Friday, August 05, 2011

Ex-Afghan spy chief details hunt for bin Laden, 10-year war -

Ex-Afghan spy chief details hunt for bin Laden, 10-year war -

...Former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said in June that preliminary talks with the Taliban were underway.

But its also unclear whether those talks can provide for a political process that integrates Taliban leadership within the existing constitutional framework, or instead, will result in a more basic power-sharing agreement.

For Saleh -- who fought against the Taliban during the civil war of 1990s -- it seems to be the very question that may help determine governance of his country.

He says if the Taliban are permitted to return as a "Hezbollah-like entity" -- a reference to the Shia militant group and political party based in Lebanon -- then he and his anti-Taliban constituency must "rise up" against them.

U.S. Doubles Down on Afghan Air War; 650 Strikes in July | Danger Room |

U.S. Doubles Down on Afghan Air War; 650 Strikes in July | Danger Room |

In July of 2010, when Gen. Stanley McChrsytal handed over command of the war in Afghanistan to Gen. David Petraeus, air strikes had become a tool of absolute last resort. NATO planes were only making about 10 attack runs a day — in the middle of Afghanistan’s fighting season, and with an influx of tens of thousands of new allied troops colliding with dug-in militants.

In July of 2011, Petraeus passed the baton to Gen. John Allen. But it’s a whole new — and much more ferocious — air war. Allied jets and bombers are unloading their weapons on more than 20 sorties a day, according to U.S. military statistics, for a total of 652 attack runs.

It’s part of a war effort that has grown more aggressive in nearly every way. Special operations forces now launch a dozen “kill/capture” raids a night, and have taken 3,775 insurgents off the battlefield in the last year. Massive surface-to-surface missiles have been used to clear the Taliban out of Kandahar; tanks have been sent to Helmand province to help crush opponents; civilian homes taken over by insurgents have been leveled without apology....

- bth: but over 700 escaped tunneling out of Kandahar and are back in the system. One wonders if this is making any difference to the outcome of our conflict in Afghanistan.

Remote Controlled Truck Sent to Soldier in Afghanistan Saves 6 Soldiers' Lives - ABC News

Remote Controlled Truck Sent to Soldier in Afghanistan Saves 6 Soldiers' Lives - ABC News

Staff Sgt. Christopher Fessenden is on duty in Afghanistan now after tours with the Army in Iraq. He has traveled with standard-issue equipment -- weapons, helmet, uniform, boots and so forth -- plus a radio-controlled model truck his brother Ernie sent.

The truck is not a toy to him. He says it just saved six soldiers' lives.

"We cannot thank you enough," said Sgt. Fessenden in an email from the front that Ernie, a software engineer in Rochester, Minn., shared with ABC News.

The little truck was used by the troops to run ahead of them on patrols and look for roadside bombs. Fessenden has had it since 2007, when Ernie and Kevin Guy, the owner of the Everything Hobby shop in Rochester, rigged it with a wireless video camera and shipped it to him.

Last week, it paid off. Chris Fessenden said he had loaned the truck to a group of fellow soldiers, who used it to check the road ahead of them on a patrol. It got tangled in a trip wire connected to what Fessenden guesses could have been 500 lbs. of explosives. The bomb went off. The six soldiers controlling the truck from their Humvee were unhurt....

PHOTO: Traxxis Stampede radio-controlled truck

THE DAILY STAR :: News :: Middle East :: Kuwait frees Iraqis in plot to kill Bush: report

THE DAILY STAR :: News :: Middle East :: Kuwait frees Iraqis in plot to kill Bush: report

KUWAIT CITY: Kuwait has freed nine Iraqis who were jailed over a failed plot to assassinate former US president George Bush senior in 1993, Al-Anbaa newspaper reported Thursday.

Quoting an unnamed security official, the daily said that the Kuwaiti authorities had decided to deport the men to Iraq following a visit by officials from Baghdad....

