Saturday, July 20, 2013

Money, guns flowing from Kuwait to Syria's most radical rebel factions

Money, guns flowing from Kuwait to Syria's most radical rebel factions | Fox News

...The fundraising is open and, according to Norman Benotman, the president of the Quillam Foundation, a London-based think tank that monitors terrorism funding, Kuwait’s government doesn’t dare intervene.

“If they tried to launch a police or security crackdown there’d be a backlash,” Benotman said. “The tribes themselves organize the activity. Every day there’s fundraising; it is not an undercover or secretive pursuit. It is part of the social life of Kuwait now. The government would have to go after mosques, tribes, elders and Sheikhs. It would not be good for the Kuwaiti government. It is the last thing they need.”

And any government action would risk targeting powerful Muslim charities such as the Revival of Islamic Heritage Society, a charity the U.S. Treasury Department blacklisted in 2008 for bankrolling Al Qaeda. The long-established Kuwaiti charity was also named in 2011 for fostering radicalism among Spain’s Muslim population by the Spanish spy agency CNI.

How much money Kuwaitis channel to jihadist and more extreme Islamist groups in Syria isn’t known. But Quillam Foundation’s Benotman believes the sums are substantial.

“We are talking millions and millions,” he says.  

According to Benotman, the money isn’t just being collected from Kuwaitis, but is being sent there by other Gulf Arabs – especially from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, to get around security measures by those governments.

“[Saudi Arabia and the UAE] have established official channels for aid and the governments supervise the funds destined for Syria,” Benotman said. “Saudis and Emiratis don’t want to risk severe punishment. So they send it to individuals and charities in Kuwait instead.”

Vladimir Putin’s self-defeating crackdown

Opinion: Vladimir Putin’s self-defeating crackdown - Leon Aron -

...The Russian street has already made its conclusions: “People who are willing to change Russia for the better end up in jail,” said a participant in rally in Moscow, following the verdict. “At least when Navalny was around, there was hope,” said another.

Now, that hope — the hope of a constructive peaceful protest as a means to better Russia — is all but gone. One of the leaders of the opposition (and one of Russia’s most popular writers, Boris Akunin) has declared the Navalny verdict to be the last straw for those “who thought it was possible to change this system through elections.” “As long as the Putin regime is alive, there will be no elections,” in which the opposition should participate, Akunin said.

Navalny, a lawyer who used to carefully measure his words and was ready to participate in the political system, no matter how flawed (including registering to run for the mayor of Moscow in September), said in his concluding statement in court: “I declare that I and my colleagues will do everything to destroy this feudal system of power, in which 83 percent of national wealth belongs to 0.5 percent of the population. … We will be destroying this feudal system that is robbing everyone …[and that] sits like a spider in the Kremlin, the 100 families that are sucking in [wealth] of Russia… a bunch of freaks who… grabbed everything.” As the judge read the sentence, Navalny posted a tweet in which he compared the regime to a toad that sits on the oil pipeline and would “not remove itself.” Implication: The toad of the regime can only be removed by force.

Does this sound like a call for constructive engagement and compromise?

Having chosen, as authoritarians almost always do, short-term survival by repression over reforms needed for country’s progress, the Putin regime will have only itself to blame when a crisis strikes and there is no one left to ask for help, compromise — or perhaps even for mercy.

Leon Aron is director of Russian studies at the American Enterprise Institute and author of the forthcoming Roads to the Temple: Truth, Memory, Ideas, and Ideals in the Making of the Russian Revolution, 1987-1991.

Homeland Security Threatens Legal Action Against Employees Who Read News About Leaks

Homeland Security Threatens Legal Action Against Employees Who Read News About Leaks | Techdirt

We've talked about procedures within the Defense Department to block computers from accessing the website for The Guardian newspaper -- along with similarly short-sighted moves to apply a sledgehammer approach to pretending that public information isn't really public. I've heard from a few people within the Defense Department who defend this approach on basic procedural grounds of trying to "make sure" that classified info remains classified, but the real problem is considering any publicly revealed documents as still classified. As I've said each time this debate comes up, in the business world, the equivalent situation involving trade secrets or non-disclosure agreements almost always are recognized as null and void if the info becomes public through other means.

