Friday, October 01, 2010
WASHINGTON — A new bill sponsored by Senator John F. Kerry and Representative Barney Frank will now allow some parents of fallen soldiers to be buried next to their children in national military cemeteries.
The Corey Shea Act, named for an Army specialist from Mansfield who was killed in Iraq in 2008, was approved by the Senate Tuesday and the House Wednesday.
The bill was introduced in 2009 after Shea’s mother, Denise Anderson, was denied a petition to be buried with her son at Bourne National Veterans’ Cemetery because, under federal law, plots in military cemeteries were reserved only for soldiers, their spouses, and minor children, according to Kerry’s office.
“I feel more at peace now than I have in almost two years,’’ Anderson, 43, said yesterday. “I just feel elated that I can be buried with my son.’’
Anderson said she was tired from the yearlong fight to get the bill passed.
Shea, 21, had no spouse or children, and his mother sought help from Kerry and Frank.
“He didn’t have a wife or child, and I didn’t want him to be buried alone,’’ Anderson said.
Kerry said in a statement: “No parent of a fallen soldier should have to worry about their child being buried alone. I know Corey would be unbelievably proud of his mother for her loving determination to honor his memory and ease the burden of other parents who have suffered this unspeakable loss.’’
“It makes me feel good helping others,’’ Anderson said. “I’ve always been that way, and Corey was the same way.’’
Frank said this was the least the nation could do for Anderson
The bill, part of the Veterans Insurance and Health Care Improvement Act, covers all 131 national veterans’ cemeteries. It is now awaiting President Obama’s signature.
US Senator Scott Brown is on the Veteran Affairs Committee and also helped move the legislation through, Anderson said.
“Without the help of Senator Brown and Senator Kerry and Representative Frank,’’ the bill would not have passed, she said. “They’re my angels, and they helped push this along.’’
bth: Denise! Alma and I could not be more delighted in your victory for us. Congrats. We are just so pleased that the VA has finally caught up with common practice at Arlington National Cemetery on this matter. It was so good to spend the day with you and yours and our other Gold Star friends out at Province-town last month and to see your success come to fruition is just such a pleasure. Our very best wishes. You have singlehandedly made a difference for future families who will have no idea there was ever even a problem. Your admirers, Brian and Alma Hart
The accusations come from tapes of military investigators talking with the soldiers, accused in the murders of up to three Afghan civilians.
Four of the accused soldiers increasingly point the finger of blame at their Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs.
One of them described in court what Gibbs had threatened to do if if one of the soldiers reported him.
'He's like, man, when we get back to Fort Lewis, he's going to cripple him or paralyze him, something to that effect,' the soldier said of Gibbs. 'And then he was going to kill his mom, so that he would have to forever live with that.'
In the tapes, obtained by ABC News, the soldiers said they do not think Gibbs was joking.
The military has charged Gibbs with keeping body parts from his victims, either as souvenirs or to threaten other soldiers with.
- bth: where were the officers?
One of the men, named as Abdul Jabbar, was killed earlier this month in a missile strike by an unmanned American drone as part of a series of attacks directly aimed at the organisers of the plan to stage co-ordinated killing sprees by groups of commandos in major European cities.
A Pakistani intelligence official said the two Britons had been tracked for nearly a year in North Waziristan, a lawless tribal region which has become a hub for Islamist militants, along with eight German citizens who were also involved with the al-Qa'ida-linked plot.
The men had been making phone calls to London and Germany to begin the process of activating the plot by finding accomplices in Europe, the official said. Western security sources said on Wednesday that the scheme had recently moved from being an aspiration to concrete planning and was 'still active'.
The Pakistani official, part of the team in charge of tracking the suspects, told the Associated Press: 'They have been making calls to Germany and London. They have been talking about and looking for facilitators and logistics they need there to carry out terror attacks.'
Intelligence on the plot first emerged late this summer following the arrest of a German national, Ahmed Sidiqui, 36, who was detained in Kabul in July and provided American interrogators with details of an attack on Britain, France and Germany being planned from Waziristan. ...
- bth: if these two were doing their recruiting by telephone, one wonders just how smart they really are?
The Pakistani government shut the Torkham border in the northwest in apparent protest at a NATO helicopter incursion that killed three of its soldiers on the border. The events raised tensions between Pakistan and the United States, which have a close but often troubled alliance in the fight against militants.
