Saturday, April 20, 2013

Taliban attacks in Afghanistan rise 47% - Hindustan Times

Taliban attacks in Afghanistan rise 47% - Hindustan Times

According to an Afghanistan NGO, there has been a sharp increase in the number of attacks in this year's first quarter, a recent study has revealed. The Afghanistan NGO Safety Office has let out that the first quarter saw 2331 attacks by armed opposition groups compared to 1581 during the same time last year, with a statistical increase of 47% in the crime rate, the New York Times reports.The director of the NGO office Tomas Muzik has said that 2013 will follow the marks of 2011 in becoming the most violent year, with the most attacks and victims.

While Afghanistan army soldiers along with their American counterparts are planning to take over the security duties across the country as Taliban steps up for attacks, the American military has not sent any figures this year compared to last year's report on enemy attacks along with bar graphs.

The spokesperson for American military Col. Thomas W. Collins said that they will not be releasing any statistics anymore, adding that Afghan Ministry can reveal some related information.

The ministry too preferred to remain quiet in this regard, however a ministry official on condition of anonymity has said that ministry data reveal 40% increase in violence this year with 1,183 attacks as compared to 841 last year.

The study has further shown that insurgent attacks on the international forces make up for only four% of the total attacks and 73% against the Afghan security forces, while the attacks on civilians have been much more quantitatively....


Neil Diamong sings Sweet Caroline at Fenway

Neil Diamond sings Sweet Caroline at Fenway - YouTube

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

National Anthem at the Bruins Game April 17 2013

Boston is a tough and resilient town

Fred Rogers talks about Tragic Events in the News

Stuxnet and the Dawn of Algorithmic Warfare - Jason Healey

Jason Healey: Stuxnet and the Dawn of Algorithmic Warfare

Though autonomous, destructive robots are a long-time, hackneyed science fiction plot, for some time, this new kind of warfare has been shifting from yesterday's movie to today's reality. But unforeseen by the imaginations of both headline and science fiction writers, it was not a missile-laden drone or humanoid Terminator that introduced this new kind of combat, but a piece of software. Stuxnet, part of the "Olympic Games" covert assault by the United States and Israel on Iranian nuclear capability, appears to be the first autonomous weapon with an algorithm, not a human hand, pulling the trigger. While the technology behind Stuxnet or other autonomous weapons is impressive, there has been little or no ethical debate on how (or indeed whether) such weapons should be used.

Engineers have already produced weapons that could engage targets on their own, though militaries have chosen not to enable this feature, uncomfortable with delegating to a machine decisions on whom to kill, what to destroy, and when. Even in uniform and under command discipline, humans cannot be metaphoricalrobots merely following orders, so we until now we had been rightly uncomfortable with real robots doing just that in combat.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter recently signed a directive clarifying how the department would, or would not, limit use of violence by autonomous and semiautonomous weapons. The DoD directive specifies that "[a]utonomous weapon systems may be used to apply non-lethal, non-kinetic force" only; so any decisions that might harm human beings must be made with an operator, trained in the laws of war, in the loop. But the directive is just as clear that this commonsense restriction somehow doesn't apply to cyber capabilities.


-bth: unattended munitions such as landmines and naval mines have met the definition of autonomous weapons systems for over a century. Stuxnet was unusual because it was software, not because it was unattended with physical consequences.

Saudis 'turn to South Africa for UAVs'

Saudi Arabia looking to South Africa for unmanned aerial vehicles -

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia, April 16 (UPI) -- Saudi Arabia, refused armed unmanned aerial vehicles by Washington, reportedly has turned to South Africa's state-owned Denel Dynamics defense company to help Riyadh develop its own armed UAV program.

The Saudi Defense Ministry declined comment on the report by Intelligence Online, publishing from Paris. Denel also refused to comment.

But Riyadh has for some time been seeking to acquire missile-carrying UAVs and Denel has been dropping strong hints it was looking for customers in the Middle East, Asia and Africa for an armed version of its Seeker 400 drone.

That's developed from Denel's Seeker II surveillance/reconnaissance craft, which was recently sold to the United Arab Emirates, which has a powerful air force and an emergent defense industry, through a joint venture with the state investment fund Tawazun.

Government Secrecy Orders on Patents Have Stifled More Than 5,000 Inventions -Wired

Government Secrecy Orders on Patents Have Stifled More Than 5,000 Inventions | Threat Level |

... What is known about secrecy orders is largely the result of Freedom of Information Act requests filed by groups like the Federation of American Scientists, an independent, nonpartisan think tank. Those documents show that the overall number of secrecy orders has steadily increased in recent years, totaling more than 5,300 by 2012, with some of them in effect for decades.

Tens of thousands of patent applications are manually examined each year under the Invention Secrecy Act and referred for a final decision to the Pentagon, National Security Agency, Department of Justice and, more recently, Department of Homeland Security.

