Saturday, December 22, 2012
Friday, December 21, 2012
Thursday, December 20, 2012
NAPLES, Italy — Navy working uniforms are extremely flammable and will melt in a fire, putting sailors at risk, the Navy announced Wednesday.
The nylon-and-cotton (referred to as NYCO) uniforms worn by sailors on ships and at bases “will burn robustly,” and turn into a “sticky molten material,” according to a test conducted in October by the Navy Clothing and Textile Research Facility.
“It will melt and burn to consumption,” Rear Adm. John Kirby, chief of information, said in a statement.
There have been no uniform requirement changes made after the finding. Navy officials said they are committed to sailor safety.
“Where there is a need, fire retardant/flame resistant clothing is provided,” Kirby said....
-bth: this is just stupid and moronic. Fix it.
An American politics professor, specializing in the relationship between public opinion and legislation, says that the relationship between mass shooting and gun-control legislation is not straightforward;thus, there was a spike in support for gun control after Columbine, but not after the Virginia Tech, Tucson, or Aurora shootings; “The Newtown shooting is different than those shootings in some respects, especially because many of the victims were young children. But the magnitude of this tragedy may not be sufficient to produce stricter gun-control legislation at the federal level”....
...If Congressional Republicans are truly interested in protecting American diplomats abroad they should support increased financing for improved security, without forcing the State Department to divert money from an underfinanced budget that has been earmarked for other uses.
Mrs. Clinton is seeking to transfer $1.3 billion slated for Iraq-related expenses to put $553 million into additional Marine security guards worldwide, $130 million for diplomatic security personnel and $691 million for improved security at overseas facilities. Even if the State Department makes the needed reforms, it will not be able to carry them out without a commitment of new money to the project.
Wednesday, December 19, 2012
PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans are most likely to say that an increased police presence at schools, increased government spending on mental health screening and treatment, and decreased depiction of gun violence in entertainment venues would be effective in preventing mass shootings at schools. Americans rate the potential effectiveness of a ban on assault and semi-automatic guns as fourth on a list of six actions Gallup asked about.
Effectiveness of Approaches to Prevent School Violence
PRINCETON, NJ -- Americans are most likely to say that an increased
police presence at schools, increased government spending on mental
health screening and treatment, and decreased depiction of gun violence
in entertainment venues would be effective in preventing mass shootings
at schools. Americans rate the potential effectiveness of a ban on
assault and semi-automatic guns as fourth on a list of six actions
Gallup asked about.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Three State Department officials resigned under pressure Wednesday, less than a day after a damning report blamed management failures for a lack of security at the U.S. diplomatic mission in Benghazi, Libya, where militants killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans on Sept. 11.
The resignations came as lawmakers expressed anger and frustration over the findings of an independent review panel, and the State Department struggled to find a balance between protecting its diplomats while allowing them to do their jobs connecting with people in high-risk posts.
Obama administration officials said those who had stepped down were Eric Boswell, the assistant secretary of state for diplomatic security, Charlene Lamb, the deputy assistant secretary responsible for embassy security, and Raymond Maxwell, the deputy assistant secretary of state who oversees the Maghreb nations of Libya, Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss personnel matters publicly....
Some of the biggest names in defense contracting aren’t just making a stink over what sequestration does to the Pentagon.
Players like Lockheed Martin, Boeing and General Dynamics have billions of dollars at stake in contracts with other government agencies also subject to across-the-board cuts, including at NASA and the Transportation and Homeland Security departments.
That means the stakes are high for both sides of the ledger as Congress and the White House jockey to avert $1.2 trillion in cuts over a decade, set to go into effect in January if a deal isn’t reached.
The Aerospace Industries Association has been drawing most of the attention to the $500 billion in sequestration cuts awaiting Defense. But it’s also been trying to get a spotlight on the nondefense discretionary agencies, most recently with a report out Wednesday warning that an 8.2 percent cut to NASA’s budget would mean nearly 20,000 lost jobs in a dozen states, including Texas, California and Colorado.
“This is not something that we’re fabricating here or just worrying about like the Mayan calendar,” said Marion Blakey, AIA’s president and a former head of the Federal Aviation Administration.
Lockheed Martin, the nation’s largest defense contractor, has plenty to lose if cuts fall on the agencies that it does business with, including NASA, the Energy Department, Social Security Administration and the National Institutes of Health.
Company spokeswoman Jennifer Allen said Lockheed officials have had several meetings with government leaders “to find a more thoughtful, balanced and effective solution.”...