The convoy of tankers attacked Friday was likely headed to a second crossing in southwest Pakistan that was not closed. It was not clear if the vehicles had been rerouted because of the closure at Torkham.
Around 80 percent of the fuel, spare parts, clothing and other non-lethal supplies for foreign forces in landlocked Afghanistan travel through Pakistan after arriving in the southern Arabian sea port of Karachi. The alliance has other supply routes to Afghanistan, but the Pakistani ones are the cheapest and most convenient.
Islamist militants occasionally attack NATO supply tankers in Pakistan, mostly in the northwest where their influence is stronger. Thursday's strike was in Sindh province, far from the border, and might be taken as a sign that the insurgents are expanding their reach.
Around 10 gunmen attacked the vehicles when they were parked at an ordinary truck stop on the edge of Shikarpur town shortly after midnight. They forced the drivers and other people there to flee before setting the fires, said police officer Abdul Hamid Khoso. No one was wounded or killed....
- bth: how do you win a war where your supply lines are cut at will? In all likelihood this attack was a staged event. The 10 attackers chased the drives away first. This is a signal from the government and taliban players that be in Pakistan that we need to stay on our side of the border or the cost - financially- of the war goes up dramatically for us as we pay our friends and enemies alike to supply our 'surge' troops.
Thursday, September 30, 2010
NATO said it was investigating the allegations and whether they were linked to an operation against insurgents in a nearby Afghan province.
The accusations and the fallout were likely to exacerbate tensions between Islamabad and Washington, which is struggling to beat back a resurgent Taliban movement in the 9-year-old Afghan war. Over the weekend, NATO choppers fired on targets in Pakistan, killing several alleged insurgents they had pursued over the border from Afghanistan.
Islamabad protested the intrusion into its territory that has inflamed already pervasive anti-American sentiments among Pakistanis.
On Thursday, two government officials told The Associated Press they were ordered to stop NATO supply trucks from crossing into Afghanistan at the Torkham border post, a major entryway for NATO materials at the edge of the Khyber tribal region. No reason was given for the blockage, but earlier this week Pakistan threatened to stop providing protection to NATO convoys if the military alliance's choppers attacked targets inside Pakistan again.....
If carried out, such a threat would have major consequences on the war in Afghanistan as well as on Pakistan's relationship with the United States, which is vitally important for both nations. Analysts said there was little or no chance of Islamabad carrying though with it, however.
The threat was therefore seen as mostly aimed at tamping down criticism inside Pakistan, where anti-American sentiment runs high and where conspiracy theories that the U.S. army is poised to invade the nation from bases in Afghanistan are rampant.
But it was also a clear sign of Pakistani unease at the attacks on Saturday and Monday by NATO aircraft against militants in its northwest tribal areas and a reminder of the leverage the country has in its complicated alliance with Washington.
While Pakistan has remained largely silent about U.S. drone strikes in the northwest, Pakistani security officials say they are drawing a line at direct interference by U.S. and NATO manned aircraft. They rejected NATO statements that NATO air defense teams were acting to protect an Afghan border post against militants who had attacked it, then fled to Pakistan.
The Pakistani officers said Pakistan's foreign ministry had conveyed the threat to stop protecting NATO convoys to NATO headquarters in Brussels. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to give their names to the media.
If there are any more attacks by U.S. or NATO choppers 'we will not be able to ensure the safety of their convoys,' one of the officials told an Associated Press reporter at a private briefing.
On Monday, the foreign ministry strongly criticized the attacks and warned of 'response options' if they happened again.
Some 80 percent of non-lethal supplies for foreign forces fighting in landlocked Afghanistan cross over Pakistani soil after being unloaded at docks in Karachi, a port city in the south.
Pakistani security forces provide security for the convoys, which are often attacked by militants as they travel north....
The sales people say they're Israeli art students and are selling their works to raise money for a gallery. Some have even produced what appear to be legitimate Israeli passports. ...
Wednesday, September 29, 2010
Abu Ghaith’s departure from Iran was first reported by the Kuwaiti press, which has long tracked the influential cleric because of his following inside Kuwait and beyond. The preacher was stripped of his Kuwaiti citizenship in late 2001 after promising another al Qaeda strike on America during an appearance on Al Jazeera.