However, that's not the way the government works. The latest is that Homeland Security sent around a memo warning employees that merely opening up a Washington Post article about some of the leaks might violate their non-disclosure agreement to "protect National Security Information," and it even says that merely clicking on the story might make the reader "subject to any administrative or legal action from the Government." Got that? Working for the government and merely reading the news about things the government is doing might subject you to legal action. ...
-bth; this situation is just stupid.

US pressures Venezuela to refrain from giving shelter to Snowden, ABC says

US pressures Venezuela to refrain from giving shelter to Snowden, ABC says - Daily News

...Last week, sources said that the US revoked the visas of Venezuelan senior government officials and entrepreneurs. ABC said the move was related to the Snowden case. The newspaper even suggested that Secretary of State John Kerry reportedly called Venezuelan Foreign Minister Elías Jaua to report on the annulment of the US visas to government officials. Additionally, Kerry allegedly warned Jaua about the possibility of suspending US sale of gasoline and oil byproducts to Venezuela....

Taliban-style edict for women spreads alarm in Afghan district

Taliban-style edict for women spreads alarm in Afghan district | Reuters

(Reuters) - One of Afghan President Hamid Karzai's main religious advisers will not overturn a decree issued by clerics in the north reimposing Taliban-style curbs on women, in another sign of returning conservatism as NATO forces leave the country.

Just days after the United States launched a $200 million program to boost the role of women in Afghanistan, a senior member of the country's top religious leaders' panel said he would not intervene over a draconian edict issued by clerics in the Deh Salah region of Baghlan province.

Deh Salah, near Panshir, was a bastion of anti-Taliban sentiment prior to the ousting of the austere Islamist government by the U.S.-backed Northern Alliance in 2001.

But the eight article decree, issued late in June, bars women from leaving home without a male relative, while shutting cosmetic shops on the pretext they were being used for prostitution - an accusation residents and police reject.....

-bth: unless Afghans are wiliing to challenge these clerics, I see no chance rights for women will survive our excit.

Pakistan Taliban Lambastes Schoolgirl for U.N. Speech Anti-Western View Shown in Verbal Attack Permeates Pakistani Society - WSJ

Pakistan Taliban Lambastes Schoolgirl for U.N. Speech -

ISLAMABAD—Malala Yousafzai, a teenage campaigner for girls' education who was nearly killed by Pakistani militants, was feted at the United Nations last week. Here at home, however, she has been widely portrayed as part of a Western conspiracy against Islam and the developing world.

A 1,800-word open letter in imperfect English by Adnan Rasheed, one of the most feared Taliban leaders in Pakistan, outlined these conspiracy theories Wednesday, describing the type of secular education that Ms. Yousafzai championed as "satanic" and arguing that the U.N. wanted to "enslave the world."....

-bth: worth reading in full.  One begins to lose hope for Pakistan.

Fault Lines - The battle for the Sinai

Thursday, July 18, 2013

The NSA Admits It Analyzes More People's Data Than Previously Revealed - Atlantic Wire

The NSA Admits It Analyzes More People's Data Than Previously Revealed - Philip Bump - The Atlantic Wire

...Chris Inglis, the agency's deputy director, was one of several government representatives—including from the FBI and the office of the Director of National Intelligence—testifying before the House Judiciary Committee this morning. Most of the testimony largely echoed previous testimony by the agencies on the topic of the government's surveillance, including a retread of the same offered examples for how the Patriot Act and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act had stopped terror events.

