Saturday, January 26, 2013
Washington (CNN) -- The Pentagon has begun laying off 46,000 contract and temporary civilian employees in an effort to cut back on military spending, the No. 2 Pentagon official said on Friday.
Full time civilian employees, which number in the hundreds of thousands, also will be furloughed for one day a week for 22 weeks, Deputy Defense Secretary Ash Carter said in an interview with wire service reporters.
His comments were confirmed by a Pentagon spokesman.
The moves are part of a Defense Department effort to reduce spending given the potential for billions in mandatory cuts beginning as early as this spring should Congress fail to reach a deal on deficit reduction....
... Last week, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu held a secret meeting in Jordan with King Abdullah II, the London-based Al-Quds Al-Arabi reported.
Senior Israeli officials speaking to Haaretz confirmed last Wednesday that the meeting took place. According to the report, the meeting focused on the possibility that Syrian President Bashar Assad would use chemical weapons against rebels in the ongoing sectarian conflict raging in that country.
Journalist Jeffrey Goldberg reported in The Atlantic earlier this month that Israel has asked Jordan twice in the last two months for a green light to attack chemical weapons facilities in Syria.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has sent representatives of the Mossad intelligence agency to Amman twice already, to coordinate the matter with the Jordanians and receive their "permission" for the operation, Goldberg wrote.
The Jordanians, however, responded negatively to the request and refused to grant their approval. American officials quoted in the article said the Jordanians told Israel the "time was not right" for such an action.
Friday, January 25, 2013
At least 400 Christian leaders will travel to Capitol Hill next week to lobby senators against the nomination of Chuck Hagel for secretary of defense, pro-Israel group Christians United for Israel (CUFI) announced Wednesday.
The delegation has nearly doubled in size since the emergency lobbying call, CUFI officials said, according to the Washington Free Beacon.
“The response to our call to attend this emergency summit has been overwhelming,” CUFI executive director David Brog told the Free Beacon. “We initially hoped that we could get 200 Christian leaders to fly in last minute. But we’ve already registered 400 leaders, and the calls are still coming in.”
The group will reportedly meet with representatives of all 100 Senate offices to express opposition to Hagel’s nomination, which CUFI says would endanger the national security of the United States and Israel.
“This will be very impactful for Republicans and Democrats from states with large evangelical populations like Tennessee, North Carolina, Arkansas, and Louisiana,” said one GOP Senate aide. “Republicans will know the Hagel issue is a key issue for the base while Democrats in Republican-leaning states may think twice before walking the plank for a nominee they never wanted.”
CUFI, the largest pro-Israel organization in the country, has been one of the most vocal pro-Israel groups fighting Hagel’s nomination.
Hagel has, in the past, boasted that he is not intimidated by the "Jewish lobby." His critics pointed out that the pro-Israel lobby includes many evangelical Christians, like those who make up CUFI.
Thursday, January 24, 2013
The third tranche of armed forces redundancies will involve up to 5,300 soldiers but current operations in Afghanistan will not be affected, the Ministry of Defence has confirmed.
The latest round of cuts, which will not involve any Royal Navy or RAF personnel, is the most recent development in what will see the size of the army reduced to 82,000 by 2015.
General Sir Peter Wall, the chief of the general staff said the latest announcement would "present an opportunity" for some but added that many soldiers would have their service curtailed "prematurely"....
-bth: British military forces will be half the size of the US marine corp.
.... But deeper isolation does not appear to be the young Mr. Kim’s greatest fear. So far, China, which supplies the North’s energy and some of its food, has not cut off aid in response to North Korean actions even though its leaders have urged Mr. Kim and his father to refrain from provocations. Chinese officials have made clear in meetings with their American counterparts that they fear instability in North Korea more than they worry about the country advancing its longstanding nuclear and missile capabilities.
“If you look back over the past four years,” a former administration official said recently, “we haven’t moved the Chinese at all.”
It is hard to know what North Korea meant by the references in its statement that its next nuclear test would be of a different nature. It could indicate that the country will attempt to show that it can manufacture a warhead small enough to fit on a missile, though that technology of miniaturization is extremely difficult.
It could also mean that it plans its first test of a uranium weapon, created from a new uranium-enrichment program that it showed two years ago to a visiting American scientist. The North’s previous two tests used plutonium, harvested from a now-closed nuclear reactor. Uranium enrichment gives the North another pathway to expand its arsenal; American intelligence officials have said they believe the North has enough plutonium for roughly 6 to 10 weapons....
Wednesday, January 23, 2013
oday, cost and complexity limit the Navy to fewer weapons systems and platforms, so resources are strained to operate over vast maritime areas. Unmanned systems and sensors are commonly envisioned to fill coverage gaps and deliver action at a distance. However, for all of the advances in sensing, autonomy, and unmanned platforms in recent years, the usefulness of such technology becomes academic when faced with the question, “How do you get the systems there?” DARPA’s Upward Falling Payloads program seeks to address that challenge.
