Saturday, July 28, 2012

Exclusive: Secret Turkish nerve center leads aid to Syria rebels | Reuters

Exclusive: Secret Turkish nerve center leads aid to Syria rebels | Reuters

(Reuters) - Turkey has set up a secret base with allies Saudi Arabia and Qatar to direct vital military and communications aid to Syria's rebels from a city near the border, Gulf sources have told Reuters.

News of the clandestine Middle East-run "nerve centre" working to topple Syrian President Bashar al-Assad underlines the extent to which Western powers - who played a key role in unseating Muammar Gaddafi in Libya - have avoided military involvement so far in Syria.

"It's the Turks who are militarily controlling it. Turkey is the main co-ordinator/facilitator. Think of a triangle, with Turkey at the top and Saudi Arabia and Qatar at the bottom," said a Doha-based source.

"The Americans are very hands-off on this. U.S. intel(ligence) are working through middlemen. Middlemen are controlling access to weapons and routes."

The centre in Adana, a city in southern Turkey about 100 km (60 miles) from the Syrian border, was set up after Saudi Deputy Foreign Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Abdullah al-Saud visited Turkey and requested it, a source in the Gulf said. The Turks liked the idea of having the base in Adana so that they could supervise its operations, he added.

A Saudi foreign ministry official was not immediately available to comment on the operation.
Adana is home to Incirlik, a large Turkish/U.S. air force base which Washington has used in the past for reconnaissance and military logistics operations. It was not clear from the sources whether the anti-Syrian "nerve centre" was located inside Incirlik base or in the city of Adana....

 "Three governments are supplying weapons: Turkey, Qatar and Saudi Arabia," said a Doha-based source.
Ankara has officially denied supplying weapons.

"All weaponry is Russian. The obvious reason is that these guys (the Syrian rebels) are trained to use Russian weapons, also because the Americans don't want their hands on it. All weapons are from the black market. The other way they get weapons is to steal them from the Syrian army. They raid weapons stores."

The source added: "The Turks have been desperate to improve their weak surveillance, and have been begging Washington for drones and surveillance." The pleas appear to have failed. "So they have hired some private guys come do the job."...

 One of the former officials, who is also an adviser to a government in the region, told Reuters that 20 former Syrian generals are now based in Turkey, from where they are helping shape the rebel forces. Israel believes up to 20,000 Syrian troops may now have defected to the opposition.

Former officials said there is reason to believe the Turks stepped up their support for anti-Assad forces after Syria shot down a Turkish plane which had made several passes over border areas.

Sources in Qatar said the Gulf state is providing training and supplies to the Syrian rebels.

"The Qataris mobilized their special forces team two weeks ago. Their remit is to train and help logistically, not to fight," said a Doha-based source with ties to the FSA.

Qatar's military intelligence directorate, Foreign Ministry and State Security Bureau are involved, said the source....

 -bth: So in video footage from Syria on the internet I saw American sniper rifle and what look like American scopes on Russian AK's.    Also contrast this report of 20K defecting soldiers with one last week saying the figure was 100K.

Daily Times - ‘48% Pak students in UK not genuine’

Daily Times - Leading News Resource of Pakistan - ‘48% Pak students in UK not genuine’

 LONDON: The British Home Office (BHO) has said 48 percent of Pakistani students who came to the United Kingdom in 2011 were not ‘genuine’.

According to the credibility pilot analysis of qualitative and quantitative data 2012, the BHO conducted thousands of interviews with applicants from around the world. Applicants were tested on their ability to speak and write English, quizzed on whether they actually intended to study and not work, and asked if they intended to return home afterwards. The results showed nearly half of all applicants from Pakistan should have been refused.

The BHO survey data shows that three in five applicants (61 percent) to privately funded FE/HE colleges interviewed under the pilot analysis could potentially have been refused on credibility grounds, compared with around one in seven (14 percent) of applicants to universities, rising to over 30 percent in certain posts....

Friday, July 27, 2012

Sen. Cornyn blocks White House nominee for Air Force chief - The Hill's DEFCON Hill

Sen. Cornyn blocks White House nominee for Air Force chief - The Hill's DEFCON Hill

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) has blocked the White House's nominee to be the next Air Force chief of staff, The Hill has confirmed.

Cornyn placed the hold on Gen. Mark Welsh’s nomination over concerns with the sexual assault scandal at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas, his office said on Friday.

The hold will — at least temporarily — delay Welsh replacing the retiring Gen. Norton Schwartz as Air Force chief.

