Saturday, August 13, 2011
Friday, August 12, 2011
A police officer from Springfield, Massachusetts has filed an application for a criminal complaint against a woman who recorded his fellow officer beating a black suspect while he stood by, according to The Republican.
In November 2009, Tyrisha Greene made a 20-minute recording of now-retired Springfield patrolman Jeffrey M. Asher repeatedly beating Melvin Jones III with a flashlight during a traffic stop. The recording shows a group of other officers standing around Jones without intervening.
Jones was partially blinded in one eye from the attack, and had bones all over his face broken. The officers claimed that Jones grabbed one of their guns as they tried to arrest him and that Asher struck Jones with his flashlight in order to "disorientate him."
But a grand jury rejected that claim, finding no evidence that Jones behaved aggressively towards them....
Thursday, August 11, 2011
...However, there are conflicting reports on the CIA claim. Independent military sources believe that Taliban possess at least 100 shoulder-fired Stingers, and they use them when they are hundred percent sure that they would down the fighter planes. Stingers have the deadliest record against fighting aircraft of any weapon since World War II. However, the limitation of Stinger is that they are effective against low-flying airliners. Most probably, this is the reason behind selective using of Stingers during a decade long war.
According to a second theory, Taliban acquired missiles similar to Stingers. Surface-to-air missiles similar to Stingers are made in Britain and Russia. The Russian made SAM-16, which contains Stinger technology. The Russian stole the technology from Greece in 1980s. Russian missiles can be purchased in international arms markets.
The Russian mafia is reportedly bartering weapons with heroin. Hence, the Russian missiles, including SAM-16 can land anywhere in the region. Britain makes Blowpipe, a British equivalent of the Stingers. However, it is relatively difficult to obtain Blowpipe. A third theory is even more dangerous. It suggests that some regional powers were able to reproduce Stingers through reverse engineering. Taliban could have obtained that type of Stingers. Since this brand of missiles rely on stolen American technology, one can buy it from black-market only. Evidently, the black market knows no rules and restrictions.
The only criteria are to pay in cash. And if this theory is correct, it means that the US and NATO would face tough times in the days to come.
Ostensibly, Taliban are following a well-thought plan. They are focusing on hitting hard the US and NATO forces while they are pulling out their troops from Afghanistan. Simultaneously, Taliban are targeting pro-US influential personalities to spread terror among the ill-trained and demoralized Afghan army and police. The objective is to prove that only Taliban can rule Afghanistan.
-- bth: grand theories aside it may have been just a lucky downing with RPGs or recoilless rifles. Given that we have been there 10 years it is hardly surprising that this hasn't happened more often and now probably will.
Poll after poll has found that Americans are extremely disillusioned with the federal government, regardless of their political affiliation, after the president signed an agreement over the federal debt ceiling and budget deficit.
According to a Washington Post poll released on Wednesday, just 21 percent of Americans are satisfied with the way the country’s political system is working, down 17 points from November 2009. Forty-five percent of Americans now consider themselves "very dissatisfied" and 33 percent consider themselves "mostly dissatisfied."
Additionally, just 26 percent of Americans believe that the federal government can actually solve the country's economic problems, down 21 points from October 2010 and down 37 points from February 2002.
President Barack Obama signed a debt ceiling deal into law in the beginning of August. The legislation raised the debt ceiling until 2013 and cut the federal deficit by about $2.1 trillion over a 10-year period. The two-stage agreement, which was criticized by both tea party lawmakers and progressive Democrats, passed by a vote of 269 to 161 in the House and a vote of 74 to 26 in the Senate.
A record breaking 82 percent of Americans now disapprove of the way Congress is doing its job, according to a CBS News/New York Times poll released just days after the president and lawmakers agreed on the deal....
-- bth: worth reading in full. Astonishing level of dissatisfaction with all things Washington at this point.
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
(Reuters) - Economic fears are weighing heavily on Americans, with a large majority saying the United States is on the wrong track and nearly half believing the worst is yet to come, a Reuters/Ipsos poll said on Wednesday.
