Saturday, July 21, 2012

Video: Fighters seize military airbase - Al Jazeera Blogs

Video: Fighters seize military airbase - Al Jazeera Blogs

Jet crisis with Syria, the role of Russia and the Turkish foreign policy

Jet crisis with Syria, the role of Russia and the Turkish foreign policy

...  In Syrian problem, Russia's final goal is probably not to protect Assad or Ba'ath regime. Russia has been striving to impose that Russia's vital interests should be taken into consideration if there is going to be a change in Syria, and that Russia itself is one of the major actors in post-Assad structuring. Protecting Assad and Ba'ath regime serves these purposes as a front. If Russia's defense industry agreements are to continue, its privileges in Tartous port are to carry on, if it is guaranteed there won't be the monocracy of Muslim Brotherhood or Salafis, the interests of Syrian Orthodox' are to be protected, if its investments in the country are not negatively affected, and if it believes that no chaos will take place in Syria; then it would give green light to Assad's leaving the power. Therefore, the resistance of Russia against toppling the Assad regime could be broken only through the assurance that this country's strategic interests will be protected also in the post-Assad period. And this requires a major bargain involving the global actors.

Thus, Russia gives the message that; “If Assad leaves, I will be one of the major actors shaping the new structuring. Change is possible only through my approval, and I will be one of the powerful actors on the table while determining the new structure.” Along with the Syrian crisis, Russia sees the limits of its power both in global scale and in the Middle East. Russia, which showed itself as the most powerful actor in Caucasus with a strategic importance through the Georgia War, has been striving to show through Syrian issue that “it is still a super power and one of the major actors in the Middle East”. Therefore, the Syrian issue is directly related to its foreign policy, rather than protecting its interests. Thinking of having made a mistake in Libya, Russia knows it will no more be effective in its Middle East policy if it loses Syria. In addition to this, Russia exports approximately 10 % of its defense industry to Syria. Russia has almost 20 billion dollar of investment in Syria. In addition to all these, Russia does not want to face the wave of democratization and split within its own borders. Another important reason is the fact that political Islam has become stronger in the countries where Arab protests take place. In a potential regime change in Syria, Russia thinks that Muslim Brotherhood and Salafis will come to power. Russia has been following the rise of political Islam with concern regarding that it will negatively affect its own Muslim minorities, the Chechen problem, and that it will cause to security problem. Therefore, it has been striving to draw a line to the process of strengthening of political Islamist movements which came to power in Tunisia, Libya and Egypt starting from Morocco, and maybe to its own borders in the future through Syria. 

What forces the Western camp to act hesitantly on Syria and prevents them from taking a joint stand is the unpredictability of the post-Assad period. As a matter of fact, a Sunni Arab power, which would probably further correspond to Turkey and thus to the West rather than Assad regime which is in a close relationship with Iran and Hezbollah, could be desired by West. The power distribution, created by the Iraqi invasion in favor of Iran, might be desired to be reversed through a potential change in Syria. The new Syria would be preferred to join the Sunni countries camp which is in a close relationship with the West. However, the major concern is the fact that Al Qaeda is also a Sunni movement, and the possibility that Al Qaeda could take advantage of a possible regime change.

Lastly, Syrian problem and jet crisis have had negative results for Turkey. If the fixation that Russia might be behind the Syrian attack is right, Russia aims at questioning the regional super power role that Turkey has been trying to play. The question marks regarding the capacity of controversial hard power of Turkey in Syrian crisis, and regarding its will to use it increased upon the jet crisis. The International Crisis Group analyst Hugh Pope expresses this fact through the following statement: “Turks might sell goods to the Middle East, and the Middle Eastern populations might have Turkish products in their homes. However, Turkey's capacity to inject power to states in the region is very limited.” Therefore; Arab protests, Syrian uprising and jet crisis made it possible for Turkey to see its limits in the foreign policy. The necessity of envisaging the challenges to occur against the system you want to establish. Above all, the necessity of estimating whether you have efficient foreign policy tools that could be used against the aforesaid challenges came up. Suggesting a foreign policy based on stability in an instable region does not do any good. Therefore, this process will enable Turkish foreign policy to have a more realistic ground.

