Saturday, May 21, 2011

War Is Boring » Danger Room: New Rolling Robot Transforms into Helicopter

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With narrow majority, Senate Democrats adopt minimalist agenda

With narrow majority, Senate Democrats adopt minimalist agenda - The Washington Post
...Senate Democrats are in a historically difficult spot. House Republicans have the energy. President Obama has the spotlight. And thus they have become the third wheel of democracy — with a lesser role in Washington’s broader debates, and without the votes to overcome Republican filibusters in their own chamber.

In response, Senate Democrats have adopted a minimalist agenda. They have blocked bills from the GOP-led House but proposed few broad ideas of their own — hoping to keep vulnerable incumbents from having to make controversial decisions before the 2012 elections.

This predicament has altered the way those Democrats are selling themselves. They spent the previous two years fighting for really big things — national health-care reform, changing the way Wall Street works, approving an economic stimulus package worth more than $800 billion.

Now, they are trying to do next to nothing and still have it look good....

-- bth: leaderless and uninspiring. That is how I would term the Congress right now.  With split control of the House and Senate, it is going to come down to compromise legislation but no one has the balls to propose it from either party.  Instead they will position themselves to blame the others for 2012.  The problem with that strategy is that the public is equally inclined to throw the bums out.  Incumbents are in real jeopardy with this strategy whether they realize it or not. 2012 will not be kind to them.

Iran arrests 30 suspected of U.S.-linked spying

Iran arrests 30 suspected of U.S.-linked spying
TEHRAN, May 21 (Xinhua) -- The Iranian Intelligence Ministry announced Saturday that it had identified and dismantled a large spy network linked to the United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), adding that 30 people have been arrested during the operation.

Thirty people suspected of spying for the U.S. have been arrested and 42 CIA operatives linked to the network have been identified, the ministry said in a statement released on Saturday.

The ministry's Public Relations Office added in the statement that the U.S.-related spy network was operating under the cover of the so-called job-finding centers to attract Iranian citizens to cooperate with them, by promising them jobs and education opportunities, and deceiving them with visa and entry permission to the United States.

The network was "established by a number of the leading CIA operatives" in some countries, and due to the massive intelligence and counter-intelligence work, the Iranian intelligence agents succeeded in discovering and completely dismantling the network, said the statement.

"The network used a wide range of data bases and U.S. embassies and consulates in several countries, specially in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Malaysia and Turkey, to collect information on Iran's scientific, research and academic institutions in the fields of nuclear energy, air and defense industries and biotechnology," the Iranian Intelligence Ministry said.

The statement further pointed out that the U.S. network also spied on Iran's oil and gas pipelines, power and telecommunication grids, airports, customs departments, network security and banks for future sabotage operations.

-- bth: Note a Chinese news source.  But why now?  What is it about this month that makes such as difference?  Odd

Pakistan stops NATO supplies after 16 people killed in blast

Pakistan stops NATO supplies after 16 people killed in blast
ISLAMABAD, May 21 (Xinhua) -- Pakistani authorities Saturday suspended supplies to the foreign troops in neighboring Afghanistan hours after a blast at an NATO oil tanker killed 16 persons, officials said.



An official said that suspected militants attacked and torched NATO oil tankers in two separate incidents late Friday night at Landikotal, a main town in Khyber region and the borer point of Torkham.

When locals gathered around the tanker at Landikotal to acquire the leaked oil, the tanker blew up due to gas pressure, killing 16 persons there.

Pakistan suspended supplies to nearly 160,000 U.S.-led NATO troops after the incident, officials in the region said.

Witnesses said that hundreds of NATO supplies trucks were stranded on the main Pakistan-Afghan highway after the blockade.

Officials said that some 70 percent supplies for the NATO troops are transported through Pakistan.

Militants, fighting Pakistani forces, regularly target NATO supply trucks, also forcing the U.S. to sign alternate supply routes with Russia.

-- bth: Just a seasonal event now - part of the Pakistani government shakedown that seems to be an annual occurrence.

