Saturday, April 17, 2010
I'm so tired of being here
Suppressed by all my childish fears
And if you have to leave
I wish that you would just leave
'Cause your presence still lingers here
And it won't leave me alone
These wounds won't seem to heal
This pain is just too real
There's just too much that time cannot erase
When you cried I'd wipe away all of your tears
When you'd scream I'd fight away all of your fears
I held your hand through all of these years
But you still have
All of me
You used to captivate me
By your resonating life
Now I'm bound by the life you left behind
Your face it haunts
My once pleasant dreams
Your voice it chased away
All the sanity in me
These wounds won't seem to heal
This pain is just too real
There's just too much that time cannot erase
When you cried I'd wipe away all of your tears
When you'd scream I'd fight away all of your fears
I held your hand through all of these years
But you still have
All of me
I've tried so hard to tell myself that you're gone
But though you're still with me
I've been alone all along
When you cried I'd wipe away all of your tears
When you'd scream I'd fight away all of your fears
I held your hand through all of these years
But you still have
All of me"
... "A noble army, men and boys,
the matron and the maid,
around the Savior's throne rejoice,
in robes of light arrayed.
They climbed the steep ascent of heaven,
through peril, toil and pain;
O God, to us may grace b"
The proposition gained momentum after the November 2008 carnage in Mumbai, India's financial capital, when Pakistani infiltrators killed 166 people in three days of bloodshed.
Now New Delhi wants to muster at least 25-30 of the armed unmanned aerial vehicles from Israel, one of its key arms suppliers and a global leader in unmanned aerial vehicle technology.
Asia Times Online reported that official sources in New Delhi say that India, which is the midst of a massive military modernization program, should have a new fleet of killer drones within two years.
At present, it has five armed unmanned combat aerial vehicles.
But military commanders engaged in combating several internal insurgencies, including an Islamist one in disputed Kashmir and a Maoist one across central India, are convinced they must emulate U.S. drone attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan against the Taliban and al-Qaida."...
”The Heron TP has the potential to be able to conduct new missions down the line as they become relevant,” said Maj. Gen. Ido Nehushtan, commander of Israel’s air force."
Israel believes Tehran is trying to develop nuclear weapons and has repeatedly hinted it could strike Iran if diplomatic efforts to curb the nuclear program fail.
Israeli defense officials said the Heron TP could be a useful tool against Iran, whose leaders have repeatedly called for the Jewish state’s destruction. In addition to providing surveillance, the aircraft can jam enemy communications as well as assist in communications between ground control and manned air force planes.
The officials requested anonymity because they were discussing sensitive military technology.
The Heron TP has been in development for about a decade, but the aircraft first saw action during Israel’s offensive against Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip just over a year ago.
[bth: this is how you crack Iranian air defenses from Israel on the cheap. And since the drones can make one way trips they can be loaded with extra fuel and bombs. ]
Simon Dalby, a geography professor at Carleton University, recently noted in Foreign Policy that the world of the 21st century is redefining its trade and business associations. He wrote, “The trade routes across the Indian Ocean and South China Sea are newly important because Asia, having finally shaken its legacy of imperial disruption, is now driving economic activity in line with its population.” For the Atlantic world, therefore, it may be time to consolidate itself where there are already affinities and interests in place. For as much as we hear about how important Afghanistan is to the Western world, the reality is that it is going to be Chinese (and perhaps Indian) companies far more than European or American ones which
are going to make the major investments into that country’s natural resource and consumer sectors."...
So what's going on? My guess is that there are multiple secret negotiations going on with the Paki and Afghan Taliban between the US and those forces via the ISI on the one hand and Karzai and his brother on the other. Separate and developing peace initiatives initiated by the EU and UN were scuttled by the US a few months ago. So is Pakistan trying to maintain influence and a buffer state and the US trying to negotiate before the 'surge' hammer falls and perhaps misses its mark? I think yes. I also think Karzai knows this and is hedging his bets with the Taliban and the drug and gem smuggling lords that pay the bills. Also note that the bombing this week that killed so many unnamed contractors in Afghanistan seem to be heavily Indian and it is not unusual for Pakistan to help the Taliban attack what they view as Indian intelligence assets in Afghanistan. Last note we are not hearing anything about China's deal with Afghanistan's northern forces and Karzai regarding copper rights. I think an awful lot is happening behind the scenes right now. ... If we cannot achieve military victory - whatever that is in Afghanistan - is Obama trying to obtain a negotiated peace with honor?
But the missiles were old and unusable, according to the sources. Hizbullah also accused Israel of blowing the incident out of proportion to provoke a media ruckus.
“Our organization has many surface-to-surface missiles spread across all of Lebanon, in case Israel attacks the country again,” the Hizbullah sources said.
Despite this confirmation of what Jerusalem has been saying for days, the Syrian Foreign Ministry denied the reports, saying Israel was trying to stoke tensions in the region and could be setting the stage for an Israeli “aggression” to avoid Middle East peace requirements."...
The IDF came very close recently to attacking a convoy carrying weapons from Syria to Lebanon, but at the last moment decided against it, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The possibility that Syria would give Scud missiles to Hizbullah is not a new concern in the Israeli defense establishment.
According to Al-Rai, Israel sent warnings to Syria through Turkey and Qatar that it would “bomb Lebanese and Syrian targets in case the missiles crossed the border and reached Hizbullah.”
In related news, Col. Ronen Cohen, formerly in charge of the Northern Front in Military Intelligence and the currently chief intelligence officer for the IDF’s Central Command, said in a research paper that an Israeli bombing of Lebanese national infrastructure would likely unite the Lebanese people behind Hizbullah and its leader, Hassan Nasrallah.
[bth: so let's see if we have this right. Syria gave Scuds to Hizbullah again. Syria says they don't work. So why give them? Israel threatened Syria but did not attack. IDF Col. Cohen says such a bombing 'would likely unite the Lebanese people behind Hizbullah and its leader, Hassan Nasrallah." Is that why Syria would risk a battle with Israel to ship broken down old missiles? I think the answer is yes. Also the whole things has got to help Israeli politicians and give something for US Congressmen to talk about as the US tries to improve relations with Syria.]
