Saturday, January 16, 2010

From Ship to Shore - Hopefully on its way to Haiti by Now

Pentagon inquiry: Supervisors discounted Fort Hood suspect's worrisome behavior

Pentagon inquiry: Supervisors discounted Fort Hood suspect's worrisome behavior: "A Pentagon review of the Fort Hood shootings has found that several officers failed to intervene in the career of the suspect, despite widespread signs of his religious radicalization and his shortcomings as a soldier.

The review determined that supervisors of Maj. Nidal M. Hasan, the Army psychiatrist charged in the Nov. 5 attack at the Texas military post, bungled his performance reviews by excluding instances of erratic behavior in treating patients and signs that he might be growing sympathetic to suicide bombers.

The leaders of the review, former Army secretary Togo D. West Jr. and retired Adm. Vernon E. Clark, a former chief of naval operations, recommended in a report released Friday that the Army examine whether 'several officers' should be disciplined in the Hasan case.

The report did not name the officers or specify how many should be held accountable. But West said that 'we have no doubt the Army will be able to isolate any individuals' who could face disciplinary action, based on detailed information about Hasan's career that was included in a confidential addendum to the report.

The report also said that Hasan was granted a top-level security clearance in February 2008 but that his background check did not include interviews with co-workers, supervisors or Hasan himself.

'If a more thorough investigation had been accomplished, his security clearance might have been revoked and his continued service and pending deployment would have been subject to increased scrutiny,' the report concluded."...

[bth: you shake your head and wonder how in the world he could have gotten a security clearance.]

BBC News - Duck hunters spark nuclear weapons plant lockdown

BBC News - Duck hunters spark nuclear weapons plant lockdown: "A pair of duck hunters has triggered a security alert at a nuclear weapons assembly plant in Amarillo, Texas.

Officials put the plant into lockdown after getting reports of individuals in camouflage gear stalking across the road from the factory.

They turned out to be two plant employees who had decided to spend their day off hunting fowl.

The plant was briefly shut as a 'precautionary measure', a plant official said.

'They were just doing what people do around here,' said Carson County Sheriff Tam Terry."...

Just What We Need: More Pentagon Spending by Winslow T. Wheeler -- Antiwar.com

Just What We Need: More Pentagon Spending by Winslow T. Wheeler -- Antiwar.com: ..."Nevertheless, the supplemental will be bloated. The parts of it for Afghanistan will be inflated with various goodies. In virtually every supplemental in the past, DOD has stuffed in additional spending for new aircraft and other hardware and programs that it wants for general uses not really for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Obama people in the Pentagon said they would end all that. I seriously doubt it; the $33 billion total is far more than they need to support the additional 30,000 troops Obama wants in Afghanistan as soon as he gets them there. Even crediting the cost of the new troops at the outlandishly high cost of $1 million per troop per year, you can’t get to $33 billion: those troops will only begin to arrive in the next few months, well after the fiscal year started last October. (30,000 troops for 6 months would be $15 billion; for 9 months would be about $23 billion, not $33, even assuming the looney $1 million per troop estimate.)

Then, of course, expect Congress to add some junk: still more superfluous C-17 cargo aircraft ($250 million each), some smaller but cost-bloated C-130 cargo aircraft (they used to cost about $20 million, but now they are up to $70 million), some F-18 fighter/bombers (the Navy and Boeing are just nuts for more) and whatever else those paragons of virtue and thrift Congressman John Murtha (D-PA) and Senator Daniel Inouye (D-HI) at the House and Senate Appropriations Committees can dream up to keep the rest of the pork-crazed Congress happy with their 'leadership.'

And don’t forget the big picture. The additional $33 billion will bring the total DOD budget for the current fiscal year up to $708 billion.

That amount is more than we spent on the Pentagon in any year since 1946 — in dollars adjusted for inflation.

It is an amount just under what the entire rest of the world spends for defense.

It is about three times the combined defense budgets of China, Russia, Cuba, North Korea, and Iran.

The Defense Department spends in a few hours more than al Qaeda spends in an entire year.

For this post-World War II high in spending, we get the smallest Army, Navy, and Air Force we have had since 1946.

And, our tanks, ships, and aircraft are, on average, older than they have ever been before.

And, major elements of our forces are getting less training than they did even during the so-called 'hollow' years of the Jimmy Carter Pentagon."...

US Army Suicides in 2009 a New Record -- News from Antiwar.com

US Army Suicides in 2009 a New Record -- News from Antiwar.com: "Calling 2009 a “painful year,” the US Army announced today that it faced a record number of suicides among Army personnel, with 160 active-duty soldiers taking their own lives.

Deployment away from family is just one issue facing soldiers

This surpassed the previous record of 140 in 2008, and the previous record before that was 115 in 2007. The Army has been keeping track of suicides since 1980, with the level suddenly rising to epidemic levels in recent years.