See No Evil - A Special FP Photo Feature | Foreign Policy

See No Evil - A Special FP Photo Feature | Foreign Policy

Thursday, August 04, 2011

IED Attacks in Afghanistan Hit All-Time High - Yochi J. Dreazen -

IED Attacks in Afghanistan Hit All-Time High - Yochi J. Dreazen -

The number of IED attacks in Afghanistan has spiked to all-time high, U.S. military officials said, because of the free flow of critical bomb-making materials from neighboring Pakistan.

Senior military officials said there were more than 1,600 strikes involving so-called “improvised explosive devices” in June, setting a new record for the long Afghan war, and underscoring the dangers posed by militants operating inside both of the troubled countries. The number of IED strikes in June 2011 is nearly 25 percent higher than the monthly average for the conflict. In May, for instance, there were 1,250 IED attacks.

IEDs, crude bombs fashioned out of homemade explosives and simple triggering devices, are the primary cause of coalition fatalities in Afghanistan. So far this year, they have accounted for at least 158 of the U.S.-led coalition’s 283 battlefield fatalities in Afghanistan. And they are exacting a steadily climbing human toll: the bombs caused 1,248 coalition casualties between April and June, a 15 percent increase over the same period a year earlier.

Lt. Gen. Michael Barbero, the head of the military’s Joint IED Defeat Organization, said in an interview that the growing IED threat in Afghanistan is a direct result of Pakistan’s failure to prevent large quantities of fertilizer – the main ingredient of the bombs – from being smuggled into Afghanistan.

“We’re never going to be successful in focusing on the battlefield in Afghanistan and focusing on the IED networks in Afghanistan,” he said in the interview. “We’ve got to engage and do something about the source.”

In an interview with National Journal, Barbero said that 84 percent of the bombs in Afghanistan use calcium ammonium nitrate fertilizer produced at a pair of large factories inside Pakistan. He said U.S. officials had visited the facilities recently as part of a broad push to persuade Islamabad to “put some controls on the flow of this stuff,” but he noted that militants in Pakistan continue to send bomb components to their compatriots over the border in Afghanistan.

“The overwhelming majority of it comes from Pakistan … and somehow makes its way into Afghanistan,” Barbero said....

--- bth: it appears the good major general has forgotten that Afghanistan has already banned ammonium nitrate from crossing the border. Obviously that ban is not being enforced. Since this stuff can't walk on its own it is safe to say it is coming in by truck at crossroads guarded by checkpoints with both Afghan and Pakistan officials. Failing that the two plants that make the stuff might could on fire. With so many special ops guys running around one wonders how difficult this could really be?

Israeli Agent Admits to Terrorist Acts Against Iran « Blog

Israeli Agent Admits to Terrorist Acts Against Iran « Blog


There is little doubt in the shadowy world of intelligence agencies that Israel is behind the assassination of Darioush Rezaei. “That was the first serious action taken by the new Mossad chief Tamir Pardo,” an Israeli intelligence source told SPIEGEL ONLINE.

On July 23, Rezaei became the latest victim in a mysterious series of attacks over the past 20 months which has seen the virtual decimation of the Islamic republic’s elite physicists. The 35-year-old died after being shot in the throat in front of his daughter’s kindergarten in east Tehran. The Iranian press has reported that the two alleged perpetrators in the attack escaped on a motorcycle.

Anyone doubting whether these acts categorically qualified as acts of international terrorism is probably not being honest. One assassination consisted of a remotely detonated bomb rigged to a motorcycle exploded next to the target’s car. Another two attacks had mysterious motorcycle assailants attaching a bomb directly to the target’s car. And the latest had the target shot in the throat in front of his daughter’s kindergarten. For the most part, I’ll let this speak for itself. But just imagine the repercussions if there was an admission by Iranian agents that they had covertly murdered American scientists, both in and out of government. We would probably be looking at another full scale invasion in the Middle East.

