Thursday, August 08, 2013

Israel fears next war with Hezbollah will hit civilians harder - LAT

Israel fears next war with Hezbollah will hit civilians harder - latimes.com
.... The official spoke to reporters Wednesday on the condition that his name not be used, in keeping with Israeli military practice.
In the 2006 Second Lebanon War, nearly 4,000 rockets were fired into Israel, killing more than 40 civilians and causing widespread devastation to property and the economy.
Hezbollah is now believed to have 60,000 to 100,000 rockets that boast longer ranges, improved accuracy and larger warheads.
“This will be a whole new ballgame,” the official said.
Israeli officials fear that as many as 2,000 rockets a day could be released against all parts of Israel. Most of the launching sites are in southern Lebanon, where Hezbollah militants use private homes and farms in about 100 villages.
Hezbollah’s rocket capacity has turned Israeli civilians into the preferred front in the next conflict so public fear will put pressure on the Israeli military, the official said.
Though Israel does not have enough Iron Dome missile-interception systems to prevent a barrage of rockets from Hezbollah or others, it has focused on improving civilian defense through mock drills and emergency planning.
Nevertheless, only 60% of Israelis have chemical-weapons protection kits, in part due an inter-governmental squabble over funding. Nearly one-third of Israelis don’t have quick access to bomb shelters.
bth: so if there was 1 civilian death per 100 rockets in 2006 one might exoect that upwards of 600-1000 could occur in the next conflict assuming nothing else changes. But new variables include Iron Dome and the possible use of chemical weapons though the odds of that would seem pretty low.  Also there is the simple question of how fast rockets can be launched before their launch zones are destroyed.

Merle Hazard on "The Great Unwind"


Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt "staging" a protest video for the cameras


Moscow rejects Saudi offer to drop Assad for arms deal - AFP

AFP: Moscow rejects Saudi offer to drop Assad for arms deal

BEIRUT — Moscow has rejected a Saudi proposal to abandon Syria's president in return for a huge arms deal and a pledge to boost Russian influence in the Arab world, diplomats told AFP.

On July 31, President Vladimir Putin, a strong backer of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, met Saudi Arabia's influential intelligence chief Prince Bandar bin Sultan, after which both Moscow and Riyadh kept a lid on the substance of the talks.

"Every two years, Bandar bin Sultan meets his Russian counterparts, but this time, he wanted to meet the head of state," said a European diplomat who shuttles between Beirut and Damascus.

"During the meeting at the Kremlin, the Saudi official explained to his interlocutor that Riyadh is ready to help Moscow play a bigger role in the Middle East at a time when the United States is disengaging from the region."

Bandar proposed that Saudi Arabia buy $15 billion (11 billion euros) of weapons from Russia and invest "considerably in the country," the source said.

The Saudi prince also reassured Putin that "whatever regime comes after" Assad, it will be "completely" in the Saudis' hands and will not sign any agreement allowing any Gulf country to transport its gas across Syria to Europe and compete with Russian gas exports, the diplomat said.

...

bth: everything Putin does hinges on Gasprov and the hard currency and strangle hold natural gas pipeline exclusivity has on Europe.

Boston Bombing Suspect’s Friends Indicted On Obstruction Charges

Boston Bombing Suspect’s Friends Indicted On Obstruction Charges « CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) – Two friends of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev have been indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly hampering the investigation.

The indictment accuses the two men of going into Tsarnaev’s dormitory room at UMass-Dartmouth and removing several items, including Tsarnaev’s laptop computer and a backpack containing fireworks after seeing his photo on the news....

-bth: why has it taken the Police this long to file charges?

 

 

Afghanistan graveyard bomb blast kills 14 women and children

Afghanistan graveyard bomb blast kills 14 women and children - CBS News

KABUL, Afghanistan A bomb planted in a graveyard in rural eastern Afghanistan killed 14 members of a single family on Thursday as the country's president urged the Taliban to lay down their arms.

 

The family was getting together to mark the start of a major Muslim holiday, the Eid al-Fitr at the end of the holy month of Ramadan, with a visit to the tomb of a relative. In Afghanistan, it is customary for families to visit the graves of loved ones on holiday occasions.

 

The attack took place in Nangarhar province's Ghany Khel district and all 14 killed — seven women and seven children — were members of the same extended family, said Masum Khan Hashimi, the province's deputy police chief. Three family members were also wounded in the attack, he said, adding that an investigation was under way....

-bth: interesting that the surviving brother is in the security company and also spent 4 years in Gitmo.

Pakistan: Suicide Bomber Kills 30 At Policeman's Funeral

Pakistan: Suicide Bomber Kills 30 At Policeman's Funeral

QUETTA, Pakistan -- A suicide bomber attacked a police officer's funeral in southwestern Pakistan on Thursday, killing 30 people gathered to mourn a man shot dead earlier that day in front of his children, authorities said.

