Saturday, November 26, 2011

$707,568,901,000,000: How (And Why) Banks Increased Total Outstanding Derivatives By A Record $107 Trillion In 6 Months | ZeroHedge

$707,568,901,000,000: How (And Why) Banks Increased Total Outstanding Derivatives By A Record $107 Trillion In 6 Months | ZeroHedge
While everyone was focused on the impending European collapse, the latest soon to be refuted rumors of a quick fix from the Welt am Sonntag notwithstanding, the Bank of International Settlements reported a number that quietly slipped through the cracks of the broader media. Which is paradoxical because it is the biggest ever reported in the financial world: the number in question is $707,568,901,000,000 and represents the latest total amount of all notional Over The Counter (read unregulated) outstanding derivatives reported by the world's financial institutions to the BIS for its semi-annual OTC derivatives report titled "OTC derivatives market activity in the first half of 2011." Indicatively, global GDP is about $63 trillion if one can trust any numbers released by modern governments. Said otherwise, for the six month period ended June 30, 2011, the total number of outstanding derivatives surged past the previous all time high of $673 trillion from June 2008, and is now firmly in 7-handle territory: the synthetic credit bubble has now been blown to a new all time high. Another way of looking at the data is that one of the key contributors to global growth and prosperity in the past 10 years was an increase in total derivatives from just under $100 trillion to $708 trillion in exactly one decade. And soon we have to pay the mean reversion price.

What is probably just as disturbing is that in the first 6 months of 2011, the total outstanding notional of all derivatives rose from $601 trillion at December 31, 2010 to $708 trillion at June 30, 2011. A $107 trillion increase in notional in half a year. Needless to say this is the biggest increase in history. So why did the notional increase by such an incomprehensible amount? Simple: based on some widely accepted (and very much wrong) definitions of gross market value (not to be confused with gross notional), the value of outstanding derivatives actually declined in the first half of the year from $21.3 trillion to $19.5 trillion (a number still 33% greater than US GDP). Which means that in order to satisfy what likely threatened to become a self-feeding margin call as the (previously) $600 trillion derivatives market collapsed on itself, banks had to sell more, more, more derivatives in order to collect recurring and/or upfront premia and to pad their books with GAAP-endorsed delusions of future derivative based cash flows.

... And here again, what they ignore to add is that the measure of economic significance is only relevant in as much as the world's banks don't begin a Lehman-MF Global tango of mutual margin call annihilation. In that case, no. They are not measures of anything except for what some banks plug into some models to spit out a favorable EPS treatment at the end of the quarter.

Expect to see gross market value declines persisting even as the now parabolic increase in total notional persists. At this rate we would not be surprised to see one quadrillion in OTC derivatives by the middle of next year.

And, once again for those confused, the fact that notional had to increase so epically as market value tumbled most likely means that the global derivative pyramid scheme (no pun intended) is almost over.

-- bth: Holy shit, the banks are about to screw things up with derivatives again.

Iran threatens to hit Turkey if US, Israel attack - Boston.com

Iran threatens to hit Turkey if US, Israel attack - Boston.com

... "Should we be threatened, we will target NATO's missile defense shield in Turkey and then hit the next targets," the semiofficial Mehr news agency quoted Hajizadeh as saying.

Tehran says NATO's early warning radar station in Turkey is meant to protect Israel against Iranian missile attacks if a war breaks out with the Jewish state. Ankara agreed to host the radar in September as part of NATO's missile defense system aimed at countering ballistic missile threats from neighboring Iran.

A military installation in the Turkish town of Kurecik, some 435 miles (700 kilometers) west of the Iranian border, has been designated as the radar site, according to Turkish government officials.

Hajizadeh said the United States also plans to install similar stations in Arab states south of Iran. He said increasing threats has made Iran alter it military defense strategy.....

The Simpsons - Bart's Cranberry Sauce - YouTube

The Simpsons - Bart's Cranberry Sauce - YouTube

Cape Cod in Winter

To stop Afghan bombs, a focus on Pakistani fertilizer - The Washington Post

To stop Afghan bombs, a focus on Pakistani fertilizer - The Washington Post

...A few minutes later the conference broke into working groups. The teams’ task was to find easy, quick and cheap ways to modify the fertilizer so it would be harder to make into a bomb.

Some groups talked about adding pink or yellow dyes to the fertilizer to make it easier to spot at border crossings. One team debated whether there was a way to add an effervescent substance to the bags of calcium ammonium nitrate so that when insurgents placed the granules in water they would get a fizzy mess. Another group suggested putting radio frequency identification tags in the bags so that they could be tracked as they left the factory.

The most promising solution, recommended by all four working groups, involved adding coated urea fertilizer granules to the bags of ammonium nitrate. The combination of urea and ammonium nitrate has a strong affinity for water and would be very difficult for insurgents to dry into an explosive powder.

The urea additives would not stop the insurgents from processing the fertilizer into bombs, but it would complicate their task and potentially make the blast less potent.

On the conference’s last day, groups reported their findings and the attention shifted to Fatima Group representative Farrukh Qureshi, the sole Pakistani at the conference.

A British military officer at the conference suggested that only the Fatima Group plants should have to change their method of production because they were the lone source of the problem in Afghanistan.

“It is a near-monopoly,” the British officer said. “And if those two plants would adjust their processes, it would make it very difficult for the insurgent to shop around.”

Qureshi bristled at the suggestion that Pakistan plants were the only problem. “There is a lot of trade taking place with India. There is Iran and Indonesia,” he said. “And I am not even discussing about the former Russian states. . . . The extremists will find ways to get calcium ammonium nitrate. These are very smart people.”

Another conference participant suggested banning ammonium nitrate in Pakistan and forcing farmers to shift to other kinds of fertilizer, such as urea, which is used heavily in the United States and is harder to make into a bomb.

Qureshi said that Pakistan’s impoverished subsistence farmers would need expensive machinery to spread urea. Ammonium nitrate fertilizer is spread by hand and is better suited to Pakistani soil. “Our customers are very change-sensitive and very cost-sensitive,” he said.

A few minutes later, the conference ended. Barbero’s command will pay for some quick studies in the next few months to determine whether adding coated urea granules, dyes or radio tags to the ammonium nitrate bags really will mean fewer bombs.

The goal is to have any potential solution in place at the Fatima Group plants before the 2012 summer fighting season in Afghanistan.

