Saturday, August 24, 2013

Army, Navy target top brass, headquarters spending in latest cuts

Army, Navy target top brass, headquarters spending in latest cuts - News - Stripes

WASHINGTON — With a warning that “the money is gone,” military leaders driven by falling defense spending are moving to cut top brass positions and slash headquarters spending.

The Navy announced late Tuesday that Navy Secretary Ray Mabus had approved a plan to “reduce, eliminate or consolidate a net of 35 Navy flag officer positions” at the one-, two- and three-star ranks. The Navy said it also plans to eliminate 6 more top officer positions in the 2015 budget.

And last week, a memo from Army Chief of Staff Gen. Ray Odierno and Army Secretary John McHugh declared that a plan to cut Army headquarters at the two-star level and above by 25 percent was priority No. 1 for headquarters staff.

The Navy said flag officer end strength is being reduced using a “phased approach” and will be complete by 2017, resulting in 151 Navy-specific billets and 61 flag officers to fill joint billets....

-bth: given that we have more admirals than ships this would seem a good start with more to come.

Pentagon weighs firing thousands under 2014 spending cuts

Pentagon weighs firing thousands under 2014 spending cuts - U.S. - Stripes

he Defense Department may have to fire at least 6,272 civilian employees if automatic cuts known as sequestration slice $52 billion from its fiscal 2014 budget, according to a Pentagon planning document.

Additional budget analysis is “likely to produce further reductions” as the services focus on shrinking their contract labor forces, according to a Pentagon “execution plan” obtained by Bloomberg News. The job cuts, although less than 1 percent of the non-uniformed workforce, would mark an escalation from the unpaid leave mandated under sequestration in the current fiscal year.

The services should expect a $475 billion budget after sequestration cuts for the fiscal year that starts Oct. 1, almost 10 percent less than the pending $526.6 billion request, according to the document dated Aug. 1. Sequestration would result in 16 percent reductions in the Pentagon’s procurement and research spending and 12 percent cuts in operations, maintenance and military construction....

Diagram used by Powell at the UN to convince the public that Hussein was making biological agents

Powell_UN_Iraq_presentation,_alleged_Mobile_Production_Facilities.jpg (JPEG Image, 600 × 450 pixels)

The U.S. should examine allegations of chemical attack in Syria - WaPo

Syrian attack should prompt U.S. investigation into chemical weapons - The Washington Post

...Two months later, even the small supplies of weapons promised by the president have yet to be delivered. And the regime, which has been battling to consolidate control over a strip of Syria extending from Damascus to the Mediterranean coast, may have been emboldened. Mr. Assad logically could have concluded that he had little to fear from the United States, even if chemical weapons use were escalated. Mr. Obama’s hesitant and indecisive response to the massive carnage carried out by Egypt’s military-backed regime last week only strengthened the picture of a president unwilling to act in the Middle East.

A White House statement issued Wednesday did not repeat the president’s vow of no tolerance. Instead, it said that “those responsible for the use of chemical weapons must be held accountable,” as if the matter could be handled by a criminal investigation. The administration urged the Syrian government to cooperate with a U.N. team that is already in Damascus to investigate previous chemical weapons incidents. It would be unprecedented for the Assad regime to comply.

The United States should be using its own resources to determine, as quickly as possible, whether the opposition’s reports of large-scale use of gas against civilians are accurate. If they are, Mr. Obama should deliver on his vow not to tolerate such crimes — by ordering direct U.S. retaliation against the Syrian military forces responsible and by adopting a plan to protect civilians in southern Syria with a no-fly zone.

-bth: WaPo's editorial board really wants to entangle the US in the Syrian conflict. Won't this editorial board be using their normal journalistic skepticism to ask simple questions like why the Syrian regime would possibly use chemical weapons a few miles away from UN inspectors and days after their arrival in Damascus?  So the editorial board immediately jumps to calling Obama weak and all but insisting on a no-fly zone and military engagement neither of which may be in the US's long term interest given that Salafists and Qatari mercenaries are playing a major role in the rebel cause.  Extreme caution is urged here.  Too want to engage the US in the Syrian conflict.

Syrian soldiers enter rebel tunnels, find chemical agents - state TV - The Daily Start

Syrian soldiers enter rebel tunnels, find chemical agents - state TV | News , Middle East | THE DAILY STAR

BEIRUT: Syrian state television said soldiers found chemical materials on Saturday in tunnels that had been used by rebels, rejecting blame for a nerve gas attack that killed hundreds this week and heightened Western calls for foreign intervention.

