Saturday, November 27, 2010

For wounded Iraq war veteran, new, accessible home in Fort Worth is 'a blessing' | News for Dallas, Texas | Dallas Morning News | Fort Worth News

For wounded Iraq war veteran, new, accessible home in Fort Worth is 'a blessing' | News for Dallas, Texas | Dallas Morning News | Fort Worth News: "FORT WORTH – Marine Cpl. Zach Briseno jokes that he's taller since returning from Iraq – although he's most grateful that the prosthetic legs that add several inches to his height allow him to chase after his 5-year-old son.

[Click image for a larger version] REX C. CURRY/Special Contributor
REX C. CURRY/Special Contributor
Marine Cpl. Zach Briseno embraced Rep. Kay Granger, R-Fort Worth, before a groundbreaking Monday in Fort Worth for a home being built for him by a Houston nonprofit. The home will have wider doors, lower counters and a special shower.

Although he'd never complain, it has taken time for Briseno to get used to life after losing his legs in an explosion, and it's not easy for him to move around his apartment in his wheelchair. That's why a nonprofit organization is providing him with a home that will have wider doors, lower counters, a special shower and other safety features.

'It's truly a blessing for me and my family,' Briseno said this week as relatives and friends surrounded him on the lot where the home is to be built by next spring., a Houston-based nonprofit, has provided nearly two dozen new homes for veterans severely wounded in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Each project is a partnership with a developer and builder and supported by individual donations from the community, said Meredith Iler, the organization's chairwoman.

The homes worth an average of $250,000 may seem expensive, but they are in communities that provide stability and amenities needed by wounded veterans, Iler said. Those who receive a home are responsible for $50,000 of the mortgage and must agree to live there at least a decade because their role as the family provider is important, Iler said.

'We know that placing them in these homes restores their sense of independence,' she said. 'But the hardest thing is getting them to finish the application because they don't want to take up a spot for someone worse off than they are.'...


Second Rail-Equipped Drug Tunnel Found at Mexican Border -

Second Rail-Equipped Drug Tunnel Found at Mexican Border - "LOS ANGELES — Federal investigators discovered a sophisticated cross-border tunnel Thursday in an industrial part of San Diego. The half-mile tunnel was the second found this month equipped with rail tracks and carts to funnel drugs to and from Tijuana, Mexico.
Enlarge This Image
Francisco Vega/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

An entrance to the half-mile tunnel was discovered beneath the floor of a house in Tijuana. There were two exits in San Diego.

After getting a tip about drug activity at a warehouse in Otay Mesa, a thicket of warehouses and truck repair shops that hugs the Mexican border, agents with the San Diego Tunnel Task Force arrested three men there and discovered the tunnel. United States and Mexican authorities have seized more than 20 tons of marijuana since Thursday.

Mexican military investigators later detained five men in Tijuana and uncovered an entrance to the tunnel beneath the kitchen floor of a house

Mike Unzueta, who oversees investigations for Immigration and Customs Enforcement in San Diego, said there were two entrances on the United States side, both in warehouses in the Otay Mesa area. Investigators believe the tunnel was operated by the Sinaloa cartel, one of the five largest drug cartels operating in Mexico. “This is fairly sophisticated construction,” Mr. Unzueta said. “There is a lighting system throughout, a ventilation system.”

bth: second such tunnel this month. where do they displace a half mile of tunnel dirt?

Mohamed Osman Mohamud Arrested In Portland Car Bomb Plot

Mohamed Osman Mohamud Arrested In Portland Car Bomb Plot: "PORTLAND, Ore. — Undercover agents in a sting operation stopped a Somali-born teenager from blowing up a van full of explosives at a crowded Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland on Friday, federal authorities said.

The explosives were duds supplied by the agents and the public was never in danger, authorities said.

Mohamed Osman Mohamud, 19, was arrested at 5:40 p.m. just after he dialed a cell phone that he thought would detonate the explosives but instead brought federal agents and Portland police swooping down on him.

Yelling 'Allahu Akbar!' – Arabic for 'God is great!' – Mohamud tried to kick agents and police as they closed in, according to prosecutors.