Osama Bin Laden Files Reveal Idea To Hijack And Blow Up Oil Tankers

Osama Bin Laden Files Reveal Idea To Hijack And Blow Up Oil Tankers
WASHINGTON -- Osama bin Laden's personal files revealed a brazen idea to hijack oil tankers and blow them up at sea last summer, creating explosions he hoped would rattle the world's economy and send oil prices skyrocketing, the U.S. said Friday.

The newly disclosed plot showed that while bin Laden was always scheming for the next big strike that would kill thousands of Americans, he also believed a relatively simpler attack on the oil industry could create a worldwide panic that would hurt Westerners every time they gassed up their cars.

U.S. officials said the tanker idea, included in documents found in the compound where bin Laden was killed nearly three weeks ago, was little more than an al-Qaida fantasy. But the FBI and the Homeland Security Department issued a confidential warning to police and the energy industry Thursday. The alert, obtained by The Associated Press, said that al-Qaida had sought information on the size and construction of oil tankers, had decided that spring and summer provided the best weather to approach the ships, had determined that blowing them up would be easiest from the inside and believed an explosion would create an "extreme economic crisis."

Bin Laden's documents also revealed that in February 2010, the terror group identified New York, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles and Chicago as important cities that should be attacked; and it eyed specific dates, including the 10th anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, Christmas, July Fourth and the State of the Union address, according to a similar alert issued Friday, obtained by the AP. There is no information indicating that there are plots involving these cities, dates and tactics under way....

--- bth: LNG ships coming into Boston Harbor would be the ultimate maritime weapon of mass destruction.

Ultralight aircraft now ferrying drugs across U.S.-Mexico border

Marijuana: Smugglers using ultralight aircraft to carry marijuana - latimes.com
They fly low and slow over the border, their wings painted black and motors humming faintly under moonlit skies. The pilots, some armed in the open cockpits, steer the horizontal control bar with one hand and pull a latch with the other, releasing 250-pound payloads that land with a thud, leaving only craters as evidence of another successful smuggling run.

Mexican organized crime groups, increasingly stymied by stepped-up enforcement on land, have dug tunnels and captained boats to get drugs across the U.S.-Mexico border. Now they are taking to the skies, using ultralight aircraft that resemble motorized hang gliders to drop marijuana bundles in agricultural fields and desert scrub across the Southwest border.What began with a few flights in Arizona in 2008 is now common from
Texas to California's Imperial Valley and, mostly recently, San Diego,
where at least two ultralights suspected of carrying drugs have been
detected flying over Interstate 8, according to U.S. border authorities.



The number of incursions by ultralights reached 228 in the last federal
fiscal year ending Sept. 30, almost double from the previous year.
Seventy-one have been detected in this fiscal year through April,
according to border authorities.

Drug smuggling



Flying at night with lights out, and zipping back across the border in
minutes, ultralight aircraft sightings are rare, but often dramatic. At
least two have been chased out of Arizona skies by Black Hawk Customs
and Border Protection helicopters and F-16 jet fighters. Last month, a
pair of visiting British helicopter pilots almost crashed into an ultralight during training exercises over the Imperial Valley....

-- bth: given the low payload weight I'm surprised that marijuana is the drug smuggled.

Cindy McGity on the 9/11 National Day of Service

Friday, May 20, 2011

China gives Pakistan 50 fighter jets

China Gives Pakistan 50 Fighter Jets - NYTimes.com
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — China has agreed to immediately provide 50 JF-17 fighter jets to Pakistan, a major outcome of a visit by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani to Beijing this week, Pakistani officials said Thursday.
Related

Gates Says No Sign That Top Pakistanis Knew of Bin Laden (May 19, 2011)

China and Pakistan have jointly produced the JF-17 aircraft, but the new planes would be equipped with more sophisticated avionics, the officials said. The latest jet fighters would be paid for by China, they said.

The announcement came as Pakistan’s already tense relations with the United States soured further after the killing of Osama bin Laden deep inside Pakistan on May 2.

Last week, Pakistan’s spy chief denounced the United States in a rare briefing before Parliament in which he condemned the American raid for breaching Pakistan’s sovereignty. Parliament, in turn, called for the government to revisit relations with the United States....