But despite the expectation that endless combat deployments would be playing a role in the deaths, officials say that about 1/3 of the soldiers who took their lives this year hadn’t yet been sent on any combat missions."....

Breitbart.tv » Martha Coakley ‘Inexplicably’ Claims Red Sox Legend is a ‘Yankee Fan’

Breitbart.tv » Martha Coakley ‘Inexplicably’ Claims Red Sox Legend is a ‘Yankee Fan’

Retired general: U.S. aid effort too slow - USATODAY.com

Retired general: U.S. aid effort too slow - USATODAY.com: "WASHINGTON — The U.S. relief effort for Haiti started too slowly and cautiously, says a retired general who led the military relief effort on the Gulf Coast after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

'The next morning after the earthquake, as a military man of 37 years service, I assumed … there would be airplanes delivering aid, not troops, but aid,' said retired Lt. Gen. Russel Honore, who coordinated military operations after disaster struck the U.S. Gulf Coast in 2005. 'What we saw instead was discussion about, 'Well we've got to send an assessment team in to see what the needs are.' And anytime I hear that, my head turns red.'"...

[bth: The military did a disaster drill in Haiti just a couple of years ago. Get the fucking lead out. If you need an assessment, start by watching CNN. As to a quick military looks a single flight over the island would determine that the airport tower was down, the port was destroyed and most of the infrastructure. That would instantly tell you there would be a bottle neck and a need to air drop troops and supplies asap.]

YouTube -Another Brick In The Wall

YouTube - Brothers in Arms - Dire Straits

Former DHB exec: $21.5-million too little for defense

Former DHB exec: $21.5-million too little for defense: "David Brooks says in court papers that the $21.5 million he spent last year for lawyers is not enough to defend himself against charges he made $185 million in 2004 by selling off stock after knowingly making false claims about the health of DHB Industries, his then- Westbury-based body-armor manufacturer.

On the eve of jury selection next week in federal court in Central Islip, Brooks has..."

[bth: this disgusting little weasel made defective body armor and botched his QA process, sold it to the army and marines, then scammed his stock holders before the news got out.]

Alleged scheme lands David Brooks back in jail

Alleged scheme lands David Brooks back in jail: "David Brooks, accused of looting his then Westbury-based body-armor company in 2007 to support an over-the-top lifestyle, has had his bail revoked and been jailed after federal officials said he orchestrated several complex schemes to conceal tens of millions of dollars in assets overseas.

One of the schemes was uncovered by London police who were conducting a separate money-laundering investigation..."

[bth: so there is a God.]

Friday, January 15, 2010

Andy Borowitz: Pat Robertson 'A Public Relations Nightmare,' Says God

Andy Borowitz: Pat Robertson 'A Public Relations Nightmare,' Says God: "NEW YORK (The Borowitz Report) - In the wake of his comments about the earthquake in Haiti, televangelist Pat Robertson has become a 'public relations nightmare' and a 'gynormous embarrassment to me, personally,' God said today."...

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Some Experts Warn Of 'Death Spiral' for F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (excerpt)

Some Experts Warn Of 'Death Spiral' for F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (excerpt): "To some longtime Pentagon insiders and observers, the F-35 joint strike fighter program is on the verge of slipping into an old familiar pattern.

First, unrealistic technical requirements, cost estimates and schedules lead to delays and rising costs. Then, far fewer planes are bought than originally planned. That means the cost of each one rises, resulting in even fewer planes being bought, which produces even higher costs per copy, etc.

The history of weapons programs over the last 50-plus years is replete with examples of what former Air Force officer and civilian Pentagon analyst Chuck Spinney famously dubbed the 'death spiral.'

Two of those are well known in Fort Worth: the 1960s-era General Dynamics F-111 and, more recently, Lockheed Martin’s F-22. Both planes, because of technical problems, long delays and ever-rising costs, were ultimately built in vastly fewer numbers than originally planned."...

[bth: F35 is on the verge of getting priced out of existence]

Helmand town may be first big battle in bigger war | Antiwar Newswire

Helmand town may be first big battle in bigger war | Antiwar Newswire: "The U.S. military is openly telegraphing a plan to clear out an insurgent haven in what may be the first major battle since President Barack Obama's expansion of the Afghanistan war, hoping that all but the most hardcore Taliban will sit out the fight.

U.S. military leaders have spoken bluntly in recent weeks about a looming assault on Marjah, a town in the southwest Afghan province of Helmand described as Taliban-owned and operated.

'It's been increasingly clear for weeks now about the need to clear out Marjah, so that's going to happen,' Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Adm. Mike Mullen told reporters traveling with him in Afghanistan in December. 'It's going to happen ... at a time and place of our choosing, but it's going to happen.'

The battle would be a keystone in an offensive planned for early this year against a resurgent Taliban-led insurgency. The Obama administration approved the offensive, and an infusion of 30,000 additional U.S. forces, as a way to put the brakes on the Taliban's expansion across southern Afghanistan.