“My hold on General Welsh will remain until I feel the Air Force is adequately addressing the unacceptable situation at Lackland and taking corrective steps to reform their training program to prevent this from happening again,” Cornyn said in a statement to The Hill.

The Lackland scandal has seen a dozen Air Force basic training instructors accused of sexual assault with more than 30 victims involved....

-bth: It looks like Sen. Cornyn has made an unambiguous statement on this issue that should finally get someone's attention within the chain of command.

Russia seeks to set up naval bases abroad | World news |

Russia seeks to set up naval bases abroad | World news |

Russian ship
Russian ship en route to the Syrian port of Tartus, Russia's only naval base outside the former Soviet Union. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images
Russia is talking to Cuba, Vietnam and the Seychelles about housing Russian navy ships, its naval chief has said.
Vice-admiral Viktor Chirkov told the RIA Novosti state news agency Russia was in talks with the three countries about setting up maintenance and supply facilities but would not give further details.
Russia's only existing naval base outside the former Soviet Union is located in the Syrian port of Tartus. A squadron of Russian navy ships, including several assault ships carrying marines, is heading to Tartus in a show of support for a longtime ally that Moscow has protected from international sanctions and continues to supply with weapons....

-bth: Syria is the only base they have in the Med.  Earlier posts on this blog from a few weeks ago showed that as a base, it was little more than a pier and a repair machine shop.  This is being hyped.

US report says Iraq 'rebuilders' died by hundreds | US National Headlines | Comcast

US report says Iraq 'rebuilders' died by hundreds | US National Headlines | Comcast

WASHINGTON — In the first tally of its kind, a federal investigative agency has calculated that at least 719 people, nearly half of them Americans, were killed working on projects to rebuild Iraq following the U.S. invasion in 2003.
The toll represents an aspect of the Iraq war that is rarely brought to public attention, overshadowed by the much higher number killed in combat as well as the billions of taxpayer dollars squandered on reconstruction.
There is no confirmed total number of Iraq war deaths. The U.S. military lost 4,488 in Iraq, and its allies a little over 300. The number of Iraq deaths has not been established but is thought to exceed 100,000....

Insurgent attacks posed one of the biggest, and least anticipated, obstacles to the reconstruction effort in Iraq, which cost American taxpayers about $62 billion. Sabotage, waste and fraud took their own toll. The human cost, however, was far greater than foreseen when the invaders swiftly toppled Saddam Hussein.
"A completely exact calculation is not possible," the report said, One reason is that the U.S. military's reports on 1,009 casualties were so thin on detail that the type of mission could not be determined. As a result, the investigators could not count any of those in the reconstruction death total.
The 719 killed include 318 Americans, of which 264 were military members and 54 were civilians. The total also includes an estimated 271 Iraqi civilians and 111 third-country nationals, as well as 19 people of unknown nationality. The figures were compiled by combing through a range of documents, including classified data on roadside bomb attacks, according to Craig A. Collier, who directed the project as a senior adviser to the special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction.
Although the 719 killed represent a relatively small percentage of total war deaths, it far exceeds the 172 U.S. and coalition troops killed in the initial invasion, before President George W. Bush's declaration on May 1, 2003, that combat operations had ended. At that point it was mistakenly thought that the war was largely over.
Another of the 719 was Paul Converse, who died March 24, 2008 of wounds suffered in a rocket attack on the heavily protected International Zone in Baghdad that housed the U.S. Embassy and some Iraqi government offices. Converse, 56, was an auditor with the same office that did the death tally released Friday.

-bth: the use of civilian contractors was a way of keeping casualties off the books.  That is why the records are so poor.  When KBR's American casualties began adding up and insurance and health benefits starting increasing, it shifted to an American supervisor and heavy use of third world nationals such as South American ex-military personnel.  When they got killed or wounded they didn't make the news in the US and KBR didn't have to pay costs normally associated with American workers.  In the meantime the cost of project management skyrocketed with folks like KBR and others scooping up the difference between increasingly third world contractors and rising project costs, all passed on to the American taxpayer.  Question:  Why are we paying for continued reconstruction costs in Iraq?  We are militarily out of the country and it is very rich.  How screwed up can we be about this debacle of an adventure?

Kurds Take Up Arms for Kurdistan, Not Syria

Kurds Take Up Arms for Kurdistan, Not Syria

 Aiming for the heart of the Damascus regime, as our media likes to say, is obviously a tipping point. The fact that the Syrian rebels took over border crossings to Turkey is another powerful indicator that the regime is unraveling. But these are not the only primary signs that we are in the final stretch of the collapse of the regime.