-- bth: Iran claims not to have a weapons program, but they work closely with N. Korea that has a weapons program and no nuclear power industry.

NightWatch 20110803 - KGS

NightWatch 20110803 - KGS

Pakistan: Update. Hundreds of extra paramilitary troops have been deployed to Karachi where 58 people have been killed in political violence in the past five days. More than 200 people were killed last month.

Comment: The Islamabad government has exhausted its options and ideas for halting politically-motivated violence in Karachi.

Pakistan is heading for a military takeover of government, based on precedent and barring a surprise improvement in economic, law and order and social conditions. In other words, the economic and social conditions that are necessary but not sufficient conditions for a military takeover are present. The instrumental and sufficient conditions -- security force dissatisfaction with the civilian leadership and refusal to carry out lawful orders - do not yet seem present, but can appear in a short time without additional warning.

-- bth: so is Pakistan heading toward another military takeover? No civilian government has ever existed in Pakistan that was not overthrown by the military, so it will be no surprise if it doesn't happen again. One twist is that the US has not reduced aid money to the civilian sector of Pakistan's government, just the military. So there may be economic considerations for them this time that usually do not exist.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

World’s Largest Electronics Manufacturer Foxconn Wants 1 Million More Robots In 3 Years. Bye-bye Human Labor | Singularity Hub

World’s Largest Electronics Manufacturer Foxconn Wants 1 Million More Robots In 3 Years. Bye-bye Human Labor | Singularity Hub

Cheap labor isn’t cheap enough for the world’s largest electronics manufacturer. Terry Gou, the CEO of Foxconn recently told employees that they would be replacing human workers with one million robots over the next three years. These robots would handle many basic manufacturing tasks such as spraying, welding, and assembly. Foxconn is based in Taiwan and has nearly 1.2 million workers, the vast majority of which (~1M) live in China, but it’s unclear how many humans would be losing their positions during the switch. Even if robots are used to augment production rather than completely replace people, we’re looking at a major shift in the industry. Contracted with Apple (it’s rumored Foxconn makes the iPad2), HP, Dell, Nokia, Sony, and many other top brands, the electronics giant is singlehandedly responsible for nearly half of all such technological production in the world! If Foxconn switches from cheap Chinese labor to robots, can the rest of the world be far behind?

According to Xinhua News, Gou’s comment was made at a company dance party last week. (Way to kill the mood, Gou.) Without a formal press announcement, it’s unclear how drastic the cuts in human labor will be, though Gou said the move was intened to “replace some of its workers with 1 million robots in three years to cut rising labor expenses and improve efficiency.”...

-- bth: those jobs are gone and they aren't ever coming back.  Not only are robotics on the move, but low labor cost economies like China have access to them as well as the US.  The net result is a continued compression of labor costs as productivity rates increase and labor content is automated.

Military uniform factory discovered in Kabul | Pajhwok Afghan News

Military uniform factory discovered in Kabul | Pajhwok Afghan News

KABUL(PAN): Afghan police have discovered a large military uniform-making factory in the Parwane Du area of Kabul, the Ministry of Interior said on Tuesday.

Ministry spokesman Ghulam Seddiq Sadiqi told a press conference that bundles of military uniforms were recovered from the factory, which was illegally operating in the capital.

Police arrested two individuals and seized 222 magazine holsters, garments used for military uniform, eight sewing machines and different types of materials....

--- bth: this shouldn't be surprising and explains a number of incidents over the last 2 years.

Analysis: Pakistan relying too much on China against U.S. | Reuters

Analysis: Pakistan relying too much on China against U.S. | Reuters

(Reuters) - Pakistan's quick response to charges by China that militants involved in attacks in Xinjiang had trained on its soil shows the importance of its ties with Beijing, but it could be a mistake for Islamabad if it relies too much on China.