'The threat was very real,' said Arthur Balizan, special agent in charge of the FBI in Oregon. 'Our investigation shows that Mohamud was absolutely committed to carrying out an attack on a very grand scale,'

Mohamud, a naturalized U.S. citizen living in Corvallis, was charged with attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and is scheduled for a court appearance Monday. Few details were available about him late Friday....

Mohamed Osman Mohamud Portland Car Bomb

After Revelation of Taliban Negotiation Imposter, Taliban Commanders Laughs at U.S. - The Daily Beast

After Revelation of Taliban Negotiation Imposter, Taliban Commanders Laughs at U.S. - The Daily Beast: "The man pretending to be insurgent leader Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour was in fact a shopkeeper from Quetta in Western Pakistan, they said.

“Imagine,” Mohammad Hafiz, a senior Taliban commander, told The Daily Beast, “if a shopkeeper from Quetta can make a fool of them and keep them engaged in talks for months, how do they believe they can defeat the Taliban?”

Hafiz, himself a close aide to the insurgent leader Mansour, said Taliban commanders were laughing at the fact that American and British officials could be so easily deceived. But he and other insurgent leaders denied the shopkeeper was a plant; in fact, they said, they wouldn’t mind finding him and having a chat.

Taliban commanders also emphasized that the story of the impostor showed that the much-touted peace talks weren’t real....

- bth: the dude has a point, if a shopkeeper can fool them how do they believe they can defeat the Taliban?

Friday, November 26, 2010

US crewless, automated ghost-frigate project takes shape

US crewless, automated ghost-frigate project takes shape • The Register
A US military plan to build a crewless, automated robo-frigate which could trail hostile submarines across the oceans for months on end without supervision - the ACTUV project - is moving forward, with several contracts recently announced.
Concept for the ACTUV unmanned warship. Credit: DARPA

Distinctly limited in cocktail-party capability, but good for hunting submarines.
Concept for the ACTUV unmanned warship. Credit: DARPA
We reported on the ACTUV (Anti-submarine warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel) scheme back in February when it was announced. In essence the idea was to nullify the menace of cheap, very silent diesel-electric submarines - considered a serious problem by many in the major Western navies.

When such a submarine is located - for instance, it might be spotted leaving harbour and then submerging - an ACTUV vessel would in future be tasked to follow it. A next-generation air independent propulsion (AIP) sub of the sort now perhaps at last beginning to spread beyond Western-aligned nations could run submerged for thousands of miles, albeit slowly. Following it using ordinary manned frigates or submarines would tie up a lot of people and kit. The shadowing vessels would need to try and hold the quiet sub on sonar while staying outside the range of its weapons, a challenging task even with the latest low-frequency active sonars and one which would probably involve a lot of use of aircraft.

But an unmanned ACTUV, with no need to fret about being torpedoed, could sit right on top of the sub and track it easily. Being on the surface and thus able to run diesels and gas-turbines, it would have no trouble keeping up with the battery or AIP powered sub. And being unmanned would mean the ACTUV could be designed for the best possible performance and seakeeping, rather than for the convenience of its crew (see the pic). Probably the only part of the ACTUV that would normally be above the waves would be a combination funnel/engine intake and comms/sensors mast.

Naval Open Source INTelligence

Naval Open Source INTelligence: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

How the Russians plan to beat a missile defense system

Afghan map and ring road

North Korea's military aging but sizeable - Page 3 - CNN

North Korea's military aging but sizeable - Page 3 - CNN: ..."To compensate for obsolescence, the North deploys boots on the ground in great numbers. Jane's estimates that its standing army numbers just over 1 million personnel, with reserves estimated at more than 7 million. But North Korean soldiers are poorly fed, according to analysts and reports from defectors, and rarely train due to scarcity of fuel and ammunition

Despite the size of its armed forces, few analysts expect that the regime in the North would want to launch a general assault on the South, knowing that it would probably be repulsed and that in turn would imperil the regime. It might also ignite dissent.

'With the ongoing leadership transition in North Korea, there have been rumors of discontent within the military, and the current actions may reflect miscommunications or worse within the North's command-and-control structure,' geopolitical risk analysis firm Stratfor says.

