Saturday, March 06, 2010
Gates made the pledge to lawmakers after receiving a letter from Carl Levin, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, who urged the defense secretary to reconsider awarding a possible one billion dollar contract to the firm, now known as Xe, due to allegations of wrongdoing.
'He is looking into it and he takes it seriously,' press secretary Geoff Morrell told reporters Friday.
Gates has told the senator that 'he shares his (Levin's) concerns,' Morrell said.
The letter dated February 25 and released publicly on Thursday notes that the Defense Department is reportedly preparing to give a contract to Xe for 'highly sensitive work' to train Afghan national police, despite its controversial record in Iraq and amid fresh allegations of misconduct."...
[bth: what does it take to get these guys off the payroll? Good grief. Fire these bastards once and for all.]
The strike on militant hideouts in the country's tribal region killed Taliban leader Fateh Mohammad, Interior Minister Rehman Malik told Pakistani station Express TV."...
[bth: I wonder if this was a test run of the laser guided bombs we just delivered.]
Friday, March 05, 2010
The proposed military budget for 2010 is 532.1 billion yuan (77.9 billion dollars/57.3 billion euros), up 7.5 percent from actual defence spending in 2009, a government spokesman said.
The figure breaks a string of double-digit increases going back many years that has caused worry among China's neighbours and the United States over the intent of an effort to rapidly upgrade its once-backward armed forces.
'China is committed to peace,' Li Zhaoxing, spokesman for the National People's Congress (NPC), said in unveiling a figure he called 'reasonable.'"...
Their report, The Year of the Drone, studied 114 drone raids in which more than 1200 people were killed. Of those, between 549 and 849 were reliably reported to be militant fighters, while the rest were civilians.
'The true civilian fatality rate since 2004 according to our analysis is approximately 32 per cent,' the foundation reported."...
[bth: this is probably lower than the average during ground operations. Last number I seem to recall on ground operations]
According to Turner's lawyer, the shock jock was specially trained to incite fringe individuals. 'His job was basically to publish information which would cause other parties to act in a manner which would lead to their arrest,' attorney Michael Orozco said.
Turner's famously vile broadcasts began in 2002, though the one-time Pat Buchanan campaign coordinator did not begin his relationship with the FBI until 2003. Before Turner began his work in radio, he was a frequent guest on the Sean Hannity radio show in New Jersey. Turner ceased broadcasting in 2008 amid an investigation into his increasingly violent rhetoric."...
[bth: So the FBI paid him $100K to incite extremists. This is nuts.]
Thursday, March 04, 2010
The contractors, according to a fellow Marine in Afghanistan who communicated with an investigative reporter in Chicago, were Afghanis who were found with 'copious amounts of opium' and had been paid by the United States as guards.
'He was killed by American Hired Local National Contractors that were high on opium the morning of the 19th,' the ABC reporter quotes a friend and fellow colleague of Lance Corporal Joshua Birchfield as saying in an email message.
Lance Corporal Joshua Birchfield was killed after being shot in the head Feb. 19. The Department of Defense originally reported that he died of 'small arms fire' while in combat."
But the story is apparently darker and more complex -- raising questions of whether the Pentagon originally concealed information about the Marine's death.
The Chicago Marine who tipped off the ABC reporter purportedly wrote a detailed email surrounding the circumstances of Birchfield's death. In it, he asserts that the young Marine was killed by Afghanis paid as private contractors....
[bth: here we go again]
Wednesday, March 03, 2010
KBR was notified of the award Friday, a day after the company told shareholders it lost about $25 million in award fees because of flawed electrical work in Iraq.
The Houston-based company was charged with maintaining the barracks where Staff Sgt. Ryan Maseth of Pittsburgh, a 24-year-old Green Beret, was electrocuted in 2008 while showering. The company has denied wrongdoing, and investigators said in August there was 'insufficient evidence to prove or disprove' that anyone was criminally culpable in Maseth's death.
The uproar over his death triggered a review of 17 other electrocution deaths in Iraq and widespread inspections and repairs of electrical work in Iraq, much of it performed by KBR.
Dan Carlson, a spokesman for the Army Sustainment Command in Rock Island, Ill., said the new contract is for one year, with an option for four more. KBR will handle logistics support, transportation mission, and postal operations."...