Pakistan immediately dispatched Lieutenant-General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, director general of Pakistan's powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) spy agency, to Beijing after Islamic militants mounted a weekend attack that left 11 people dead in the western region of Xinjiang, according to media reports.

While the ISI declined to confirm the trip, Western diplomats and Pakistani analysts agreed that the attacks would likely be at the top of any agenda.

"We cannot allow Pakistani territory to be used for any activities against any neighbor, especially a close ally like China," said Mushahid Hussain Sayed, Chairman of the Pakistan-China Institute.

"There are strong ties between Pakistan and China, and we are cooperating closely on this issue."

Pasha's speedy trip was a clear sign of Pakistan's priorities....

- bth: Pakistan just can't help but bite the hand that feeds it. So now its the Chinese. I'll bet the attack in China by Muslim extremists trained in Pakistan's terror camps is a not too subtle negotiation between one of the shadow groups in Pakistan and the Pak Army. Give us this or that and we will stop causing trouble in China. Similar incidents happened with the French and Pakistan a few years ago.

Iraq, Afghanistan war veterans win PTSD lawsuit - The Washington Post

Iraq, Afghanistan war veterans win PTSD lawsuit - The Washington Post

A class action settlement between the federal government and a group of disabled veterans will award lifetime health-care benefits to more than 1,000 veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who were discharged from the service because of post-traumatic stress disorder.

In a motion filed last week with the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, the National Veterans Legal Service Program and the government jointly asked the court to approve lifetime disability retirement benefits to 1,029 veterans with PTSD who were denied those benefits upon discharge from the military after their wartime service....

--- bth: amazing that this has to go to court to find justice for these troops. Where was the civilian leadership in the military? Where was Sec. Gates while this was going on?

Report identifies widespread cyber-spying - The Washington Post

Report identifies widespread cyber-spying - The Washington Post

A leading computer security firm has used logs produced by a single server to trace the hacking of more than 70 corporations and government organizations over many months, and experts familiar with the analysis say the snooping probably originated in China.

Among the targets were the Hong Kong and New York offices of the Associated Press, where unsuspecting reporters working on China issues clicked on infected links in e-mail, the experts said....

-- bth: this article is worth reading in full. I read "Tiger Trap" the recent book on Chinese espionage and was really stunned by the extent of it. Amazing how the so called experts quoted in this article from WaPo refuse to discuss the country of origin. The world has gotten to a point where US experts in cyber security are afraid of mentioning China for what? Repercussions?

Robotics technology may keep Soldiers far from harm | Article | The United States Army

Robotics technology may keep Soldiers far from harm | Article | The United States Army

DETROIT ARSENAL, Mich., Aug. 2, 2011 -- Unmanned ground vehicles allow warfighters to perform surveillance, route clearance and threat defeat from safer distances. Tele-operation makes it possible for warfighters to maintain even greater standoff distances while conducting these dangerous tasks.

New technology developed by the U.S. Army Tank Research, Development and Engineering Command's, or TARDEC's, Tank and Automotive Research Center may make it possible to perform these missions at an even greater distance, possibly far from the battlefield.

The military currently operates unmanned aircraft systems, or UAS, in theater but can control them from the United States. This has proven very effective in Iraq and Afghanistan, so in May 2010, the Tank Automotive Research, Development and Engineering Center's Ground Vehicle Robotics, or GVR, team undertook an initiative to determine whether unmanned ground assets could be similarly controlled.

"While UAS are flying in theater, they're being controlled from here," remarked GVR Robotics System Integration Laboratory Electrical Engineer Ty Valascho. "Our task within GVR was to see if we could get that capability working and be able to drive it using all in-house assets."

TARDEC's Long Distance Tele-Operation, or LDTO, system allows operators to access a secure Web portal and log into the system. Miles away, the UGVs have already been dialed-in. Once connected, the operator selects a platform from a drop-down menu and is directed to a user interface screen that includes a variety of commands and a video link with the platform.

The robot is operated through the Internet using a cellular data signal.