There is another practical reason why a land invasion would be difficult. South Korea has built an array of obstructions on roads from the North that would force an invader's tanks off the pavement and into rice fields. Only in the winter would those fields be hard enough to allow the tanks to cross them.

Short of a general assault, the North clearly has enough in its arsenal to cause damage and death to its adversary, as the torpedo attack in March and the barrage this week have shown. And it has thousands of artillery pieces close to the Demilitarized Zone, which is just 30 kilometers (18 miles) from Seoul. Recent events show that it is also quite ready to exploit the element of surprise.

There remains the great unanswered question about intentions. There's plenty of what one expert calls 'echo chamber analysis.' But as former President Carter wrote with a hint of understatement in the Washington Post on Wednesday: 'No one can completely understand the motivations of the North Koreans.'

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CRS Report on US Korean Relations

11-17-korear41481.pdf (application/pdf Object)

Here is a link to a current Congressional Research Service report on current South Korean and US relations. It was written before the N. Korean artillery attack but gives a good overview of key issues and recent history up to the beginning of this month.

A question on my mind is what welcoming gift does the N. Koreans have planned for the G-20 meeting in S. Korea?

Informed Comment: Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion

Informed Comment: Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

Marine whistleblower Franz Gayl: Security clearance removal is retaliation

Marine whistleblower Franz Gayl: Security clearance removal is retaliation: "Franz Gayl made a name for himself a few years ago as a Marine Corps whistleblower, a civilian scientist who helped push the Pentagon to shift its Iraqi weapons strategy. Senators called him a hero for disclosures that helped get heavily armored vehicles known as MRAPs to the battlefield.

But a few weeks ago, Gayl found himself booted from a room where confidential materials are handled and stripped of his security clearance. His superiors accused him of "a disregard for regulations, a pattern of poor judgment and intentional misconduct" - behavior that they said "indicates you are unreliable and untrustworthy."

Gayl's alleged offense - described in official documents - was inserting a USB device into a computer containing classified information twice in 2008 and then failing to turn over the device to a supervisor. They first raised this concern in March, and no security leaks have been alleged.

Gayl and some former colleagues say that these charges were trumped up, the culmination of a three-year pattern of retaliation by the Corps' leadership for the embarrassment that he caused and his continued efforts to hold officials accountable for ignoring an urgent request for help by soldiers under fire.

His offense, Gayl says, is continuing to say "that Marines did not take care of Marines in harm's way," a sacrilege inside a service that prides itself on protecting individual soldiers.

Last week, his confrontation accelerated. The Corps notified him that without proper clearances, he no longer qualified to serve as a science adviser in its plans and policy branch. "I am proposing to suspend you indefinitely from pay and from your position," wrote Col. James D. Gass, his branch chief.

But the proposed suspension was lifted by Gass hours after a reporter asked questions about Gayl's case, e-mails show. A Marine spokesman, Maj. Carl Redding Jr., cited privacy protections in explaining why he could not address the allegations against Gayl. But he said, "Whatever change you may be aware of has nothing to do with your inquiry."

Gayl and his supporters say the corps' treatment of him is vengeance. The firing threat came, he has said in a formal complaint to the U.S. Office of Special Counsel, after years of demeaning taunts from a supervisor, several unfavorable alterations to his job description and an unsuccessful attempt to demote him.

"It is payback, for them to throw Franz under the bus," said retired Marine Col. Phil Harmon, who ran the service's Joint Combat Assessment Teams studying enemy tactics in Iraq and Afghanistan until 2009. He recalled Gayl's efforts to obtain lifesaving equipment. It demonstrates, Harmon said, that civilian leadership in the Marines "has gone sour."

Science booster

A plainspoken Minnesotan who joined the Corps in high school and later got a space science degree, Gayl, 53, always has been a bit of a scientific bomb thrower. Last summer, he briefly advocated using an explosive to shut off gushing oil in the Gulf of Mexico. He has long pressed the Corps to boost its scientific competence.

