Saturday, May 01, 2010
[bth: these are technically difficult to detect so the strategy is to mount big rollers on the front of vehicles and set them off by rolling over them.]
He believes the restaurants are a luxury and do not belong in a war situation.
The Dutch complained that the General would impose strict lifestyle on others in this way.
While the local government in California has banned toys with the Happy Meal, the Dutch soldiers in the Afghan province of Kandahar are left without any fast food.
U.S. Gen. Stanley McChrystal launched a review last year of the amenities available at the Kandahar and Bagram airfields, and concluded that the fast-food joints posed a distraction from the task at hand....
[bth: you know, the army is sending guys in on 15 month tours. No beer, no sex, no fun. So why the hell ban a couple of fast food joints that have been there for 5 years already. This is just ridiculous. I seriously doubt that there was an American combat unit in WWII that had continuous uninterrupted front line exposure for 15 months straight. I know young PFCs that dreamed of a fast food restaurant visit while in theater. This is bull.]
The body of the former officer, Khalid Khawaja, was found on a road between the towns of Mir Ali and Miranshah in the militant-controlled North Waziristan area, Pakistani news outlets reported. He had been shot in the head and the torso, according to Pakistani television, which broadcast a photograph of what appeared to be Mr. Khawaja’s body. His son, Osama Khalid, confirmed the death. ...
Pakistan did not cut ties with militants until after 2001, though it was unclear how long Mr. Khawaja remained associated with the military. He surfaced in 2002, in the case of the killing of Daniel Pearl, a reporter for The Wall Street Journal, to whom he reportedly gave militant contacts.
He was adamantly anti-American, and an outspoken opponent of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Though he did not have a law degree, he was a self-appointed member of the defense team for the five Americans who were detained last year on suspicions of seeking to wage jihad in Afghanistan.
“We don’t like Americans,” he declared in his house in Islamabad in December. “Our government is in their hands, and there is a mess because of it.”
He deplored a situation in which the United States was not “judged for its bombs,” and said that suicide bombers “carry a message — of injustice, revenge, and belief,” which had built up because society had ignored them. He claimed to be housing an Arab family whose father had been killed in Afghanistan.
“He was fond of martyrdom,” Mr. Khawaja’s son said. “And now he is lucky because he has it.”
[bth: an article worth reading in full. There has got to be a lot more to this story.]
Friday, April 30, 2010
Data compiled by the Commerce Department's Bureau of Economic Analysis reveals the extent of the pay gap between federal and private workers. As of 2008, the average federal salary was $119,982, compared with $59,909 for the average private sector employee. In other words, the average federal bureaucrat makes twice as much as the average working taxpayer. Add the value of benefits like health care and pensions, and the gap grows even bigger. The average federal employee's benefits add $40,785 to his annual total compensation, whereas the average working taxpayer's benefits increase his total compensation by only $9,881. In other words, federal workers are paid on average salaries that are twice as generous as those in the private sector, and they receive benefits that are four times greater.
The situation is the same when state and local government compensation data is compared with that of the private sector. As the Cato Institute's Chris Edwards notes in the current issue of the Cato Journal, "The public sector pay advantage is most pronounced in benefits. Bureau of Economic Analysis data show that average compensation in the private sector was $59,909 in 2008, including $50,028 in wages and $9,881 in benefits. Average compensation in the public sector was $67,812, including $52,051 in wages and $15,761 in benefits." Those figures likely underestimate the true gap on the benefits side because the typical government employee gets a guaranteed defined benefit pension under very generous terms, while the private sector norm is a 401(K) defined contribution plan that is subject to the ups and downs of the economy....
[bth: Pretty amazing figures.]
In a strongly worded letter obtained by The Associated Press, Gates told the House Armed Services Committee that forcing policy changes on the military before it's ready would be a mistake.
"Our military must be afforded the opportunity to inform us of their concerns, insights and suggestions if we are to carry out this change successfully," Gates wrote to the panel's chairman, Missouri Democrat Ike Skelton.
Gay rights advocates want legislation this year that would freeze military firings of openly gay service members, and some senior Democratic senators have said they want to offer such a bill.
But other lawmakers, including Skelton, have said they are uneasy about lifting the ban and don't want to act before the force is ready.
Gates' letter provides Skelton and other unsettled Democrats political cover not to press the issue until after this year's midterm elections. Earlier this week, Skelton asked Gates in a letter to outline his views as the House committee prepares the 2011 defense authorization bill....
[bth: This is very disappointing. The letter was designed to give advocates political cover to hold off until after the November election. If President Truman had followed this kind of stalling and if he had allowed the military to determine the timing of desegregation, blacks would still be just ship stewards in the navy.]