Correspondent Karin Brulliard in Islamabad contributed to this report.

- bth: buy the plant out

日清 太麺堂々CM「ショッカー」篇30秒Ver - YouTube

日清 太麺堂々CM「ショッカー」篇30秒Ver - YouTube

Culvert IED

U.S. commander readying request for more troops to advise Afghans - latimes.com
U.S. troops in Afghanistan
U.S. soldiers secure the scene after a roadside bomb blast this week during a patrol in eastern Afghanistan's Lowgar province. (Umit Bektas / Reuters / November 23, 2011)

bth: so take a look at this picture.  It appears that the armor on this vehicle is intact which is a real credit to technology and it also looks like there wasn't a fire on board.  But the vehicle is effectively disabled and vulnerable because the road beneath the vehicle is obliterated causing the armored vehicle to become trapped.  This is probably the result of an IED placed inside a culvert at a choke point over what looks like a stream from the picture.  The IED which is probably an ANFO variety takes out the road surface over the culvert, the vehicle falls in under its own weight and because the suspension was designed to be high V hulled, it doesn't have the range of articulation of a typical off road vehicle so it gets stuck.  If the fuel tank had caught fire, the occupants would be trapped and burned. Or if the vehicle fell into a creek the vehicle occupants could be drowned. Also there could be tertiary IEDs targeting dismounts coming to help the stranded victims might come into play as they are stepped on adding to the confusion and casualty count. Its amazing how the low tech fertilizer and fuel oil IED can cause such havoc against a well equipped force.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Turkey 'ready for action' as Syria deadline expires - Hurriyet Daily News

Turkey 'ready for action' as Syria deadline expires - Hurriyet Daily NewsTurkey said it could tolerate no more bloodshed in Syria and it was ready to take action with Arab powers if President Bashar al-Assad failed to take steps towards ending the crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators.

An 11:00 a.m. GMT deadline given by the Arab League to Syria to agree to accept observers or face sanctions has expired today.

Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu had told a news conference in the morning that he hoped the Syrian government would give a positive response to Arab League plan on resolving the conflict.

"If it doesn't, there are steps we can take in consultation with the Arab League," he said. "I want to say clearly we have no more tolerance for the bloodshed in Syria. The attitude of friendly and fraternal countries on this subject is clear."...

Comment: Iran and the I.A.E.A. : The New Yorker

Comment: Iran and the I.A.E.A. : The New Yorker...The new report, therefore, leaves us where we’ve been since 2002, when George Bush declared Iran to be a member of the Axis of Evil—with lots of belligerent talk but no definitive evidence of a nuclear-weapons program.

National Iraqi News Agency - Casualties of Basra’s blasts up to 96 killed, wounded NINA

National Iraqi News Agency - NINABasra (NINA) – Health source in Basra said that the number of Basra’s three blasts, earlier on Thursday evening, has reached 96 killed and wounded.

In a statement to NINA, the source that the number of casualties resulted from the three blasts has reached 25 killed and 71 wounded, including police and military servicemen.

He added that most wounded are in critical conditions.

Earlier in the evening, three blasts resulted from the explosion of two tricycles and an improvised explosive device amid Khamismeel outdoor market in downtown Basra. / End.

-bth: this massive attack doesn't even make the US news. Note the heavy use of VBIEDs.

BBC News - Afghan police trainees cost Dutch '500,000 euros each'

BBC News - Afghan police trainees cost Dutch '500,000 euros each'

The cost to the Netherlands of training Afghan police this year is more than 500,000 euros (£430,000; $670,000) per officer, a Dutch newspaper reports.

De Volkskrant cited figures from the Dutch defence ministry and Afghan police showing a 2011 budget of 105m euros to train 189 police officers.

Similar sums have been allocated over the next three years to the training mission in Kunduz, north Afghanistan.

Costs include security for the 225 Dutch trainers deployed....

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Breakthrough In Stem Cell Treatments For Heart Patients Says Cedars Sinai Hospital | Online News Heard Now

Breakthrough In Stem Cell Treatments For Heart Patients Says Cedars Sinai Hospital | Online News Heard Now

In an announcement that stunned the medical community and industry this past week, doctors at Cedars Sinai Medical Center in California announced that their clinical trials using adult stem cells has resulted in astonishing improvements for patients who had suffered both heart attacks and resulting congestive heart failure.

The improvements were so astonishing that further trials have been greenlighted and the medical world sits on the edge of its seat waiting for further news....

Gül warns Syria of cross border raids - Hurriyet Daily News

Gül warns Syria of cross border raids - Hurriyet Daily NewsAnkara could be forced to launch a cross-border operation against Syria if Damascus were to allow the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) to attack Turkey from its territory, President Abdullah Gül has said during a state visit to Britain.

“I don’t think the Syrian government would make that kind of mistake” in allowing the PKK to conduct attacks from the Arab republic’s territory, Gül told the daily Guardian on Nov. 22, adding that “terrorist groups” had been trying to sabotage the process of reforms in Turkey.

Gül’s comments were part of a wider verbal attack against the Syrian regime, which cannot survive, according to the president.

“Unfortunately, Syria has come to a point of no return,” Gül said yesterday during a speech in London at the Wilton Park conference, a forum of dialogue for leading opinion-makers.

At present, the whole region could be dragged into “turmoil and bloodshed” by the crisis, he said. “The Baath regime continues to use oppression and violence on its own people. Violence breeds violence.”

Turkey cannot remain indifferent to the demands of the Syrian people, Gül said, adding that Turkey was trying to convince the Syrian regime to begin a democratic transformation.

He said the fate of Syria, where the risk of civil war is looming, was “important for the entire region since the country sits on top of sectarian fault lines … Defining this democratic struggle along sectarian, religious and ethnic lines would drag the whole region into turmoil and bloodshed.”

People in the region see Turkey as a source of inspiration for democracy, Gül said, adding that they deserve peaceful and honorable lives.

Speaking after talks with Gül on Nov. 22, British Prime Minister David Cameron said, “Today, we have had important discussions on Syria where now a full-scale civil war is a real possibility.”...

-- bth: Folks, pay attention. Turkey is going to go military on Syria I think.

Turkey confronted with possible Syrian civil war | Reuters

Turkey confronted with possible Syrian civil war | Reuters
(Reuters) - Turkey appears to be preparing for some form of civil war in neighbouring Syria, wary of any unilateral intervention but fearful fighting there could quickly escalate to a broader sectarian conflagration in the Arab world.

