Saturday, February 13, 2010
The Fiqh Council of North America — a body of Islamic scholars — issued a fatwa this week that says going through the airport scanners would violate Islamic rules on modesty."...
[bth: then don't fly]
..."'As long as she's writing reminders on her hand may I suggest one more: buy condoms.' --Bill Maher, in a Tweet
'Maybe Sarah Palin would be smarter if she had bigger hands.' --Jimmy Kimmel
'On Saturday, Sarah Palin looked at notes written on her hand during a speech at the Tea Party Convention in Tennessee. Isn't that wild? Oddly enough, she was reading, 'Hi, I'm Sarah Palin.'' --Jimmy Fallon
'Sarah Palin's also getting criticized because last week she demanded that Obama's chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, step down because he used the word retarded. But then, Rush Limbaugh did the same thing on his radio show and that, she said, was O.K. Unfortunately, she's been unable to respond to the criticism because she's wearing mittens.' -Jimmy Kimmel
Stephen Colbert defended Palin's use of hand notes by pointing to a note scrawled on his own hand, which read 'thumb,' with an arrow pointing to his thumb. Later in the segment, Colbert also used Palin's defense of Rush Limbaugh against her, proudly pronouncing that 'Sarah Palin is a f--king retard.'"...
"It was so cold in Washington that the new senator from Massachusetts, Scott Brown, was actually wearing pants." -David Letterman...
"Well, congratulations to the world champion New Orleans Saints for winning the Super Bowl. That's the best thing to happen to New Orleans since George Bush left office." -Jay Leno
"Did everybody watch the Super Bowl? Everybody's happy for New Orleans. In fact, FEMA announced plans to congratulate them in about two weeks." -Jimmy Fallon
"President Obama just held his first monthly bipartisan meeting and said that working together on jobs would be a good place to start. You know where else would have been a good place to start? A year ago." -Jimmy Fallon
"And just two weeks before he is scheduled to go to Nevada to campaign for Harry Reid, President Obama said Las Vegas is a place of excess that people should not visit during hard times. I guess the president feels if you want to see people cavorting with prostitutes and wasting your money, go to Washington." -Jay Leno..
[bth: while the rest of the article is a babble, this paragraph says a lot. When Murtha spoke about military affairs and in particular when he criticized it, people across the country and in particular in Washington stood up and listened because of who he was and what he cared about. John Murtha told me in early 2004 that he didn't give a damn about what generals told him - they were all liars as far as he was concerned. What he did was go to Walter Reed and ask soldiers what equipment they needed. This cut the crap. Murtha did that. He was no saint, that's for sure. But he did care about enlisted soldiers and marines far more than then generals, Bush or Cheney. I was around Walter Reed a lot that couple of years, there were only a few congressmen and senators that consistently came and actually cared about the wounded and their families. It wasn't McCain or the usual posers. It was Murtha, Young and his wife, Kennedy and in later years Webb, Taylor, Jack Reed - but namely Murtha and Young's wife were their advocates. At one point Young's wife was actually kicked off campus for complaining about bad care and facilities - something that later came back to haunt the Army when the Walter Reed scandal broke a couple of years later. The big mouths like Malkin are just noise as far as I'm concerned. It is what people do, not what they say that make a difference. For Murtha, the enlisted personnel, especially the wounded, and his poor and economically destroyed district, these were his constituents, his reason for being who and what he was.]
Friday, February 12, 2010
The Foreign Ministry said port officials prevented the Techint vessel from leaving because of evidence that its cargo of Argentine-made seamless tubes would be used for drilling activity 'illegitimately promoted' by Britain in the sea surrounding the islands.
The ministry said the boat visited Port Stanley, the islands' capital, last month without securing Argentine permission.
Last week Argentina formally objected to the start of oil and gas exploration in the islands, which the government calls the Malvinas and considers to be its own despite losing a war with Britain over the territory in 1982.