Gen. James F. Amos, the new commandant, in 2002 described Gayl as "a superstar for our Marine Corps for your entire career" when he retired as a major to work as a senior civilian scientific adviser.

Gayl's relations with his bosses were unblemished until he was dispatched to Camp Fallujah in late 2006, where he recalls being surrounded by the thumps of outgoing artillery and incoming mortars, as well as the constant chop of Sea Knight helicopters bearing "kids blown to bits."..

--- bth: this article is worth reading in full. Gayl finally blew the whistle on Marine brass that were systematically ignoring calls in urgent needs statements from the front in Iraq for v-shaped hulled ground vehicles. He saved hundreds of lives as a result and frankly the marine system should have been thinking about grunts in combat instead of whether MRAPs could fit into the cargo bays of their precious Ospreys. Marines died for over 2 years while the senior command structure obfuscated at the expense of lance corporals in combat. Now Gayl is finally getting payback after years of ostracism.

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My Way News - Sophisticated drug tunnel found in San Diego

My Way News - Sophisticated drug tunnel found in San Diego: "SAN DIEGO (AP) - U.S. authorities on Thursday found a sophisticated tunnel used to smuggle drugs between Mexico and San Diego, the second such discovery in the region in less than a month.

The half-mile passage runs from a residence in Tijuana to a warehouse in San Diego's Otay Mesa area, the San Diego Tunnel Task Force said in a statement.

Federal border patrol, drug enforcement, immigration, and customs enforcement agents in the task force arrested several suspects and seized an undetermined amount of marijuana in a tractor-trailer on U.S. soil, the statement said.

The statement said authorities believed more marijuana was being stored inside the tunnel. Agents were working with the Mexican military on the investigation.

Officials said they will release further details of the probe Friday afternoon.

Earlier this month, federal agents made one of the largest marijuana seizures in the United States when they confiscated 20 tons of marijuana they said was smuggled into the country through another tunnel connecting warehouses on either side of California's border with Mexico. Mexican authorities seized more than four tons of pot from the warehouse south of the border.

The secret passageway ran the length of six football fields and had lighting, ventilation and a rail system to send loads of illegal drugs from Mexico into California.

- bth: there have been over 125 such tunnels of varying sophistication discovered

Did Russia give Iran top new radar? -

Did Russia give Iran top new radar? - "BEIRUT, Lebanon, Nov. 22 (UPI) -- Iran recently boasted it was greatly extending its radar capabilities, a vital component in its drive to use its own resources to strengthen its air defenses against U.S. or Israeli attack.

But a report by the U.S. global security consultancy Stratfor claimed Saturday that Tehran recently apparently got a big and very discreet helping hand from Russia. No time frame for the assist was given.Yet, last June Moscow refused to deliver five batteries of powerful S-300-PMU strategic air-defense missiles Iran had bought for $800 million in December 2007, citing U.N. sanctions against Iran over its contentious nuclear program.

If Russia has provided Tehran with a new radar system, which Stratfor says reportedly went through third-party intermediaries Venezuela and Belarus, it is likely to have been one that would enhance Iran's air-defense network rather than merely add to it.

Stratfor didn't identify the Russian system that its sources said Belarus, a former Soviet republic, sold to a Venezuelan firm, "which then transferred it to Iran in a recent transaction in Abu Dhabi," capital of the United Arab Emirates.

"Radars can apply toward a variety of military applications and it remains unknown whether this rises to the significance of a land-based anti-aircraft radar system or something more commonplace," Stratfor reported.

"Still, the geopolitical circumstances surrounding the alleged sale and the involvement of Venezuelan and Belarusian intermediaries warrant a closer look."

Russia is striving to boost its arms exports, a key foreign currency earner. To mask sales it doesn't want exposed to international scrutiny it has frequently used Belarus, which has its own arms industry dating to the Soviet era, as a front.

Moscow used Belarus, and sometimes Ukraine and Bulgaria, to disguise arms sales to the Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein throughout the 1990s when Iraq was under tight economic sanctions imposed by the United Nations after the August 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

In recent years, Tehran has cultivated a close relationship with Venezuela under its leftist President Hugo Chavez, another opponent of the United States.