The poll reflected growing anxiety about the economy and frustration with Washington after a narrowly averted government default last week, a credit rating downgrade by Standard & Poor's, a stock market dive and a stubbornly high 9.1 percent jobless rate.
President Barack Obama came out bruised but relatively intact from the brutal, weeks-long debt debate. His approval rating dropped to 45 percent from 49 percent from a month ago, according to the poll conducted from Thursday to Monday.
But negative views on the economy are worrisome signs as he looks ahead to his 2012 re-election bid.
The poll found 73 percent of Americans believe the United States is "off on the wrong track," and just one in five, 21 percent, think the country is headed in the right direction....
-- bth: I would like to see comparable numbers for 1992 and 1980 when Carter and Bush senior became single term presidents.
Tuesday, August 09, 2011
Buffalo transportation worker returns to job after heady tour as Somali prime minister | The Envoy - Yahoo! News
New York State transportation worker Mohamed A. Mohamed has recently returned from a sabbatical that's fairly unprecedented in the annals of civil-service leave-takings. Between last October and this June, he was the prime minister of Somalia—and now, after being forced out and appointing his successor, he's back at his old workstation at the Buffalo office of the Department of Transportation.
It all began with a trip to the United Nations last October, as Buffalo News reporter Jason Rey recounts in an arresting summary of Mohamed's odyssey. Mohamed met with Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed to discuss conditions in Somalia, where Mohamed emigrated from more than two decades ago. Impressed by Mohamed's concern, the president offered the civil servant the prime minister's post on the spot.
After living more than a quarter-century away from his troubled homeland, Mohamed found his return as a head of state a rude awakening on several levels. "After his first interview with Somalia's president, he stepped outside and a bullet whizzed passed, landing two feet in front of him," Rey writes. " 'Yeah, that's normal,' said the man walking with him. 'Keep walking.' "...
-- bth: astonishing as it may seem that a transportation worker could become prime minister it should be remembered that some of America's best early generals were book sellers and shop keepers. ie., Knox and Green.
The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (Pakistan Taliban - TTP) seems to be slowly disintegrating as various commanders try to pull it in different directions.
A clear indication of this process came when the TTP commander in Kurram Agency, Fazal Saeed Haqqani, announced that his group had seceded from the TTP.
Fazal Saeed Haqqani also announced the formation of a new group called Tehrik-e-Taliban Islami Pakistan (TTIP). Haqqani said his group was not happy with the TTP's policy of attacking civilian targets, a major reason for the split.
However, Haqqani and his group have been involved in the murders of innocent Shi'ites. In the very first statement to
dissociate his new group from the TTP, Haqqani announced he would not carry out any attacks on the Pakistani security forces. He also announced that the United States was the TTIP's "main enemy".
The action of Fazal Saeed Haqqani has completely eliminated the TTP from Kurram Agency, as Haqqani vowed that he would not allow the TTP to operate there: "It is my area and I will ensure that no locals or outsiders oppose our policies and create problems for us in Kurram Valley."
Like Maulvi Nazir and Hafiz Gul Bahadur, Fazal Saeed Haqqani is closely allied with the Haqqani network in Afghanistan, which desperately needed a foothold in Kurram Agency and which only Fazal Saeed Haqqani could provide. Jalaluddin Haqqani along with his son Sirajuddin lead the Haqqani network, which is based in the North Waziristan tribal area. It is considered one of the biggest threats to foreign forces in Afghanistan.
According to Mansur Khan Mehsud of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas' research center, Fazal Saeed Haqqani is occupying a portion of the main road, the Thall-Parachinar road, connecting Kurram Agency with the rest of the country. While still a TTP commander, Fazal Saeed Haqqani did not allow Shi'ites residents to use that road. ...
