Saturday, August 03, 2013

How low can Congress go? - CNN

How low can Congress go? – CNN Political Ticker - CNN.com Blogs

...the approval rating for Congress is mired near historic lows.

Only 17% of Americans give the institution a thumbs up, with a whopping 77% saying they disapprove of the job lawmakers are doing, according to a CNN Poll of Polls that averages the four non-partisan, live operator, national surveys of Congress' approval rating conducted over the past two and a half weeks.

Not only is the disapproval rating for Congress sky-high, but a recent poll suggests that voters are very open to throwing out their own representative in the U.S. House. Only 32% of those questioned in an NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll conducted in mid-July said they feel that their member of Congress deserves to be re-elected, with 57% saying it's time to give a new person a chance.

Another 57% said they would vote to defeat and replace every single member of Congress, including their own representative, if such a place on the ballot existed.

While not in the same predicament, President Barack Obama doesn't have a whole heck of a lot to brag about when it comes to his public standing - he stands at a 46% approval rating while his disapproval rate is 48%, according to a new CNN Poll of Polls that averages the the three non-partisan, live operator, national surveys of the president's approval rating conducted over the past two weeks....

CNN analysis: Congress in D.C. far less than it used to be

CNN analysis: Congress in D.C. far less than it used to be - CNN.com

...But a CNN analysis shows Congress has spent less time on Capitol Hill so far this year than in any of the previous five years.

House members have been in Washington for 56% of all non-holiday weekdays -- essentially, fewer than three days a week. Senators have walked into the Capitol for 61% of weekdays.

The weeks are not just shorter, but consistently so. The Senate did not have a single five-day work week in Washington for the first seven months of the year. The House had two....

-bth: not there, not getting anything done.

CNN analysis: Congress in D.C. far less than it used to be

CNN analysis: Congress in D.C. far less than it used to be - CNN.com

...But a CNN analysis shows Congress has spent less time on Capitol Hill so far this year than in any of the previous five years.

House members have been in Washington for 56% of all non-holiday weekdays -- essentially, fewer than three days a week. Senators have walked into the Capitol for 61% of weekdays.

The weeks are not just shorter, but consistently so. The Senate did not have a single five-day work week in Washington for the first seven months of the year. The House had two....

-bth: not there, not getting anything done.

Thursday, August 01, 2013

Hagel Forecasts Massive Cuts to Troop Numbers

Hagel Forecasts Massive Cuts to Troop Numbers | Military.com

The Army would shrink to 380,000 troops, the Marines Corps to 150,000. The Navy would lose three carriers, and the Air Force would begin mothballing its B-52 bomber fleet under a worst-case budget scenario outlined Wednesday by Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

In addition, Tricare fees would go up, housing allowances would be slashed, pay raises would be scaled back, and commissary subsidies would be reduced, Hagel said -- unless Congress and the White House can agree to lift the sequestration deficit-reduction process that is projected to take $500 billion out of defense budgets over the next 10 years.

The re-balance of forces to the Pacific under the national defense strategy introduced by Preident Obama would also come under renewed scrutiny from the budget planners.

"We are committed to sustaining that effort in a significant way," a senior Pentagon official said of the so-called "Pacific pivot" to counter the rise of China. However, "it would be very challenging to implement that as conceived," he said.

Hagel and Adm. James Winnefeld, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, discussed at press briefing the findings of the Pentagon's Strategic Choices and Management Review after first consulting with Congressional leaders.

A guiding principle in the review was "maximizing the military's combat power by looking to reduce every other category of spending first," Hagel said. To that end, the review led by Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter sought to make a "basic tradeoff" between the military's "capacity and capability," Hagel said.

The choice under the automatic budget cuts of sequestration came down to one between troops and new weapons systems, Hagel said. Defense leaders who led the review favored funding cyberwarfare, and such weapons systems as the F35 Joint Strike Fighter and the Littoral Combat Ship over personnel....

-bth: horrible outcome and method of decision making. Congress and the President should be ashamed.