Al Watan, an online Kuwaiti newspaper, reported earlier this month that three batches of al Qaeda and Taliban terrorists have been released by Iran in exchange for the release of Heshmatollah Attarzadeh, an Iranian diplomat who was kidnapped by the Taliban in northern Pakistan in 2008. Abu Ghaith was among the terrorists released in the third and final batch.
US intelligence officials contacted by the Long War Journal say the account is credible. But, these officials say, Ghaith’s “house arrest” was really a form of safe haven....
France on full alert over suicide bomb threat to public transport - The Irish Times - Tue, Sep 21, 2010
The country is on full alert against a specific terrorist threat that has been confirmed by two separate sources, according to French radio.
The rector of the Grand Mosque of Paris, Dalil Boubakeur, considered a moderate Muslim, has also been given three armed guards after a spokesman said he was under a “real threat”.
Interior minister Brice Hortefeux refused to give details of the threat but said “our vigilance is reinforced today”. Last week Mr Hortefeux admitted the threat was at a “high level” when he visited the Eiffel Tower after it was evacuated following a bomb alert.
The Saint-Michel metro station near Notre Dame cathedral was also briefly evacuated over a similar threat.
France’s terrorism level has been on what is described as “reinforced red” since 5am last Thursday. This followed intelligence from a north African country – said to be either Morocco or Algeria – that an Algerian was planning to carry out an attack on a Paris train, bus or metro that day. French intelligence had been given similar information from another source.
RTL radio said: “The secret services spent the whole day searching for the suspected woman terrorist . . . in vain. The extremely credible threat is still being taken seriously today.”
The threat is being linked to the kidnapping of seven nuclear workers – five French, one Togolese and one Madagascan – in Niger last week. There has been no admission of responsibility for the attack on the foreign workers – six men employed by the French nuclear company Areva and one woman – in Arlit, 800km northeast of the capital Niamey, but French officials suspect al-Qaeda’s north African branch.
Bernard Squarcini, head of France’s counter-terrorism services, said in an interview with Le Journal du Dimanche at the beginning of September that the threat of an attack in France “had never been higher”...
The Northern Lights, or aurora borealis, generally follow an 11-year 'solar cycle,' in which the frequency of the phenomena rises to a maximum and then tapers off into a minimum and then repeats the cycle.
'The solar minimum was officially in 2008, but this minimum has been going on and on and on,' researcher Noora Partamies told AFP.
'Only in the past half a year have we seen more activity, but we don't really know whether we're coming out of this minimum,' she added.
The Northern Lights, a blaze of colored patterns in the northern skies, are triggered by solar winds crashing into the earth and being drawn to the magnetic poles, wreaking havoc on electrons in the parts of the atmosphere known as the ionosphere and magnetosphere.
So a dimming of the Northern Lights is a signal that activity on the sun which causes solar winds, such as solar flares and sun sports, is also quieting down.
For researchers like Partamies, it is the first time they can observe through a network of modern observation stations what happens to this solar cycle when it becomes as badly disrupted as it is now.
'We're waiting to see what happens, is the next maximum going to be on time, is it going to be late, is it going to be huge?' Partamies said.
During the cycle's peak in 2003, the station on Norway's Svalbard Island near the North Pole, showed that the Northern Lights were visible almost every single night of the auroral season, which excludes the nightless summer months.
That figure has fallen to less than 50 percent, while the southernmost station, situated in southern Finland, has been registering only two to five instances annually for the past few years.
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Avigdor Lieberman offered a draft of his proposal Tuesday to the United Nations General Assembly in New York. It would redraw the borders of Israel to include several large Jewish settlements in the West Bank and exclude large Israeli Arab towns, which would become part of a newly created Palestinian state.
'A final agreement between Israel and the Palestinians has to be based on a program of exchange of territory and populations,' Lieberman told the General Assembly, Haaretz reported.
Lieberman stressed that his proposals did not represent a scheme for 'populations transfer,' a phrase that evokes historical proposals by Israel's extreme right to evict Palestinians from the West Bank and Gaza.
'We are not talking about population transfer but about defining borders so as best to reflect the demographic reality,' he said.
Lieberman's proposal has been criticized by many in Israel as racist and ill received by Israeli Arabs, who comprise approximately 20 percent of Israel's population.
Netanyahu's backing away from the plan raises questions of a rift in his coalition, where Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu is the second largest party.