"I observe a simmering threat in the region based on a Sunni-Shiite divide," Turkish President Abdullah Gul said on Wednesday. "It ... has the potential to move the Muslim world from the 21st century into the darkness of the Middle Ages."

These were words Gul would not have uttered in public even a couple of weeks ago. But Ankara has in recent days openly abandoned any notion of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad staying in power and is focused on dealing with the chaos that could follow his removal.

"Contingencies seem to be based on a worst-case scenario," said Semih Idiz, a commentator with Milliyet newspaper. "The assumption seems to be that this is leading to some form of civil war."...

-- bth: Turkey is teeing up to create a buffer zone inside Syria.

US Carrier off Syria and Civilian Evac Warning Given - Heads up folks

Syria | Aircraft Carrier | Bush | The Daily Caller
The USS George H.W. Bush, the Navy’s newest aircraft carrier, has reportedly parked off the Syrian coast. The move comes as the U.S. embassy in Damascus urged Americans to “immediately” leave the country.

“The U.S. embassy continues to urge U.S. citizens in Syria to depart immediately while commercial transportation is available,” began a statement released Wednesday on the embassy website. “The number of airlines serving Syria has decreased significantly since the summer, while many of those airlines remaining have reduced their number of flights.”

In addition to urging citizens to leave the country, CBS News reports that Ambassador Robert Ford, who was recalled from Syria last month due to what the Obama administration called credible threats to his safety, will not return to the country later this month as planned...

- bth: holy crap. Moving that carrier off the coast is a bad sign of things to come.

Ballistic underwear, bureaucractic inertial and getting your nuts blown off

The Unmentionable: Land Mines in Afghanistan Sexually Mutilate US Troops | BuzzFlash.org

... "The signature physical wound of the war in Afghanistan begins when you step on a homemade bomb," Men's Health contributing editor Bob Drury writes in the November 2011 edition of the magazine. "Most of these are built with the fertilizer ammonium nitrate, an ingredient widely available throughout Afghanistan. The detonation, triggered either by a buried pressure plate or, less often, a command wire operated by a nearby enemy, instantly pulverizes the flesh, bone, tissue, and muscle of one or both of your lower limbs. In all likelihood the force of the explosion will sever the nerves in your leg or legs, and yet you will experience little pain. Surprisingly, as shock sets in and you lie in your pooling blood, you may not feel anything but a vague sense of pressure, as if a strong man were wrapping both hands around one of your calves and squeezing as hard as he could.

"In many cases, the force of the explosion also travels straight up into your genital and pelvic area, blasting tiny shards of rock and dirt into your torso between your front and rear Kevlar body-armor flaps," Drury continued. "If all or part of your 'package' is not blown off by the detonation itself, the flying debris from the blast often penetrates soft tissue, leaving you vulnerable to penile, scrotal, testicular, and rectal infections. If the damage is bad enough, it could even lead to a full or partial amputation of your genitals."

Although many believe that the war in Afghanistan is winding down, ironically, "In 2010, the number of U.S. troops ... who lost at least one limb was double that of either 2008 or 2009, according to casualty data compiled by surgeons at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center, a U.S. military hospital in Germany," Drury pointed out.

Unless you work in a dangerous occupation or a workplace where body parts of all type may be lost, you've likely never contemplated the question: How much is a penis worth? Perhaps the only institution that has quantified the value of a penis is the military. Yes, penises, like other body parts actually have a specific monetary value, or to put it more professionally, an actuarial value.

"The number of severe genital wounds has tripled," Drury reports, "causing Pentagon and Department of Veterans Affairs official to scramble to review insurance packages that assess, for instance, the value of a severed thumb at $50,000 but assign no dollar value on damage to a penis or testicles," although the affected person "may receive disability payments for a genital injury, if the VA deems it serious enough."

In short, there have never been so many injuries to the penis and testicles as is being seen in Afghanistan John B. Holcomb, M.D. a trauma surgeon, told Men's Health's Drury.

According to Drury, Ronald Glaser, M.D., a man who served as a doctor in Vietnam and has studied the psychological and physical trauma of war for his recent book, Broken Bodies, Shattered Minds: A Medical Odyssey from Vietnam to Afghanistan has found "that during the Vietnam there were 2.4 U.S. troops injured for every death. In Afghanistan, current Department of defense numbers yield a ratio of 8 to 1 - largely a result of improved combat medical treatment."

In fact, "the percentage of all our servicemen and women in Afghanistan who have lost limbs could be equal or greater than the percentage of limb loss that occurred as a result of the Civil War
," Glaser told Drury.

"You can't get your legs blown off without suffering genital and/or perineum injuries," says Glaser. And accompanying these kinds of injuries are infections. And then there's the questions about these injuries are to be treated. "Take testosterone," Glaser said. "You need it. For maintaining muscle mass. For sexual desire. A lot of these kids with damaged or lost testicles are looking at a lifetime of hormone treatments. Yet each patient has different dosage needs. How much should you give them? Well, we're still trying to figure that out."

And because these medical issues are relatively new, "Nobody knows how to do this yet," Glaser added. "But I'll tell you one thing. We're going to have to learn pretty quickly. That's one thing wars do - turn medical techniques honed on the battlefield into standard civilian medical practice."

- bth: A couple of years ago I took the issue of ballistic blast underwear to several member of Congress and the Senate. Not much happened. Everybody nodded, but somehow the idea of blast shorts just didn't seem to want to make its way to the hearing room.

In recent times the Marines began issuing them to their infantry, the Army only sometimes and many parents are buying them for their sons just like a few years ago with breast plates, blood clotting agents and single handed tourniquets.

More disturbing I received a call from a friend of mine in the field and he reports that the Marines have decided to recycle their underwear as troops are rotated out to save about $80 bucks a pair. So besides the gross impact of having to wear someone else' underwear in combat, when the older silk versions are washed for the first time they lose 20% of their effectiveness and more thereafter. The whole situation is so bullshit.

Ballistic underwear should be issued to all troops vulnerable to IED blasts and the equipment should not be recycled but replaced often. Its probable that the armor load of an infantry man could be lightened by reducing upper body or side protection for dismounts in Afghanistan. This is because the engagements are increasingly from low shrapnel but high explosive underfoot blasts and not from mounted convoy ambushes as occurred so often in Iraq which made side and shoulder protection so important.