“From the patent owner’s perspective, you’re stuck in this legal limbo where the government says you’ve got this valid invention, but there’s nothing you can do with it until maybe decades later,” said Mark Lemley, a technology law professor at Stanford University.

Secrecy orders are rare, but violating one can result in prison time.

A California man named James Constant filed his patent application in 1969 for radar technology that could track shipping containers, packages or components traveling along an assembly line. After his secrecy order was eventually lifted in 1971, Constant sought damages from the government, arguing that he couldn’t capitalize on the idea. When it reached trial years later in 1982, the court ruled against him, concluding that a “lack of business experience” impeded his chance of success.

Constant said from his home in Claremont that the secrecy order caused him to incur “a substantial financial loss” and set him back for years.

“When the secrecy order was put on my patent, I had the only viable technology,” he said.

In each case, the legal headaches occurred only after the inventor had spent no small amount of time and resources developing the idea in the first place.

“We still have a Cold War approach to secrecy orders,” said Pat Choate, an economist and intellectual property expert. “If a secrecy order is imposed, you wind up with the inventor effectively having the technology taken away.”...

-bth: another fundamental reason why the US patent system disadvantages inventors seeking patent protection. Secrecy orders have become arbbitrary and overused by the government. Source article worth reading in full.


Nightwatch on Syria-Lebanon

NightWatch 20130416 - KGS
Syria-Lebanon: The opposition Syrian National Coalition called on Lebanon to control its frontiers Tuesday. "The Syrian National Coalition calls on the Lebanese government to exert control over its borders and put an immediate stop to Hezbollah's military operations on Syrian territory," the SNC said in a statement.
"We call upon the Lebanese government to take action against Hezbollah's aggressions and do everything within their means to ensure the safety of the innocent civilians on the Syrian-Lebanese border."
"Due to the sensitivity of the situation," the Coalition also called on Free Syrian Army (FSA) battalions in Homs Province of Syria to "exercise restraint" and "respect the sovereign borders of Lebanon."
Comment: In the past several months, Hezbollah has increased its attacks against the Syrian opposition forces from Lebanon to ease pressure against the Syrian government forces. The Syrian opposition retaliated over the weekend, killing two Lebanese.
Lebanon has no military force able or willing to stand up to Hezbollah's militiamen. The Syrian political leaders order to the FSA battalions is instructive. If Hezbollah were to declare war against the FSA, the FSA would be defeated. The Coalition leaders seem to recognize this and want to avoid any additional expansion of the fighting.
-bth: so I guess I'm wondering what prevents Iran from paying Hezbollah to intervene?  I realize Hezbollah is coin operated, but doesn't the Syrian civil war seem to be shifting in favor of the rebels?  Perhaps not. Curious.

Messing With the Wrong City - NYT Dennis Lehane

Messing With the Wrong City -

...When the civilian bystanders to the attack ran toward the first blast to give aid to the victims, without a second thought for their own safety, the primary desire of the terrorists — to paralyze a populace with fear — was already thwarted....

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Envelope tests positive for ricin at Washington mail facility

Envelope tests positive for ricin at Washington mail facility -

Washington (CNN) -- An envelope that tested positive for the deadly poison ricin was intercepted Tuesday afternoon at the U.S. Capitol's off-site mail facility in Washington, congressional and law enforcement sources tell CNN.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he was told the letter was addressed to the office of Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Mississippi. After the envelope tested positive in a first routine test, it was retested two more times, each time coming up positive, the law enforcement source said. The package was then sent to a Maryland lab for further testing.

Senators were briefed on the matter Tuesday evening and told the congressional post offices would be temporarily shut down.

"It was caught in the screening facility. That's why we have an off-site screening facility for mail," said Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Missouri.

Ricin is a highly toxic substance derived from castor beans. As little as 500 micrograms -- an amount the size of the head of a pin -- can kill an adult. There is no specific test for exposure and no antidote once exposed....

Monday, April 15, 2013

Tourniquets saved 3000 lives in Iraq and Afghanistan

Health Beat: Treating fallen troops: 2 new battlefield devices | Health Beat - Home

"About 3,000 U.S. military casualties have been saved with the tourniquet since the beginning of the war," said Dr. John Kragh, tourniquet specialist with the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research.

video platformvideo managementvideo solutionsvideo player

Why drones cannot beat sticks and stones - Gulf News

Why drones cannot beat sticks and stones |

...In modern warfare, the same is true. High-tech measures are not inevitably countered by more high-tech measures.

Sometimes, the opposite is true: The most successful countermeasures are low-tech — and historically, this has been demonstrated just as often as has the opposite. We know this, of course. We just do not like it.

The US brought overwhelming technological superiority to the battlefield — and with it, America also brought new blind spots.