U.S. officials say there is only a narrow path to victory, but that a forceful stand in Helmand and Kandahar provinces will establish U.S. resolve to stick it out. Both sides are girding for a fight.

The U.S. military does not normally comment on the timing or other details of future operations. But remarks from senior military leaders in Afghanistan and Washington suggest they see no point in hiding plans to confront what they said is the last trouble spot in a district where U.S. forces have already cleared several other towns of active Taliban presence.

Marjah, a small town in a farming district some 380 miles southwest of Kabul, is a strategic target because it is a key supply hub for the opium poppy crop and shelters Taliban units thought to have fled the Marines elsewhere in Helmand."...

[bth: Say could oyu tell the Taliban again one more time the exact time and place of this thing? Good grief. What a total loss of operational security and surprise.]

Tiger's Transgressions

Tiger's Transgressions

Scott Ritter Charged In Child-Sex Sting

Scott Ritter Charged In Child-Sex Sting: "PHILADELPHIA — A longtime U.N. weapons inspector who blamed a 2001 sex-sting arrest on his criticism of the Iraq war has again been charged in an online child-sex case, and this time he was caught on camera.

Scott Ritter, 48, of Delmar, N.Y., engaged in a sexually graphic online chat with an undercover police officer posing as a 15-year-old girl nearly a year ago, police in northeastern Pennsylvania said. He then turned on a webcam and masturbated on camera, they charged.

Monroe County authorities traced the exchange to Ritter through a cell phone number he provided, and confirmed the match through photographs, according to a police affidavit. Charges were filed in November and the Pocono Record revealed Ritter's involvement on Thursday."...

Obama keeping his distance from Massachusetts race - Washington Times

Obama keeping his distance from Massachusetts race - Washington Times: "Coming off stinging election losses in Virginia and New Jersey -- not to mention Copenhagen, where he failed to win the 2018 Olympics for his hometown of Chicago -- President Obama is staying away from what could become another painful loss.

Even though the campaign of Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley has been making quiet entreaties, the president has no plans to visit her in the last week of the special election to fill the Senate seat once held by the late Edward M. Kennedy.

'It's not on our schedule to go to next week,' White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said matter-of-factly.

With Mrs. Coakley flagging in the polls and Republican Scott Brown closing fast -- one recent polls puts him 2 points ahead -- Mr. Obama has decided to keep his fingerprints off a race that would be an embarrassment for Democrats should they lose, given that Mr. Obama won the state in 2008 by a 27 point margin."...

[bth: Obama is more concerned about not looking like he was associated with a loss than in helping her assure victory. Given his huge margin in 2008 one wonder what to make of this.]

December retail sales drop 0.3 percent - Yahoo! Finance

December retail sales drop 0.3 percent - Yahoo! Finance:... "The 6.2 percent fall in the government's retail sales figure is only the second decline on records that go back to 1992. In all other years, even during previous recessions, retail sales, which are not adjusted for inflation, have managed to increase."...

[bth: besides the bashing in jobs, rising healthcare costs and home price declines, Congress initiated no meaningful credit card debt reform at all leaving many consumers burned by ridiculous interest rates and fees.]

Majority Would Vote Against Obama - Hotline On Call

Majority Would Vote Against Obama - Hotline On Call: "A year into his tenure, a majority of Americans would already vote against Pres. Obama if the '12 elections were held today, according to a new survey.

The Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor poll shows 50% say they would probably or definitely vote for someone else. Fully 37% say they would definitely cast a ballot against Obama. Meanwhile, just 39% would vote to re-elect the pres. to a 2nd term, and only 23% say they definitely would do so.

Obama's first year in office has been marked by an unemployment rate that surged to 10%, an increased commitment of troops to Afghanistan and a health care battle that has taken a serious political toll on the WH.

Obama's approval rating is down to 47%, the poll showed, a 14-point drop since the April survey. 45% disapprove, up 17 points from April. Only 41% say they trust Obama more than Congressional GOPers, while 33% pick the GOP over the WH. That 8-point gap is down from a 21-point edge Obama sported as recently as Sept.

Just 34% say the country is moving in the right direction, down 13 points since April, and 55% say it is off on the wrong track, up 13 points over the same period.

But as GOPers focus on taxes and spending, that message seems to be causing Obama the most harm. Among those who believe Obama's policies have moved the country in the wrong direction, 45% cite spending and government regulation as a top cause for their opposition.

Meanwhile, those who think Obama's policies are moving the country down the right track largely cite long-term benefits of his initiatives.

In the meantime, health care legislation is by no means popular, but a majority of Americans don't oppose the legislation yet. 44% said they support the legislation under consideration, down 5 points from the last poll in Sept., while 46% oppose it.