You'd think the bureaucracy would be adapting right now. I mean the rise of ANFO IEDs and the resulting leg and testicle wounds has been going on for 3 years. But public interest in such equipment issues has faded and with it the political will to kick the bureaucracy in the nuts so that it would get on with protecting the nuts of our infantry in theater.

Israeli security forces: Turkey nearing military intervention in Syria - Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News

Israeli security forces: Turkey nearing military intervention in Syria - Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News
Israeli security forces officials said Wednesday that they believe Turkey is nearing a military intervention in Syria, in order to create a secure buffer zone for opposition activists.

Thus far, Ankara has given shelter to some 20,000 refugees who escaped the deadly crackdown by Syrian President Bashar Assad's security forces, and also housed Syrian opposition groups.

In recent days, however, Israeli officials said that according to an updated assessment of the situation, Turkey is expected to set up secure buffer zones on its border with Syria that would allow armed opposition groups to organize against the Syrian regime from bases that would be protected by the Turkish army.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has recently hardened his stance against Assad and suggested for the first time the possibility of foreign intervention in Syria.

Wide protests against Assad's regime have been ongoing across Syria, but in recent weeks the focal point of the armed resistance by army defectors was in the three northern cities close to Turkey's border – Idlib, Homs, and Hama.

According to various reports, there is an area in Idlib where the Syrian army lost control and has the potential to become an independent, rebel-controlled area, such as the Libyan city of Benghazi, which was seized by the rebels early in the revolution and became the temporary base for the opposition movement.

Iran says arrests 12 CIA agents amid reports of compromised U.S. ring - Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News

An Iranian official disclosed new details Thursday concerning the reporting exposure of a U.S. spy ring in the Islamic Republic, saying that Tehran arrested 12 CIA agents.

Parliamentarian Parviz Sorouri, who sits on the powerful committee of foreign policy and national security, claimed that the arrested agents planned to strike at Iranian interests with the aid of Israel.

Sorouri said the spy network aimed at damaging Iran in the security, military and nuclear sectors.

The Iranian official's comments come after current and former U.S. officials said on Monday that dozens of spies working for the CIA were captured recently in Lebanon and Iran, as well as after Iran's claim earlier this year that it had intercepted a major spy ring.

Following the report of a compromised CIA ring in Lebanon, the French intelligence newsletter Intelligence Online indicated in its latest issue that U.S. Congressman Mike Rogers, a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, arrived recently in Beirut to probe the affair.

According to Intelligence Online, all CIA officers operating the Beirut station were transferred to Cyprus for security reasons and for further investigations.

Report: Dozens of U.S. spies captured in Lebanon and Iran - Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News

Report: Dozens of U.S. spies captured in Lebanon and Iran - Haaretz Daily Newspaper | Israel News

...Dozens of spies working for the CIA were captured recently in Lebanon and Iran, current and former U.S. officials told The Associated Press and ABC News on Monday.

The CIA’s operations in Lebanon have been badly damaged after Hezbollah identified and captured a number of the U.S. spies, officials told The Associated Press....

According to a report by ABC News, there were two distinct espionage rings targeting Iran and Hezbollah in which spies were recruited by the CIA.

Current and former U.S. officials said the two different spy rings were discovered separately but both caused a significant setback in U.S. efforts to track Iran's nuclear activities and Hezbollah actions against Israel.

ABC reported that according to U.S. officials, the CIA used the codeword "Pizza" when discussing where to meet with the informants.

Other former officials said CIA case officers met several Lebanese informants at a local Beirut Pizza Hut branch, which helped Hezbollah identify the spies helping the CIA.

U.S. officials, however, deny any allegations that their agents were compromised at Pizza Hut, ABC reported....

In recent months, CIA officials have secretly been scrambling to protect their remaining spies — foreign assets or agents working for the agency — before Hezbollah can find them.

To be sure, some deaths are to be expected in shadowy spy wars. It’s an extremely risky business and people get killed. But the damage to the agency’s spy network in Lebanon has been greater than usual, several former and current U.S. officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about security matters.

The Lebanon crisis is the latest mishap involving CIA counterintelligence, the undermining or manipulating of the enemy’s ability to gather information. Former CIA officials have said that once-essential skill has been eroded as the agency shifted from outmaneuvering rival spy agencies to fighting terrorists. In the rush for immediate results, former officers say, tradecraft has suffered....

It remains unclear whether anyone has been or will be held accountable in the wake of this counterintelligence disaster or whether the incident will affect the CIA’s ability to recruit assets in Lebanon.

In response to AP’s questions about what happened in Lebanon, a U.S. official said Hezbollah is recognized as a complicated enemy responsible for killing more Americans than any other terrorist group before September 2001. The agency does not underestimate the organization, the official said.

The CIA’s toughest adversaries, like Hezbollah and Iran, have for years been improving their ability to hunt spies, relying on patience and guile to exploit counterintelligence holes.

In 2007, for instance, when Ali-Reza Asgari, a brigadier general in the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps of Iran, disappeared in Turkey, it was assumed that he was either killed or defected. In response, the Iranian government began a painstaking review of foreign travel by its citizens, particularly to places like Turkey where Iranians don’t need a visa and could meet with foreign intelligence services.

It didn’t take long, a Western intelligence official told the AP, before the U.S., Britain and Israel began losing contact with some of their Iranian spies.

The State Department last year described Hezbollah as “the most technically capable terrorist group in the world,” and the Defense Department estimates it receives between $100 million and $200 million per year in funding from Iran.

Backed by Iran, Hezbollah has built a professional counterintelligence apparatus that Nasrallah — whom the U.S. government designated an international terrorist a decade ago — proudly describes as the “spy combat unit.” U.S. intelligence officials believe the unit, which is considered formidable and ruthless, went operational in about 2004.

Using the latest commercial software, Nasrallah’s spy-hunters unit began methodically searching for spies in Hezbollah’s midst. To find them, U.S. officials said, Hezbollah examined cellphone data looking for anomalies. The analysis identified cellphones that, for instance, were used rarely or always from specific locations and only for a short period of time. Then it came down to old-fashioned, shoe-leather detective work: Who in that area had information that might be worth selling to the enemy?

The effort took years but eventually Hezbollah, and later the Lebanese government, began making arrests. By one estimate, 100 Israeli assets were apprehended as the news made headlines across the region in 2009. Some of those suspected Israeli spies worked for telecommunications companies and served in the military.

