Saturday, December 05, 2009
Sources close to Iran's technical services told AFP the cut was the result of 'a decision by the authorities' rather than a technical breakdown, but telecommunications ministry officials were unavailable for comment.
Officials furthermore revoked all foreign media permits, in an attempt to block any reports coming out of Tehran between Dec. 7 and Dec. 9."...
The car was discovered yesterday in Segezh, a town in the Karelia region about 700 kilometers (430 miles) north of St. Petersburg, said Vadim Kashirin, head of the Interior Ministry’s regional criminal investigation unit. The ministry will release more details today, Kashirin said by phone.
Russian law-enforcement officials have stepped up security patrols at possible terrorism targets amid their manhunt for suspects in the Nov. 27 attack on the Nevsky Express luxury train en route to St. Petersburg from Moscow.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin today vowed to implement “very tough” measures in the battle against terrorism and urged the country to be more vigilant against the threat.
“All of society, every one of us, needs to be aware of this threat that has been with us all these years,” Putin said in a live call-in television show with the nation.
Putin on Nov. 30 linked the Nevsky Express attack to an explosion that occurred on a railway line connecting southern Russia with Azerbaijan, calling it a “second terror attempt.” No one aboard the Tyumen-Baku train was hurt in the blast."...
Annals of Afghan Corruption: Government Officials Smuggle Suitcases of Cash to Dubai, While Drug Trade Thrives - Declassified Blog - Newsweek.com
In one recent high profile case, two officials of the Hajj and Islamic Affairs Ministry were arrested by Afghan at Kabul International Airport trying to carry $360,000--some of it hidden in biscuit boxes--out the country. The fund had allegedly been extorted from landlords around Mecca in return for directing Afghan pilgrims to their apartments-a scheme that U.S. and Afghan officials suspect was overseen by the Islamic Affairs Minister. ('I am 100 percent innocent,' the minister, Sadiq Chakari, declared in a recent press conference.)
But that seizure is almost certainly the tip of a vast money laundering iceberg, U.S. law enforcement officials say. Law enforcement officials in the United Arab Emirates have intercepted couriers from Afghanistan arriving at Dubai's airport with 'millions of dollars in suitcases,' according to a little-noticed passage in a recent Senate Foreign Relations Committee report. What happens to the funds after that is anybody's guess. 'We don't know, once the money comes into Dubai, where it goes,' said one U.S. Embassy official in Dubai, quoted in the Senate report."....
[bth: this article is worth reading in full then vomiting. Whatever Karzai was before, it he is now a very corrupt president that is facilitating narcotics trafficking.]
Rep. Alcee L. Hastings, Florida Democrat, introduced a bill this week to grant immunity to troops who otherwise would run afoul of the policy, which bans gays and lesbians from serving openly in the military. He and other advocates see it as at least a first step to pushing the issue forward."...
Friday, December 04, 2009
Four militants launched the attack, opening fire, tossing grenades and then detonating suicide vests in a crowd gathered for Friday prayers in the city adjoining the capital Islamabad, witnesses and officials said.
Rawalpindi is home to the military's headquarters and is a frequent target of Taliban insurgents, who have staged a wave of fierce attacks in recent months to avenge military offensives against them across the northwest.
'They exploded bombs inside the mosque.... They opened fire on the worshippers,' army spokesman Major General Athar Abbas told AFP.
'Thirty-six people were killed and 45 injured. Four terrorists were also killed,' he said, adding that the crisis ended Friday afternoon after security forces backed by helicopters ensured all the militants were dead."...
[bth: what I don't hear is the outrage that this Taliban attack occurred in a mosque. Why?]
For Jeremy Scahill, author of the bestselling book Blackwater, however, the real concern is not Afghanistan but Pakistan, where according to an article in the New York Times, 'the White House has authorized an expansion of the C.I.A.’s drone program.'
'We need to view this sober reality,' Scahill told MSNBC's Rachel Maddow on Thursday. 'The war is in Pakistan right now. There's no question about it. The question, though, is how much it's going to expand. ... These are actions that are going to destabilize Pakistan and are going to create new enemies for the United States because of the high civilian casualties. ... Here you have military operations inside a country that we don't have a declaration of war against.'