The sure indicator of the eventual collapse of the regime is something our media did not notice: Kurds are taking control of Syrian Kurdish towns.

Last week, the entire official administration of Kobane was ousted by armed Kurds. Similar developments were reported from two other important Kurdish towns — Qamishli and Afrin — close to the Turkish border.

About three million Syrian Kurds are concentrated on a stretch of territory from the area northwest of Aleppo along the border with Turkey all the way to Iraq. In a way, the Turkish-Syrian border is the Turkish-Kurdish border....

-bth: so the Kurds are forming their own enclave along the Turkish border of Syria and in the northeast.  I'm sure the Assad government thinks that if Turkey wants to support Syria's rebels then Syria can do the same with the Kurds on the presumption that they will be dealt with later.

Christians Flee from Radical Rebels in Syria - SPIEGEL ONLINE

Christians Flee from Radical Rebels in Syria - SPIEGEL ONLINE

There had been many warnings that the Khouri* family wouldn't talk. "They won't say a word -- they're too scared," predicted the mayor of Qa, a small market town in northeastern Lebanon where the Khouris are staying. "They won't even open their door for journalists," said another person, who had contacted the family on behalf of a non-governmental organization.

Somehow, though, the interview was arranged in the end. Reserved and halting, the women described what happened to their husbands, brothers and nephews back in their hometown of Qusayr in Syria. They were killed by Syrian rebel fighters, the women said -- murdered because they were Christians, people who in the eyes of radical Islamist freedom fighters have no place in the new Syria. In the past year and a half, since the beginning of the uprising against Syria's authoritarian President Bashar Assad, hundreds of thousands of Syrians have fled their homes and sought safe haven abroad. Inside the country, the United Nations estimates that 1 million people have left their homes to escape violence and are now internally displaced. The majority are likely to have fled to escape the brutality of Assad's troops. Indeed, as was the case at the start of the Syrian civil war, most of the violence is still being perpetrated by the army, the secret services and groups of thugs steered by the state....

-bth: this article is consistent with other news and intelligence reports coming out of Germany that Syrian Christians are being killed by Salafist extremists.  One wonders if we have a dog in this fight or not.

NightWatch 20120726 - KGS on Iran and Syria

NightWatch 20120726 - KGS

Iran-Syria: Iran's Press TV quoted first Vice President Mohammad Reza Rahimi as saying Tehran's support for Syria was "unchangeable." "The Iranian people have an unchangeable stance on Syrians and will always stand by them," Rahimi said. He also accused major powers of uniting to damage the Syrian nation.
Iran's vice president for international affairs, Ali Saeedlou, said Iran is ready to share 'experience and capabilities' with the Asad government, according to IRNA, the official news agency. Saeedlou, described the two countries as powerful nations able to influence regional and global stability."
Comment: Today's statements counter news reports hinting that Iranian support was weakening. In addition, they are explicit about Iran's readiness to escalate its military support.
"Experience" is a euphemism for advisors and trainers. "Capabilities" can mean a wide range of support, including sustained logistics support, including weapons supply; intelligence sharing; and personnel, for example, to free up Syrian government forces. It also can mean Iranian-sponsored terrorist attacks in the countries that are supporting the opposition, opening a second front for the Syrians to tie down the security forces of the nations that are supporting the opposition.
In any event, it suggests an escalation is imminent that will match Iranian support to the Alawis against western and Sunni Arab support to the Syrian Sunnis.
Already Iran and Iraq have agreed to assist Syria in meeting its demand for electricity, from Iran and sent across Iraq. Iraqi Shiites already defeated a Sunni insurgency and have no sympathy for the Syrian opposition, which reportedly killed Iraqi soldiers in the border post attacks last week....

bth: so Iran is doubling down on Assad.  I wonder if there is any truth to the rumor that a major Quds officer was killed along with the Assad leadership bombing a week ago?