But Inglis' statement was new. Analysts look "two or three hops" from terror suspects when evaluating terror activity, Inglis revealed. Previously, the limit of how surveillance was extended had been described as two hops. This meant that if the NSA were following a phone metadata or web trail from a terror suspect, it could also look at the calls from the people that suspect has spoken with—one hop. And then, the calls that second person had also spoken with—two hops. Terror suspect to person two to person three. Two hops. And now: A third hop.

Think of it this way. Let's say the government suspects you are a terrorist and it has access to your Facebook account. If you're an American citizen, it can't do that currently (with certain exceptions)—but for the sake of argument. So all of your friends, that's one hop. Your friends' friends, whether you know them or not—two hops. Your friends' friends' friends, whoever they happen to be, are that third hop. That's a massive group of people that the NSA apparently considers fair game.

For a sense of scale, researchers at the University of Milan found in 2011 that everyone on the Internet was, on average, 4.74 steps away from anyone else. The NSA explores relationships up to three of those steps. (See our conversation with the ACLU's Alex Abdo on this.)...

WWII bomber poet David Raikes is finally laid to rest - BBC

BBC News - WWII bomber poet David Raikes is finally laid to rest

Boston crew


...Raikes wrote:

These men knew moments you have never known,

Nor ever will; we knew those moments too,

And talked of them in whispers late at night;

Such confidence was born of danger shared.

We shared their targets, too; but we came back.

As the poem continues, it touches on the black humour that helped the crews cope with the continual danger of death, as in this joke about a dead flyer's watch.

... Someone said

'It was a pity that he wore his watch;

It was a good one, twenty pounds he said

He'd paid for it in Egypt. Now, let's see,

Who's on tonight. Ah, Taffy - you've a good one!

You'd better leave it with me.' And we laughed.

Cold were we? Cold at heart. You get that way....

America’s Global Image Remains More Positive than China’s - Pew

America’s Global Image Remains More Positive than China’s | Pew Global Attitudes Project

Publics around the world believe the global balance of power is shifting. China’s economic power is on the rise, and many think it will eventually supplant the United States as the world’s dominant superpower.

However, China’s increasing power has not led to more positive ratings for the People’s Republic. Overall, the U.S. enjoys a stronger global image than China. Across the nations surveyed, a median of 63% express a favorable opinion of the U.S., compared with 50% for China.

Globally, people are more likely to consider the U.S. a partner to their country than to see China in this way, although relatively few think of either nation as an enemy. America is also seen as somewhat more willing than China to consider other countries’ interests. Still, both of these world powers are widely viewed as acting unilaterally in international affairs.

And the military power of both nations worries many. China’s growing military strength is viewed with trepidation in neighboring Japan, South Korea, Australia and the Philippines. Meanwhile, the Obama administration’s use of drone strikes faces broad opposition – half or more in 31 of 39 countries disapprove of U.S. drone attacks against extremist groups.

Respecting individual liberty remains the strong suit of America’s image. Even in many nations where opposition to American foreign policy is widespread and overall ratings for the U.S. are low, majorities or pluralities believe individual rights are respected in the U.S. Across the nations surveyed, a median of 70% say the American government respects the personal freedoms of its people. In contrast, a median of only 36% say this about China....

-bth: this is a very comprehensive world survey with the notable exception of India.  It is well worth a read. So what is wrong with the Turks for goodness sakes.

Flow of U.S. military gear across Afghan borders halts amid dispute - WaPo

Flow of U.S. military gear across Afghan borders disrupted amid dispute - The Washington Post

An escalating dispute between the Afghan government and the United States over customs procedures has halted the flow of U.S. military equipment across Afghanistan’s borders, forcing commanders to rely more heavily on air transport, which has dramatically increased the cost of the drawdown, according to military officials.

The Afghan government is demanding that the U.S. military pay $1,000 for each shipping container leaving the country that does not have a corresponding, validated customs form. The country’s customs agency says the American military has racked up $70 million in fines.....