The United States said it was realigning naval forces in the Mediterranean to give President Barack Obama the option for an armed strike on Syria and a senior U.N. official arrived in Damascus to seek access for inspectors to the gas attack site.

Syrian opposition accounts that between 500 and well over 1,000 civilians were killed by gas in munitions fired by pro-government forces, and video footage of victims' bodies, have stoked demands abroad for a robust, U.S.-led response after 2-1/2 years of international inaction on Syria's conflict.

In an attempt to strengthen the government's denials of responsibility for the chemical assault in Damascus's embattled suburbs, Syrian TV said soldiers came across chemical agents in rebel tunnels during an advance into the Jobar district....

ISF Thwarts Attempt to Smuggle Captagon to Syria - Naharnet

ISF Thwarts Attempt to Smuggle Captagon to Syria — Naharnet

Internal Security Forces Intelligence Bureau thwarted on Saturday an attempt to smuggle a large quantity of Captagon into the neighboring country Syria, the state-run National News Agency reported.

Six trailer trucks, heading to Syria, in the Bekaa town of Saadnayel were seized by the intelligence bureau.

The trailer trucks were accompanied by a Nissan Sunny with license plate number 104982/T.

Three Syrian men were aboard the Nissan vehicle identified as 51-year-old Yehia Mahmoud al-Mkahal, Sabei Adnan Srour, 27, and Abdul Rahman Khaled Srour, 21.

On March 12, security forces seized more than one million Captagon pills in a valley in the Bekaa region, reportedly worth millions of U.S. dollars.

-bth: Hezbollah fundraising

Tripoli bombing suspects arrested, death toll rises to 47 - Beirut Daily Star

Tripoli bombing suspects arrested, death toll rises to 47 | News , Lebanon News | THE DAILY STAR

TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Police arrested two suspects Saturday linked to the twin car bombs in the northern city of Tripoli as the death toll from the blasts rose to 47 and politicians grappled with the aftermath of the attack amid worries of more sectarian strife.

Sheikh Ahmad Gharib, 40, was arrested by the police overnight in his residence in Minyeh, north of Tripoli. Arms, explosives and maps of the northern city were seized at his home, judicial sources said.

The sources said that Gharib was an affiliate to the Syrian regime-backed Baath Party and had recently paid several visits to Syria. Gharib was studying Islam in Syria but then quit and became a staunch supporter of the Assad regime.

Another suspect in the bombing, Sheikh Abdel Razzak Hammoud, was arrested around noon, the sources said....

 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Report: US household income below end-of-recession

Report: US household income below end-of-recession - Business news - Boston.com

WASHINGTON (AP) — The average American household is earning less than when the Great Recession ended four years ago, according to a report released Wednesday.

U.S. median household income, once adjusted for inflation, has fallen 4.4 percent in that time, according to the report from Sentier Research. The report is based on an analysis of Census Bureau data.

The median, or midpoint, income in June 2013 was $52,098. That’s down from $54,478 in June 2009, when the recession officially ended. And it’s below the $55,480 that the median household took in when the recession began in December 2007.

The report says nearly every group is worse off than four years ago, except for those 65 to 74. Some groups have experienced larger-than-average declines, including blacks, young and upper-middle-aged people and the unemployed.

Iraq pushes for investment as India seeks more oil - Times of Oman

Times of Oman | News :: Iraq pushes for investment as India seeks more oil

... Indian exports to Iraq totalled around $1.3 billion in 2012, up from $740 million in 2011, according to an Indian government official.

Baghdad's exports to India -- the vast majority of which were oil -- totalled more than $20 billion last year, up from $9 billion a year earlier in 2011.

India has said it is keen to "reverse the traffic" by investing in Iraqi infrastructure and moving to a more broad-based relationship.

The country, struggling to stabilise its ailing currency, is also pushing Iraq to accept payment for its oil exports in rupees, Indian trade minister Anand Sharma said Friday.

Araji said Iraq would have to consider the request.

Iran, which has long battled neighbouring Iraq for global oil market share, agreed to take payments for the oil it sells to India in rupees after Western sanctions over its disputed nuclear program blocked other payment methods.
-bth: acceptance of rupees will be key.

India's Iran oil imports drop 75% in July - The Economic Times

India's Iran oil imports drop 75% in July - The Economic Times

NEW DELHI: India's imports of Iranian crude plunged by three quarters in July from June, tanker arrival data obtained by Reuters showed, as the country's only active importer in the past two months curbed buying.