Thursday, July 26, 2012

US general accused of Afghan hospital scandal cover-up - FRANCE 24

US general accused of Afghan hospital scandal cover-up - FRANCE 24

AFP - US military officers accused one of the highest-ranking US commanders in Afghanistan of trying to cover up a scandal at a US-funded hospital in Kabul to limit bad news in an election year.
The problems date back to 2010, when US officers expressed concerns about the possible embezzlement of funds from the Afghan-run Dawood National Military Hospital and the lack of treatment provided to wounded Afghan soldiers.
Some Afghan soldiers died of malnutrition at the hospital, in conditions that one retired Army colonel described as "Auschwitz-like."
Several officers told US lawmakers on Tuesday that they were encouraged by Lieutenant General William Caldwell, then head of the NATO-led training mission in Afghanistan, not to report the problems to the Pentagon inspector general.
"The general did not want bad news to leave his command before the election - or AFTER the election," Colonel Gerald Carozza, Jr., a now-retired US Army judge advocate, said in written testimony to the House Committee on Oversight.
"The general, like too many generals, was too concerned about the message, creating a stifling climate for those who had to deal with the reality," Carozza said, comparing Dawood to the Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz....

Syrian nightmare for Israel - Israel Opinion, Ynetnews

Syrian nightmare for Israel - Israel Opinion, Ynetnews

...  CIA officials are working with regional intelligence bodies – such as Turkey’s and Jordan’s spy agencies – and collecting information from Syrian army defectors in order to map out the body known as the “rebels” and categorize them: Who will be cooperating with the US Administration in the future, who will be serving the interests of radical Islam, and whether someone among them can be trusted on the chemical weapons issue.

This intelligence information prompted several leaks, which apparently reflect reality. One of them referred to the possibility that Jordanian commandoes would take over Syria’s chemical and biological sites. The second referred to the possibility that Israel will be bombing these sites. Yet another report revealed that the US Administration formulated contingency plans for taking over border crossings, airports and seaports in Syria to prevent the transfer of chemical and biological weapons and nab fleeing terrorists.

Here we can add another assumption: The assassination of top Syrian defense officials was not necessarily carried out by the rebels. This story has too many hallmarks of a blow delivered by an orderly spy agency capable of penetrating through the security around Syria’s top brass. Turkish intelligence, for example, has the abilities and also the interest – in conjunction with the Americans – to avenge the downing of the Turkish jet by the Syrians.

No new Syria

One of the products of CIA collection efforts is a problematic opinion about the rebels. Firstly, says the spy agency, the number of rebels is smaller than what is perceived in the West. Secondly, the rebel leadership was massively infiltrated by radical Muslim Brotherhood elements. Some of the rebels have a radical agenda, both politically and religiously, which is incommensurate with what someone in the White House thinks.

Moreover, as the rebels are still not shying away from using cellular phones, CIA agents have been able to report that some of the massacres in Syria in the past year were carried out by elements that were not activated by the Assad regime. ...

-bth: there isn't a damn thing in this article that couldn't be discerned by reading open source news from non-US sources. Do we have a dog in this fight or is it a case of all bad options none of which we can control?

Iranian nuclear facilities are hit by AC/DC virus - BlogPost - The Washington Post

Iranian nuclear facilities are hit by AC/DC virus - BlogPost - The Washington Post

Two of Iran’s uranium-enrichment plants were struck by a cyberattack earlier this week that shut down computers and blared AC/DC songs, according to reports from Bloomberg News and others.
The virus closed down the automation network at the Natanz and Fordow facilities, according to an e-mail received by F-Secure, a Finnish cybersecurity Web site, from Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization.
The band AC/DC performs. (Eckehard Schulz - ASSOCIATED PRESS)

“According to the email our cyber experts sent to our teams, they believe a hacker tool Metasploit was used. The hackers had access to our [virtual private network]. The automation network and Siemens hardware were attacked and shut down. I only know very little about these cyber issues as I am scientist not a computer expert,” the Iranian scientist wrote.
After shutting down the network, the attackers played the song “Thunderstruck” by the hard rock band AC/DC at maximum volume....

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Wailin' Jennys - The Parting Glass - YouTube

The Wailin' Jennys - The Parting Glass - YouTube

Oh all the money that e'er I spent I spent it in good company And all the harm that e'er I've done Alas, it was to none but me And all the harm that e'er I've done Alas, it was to none but me And all I've done for want of wit To memory now I can't recall So fill to me the parting glass Good night and joy be with you all Oh all the comrades that e'er I've had Are sorry for my going away And all the sweethearts that e'er I've had Would wish me one more day to stay But since it falls unto my lot That I should rise and you should not I'll gently rise and I'll softly call Good night and joy be with you all

