Saturday, June 20, 2009

Alcohol abuse by GIs soars since '03 - USATODAY.com

Alcohol abuse by GIs soars since '03 - USATODAY.com: "The rate of Army soldiers enrolled in treatment programs for alcohol dependency or abuse has nearly doubled since 2003 — a sign of the growing stress of repeated deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to Army statistics and interviews.

Soldiers diagnosed by Army substance abuse counselors with alcoholism or alcohol abuse, such as binge drinking, increased from 6.1 per 1,000 soldiers in 2003 to an estimated 11.4 as of March 31, according to the data. The latest data cover the first six months of the fiscal year that began in October.

'We're seeing a lot of alcohol consumption,' Gen. Peter Chiarelli, the Army's vice chief of staff, told top officers during a briefing on the Army's growing number of suicides."...

Iran Updates (VIDEO): Live-Blogging The Uprising

Iran Updates (VIDEO): Live-Blogging The Uprising

Iran Updates (VIDEO): Live-Blogging The Uprising

Iran Updates (VIDEO): Live-Blogging The Uprising

YouTube - Sound Of Silence - Simon & Garfunkel (live sound)

YouTube - Sound Of Silence - Simon & Garfunkel (live sound)

YouTube - Joan Baez - We shall overcome

YouTube - Joan Baez - We shall overcome

Taza after truck bomb

Democrats dodge ban on cash from lobbyists - Jonathan Martin - POLITICO.com

Democrats dodge ban on cash from lobbyists - Jonathan Martin - POLITICO.com: "President Barack Obama’s strict ban on lobbyist contributions will limit the haul from Thursday night’s fundraising dinner for congressional Democrats, but organizers have found a way around it: a morning-after event at the same hotel where lobbyists — and their money — will be welcomed with open arms.

Invitations for the $5,000-per-person Issues Conference don’t say it’s an effort to skirt Obama’s lobbying ban, but they walk right up to the edge."

“Please note that the Friday Issues Conference is NOT subject to lobbyist restrictions, though the event is intended for personal contributions only,” a finance official from the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee wrote in an e-mail sent to lobbyists Tuesday and obtained by POLITICO, bolding the entire sentence to underscore the clarification. “The Issues Conference is separate from the DSCC/DCCC events with President Obama.”

One prominent Democratic lobbyist unhappy with the situation described it vividly: “It’s almost like the ugly girl that you want to call late at night — but don’t want to be seen with on a date.”

Obama refuses to appear at fundraising events where lobbyists are allowed to contribute money, so the Democrats can’t collect lobbyists’ cash at Thursday night’s dinner. But since the president won’t be at the morning-after event, congressional Democrats will be free to collect the lobbying dollars then that they couldn’t take the night before.

The morning-long session – which features House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and top committee chairmen from both chambers — may not comply with the spirit of Obama’s lobbying ban, but some Democrats say the White House has only itself to blame. . . . .

“They’re asleep at the switch,” said a former Democratic leadership aide who glanced at the spreadsheet for the dinner and panned it as “pathetic.” “They’re not really thinking about how these things look for other people....

[bth: worth a read in full. ... same as it ever was, same as it ever was.]

Obama's top 10 quips from last night - Mike Allen - POLITICO.com

Obama's top 10 quips from last night - Mike Allen - POLITICO.com
The Reaction

Columbian drug smuggling semi-submersible

Washington's Blog: the feds should bail out the people and the states...

Washington's Blog: "Fitch's downgraded Ohio's bond credit rating Wednesday.

Moody's has warned that it will probably downgrade California's debt rating in the near future.

Many other states are not far behind.

Downgrading a state's rating increases borrowing costs, and thus destabilizes the state's economy. And, of course, many states may have more problems than just credit downgrades.

As I have long argued, if the feds are going to give bailouts to anyone, it should be individuals and the states - not the big financial giants - because preserving the states which make up the United States is a lot more important than maintaining the status quo financial system.
And unless the people have some relief, they will not be motivated to borrow from the banks, so all of the bank bailouts will be useless in restarting the economy. Indeed, if the government had just given the money handed out so far to the people instead of the big banks and financial companies, we'd be on our way out of this financial crisis already."

[bth: absolutely. And it should be mentioned that for the average taxpayer paying federal or state taxes comes from the same wallet. So a federal deficit to pay for state government is far less debilitating to a normal American as opposed to say pissing money right down the drain by bailing out AIG or frankly bailing out GM to the tune of tens of billions and then forcing it into bankruptcy. If we were going to bankrupt GM wouldn't it have been better to have done it six months ago before we blew all that money?]

Lawyers, Guns and Money: Tank Man and Tank Commander

Lawyers, Guns and Money: Tank Man and Tank Commander: ..."Tank Man was not the first person to stand up to the coercive power of the state. People defying other people holding guns has a long and distinguished history, from Napoleon forward. The survival of Tank Man and of every other such protester depends on a decision made by the state employee carrying the gun. What distinguishes the few moments near Tiananmen from the Odessa Steps, thus, is not the heroism of the protester, but rather the decision by the tank commander not to run Tank Man down, or to shoot him. The video has always been more compelling to me than the shot; the tank commander actively tries to carry out his job without running over tank man, and eventually decides to hold up an entire tank column while Tank Man clambers on to his vehicle."...

he thing is, Tank Commander is far more dangerous than Tank Man. Tank Man can simply be shot; most seem to believe that Tank Man was later executed, far out of sight of the international media. The regime survives if Tank Man dies, even if the death of Tank Man isn't the optimal outcome. The regime dies, however, if Tank Commander refuses to run over Tank Man. Eisenstein used the Odessa Steps to demonstrate the corruption of the Czarist regime, but the regime didn't die until the soldiers refused to shoot the demonstrators. The successor regime didn't die until Boris Yeltsin climbed on a tank in August 1991. While there's some mystery as to the fate of Tank Man, I don't doubt that the CCP found Tank Commander and put a bullet in the back of his head at the first opportunity....