The cut in Essar Oil's Iran volumes were likely due to New Delhi's delay in extending approvals for Iranian insurers covering shipments into India, a trade source said.

Indian imports of Iranian crude are expected to rise from August, however, with refiner Mangalore Refinery and Petrochemicals Ltd resuming shipments after a gap of four months because of a separate insurance issue.

MRPL's return as a buyer could give some relieve to Iran, which has seen its exports more than halved by sanctions imposed in 2012 by the United States and the European Union, costing Tehran billions of dollars a month in lost oil revenue.

India on July 17 granted a three-month approval to Iranian shipping underwriters Kish P&I Club and Moallem Insurance Co with effect from June 28, the date of lapse.

Essar Oil has declined to comment on whether the issue over the shipping insurers resulted in its lower imports for July or if the resolution means its imports would rebound in August.

Essar Oil imported 35,500 barrels per day (bpd) of oil from Iran in July, compared with 140,800 bpd in June, tanker arrival data made available to Reuters shows.

The cuts dropped India's Iranian oil imports 82 per cent from 201,900 bpd in the same month a year ago, when state-backed refiners were also taking shipments.

Iran dropped in July to 15th place on the list of India's crude suppliers for the month, down from eighth place in June and fourth for all of 2012.

The US and EU sanctions placed on Iran over its nuclear programme have reduced its oil exports more than half from pre-sanction levels of about 2.2 million bpd.

In the first half of 2013, imports of Iranian oil from its four biggest buyers - China, India, Japan and South Korea - fell more than a fifth from a year ago to around 960,000 bpd.

MRPL, which used to be Iran's top Indian client, and Hindustan Petroleum Corp Ltd halted Iranian oil imports in April due to difficulties in getting insurance for refineries processing Iranian oil. That forced New Delhi to look at providing its own reinsurance after European firms backed out over sanctions.

MRPL has already started taking Iran oil again, while HPCLBSE 1.64 % has said it wants more adequate coverage for refineries running the sanctions-hit crude.

The Indian government also wants to boost imports from Tehran to prop up the rupee, which fell past 65 to the dollar to a record low on Thursday.

The US and European Union sanctions have pushed Tehran into accepting payment in rupees for some of its oil, and higher volumes could support the currency.

"Within the UN sanctions and fully complying with the sanctions, there may be more space for imports from Iran," Finance Minister P. Chidambaram said earlier this month.

Overall in the first seven months of this year India's imports from Iran have declined 46 per cent from the same period last year to about 185,700 bpd, the trade data showed.

India imported nearly 58 per cent more oil from Latin America in the January to July period as its Iranian shipments dropped.

Overall, Asia's third-largest economy shipped in 14.1 per cent more oil in July than a year ago, while imports for the January-July period rose about 10.3 per cent, the data showed.
-bth: lack of insurance caused by sanctions, currency problems, all are adding up to severe pressure on Iran. I wonder why Iran doesn't increase its rupee based purchases as this may be one of the only mechanisms both countries can afford to undertake to continue trade?

Nightwatch - India-Pakistan Update

NightWatch 20130822 - KGS

India-Pakistan: Update. The Pakistan Army said unprovoked Indian fire from across the Line of Control killed two of Pakistani soldiers on 22 August.

A Pakistani security official said one soldier was killed in the Poonch District, which is about 80 miles east of Islamabad. The second death occurred south of Poonch. Two Pakistani soldiers also were wounded.

 

India said its forces came under automatic weapons fire in roughly the same area in the evening and reported "effective retaliation" by its own soldiers, but made no mention of casualties.

 

Comment: Pakistan denies that it is provoking India, but its soldiers are getting killed and Pakistan Army units are not retaliating against India, which would be the normal counter-reaction. Pakistan claims it is exercising maximum restraint.

 

Both sides have based major conventional forces along the Line of Control for so long that almost every potential target has been registered for artillery fire for years. Both sides maintain careful watch of unusual activity and movements and know the range of each other's guns. Commanders understand the risks of movements and fire exchanges, which appear to be fairly commonplace and harmless. That has changed for now.

 

The ambush and killing of five Indian Army soldiers in Indian Kashmir on 6 August are driving India's hard-line response to firing incidents from the Pakistani side of the Line. India blames the deaths on Pakistan Army soldiers as well as Pakistan-backed militants. Since the 6th India has engaged in asymmetrical retaliation for any incidents, using artillery to respond to machinegun fire, for example.