-bth: I think the term is shakedown. A shakedown by Karzai.  We are going to have to cut his funding in retaliation.

Nightwatch on Egypt July 17 2013

NightWatch 20130717 - KGS

...Egyptian forces are losing at least one killed and a half dozen wounded daily. In coordination with the Israelis, 11 Egyptian Army battalions, supported by armor and helicopters, are now preparing for large-scale operations against the Sinai militants.

Intercepted logistics activities indicate the Islamists intend to start a violent campaign west of the Suez as well. On the 16th security forces captured a shipment of uniforms and other military equipment near Suez. On the 17th they intercepted 19 GRAD rockets in a truck heading for Cairo from the port of Suez.

Comment: The demonstrations in Cairo appear to be mostly a diversion, while anti-government militants prepare for violence. The main Islamist effort is developing in North Sinai. Weapons are being smuggled across the Suez Canal to cause an uprising west of the Canal. The logistic activity implies that fighting groups are organized and waiting for weapons. The GRAD rockets almost certainly were made and supplied by Hamas and came from the Gaza Strip.

The Egyptian Army has had little success in controlling militants during the past two years. Since 3 July they have become more agressive and apparently been reinforced.  The Army's prospects of suppressing this emerging insurgency are not good.  

The Egyptian Army will need significant extra US military support after operations begin. This fight will be the precise opposite of the Syrian fight and, thus, will pose a major policy challenge to the US administration as to whether and how deeply to get involved....

-bth: Nightwatch is always worth a full read.

Special Congressional Elections Dominated By Out-Of-State Special Interest Groups

Special Congressional Elections Dominated By Out-Of-State Special Interest Groups

....So far this year, just 4 percent of the $12.4 million spent by political groups or party entities on congressional races came from groups based within the state where they’re doing their spending, a Center for Public Integrity analysis of federal independent expenditure data indicates.

Spending by outside groups has become a pivotal element in elections thanks to the Supreme Court’s 2010 ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which allowed super PACs, unions and certain nonprofits to raise and spend unlimited amounts of money to advocate for or against political candidates.

Washington, D.C., is far and away the biggest source of funding. In all, groups with headquarters in the nation’s capital account this year for about two-thirds of independent expenditures on congressional races. That figure jumps to nearly 72 percent when factoring in organizations from New York City and the D.C. suburbs.

Even homegrown groups usually outsource their work: only three-tenths of a percent of independent expenditures come from in-state groups that also used in-state vendors to produce or manage their advertisements and communications, the Center’s analysis shows....

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Driving somewhere? - Fox

Driving somewhere? There's a government record of that - New York News

..."These plate readers are not intended nor used to follow the movements of members of the public," the department's statement said.

But even if law enforcement officials say they don't want a public location tracking system, the records add up quickly. In Jersey City, N.J., for example, the population is only 250,000 but the city collected more than 2 million plate images on file. Because the city keeps records for five years, the ACLU estimates that it has some 10 million on file, making it possible for police to plot the movements of most residents depending upon the number and location of the scanners, according to the ACLU.

The ACLU study, based on 26,000 pages of responses from 293 police departments and state agencies across the country, also found that license plate scanners produced a small fraction of "hits," or alerts to police that a suspicious vehicle has been found. In Maryland, for example, the state reported reading about 29 million plates between January and May of last year. Of that amount, about 60,000 — or roughly 1 in every 500 license plates — were suspicious. The No. 1 crime? A suspended or revoked registration, or a violation of the state's emissions inspection program accounted for 97 percent of all alerts.

Eisenberg, the assistant U.S. attorney, said the numbers "fail to show the real qualitative assistance to public safety and law enforcement." He points to the 132 wanted suspects the program helped track. They were a small fraction of the 29 million plates read, but he said tracking those suspects can be critical to keeping an area safe....

