through real-time display of networked battlefield information
... finally linking the most important element, the dismounted soldier
[to the battlefield network]" said Glynn Raymer, Raytheon war-net veep.

The SwitchBack rugged computer. Credit: Black Diamond

The SwitchBack rugged computer. Credit: Black Diamond
DC4S system. Credit: OSI Geospatial

NECN | Breaking News, World and US News Stories - Get the Latest Business, Health, Entertainment, Sports,

As Crisis Deepens, U.S. Bolsters South Korea’s Arsenal | Danger Room |

As Crisis Deepens, U.S. Bolsters South Korea’s Arsenal | Danger Room | ..."On Tuesday, the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency — the Pentagon arm that manages foreign military sales — made public plans to sell the South Koreans more surface-to-air missiles and upgrade its F-16 fighters so they can drop Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) smart bombs.

The proposed upgrade of 35 F-16s, the agency said, would allow the Republic of Korea Air Force “to adequately operate the F-16 weapon system to its fullest and utmost capability in both a deterrent role and a coalition role with United States Forces Korea and the Combined Forces Command.”

In other words, it will allow South Korean F-16s to hit artillery and anti-aircraft systems that are often hidden in bunkers and caves north of the DMZ. South Korea’s fleet of F-15Ks (pictured here) already have a precision strike capability; upgrading F-16s would allow the Republic of Korea Air Force to take on more “hardened facilities” in North Korea."...

Blog: Nukes & Spooks - Hard drive containing Clinton Admin data missing from archives

Blog: Nukes & Spooks: "One terabyte of data is roughly the equivalent of millions of books, and that is the amount of Clinton administration records - including sensitive national security information - contained on a hard drive that has gone missing from the National Archives, according to a Republican lawmaker."...

[bth: one wonders if Bill Richardson had been there. ... Also where the hell is the backup disk?]

Taliban's Foreign Support Vexes U.S. -

Taliban's Foreign Support Vexes U.S. - ..."Gen. David Petraeus, who oversees the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, said in a recent interview that the Taliban has three main sources of funding: drug revenue; payments from legitimate businesses that are secretly owned by the armed group or that pay it kickbacks; and donations from foreign charitable foundations and individuals."

"You have funds generated locally, funds that come in from the outside, and funds that come from the illegal narcotics business," he said. "It's a hotly debated topic as to which is the most significant and it may be that they are all roughly around the same level."

Gen. Petraeus estimated that the Taliban raise a total of "hundreds and hundreds of millions of dollars" each year from the three sources, and said the U.S. doesn't have precise figures....

US fines Israeli agent in spy case

Al Jazeera English - Americas - US fines Israeli agent in spy case: "A US court has fined an 85-year-old former army engineer $50,000 after he admitted passing classified documents to Israel.

Ben-Ami Kadish apologised on Friday, after pleading guilty in December to acting as an unregistered agent of Israel during the 1970s and 80s.

'It was a mistake. It was a misjudgment,' he said during sentencing at the court in New York."

"I thought I was helping the state of Israel without harming the United States," he said.

Prosecutors had recommended Kadish be spared a prison sentence.

But US District Judge William Pauley raised questions over why the authorities had waited so long to bring charges.

"Why it took the government 23 years to charge Mr. Kadish is shrouded in mystery," Pauley said.

"It is clear the (US) government could have charged Mr. Kadish with far more serious crimes."

Kadish reported to Israeli agent Yosef Yagur, who has been linked in court documents to the case of Jonathan Pollard, a US citizen who is serving a life sentence for a 1985 charge of spying for Israel.

Northrop Grumman Inspector's Lies Raise Alarms - Defense News

Northrop Grumman Inspector's Lies Raise Alarms - Defense News: "More than 10,000 welded joints on at least eight U.S. submarines and a new aircraft carrier might need to be reinspected after the discovery by Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding that one of its inspectors had falsified inspection reports."

According to an internal report obtained by Defense News, the issue came to light May 14 when a welding inspector at the company's Newport News, Va., shipyard told a supervisor that a fellow inspector was initialing welds as OK without actually performing the inspections. Confronted by the supervisor, the offending inspector admitted to falsifying three weld inspections, all that same day....

[bth: Holy crap. At least Northrop Grumman caught him and reported the matter to the Navy.]
Naval Open Source INTelligence

Raytheon Company's Surface Launched Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (SLAMRAAM) program has received U.S. Army approval for a long-lead acquisition, not to exceed $30 million, for long-lead purchases leading to low rate initial production.

This approval is significant as it represents and underscores the Army's confidence in the system and the capability it brings to the warfighter....

Alternate Brain

Alternate Brain

Alternate Brain

Alternate Brain
Alternate Brain

Alternate Brain

Alternate Brain
Alternate Brain

Alternate Brain
From former Army soldier Brian Turner's book Here, Bullet:


It happens on a Monday, at 11:20 A.M.,
as tower guards eat sandwiches
and seagulls drift by on the Tigris River.
Prisoners tilt their heads to the west
though burlap sacks and duct tape blind them.
The sound reverberates down concertina coils
the way piano wire thrums when given slack.
And it happens like this, on a blue day of sun,
when Private Miller pulls the trigger
to take brass and fire into his mouth:
the sound lifts the birds up off the water,
a mongoose pauses under the orange trees,
and nothing can stop it now, no matter what
blur of motion surrounds him, no matter what voices
crackle over the radio in static confusion,
because if only for this moment the earth is stilled,
and Private Miller has found what low hush there is
down in the eucalyptus shade, there by the river.

PFC B. Miller
(1980-March 22, 2004)
Alternate Brain

DAWN.COM | Pakistan | Number of displaced persons exceeds three million

DAWN.COM | Pakistan | Number of displaced persons exceeds three million: "PESHAWAR: The number of internally displaced persons (IDP) has crossed the three million mark, according to the NWFP government.

Information Minister Mian Iftikhar Hussain said at a press conference at the Officers’ Mess here on Friday that the number of IDPs now stood at 3.4 million — 2.8 million of them from Malakand division alone."...

No more gestures to Saudis: Iraq's Maliki

AFP: No more gestures to Saudis: Iraq's Maliki
BAGHDAD (AFP) — Saudi-Iraqi relations are at a low ebb and Baghdad has no intention of making goodwill gestures because Riyadh sees them as a sign of weakness, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Thursday.

Ties have been strained since the US-led invasion of 2003 toppled dictator Saddam Hussein and ended more than 80 years of Sunni Arab domination of Shiite-majority Iraq since the modern state was founded.

Maliki's Shiite-led government accuses Riyadh of not doing enough to stop its citizens crossing the border and joining the mainly-Sunni insurgency that has killed thousands of Iraqis in the past six years.

"Iraq has no intention of making new goodwill gestures towards Saudi Arabia because my initiative has been interpreted in Riyadh as a sign of weakness," Maliki said in a statement posted on the government's website.

He was referring to an international conference on Iraq at the Egyptian resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh in May 2007, during which Saudi King Abdullah refused to meet Maliki, accusing him of "embodying sectarian divisions."...
Informed Comment

Friday, May 29, 2009

U.S. ‘Likely’ Could Intercept North Korean Missile (Update1)

U.S. ‘Likely’ Could Intercept North Korean Missile (Update1) -
May 29 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. ground-based interceptor rockets would “likely” knock out a long-range North Korean missile before it could reach the American mainland, the Pentagon’s independent testing official said today.

“I believe we have a reasonable chance” of an intercept, Charles McQueary, director of operational test and evaluation, said in an interview as North Korea defied international condemnation of a nuclear test with another short-range missile launch....

“I’d put it ‘likely’ -- than ‘highly likely’ -- as opposed to putting it ‘unlikely,” he said on his last day in office after almost three years as the top weapons evaluator for the Defense Department.