I think, however, that the center of gravity of the state remains with Tank Commander. To the extent that the United States, other Western regimes, non-governmental organizations, and pretty much anyone else want to affect the course of events in Iran, the key is to convince Tank Commander not to shoot....

Lawyers, Guns and Money: Tank Man and Tank Commander

Lawyers, Guns and Money: Tank Man and Tank Commander

RANGER AGAINST WAR: In His Defense

RANGER AGAINST WAR: In His Defense: "Should former Vice President Cheney ever be brought to task for the crimes committed under his watch, Ranger predicts the following defense:

As the VP is not the Vice Commander in Chief, he has no command authority over the armed forces. He cannot issue an order or directive to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He cannot even give a direct order to a Private First Class.

The VP is not in the chain of command (nor should we want him to be). And thus will go the exoneration of one of the architects of evil, [Vice] Vice President Cheney."

[bth: still, going after Cheney would make it plain to thousands within the chain of command that obeying illegal orders carries a consequence. Throwing some enlisted personnel in jail and acquitting the officers or outsourcing the dirty work to contractors isn't sufficient to normal Americans or to other countries that watch what we do not what we say.]

Crooks and Liars

Crooks and Liars

Let's hold Bush officials accountable for torture | Salon

Let's hold Bush officials accountable for torture | Salon: "June 17, 2009 |


By Anthony Romero and Lt. Col. Darrel Vandeveld

Torture is a crime and the United States engaged in it. Those are two indisputable facts. Given the mountains of evidence already in the public domain, any effort to deny or soften that harsh and devastating reality is either disingenuous, uninformed or a result of the human instinct to avoid painful truths. But one of the things that allows our democracy to endure is that time after time, no matter the misdeed, we have been willing to look ourselves in the mirror, acknowledge our wrongdoing and hold ourselves accountable."

Both of the authors of this piece chose professions devoted to protecting democratic principles, human rights and the rule of law. One of us is an Army prosecutor who resigned from six pending Guantánamo cases due to ethical failings of the tribunal system, and the other is the leader of the premier civil liberties organization in the U.S. We both understand that the process of self-examination and accountability has been, and remains, the only way to move forward and regain our moral and legal grounding.

To date, the evidence that U.S. officials engaged in widespread and systemic torture and abuse of detainees with the authorization of the highest Bush administration officials comes from a wide range of sources. There are congressional reports, journalistic investigations, detainees’ own accounts, and even -- astonishingly -- boastful admissions by some of the highest officials of the Bush administration, including former Vice President Dick Cheney, who has been aggressively forthright in his defense of torture methods including waterboarding. An ACLU Freedom of Information Act lawsuit has also produced more than 100,000 pages of revealing government documents, including the now well-known Justice Department memos laying out the legal framework for the Bush administration’s torture policies. And despite President Obama’s unfortunate decision to reverse his administration’s earlier intention to order their release, we know there are thousands of photographs depicting detainee abuse in overseas prisons beyond Abu Ghraib. While likely to be disturbing -- as they should be -- these images of human brutality would serve to confirm the pervasive and orchestrated nature of these crimes.

But notwithstanding all this evidence that domestic and international laws were violated, there are still those who would reduce these crimes to discretionary policy decisions subject to legitimate debate. There is even a robust public discussion about whether "torture works" -- a jaw-dropping debate to be having in the United States of America -- as if that could be reliably determined, and as if that would make it OK.

This cannot be the way forward in a country committed to the rule of law that applies to everyone, regardless of status or position. We have a Department of Justice for a reason, and now it’s up to Attorney General Holder, the nation’s top law enforcement officer, to do his job and appoint an independent prosecutor to follow the evidence where it may lead. In this country, we investigate crimes and, when appropriate, we prosecute them. Once we start compromising our principles and laws because it is too messy, too inconvenient or even too painful to enforce them, we render them meaningless. This is not a political issue, but a moral and legal one.

To date, the highest-ranking officer to be prosecuted for detainee abuse is a lieutenant colonel who was acquitted by a court-martial panel. Yet there is simply too much evidence of high-level orders and authorization for the use of torture and abuse to justify limiting criminal investigations to those in the field. What does it say about our commitment to justice when we are willing to sacrifice a few at the bottom but unwilling to hold accountable those at the top? When we are willing to prosecute military personnel but not the civilian officials and contractors who were also part of this horrific enterprise? What kind of legacy does that leave for future generations, and future administrations, when it comes to the consequences of those in power breaking the law?

There are some who might find it surprising to be hearing from the two of us together -- a civil libertarian and an Army officer. But to us, the fit is quite natural. While having taken different paths, we have both sought the same destination: the preservation of American values, the rule of law and human rights. Without accountability, we cannot preserve those ideals. Without holding ourselves to the standards we wish to impose on others, we cannot move forward and we cannot hold ourselves out as a nation that adheres to a legal and moral code of conduct. It is critical that we hold accountable those who authorized, those who legally sanctioned and those who implemented the torture policies of one of the darkest periods in our nation’s history. What is at stake is nothing less than our democracy.


[bth: we define who we are by what we do. These two guys are right. The American public realizes that we have become gutless to facing the truth. We have become political cowards because to press the issue is the face facts, pay a price and redeem our soul. What has happened to Obama? Where is the audacity? Hope is not enough.]

Peacekeeping in Mogadishu: Part 2 | Rocketboom

Peacekeeping in Mogadishu: Part 2 | Rocketboom

Personalized Genetics | Rocketboom

Personalized Genetics | Rocketboom

Iraq truck bomb in oil-rich Kirkuk kills 22

The Raw Story | Iraq truck bomb in oil-rich Kirkuk kills 22
A truck bomb killed 22 people and wounded dozens more in a town south of the oil-rich city of Kirkuk on Saturday, the bloodiest attack to hit Iraq in a month, officials said.

The attack struck near a mosque in Taza, a predominantly Turkmen Shiite town, at around 1:00 pm (1000 GMT) and claimed women and children among its victims, the head of the morgue at Kirkuk hospital said.