Scahill emphasized that the most destabilizing actions come not from the CIA but from Blackwater mercenaries, whom he recently described in The Nation as working for US special forces to 'plan targeted assassinations of suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda operatives, 'snatch and grabs' of high-value targets and other sensitive action inside and outside Pakistan.'"...
Thursday, December 03, 2009
The surge-and-exit strategy that Obama announced Tuesday night marks the largest expansion of the war since it began eight years ago. Critics conceded that Obama will have little trouble early next year getting Congress to provide an added $30 billion or $40 billion to carry it out.
The president's chief military and diplomatic advisers faced more questioning from lawmakers Thursday after encountering only tepid criticism Wednesday from members of the Senate Armed Services and House Foreign Affairs committees.
Anti-war Democrats, who rose to power because of voter opposition to Bush's strategy in Iraq, said they are skeptical that the troop buildup is necessary or will work. But at the same time, party leaders — who were among Obama's biggest supporters in his campaign for president — said it was unlikely that they would try to block the deployments or the money he wants.
Critical to winning Democratic support was a July 2011 deadline that Obama set to begin troop withdrawals."...
[bth: Johnson administration 1966. Congress has collapsed as a viable branch of government with regard to war policy.]
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
'Such a bald misstatement, at least as it pertains to the period I served as secretary of defense, deserves a response,' Rumsfeld said in a written statement. 'I am not aware of a single request of that nature between 2001 and 2006.'
The president leveled the charge in his speech Tuesday night outlining his plan to send 30,000 more U.S. troops into Afghanistan."...
[bth: the big lie]
President Zardari and his late wife Benazir Bhutto were beneficiaries of the temporary case closures, without which Zardari could not have served as President. However, the lower house of parliament, the National Assembly, refused to make the closures permanent or to extend the effects of the Ordinance, which many legal scholars consider unconstitutional.
The Ordinance expired over the weekend without extension by the parliament. Pakistani analysts wrote that normalization of those cases and a determination as to the constitutionality of the Ordinance required petitions to and findings by the Supreme Court. Those initial steps have now begun.
Comment. This has significance because the Supreme Court could require Zardari to step down as president, should it determine that Musharraf violated the constitution in issuing the Ordinance. The Pakistan Army would likely oppose any move to discredit Musharraf that also would discredit the Army. However, it would back any move to have Zardari replaced through legal action.
In that respect, the Army would be a member of an odd informal alliance of Opposition leader former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and Supreme Court Chief Justice Chaudhry, all of whom disdain Zardari for different reasons. His prospects for remaining in office much longer do not look bright with today’s petitions.
Zardari squandered a once-in-a-generation opportunity to become a legendary president of Pakistan. He reneged on his political promises; promoted his personal business interests and those of his cronies; appointed flagrantly corrupt officials and mishandled national security secrets. The latest charges against him are that he has gotten too close to the Americans and, in the process, compromised Pakistan’s defense posture against India.
He has been good for American interests, to be sure, but so was Musharraf for a time. What is worth noting is how policy can become hostage to the fate of individual leaders, one of whom already has been rejected by the people and courts and the other is heading in the same direction.
If Nawaz Sharif were to be elected the next president of Pakistan, for example, US policy would be unhinged."...
[bth: so if I'm reading this and the other tea leaves correctly, the elected civilian government is about to be overthrown. An anti-American prime minister is about to be placed into power by the military of Pakistan.]
A young man walked up to a checkpoint at the entrance to the complex and detonated his explosives when challenged by security forces, scattering bits of flesh across a busy road in central Islamabad, police and witnesses said.
Islamist insurgents frequently target military installations, with attacks intensifying as Islamabad pursues a fierce military offensive, under Western pressure to do more to eliminate Taliban and Al-Qaeda sanctuaries.
The attack comes after US President Barack Obama announced he was sending 30,000 more troops to battle the Taliban in Afghanistan, and said US success in the war there depended heavily on Pakistan's own fight against extremism."...