The poll, conducted by Financial Dynamics, surveyed 1,200 adults between Jan. 3-7 for a margin of error of +/- 2.8%."

[bth: scary numbers if a credible republican candidate is fielded. I'm not seeing one.]

YouTube - Princes Diana - Elton John - Goodbye Englands Rose

YouTube - Princes Diana - Elton John - Goodbye Englands Rose

Risk-averse Britain may lose stomach for war, warns minister - Times Online

Risk-averse Britain may lose stomach for war, warns minister - Times Online: "Britain is growing so risk-averse that the public may no longer tolerate deployment of the military, the Armed Forces Minister said yesterday.

Bill Rammell warned that in an age of mounting public cynicism and rolling 24-hour news, British governments faced increasing resistance to any use of military power.

“We, sadly, face a series of threats, the nature of which will require the projection of power beyond our borders to protect our national security,” he said. “My great fear is that we as a nation will become so risk-averse, cynical and introverted that we will find ourselves in inglorious and impotent isolation by default.”

His speech to the Institute of Public Policy Research, in London, reflects a growing frustration within the Government and Armed Forces that public tolerance for military operations and media-led cynicism at the motives for British military action are undermining the current effort in Afghanistan."...

“First, the decline of deference and the growth in mistrust of those in authority, which challenge government and military decision-making. Second, the 24/7 media and the new information age, which brings with it the demand for a different kind of communication between the Government and the public about military operations. Third, a freedom-of-information culture, which asserts that everything known to the State should be in the public domain without considering the impact of this on government’s ability to act in our best interest.”

Mr Rammell said that this could have positive consequences, such as the practice of holding inquests into the deaths of all British soldiers killed.

“Families are more assertive in seeking information, wanting to know why a death has occurred and in challenging authority, often calling for an independent assessment of the circumstances surrounding their loved one’s death ... Through this, the MoD can continue to improve the way it deals with inquests [and] learn lessons that may help to prevent future deaths.”

However, he said that where the Government withheld information for reasons of operational security, this was often interpreted by the media and public as evasiveness. He also said that increasing public cynicism threatened to undermine the ability of British Forces to win in Afghanistan.

“Military operations and the money required to pay for defence rely on the willingness of the public to support the policies of the Government ... Our adversaries, particularly those who cannot match our military, will attempt to outlast us and hope to sap our support at home. This is particularly true of the foe we face in Afghanistan.”

Death and injury to British Forces were, Mr Rammell said, an inevitable consequence of deploying troops, and the debate over the equipment for troops sometimes lost sight of this.

“Yes, we should enhance the capabilities [of equipment] wherever possible,” he said. “But the public needs to accept that the battlefield is a uniquely dangerous and uncertain environment ... In counter-insurgency warfare, as in Afghanistan, you have to get out of the Chinooks and the Mastiffs, sometimes patrolling on foot and among the people ... The only way to protect our troops completely is, bluntly, not to deploy them in the first place.”



[bth: worth reading in full. He goes on to blame families in the UK for wanting to have independent autopsies done when the MOD lied to them. He blames the news media for investigating the lack of equipment - vehicles, vests, helicopter. He seems to forget that MOD and Blair lied to the UK public about the cause of war in Iraq, the connection to al Qaeda, the WMDs. He forgets that the MOD has become one of the least efficient most arcane institutions on the planet Earth and its funds carriers but can't get a helicopter into Afghanistan so it contracts with the Ukrainian mafia for them which confuses Afghan civilians who saw those same Soviet era helicopters bombing them years before instead of resupplying UK forces now. The MOD forgets its serves the country, not the other way around.]

War Is Boring: UAVs: Faster, Higher, More Bombs, and Now With a Tailhook!

War Is Boring: UAVs: Faster, Higher, More Bombs, and Now With a Tailhook!: "06e0624b-9398-40e1-91d1-7888e231a908large.jpg

General Atomics’ Predator-C, pictured, America’s latest killer unmanned aerial vehicle, had first test flights in the first half of April. Named “Avenger” by the manufacturer, the new drone is a huge leap in performance and capability over previous Predator UAVs. Not only is Avenger stealthy, it has a higher operational altitude, bigger payload and a tailhook to facilitate carrier landings.

One important improvement that Avenger boasts over Predator B (aka, MQ-9 Reaper) is improved speed. At an air speed of at least 400 knots, Avenger is twice as fast as the Reaper. If you have a base, say, 100 miles from the Pakistani and Iranian borders, it could be at either in roughly 15 minutes — a considerable improvement over Reaper.

A higher speed would also be useful if your UAV airfield is being encroached upon by the Taliban and you need to move somewhere more secure, i.e. farther away.