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
It hit an all-time low size of 1.65m square miles, about 39% below average, prompting many scientists, including some at the NSIDC, to suggest that global warming had pushed the Arctic to a tipping point from which it might not recover.
By last summer, however, the ice cap had expanded to 2m square miles and this year’s figures show it approaching normal levels for the time of year.
“In retrospect, the reactions to the 2007 melt were overstated. The lesson is that we must be more careful in not reading too much into one event,” Serreze said.
The Met Office had taken a more cautious approach in 2007, warning that the melting was a natural variation so the ice was likely to recover.
Scientists have made mistakes over other short-term trends such as increases in tropical storms. In 2004-5 an increase in the number and severity of storms, including Hurricane Katrina, prompted some researchers to suggest a link with global warming — but this was then followed by a decline in storms.
Similar fears were raised in 2005 when scientists at Southampton University published research showing that some deep Atlantic Ocean currents, linked to the Gulf Stream, had slowed by a third.
They issued a press release entitled “Could the Atlantic current switch off?” which suggested that circulation in the ocean, which gives Europe its temperate climate, might shut down. But more recent studies have shown that such currents slow down and speed up naturally, so short-term changes cannot be seen as evidence of global warming.
“The reality is that greenhouse gases are making the world warmer, but it is a mistake to see short-term changes in weather, currents or Arctic ice cover as evidence of this,” Pope said.
“Instead you have to look at long-term trends. These show that Arctic summer sea ice is decreasing by 232,000 square miles a decade, nearly 2.5 times the area of Great Britain.
“On current trends it will still become ice-free in summer by around 2060.”"
[bth: the problem with computer modeling like this is that it exaggerates the latest trend, whatever that may be. This is because we don't fully understand the complicated dynamics which keep things in check.]
So what was the design behind “Operation Moshtarak,” or the “battle of Marjuh,” in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province, the largest U.S. and NATO military operation in Afghanistan since the 2003 invasion? That Moshtarak was a fraud was obvious from the start, a con job that the U.S. media enthusiastically went along with.
Marjuh was billed as a “fortress,” a “city of 80,000” and the Taliban’s “stronghold,” packed with more than 1,000 “hard core fighters.” But as Gareth Porter of the Inter Press Service revealed, Marjuh is not even a city, but a district of scattered villages. As the days went by—and civilian deaths passed military casualties—the number of “hard core” fighters declined to 750, then 500, and then maybe 100. In the end, it was barely a skirmish. “Hardly a single gun was captured by NATO forces,” tribal elder and former police chief Abdul Rahman Jan told Time.
According to Porter, Marju is “either a few clusters of farmers’ homes or a large agricultural area covering much of the southern Helmand River Valley.” Marjuh actually embraces about 125 square miles, an area big enough to simply swallow the 10,000 U.S., NATO and Afghan Army troops assigned to the offensive.
The area was also billed as the “linchpin of the militants’ logistical and opium-smuggling network.” Marjuh is indeed an area with significant poppy cultivation, but according to Julian Mercille, a Lecturer at University College Dublin and an expert on U.S. foreign policy, the Taliban get “only 4 percent of the trade.” Local farmers reap about 21 percent of the $3.4 billion yearly commerce, according to Mercille, while “75 percent of the trade is captured by government officials, the police, local and regional brokers and traffickers.” In short, our allies.
And the word “linchpin” soon dropped off the radar screen as it became obvious that Operation Moshtarak would not touch the drug trade because it would alienate local farmers, thus sabotaging the goal of winning the “hearts and minds” of residents."...
[bth: an article worth reading in full.]
Afghan government orders gag on free press: Is this what NATO is fighting for? - کابل پرس: خبری، تحليلی و انتقادی | Kabul Press
Kabulpress.org today received a copy of an official letter from the Afghanistan Telecommunication Regulatory Authority (ATRA) to the Ariana Network Service Company (ANSC) ordering it to block Kabulpress.org’s website on its servers in Afghanistan. ANSC is one of Afghanistan’s largest Internet service providers and a branch of the large Afghan/American tele-communications company, TSI, based in Ft. Lee, New Jersey that includes the Afghanistan-based Ariana Television Network, Ariana FM Radio, and the Afghan Wireless cell phone network.
The letter, dated January 7, 2010, and signed by Engineer Khair Mohammad Faizi, Executive Board Member and Chairman of the Presidential ATRA instructs ANSC to immediately block www.kabulpress.org and another Afghan news website for “publishing articles in opposition to prominent political figures and senior government officials.”
Staff at Kabulpress.org began noticing earlier this year that its page view count from Afghanistan, normally totaling 200,000+ per month was steadily decreasing, while complaints from users stating they could not connect were increasing. At that time, rumors and sources in the government informed Kabulpress.org staff that the Afghan government was censoring select news sites, including Kabulpress.org. The letter contained in this article is confirmation of that fact.
