Friday, February 05, 2010

Turkish girl, 16, buried alive for talking to boys

Turkish girl, 16, buried alive for talking to boys | World news |
Turkish police have recovered the body of a 16-year-old girl they say was buried alive by relatives in an "honour" killing carried out as punishment for talking to boys.

The girl, who has been identified only by the initials MM, was found in a sitting position with her hands tied, in a two-metre hole dug under a chicken pen outside her home in Kahta, in the south-eastern province of Adiyaman.

Police made the discovery in December after a tip-off from an informant, the Turkish newspaper Hurriyet reported on its website....

The girl had previously been reported missing.

The informant told the police she had been killed following a family "council" meeting.

Gizmodo: ADE-651 Magic Wand bomb detector is a fraud probably killed hundreds

ADE-651 Magic Wand Bomb Detector Is a Fraud, Probably Killed Hundreds - Bomb Detection - Gizmodo

Jim McCormick promised his ADE-651 wand could identify anything, including bombs, simply by waving it around with the right RFID card inside. Yeah, totally fake, and now he's in prison. Too bad Iraq already spent $85 million on them. Updated.

Literally, the $40,000 (apiece) devices did absolutely nothing. Nada. Zilch. Experts think the insides contained nothing more than a dumb RFID card. Powered by nothing. Nope, not even a power supply. Just some snake oil, if that. $85 million!

Even worse, "inventor" McCormick was a firm, open believer in dowsing (as in, finding water with a stick), and that's what the device was based on. Dowsing!

The BBC ran an investigative report on the device, during which McCormick claimed, without breaking his stride, that the device could detect explosives up to one kilometer away. Video below (money shot at 7:30 when the insides are shown to be empty):

Now the money lost is bad, but the loss of life is worse. Immeasurable. Security personnel and Iraqi soldiers were using these powerless dowsing rod devices in the field to detect bombs at security checkpoints and who knows where else. Scores died with this murderous thing gripped tightly in their hands. Hundreds more when the security checkpoints, armed with these devices, failed to protect them.

Update: We ran the US's doubts on this device in November. This story confirms without a doubt that devices were fake, probably resulted in hundreds of deaths, and that McCormick, thankfully for the human race, has been arrested and is awaiting trial (although he's currently out on bail).

Update 2: The story gets worse. As some have pointed out below, the Iraqi government is standing by these useless devices, even after the BBC report and complaint were filed. [BBC, CrunchGear]

[bth follow the original link to see the YouTube video.  Also see the article below on how we are rushing dogs to Iraq.]

AP Exclusive: US military rushes bomb dogs to Iraq

AP Exclusive: US military rushes bomb dogs to Iraq | Antiwar Newswire
The American military is stepping up the delivery of bomb-sniffing dogs to Iraq with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government under pressure for using equipment that may be ineffective in finding explosives.

The first 25 of 145 trained bomb-detection dogs are due to arrive Friday in Baghdad, Army Maj. Sylvester Wegwu told The Associated Press. The remaining 120 dogs will be delivered over the course of a year, said Wegwu, who works as military adviser to the Baghdad Police College.

The airlift follows a request to the U.S. military from Iraqi officials for more of the trained dogs, signaling that Iraq is looking to use other bomb-detection methods after questions were raised about the capabilities of a wand-like, bomb-detection device widely used at checkpoints across Iraq.

The dogs will be paired with Iraqi police handlers at the college and will undergo training as a team.

The dogs' arrival comes as U.S. and Iraqi officials warn of a possible increase in violence ahead of national elections slated for March 7.

The new Iraqi canine teams could be deployed within 45 days, with a handful of them out on Baghdad's streets ahead of the vote, said police Brig. Gen. Mohammad Mesheb Hajea, who oversees the training program.

Iraqi forces have been reluctant to expand the use of bomb-sniffing dogs until recently because of Muslim traditions that view dogs as unclean.

The dogs will be used to search cars, buildings and other areas, though they will not be used to check people for explosives unless a specific individual is a suspected bomber, Hajea said.

"Our culture is different from the European culture and the American culture," said Hajea, who also runs his own veterinary clinic in Baghdad. Gen. Raymond Odierno, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, has said Iraqi authorities have requested scanners capable of looking inside sealed portions of vehicles in addition to the dog teams....