That clicking sound you just heard is the CIA opening its checkbook"

06e0624b-9398-40e1-91d1-7888e231a908large.jpg



Goldman Admits To Frontrunning Clients Through Its Prop Desk | zero hedge

Goldman Admits To Frontrunning Clients Through Its Prop Desk | zero hedge: "The topic of Goldman frontrunning clients using its prop desk, which has long bothered Zero Hedge, and which in the past received Goldman's vehement refutation, seems to have resurfaced, and to have proven our initial speculations correct. Jane Lattin, assistant to Thomas Mazarakis, head of fundamental strategies, sent out an email to clients earlier, notifying them that the firm in the past has traded ahead of them in its Fundamental Strategies Group, aka its Prop Trading desk, which is, by definition, frontrunning: 'The Fundamental Strategies Group is a group of cross-capital structure desk analysts employed by our Securities Divisions to assist our traders. They develop Trading Ideas in conjunction with traders. We may trade, and may have existing positions, based on Trading Ideas before we have discussed those Trading Ideas with you. We may continue to act on Trading Ideas, and may trade out of any position, based on Trading Ideas, at any time after we have discussed them with you. We will also discuss Trading Ideas with other clients, both before and after we have discussed them with you.' This answers our repeated queries from July as to whether Goldman is legally front-running its clients for its own prop positions."...

[bth: so basically they are screwing the little guys]

Obama to Seek $708 Billion for Wars in 2011 -- News from Antiwar.com

Obama to Seek $708 Billion for Wars in 2011 -- News from Antiwar.com: "In a request that will likely put the call for $33 billion in “emergency” war funds for 2010 in a new light, President Obama is now planning to request at least a $708 billion military budget for fiscal year 2011. This record amount for America’s already enormous military even surpasses the Bush Administration’s largest annual expenditures for wars."

The revelation came as part of the Obama Administration’s “Quadrennial Defense Review,” (QDR) which laid out the size of its planned military budgets and military goals through 2015.

The QDR will reportedly plan for dramatic cuts in the cost of war past fiscal year 2011, under the assumption that the Iraq War and Afghan War won’t cost nearly so much by that point.

Yet it should be noted that the Obama Administration previously laid out a plan which anticipated those savings starting in 2011, and now that it is time to actually seek the 2011 war funds it has simply been pushed back another year.

The administration maintains that the Iraq pullout is “on pace” despite having removed only a handful of troops in 2009, while officials are already suggesting that the pledge to start an Afghan pullout in 2011 is probably not sincere.


[bth: this is important]

Al Qaeda linked to rogue aviation network | Reuters

Al Qaeda linked to rogue aviation network | Reuters: "TIMBUKTU, Mali (Reuters) - In early 2008, an official at the U.S. Department of Homeland Security sent a report to his superiors detailing what he called 'the most significant development in the criminal exploitation of aircraft since 9/11.'"

The document warned that a growing fleet of rogue jet aircraft was regularly crisscrossing the Atlantic Ocean. On one end of the air route, it said, are cocaine-producing areas in the Andes controlled by the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. On the other are some of West Africa's most unstable countries.

The report, a copy of which was obtained by Reuters, was ignored, and the problem has since escalated into what security officials in several countries describe as a global security threat.

The clandestine fleet has grown to include twin-engine turboprops, executive jets and retired Boeing 727s that are flying multi-ton loads of cocaine and possibly weapons to an area in Africa where factions of al Qaeda are believed to be facilitating the smuggling of drugs to Europe, the officials say.

Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) has been held responsible for car and suicide bombings in Algeria and Mauritania.

Gunmen and bandits with links to AQIM have also stepped up kidnappings of Europeans for ransom, who are then passed on to AQIM factions seeking ransom payments.

The aircraft hopscotch across South American countries, picking up tons of cocaine and jet fuel, officials say. They then soar across the Atlantic to West Africa and the Sahel, where the drugs are funneled across the Sahara Desert and into Europe.

An examination of documents and interviews with officials in the United States and three West African nations suggest that at least 10 aircraft have been discovered using this air route since 2006. Officials warn that many of these aircraft were detected purely by chance. They caution that the real number involved in the networks is likely considerably higher....

UN Raps Taliban for War’s Massive Civilian Toll | Danger Room | Wired.com

UN Raps Taliban for War’s Massive Civilian Toll | Danger Room | Wired.com:... "The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) released a new report today on civilian casualties in 2009, and the overall picture is grim: Last year was the deadliest yet for civilians, since the end of Taliban rule in 2001. But according to the report, 2009 also saw an overall drop in the number of civilian casualties caused by U.S., International Security Assistance Force and Afghan government forces.

UNAMA recorded 2,412 civilian casualties last year, a year-on-year increase of 14 per cent. Of that total, UNAMA said, “armed opposition” (i.e., the Taliban and affiliated groups) accounted for 1,630 deaths. That’s 4o percent more than in 2008, when Taliban attacks claimed the lives of 1,160 civilians.