'Millions of people use social networking sites like Facebook every day, disclosing lots of information about their private lives,' said James Tucker, a student working with EFF, in a media advisory. 'As Congress debates new privacy laws covering sites like Facebook, lawmakers and voters alike need to know how the government is already using this data and what is at stake.'
However, when EFF went looking for that information by filing Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, they ran into a stone wall of silence."...
Tuesday, December 01, 2009
Dec. 1 (Bloomberg) -- “I just wrote my first reference for a gun permit,” said a friend, who told me of swearing to the good character of a Goldman Sachs Group Inc. banker who applied to the local police for a permit to buy a pistol. The banker had told this friend of mine that senior Goldman people have loaded up on firearms and are now equipped to defend themselves if there is a populist uprising against the bank.
I called Goldman Sachs spokesman Lucas van Praag to ask whether it’s true that Goldman partners feel they need handguns to protect themselves from the angry proletariat. He didn’t call me back. The New York Police Department has told me that “as a preliminary matter” it believes some of the bankers I inquired about do have pistol permits. The NYPD also said it will be a while before it can name names.
While we wait, Goldman has wrapped itself in the flag of Warren Buffett, with whom it will jointly donate $500 million, part of an effort to burnish its image -- and gain new Goldman clients. Goldman Sachs Chief Executive Officer Lloyd Blankfein also reversed himself after having previously called Goldman’s greed “God’s work” and apologized earlier this month for having participated in things that were “clearly wrong.”"...
[bth: time to get the pitch forks]
Monday, November 30, 2009
And he warned the failure to capture the terror mastermind was putting British lives at risk.
Mr Brown delivered his message in a phone call this weekend to Pakistani president Asif Ali Zardari."
The PM said Pakistan must throw its full weight behind the war on Islamic fanatics.
Mr Brown's broadside came hours after he had set out a timetable for British troops to pull out of one or two districts in Helmand Province by the end of next year.
He claimed another five provinces could be handed back to Afghan security forces in 2010.
But he voiced deep frustration at Pakistan's failure to capture Bin Laden and his deputy Ayman Zawahiri.
Speaking at the Commonwealth summit in Trinidad he said: "We want, after eight years, to see more progress in taking out these top two people in al-Qaeda who have done so much damage and are clearly behind many of the operations in Great Britain."...
Rajendra Pachauri defended the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in the wake of apparent suggestions in emails between climate scientists at the University of East Anglia that they had prevented work they did not agree with from being included in the panel's fourth assessment report, which was published in 2007.
The emails were made public this month after a hacker illegally obtained them from servers at the university.
Pachauri said the large number of contributors and rigorous peer review mechanism adopted by the IPCC meant that any bias would be rapidly uncovered.
'The processes in the IPCC are so robust, so inclusive, that even if an author or two has a particular bias it is completely unlikely that bias will find its way into the IPCC report,' he said."...
[bth: this same thing happened with the Club of Rome when the actual facts started diverging from the computer models - the scientists continued to assert a Malthusian nightmare that was no longer supported by the data. Is this going to be a repeat?]
Undersecretary for the Saudi Minister of Defense Prince Khaled bin Sultan bin Abdelaziz told the press that the Saudi forces were on alert and would not allow anyone to infiltrate the Saudi borders.
Meanwhile, the official denied that the Saudi forces had received five of its soldiers from the Yemeni Army but affirmed that there were nine soldiers still missing in action within Yemen. (end) od.gta KUNA 290933 Nov 09NNNN"
[bth: watch this closely]
How do you marshal billions of dollars in equipment to escalate one war in Afghanistan while scaling back another in Iraq?
'This is probably the most complicated logistical operation we've done in our lifetime,' said Army Maj. Gen. Kenneth Dowd, director of logistics for CentCom, which is based at Tampa's MacDill Air Force Base.
In a wide-ranging interview with the St. Petersburg Times this week, Dowd said landlocked Afghanistan presents greater difficulties than Iraq with its fewer routes of supply.
CentCom is now conducting an assessment of air strips in Afghanistan, and Dowd said engineers will have to expand them in order to resupply larger numbers of troops by air.
'I'm a little concerned about' airfield capacity, Dowd said. 'We've got to expand and make it better.'
At the same time, Dowd said, engineers will have to spend considerable time removing mines in the rugged country dating to the Soviet invasion three decades ago."....