How to control the fast-paced development of UAVs is a major focus for the Pentagon. Last year the Air Force—which has attempted without success to become the lead government agency directing the development of all military unmanned aerial systems—released a detailed document that charted UAV development, as they see it. (Popular Mechanics covered the Air Force's plan in depth earlier this year.)
The Army and Air Force's road maps give an interesting glimpse into how two military services view the future of war. After all, next year the Office of the Secretary of Defense will gather the squabbling parties and revise their plans for UAS development, incorporating ideas from both services' plans.
Where do the two reports overlap? The Army agrees with the Air Force that more UAVs need to be multipurpose, one day hauling cargo and another serving as a communications relay. Both reports acknowledge that soldiers and pilots will have to increasingly trust robots as their squad mates and wingmen as the machines become smarter, more ubiquitous and more capable of performing without human guidance.
Other branches of the government have to adjust, too: Both reports predict that, very soon, the Federal Aviation Administration will open its airspace to unmanned aerial vehicles that are equipped with sensors that enable them to avoid other aircraft.
And, in varying time frames, both reports predict that UAVs will be armed with air-to-air missiles and more ground-attack munitions, pods that can detect weapons of mass destruction, or tunnels and payloads that can conduct electronic warfare missions such as jamming radar or eavesdropping on enemy signals.
The differences in the reports are telling, as well. The Air Force's timeline for technological development is more aggressive, proposing to build a family of unique aircraft imbued with more powerful automation. This includes automatic target recognition and, perhaps by 2025, the ability to kill targets without direct human permission.
Army officials flatly state that this will not happen. 'We don't believe in the next 25 years you will see a level of autonomy that we as an American people would allow ... a platform to kill autonomously,' Carlile says. 'It comes down to this: The technology will exist before we, as a people and as a nation, will accept it.'"
[bth: I wouldn't believe a single thing the air force said with regard to cost. I also think the Army has been slow to the point of idiocy regarding arming UGVs and probably will be the same for UAVs. The Air Force on the other hand has essentially conceded ground support to UAVs which is a shame and a loss to all. Another telling sign of bureaucratic stupidity is the FAAs blocking of UAVs in US air space even though they allow model hobbyists to do this because they have lobbyists. Another obvious bureaucratic limitation is the lack of machine guns on UAVs or UGVs for that matter that can provide close support. How does it make sense to fire a Hellfire missile (CIA broke the ice there) and not allow a UAV to shoot a machine gun? Last, I do not buy the idea that people and the national will not accept unmanned weapons systems. Its more like the army brass that is opposed in contrast to any foot soldier that has to kick in a door - or their families for that matter. The real hang up is the army and air force brass - its not people and its not technology. After all we have had torpedoes since the civil war and what is the difference? And did we mention ICBMs?]
'One hundred percent,' Bradley Roberts, deputy assistant secretary of defense for nuclear and missile defense policy, said in reply to a question at a hearing of a House of Representatives Armed Services subcommittee Thursday.
Roberts said the Obama administration was putting 'proven' sea-based and land-based missile shields into Europe as quickly as possible as part of a revised shield announced last September to any Iranian ballistic-missile strike.
Full coverage of NATO territory in Europe would be achieved around 2018, he said, when a second land-based site is to be established in northern Europe for updated Raytheon Co (RTN.N) Standard Missile-3 missile interceptors.
The Pentagon dubs this Phase 3 of its new 'adaptive' missile-defense plans, a continued bone of contention with Russia."...
[bth: why is America paying for Europe's missile defense?]
[bth: building and improving upon relations with W. Africa and Latin American make an enormous amount of sense to me.]
But part of this shift also requires changing the nature of the dialogue among the American foreign policy community. Not surprisingly, much of the discussion that followed with the acting president focused on questions of economic development, corruption and election reform in Nigeria — all very important issues, to be sure. However, it feeds into the continuing perception that Africa is a problem to be solved, rather than an emerging component of a renewed Atlantic community.
Should we be thinking of closer coordination (in security terms) between NATO and ECOWAS (the Economic Organization of West African States) in terms of both preserving the peace on land by continuing and effective interventions to keep the peace, but also perhaps expanding the efforts to encompass maritime security — to address with the growing problems of piracy and drug trafficking? In order to diversify American (and European) options for energy, is it time to conceive of a new energy dialogue that would knit together some of the far-flung components of an expanded Atlantic world — with countries like Nigeria and Brazil poised to play a major role? And while the Obama administration has shown interest in developing a trans-Pacific free trade association, should be also be exploring the first attempts at a Free Trade Association of the Atlantic region?"...
[bth: couldn't agree more.]
The Cypriot government focused on economic development and growth in the years after the forcible partition of the island. The first step was resettling refugees (rather than keeping them penned up in camps) and ensuring their integration in other regions of the country. At no point did they argue that this approach abrogated the right of the internally-displaced people to return to their original homes and property, but the government decided that warehousing them in order to argue for a right of return would produce more ills than good.
The second step was to make the Republic of Cyprus an attractive place for investment. Certainly, this effort was helped by the Lebanese civil war which caused much of the banking and financial industry of the Middle East to find safer pastures than war-torn Beirut, but the ability of the government to push through the necessary laws and regulations that would give investors the security needed to conduct business and to trust the banking and legal systems helped propel the island's economic development. In two decades, Cyprus moved from being a less-developed eastern Mediterranean state to becoming a candidate for European Union membership and today is in fact a 'donor' country to the Union, contributing more than it takes from EU development and assistance funds."...
[bth: an article worth reading in full.]
While the Navy is focused on defending her Big Ships, what will the Iranians be doing but attacking America’s merchant assets. While the giant ships are safe enough, the vulnerable commercial fleet is often told to fend for themselves from attacks by small craft, notably pirates around the Gulf of Aden. Obsessed as they are with carrier-warfare and defense, the Navy has lost the vital sea control that ensures unimpeded passage on the high seas. The small speed boat navy roams at will, but the admirals in their floating fortresses feel secure, content with the occasional headline making takedown of a pirate skiff or mothership.
As often happens with Western land armies versus the insurgent of late, by ignoring the rise of these speed boats navies, by refusing to build many cheap but essential small craft for sea control themselves, the Navy can win every battle at sea, but still lose the war."