-- bth: given the pounding we've given them it is surprising that Haqqani continues to strengthen
...Whoa…Bomb Pants? What? I hear you ask. Well. One of the sad truths from out here is, of course, the injuries caused by IEDs. It’s well documented that these cowardly home-made bombs take lives and when they don’t they take legs and arms of the guys and girls out in the fields. What is less well documented is the fact that they also cause far more horrendous injuries to men (and women) from the blast. Obviously the blast caused by stepping on a bomb goes upwards, and when you are taking a stride forward this means that the inside of your thighs and your groin are open and will take a hit from the explosion. So what is not often spoken about – and for obviously personal reasons, is that when people are hit by an IED blast, they often get life changing injuries in the groin area too.
So in an effort to minimise these injuries and to try to help people keep at least some dignity if they are unlucky to step on an IED we wear bomb pants under our trousers.
And the level of protection we get is doubled by a set of special body armour that forms a protective layer over the top of our trousers.
The bomb pants themselves are a pair of long tight shorts that have lycra sides, but a padded silk area that covers the inner thighs and groin. They are heavy. It can get very sweaty in them, but well, nobody cares. Everyone who goes through the pre-deployment training out here gets to see some pictures of people who have been in IED blasts. They show the level of injuries of those people who weren’t wearing the pants against those who were. And the difference is incredible. And made even more so when the Bomb-Nappy is worn over the top. ...
Monday, August 08, 2011
...While the working age population has grown 3 percent in the past four years, the economy has 5 percent fewer jobs -- or 6.8 million less than four years ago. Unemployment stands at 9.1 percent....
... “During the last 12 months, an unending supply of calcium ammonium nitrate, originating almost exclusively from Pakistan, has been used to produce IEDs in Afghanistan despite a countrywide ban” on importing the fertilizer, JIEDDO spokeswoman Irene Smith told AFP.
From April to June, 3,485 IEDs exploded or were found in the war-ravaged country, according to JIEDDO – a 14 per cent increase over the same period last year. In June, use of roadside bombs was 25 per cent higher than average.
The volatile southern province of Helmand, where the Taliban are entrenched, is the worst affected, along with Kandahar province and the country’s east along the border with Pakistan.
Ground troops, who are trying to reach out to the population as part of the strategy to defeat the Taliban, are particularly vulnerable to IED attacks. Use of roadside bombs against them surged 59 percent in the spring.
But coalition forces are not standing idly by. Nearly 1,900 weapons caches were discovered in the spring, three times more than in 2010, according to JIEDDO figures.
Nato-led troops have also seized 110 tons of homemade explosives and “removed over 300 high-value individuals” since the start of November, Major General James Terry, commander of ISAF forces in the south, told reporters.
In 2010, IEDs – the weapon of choice for lightly armed insurgents battling advanced militaries – were responsible for 60 percent of coalition deaths, even if only one in 10 bombs leads to casualties.
As of August 1, 738 US soldiers had been killed and 7,857 wounded by IEDs since the start of the war in Afghanistan to oust the Taliban in the wake of the September 11, 2001 attacks, according to Pentagon data.
Two more soldiers, aged 19 and 21, were killed Wednesday when their vehicle drove over a roadside bomb in Wardak province, southwest of the capital Kabul – also the scene of the deadly Chinook incident late Friday.
The IEDs have not only been used against heavily-armed foreign troops, but also against the local population, accounting for a third of all civilian deaths in Afghanistan in the first six months of 2011.
“Civilian deaths from IEDs increased 17 per cent from the same period in 2010, making IEDs the single largest killer of civilians in the first half of 2011,” the United Nations said in a mid-year report on the conflict....
“Most of the pressure plate IEDs used in Afghanistan contain approximately 20 kilos of explosive, more than twice that of a standard anti-tank mine – yet have the trigger weight of an anti-personnel mine,” the United Nations said.
JIEDDO says an overwhelming 84 per cent of IEDs used in Afghanistan are made from calcium ammonium nitrate, developed by fertilizer manufacturers as an alternative to pure ammonium nitrate that could not be detonated....