Kabulpress.org editor-in-chief, Kamran Mir Hazar stated, “it is very distressing that the Afghan government has taken this step, but given the high level of government censorship that occurs within Afghanistan’s borders, we expected Karzai and his ministers would try to extend their reach outside of Afghanistan. This is especially a slap in the face of the American people who support a free press but spend billions of dollars in Afghanistan to support a government that has made such a fascist move. The American people need to know who they are dealing with.”"...
Cliff Kupchan, Iran analyst at Eurasia Group in Washington, said in an interview with Time that the world has been so caught up in efforts to impose tougher sanctions on Iran that it has overlooked the country's scramble to secure an alternative source to replenish its uranium stock. Kupchan believes Iran is nearly out of yellowcake.
The weekly magazine wrote that Iran is going to great lengths to obtain uranium in Africa, mainly from Zimbabwe, but is finding it difficult to circumvent existing sanctions that make it difficult to transfer the substance to its territory.
About six months ago, the IAEA leaked an intelligence report that Iran had struck a secret deal to purchase purified uranium ore from Kazakhstan, one of the world's largest producers of uranium, for $450 million. However, publication of the report blocked the deal from going through.
Kupchan noted that the US is closely following Iran's moves in order to thwart any uranium deal from going through. US President Barack Obama even met privately with Kazakhstan President Nursultan Nazarbayev at the beginning of the month in order to prevent any future deal between his country and Iran.
Just this week, British newspaper The Telegraph reported that Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe agreed in a meeting with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to sell uranium to Tehran. Uranium was reported to have been discovered in Zimbabwe in the 1970s."
[bth: odd. I thought Iran like N. Korea had natural uranium deposits.]
Tuesday, April 27, 2010
Among all registered voters, the GOP leads in the generic congressional ballot in the current Gallup survey by just one point, 46 to 45. But among those who are 'very enthusiastic' about voting in November, the GOP lead over Democrats balloons to a 57/37 gap:"...
Three of the four witnesses on this first panel -- Daniel Sparks, Michael Swenson and Josh Birnbaum -- supplied aggressively bland opening statements. The notable exception was Fabrice Tourre, a.k.a. the Fabulous Fab, the lone Goldman employee accused of fraud. In a strident denial, Tourre confronted the charges head on, relying heavily on the Big Boy Defense—that is, the firms who got soaked in the Abacus deal were among the world's most sophisticated investors, making bets that scores of other smart people made, and it's not our job to coddle or second-guess them. “I deny – categorically – the SEC allegation,” he said. The specificity of Tourre's opening remarks – compared to his colleagues, at least – seemed to demonstrate confidence in his case.
From there, though, the hearing has been reduced to basic theatrics. The panel transformed themselves into dense, uncomprehending cogs in the Goldman machine, relying on a variety of time-sucking techniques to skirt even the simplest questions. Frustrated by their stalling tactics, the committee members have grown increasingly incensed."....
[bth: "rich people berate richer people for being greedy." Well said. Without meaningful legislation to reform the system, these hearings are just theater - circuses for the masses.]
He said Pensacola, Fla., is probably the eastern edge of the threatened area, though no one really knows what the effects will be.
'We've never seen anything like this magnitude,' he said. 'The problems are going to be on the beaches themselves, that's where it will be really visible.'"....
[bth simply not true. This is media hype. There was a major Mexican offshore rig that blew in the late 70s.]
The Johan de Witt joined the European anti-pirate operation 'Atalanta' only last week. “After we arrived we searched the coast for pirate activity,” commanding officer of the navy amphibian transport ship, Captain Ben Bekkering tells Radio Netherlands Worldwide.
“Then we deployed two groups of the landing vessels some distance from the pirate camps and positioned the Johan de Witt as command platform in the middle. From this position we observed the pirate camps.”
“First we encountered a whaler, a pirate mother ship,” says Captain Bekkering. “When we entered the ship we found so much pirate gear that we confiscated it. Then another pirate whaler tried to get away and we managed to capture it.”
The new tactics are a reaction to a change in pirate activity. Somali pirates have moved their activities from the Gulf of Aden (which is intensively patrolled by international navies) to the Indian Ocean, up to 1500 sea miles from the coast. Captain Bekkering, “The arrival of the Johan de Witt, which unlike the other navy ships has landing craft, means we can use different tactics. Instead of waiting in the ocean for pirates to try their luck, we go to the areas where they come from to prevent them from sailing out. If they try anyway, we capture them.”
The captain says the navy ship will stay in position off the Somali coast to “keep the pressure on”. The pirates who were captured have been released on the beaches after consultation with the Dutch Public Prosecution Office. Their boats have been confiscated."