'Lieberman's address was not coordinated with the prime minister,' Haaretz quoted the Prime Minister's Office as saying in a statement. 'Netanyahu is the one handling the negotiations on Israel's behalf. The various issues surrounding a peace agreement will be discussed and decided only at the negotiating table, and nowhere else.'
Israeli-Palestinian peace talks launched earlier this month in Washington have hit a snag over the expiration of Israel's moratorium on West Bank settlement building.
- bth: apartheid
The terrorist group's senior commander-Sheikh Fateh- had reportedly been given the job in May, after Al-Qaeda's purported number three figure and Osama bin Laden's one-time treasurer Mustafa Abu al-Yazid was killed, The News reported.
Pakistani security officials said the Egyptian was killed on Saturday in a US drone strike in North Waziristan.
'Yes, he has been killed,' one Pakistani security official said, on condition of anonymity.
Two other Pakistani intelligence officials confirmed his death.
'He was head of Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan... Locally, he was known as Abdul Razzaq,' one of the officials disclosed.
As part of its covert war in Afghanistan, the CIA has launched 20 drone attacks in Pakistan thus far in September, the most ever during a single month, and more than twice the number in a typical month.
The recent strikes have been aimed at several groups, including the Haqqani network, Al Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban, as the United States hoped to 'keep the pressure on as long as we can,' revealed an American official. (ANI)
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Tuesday, September 28, 2010
Note the use of the abstract face. It is unclear to me if this is to represent a stylized version of the Holy Ghost. This abstract head figure is fairly common in the area of Bedford, Lexington, Concord and the Boston area and is often found on women and less influential people (probably because more sculpted images cost more). Note the six pedaled flowers. These are believed to be a reference to the flowers of the field, cut down in life. Note that Mrs Moors was 24 years old. Also the inscription reads 'here lies buried the body of ..." to be distinguished from the soul of Mrs. Moors. The spirals are likely a referral to the vines and branches of Christ and the church. In cemeteries of this period you won't find a representation of a cross.
Key members of WikiLeaks were angered to learn last month that Assange had secretly provided media outlets with embargoed access to the vast database, under an arrangement similar to the one WikiLeaks made with three newspapers that released documents from the Afghanistan war in July. WikiLeaks is set to release the Iraq trove on Oct. 18, according to ex-staffers — far too early, in the view of some of them, to properly redact the names of U.S. collaborators and informants in Iraq.
Baghdad’s scourge of mysterious killings continues almost seven months after a national election that has so far failed to produce a government. Assailants regularly target their victims with silencer pistols or small bombs.
In the latest such attack, a police officer was gunned down in the western Baghdad neighborhood of Khadra on Monday morning, according to police sources. On Sunday, gunmen with silencers killed a civil servant from the cabinet. Also killed in other attacks were an official from Iraq’s anti-corruption commission; a lieutenant colonel in the police’s counter-terrorism unit; and an army major, police said. In a separate attack, a state television announcer was wounded when assailants planted a bomb on his car Monday. Another state television announcer was killed a few weeks ago in a near-identical attack.
Earlier this month, an Iraqi non-governmental organization called the Monitor of Constitutional Freedom and Bill of Rights released a report that said 686 people had been killed this year with silencers. ....
About 150 people protested in Minneapolis, with signs reading: 'Stop FBI harassment. Opposing war is not a crime.' Roughly 120 people marched in Chicago, chanting, 'Hey, hey! Ho, ho! FBI raids have got to go!'
Search warrants had indicated investigators were looking for connections between the activists and radical groups in Colombia and the Middle East. Activists interviewed by The Associated Press scoffed at the suggestion that they might have provided material support to terrorism, and denied contributing money to terrorists.
One of the homes searched was that of Jess Sundin of the Minnesota Anti-War Committee. She told protesters that she knows of 13 people who have been subpoenaed to appear before a federal grand jury in Chicago next month.
Sundin and two other Minnesotans who were searched — Mick Kelly, and Meredith Aby — acknowledged in interviews Monday that they've had ties to activist groups and have traveled in the Middle East and-or Colombia. But they all denied contributing any money to terrorist groups.
'We have provided no material support,' Kelly said. 'I can't stress that long enough or loud enough, and honestly I don't believe that's why we're facing this scrutiny.'...
--- bth; we as citizens, now treated as subjects, have been intimidated and cowed to a point where we are simply willing to walk away from our constitutional rights to privacy. Are we gradually slipping into a police state.