Oytun Orhan, ORSAM Middle East Specialist, A.İ.B.U. Ph.D. Programme

Evolution of Syria's Opposition

THE DAILY STAR :: News :: Middle East :: Syria moves chemical weapons before wider offensive: defector

THE DAILY STAR :: News :: Middle East :: Syria moves chemical weapons before wider offensive: defector


HACIPASA, Turkey: A senior Syrian military defector said President Bashar Assad's forces were moving chemical weapons across the country for possible use in a military retaliation for the killing of four top security officials.
"The regime has started moving its chemical stockpile and redistributing it to prepare for its use," said General Mustafa Sheikh, citing rebel intelligence obtained in recent days.
"They are moving it from warehouses to new locations," he told Reuters in an interview in southern Turkey, close to the Syrian border. "They want to burn the country. The regime cannot fall without perpetrating a sea of blood."
..

Sheikh said momentum gained by the rebels was prompting faster high-level defections and at least 100,000 soldiers have deserted out of the 320,000-strong military, almost double the numbers of only a few months ago. On Saturday a Turkish official told Reuters two Syrian brigadier-generals had fled to Turkey overnight.
Opposition sources have said thousands more Sunni soldiers have been confined to their barracks, but cannot desert because of the grip of military intelligence and lack of safe areas.
The involvement of the best trained elite forces from the Fourth Brigade to the Republican Army in the widening offensive showed the extent of attrition within the army, he said.
"Every day there is attrition ... the collapse of the regime is now accelerating like a snowball," Sheikh said.

If Syria Collapses, Iran Faces Loss of Valued Ally - NYTimes.com

If Syria Collapses, Iran Faces Loss of Valued Ally - NYTimes.com

 ...Residents in central Damascus said shops were closed, roads were empty and only a handful of people were outside. The normally heavy traffic of the cramped Middle Eastern city was gone; only a few cars were moving along its boulevards.

Power in many parts of the city had been cut as temperatures rose to above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit).

"We have heard reports that many of the banks have just run out of money," Melissa Fleming, chief spokeswoman for the United Nations' refugee agency UNHCR, told a briefing in Geneva.

Up to 30,000 Syrian refugees may have crossed into Lebanon in the past 48 hours to escape the fighting, she said. There were also growing numbers fleeing to Iraq and people pouring into Jordan and Turkey.

Residents reported a lack of government checkpoints in the heart of the city and fewer guards in front of the Interior Ministry, which some of them interpreted as signs that government forces were either stretched thin or melting away.

Another Syrian general fled to Turkey overnight, along with four colonels and 17 lower-ranking officers, a Turkish official said, bringing the number of generals sheltering there to 22.


-bth: the calculations in Iran and Lebanon must be innumerable at this point.  Does Israel now strike at Hezbollah?  If Syria falls what can Iran do to counter?  In any scenario it seems Iran's regime finds itself once again on the wrong side of history - Iraq's recent history not withstanding.

Syria Crisis: Damascus Pounded Amid Unprecedented Rebel Gains

Syria Crisis: Damascus Pounded Amid Unprecedented Rebel Gains

...  Residents in central Damascus said shops were closed, roads were empty and only a handful of people were outside. The normally heavy traffic of the cramped Middle Eastern city was gone; only a few cars were moving along its boulevards.

Power in many parts of the city had been cut as temperatures rose to above 40 degrees Celsius (104 degrees Fahrenheit).

"We have heard reports that many of the banks have just run out of money," Melissa Fleming, chief spokeswoman for the United Nations' refugee agency UNHCR, told a briefing in Geneva.

Up to 30,000 Syrian refugees may have crossed into Lebanon in the past 48 hours to escape the fighting, she said. There were also growing numbers fleeing to Iraq and people pouring into Jordan and Turkey.

Residents reported a lack of government checkpoints in the heart of the city and fewer guards in front of the Interior Ministry, which some of them interpreted as signs that government forces were either stretched thin or melting away.

Another Syrian general fled to Turkey overnight, along with four colonels and 17 lower-ranking officers, a Turkish official said, bringing the number of generals sheltering there to 22.


-bth: these certainly seem like early indications of collapse.

