Saturday, December 31, 2011

Courts: Wiretap Victims Can Sue US, But Not Companies -- News from Antiwar.com

Courts: Wiretap Victims Can Sue US, But Not Companies -- News from Antiwar.com

In a pair of major rulings related to the massive warrantless wiretapping scandal of the past several years, the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the “retroactive immunity” from lawsuit granted by the US Congress to telecoms that unlawfully cooperated with the wiretaps is constitutional.

On the other hand, the court also ruled that individual victims of the wiretapping scheme have the right to sue the US government for its role in the taps, allowing the Jewel v. NSA trial to proceed....

- bth: further indications that the administration and congress condone and conduct illegal wiretaps.

BBC News - Pakistan murder testimony doctor Baqir Shah shot dead

BBC News - Pakistan murder testimony doctor Baqir Shah shot dead

A doctor who testified that Pakistani security forces had killed a group of unarmed foreigners has himself been shot dead.

Dr Baqir Shah was gunned down in the city of Quetta.

He had contradicted police reports earlier this year which suggested the five victims had been suicide bombers.

Dr Shah was in his car when gunmen pulled up alongside him and sprayed the vehicle with bullets.

He died soon afterwards in hospital.

It was Dr Shah who, back in May, carried out the autopsies in a controversial case.

Two men and three women of Russian and Tajik origin died at a checkpoint just outside Quetta, in the province of Balochistan.

One of the women had been heavily pregnant, but police insisted they had all been militants and that they had been carrying explosives.

Police said that they died as they detonated a bomb.

They said at the time of the attack they had hand grenades and bombs strapped to their bodies.

The BBC's Aleem Maqbool in Islamabad says that Dr Shah's autopsy corroborated what many witnesses said - that they had in fact died after being shot many times at a distance by the security forces.

Witnesses also said they had been unarmed.

Hours after he filed his testimony, Dr Shah was dragged out of a restaurant and beaten by a group of unidentified men. He later complained that while he was supposed to receive protection, he never got it.

-bth: so basically if one attempts to uphold due process in Pakistan the security forces will murdered you?

Friday, December 30, 2011

"China will not hesitate to protect Iran even with a third World War" (subtitles) - YouTube

"China will not hesitate to protect Iran even with a third World War" (subtitles) - YouTube

MINA Breaking News - China Warns US: Attack Iran = WW3

MINA Breaking News - China Warns US: Attack Iran = WW3

As the United States and other nations grapple with how best to stop Iran from supposedly acquiring a nuclear weapon, a high-ranking Chinese military official has raised the stakes considerably on any possible military action.

On Dec. 4, according to a report in Press TV, a news network owned by the Iranian government, Chinese rear admiral and prominent military commentator Zhang Zhaozhong said, “China will not hesitate to protect Iran even with a third world war.”

It is not clear when the statement was made or in what context. Once reported, the statement went viral in China and elsewhere.

Apart from being a rear admiral in the Chinese navy, Zhang is the director of the National Defense University Military Logistics and Equipment Department. He maintains nationalistic military blogs that receive millions of viewers and is also well known as a commentator who appears regularly on the state-run China Central Television (CCTV). In 2006 he began hosting a CCTV-7 program called “Defense Review Week,” according to a research report by the Open Source Center. Efforts to reach Zhang were unsuccessful.

Zhang has expressed concerns about a war centered on Iran in the past.

In his book, “The Next War,” published in 2009, Zhang predicted that Iran is likely to be the target of the next war. In Zhang’s view, though the United States and Iran may have diplomatic negotiations, it is impossible for Iran to give up uranium enrichment and its nuclear program.

On a CCTV program on Nov. 8 Zhang said that the countdown for an Iran war has already started. He said that if the forthcoming International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report on Iran’s nuclear program concluded that Iran is seeking to develop nuclear weapons, that may trigger a new round of sanctions on Iran or even lead to military action.

On that program Zhang referred to an article in Israel’s Jerusalem Post, which suggested that Russia is only a superficial supporter of Iran, while China is Iran’s real pillar. Zhang said that China is even willing to open up a land passage to Pakistan in order to aid Iran directly.

Iran has important strategic value for China. China has a rapidly growing demand for oil and imports 10 percent of its crude oil from Iran, which is China’s third largest supplier, according to Reuters.

-bth: hello.

EXCLUSIVE - U.S. mulls transfer of Taliban prisoner in perilous peace bid | Reuters

EXCLUSIVE - U.S. mulls transfer of Taliban prisoner in perilous peace bid | Reuters

(Reuters) - The Obama administration is considering transferring to Afghan custody a senior Taliban official suspected of major human rights abuses as part of a long-shot bid to improve the prospects of a peace deal in Afghanistan, Reuters has learned.

The potential hand-over of Mohammed Fazl, a 'high-risk detainee' held at the Guantanamo Bay military prison since early 2002, has set off alarms on Capitol Hill and among some U.S. intelligence officials.

As a senior commander of the Taliban army, Fazl is alleged to be responsible for the killing of thousands of Afghanistan's minority Shi'ite Muslims between 1998 and 2001....

- bth; put this in the context of rumored deals with the Taliban and the removal of Omar from the FBI's most wanted list. Something is up.

Video: U.S. Special Ops Team Crosses the Border into Mexico; Escorted by Mexican Military : Deadline Live With Jack Blood

Video: U.S. Special Ops Team Crosses the Border into Mexico; Escorted by Mexican Military : Deadline Live With Jack Blood

Last week, a U.S. special operations team was seen crossing the border from Brownsville, Texas into Matamoros, Mexico. Eyewitness reports mention that the U.S. convoy consisted of two or perhaps three SUV’s with what appeared to be armed military personnel onboard.