McQueary’s office monitors and critiques the effectiveness of the nascent Boeing Co.-managed $35.5 billion ground-based system of what is now 28 interceptors placed since mid-2004 in silos at Fort Greely, Alaska, and Vandenberg Air Force Base, California.

The Raw Story | US economy shrank revised 5.7 pct in first quarter

The Raw Story | US economy shrank revised 5.7 pct in first quarter: "The US economy contracted 5.7 percent in the first quarter, less than initially estimated, official data showed Friday, due in part to improved readings on imports and durable goods orders

The Commerce Department revised its initial estimate of a 6.1 percent annualized decline for the January-March period, following a brutal 6.3 percent contraction in the fourth quarter.

The department said the first quarter downturn in gross domestic product (GDP) -- the nation's goods and services output -- reflected declines in exports, equipment and software, and investments that were partly offset by gains in consumer spending."...

Debate Over Child Executions Roils Iran's Presidential Vote -

Debate Over Child Executions Roils Iran's Presidential Vote - "TEHRAN, Iran -- The day before two of his young clients were to be hanged, lawyer Mohamad Mostafaei went to a Justice Ministry office here to request a stay of execution.

Mr. Mostafaei's errand should have been routine, if solemn: He represents 30 of the 135 criminals under the age of 18 on Iran's death row. Instead, he says, he was detained and grilled for an hour and a half, part of Iran's widening crackdown on human-rights activists.

'Anything can happen to you at any time,' said Mr. Mostafaei, 34 years old. A Justice Ministry spokesman said the mid-May incident wasn't a detention, and that Mr. Mostafaei was merely asked the purpose of his visit."...

Raw Story: White House spokesman bashes Brit press for torture reports

Raw Story » White House spokesman bashes Brit press for torture reports
Following an explosive report that some of the torture photos President Obama is withholding depict graphic sexual abuse, the Department of Defense and White House came out to vigorously refute the claims.

In a surprisingly broad denial, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs cast doubt on the entire British media.

“I don’t want to speak generally about some reports I’ve seen over the past few years in the British media,” he said. “And, in some ways I’m surprised it filtered down. Let’s just say if I wanted to read — if I wanted to read a write-up of how Manchester United fared in the Champion’s League cup, I might open up a British newspaper.

“If I was looking for something that bordered on truthful news, I am not entirely sure [British papers] would be the first stack of clips I picked up,” deadpanned Gibbs.

“Are you saying the report is completely false?” asked CBS reporter Chip Reid.

“I would refer you … to the statement that DoD put out, that the article is wrong and mischaracterizes the photos that are in question,” said Gibbs. “… None of the photographs in question depict the images described in the article.”

Helen Thomas, pitching a follow-up, asked Gibbs if he had actually seen the photos.

“I have not seen the photos,” he replied.

The Pentagon also asserted Thursday morning that the Telegraph has “an inability to get the facts right.”

“That news organization has completely mischaracterized the images,” spokesman Bryan Whitman said Thursday. “None of the photos in question depict the images that are described in that article.”

“Maj Gen Taguba, who retired in January 2007, said he supported the President’s decision [to withhold the photos], adding: ‘These pictures show torture, abuse, rape and every indecency,’” reported the Telegraph.

“I am not sure what purpose their release would serve other than a legal one and the consequence would be to imperil our troops, the only protectors of our foreign policy, when we most need them, and British troops who are trying to build security in Afghanistan,” Taguba told the paper.

“The mere description of these pictures is horrendous enough, take my word for it.”

Members of Congress viewed the unreleased photos on May 13, 2004....

[bth: this is getting ridiculous.  Gen. Taguba has previously reported that they contain pictures of rape and sexual abuse.  He was in charge of the investigation and his career was ended over it.  He by all accounts I can see over several years of following this story was and id a very honest general trying to protect the Army and the US from ourselves.  That the Brits have images and are reporting them is also not surprising as a bunch of the photos were released out of Australia several years ago.  And yes, Congress saw the photos, or at least select committees.]

Roubini says U.S. economy may dip again next year | Reuters

Roubini says U.S. economy may dip again next year | Reuters: ..."'The U.S. recession is going to be U-shaped, lasting roughly 24 months,' he added. 'Compared to the current consensus that says we are practically at the end of the recession ... my view is: no, it's going to last another six to nine months before it's over.'

Roubini, who teaches at New York University and heads research firm RGE Monitor, had said on Wednesday that the end of the global recession was likely to occur at the end of the year. This spurred speculation that his outlook had grown more optimistic, a suggestion denied by him in the interview.

'Because I said the recession is going to be over by year-end, people say I am an optimist, but I've been saying the same thing for a while.'

'I would say compared to current consensus, I am much more bearish,' he said. 'Compared to other people that say it's going to be a doomsday, I could be considered an optimist.'

Roubini stood by a recent article in which he mentioned the possibility of a 'perfect storm' in 2010."...

Video: The hidden massacre: Sri Lanka’s final offensive against Tamil Tigers - Times Online

Video: The hidden massacre: Sri Lanka’s final offensive against Tamil Tigers - Times Online: "More than 20,000 Tamil civilians were killed in the final throes of the Sri Lankan civil war, most as a result of government shelling, an investigation by The Times has revealed.

The number of casualties is three times the official figure.

The Sri Lankan authorities have insisted that their forces stopped using heavy weapons on April 27 and observed the no-fire zone where 100,000 Tamil men, women and children were sheltering. They have blamed all civilian casualties on Tamil Tiger rebels concealed among the civilians."...

Thursday, May 28, 2009

UPDATE 1-1 in 8 US homeowners late paying or in foreclosure

UPDATE 1-1 in 8 US homeowners late paying or in foreclosure | Markets | Bonds News | Reuters
NEW YORK, May 28 (Reuters) - One of eight U.S. households with a mortgage ended the first quarter late on loan payments or in the foreclosure process in a crisis that will persist for at least another year until unemployment peaks, the Mortgage Bankers Association said on Thursday.

U.S. unemployment in April reached its highest rate in more than a quarter century and is still rising, helping propel mortgage delinquencies and foreclosures to record highs.

Such economic conditions drove up foreclosures of prime fixed-rate mortgages, which represented the largest share of new foreclosures for the first time since the rapid growth and the ensuing collapse of the subprime loan market.

"We clearly haven't hit the top yet in terms of delinquencies or the bottom of the housing market," Jay Brinkmann, the association's chief economist, said in an interview.

Prime fixed-rate loans, made to borrowers with high credit quality, comprise 65 percent of the $9.9 trillion in outstanding first mortgages, according to the industry group.

"The housing market depends on the employment situation," he said, "and we don't expect unemployment to bottom out until the middle of next year, so then normally housing would not recover until after employment recovers."

A record 12.07 percent of loans on one-to-four unit residences were at least one payment past due or in the foreclosure process in the first quarter, on a non-seasonally adjusted basis.

Foreclosure actions were started on an all-time high 1.37 percent of first mortgages in the quarter, a record increase from 1.08 percent the prior quarter.

The share of loans in the foreclosure process rose to a record 3.85 percent from 3.30 percent in the fourth quarter and 2.47 percent a year earlier.

Left Out of D-Day Events, Queen Elizabeth Is Fuming -

Left Out of D-Day Events, Queen Elizabeth Is Fuming - "LONDON — Queen Elizabeth is not amused."

Indeed, she is decidedly displeased, angry even, that she was not invited to join President Obama and France’s president, Nicolas Sarkozy, next week at commemorations of the 65th anniversary of the D-Day landings in Normandy, according to reports published in Britain’s mass-circulation tabloid newspapers on Wednesday. Pointedly, Buckingham Palace did not deny the reports.