"We have received 22 bodies and dozens of wounded from the bombing," Ibrahim Mahmoud told AFP.

Major Salam Zangana of Iraqi police also said 22 people were killed, and said 125 were wounded, many of them seriously.

The attack, which took place around 400 metres (yards) from the Shiite Al-Rasoul mosque, also seriously damaged dozens of houses, with police saying that many victims could still be under the rubble.

An AFP reporter at the scene said the bomb left a deep hole in the ground....

[bth; this is the town where John was killed]


Friday, June 19, 2009

Iran Updates (VIDEO): Live-Blogging The Uprising

Iran Updates (VIDEO): Live-Blogging The Uprising

Iran Updates (VIDEO): Live-Blogging The Uprising

Iran Updates (VIDEO): Live-Blogging The Uprising

Raw Story » As Post fires liberal columnist, Bush war architect gets ink

Raw Story » As Post fires liberal columnist, Bush war architect gets ink: "On Thursday, the Washington Post confirmed it had fired liberal online columnist Dan Froomkin. On Friday, they gave a guest column to Bush war architect Paul Wolfowitz.

To be fair, Wolfowitz isn’t being paid, and his column is a guest editorial. But the paper’s promotion of a man who was a key architect of President George W. Bush’s policy on Iraq — and one of its most ardent hawks — is sure to raise eyebrows among the liberals and those critical of the Post’s coverage in the run-up to the Iraq war."...

[bth: unbelievable. Wolfowitz at one point in his career lost his security clearance for passing information to the Israelis. In the 70s he worked with GE to get the Shah of Iran nuclear power plants, now he is trying to talk the US into going to war with Iran. Then only a few years ago he was instrumental in lying to the American public about getting us into an unnecessary and costly war on a fraud. He faked information with Chalabi and the entire propaganda effort finds his dirty little rat claw marks all over it. His incompetence with his sidekick Feith can hardly be underestimated that cost hundreds if not thousands of American lives not to mention enough money to pay for an entire national health plan we will not ever get. When he was at the World Bank he gave his girlfriend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a side deal. What a sham and revolting development by WaPo.]
Informed Comment

CIA seeks laid-off bankers in N.Y. recruitment drive | Reuters

CIA seeks laid-off bankers in N.Y. recruitment drive | Reuters: "NEW YORK (Reuters) - Laid off from Wall Street? The CIA wants you -- as long as you can pass a lie detector test and show that you are motivated by service to your country rather than your wallet.

The Central Intelligence Agency has been advertising for recruits and will be holding interviews on June 22 at a secret location in New York.

'Economics, finance and business professionals, if the quest for the bottom line is just not enough for you, the Central Intelligence Agency has a mission like no other,' one radio advertisement for the agency says.

'Join CIA's directorate of intelligence and be a part of our global mission as an economic or financial analyst. Make a difference in your career and for your nation,' it says."...

Somali security minister assassinated in suicide attack - The Long War Journal

Somali security minister assassinated in suicide attack - The Long War Journal: "An al Qaeda-backed terror group assassinated the security minister of Somalia's struggling government in a suicide attack today that killed more than 20 people in the central part of the country.

Securityr Minister Omar Hashi Aden and Abdikarim Lakanyo, the former ambassador to Ethiopia, were killed when a Shabaab suicide bomber targeted them as they left a hotel in the town of Beletwein, the provincial capital of Hiran. The men were heading to the wedding of Hashi's son when the attack took place.

Shabaab, the terror group that has direct links to al Qaeda, has taken credit for the suicide strike and claimed the men were meeting with Ethiopian military officials at the hotel."...

Bill and Bob's Excellent Afghan Adventure

Bill and Bob's Excellent Afghan Adventure: ..."clear, hold, and build. This is a strategy that both GEN Petraeus and GEN McChrystal have been talking about. The insurgents will respond by going elsewhere, of course. It's what insurgents do. In the meantime, establishing the local security apparatus and providing governmental and developmental improvements will help to prevent re-infiltration as the military effort eventually responds to the migration of the insurgency. However, the migratory opportunities for the insurgents are not unlimited. Migrating into a Hazara-dominated area, for instance, would be suicidal for Taliban unless done in significant strength. The Taliban insurgency would not do well attempting to migrate into the Panjshir Valley, either. The disposition of troops will eventually need to change, but in the meantime, having a General with the juice to say how things are to be done speaking of pushing out of the Big Box Hedgehogs is very significant."

GEN McChrystal also notes that some areas may not be worth messing around with right now. The Korengal, for instance, is an area that has produced more American casualties than any other similarly-sized area in Afghanistan. GEN McChrystal is reevaluating the current operations in the Korengal. It has been stated before on this blog that what is being done in the Korengal is more a counter-guerrilla campaign than a counterinsurgency. The Korengal does not appear to be amenable to counterinsurgent influence. If there is no hope of establishing Afghan governmental control over that valley, then what value is there to tying up resources and losing lives in a valiant but currently futile effort. Is the purpose merely containment?

"The question in the Korengal is: How many of those fighters, if left alone, would ever come out of there to fight?" McChrystal said. "I can't answer it. But I do sense that you create a lot of opposition through operations" by the military. "So you have got to decide where you are going to operate."(Washington Post)

[bth: worth a full read. Perhaps McChrystal in fact has a viable plan for the limited resources he has at hand.]

Robots that will help treat shrapnel injuries on the battlefield comecloser to reality

Robots that will help treat shrapnel injuries on the battlefield come closer to reality
WASHINGTON - Duke University bioengineers have come up with a robot capable of locating tiny pieces of metal within flesh, and guiding a needle to its exact location, without having to depend upon human assistance.

The researchers believe that, in future, similar robots may not only help treat shrapnel injuries on the battlefield, but also be used for medical procedures like placing and removing radioactive “seeds” used in the treatment of prostate and other cancers.