The Taliban, a low-budget, but by no means low-innovation adversary, quickly developed low-tech responses to America’s high-tech blind spots. Unable to prevail in direct combat with US troops, for instance, the Taliban turned to improvised explosive devices (IED) made of readily available materials and detonated by cell phone. America countered by developing costly vehicle-based cell-phone jammers, designed to prevent the long-distance detonation of IEDs as American vehicles drove by them. These often had the unintended consequence of disrupting America’s own communications and they also led the Taliban to shift to using IEDs with mechanical triggers. The US responded by equipping its forces with ground-penetrating radar, designed to detect the metallic signature of IED components. The Taliban countered by moving even further in the direction of sticks and stones, constructing pressure-plated IEDs out of foam rubber, plastic and wood. America has seen similar Taliban low-tech countermeasures in other areas. The US has invested heavily in both encryption technologies and surveillance technologies designed to thwart adversaries’ use of encryption, for instance, but since America took it for granted that potential adversaries would have made similar high-tech communications commitments, it allowed its ability to locate simple FM radios to degrade. Most of the time, Taliban forces do not bother with encryption; they communicate openly over simple handheld walkie-talkies, using multiple mobile FM repeaters to retransmit these weak signals over longer distances.

US forces initially lacked the equipment needed to intercept these transmissions and reportedly had to reply on purchasing cheap “commercially available radio scanners in the Kabul souq” to listen in. The equipment needed to intercept Taliban radio communications became standard, but it has proven far more difficult for America to locate the enemy themselves — the US can locate the repeater towers, but not a Taliban soldier on his handheld radio. Al Qaida, too, is a learning organisation. Threatened by US drones, Al Qaida is reportedly turning to low-tech countermeasures, encouraging militants to use mud and grass mats to disguise vehicles from overhead surveillance. This tactic will not be successful for long, but it is a good bet that Al Qaida will find new low-tech means to thwart US drones in the coming years. You get the picture.

Sometimes, high-tech measures lead to higher-tech countermeasures — but at other times, high-tech measures lead to lower-tech countermeasures. More ominously, a misplaced confidence in America’s technological superiority dangerously increases its vulnerability to low-tech countermeasures.

Though 65,000 US troops remain in Afghanistan, America has already begun to lose interest in that war and its lessons. The US should know better.

In the 1970s, America had convinced itself that there would be no more Vietnams and turned its back on whatever wisdom it had gained during that brutal, protracted conflict (wisdom about the nature of asymmetric and guerilla warfare, the strength of nationalism and the perils of occupation). Then, in Iraq and Afghanistan, it painfully relearned many of Vietnam’s grim lessons — just in time for the wars to wind down and the public to lose interest.

Now, many leaders in both the military and civilian world seem determined to repeat America’s post-Vietnam head-in-the-sand routine. The US will not have any more Iraqs or Afghanistans, it tells itself — America will not invade or occupy states or territories with vast ground forces and it will not be engaged in messy stability operations. So America does not need to remember its mistakes — it can just move on!

The lessons of Afghanistan will have no applicability to future wars since they will be high-tech conflicts with sophisticated state or state-backed adversaries. Maybe so, maybe not. But here is the thing: Even if the cyberwarriors and the Air-Sea Battle proponents are right — even if any future wars will be with sophisticated, high-tech states — it is a big mistake to imagine that sticks and stones will play no role in future conflicts. After all, it took the Taliban remarkably little time to realise that high-tech US capabilities could frequently be thwarted by lower-tech countermeasures. Why should America imagine that near-peer states such as China have not taken notice?

— Washington Post

Rosa Brooks is a law professor at Georgetown University and a fellow at the New America Foundation. She served as a counsellor to the US undersecretary of defence for policy from 2009 to 2011 and previously served as a State Department senior adviser.

-bth: article worth reading in full.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

India Joins Asian Dollar Exclusion Zone, Will Transact With Iran In Rupees -ZeroHedge

India Joins Asian Dollar Exclusion Zone, Will Transact With Iran In Rupees | Zero Hedge

....Ironically, and as has been stated here many times before, by enacting the proposed sanctions and embargo, the US, but mostly Europe is doing nothing but shooting itself in the foot, as it opens up a brand new pathway of not only outright defiance, and thus political brownie points domestically for the likes of China, of the US, but it will allow the "Asian dollar exclusion zone" to buy even more crude, at cheaper prices, while in the process it is forced to build closer monetary relations with its neighboring countries, relations that rely less and less on the world's increasingly less relevant reserve currency.

Asian support for U.S. sanctions is vital since the region buys more than half of Iran's daily crude exports. The European Union has agreed in principle to halting Iranian crude imports and could finalise the ban on Jan. 23.


China, Iran's biggest crude customer, has rejected the U.S. sanctions as overstepping the mark and defended its extensive imports from the second-biggest oil producer in OPEC.

Necessity may be the mother of all dollar-exclusive invention, but Obama is surely the father of necessity.