[bth: so here as an article that had potential but then hid the real story.  So for several years the Iraqi government has been buying these 'wands' made in the UK which were totally bogus detection devices.  They had no more predictive power than a ouiji board or a divining wand which is in fact what they were with a small battery.  It was purchased by an Iraqi minister who was taking milllions in kickbacks.  This has been known in the community for several years but no one really wanted to address the corruption issue though at trade shows vendors scoffed and laughed and the tragedy of the whole thing which was also being repeated in Lebanon.  So in 2009 the story broke, I think in Wired, about this total fraud on the Iraqi people and a fraud paid for with US tax dollars designed to assist the Iraqis.  But the charges were denied and the fraud continued.  So now a bunch of religious pilgrims are being blown up by car bombers and suicide bombers passing undetected to their targets.  So now we are rushing dogs.  Well the mark up and fraud on dogs never was as high as on 'wands' so guess what?  They weren't fielded until now.  The religious issues are the fig leaf used to mask the fraud and corruption that killed these pilgrims.  So why doesn't the AP's Chelsea Carter complete the story?  Its there for the taking - Iraqi ministerial corruption combined with UK corporate fraud and kickbacks allow bombers to kill innocent Iraqi civilians?  Where is the reporting and the outrage?]

US to share anti-bomb equipment, tech with NATO

US to share anti-bomb equipment, tech with NATO | Antiwar Newswire
The U.S. is considering a plan that would give NATO allies access to some of the equipment and expertise used by American troops to deter roadside bombs.

Much of the U.S. technology and know-how regarding "improvised explosive devices" — remotely detonated bombs that have plagued military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan — has been highly classified. But U.S. officials attending NATO meetings here this week said there is a bigger push now to share technology with allies, in part because NATO members are sending more of their troops to Afghanistan in coming months.

Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell said Defense Secretary Robert Gates wants to "push the system" to determine how much of the classified technology can be shared. Gates was expected to discuss the issue in more detail this week while attending NATO meetings here.

"He is very sensitive to the fact that our troops are not the only ones being targeted by an increase in IED attacks," and "do all (he) can possibly do to share our expertise developed over the last eight hard-fought years with our friends and allies who have boots on the ground in Afghanistan," Morrell said.

While the U.S. has not said what equipment could be shared, it has relied heavily on armored Humvees and the mine-resistant, ambush-protective armored vehicle, or MRAP, to protect its troops during patrols. Much of the bomb-resistant technology will follow U.S. troops from Iraq, where President Barack Obama has ordered a drawdown, to Afghanistan, where some 30,000 more troops are being deployed by fall....

[bth: We need to protect NATO allies as well as our own troops in Afghanistan from IEDs.  Sec. Gates will have to intervene to solve this log jam.  The Navy Sec. in 2006 classified huge chunks of IED countermeasures in an attempt to prevent the public from finding out how few jammers had actually been issued - about 200 when thousands had been funded in April 2006.  It followed a particularly embarrassing exchange between Rep. Taylor and Rumsfeld in a HASC hearing where Taylor accused Rumsfeld of lying to Congress over the actual deployment of these systems.  Shortly thereafter the information was classified.  Unfortunately the insurgents could tell which vehicles had jammers because of the equipment was visible on the vehicle and they were targeting those without the equipment, so the only people who were taken out of the loop were the American people who cared about the troops they sent to war.  Now that sweeping classification has stunted the deployment of techniques and equipment necessary to save lives of Americans and allies.  It has made contracting for these agencies extremely difficult, redundant, wasteful and slow.  But since its out of sight out of mind it is above public scrutiny.  It also means that our allies get blown up.  If the Canadians and Dutch are willing to send troops to assist us in Afghanistan, don't we owe them an obligation to protect them?  A few years ago, our troops were leaving blood clotting packages on the loading docks for Canadian soldiers to steal because they didn't have this gear.  What is different about jammers often collaboratively developed with their companies? If Ret. Gen. Metz hadn't made a statement in Europe recently asking that this technology be shared and done it publicly this topic and the needless deaths that result amongst our allies will continue.  We can do better than this and Sec. Gates needs to step in and fix the problem like he did with jammers and MRAPs a coupleo of years ago.]