Moscow's refusal to supply Iran with the S-300s, needed to protect the Islamic Republic's key nuclear facilities, was widely seen as part of a Russian rapprochement with the United States.

Tehran was incensed by its failure to secure the S-300s and relations with Moscow appeared to nosedive.

But, Stratfor suggests: "Moscow had no intention of sacrificing its Iran lever completely. The report on this latest military transaction has raised the possibility that Russia sees little utility in exercising that lever once again."

U.S.-Russian ties have become strained once more over the nuclear arms reduction treaty and the U.S. drive for a Ballistic Missile Defense treaty, plus, Stratfor says, "hints that the United States may be resuming military support for Georgia via third parties in what would appear to be another provocation of Russia."

On Thursday, after months of angry exchanges over the S-300s, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad met Russian President Dmitri Medvedev at Caspian regional summit in Baku, capital of Azerbaijan. They were believed to have discussed military-technical cooperation.

Iran's military chiefs have claimed in recent weeks the Islamic Republic has been able to significantly upgrade its air-defense network, which has long been one of its weakest military components.

On Nov. 14, Brig. Gen. Ahmad Miqani, a senior air force officer, said Iran's defense industry was developing a new radar system that would extend its ability to detect hostile aircraft and missiles from around 250 miles to more than 1,850 miles.

That's a stunning technological feat if it's true. But the implication of the Stratfor report, which remains unverified, is that Iran is actually talking about a Russian system it has surreptitiously acquired.

Iran's defense minister, Brig. Gen. Ahmad Vahidi, said, "Today, we own sea-based and land-based radars as well as radars that are capable of identifying multiple air targets in various frequencies and different altitudes."

In June, The Wall Street Journal reported that in mid-2009 Iran gave Syria, its key Arab ally, an unidentified advanced radar that could threaten Israel's ability to launch a pre-emptive attack against Iran's nuclear sites.

It's not at all clear whether that system is related to the one Iran now boasts it has deployed. Last week Iranians held large-scale exercises to test their air defenses, which presumably included any new radars they have.

--- bth: well that direct flight from Venezuela to Tehran which was started earlier this year would come in handy.

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Armchair Generalist: Iraq's Military - Not Ready for Prime Time

Armchair Generalist: Iraq's Military - Not Ready for Prime Time: "I've not been in favor of the idea of the US government selling M1 Abrams tanks and F16 aircraft to the the Iraqi army. It's not just that their past experience has been limited to Soviet-era equipment (cheap, not state-of-the-art, but it works), but also because I just never thought they could sustain the capability. I think I was largely right, based on Walter Pincus's article in the WaPo.

Although the Interior Ministry has 'matured' in its budgeting processes, it 'could not effectively plan and contract to procure repair parts to support the Iraqi police vehicle fleet.' For example, when the Interior Ministry requested the purchase of a $200 million helicopter fleet, it did not provide for spare parts, maintenance support or required infrastructure facilities.

With about $10 billion in military equipment on hand by end of 2011, Iraq would need about $600 million annually to maintain it, according to the defense IG. In 2010, however, the Iraq Defense Ministry allocated only $40 million for maintenance. Its processes for 'identifying requirements, budgeting and executing contracting were broken,' the report concluded.

Take the Iraqi army's system for allocating fuel to its commands.

The division commanders do not send their broken vehicles for repair, nor do they report those that are destroyed, because fuel is supplied based on the quantity and types of vehicles on their books. A local commander told the IG investigators that 'it was more advantageous to keep unserviceable vehicles in order to continue receiving full fuel allocations and have enough fuel to operate the rest of his fleet.'

It was always a mistake to think we could turn the Iraqis into a mini-US military element. It would be a bigger mistake to force US military weapon systems onto the Afghan military, but the Repubs have always thought of enriching their donors before actual national security interests

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YouTube - Addams Family Thanksgiving

YouTube - Addams Family Thanksgiving: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

Pak Army waiting for ‘right time’ to launch NWA operation

Daily Times - Leading News Resource of Pakistan - Army waiting for ‘right time’ to launch NWA operation

PESHAWAR: The military will wait until it has completed the operation in Orakzai, stabilised Swat and Bajaur and handed over stable places such as Shangla to civilian control before it launches action in North Waziristan, where Washington is wanting an army operation against safe-havens of the Haqqani network and its local and foreign facilitators, top officials said on Thursday.