The queen, who is 83, is the only living head of state who served in uniform during World War II. As Elizabeth Windsor, service number 230873, she volunteered as a subaltern in the Women’s Auxiliary Territorial Service, training as a driver and a mechanic. Eventually, she drove military trucks in support roles in England.

While serving, she met the supreme Allied commander for the D-Day landings, Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, and developed a fondness for him, according to several biographies. This prompted Queen Elizabeth, who was crowned in June 1953, to say in later years that he was the American president with whom she felt most at ease.

But on June 6, when Mr. Obama and Mr. Sarkozy attend commemorations at the iconic locations associated with the American D-Day assault — Utah Beach, the town of Ste.-Mère-Église, where the first United States paratroopers landed, and the American war cemetery at Colleville-sur-Mer — the highest-ranking British representative will be Prime Minister Gordon Brown. His main role will be at ceremonies at the town of Arromanches, near the beaches where British troops landed.

How the queen came to be excluded has become entangled in a thicket of diplomatic missteps, or misunderstandings, depending on whether the account is given in London or Paris. The French have said officially that they regard the commemorations in the American sector of the landings as “primarily a Franco-American ceremony,” and that it was up to the British to decide who should represent Britain — in other words, that Mr. Brown was at fault for not seeking an invitation for the queen....

[bth: a pointless and unnecessary slight]

Nation's Girlfriends Unveil New Economic Plan: 'Let's Move In Together' | The Onion - America's Finest News Source

Nation's Girlfriends Unveil New Economic Plan: 'Let's Move In Together' | The Onion - America's Finest News Source

Nation's Girlfriends Unveil New Economic Plan: 'Let's Move In Together'

EXCLUSIVE: Sestak Intends To Run For Senate | TPMDC

EXCLUSIVE: Sestak Intends To Run For Senate | TPMDC: "Rep. Joe Sestak (D-PA) is privately telling supporters that he intends to run for Senate, TPMDC has confirmed.

'He intends to get in the race,' says Meg Infantino, the Congressman's sister, who works at Sestak for Congress. 'In the not too distant future, he will sit down with his wife and daughter to make the final decision.'

The move would constitute a primary challenge to Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA), who intends to run for re-election in 2010, after having switched parties earlier this year."...

John McCreary on North Korea - By Tom Ricks | The Best Defense

John McCreary on North Korea - By Tom Ricks | The Best Defense: "I said I was gonna ignore North Korea, and I still intend to. But I was struck by this comment by proven provider John McCreary in his NightWatch:

During the past 40 years North Korean leaders have been blustery but fundamentally risk averse. They have done nothing that would risk the total destruction of their state -- which means Pyongyang for all practical and symbolic purposes -- until now.... The actions in the past two days represent risk accepting behavior, defiance bordering on recklessness. This behavior began shortly after Kim Chong-il's stroke in August 2008. If Kim is ordering these actions, he has had a personality change, which can occur if dementia follows a stroke, according to medical authorities.'"...

The Taliban Advances: 'If We Now Kill Schoolgirls, You Shouldn't Be Surprised' - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International

The Taliban Advances: 'If We Now Kill Schoolgirls, You Shouldn't Be Surprised' - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - International: "Responding to threats from the Taliban, at least 10 girls' schools have shut down near Kunduz in northern Afghanistan. Visiting the schools is a dangerous proposition -- a trip leading directly into the heart of Islamist territory.

When the deputy director of Aqtash High School talks of the government, he isn't referring to Hamid Karzai's central government in Kabul. Nor does he refer to the provincial administration in Kunduz. 'The Taliban are our government,' Bashir says. 'They have taken over our region, their commanders give the orders here.'"...

[bth: very disturbing article worth reading in full] / Companies / Banks - JPMorgan warns on credit card woes / Companies / Banks - JPMorgan warns on credit card woes: "Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan Chase chief executive, warned on Wednesday that loss rates on the credit card loans of Washington Mutual, the troubled bank acquired last year by JPMorgan, could climb to 24 per cent by the year end.

In the past, credit card loss rates have tracked the unemployment rate but that relationship has been breaking down for more troubled credit card portfolios, such as the $25.9bn in WaMu credit card loans."

At the end of the first quarter, 12.63 per cent of the WaMu credit card loans were deemed uncollectable by JPMorgan. The bank estimates that figure could reach 18 to 24 per cent by the end of 2009, depending on economic conditions.

Describing credit cards as JPMorgan’s most challenged business, Mr Dimon said loss rates for the company’s larger $150bn portfolio of Chase credit cards could reach 9 per cent in the third quarter and as much as 10.5 per cent by the end of the year, depending on housing and unemployment trends. That compares with first-quarter charge-off rates of 6.86 per cent on the Chase card portfolio.

In parts of the US that are particularly distressed – such as the states of Arizona, California, Florida, Nevada and Virginia – net charge-offs for the Chase credit card loans already amounted to 9.9 per cent of the total at the end of the first quarter, up from 5.5 per cent in the first quarter of 2008, Mr Dimon said.... / Markets - Rising Treasury yields threaten recovery / Markets - Rising Treasury yields threaten recovery: "US Treasury yields rose to their highest level in six months ­on Wednesday, raising concern that rising mortgage rates could damp a nascent recovery in the economy"

The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note rose 24 basis points to 3.74 per cent, a level last seen in mid-November. The 10-year note has climbed from lows of 2.1 per cent in December. The S&P 500 stock index fell 1.9 per cent.

Long-term yields have been rising as investors respond to evidence of “green shoots” in the economy, the increasing US debt burden, the risk of a revival in inflation and a flood of new Treasury issuance.

Traders said yields rose on Wednesday as investors in mortgage securities reacted to recent market movements. They did so by selling Treasuries they had bought as hedges against the risk that homeowners would re­finance mortgages at lower rates. This sent Treasury prices lower and yields sharply higher....

[bth: keep in mind the word "stagflation". Also remember that the equity futures market was apparently manipulated in the last 10 minutes of each weeks closing session by the government to help the banks refinance. Now people are talking about a recovery, but honestly, doesn't that seem like happy talk given GM's imminent bankruptcy and the ripple effect that will have on the economy? I'm coming to the conclusion that recent stock gains probably were a manipulated suckers rally.]

The Silence of MoveOn

The Silence of MoveOn: ..."What was MoveOn's explanation for abandoning the peace movement in a meeting with a president the peace movement was key to electing? According to Ruben and MoveOn, it was the preference of its millions of members, as ascertained by house meetings and polls.

The evidence, however, is otherwise. Last December 17, 48.3 percent of MoveOn members listed 'end the war in Iraq' as a 2009 goal, after healthcare (64.9 percent), economic recovery and job creation (62.1 percent) and building a green economy/stopping climate change (49.6 percent--only 1.5 percent above Iraq.) This was at a moment when most Americans believed the Iraq War was ending. Afghanistan and Pakistan were not listed among top goals which members could vote on.

Then on May 22 MoveOn surveyed its members once again, listing ten possible campaigns for the organization. 'Keep up the pressure to the end the war in Iraq' was listed ninth among the options.

Again, Afghanistan and Pakistan were not on the MoveOn list of options."...

New Worry for Stocks: Treasury Selloff Pushing Up Interest Rates - Market Insider with Patti Domm -

New Worry for Stocks: Treasury Selloff Pushing Up Interest Rates - Market Insider with Patti Domm - ..."A selling spree in Treasurys pushed rates higher, taking the yield curve to its steepest on record as spreads between the 2-year and 10-year widened by over a dozen basis points on Wednesday alone.

The 10-year saw its yield move above 3.70 percent, after trading at 3.55 percent the previous day. The selling wave hit bonds shortly after 1 p.m., even after the auction of $35 billion in 5-year notes was well received."...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

N. Korea: No longer bound by 1953 truce -

N. Korea: No longer bound by 1953 truce - ..."'Our revolutionary armed forces ... will regard' South Korea's participation 'in the PSI as a declaration of war ...' the North's official news agency said.