 

If these incidents continue, India will authorize more aggressive and prolonged attacks, not as retaliation but as deterrence. Escalation to a significant sectoral firefight will remain a threat Pakistan provides India a satisfactory report about the deaths on the 6th. In such firefights in the past, India has on occasion used attack helicopters to reinforce artillery to destroy bunkers and other targets on the Pakistani side of the Line of Control. This situation shows signs of moving towards such a firefight.

-bth: are incursions happening at the same time?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Flier Busted For Iranian Uranium Export Scheme - The Smoking Gun

Flier Busted For Iranian Uranium Export Scheme | The Smoking Gun

AUGUST 22--A foreigner who agreed to sell undercover Homeland Security agents 1000 tons of yellowcake uranium for shipment to Iran was arrested yesterday when he flew into the United States with uranium samples hidden inside the soles of shoes in his luggage, The Smoking Gun has learned.

A 15-month sting operation concluded Wednesday afternoon with the arrest of Patrick Campbell inside a terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport. Campbell traveled to New York from Paris on an Air France flight. It is unclear where Campbell is being held, or when he will make an appearance in U.S. District Court in Brooklyn.

In communications with an undercover agent, Campbell said he was affiliated with a Sierra Leone firm that mined and exported uranium, chromite, gold, and diamonds from the western Africa nation...

-bth; an article worth a full read.

Remember our Fallen Heroes - I'm Coming Home


Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Iraq PM visits India for investment, trade - Saudi gazette

Saudi Gazette - Iraq PM visits India for investment, trade

.... Reddy said Indian exports to Iraq totaled around $1.3 billion in 2012, up from $740 million in 2011. Baghdad’s exports to India – the vast majority of which were oil – totaled more than $20 billion last year, compared with around $9 billion in 2011.

Iraq, which currently exports around 2.3 million barrels per day (bpd) of oil, is looking to dramatically boost its energy output, with officials aiming for overall production capacity of 9 million bpd by 2017.

Baghdad is almost entirely dependent on oil sales for income, and while efforts to boost energy production have resulted in a significant increase in output, steps to diversify the country’s economy have sputtered.

India has made clear its requirement to secure energy supplies to drive economic growth and development, with its dependence on Iraqi exports increasing as sanctions have limited Iran’s oil sales.

Mridul Kumar, a joint secretary in India’s foreign ministry, said the two sides had finalized an agreement on energy cooperation and water resources management....

Iraq offers 3 discovered oil blocks to India - Trade Arabia

Iraq offers 3 discovered oil blocks to India

Iraq has offered three discovered oil blocks to India and has agreed to consider investing in the 300,000 barrels per day of Paradip refinery, a unit of Indian Oil Corp, an Indian oil ministry statement said on Thursday.

Baghdad has also offered to consider extending 60 days credit for crude sales to India, the statement said....

-bth: it isn't clear if Iraq is selling or India is buying on this deal

Oil rich, terror wracked Iraq offers itself as India’s energy partner - Hindustan Times

Oil rich, terror wracked Iraq offers itself as India’s energy partner - Hindustan Times

Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister for Energy Hussain Saleh al Shahristani in Mumbai on Wednesday declared “India can count upon Iraq as a dependable long-term supplier of its crude oil needs.” New Delhi has heard this before: King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, when he came to India as its Republic

Day guest a few years back, similarly promised that his kingdom would fulfill all the energy needs of a rising India. If anything, New Delhi’s domestic energy mess have only made India even more a slave of imported oil and gas. Going by present trends, India will import over 90 per cent of its oil — mostly from the Persian Gulf — in 20 years. 

Oil exporting giants like Iraq see this big picture: fuel-thirsty India and China on one side and the falling oil and gas imports of Europe and the United States. Suddenly India is more than just a land of servants for the Gulf. One reason Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al Maliki is coming to India on his first state visit on the 24th of this month.

Iraq is on its way to becoming a global oil giant. War, sanctions and Saddam Hussein’s incompetence reduced oil production to 1.5 million barrels per day. Today, even while Al Qaeda bombs wrack Baghdad, production is up to 3.3 million. Shahristani predicts this will rise to 4 to 5 million barrels by 2015 and a staggering nine million by 2020 -- putting it in the Saudi and Russian league.

Baghdad has emerged as India’s number two oil exporter thanks in part to the sanctionsaffected decline of Iranian crude exports. Only Saudi Arabia provides more to India....