Bulgaria bomber 'had female companion' - Telegraph

Bulgaria bomber 'had female companion' - Telegraph

The attacker allegedly spent time with the woman at a three-star hotel in the Black Sea resort of Varna before travelling to Burgas to carry out his attack, sources in the Bulgarian newspaper Troud claimed.
Along with hunting for the mysterious woman, Bulgarian police are also looking for one more accomplice. According to sources quoted by local media, investigators believe the bomber had two companions with him on the day of the attack, one of whom coordinated the operation while the other acted in support.
A taxi driver claims to have driven the bomber from Ravda to Pomorie two small towns north of Burgas in the early hours of July 18, the day of the attack, and that he spoke "decent Russian".
The latest details add to the mystery over just who the attacker was and what group organised the bloody blast. Israel has insisted that the Lebanese group Hizbollah, acting on the behest of Iran, orchestrated the operation but so far no organisation has claimed responsibility, and there is no conclusive evidence linking Hizbollah to any other bomb attacks outside the Middle East.
But the newspaper Novinar said that the police are hunting a Hizbollah cell in the country's Pirin Mountains, and are exploring the possibility that the Lebanese group made contact with local sympathisers....
  -bth: so what is gong on here?

Bulgaria suicide attack: bomber shown in CCTV footage

US Navy's Unmanned SeaFox Submarines Play a Dangerous Game of Minesweeper | PCWorld

US Navy's Unmanned SeaFox Submarines Play a Dangerous Game of Minesweeper | PCWorld

 The incredible innovations made possible by the United States military never fail to impress, and the unmanned SeaFox falls right into line with some of the coolest automated gadgetry lurking beneath the water.

Iran is on the verge of closing the Strait of Hormuz, a strategic location the US. refuses to lose access to, and the SeaFox is one of the key components that might keep Hormuz open. The SeaFox’s function is to detect and eradicate mines, of both the drifting and floating variety.

Not only is this vehicle armed with a TV camera, sonar capabilities, and explosives, it also manages to house all of that tech goodness in a four-foot-long, 100-pound frame. In other words, if you stood this submarine on its end, it'd be shorter than most 12-year-olds--quite small for such a potentially destructive device.

Naval captains control the subs by a fiber optic cable, which streams the video from the submerged camera back to the ship. The reach of the SeaFox is a bit limited, which makes sense considering its size: It can go as deep as 300 meters underwater and reach a top speed of six knots, or about seven miles per hour.

The submarines cost around $100,000 each to produce, which, considering reports of military spending might not sound too steep....

-bth: $100K seems high?  Compared to what?  A sunken ship?

Pakistan shamed by visa scandal | The Sun |Sport|Olympics

Pakistan shamed by visa scandal | The Sun |Sport|Olympics

PAKISTAN’S president yesterday ordered the arrest of criminals behind an Olympics visa racket exposed by The Sun.

A dozen passport officials have been suspended.

An aide said Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf and President Asif Ali Zardari were appalled after we exposed corrupt officials offering potential terrorists the chance to sneak into Britain with the Pakistan Olympic squad....

Those suspended include the general manager of the Lahore passport office which arranged for an undercover Sun investigator to obtain bogus travel documents for £600.

And senior politician Abid Chodhary, who offered our man a UK visa plus a letter confirming he was part of Pakistan’s Olympic entourage for £7,000, has been banned from leaving the country.

The Dream Land travel agency in Lahore, whose staff put The Sun in touch with corrupt officials, was closed yesterday. Arrests are expected soon....

Asia Times Online :: Analysis of Syrian atrocities

Asia Times Online :: Middle East News, Iraq, Iran current affairs

 German intelligence estimates that "around 90" terror attacks that "can be attributed to organizations that are close to al-Qaeda or jihadist groups" were carried out in Syria between the end of December and the beginning of July, as reported by the German daily Die Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ). This was revealed

by the German government in a response to a parliamentary question.

In response to the same question, the German government admitted that it had received several reports from the German foreign intelligence service, the BND, on the May 25 massacre in the Syrian town of Houla. But it noted that the content of these reports was to remain classified "by reason of national interest", Like many other Western governments, Germany expelled Syria's ambassador in the immediate aftermath of the massacre, holding the Syrian government responsible for the violence.

Meanwhile, at least three major German newspapers - Die Welt, the FAZ, and the mass-market tabloid Bild - have published reports attributing responsibility for the massacre to anti-government rebel forces or treating this as the most probable scenario.

Writing in Bild, longtime German war correspondent Jurgen Todenhofer accused the rebels of "deliberately killing civilians and then presenting them as victims of the government". He described this "massacre-marketing strategy" as being "among the most disgusting things that I have ever experienced in an armed conflict". Todenhofer had recently been to Damascus, where he interviewed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad for Germany's ARD public television.