[bth: The problem I have with the New Wars Blog is that its analysis heralds troubles for our navy that our navy and defense contractor infrastructure ignores. One keeps coming to the conclusion that we need more, smaller ships and more smart missiles and weapons and more unmanned air and surface vehicles.]
Police said the blast took place around 10:20 am in the Civil Hospital where dozens of people, including MNA Nasir Shah of the PPP, had gathered to protest against the target killing of a private bank manager, Arshad Zaidi, who was shot dead by unidentified armed men at the Manan Chowk around 9:00 am.
A large number of media persons and crew of various TV channels were also present in the hospital to cover the event when the suicide blast occurred. Due to the thud of the explosion, windowpanes of the nearby buildings and wards of the hospital were smashed.
“I heard an ear-splitting boom. I saw blood-stained injured people lying all around,” Geo News reporter Salman Ashraf told The News. Another witness, Geo TV cameraman Imran Mukhtar said a cloud of thick black smoke covered the scene after the explosion.
Soon after the blast, the unidentified armed men started indiscriminate aerial firing in the hospital. The firing was so intense and sudden that the policemen, who were present there before the blast, fled the scene."....
[bth: note the lack of US media coverage of events like this.]
South Korea's defense minister said this month the 1,200-tonne Cheonan may have been hit by a torpedo, immediately putting suspicion on North Korea and stoking concerns that the incident could start a conflict on the long divided peninsula.
'Conclusively, after a visual inspection, there is a higher chance of an outer explosion than an internal one,' Yoon Duk-yong, a top investigation official, told a news conference."...
[bth: so I don't understand a lot here. The blast pattern would have been known by S. Koreans divers for at least a week and probably within a day of the sinking. So S. Korea is very slow to blame the North and the North, well I don't understand its motivation for this attack. Why now? What am I missing?]
These fears underscore how the current differences between the U.S. and Israel go far beyond a still unresolved diplomatic row over Israeli settlement building. Instead, there is a deepening chasm between the visions of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and President Barack Obama, raising questions about the strength of the U.S.-Israeli alliance despite mutual pronouncements that the bond is unshakable.
Netanyahu fears Israel could be forced into unwanted concessions and its enemies' hands will be strengthened. His government is pushing to keep the focus firmly on threats from Hezbollah, Hamas and — particularly — Iran and its disputed nuclear program.
Obama, in contrast, is speaking about the promises of peace and has taken a new unusual step, publicly characterizing Israeli-Arab strife as harmful to U.S. interests — which many interpreted as a prelude to taking action to push through a peace.
A forum of Israel's top seven ministers met three times this week to try to find ways to warm the chilly relationship with the Obama administration, but failed to agree on any specific measures, such as stopping Jewish construction in east Jerusalem, officials said on condition of anonymity because the meetings were closed.
Israeli officials have been phoning U.S. congress members for help in repairing the ties that were damaged last month when Israel announced a massive new Jewish housing project in east Jerusalem during a visit by U.S. Vice President Joe Biden. Palestinians hope to make that part of the city their future capital."...
Gen. Stanley McChrystal also says some weapons and ammunition have entered Afghanistan from Iran. But the numbers 'are not operationally significant (and) they have not changed the fight.'
McChrystal said Friday at France's IHEDN military institute that he has no proof that the Iranian government is channeling fighters or equipment to Afghanistan.
He says he would be concerned if flows increase.
Last month, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates accused Iran of 'playing a double game' by nurturing relations with Afghanistan while supporting insurgents to undermine U.S. and NATO troops. Iran denies the allegation."
'Given that much of the financial contagion was fueled by uncertainty about counterparties' balance sheets,' Goldman Chief Executive Officer Lloyd Blankfein and President Gary Cohn wrote in a letter at the beginning of the annual report, 'we support measures that would require higher capital and liquidity levels, as well as the use of clearinghouses for standardized derivative transactions.'
Goldman's executives are calling for two regulations here. First, they want the federal government to restrict free-wheeling, heavily leveraged, high-stakes financial risk taking. Second, they want government to set more rules of the road for trading derivatives -- financial products that are often complex.
These are the very 'fat cats' to whom Obama directed his trash talk in January: 'If they want a fight, that's a fight I'm willing to have.' Well, it looks like they don't really want a fight. It looks like they want more regulation. The question is: What's in it for Goldman?"...
[bth: big business likes big government.]
Friday, April 16, 2010
As for Democrats, Reid is getting support from 70 percent of his own party compared with 15 percent for Lowden, mostly because conservative Democrats in rural Nevada often vote Republican, analysts say."...
[bth: Harry Reid is toast.]
Wall Street-backed senator can’t explain why he opposes financial reform, asks reporter what’s wrong with it | Raw Story
Newly minted Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA), elected to the late Kennedy's seat in a special election, stumbled after reporters asked him why he opposed financial reform. The new legislation will take a financial toll on the nation's largest banking institutions in an effort to forestall future financial meltdowns.
Asked by the Boston Globe how he'd like to see the bill improved, Brown fumbled -- appearing not even to know what it was he wanted changed in order to garner his support."...
[bth: bought and paid for.]
"IT was not like your great and gracious ways!
Do you, that have naught other to lament,
Never, my Love, repent
Of how, that July afternoon,
With sudden, unintelligible phrase,
And frighten’d eye,
Upon your journey of so many days
Without a single kiss, or a good-bye?
I knew, indeed, that you were parting soon;
And so we sate, within the low sun’s rays,
You whispering to me, for your voice was weak,
Your harrowing praise.
Well, it was well
To hear you such things speak,
And I could tell
What made your eyes a growing gloom of love,
As a warm South-wind sombres a March grove.
And it was like your great and gracious ways
To turn your talk on daily things, my Dear,
Lifting the luminous, pathetic lash
To let the laughter flash,
Whilst I drew near,
Because you spoke so low that I could scarcely hear.
But all at once to leave me at the last,
More at the wonder than the loss aghast,
With huddled, unintelligible phrase,
And frighten’d eye,
And go your journey of all days
With not one kiss, or a good-bye,
And the only loveless look the look with which you pass’d:
’Twas all unlike your great and gracious ways."