Techint, the world's biggest producer of seamless steel tubing for the oil industry, denied that the tubes were destined for the Falklands. It said they were headed to destinations in the Mediterranean and companies that have no operations in the disputed area.
Argentina took the South Atlantic islands by force in April 1982, and 649 of its soldiers and 258 British soldiers were killed before it surrendered two months later.
Both countries have filed claims with international organizations over rights to the seabed surrounding the islands."
Thursday, February 11, 2010
Proposals from industry are requested by DARPA by 21 February to demonstrate in 2012 or 2013 an unmanned component for a next-generation close air support system. The complete system may eventually assume a role now traditionally served by the Fairchild A-10 and other manned fighters, such as the Boeing F/A-18 and Lockheed Martin F-16.
More recently, armed unmanned air systems, including the General Atomics MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper, have performed close air support missions, firing missiles on enemy forces in contact with friendly troops in addition to their surveillance roles."...
[bth: the issue is not technical it is bureaucratic. There are no machine guns on UAVs. One should ask why not? No good answer other than the Air Force is keeping UAVs away from a "man's" job of close air support.]
The Taliban posted to the Net the following statement, “After assessing the enemy's new technology, the mine makers and explosives experts of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan modified the types and construction of their bombs. They now have adopted such a technology which the enemy detection equipment cannot detect.”
”A bomb making expert of the Islamic Emirate told the Al-Emarah website: 'The mojahedin have now made a special remote-controlled bomb called Omar which is more powerful then the other mines. The main characteristic of this bomb is that it is more difficult to detect. The mojahedin have tested this new remote-controlled bomb and the results have been positive. We have used this bomb in various parts of the country against the enemy mine-detector vehicles and the results were successful.'
”He said their technique was very simple and cost little and that they can make a powerful bomb. An average mine costs only 85 dollars which is not that much, but in turn it inflicts millions of dollars worth of damage on the enemy in addition to the loss of life.”"...
Steganography has positive implications – concealing sources for journalists, talking without government censorship – but it’s also a potential hiding point for terrorists. A 2001 USA Today article described fake eBay listings in which routinely altered pictures of a sewing machine contained malevolent cargo.“ Which side VoIP helps more, remains to be seen."
[bth: perhaps this is why Russia has been going after Skype so aggressively.]
It is not clear whether China’s motive is simple risk aversion in the wake of a sharp widening of corporate and mortgage spreads during the past two weeks, or whether there also is a political dimension. With the expected termination of the Federal Reserve’s special facility to purchase mortgage-backed securities next month, some asset-backed spreads already have blown out, and the Chinese institutions may simply be trying to get out of the way of a widening. There is some speculation that China’s action has to do with the recent deterioration of US-Chinese relations over arm sales to Taiwan and other issues. That would be an unusual action for the Chinese to take–Beijing does not mix investment and strategic policy–and would be hard to substantiate in any event."
U.S. officials have not disclosed how many Afghan and allied troops will take part in the battle but estimates range in the thousands. They also include British forces and U.S. soldiers from the 5th Strykers, which will intercept Taliban fighters trying to flee the town.
Story continues below
The major threat is expected to come from thousands of mines and roadside bombs, which the military calls improvised explosive devices, which the Taliban are believed to have planted in the area.
'This may be the largest IED threat and largest minefield that NATO has ever faced,' said Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson, commander of Marines in southern Afghanistan.
The U.S.-Afghan force led by the 5th Strykers found it slow going through the mines and roadside bombs as they pushed south toward Marjah, delaying their linkup with the Marines. When the Army force reached the rendezvous area, Marines popped violet-colored smoke grenades to mark their positions for the American soldiers.
Canadian advisers with the Afghan units set off yellow smoke so the Marines would know they were friendly forces.
Lt. Col. Burton Shields, commanding officer of the 4th Battalion, 23rd Infantry Regiment of the 5th Strykers, said the force had faced 'harassing attacks' by groups of seven to nine insurgents.
'They're trying to buy time to move their leaders out of the area,' he said."