The UFP concept centers on developing deployable, unmanned, distributed systems that lie on the deep-ocean floor in special containers for years at a time. These deep-sea nodes would then be woken up remotely when needed and recalled to the surface. In other words, they “fall upward.”
“The goal is to support the Navy with distributed technologies anywhere, anytime over large maritime areas. If we can do this rapidly, we can get close to the areas we need to affect, or become widely distributed without delay,” said Andy Coon, DARPA program manager. “To make this work, we need to address technical challenges like extended survival of nodes under extreme ocean pressure, communications to wake-up the nodes after years of sleep, and efficient launch of payloads to the surface.”
A proposer’s day is scheduled for Jan. 25, 2013, in the DARPA Conference Center. For details, visit: http://go.usa.gov/4CqC.
DARPA seeks proposals in three key areas for developing the program: Communications, deep ocean ‘risers’ to contain the payloads, and the actual payloads. DARPA hopes to reach technical communities that conduct deep-ocean engineering from the telecom and oil-exploration industry to the scientific community with insights into signal propagation in the water and on the seafloor. Since the program will emphasize the use of ambient pressure containment with its risers, there is no need for specialization of payloads to accommodate the extreme pressures of the deep sea. Communities with technical background in unmanned platforms; distributed sensors; networking; sensor packaging; information operations; electronic warfare; anti-submarine warfare, etc. may all be able to play a role.
Almost half of the world’s oceans are more than four kilometers deep. This provides considerable opportunity for cheap stealth. The vastness and depth make retrieval costs prohibitive. Despite this, the UFP program is specifically not a weapons program, and the risks to losing any single node will be minimal.
Depending on the specific payload, systems would provide a range of non-lethal but useful capabilities such as situational awareness, disruption, deception, networking, rescue, or any other mission that benefits from being pre-distributed and hidden. An example class of systems might be small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) that launch to the surface in capsules, take off and provide aerial situational awareness, networking or decoy functions. Waterborne applications are sought as well.
Fears Syria's uranium stockpiles going to Iran | MINING.com
The Financial Times reports nuclear experts are raising concerns about the safety of up to 50 tonnes of unenriched uranium in Syria where an increasingly violent and chaotic civil war could put the stockpile at risk.
The uranium – believed to be of high quality – stems from a project to build a nuclear facility with the help of North Korea at Al-Kibar....
Intelligence agencies believed that the reactor was close to completion, but the site was destroyed by Israeli warplanes in September 2007:
"An IAEA inspection team visited the destroyed Al-Kibar site in May 2008 and only found traces of uranium. This merely added to the mystery of where the 50 tonnes of uranium, if it exists, might be. Such a stockpile would be enough, according to experts, to provide weapons grade fuel for five atomic devices.
The result: More than half of the nearly 460 Americans who lost multiple limbs to combat in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2001 suffered those wounds here in Afghanistan in just the past two and a half years. From 2001 through 2009, seven troops had triple amputations in combat and one lost all four limbs; all occurred in Iraq. Since 2010, after President Obama ordered a surge in combat against the Taliban, there have been 36 triple amputees and four quadruple amputees, all in Afghanistan, Army data show.
The wave of blast-devastated casualties has left military medicine grasping for better ways to treat what doctors say are the worst casualties they have seen in 11 long years of fighting two wars. Even as U.S. forces draw down in Afghanistan, the military is ramping up medical resources to counter this wrenching pattern of wounds in the waning months of this war.
It has led to multiplying by nearly a factor of six — from 12 to 70 — the number of medevac helicopters operating in Afghanistan, instituting six months of advanced-care training for hundreds of flight medics, performing dozens of blood transfusions on these wounded even as they are lifted off the battlefield and placing more highly trained medical personnel on medevac flights.
The result: Even as the casualties have grown more severe, the mortality rate for the wounded remains about 9%. In all, 2,143 troops have died in Afghanistan, including those killed in combat, and 17,939 were wounded. In Iraq, 4,488 died and 33,220 were wounded...
"Right off the bat, you've got the sickest patient you could ever create," says Army Maj. Eric Heinberg, a general surgeon assigned to a field hospital in Afghanistan's southeastern Khost province. "They're disfigured beyond comprehension."
Troops suffering damaged or destroyed sexual organs from these blasts more than doubled from 71 in 2009 to 190 in 2011, military data show.
Last year, the military gave this new wound a label: dismounted complex blast injury....
The Combat Application Tourniquet developed midway through the war — a simple strap that closes with Velcro, with a plastic windlass for tightening — is now required equipment for all U.S. troops.