Afghan officials insist that regional players like Pakistan must be part of any solution.
'Everything that happens in Afghanistan in terms of security incidents is in one way or another linked to Pakistan — either masterminded there, the culprits train there or the attack was financed there, or the attackers go back to there for recuperation,' says Amanrullah Saleh, the head of the National Security Directorate, Afghanistan's intelligence agency.
American and NATO officials share those concerns, although Pakistan says such assertions are exaggerated. Nevertheless, its new government has stepped up the pursuit of militants in its tribal regions.
Asif Durrani, the charge d'affaires at Pakistan's Embassy in Kabul says his government has killed more than 3,000 militants this year; more than 1,300 Pakistani troops also died.
Durrani says Afghanistan and its Western partners should look at their own conduct.
'There is a need for a real assessment of the situation after seven years, and we should be seriously thinking and going back to the drawing board,' Durrani says.
Others say it is time for Afghanistan to think about negotiating an end to the conflict with the insurgent groups — a proposal that appears to be gaining acceptance both here and abroad."
[bth: this original NPR interview is worth hearing/reading in full. Then compare it to the blog posting that follows this one. ]
Afghanistan war: US leaves remote outpost of Korengal / The Christian Science Monitor - CSMonitor.com
Part of Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s strategy is to pull troops back from remote mountain outposts and concentrate them in the towns and villages where more of the Afghan population lives. By putting the emphasis on protecting civilians instead of killing Taliban fighters, he hopes to drive a wedge between the two, isolating and alienating the insurgents.
The withdrawal in Korengal – a short tributary valley so isolated that its inhabitants speak their own language – has been going on for months. Combat Outpost Vegas, high up in the valley, closed last year. But US military officials have said in the past that the strategy was delayed by a shortage of cargo helicopters, military bureaucracy, and Afghan politics.
And it is not just Korengal that is seeing American forces depart. The US footprint in nearby Nuristan Province – the mountain highlands that were the setting for Rudyard Kipling’s tale of imperial hubris, 'The Man Who Would Be King,' has all but vanished, too. Two separate attacks in 2008 and 2009 saw a total of 17 US soldiers die when insurgents overran their outposts in remarkably similar circumstances.
The signs in Nuristan, though, are encouraging. Since the US pulled all its troops out of Kamdesh district, the scene of the most recent of these battles, Taliban-linked insurgents have been on the back foot as local communities and elders turn against them."
[bth: so all those lives lost in the 173rd in 2008 and the other losses in 2009 basically amounted to what? About a year ago there was an interview of a key Taliban commander in Pakistan who said that he was clearing out this area of American troops in order to open a path for the Taliban to retreat to when the much heralded Pakistani Army offensive occurred. I posted his interview on this blog at the time. Anyway, it now looks like that is exactly what is happening. The Paki Army did their part, pushing the Taliban out across the border and we have given them a place to retreat to. So I have to ask, why do we having marines sitting in Marj (sp?) waiting for orders when the US Army was so overstretched and precariously placed in the Korengal Valley and Nuristan which we have abandoned? I fail to understand our plan. I fail to see how we are defeating the Taliban especially when a Taliban commander in Pakistan can articulate a response in 2009 to our plans for 2010? They simply can move more quickly and fluidly than we can. Even the marine offensive a month or two ago was bizarre. After months of publicity they essentially go in, get sniped at and occasionally run over an IED but there was no resulting victory that would contributed to an overall strategy or plan that I can see. It looks more like a US publicity stunt to show the 'surge is working' for Americans. Now note that Michael Yon, perhaps the most embedded reporter in US history has lost his embed credentials probably because he criticized the lack of protection provided Afghan bridge contractors in the Marj area resulting in their deaths. That doesn't reconcile with the 'we're winning' message the Pentagon is trying to transmit to lazy and inept American media and a public that has essentially grown apathetic about Afghanistan. What's the plan Stan?]
Of the 289 civilians killed since the war began more than eight years ago, 100 have died in just the last six months. That's a reflection of both growing violence and the importance of the civilians flooding into the country along with troops in response to President Obama's decision to boost the American presence in Afghanistan.
The latest U.S. Department of Defense numbers show there are actually more civilian contractors on the ground in Afghanistan than there are soldiers. The Pentagon reported 107,292 U.S.-hired civilian workers in Afghanistan as of February 2010, when there were about 78,000 soldiers. This is apparently the first time that contractors have exceeded soldiers by such a large margin.
Using civilian contractors to haul food, prepare meals and act as bodyguards has kept the Pentagon's official casualty figures lower than they would have been in past conflicts, where contractors were not as heavily used.
Contractor casualties are, by and large, invisible to the public, disguising the full human cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are not reported in totals given by the government. If they were, the death toll in Afghanistan would have surpassed 1,000 -- 848 soldiers, 289 civilian contractors -- from 2001 to 2009, a milestone that has gone entirely unmarked."
[bth: what would be interesting to know is if the contractor deaths are the result of some offensive action on our part or just more miles driven down the road hitting IEDs. The fact that both contractor death counts and soldier death counts are going up with the 'surge' suggests to me that since contractors aren't used for offensive combat, that the death toll is more due to just hitting more IEDs because we are driving more miles - that it has little if any relevance to 'winning' combat encounters with insurgents.]
In a brief filed Tuesday afternoon, the coalition says a search warrant signed by a judge is necessary before the FBI or other police agencies can read the contents of Yahoo Mail messages -- a position that puts those companies directly at odds with the Obama administration.
As part of a case conducted largely under seal and thus hidden from public view, the DOJ demanded these emails from Yahoo without any effort to demonstrate probable cause to believe the email user was involved in the commission of any crime, but instead merely based on the vague claim that there is 'reasonable grounds to believe' the emails 'are relevant and material to an ongoing criminal investigation.' If the DOJ position were accepted, Americans would have substantially less privacy protections in their email communications.