--- bth: 50 fighters is far more than an idle gesture.  China is end running the USA in Pakistan.  Well so be it.  Pakistan as made their decision.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Basically a company has to have a lobbyist to get a 'funding initiative' proposed by representatives

Rep. Hunter introduces $19m in defense projects
During subcommittee hearings on the House Armed Services Committee's defense-authorization bill last week, Rep. Duncan D. Hunter, R-El Cajon, introduced $19 million in "funding initiatives" for specialized defense projects.

Hunter, an Iraq war veteran, succeeded his father in East County's 52nd congressional district in 2008. His father, Duncan L. Hunter, chaired the Armed Services Committee from 2002 to 2006 and was well known for earmarking projects for local defense contractors. Last year, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), a progressive watchdog group*, issued the junior Hunter special recognition for following in his father's porky tradition.

The descriptions of the "funding initiatives" (the term Hunter uses) introduced during subcommittee "markup" hearings are quite vague, in part, because House Republicans have instituted a so-called moratorium on earmarks. Although members of Congress can't direct money to specific contractors, they are still able to set aside funding for specific projects and technologies suited to a particular contractor, who then can win it during a competitive bidding phase.

In other words, members of Congress can no longer hand money to specific contractors, but they can throw it in their direction. Contractors still lobby and donate campaign money to get these opportunities created and, if possible, tailored to their advantage.

Think of them like fuzzy earmarks. Pork potential. Here are Hunter's:

$5 million for development of helicopter “brownout” situational awareness tools (Army)

Note: Hunter introduced a similarly described earmark in Fiscal Year 2010, which was set to benefit TREX Enterprises, a company founded by his uncle and one of the primary reasons CREW added him to the "Pork Parade."

$2 million for development of innovative aircraft deoxygenation systems (Air Force)

$7 million for Common Data Link Waveform Improvements (Army)

$5 million for Lightweight Airborne Recovery Systems (Air Force)

We sent Hunter's office a list of questions including: What are these for? Why are they necessary? Who asked for them? Did the Congressman meet or speak with any lobbyist about the appropriation?...

No practical difference to an earmark except that it is less transparent and requiries more lobbyists

Shipyard could get $10m for infrastructure improvements - Fosters
KITTERY, Maine — A $10 million amendment attached to the National Defense Authorization Act could come to Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in the form of infrastructure improvements.

The bill passed muster with the House Armed Services Committee Wednesday night.

Chellie Pingree, D-Maine, is the author of the amendment, which would be used to fund the rebuilding of the structural shops at the shipyard.

"The Kittery yard has a world class reputation for high quality, efficient work," Pingree said. "But they need to improve and upgrade their facilities so they can continue to compete and create new jobs in the area. Since the rules in Congress have changed, the designated funding the yard has been depending on is no longer available. That means it's important to get amendments like this one through to secure funding for those improvements."

Congressional leadership has banned the use of earmarks, which several members of both Maine and N.H.'s delegations has said the shipyard has depended on for years.

Pingree was able to secure the funding by getting the Armed Services Committee to include money in a budget item that increases operations and maintenance funding for Navy military construction — which is the budget that would pay for the improvements at the shipyard.

Pingree intends to urge Navy Secretary Ray Mabus to make sure the additional funding goes to making the improvements at the local shipyard.

Paul O'Connor, President of the Metal Trades Council, said the funding is key to helping the yard stay competitive.

"We need to make these improvements to the structural shops to ensure we preserve our most advanced capabilities and stay competitive," O'Connor said.

The bill is expected to pass the full House early this summer. The Senate will consider a similar bill in the weeks to come.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Poor polling numbers on the US in the Arab world especially our 'ally' Turkey

U.S. Falls Out of Favor With NATO Ally - Emerging Europe Real Time - WSJ
The latest global poll by the Pew Research Center released Wednesday makes grim reading for U.S. diplomats trying to turn the Arab Spring to Washington’s advantage, and most of all anyone tasked with improving relations with NATO ally Turkey.