Afghan border police commander Sayed Nabi Mullahkhil said a police checkpoint in eastern Khost province, which shares a border with Pakistan, was attacked by militants overnight.
The privately owned Tolo TV station said 26 insurgents were killed, including one fighter from Chechnya."...
But where did the TTP go? It’s unclear. The military has expanded its offensive through most of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), and reports have some of the militants cropping up in places like Orakzai and Kurram.
But they’re still not finding any leaders and the group’s ability to orchestrate attacks across Pakistan seems virtually unaffected by the Waziristan offensive. There’s no clue where they are, but officials are pretty confident it isn’t North Waziristan, even though the government has said that’s going to be their next target for invasion.
While the military seems content for now with touting its success in capturing largely irrelevant villages along the Afghan border, villages they have no intention of remaining in past the offensive, it will be almost impossible for them to declare any serious victory if the TTP’s leadership remains at large.
[bth: based on what I can see from the list of invited guests, there are virtually no small companies. Small companies create 80% of the US jobs. Don't these Washington guys get it?]
At an address at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point on Tuesday, President Barack Obama is expected to announce that he will send roughly 30,000 American reinforcements to Afghanistan in addition to the 21,000 he deployed early in his administration. The escalation would bring total U.S. forces to some 100,000, the largest American troop deployment to Afghanistan since the 2001 invasion that toppled the Taliban government.
Mr. Obama may need Republicans to back his latest troop increase to make up for Democratic antiwar defections. The GOP, however, will question any decision that falls short of Gen. Stanley McChrystal's request for 40,000 more troops, said Rep. Tom Price (R., Ga.). In a phone interview from Afghanistan, where he and other lawmakers were visiting, Mr. Price was skeptical of what he feared would be half measures to try to please both parties. "If what you're trying to do is to please all people, than that might not make any sense," he said.
But the administration seems prepared to reject another of Gen. McChrystal's top priorities: his call to double the size of the Afghan police and army over the next few years.
The administration now favors an alternative plan that would seek to build a larger Afghan security force, but one that would be considerably smaller than what Gen. McChrystal had wanted, these people said. The president is likely to talk about Afghan troops Tuesday, without specifying a growth target for expanding their ranks.
"The president has a realistic view of how successful the training regimen can be, and that has helped inform his decision," a senior administration official said Sunday....
[bth: dumb and dumber]
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Even though a Western-backed government runs the country and a wide range of private media voices exist, television stations have faced pressure from Islamic clerics, backed by conservative elements in the government, who object to entertainment programmes that they deem too liberal.
Television news presenters have been detained.
'The authorities don't really know the role of the media here in Afghanistan,' says Ramin Mustafa, 26, 1TV's sales manager.
'We believe in freedom of speech,' adds the station's production director, Siobhan Berry, 34, a Briton who worked in television elsewhere in Asia before joining 1TV seven months ago to prepare for its start on December 1"....
[bth: one wonders why we are not helping this along. Why we are not having Sesame Street type programs put together to teach illiterate adults and youngsters how to read, teach them about the world, use it as an educational tool. For all the bluster, it should be noted that 5 million Afghan children rushed to school a few years ago once the Taliban was chased off and despite acid attacks on children. There is evidently a desire for education and TV and radio seem to me to be very viable means of doing this.]
“The people of Afghanistan will not agree to negotiation which prolongs and legitimises the invader’s military presence in our beloved country. Afghanistan is our home,” says part of the statement, issued on the eve of the festival of Eid al-Adha.
“The invading Americans want [Taleban] Mujahidin to surrender under the pretext of the negotiation.”
Mullah Omar’s speech seeks to pre-empt British and American backed efforts to engage with “moderate Taleban”, and split them from the ideological core of the movement, repeatedly warning their followers against “disunity” within their own ranks.
Daily Times - Leading News Resource of Pakistan - Taliban acceptable if they renounce Qaeda: Holbrooke
In an interview with SPIEGEL, Holbrooke said, “Majority of Taliban do not support Mullah Omar’s extreme views and that there is room for them to rejoin the social and political fabric of Afghanistan if they renounce Al Qaeda and reintegrate peacefully into Afghanistan. And that is a major part” of the Unites States policies.