[bth: fascinating. It doesn't take billion dollar ships, but small ones that can close off the ports and capture the pirate mother ships as they leave the dock. Why does it take the Dutch to teach us this?]
Thick, choking smoke from the fires often hung over U.S. bases for days and soldiers complained of the smell from the potentially toxic clouds. And now vets returning to the US are learning their battles are far from over, and some are blaming the smoke for lung ailments and other illnesses including cancer. Hundreds of plaintiffs have recently filed a lawsuit. The defendant is a familiar name from the Iraq war, KBR, Kellogg Brown and Root. The company was contracted by the military to burn the trash."
The largest burn pit was at Balad Air Base near Baghdad. It was the transit zone for thousands of soldiers entering Iraq. In his first television interview, a bio-environmental engineer is stepping forward to tell of what he witnessed at Balad. Retired Lt. Colonel Darrin Curtis told me of constant complaints from soldiers at the base. In 2006 he sent a memo up the chain of command stating that it was "amazing that the burn pit has been allowed to operate without restrictions over the past few years with no significant engineering controls put in place." Curtis listed contaminants such as benzene, arsenic, hydrogen cyanide, sulfuric acid, and warned that burn pits could pose acute and long-term health hazards. Curtis says his warnings were ignored. And he wasn't the only one to raise alarm. We found documents from a Marine Corps flight surgeon and the Army Corps of Engineers warning of health risks from the burn pit, including lung damage and cancer. ...
Monday, April 26, 2010
Today, several small missiles are available to the agency, including the 21-inch Small Smart Weapon, created by Lockheed Martin. Weighing 35 pounds and having roughly the diameter of a coffee cup, the Scorpion, as it is now called, was designed to be launched from the Predator. It causes far less destruction than a Hellfire, and it can be fitted with four different guidance systems that allow it to home in on targets as small as a single person, in complete darkness, according to U.S. officials familiar with the missile.
A Lockheed spokesman declined to say whether the CIA is currently using the Scorpion, which, according to a Lockheed brochure, is intended for 'precision attack using a small, lethal warhead against targets in areas requiring low collateral damage.' The agency is also using a variety of warheads for the Hellfire, one former senior intelligence official said. Among them is a small thermobaric warhead, which detonates a cocktail of explosive powders on impact to create a pressure wave that kills humans but leaves structures relatively intact. The wave reaches around corners and can penetrate the inner recesses of bunkers and caves, according to weapons experts.
The CIA's expanded arsenal also includes surveillance drones that carry no weapons, two former intelligence officials said. These 'micro-UAVs' -- unmanned aerial vehicles -- can be roughly the size of a pizza platter and are capable of monitoring potential targets at close range, for hours or days at a stretch. At night, they can be nearly impossible to detect, said one former official who has worked with such aircraft.
'It can be outside your window and you won't hear a whisper,' the official said."
[bth: about time. No need to use a Hellfire whan a modified guided mortar round from a UAV or a small rocket will do the trick.]
'Just For The Money'
Shah suggests the reported kidnapping could be a ploy to forestall government action against them.
'They knew the government would arrest them upon returning [from the tribal areas]. The British government has also passed a law about the glorification of terrorism,' Shah says. 'And if they screen their documentary they will be scrutinized under that law.
'So this is a drama and they want to create conditions to show that documentary. They know the Taliban really well and they are doing this just for money.'
Former Pakistani intelligence officers have similar views.
Asad Munir, a retired brigadier general and former ISI station chief in Peshawar, tells RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal that the two probably miscalculated their risk. He says it is unlikely that the Pakistani government will listen to the demands of the purported captors.
'I don't think that anybody will be released to secure their freedom,' he says. 'They are not important people. They are not foreigners. If they were Americans or Germans, [there would be more chances of bargaining]. But they are Pakistanis, and it is unlikely that anybody will be released on their return.'
Munir suggests that the Pakistani government would be reluctant to even release an ordinary Taliban foot soldier, let alone Baradar, to secure their release."
[bth: with Pakistan nothing ever is what is seems. Did they intend to get captured as a publicity stunt?]
And one of their more ambitious copycat efforts may put a strain on Russia-China relations.
“This Chinese plane is simply a Russian design stuffed with local electronics,” says Maksim Pyadushkin from the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technology about the Chinese J11B jet’s resemblance to the Russian Su-27. “It's a knock-off.”
Last year, Russian aircraft sales internationally topped $3 billion – second only to the US. But others too want a slice of the aviation pie.
Vadim Kozyulin, program director for conventional arms from the Russian Center for Policy Studies, says that fake Su-27s are widely offered in the world arms market. “Sooner or later, Russian arms traders will face competition from the Chinese colleagues,” he told RT.