Iraq has an additional interest in India. Shahristani urged Indian companies to invest in Iraq’s efforts to rebuild and expand its energy infrastructure. Unlike the Saudis, the Shia regime of Iraq is open to foreign exploitation of oilfields. Bidding rounds for its massive Nasiriyah oilfield, the building of an export refinery and exploration of its western desert for gas are about to be held. Shahristani notes that it is not the United States which is the main beneficiary of all this. “It is China which is bidding aggressively every time Iraq has called for bids,” he says. “Most of our oil is today contracted to China.” And it is Beijing that is pouring billions into rebuilding Iraq’s infrastructure.

Baghdad hardly wants to exchange US military domination for Chinese economic control, one reason for wooing India Inc....

 

 

Iran seeks $1 million guarantee money to release tanker - TOI

Iran seeks $1 million guarantee money to release tanker - The Times of India

NEW DELHI: With the impasse over Iran's "illegal detention'' of an Indian ship continuing, the government on Wednesday described the situation as delicate. Iran is now learnt to have demanded $1 million as guarantee money for releasing MT DeshShanti which was on its way to India, carrying 140,000 tonnes of crude from Iraq, when it was detained in international waters by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on August 13....
-bth: so supposedly the ship caused environmental damage.  But one wonders about the timing with Iraqi PM in India for first time in nearly 4 decades.

Iraq offers crude oil supply to India

Iraq offers crude oil supply to India - Indian Express

..."India can count upon Iraq as a dependable long-term supplier of its crude oil needs," he said. "India's oil imports are expected to reach 6.8 mbpd by 2035 from around 2.5 mpbd today. Where should India look for its oil needs? Iraq will be the main source of growth for the global oil supply over the next decade or two," he said while addressing the IISS-Oberoi Lecture Series here....

India-Iraq energy ties looking up - The Hindu

India-Iraq energy ties looking up - The Hindu

With over 36,000 visas issued to Iraqis last year and bilateral trade having gone up 10 times during the same period, India hopes to build on this momentum during the first top-level contact between the two governments in nearly four decades.

Both sides hope to accelerate the process with two pacts in energy and water management that will be signed during the three-day visit of Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki from Thursday.

One reason for the burgeoning bilateral trade was the lack of choice after the United States leant on China, India and South Korea to keep reducing dependence on Iranian oil. Another reason is the traditional goodwill that has kept India-Iraq ties afloat despite political indifference in Delhi.

One proof will be the award of one of the largest reconstruction projects that is in the final stages and is likely to go to an Indian company, thus reviving hopes of India re-entering the project exports segment from which it has been away since the U.S. invasion in 2003.

“Iraq was the largest export destination for Indian projects and now that they are again rebuilding the country with adequate resources from oil sales, we are trying to make amends for the goodwill that we had taken for granted,” said an official source while describing Mr. al-Maliki’s visit — his first since taking over as Prime Minister in 2006 — as long overdue.

Iraq has sought India’s helping hand in rebuilding its water management system that was destroyed in the years of conflict. This might help offset part of the foreign exchange outflow on Iraqi oil whose exports to India have touched $ 20 billion annually and are unlikely to reduce, thus restoring the situation of the 1970s and 1980s when Iraq, and not Iran, was India’s second largest source of oil. In fact, say officials, Iraq kept supplying India with oil during the 1971 conflict with Pakistan when many other Gulf states sided with Islamabad and cut off exports to the country.

According to Joint Secretary (Gulf) in the Ministry of External Affairs Mridul Kumar, the old warmth in energy ties could return with Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister for Energy Hussain al-Shahristani telling External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, during his recent visit to Baghdad, about Iraq’s intention to be India’s reliable partner in the energy sector as part of its effort to broad-base bilateral ties.

-bth: to make sanctions on Iran bite, the US needs to assist India and Iraq in this relationship so that India can move its oil purchases away from Iran.

Centre rebuts BJP leaders’ claim of Chinese intrusion - The Hindu

Centre rebuts BJP leaders’ claim of Chinese intrusion - The Hindu

The government has dismissed claims by Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders from Arunachal Pradesh that Chinese People’s Liberation Army troops had intruded deep into their State.

It all started with an e-mail by the former BJP parliamentarian from Arunachal Pradesh, Kiran Rejiiju, who claimed that Chinese troops had “intruded deep inside Indian territory” in Anjaw district of Arunachal Pradesh. This was followed up by a tweet from his party colleague and BJP national general secretary, Tapir Gao, who also made the same claim.

Mr. Rejiiju, who has often spoken about Chinese incursions — almost always in inaccessible difficult-to-independently-verify areas — has this time claimed PLA forces went past several unmanned posts between a place called Chaglagam and the Line of Actual Control (LAC), finally camping at the sixth post — the Plamplam check post. The Indian Army reached the location only after PLA was more than 35 km inside Indian territory.