Pyongyang also announced it was no longer bound by the 1953 armistice that ended the Korean War."...

[bth: where is this headed?]

Pakistan: Bomb attack destroys building with 200 inside

Pakistan: Bomb attack destroys building with 200 inside -
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- A well-coordinated attack involving gunmen and an explosives-packed van reduced a police building, with at least 200 people inside, to rubble in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore on Wednesday.
The scene of an apparent suicide car bomb attack on a police building in Lahore on May 27.

The scene of an apparent suicide car bomb attack on a police building in Lahore on May 27.

Amid the confusion and the chaos in Pakistan's second-largest city, various officials offered conflicting casualty counts -- with almost all agreeing that at least 23 were killed. Most were police officers and staffers.
The scene of an apparent suicide car bomb attack on a police building in Lahore on May 27.
The blast also wounded more than 250, with one hospital -- Sir Ganga Ram, itself damaged by the explosion -- alone treating 128 victims.....

[bth: interesting that they targeted the police rapid response team in the blast]

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

'Just World News' with Helena Cobban: Does Obama understand Israel's war goal in Iran?

'Just World News' with Helena Cobban: Does Obama understand Israel's war goal in Iran?: ..."Thus, an Israeli strike against Iran would almost certainly trigger a direct, and of course massive, war between Iran and the US. The US could be expected to launch considerably heavier strikes against the Iranian nuclear facilities and to try to inflict other substantial-- perhaps even fatal?-- damage on the Iranian government.

Iran could be expected to counter with attacks against US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, against the vulnerable supply lines that support those forces, and possibly-- in the event that the collapse of the Teheran regime seems imminent-- with actions designed to paralyze US resupply efforts and world oil markets by blocking chokepoints like the Straits of Hormuz.

Triggering this big US-Iran war, rather than the direct 'destruction' of Iran's nuclear capabilities, would most likely be the actual, though never openly stated, main goal of an Israeli attack against Iran."...

He needs to axe that destabilize-Iran program immediately.

And he needs to make absolutely clear to the Israeli government and its many remaining supporters in the US Congress, using a whole variety of both public and private means, that he judges that any Israeli military attack against Iran directly threatens our country's interests, and that therefore he will do whatever it takes to ensure that Israel launches no such attack.

Americans should be quite clear: It is our forces and our interests, not Israel's, that are on the front-line against Iran. We cannot continue to give Israel the extremely generous support it has had from Washington for the past 40-plus years if Israel takes a single action, at any level, that puts our country's people at risk.

The Mann-Leveretts argue that "in all likelihood" it is already too late for Obama to correct his administrations policies toward Iran. I am not so pessimistic. But if he is to correct his stance that means taking action not only to correct Washington's policies but also, equally importantly, to rein in an Israel that on this matter may have interests that are very different indeed than those of Americans.

AFP » US consumer confidence leaps to 8-month high

AFP » US consumer confidence leaps to 8-month high: "US consumer confidence leapt in May to an eight-month high as consumers saw brighter months ahead as the economy struggles with a severe recession, the Conference Board said Tuesday.

The business research group’s consumer confidence index, based on a representative sample of 5,000 US households, spiked to 54.9 in May from 40.8 in April."..

[bth: excellent news]

Raw Story » Former military interrogator says torture cost hundreds ‘if not thousands’ of American lives

Raw Story » Former military interrogator says torture cost hundreds ‘if not thousands’ of American lives

Pentagon: 5 pct. of Gitmo detainees rejoined fight

Pentagon: 5 pct. of Gitmo detainees rejoined fight: "WASHINGTON (AP) - The Pentagon says about 5 percent of terror suspects released from the U.S. navy prison at Guantanamo Bay so far have returned to the fight against the U.S. and its allies.

Data released Tuesday suggests that an additional 9 percent of freed Guantanamo detainees are suspected to have rejoined what the Pentagon defines as terrorist activity.

In all, 74 of approximately 540 detainees that have been released have either returned or are believed to have returned to the fight.

The Pentagon says it has fingerprints, DNA, photos or reliable intelligence to link 27 detainees to the war since their release. Some constitutional lawyers have disputed the data because it is not specific about the evidence used to track the detainees."

[bth: 1 in 20 is a lot different than 1:7. So note how it is done. An unattributed source reveals an unreleased study's data from the Pentagon last Monday in the NYT, saying 1:7 just before the Gitmo amendment is added to the Supplemental bill. Everybody gets scared that there is going to be an escaped terrorist jumping over their back fence any minute, the vote happens in Congress, Congress recesses and behold the number is 74 or 1:20. Considering our crime recidivism rate in the US is 2/3rds, I'd say something doesn't add up.]

Falling profits mean more job loss | Reuters

Falling profits mean more job loss | Reuters:... "However, the actual earnings results were down nearly 36 percent from a year earlier, and the United States lost a net 2.1 million jobs over those three months.

It is a reflection of what is happening in the broader economy. Readings on manufacturing and consumer spending show the U.S. economy is unraveling more slowly than it was just a couple of months ago, although true recovery has yet to begin.

Credit markets, which have been under severe strain since the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers in September, are also showing signs of improvement. Barclays Capital economist Ethan Harris described the current market mood as 'moving from 'nuclear' to 'Canadian' winter.'

There were also fewer job losses in April than in March. But until corporate profits turn around, companies will not be doing much hiring, and unemployment will probably keep climbing well after the recession officially ends.

Indeed, after the 2001 downturn, it was another 19 months before unemployment finally peaked.

Figures due on Friday are expected to show U.S. corporate profits after taxes fell at a 7 percent rate in the first quarter, which would be an ugly reading but not as bad as the fourth quarter's 10.7 percent drop -- the worst since 1994.

The data will be included in the government's revised look at first-quarter gross domestic product, which economists expect to show that the economy contracted at a slower rate than originally thought. That would bolster the view that the recession is gradually loosening its grip on the economy, but it won't improve the job market outlook.

Joseph Brusuelas, an economist at Moody's in West Chester, Pennsylvania, said it may be 2013 or 2014 before U.S. unemployment recedes to a pre-crisis level of around 5.5 percent. The jobless rate hit 8.9 percent in April, and some economists think it could eventually exceed 10 percent.///

Oil investment fears rise as Saudi predicts new spike | Reuters

Oil investment fears rise as Saudi predicts new spike | Reuters: "ROME (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia warned oil prices could spike to beyond the near $150 record high of 2008 within three years as it joined other energy leaders on Monday to call for more investment to boost production over the long term.

Energy ministers and officials at the Group of Eight energy summit wrapped up the two-day meeting by urging the industry to pump money into projects to expand capacity despite the credit crisis, which has put the brakes on investment.

The meeting came as oil prices hover at a six-month high of over $60 a barrel, but producers fret that it remains below the $75 level needed to spur investment while consumer nations fear further rise in prices could hurt global economic prospects."...

[bth: its my impression that the oil shock of 2007 was the final straw that broke the US consumer]

Autopsies of War Dead Reveal Ways to Save Others -

Autopsies of War Dead Reveal Ways to Save Others - "Since 2004, every service man and woman killed in Iraq or Afghanistan has been given a CT scan, and since 2001, when the fighting began in Afghanistan, all have had autopsies, performed by pathologists in the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System. In previous wars, autopsies on people killed in combat were uncommon, and scans were never done.

The combined procedures have yielded a wealth of details about injuries from bullets, blasts, shrapnel and burns — information that has revealed deficiencies in body armor and vehicle shielding and led to improvements in helmets and medical equipment used on the battlefield."

The military world initially doubted the usefulness of scanning corpses but now eagerly seeks data from the scans, medical examiners say, noting that on a single day in April, they received six requests for information from the Defense Department and its contractors.