-bth: so basically for almost no actual crimes solved, we've decided to track all vehicles. A dumb use of assets.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

President Obama Address NSA Surveillance Concerns

Absolute Security and Childish Things

If we are to regard ourselves as a grown-up nation—and anything else will henceforth be mortally dangerous—then we must, as the Biblical phrase goes, put away childish things; and among these... the first to go, in my opinion, should be... the search for absolute security...

—George Kennan, The Sources of Soviet Conduct, in Foreign Affairs (1947.)

Rep. Justin Amash will try to derail NSA surveillance by targeting funds

Rep. Justin Amash will try to derail NSA surveillance by targeting funds |

GRAND RAPIDS, MI — U.S. Rep. Justin Amash this week will attempt to defund federal programs that led to the covert seizure of millions of Americans' phone records.

Amash, R-Cascade Township, plans to offer an amendment that would financially gut the programs to a defense appropriations bill set to be weighed by the U.S. House.

The sophomore lawmaker on Monday tweeted his intentions to amend the spending bill.

"Most important bill this week: DoD Approps," Amash tweeted. "We can defund #NSA's unconstitutional spying on Americans--if House leaders allow amendments."...

-bth: This is one of the few methods of reigning in illegal surveillance.  Cut the funds.

Boko Haram leader calls for more schools attacks after dorm killings - Guardian

Boko Haram leader calls for more schools attacks after dorm killings | World news |

The leader of Nigeria's Islamist militant group Boko Haram has called for more attacks against schools, describing western education as a "plot against Islam", in a video released days after his fighters killed 46 students in an assault on a dorm.


"Teachers who teach western education? We will kill them! We will kill them in front of their students, and tell the students to henceforth study the Qur'an," he said, gesticulating energetically while dressed in military fatigues and a traditional hat.

Shekau denied that his fighters killed children. "Our religion does not permit us to touch small children and women, we don't kill children," he said, reading from sheets of paper as he cradled a Kalashnikov. He also dismissed talk of a ceasefire. Last week the government said it had signed a deal with Shekau's second-in-command.

With its ability to launch attacks reduced by a military crackdown, Boko Haram is redrawing the battle lines in Nigeria's four-year insurgency by going after softer targets. A recent spate of attacks on schools is part of a two-pronged strategy that plays up the extremists' ideology against western institutions while also providing a stream of potential new recruits as frightened parents pull their children out of education.

Unschooled and unemployed children are increasingly being recruited – sometimes forcibly – to fill the ranks of Boko Haram and unleash violence against their peers, the Guardian has learned. Witnesses say many are plied with dates stuffed with tramadol – a narcotic used to tranquilise horses – before being sent on missions.

Just after dawn on 6 July, a school dormitory was doused in petrol and set alight in north-eastern Yobe. Those trying to flee the flames were shot. The attack left 46 dead, mostly students. More than 300 classrooms have been torched in the remote, arid state since 2009, according to official counts....

Syria Violence: Pro-Assad Militia Kills 6 Mediators From National Reconciliation Committee - Reuters

Syria Violence: Pro-Assad Militia Kills 6 Mediators From National Reconciliation Committee

BEIRUT, July 16 (Reuters) - Gunmen loyal to President Bashar al-Assad shot dead at least six mediators sent to try to reconcile warring sectarian groups in the province of Homs, where people on opposing sides in Syria's war had until now been able to coexist, residents said on Tuesday.

The negotiators were from the National Reconciliation Committee, which the government set up to foster talks in a two-year conflict that has taken more than 100,000 lives.

The killings, which happened on Monday evening in the village of Hajar al-Abyad, highlight the growing challenge of mediating between towns held by rebel groups and those controlled by pro-Assad militias known as "shabbiha"....

The Raven - Edgar Allan Poe

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered weak and weary,
Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore,
While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping,
As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door.
`'Tis some visitor,' I muttered, `tapping at my chamber door -
Only this, and nothing more.'

Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December,
And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor.
Eagerly I wished the morrow; - vainly I had sought to borrow
From my books surcease of sorrow - sorrow for the lost Lenore -
For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels named Lenore -
Nameless here for evermore.

And the silken sad uncertain rustling of each purple curtain
Thrilled me - filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before;
So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating
`'Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door -
Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door; -
This it is, and nothing more,'

Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer,
`Sir,' said I, `or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore;
But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping,
And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door,
That I scarce was sure I heard you' - here I opened wide the door; -
Darkness there, and nothing more.

Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing,
Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before;
But the silence was unbroken, and the darkness gave no token,
And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, `Lenore!'
This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, `Lenore!'
Merely this and nothing more.

Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning,
Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before.
`Surely,' said I, `surely that is something at my window lattice;
Let me see then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore -
Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore; -
'Tis the wind and nothing more!'

Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter,
In there stepped a stately raven of the saintly days of yore.
Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he;
But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door -
Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door -
Perched, and sat, and nothing more.

Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling,
By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore,
`Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,' I said, `art sure no craven.
Ghastly grim and ancient raven wandering from the nightly shore -
Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night's Plutonian shore!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly,
Though its answer little meaning - little relevancy bore;
For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being
Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door -
Bird or beast above the sculptured bust above his chamber door,
With such name as `Nevermore.'

But the raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only,
That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour.
Nothing further then he uttered - not a feather then he fluttered -
Till I scarcely more than muttered `Other friends have flown before -
On the morrow he will leave me, as my hopes have flown before.'
Then the bird said, `Nevermore.'

Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken,
`Doubtless,' said I, `what it utters is its only stock and store,
Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful disaster
Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore -
Till the dirges of his hope that melancholy burden bore
Of "Never-nevermore."'

But the raven still beguiling all my sad soul into smiling,
Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird and bust and door;
Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking
Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore -
What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore
Meant in croaking `Nevermore.'

This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing
To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom's core;
This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining
On the cushion's velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o'er,
But whose velvet violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o'er,
She shall press, ah, nevermore!

Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer
Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor.
`Wretch,' I cried, `thy God hath lent thee - by these angels he has sent thee
Respite - respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore!
Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe, and forget this lost Lenore!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

`Prophet!' said I, `thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil! -
Whether tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore,
Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted -
On this home by horror haunted - tell me truly, I implore -
Is there - is there balm in Gilead? - tell me - tell me, I implore!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

`Prophet!' said I, `thing of evil! - prophet still, if bird or devil!
By that Heaven that bends above us - by that God we both adore -
Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn,
It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels named Lenore -
Clasp a rare and radiant maiden, whom the angels named Lenore?'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

`Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!' I shrieked upstarting -
`Get thee back into the tempest and the Night's Plutonian shore!
Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken!
Leave my loneliness unbroken! - quit the bust above my door!
Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!'
Quoth the raven, `Nevermore.'

And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon's that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o'er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted - nevermore!

Panama finds 'missile cargo' in N Korea ship

Panama finds 'missile cargo' in N Korea ship - Americas - Al Jazeera English

Panama has detained a North Korean ship coming from Cuba with what appeared to be ballistic missiles and other arms, Ricardo Martinelli, the country's president, has said.

Martinelli said late on Monday that the ship was targeted by drug enforcement officials as it approached the Panama Canal on the Atlantic coast of the country and was taken into port.

Javier Caraballo, Panama's top anti-drugs prosecutor, told local television the cargo ship was en route to North Korea.

The vessel's estimated 35-man crew also rioted when police stepped aboard, according to Martinelli, who said the suspicious cargo was found within a massive consignment of sugar.

Martinelli said on Tuesday that the ship was violating United Nations resolutions against arms trafficking.

"The world needs to sit up and take note: you cannot go around shipping undeclared weapons of war through the Panama Canal," he told Radio Panama listeners.

"We had suspected this ship, which was coming from Cuba and headed to North Korea, might have drugs aboard so it was brought into port for search and inspection.