Suicide attacks and roadside bombs are the main cause of civilian deaths. According to UNAMA, such attacks caused 1,054 civilian deaths last year. Targeted killings are also on the rise. “Civilians are also being deliberately assassinated, abducted and executed if they are perceived as being associated with the government or the international community,” said Norah Niland, UNAMA’s chief human rights officer, in a statement."...

[bth: so roughly 2/3rd of the Afghan civilian casualties are caused by the Taliban; probably their IEDs.]

MoD to slash jet fighter orders as it struggles to save aircraft programme | UK news | The Guardian

MoD to slash jet fighter orders as it struggles to save aircraft programme | UK news | The Guardian:... "No decisions will be made until after the general election. However, there is a consensus developing in the MoD that Britain simply cannot afford existing plans to build two large carriers in a project which, if the JSF planes are included, would cost an estimated £25bn.

The view is that it is extremely difficult to justify at a time when troops in Afghanistan are being deprived of helicopters and surveillance systems – including unmanned drones – which provide badly needed intelligence about what insurgents and suspected terrorists are up to.

The two proposed carriers, the Queen Elizabeth, due to go into service in 2016, and the Prince of Wales, due to follow in 2018, are already £1bn over the original estimated cost of £3.9bn. This excludes the cost of any aircraft flying from them.

The money spent on carriers and their jets is even more difficult to justify, say critics, at a time when the navy is getting six new frigates at £1bn apiece and a replacement for the Trident nuclear ballistic missile system, which ministers say could cost £20bn while admitting they do not know what the final figure will be.

A decision on the proposed new Trident submarine's basic design contract – due last September – has been put back. 'Further time has been required to ensure that we take decisions based on robust information,' the defence secretary, Bob Ainsworth, told MPs before Christmas."...

RQ-170 Stealth Drone

Vehicle ban imposed in northern Falluja : Aswat Al Iraq

Vehicle ban imposed in northern Falluja : Aswat Al Iraq: "ANBAR / Aswat al-Iraq: A vehicle and motorcycle ban was imposed in several regions in northern Falluja until further notice after the car bomb explosion that took place this morning, a security source said on Wednesday.

“Falluja police imposed on Wednesday (Jan. 13) a ban on vehicles and motorcycles in several regions in al-Saqlawiya district, northern Falluja, from 11am until further notice,” the source told Aswat al-Iraq news agency.

“The step has been taken after the car bomb explosion in the district which killed two civilians and injured seven others, including three policemen,” he explained.

Falluja, the largest city in Anbar province, lies 45 km west of the Iraqi capital Baghdad."

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Al Qaeda planning new attack on the U.S.: report - NYPOST.com

Al Qaeda planning new attack on the U.S.: report - NYPOST.com: "U.S. Federal officials have credible new intelligence of plans for another al Qaeda attack on the U.S., NBC reported.

Officials say they have information that al Qaeda in Yemen is planning another attack but declined to give further details.

However, they have described the information as 'credible' and are considering whether to step up security measures.

One official has said the news is not surprising, as they had expected further attacks following the failed Christmas Day airliner bombing plot."

[bth: what is the purpose of a statement like this? It gets the fear up but provides no useful information whatever to an average person.]

Senator: US should consider drone attacks in Yemen

Senator: US should consider drone attacks in Yemen: "WASHINGTON (AP) - A Senate chairman said Wednesday that the U.S. should consider airstrikes, armed drones and clandestine operations in Yemen to defeat an emboldened al-Qaida force there.

The remark by Democratic Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, is a rare public admission by a senior U.S. official that direct U.S. military action in Yemen is possible in coming months.

The U.S. was involved in at least one airstrike in December that missed a key al-Qaida leader but killed others. Such operations are highly classified and closely guarded by Yemeni authorities, who fear that a visible American role in the country will fuel an internal conflict.

Short of a ground invasion, 'we ought to consider a broad range of options in Yemen because the broad-ranging threat of al-Qaida,' Levin told reporters following a three-day trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan."...

Turkey threatens to recall envoy from Israel

The Raw Story | Turkey threatens to recall envoy from Israel: "Turkey threatened on Wednesday to recall its ambassador from Israel if a row over the envoy's treatment was not resolved within hours, dismissing Israeli statements aimed at appeasing Ankara.

'Unless they make up for it by this evening, our ambassador will return on the first plane tomorrow,' President Abdullah Gul was quoted as saying by the NTV news channel.

Ankara was demanding a formal Israeli letter of apology for the incident, according to media reports.

Gul's warning marked another high in tensions between the two regional allies since Israel's war on the Gaza Strip last year prompted an unprecedented barrage of criticism from the Islamist-rooted government in Ankara.

Israeli Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon embarrassed Ambassador Oguz Celikkol on Monday, making him sit on a low couch and removing the Turkish flag from the table in a meeting called to convey Israeli protests over a Turkish television series.

Turkey demanded 'an explanation and apology' over the incident, which Celikkol described as a 'mise en scene,' saying he was led to believe he had been invited for introductory talks and not a protest.