[bth: despite gross corruption, overcharges and death through incompetence the US Army grants KBR a $2.8 billion contract. There is simply no accountability in the system for gross incompetence or corruption. Unfucking believable.]
The Justice Department brought charges against five Blackwater guards involved in the incident. In dismissing those charges late last year, Judge Ricardo Urbina said the prosecutors had violated the defendants' rights by trying to use the immunized testimony.
US prosecutors had alleged that the guards 'specifically intended to kill or seriously injure Iraqi civilians,' and according to court documents alleged that one of the guards told another that he wanted to kill Iraqis as 'payback for 9/11,' bragging about the number of Iraqis he had shot."...
[bth: this has been obvious since 2007. The State Dept. gave them a get out of jail clause by letting them get immunity for anything in their report, so guess what? They reported that they gunned these folks down. Iraqis have every reason to be outraged by our State Dept. and Blackwater.]
Now, the Russian permafrost is offering up the bones and tusks of the woolly mammoths that once lumbered over the tundra. They are shaped into picture frames, chess sets, pendants. They are gathered and piled, carved and whittled, bought and sold on the Internet.
The once-obscure scientists who specialize in the wastelands of Siberia have opened lucrative sidelines as bone hunters, spending the summer months trawling the northern river banks and working networks of locals to gather stockpiles of bones. They speak of their work proudly, and a little mystically.
'You need to have luck to find bones,' said Fyodor Romanenko, a geologist at Moscow State University. 'I don't look for bones. I find them. They find me.
'Every find gives you a huge joy,' he said. 'It's a gift from nature, from the Arctic, from fate.'
The mammoth finds have been growing steadily over the last three decades as Russia's vast sea of permafrost slowly thaws."...
[bth: fascinating article. The idea of cloning a woolly mammoth is fascinating.]
At least 29 people were killed and 42 wounded in the triple bombing attack in Baquba, northeast of the capital Baghdad.
The first car bomb attack targeted a government office near a police checkpoint. Two minutes later, a second suicide car bomb went off near the party headquarters of former Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari in central part of the city.
About an hour later, as the victims of the first two explosions were being rushed to Baquba general hospital, a third suicide bomber walked into the hospital's emergency room and detonated a bomb."...
[bth: I could be wrong but it looks like two car bombs and one suicide bomber at the ER, not 3 suicide car bombs as the article maintains. MSNBC suggests the suicide bomber at the ER arrived via ambulance with other victims. .... I don't see how such pure cruel terror will cause the general population to stop the elections which I guess is their aim. I'm missing the message other than perhaps one that the government can't protect you. Still. I don't see the logic of their attack.]
“It was the main hub of militancy where al-Qaeda operatives had moved freely,” Major-General Tariq Khan, the Pakistan regional commander, said as he gave journalists a tour of Damadola yesterday.
The village, nestling among snow-capped peaks in the Bajaur region along the Afghan border, has been fought over for 16 months. It is the first time that the Pakistani Army has set foot in the village, which had long been dominated by the insurgents operating on the both sides of the Pakistan-Afghanistan border.
“Al-Qaeda was there. They had occupied the ridges. There were 156 caves designed as a defensive complex,” said General Khan, head of the Frontier Corps responsible for Pakistan’s counter-insurgency campaign in the region. He said that his forces had killed 75 foreign and local militants and cleared a zone up to the Afghan border, and that the campaign against the insurgents was in its final stage."...
While the military has been showing off its gains many Taleban fighters and their leaders — including the main regional commander, Faqir Mohammad, have escaped the sweep and may try to return as they have done before. “I would give you a rough estimate that about 25 per cent must have gone across the border; another 10 or 15 per cent might have melted back into the areas of Swat, where they had come from,” General Khan said. “A substantial amount of them have been killed, but that is just an estimate.”
[ bth: a short article worth reading in full.]
The arms sale suggests that US officials are trying to deepen America's relationship with Pakistan and increase military cooperation. The US has been trying to encourage Pakistan to take a tougher stand against Taliban forces operating within its borders.
Lt. Col. Jeffry Glenn, an Air Force spokesman, said Tuesday the US had delivered 1,000 MK-82 bombs to Pakistan last month. This month's shipment of kits would enable Pakistan to use sophisticated laser technology to guide the bombs to specific targets.