Iraq Condemns Turkish Cross-Border Operations Against PKK, 21 July 2012 Saturday 12:1

Iraq Condemns Turkish Cross-Border Operations Against PKK, 21 July 2012 Saturday 12:1

...  The Iraqi central government has strongly objected to Turkish oil deals with the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). In May, Turkey and the KRG announced possible plans to develop an oil pipeline to Turkey, effectively bypassing the central government in Baghdad.

Last Friday (July 13th) Turkey's Energy Minister Taner Yildiz announced Turkey started importing 5 to 10 truck tankers of Kurdish oil per day and that the number could increase up to 100-200 tankers. The oil is processed into diesel and exported back to the Iraqi Kurds.

The Iraqi government called the imports "illegal" and said it would harm bilateral relations, but Turkish officials said they would continue. Baghdad and the autonomous Kurdish region have been at odds for years over a national hydrocarbon law to govern the exploration and export of Iraq's energy resources.

Once close ties between Turkey and Iraq started to sour in 2010 after Turkey backed the Sunni and secular Shi'a Iraqiyya bloc against Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Relations cooled further in December after Iraq’s fugitive Sunni vice-president, Tariq al-Hashemi, faced with charges of running death squads, fled to Turkey. In April, Maliki described Turkey as a "hostile state".

Nihat Ali Ozcan, an analyst at the Economic Policy Research Centre in Ankara, told SES Türkiye that despite Iraq's threats the country doesn't have the military capacity to prevent Turkey from continuing military operations against the PKK.

"[The Iraqi government] can only turn this into a topic of diplomatic discussion, for example at the UN," he said. "On the other hand, the goal is create a psychological effect and send a message to [Turkish Prime Minister] Erdogan."

The latest statement against cross-border operations comes as Turkey has backed the KRG and Iraqi Sunnis in their attempt to prevent Maliki's increasing consolidation of power, David Romano, a professor of Middle East politics and author of The Kurdish Nationalist Movement: Opportunity, Mobilization and Identity, told SES Türkiye.

"What he gets from these demands is the image of standing up as both an Iraqi nationalist and a protector of Kurds, while the KRG stands idly by and allows Turkey to conduct its operations in Iraqi Kurdistan," he said. Such rhetoric helps Maliki by making "[KRG President] Barzani look like a tool of foreign powers."

But Romano said that "Maliki can't, and doesn't want to, enforce his demands".

Friday, July 20, 2012

Iraq evacuates its citizens in Syria by air | Fox News

Iraq evacuates its citizens in Syria by air | Fox News


....The other official, a spokesman for Iraq's western Anbar province named Mohammed Fathi, said the Red Cross was setting up tents and distributing medical supplies on Friday for returnees at the crossing, located about 373 miles from Baghdad.

Fadhil Radhi, an Iraqi citizen who said he travelled to Baghdad via the crossing, said he and his family passed through al-Walid around midnight on Friday after deciding that life in Syria was too dangerous. His family of five fled to Syria in 2007 to escape brutal sectarian fighting from their home in the southern Iraqi city of Basra. They were among what the U.N. estimates was more than a million Iraqis who moved to Syria during Iraq's darkest days between 2006 and 2008.

"We decided to return to Iraq because we feared for our lives, especially after the rise in killings and assaults targeting Iraqis living in Syria," Radhi, 48, said Friday while unloading his luggage from the bus that drove him from Damascus. He said bus tickets for the trip had more than tripled -- from $30 to $100 per person -- in the last week.

"Thank God, we have the money to pay for the trip back because I know families who are stranded in Syria because they do not have money to go back home," he added.

Fathi, the spokesman, said the local Anbar government sent 30 buses to al-Walid to help drive Iraqis home. Both men said the site had remained open throughout Thursday.

-bth: refugee movement is a pretty good indication of things to come. Also note change in price of a bus ticket to Iraq.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

GPS Hijacking Catches Feds, Drone Makers Off Guard | Danger Room | Wired.com

GPS Hijacking Catches Feds, Drone Makers Off Guard | Danger Room | Wired.com

...  D’Annunzio said they have systems to deal with jamming and the loss of signal from satellites, but if somebody sends a spoofing signal and fools the drone’s GPS receiver, then they have no answer because they can’t detect it – to the GPS receiver, that signal looks just the same as the one coming from the satellite. “If they work fine, everything looks good, none of the GPS numbers have changed, the GPS signal strength hasn’t changed … how would I know?” said D’Annunzio....