“We’ve created a huge database that’s never existed before,” said Capt. Craig T. Mallak, 48, a Navy pathologist and lawyer who is chief of the Armed Forces Medical Examiner System, a division of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology.

The medical examiners have scanned about 3,000 corpses, more than any other institution in the world, creating a minutely detailed and permanent three-dimensional record of combat injuries. Although the scans are sometimes called “virtual autopsies,” they do not replace old-fashioned autopsies. Rather, they add information and can help guide autopsies and speed them by showing pathologists where to look for bullets or shrapnel, and by revealing fractures and tissue damage so clearly that the need for lengthy dissection is sometimes eliminated. The examiners try to remove as many metal fragments as possible, because the pieces can yield information about enemy weapons.

One discovery led to an important change in the medical gear used to stabilize injured troops on the battlefield.

Col. Howard T. Harcke, a 71-year-old Marine Corps radiologist who delayed retirement to read CT scans at Dover, noticed something peculiar in late 2005. The emergency treatment for a collapsed lung involves inserting a needle and tube into the chest cavity to relieve pressure and allow the lung to reinflate. But in one case, Colonel Harcke could see from a scan that the tube was too short to reach the chest cavity. Then he saw another case, and another, and half a dozen more.

In an interview, Colonel Harcke said it was impossible to tell whether anyone had died because the tubes were too short; all had other severe injuries. But a collapsed lung can be life-threatening, so proper treatment is essential.

Colonel Harcke pulled 100 scans from the archives and used them to calculate the average thickness of the chest wall in American troops; he found that the standard tubing, five centimeters long, was too short for 50 percent of the troops. If the tubing was lengthened to eight centimeters, it would be long enough for 99 percent.

“Soldiers are bigger and stronger now,” Colonel Harcke said.

The findings were presented to the Army Surgeon General, who in August 2006 ordered that the kits given to combat medics be changed to include only the longer tubing.

“I was thrilled,” Colonel Harcke said.

The medical examiners also discovered that troops were dying from wounds to the upper body that could have been prevented by body armor that covered more of the torso and shoulders. The information, which became public in 2006, led the military to scramble to ship more armor plates to Iraq.

It was Captain Mallak who decided that autopsies should be performed on all troops killed in Afghanistan or Iraq. Federal law gives him that authority....

[bth: my hat off to Captain Mallak.]

Monday, May 25, 2009

Vilna'i: Home front drill scenario not fictional | Israel | Jerusalem Post

Vilna'i: Home front drill scenario not fictional | Israel | Jerusalem Post: "Israel will likely suffer simultaneous missile strikes and terrorist attacks in the next outbreak of war, Deputy Defense Minister Matan Vilna'i told the Knesset's Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee on Monday."

That is why the Home Front Command is conducting a five-day drill next week, dubbed Turning Point 3, which will send Israelis running for their bomb shelters on June 2.

"This isn't an imaginary situation. This isn't detached from reality and if there is a war, it's very likely that this is what will happen," Vilnai said, during the committee hearing.

On the third day of the drill, at 11 a.m., a siren will go off throughout the entire country, and everyone is expected to immediately head to the nearest shelter or protected space.

The time suggested for reaching the protected space differs depending upon location. Those living in the Golan Heights and some other northern cities have less than 30 seconds to find shelter while those in Tel Aviv have two minutes and in Jerusalem, three minutes.

"If someone attacks us, we will be ready," said Vilna'i, in an interview after the Knesset session. "The concept is 'as protected as possible.'"

Turning Point 3 has been called the largest drill in Israel's history....

New York - Runnin' Scared - FBI Agent on Synagogue Case Has Questionable Record

New York - Runnin' Scared - FBI Agent on Synagogue Case Has Questionable Record: "The FBI agent with a high-profile role in yesterday's arrests of four men for plotting a terror attack in New York has a pretty interesting -- and controversial -- track record.

Special Agent Robert Fuller, whose name appears at the top of the federal criminal complaint in the case, had a hand in the FBI's failure to nab two of the 9/11 hijackers, had one of his informants set himself on fire in front of the White House, and was involved in misidentifying a Canadian man as a terrorist leading to his secret arrest and torture -- a case that is now the subject of a major lawsuit.

Fuller is listed as the lead agent in the arrests of four men yesterday who officials say were trying to blow up a couple of synagogues and shoot a military jet from the sky. But as in other cases of seemingly inept homegrown terrorists, the four suspects were supplied (inert) weapons from an FBI informant, and in coming weeks we'll learn more about how much that informant goaded the four suspects into carrying out the supposed acts of terrorism. The case is being prosecuted in the Southern District of New York. (James Margolin, an FBI spokesman said the agency declines to comment for this story, because Fuller is a potential witness in an ongoing prosecution.)"...

[bth: reading this article fully, one grows increasingly concerned. I would also note that the timing of the arrests was likely political in nature with the Gitmo debate reaching a head.] - EVIDENCE OF GOVERNMENT MANIPULATION OF THE STOCK MARKET - Dan Shaffer explains on Fox Business News (video and transcript) - Housing Bubble and Bear Links - EVIDENCE OF GOVERNMENT MANIPULATION OF THE STOCK MARKET - Dan Shaffer explains on Fox Business News (video and transcript) - Housing Bubble and Bear Links

[bth: watch with 2:30 minutes remaining regarding market manipulation presumably by the government]

North Korea tests nuclear weapon 'as powerful as Hiroshima bomb' | World news |

North Korea tests nuclear weapon 'as powerful as Hiroshima bomb' | World news | ..."The force of the blast made the ground tremble in the Chinese border city of Yanji, 130 miles away.

The North Korean news agency said the test had been 'safely conducted on a new higher level in terms of its explosive power and technology of its control. The test will contribute to defending the sovereignty of the country and the nation and socialism and ensuring peace and security on the Korean peninsula and the region.'

Gordon Brown described the test as 'erroneous, misguided and a danger to the world'. The prime minister added: 'This act will undermine prospects for peace on the Korean peninsula and will do nothing for North Korea's security."...

"This test, if confirmed, could indicate North Korea's decision to work at securing actual nuclear capabilities," Koh Yu-hwan, a professor at Dongkuk University in Seoul, told Reuters.

"North Korea had been expecting the new US administration to mark a shift from the previous administration's stance, but is realising that there are no changes. It may have decided that a second test was necessary. [It] seems to be reacting to the US and South Korean administrations' policies."

Analysts believe the North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, hopes to use the test to shore up support from the military amid mounting speculation that he is about to name one of his three sons as his successor.

Kim, 67, appears to be re-establishing his grip on power since reportedly suffering a stroke last August. Today's test is a direct challenge to attempts by Obama to engage the North and stem the spread of nuclear weapons.

Despite promising a fresh start to bilateral relations, Obama, who denounced last month's missile launch as "a provocation," has so far failed to persuade North Korean to enter into negotiations.

Kim Myong-chol, executive director of the Centre for Korean-American Peace in Tokyo, who is close to Pyongyang, said the test was a reminder that North Korea "is going it alone as a nuclear power".

"North Korea doesn't need any talks with America. America is tricky and undesirable," he said. "It does not implement its own agreements.

"We are not going to worry about sanctions. If they sanction us, we will become more powerful. Sanctions never help America; they are counter-productive … We don't care about America and what they say."

[bth: China may desire a North Korean buffer state. China may be bothered by a nuclear North Korea, but China will certainly be concerned if the actions of North Korea cause South Korea and Japan to go nuclear.]

Commentary: A day to remember the price of freedom | McClatchy

Commentary: A day to remember the price of freedom | McClatchy: "Memorial Day is upon us, and for most Americans that means the first holiday weekend of a new summer. For most, it's time to dust off the barbecue pit or head to the nearest beach or hit the mall for the big sales.