In their latest experiments, the engineers started with a rudimentary tabletop robot whose “eyes” are a novel 3-D ultrasound technology. An artificial intelligence program served as the robot’s “brain” by taking the real-time 3-D information, processing it and giving the robot specific commands to perform.

In their simulations, the researchers used tiny pieces of needle because, like shrapnel, they are subject to magnetism.

“We attached an electromagnet to our 3-D probe, which caused the shrapnel to vibrate just enough that its motion could be detected. Once the shrapnel’s coordinates were established by the computer, it successfully guided a needle to the site of the shrapnel,” said A.J. Rogers, who just completed an undergraduate degree in bioengineering at Duke.

The researchers said that by proving that the robot can guide a needle to an exact location, it would simply be a matter of replacing the needle probe with a tiny tool, such as a grabber.

A research article on the study has been published online in the journal IEEE Transactions on Ultrasonics, Ferroelectrics and Frequency Control.

The positive results achieved by the researchers using a rudimentary robot and a basic artificial intelligence program have encouraged them to believe that simple and reasonably safe procedures will become routine in the near future as robot and artificial intelligence technology improves.

“We showed that in principle, the system works. It can be very difficult using conventional means to detect small pieces of shrapnel, especially in the field. The military has an extensive program of exploring the use of surgical robots in the field, and this advance could play a role,” said Stephen Smith, director of the Duke University Ultrasound Transducer Group and senior member of the research team.

In addition to its applications recovering the radioactive seeds used in treating prostate cancer, Smith said the system could also prove useful in removing foreign, metallic objects from the eye.

The robot used in these experiments is a tabletop version capable of moving in three axes. For the next series of tests, the Duke researchers plan to use a robotic arm with six-axis capability. (ANI)

[bth: great idea.  I wonder if it will work on objects like glass?]


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Special Boy With Freakishly Large Brain Wins Spelling Bee | The Onion - America's Finest News Source

Special Boy With Freakishly Large Brain Wins Spelling Bee | The Onion - America's Finest News Source


Special Boy With Freakishly Large Brain Wins Spelling Bee

Gymnast Shawn Johnson Put To Sleep After Breaking Leg | The Onion - America's Finest News Source

Gymnast Shawn Johnson Put To Sleep After Breaking Leg | The Onion - America's Finest News Source

Gymnast Shawn Johnson Put To Sleep After Breaking Leg

Obama Drastically Scales Back Goals For America After Visiting Denny's | The Onion - America's Finest News Source

Obama Drastically Scales Back Goals For America After Visiting Denny's | The Onion - America's Finest News Source
Obama Drastically Scales Back Goals For America After Visiting Denny's

Reporter: NSA analysts spied on own wives and girlfriends

Raw Story » Reporter: NSA analysts spied on own wives and girlfriends: "According to the reporter who first broke the NSA wiretapping story, there is no proof the agency has scaled back its interception of the personal phone calls and email messages of American citizens as promised by the Obama administration or even that it is being straight with Congress about its activities."...

[bth: the problem with this is that congress knew behind closed doors what was happening and did nothing. The courts did nothing. No one is held to account. No one is going to jail or losing their job for breaking our constitutional rights. We've really become the no account nation.]

Salem soldier, 23, dies in Iraq blast

Nashuatelegraph.com: Salem soldier, 23, dies in Iraq blast
SALEM – A 23-year-old local soldier, who worked as an explosives expert, was killed in Iraq over the weekend while trying to disarm a roadside bomb.

Staff Sgt. Edmond Lo, a 2004 graduate of Salem High School, was on his second tour of duty when he died early Saturday, according to his mother, Rosa Lo.

Edmond Lo was part of a team of soldiers trying to disarm the bomb in Samarra City around 1:30 a.m., when it exploded. Army officials told the family it's unclear exactly what happened, his mother said.

The Lo family learned of Edmond's death from two soldiers who came to their Salem home at 6:30 a.m. Saturday, she said. The military didn't announce Lo's death until Monday.

"When I saw them, it was a very big surprise," Rosa Lo said. "It was very scary and I was nervous. I did not know what happened, then they asked me to sit down."

She described her son as a bright, determined young man who worked hard in school and in the Army. Lo was awarded a full, three-year scholarship to Rochester Institute of Technology, but decided to pursue a career in the military instead.

He trained as an explosives expert after his first tour of duty in Iraq. "He was outstanding," his mother said. "He was among the very few who passed the class."

"He has always tried to do his best with anything he learned," she said.

Lo was the youngest of six children. He leaves behind three sisters and two brothers. His youngest brother, Norman, was a 2008 graduate of Salem High School and also a JROTC cadet. He was assigned to the 797th Ordnance Company, 79th Ordnance Battalion at Fort Hood in Texas....






U.S.: McChrystal Looks to Spin Afghan Civilian Deaths Problem

U.S.: McChrystal Looks to Spin Afghan Civilian Deaths Problem
WASHINGTON, Jun 17 (IPS) - At his confirmation hearings two weeks ago, Gen. Stanley McChrystal said reducing civilian deaths from air strikes in Afghanistan was "strategically decisive" and declared his "willingness to operate in ways that minimise casualties or damage, even when it makes our task more difficult."

Some McChrystal supporters hope he will rein in the main source of civilian casualties: Special Operations Forces (SOF) units that carry out targeted strikes against suspected "Taliban" on the basis of doubtful intelligence and raids that require air strikes when they get into trouble.

But there are growing indications that his command is preparing to deal with the issue primarily by seeking to shift the blame to the Taliban through more and better propaganda operations and by using more high-tech drone intelligence aircraft to increase battlefield surveillance rather than by curbing the main direct cause of civilian casualties.

U.S. officials at a NATO conference in Brussels last Friday were telling reporters that "public relations" are now considered "crucial" to "turning the tide" in Afghanistan, according to an AFP story on Jun 12.