[bth: Nicholson gives an interview an hour it seems. One wonders if this has become a huge PR stunt?]
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
"Sad are the eyes
Yet no tears
The flight of the wild geese
Brings a new hope
Rescued from all this
And those newly found
What chance to make it last
When there's danger all around
And reason just ups and disappears
Time is running out
So much to be done
Tell me what more
What more can we do.
There were promises made
Plans firmly laid
Now madness prevails
And lies fill the air.
What more, Oh
What more can we do.
What chance to make it last
What more can we do."
NATO and Afghan officials, meanwhile, urged militants holding Marjah, where an offensive is expected, to lay down their arms and warned civilians there to 'keep your heads down.'
About 400 U.S. troops from the 5th Stryker Brigade as well as 250 Afghan soldiers and their 30 Canadian trainers moved into positions northeast of the town.
No casualties were reported. Large plumes of smoke could be seen in the area, and reporters traveling with the U.S. unit could hear the distant rattle of 50-caliber machine gun fire and detonations from MK-19s, which fire 40 millimeter grenades from Stryker vehicles.
U.S. officials have not said when the main attack on the town of some 80,000 people will take place but have nonetheless heavily publicized plans to attack, causing hundreds of people to flee the opium-producing center in advance of the fighting.
On Tuesday, however, Taliban militants prevented townspeople from leaving Marjah, as families huddled inside their homes, witnesses said.
The offensive will be the first major one since President Barack Obama announced he was sending 30,000 reinforcements to Afghanistan."....
[bth: so by telegraphing this move, we're walking into a mine field and the townspeople are now trapped and held hostage by IED and Taliban. I fail to see how we benefit from such a lack of operational security.]
So what is the engine that will pull the U.S. back onto a strong growth path? That turns out to be a hard question. The New York Times columnist Paul Krugman, who fears a lost decade, said in a lecture at the London School of Economics last summer that he has “no idea” how the economy could quickly return to strong, sustainable growth. Mark Zandi, the chief economist at Moody’s Economy.com, told the Associated Press last fall, “I think the unemployment rate will be permanently higher, or at least higher for the foreseeable future. The collective psyche has changed as a result of what we’ve been through. And we’re going to be different as a result.”"
One big reason that the economy stabilized last summer and fall is the stimulus; the Congressional Budget Office estimates that without the stimulus, growth would have been anywhere from 1.2 to 3.2 percentage points lower in the third quarter of 2009. The stimulus will continue to trickle into the economy for the next couple of years, but as a concentrated force, it’s largely spent. Christina Romer, the chair of President Obama’s Council of Economic Advisers, said last fall, “By mid-2010, fiscal stimulus will likely be contributing little to further growth,” adding that she didn’t expect unemployment to fall significantly until 2011. That prediction has since been echoed, more or less, by the Federal Reserve and Goldman Sachs.
The economy now sits in a hole more than 10 million jobs deep—that’s the number required to get back to 5 percent unemployment, the rate we had before the recession started, and one that’s been more or less typical for a generation. And because the population is growing and new people are continually coming onto the job market, we need to produce roughly 1.5 million new jobs a year—about 125,000 a month—just to keep from sinking deeper.
Even if the economy were to immediately begin producing 600,000 jobs a month—more than double the pace of the mid-to-late 1990s, when job growth was strong—it would take roughly two years to dig ourselves out of the hole we’re in. The economy could add jobs that fast, or even faster—job growth is theoretically limited only by labor supply, and a lot more labor is sitting idle today than usual. But the U.S. hasn’t seen that pace of sustained employment growth in more than 30 years. And given the particulars of this recession, matching idle workers with new jobs—even once economic growth picks up—seems likely to be a particularly slow and challenging process.