For those who wear, or have worn, the uniform and those who love them, however, it means something different: It's a time to remember those who've fallen in defense of our country in the 234 years since the first American soldier died in a rebellion against a king."

During this time, some 43 million Americans have served under arms in our wars, 655,000 have died in battle and more than 1.4 million have been wounded in combat.

Our two ongoing wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have claimed the lives of 4,963 American troops, and 34,000 others have been wounded in combat.

Those are just the numbers, the statistics. Every one of those numbers has a face and a name. Every one leaves behind someone, often many someones, whose hearts are forever broken and whose lives are forever changed.

For those who've served and are of a certain age, Memorial Day is also a time to think of comrades and brothers-in-arms who answered their last roll call during the past year.

For our remaining World War II veterans, the days dwindle down to a precious few. Some of their veterans associations held their last reunion this past year; too few are left to gather again. Fewer than 5 million are left of the 15 million who wore the uniform between 1941 and 1945, and they're disappearing from among us at the rate of 30,000 each month.

The passing years also take their toll among veterans of the Korean War, the forgotten war, and they've begun to thin the ranks of those who served and sacrificed in Vietnam.

Two who died this past year left holes in the ranks of my own small brotherhood, the veterans of the battles of the Ia Drang Valley, fought in Vietnam at the dawn of our war there in November 1965.

Maj. Ed (Too Tall to Fly) Freeman died last August in his hometown of Boise, Idaho. He belatedly earned a Medal of Honor in 2001 for flying his Huey helicopter through a storm of enemy fire 14 times in one hot afternoon, bringing in ammunition and taking out wounded Americans.

His wing man and boss, Lt. Col. Bruce (Old Snake) Crandall, who received the Medal of Honor in 2005, was beside Ed's hospital bed that last week saying his goodbyes and continuing their half-century argument over which of them was the "second-best pilot in the world."

Early this year, Medic Randy (Doc) Lose, one of the survivors of the "lost" platoon of Bravo Company, 1st Battalion 7th U.S. Cavalry in the Ia Drang, was buried in the National Cemetery in Biloxi, Mississippi.

Doc Lose earned a Distinguished Service Cross for his actions in saving the lives of a dozen wounded men who were trapped behind enemy lines for over 24 hours. He was wounded four times as he crawled from man to man, plugging their wounds with C-Ration toilet paper after he ran out of bandages.

Doc never got over the experience. The Vietnam War killed him just as certainly as it did the 79 other men of his battalion who died during those three days in the valley of death. May God rest his soul and grant him peace.

Yes, for the 20 million living veterans of America's wars, old and new, and for the families and friends of the fallen, Memorial Day has a very special meaning, and it is a time for reflection and silent tears.

This Memorial Day, 2009, America is mired in two wars. The one in Iraq is supposed to begin winding down this summer, even as the other, in Afghanistan, is building toward a new crescendo.

We have a new President, Barack Obama, who was elected on a promise of change. For those few who wear the uniform of our country, however, nothing has changed. They continue to serve and sacrifice in wars in distant lands whose purpose and goals and eventual end are as fuzzy now as they were when they began in the dawn of this new century.

However you celebrate Memorial Day this year — however happy or solemn the occasion — spare a thought and a moment of silence in memory of all those who purchased your freedom with their lives, and of all those who defend it still.

If you are given to prayer, pray that one day our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines will know true peace somewhere short of the grave.

[bth: Joe Galloway is spot on. He has a way with words and he means every one of them.]

Japan panel wants "first strikes" against enemies News - Yahoo!Xtra News

Japan panel wants "first strikes" against enemies News - Yahoo!Xtra News: "TOKYO (Reuters) - A Japanese ruling party panel is to propose that pre-emptive strikes against enemy bases be allowed despite the country's pacifist constitution, Kyodo news agency said on Monday, weeks after a North Korean missile launch.

North Korea fired a ballistic missile in April that flew over northern Japan after warning that it planned to launch a satellite, prompting the government to deploy missile interceptors to the area .

' Japan should have the ability to strike enemy bases within the scope of its defence-oriented policy, in order not to sit and wait for death,' Kyodo quoted the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) committee as saying in its proposal.

The committee also plans to call for Japan to develop early-warning satellites to detect the launch of missiles towards the country, Kyodo said. Japan currently depends on information from a U.S. early-warning satellite, the agency said.

While some lawmakers have called for strike capability, Defence Minister Yasukazu Hamada is among those are cautious about the prospect, though the government's stance is that such strikes should be allowed if an attack were certain to take place."...

Al Qaeda recruits back in Europe, but why? - Los Angeles Times

Al Qaeda recruits back in Europe, but why? - Los Angeles Times: "Reporting from Brussels -- Determined to die as martyrs, the French and Belgian militants bought hiking boots and thermal underwear and journeyed to the wilds of Waziristan.

After getting ripped off in Turkey and staggering through waist-deep snow in Iran, the little band arrived in Al Qaeda's lair in Pakistan last year, ready for a triumphant reception."

"We were expecting at least a welcome for 'our brothers from Europe' and a warm atmosphere of hospitality," Walid Othmani, a 25-year-old Frenchman from Lyon, recalled during an overnight interrogation in January.

Instead, the Europeans -- and at least one American -- learned that life in the shadow of the Predator is nasty, brutish and short.

Wary of spies, suspicious Al Qaeda chiefs grilled the half-dozen Belgians and French. They charged them $1,200 each for AK-47 rifles, ammunition and grenades. They made them fill out forms listing next of kin and their preference: guerrilla fighting, or suicide attacks?...

[bth: interesting article worth a full read]

Taliban lying low to fight another day

Taliban lying low to fight another day | Pakistan | News | Newspaper | Daily | English | Online
BUNER (Agencies) - Dressed in worn grey-coloured traditional shalwar kameez and carrying no belongings, Ghazan Khan (a fictitious name) was sitting on a small rock just a few metres from an unmanned post at remote Ambela Pass, and he was not looking at all like a Taliban fighter. Despite the long black beard, he looked little different from the rest of the refugees, who were either returning home briefly to harvest the wheat crop or to see how much damage to their houses or shops the fighting between government troops and the Taliban had done.
But unlike everyone else, Khan was not going to Ambela village. Instead he was waiting for the bus from Ambela heading to Mardan. He wanted to die fighting troops in Buner, but his commander asked him to flee to the neighbouring district and wait quietly for two to three months to be called back for another round of guerrilla war, reported German news agency DPA.
Following orders, Khan and 29 other fighters divided into five groups and dumped their AK-47 assault rifles, light machine-guns, rocket-propelled grenades, some suicide jackets, and wireless sets at five different places in the mountains.
Each man parted from the rest to walk alone through safe mountain paths to reach the adjoining districts of Mardan and Swabi.
After a week of walking and occasional crawling to avoid Army snipers and helicopter gunships, Khan descended from the mountains and mingled with the hundreds of refugees waiting to enter Buner while the curfew was relaxed.
‘Our people are giving stiff resistance but you know, the Army has tanks, helicopters and planes. Therefore, they have divided Mujahideen in two groups - some will continue the fight and the others will either hide in the mountains or leave the area for a while,’ said Khan at Ambela Pass, an entry point connecting Buner with the rest of the country.

U.S.: Iraq attacks down nearly 60 percent - Conflict in Iraq-

U.S.: Iraq attacks down nearly 60 percent - Conflict in Iraq- "BAGHDAD - High-profile attacks in Iraq have fallen nearly 60 percent in the past year, the U.S. military said Sunday, though violence continues to plague the northern city of Mosul, where a suicide car bomber targeting an American convoy killed one Iraqi and wounded 45 others.

Mosul is considered the last urban stronghold of al-Qaida in Iraq, and Sunday's attack comes as military operations are being conducted there before a June 30 deadline for U.S. forces to pull out of Iraq's cities.