The Mexican military waited on the Matamoros side of the border, and once the U.S. team crossed into Mexico, they escorted them to a nearby military base. The Mexican military and the local police in Matamoros apparently established a route to escort the Americans because traffic cops were placed ahead of time in order to quickly get the convoy through Avenida Sexta (Sixth Avenue).

A helicopter followed the convoy from the U.S. side of the border until it reached the Mexican military base. A video showing the convoy in Matamoros was broadcasted by Univision....

- bth: further indication of US military cross border operations in Mexico.

'Stuxnet virus used on Iran was 1 of 5 cyberbombs' - Israel News, Ynetnews

'Stuxnet virus used on Iran was 1 of 5 cyberbombs' - Israel News, Ynetnews

The Stuxnet virus that last year damaged Iran's nuclear program was likely one of at least five cyber weapons developed on a single platform whose roots trace back to 2007, according to new research from Russian computer security firm Kaspersky Lab.

Security experts widely believe that the United States and Israel were behind Stuxnet, though the two nations have officially declined to comment on the matter.

"It's like a Lego set. You can assemble the components into anything: a robot or a house or a tank," he said.

A Pentagon spokesman on Wednesday declined comment on Kaspersky's research, which did not address who was behind Stuxnet.

Stuxnet has already been linked to another virus, the Duqu data-stealing trojan, but Kaspersky's research suggests the cyber weapons program that targeted Iran may be far more sophisticated than previously known. Kaspersky's director of global research & analysis, Costin Raiu, told Reuters on Wednesday that his team has gathered evidence that shows the same platform that was used to build Stuxnet and Duqu was also used to create at least three other pieces of malware. Raiu said the platform is comprised of a group of compatible software modules designed to fit together, each with different functions. Its developers can build new cyber weapons by simply adding and removing modules....

-bth: So Stuxnet wasn't a one off event, but the first in a series of cyber attacks.

Safety concerns: ‘US to export all NATO cargo out of Pakistan’ – The Express Tribune

Safety concerns: ‘US to export all NATO cargo out of Pakistan’ – The Express Tribune

ISLAMABAD: Barely a month after Pakistan’s retaliatory decision to block Nato supplies for the coalition forces stationed in Afghanistan, the United States has decided to export all its cargo, including military hardware and arms, out of Pakistan.

Sources told Express News that the break in supplies has frustrated US authorities to the point where they are now weighing various options to move around the cargo stranded at various locations in Pakistan.

“It has been a month since the Nato attack which resulted in the port and border closures with no resolution in sight, the US government intends to have all import unit cargo that is currently staged at different Container Holding Yards (CHYs) moved back to Karachi port or the nearest CHY to the port. Once we receive approval, all unit cargo will be exported out of Pakistan,” wrote Anita Rice, Chief of the OCCA SWA (595th Trans Brigade, NSA Bahrain) in an email to all ‘concerned’ persons....

US pulls personnel from Afghan media center

US pulls personnel from Afghan media center
Washington: The US has abruptly withdrawn its advisers from the Afghan government media centre in Kabul amid concerns over the way it is being run.

After funding and supporting the press centre for more than four years, the US Embassy in Kabul announced yesterday that it has withdrawn its advisers from the centre.

"The United States is reassessing and reviewing its relationship with the Afghan Government Media Information Center (GMIC), and thought it appropriate to withdraw US personnel while that process is underway. ...

The media office had become politicised in recent months, Washington Post quoted Afghan and Western officials as saying. It also said that pro- and anti-American factions within the Afghan government have sought to use the visibility of the media centre to push certain causes.

The GMIC's deputy director, Sefatullah Sahaf Safi said the Americans left unexpectedly.

"We didn't get any notice," he said.

"There is no restriction on who can offer press conferences and who cannot," he said, "as long as we do not allow people to talk against the nation?s interests or insult individuals."

He said the centre will remain an independent government agency regardless of whether the Americans return. "We hope this will be solved and they will continue to support GMIC," he said.

The embassy's announcement came in the wake of a news conference on Saturday at which members of a fact-finding commission appointed by Afghan President Hamid Karzai criticised night raids and house searches by the US-led coalition in the country as part of anti-Taliban operations.

Their report prompted Karzai to announce that Afghanistan would not sign a bilateral agreement with Washington unless NATO stopped carrying out night raids.

A Western official with knowledge of the embassy's decision also said the decision to withdraw stemmed in part from "concerns over how GMIC has been managed and allocation of resources....

-bth: so we've pulled out of the media center because of one article on an Afghan fact-finding commission?

Afghanistan cracks down on contractors - Houston Chronicle

Afghanistan cracks down on contractors - Houston Chronicle

KABUL, Afghanistan - Afghan officials have seized millions of dollars' worth of armored vehicles and weapons from private security firms in recent weeks, a move that has exacerbated concerns about the government's plan to replace the hired guns that protect convoys and installations with an unprepared state-run guard force.

The crackdown is being carried out even though the Afghan Public Protection Force failed to meet any of the six benchmarks set out when President Hamid Karzai formally announced a plan to ban private security firms by March 20. An assessment team led by the NATO military coalition, which is heavily involved in the creation of the force, found this fall that the militia is far from ready to take over.

Diplomats, development experts and private security executives worry that the abolition of private security firms by that date could endanger Afghans and foreigners supporting NATO and its allies, halt reconstruction projects and open new channels for corruption....

- bth: This is about the Karzai government wanting to seize equipment and the cash stream that comes with convoy escorting.