“Locals worried”

“Now our Army is facing the Chinese force eyeball to eyeball. There are no roads or regular supply chain from our side to those areas occupied by the Chinese so the Army has to move on foot. The situation is grim and local people are worried. Why does the government of India not understand the gravity of the situation?” he said in the e-mail.

In a tweet, his party colleague Mr. Gao went further, claiming that the Chinese Army intrusion in Anjaw district was up to 65 km into Indian territory....

-bth: hard to tell what is new developments and what is political election year hype.

Air Force lands heavy-lift aircraft near LAC

Air Force lands heavy-lift aircraft near LAC - The Hindu

The Indian Air Force on Tuesday landed its C-130J Super Hercules transport plane at the world’s highest and recently-activated airstrip at Daulat Beg Oldie (DBO) in Ladakh, close to the Line of Actual Control (LAC) where Indian and Chinese troops had witnessed a three-week long stand-off in April.

In what appeared to be a subtle but strong message to China, the IAF demonstrated its ability to use the heavy-lift aircraft to induct troops, supplies, improve communication network and also serve as a morale booster for maintenance of troops positioned at such heights in Ladakh region.

“A C-130J Super Hercules landed at DBO, the highest airstrip in the world at 0654 hours on Tuesday. The Commanding Officer, Group Captain Tejbir Singh, and the crew of the ‘Veiled Vipers’ along with senior officer touched down on the DBO airstrip located at 16614 feet (5065 meters) in the Aksai Chin area,’’ the IAF said in a statement.

“With this enhanced airlift capability, the IAF will now be in a better position to meet the requirements of our land forces who are heavily dependent on the air bridge for sustenance in these higher and inhospitable areas,’’ the IAF said....

-bth: China is testing India's northern border.  Logistics will be a major concern for both sides but China has built up its road network in recent years and India has not.

 

654 militants killed in Army operations in last three years - The Hindu

654 militants killed in Army operations in last three years - The Hindu

As many as 645 militants have been killed in over 232 anti-terrorist operations conducted by Army in Jammu and Kashmir and northeastern states in the last three years.

This was informed by Defence Minister A.K.Antony in reply to a written query in the Lok Sabha.

He also said of the 68 cases received by National Human Rights Commission for inquiry during the period, 60 have been investigated but no punishment has been awarded in any of them. Eight cases are still under investigation.

The Minister said the highest number of operations were carried out in 2010 where 329 terrorists were killed in 103 actions by the Army.

He said in 2013, till August 14, the army has conducted 33 counter terrorists operations in which 53 ultras have been killed.

Army has been engaged in counter terrorist operations in Jammu and Kashmir and northeastern states for several decades.

Replying to another query, the Defence Minister said the Army was facing a shortage of 9,590 officers and 22,841 jawans against the sanctioned strength of 47,762 and 11,50,191 respectively.

The minister said the government has set up the second Officers’ Training Academy in Gaya to do away with the shortfall of officers in the force.

-bth: astonishing  size - 11 million man army.

Army Officer Is Cleared in Abu Ghraib Scandal

Army Officer Is Cleared in Abu Ghraib Scandal

The only Army officer charged with a crime as a result of the abuses at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq has been cleared of all criminal responsibility in the case after a general this week dismissed the one conviction against him and wiped away the sentence.

Lt. Col. Steven L. Jordan was convicted last year on one charge of disobeying an order when a jury found that he spoke to others about the Abu Ghraib investigation after he was ordered not to do so. Though Jordan was exonerated at trial of any connection to the abuse of Iraqi detainees in 2003, he was issued a criminal reprimand for his failure to obey Maj. Gen. George Fay, who led the most significant investigation into the abuses after they were discovered.

Maj. Gen. Richard J. Rowe, commanding general of the Military District of Washington, wrote a short letter to Jordan's attorney on Tuesday night explaining that the criminal charge would be dismissed. "The finding of guilty and the sentence are disapproved," Rowe wrote. "The charges are dismissed."...

-bth: amazing.

Companies sweating Obamacare tax—and acting on it: Study

Companies sweating Obamacare tax—and acting on it: Study

Mid- and large-sized companies overwhelmingly expect health-care costs to increase under Obamacare—and most are eyeing possible changes to their health insurance offerings because of a looming excise tax for pricier plans under the health-care reform law, a new survey of employers finds.