Directional Associates worked with the original equipment manufacturers to get interface information about the fielded robotic platforms, which enabled the LDTO capability to be integrated onto UGVs. The system has been demonstrated with the TALON, PackBot and Omni-Directional Inspection System platforms. ...

-- bth: Our company Black-I Robotics demonstrated this along with Energid three years ago this September at Ft. Hood where we controlled a LandShark robot in New Hampshire via field radios and a cell phone and internet connection for 3 days from a tent at Ft. Hood. This is definitely a good approach.

Most of Newt Gingrich's Twitter Followers Are Fake

Most of Newt Gingrich's Twitter Followers Are Fake
Yesterday Newt Gingrich laid out a new argument for why he should be the GOP presidential nominee: He's got the most Twitter followers. But according to a former Gingrich staffer, he bought them.

Gingrich complained yesterday that the press is ignoring his prodigious Twitter audience: "I have six times as many Twitter followers as all the other candidates combined, but it didn't count because if it counted I'd still be a candidate; since I can't be a candidate that can't count." Which is true! Gingrich currently boasts 1,325,842 followers, whereas competitors Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann have yet to crack 100,000.

But if Newt is winning the Twitter primary, it's because of voter fraud. A former staffer tells us that his campaign hired a firm to boost his follower count, in part by creating fake accounts en masse:

Newt employs a variety of agencies whose sole purpose is to procure Twitter followers for people who are shallow/insecure/unpopular enough to pay for them. As you might guess, Newt is most decidedly one of the people to which these agencies cater.

About 80 percent of those accounts are inactive or are dummy accounts created by various "follow agencies," another 10 percent are real people who are part of a network of folks who follow others back and are paying for followers themselves (Newt's profile just happens to be a part of these networks because he uses them, although he doesn't follow back), and the remaining 10 percent may, in fact, be real, sentient people who happen to like Newt Gingrich. If you simply scroll through his list of followers you'll see that most of them have odd usernames and no profile photos, which has to do with the fact that they were mass generated. Pathetic, isn't it?...

--- bth: Fake tweets. What is the world coming too? I can't wait for the 2012 ballot recounts.

Army cancels MULE unmanned ground vehicle - Army News | News from Afghanistan & Iraq - Army Times

Army cancels MULE unmanned ground vehicle - Army News | News from Afghanistan & Iraq - Army Times

...A recent internal Army study revealed exactly how much the Army has been spending on canceled programs over the past decade.
“The FCS termination casts an enormous shadow over any debate about challenges in the Army acquisition system,” the report released in June said. But the Army’s problems predate FCS.
Every year since 1996, before FCS was off and running, the Army spent more than $1 billion annually on programs that were ultimately canceled.
Since 2004, including FCS, the Army spent $3.3 billion to $3.8 billion on programs that were eventually canceled. This equates to 35 to 42 percent per year of Army Development Test and Evaluation funding being lost on canceled programs....

-- bth: about time.  This program went bad billions of dollars ago.  With the exception of small ugvs and uavs the program was otherwise a planning and financial disaster for the Army.

Who gains from debt deal? The Pentagon, for one | McClatchy

Who gains from debt deal? The Pentagon, for one | McClatchy

WASHINGTON — The last-minute deal that Congress is considering to raise the federal debt limit probably will mean trillions of dollars in government spending reductions for most agencies. But one department stands to gain: the Pentagon.

Rather than cutting $400 billion in defense spending through 2023, as President Barack Obama had proposed in April, the current debt proposal trims $350 billion through 2024, effectively giving the Pentagon $50 billion more than it had been expecting over the next decade.

With the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan winding down, experts said, the overall change in defense spending practices could be minimal: Instead of cuts, the Pentagon merely could face slower growth.

"This is a good deal for defense when you probe under the numbers," said Lawrence Korb, a defense expert at the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning research center. "It's better than what the Defense Department was expecting."...