...Another potential solution could be to adopt some kind of encryption or authentication system so that the drones’ GPS receivers would only use trusted signals. That’s basically the system the military uses for its drones, the so-called “Selective Availability Anti-Spoofing Module” (SAASM). Could that be used for civilian drones too? Potentially yes, says Steen Mogensen, senior engineer at AdaptiveFlight, “the problem with that is that there are only a few supplies of the military-style GPS receivers in the world” so the cost of producing a civilian drone equipped with a military-grade receiver would go up considerably.
The future might hold a civilian equivalent of the military SAASM, but “that requires upgrades on the entire GPS technology, and changes on the satellites and so forth,” said Mogensen, who thinks that process would take a long time. “It would take some years, probably three to five years, just to get government support, the funding, and then the actual implementation of the technology.”...

Report: Iran Quds Force Commander Killed - Middle East - News - Israel National News

Report: Iran Quds Force Commander Killed - Middle East - News - Israel National News


Reports in the Arab-language press indicate the head of Iran's covert foreign operations Quds force was killed in Wednesday's bombing in Damascus.
 
Al-Quds Force's long-elusive commander, Maj. Gen. Qassem Suleimani, is reported to have made several trips to Damascua to meet with Assad and his top commanders since January of this year. 

Iran has made no bones about having bolstered Assad's embattled regime with members of its own elite Revolutionary Guard, but the death of Suleimani would be a direct blow to Tehran.
 
Suleimani, who masterminded al-Quds Force operations in Iraq and covert activities throughout the Persian Gulf and Lebanon, is a key figure in Iranian policymaking, particularly in security matters.

A combat veteran of Iran's 1980-88 war with Iraq, Suleimani took command of the al-Quds Force in the late 1990s and has become a powerful figure in the upper echelons of the Tehran regime....

Syrian rebels seize all border posts with Iraq - CBS News

Syrian rebels seize all border posts with Iraq - CBS News



(CBS/AP) BAGHDAD - Rebels attacked Syrian forces Thursday along the nation's porous border with Iraq, killing at least 21 soldiers and seizing control of all four major border posts, a senior Iraqi army official said.

Additionally, rebels took control of two major crossings on the border with Turkey, Reuters reports. Syrian rebel spokesmen said they seized control of the customs and immigration buildings on the Syrian side of the northern Turkish frontier gate of Bab al-Hawa, as well as the Jarablus crossing.


Near the Iraq border, the assaults against Syria's government unfolded throughout the day, putting the Iraqi army on high alert to prevent any violence from spilling across the border.


Iraq's Deputy Interior Minister Adnan al-Assadi told Agence France Presse Iraqi border guards had witnessed the Free Syrian Army take control of a border outpost, detain a Syrian army lieutenant colonel, and then cut off his arms and legs.


"Then they executed 22 Syrian soldiers in front of the eyes of Iraqi soldiers," Assadi said....

Israel Says Syria Pulls Troops from Golan to Suppress Revolt Elsewhere - NYTimes.com

Israel Says Syria Pulls Troops from Golan to Suppress Revolt Elsewhere - NYTimes.com

 JERUSALEM — Israel’s military intelligence chief said on Tuesday that President Bashar al-Assad of Syria had moved forces to Damascus from along the Golan Heights region, bordering on Israeli-controlled territory, after street battles raged in the capital between rebels and Syrian Army forces.

In a security briefing to a parliamentary committee, the intelligence chief, Maj. Gen. Aviv Kochavi, estimated that Mr. Assad “will not survive the uprising, even if it takes some more time.” He said that 13,000 soldiers and officers had defected from the Syrian Army, and that 60 to 70 senior officers had been killed by the opposition, according to the spokesperson’s office of the Israeli military.

But the general said the opposition had failed to coalesce into a united front and instead comprised many groups with different ideologies. “We don’t see organized opposition forces leading an uprising,” General Kochavi said....