In response, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said: 'The foreign ministry's protest to the Turkish ambassador was just in its essence but should have been conveyed in an acceptable diplomatic manner.'"...

[bth: the world is just to dangerous for these antics.]

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Robot to help fight terrorism at Logan Airport | NECN

Robot to help fight terrorism at Logan Airport | NECN

US General: Iran ‘certainly can be bombed’ | Raw Story

US General: Iran ‘certainly can be bombed’ | Raw Story: "The United States has developed contingency plans to address Iran's nuclear ambitions if negotiations falter between the Islamic republic and Western nations, a top US general said Sunday -- raising questions again over the US military's secret strategies on Iran.

'It would be almost literally irresponsible if CENTCOM were not to have been thinking about the various 'what ifs' and to make plans for a whole variety of different contingencies,' said General David Petraeus, who heads the US Central Command that oversees the Middle East, the Gulf region and Central Asia."...

[bth: was this statement necessary? I'd feel better if such statements were made the State Dept or elected officials. We do not need generals talking us into wars.]

Israel to Turkey: If you went to fight, we'll fight! | Middle East

Israel to Turkey: If you went to fight, we'll fight! | Middle East: "In the face of harsh criticism over his conduct Monday evening at a meeting with Turkish Ambassador Oguz Celikkol, Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon refused to apologize, saying Tuesday morning that he 'didn't want to humiliate him, but merely to convey a message'"

Ayalon had summoned the envoy to the Knesset to express outrage over a new Turkish television show that depicts Mossad agents as baby-snatchers, and in a break from the diplomatic norm, invited the press for a photo-op, during which he was seen telling the cameramen to film him and his aide sitting on tall chairs, and the Turkish envoy on a lower chair, with the Israeli flag in the middle.

The ambassador was also filmed waiting in a corridor for the meeting to begin, and when it did, he was offered nothing to drink or eat.

Ayalon called Celikkol for the meeting before Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had issued yet more scathing criticism of Israel, and set the meeting at the Knesset, and not in the Foreign Ministry as is generally the case in these types of situations.

Minister of Industry, Trade and Labor Binyamin Ben-Eliezer on Tuesday expressed his outrage over the "humiliation" of the envoy, which he perceived as "picking a fight with a country with 72 million Muslims.

Former Israeli ambassador to Turkey Alon Liel told the station that "a new sort of diplomacy" had been invented, and that Lieberman had "made up a new way of reprimanding."...


[bth: very likely designed to sabotage a visit by Obama to Turkey. Such childish diplomacy by Turkey and Israel should be discouraged. Perhaps it is time for some resignations.]

Brits: US Won't Help Allies Beat IEDs

Brits: US Won't Help Allies Beat IEDs: "The United States was accused last night of refusing to share with Britain the latest technology it uses against roadside bombs which have killed scores of Allied troops in Afghanistan.

U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Thomas Metz, who retired last week as the chief officer specialising in countermeasures against the attacks, claims the UK and other Coalition forces have been denied information that could save lives.

Metz has urged the Pentagon to share top-secret methods used by U.S. forces to detect the so-called Improvised Explosive Devices and the terror networks which build them.

But Pentagon chiefs have refused, arguing that if the information falls into the hands of the Taliban, new ways will be found to beat the technology.

IEDs kill more Coalition forces than any other weapon used in Afghanistan.

Metz -- a 61-year-old holder of two Distinguished Service Medals -- described the U.S. as 'very timid' in sharing intelligence. He said: 'If you've got information about the network, you don't have to share how you got that information. But it would surely be nice if your allies and your Coalition partners got that part of the information that they needed to be successful.'

The officer said IEDs were often located using unmanned drone aircraft equipped with sensors to detect where ground has been disturbed to bury explosives. It is understood Britain does not possess this technology. The Americans also use robotic helicopters to track the vehicles of insurgents planting bombs."...

[bth: this needs to be remedied at once]

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Military Deluged in Drone Intelligence - NYTimes.com

Military Deluged in Drone Intelligence - NYTimes.com:... "Air Force drones collected nearly three times as much video over Afghanistan and Iraq last year as in 2007 — about 24 years’ worth if watched continuously. That volume is expected to multiply in the coming years as drones are added to the fleet and as some start using multiple cameras to shoot in many directions.

A group of young analysts already watches every second of the footage live as it is streamed to Langley Air Force Base here and to other intelligence centers, and they quickly pass warnings about insurgents and roadside bombs to troops in the field.

But military officials also see much potential in using the archives of video collected by the drones for later analysis, like searching for patterns of insurgent activity over time. To date, only a small fraction of the stored video has been retrieved for such intelligence purposes."...