CENTCOM commander Gen. David Petraeus also referred to the importance of taking the propaganda offensive in a presentation to the pro-military think tank Centre for a New American Security (CNAS) Jun. 11. "When you’re dealing the press," he said, "when you’re dealing the tribal leaders, when you’re dealing with host nations... you got to beat the bad guys to the headlines."

The new emphasis on more aggressive public relations appears to respond to demands from U.S. military commanders in Afghanistan to wrest control of the issue of civilian casualties from the Taliban. In a discussion of that issue at the same conference, Gen. David Barno, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan from 2003 to 2005, said, "We’ve got to be careful about who controls the narrative on civilian casualties."

U.S. military commanders in Afghanistan "see the enemy seeking to take airstrikes off the table" by exaggerating civilian casualties, Barno said. He objected to making civilian casualties an indicator of success or failure, as a CNAS paper has recommended.

The U.S. command in Afghanistan has already tried, in fact, to apply "information war" techniques in effort to control the narrative on the issue. The command has argued both that the Taliban were responsible for the massive civilians casualties in a U.S. airstrike on May 4 that killed 147 civilians, including 90 women and children, and that the number of civilian deaths claimed has been vastly exaggerated, despite detailed evidence from village residents supporting the casualty figures....

[bth: this is what I was afraid McChrystal would do. He will treat the media as the enemy. He has bought the bullshit that propaganda can be substituted for truth. That's how he plans to address the civilian death issue. Cover it up. The Israelis developed a temporarily effective cybermedia campaign when they blasted Gaza. At least it worked on Israelis. The rest of the world saw right through the propaganda and stared at the white phosphorous blasts. You can mark the decline in support for Israeli around the world by the Gaza move. McChrystal is going to try to be a sneaky special ops guy while being the spokesman for American to the world on Afghanistan. What is going to happen if he takes this course is that he is going to make us look like liars by propaganda and dissembling. He is going to lose credibility as a truth teller to the media, to the American people and to the world. However effective he may be in special ops, this hearts and minds stuff isn't about how best to bullshit people. It's must have a component of trust which starts with truth. Contractors in Washington are scrambling to get a piece of the cyberwar money. It's the new new thing. This is bad policy.]


Belmont Club

On Iranian voter fraud

..."Update on the voter fraud allegations. The Guardian reported today that results from the 12 June presidential election posted today the Ayandeh website indicate that turnouts of over 100 percent were recorded in at least 30 towns; 26 provinces across the country showed participation levels either unheard of in democratic elections or in excess of the number of registered voters; and at least 200 polling stations recorded participation rates of 95 percent or above. Also, former Iranian interior minister, Ali Akbar Mohtashamipour, said yesterday that 70 polling stations returned more completed ballot papers than the number of locally eligible voters."...

Iran Updates (VIDEO): Live-Blogging The Uprising

Iran Updates (VIDEO): Live-Blogging The Uprising

Iran Updates (VIDEO): Live-Blogging The Uprising:... "Students' Web sites reported mass resignations by Tehran University professors outraged over the incident. One medical student said he and his roommate blocked their door with furniture and hid in the closet when they heard the militia's motorcycles approaching. He heard the militia breaking down doors, and then screams of anguish as students were dragged from their beds and beaten violently.

When he came out after the militia had left, friends and classmates lay unconscious in dorm rooms and hallways, many with chest wounds from being stabbed or bloody faces from blows to their heads, he said. The staff of the hospital where the wounded students were taken, Hazrat Rasoul Hospital, was so shocked that they went on strike for two hours, standing silently outside the gate in their white medical uniforms."...

The Raw Story | US Senator: Obama will block abuse photo release

The Raw Story | US Senator: Obama will block abuse photo release: "A key US Senator said Wednesday that the White House had assured him that photographs allegedly showing US troops abusing detainees in Iraq and Afghanistan will 'not see the light of day.'"...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Extraordinary scenes: Robert Fisk in Iran - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation)

Extraordinary scenes: Robert Fisk in Iran - ABC News (Australian Broadcasting Corporation):... "It was interesting that the special forces - who normally take the side of Ahmadinejad's Basij militia - were there with clubs and sticks in their camouflage trousers and their purity white shirts and on this occasion the Iranian military kept them away from Mousavi's men and women.

In fact at one point, Mousavi's supporters were shouting 'thank you, thank you' to the soldiers.

One woman went up to the special forces men, who normally are very brutal with Mr Mousavi's supporters, and said 'can you protect us from the Basij?' He said 'with God's help'.

It was quite extraordinary because it looked as if the military authorities in Tehran have either taken a decision not to go on supporting the very brutal militia - which is always associated with the presidency here - or individual soldiers have made up their own mind that they're tired of being associated with the kind of brutality that left seven dead yesterday - buried, by the way secretly by the police - and indeed the seven or eight students who were killed on the university campus 24 hours earlier.

Quite a lot of policeman are beginning to smile towards the demonstrators of Mr Mousavi, who are insisting there must be a new election because Mr Ahmadinejad wasn't really elected. Quite an extraordinary scene....

[bth: Fisk's article is worth reading in full. Too bad we don't have American reporters doing the same thing in Iran - actually on the street reporting. So much for MSM]

Analysis: Waziristan operation to focus on Baitullah Mehsud - The Long War Journal

Analysis: Waziristan operation to focus on Baitullah Mehsud - The Long War Journal: "s the Pakistani military gears up for what appears to be a major operation into the Taliban stronghold of South Waziristan, the government and military are signaling that the operation is limited to taking out Baitullah Mehsud. The three other powerful Taliban groups based in North and South Waziristan do not appear to be on the Pakistan Army’s target list.

The South Waziristan operation, called Rah-e-Nijat, or the Way of Salvation, is already underway, according to the Pakistani military’s top spokesman. The military has been positioning troops and armor in the neighboring district of Tank while conducting artillery and airstrikes into regions run by Baitullah Mehsud, the overall commander of the Pakistani Taliban. The main roads in the region are also being blocked to cut off supplies to Baitullah's forces. Further north the military is battling the Taliban in the Jani Khel and Baka Khel regions in Bannu, which borders North Waziristan.