“Oh yes, we have to go to North Waziristan for action to restore the dignity of the state, but not by leaving other ongoing missions half done,” the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Daily Times, in what could be the first hints at preparations for much-awaited action around the border areas of North Waziristan. North Waziristan, according to reports, has been the last bastion for local and foreign militants after the military regained lost ground in Swat, drove them out from South Waziristan and put them on the “back foot” in Bajaur.

The officials said it was principally agreed to take action in North Waziristan. “However, we will wait for the appropriate time before doing that,” they said.

“For actions in North Waziristan, the military will need to remove troops from areas where they are already engaged against militants or stabilised other areas. Leaving the ongoing missions half done will be an extremely unwise move to take.” With reports that the political leadership of the country authorised Army Chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani to take the decision as to when action should begin in North Waziristan, it looks less likely the army will take action in winter.

How MI6 was fooled by Taleban impostor

How MI6 was fooled by Taleban impostor: ..."The Times has learnt that MI6 became convinced that it had achieved an “historic breakthrough” in forging contacts between the Taleban and the Afghan Government. Intelligence officers, thought to have been based in Islamabad, MI6’s biggest station, had made contact with a man claiming to be Mullah Mansour, a former Taleban government minister and now second only to Mullah Omar in the Taleban leadership. The British were convinced of the man’s bona fides and flew “Mansour” from Quetta to Kabul on a British C130 transport aircraft on a number of occasions.

Afghan officials confirm that meetings took place, including one with President Karzai in his guarded palace in Kabul. The man was reimbursed by MI6 with several hundred thousand dollars, possibly as much as half a million, to encourage further talks. The man’s bargaining position seemed unusually moderate. He did not, for instance, demand Western troop withdrawal as a precursor to formal talks with the Afghan Government, as has been the standing Taleban position.

In June, the CIA apparently remained sceptical about MI6’s “coup”. Leon Panetta, the CIA Director, went on public record to say that no serious approach was under way. US sources suggested that the scepticism extended then to General David Petraeus, commander of Nato forces in Afghanistan.

By September General Petraeus was briefing reporters, including The Times, that negotiations involved senior Taleban figures. In October he went farther, saying that the senior-level contacts were travelling in and out of Afghanistan on Nato aircraft. One Western official said that those who raised doubts about the “Mansour” programme were swept aside. In London, briefings were going to ministerial level and above in Government.

Last month those hopes began to unravel after one Afghan official, who had met the real Mullah Mansour years before, said that the informant was not the same man. At that point MI6’s man disappeared. Pakistani officials told The Times yesterday that a hunt was under way for him.

Hope has since given way to bitterness and a blame game. One alliance official described a continuing “Operation Egg Not on My Face” between intelligence agencies. ...

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Monday, November 22, 2010

YouTube - Lee Harvey Oswald Assassination

YouTube - Lee Harvey Oswald Assassination

YouTube - Hi quality footage of JFK Assassination

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FBI Raid Victims Get New Grand Jury Subpoenas - Minneapolis press conference 11/18/2010 | Committee to Stop FBI Repression

FBI Raid Victims Get New Grand Jury Subpoenas - Minneapolis press conference 11/18/2010 | Committee to Stop FBI Repression: "See video

YouTube - It's A Long Way To Tipperary

YouTube - It's A Long Way To Tipperary: "- Sent using Google Toolbar"

China's AVIC unveils stealth Zhuhai surprise - The DEW Line

China's AVIC unveils stealth Zhuhai surprise - The DEW Line

China's AVIC aircraft manufacturer is establishing a tradition of unveiling exotic aircraft concepts at the Zhuhai air show. Four years ago, it was a model showing a future, single-engine stealth fighter with canards and forward-swept wings.