F.B.I. Said to Conclude It Could Not Have Averted Boston Attack - NYT

F.B.I. Said to Conclude It Could Not Have Averted Boston Attack - NYTimes.com

WASHINGTON — The F.B.I. has concluded that there was little its agents could have done to prevent the Boston Marathon bombings, according to law enforcement officials, rejecting criticism that it could have better monitored one of the suspects before the attack.
That conclusion is based on several internal reviews that examined how the bureau handled a request from a Russian intelligence agency in 2011 to investigate whether one of the suspects, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, had been radicalized during his time in the United States....
-bth: agencies cannot objectively review themselves.

Cost of Arctic methane release could be “size of global economy”: experts

Infrastructure protection | Homeland Security News Wire

As the Arctic warms and sea ice melts at an unprecedented rate, hitting a record low last summer, the thawing of offshore “permafrost” in the region is releasing methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. Economic modeling shows that the possible methane emissions caused by shrinking sea ice from just one area of the Arctic, the East Siberian Sea, could come with a global price tag of $60 trillion — the size of the world economy in 2012.

Economic modeling shows that the possible methane emissions caused by shrinking sea ice from just one area of the Arctic could come with a global price tag of $60 trillion — the size of the world economy in 2012.

As the Arctic warms and sea ice melts at an unprecedented rate, hitting a record low last summer, the thawing of offshore “permafrost” — frozen soil — in the region is releasing methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.

Scientists have previously warned that there are vast reservoirs of methane in the Arctic, hundreds of billions of tons of a gas many times worse than carbon dioxide for global warming — of which only a fraction needs releasing into the atmosphere to trigger possibly catastrophic climate change.

A University of Cambridge release reports that now, researchers from Cambridge and Rotterdam have for the first time calculated the potential economic impact of a scenario some scientists consider increasingly likely: that the methane below the East Siberian Sea will be emitted, either steadily over the next thirty years or in one giant “burp.”...

Al-Qaeda Backers Found With U.S. Contracts in Afghanistan

Al-Qaeda Backers Found With U.S. Contracts in Afghanistan - Bloomberg

 

...According to the report, Sopko’s agency “has found it impossible to confirm” the number of contracts awarded in a $32 million program to install barricades, bars or gratings in culverts at about 2,500 Afghan locations to prevent insurgents from placing roadside bombs. The explosives are the biggest killer of U.S. and Afghan troops....

...In a report issued yesterday, Sopko said $47 million that the U.S. Agency for International Development has spent on a program to stabilize Afghanistan hasn’t dealt with the sources of instability.

An audit showed that after 16 months, none of the agency’s essential program objectives have been reached and the money spent has mostly financed workshops and training sessions. The project is aimed at bolstering Afghanistan’s government before troop withdrawals planned for next year.

“It’s troubling that after 16 months, this program has not issued its first community grant,” Sopko said. “Rather, it has spent almost $50 million, about a quarter of the total program budget, on conferences, overhead and workshops.”

The failure of the State Department agency to use the money for grants has left local Afghan communities disappointed and may feed greater instability, according to the audit.

-bth: from the report.

"I am deeply troubled that the U.S. military can pursue, attack, and even kill terrorists
and their supporters, but that some in the U.S. government believe we cannot prevent these
same people from receiving a government contract. I feel such a position is not only legally
wrong, it is contrary to good public policy and contrary to our national security goals in
Afghanistan. I continue to urge you to change this faulty policy and enforce the rule of common sense in the Army’s suspension and debarment program"

Model of Power Transfer - Nightwatch

NightWatch 20130731 - KGS

The chart below depicts the Egyptian situation as it now exists.

The article associated with this graph is worth reading in full to understand a model for tracking regime change.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

As Britain's military shrinks, US concerns grow -CSM

As Britain's military shrinks, US concerns grow - CSMonitor.com

...Yet at a time of austerity, the British public's enduring attachment to its men and women in uniform still isn't enough to save the country's £34 billion ($52 billion) defense budget from bearing its share of severe government spending cuts. The latest plan, issued in June, targeted the reduction of full-time personnel from 102,000 to 82,000 by 2018.