Glenn said the US also plans to provide Pakistan 18 new F-16 fighter jets by June."...
[bth: this probably means the US has decided this technology has made its way to China already and doesn't need Pakistani espionage to get one of our kits to China for reproduction. This is an important step in the relationship and in Pakistans technical capabilities]
Al Qaeda-linked Chinese terrorist leader reported killed in US strike in Pakistan - The Long War Journal
Abdul Haq al Turkistani, the leader of the Eastern Turkistan Islamic Party, is reported to have been killed by the US in the Feb. 15 airstrike. The US strike targeted a vehicle and a safe house operated by Taliban leader Hafiz Gul Baradar in the town of Tabi Ghundi Kala; four terrorists were reported killed in the attack.
Pakistani intelligence officials and Taliban sources claimed that Haq was killed in the strike, according to a report in Geo News. US intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal could not confirm Haq's death but are investigating the reports.
'He's certainly a dangerous terrorist leader, one we'd like to check off our list,' an intelligence official told The Long War Journal. 'He's on al Qaeda's top shura [council] and he is seeking to carry out attacks across the globe.'
Haq was last heard from in August 2009, when he threatened to attack Chinese embassies worldwide as well as targets within the country."...
[bth: given the geo-political realities of the situation it is not surprising that Pakistan would give priority to killing him or rather letting the US do the killing for them. Pakistan needs its relationship with China to offset India. Declaring plans to attack Chinese embassies was probably the last straw.]
Tuesday, March 02, 2010
Monday, March 01, 2010
Unemployment insurance 'doesn't create new jobs. In fact, if anything, continuing to pay people unemployment compensation is a disincentive for them to seek new work,' Kyl said during debate over whether unemployment insurance and other benefits that expired amid GOP objections Sunday should be extended.
'I'm sure most of them would like work and probably have tried to seek it, but you can't argue that it's a job enhancer. If anything, as I said, it's a disincentive. And the same thing with the COBRA extension and the other extensions here,' said Kyl.
Unemployment benefits are generally so small that much of it is often used to pay for COBRA health insurance, even when subsidized. The size of the benefits does not generally cover the cost of living and it would be hard to find a single person who would prefer unemployment to having a job so that they could get subsidized COBRA."
[bth: screw you Jon Kyl]
'Disposing of their vessels before they can head to sea hits the pirates before they can present a threat to merchant shipping,' he added."...
[bth: indeed, it does send a strong message. Way to go Danes.]
Of al-Qaeda, however, there seemed suspiciously little evidence.
General Khan said: “There was some Arab influence in terms of resources and money. We haven’t found a dedicated al-Qaeda command-and- control centre. My commandant in Bajaur . . . says it’s like a pinch of flour in a bag of salt — you get the flavour but can’t catch the individuals.”"
'I cut off ties for four months in order for Jordanian intelligence to stew in its own juices thinking that this guy had abandoned it, so that if he came back to them and told them that conditions were difficult, they would buy his story quickly,' Khurasani said. 'I cut ties for four months, then came back to them with some videos taken with leaders of the Mujahideen, so that they would think that I was leaking videos and betraying the Mujahideen. All praise is due to Allah, the bait fell in the right spot and they went head over heels with excitement. The videos I sent were actually taken with the Mujahideen’s own camera for this very purpose.'
Khurasani's leads, which included false targeting information for the US strikes, ultimately led CIA officials from Kabul to Khost.
'But the amazing thing is that Abu Zaid was able to convince an entire CIA team responsible for spy drones to come to Golamkhan [the base in Khost],' he said. 'So glory be to Allah: we planned for something but got a bigger gift, a gift from Allah.'...
[[bth: worth a full read.]
Khurasani spoke with contempt for Jordanian intelligence, which he described as 'hired dogs' of the US. He repeatedly described his Jordanian handlers as 'imbeciles,' 'idiots,' and 'corrupt.' He urge jihadists to kill intelligence officials, and even drivers and cooks working for the agency, in any way possible. He called on Jordanian jihadists to '[mobilize] to the land of Jihad [the Afghanistan-Pakistani border region] to learn the arts of war and train in them, then return to Jordan and begin operations.'