Drones That May Fly ‘Indefinitely’ Can Be Recharged By Lasers « CBS Los Angeles

Drones That May Fly ‘Indefinitely’ Can Be Recharged By Lasers « CBS Los Angeles

Charles Feldman flies a drone in Simi Valley
LOS ANGELES (KNX 1070) — A recently demonstrated breakthrough in technology may help Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS), better known as drones, stay airborne for very long periods of time before having to return to Earth.
This development comes at a time when the U.S. government is actively encouraging the domestic use of drones, first by law enforcement, and later, by private concerns.
Lockheed Martin and a company called LaserMotive have been able to keep a drone flying for some 49 hours non-stop, using a ground-based laser to recharge the drone’s on board battery, says Tom Koonce, the project manager for Lockheed Martin, in an interview with KNX1070 Newsradio.
The test, says Koonce, was conducted in a wind tunnel in Palmdale. The system will very soon be tested in actual airspace in the desert, requiring coordination with both the FAA and NASA to keep the ground-based laser from interfering with either commercial aircraft or Earth-orbiting space vehicles....

-bth: people should know that there is an unmanned systems conference in early August coming and most of these announcements of a drone near you are marketing hype and press releases.

Bulgarian press names bomber: Mehdi Ghezali | The Times of Israel

Bulgarian press names bomber: Mehdi Ghezali | The Times of Israel


Bulgarian media on Thursday named the suicide bomber who blew up a bus full of Israeli tourists, killing five Israelis and a local bus driver, in the Black Sea resort of Burgas on Wednesday as Mehdi Ghezali.

There was no independent confirmation of the veracity of the information. The reports surfaced soon after Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had publicly accused Hezbollah, directed by Iran, of responsibility for the bombing. The Prime Minister’s Office made no comment on the reports.

The Bulgarian reports, rapidly picked up by Hebrew media, posited various versions of how the bomber had detonated the bomb, including the suggestion that the bomber had not intended to die in the blast, but may have wanted to place the bomb on the bus and flee.

Ghezali has a Wikipedia page, which describes him as a Swedish citizen, with Algerian and Finnish origins. He had been held at the US’s Guantanamo Bay detainment camp on Cuba from 2002 to 2004, having previously studied at a Muslim religious school and mosque in Britain, and traveled to Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, and Pakistan, it says.

Following a lobbying effort by Swedish prime minister Göran Persson, Guantanamo authorities recommended Ghezali be transferred to another country for continued detainment, and he was handed over to Swedish authorities in 2004. The Swedish government did not press charges.

He was also reportedly among 12 foreigners captured trying to cross into Afghanistan in 2009....

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Commentary: Russia's Syrian Base: A Potemkin Port? | The National Interest

Commentary: Russia's Syrian Base: A Potemkin Port? | The National Interest

...
...Rather than looking to Russia’s access to Tartus as irrelevant or, conversely, seeing it as the driving force behind Moscow’s policy, those striving to understand Russian objectives in Syria would do well to consider using a little nuance and common sense. The base has minimal military value—it can host high-profile visits by a few ships and allow them to spend a little more time in the Mediterranean Sea but probably could not sustain any extended or large-scale military operation. Nevertheless, its loss could have profound symbolic impact in the Middle East, especially if it occurs as part of an American-led regime-change process in Syria that moves forward despite Russian opposition.

It’s not so much that Tartus is Russia’s only military base outside the former Soviet region but that the Middle East is the only region outside the former USSR where Russia continues to enjoy visible influence. Moscow has engaged only weakly in Asia and has little or no presence in Africa or Latin America (notwithstanding periodic trips to Venezuela by top officials). While its commercial ties in Europe have been growing, Russia’s efforts to gain a political role there have often been counterproductive. If Russia were to abandon Syria, or to suffer a political defeat, officials may fear losing influence in the Middle East peace process (where Russia is a member of the “Quartet” that also includes the United States, the European Union and the United Nations) and in international discussions of Iran’s nuclear program. Without visibility on those two issues, Russia’s international profile would be much reduced.

Russia’s naval base at Tartus is one component in these calculations but probably not a defining one. Yet it is intimately connected to many other Russian interests in Syria, including Moscow’s political interests. Neither overdramatizing the base nor dismissing it will contribute to wise U.S. policy choices in dealing with Russia or trying to end Syria’s civil war.

Paul J. Saunders is executive director of The Center for the National Interest and associate publisher of The National Interest. He served in the State Department from 2003 to 2005.