The Iraqi government has said that deadline will not be extended, despite concerns by American military commanders that Iraqi forces may not be ready to take on security for Mosul."...

[bth: excellent news]

Editorial - KBR Does It Again -

Editorial - KBR Does It Again - "Far from suffering for its shoddy military contracting in Iraq, Congressional investigators have found that KBR Inc. was awarded $83 million in performance bonuses. Even worse, more than half came after Pentagon investigators linked faulty KBR wiring to the electrocution of four soldiers intent on relaxation. One soldier died taking a shower and another in a swimming pool."

How such settings became part of harm’s way for the military was the question put to an electrical engineer hired by the Army who reported finding that 90 percent of KBR’s wiring work in Iraq was not done safely. Some 70,000 buildings where troops lived and worked were not up to code, according to the engineer, who told a Congressional hearing of “some of the most hazardous, worst-quality work I have ever inspected.” ...

Confronted with the airing of these lethal findings, the Pentagon at least had enough sense to tell Congress last week that KBR bonuses were suspended pending a full review. Senator Byron Dorgan’s description of the Pentagon’s performance as “stunning incompetence” is an understatement for such tragic profiteering.

The Army continues to investigate the deaths and reports of hundreds of nonlethal shocks suffered by troops. It has ordered emergency repairs, but the electrical inspector found that the building where the showering soldier was electrocuted still was not safely grounded by KBR until last October, 10 months after his death.

Huffpost: Afghanistan's rebuilding looms as sequel to Iraq's

Afghanistan's Rebuilding Looms As Sequel To Iraq's
.....But even its early efforts show troubling signs. In its first audit report, released this past Tuesday, Fields' office reported that a military command in Kabul managing $15 billion in U.S. programs to develop Afghanistan's security forces cannot be sure the money is being spent wisely.

The auditors examined a $404 million training contract held by a large U.S. consulting company and found the government official responsible for monitoring the vendor's performance worked at an Army office in Maryland _ nine time zones away.

More cause for concern is found in Khost, a town on Afghanistan's violent border with Pakistan, where a failed electric power station points to the inability to sustain critical projects.

At a cost of $1 million, the power generation plant in Khost was transformed from a dilapidated building into a modern facility with three newly installed generators.

In September 2008, the fully functioning plant was turned over to Khost's ministry of energy and water. When U.S. inspectors visited the site in March, only one generator was still operating and only at 60 percent of capacity. The plant's manager said the two generators out of commission were missing parts.

U.S. money also was used to train 25 poor women to cultivate and sell saffron, a spice being promoted in Afghanistan as an alternative to growing opium poppies. The project was completed on time and on budget. But Afghan authorities didn't have the resources to keep the program going for the two years needed to make it self-sustaining.

Fields has been to Afghanistan twice in the past few months. Both times he has met with Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, who Fields says has pleaded for help in battling corruption inside his government.

Transparency International, a nongovernment organization based in Berlin, ranked Afghanistan 176 out of 180 countries on its corruption perceptions index last year. The index assesses the degree to which corruption is perceived to exist among public officials and politicians. Only Haiti, Iraq, Myanmar and Somalia were rated lower.

Fields passed Karzai's requests to the departments of State and Defense. He's received little response.

"I'm not satisfied," Fields said.....

[bth: you'd think at this late date we'd be taking preemptive actions to prevent a repeat of the Iraq scandals, but it doesn't look that way.]

Sunday, May 24, 2009

The IDF must succeed in the fight for public opinion | Features | Jerusalem Post

The IDF must succeed in the fight for public opinion | Features | Jerusalem Post: "'Let the general in,' she says with a smile"

The Armored Corps brigade commander is tall and broad-shouldered, radiating experience and machismo with a trim gray beard covering a strong jaw. He's the third general to come to this office this week seeking guidance.

The woman sitting behind the desk is several years his junior and a few ranks below him, too - yet when the brigade commander sits down, it is Avital Leibovich who is giving the orders. Fox News wants an interview with a senior officer who can explain what happened in the alleyways of Gaza during Operation Cast Lead, and it is Leibovich 's job to make sure the journalists hear what the IDF Spokesperson wants them to hear.

"Every question they ask you, answer with an example from the field. Describe what you have seen with your own eyes, what you and your soldiers have experienced. Be as descriptive as possible," she says.

"It bothers me that they're talking about soldiers abusing Palestinians [during the operation], wrecking homes and whatnot," the general says. "For every ugly story like that, I can give two stories that are the total opposite. I'm talking about reservists sending letters of apology to the families whose homes they commandeered, sending them money and leaving them food, that sort of thing."

Leibovich looks the commander in the eye.

"That's exactly what they need to hear," she says.

And now he's ready to go.

This is today's IDF: coordinated, rehearsed, media savvy. Perhaps even more significantly, it is an army in which its spokespersons play a larger role than ever before - for better and for worse.

THE MEDIUM is the message, as communications theorist Marshall McLuhan famously said. Just in case, though, the IDF Spokesperson's Office now controls both. The foreign press liaison unit, as the face and voice of Israel's army to the entire world, is the gateway through which information flows (or, often, does not flow), and it has transformed from something of an afterthought into a major part of the military's arsenal. As wars are increasingly fought on the virtual battlegrounds of television and the Internet, the soldiers of the IDF Spokesperson's foreign press liaison unit are a new breed of pressed-uniform commandos.

Leibovich's highly motivated crew includes recent immigrants like Lee Hiromoto, a 26-year-old Yale graduate from Hawaii, Harvard graduate Arie Hasit, 25, and Aliza Landes, 26, a McGill grad.

"The North American desk must be one of the best educated units in the IDF," Landes says only half-jokingly.....

[bth: this is a very good article about how Israeli Defense has set up a news and propaganda group. It is worth reading in full.]

DAWN.COM | World | Next year crucial for war against Taliban: US

DAWN.COM | World | Next year crucial for war against Taliban: US: "In an off the record briefing, which does not allow journalists to identify the briefer, the official said the Obama administration would also continue its predecessor’s reliance on Predator drones and other unmanned vehicles for targeting militants hideouts in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The official conceded that the attacks enraged both countries but said the US military liked drones because they were ‘effective, relatively cheap and keep pilots out of danger.’

The administration, he said, was trying a new ‘rotational approach,’ in Afghanistan. The administration hoped that to create a cadre of experts in Afghanistan by rotating Americans in and out of the region.

For example, a person might spend a year in country, a year at home studying the situation in Afghanistan, and then return to the region for another tour. The same sort of rotation could be done with units, the official said."...

Spitz: Many ways to honor the fallen - Framingham, MA - The MetroWest Daily News

Spitz: Many ways to honor the fallen - Framingham, MA - The MetroWest Daily News: "omorrow, some will quietly think of a redheaded kid from Iowa, or a dark-haired man from the Bronx, who took a bullet so others didn't.

Some will reflect on the meaning of the words, 'an American soldier known but to God,' on the Tomb of the Unknowns in Arlington National Cemetery. Or the names and ages of those recently killed in Iraq and Afghanistan listed on posterboards along Washington Street in Holliston."

Some may attend the service planned in Framingham's Memorial Building, or watch a parade of veterans honoring fallen brothers and sisters in communities from Northborough to Milford, Franklin to Wayland.

Some, like Alma Hart, will think about "the beauty of a little boy's smile and a young man's dream.

"Many people aren't touched by the war personally. They just need to take time to remember," said Hart, whose son, PFC John Hart, was killed in Iraq in October 2003.

For the mom from Bedford, Memorial Day is "the reminder" for Americans of all political, social and economic backgrounds. "It's the day we all stop and think about it for a moment." Think about the sacrifice, the honor and the grief.

But, to Hart, honoring the fallen isn't just about a day that marks the unofficial start to summer. Or a single day in November, either.