Wring in Die Welt, Alfred Hackensberger noted that Taldo, the sub-district of Houla where the massacre occurred, has been under rebel control since December 2011 and is in an open plain, making it unlikely that "hundreds of soldiers and Assad supporters" could have entered the village to commit the massacre. (An abridged version of Hackenberger's report also appeared in Die Berliner Morgenpost.) Hackensberger visited Houla to conduct investigations for his report.

He also interviewed an alleged eyewitness - identified simply by the pseudonym "Jibril" - at the Saint James Monastery in Qara, Syria. In contrast to an earlier report in the FAZ, which had claimed that the victims were largely Shi'ites and Alawis, Jibril told Hackensberger that all of the victims were Sunnis "like everybody here". By his account, they were killed for refusing to support the rebellion. Jibril added that "a lot of people in Houla know what really happened" but would not say so out of fear for their lives. "Whoever says something," he explained, "can only repeat the rebels' version. Anything else is certain death."

While traveling in the region of Homs, Hackensberger heard similar stories about the conduct of the rebels. One - now former - resident of the city of Qusayr told him that not only were Christians like himself expelled from the town, but that anyone who refused to enroll their children in the Free Syrian Army had been shot. Hackensberger's source held foreign Islamists responsible for the atrocities. "I have seen them with my own eyes," he said, "Pakistanis, Libyans, Tunisians and also Lebanese. They call Osama bin Laden their sheikh."

A Sunni resident of Homs told Hackensberger that he had witnessed how an armed group stopped a bus: "The passengers were divided into two groups: on the one side, Sunnis; on the other, Alawis." According to Hackenberger's source, the insurgents then proceeded to decapitate the nine Alawi passengers....

-bth: worth reading in full. So the jihad is alive and well in Syria.

Cyprus: Terror Suspect Similarity With Bulgaria - ABC News

Cyprus: Terror Suspect Similarity With Bulgaria - ABC News

A man held on suspicion of helping to plan attacks against Israeli tourists on Cyprus displayed similar behavioral patterns to a suicide bomber who killed six in a Bulgarian seaside resort, the island's justice minister said Monday, but stopped short of drawing any links between the two.
Loucas Louca said that the case was "very sensitive," and although the actions were not similar "some patterns of his behavior were the same as that of the terrorist in the Bulgarian terrorist attack."
Louca said the 24-year-old suspect belonged to an organization which is not on a European Union list of known terrorist groups. He declined to name the organization, or give any further details because he said the investigation is ongoing.
Cyprus authorities have remained tight-lipped about the man's identity or his intended target, but have said they believe he was acting alone.
State media have widely reported the suspect to be a Swedish passport holder of Lebanese descent with affiliations to Lebanon's Hezbollah, who was monitoring and recording the movements of Israeli tourists and other Israeli interests on the island....

-bth; interesting.  So there was some intelligence forewarning of impending attacks on Israeli tourists, some link to Swedish converts in both this case and Bulgaria and Hezbollah.

Stratfor on Mexican VBIEDs

Mexico Violence: Unidentified Bodies, Missing Cases Mount

Monday, July 23, 2012

Navy: Sub worker set fire so he could leave early -AP

News from The Associated Press

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) -- A civilian laborer set a fire that caused $400 million in damage to a nuclear-powered submarine because he had anxiety and wanted to get out of work early, Navy investigators said Monday.

Casey James Fury, 24, of Portsmouth, N.H., faces up to life in prison if convicted of two counts of arson in the fire aboard the USS Miami attack submarine while it was in dry dock May 23 and a second blaze outside the sub on June 16.

Fury was taking medications for anxiety and depression and told investigators he set the fires so he could get out of work, according a seven-page affidavit filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Portland...

-bth: its hard to make this stuff up

A Serious Challenge to Wall Street

A Serious Challenge to Wall Street

...Under the proposal, towns would essentially be seizing and condemning the man-made mess resulting from the housing bubble. Cooked up by a small group of businessmen and ex-venture capitalists, the audacious idea falls under the category of "That’s so crazy, it just might work!" One of the plan’s originators described it to me as a "four-bank pool shot."
Here’s how the New York Times described it in an article from earlier this week entitled, "California County Weighs Drastic Plan to Aid Homeowners":
Desperate for a way out of a housing collapse that has crippled the region, officials in San Bernardino County … are exploring a drastic option — using eminent domain to buy up mortgages for homes that are underwater.
Then, the idea goes, the county could cut the mortgages to the current value of the homes and resell the mortgages to a private investment firm, which would allow homeowners to lower their monthly payments and hang onto their property....
-bth: this is an intriguing idea that might just work.  If the main obstacle to resolution now is a busted federal system in collusion with corrupt bankers, this approach bypasses those broken elements and let's local governments regain control of their tax base and economy.  Likely they would quickly be supplanted by larger institutions that could operate more efficiently, but the log jam would be broken.  Busting up this log jam of frozen, devalued and collapsed mortgages is a critical step to any economic recovery.  People don't want to invest in properties they don't own and they don't own them if the mortgage is in default and tipped upside down.