In fact, 40 percent of 420 companies surveyed by Towers Watson said they will be changing their insurance plans' designs in 2014 in light of the coming excise tax as well as to control employee-related health costs.

And nearly 60 percent of the companies view private health insurance exchanges as a possible way to control their health-care and administrative costs by shifting the work of insuring their workers off to those exchanges in the future.

But most of those companies—which collectively employ 8.7 million people—don't have firm near-term plans to do so.

The study also found those same companies are increasingly unlikely to offer their employer-sponsored plan for retirees older than age 65 as Obamacare state insurance exchanges go into effect, and as Medicare remains available to those people....

-bth: the fundamental problem with ObamaCare as it is currently structured is that it does not reduce costs.  Until it doesn, this avoidance strategy by large and medium companies will continue.

Chinese troops intrude into Arunachal, stay for over two days -TOI

Chinese troops intrude into Arunachal, stay for over two days - The Times of India

NEW DELHI: In yet another face-off with Indian soldiers, Chinese troops had come more than 20 kilometres inside Indian territory in Chaglagam area of Arunachal Pradesh on August 13 and stayed there for over two days.

However, Army headquarters sought to play down the incursion, saying the Chinese troops have gone back to their area and such incidents keep taking place as both sides enter areas claimed by the other side while patrolling the disputed Line of Actual Control (LAC).

People's Liberation Army (PLA) troops had come over 20 km inside Indian-claimed territory in Chaglagam area of Arunachal Pradesh and after they were stopped by the Indian troops, the two sides showed banners to each other to leave the area, sources said here.

However, the two sides held to their positions and the Chinese soldiers left after staying put for two-three days, they said.

The area falls under the 2 Division of the Army and the deputy commander of the formation had also intervened to resolve the issue, they said.

The sources said paramilitary force Indo-Tibetan Border Police is also present in the area to guard the LAC.

In April, Chinese troops had entered 19 km inside Indian territory and pitched their tents in Depsang plains in Ladakh. They returned after a three-week stand-off and several rounds of hectic parleys between the top officials of the two countries.

In the last eight months, Army sources said there have been over 150 incursions by the Chinese side and that Indian troops also enter areas claimed by them during patrolling.

-bth: these temporary incursions are almost never reported in the west.

NSA has access to 75 percent of US Internet traffic, says WSJ

NSA has access to 75 percent of US Internet traffic, says WSJ - NBC News.com

The National Security Agency's surveillance network has the capacity to reach around 75 percent of all U.S. Internet communications in the hunt for foreign intelligence, the Wall Street Journal reported on Tuesday.

Citing current and former NSA officials, the newspaper said the 75 percent coverage is more of Americans' Internet communications than officials have publicly disclosed.

The Journal said the agency keeps the content of some emails sent between U.S. citizens and also filters domestic phone calls made over the Internet.

The NSA's filtering, carried out with telecom companies, looks for communications that either originate or end abroad, or are entirely foreign but happen to be passing through the United States, the paper said.....

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Nightwatch comment on Egypt worth reading in full

NightWatch 20130819 - KGS

...Special comment: Nearly every mainstream US press outlet referred to Egypt as sinking into chaos or experiencing spiraling violence and turmoil, to mention only three descriptions. Our judgment is that security conditions are getting slowly better, measured by the steadily declining death toll, the resumption of work at multinational corporations and the movement of protest rallies farther away from the center of Cairo.

Except for American press, regional Arab press sources indicated today was relatively quiet in Cairo. No disturbances were reported in other cities west of the Suez Canal....

-bth

Monday, August 19, 2013

Here's Why the Pentagon Is Facing $20 Billion in Extra Cuts Next Year - Mother Jones

Here's Why the Pentagon Is Facing $20 Billion in Extra Cuts Next Year | Mother Jones

Earlier today I passed along the news that the Pentagon is facing some extra big cuts next year under the terms of the sequester. But why? Via Twitter, Matt Glassman explains: "The 2011 BCA sets up different def of 'security spending' for FY12/13 and for FY14+, result is up % DoD cuts."

Aha! The Congressional Research Service explains further:

For FY2012 and FY2013, the spending limits were divided into “security” and “nonsecurity” categories, with security defined broadly to include the Departments of Veterans Affairs (VA), Homeland Security (DHS), and State, in addition to the Department of Defense....However, [after 2013] these terms are redefined, so that “security” consists only of budget function 050 (effectively, the Department of Defense), and “nonsecurity” includes all other government spending (including the VA, DHS, and State). The distinction between security and nonsecurity (as redefined) remains for each of FY2014-FY2021.