Monday, September 27, 2010
This startling disclosure about Washington's 'all bets off' policy towards an ostensibly dubious ally in the war on terror is contained in Bob Woodward's opus ' Obama's War,' which details an evolving US approach in the region.
The plan pre-dates the Obama presidency, going back to the Bush White House, but elements of policy, aimed at wiping out terrorist sanctuaries in Pakistan, is evident in the current administration's ruthless bombing by unmanned drones of terrorist targets inside Pakistan, which far surpasses the Bush approach in terms of frequency and intensity....
Local politics are where its at if you want to make a difference in a short period of time. Here are my friends at the Bedford MA Democratic Party booth on Bedford Day, Sept. 25, 2010. What a wonderful group of people who genuinely care about their community. Good people like this from all parties who volunteer their time to local government will restore one's soul. Screw Washington. Go local.
Doris Smith who lost her brother in Vietnam, Alma Hart and Mary Ellen Callahan who lost their sons in Iraq pictured here at the Bedford VA Hospital during the Vets for Vets celebration. What a wonderful day.
At an outpost outside the village of Kunjak, Marine Sgt. John Ellis, 26, squad leader, holds up a yellow, 5-gallon jug, the type used routinely for chores in any Afghan home or merchant shop. 'This is what they use for IEDs,' he says.
The jugs are filled with 15 to 40 pounds of explosives and can be stuffed with ball bearings, nuts, bolts and screws for shrapnel. They are fitted with a simple pressure-plate detonator constructed of two pieces of plastic-wrapped wood sandwiching electric wire, Ellis says.
Bombs are set off remotely by radio or triggered from the end of a wire. The fine dust that powders roads and dry riverbed crossings conceals pressure plates. Lush irrigated fields are ripe for tripwires. Many armored trucks have been damaged or disabled by the bombs.
The first line of defense for a foot patrol is the metal detector. Lance Cpl. Matthew Dickens, 20, slowly swings the device back and forth searching for a signal.
He has found half a dozen bombs listening for the beep that becomes more rapid when the detector is over an explosive. Dickens then lies on his stomach, his heart pounding, and slowly uncovers enough earth to reveal whether a bomb is there.
He tries not to think about what might happen. 'It if goes off, you're probably not going to feel a lot of anything. You'll just be done,' he says. 'Afterward, it's relief knowing that I'm away from it. It's not going to blow me up.'
- bth: for a Lt. Col. to say the increase in the number of IEDs the marines are stepping on in Kandahar proves the surge is working is just pure bull crap and stupid.
Sunday, September 26, 2010
Watching Obama campaign in 2008, you'd never have guessed that a central challenge of his presidency would be figuring out how to connect with people. At that town hall Monday, a woman named Velma Hart told the president she was exhausted. 'I voted for a man who said he was going to change things in a meaningful way for the middle class,' she said. 'I'm one of those people, and I'm waiting, sir.'
She's still waiting for a good response. Hart later told reporters that she'd hoped for something 'magical, very powerful' from Obama and that she was disappointed in his answer.
The president can't wave a magic wand and restore retirement savings or reduce unemployment. But he can make Hart, and millions like her, see that they have his attention and have engaged his imagination. That's all she wanted, really, as she explained in cable news interviews after the town hall: to know that he's thinking about people like her and wants to talk. President Obama and his team should be able to do that.
- bth: well worth reading in full
US forces struck at the Haqqani Network fighters on Friday after they attacked Combat Outpost Narizah, an Afghan base just eight miles from the Pakistani border in the district of Tani in Khost province.
The Haqqani Network fighters were hit in the Taliban-controlled tribal agency of North Waziristan, which is just across the Pakistani border.
'An air weapons team in the area observed the enemy fire, and following International Security Assistance Force rules of engagement, crossed into the area of enemy fire,' the International Security Assistance Force stated in a press release. 'The ISAF aircraft then engaged, killing more than 30 insurgents.'
ISAF confirmed that the helicopters struck at the Haqqani Network fighters in Pakistan. The attack helicopters launched their attack 'after following the proper rules of engagement under inherent right of self defense,' Master Sergeant Matthew Summers, a public affairs official, told The Long War Journal.
On Saturday, ISAF launched a second attack against the Haqqani Network, after taking fire in the border area. 'Several additional insurgents' were killed in that attack.
No civilians have been reported killed or injured in either of the attacks.