-bth: an article worth reading in full and watching the Russian video tour of the Tartus base they have which is embedded in the previous post

Video of Russian Naval facility at Taurtus Syria

Owner Denies Ship with Syrian Helicopters Changed Route | Russia | RIA Novosti

Owner Denies Ship with Syrian Helicopters Changed Route | Russia | RIA Novosti


The route of the Russian ship purportedly carrying helicopter gunships to Syria remained unchanged and the vessel is still headed to St. Petersburg, a spokesman for the ship’s owner, Femco, said on Wednesday.
“The ship’s route remains unchanged. It is headed to St. Petersburg where it will arrive either late on July 19 or early on July 20. It all depends on weather conditions,” the spokesman said.
Earlier in the day, a ship location mapping service said the Alaed disappeared from online maps of the Automatic Identification System (AIS) tracking maritime traffic worldwide. The vessel switched off its AIS on Tuesday and has been invisible for more than 12 hours.
A Femco spokesman denied the crew has ever switched off its AIS signal....

Iran says US can't clear Gulf of mines - FRANCE 24

Iran says US can't clear Gulf of mines - FRANCE 24


AFP - Iran's Revolutionary Guards on Wednesday scoffed at US claims it could clear Gulf waters of mines in case of conflict after Washington announced plans for a multinational anti-mine operation.
"The Americans boast a lot about many things, but they are facing problems in practice," General Mahmoud Fahimi, deputy chief of the Guards' naval forces, told the Fars news agency.
"We have no doubt that the United States cannot do anything in the area of minesweeping."
The United States and about 20 other nations are to hold a major anti-mine operation near the Gulf on September 16-27, the Pentagon said on Tuesday, after Iran threatened it could block oil shipments through the waterway.
Pentagon spokesman George Little said the operation was "a defensive exercise aimed at preserving freedom of navigation in international waterways in the Middle East."
Washington has warned Tehran not to block the strategic Strait of Hormuz, which the Islamic republic has threatened to do if international sanctions against its controversial nuclear programme begin to bite.
It has deployed the USS Ponce to serve as logistical backup in the anti-mine effort, and doubled to eight the number of minesweepers in the Gulf and sent in four MH-53 Sea Stallion anti-mine choppers as well as underwater drones.
"Look how weak they are. They want to use minesweeping drones. If they had the ability and capability, they would carry out the minesweeping by manned systems," Fahimi said.
He boasted Iran was "a master of mine designing and has an unbeatable capability to mass-produce different types of mines."

-bth; so this is how it is going to unfold.  Ships hit mines of unknown origin.

NightWatch 20120717 - KGS on Syria

NightWatch 20120717 - KGS

...Syria: Special comment. As usual it is impossible to discern the extent or gravity of the fighting based on Syrian opposition reporting and repeated by mainstream western media. For example, western media broadcast video images of a handful of kids shooting wildly from behind a stack of sand bags. No force under fire has time to fill bags with sand, stack them chest high and then begin shooting in the middle of a real fight. This image, which was repeated often, obviously was staged.

Then there are the videos of burning tires. Readers now know that the opposition lights tires on fire to simulate fighting, because of the black smoke. The lesson from the past 18 months is that tires on fire means there is no fighting. Kids shooting wildly from behind a stack sand bags and burning tires always mean a staged scene.

On the other hand, two bits of evidence support the theme that the government position has worsened perceptibly. Most important is a report attributed on an Israeli intelligence source that Syria has begun withdrawing regular forces from the Golan Heights back to Damascus....

-bth: is it me or is western media being played very well by Syrian opposition forces? Do we really have a dog in this fight?  Sunni extremist rebels vs. a ruthless Alawite dictatorship?