Operativo del ejército estadounidense en Matamoros - YouTube

Operativo del ejército estadounidense en Matamoros - YouTube

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Mullah Omar no more FBI’s most wanted - The Nation

Mullah Omar no more FBI’s most wanted - The Nation

The United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has removed the name of Afghan Taliban supreme commander Mullah Muhammad Omar from its list of “most wanted terrorists”, reported a private news channel.

However, the names of Ayman Al Zawahiri and Hakimullah Mehsud still remain on the list. Earlier, reports about the US establishing contacts with Omar had surfaced. The reports said that the US wanted to bring the Taliban to negotiating table in order to end the conflict in Afghanistan.

So far, several claims have been made by the US about negotiations with the Taliban, but Islamabad and Kabul have never been taken into confidence over the much speculated-about talks....

-bth: read into it what you wish

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Tweeting the word 'drill' could mean your Twitter account is read by government spies | Mail Online

Tweeting the word 'drill' could mean your Twitter account is read by government spies | Mail Online

The Department of Homeland Security makes fake Twitter and Facebook profiles for the specific purpose of scanning the networks for 'sensitive' words - and tracking people who use them.

Simply using a word or phrase from the DHS's 'watch' list could mean that spies from the government read your posts, investigate your account, and attempt to identify you from it, according to an online privacy group.

The words which attract attention range from ones seemingly related to diseases or bioweapons such as 'human to animal' and 'outbreak' to other, more obscure words such as 'drill' and 'strain'.

The DHS also watches for words such as 'illegal immigrant'.

The DHS outlined plans to scans blogs, Twitter and Facebook for words such as 'illegal immigrant', 'outbreak', 'drill', 'strain', 'virus', 'recovery', 'deaths', 'collapse', 'human to animal' and 'trojan', according to an 'impact asssessment' document filed by the agency.

When its search tools net an account using the phrases, they record personal information....

-bth: what an absolutely stupid waste of money. This causes a net to be thrown so wide, that it becomes devoid of any usefulness.

U.S., Israel Discuss Triggers for Bombing Iran’s Nuclear Infrastructure - The Daily Beast

U.S., Israel Discuss Triggers for Bombing Iran’s Nuclear Infrastructure - The Daily Beast

When Defense Secretary Leon Panetta opined earlier this month that an Israeli attack on Iran’s nuclear facilities could “consume the Middle East in a confrontation and a conflict that we would regret,” the Israelis went ballistic behind the scenes. Michael Oren, Israel’s ambassador to Washington, lodged a formal diplomatic protest known as a demarche. And the White House was thrust into action, reassuring the Israelis that the administration had its own “red lines” that would trigger military action against Iran, and that there is no need for Jerusalem to act unilaterally.

Panetta’s seemingly innocent remarks on Dec. 2 triggered the latest drama in the tinder-box relationship that the Obama administration is trying to navigate with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government. With Republicans lining up to court Jewish donors and voters in America in 2012, Obama faces a tricky election-year task of ensuring Iran doesn’t acquire a nuclear bomb on his watch while keeping the Israelis from launching a preemptive strike that could inflame an already teetering Middle East.

The stakes are immensely high, and the distrust that Israelis feel toward the president remains a complicating factor. Those sentiments were laid bare in a speech Netanyahu’s minister of strategic affairs, Moshe Ya’alon, gave on Christmas Eve in Jerusalem, in which he used Panetta’s remarks to cast doubt on the U.S.’s willingness to launch its own military strike....

-bth: worth reading in full. Netanyahu wants the US to attack Iran and commit to hard red lines while he keeps his options open. There is absolutely no reason the US should let Israel lock us into a war with Iran. Should we chose to do so it should be at a time and place of our choosing, not Netanyahu's or his lobbyists.

At West Point, a quiet place to honor warriors – USATODAY.com

At West Point, a quiet place to honor warriors – USATODAY.com

...

'To serve his country'

David Bernstein was first in his class in high school, No. 5 at West Point. "Confidence and charisma oozed from his pores," Crane recalls. He could have done anything. "What he wanted to do," his father Richard says, "was to serve his country."

He graduated three months before the 9/11 attacks, trained as an airborne ranger and was disappointed when his unit wasn't sent to Afghanistan. He was so physically fit, so gung-ho, so squared away that in Iraq his men privately and admiringly called him "Super Dave."

On Oct. 18, 2003, at Taza, he lived up to the nickname.

He was in a patrol convoy when insurgents opened fire with rocket propelled grenades and machine guns, quickly killing one of four soldiers in Bernstein's unarmored Humvee.

The driver stepped on the gas, drove off into a field and fell out the door. The vehicle stopped on top of his arm, trapping him.

Bernstein, shot in the leg, staggered over. He tried four times to pull himself into the driver's seat; the fifth time he made it, and rolled the Humvee off the driver's arm.

But it was too late for Super Dave. The bullet had severed the femoral artery. There was no way to staunch the bleeding; at that point in the war, soldiers had not been issued tourniquets in their field packs.

By the time help arrived, Bernstein was dead.

He was awarded the Silver Star, the military's third-highest combat decoration.

Dennis and Marie

When Bernstein was in his final year at West Point, the first-year students ("plebes" in academy parlance) included Dennis Zilinski, from the Jersey shore, and Marie Cicerelli, from suburban Orlando.

They met in Math 206, worked together on a project and developed a mutual crush. The following year they started dating.

She became a varsity cheerleader; he, captain of the swim team (which is where, as a plebe, he'd met Dave Bernstein; although he wasn't even on the traveling squad, Super Dave never missed a practice.)