"The reality is that we're spending less on defense because the public or political appetite to do otherwise is absent," says Timothy Edmunds, a professor at the University of Bristol who studies defense and security institutions in processes of political and organizational change....

bth; there simply aren't enough men under arms to be relevant in world events especially ones that require a projection of power.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Find The Cost Of Freedom. Gilmour, Crosby , Nash

Iranian Official: Lack Of Hard Currency Has Halted Imports -RFE

Iranian Official: Lack Of Hard Currency Has Halted Imports

An Iranian official says the country has halted imports due to the lack of hard currency.

Iranian news media is reporting that Majid Reza Hariri, the head of the commission on imports for Iran's Chamber of Commerce, discussed the problem on July 28.

He reportedly said that over the past 25 days, no hard currency had been allocated for imports because of a dispute between the Central Bank and the Commerce Ministry.

Hariri warned that if the disagreement was not resolved, Iran would face severe shortages in basic foodstuffs and medicines.

Exporters are only accepting hard currency from Tehran because of the plummeting value of Iran's rial.

The Customs Administration revealed on July 28 that Iranian imports had decreased by around 26 percent in the past four months.

Iran's economy has been hit hard by Western and UN sanctions.
-bth: I think this article is deceptive in that it does not discuss the use of oil as an option to hard currency in barter transactions.  And one would ask which Iranian politician or religious leadership group is pocketing the hard currency being generated from authorized oil exports to places like China and India.

Moscow Subway To Use Devices To Read Data On Phones -RFE

Moscow Subway To Use Devices To Read Data On Phones

The head of police for Moscow's subway system has said stations will soon be equipped with devices that can read the data on the mobile telephones of passengers.

In the July 29 edition of "Izvestia," Moscow Metro police chief Andrei Mokhov said the device would be used to help locate stolen mobile phones.

Mokhov said the devices have a range of about 5 meters and can read the SIM card.

If the card is on the list of stolen phones, the system automatically sends information to the police.

The time and place of the alert can be matched to closed-circuit TV in stations.

"Izvestia" reported that "according to experts, the devices can be used more widely to follow all passengers without exception."

Mokhov said it was illegal to track a person without permission from the authorities, but that there was no law against tracking the property of a company, such as a SIM card.

CENTCOM Review: Interview with Gen Mattis

Black Hat event highlights vulnerability of U.S. critical infrastructure

Cybersecurity | Homeland Security News Wire

Cybersecurity researchers at the Black Hat conference now going on in Las Vegas, will demonstrate how hackers can gain access to U.S. critical infrastructure, and even cause explosions in oil and gas facilities, by altering the readings on wireless sensors used by the oil and gas industry. The faulty sensors typically cost between $1,000 and $2,000 each, and hundreds or even thousands of them are used at a single oil, gas, or water facility.

Cybersecurity researchers at the Black Hat conference now going on in Las Vegas, will demonstrate how hackers can gain access to U.S. critical infrastructure, and even cause explosions in oil and gas facilities, by altering the readings on wireless sensors used by the oil and gas industry.

WAToday reports that, among other things, presenters at the event show companies the cost of refusing to replace expensive equipment and install new standards. “We’ve got this cancer that is growing inside our critical infrastructure. When are we going to go under the knife instead of letting this fester?” Patrick Miller, founder of the non-profit Energy Sector Security Consortium said. “We need to restructure some relations and incentives.”

The faulty sensors typically cost between $1,000 and $2,000 each, and hundreds or even thousands of them are used at a single oil, gas, or water facility....

Monday, July 29, 2013

Saudi Prince: Fracking Is Threat To Kingdom - Sky

Saudi Prince: Fracking Is Threat To Kingdom

A Saudi prince has warned that his oil-reliant nation is under threat because of fracking technology being developed elsewhere around the world.

Billionaire Prince Alwaleed bin Talal said the Gulf Arab kingdom needed to reduce its reliance on crude oil and diversify its revenues.

His warning comes as rising shale energy supplies in the United States cut global demand for Saudi oil.