The US Army has been using the M160 remotely controlled flail robot built by the Croatian company DOK-ING in Afghanistan for route clearance missions. The Croatian built MV4 remotely controlled tracked mine clearance system has already demonstrated its ability to battle improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and Un-Exploded Ordnance (UXO) in Afghanistan and other war zones like Iraq, Nicaragua and Srilanka. By using the new robot, soldiers can clear routes without putting themselves in danger. Fielding of the M160 MV4 has been a priority of C-IED specialized ‘Task Force Rampant’ for some time now, said Command Sgt. Maj. Leonard Meeks of TF Rampant. The task force is engaged in developing and implementing techniques, tactics and procedures utilizing new technologies and capabilities for route clearing, combating IEDs in Afghanistan.
The M160 MV4 employs a ‘flail’ system, comprising a rotating shaft with 34 rotating chain hammers attached to disturb the surface of the ground in an attempt to detonate or unearth deadly mines and unexploded ordnance. The flailing action is designed to establish a safe path of travel for dismounted troops in the area. The system is effective in destroying anti-personnel mines on all types of terrain, soil and vegetation. The five-ton MV4 robot is produced by the Dok-Ing Company in Croatia. The company has already deployed more than 100 vehicles in demining operations throughout the world. Apart from the US Army in Afghanistan, MV4 vehicles are also operating in support of demining and route clearing operations with the military forces of Sweden, Iraq, Nicaragua and Sri-Lanka.The vehicle uses robust frame, with the engine and vital components protected by steel plates to be survive all types of anti-tank mine. Due to its small dimensions the MV4 can be employed in confined spaces, such as house yards, orchards, wooded areas, riverbanks and other types of terrain, which are not accessible to larger machines. MV4 can be fitted with a variety of tool attachments including flails, used as the standard counter-mine tool. Other attachments include tiller, roller, dozer blade or gripper. The different tools are used to destroy even the smallest anti-personnel blast pressure mines and the most dangerous types of bouncing fragmentation mines. The remotely controlled vehicle can clear up to 2,200 square meters per hour when used in continuous mode. The company also produces the MV-10, a larger, heavier system designated to clear anti-tank mines....
Embattled Argentine President Cristina Kirchner cheerfully mugged for photos in the Cu Chi tunnels used by the Viet Cong to ambush United States troops during the Vietnam War and likened Ho Chi Minh to George Washington during a visit to the Socialist Republic of Vietnam on Sunday.
Kirchner playfully peeks her head out of one of the spiderholes in one photo. She sits cross-legged and grinning outside the tunnel, dressed in guerrilla-style fatigues, in another.
Kirchner’s trip to Vietnam is the latest in a string of moves that have seen Argentina’s increasingly isolated and belligerent government cozying up with authoritarian states. Argentina has cut arms deals with China and Venezuela under Kirchner in just the last year, and continues to escalate a war of words with the United Kingdom over the sovereignty of the Falkland Islands....
-bth: I don't understand what she is trying to accomplish.
America's deadly double tap drone attacks are 'killing 49 people for every known terrorist in Pakistan' - Daily Mail
Just one in 50 victims of America’s deadly drone strikes in Pakistan are terrorists – while the rest are innocent civilians, a new report claimed today.
The authoritative joint study, by Stanford and New York Universities, concludes that men, women and children are being terrorised by the operations ’24 hours-a-day’.
And the authors lay much of the blame on the use of the ‘double-tap’ strike where a drone fires one missile – and then a second as rescuers try to drag victims from the rubble. One aid agency said they had a six-hour delay before going to the scene.
The tactic has cast such a shadow of fear over strike zones that people often wait for hours before daring to visit the scene of an attack. Investigators also discovered that communities living in fear of the drones were suffering severe stress and related illnesses. Many parents had taken their children out of school because they were so afraid of a missile-strike.
Tuesday, January 22, 2013
WASHINGTON (CBS DC) – Fewer than four-in-10 Americans (39 percent) rate the US in a positive manner – the most negative feedback the country has produced since 1979.
A new Gallup poll finds that Americans are as negative about the country’s prospects as they have been in more than three decades. Americans are more upbeat in their predictions of where the U.S. will be in five years (48 percent positive), but this is the lowest rating since an August 1979 Gallup poll was conducted.
The negativity about the current state of the US has a politically partisan split – Republicans stated that the country’s best days have already passed and Democrats say the best days have not happened yet. Seventy-five percent of Democrats gave positive reviews of how the nation will be five years from now, but only 15 percent of Republicans were positive – a 60 percent partisan gap....
Jan 22, 2013Associated Press | by Aijaz Hussain
SRINAGAR, India - Officials in Indian-controlled Kashmir are warning residents to build bomb-proof basements, collect two weeks' worth of food and water and be prepared for a possible nuclear war.