Yesterday the Pakistani military announced that it has received orders to take on Baitullah's powerful Taliban faction in South Waziristan."...

[bth: that old divide and conquer strategy. Got to love it.]

Moral Hazard and the Crisis

Moral Hazard and the Crisis - WSJ.com
Editor's note: The following is from the keynote address by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul A. Volcker to a meeting of the International Institute of Finance in Beijing, June 11:

Another important common concern is the "too big to fail" syndrome -- the presumption that an institution is so large or so inter-connected with counterparties that its creditors (possibly even shareholders) must be protected. One unfortunate consequence of the massive public assistance provided both banks and nonbanks in dealing with the present crisis is that moral hazard may, I am afraid, become more deeply embedded.

We can, and we should, take steps to limit the need and possibility of official "bailouts." One approach would be to set clear policy limits to access to the "official safety net." Deposit insurance and central bank liquidity facilities are properly confined to deposit-taking institutions. It is, after all, those institutions that remain the backbone of the financial system. They provide basic essential services, meeting the needs of households, businesses and other institutions for credit, for a safe and liquid repository for their funds, and for both everyday and complex payment services.

Historically, the need for continuity in those functions has provided the rationale for close government supervision and protection. In my view, it is unwarranted that those same institutions, funded in substantial part by taxpayer-protected deposits, be engaged in substantial risk-prone proprietary trading and speculative activities that may also raise questions of virtually unmanageable conflicts of interest.

Hedge funds and private-equity funds have an entirely legitimate role to play in providing liquidity and innovation in our capital markets. I do not believe they need to be so closely supervised and regulated as depository institutions. A presumption of government protection and support for financial institutions outside the "safety net" should be avoided. Nor by the same token should hedge funds or private-equity funds indirectly benefit from official support by sponsorship or ownership by a banking institution....


Neither rashly nor fearfully… | On Message

Neither rashly nor fearfully… | On Message:... "This seems a clear case of the regime trying to buy time, hoping the streets of Tehran will quiet as the initial shock of the outcome wears off and Iranians become resigned to the result.

Thus, if the protesters in Tehran are ever to succeed in having their question - “where is my vote” - answered, they must mobilise beyond the capital. People from cities and towns in other provinces must also fill their streets. Now, more so than in the elections themselves, democratic ideals in Iran will be tested. Can a “thirst for democracy” unify otherwise formidable ethnic, religious and class divisions? Only time will tell. But one thing is certain:

The theocratic regime is only barely coping with a single centre of unrest in Tehran. Nation-wide unrest would be too powerful to ignore, and too dangerous to suppress."

Raw Story » White House: Obama will keep promise to conceal detainee abuse photos

Raw Story » White House: Obama will keep promise to conceal detainee abuse photos: "White House press secretary Robert Gibbs refused to say if President Barack Obama would sign an executive order to prevent the release of detainee abuse photos Tuesday. Earlier in the day, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer told reporters that he had reason to believe Mr. Obama was considering such an order.

“I have reason to believe they are looking at that as a way to resolve this situation,” Hoyer (D-Md.) said."...

[bth: new boss same as the old boss]

E-Mail Surveillance Renews Concerns in Congress - NYTimes.com

E-Mail Surveillance Renews Concerns in Congress - NYTimes.com: "WASHINGTON — The National Security Agency is facing renewed scrutiny over the extent of its domestic surveillance program, with critics in Congress saying its recent intercepts of the private telephone calls and e-mail messages of Americans are broader than previously acknowledged, current and former officials said."

The agency’s monitoring of domestic e-mail messages, in particular, has posed longstanding legal and logistical difficulties, the officials said.

Since April, when it was disclosed that the intercepts of some private communications of Americans went beyond legal limits in late 2008 and early 2009, several Congressional committees have been investigating. Those inquiries have led to concerns in Congress about the agency’s ability to collect and read domestic e-mail messages of Americans on a widespread basis, officials said. Supporting that conclusion is the account of a former N.S.A. analyst who, in a series of interviews, described being trained in 2005 for a program in which the agency routinely examined large volumes of Americans’ e-mail messages without court warrants. Two intelligence officials confirmed that the program was still in operation.

Both the former analyst’s account and the rising concern among some members of Congress about the N.S.A.’s recent operation are raising fresh questions about the spy agency.

Representative Rush Holt, Democrat of New Jersey and chairman of the House Select Intelligence Oversight Panel, has been investigating the incidents and said he had become increasingly troubled by the agency’s handling of domestic communications.

In an interview, Mr. Holt disputed assertions by Justice Department and national security officials that the overcollection was inadvertent.

“Some actions are so flagrant that they can’t be accidental,” Mr. Holt said....

[bth: what we are going to find here is that like torture, congress knew and knows most of this stuff already but did and is doing nothing about it. Its going to come down to judicial action to restore basic constitutional rights but I don't have high confidence that they are going to do it. Its like the whole system has been co opted.]

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Pentagon wavers on release of report on Afghan attack

Pentagon wavers on release of report on Afghan attack | McClatchy
WASHINGTON — Defense Department officials are debating whether to ignore an earlier promise and squelch the release of an investigation into a U.S. airstrike last month, out of fear that its findings would further enrage the Afghan public, Pentagon officials told McClatchy Monday.

The military promised to release the report shortly after the May 4 air attack, which killed dozens of Afghans, and the Pentagon reiterated that last week. U.S. officials also said they'd release a video that military officials said shows Taliban fighters attacking Afghan and U.S. forces and then running into a building. Shortly afterward, a U.S. aircraft dropped a bomb that destroyed the building.

However, a senior defense official told McClatchy Monday: "The decision (about what to release) is now in limbo."