After 9/11, Dennis' mother begged him to withdraw from the academy and his five-year Army commitment while he still could. "I said, 'Don't you understand? We're going to war. No good will come of this.' "

Her son was adamant, Marion Zilinksi says: "He said, 'I would never leave when my country needs me most.' "

On Graduation Day, after the commencement ceremony, cadets leave the football stadium to be sworn into the Army and to be pinned, usually by relatives, on the shoulders and cap with the single gold bar of a second lieutenant.

That year, 2004, Dennis said he wanted to be pinned at the cemetery. Why there? his mother Marion asked. Why not Trophy Point, or the parade ground?

Because, he explained, Dave Bernstein was in the cemetery. So that's where Dennis, his best friend Charlie Lewis and two other men on the swim team wanted to be pinned. The mother has never forgotten what her son told her: "He's our brother, Mom. We'd never leave him alone."

Four days after Christmas, standing on Bow Bridge in Central Park, Dennis proposed to Marie. She said yes — no hesitation. It was so romantic — until he said, "I'm hungry. Let's get something to eat!"

They planned to marry at West Point after they returned from their tours in Iraq. The ceremony would be at the chapel where Marie's parents were married (her father was Class of '77), the reception at stately Thayer Hotel. They bought a house near Fort Campbell, Ky., and ordered wedding rings.

Marie deployed to Iraq in August 2005, Dennis the following month. Both were in the 101st Airborne, he in infantry, she in postal operations.

They were stationed about 30 miles apart, but in north-central Iraq in 2005 it might as well have been 3,000. They never saw each other, or even talked. They e-mailed. His on Nov. 18 was to the point: "I love you."

The next day Marie got an e-mail from her parents: Call home. For 30 minutes she stood in line, anxiously waiting for a phone. Her father explained that Dennis had been on patrol, and there'd been a roadside bomb: "He didn't make it, kid. I'm sorry."

In accordance with his wishes, Dennis came back to West Point, where the minister who would have married him would bury him. Before they closed the coffin, Marie took the plain gold band that was to have been the groom's wedding ring and slipped it on his finger.

Next Graduation Day, another group of West Point swimmers came to the cemetery to be pinned, this time at Dennis' grave.

Marie married Charlie Lewis, the cadet who'd been pinned with Dennis at Dave Bernstein's grave. It's complicated, but Marie says she's lucky to have a husband who understands.

Charlie was in the battalion operations center when the call came in that Dennis' Humvee was hit. "He knows where I'm coming from," she says. "Six years later, I still have bad days."

The couple live in Cambridge, Mass., where Capt. Lewis is getting a master's degree in public policy at Harvard before going to West Point to teach. They will live on post and be able to walk to the cemetery to visit Dennis. It's a sad place, Marie says, but there is peace in this: "You're never alone."

- bth: I have the greatest admiration for David Bernstein and his wonderful family. Our families best thoughts and wishes. Father of PFC John D. Hart who was killed with David Oct 18 2003.

Pentagon under 24/7 DARPA surveillance — RT

Pentagon under 24/7 DARPA surveillance — RT

The Pentagon will soon be prying through the personal correspondence and computer files of US military personnel, thanks to a $9-million program that will put soldiers’ private emails under Uncle Sam’s microscope.

Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, has awarded the grant to five institutions led by Georgia Tech to help develop a system of spying on solderis’ Internet and computer habits, a multi-million dollar investment that they say will serve as a preemptive measure to make sure “insider threats” can’t materialize in the military.

The Pentagon is calling the project “Proactive Discovery of Insider Threats Using Graph Analysis and Learning,” or “PRODIGAL,” and it will scour the e-mails, text messages and files transfers of solders’ “for unusual activity,” writes Georgia Tech, using “a suit of algorithms” that will be able to weed out any weirdness within the Department of Defense that could become a security threat.

A spokesman for DARPA deferred to answer to the Army Times how, exactly, they plan on conducting the surveillance over the correspondence. Wired.com’s Danger Room writes, however, that every keystroke, log-in and file upload initiated over DoD networks will be under strict scrutiny in hopes of breaking up any more Bradley Mannings from making their way into the military.

Rep. Peter King (Rep-NY) said at a hearing earlier this month that “The Fort Hood attack was not an anomaly.” According to the congressman, the shooting spree carried out by Nidal Hasan in 2009 “was part of al-Qaeda’s two-decade success at infiltrating the US military for terrorism, an effort that is increasing in scope and threat.”

Given the Senate and House’s recent go-ahead with the National Defense Authorization Act, a legislation that will allow for the government to indefinitely detain and torture American citizens over suspected terrorist ties, a little cyber-sleuthing of soldiers seems like nothing at all....

-bth: so wouldn't a terrorist soldier simply code his message or use a surrogate topic to disguise its purpose? So we infringe on the personal lives of all soldiers for the outside chance of catching one of the stupidist terrorists we could image? This is just ridiculous as applied in aggregate to all military personnel.

Northern Nigerian Christians warn of religious war | Reuters

...The most deadly attack killed at least 27 people in the St Theresa Catholic church in Madalla, a town on the edge of the capital Abuja, and devastated surrounding buildings and cars as faithful poured out of the church after Christmas mass.

"What is going on is a conflict between evil people and good people," Sultan Abubakar said after the meeting at the presidential residence. "The good people are more than the evil ones. So the good people must come together to defeat the evil ones and that is the message."

"We want to assure our brother Christians and Christian leaders to stand on the part of truth according to our religion and continue to work for the greatness of this country," the Sultan said.