Local officials did not answer calls asking why they were suddenly concerned about a nuclear attack in the region, repeatedly fought over by nuclear-armed rivals India and Pakistan. However, a series of deadly skirmishes along the cease-fire line in recent weeks has heightened tensions between the two countries.
The notice, published Monday by the Kashmir police in the Greater Kashmir newspaper, advised people to build toilet-equipped basements large enough to house the entire family for two weeks. If there is no basement, residents should construct bunkers in their front yards, the notice advised.
The shelters should be stocked with candles, battery-operated lights and radios and nonperishable food and water that is regularly replaced to ensure it is fresh, it said.
During an attack, it advises drivers to dive out of their cars toward the blast to save themselves from being crushed by their soon-to-be tumbling vehicles. It also warns residents to keep contaminated people out of their shelters.
`'Expect some initial disorientation as the blast wave may blow down and carry away many prominent and familiar features," it advises.
While authorities did not return phone calls for comment, Yoginder Kaul, inspector-general at the civil defense and state disaster response force, told the newspaper that it was a "normal exercise to raise general awareness among (the) public about disaster management."
"It has nothing to do with anything, and it should not be connected with anything," Kaul said.
Both India and Pakistan claim the divided Kashmir region in its entirety and have fought two wars over it.
Earlier this month, three Pakistani soldiers and two Indian soldiers were killed in the worst bout of fighting in Kashmir since a cease-fire accord was signed by the countries in 2003.
In light of the violence, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Sunday he was reviewing future ties with Pakistan.
The nuclear war advisory and its timing surprised many residents in Srinagar, the main city in Indian-controlled Kashmir.
"This is fueling an atmosphere of fear. Educating people is fine but not this brazen way," said Fayaz Ahmed, a local resident.
The lengthy notice also provided advice on how to survive attacks with chemical and biological weapons.
It's considered to be the world's most sophisticated superfighter jet, but Britain's new £150million combat aircraft has been banned from flying in bad weather for fears it could explode.
Engineers working on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter have found the jet's fuel tank could explode if hit by lightning....
SHILAKAY, IRAQ — The ongoing conflict in Syria has led to chronic fuel and food shortages. Thousands of desperate Syrians are carrying goods across an unofficial border crossing opened by the semi-autonomous Kurdish government in northern Iraq.
Syrian men, bent double under the weight of their sacks, begin the four-hour trek from Iraqi Kurdistan back to Syria.
Every day more than 3,000 men make this journey into northern Iraq to get essentials such as food and gasoline for their families back home.
Ali Muhammad Bedawi, 22, made a trip from Aleppo for macaroni and diapers. The journey took 14 hours.
"There's no bread. There's no food. There's no gas. No fuel," he said....
Sunday, January 20, 2013
KABUL: President Karzai flew to US on a three-day consultative visit with the perception that world needs Afghanistan more than vice versa. Much of the ambiguity about post-2014 Afghanistan was to be removed during this visit.
Although both countries have already signed Strategic Partnership Agreement (SPA) in May 2012 but that does not specifically commit US to Afghanistan economically and militarily.
SPA only affirms US military presence and social and economic cooperation with Afghanistan beyond 2014. By the end 2014 - with the NATO mandate concluding - President Obama intends to bring the war to its ‘responsible end’ too - while reaffirming enduring partnership with Afghanistan. To determine the level of military and economic engagement, a new set of conditions is being negotiated between the two countries for couple of months now - following the signing of SPA.
The sticking point between the US and Afghan negotiators is a strong condition laid by President Karzai that the foreign military troops will be subject to Afghan laws after 2014. This condition is said to be used by Karzai as a bargaining chip to gain as much as possible, and secure his political and family’s interests - especially to seek protection to his family’s ill-gotten wealth which they have accumulated over the years.
Karzai, with a year left in his second and final term as president, has lost political influence and sympathies at home and internationally. In the past few years he had gained the reputation of an unreliable partner amongst his fellow men and foreigners. The in US particular has been irritated with him for blaming the American intervention for insecurity and corruption in his country. Even Pakistan has been irked with Karzai’s constant blame-game.
To Karzai’s disappointment, Obama turned the tables on Afghan president with his blunt statements that there will ‘not be any kind of’ US military presence in Afghanistan without granting them immunity. Obama also said that follow-on force of any sort past 2014 would be at the invitation of the Afghan government. His deputy national security adviser went as far as floating the zero-troop option.
Obama further dashed Karzai’s hopes by announcing early end to the US forces combat mission than what was decided at the Lisbon summit. Obama said that from Spring this year, the role of US forces will switch from combat to support; i.e. training, advising and assisting the Afghan forces. At the same time, he also said that the US forces will fight along the Afghan forces ‘when needed’ - without elaborating at what stage the American forces can be called for help....
-bth: this is a substantially different perspective of the same negotations than found in US media.