The construction and finance industries, bloated by a decade-long housing bubble, are unlikely to regain their former share of the economy, and as a result many out-of-work finance professionals and construction workers won’t be able to simply pick up where they left off when growth returns—they’ll need to retrain and find new careers. (For different reasons, the same might be said of many media professionals and auto workers.) And even within industries that are likely to bounce back smartly, temporary layoffs have generally given way to the permanent elimination of jobs, the result of workplace restructuring. Manufacturing jobs have of course been moving overseas for decades, and still are; but recently, the outsourcing of much white-collar work has become possible. Companies that have cut domestic payrolls to the bone in this recession may choose to rebuild them in Shanghai, Guangzhou, or Bangalore, accelerating off-shoring decisions that otherwise might have occurred over many years....
[bth: an article worth reading in full]
The Stratech Aeronautics Pte. Ltd joint venture was unveiled on 2 February during a ceremony at the Singapore Airshow, but the terms of the deal remain under negotiation, says David K.M. Chew, executive chairman of Stratech.
Chew also declined to comment on the percentage of each firm's ownership stake in the new joint venture.
The partnership provides a strong base for introducing Aeronautics' various unmanned air and surface vehicles in the Asia-Pacific market. The joint venture will both market and build Aeronautics' products for delivery to future Asian customers."...
[bth: UAV technology is migrating globally very very quickly.]
Tuesday, February 09, 2010
“We will not fight them face-to-face,” insisted the commander, “we will shake their hands, as civilians. Then they will leave.” With US officials telegraphing the invasion for the past month, insurgents have had plenty of time to prepare roadside bombs and whatnot for the troops.
In the meantime, the Marjah civilians continue to flock out of the region, at least the ones who have been able to get out. The refugees say nearly much of the population remains trapped as roadside bombs have made the region impassable.
Beyond the repeated threats in the media, the US has also been papering the region with leaflets vowing an impending invasion. The exact content of the leaflets was not made public, but refugees said they urged local militant commanders (several of which were listed by name) to flee or be killed.
There have been growing questions about the wisdom of the US strategy of pledging the invasion for a solid month before actually sending the troops in, as whether the Taliban choose to “blend in” or fight, they have been given an enormous amount of advanced notice to dig in."
U.S.-led NATO forces are planning one of the 8-year-old war's biggest offensives to seize Marjah, a patchwork of desert canals and opium fields that is now the last large Taliban-held bastion in Helmand, Afghanistan's most violent province.
The assault, the first since U.S. President Barack Obama ordered 30,000 extra troops to Afghanistan in December, is the start of a campaign to impose government control on rebel-held areas this year, before U.S. forces start to draw down in 2011.
Western countries hope military success this year will persuade Taliban fighters to lay down arms and their leaders to accept invitations to talk.
Hundreds of civilians have fled, but most of the area's population, estimated at up to 100,000, remain in their homes in the face of what could be an unprecedented level of fighting."...
[bth: why on earth would we expect an unprecedented level of fighting? We've telegraphed our move, the force size, composition, order of battle and the general time? Besides leaving their IEDs and booby traps why would the Taliban hang around? They can just melt into the background. This is becoming a PR stunt for both sides.]
Shelby had placed 'holds' on most of Obama's nominees, delaying the Senate from acting on them, in a dispute over federal spending involving his state.
'The purpose of placing numerous holds was to get the White House's attention on two issues that are critical to our national security – the Air Force's aerial refueling tanker acquisition and the FBI's Terrorist Device Analytical Center,' Shelby spokesman Jonathan Graffeo said in a statement Monday night.
Shelby wants the tanker and the new FBI explosives center to be built in Alabama. Senators frequently block individual appointments, but Shelby's blanket hold was unusual.
Now that he has gotten Obama's attention, Graffeo said, 'Sen. Shelby has decided to release his holds on all but a few nominees directly related to the Air Force tanker acquisition.'
White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said Friday, 'If you needed one example of what's wrong with this town, it might be that one senator can hold up 70 qualified individuals to make government better because he didn't get his earmarks.'"...
[bth: Shelby is a thug. What does he expect to happen, to have the tanker deal thrown to Alabama by shaking down the federal government?]