Security forces also blamed Boko Haram for two explosions in the north targeting their facilities. Officials have confirmed 32 people died in the wave of attacks across Nigeria, though local media have put the number higher.

But the church bombs are more worrying because they raise fears that Boko Haram is trying to ignite a sectarian civil war in the nearly 160 million nation split evenly between Christians and Muslims, who for the most part co-exist in peace.

Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan has come under pressure to do more to fight the growing security threat which risks derailing economic gains in the OPEC member and Africa's top oil-producing nation...

The Pentagon and its Sock Puppets—By Scott Horton (Harper's Magazine)

The Pentagon and its Sock Puppets—By Scott Horton (Harper's Magazine)

An internal Department of Defense review has concluded that a Rumsfeld-era program under which retired military officers who appeared on American broadcast media were given special briefings and access was consistent with Pentagon rules. The New York Times reports:

The inquiry found that from 2002 to 2008, Mr. Rumsfeld’s Pentagon organized 147 events for 74 military analysts. These included 22 meetings at the Pentagon, 114 conference calls with generals and senior Pentagon officials and 11 Pentagon-sponsored trips to Iraq and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Twenty of the events, according to a 35-page report of the inquiry’s findings, involved Mr. Rumsfeld or the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff or both. One retired officer, the report said, recalled Mr. Rumsfeld telling him: “You guys influence a wide range of people. We’d like to be sure you have the facts.”

The inspector general’s investigation grappled with the question of whether the outreach constituted an earnest effort to inform the public or an improper campaign of news media manipulation. The inquiry confirmed that Mr. Rumsfeld’s staff frequently provided military analysts with talking points before their network appearances. In some cases, the report said, military analysts “requested talking points on specific topics or issues.” One military analyst described the talking points as “bullet points given for a political purpose.” Another military analyst, the report said, told investigators that the outreach program’s intent “was to move everyone’s mouth on TV as a sock puppet.”...

Somalia Faces Alarming Rise in Rapes of Women and Girls - NYTimes.com

Somalia Faces Alarming Rise in Rapes of Women and Girls - NYTimes.com

...The Shabab militant group, which presents itself as a morally righteous rebel force and the defender of pure Islam, is seizing women and girls as spoils of war, gang-raping and abusing them as part of its reign of terror in southern Somalia, according to victims, aid workers and United Nations officials. Short of cash and losing ground, the militants are also forcing families to hand over girls for arranged marriages that often last no more than a few weeks and are essentially sexual slavery, a cheap way to bolster their ranks’ flagging morale.

But it is not just the Shabab. In the past few months, aid workers and victims say there has been a free-for-all of armed men preying upon women and girls displaced by Somalia’s famine, who often trek hundreds of miles searching for food and end up in crowded, lawless refugee camps where Islamist militants, rogue militiamen and even government soldiers rape, rob and kill with impunity....

-bth: For all the talk about protecting women, Islam leaves a great deal to be desired.

SOPA is the end of us, say bloggers - Tim Mak - POLITICO.com

SOPA is the end of us, say bloggers - Tim Mak - POLITICO.com

The conservative and liberal blogospheres are unifying behind opposition to Congress’s Stop Online Piracy Act, with right-leaning bloggers aruging their very existence could be wiped out if the anti-piracy bill passes.

“If either the U.S. Senate’s Protect IP Act (PIPA) & the U.S. House’s Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) become law, political blogs such as Red Mass Group [conservative] & Blue Mass Group [liberal] will cease to exist,” wrote a blogger at Red Mass Group.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

China's Noisy Subs Get Busier -- And Easier to Track | Danger Room | Wired.com

China's Noisy Subs Get Busier -- And Easier to Track | Danger Room | Wired.com

...The assessment’s biggest surprise: Leaving aside the PLAN’s dozen imported Russian subs, new Chinese submarines can be detected at what’s known as the “first convergence zone,” a ring approximately 25 miles from an undersea vessel where outward-traveling sound waves pack close together.

During the Cold War, the U.S. Navy would arrange its own submarines in lines where each boat was 25 miles from the next, forming a sort of net to catch Soviet subs. With the introduction of the latest generation of quiet Russian diesel subs in the 1990s, the Americans thought that convergence-zone detection was no longer possible. But the Navy’s just discovered that China’s homemade subs are even louder than 20-year-old Russian boats. “Apparently they [U.S. subs] are making first convergence zone detections and holding them,” the analyst reports.

Assuming the Chinese stay with their current sub designs, American submarines should be capable of swiftly defeating Chinese boats in any potential future shooting war — helping clear the way for U.S. aircraft carriers to strike Chinese land targets. Combined with a slowdown in Chinese sub production, and the recent doubling of America’s submarine build-rate, the noise revelation could lead to a radical recalculation of the Pacific balance of power.

The U.S. Navy had a comfortable technological lead over the PLAN even before the increased Chinese sub activity fueled the recent intelligence coup. Now that lead has gotten even wider. And noisier.

- bth: good to know

Roslindale resident, brother of fallen Marine Arredondo, commits suicide - West Roxbury, MA - Wicked Local West Roxbury

Roslindale resident, brother of fallen Marine Arredondo, commits suicide - West Roxbury, MA - Wicked Local West Roxbury

“To me, he was the most beautiful thing,” reflected Victoria Foley about her son Brian Arredondo who committed suicide Monday, Dec. 19. He had suffered from depression partly stemming from his brother Alex’s 2004 death in combat in Iraq.

“I’m going to miss my son,” she said, sharing that she was shaking as she spoke on Saturday morning.

Brian, 24, split his time between his mother’s Norwood home and his father Carlos and stepmother Melida’s Roslindale residence.