China was given the design plans for the Russian fighter jet in 1995, when it promised to buy 200 kits and assemble them domestically. After building 100 planes, the Chinese said the Russian plane did not meet specifications, only for a copycat version soon to appear – 'Made in China' – without copyright.
The threat from China is real, and it will be difficult for the Russian aviation industry to maintain its lofty position, and soar further unless it manages to better protect its intellectual rights and also find new ways of co-operating with its eastern neighbor.
Although it made its maiden flight over 30 years ago, the Su-27 remains the bedrock of the Russian air force, and is highly popular abroad.
“I don't think anyone who's flown on the SU-27 can ask for a different plane, unless we are talking about a new generation jet,” believes Lt. Colonel Andrey Alekseyev, Air Force Pilot. “It's maneuverable and has a huge range.”
Some are calling for calm over the controversy. While the similarities between the two planes are clear, experts say the Chinese J11B does not have the latest Russian high-tech features and will be no match for it on the international market.
The best way to fight copyright violations is to be technologically ahead of your rivals, claims Maksim Pyadushkin from the Center for Analysis of Strategies and Technology. “The biggest problem for Russia is that it has been living off the legacy of the Soviet Union, and soon its technology may no longer be the world leader,” he asserts.
Rather than a continuing dogfight over the copycat plane, it is possible that Russia and China may yet settle the matter amicably – at the highest political level.
But in the shady world of international weapons copyright, similar cases are sure to follow."
[bth: the irony on this is pretty rich]
This month the agency revealed that SOLO-TREC, a wax-filled buoy powered only by the temperature differences in the water around it, has been tirelessly diving to depths of 500 metres off the Hawaiian coast three times a day since November 2009. The float gathers data on temperature and salinity to improve studies of ocean currents.
SOLO-TREC extracts thermal energy from the ocean each time it travels from the cold depths to the warmer surface. Tubes of oil on its shell are surrounded by a compartment filled with two different waxes. They flip from solid to liquid when the sea temperature exceeds 10 °C, and expand by 13 per cent (see diagram).
The expanding wax squeezes oil from the tubes into the float's interior, where it is stored at high pressure. The oil can then be released to drive a generator and charge batteries. They power the pumps that take on and expel water so the buoy can dive and surface, and also the float's GPS receiver, sensors and the transmitter that beams data to satellites when at the surface.
'Each full dive generates about 200 watts for 30 seconds,' says Jack Jones, one of the project's leaders at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California.
The buoy can recharge as it travels to the warm surface. Each dive generates about 200 watts for 30 seconds
He and colleagues hope to create large numbers of the floats to boost existing monitoring of oceanic conditions, which helps in weather and climate prediction."...
New Scientist)" title="No stopping us now (Image: New Scientist)">
[bth: fascinating propulsion system]
To India, ties with Kabul mean new trade routes, access to Central Asia's vast energy reserves and a way to stave off the rise of Islamic militancy. It means the chance for New Delhi to undermine Islamabad as it nurtures its superpower aspirations by expanding its regional influence.
While Pakistan is also desperate for new energy supplies, its Afghan policy has been largely shaped by the view that Afghanistan is its natural ally. The two countries share a long border, overwhelmingly Muslim populations and deep ethnic links.
Then there is fear. Pakistan and India have already fought three wars over the past seven decades, and Pakistani military leaders are terrified of someday being trapped militarily between India on one border and a pro-India Afghanistan on the other.
'We can't afford an unfriendly government in Afghanistan,' said Mohammad Sadiq, Pakistan's ambassador to Afghanistan.
The shadow war began in earnest in the wake of the 2001 U.S. invasion, when the Taliban government was forced from power and New Delhi began courting Afghanistan's new leaders. It was a move into a country that Islamabad, a fierce supporter of the Taliban government, had seen as its diplomatic territory for two decades. But New Delhi quickly became a close ally of President Hamid Karzai, who will travel to India early next week for talks aimed at strengthening ties between the two countries.
On the surface, both India and Pakistan are bringing help to a country that desperately needs it."...
[bth: worth reading in full. We in America forget the importance of the India/Pakistani dynamics in Afghanistan.]
Sunday, April 25, 2010
Instead of data mining, narrowly defined, the ODNI and other intelligence agencies use “link analysis,” which involves searches that begin with a known or suspected terrorist or intelligence target and work backwards and forwards from there. But such “link analysis” is outside the strict definition of “data mining,” ODNI says, and so it is not discussed further in the new annual report."
It's a military relationship that goes back two decades and, in light of Russia's reluctance to provide the Iranians with advanced air-defense missile system to counter possible U.S. or Israeli airstrikes, is set to expand.