The assault on Combat Outpost Narizah is the sixth against outposts in eastern Afghanistan since the end of August. [For more information on recent Haqqani Network attacks on US and Afghan bases, see LWJ report, US, Afghan forces defeat Haqqani Network suicide assault on FOB Gardez.]
- bth: note that magic 30 number of insurgents killed shows up again. Always 30 which probably means they had enough to justify an air attack but otherwise not a clue and is very likely a made up number. Additionally note that this is the sixth outpost attached by the Haqqani Network in the last few weeks. All attacks have been unsuccessful. Its as if Haqqani is burning off its excess low level manpower before winter.
Earlier this month, Army prosecutors at Joint Base Lewis-McChord turned over the photos to a military representative of civilian attorneys representing five soldiers accused of murdering three Afghan civilians and other crimes.
But an Army commander decided the photos should not be released. In an unusual move, prosecutors then demanded defense representatives at the base return the computer disk containing the photos, according to attorneys involved in the case.
The decision reflects concern among the Army's senior leadership that publication of such evidence could anger Afghan civilians at a time the United States is trying to win support for a counterinsurgency campaign against the Taliban.
'I have determined that the risk of potential prejudice to the substantive rights of the accused, as well as negative impact on the reputation of the armed forces, associated with the potential public dissemination of these images outweighs minimal hardship upon the accused as a result of this order,' Col. Barry Huggins wrote in a memorandum reported in The New York Times.
Huggins is commander of the 2nd Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, at Joint Base Lewis-McChord...
- bth: both Afghans and Americans should be upset and outraged by murder for sport.
By this colonel's action this is now going to be about managing the PR narrative for Afghanistan just as kicking Michael Yon out of Afghanistan when he started objecting to what he saw occurred earlier this year and just as we've aggressively censored embeds.
We, both Afghans and Americans, should in fact be upset with murder for sport and a broken chain of command.
The Pentagon is about media management now for Americans who grow increasingly wary of what they are told about Afghanistan. Its no longer about victory, because we can't even define it. This is now going to become the wrong narrative and those photos are invariable going to leak out with magnified damage. When that happens it will look as if the Army tried to cover up the incident by covering up the photos which may in fact be diametrically opposite to what ultimately is happening.
Stupid. Stupid. Stupid.
...Through August, there have been 1,062 effective IED attacks against coalition forces that killed 292 and wounded 2,178 others. In the first eight months of 2009, there were only 820 such attacks that killed 322 and wounded 1,813, according to the latest figures released by the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization (JIEDDO).
IEDs remain the main cause of troop deaths in the war with more than half the coalition's 531 fatalities this year coming from the roadside bombings.
The number of IEDs that were found and cleared before harming coalition forces also rose this year, from 4,226 last year to 4,650 this year. The report indicates that although IEDs remain the major threat to U.S. and allied forces, the multibillion-dollar effort to counter them is having some success.
One reason given for the drop in deaths is protection provided by upgraded armored fighting vehicles now being used in Afghanistan.
A military spokesman estimated that Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles "have reduced deaths and injuries by 30 percent" from January 2009 to July 2010, according to a recent story in USA TODAY.
In its annual report for fiscal 2009, released earlier this month, Army Lt. Gen. Michael Oates, director of JIEDDO said, "IEDs in Afghanistan continued to present a significant threat'' to coalition forces.
He described them as based on "simple, yet effective, technologies and designs such as Victim Operated IEDs (e.g., pressure plates) and Command Wire IEDs that often used large net explosive weight charges." Because of their simplicity, many of the devices continue to avoid detection even by new sophisticated countermeasures being developed, Oates said.
According to a JIEDDO fact sheet, 80 percent of the Afghan IEDs use homemade explosive components such as farm fertilizer, ammonium nitrate along with wood, saw blades and other everyday materials.
The JIEDDO program, which has been given $15.9 billion since 2004, has this year received mixed reviews on Capitol Hill. The administration requested $3.4 billion for next year, an amount that the Senate Armed Services Committee approved in sending the fiscal 2011 Defense Authorization Bill to the Senate floor, where it awaits approval.
However, the panel directed Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates to review the management and oversight of JIEDDO because of concerns that the program lacks "thorough intra-department oversight and coordination on development and acquisition activities."