China’s intelligence vs. military budget

China’s Communist Elders Take Backroom Intrigue Beachside -

... The rapid expansion of security powers under Zhou Yongkang, the current Standing Committee member who heads the politics and law committee and supported Mr. Bo, has alarmed some party leaders, political analysts say. Since assuming the post in 2007, Mr. Zhou has capitalized on Mr. Hu’s focus on stability to build up the security apparatus, whose budget this year is officially $111 billion, $5 billion more than the military budget.“The politics and law apparatus has grown too powerful,” an intelligence official said. “A lot of us feel this way.”...

'Sticky bombs,' like those used in Iraq, now appearing in Afghanistan - Afghanistan - Stripes

'Sticky bombs,' like those used in Iraq, now appearing in Afghanistan - Afghanistan - Stripes

KABUL – In the midst of a rash of assassinations and attacks on supply trucks across Afghanistan, it seems insurgents are employing a new weapon some American war veterans will recognize: sticky bombs.

“Sticky bombs” are magnetic explosive devices that stick to metal (often placed on the underside of cars) and became the assassination tool of choice in Iraq during the latter part of the U.S. occupation. Now, in the span of a week, four incidents that resulted in deaths and mass destruction employed the hard-to-detect bombs.

It represents a more sophisticated, precision killer than roadside bombs, which are often a jug of fertilizer that blow up the first truck heavy enough to engage the detonator. Sticky bombs also appear to be yet another threat to NATO supply lines, as evidenced by almost two dozen trucks wiped out in a single magnetic bomb attack.

Afghan security officials are pointing to Pakistan and Iran as the source of the bombs.

“All the proof and evidence is that these come from a neighboring country,” Sediq Sediqqi, the spokesman for the Afghan Ministry of the Interior...

-bth: The fact that we caught several emplacers in the act as the article goes on to explain should really reduce the speculation as to their origin.

Army destroyed report that favored software that detected buried bombs - Washington Times

Army destroyed report that favored software that detected buried bombs - Washington Times

The Army ordered the destruction of a report that praised the performance of an off-the-shelf software program that finds buried explosives in Afghanistan and replaced it with a revised, less-favorable assessment, according to internal Pentagon documents.

The unusual action came amid a battle inside the Army. It pits those who want the service to send more of the software platform, called Palantir, to the Afghanistan War against those who favor the Army’s own developed intelligence network, the Distributed Common Ground System (DCGS)....

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Syria rebels' gains in Damascus surprise even them -

Syria rebels' gains in Damascus surprise even them -

...   In Aleppo, opposition fighters had been taking a more gradual approach before Friday's clashes. For more than a month they have been staging small attacks on businesses and vehicles of suspected shabiha members and the more than 80 checkpoints that dot the city.

Col. Abduljabar Aqidi, who defected from the army in March and heads the revolutionary council for Aleppo, said tanks were positioned in the city but rebels have been able to exert control in some areas.

"The Free Syrian Army is protecting the protests, which are coming out in large numbers, and the FSA is able to move freely in certain neighborhoods," Aqidi said. "That is a huge accomplishment."

Despite small successes such as this one for the opposition, the rebel ranks in Aleppo remain divided, unorganized and grossly outnumbered.

"If the army comes in to retake it, we have no way to defend it," said Abo Adel, an activist in the city. "As soon as an area gets liberated, it gets shelled. Just like what happened in all the cities, just like what happened in Baba Amr," the shattered Homs neighborhood.

As hostilities in Aleppo grow, the potential casualties are a great concern because civilians from surrounding suburbs and provinces have fled to the city, ballooning its population. Some estimate it now has 9 million residents.

"I think it's still a long road ahead," Adel said. "We are working long-term
. We know it's not going to end by Eid."

-bth: nothing indicates that the Syrian civil war is anywhere near an end.