Back at CIA headquarters, the arrests alarmed senior officials. The agency prepared a study on its own vulnerabilities, U.S. officials said, and the results proved to be prescient.

The analysis concluded that the CIA was susceptible to the same analysis that had compromised the Israelis, the officials said.

CIA managers were instructed to be extra careful about handling sources in Lebanon. A U.S. official said recommendations were issued to counter the potential problem.... Like the Israelis, bad tradecraft doomed these CIA assets and the agency ultimately failed to protect them, an official said. In some instances, CIA officers fell into predictable patterns when meeting their sources, the official said....

- bth: inexcusable

Kyrgyzstan Sees Instability After Afghan Withdrawal - NYTimes.com

Kyrgyzstan Sees Instability After Afghan Withdrawal - NYTimes.com

... The president, Roza Otunbayeva, whose term expires in a week, said she feared that Afghanistan had grown so accustomed to protracted deprivation and war that it was unprepared for adjusting to life without the enormous foreign military presence, which has also become an important economic underpinning in Afghanistan. The American-led NATO forces, which have been battling a Taliban insurgency for more than 10 years, are scheduled to depart in 2014.

Without the development of businesses in Afghanistan besides its illicit but lucrative opium trade, Ms. Otunbayeva said, the economic impact of the NATO pullout could destabilize Afghanistan and its neighbors by unleashing a flood of unemployed Afghan refugees, armed extremists and crime.

“I think the region is in dismay over what will happen, how to cope with all these problems,” she said in an interview at The New York Times. If the NATO strategy to defeat the Taliban consisted of “only military operations, and withdrawal in 2014, of course it will be worse,” the president said.

Ms. Otunbayeva said that Kyrgyzstan had been helping to train Afghan civilians in customs protocols and microfinance — efforts that have been appreciated by the United States — and that other countries should be doing “everything possible to integrate Afghans into a normal life.”

Her concern echoed a World Bank report, released on Tuesday, that warned that Afghanistan could suffer a devastating recession in 2014 and beyond because of the impending vacuum created by the military withdrawal and dwindling aid. More than 90 percent of Afghanistan’s annual budget comes from foreign donors. ...

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

License plate readers: A useful tool for police comes with privacy concerns - The Washington Post

License plate readers: A useful tool for police comes with privacy concerns - The Washington Post

An armed robber burst into a Northeast Washington market, scuffled with the cashier, and then shot him and the clerk’s father, who also owned the store. The killer sped off in a silver Pontiac, but a witness was able to write down the license plate number.

Police figured out the name of the suspect very quickly. But locating and arresting him took a little-known investigative tool: a vast system that tracks the comings and goings of anyone driving around the District.

Scores of cameras across the city capture 1,800 images a minute and download the information into a rapidly expanding archive that can pinpoint people’s movements all over town.

Police entered the suspect’s license plate number into that database and learned that the Pontiac was on a street in Southeast. Police soon arrested Christian Taylor, who had been staying at a friend’s home, and charged him with two counts of first-degree murder. His trial is set for January.

More than 250 cameras in the District and its suburbs scan license plates in real time, helping police pinpoint stolen cars and fleeing killers. But the program quietly has expanded beyond what anyone had imagined even a few years ago.

With virtually no public debate, police agencies have begun storing the information from the cameras, building databases that document the travels of millions of vehicles....

World Bank Issues Alert on Afghanistan Economy - NYTimes.com

World Bank Issues Alert on Afghanistan Economy - NYTimes.com

KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghanistan will suffer a recession in 2014 and beyond after foreign troops leave and aid dwindles, and if the security situation gets worse, the country could face complete economic collapse, according to an ominous report released in Kabul on Tuesday by the World Bank.

The country’s near-total dependence on aid — more than 90 percent of the $17.1 billion national budget comes from foreign donations — puts it in the company of Gaza, the West Bank and Liberia as one of the most aid-reliant places in the world, according to the World Bank. Much of the Afghan government’s revenue is derived from American military and civilian spending.

“Transition will have a profound impact on the economy and political landscape well after 2014,” said Josie Bassinette, the acting country director for the World Bank, referring to the shift of responsibility for running every aspect of Afghan affairs to the Afghan government. She said the bank forecasts a $7 billion deficit in the Afghan budget annually through 2021. ...

-- bth: how about the greatly reduce our troop strength early, use the money we save to help the Afghans pay for their own army and government for a few more years nad then call it a day? Instead we will reign democracy down on their heads with great intensity for another year and then pull up stakes and leave with no real plan for the future. The Taliban and the opium dealers will take over in the resulting power vacuum and all will be for naught once again. We win the tactical battles and lose the main objectives of the war.

Android Researcher Hit With C&D After Dissecting Monitoring Software | TechCrunch

Android Researcher Hit With C&D After Dissecting Monitoring Software | TechCrunch
Android security researcher Trevor Eckhart has recently found himself in some hot water after performing a deep dive into mobile tracking software from a company called Carrier IQ. He managed to figure out how Carrier IQ’s software worked and what it could monitor, but in doing so he has earned the company’s ire.

Carrier IQ has filed a cease-and-desist letter [PDF] against Eckhart claiming that he committed copyright infringement by reproducing some of the company’s training materials in his post and that he made “false allegations” about the nature of their software.

If you haven’t heard of Carrier IQ before, here’s a brief intro: Carrier IQ pitches themselves as the “leading provider of mobile service intelligence solutions,” and provides their services to a number of players in the mobile space. The company’s main U.S. carrier partner is Sprint, and Eckhart claims that their tracking software appears on Android devices from HTC and Samsung among others.

According to Eckhart’s research, Carrier IQ is capable of monitoring everything from where the phone is to what apps are installed, and even which keys are being pressed. Carrier IQ says that the information is collected to give carriers insight into how the mobile use experience can be improved. It sounds like a noble enough goal, except Eckhart found that the software could run without the user’s knowledge or consent as was the case with the HTC phones he tested. ...

The Single Most Important Robert Reich Clip You Can Share Today | MoveOn.Org

The Single Most Important Robert Reich Clip You Can Share Today | MoveOn.Org

Mexican Cartel Tactical Note # 6 | Small Wars Journal

Mexican Cartel Tactical Note # 6 | Small Wars Journal
... Who: 15 gunmen— elements of a cartel/drug gang.