Federal law is crystal clear that a search warrant is required for the Government to obtain any emails that have been stored less than 180 days -- one that requires a showing of probable cause and that the documents sought to be described with particularlity. In contrast to the nation's largest telecoms' eager cooperation with Bush's illegal surveillance programs, Yahoo -- to its credit -- refused to turn over any such emails to the Government without a search warrant. As a result, the DOJ is now seeking a federal court Order compelling the company to comply with its demands, and a coalition of privacy groups and technology companies -- led by EFF and including Google -- have now filed a brief supporting Yahoo's position. Both Yahoo and that coalition insist that federal law as well as the Fourth Amendment's search and seizure protection bar the Obama DOJ from acquiring these emails without a search warrant."...
[bth: I just don't understand why the courts have failed to respond to such gross violations of constitutional rights. These judges weren't all appointed by Bush and even those all weren't stooges, yet here we are surrendering reasonable interpretations of civil rights to the federal government.]
"Headlines from My High School Newspaper.
BY SHAJ MATHEW
- - - -
'Self-Important Senior Uses Five-Syllable Word, Thinks He's So Great'
'Teacher Abandons Lesson Plan, Tells Class Too Much About Personal Life'
''Awesome' Jock Uses Cell Phone in Hallway, Gets Head Nod from Teacher'
'Girl Asks about the Homework the Teacher Forgot to Collect, Earns Annoyed Glare from Class'
'Lacrosse Player Goes to Class'
'Jaded Teacher Stops Caring, Lets Class 'Just Do Whatever the Hell They Want''"
One resident in the town of Jowhar, Mohamud Aw-Abdi, says the militant group al-Shabab told school principals the bells sound like church bells. No churches are known to operate openly in Somalia.
One school principal says teachers now beat tables and doors to signal the start or end of class."...
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Wednesday, April 14, 2010
We think it is unlikely that the housing variable is merely a proxy for some other unmeasured factor, such as income. Instead, we suspect that our result drives to the heart of the “Tea Party” phenomenon. Put simply, our data are consistent with the notion that a good part of the swing toward Scott Brown came from voters who were not only frightened by high unemployment – their own, or their neighbors’ – but who also suffered large losses in wealth from the collapse of the housing bubble. For most Americans, their greatest economic asset is their house. We thus suspect that the housing collapse is also likely associated with major declines, or potential declines, in retirement incomes. Particularly for older voters, this has to be very alarming."...
[bth: worth reading in detail. I would also add that the move to the right over this issue may be more than just bad journalism and weak educational systems. It may also be, and I think this is the case, that people don't feel like the federal government is helping them or even in tune with their needs. It would be interesting to compare this study's data with changes in local elections where needs are more likely to be directly addressed. Also just looking at the map I can tell you that it correlates very highly with the level of manufacturing jobs as a percent of overall jobs.]
Iraqi security officials said they temporarily shut down at least two airports and have arrested two men – one of the intended pilots and an airport worker – suspected in the plot, which appeared aimed at undermining the country's stability while U.S. troops prepare to go home.
Two U.S. intelligence officials in Washington confirmed the plot but said it did not appear to be fully planned out, nor was it clear that militants would be able to carry out any attacks. Both U.S. officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was still under way.
Airports in Baghdad and Najaf were shuttered last week as intelligence officials said they learned of the plot. The airport in Najaf remains closed because of its proximity to the gold-domed Imam Ali shrine, one of the most revered Shiite religious mosques in the world, one of the officials said."....
[bth: well I guess we shouldn't be surprised. Still what cost in lives and money has this single group of fanatics cost the world?]
President Obama said in a speech before the 47-nation Nuclear Security Summit, which concluded Tuesday, that 'the risk of a nuclear confrontation between nations has gone down, but the risk of nuclear attack has gone up.'"...
[bth: this is theater. Much more likely a chemical attack or a dirty bomb.]
Some 64% of American Jews are also in favor of dismantling ’some’ settlements on the West Bank to get peace, and nearly one in ten want all settlements disbanded. Among Americans in general, only 49% say Israel should be required to stop building settlements as part of a peace deal. It isn’t exactly the same question, but it may be that Jewish Americans are more flexible on this issue than are American gentiles, and they are certainly more flexible than are Republican Christians.
One big danger signal for supporters of Israel: The percentage of Americans who were sure that Israel is an ally of the US has fallen in Rasmussen’s polling from 70% last August to 58% in March. Since the far rightwing Likud government in Israel is clearly not interested in cooperating with the current US Middle East policy, and this attitude is obvious in their churlish behavior toward Joe Biden and US congressmen, it is no wonder that doubts are creeping in."
Quoting an FBI special agent from the Bureau's gang task force, the paper reported that the Barrio Azteca and Los Sureños gangs may start a power struggle in El Paso. 'The information on the streets is that Los Sureños may be aligning with the Chapo Guzmán cartel,' an agent said in an interview.
The alliance between Los Sureños and the Sinaloa cartel, led by Joaquín 'El Chapo' Guzmán Loera, makes Barrio Azteca and Los Sureños natural enemies because Barrio Azteca members reportedly are fighting on the side of the Juárez cartel against the Sinaloa cartel.
'We see two possibilities,' the source said. 'They can work in harmony or they can do what the cartels are doing in Juárez, fight for the control of the plaza, in this case El Paso.'
Mexico: The San Antonio Express News reported today that three Mexican drug cartels have agreed to work together to destroy the upstart Zetas gang of hit men, according to Mexican and U.S. officials. Intelligence reports indicate the Gulf cartel has recruited its former rival, La Familia, to crush the Zetas gang in the Mexican border state of Tamaulipas, according to the head of the anti-narcotics division of Mexico's federal police.
The Zetas, mostly Mexican military deserters, are too violent, too aggressive against established cartels and bad for business."
'Every time I talk to Gen. McChrystal, he talks about this,' Gates said. 'His view is the civilian casualty question is a strategic question in Afghanistan he thinks that is one of the greatest risks to the success of our strategy.'
Gates said U.S. and allied forces thoroughly prove incidents involving civilian casualties because they can threaten the success of the overall effort.
'We investigate every single one not only to determine if these is accountability or what actually happened but also if there are lessons to be learned to avoid it the next time,' Gates said."