Robert Hewson, editor of Jane's Air-Launched Weapons, reported that the factory for assembling and producing Iran's Nasr-1 -- Victory 1 -- anti-ship missile was opened March 7.
The Nasr is identical to China's C-704 anti-ship missile, Hewson says. Iran's burgeoning defense industry, much of it controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, has been producing Chinese-designed anti-ship missiles such as the C-801 since the early 1990s.
The C-704, developed by China Aerospace Group, targets ships of 1,000-4,000 tons displacement and is the equivalent of the U.S. AGM-119 anti-ship missile. With a range of 106 miles and a 240-pound warhead, the C-704 has a kill probability of 95.7 percent.
The Iranians, possibly with Chinese assistance, have even developed improved versions such as the Noor, an upgraded version of China's C-802, with a longer range than the original and over-the-horizon capabilities.
Indeed, Hewson observed that 'Iran has gone further than China in fielding the C-802, taking what was previously a land- and ship-launched weapon and producing an air-launched version that can be carried by Mi-17 helicopters and fast-jet types.'
Over the years Iran has developed a range of anti-ship missile systems from the Chinese weapons that gives the Islamic Republic's regular navy and the IRGC's naval arm the capability to exert a considerable degree of control over waters in the Gulf and the Persian Gulf.
This is the area from which U.S. naval forces would strike if hostilities erupt."....
[bth: First it is interesting that this is going on while China and the US are talking about sanctions - or not. Further, while the article focuses on the role of these missiles on US navy assets, the more likely target is any tanker going through the Strait of Hormuz. Iran essentially has a veto on ME oil shipments.]
In comments published by Al-Nahar and communicated by Reuters, Kahwaji, who met earlier in the day with Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit, said Scuds were far less mobile than Katyusha rockets and much less likely to be passed across the border undetected.
'The process of transporting them is not a game, it's a very big operation … The rockets are 30 metres long, are carried on large vehicles, and need 40 minutes to prepare for launch, Kahwaji was quoted as saying. “I'm convinced there are no scuds in Lebanon and talk about the issue is political.”
Gheit, who met with Kahwaji in Beirut, reportedly said later that 'Whoever knows about these rockets, knows that these [allegations] are all laughable lies.'"...
[bth: all about nothing? Its interesting to see what news agencies picked up on the hyperbole a few weeks ago.]
McClatchy blog: Nukes & Spooks - New report says Karzai's half-brother an impediment to success in Kandahar Read more: http://blogs.mcclatchydc.com/n
The report by Carl Forsberg outlines how AWK - as he is known among Western officials - has acquired 'shadow ownership of the government of Kandahar' through his control over an empire of private security companies, real estate holdings and contracting services and alliances with other local strongmen."...
Security has been stepped up in the capital, despite the fact that the alleged plot appears to have been foiled.
'Just a couple of days ago the police arrested 16 people. Nine of them were actually suicide bombers, all trained outside of Afghanistan,' Mohammad Hanif Atmar, the Afghan interior minister, told Al Jazeera.
Asked whether he saw evidence of the involvement of Pakistan or parts of the Pakistani security forces in the alleged plots, Atmar said: 'The evidence speaks for itself.
'We are investigating into this matter and we will be soon talking to our Pakistani colleagues.
'And then basically [we will] show this evidence to them and say is this happening based on a policy or is it just a couple of rogue people doing this.'"...
In return for supplying oil, which Zimbabwe desperately needs to keep its faltering economy moving, Iran has been promised access to potentially huge deposits of uranium ore – which can be converted into the basic fuel for nuclear power or enriched to make a nuclear bomb."...
[bth: I'm not sure that this deal is secret at all. But talk about two low life governments.]
First, a significant proportion of enemy fighters in the Korengal were foreigners who had come to Afghanistan to wage jihad. There were Pakistani cellphone numbers painted on rocks around the valley as a recruiting tool for potential volunteers; there were Arabic graffiti urging local men to join the fight. These foreigners presumably would have fought the Americans wherever they found them; if we had avoided the Korengal they would simply have shifted the battle elsewhere. (To a better place? A worse one? I doubt even the Taliban could say.)
Furthermore, I was told that one of the reasons for establishing a base in the Korengal was to prevent militants from using the valley to stage attacks on the vastly more important Pech River Valley, immediately to the north. The Pech was a major corridor for moving men and supplies, and after American bases were established in the Korengal, attacks at Pech dropped off significantly. The Korengal may not have been important per se, but arguably the Pech was, and there may have been no way to strategically separate the two."
They endorsed a plan to gradually transfer security and governance powers to Afghan authorities.
The US and Nato have 126,000 troops there, rising to 150,000 by August.