He said Washington was not seeking to destroy “every person who supports the Taliban”, adding that “Our goal is to destroy Al Qaeda, a terrorist organisation with global reach which attacked the United States, which conducted attacks in London, Madrid and Bali, and Mumbai and Islamabad, which supports attacks in Afghanistan through other groups.”"...
[bth: worth reading in full]
"The government's actions to avoid financial collapse last fall -- as distasteful and unfair as some undoubtedly were -- were unfortunately necessary to prevent a global economic catastrophe that could have rivaled the Great Depression in length and severity, with profound consequences for our economy and society. (I know something about this, having spent my career prior to public service studying these issues.) My colleagues at the Federal Reserve and I were determined not to allow that to happen."
It's nice to talk about the Fed's response to this crisis, but Mr. Bernanke's studies apparently did not tell him the obvious, that allowing an $8 trillion housing bubble to grow unchecked would lead to an economic disaster like what we are now experiencing. He and his colleagues at the Federal Reserve Board either could not see, or did not care about, this huge bubble. As a result, Ben Bernanke has been running around for much of the last year and a half telling us about his knowledge of the Great Depression.
It is worth quickly explaining why a collapsed housing bubble leads to a recession, since the policy people responsible for this disaster have done so much to try to obscure the obvious.
In the years prior to its collapse, the bubble was driving the economy. Bubble-inflated house prices created an unprecedented housing boom. Residential construction peaked at more than 6.0 percentage points of GDP in 2005.
The $8 trillion in bubble housing wealth led to a consumption boom also. This is the well known housing wealth effect that holds that one dollars of additional bubble wealth will cause annual consumption to increase by 5-7 cents. The implication was that an $8 trillion bubble would push annual consumption up by between $400 billion and $560 billion.
When the bubble collapsed, residential construction fell through the floor as builders suddenly realized that we had an enormous housing glut. The drop in annual construction was more than 3 percentage points of GDP, or more than $500 billion. At the same time, when the bubble driven housing wealth disappeared, we lost close to $500 billion in annual consumption.
We had further losses in demand associated with the bursting of a bubble in non-residential real estate. In total, the loss in bubble-driven demand was well over $1 trillion a year. All of it an entirely predictable outcome of the collapse of a housing bubble.
The simple reality is that there is nothing in the Fed's bag of tricks that will allow it to easily replace over $1 trillion in annual demand. In short, the bubble guaranteed the economic disaster that we are now experiencing, end of story.
It is also amusing the Mr. Bernanke at one point turns to the "global consensus on the appropriate role of central banks." Perhaps Mr. Bernanke missed it, but this global consensus doesn't look very good right now. One of the poster children of the global consensus was Iceland. The country was applauded for its independent central bank and its strong record on inflation targeting.
The arrogance of this column is almost beyond belief. This man is incredibly lucky to still have his job at time when millions of other workers have lost theirs as a direct result of his incompetence. A serious news outlet would not have printed such a ridiculously self-serving piece without at least securing an opposing opinion. Of course, Bernanke's piece appeared in the Washington Post.
[bth: why on Earth Obama would recommend and the Congress accept Bernanke again is beyond me. Sickening]
Now in a different world, at a different time, and with a different president, we face the prospect of enlarging a different war. But once again we're fighting in remote provinces against an enemy who can bleed us slowly and wait us out, because he will still be there when we are gone.
Once again, we are caught between warring factions in a country where other foreign powers fail before us. Once again, every setback brings a call for more troops, although no one can say how long they will be there or what it means to win. Once again, the government we are trying to help is hopelessly corrupt and incompetent.
And once again, a President pushing for critical change at home is being pressured to stop dithering, be tough, show he's got the guts, by sending young people seven thousand miles from home to fight and die, while their own country is coming apart.
And once again, the loudest case for enlarging the war is being made by those who will not have to fight it, who will be safely in their beds while the war grinds on (my em). And once again, a small circle of advisers debates the course of action, but one man will make the decision.
We will never know what would have happened if Lyndon Johnson had said no to more war. We know what happened because he said yes.