Benghazi’s Deep Throat fingers Islamist Leaders for Attacks as State Dept Criticized on Consular Security -Dr Juan Cole
...On November 22, Benghazi police chief Farej Darssi was assassinated. In October a police colonel barely avoided death– his car was wired to explode. A Libyan intelligence officer was killed in September. A general was assassinated in August. Some of these figures had worked for Qaddafi but had defected to the revolution. Qaddafi’s security forces were responsible for the 1996 massacre of hardline fundamentalists at Abu Salim prison, and for making others just disappear. Likely the same shadowy cells that attacked the US consulate are behind the attacks on Benghazi police and army officers.
There may have been a break in the case. Last Saturday, Benghazi security forces loyal to the elected government in Tripoli, captured a man they suspected of being involved with the groups behind the violence. And, he appears to have been willing to spill the beans. So let’s call him the Libyan Deep Throat.
Deep Throat is so knowledgeable about the conspiracies facing the city and so dangerous to those hatching them that the latter immediately attempted to spring him from jail.
On Sunday morning, militants attacked the police facility next to the holding cell where the man is being detained. A policeman at that station died in a hail of bullets from the attackers, and they called for back-up. The police car that sped to the scene was ambushed and three policemen in it were killed.
Still, the police stood their ground and fought off the assault, and they kept their valuable suspect in custody, with all his valuable testimony.
Shortly after midnight, on Monday morning, small explosives were set off at the Garyounis police station in Benghazi, damaging a couple of automobiles but otherwise doing little damage. Then explosives were set off at al-Uruba police station, which also took sniper fire, but neither resulted in casualties.
The police became vigilant, and they apprehended a shady-looking man skulking around near the al-Hadaeq police station, finding him to have two rocket propelled grenades in his possession, which he was apparently intending to fire at the station.
In other words, the capture of Libyan Deep Throat has set off a gang war on the police, who are being informed by bombings and shootings that they must let their informant go or risk their
So what is Deep Throat saying? According to local journalist Mohamed Bujenah of the Libyan Herald, a senior figure in the Benghazi police told him that the informant had fingered as many as 7 prominent Muslim fundamentalist leaders in connection with these attacks, of whom the police named 6 explicitly:
1 Sufyan Ben Qumu, from the notoriously radical town of Derna, and a former prisoner at Guantanamo
2. Ahmad Bukatela, leader of the Ubaida Militia
3. Muhammad al-Zahawi, head of the Ansar al-Sharia militia
4. Muhammad al-Gharabi, a leader of the Rafallah al-Sahati Militia
5. Ismail Sallabi, another leader of Rafallah al-Sahati
6. Salim Nabous, head of the Zawiya Martyrs’ Brigade...
Tuesday, December 18, 2012
Is the People's Republic of China (PRC) trying to implode the Japanese economy? It is starting to look that way. The PRC has counterprogramed the US pivot to Asia - and US advantages in military and softpower - by leveraging its economic strengths....
Japanese exports to China experienced double-digit drops in September and October. Japanese investment in China dropped over 30% in October year-on-year. What is perhaps most unnerving for Japanese leaders is that the nation is now dealing with monthly trade deficits for the first time in 30 years, having experienced four in a row since August 2012, and the Senkaku crisis is definitely not helping.
At present, the most important question is whether the PRC is simply pursuing its traditional strategy of motivating Japan Inc - the powerful Japanese business community that looks to China for growth and profits - to pressure the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) into a more China-friendly stance... or whether the PRC wants to put a significant, permanent dent into the economy of its local strategic competitor, Japan.
Government mouthpiece China Daily recently ran an op-ed by think-tanker Jin Baisong that explored a rather sinister tangent - whether the slowdown in Sino-Japanese trade was significantly debilitating the Japanese economy:...
The Chinese media provides further food for thought for Japanese analysts wondering whether the PRC is piling on the pressure simply to force concessions from the incoming LDP government, or is perhaps gunning for bigger game.
As Xie's piece indicates, auto sales are a pillar of Japan's economic relationship with China. Right now, Japanese auto sales in China are in free fall due to some combination of official discouragement, popular distaste, and personal risk-averse behavior. According to Chinese media, Toyota's local Chinese partner announced it would pay repair fees for Toyotas damaged in anti-Japanese protests. This is unlikely to lead to a sales turnaround, as it advertises to potential Chinese customers that there is an immediate risk to their persons and property in driving a Japanese-marque wagon. 
China Daily ran a gloating article on the collapse in Japanese auto sales in China. In a chart it compared the Japanese drop-off in October year-to-year to a rise in sales for some other suppliers:
Mazda: down 45% Honda: down 54% Nissan: down 41% Toyota: down 44%
GM: up 14% Ford: up 48% 
The interesting element of this graphic is that the only non-Japanese suppliers listed are both Americans. The largest foreign player in China auto sales - Germany's Volkswagen, whose share is equal to the four Japanese makers combined and experienced a huge jump in sales at Japanese expense in October - was ignored. Also ignored was South Korea's Hyundai, the third-largest in the market, and which also posted a healthy boost in sales. 