Remembering those who made it home, and families left behind, is the most meaningful way we can honor those who died.

That's why Hart was in Boston on Thursday to speak at a press conference announcing the creation of the Massachusetts Military Heroes Fund to assist families of fallen soldiers.

As a Gold Star mother, she appreciates the importance of an organization that acts as a clearinghouse of information and program referrals for those whose son or daughter, husband or wife dies while serving our country.

But, "it's honestly harder for the families of the wounded," she said. Medical advancements have saved thousands of lives in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and left thousands with lifelong difficulties few of us can imagine.

"To honor my son's memory, I work at the VA hospital in Bedford," said Hart, and she hopes others might volunteer whatever time they can at veterans hospitals.

"It's not a weekly commitment. It's just something you can do. ... Just to push the coffee wagon around and talk to people," attend bingo games, sit and listen to someone who could use an ear.

The living need our support 365 days a year.

But the names of aging World War II and Korea veterans aren't posted on phone poles. Neither are the names of those with medical problems likely connected to chemical exposure in Vietnam or the Gulf War.

There's no list of families struggling to pay the mortgage because mom has been deployed again, no roster of servicemen and women who could use a phone card or an extra pair of socks.

It's important to remember the names of those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our nation.

It's vital to lend a hand to those whose names don't appear on monuments or casualty lists.

And no matter how much or how little you can do, there is a way to honor fallen heroes by helping heroes at home.

Is there an older vet, or his or her spouse, who needs a hand with yardwork or a ride to a dentist appointment? Your community's veterans agent or veterans organization's commander might know. It's likely a senior center director might know as well. Pick up the phone.

Is there a care package drive in search of donations? Again, veterans organizations - such as the VFW, American Legion, AMVETS, Jewish War Veterans or ITAM - might know. You can watch for notices about collections such as the one held in Southborough last weekend. If nothing is going on locally, you can always check online sites such as,,,,, or

Numerous online sites also offer ways to help soldiers' families and the wounded. Check out the Concord-based Military Family Support Group, Homes for Our Troops, the Ahern Family Charitable Foundation, New England Caring for Our Military or Kids for Our Troops.

You don't have to give hundreds of dollars or dozens of hours of your time to make a difference.

One of the greatest gifts the Harts receive is just hearing from their son's friends and fellow soldiers.

Tomorrow, we remember the fallen.

We should remember to honor them with our actions throughout the year.

(Julia Spitz can be reached at 508-626-3968 or Check or for the Spitz Bits blog.)

Mementos adorn 'saddest acre' -

Mementos adorn 'saddest acre' -

Half of Israelis back immediate strike on Iran

Half of Israelis back immediate strike on Iran: "Just over half of Israelis back an immediate attack on the nuclear facilities of arch-foe Iran but the rest want to wait and see the results of US diplomacy, according to a poll released on Sunday.

Fifty-one percent support an immediate Israeli strike on Iran's nuclear sites, while 49 percent believe the Jewish state should await the outcome of efforts by the US administration to engage with the Islamic republic, said the survey published by Tel Aviv University.

But 74 percent of those questioned said they believe that new US President Barack Obama's efforts will not stop the Islamic republic from acquiring atomic weapons"....

US probes divisions within Taliban - The Boston Globe

US probes divisions within Taliban - The Boston Globe: "'You have a whole spectrum of bad guys that sort of get lumped into this catch-all term of Taliban . . . because they're launching bullets at us,' said a senior defense official involved in the effort who like others was not authorized to speak publicly about intelligence matters. 'There are many of the groups that can probably be peeled off.'

The initiative, which involves hundreds of intelligence operatives and analysts in the United States and overseas, is expected to culminate later this year in a detailed, highly classified analysis of the different factions of the Taliban and other groups. The overall effort is considered crucial to the long-term success of President Obama's goal of crushing the remnants of the Al Qaeda terrorist network and bringing stability to large swaths of the two countries that have become incubators for anti-US violence.

'This is the key to moving forward,' said Peter Bergen, a specialist on radical Islamic terrorism at the New America Foundation in Washington, D.C. 'The easiest way to end an insurgency is to get people to stop being insurgents.'

Part spycraft, part history research, the project is an attempt to re-create the successes in Iraq in 2007 and 2008, when the United States and its allies were able to co-opt some elements of the Sunni-led insurgency and Shia militias and bring them into the fold of the Iraqi government. Enlisting the former enemies is credited with helping to dramatically reduce the number of attacks on US and Iraqi security forces.

"Over time in Iraq we developed a very nuanced understanding of the enemy," Petraeus, the top commander in the Middle East, told the Globe in response to e-mailed questions. "That proved invaluable as we worked with our Iraqi partners to determine which sub-groups, tribes, and other social elements might be reconcilable and which were truly irreconcilable."

But as US intelligence efforts were trained on Iraq, there was no comparable attempt to map out the different groups facing off against American and allied forces in Afghanistan and Pakistan, according to multiple US government officials and analysts. A recent Obama administration review of US policy found American understanding of the nature of those adversaries to be seriously lacking....

[bth: 8 years on and about freaking time.]

"Once To Every Man and Nation" Lyrics

Once to every man and nation, comes the moment to decide,
In the strife of truth with falsehood, for the good or evil side;
Some great cause, some great decision, offering each the bloom or blight,
And the choice goes by forever, ’twixt that darkness and that light.

Then to side with truth is noble, when we share her wretched crust,
Ere her cause bring fame and profit, and ’tis prosperous to be just;
Then it is the brave man chooses while the coward stands aside,
Till the multitude make virtue of the faith they had denied.

By the light of burning martyrs, Christ, Thy bleeding feet we track,
Toiling up new Calv’ries ever with the cross that turns not back;
New occasions teach new duties, time makes ancient good uncouth,
They must upward still and onward, who would keep abreast of truth.

Though the cause of evil prosper, yet the truth alone is strong;
Though her portion be the scaffold, and upon the throne be wrong;
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and behind the dim unknown,
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above His own.


Report: China Will Intervene of North Korea Collapses | ROK Drop

Report: China Will Intervene of North Korea Collapses | ROK Drop:.... "According to the report, Shen Dingli of the Institute for International Studies at Fudan University has told observers that policymakers in the PRC prefer a buffer in North Korea between South Korea and the U.S. forces there.

Dingli also said that rather than let North Korea collapse, China will provide basic subsistence.

The report also quoted China’s defense minister and high-ranking military officials as saying that “China will not let North Korea collapse.”

The reported also noted that Beijing has been the donor of last resort that kept North Korea in food and fuel through famine and energy crises for decades.

“In official statements, books and state-controlled media, the Chinese leadership provides support for the DPRK and takes no position advocating regime change,” the report said.

“Even in China’s closed forums, there is almost a taboo on discussing “regime change” in North Korea.”

Given that China has a formal commitment in its bilateral security treaty with North Korea that it “must observe” in the event of a conflict on the Korean peninsula, any military action against the North would inevitably face Chinese intervention, according to the report."

If the US moves into North Korea that would give the Chinese the green light to move in as well. That is why it is critical that South Korea quickly deploys it’s forces throughout North Korea and implement martial law and immediately begin humanitarian assistance to exert a sense of authority. North Koreans have been brought up since the day they were born to hate the United States and if the ROK Army is seen working side by side with the United States in North Korea this may give many North Koreans the impression that the South Koreans are the puppets of the United States.

It is critical that the South Koreans have to be viewed early on as the legitimate occupiers of North Korea by the North Korean population. Everything done in the early days of a collapse has to be viewed in the context of building the legitimacy of the South Korean government in the eyes of the North Korean population.

US forces moving into North Korea would only legitimize any Chinese action into North Korea plus cause a host of issues that can be avoided with a ROK military led occupation of a collapsed North Korea.