Monday, February 08, 2010
Commanders of the Afghan military have been involved at every level of planning. Moshtarak means “together” in Dari, which is spoken in Afghanistan.
The most ferocious fighting is expected to be in the locations that were partially cleared of the Taliban in last summer’s offensive.
Gen Richards warned that casualties were inevitable and told The Sunday Telegraph: “A population-centric strategy, such as General McCrystal is now correctly employing, requires us to secure the people from insurgent influence and attack.
“This cannot be achieved by simply putting up barriers. One has to be prepared physically to drive the insurgents out of their bomb factories and safe havens, in the process inflicting a psychological blow to them that will concurrently reassure the population. There are inevitably risks but, well conducted as this will be, the gains are considerable. Offensive operations like Moshtarak are a key part of any counter-insurgency campaign.”
In phase one of the mission about 5,000 British and US troops secured areas around Kandahar. Further “shaping” operations have already been conducted by the Grenadier Guards battlegroup and troops from the Coldstream Guards and the Royal Welsh.
Until the arrival of 21,000 US troops, British forces did not have enough soldiers to hold the ground they won from the Taliban. In Operation Panther’s Claw last summer, vast areas of the Green Zone – the heavily populated plain that neighbours Helmand river — were cleared of insurgents. But once the British and Nato troops withdrew to their bases, the Taliban returned.
Villagers in the path of the fighting viewed the impending assault with apprehension."...
[bth: again this article points out the weaknesses - helicopters - it shows the trucks lines up. It provides commander names, order of battle. What operational security is there? And as to IEDs, the only thing the Brits are going to find is those that are implanted for them to step on or drive over as the IED factories in that town have already had a going out of business sale. As to catching bad guys, well they will be long gone. This is shaping up to be a PR stunt for both sides - UK, US and Afghan infantry are going to pay a price from IED injuries for this stunt which will make generals looks good and otherwise seems to serve little purpose.]
Armoured columns have already left the base to take up position before the operation starts.
They form part of the 4,000 strong British force that will soon launch Operation Moshtarak the biggest assault ever mounted against the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Soldiers of 1st Bn The Royal Welsh have been rehearsing their drills before the "step off" for the attack against a Taliban force in an area where an estimated 300 fighters are dug in.
As they wait to commence battle, ducking out of major thunder storms and flooding, their officers have given motivating speeches telling the men that Moshtarak could prove the decisive turning point in Helmand and beyond.
"Be under no illusion under what we do over the next few weeks is hugely important," Major Ed Hill told the men of B Company, as they undertook battle preparations.
"There is a huge amount of interest in how this operation works. If successful it will be used as a springboard for Helmand and then across the rest of Afghanistan."
As he spoke as soldiers underwent intense briefings for the push against the remaining Taliban strongholds in central Helmand that have remained free from government control for decades....
[bth: this article reveals a total lack of operational security.]
In a sign of those strains, NATO-led forces said Sunday they had arrested a deputy provincial police chief they accused of helping insurgents place roadside bombs north of Kabul.
Officials in Kapisa province defended Attaullah Wahab, saying he was an honest and good officer.
NATO said Wahab was arrested Friday in the Kapisa provincial capital of Mahmud-i-Raqi for involvement in the storage, distribution and planting of roadside bombs as well as corruption related to road reconstruction.
Telegraphing the Marjah offensive has raised concerns that the Taliban might plant more bombs – known as improvised explosive devices or IEDs – to inflict casualties on the attackers.
'The number of IEDs around the country went very high in 2009, so we do expect a very large number of IEDs,' McChrystal said.
Reflecting the danger, a bomb detonated by remote control struck an Afghan patrol in Kandahar on Sunday, killing three policemen, according to a local policeman, Mohammad Razaq.
Two Swedish soldiers and a locally hired interpreter were killed by small arms fire near Mazar-e-Sharif in northern Afghanistan."