The implied message here is that Japan's loss can be America's gain, an interesting exercise in wedging that invites the United States to deepen its economic engagement with the rising regional power, while decoupling from the fading regional power that is locked in a zero-sum strategic battle with its local adversary....
-bth: this lengthy article and analysis of Chinese - Japanese relations should be read in full.
NightWatch - Chinese regional assertions contribute to Japanese LDP victory at polls as Japan moves right
Japan: Japan's Liberal Democratic Party returned to power following an overwhelming victory in the 16 December general election, setting the stage for Shinzo Abe to resume the premiership.
The results of Japan's general elections were basically clear by the evening of the 16th, according to a Chinese account of the outcome. The Liberal Democratic Party (LDP), which had been in opposition for more than three years, regained power after winning more than half of the Diet seats.
LDP President Shinzo Abe will be selected as prime minister at a special Diet session that will convene on 26 December. Abe campaigned on a slogan of "taking back Japan," by which he meant, among other things, to upgrade the Self-Defense forces into a national defense force, to increase military spending and to strengthen maritime security.
Comment: The hegemonic Chinese actions near the Senkakus and in the South China Sea plus the North Korean rocket launches and past nuclear tests, in combination, are reviving Japanese nationalism and pride in past military strength. Both Chinese and North Korean actions are direct contributors to the return of the Liberal Democratic Party to power because the Japanese voters apparently feel vulnerable. That is tonight's good news, for Allied interests.
North Korea is driven mostly by a desperate impulse to survive. It has long since lost the capability or opportunity to wage a war of reunification. It retains the capability to start a war of national suicide. The larger present threat from North Korea is that it will sell its weapons, not that it will use them.
China's position is different. It is deliberately challenging Japan, and its Southeast Asian neighbors, in quasi-military fashion in the dispute over the islands, almost daring Japan to defend itself. The poll results show that Japanese voters understand the Chinese military challenge and are prepared to respond to it.
Under a new Chinese leadership that will govern for the next ten years, China will continue to assert its hegemony in Asia, in almost ancient terms but with new technology and modern legal sophistry. All the states on China's eastern and southeastern periphery thoroughly understand China's determination to dominate the region and its resources.
An Asian arms buildup is inevitable between the Chinese communists and the Allied powers. Eventually, there will be clashes between Japanese forces and Chinese forces over the Senkakus, but not yet probably because the Japanese are better than the Chinese now.....
-bth; today's NightWatch analysis is wroth reading in full. Long-term battle lines are being drawn in Asia.
Monday, December 17, 2012
"..The wheels of democracy in Egypt have started turning. No one can stop it after today," said Mohamed Gamal Heshmat, a committee member of the Freedom and Justice Party, the Brotherhood's political front.
However, the final turnout of 32 per cent – nine points lower than that for the interim constitution following last year's revolution – means less than one in five of those eligible voted in favour.
International human rights groups and the United Nations human rights commissioner, Navi Pillay, as well as the opposition, have questioned the document's commitment to basic freedoms, and the opposition is now promising to reject it even if it is passed by an overall majority.
The social division in Egypt was made clear by the breakdown of the votes.
In Cairo, by far Egypt's biggest urban centre, the constitution was opposed by 57 per cent to 43 per cent, according to the Brotherhood's own figures.
However, the "yes" campaign won by proportionally much larger majorities in less populated but more conservative areas of Upper Egypt and the Sinai.
This urban-rural split has played into the deeply divisive propaganda of both sides. Opposition figures and newspaper editors allege that the Brotherhood relies for support on a less well-educated, more narrow-minded base easily manipulated by local clerics, while Islamists claim the "no" vote is led by a corrupt and wealthy elite, often with ties to the old regime, out of touch with the "real Egypt".
Meanwhile, the political uncertainty and repeated outbreaks of violence have brought the economy to a standstill at a time when Egypt's foreign exchange reserves are being gradually whittled away.
The Brotherhood argued that a "yes" vote would allow normal government to resume.
"I am saying yes to stability," said Moussa Mohammed, 48, an estate agent at a polling station in the poor Cairo district of Imam al-Shafi'i.
"We say no to the people who are paid from abroad and are pushing the country to the edge of hell."
But Ahmed El-Sayed El-Naggar, an economist at the Al-Ahram Centre for Political and Strategic Studies, said even a "yes" would not stop the economic rot.
"I'm afraid the coming explosion will be out of control," he said.
-bth: back tot the middle ages.