[bth: with great respect for Sec. Gates, his statement that "we investigate every single one not only to determine if these is accountability or what actually happened but also if there are lessons to be learned to avoid it the next time," is the way it should be but not the way it actually is. ]
'The poll shows Obama topping Romney 53 percent to 45 percent, beating Huckabee 54 percent to 45 percent, defeating Gingrich 55 percent to 43 percent and topping Palin 55 percent to 42,' the network reported.
CNN's survey also claims that half of Americans see Sarah Palin as 'honest and trustworthy,' although a full 69 percent do not believe she is qualified to be president."...
The news is certain to cheer the White House, which has seen declining approval ratings ever since Obama took office. In a Real Clear Politics sampling of all the major polls, Obama scored overall just 46.1 percent: a fact that, in the context of his standing with the opposition's top personalities, should speak volumes about the political mood in America.
[bth: a political giant amongst pygmies]
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Outcrazying The Crazy: How A Prankster Plans To Infiltrate And Destroy The Tea Party Movement | TPMDC
The scheme reads like a sequel to 'Being John Malkovich': Levin's group of protesters plan to get in the heads of tea partiers at the Tax Day Tea Parties nationwide Thursday and manipulate them right out of relevance. They'll dress like tea partiers, talk like tea partiers and carry signs like tea partiers. In fact, according to Levin they'll be completely indistinguishable from tea partiers, except for one thing -- they won't be out-crazied by anyone.
'Our goal is that whenever a tea partier says 'Barack Obama was not born in America,' we're going be right right there next to them saying, 'yeah, in fact he wasn't born on Earth! He's an alien!' Levin explained. He said that by making the tea parties sound like a gathering of crazy people -- his group's goal -- the movement will lose its power.
Levin said he got the idea from a counter-protest to the infamous Westboro Baptist Church group held outside Twitter headquarters in January. Levin said the Westboro group broke up after counter-protesters showed up holding signs 'even crazier' than the ones held by the Westboro group. 'They realized they couldn't get their message out, so they just left' Levin said.
On the Crash The Tea Party website, managed by Levin, he explains how the plan will work. 'Whenever possible, we will act on behalf of the Tea Party to exaggerate their least appealing qualities (misspelled protest signs, wild claims in TV interviews, etc.)'"...
The firm, called Hudson Castle, played a crucial, behind-the-scenes role at Lehman, according to an internal Lehman document and interviews with former employees. The relationship raises new questions about the extent to which Lehman obscured its financial condition before it plunged into bankruptcy.
While Hudson Castle appeared to be an independent business, it was deeply entwined with Lehman. For years, its board was controlled by Lehman, which owned a quarter of the firm. It was also stocked with former Lehman employees.
None of this was disclosed by Lehman, however.
Entities like Hudson Castle are part of a vast financial system that operates in the shadows of Wall Street, largely beyond the reach of banking regulators. These entities enable banks to exchange investments for cash to finance their operations and, at times, make their finances look stronger than they are.
Critics say that such deals helped Lehman and other banks temporarily transfer their exposure to the risky investments tied to subprime mortgages and commercial real estate. Even now, a year and a half after Lehman’s collapse, major banks still undertake such transactions with businesses whose names, like Hudson Castle’s, are rarely mentioned outside of footnotes in financial statements, if at all."...
[bth: its legalized fraud and deception plain and simple]
Recently, both Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda's second in command, and Sheikh Said al-Masri, its commander in Afghanistan, have made public pleas for monetary support -- a clear sign of the group's financial woes. In response, various al-Qaeda affiliates have resorted to other means of fundraising, such as extortion, kidnapping, and the drug trade. Accordingly, efforts are being made to combat both traditional and nontraditional sources of funding, especially in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Treasury Department helped establish and now serves as the co-lead for the Afghan Threat Finance Cell, where authorities from the Defense Department, Drug Enforcement Administration, and other agencies collaborate against Taliban financing. Nevertheless, the Taliban remains well funded by the massive Afghan drug trade and generous Gulf donors.
Despite positive developments, then, the fight against al-Qaeda and Taliban financiers is far from over. Al-Qaeda is looking for money and can still count on a large pool of willing donors. The group also remains capable of planning attacks, as seen in the thwarted 2009 plot to bomb the New York subway system, which was tied directly to the al-Qaeda core. U.S. and international efforts have limited al-Qaeda's ability to plan, communicate, and recruit, but the group is certainly not out of business."...
Nobody expects overall troop numbers to be boosted any time soon. On the contrary, a January report by defense analyst Professor Malcolm Chalmers for the Royal United Services Institute predicts cuts of 20% to military personnel over the next six years. Political leaders justified the last cutback of this scale, the replacement of the British Army of the Rhine in 1994 by a standing force of less than half its size, as a 'peace dividend' arising from the end of the Cold War. But with failed states on three continents giving cause for concern, the chance of a new peace dividend seems remote.
General Richard Dannatt, head of the army from 2006 to last year, says a lack of resources had left the military conducting operations 'with at least part of one arm tied behind one's back.' Facing brutal decisions about priorities across the services, the army, navy and air force are now turning their fire on the government and each other. Afghanistan is 'not the only show in town ... We must remain prepared for surprises and strategic shocks,' declared navy chief Admiral Mark Stanhope in a recent speech.
Army chief General David Richards countered with a swipe against 'hugely expensive equipment' of the kind procured for navy use. The spat highlighted a fundamental problem for defense planners: nobody knows where future conflicts will erupt or what kinds of resources they will demand. Governments set the aspirations of their military according to best guesses. 'We've got to think through much more carefully whether Britain should get involved in a foreign conflict, and if so, how to cope with the consequences,' said David Cameron, the Conservative Party leader campaigning to win the upcoming parliamentary elections. 'Britain will have to reduce the scope of its ambition,' says Chalmers."...
[bth: for God's sake that means the British army is a third smaller than our Marine Corp. British military is simply disappearing as a credible force due to under staffing and under funding.]
Saudi Arabia: Government Warns of Al Qaeda Elements Disguising Themselves as Journalists Asharq Alawsat Newspaper (English)
[bth: why now? Is there a specific threat Saudi Arabia is reacting to?]
'Three terrorists equipped with assault rifles and suicide vests targeted the department of National Security Directorate ( NSD) at 12:30 p.m. local time, wounding nine persons, including five members of same family, all civilians and four employees of NSD,' Weesa told a news conference.