Taliban threat appears to have been overstated and limited to Pashtuns

...Afghanistan: General Stanley McChrystal, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, said 4 February that while the situation in Afghanistan still is serious, it is no longer deteriorating, Reuters reported. McChrystal said U.S. and NATO forces in the country have not yet "turned the corner" on stability but that the situation has improved from last summer.

Comment: The NightWatch analysis reported months ago is that the Taliban have failed to expand beyond their Pashtun base. Detailed reports on combat in the past two weeks continue to reinforce the conclusion that the Taliban have failed to evolve into a revolutionary movement of broad appeal and, thus, have peaked.

There also is no sign of a large Taliban combat surge this winter, despite some ISAF predictions to the contrary in December, which have proven to be inaccurate. This winter is a lot like most of the past. The anti-government fighters appear to be riding out the winter, with the occasional sensational attack by the Haqqani syndicate. Most of the fighting in January appears to be NATO-initiated....

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Pakistan Blast Kills US Troops and Children

Pakistan Blast Kills U.S. Troops, Children, Say Local Officials
SHAHI KOTO, Pakistan — A roadside bomb killed 3 U.S. soldiers and flattened a girls' school in northwest Pakistan on Wednesday in an attack that drew attention to a little-publicized American military training mission in the al-Qaida and Taliban heartland.

They were the first known U.S. military fatalities in Pakistan's lawless tribal regions near the Afghan border, and a major victory for militants who have been hit hard by a surge of U.S. missile strikes and a major Pakistani army offensive.

The blast also killed three schoolgirls and a Pakistani soldier who was traveling with the Americans. Two more U.S. soldiers were wounded, along with more than 70 other people, mostly students, officials said.

Real Life Hurt Locker

The Real-Life Hurt Locker - Page 2 - The Daily Beast
...The scenes from The Hurt Locker that struck Colomer as the most relatable were those showing an EOD soldier struggling to adjust to life back home: a man learning to walk freely down the street after being in a place where danger lurks under every pile of trash.

“It was amazing, because I was still in that state of mind for…you know what? I still haven’t 100 percent gotten over it. For a good six months to a year, driving along the road, I was eyeballing things on the side of the road.”

“I’d drive around certain things—piles of garbage, maybe a car that was stopped.”

“I still have trust issues with large crowds of people because I can’t control them. You go to Walmart right before Christmas, normal people want to rip their hair out.”

“I want to rip my hair out because I don’t trust anybody around me.”

Colomer added, “I’ve got this feeling in the back of my head that somebody wants to kill me.”

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

Why the Republican Party is self limiting with ignorance

Large Portion Of GOP Thinks Obama Is Racist, Socialist, Non-U.S. Citizen: Poll
Nevertheless here are some of the standout figures as provided by Daily Kos/Research 2000:

* 39 percent of Republicans believe Obama should be impeached, 29 percent are not sure, 32 percent said he should not be voted out of office.

* 36 percent of Republicans believe Obama was not born in the United States, 22 percent are not sure, 42 percent think he is a natural citizen.

* 31 percent of Republicans believe Obama is a "Racist who hates White people" -- the description once adopted by Fox News's Glenn Beck. 33 percent were not sure, and 36 percent said he was not a racist.

* 63 percent of Republicans think Obama is a socialist, 16 percent are not sure, 21 percent say he is not

* 24 percent of Republicans believe Obama wants "the terrorists to win," 33 percent aren't sure, 43 percent said he did not want the terrorist to win.

* 21 percent of Republicans believe ACORN stole the 2008 election, 55 percent are not sure, 24 percent said the community organizing group did not steal the election.

* 23 percent of Republicans believe that their state should secede from the United States, 19 percent aren't sure, 58 percent said no.

* 53 percent of Republicans said they believe Sarah Palin is more qualified to be president than Obama.

Packers Fan Announces He Will Return To Drinking For Another Season

Scorpions - Winds of Change

Pak offers to train Afghan soldiers

Pakistan Offers to Train Afghan Soldiers -
The chief of Pakistan's powerful military offered his country's help in training Afghan soldiers, and suggested his forces were already acting against a major staging area for Taliban fighters battling U.S. and allied forces in Afghanistan.