Marine Lance Cpl. Alex Arredondo’s story became nationally known after Carlos Arredondo, who works as a handyman in Roslindale, was severely burned after he set fire to the van of the Marines who arrived at his Florida home in 2004 to deliver the news of Alex’s death.

After mostly recovering from his wounds, Carlos and Melida Arredondo became opponents of the war and returned to Roslindale. Outside of the First Church in Jamaica Plain at 6 Eliot St. is a mutli-faceted memorial dedicated to the anti-war movement as well as to Alex – and now Brian - Arredondo.

“He died (close to) the last day of the war in Iraq and his brother was not coming home … we’re not sure but we think that contributed” to his suicide, said Melida Arredondo on Thursday. His father was too distraught to talk.

“He was very lost … he was not holding a job and not going to school,” she said. Although she and Carlos still go to counseling to cope with Alex’s death, Melida Arredondo said Brian only tried it for several sessions since he thought it was stigmatized. He tried to kill himself in 2006 and was subsequently hospitalized for a few days.

Brian was “a sweet, sweet young man. A lot of people know him that way and we’ll remember him that way,” said Foley, who also has an 11-year-old son.

With Brian’s death happening so close to Christmas, both families tackled the holiday in their own way.

“We’re sort of skipping (Christmas), which is not unusual for us,” said Melida Arredondo. Also making the situation worse for the couple is that their family members who live abroad were unable to get visas in time to come for Brian’s wake and funeral due to governmental offices being closed for Christmas.

Saying she wanted to give her youngest son and boyfriend’s 16-year-old son some normalcy, Foley said Christmas this year was “all about the kids” and that they held a special dinner.

Melida Arredondo and Foley have both said they will seek counseling and will reach out to others struggling with grief over Brian’s death.

Veterans Services

Reached late on Friday before the holiday weekend Francisco Urena, commissioner of Veterans Services for Boston and an Iraq war veteran, said his office had reached out to the Arredondo and Foley families to offer any help they could after Brian’s death.

Foley said she appreciated the fact that the Red Cross would be coming to the services to offer help to those who are having difficulty coping. She said Brian had a lot of friends who are devastated.

“When it comes to suicide,” said Urena, “we can never know what went on in Brian’s mind … prior to this.”

As someone who intervened in the suicide attempts of two other people, Urena said, “my office is available, willing and able to provide support” to those in distress.

“Nobody is here alone … suicide is never an answer,” said Urena.

He listed several – but certainly not all - resources available for suicide prevention:

  • Urena’s office at 617-635-3026
  • The Veterans Crisis Line: 1-800-273-8255, press 1
  • Statewide Advocacy For Veterans Empowerment: 888-844-2838
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK
  • The Samaritans: 617-247-0220

Wake and funeral details

The wake for Brian Arredondo will be held at the Mann and Rodgers Funeral Home, 44 Perkins St., Jamaica Plain. Calling hours are from 4-9 on Tuesday, Dec. 27. The funeral Mass will take place at St. Thomas Aquinas Parish, 97 South St., Jamaica Plain, 10 a.m., Wednesday, Dec. 28. The funeral Mass will be followed by a procession and internment at Rural Cemetery at intersection of Pemberton and North Street in Walpole. Brian will be laid to rest next to his brother Alexander. In lieu of flowers, the family asks to please consider sending a donation to aid with funeral expenses to the Brian Arredondo Memorial Fund, c/o The Cooperative Bank, 40 Belgrade Ave., Roslindale, MA 02131.

- bth: apologies to Wicked Local for copying this article in full but Brian Arredondo and his parents are friends of ours and I don't want him to be forgotten in some Google cache file in a month or two. As I type this comment, I will now close down my computer and drive to Brian's wake in town with a heavy heart for him and his parents. I choose the wake because I don't think I could handle another funeral.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Fault Lines - Robot wars - YouTube

Fault Lines - Robot wars - YouTube

Wilkerson on the Iraq “Exit” « naked capitalism

Wilkerson on the Iraq “Exit” « naked capitalism

Scrooge--a republican. - YouTube

Scrooge--a republican. - YouTube

IMF debt drivers chart

IMF debt drivers chart

IMF debt drivers chart

Senate Session - C-SPAN Video Library

Senate Session - C-SPAN Video Library




Did Congress Just Endorse Rendition for Americans? | Mother Jones

Did Congress Just Endorse Rendition for Americans? | Mother Jones

A defense spending bill that passed both houses of Congress overwhelmingly and is set to be signed by President Barack Obama as early as this week could make it easier for the government to transfer American terrorist suspects to foreign regimes and security forces.

The National Defense Authorization Act (PDF) contains a section that says the president has the power to transfer suspected members and supporters of Al Qaeda, the Taliban, or "associated" groups "to the custody or control of the person's country of origin, any other foreign country, or any other foreign entity."

That means if the president determines you're a member or supporter of Al Qaeda or "associated forces," he could order you to be handed over to the Saudis, the Egyptians, the Yemenis ("any other foreign country"), any of their respective security forces, or even the United Nations ("any other foreign entity"). (You can read the relevant section of the law in the document viewer at the end of this article; look for the highlighted annotations.)...


Afghanistan Low on News Agenda - NYTimes.com

Afghanistan Low on News Agenda - NYTimes.com

...Since Pew started its weekly monitoring in 2007, the war in Afghanistan has never accounted for more than 5 percent of all news coverage on an annual basis. In 2010, Afghanistan accounted for 4 percent of all news coverage.

The United States has about 91,000 troops in Afghanistan now. For much of this year and last, about 100,000 United States troops were in the country.