Of the six Muslim nations polled in the region, not one showed a majority of opinion in favor of the U.S. And in every nation but Egypt, the popularity of the U.S. fell since a year ago.

The U.S. gets close to majority approval in Lebanon, at 49%, while Egypt was next with 20% — after all, the U.S. eventually did the right thing in the eyes of Egyptians by calling for the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak.

But this year the lowest approval rating of all for the U.S. was in Turkey — at just 10%, down from 17% last year. U.S. President Barack Obama, who is due to give a major speech on the Middle East Thursday, didn’t fare much better. Only 12% of Turks said they had confidence in President Obama, against 73% who didn’t.





The image of the U.S. has declined significantly across the Middle East since the lead-up to the 2003 Iraq war. Washington continues to be seen as acting without concern for the interests of other nations in the region and is widely seen as a potential military threat by those who live in the region — including 91% of Palestinians and 59% of Turks, according to the survey.

It isn’t hard to figure out why U.S. popularity might have dwindled further in Turkey over the past year. Since the last Pew poll, the U.S. — in the view of most Turks — failed to support Ankara when Israeli commandoes boarded a mainly Turkish aid flotilla for Gaza, killing eight Turkish citizens and one American of Turkish descent. The U.S. also rejected a deal that Turkey and had Brazil agreed with Iran to swap low enriched Iranian nuclear fuel for fuel rods, which was seen here as a snub.

But Turks may also see the U.S. as a competitor for leadership in the region as Ankara claims an increasing role across the Middle East. Only 8% of Turks approved of the way the U.S. handled the Arab uprisings, compared to 45% of Egyptians, 31% of Jordanians and 33% of Palestinians.

There is good news in the data for anyone worried about Turkish Islamism, though. Turks were by far the least likely of the nations polled to say that the country’s laws should be based on the teachings of the Quran — at just 8%. That compares with 78% in Pakistan and 70% in Jordan.

And while Turks are strongly anti-Israel and opposed to U.S. policies on the Palestinian question, only 10% say they approve of Hamas (compared with 45% of Egyptians), while just 5% of Turks approve of Hezbollah and 4% of al Qaeda.

The poll of roughly 1,000 people in each country was conductaed before the U.S. shooting of Osama bin Laden.

Tolo news: ISI has urged Taliban Leader to leave Pakistan

ISI has Urged Taliban Leader to Leave Pakistan: Official
An Afghan security official on Tuesday told TOLOnews that Pakistan's spy organisation has asked Mullah Mohammad Omar to leave Pakistan for a period.

The Afghan security official who spoke on the condition of anonymity told TOLOnews that ISI has conveyed its message to the Taliban leader in Quetta through former Pakistani spy chief Gen. Hamid Gul.

Mullah Omar has been asked to leave Quetta for some time and move to Afghanistan or Iran.

"The Taliban leader, in the message, has been promised that ISI will facilitate his move to Helmand in Afghanistan or somehere in Iran," the official said.

The source said Pakistan's spy organisation wants to move Mullah Omar out and then report his location to the US forces.

Then if the Taliban leader is killed on Afghan soil, Pakistan will use it as a propaganda tool to show that terrorist leaders are also hiding in Afghanistan, the source said....

--- bth: this makes logical sense but is there any reason to believe the source used by the article is credible?

Sarnaa tv: Pakistni forces kill five suicide bombers including women in Quetta

Pakistani forces kill five suicide bombers, including women :: SAMAA TV :: Top Story, Breaking News, Latest News, Pakistan News, World News, Sports News, Business News, Entertainment News, Health News, Innovation News, Videos
QUETTA: Pakistani security forces shot dead five suspected al Qaeda-linked militants who had tried to carry out a suicide bombing in southwestern city of Quetta on Tuesday, police and paramilitary officials said.

The would-be bombers included three women and were believed to be foreigners, police said. They were killed in a gunfight near a paramilitary checkpost in Quetta, a city is believed to be a base for the Afghan Taliban leadership....

--- bth: the article goes on to imply they were targeting Pak military though how would this be known if they are dead?