"When we started to unload the shipment of sugar we located containers that we believe to be sophisticated missile equipment, and that is not allowed."...

-bth: so did Cuba build the missile for N. Korea?

Monday, July 15, 2013

America's Undisputed Job Dynamo: Texas -Zerohedge

America's Undisputed Job Dynamo: Texas | Zero Hedge

-bth: so basically jobs are created only in the energy sector largely due to new O&G recovery technologies and in goverment subsidized financial sectors.

Treasury: Debt Has Been Exactly $16,699,396,000,000.00 for 56 Days

Treasury: Debt Has Been Exactly $16,699,396,000,000.00 for 56 Days | CNS News

... On May 18, the day after the debt began its long stay at $16,699,396,000,000.00, Treasury Secretary Lew sent a letter to House Speaker John Boehner. In the letter, Lew said the Treasury would begin implementing what he called “the standard set of extraordinary measures” that allows the Treasury to continue to borrow and spend money even after it has hit the legal debt limit.

How many days did Lew think he could keep the debt just under the debt limit while the Treasury continued to borrow money?

“The effective duration of the extraordinary measures is subject to considerable uncertainty due to a variety of factors, including the unpredictability of tax receipts, changes in expenditure flows under the sequester, and the normal challenges of forecasting the payments and receipts of the U.S. government months into the future.”

Lew went on to say, however, that “it is now clear that the measures will not be exhausted until after Labor Day.”

If that prediction is correct, it will mean that the Daily Treasury Statement will continue to peg the “debt subject to limit” of the United States at exactly $16,699,396,000,000.00—or just $25 million below the legal limit—for another month and a half.

If the Treasury then says, sometime in September, that it can no longer hold the debt subject to limit at exactly $16,699,396,000,000.00 but must default on the bills of the federal government if the Republican-controlled House of Representatives does not vote to increase the legal debt limit, the Treasury will then be forcing a battle with the Republican House over the debt limit at the same time that the current continuing resolution, which funds the government until Sept. 30, is set to expire....

-bth: so if I guess what is happening, the debt ceiling was hit sooner than expected.  The matter is being held through tricks until when Congress returns from summer vacation in September and then the entire budget comes to a head at the end of the fiscal year Sept 30.  So the crisis is imminent.

China Wealth Eludes Investors as Stocks Earn 1% - Bloombert

China Wealth Eludes Investors as Stocks Earn 1% - Bloomberg

China’s 20-year economic boom has boosted the wealth of its 1.3 billion citizens at the fastest pace worldwide and spawned some of the biggest companies in history. Foreigners earned less than 1 percent a year investing in Chinese stocks, a sixth of what they would have made owning U.S. Treasury bills.

The MSCI China Index has gained about 14 percent, including dividends, since Tsingtao Brewery Co. (168) became the first mainland company to sell H shares to international investors in Hong Kong in July 1993. That compares with a 452 percent return in the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index, 322 percent in the MSCI Emerging Markets Index and 86 percent from Treasuries. Only the MSCI Japan Index had a weaker performance among the 10 largest markets, losing about 1 percent....

-bth: the folks that got rich were the leading communist party and military families.

Ex-Afghan spy chief criticize US for ‘zero option’ on troops

Ex-Afghan spy chief criticize US for ‘zero option’ on troops - Khaama Press (KP) | Afghan Online Newspaper

The former intelligence — National Directorate of Security (NDS) chief of Afghanistan Amrullah Saleh on Sunday warned that the announcement of ‘zero option’ by United States will have a negative impact on the Afghan nation and will further boost militants in the country.

US president Barack Obama weighing ‘zero option’ for Afghanistan after 2014 was first reported by New York Times, saying that the Obama administration may close down the US military presence in Afghanistan more abruptly than previously planned.