-- bth: if memory serves Nancy Youssef from McClatchy was also the one who broke the Iraqi defense dept.'s massive embezzlement of funds about 2005-6. Good to see she is still good with a calculator.

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

The Tea Party’s War on America -

The Tea Party’s War on America -


America’s real crisis is not a debt crisis. It’s an unemployment crisis. Yet this agreement not only doesn’t address unemployment, it’s guaranteed to make it worse. (Incredibly, the Democrats even abandoned their demand for extended unemployment benefits as part of the deal.) As Mohamed El-Erian, the chief executive of the bond investment firm Pimco, told me, fiscal policy includes both a numerator and a denominator. “The numerator is debt,” he said. “But the denominator is growth.” He added, “What we have done is accelerate forward, in a self-inflicted manner, the numerator. And, in the process, we have undermined the denominator.” Economic growth could have gone a long way toward shrinking the deficit, while helping put people to work. The spending cuts will shrink growth and raise the likelihood of pushing the country back into recession.

Inflicting more pain on their countrymen doesn’t much bother the Tea Party Republicans, as they’ve repeatedly proved. What is astonishing is that both the president and House speaker are claiming that the deal will help the economy. Do they really expect us to buy that? We’ve all heard what happened in 1937 when Franklin Roosevelt, believing the Depression was over, tried to rein in federal spending. Cutting spending spiraled the country right back into the Great Depression, where it stayed until the arrival of the stimulus package known as World War II. That’s the path we’re now on. Our enemies could not have designed a better plan to weaken the American economy than this debt-ceiling deal....

ISI chief on secret China visit as US ties take a blow: Report - The Times of India

ISI chief on secret China visit as US ties take a blow: Report - The Times of India

ISLAMABAD: ISI chief Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha has embarked on a secret visit to China that is being seen as part of Pakistan's efforts to reduce its dependence on the US in the wake of strained military and intelligence ties.

Pasha is expected to open a "broad-based strategic dialogue" with Beijing during his visit, The Express Tribune newspaper quoted its sources as saying.

The visit came less than two weeks after a trip to Beijing by Lt Gen Waheed Arshad, chief of general staff of the Pakistan army.

The ISI chief travelled to China days after the sudden departure of the CIA station chief in Islamabad and an attack in the restive Xinjiang region that Chinese authorities blamed on Islamic militants trained in a camp in Pakistan.

Lt Gen Arshad undertook a week-long trip to Beijing last month to discuss what officials in Islamabad described as "the option of a strategic dialogue" between Pakistan and China on the pattern of the Pakistan-US engagement, The Express Tribune reported. ...

-- bth: also necessitated by the Islamic terrorist attacks in China which originated from Pak training camps. Pak govt. will say something like the Chinese have to pay the Pak. govt to prevent its terrorists from slipping the leash and attacking China.

Pakistani Taliban want to trade Swiss hostages for Lady al Qaeda - Threat Matrix

Pakistani Taliban want to trade Swiss hostages for Lady al Qaeda - Threat Matrix

On Thursday, South Waziristan Taliban leader Waliur Rehman Mehsud said he ordered the kidnapping of two Swiss citizens in Baluchistan province, and said he would release the Swiss couple if the US freed Aafia Siddiqui. From The Associated Press:

He said his group ordered the kidnapping in order to gain freedom for Aafia Siddiqui, a US-educated mother of three who is serving 86 years in an American jail for trying to kill US officials in Afghanistan.

Rehman said the Swiss have not been tortured.

But he said that if Siddiqui is not freed, a Taliban court will decide the fate of the pair.

Siddiqui, who is known as "Lady al Qaeda," was one of the most wanted women in the world prior to her capture in 2008. She was involved in planning al Qaeda attacks in the US. For more on Siddiqui, see LWJ report, 'Lady al Qaeda' sentenced to 86 years in prison.