The Senate Appropriations Committee, in its review of the fiscal 2011 request, took a different approach. It cut the JIEDDO budget down to $2.8 billion in part by transferring more than $400 million to Army and other military service accounts. In its report, the appropriators said the JIEDDO budget was "being used to cover unrequested and unjustified items which either are of interest to senior leaders or make up for shortfalls in amounts requested by the services."...
bth: JIEDDO remains one of the worst managed programs in the military. It provides some innovations but does so at enormous expense and delay. To make matters worst various branches, particularly the Army snatch its funds and divert them to pet project and to total bullshit initiatives. JIEDDO plays a critical role, but it would lose WWII. For example it has taken us 4 years to begin sharing information with our allies! For another it classifies the most trivial things so that industry meetings are all classified which eliminates most small and innovative businesses that might offer unique technologies. Their BAA process means submitting proposals to a website and having them sit idle or unreviewed for half a year at a time. Its total BS. The engineers I have met from JIEDDO at the lower level are not impressive and at the upper levels they are inaccessible. No one seems to know what they are doing or how the process works in practice. They have done good work in armor and in jammers which has saved thousands of lives but that is about it. There is some improvement in aerial target acquisition and some improvement in forensics but those have been very very slow in coming. It is at a point where various departments are going around JIEDDO rather than through it because of its inertia. The turning point I found was a couple of years ago when they capped overtime for dedicated employees trying to get work done. This is when I felt it became a bureaucracy and not the Manhattan Project it had the potential of being.
As head of state, president Dilma Rousseff would outrank Angela Merkel, Germany's Chancellor, and Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State: her enormous country of 200 million people is revelling in its new oil wealth. Brazil's growth rate, rivalling China's, is one that Europe and Washington can only envy.
Her widely predicted victory in next Sunday's presidential poll will be greeted with delight by millions. It marks the final demolition of the 'national security state', an arrangement that conservative governments in the US and Europe once regarded as their best artifice for limiting democracy and reform. It maintained a rotten status quo that kept a vast majority in poverty in Latin America while favouring their rich friends....
- bth: interesting bio worth reading in full. Can we establish a friendly relationship with her?
UPDATE: Senate Republicans have blocked consideration of the defense authorization bill containing a repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. The vote to end the filibuster was 56 in favor and 43 against.
Which means the side with 56 votes loses.
(Harry Reid was one of those voting against, which allowed him to move for later reconsideration.)
Jonathan Hopkins graduated fourth in his West Point class, served three combat tours, was awarded three Bronze Stars (including one for valor), served as a platoon leader in the 173rd Airborne Brigade and commanded a Stryker infantry company.
Capt. Jonathan Hopkins
Capt. Jonathan Hopkins
Last month he was forced to leave the Army after others reported that he was gay. But the Army took its sweet time in ousting him, allowing him to serve an additional 14 months before making his expulsion official.
“Four months after being found out,” he recalls, “and 10 months prior to leaving the Army, I found myself with a boyfriend for the first time in my life, because I was no longer scared to have such a relationship. He and I attended social events and dinners with my peers. I talked about him at work. My life became one of full disclosure.
Amid all of that, the unit continued to function and I continued to be respected for the work I did. Many, from both companies I commanded, approached me to say that they didn’t care if I was gay — they thought I was one of the best commanders they’d ever had. And unbeknownst to me, many had guessed I was probably gay all along. Most didn’t care about my sexuality. I was accepted by most of them, as was my boyfriend, and I had never been happier in the military. Nothing collapsed, no one stopped talking to me, the Earth spun on its axis, and the unit prepared to fight another day.”...
bth: DADT says on the one hand, one can serve in the military and be homosexual but on the other hand, one can't tell. This of course makes that person vulnerable to blackmail which is against the national interest. One cannot serve their country honorably under DADT and be at the same time honest with superiors and comrades about sexual orientation.
DADT has outlived its usefulness by at least a decade. It is time to move toward honesty and integrity in the way we treat our troops and ourselves.
Senators Snowe and Collins in Maine really screwed over this country with their lack of moral courage. They know better and they lacked the guts to do what was right when it mattered even in contradiction to their stated positions. No wonder there is such a wave of anti-incumbency.
Attorneys for homeowners in Florida say Ally Financial's GMAC mortgage unit has begun to withdraw affidavits submitted in support of foreclosures that were signed by a second employee. Like Jeffrey Stephan--the document processor who admitted in sworn testimony that he signed 10,000 documents a month without reviewing them--Kristine Wilson signed as a 'limited signing officer' for GMAC.