AVIC didn't disappoint at the 2010 Zhuhai show this week, unveiling what you might call a stealthy/fan-in-fuselage/compound-pusher/VTOL strike aircraft with internal weapons bays. FlightGlobal photographer Tom Gordon snapped photos on the stand....

ConceptModle_002 credit billypix thumb.jpg

Ground Zero Mosque Applied For Federal 9/11 Grant, Reports Daily Beast’s John Avlon - The Daily Beast

Ground Zero Mosque Applied For Federal 9/11 Grant, Reports Daily Beast’s John Avlon - The Daily Beast: "The so-called 'Ground Zero mosque' recently applied for a $5 million federal grant from a fund designed to rebuild lower Manhattan after 9/11, reports The Daily Beast’s John Avlon.

Developers of the controversial Park51 Islamic community center and mosque located one tenth of a mile from Ground Zero earlier this month applied for roughly $5 million in federal grant money set aside for the redevelopment of lower Manhattan after the attacks of September 11th, according to two sources with direct knowledge of the matter. ...

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Army Specialist Jonathan Curtis to be remembered at memorial this afternoon in Belmont - Belmont - Your Town -

Army Specialist Jonathan Curtis to be remembered at memorial this afternoon in Belmont - Belmont - Your Town -

Jonathan Curtis did well enough on his Army entrance exams that he could have had his pick of jobs. His choice was swift and certain.

"Jon said, 'I want the infantry,' " said his mother, Pamela, of Belmont. "The recruiter said, 'You could do all sorts of other things,' but Jon said, 'Before I do something else, I want to learn to be a soldier.' "

As a soldier trained to protect his unit, Army Specialist Jonathan M. Curtis stopped an unidentified visitor from coming close to the entrance of an American base in Kandahar, Afghanistan, on Nov. 1. Mr. Curtis, who grew up in Belmont, and Private First Class Andrew Meari of Illinois died when the visitor set off a suicide bomb.

Curtis.jpgA memorial service will be held for Curtis at 2 p.m. today at Payson Park Congregational Church in Belmont. Governor Deval Patrick was scheduled to attend.

Last night, Pamela Curtis spoke about her middle son, who didn't always look the part of a soldier whose bravery would be honored posthumously with a Bronze Star and Purple Heart.

"In many ways, he was gentle," she said in a phone interview. "I have a picture of him holding a machine gun, but he had this really blond hair and a sweet face, so he didn't look like Rambo."

That gentleness was apparent when he held his daughter, Tessa-Marie, who was 2 months old when he last saw her before shipping out to Afghanistan.

"For me, one of the saddest things of all is that she won't know him as a person," his mother said. "He would carry her around and talk to her. He was so big and she was so little."

Christian Right Activist Blasts Medal of Honor as 'Feminized,' Sparks Fury

Christian Right Activist Blasts Medal of Honor as 'Feminized,' Sparks Fury

While a divided nation last Tuesday finally rallied around one bright shining moment of patriotic glory -- President Obama's awarding of the Medal of Honor to Afghan hero Army Sgt. Salvatore Giunta -- a popular right-wing Christian commentator sharply split opinions even within his own camp. He blasted the award as "feminized" because it honors Giunta for saving his comrades rather than killing the enemy.

The Army's official citation details how Giunta "exposed himself to withering enemy fire" during a daring effort to engage the enemy and extract his wounded comrades from an ambush. But Bryan Fischer, a columnist for the American Family Association who has often provoked headlines and consternation with his commentaries, read the narrative as hardly the sort of thing American soldiers were once known for. ...

--- bth: Bryan Fischer go fuck yourself.

Russia may wish to promote spy intrigue mythology to mask incompetence

Did One of These Russian Colonels Sell Out The Sexy Spy? [Updated] | Danger Room |
...Shady secret agents betraying a lingerie-clad femme fatale spy and her comrades is spy-thriller stuff. But it might be a mistake to keep all the characters straight. The real drama behind the stories of turncoat colonels might be something less sexy: the Russian government’s bruised egos and factional politics.