US President Barack Obama has said that the US aims to begin pulling troops out of Afghanistan in 2011.
But at the heart of Nato's strategy is creating the right conditions to allow the Afghan government to take full control.
'As of today, we have a road map which will lead towards transition to Afghan lead [control], starting this year,' Mr Rasmussen said.
Nato foreign ministers in Tallinn on 22/04/2010
Nato says it now has a road map leading to transition
'We agreed the approach we will take to transition. We set out a process, the conditions that will have to be met, and what we will do to make those conditions happen.'
Mr Rasmussen said that the transition must not only be 'sustainable but irreversible'.
The BBC's Nick Childs - who is at the meeting in Estonia - says that Nato does not like talking about withdrawal or exit strategies for Afghanistan, especially when there are still key concerns about the relationship with the Afghan government and the performance of Afghan forces.
Western allies have long seen a self-sufficient Afghan armed forces, with some support from Nato, as the key to ensuring Afghanistan's long-term stability.
Mr Rasmussen said earlier this week that 450 military and police trainers were still needed to help build up the Afghan security forces.
He said he hoped that the Afghan government and other donor countries would endorse the plan at a conference to be held in the Afghan capital, Kabul, in mid-July.
The framework for security and development would also need to be approved by Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
Nato holds its next summit in November and officials say they hope the process could be launched by then."...
[bth: NATO is bugging out of Afghanistan.]
“Investors trusted credit rating agencies to issue accurate and impartial credit ratings, but that trust was broken in the recent financial crisis,” said Levin. “A conveyor belt of high risk securities, backed by toxic mortgages, got AAA ratings that turned out not to be worth the paper they were printed on. The agencies issued those AAA ratings using inadequate data and outmoded models. When they finally fixed their models, they failed for a year — while delinquencies were climbing — to re-evaluate the existing securities. Then, in July 2007, the credit rating agencies instituted a mass downgrade of hundreds of mortgage backed securities, sent shockwaves through the economy, and the financial crisis was on. By first instilling unwarranted confidence in high risk securities and then failing to downgrade them in a responsible manner, the credit rating agencies share blame for the massive economic damage that followed.”"...
You will get sick reading through these documents. They show that the rating agencies knew about the imminent collapse of the housing market through financial fraud and subprime loans as far back as 2004. And they did nothing about it, and were lured into a game of chicken with the other rating agencies, where they all made money by not blinking and downgrading the securities tied to the loans. The revenue of the rating agencies doubled in this time, from 2002-2007. They essentially were being bribed.
In testimony yesterday, the CEOs of the rating agencies plead ignorance:...
This is basically securities fraud, and yet the SEC is statutorily barred from even conducting oversight on the rating agencies. The Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission had to issue a subpoena to Moody’s to get documents released.
The financial reform bill from Chris Dodd creates an Office of Rating Agencies inside the SEC, and gives the ability to sue them for negligence. Rating agencies would need to disclose their methodologies and incorporate third-party information. But it does not truly remove the fundamental conflict of interest, where rating agencies compete for the business of those who issue securities, creating the internal pressure to rate those securities positively. Until then, we will see the same fraud in the rating agencies, in the pursuit of profits, that we see throughout Wall Street.
[bth: see the thing is, fraud, negligence and greed broke the system. The trust was broken and fraud ensued. Rating agencies have to be held to account. Their officers personally, their boards, their employees. Regulations help, but the fact is the regulations probably were in place and just weren't enforced. There have to be repercussions that hit these rating agencies in the pocket book, that eliminate the credibility their fancy buildings instill but their actions betray. This out this painful consequence there will be nothing to prevent this from recurring a year from now. There must be consequence to their actions.]
Sept. 10 New York police detectives meet with Ahmad Wais Afzali, an imam in Queens whom they have used as a source. Afzali says he recognizes Zazi in a photo.
On or around Sept. 11 Zazi and his father, Mohammed Wali Zazi, talk with Afzali by phone about what authorities had asked the imam.
Sept. 11 Zazi's rental car is towed for a parking violation, according to his attorney, Arthur Folsom. FBI agents search the car and find a laptop with an image of nine pages of handwritten notes on how to make explosives, detonators and fuses.
Sept. 12 Zazi flies back to Denver, though rental records show he was not due to return the rental car in New York until Sept. 14.
Sept. 14 FBI agents and police officers search three apartments and question residents of a Queens neighborhood. Agents find a scale and batteries bearing Zazi's fingerprints. An intelligence warning advises U.S. authorities to be alert for evidence of homemade hydrogen peroxide bombs.
Sept. 16 Federal agents interview Zazi, who voluntarily appears at the FBI office in Denver.
Sept. 17-18 Zazi allegedly tells FBI agents that, during a 2008 trip to Pakistan, he received instruction on weapons and explosives at an al-Qaeda training facility.