Going into details, he said that one of the attackers blew himself up next to the wall of the NSD department, which triggered one-hour war firefight during which another suicide bomber was shot dead and the third one was injured and then captured. 'The injured suicide bomber's name is Najibullah,' the governor added."...
And that, as Bloomberg wrote April 2nd:
Japanese National Strategy Minister Yoshito Sengoku said the country should have a greater sense of urgency about the nation’s fiscal situation, comparing it to the plight of Greece. “So far some have been crying wolf, but Greece’s situation isn’t entirely unrelated to Japan’s,” Sengoku said at a news conference in Tokyo today. “At the end of the day, Japan’s situation right now is not that good. There hasn’t been a sense of crisis about this, including from ourselves.”
Sengoku is not the only policy maker to compare Japan with Greece, whose fiscal woes weakened the euro and forced the government to adopt austerity measures as its borrowing costs surged. Bank of Japan board member Seiji Nakamura said in February that Greece’s example shouldn’t be regarded as “a burning house on the other side of the river.”
And AFP reports today:
Greece's debt problems may currently be in the spotlight but Japan is walking its own financial tightrope, analysts say, with a public debt mountain bigger than that of any other industrialised nation.
Public debt is expected to hit 200 percent of GDP in the next year as the government tries to spend its way out of the economic doldrums despite plummeting tax revenues and soaring welfare costs for its ageing population.
Based on fiscal 2010's nominal GDP of 475 trillion yen, Japan's debt is estimated to reach around 950 trillion yen -- or roughly 7.5 million yen per person.
Japan 'can't finance' its record trillion-dollar budget passed in March for the coming year as it tries to stimulate its fragile economy, said Hideo Kumano, chief economist at Dai-ichi Life Research Institute.
'Japan's revenue is roughly 37 trillion yen and debt is 44 trillion yen in fiscal 2010, ' he said. 'Its debt to budget ratio is more than 50 percent.'
Without issuing more government bonds, Japan 'would go bankrupt by 2011', he added.
The system of Japanese government bonds being bought by institutions such as the huge Japan Post Bank has been key in enabling Japan to remain buoyant since its stock market crash of 1990.
'Japan's risk of default is low because it has a huge current account surplus, with the backing of private sector savings,' to continue purchasing bonds, said Katsutoshi Inadome, bond strategist at Mitsubishi UFJ Securities.
But while Japan's risk of a Greek-style debt crisis is seen as much less likely, the event of risk becoming reality would be devastating, say analysts who question how long the government can continue its dependence on issuing public debt.
'There is no problem as long as there are flows of money in the bond market,' said Kumano.
'It's hard to predict when the bond market might collapse, but it would happen when the market judges that Japan's ability to finance its debt is not sustainable anymore.'
In addition, Japan's population is declining rapidly, due to a combination of delay in age of childbirth, declining fertility and a society unfavorable to immigration. As Business Week wrote last August:
Japan’s Internal Affairs Ministry published the latest numbers on the country’s declining population on Aug. 11. The data doesn’t make for pleasant reading. In the year through the end of March 2009, the number of births in Japan fell for the first time since 2006 to 1.08 million, while there were 1.13 million deaths. Put together, that adds up to a record decline in the population of 45,914. That bests (if that’s the right word) the previous biggest decline of 29,119 in 2007. Just as worrying, the number of Japanese 65 or older increased to a record 28.21 million out of total population of 127 million. Meanwhile, the current recession—Japan’s GDP may shrink 6% this year—will likely make things worse as couples decide to delay or have fewer children.
Japan Times adds some details:
The population dynamics estimate of the Health, Labor and Welfare Ministry indicates that Japan's population decline is accelerating. The report, based on birth and death registers submitted from January 2009 to October 2009, estimates the number of births in Japan in that year at 1,069,000, or 22,000 less than in 2008, and the number of deaths in 2009 at 1,144,000, or 2,000 more than in 2008. The death figure is the highest since 1947 and represents the ninth straight yearly increase.
As a result, Japan's population is estimated to have shrunk by 75,000 last year, 1.46 times the decrease marked in 2008.
Japan's population will continue to decrease at an accelerating rate, the ministry noted. The number of women able to bear children is on the decline, and the number of deaths among the nation's graying population will continue to rise.
The National Institute of Population and Social Security Research estimates that Japan's population will dip below 100 million in 2046, below 90 million in 2055 and down to 44.59 million in 2105. If this trend continues, the labor force and consumer markets will shrink, having a strong impact on the economy....
IMF Prepares For Global Cataclysm, Expands Backup Rescue Facility By Half A Trillion For "Contribution To Global Financial Stability" | zero hedge
Never one to present a realistic picture Dominique (or is that Mrs, Pisani?) Strauss-Khan said: 'The expansion and enlargement of the NAB borrowing arrangements provides a very strong multilateral foundation for the Fund’s efforts in crisis prevention and resolution, as an essential back-stop to the Fund’s quota resources. This will help ensure that the Fund has access to adequate resources to help members that are vulnerable to financial crises.'
If memory serves us right, the Fund's current resources give it acces to about a third of a trillion, so as of today the IMF has recourse funding to just under a trillion. Something big must be coming"...
[bth: this does not sound good at all. ]
Monday, April 12, 2010
Tea party movement leaders say they've discussed the idea with several supportive lawmakers and hope to get legislation next year to recognize a new volunteer force. They say the unit would not resemble militia groups that have been raided for allegedly plotting attacks on law enforcement officers.
'Is it scary? It sure is,' said tea party leader Al Gerhart of Oklahoma City, who heads an umbrella group of tea party factions called the Oklahoma Constitutional Alliance. 'But when do the states stop rolling over for the federal government?'
Thus far, the discussions have been exploratory. Even the proponents say they don't know how an armed force would be organized nor how a state-based militia could block federal mandates. Critics also asserted that the force could inflame extremism, and that the National Guard already provides for the state's military needs.
'Have they heard of the Oklahoma City bombing?' said Joseph Thai, a constitutional law professor at the University of Oklahoma. The state observes the 15th anniversary of the anti-government attack on Monday. Such actions could 'throw fuel in the fire of radicals,' he said."...