Pentagon leaders are divided about whether releasing the report would reflect a renewed push for openness and transparency about civilian casualties or whether it would only fan Afghan outrage and become a Taliban recruiting tool just as Army Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal takes command of U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

Two U.S. military officials told McClatchy that the video shows that no one checked to see whether any women or children were in the building before it was bombed. The report acknowledges that mistakes were made and that U.S. forces didn't always follow proper procedures, but it does little to reassure Afghans that the U.S. has done enough to avoid repeating those mistakes.

During his Senate confirmation hearing earlier this month, McChrystal promised to review U.S tactics and what more could be done to minimize civilian casualties....

[bth: So here is where McChrystal comes in.  Is he going to be spokesman for America in Afghanistan or a black-ops general that was promoted into a spotlight he will not be suited for.  A cynic would suggest that this issue was held for over a month in order to give McChrystal something to reveal his character with.  So we'll see as the week moves on.  Look for a statement one way or another on a good news Friday.]


Sunday, June 14, 2009

CIA chief believes Cheney almost wants US attacked | Reuters

CIA chief believes Cheney almost wants US attacked | Reuters: "WASHINGTON, June 14 (Reuters) - CIA director Leon Panetta says it's almost as if former vice president Dick Cheney would like to see another attack on the United States to prove he is right in criticizing President Barack Obama for abandoning the 'harsh interrogation' of terrorism suspects.

'I think he smells some blood in the water on the national security issue,' Panetta said in an interview published in The New Yorker magazine's June 22 issue.

'It's almost, a little bit, gallows politics. When you read behind it, it's almost as if he's wishing that this country would be attacked again, in order to make his point.'"...

[bth: you think! He probably sees an attack on the US as the way to stay out of jail and to get a friendly(to him) administration back in the White House. Cheney wants to say i told you so before he is called out as a war criminal.]

Dear CNN, Please Check Twitter for News About Iran

Dear CNN, Please Check Twitter for News About Iran
he western world's most feared government is shaking with insurrection in the streets after a contested election and the leading name in news, CNN, is shockingly absent from the story. Twitter, meanwhile, is how Iranians are communicating with the outside world. It's the best place to follow events going on in that country and CNN's failure to engage with the story is one of the hottest topics of conversation there.

Hours after Iranian police began clashing with tens of thousands of people in the street, the top story on CNN.com remains peoples' confusion about the switch from analog TV signals.

One quip we've seen is that "Tienanmen + Twitter = Tehran." Twenty years ago this month, CNN brought live news about the Tienanmen Square uprising to the world. It's really strange that the network is absent from this story. CNN anchor and mega-Tweeter Rick Sanchez defensively Tweeted hours ago that he covered Iran throughout the afternoon on TV, so perhaps it's just the CNN.com web team that's incurring the wrath of news consumers. CNN's official Twitter account has been silent for four hours.,,,

BBC says election broadcasts disrupted from Iran

BBC says election broadcasts disrupted from Iran: "The BBC said Sunday that the satellites it uses to broadcast in Persian were being jammed from Iran, disrupting its reports on the hotly-disputed presidential election.

The corporation said television and radio services had been affected from 1245 GMT Friday onwards by 'heavy electronic jamming' which had become 'progressively worse'.

Satellite technicians had traced the interference to Iran, it said.

The satellites its uses in the Middle East to broadcast BBC Persian television to Iran were being affected, meaning that audiences in Iran, the Middle East and Europe would likely experience disruption.

BBC Arabic television and other language services had also experienced transmission problems, the corporation said."...

Ahmadinejad: No guarantee on rival's safety - CNN.com

Ahmadinejad: No guarantee on rival's safety - CNN.com

Michael J. Totten: Iran on Fire (Continuously updated)

Michael J. Totten: Iran on Fire (Continuously updated)

Bth: the shouts are "death to the government"

Photos out of Iran

Follow this link to photos that on flicker that you are not seeing on CNN. If you remember before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, CNN self censored its broadcasts out of Iraq and became part of the Saddam propaganda machine. Now I suspect we are seeing the same self censorship from CNN in Iran. US media simply is missing the boat yet we are seeing tremendous photos posted on Flicker from around Iran. Mass media has been corrupted. More and more we are having to go to the internet for uncensored news from around the world. Perhaps Twitter, blogs and flicker is the new face of freedom of expression.

YouTube - George Carlin's Legacy: Speaking Thruth To Power (german subs)

YouTube - George Carlin's Legacy: Speaking Thruth To Power (german subs)

YouTube - BBC - Protest against Iran election results -please share-

YouTube - BBC - Protest against Iran election results -please share-

Iran Violence (VIDEO): Protests Erupt, Riot Police Launch Crackdown

Iran Violence (VIDEO): Protests Erupt, Riot Police Launch Crackdown

IRAN: A Nation Of Bloggers from ayrakus on Vimeo.

Iran Violence (VIDEO): Protests Erupt, Riot Police Launch Crackdown

Iran Violence (VIDEO): Protests Erupt, Riot Police Launch Crackdown

Suspect's Son Says He Is Sorry It Was Holocaust Museum Guard, Not Dad, Who Died - washingtonpost.com

Suspect's Son Says He Is Sorry It Was Holocaust Museum Guard, Not Dad, Who Died - washingtonpost.com: "The son of James W. von Brunn says that he wishes it had been his father, not U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum guard Stephen T. Johns, who died in Wednesday's shooting and that von Brunn's hatred of Jews was a plague that ruined his family's life."...

Mortgage Rates Head for 6 percent: 5 Reasons They Might Retreat - Yahoo! News

Mortgage Rates Head for 6 percent: 5 Reasons They Might Retreat - Yahoo! News:... "But in recent weeks, mortgage rates have spiked. And today, they represent perhaps the most menacing obstacle to the federal government's efforts to revive the housing market and pull the economy out of its devastating rut. Rates have surged from 5.03 percent on May 26 to 5.79 percent on June 10, according to HSH.com, as mounting concerns over government spending and potential inflation have sent yields on 10-year treasury notes--which fixed mortgage rates typically track--barreling towards 4 percent. In just 2½ weeks, much of the Federal Reserve's work to drive rates lower has unraveled."...