What: Armed incursion on US soil by criminal combatants from the Mexican drug war.

When: Tuesday 8 November 2011 at 1:30 PM (13:30).

Where: A ranch near Escobares, Texas, just across the U.S.-Mexico border, north of the Rio Grande. See map [1].

Why: Bringing a drug load into the US and escape and evasion by elements of a cartel/drug gang from the Mexican military.

Tactical Analysis: The most plausible explanation concerning the identity of the 15 gunmen is that they belong to a Mexican cartel/drug gang. The drug load had been pushed back from the Texas side over the border in a coordinated effort by US federal and local law enforcement and the Mexican military who had been alerted by the Border Patrol. Further, it would make no sense for the Mexican military to openly risk an international incident, or the possibility of a friendly fire event, by crossing the Rio Grande (Rio Bravo) in hot pursuit when they were actively coordinating with US law enforcement assets. For the responding US SWAT teams, this incident poses a potentially dangerous situation. It is more of a military operation on a “movement to contact” than a conventional SWAT operation in the US. SWAT teams are trained and equipped to contend with criminals in barricade and hostage type situations and are accustomed to stacked (bunched together) movement and entry tactics. Typically the criminals encountered are found in small numbers— usually one or maybe two— and may or may not have a shotgun, semi-automatic rifle, and some form of body armor. It is the intent of such criminals to flee from responding police forces and only put up a fight if corned out of desperation—even then such criminals typically surrender to responding SWAT units. A group of 15 cartel/drug gang gunmen represents an entirely different threat—it essentially contains a reinforced squad of opposing force personnel. These cartel/gang foot soldiers will be proactive in their actions—not reactive like most criminals encountered— and therefore represent an opposing (enemy) force the US SWAT teams are unaccustomed to. Besides the potentials for ambushes and fires and movement being conducted by the cartel/gang gunmen, their semi-automatic (and full auto) assault weapons and the great likelihood of the presence of grenade-launchers and fragmentation grenades makes for a military-like engagement scenario that is beyond present SWAT capabilities to effectively respond. Under these circumstances, standard SWAT operating procedures—such as the use of stacked movement tactics— could be disastrous in their implementation.

Significance: Cross Border Incursion; Officer Safety; SWAT Tactics

-- bth: we need to be focusing our resources on the Mexican border before this situation gets out of hand.

OpEdNews - Scientists Grow Stem Cells That Integrate Into Brain

OpEdNews - Scientists Grow Stem Cells That Integrate Into Brain
MILWAUKEE — Scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison have grown human embryonic stem cells into neurons that appear capable of adapting themselves to the brain's machinery by sending and receiving messages from other cells, raising hopes that medicine may one day use this tool to treat patients with such disorders as Parkinson's and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease.

Researchers inserted the human cells into the brains of mice where they successfully integrated themselves into the wiring. Then the UW team applied a new technology, using light to stimulate the human cells and watching as they in turn activated mouse brain cells.

In a lab dish, the brain cells or neurons began firing simultaneously "like a power surge lighting up a building," said Jason Weick, an assistant scientist at the University of Wisconsin who worked on the study published online Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Weick said the use of light stimulation, called optogenetics, raises the possibility of modifying transplanted brain cells, in effect turning them up or down like the dimmer control on an electric light.

"You can imagine that if the transplanted cells don't behave as they should, you could use this system to modulate them using light," said Su-Chun Zhang, a University of Wisconsin professor of neuroscience and one of the authors of the new study.

For years, scientists have talked of the possibility of growing neurons in a dish to replace damaged cells in the brain, but there have always been questions about whether the transplanted cells could become fully functional.

But the new work at the University of Wisconsin suggests the idea may be poised to make the transition from theory to reality.

"They have shown real function of neurons. This means they really can play a role in neural repair," said Arshak Alexanian, an associate professor in the department of neurosurgery at the Medical College of Wisconsin, who did not participate in the UW study....

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

NDS Accuses Regional Spy Organisations of Attempting to Disrupt Afghan Jirga

NDS Accuses Regional Spy Organisations of Attempting to Disrupt Afghan Jirga
Spy organisations of some countries in the region were trying to mar the National Afghan Jirga to discuss Afghan-US strategic partnership, NDS said on Monday.

Speaking at a news conference on Monday, a Spokesman for the National Directorate of Security (NDS), Lotfullah Mashal, said that spy organisations of some countries in the region had tried to disrupt the recently held Traditional Jirga.

According to Mr Mashal, the NDS has detained ten groups that planned to disrupt the Jirga by carrying out bombing and suicide attacks.

"Because the Jirga discussed long-term strategic partnership with the US and Afghanistan could become stronger and be freed from begging to certain countries, some spy organisations wanted to disrupt it," Mr Mashal said.

"Not only one country, but the regional intelligence was involved in plotting against the Jirga," Mr Mashal added, without elaborating further.

Mr Mashal described the good coordination among Afghan security forces to ensure security of the Jirga as unprecedented.

He said the NDS was able to seize an explosive-laden car, road mines, and some other explosives and missiles from different parts of Kabul city, where insurgents had planned to use in their attacks against the Jirga.

Taliban kill mosque imam in northwestern Pakistan - Threat Matrix

Taliban kill mosque imam in northwestern Pakistan - Threat Matrix
The Pakistani Taliban executed an imam at a mosque in the northwestern Pakistani district of Nowshera after he opposed their efforts to allow the mosque to be used as a base and a recruiting center. From The Express Tribune:

Obaidullah Ustad, imam of the Shaidu village mosque in Nowshera had earlier stopped militants from preaching "terrorist values" at the mosque. "It was because of this resistance that the militants returned later in the evening and shot him inside the mosque" District Police Officer (DPO)Muhammad Hussein said while speaking to The Express Tribune.

Obaidullah was severely injured and rushed to the hospital where he succumbed to his injuries hospital authorities said. Sources said that the militants wanted to have access to the mosque and use it as a base to find new recruits. The militants reportedly belonged to the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

The Taliban have been active in Nowshera for years, and have had no misgivings about conducting attacks at mosques. The Taliban have carried out two suicide attacks in mosques in Nowshera since June 2009. On March 4, 2011, a suicide bomber killed nine people in one such attack. And on June 12, 2009, a suicide bomber killed six people and wounded more than 90 in an attack inside a mosque; the attack collapsed the dome of the mosque.