Iran subs get boost from North Korea

Iran subs get boost from North Korea: "The U.S. Navy, worried by Iran's increasing underwater capability, has revealed for the first time that the rogue nation has acquired its submarine technology largely from North Korea, which has provided both mini-submarines and manufacturing know-how, according to a report from Joseph Farah's G2 Bulletin.

The revelation comes as the Office of Naval Intelligence, or ONI, recently released its latest report on Iran's conventional navy, with the observation that Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, or IRGC, is working on programs to achieve an underwater stealth capability.

'Submarines will probably remain a key feature of Iran's naval order of battle,' the ONI report said. 'Iran is the only country in the Persian Gulf region with submarines, and Iranian naval leaders have stated publicly that they believe submarines are a better value than other weapons systems.'"...

The ONI report said that Iran had acquired the Kajami and Gahjae-class semi-submersible from North Korea. The North Koreans refer to the Kajami class as the Taedong-B and call the Gahjae-class semi-submersible the Taedong-C.

Iran reportedly has a small number of the Taedong-Bs and Taedong-Cs. Both are said to be equipped with lightweight torpedoes which have a range of between 3.7 miles to 6.2 miles.

These boats are designed to wait, partially submerged, for a target, then attack at high speed on the surface, or approach at high speed and then submerge for the final stage of the attack.

Flyers and UAVs Team Up « New Wars

Flyers and UAVs Team Up « New Wars: ..."[A recent study], done as part of the service’s unmanned aerial systems roadmap, found that manned systems located 70 percent of targets. Combining manned helicopters and unmanned aerial systems (Shadows, for the purposes of the study) led to a sharp increase to 90 percent of targets found and, presumably, killed. That’s the word from Col. Chris Carlile, who is leading the effort to build the Army’s UAS roadmap…

Carlile said one of the sparks for increased effectiveness was the ability of a Shadow UAV to fly point, say, 10 kilometers ahead of the squadron and cue the piloted Kiowas to take out the enemy before the helicopters were spotted.

Wonder if they have the UAV controller within the Kiowa? Then the team could extend their operating radius. This seems to be a strong advocate for pilots to embrace the UAV concept, if the tacticians can think of new ways to deploy them together, manned and unmanned. Could be the drones will eventually displace the pilot altogether, but certainly not yet!"

[bth: a few months ago I got an email supposedly from a Paki helicopter pilot saying that Pakistan was dropping small drones out of their manned helicopters and controlling them from the helicopters to increase their coverage area and overall stealth. This seems like a very practical idea to me.]

Taliban make 'undetectable' bombs out of wood - Asia, World - The Independent

Taliban make 'undetectable' bombs out of wood - Asia, World - The Independent: ...."'The expertise for this new generation of bombs is likely to be coming from foreign fighters from places such as Chechnya,' he said. 'But they are being mass produced in Pakistan and are being wheeled out on an industrial level. You see them everywhere.'

Earlier in the war, IEDs would be mostly triggered by two hack-saw blades separated using a spacer. When the blades were stepped on or driven over they would complete an electronic circuit which so detonated the explosive – often an artillery shell.

Mr Hunter added that the metal saw blades have now also been replaced with graphite blades and the artillery shells with ammonium nitrate. The damage is caused by the power of the blast rather than metal fragments, or shrapnel.

The number of IEDs used in Afghanistan has increased by 400 per cent since 2007 and the number of troops killed by them by 400 per cent, and those wounded by 700 per cent according to a report by a US group called Homeland Security Market Research.

One brigade commander posted to Afghanistan said that sniffer dogs were the most reliable way of detecting IEDs, but this method took a long time and required a lot of animals. Already convoys have to move at very slow speeds while roads ahead are checked for explosives.

He added his troops were becoming 'IED-shy', because of the stress levels created by this new generation of weapons."

Afghanistan mission cost surpasses $525,000 per soldier

Afghanistan mission cost surpasses $525,000 per soldier: "KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan — It costs taxpayers about $525,000 a year to keep one Canadian soldier in Afghanistan, according to the simplest calculation possible, which is to divide the approximately $1.5-billion cost of the mission for the 2009/2010 fiscal year by the 2,850 troops who are part of it.

These figures does not take into account soldiers' salaries and benefits or the long-term health-care costs associated with service in South Asia. They are in line with official Pentagon estimates of what it costs to keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan."...

Suspect: 20 Others Trained to Blow Up Jets - CBS News

Suspect: 20 Others Trained to Blow Up Jets - CBS News: "British Intelligence has confirmed perhaps the most chilling boast that accused Christmas Day bomber Umar Abdulmutallab made to investigators after his arrest: that close to 20 other young Muslim men were being prepared in Yemen to use the same technique to blow up airliners, CBS News chief investigative correspondent Armen Keteyian reports exclusively.

'I think the fact we know that there are other operatives being trained by al Qaeda in Yemen is extremely troubling, and is the most dangerous dimension to come out of the December 25th event,' said CBS News national security analyst Juan Zarate."...