Former Afghan intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh strongly criticized the announcement of ‘zero option’ by United States. “Washington is seeking excuses to sign a bilateral security agreement with Afghanistan. Washington should not propose the ‘zero option’ if it is serious to sign a bilateral security agreement by criticizing Hamid Karzai who will be in service only for another nine months.”

Mr. Saleh urged United States to have a broader perspective while considering to sign a long term bilateral security agreement and decide regarding the presence of its troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014....

-bth: the guy has a point.  If Karzai is about to depart office in 9 months, perhaps we should be discussing this matter with his successor.

Hundreds of Pakistani jihadists reported in Syria -TLWJ

Hundreds of Pakistani jihadists reported in Syria - Threat Matrix

Late last week, it was reported that a small cadre of expert trainers from the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan under the command of Mohammad Amin set up a base in Syria to support jihadist activities against the Syrian government. In the last 24 hours, both the Associated Press and Reuters reported that hundreds of Pakistani jihadists, including some from the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, are fighting in Syria.

Reuters reported that "hundreds" of Pakistani fighters are currently in Syria:

On Sunday, Taliban commanders in Pakistan said they had also decided to join the cause, saying hundreds of fighters had gone to Syria to fight alongside their "Mujahedeen friends."

"When our brothers needed our help, we sent hundreds of fighters along with our Arab friends," one senior commander told Reuters, adding that the group would soon issue videos of what he described as their victories in Syria.


AP notes that there are two different types of fighters from Pakistan in Syria- - those who belong to al Qaeda and various Central Asian groups, and members of the Pakistani Taliban and other Pakistani jihadist groups, specifically the virulently anti-Shia Lashkar-e-Jhangvi:...

-bth: worth reading in full. As the article concludes Pak taliban are going international.

Report: Israeli submarine strike hit Syrian arms depot

Report: Israeli submarine strike hit Syrian arms depot | JPost | Israel News

sraeli Dolphin-class submarines carried out a July 5 attack on an arms depot in the Syrian port city of Latakia, according to a report in the British Sunday Times, which contradicted a previous CNN report that the attack was the work of the Israel Air Force.

The alleged Israeli naval strike was closely coordinated with the United States and targeted a contingent of 50 Russian-made Yakhont P-800 anti-ship missiles that had arrived earlier in the year for Syrian President Bashar Assad's regime, the Times cited Middle East intelligence sources as stating.....

Sunday, July 14, 2013

China now largest market for robots -

Everything-Robotic by The Robot Report - tracking the business of robotics

... According to the IFR's President Dr. Shinsuke Sakakibara at a press conference preceding CIROS, China is forecast to exceed Japan and the USA as the largest market for robots, particularly when in-country manufactured robots are included in the tally, sometime in 2014.

But Ilian Bonev, an Associate Professor in Robotics at the École de technology supérieure in Montreal, Canada, in a recent post, suggests that China probably already has become the largest user of industrial robots in the world. Citing data from the IFR which showed that 23,000 robots were sold into China in 2012, Bonev added 9,800 robots manufactured by six major Chinese vendors giving a total of 32,800 - 4,000 greater than the 28,700 sold into Japan in 2012. Hence his claim that China has already become the largest buyer of robots.

And this doesn't include Foxconn's Foxbots - the robots produced in Taiwan for Foxconn's factories in mainland China. Foxconn already has 20,000 robots at work in it's factories according to CEO Terry Gou. Yet these are not reported by the IFR because Foxconn isn't a member of the Taiwanese Robot Association (TAIROA) nor are they reported as a Chinese manufacturer or a member of the new CRIA.

About 70% of the total number of robots produced in 2012 went to Japan, China, the US, Korea and Germany. Sales to Japan rose slightly to 28,700 units and 22,400 for the U.S. Between 2005 and 2012, sales of industrial robots into China increased by about 25% on average per year. Based on an IFR chart, welding is the main use of those robots followed by handling, assembly, dispensing and cleanroom robotics....