The Pakistani Taliban is not the first group to call for Siddiqui's release. Siddiqui has been a cause celebre in Pakistan for Islamist terror groups, Islamist and secular political parties, and the Pakistani government....

-- bth: its fascinating how many groups and governments want to negotiate for this terrorist.

Xinjiang attack masterminded by terrorists trained in Pakistan | World | DAWN.COM

Xinjiang attack masterminded by terrorists trained in Pakistan | World | DAWN.COM

BEIJING: China said on Monday that Islamic extremists were behind an attack on the eve of the Muslim fasting month in the restive western region of Xinjiang that left 11 people dead.

The attack in Kashgar city on Sunday afternoon was the latest violence to shake the region where Muslim Uighurs have long resented the presence of Han Chinese and religious and political controls imposed by Beijing.

It came less than 24 hours after two small blasts hit the city, which is dominated by Uighurs.

“A group of religious extremists led by culprits trained in overseas terrorist camps were behind the weekend attack,” a Kashgar government statement said.

An initial police investigation found that the leaders of the group behind the attack had learned about explosives and firearms in Pakistan at a camp of the separatist “East Turkestan Islamic Movement,” it said.

Police shot dead five people and arrested four others after they stormed a restaurant, set in on fire after killing the owner and a waiter, and then ran onto the street and hacked to death four people, Xinhua news agency reported.

For the ruling Communist Party, the latest violence presents another tricky test of its control in Xinjiang, where Uighur and Han Chinese residents view each other with suspicion. Beijing has been wary of contagion from uprisings across the Arab world inspiring challenges to Party power in China....

--- bth: so one wonders if this attack was designed as a negotiating leverage by Pak based terrorists on the Pak government. Some concession required of the Pak govt. in order not to interfere with the needed aid and relationship between the Pak govt and China.

ISI May Have Hidden Mullah Omar: NDS

ISI May Have Hidden Mullah Omar: NDS

... NDS Spokesman Lotfullah Mashal said: "Mullah Mohammad Omar is living in the city of Quetta in Pakistan and he could never come to Afghanistan so openly."

To prevent him from joining the Afghan peace process, Mullah Omar may have been held in custody or hidden by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI), Mr Mashal said.

Mullah Mohammad Omar, the fugitive leader of the Taliban, has been one of the controversial figures in Afghanistan and in the world.

-- bth: I may be mistaken but after May 2 OBL raid there were rumors that Omar was moved and ambushed. Later there was rumor that he was wounded or killed and last year that he had a heart attack. Also there is a report within the week that his brother may have been killed or captured in Afghanistan.

Monday, August 01, 2011

U.S. Contractor in Iraq Charges Pentagon $900 for $7 Control Switch, Report Finds -

U.S. Contractor in Iraq Charges Pentagon $900 for $7 Control Switch, Report Finds -

A U.S. government contractor in Iraq charged the Pentagon a whopping amount of money for inexpensive items, including $900 for a $7 control switch, according to a new report from a U.S. watchdog.

U.S. Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart W. Bowen Jr. said review found that Anham, LLC, which is based in suburban Washington, allowed its subcontractors in Iraq to also charge $3,000 for a $100 circuit breaker, and $80 for a piece of plumbing equipment worth $1.41.

As a result, Bowen's inspectors are seeking to review all Anham contracts with the U.S. government in Iraq and Afghanistan, which total about $3.9 billion....

Former Intel Chief: Call Off The Drone War (And Maybe the Whole War on Terror) | Danger Room |

Former Intel Chief: Call Off The Drone War (And Maybe the Whole War on Terror) | Danger Room |

...The reconsideration of our relationship with these countries is only the start of the overhaul Blair has in mind, however. He noted that the U.S. intelligence and homeland security communities are spending about $80 billion a year, outside of Afghanistan and Pakistan. Yet al-Qaida and its affiliates only have about 4,000 members worldwide. That’s $20 million per terrorist per year, Blair pointed out.