[bth: read the article. we're dropping leafelets. there is no surprise in this move what ever. why not?]
Sunday, February 07, 2010
FBI Director Robert Mueller supports storing Internet users' 'origin and destination information,' a bureau attorney said at a federal task force meeting on Thursday.
As far back as a 2006 speech, Mueller had called for data retention on the part of Internet providers, and emphasized the point two years later when explicitly asking Congress to enact a law making it mandatory. But it had not been clear before that the FBI was asking companies to begin to keep logs of what Web sites are visited, which few if any currently do.
The FBI is not alone in renewing its push for data retention. As CNET reported earlier this week, a survey of state computer crime investigators found them to be nearly unanimous in supporting the idea. Matt Dunn, an Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent in the Department of Homeland Security, also expressed support for the idea during the task force meeting."...
[bth: free speech isn't taken from us by a foreign power. It is removed from us by our own government. We need to say no to such unwarranted searches. I don't understand why we are so willing to relinquish our hard fought rights.]
The Speaker’s office offers this chart:
That’s rates. There’s also levels:
This is the crux of the matter. The policies we’ve been pursuing look to have had some efficacy. The situation is, in fact, turning around. But the scale has been inadequate to the size of the problem and consequently problems are still very severe. “Things are better than they would have been had we done what the other guys wanted” is an okay argument for wonks. But wonks and regular people alike would be more persuaded by “conditions are actually good now thanks to us.”
[bth: an article worth reading in full]
The MV Rim was seized in the Gulf of Aden, outside the internationally recommended transit corridor patrolled by the anti-piracy naval coalition, said Cmdr. Anders Kallin of the EU Naval Force.
The MV Rim has not had any communication with maritime authorities, but Kallin said an American warship, the USS Porter, and a helicopter from American warship USS Farragut confirmed the seizure of the ship to the EU."...
[bth: if an intelligence community wanted to hijack a ship from N. Korea and not get blamed for it, doing it off the Somali coast would be a thought. Just saying]
Small, Fast, And Shallow
As previously mentioned on the USNI blog, USNS Comfort arrived off the coast of Haiti slightly over 88 hours after the earthquake. In that time, the converted oil tanker, manned by only a skeleton crew, was stocked with supplies, staffed with medical personnel from multiple services and NGOs, and sailed down the Atlantic coast. In getting the massive ship from a pier in New England to a disaster zone in the Caribbean, the crew proved themselves to be true professionals. Impressive is not strong enough a word to describe their accomplishment, it was Herculean. And, that is the problem.
To maximize effectiveness, rapid arrival on station after a disaster should occur because of the ship’s design, not in spite of it. Hospital ships must be small, fast, and shallow. They must operate in areas with small, damaged, or no ports. They must navigate waterways littered with debris without assistance and anchor in the shallow waters close to shore. Most importantly, hospital ships must be fast. Arriving in the first 24 hours is orders of magnitude more helpful than arriving in the first 48 hours, or 88."...
[bth: this is a great article and discussion thread well worth reading in full.]
At the end of the meeting yesterday, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner told reporters, “I just want to underscore they made it clear to us, they the European authorities, that they will manage this [the Greek debt crisis] with great care.”
But the Europeans are not being careful – and it’s not just about Greece any more. Worries about government debt and associated public sector liabilities (e.g., because banking systems are in deep trouble) have spread through the eurozone to Spain and Portugal. Ireland and Italy are next up for hostile reconsideration by the markets, and the UK may not be far behind.
What are the stronger European countries, specifically Germany and France, doing to contain the self-fulfilling fear that weaker eurozone countries may not be able to pay their debt – this panic that pushes up interest rates and makes it harder for beleaguered governments to actually pay?
The Europeans with deep-pockets are doing nothing – except insist that all countries under pressure cut their budgets quickly and in ways that are probably politically infeasible. This kind of precipitate fiscal austerity contributed directly to the onset of the Great Depression in the 1930s."...
[bth: going down for the second time]