Khurasani also claimed that Jordanian intelligence was behind the assassination of three top leaders in Jihad: Abdullah Azzam, Osama bin Laden's mentor and co-founder of al Qaeda, in 1989; Abu Musab al Zarqawi, the leader of al Qaeda in Iraq, in 2006; and Imad Mugniyah, the military commander of Hezbollah, in 2008."
A group of pole dancing advocates wants to do a test event in the 2012 London games, followed by a formal pitch to be added four years after that, when the Olympic Games will be in Rio De Janeiro. KT Coates of England is spear-heading the petition drive, gathering 4,000 signatures so far; she says she hopes to add 1,000 more. The Pole Dancing Fitness Association agrees with the idea, saying the Olympic Committee needs to acknowledge the number of people who participate in the competitive sport.
The groups say Olympic pole dancing isn't as far-fetched as you might think. Others say it won't happen."
'We thought they were fruit sellers,' said Mohammed Zahid, 24, who lives across the path from the heavily damaged house. Police said the Jan. 8 blast killed seven Taliban militants who had been planning to attack a Baldia police training center."...
"We don't deny their presence here, and our search for them goes on," said Collin Kamran Dost, special home secretary for Sindh province. "But the city is so huge, and there are so many slums. The face of a Taliban is the same as the face of a Pakistani Pashtun. And we have more than 1.5 million Afghanis living here. So it's difficult to determine whether someone is a Taliban member or a peaceful citizen."
A recent spate of high-profile arrests -- including Baradar's capture, raids that nabbed nine Al Qaeda-linked militants Feb. 17 and Thursday's arrest of Abdul Aziz, a militant with ties to Qari Hussain Mahsud, the Pakistani Taliban's top trainer of suicide bombers -- points not only to improved Pakistani cooperation with the U.S. but also to hope in Washington that Pakistan will show new vigor in looking for Afghan Taliban and Al Qaeda commanders on its soil.
The arrests indicate how key militant commanders have tried to embed themselves deep in the slums of Karachi, a city of more than 16 million people. ...
Militants had spared the city of the suicide bombings and other violence seen in major Pakistani cities. However, authorities believe that bombings that hit Karachi in December and February suggest that the Pakistani Taliban has added the city to its list of targets.
A bomber killed 43 people on Dec. 28 when he blew himself up in the middle of a procession observing the Shiite Muslim holy day of Ashura. Five weeks later, two bombs targeting a hospital and a bus filled with Shiites killed at least 22 people. The Pakistani Taliban, which is made up of Sunni Muslims, claimed responsibility for both attacks.
"They're reacting to the loss of [South] Waziristan," Dost said. "It's as simple as that."
A primary reason the Taliban comes to Karachi is to build up supplies of cash to help fund the insurgency. Bank robberies, kidnappings and extortion have become staples of the militants' fundraising, authorities say. But they also rely heavily on cash solicited through the hundreds of madrasas, or religious schools, that dot the city.
Kamran Akhtar, the nazim, or administrative chief, of the Baldia neighborhood, said that of his district's 166 madrasas, 112 support the Taliban.
"To a large extent, the militants raise funds through Baldia madrasas," Akhtar said.
He believes the Taliban fighters in Baldia number in the hundreds. As nazims have done in other neighborhoods that are heavily Pashtun, Akhtar has organized a network of street informants -- a Karachi version of a Neighborhood Watch group -- who relay tips to police about suspected militants and their activities. Many of the tipsters are Pashtun.
"There are Pashtuns giving us information, and other Pashtuns providing the Taliban shelter," Akhtar said.
In Sohrab Goth, another dirt-poor Karachi neighborhood with a high concentration of Pashtuns, the Taliban extort money from construction equipment and trucking companies whose owners have tribal ties to Waziristan, police and residents said.
"The Taliban come here mostly to raise funds, and yes, they have their financiers here, wealthy Pashtun businessmen who help finance the insurgents," said Ismail Khan Mahsud, president of the local student wing of the Awami National Party, a Pashtun political party.
[bth: victims of murder, extortion, kidnapping, not to mention religious persecution all would seem to provide a fertile ground for informants.]
'Why does the country need an independent Air Force?' the senior civilian assistant to Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, the service's chief of staff, had written. For the first time in the 62-year history of the Air Force, the answer isn't entirely clear.