The news executives that pay for bureaus in Afghanistan have had to contend with tight news-gathering budgets, safety concerns and, in some cases, a perception that American audiences are not interested in the situation.

The relative dearth of coverage has brought occasional criticism in the United States, particularly from those who recall vigorous coverage of the Vietnam War. “Other than in its early stages in 2001-2002, the American press has greatly underreported this war,” John Hanrahan, formerly the executive director of the Fund for Investigative Journalism, wrote in an essay for Nieman Watchdog in August.

“This paucity of reporting — the almost total reliance on just a few reporters — has stark implications for how the war is perceived back home,” Mr. Hanrahan wrote. “The fewer the reporters, the fewer the first-hand accounts needed for citizens to form knowledgeable opinions of the war.”

- bth: this is about being out of sight and out of mind. We have the longest war in American history going on and no one is paying attention unless they have a loved one there right now. We need to get out.

U.S. Preparing for Pakistan to Restrict Support for Afghan War - NYTimes.com

U.S. Preparing for Pakistan to Restrict Support for Afghan War - NYTimes.com
...Pakistani manufacturers of ammonium nitrate fertilizer, a component of homemade bombs used against American soldiers in Afghanistan, tentatively agreed to dye it for easier tracing, American officials said. Interior Ministry officials pledged to track large, unexplained purchases of the substance.

At the same time, Pakistani officials indicated that they would help rein in attacks by the Haqqani network, an insurgent group that is the main killer of allied troops in Afghanistan, and there were hints that Pakistan would pave the way for peace talks with the Taliban in Afghanistan.

But the fatal airstrike on Nov. 26 erased that preliminary progress, dealing the most serious blow to reconciliation talks involving Pakistan. “It’s not happening,” said Aftab Ahmed Sherpao, a former interior minister.

All of this comes as the Pakistani economy is in a free fall, civilian and military leaders are clashing over purported coup plots, and 150,000 Pakistani troops are stuck in a stalemate fighting a witches’ brew of militants along the Afghan border.

“These people are stuck there very badly,” said Javed Ashraf Qazi, a retired lieutenant general and a former head of the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate, Pakistan’s main spy agency.

The number of attacks from homemade bombs throughout the country, but mostly focused in the border areas, skyrocketed to 1,036 through November this year, compared with 413 for all of 2007, according to the Pakistani military. More than 3,500 Pakistani soldiers and police have been killed since 2002.

The Obama administration is desperately trying to preserve the critical pieces of the relationship. General Dempsey asked the Pakistani Army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, in a phone call on Wednesday if the relationship could be repaired, a person briefed on the conversation said. General Kayani said that he thought it could, but that Pakistan needed some space....

- bth: putting trace dye in the ammonium nitrate will do little to curtail its smuggling across the border. We already know that virtually all ammonium nitrate comes from the two Pakistani plants.

News from The Associated Press

News from The Associated Press
... On Christmas, attacks by the radical Muslim sect left 39 dead across Africa's most populous nation. A bomb also exploded amid gunfire in the central Nigeria city of Jos and a suicide car bomber attacked the military in the nation's northeast.

After the bombings, a Boko Haram spokesman using the nom de guerre Abul-Qaqa claimed responsibility for the attacks in an interview with The Daily Trust, the newspaper of record across Nigeria's Muslim north. The sect has used the newspaper in the past to communicate with public.

"There will never be peace until our demands are met," the newspaper quoted the spokesman as saying. "We want all our brothers who have been incarcerated to be released; we want full implementation of the Sharia system and we want democracy and the constitution to be suspended."

Boko Haram has carried out increasingly sophisticated and bloody attacks in its campaign to implement strict Shariah law across Nigeria, a multiethnic nation of more than 160 million people. The group, whose name means "Western education is sacrilege" in the local Hausa language, is responsible for at least 504 killings this year alone, according to an Associated Press count.

This Christmas attack comes a year after a series of Christmas Eve bombings in Jos claimed by the militants left at least 32 dead and 74 wounded. The group also claimed responsibility for the Aug. 26 bombing of the United Nations headquarters in Nigeria's capital Abuja that killed 24 people and wounded 116 others...

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Vietnam in Chinese flag faux pas - FRANCE 24

Vietnam in Chinese flag faux pas - FRANCE 24

AFP - Vietnam made an embarrassing gaffe this week when receiving China's Vice President Xi Jinping, considered the future number one in Beijing, by displaying Chinese flags bearing one star too many.

The trip was designed to improve strained relations that deteriorated following recent tensions over the disputed South China Sea.

But on Wednesday, Xi was greeted with flags picturing six stars, while the official emblem of the People's Republic of China has only five -- one large yellow star surrounded by four smaller ones....


Young Vietnamese girls are seen waving Chinese flags carrying an extra star on them as visiting Chinese vice president Xi Jinping is greeted during an official welcoming ceremony at the presidential palace in Hanoi, on December 21. Vietnam made an embarrassing gaffe when receiving Xi, considered the future number one in Beijing, by displaying Chinese flags bearing one star too many.

- bth: awkward.

US offers $10 million reward for Iran-based al Qaeda financier - The Long War Journal

US offers $10 million reward for Iran-based al Qaeda financier - The Long War Journal

The State Department announced on Dec. 22 that a reward of up to $10 million is being offered for any information leading to the capture of an Iran-based al Qaeda financier named Ezedin Abdel Aziz Khalil, also known as Yasin al Suri. In July, the Treasury Department added al Suri and five other al Qaeda terrorists to its list of specially designated terrorists. [See LWJ report, Treasury targets Iran's 'secret deal' with al Qaeda.]