“You think — woah, $20 million. Is that proportionate?” he asked. “So I think we need to relook at the strategy to get the money in the right places.”

Blair mentioned that 17 Americans have been killed on U.S. soil by terrorists since 9/11 — 14 of them in the Ft. Hood massacre. Meanwhile, auto accidents, murders and rapes combine have killed an estimated 1.5 million people in the past decade. “What is it that justifies this amount of money on this narrow problem?” he asked.

Blair purposely let his own question go unanswered.

Mobilizing Toward a Robotics Revolution by Desktop Engineering

Mobilizing Toward a Robotics Revolution by Desktop Engineering

The most exciting development in sensing for autonomous service robots "which is arguably the most exciting frontier in robotics "is a sensor that has only begun to be used in robotics and, in fact, was developed for a completely unrelated application. It is Microsoft’s Kinect for Xbox 360, which the computer giant describes as a “controller-free” interface for its video game platform (see Figure 1).
Figure 1: Just days after Microsoft released Kinect, the sensor was hacked
by code developers wanting to enable control through a PC rather than just the Xbox.

The Kinect enables control of the Xbox through “natural interaction” "a term trademarked by PrimeSense (Tel Aviv, Israel), which developed Kinect’s underlying optical sensing and recognition technology that translates body motion into control commands. As Microsoft explains, “the Kinect sensor has a 3D camera and a built-in microphone that tracks your full-body movements and responds to your voice.” What makes the sensor captivating is its price tag: $149.99.
“It’s the most exciting sensor to be released in a very long time,” says Bill Kennedy, co-founder of Amherst, NH-based MobileRobots, Inc., the maker of autonomous robot cores, bases and accessories that was acquired in 2010 by industrial automation and robotics multinational Adept Technology, Pleasanton, CA.

Fred Nikgohar, CEO of RoboDynamics, Santa Monica, CA, agrees.

“Kinect is a great example of what is possible now with sensors and embedded systems,” he says. “It’s not that we couldn’t do 10 years ago what Kinect does, but at $150 it is a radical game changer.” ...

- bth: The emergence of low cost intelligent sensors is about to radically change what robots can do and how cheaply they can do them.

BBC News - Mexico drug cartel suspect Acosta 'admits killings'

BBC News - Mexico drug cartel suspect Acosta 'admits killings'

Police in Mexico say a suspected cartel leader they arrested on Friday has confessed to ordering the murder of 1,500 people in northern Chihuahua state.

Jose Antonio Acosta Hernandez, 33, is also suspected of masterminding the attack on a US consulate worker and her husband in Ciudad Juarez last year.

Officials say Mr Acosta Hernandez is a key figure in the Juarez cartel.

Juarez is Mexico's most violent city, with more than 3,000 murders in 2010.

The suspect, who is better known as El Diego, is accused of being the leader of the La Linea gang, whose members work as hired killers for the Juarez cartel.

The cartel controls some of the main drug smuggling routes from Ciudad Juarez into the United States.

Police believe El Diego was also behind a car bomb attack which killed four people in the border city, the first such attack in Mexico's spiralling drug-related violence...

-- bth: so note this important news from Mexico is reported by BBC and not US media

NightWatch 20110731 - KGS - Libya

NightWatch 20110731 - KGS

Libya: Update. Libyan rebel forces have overrun the base of the al-Nidaa Brigade, a group that ostensibly sided with the rebels but proved to work for and take direction from Qadhafi. Four people were killed and six others wounded in the clash.
Comment: Today's suppression operations and the murder of General Younis are strong evidence that the rebel government is clueless about the nature and composition of its forces, The al-Nidaa Brigade is one of several pro-Qadhafi fighting groups that covertly has waged terrorist war against the rebels from within.
-bth: interesting

Sound and Fury: Americans Actually Lightly Taxed world taxes – Informed Comment

Sound and Fury: Americans Actually Lightly Taxed world taxes – Informed Comment

World Taxes