[bth: this is the point where President Obama needs to ask the FBI to investigate this group in a very public fashion. This needs to be nipped in the bud before you have McVeigh types getting activated. These tea partiers know exactly what they are doing and its time to call their hand.]
Democrats have no money to pay for the program. That's because both Republicans and the Democratic chairman of the Senate Budget Committee objected to taking money left over from the fund that bailed out banks, automakers and insurers and using it for the jobs bill.
Such a move, they insisted, would add tens of billions of dollars to the $12.8 trillion national debt.
An $80 billion-plus Senate plan promised an infusion of cash to build roads and schools, help local governments keep teachers on the payroll, and provide rebates for homeowners who make energy-saving investments. Two months after the plan was introduced, most of those main elements remain on the Senate's shelf.
Obama's proposed $250 bonus payment to Social Security recipients is dead for the year, having lost a Senate vote last month.
What's going ahead instead are small-bore initiatives. That includes modest help for small business or simple extensions of parts from last year's economic stimulus measure. None is expected to make an appreciable dent in an unemployment rate, stubbornly stuck at 9.7 percent, which is more that double what it was three years ago.
Even legislation to help the jobless has run into trouble now that Republicans, following the lead of the tea party movement, have decided to make trillion-dollar-plus budget deficits a campaign issue.
Before Congress went on spring break, Republicans blocked a one-month extension of health insurance subsidies and additional weeks of unemployment insurance for people who have been out of work more than half a year.
'You never know in politics when that magic moment comes when things really begin to change, but I believe that it has occurred now,' said Arizona Sen. Jon Kyl, the second-ranking Republican. 'I think you'll see a much greater commitment now to fiscal responsibility.'"...
[bth: a strong investment in foreign wars but nothing for average Americans that need jobs. Nuts.]
170 Killed in Past week in Afghanistan as Gates Defends Karzai from Drug Charges and Cheney, Palin Laud Afghan President | Informed Comment
[bth: amongst all the noise on the issue of Karzai, the fact is that we do not an effective and reliable partner to make any meaningful progress in Afghanistan. I don't see that in Karzai. Perhaps we should use this opportunity to readjust our strategy and limit our objectives. I note with interest that Michael Yon has lost him embed. He is probably the longest serving embed in Afghanistan or Iraq. This is a very disturbing development as I think it signals a new wave of manipulation of news and reporters in Afghanistan at perhaps an unprecedented level. He has been very friendly to the military though he recently reported on a failure to provide security on a bridge project which resulted in the death of contractors.]
“The Army ratios are above the national average and in some months recently, there have been more suicides in the Army than combat deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan,” observed Nancy Youssef of McClatchy News last week. “There is no pattern to suicides. One third who commit suicide have never served in combat; another third commit suicide while in combat; and yet another third do it once they return, according to Army statistics.”
Secretary of the Army John M. McHugh issued two directives on March 26 that are intended to further an understanding of the problem and to improve the availability of information to surviving family members.
Effectively immediately, all suspected suicides will be subject to an official (AR 15-6) investigation, the purpose of which is “to identify the circumstances, methods, and the contributing factors surrounding the event…. The completed investigation should provide clear, relevant, and practical recommendation(s) to prevent future suicides,” according to Army Directive 2010-01 (pdf).
A second Army directive (pdf) provided guidance for reporting (and redacting) information to be provided to family members, who are to be “kept fully informed while the investigation is underway.”
Although national security, third-person privacy and other FOIA-exempt information may be withheld, “the release authority cannot withhold information merely because it may be emotionally difficult for the surviving Family members to see or hear.” However, “potentially upsetting information should be segregated from the body of the report and made available in a separate sealed envelope that is clearly marked as potentially upsetting information.”
An updated official account of the number of Army suicides through the end of March will be published on Thursday, reported Sig Christenson of the San Antonio Express-News on April 2."
Sunday, April 11, 2010
That was especially remarkable, because attacks were just about the same as previous months, while the number of wounded was the highest since August 2009. In March there were an average of 2.06 security incidents per day, compared to 2.17 in February and 1.90 in January. 125 people were wounded last month, an average of 4.03 per day. That contrasted to 3.89 wounded per day in February, 2.87 per day in January, and 3.48 in December. The last time that March’s average was surpassed was in August when 5.51 people were wounded a day. It appears that insurgents tried to harm as many people as they usually do since the number of attacks in March were consistent with previous months. Their plans seemingly went awry however, as they ended up wounding more people than killing them."...
[bth: a very interesting chart follows at the original source which is worth examining. I think the hit on al Qaeda operatives in Mosul recently may have really paid off.]
Among those detained by Afghan security forces was a surgeon for the charity, called Emergency, which runs three hospitals in Afghanistan that are well known for their care of people wounded in explosions.
According to the governor, Gulab Mangal, he was the ultimate target of planned suicide attacks that he said would have killed many more people as well. Mr. Mangal had been briefed on the planned attacks by Afghan security officials.
Helmand Province has been dominated by the Taliban until recently and is now flooded with American and British troops who are fighting to wrest back power from the insurgents. Governor Mangal, a stalwart supporter of the international effort to oust the Taliban, has faced at least four attempts on his life.
“Initially, the plan was to carry out two attacks in Lashkar Gah, either in a densely populated area or at a picnic site in the outskirts of the city which would of course inflict heavy casualties,” Mr. Mangal said.
The second attack was to have been carried out while he was visiting the injured who were being treated in the Emergency hospital. Mr. Mangal said he usually visited the wounded after attacks....
The insurgents, who profess loyalty to al Qaeda and are fighting a deadly insurgency in the anarchic Horn of Africa nation, also said they had looted transmission equipment belonging to the BBC.
'Starting from today all BBC FM stations in the areas controlled by al Shabaab will be off air and their equipment will be taken over,' the group said in an emailed statement.
'BBC is owned by England and it spreads (a) colonial and Christian agenda in the Muslim world. BBC fights Islam ... it is against the Islamic administration in Somalia.'
The BBC broadcasts its London-based programming onto its own local FM frequencies in Somalia and local stations relay its signal. The BBC does not have any studios in Somalia."...