The six designated al Qaeda operatives have used Iranian soil to funnel funds and terrorists throughout the Middle East. They have done so as part of "an agreement between al Qaeda and the Iranian government," according to Treasury.

One of the six, Atiyah Abd al Rahman, was subsequently killed in a US drone strike in August. According to Treasury, Osama bin Laden appointed Rahman as al Qaeda's "emissary in Iran, a position which allowed him to travel in and out of Iran with the permission of Iranian officials."

The addition of al Suri to the Rewards for Justice Program is the first time that a reward has been offered for information leading to the capture of a terrorist financier, according to the US government officials who briefed the press.

"Under an agreement between al Qaeda and the Government of Iran, Yasin al Suri has helped move money and recruits through Iran to al Qaeda leaders in neighboring countries in the region," Robert Hartung, the State Department Assistant Director for Threat Investigations and Analysis, explained during the briefing...

- bth: this is pretty significant. I wonder why we don't hear more about it on the news? Also how is it that Iran can work with al Qaeda? I still to this day find it baffling.

McChrystal to chair board of new Siemens federal business - The Washington Post

McChrystal to chair board of new Siemens federal business - The Washington Post
The German-based contracting conglomerate Siemens has selected retired Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the former top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, to serve as the chairman for the board of directors of its newly established federal operations....

- bth McChrystal is back and ready to cash in on his connections. I haven't forgiven him for Tillman.

Pentagon Finds No Fault In Its Ties to TV Analysts - NYTimes.com

Pentagon Finds No Fault In Its Ties to TV Analysts - NYTimes.com

...But several former top aides to Mr. Rumsfeld insisted that the purpose of the program was merely to inform and educate, and many of the 63 military analysts interviewed during the inquiry agreed. ...

-bth: so the inspector general released this ass covering decision and released its findings on Friday before Christmas. They took out the trash while the press corp was on vacation. Also it stands as obvious that Rumsfeld used these shills to do his bidding and knew full well he was running propagandists at taxpayer expense as independent and objective retired military officers. You can tell it was a deception by the simple fact that Rumsfeld went to great lengths to keep the payment to these officers a secret. That our news services willingly participated is even more disheartening because it indicates clearly how willing they are to pander to the Pentagon versus report an objective truth as the public needs to hear it.

No control over operations of Army, ISI: govt | Newspaper | DAWN.COM

No control over operations of Army, ISI: govt | Newspaper | DAWN.COM

ISLAMABAD: All eyes are focussed on the Supreme Court as it is set to take up the memo case again on Thursday.

In a late night development on Wednesday which added yet another twist to the memo scandal, the federal government, through the Ministry of Defence, conceded before the Supreme Court that it had no operational control over the armed forces as well as the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

A one-page reply by the defence ministry said it was not in a position to submit any reply on behalf of the armed forces and the ISI.

Earlier on Dec 15, the government had submitted its reply on behalf of the ministries of interior and foreign affairs. It requested the court to dismiss the petitions over memo scandal....

- bth: Gen. Mattis also canceled his briefing to the Pakistani's regarding the border event last month. Increasingly the split between the military and ISI on the one hand and the civilian government and the US on the other is evident. What isn't clear to me is what the Supreme Court is trying to do here.

Pakistan Harboured Osama, Former Army Chief Says

Pakistan Harboured Osama, Former Army Chief Says

A former Pakistani official revealed that al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden was kept hidden under the knowledge of former Pakistani president Pervez Musharaf, Pakistani Media reported.

Former Pakistan Army Chief General Ziauddin Butt speaking at Pakistan-US relations conference on October 11 has said that despite denials, evidences emerge that some elements within Pakistan military harboured Osama Bin Laden with the knowledge of former president Pervez Musharaf, Intelligence Bureau General Ijaz Shah and possibly current chief of Army Staff Ashfaq Kiyani....

U.S. intelligence warned of strife after Iraq pullout | Reuters

U.S. intelligence warned of strife after Iraq pullout | Reuters

...The official noted, however, that nobody predicted specifically that this would happen within a day or two of the departure of the last American combat troops.

The main tool the United States has now in Iraq is diplomatic pressure but even that has been watered down with the lack of troop presence, Rogers said.

"Diplomatically we are certainly in a point of weakness in Iraq" because many political factions at the national and local level believe the United States has abandoned them, he said.

"I'm not optimistic about what kind of leverage we can apply here that would make significant difference for the better," he said. "Diplomatic pressure is always best served from a position of strength."

- bth: in contrast there is nothing to indicate that if we stay another 5 years the outcome will be any different. For that matter if we had left 5 years ago would it be any different? The underlying civil factions and prospects of civil war have been all along. We can only sit on the lid for so long. Unfortunately Maliki has missed his chance at building a coalition of disparate parties. He unfortunately for us is no Mandela that could weave across factional lines.

In his debut in Washington’s power struggles, Gingrich threw a bomb - The Washington Post

In his debut in Washington’s power struggles, Gingrich threw a bomb - The Washington Post

...In a long interview on May 4, 1992, devoted almost exclusively to the topic of Gingrich, Darman concluded that Gingrich was “an unstable personality” who talks about four or five great people in history, including Pericles and himself. “Psychologically, he has got to go against the reigning establishment . . . . The establishment has to fail visibly.

“No matter what you’re going to do, he’s going to bomb it,” Darman said. “He will find his way to the most inflammatory part of anything.”...

- bth: interesting article on Newt worth reading in full. It explains the Pres. Bush senior endorsement of Romney this week.