In an open letter to his country's oil minister Ali al Naimi and other government heads, published on Sunday via his Twitter account, Prince Alwaleed said demand for oil from Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) member states was "in continuous decline"....

-bth: in the 1980s the Saudi's fearful of rising solar and tar sand production were able to crush it by driving the per barrel price of oil on world markets down until these marginally economic sources were bankrupted. This severely damaged many companies and it has taken nearly 30 years for alternate technologies to re-establish themselves.  The Saudis also effectively bankrupted the Soviet Union.  So here we are in 2013.  Can the Saudi's afford to do it again?  I doubt it.  Also economies like China and India have emerged has huge consumers of oil which really didn't exist in the 80s.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Exclusive: 4 in 5 in US face near-poverty, no work -AP

Exclusive: 4 in 5 in US face near-poverty, no work

WASHINGTON (AP) — Four out of 5 U.S. adults struggle with joblessness, near poverty or reliance on welfare for at least parts of their lives, a sign of deteriorating economic security and an elusive American dream.

Survey data exclusive to The Associated Press points to an increasingly globalized U.S. economy, the widening gap between rich and poor and loss of good-paying manufacturing jobs as reasons for the trend.

The findings come as President Barack Obama tries to renew his administration's emphasis on the economy, saying in recent speeches that his highest priority is to "rebuild ladders of opportunity" and reverse income inequality.

Hardship is particularly on the rise among whites, based on several measures. Pessimism among that racial group about their families' economic futures has climbed to the highest point since at least 1987. In the most recent AP-GfK poll, 63 percent of whites called the economy "poor."

...

Depsang Bulge incursion accidental, Chinese military thinktank says

Depsang Bulge incursion accidental, Chinese military thinktank says - Times Of India

BEIJING: Embarking on a rare charm offensive, a top Chinese military thinktank suggested that Beijing's action at Depsang Bulge in eastern Ladakh could have been "accidental, not deliberately staged". Speaking to a group of invited Indian journalists here, Colonel Ma Jun of the PLA's Academy of Military Sciences (AMS) said India and China had developed several "pragmatic mechanisms" and they should be left to handle border issues, making a strong pitch to put it behind us.

On April 15, Indian patrols found the Chinese troops had set up camps at Depsang Bulge leading to a "face-to-face" situation because it went against a bilateral 2005 protocol — it took a lot of Indian diplomatic capital to extricate both countries from what could have been a big mess.

This is the first time any Chinese official institution has come close to explaining the incident, although couched in assertions of China's peaceful development. It's also the first time the PLA's diplomacy wing has opened out to foreign, particularly Indian, journalists. "We don't meet the Chinese media either," said Maj Gen Chen Zhou....

-bth: curious

Five Year Growth in Personal Income

DOE official: Chinese natural gas could 'wreak havoc' on markets

DOE official: Chinese natural gas could 'wreak havoc' on markets - The Hill's E2-Wire

A senior Energy Department official said Thursday that China has the potential to “wreak havoc” on global natural gas markets if it develops its shale resources.

DOE counsel Melanie Kenderdine, who made the comments at a Washington, D.C., event hosted by think tank the Bipartisan Policy Center, said that possibility was still 10 or 15 years away. She viewed it as a positive development from a geopolitical perspective, as it could wrest control of markets from Russia.

For China, the question is whether the nation can economically produce shale gas. Its technology isn’t up to par with that of the United States, and its deposits are located far from water sources.

The drilling method that has driven the U.S. boom — hydraulic fracturing, or fracking — uses large amounts of water, making it a necessary input in shale gas recovery.

The practice involves injecting a cocktail of water, sand and chemicals into tight-rock formations to tap hard to reach hydrocarbons buried deep underground.

Kenderdine said the vast shale gas resources discovered during the recent U.S. energy surge already have affected global energy markets.

Backing out of import plans already has exerted downward pressure on prices, Kenderdine said.

And shale finds in Africa, Eastern Europe, China and elsewhere could loosen the grip Russia has on the global natural gas trade, helping to destabilize a government that’s been cool to the U.S. and giving allies more options for trading partners.

“That will affect Russia,” Kenderdine said plainly....