World Bank sees even worse slump

BBC NEWS | Business | World Bank sees even worse slump: "The world economy will shrink by much more than previously thought, according to the World Bank.

The world economy will contract by 3% this year, far more than the 1.75% drop it predicted earlier this year.

'Most developing country economies will contract this year and face increasingly bleak prospects,' World Bank president Robert Zoellick said.

The gloomier forecast comes despite recent signs that the worst of the recession is over.

This year is likely to be the first global recession since World War II."...

Saudi princess runs up £15 million shopping bill - Telegraph

Saudi princess runs up £15 million shopping bill - Telegraph: "One of the most senior members of Saudi Arabia's royal family, Princess Maha al-Sudairi, is claiming diplomatic immunity in France after running up unpaid shopping bills of more than £15 million including £60,000 on designer lingerie."...

Old Soviet weapon deadly to US Soldiers

Old Soviet weapon deadly to US Soldiers



Spc. Charles "Dusty" Parrish died last week in Balad, Iraq from wounds he suffered when his vehicle was hit from close range by a hand thrown anti-tank grenade. His team was conducting route clearance operations in the city of Jalula. Dusty was the platoon medic in a subordinate unit to the 5th Engineers. ( Ft. Leonard Wood, MO)

The device used to kill Spc. Parish was an old Soviet made weapon from the Cold War era that has resurfaced and has been growing in use by insurgents in Iraq over the last year. Unfortunately for US troops, this old weapon has very good penetrating ability. The use of these man-portable anti-armor and bunker buster weapons has been deadly for American soldiers.

The 5th Engineers have one of the most dangerous jobs in Iraq. Their very specialized equipment is designed to help them clear major roads and supply lines of IEDs.

Dusty was just one of 11 soldiers killed in Iraq this week. Well liked, 200 soldiers lined up outside the surgical room to donate blood in an unsuccessful attempt to save his life. He is survived by a wife and son in his hometown of Jasper, Alabama. Spc. Parrish had recently reenlisted.

[bth: I can't tell for certain but these grenades may be making a comeback. They have appeared several times lately]

UK: Suspected ricin found at property

BBC NEWS | UK | England | Wear | Suspected ricin found at property: "Traces of what is thought to be the nerve poison ricin have been found by police at the County Durham home of a suspected white supremacist.

Anti-terrorism officers have been searching the home of Ian Davidson, 41, since his arrest on Tuesday under the Terrorism Act 2000.

Police said the suspected ricin was found in a jam jar at the property in Myrtle Grove, Burnopfield"...

Suicide Bomber Kills 9 in Helmand

quqnoos.com - Suicide Bomber Kills 9 in Helmand

suicide_-11.jpg

A suicide bomber attacked a supplying-convoy of foreign forces, killed four Afghan drivers and wounded eight others, officials said Saturday

The delivery vehicles were parked outside a military base in Gereshk district – 35 km north of Lashkar Gah, the capital of the restive Helmand province – when the bomber struck the vehicles.

Taliban militants claimed responsibility for this attack.

Helmand Police Chief, Gen Asadullah Shirzad, confirmed that five Afghan security forces have been killed and eight others were injured in the shocking explosion.

"Eight tankers and four smaller vehicles used by the guards for the convoy were set alight, " an official said.

The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), mostly British troops stationed in Helmand have not made an immediate comment on the attack yet.

A Taliban spokesman, Qari Mohammad Yousuf Ahmadi said that at least 33 guards were killed and 13 others were wounded in the bombing, carried out by a Taliban militant.

A district official said most of the wounded are civilian drivers.

The insurgents, who have vowed to intensify their attacks against the Afghan government and foreign forces regularly attack convoys that provide logistical support to the international troops.

2 Japanese carrying $134 bil worth of U.S. bonds detained in Italy › Japan Today: Japan News and Discussion

2 Japanese carrying $134 bil worth of U.S. bonds detained in Italy › Japan Today: Japan News and Discussion: "ROME —

Two Japanese nationals were detained by Italian financial police last week after trying to enter Switzerland with $134 billion worth of undeclared U.S. bonds, mostly Treasury bonds, an Italian daily said Wednesday. The Japanese consulate general in Milan confirmed that the detention had taken place and said it was trying to confirm with Italian authorities whether the two were indeed Japanese nationals and their identities.

According to the report in il Giornale, two unidentified Japanese in their 50s concealed the bonds, including 249 U.S. Treasury bonds each worth $500 million, in a suitcase with a false bottom that was searched by the Italian authorities June 3 when they were in Chiasso, at the border with Switzerland, about 50 kilometers north of Milan. The daily did not say on what charges they have been detained, but the two may have been detained on suspicion of attempting to take a large amount of securities out of Italy without declaring it because the paper said they had not declared the bonds."

[bth: $134 billion!]

Nation Digest: Sentence Reduced in Pentagon-AIPAC Case - washingtonpost.com

Nation Digest: Sentence Reduced in Pentagon-AIPAC Case - washingtonpost.com: "A federal judge Thursday eliminated the prison sentence of a former Defense Department analyst convicted of passing government secrets to two employees of a pro-Israel lobbying group and to an Israeli government official.

Judge T.S. Ellis III in Alexandria had sentenced Lawrence A. Franklin to 151 months, or 12 1/2 years. At a hearing, Ellis reduced that sentence to probation, with 10 months of home confinement, said Franklin's attorney, Plato Cacheris. Franklin pleaded guilty in 2005 to giving the classified data to two former employees of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, one of Washington's most influential lobbying organizations.

The judge last month dismissed related charges against the former AIPAC lobbyists, Steven J. Rosen and Keith Weissman, after prosecutors and said recent court rulings made it unlikely they would win convictions. -- Jerry Markon"...

[bth: so much for justice]

Iran Violence (VIDEO): Protests Erupt, Riot Police Launch Crackdown

Iran Violence (VIDEO): Protests Erupt, Riot Police Launch Crackdown