As the Moscow Times points out, Russian authorities would obviously prefer to pin the spy ring’s discovery on treason by potentially fictional colonels rather than their own agents’ incompetence. The spies’ use of easily-intercepted Cold War-era burst communications techniques apparently delighted FBI eavesdroppers. And the fact that the network of Russian sleeper agents appeared to be downright comatose over the course of their time in the U.S., with little apparent information collected by 11 agents over the course of several years....

Can tanks in Afghanistan fight bureaucracatic delays?

So there has been much talk about the US sending 16 battle tanks to Afghanistan to support namely marines. Much of the news hype would equate these 16 tanks with a massive Soviet invasion of armor.

I'd suggest to you that the tanks and their excessively long logistics support trail to a land locked country with supply lines cut off at will by our enemies and allies is about solving problems having little to do with the enemy.

The problem is that it is very difficult for troops to get timely air or artillery support from the chain of command. Whereas an on the scene commander can fire a tank without lots of approvals from higher ups.

A second problem tanks may be addressing is route clearing across IED laden farm fields. The IEDs are namely non-metallic so they make a devastating boom but don't really penetrate armor. So a big tank can roll across a field pretty quickly leaving a path for lighter vehicles to follow.

Third there are roller systems on MRAPS used to detonate pressure plates on roads, but MRAPS or MATVs in the case of Afghanistan aren't necessarily great off road vehicles. Tanks work great in fields.

Fourth, the Canadians have used tanks with good effect in Afghanistan but the Canadians are bugging out.

So in the end the tanks may address problems we cause ourselves vs. those caused by the taliban.

New U.S. Plan in Afghanistan: ‘Awe and Shock’ | Danger Room |

New U.S. Plan in Afghanistan: ‘Awe and Shock’ | Danger Room |

...In an excellent piece from the Washington Post’s Rajiv Chandrasekaran, U.S. military officials brag that they’ve “taken the gloves off” in Afghanistan, just as they’re sending 16 lumbering Abrams tanks into Helmand Province. That’s pretty much the opposite of Petraeus’ famous “Get Out and Walk” guidance for troops in Iraq.

What do the tanks add to the fight? There’s some attempt at spinning their 120-millimeter guns as precision weapons, but one military official bluntly tells Chandrasekaran, “the tanks bring awe, shock and firepower.” Because “shock and awe” always works.

What’s more, in the experience of non-U.S. forces in Afghanistan, the tanks are more a measure to protect troops than to battle insurgents. The Canadians sent their Leopard tanks to southern Afghanistan after getting pummeled in lighter vehicles by insurgent fire. If U.S. troops in the south still feel that the military command’s Tactical Directive on how to fight in Afghanistan ties their hands, the first wave of 16 Abrams tanks will probably tamp that concern down....

Billions required to counter thousands of terror dollars

Al-Qaida Bomb Plans Published On Web Site: Editors Boast About $4,200 Cost Of Attack


"To bring down America we do not need to strike big," the editors write. With the "security phobia that is sweeping America, it is more feasible to stage smaller attacks that involve less players and less time to launch" thereby circuventing U.S. security, they conclude.

In the magazine, an author identified as the group's head of foreign operations says the package attacks were intended to cause economic harm, not casualties. "We knew that cargo planes are staffed by only a pilot and a co-pilot," the author writes, "so our objective was not to cause maximum casualties but to cause maximum losses to the American economy," by striking at the multi-billion dollar U.S. freight industry.

The al-Qaida offshoot insists it also brought down a UPS cargo plane in Dubai in September, in addition to the Oct. 29 attempts to bring down a FedEx plane, and a UPS plane bound for the U.S. But U.S. officials insist the Dubai crash was an accident caused by a battery fire, not terrorism.

The editors' boast that they chose printer cartridges in which to hide the explosive because toner is carbon-based, with a molecular composition "close to that of PETN," so it would not be detected. "We emptied the toner cartridge from its contents and filled it with 340 grams of PETN," the writers say.

In another article, the editors bragged of how inexpensive the operation was, listing the cost of the items, including two Nokia mobiles, at $150 each, two HP printers, at $300 each, plus shipping, transportation and other miscellaneous expenses add up to a total bill of $4,200....

--- bth: amazing economics of terror - billions required to counter thousands of dollars.