Daily Times - Leading News Resource of Pakistan - US senators urge Pentagon for closer ties with India

Daily Times - Leading News Resource of Pakistan - US senators urge Pentagon for closer ties with India

 * John Cornyn, Mark Warner say it is time for US partnership with India to co-develop or co-produce military weapon systems

WASHINGTON: Top American senators have asked Pentagon to develop a closer defence relationship with India, emphasising that it is in the interest of both the US and India to continue building a strategic and military culture of cooperation.

Ahead of US Deputy Secretary of Defence Ashton B Carter’s visit to India, senators John Cornyn and Mark Warner asked the top Pentagon official in a letter that they believed it was time to consider the potential for a US partnership with India to co-develop or co-produce military weapon systems.

Cornyn and Warner are the co-chairs of the Senate India Caucus. With 38 senators, the Senate India Caucus is the largest country-specific caucus in the US Senate.

“We see the partnership between our two democracies as critical to the maintenance and expansion of a rules-based international system that promotes freedom, democracy, security, prosperity, and the rule of law in the 21st century,” Cornyn and Warner wrote in the letter to Carter.

The letter, written on Friday, was also released to the press. “Recent US arms sales have benefited the US and India alike, increasing commonality of military equipment platforms, providing expanded opportunities to conduct joint military exercises, and contributing to security in the Indo-Pacific region,” they wrote.

“With these interests in mind, and with the goal of further expanding US-India defence trade, we encourage you to actively engage with your Indian counterparts to develop ways to improve the compatibility of the defence acquisition systems of the United States and India,” the top US lawmakers wrote.

The two senators urged Carter to include, in his discussions with Indian officials, two important focus areas – ways to improve the compatibility of US and Indian defence acquisition systems and potential opportunities for co-development or co-production of defence equipment with India.

“As India undertakes its expansive military modernisation programme - projected to cost an estimated $80 billion by 2015 - numerous prospects exist for the US to further expand defence trade and cooperation with India,” it said. “As we know you agree, recent US arms sales have benefited the US and India alike, increasing commonality of military equipment platforms, providing expanded opportunities to conduct joint military exercises, and contributing to security in the Indo-Pacific region,” the senators wrote.

“With these interests in mind, and with the goal of further expanding US-India defence trade, we encourage you to actively engage with your Indian counterparts to develop ways to improve the compatibility of the defence acquisition systems of the United States and India,” they said....

Islamic fighters flocking to Syria - The Globe and Mail

Islamic fighters flocking to Syria - The Globe and Mail

...  Many Sunni Muslims, and certainly Salafi jihadists, view Shia Muslims as heretical and the Alawite sect of Shiism, (the sect to which the al-Assads and many other powerful Syrians belong) as positively diabolical.

As such, it is not out of the question that ethnic massacres of Alawites would take place in the aftermath of an Islamist victory in Syria. To escape such a fate, many Alawites would take refuge in the sect’s heartland in the northwest of the country where the al-Assads have built up defences.

“Unless Assad can hold out in the northwest, the Alawites will have little role in a post-Assad Syria,” says Barry Rubin, an Israeli analyst and author of The Truth About Syria.

The thought that outside jihadists could dominate the country’s agenda following the Assad regime’s demise even worries the FSA, said a former senior Syrian official this week.

Should Sunni Islamists take power in Damascus, Hezbollah, the Iranian-backed Shia political movement and militia in neighbouring Lebanon, will be the next target. With the loss of the Assad regime that has been the group’s No. 1 arms supplier, and with a new regime favouring the Sunni powers in Lebanon, it will be a challenge for Hezbollah to maintain its position of strength.

After that, the Saudi-backed jihadists will look east, to Iran and its ruling Shia interests in the oil-rich Iraq that sits between Syria and Iran.

In the case of both Lebanon and Iraq, Syria, caught up in post-revolutionary chaos, will be an ideal staging ground for jihadist operations against Iran and its Shia interests.

We’re looking at a region-wide schism between Sunni and Shia,” says Alastair Crooke, a former MI6 operative and author of Resistance: The Essence of the Islamist Revolution, “and the ultimate battle for supremacy will almost certainly be in Iraq.”

The sectarian fighting that wreaked Iraq in the wake of the U.S.-led invasion nine years ago will pale in comparison to what is to come, says Mr. Crooke. Al-Qaeda of Mesopotamia, the group once led by the late Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, is alive and well in Iraq, and attacks on various groups of unarmed Shia pilgrims earlier this year are just a taste of what may follow an Islamist victory in Damascus.

For its part, neighbouring Israel, to the south of Syria, has already become worried about jihadists on the Syrian frontier....