Taliban bomb destroys 22 NATO supply trucks in Afghan north - Yahoo! News

Taliban bomb destroys 22 NATO supply trucks in Afghan north - Yahoo! News


MAZAR-E-SHARIF, Afghanistan (Reuters) - A bomb planted by the Taliban destroyed 22 NATO trucks carrying supplies to their forces in northern Afghanistan, the Taliban and police said on Wednesday.
Eighteen fuel trucks and four supply vehicles were parked in Aibak, the capital of Samangan province, when a bomb ripped through them, wounding one person, local police said.
"At 2 a.m. the mujahideen attacked the invader NATO trucks," the Taliban said in a statement, referring to the wagons which had been driven from Uzbekistan to Afghanistan's north.
The trucks were attacked in the same province where prominent anti-Taliban lawmaker Ahmad Khan Samangani was killed on Saturday at his daughter's wedding, in a suicide bomb attack that killed 22 other guests.
"We believe the Taliban carried this out. Eighteen trucks have been totally destroyed, the rest were damaged by fire," Samangan police chief Khalil Andarabi told Reuters.
Separately, police in neighboring Baghlan province said they had detained 10 suspected Taliban members with so-called magnetic bombs, which they were trying to attach to supply trucks.
Pakistan recently reopened its border crossings with Afghanistan for NATO supplies after shutting them in November after a U.S. airstrike unintentionally killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.
(Reporting by Bashir Ansari, writing by Mirwais Harooni, editing by Amie Ferris-Rotman)

Monday, July 16, 2012

Everyday - Carly Comando - YouTube

Everyday - Carly Comando - YouTube

About the 9/11 Day Movement - YouTube

About the 9/11 Day Movement - YouTube

Saudi Arabia considers law against insulting Islam | Reuters

Saudi Arabia considers law against insulting Islam | Reuters


(Reuters) - Saudi Arabia is studying new regulations to criminalise insulting Islam, including in social media, and the law could carry heavy penalties, a Saudi paper said on Sunday.
The potential regulations come five months after a Saudi blogger and columnist Hamza Kashgari, 23, was arrested for tweeting comments deemed as insulting the Prophet Mohammad. Kashgari said there were things he liked and disliked about him....

Sunday, July 15, 2012

F.D.A. Surveillance of Scientists Spread to Outside Critics - NYTimes.com

F.D.A. Surveillance of Scientists Spread to Outside Critics - NYTimes.com

...  F.D.A. officials went to the inspector general at the Department of Health and Human Services to seek a criminal investigation into the possible leak, but they were turned down. The inspector general found that there was no evidence of a crime, noting that “matters of public safety” can legally be released to the news media.


Undeterred, agency officials began the electronic monitoring operation on their own.
The software used to track the F.D.A. scientists, sold by SpectorSoft of Vero Beach, Fla., costs as little as $99.95 for individual use, or $2,875 to place the program on 25 computers. It is marketed mainly to employers to monitor their workers and to parents to keep tabs on their children’s computer activities.
“Monitor everything they do,” says SpectorSoft’s Web site. “Catch them red-handed by receiving instant alerts when keywords or phrases are typed or are contained in an e-mail, chat, instant message or Web site.”
The F.D.A. program did all of that and more, as its operators analyzed the results from their early e-mail interceptions and used them to search for new “actors,” develop new keywords to search and map out future areas of concern.
The intercepted e-mails revealed, for instance, that a few of the scientists under surveillance were drafting a complaint in 2010 that they planned to take to the Office of Special Counsel. A short time later, before the complaint was filed, Dr. Smith and another complaining scientist were let go and a third was suspended.
In another case, the intercepted e-mails indicated that Paul T. Hardy, another of the dissident employees, had reapplied for an F.D.A. job “and is being considered for a position.” (He did not get it.)
F.D.A. officials were eager to track future media stories too. When they learned from Mr. Hardy’s e-mails that he was considering talking to PBS’s “Frontline” for a documentary, they ordered a search for anything else on the same topic.
While the surveillance was intended to protect trade secrets for companies like G.E., it may have done just the opposite. The data posted publicly by the F.D.A. contractor — and taken down late Friday after inquiries by The Times — includes hundreds of confidential documents on the design of imaging devices and other detailed, proprietary information.
The posting of the documents was discovered inadvertently by one of the researchers whose e-mails were monitored. The researcher did Google searches for scientists involved in the case to check for negative publicity that might hinder chances of finding work. Within a few minutes, the researcher stumbled upon the database.
“I couldn’t believe what I was seeing,” said the researcher, who did not want to be identified because of pending job applications. “I thought: ‘Oh my God, everything is out there. It’s all about us.’ It was just outrageous.” 

-bth: so basically the FDA administrators were hunting down whistle blowers to Congress.