Vindicated Seismologist Says Japan Still Underestimates Threat to Reactors - Bloomberg

Vindicated Seismologist Says Japan Still Underestimates Threat to Reactors - Bloomberg
Dismissed as a “nobody” by Japan’s nuclear industry, seismologist Katsuhiko Ishibashi spent two decades watching his predictions of disaster come true: First in the 1995 Kobe earthquake and then at Fukushima. He says the government still doesn’t get it.

The 67-year-old scientist recalled in an interview how his boss marched him to the Construction Ministry to apologize for writing a 1994 book suggesting Japan’s building codes put its cities at risk. Five months later, thousands were killed when a quake devastated Kobe city. The book, “A Seismologist Warns,” became a bestseller.

That didn’t stop Haruki Madarame, now head of Japan’s Nuclear Safety Commission, from dismissing Ishibashi as an amateur when he warned of a “nuclear earthquake disaster,” a phrase the Kobe University professor coined in 1997. Ishibashi says Japan still underestimates the risk of operating reactors in a country that has about 10 percent of the world’s quakes.

What was missing -- and is still missing -- is a recognition of the danger,” Ishibashi said, seated in a dining room stacked with books in his house in a Kobe suburb. “I understand we’re not going to shut all of the nuclear plants, but we should rank them by risk and phase out the worst.”

Among Japan’s most vulnerable reactors are some of its oldest, built without the insights of modern earthquake science, Ishibashi said. It was only in the last four years that Japan Atomic Power Co. recognized an active fault line running under its reactor in Tsuruga, which opened in 1970 about 120 kilometers (75 miles) northeast of Osaka and close to a lake that supplies water to millions of people in the region. ...

The result was an article on Hamaoka published in the October 1997 issue of Japan’s Science Journal that reads like a post-mortem of the Fukushima disaster: A major quake could knock out external power to the plant’s reactors and unleash a tsunami that could overrun its 6-meter defenses, swamping backup diesel generators and leading to loss of cooling and meltdowns.

When the local prefecture questioned industry experts about Ishibashi’s paper, the response was that he didn’t need to be taken seriously.
Ishibashi a ‘Nobody’

“In the field of nuclear engineering, Mr. Ishibashi is a nobody,” Madarame said in a 1997 letter to the Shizuoka Legislature. Madarame, then a professor at the University of Tokyo school of engineering, is now in charge of nuclear safety in the country.

Requests made to Madarame’s office in October for an interview on his current views of Ishibashi’s work were declined. ...

German Mercedes-Benz Executive Arrested Under Alabama's Immigration Law | ThinkProgress

German Mercedes-Benz Executive Arrested Under Alabama's Immigration Law | ThinkProgress

Alabama’s economy is suffering because of HB 56, the state’s draconian immigration law, as workers flee out of fear. State Sen. Scott Beason (R), who sponsored the anti-immigrant bill in the Alabama legislature, once called it a “jobs bill,” but the state’s immigration law is leaving entire industries without enough workers instead.

And the extreme law, which legislators are now reconsidering, could seriously damage the state’s reputation as well after police arrested a German Mercedes-Benz executive last week under the immigration law. Mercedes opened its first American manufacturing plant in Vance, Alabama in 1993, spurring a trend of foreign car makers and suppliers opening factories in the state. They may be rethinking that decision, however, after one of their German executives was arrested for simply not having his passport with him: ...

- bth: "Papers please" said the Gestapo agent. Oh wait this is Alabama

Monday, November 21, 2011

Dixie Chicks-Traveling Soldier - YouTube

Dixie Chicks-Traveling Soldier - YouTube

Spiders On Drugs - YouTube

Spiders On Drugs - YouTube

Egyptian military say their tactics are no worse than the methods used by US police against Occupy protesters « 100gf | Politics and Computers

Egyptian military say their tactics are no worse than the methods used by US police against Occupy protesters « 100gf | Politics and ComputersThe Egyptian military, battling renewed demonstrations in Tahrir Square, have defended their used of force against protesters by comparing themselves to police in the US who are dealing with the Occupy protests.

According to various sources, officials on Egyptian TV have asked why they are being criticised when similar tactics are allegedly being used against peaceful protesters in America.

The comments come in the wake of controversial tactics used by police in a number of US cities. Just in the past week, 84-year-old Dorli Rainey was allegedly pepper-sprayed by police at Occupy Seattle and protesters at UC Davis were pepper-sprayed after police claimed they felt threatened by a bunch of people sitting on the ground.

-- bth: great. Our campus police are now compared to third world military repression. Thanks UC Davis.

Military dropping anti-malaria drug - Yahoo! News

Military dropping anti-malaria drug - Yahoo! News

LOS ANGELES – Almost four decades after inventing a potent anti-malarial drug, the U.S. Army has pushed it to the back of its medicine cabinet.

The dramatic about-face follows years of complaints and concerns that mefloquine caused psychiatric and physical side effects even as it was used around the globe as a front-line defense against the mosquito-borne disease that kills about 800,000 people a year.

"Mefloquine is a zombie drug. It's dangerous, and it should have been killed off years ago," said Dr. Remington Nevin, an epidemiologist and Army major who has published research that he said showed the drug can be potentially toxic to the brain. He believes the drop in prescriptions is a tacit acknowledgement of the drug's serious problems.

Over the past three years, the Army slashed by almost 75 percent the amount of mefloquine it prescribes, even as it sent thousands more soldiers to malaria-prone Afghanistan.

The decrease in doses followed two orders from military and Pentagon leaders in 2009. One, from the Army's surgeon general, ordered the branch to limit its use to specific circumstances. Other branches, however, continue to favor mefloquine.

"We are constantly looking to ensure we are taking care of (soldiers) the best we can," said Army Col. Carol Labadie, the service's pharmacy program manager. "If that means changing from one drug to another because now this original drug has shown to be potentially harmful ... it is in our interests to make that change."

Army researchers started developing mefloquine toward the end of the Vietnam War and began using it widely after it was licensed by Roche Pharmaceuticals under the brand name Lariam in the early 1990s.

It gained support among the fighting forces because it works in areas where mosquitoes developed resistance to an earlier treatment, chloroquine, and requires just one tablet a week, not the daily dose needed with other medications.

For years, the Army downplayed veterans' criticism of the drug and insisted its protection against malaria easily outweighed the small risks.