The bombing is one of the more audacious assaults in a series of attacks targeting security forces in Pakistan, where insurgent Pakistani Taliban fighters routinely kill woefully under-equipped police officers.

The funeral was being held in an open field outside a mosque in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province. Some 250 people gathered for the service.

Fayaz Sumbal, the head of police operations in Baluchistan, noticed the bomber near the gate of the mosque before he detonated his explosives, police official Mohammed Aslam said. Sumbal called on officers to question the bomber, who then blew himself up, Aslam said. Sumbal died in the blast.

Most of the 30 dead and 55 wounded in the suicide bombing were police officers, Aslam said. They had gathered for the funeral of an officer gunned down earlier in the day as he traveled through the city in a vehicle with his children, city police chief Mir Zubair Mehmood said. Two of his children were wounded in the attack.

Provincial police chief Mushtaq Sukhaira said the attack could not deter the resolve of the police in the fight against terrorism. He said 21 police officers and nine civilians were killed in the attack.....

 

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

Jordan foils alleged Syrian arms smuggling attempt - Alarabiya.net

Jordan foils alleged Syrian arms smuggling attempt - Alarabiya.net English | Front Page

Jordanian police are questioning two Syrians who allegedly tried to smuggle a large cache of arms including surface-to-air missiles into the kingdom, a security official said Wednesday. It was the second such attempt reported in a week.


The official said earlier that preliminary reports indicated that five had been arrested near the northern Syrian border early Tuesday. He said the reason for discrepancy in the number was not immediately clear and declined to elaborate further.

The announcement came a week after authorities said they had arrested another group of smugglers, including Syrians, trying to bring in arms. They said the group arrested late Thursday was caught with the largest arms cache to be brought to the kingdom from Syria during its 2-year-old civil war.

The official said anti-tank missiles, surface-to-air missiles and assault rifles were seized with the two men caught on Tuesday.

He declined to say if the alleged smugglers were affiliated with any side in Syria’s civil war.

“There is an investigation now to determine if the two men were rebels seeking to hide weapons in Jordan, or that they smuggled them in with the malicious intention of staging attacks here,” he said....

Full-Auto Gauss Gun

Broad U.S. terror alert mystifies experts; ‘It’s crazy pants,’ one says

Broad U.S. terror alert mystifies experts; ‘It’s crazy pants,’ one says | McClatchy

....If ordinary Americans are confused, they’re in good company. Analysts who’ve devoted their careers to studying al Qaida and U.S. counterterrorism strategy can’t really make sense of it, either. There’s general agreement that the diffuse list of potential targets has to do with either specific connections authorities are tracking, or places that might lack the defenses to ward off an attack. Beyond that, however, even the experts are stumped.

Take this sampling of reactions from prominent al Qaida observers:

“It’s crazy pants – you can quote me,” said Will McCants, a former State Department adviser on counterterrorism who this month joins the Brookings Saban Center as the director of its project on U.S. relations with the Islamic world.

“We just showed our hand, so now they’re obviously going to change their position on when and where” to attack, said Nada Bakos, a former CIA analyst who was part of the team that hunted Osama bin Laden for years.

“It’s not completely random, but most people are, like, ‘Whaaat?’ ” said Aaron Zelin, who researches militants for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and blogs about them at Jihadology.net

“I’m not going to argue that it’s not willy-nilly, but it’s hard for me to come down too critical because I simply don’t know their reasoning,” said Daveed Gartenstein-Ross, a counterterrorism specialist at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, a Washington research institute.

In the absence of specifics about what the Obama administration refers to as a “specific threat,” seasoned analysts were reluctant to comment because there’s so little insight into the government’s decision-making. Instead, a mix of speculation and conspiracy theory fills the void.

Online pundits parsed the timing: Did it have to do with President Barack Obama’s birthday Sunday? (Doubtful.) Or the 15th anniversary of terrorist attacks on U.S. embassies in Africa? (But none of the three targeted embassies are closed this time.) Perhaps the closings were timed to the Islamic holiday coming up this weekend? (Posts in Muslim countries would be closed, anyway.)....

-bth: Or it could be made up crap to remind Congress that threatened to restrict the NSA domestic spying program that we need them and to be afraid, very afraid.

India-Pakistan - Nightwatch

NightWatch 20130807 - KGS

India-Pakistan: Indian military officials said Kashmiri militants from Pakistan ambushed an Indian patrol in Kashmir.

Indian media reported that the militants killed five Indian soldiers.

"The ambush was carried out by approximately 20 heavily armed terrorists along with persons dressed in Pakistan Army uniforms," Defense Minister A.K. Antony told parliament.

Pakistan denied that there had been an exchange of fire. The Foreign Ministry said it was committed to restarting talks.

Comment: Indian officials fear that as NATO reduces combat operations in Afghanistan, Islamic militants will shift focus against Indian Kashmir. Some politicians said that this incident might be the start of that trend.