The military is Pakistan's most powerful institution, and the comments from Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, made during a rare briefing Monday for reporters, appeared to signal the South Asian nation's increased willingness to publicly cooperate with U.S. efforts to beat back the Taliban. While the two allies have had years of cooperation—especially between their intelligence services—much of it has gone on behind the scenes, shielded from Pakistan's deeply anti-American public.

At the same time, many U.S. officials have suspected Pakistan clandestinely aids the Taliban in hopes of using it as a proxy to maintain its influence in Afghanistan.

Pakistan denies supporting or sheltering the Taliban, and the apparent shift by Pakistan toward greater cooperation with the U.S. in Afghanistan comes as it grapples with a separate, but related, Taliban insurgency in its northwestern mountains. The shift also comes amid mounting U.S. pressure to move against major Afghan Taliban factions based in Pakistan.

Gen. Kayani said Pakistan has committed about 140,000 soldiers to fight the militants and "we are overstretched."...

Gen. Kayani's offer appeared to be in part driven by a desire to limit the influence in Afghanistan of India, Pakistan's larger and more powerful rival. For months, Pakistan has been awash in rumors—still unsubstantiated—that India may begin training Afghan forces.

Gen. Kayani insisted that an environment hostile to Pakistan in Afghanistan could strain his own country's battle against extremism. While he didn't mention India by name, the statement appeared to be a reference to New Delhi's growing ties to the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Both rivals are nuclear-armed. But Pakistan's military has long seen Afghanistan as providing what is known as "strategic depth"—allowing the nation some territorial cushion in case of a war with India.

"We want a strategic depth in Afghanistan but do not want to control it," Gen. Kayani said. "A peaceful and friendly Afghanistan can provide Pakistan a strategic depth."

He also expressed concern that Afghanistan's army could be a threat if it grew larger than 250,000 soldiers and developed the capabilities needed to attack Pakistan.

An Afghan defense ministry spokesman said his country's army was intended for defensive purposes only. The U.S. and its allies plan to train 171,600 Afghan soldiers by the end of Oct. 2011, and officials say the numbers could grow in the following years.

—Alan Cullison in Kabul contributed to this article.

[bth: I can't imagine not saying yes to this proposal.]

These are very encouraging signs in my opinion for the Afghn Army

U.S. makes small strides in getting Afghan army fighting fit, but hurdles remain -
..."For basic trainees, they're disciplined," Capt. David Gregory, a native of Richmond, said while watching a training exercise. "It's everything you can hope for from basic-training soldiers."

But the Afghan army has a long way to go if Obama is to meet his stated goal of beginning a withdrawal of U.S. forces in July.

At the moment, American military officers say, the Afghan army numbers about 102,000, which means 32,000 soldiers have to be added over the next 10 months. Recruitment levels are high -- the pace nearly doubled in December, mainly because the United States doubled the pay for new Afghan soldiers to $140 a month, with a bonus if they serve in volatile provinces such as Helmand.

That amount, American officials said, is comparable with what the Taliban is paying its recruits.

The U.S. military is also experimenting with electronic payment and mobile banking -- allowing Afghan forces to be paid and to transfer funds through their mobile phones -- to avoid the problem of soldiers leaving their posts on payday to take cash back to their families.

Because of the pay increase, officials said, 4,000 Afghan recruits are waiting in the pipeline, without enough trainers to take them in. As more American troops arrive, the United States hopes to clear the backlog.

The biggest problem among recruits during their eight-week basic training course is illiteracy.

Only about 14 percent of the new recruits are literate, leaving most unable to read simple instructions for a weapon, a map or a road sign. In addition to classes in marksmanship and hand-to-hand combat, the training program includes courses in basic literacy.

"Just getting them to read at the third-grade level is our goal," said Marine Col. Gregory T. Breazile, a spokesman for Lt. Gen. William B. Caldwell IV, the commander in charge of training Afghan forces....

[bth: at $140 per month for an Afghan soldier vs. $1 MM per year for a US soldier in Afghanistan, one can conclude that training them is a great investment.  As to literacy, we've trained illiterate armies in our past and with our allies many times.  One need also remember that as illiterate as they are, they likely speak one more more local dialects which is one or more than most US soldiers.  So our allies can't read and we can't speak to a local.  Clear no nonsense room for improvemnet.]