Some users complained the pill caused varying degrees of psychiatric symptoms ranging from nightmares, depression and paranoia to auditory hallucinations and complete mental breakdowns. Army literature says such symptoms occur at a rate of between one per 2,000-13,000 people. Critics, including Nevin, contend the number is far higher.

Family members have even blamed the drug on their loved ones' suicides....

-- bth: finally.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Mindfulness with Jon Kabat-Zinn - YouTube

Mindfulness with Jon Kabat-Zinn - YouTube

Congress Fears Chinese Telecom Gear May Phone Home | Danger Room | Wired.com

Congress Fears Chinese Telecom Gear May Phone Home | Danger Room | Wired.com

...The House committee inquiry comes on the heels of a similar initiative from the Obama administration, first reported by the Wall Street Journal’s Siobhan Gorman, to examine the espionage risk of Chinese telecommunications companies building American telcom infrasturcture. There, too, the administration’s concerns reportedly center on Huawei.

But telecommunications companies aren’t the only source of China-related supply chain headaches the U.S. government has these days.

Iarpa, the intelligence community’s advanced research shop, recently dropped $49 million on a program designed to keep China and other potential adversaries from tampering with microprocessors intended for use in American weapons systems or computers accessing classified information. Iarpa’s Trusted Integrated Chip project focuses on finding ways to securely build chips abroad at foreign foundries that are often cheaper than their counterparts in the United States. Darpa, Iarpa’s cousin at the Pentagon, has a similar program designed to spot already-hacked chips.

Separately, the Senate Armed Services Committee has been looking into counterfeit electronics parts, often sourced from China, making their way into U.S. military equipment.

Rogers says the spy agencies he’s spoken with “clearly appreciate the importance of the issue,” but he’s hoping the Intelligence Committee’s investigation “will contribute to a greater understanding of that threat and help encourage a more rapid response to this emerging national security concern. We cannot wait any longer.”...

- bth: this is going to get interesting.

Iran hides hundreds of Iraqi prisoners, Yawar : Aswat Al Iraq

Iran hides hundreds of Iraqi prisoners, Yawar : Aswat Al Iraq
NINEWA / Aswat al-Iraq: Secretary General of Justice and Reform Movement called the Iraqi government to press Iran to release hundreds of Iraqi prisoners since the Iraqi-Iranian war.
Sheikh Abdulla Hmaidi Al-Yawar told Aswat al-Iraq that "there are certified documents, reported by media organs, on the existence of hundreds of Iraqi prisoners in Iran since the Iraqi-Iranian war".
"These prisoners were hidden from the Red Cross Organization", he added.
Yawar expressed his astonishment that the Iraqi government did not move to solve this question, though Iran has become a center for Iraqi delegations.
He called the Iraqi President Jalal Talabani and Parliament Speaker Usama Nujaifi to discuss the matter during their continued visits to Iran, calling Iraqi politicians not to receive the Iranian ambassador who is roaming Iraq to grant gifts.
Yawar concluded that his movement will inform the Red Cross Organization and the United Nations about these documents on Iraqi prisoners.
RM (TS)/SR

- bth: is there any evidence to support this assertion?

Sergeant found guilty; he's 11th conviction in JBLM probe | Stryker Brigade - The News Tribune

Sergeant found guilty; he's 11th conviction in JBLM probe | Stryker Brigade - The News Tribune

The Army on Friday won its 11th conviction in its investigation of war crimes involving Joint Base Lewis-McChord soldiers, securing a guilty verdict against a sergeant who could have halted the wrongdoing that unfolded but instead tried to cover it up.

Staff Sgt. David Bram, 27, was sentenced to five years in prison. He was found guilty of assaulting the private who blew the whistle on drug use in their platoon, soliciting another junior soldier to join him in a scheme to murder Afghan civilians, impeding an Army investigation and disobeying a general order by possessing photos of casualties.

A five-soldier jury found Bram not guilty of abusing Afghan detainees and planting an AK-47 magazine near a corpse after a shooting in January 2010.

Bram appeared resigned to his sentence. He cried during a statement to the jury after his verdict was read, imploring for mercy so he could reunite with his two children.

“After seeing my children ripped away from me for the sins of their father, I truly do understand the weight of what I’ve done,” he said...

- bth: the Army threw its NCOs under the bus but not a single commissioned officer has been indited or convicted while their men went on a murder spree.

Broken water pump in Illinois caused by cyber-attack from Russia, claims expert, but DOH denies terrorism   - NY Daily News

Broken water pump in Illinois caused by cyber-attack from Russia, claims expert, but DOH denies terrorism   - NY Daily News
A broken water pump in a rural town near Springfield, Illinois could be the result of the first cyber attack on a public utility in the U.S., top security expert Joe Weiss reported on his blog.

Weiss posted a Nov. 8 report from the The Illinois Statewide Terrorism and Intelligence Center entitled "Public Water District Cyber Intrusion," that suggests the "burn out of a water pump" could have been a deliberate, full scale security breach into the utility's computer system from a computer in Russia.

The broken pump was quickly fixed and did not result in any water supply issues, but the incident has led to a deeper investigation, CNN reports.

The report says water district workers noted "glitches" in the system for nearly two months, and on Nov. 8 an employee noticed problems with the control systems.

"An information technology services and computer repair company checked the system logs and determined the computer had been hacked into from a computer located in Russia," Weiss said on his blog....

-- bth: this sounds suspiciously like a test conducted a year or two ago at Idaho National Labs of internet and software vulnerabilities in major utilities.

News from The Associated Press

News from The Associated Press

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- A senior Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander killed in an explosion at an ammunition depot last week was testing an intercontinental missile when the blast occurred, his brother was quoted by a government newspaper as saying Saturday. Hours later, he reportedly denied the comments.

The conflicting accounts reflect the extreme sensitivity in Iran about the explosion, which killed at least 21 people, including Gen. Hasan Tehrani Moghaddam, who was in charge of the country's missile program. Iran said an accident caused the powerful explosion Nov. 12, strongly rejecting Western suspicions that Israeli sabotage touched off the powerful explosion as a pre-emptive strike against weapons that could potentially hit the Jewish state.

Moghaddam's brother Mohammad - himself a Guard officer - was quoted by the government-run Iran newspaper as saying the blast occurred during testing of the long-range missile. He did not dispute that the explosion was accidental....

- bth: odd to have an intercontinental missile test without a nuclear weapon payload in development. It looks increasingly likely Iran is developing a delivery device for a nuke.