 

The concerns of the Indian authorities are well grounded. During the US-backed fight against Soviet forces in Afghanistan, Pakistani intelligence reportedly siphoned off military aid for the Afghan mujahedin to the Kashmiri militants. Prior to the US intervention in Afghanistan in 2001 the Taliban government in Kabul trained Kashmiri militants.

 

The connection appears to have been dormant in the past ten years, but not ended. Pakistani intelligence entities had a role in establishing and facilitating the connection in that they supported the Afghan Taliban government and the Kashmiri militants.

 

It is not yet clear that a new surge in infiltration and attacks is beginning. Two things that are clear are that combat operations in Afghanistan are down and that entities in Pakistan remain dedicated to preventing successful talks between India and Pakistan.

-bth: Nightwatch provides excellent observations almost dailiy.  Well worth a read every AM.

Monday, August 05, 2013

Tsongas questions experts about accounting for missing persons from past...

Obama economy: Part-time jobs swamp full-time jobs -WaTimes

Obama economy: Part-time jobs swamp full-time jobs - Washington Times

House Republicans have crunched the numbers and say that since President Obama took office, the economy has added seven times more part-time jobs than it has created full-time jobs.

Since January 2009 the country has added a net total of 270,000 full-time jobs, but it has added 1.9 million part-time jobs, according to the House Ways and Means Committee.

The numbers come as Republicans argue that the president’s health care law is pushing businesses to save money and push workers into shorter schedules to avoid the penalties that come from hiring more full-time workers, who under the law will be required to be covered with health care insurance.

-bth: mandatory healthcare burden is correrelated with higher part-time employment.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Syria's Assad bans foreign currency transactions

Syria's Assad bans foreign currency transactions - FRANCE 24

..."The Syrian lira is the only currency" allowed in business and commerce, it added.

Those breaking the law risk jail sentences from between six months to 10 years of hard labour, depending on the sum involved, and will be fined.

The US dollar is the preferred foreign currency in Syria where the lira has lost three quarters of its value against the greenback since the outbreak of the anti-regime uprising more than two years ago.

At the start of the conflict in March 2011 one dollar fetched 50 liras. while a dollar today is worth more than 200 liras.

Dollars have been used in the sale of land, namely in the upscale Damascus suburbs, and by importers who trade in goods such as rice, sugar, textile and electronic equipment.

-bth: curious, why now?

Public Diplomacy as an Instrument of Counterterrorism: A Progress Report

Public Diplomacy as an Instrument of Counterterrorism: A Progress Report
This is an interesting article on how the State Dept views the world of message communications in the modern era.

Military hospitals shrinking services to meet spending cuts - Stars & Stripes

Military hospitals shrinking services to meet spending cuts - Stripes - Independent U.S. military news from Iraq, Afghanistan and bases worldwide

Patients at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and other premier military hospitals are being sent to private doctors and having surgery and other treatment delayed because of furloughs to medical personnel, according to interviews and internal documents.

"Please show (patients) the utmost understanding and care while we are asking them to accept longer wait times and in some cases, curtailed or limited services," Rear Adm. Alton Stocks, hospital commander, told staff in a July 12 message.

A "colleagues" memo issued in recent days says inpatient beds are in "critically short supply" because of furloughs of civilian staff triggered by federal spending cuts known as sequestration.

The memo encourages "dispositions/discharges as soon as possible." Hospital spokesperson Sandy Dean explained this direction, saying, "We are are encouraging health care providers to be more efficient when handling their paperwork instead of writing discharge orders later in the day ... no patient has been or will be discharged before it is medically appropriate."

With cases of post-traumatic stress disorder and other mental health problems at an all-time high, Dean says civilian caregivers in the hospital's in-patient mental health section are furloughed, reducing beds there from 28 to 22.

Most serious combat wounded and other medical cases are given priority as routine treatments are delayed, officials said.

Military families complain on the National Military Family Association website of waiting longer for medical appointments, immunizations for infants and getting someone to answer the phone at small medical clinics.

Similar cutbacks occurring across military medicine are "definitely impacting our ability to deliver health care," said Maj. Gen. Richard Thomas, commander of 11 Army hospitals in the western United States. Just in the first month of furloughs, 10,000 routine patient appointments in the western Army medical region been delayed because of staffing shortages, Thomas says.

The Pentagon's top medical official, Jonathan Woodson, assistant secretary of Defense for health affairs, called the cuts illogical and a significant threat.

"We simply cannot continue to sustain the burdens placed on the military medical system if sequester remains the law of the land," Woodson says. "The men and women who have fought tirelessly on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan ... deserve much, much more than this."

Thomas said that by sending patients to a network of private doctors who contract with the government for services, the Pentagon will spend more money in order to compensate for the automatic spending cuts.

"As we curtail ... we will inevitably refer more care out to the network," he says. "We'll end up spending more money in the long run."...

-bth: so by sending these patients outside the network the cost to the US government will actually go up.  Fantastic Congress and Mr. President.  Job well done. Assholes.

Cover Of The Rolling Stone-Dr.Hook