Sept. 19 Authorities arrest Zazi, his father and Afzali on charges of lying in a matter involving terrorism.
Sept. 24 Zazi is indicted by a federal grand jury in New York."...
[bth: this article lays out the time line but note that the NY police stop the car and talk to the imam and tow the car. The FBI thought the NYPD blew the investigation. The NYPD thought the FBI was leaving NYC exposed to an attack. I tend to side with the NYPD and the side of caution on this one.]
Khawaja was dismissed from the air force in the late 1980s and subsequently earned a reputation of having close ties to some militant groups. Khawaja has played an important behind-the-scenes role in both regional and national politics. Before the US attack on Afghanistan in late 2001, he was a part of the back-room diplomacy between the US and the Taliban, which failed miserably.
The revelations appear in five video clips sent to Asia Times Online by an al-Qaeda-linked group of militants from the Pakistani North Waziristan tribal area. The clips appear to have been heavily edited, with some of Khawaja's sentences - he is speaking in Urdu - cut off. At times it appears that a frail Khawaja, in his early 60s, is under duress."...
[bth: a fascinating article worth reading in full.]
It was not immediately clear how the attacker got into the base or how many people were wounded in Monday's blast. NATO referred questions to Afghan military officials because it happened on their base.
On Saturday, Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi said he had received no information that the attack was a suicide bomb. The Taliban claimed responsibility in calls to news organizations in Kabul soon after the blast.
Sgt. Robert J. Barrett, 20, of Fall River, Massachusetts, died Monday when a suicide bomber attacked his unit in the Afghan capital, according to a statement posted Friday on the Pentagon website. Several U.S. soldiers were also wounded.
Barrett's father, Paul Barrett, told The Standard-Times newspaper in Massachusetts that the attacker stole an Afghan uniform and infiltrated a group of Afghans his son and eight other U.S. soldiers were training to be police officers.
The younger Barrett was the father of a 2-year-old daughter named Sophie Alexandra, the Fall River Herald-News reported Friday. He also served at the inauguration of President Barack Obama as a member of the Massachusetts National Honor Guard's volunteer regiment.
On Saturday, a spokesman for the provincial governor of Kunduz province in northern Afghanistan said 15 insurgents were killed in a joint military operation with Afghan and NATO forces on Friday night.
In Baghlan province, to the south, 10 Taliban soldiers switched sides to join government forces, according to a spokesman for the provincial governor."
[bth: the Gold Star Families of Mass got together last night at a Red Sox game and we were talking about the miss reporting that had occurred regarding Barrett. The Pentagon had said he was killed in a dismounted operation by an IED. We learned that this was not the case, that it was a suicide bomber that got on the FOB. Now this article confirms it. Why the misreport?]
But interviews with more than a dozen soldiers and health care professionals from Fort Carson’s transition unit, along with reports from other posts, suggest that the units are far from being restful sanctuaries. For many soldiers, they have become warehouses of despair, where damaged men and women are kept out of sight, fed a diet of powerful prescription pills and treated harshly by noncommissioned officers. Because of their wounds, soldiers in Warrior Transition Units are particularly vulnerable to depression and addiction, but many soldiers from Fort Carson’s unit say their treatment there has made their suffering worse.
Some soldiers in the unit, and their families, described long hours alone in their rooms, or in homes off the base, aimlessly drinking or playing video games.
“In combat, you rely on people and you come out of it feeling good about everything,” said a specialist in the unit. “Here, you’re just floating. You’re not doing much. You feel worthless.”
At Fort Carson, many soldiers complained that doctors prescribed drugs too readily. As a result, some soldiers have become addicted to their medications or have turned to heroin. Medications are so abundant that some soldiers in the unit openly deal, buy or swap prescription pills.
Heavy use of psychotropic drugs and narcotics makes it difficult to exercise, wake for morning formation and attend classes, soldiers and health care professionals said. Yet non-commissioned officers discipline soldiers who fail to complete those tasks, sometimes over the objections of nurse case managers and doctors."....
[bth: My talks with those that have come out of these units is that they are essentially given so many drugs that they aren't able to function. That's described in this article as 'floating'. Whether real care is occurring or just drugging these soldiers up to shut them up is a real question. Ft. Carson has a terrible record of treating its soldiers. Its had it since at least 2004. Sen. Kennedy sent a staffer there about a year ago to investigate what was happening and it stands in sharp contrast to better treatment at other places down in Texas. My general conclusion is that these centers do more good than harm and there has been some effort to improve the transition from military to veterans administration care which is important. But really what it comes down to is the cheapest way to address the pressures put on the Army by the public and congress - they're just doping the soldiers up because pills are cheap.]