In a request to withdraw an affidavit listing debts owed by a homeowner that was signed by Wilson in a Palm Beach County Circuit Court case, lawyers for GMAC say that 'information in the affidavit may not have been properly verified.'
The attorneys said, however, that the 'amounts reflecting the indebtedness contained therein' . . . 'were believed to be correct when filed.'
Ally, which is majority-owned by the U.S. Treasury Department, did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
- bth: so Ally is defrauding the government. Ally is controlled by the government. What a circle jerk. The taxpayer pays for it all.
Germany and Britain have moved in recent months to reduce or phase out aid. Japan, long China's biggest donor, halted new low-interest loans in 2008.
'People in the U.K. or people in the West see the kind of flawless expenditure on the Olympics and the (Shanghai) Expo and it's really difficult to get them to think the U.K. should still be giving aid to China,' said Adrian Davis, head of the British government aid agency in Beijing, which plans to wrap up its projects in China by March.
'I don't think you will have conventional aid to China from anybody, really, after about the next three to five years,' he said.
Aid to China from individual donor countries averaged $2.6 billion a year in 2007-2008, according to the latest figures available from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.
Ethiopia, where average incomes are 10 times smaller, got $1.6 billion, although measured against a population of 1.3 billion, China's share of foreign aid is still smaller than most. Iraq got $9.462 billion and Afghanistan $3.475 billion....
--bth: What are western governments thinking? How stupid are we? Well pretty damned stupid.
More than 250 Afghan army, police and coalition personnel conducted the air assault in the Alishang district on Friday after they came under small arms fire, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said.
The joint assault force engaged several militants in the area. 'More than 30 enemy fighters have been killed in the engagement. Initial reports indicate that there are no injuries or damages to any civilians in the area.'
However, more than 200 civilians took to the streets on Saturday afternoon, chanting slogans against NATO for killing several civilians in the inaccurate bombardment.
Sharifullah, one of the protestors, claimed no militant had been killed in the operation and that all the victims were non-combatants.
A resident of Alingar district, Rahmatullah, said most of those killed in the joint operation were civilians.
On the other hand, Laghman Governor Muhammad Iqbal Azizi told Pajhwok Afghan News 31 Taliban guerrillas had killed in the sweep, which is still ongoing. He denied any casualties had been inflicted on civilians....
bth: "30" Taliban seems to be the magic number to justify an air strike. Its hard to imagine civilians opening fire on the Afghan army. It is also hard to imagine a bombing attack that didn't kill civilians. So where is truth in this article? Probably from the local resident who said most of those killed were civilians. I doubt if anyone really knows how many were killed or even who they were.
bth: its worth noting that for all the PR this seems to be getting, it is a move that has been so telegraphed to the Taliban that we are not meeting any combat resistance. The Taliban simply moved out of the way!
...Just two months ago some Afghan units had to be pulled from the field for further training. Now Afghan forces may not be perfect but commanders and officials say they are ready enough.
Captain Brant Auge, Bravo Company Commander says it's more than just training the Afghan soldiers. "We've been building up till now" he says "assessing the situation, learning what we can about the people what their needs and just building up forces and now we kind of reached that culmination point where we're just ready to go."
Even if operation Dragon Strike is overwhelmingly successful few here think it will have long lasting effects if the Afghan Government doesn't step up and actually govern.
"The reason it hasn't worked is because we are giving people a choice between us and the Taliban" says Captain Auge. "The Afghan government is the key, cause they're the ones who can win this thing. It's not a choice between us and the Taliban it's a choice between the Afghan government and the Taliban."
bth: We are swinging at the air expending enormous resources with little or nothing to show for it.
The survey released Thursday by the Jerusalem Media and Communications Center showed 53 percent of those polled said peace talks were the best strategy. That compares with 26 percent who said violent resistance is the best method, and 16 percent who supported non-violent resistance.
The survey also showed 41 percent of respondents had confidence in the Fatah Movement, which governs the West Bank. Less than 15 percent said they were confident in Hamas, the faction that controls the Gaza Strip, while nearly a third of those polled said they do not trust any faction.
The survey of 1,200 random respondents was conducted September 11-15 in the West Bank and Gaza Strip....
bth: I'm more encouraged by the people than the politicians