Video here and transcript here.
Shorter: 'You've got to get in or get out. Get in, you're gonna lose. Get out, you're a pussy.'
It's kinda like losing a bet on a ball game and then losing it again on the replay. Stupid."
[bth: go to the original post for the links]
The decision came despite Gordon Brown’s announcement that Britain’s “exit strategy” rests on training Afghan forces to take over its role.
The Foreign Office refused to discuss the funding but privately officials confirmed the money was cut amid vain hopes that the Americans would foot the bill instead.
The mission, known as Operation Emperor, involved SBS commandos training the Afghan special narcotics force as well as mentoring them."
In June last year, it resulted in the seizure of 262 tons of cannabis in Kandahar province, the world’s largest drugs haul.
Des Browne, the former defence secretary, told MPs in May 2007 that the operation was “highly effective” at detecting Taliban communications and supply routes from Pakistan.
“It was a highly successful mission and the Afghans were getting better every day,” a special forces source said last week. “The paltry sums involved were getting a pretty valuable return.”
The Afghan military supplied four Russian-made MI-8 Hip helicopters but could not afford to run them so the Foreign Office agreed to fund the costs of the fuel and upkeep.
The helicopters were flown by British pilots from 7 Squadron, RAF special forces. But despite Britain’s lead role in the Afghan drugs operations the Foreign Office is cutting its overall funding from £49.2m last year to £36.7m this year.
Ed Butler, who commanded British troops when they first deployed to Helmand in 2006, said: “It strikes me as pretty counter-intuitive and verging on the ridiculous to cut this funding when the government is stressing the training of Afghan security forces as a way of withdrawing our troops.”The Conservatives said it “beggared belief" that the Foreign Office should withdraw funding from what was clearly an important project. Liam Fox, the shadow defence secretary, said: “For British troops to leave safely, we need to have fully trained Afghan security forces. This cut will undermine that task.
[bth: unbelievable. And so last week the UK MOD was bashing Obama for taking his time and yet in the back room these UK weasels are pulling this stunt. So we're going to increase our forces in Afghanistan by 30-40K and the Brits are asked to add 1K and they are talking about only 500 which I doubt will actually happen. As good as their infantry is, as a national force with an army smaller than our marine corp and an air force shrinking to half its recent size, it just isnt' a credible force anymore.]
McChrystal told a visiting congressional delegation this week that a U.S. troop drawdown could begin by 2013, but the Pentagon has cautioned against setting specific dates for a withdrawal, saying any handover depends on conditions on the ground and no timeframe should be given for this.
White spokesman said that the evacuation of forces from Afghanistan would be completed by 2017-2018.
On the other hand, U.S. President Barack Obama will soon make a decision regarding sending or otherwise of more troops to Afghanistan."
[bth: as usual this troop cycle has nothing to do with Afghanistan and everything to do with the presidential election cycle in the US. US presidential election 2012 to troops will peak in 2012 and then recede the next year and the over just after he leaves office - this is about pushing the withdrawal to the next president and has virtually nothing to do with military necessity.]
Authorities said the clash took place Saturday night in the Tani district of Khost province, bordering Pakistan on Afghanistan's eastern flank, although few details were available.
'The Taliban attacked one of our posts last night. Police launched a counter-attack backed with coalition air support,' said Sher Ahmad Kochi, senior border police official in Khost.
'The clash lasted for several hours and 27 insurgents, mainly foreigners, were killed,' he said, adding that 13 bodies had been left on the battlefield.
'One wounded Chechen fighter was captured,' he said."
The report asserts that the failure to kill or capture bin Laden at his most vulnerable in December 2001 has had lasting consequences beyond the fate of one man. Bin Laden's escape laid the foundation for today's reinvigorated Afghan insurgency and inflamed the internal strife now endangering Pakistan, it says."...
[bth: Rumsfeld and Franks are culpable for two massive failings: 1. failing to provide the CIA with troops necessary to defeat al Qaeda at Tora Bora and 2. failing to do any planning for the occupation of Iraq. Dereliction of duty plain and simple. Hindsight isn't necessary - these failings were obvious to any honest observer as they happened.]