The Air Force's identity crisis is one of many ways that a decade of intense and unrelenting combat is reshaping the U.S. military and redefining the American way of war. The battle against insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq has created an insatiable demand for the once-lowly drone, elevating the importance of the officers who fly them.
These new earthbound aviators are redefining what it means to be a modern air warrior and forcing an emotional debate within the Air Force over the very meaning of valor in combat.
Since its founding, the Air Force has existed primarily to support its daring and chivalrous fighter and bomber pilots. Even as they are being displaced by new technology, these traditional pilots are fighting to retain control over the Air Force and its culture and traditions.
The clash between the old and new Air Force was especially apparent in the aftermath of the 2006 strike that killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of the al-Qaeda affiliate in Iraq.
Predator crews spent more than 630 hours searching for Zarqawi and his associates before they tracked him to a small farm northeast of Baghdad.
Minutes later, an F-16 fighter jet, streaking through the sky, released a 500-pound bomb that locked onto a targeting laser and killed Zarqawi.
The F-16 pilot, who faced no real threat from the lightly armed insurgents on the ground, was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the same honor bestowed on Charles Lindbergh for the first solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean."...
[bth: worth reading in full. Rumor at the time was that the drones were all set to kill Zarqawi but that the Air Force insisted that an F-16 with a manned pilot do the kill. That was the Air Force wouldn't appear totally irrelevant. You know, the torpedo didn't make the Navy obsolete. Drones aren't going to make the Air Force obsolete either, but the Air Force has got to adapt to serious changes in technology and adapt to our enemies. They do neither. Throw in procurement scandals and you've got the makings of a dead or dying service.]
Sunday, February 28, 2010
'Excuse me. I had a difference to settle with the Iron Lady. That Thatcher, what an impossible woman!' the president said as he arrived, more than 45 minutes late, on May 7 1982. 'With her four nuclear submarines in the south Atlantic, she's threatening to unleash an atomic weapon against Argentina if I don't provide her with the secret codes that will make the missiles we sold the Argentinians deaf and blind.' He reminded Mr Magoudi that on May 4 an Exocet missile had struck HMS Sheffield. 'To make matters worse, it was fired from a Super-Etendard jet,' he said. 'All the matériel was French!'
In words that the psychoanalyst has sworn to the publisher, Meren Sell, are genuine, the president continued: 'She's livid. She blames me personally for this new Trafalgar ... I was obliged to give in. She's got them now, the codes.'
Mr Mitterrand - who once described Mrs Thatcher as 'the eyes of Caligula and the mouth of Marilyn Monroe' - went on: 'One cannot win against the insular syndrome of an unbridled Englishwoman. Provoke a nuclear war for a few islands inhabited by three sheep as hairy as they are freezing! But it's a good job I gave way. Otherwise, I assure you, the Lady's metallic finger would have hit the button.'
France, he insisted, would have the last word. 'I'll build a tunnel under the Channel. I'll succeed where Napoleon III failed. And do you know why she'll accept my tunnel? I'll flatter her shopkeeper's spirit. I'll tell her it won't cost the Crown a penny.'"
The Obama administration is set to spend $50 million on media in Pakistan.
The goal is to raise awareness of projects aimed at reversing anti-American sentiments.
The US Special Representative to Pakistan and Afghanistan, Ambassador Richard Holbrooke believes that a substantial amount of monies spent on media, especially private TV channels, will reduce tension and may even bring Pakistan-US relations back on the right path, according to Examiner.com.
The Obama administration sent lawmakers this week a plan for $1.45 billion in aid for Pakistan this year, funding water, energy and other projects as well as a media campaign to counter extremist views, according to Reuters."....
[bth: this sum is a pittance and when you see workds like 'build a brand' you know we're screwed. How about we fund Sesame Street type education programming? how about broad cultural exchanges? How about treating Pakistanis like people that can make decisions in their own best interest and we need to make the case that we can be and are friends? Instead we talk in terms of 'branding"? What BS. How about speaking about common purpose and trust? Wouldn't that go further than trying to market the US with the shallow appeal of a 30 second commercial?]
California however poses more of a risk, given the state's $20bn (£13.1bn) budget deficit, which Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger is desperately trying to reduce."...