So there's your answer. In the 2013 sequester, "security" was trimmed about $55 billion in annual terms, but some of that went to cuts at the VA, DHS, and State. In 2014, the entire $55 billion gets taken from the Pentagon budget. Apparently that adds up to about $20 billion more in pure defense cuts.

Just thought you'd like to know.

-bth: just great. ugh.

Home at last, injured Guard hero says she’d do it all again - Boston Herald

Home at last, injured Guard hero says she’d do it all again | Boston Herald

...Yesterday, the Purple Heart recipient woke up in her Marshfield home for the first time in more than three years, her husband and fellow Afghan vet Joseph Sullivan beside her. She got up and walked her service dog, Seamus, down to the beach, and watched him play for the first time outside of a hospital setting.

“I feel like when you make wishes when you’re a kid. Remember how you felt when you were a kid? Just make any wish, any wish in the world, what would you have?” Travers Sullivan, 34, said yesterday as she sat with her husband and friends in her backyard.

“For the last ... as long as I can remember, I’ve always said all I want to do is be home,” she said. “So to actually have a dream come true, and actually be here, and legitimately living out the one dream that I’ve had since I got hurt, it’s surreal.”

Saturday, she was escorted home from Walter Reed Army Medical Center by a convoy of friends, police cruisers, military vehicles and bikers that grew the closer they got to home until it included dozens of vehicles. “Welcome home” signs were posted all along the route.

Travers Sullivan said she felt like she lost her ability to cry in the hospital. She regained it Saturday, when she saw what her loved ones and even strangers had done.

“I’ve got the best support system that anybody could ask for,” she said.

Travers Sullivan said she isn’t sure exactly what she will do with her life now, but helping others with post-traumatic stress disorder and traumatic brain injuries will be a part of it....

 

-bth: welcome home.

Iran to teach drone-hunting to school students - AP

News from The Associated Press

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guards paramilitary units plan to teach drone-hunting to school students, an Iranian newspaper reported Monday.

The report by pro-reform Etemad daily quoted Gen. Ali Fazli, acting commander of the Guard's Basij militia, as saying the new program will be taught as part of a "Defensive Readiness" lesson in high schools from late September.

He did not elaborate but the plan suggests students would be taught how to track and bring down drone aircraft by hacking their computer systems.

Iranian hardliners have long sought a larger role for the military in the country's education system. Students at both junior and senior high schools currently take courses focusing on "civil defense."

Iran captured a U.S. RQ-170 Sentinel drone in 2011 after it entered Iranian airspace. Since then, Tehran says it has seized more U.S. drones, including a Boeing-designed ScanEagle.

-bth: There is absolutely no reason this won't work.  There is an astonishing blindness in the US military about hacking of unmanned systems.  It isn't that they aren't aware it can and does happen, its because there is no funding mechanism outside of a DARPA research project to actually address the problem.  It will have to become a crisis before it gets funded in this environment.  In the meantime Iran prepares.  People might think that the headline is a joke, but it isn't a smart kid with the right equipment can certainly do damage especially if they have state sponsored tutors.  People need to wake up to the vulnerabilities but alas the bureaucracy will be the last to respond.

In about-face, Walter Reed opens dining hall to wounded warriors after Fox News reporting

...In about-face, Walter Reed opens dining hall to wounded warriors after Fox News reporting | Fox News

Initially, the military moved to close the cafe on weekends, shorten its hours and invalidate meal tickets. The decision would mean wounded warriors who would normally have a government-funded meal just down the hall would have to walk, wheel or limp nearly a half-mile across the Walter Reed campus to the temporary "food trailer" for breakfast, lunch and dinner. 

...

-bth: it take press intervention to rectify these great injusticies.

SFTT: Brooks and Body Armor: Lies Kill Brave Patriots

Brooks and Body Armor: Lies Kill Brave Patriots | SFTT: Best body armor, combat boots, helmets, sidearms and weapons for US frontline troops.

SFTT summarized a report yesterday from Wall Street Journal reporter Kristen Jones which reported that Body Armor King David Brooks was sentenced to jail for 17 years for a $200 million fraud scheme.   In the article, it was suggested that the Justice Department decided not  to pursue more serious charges of corruption in the military procurement process of body armor supplied to our brave young men and women serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Sadly, the stench of corruption and dishonest procurement process by our military far exceeds the 17 year “slap on the wrist” given to David Brooks.  Found below is a more gut-wrenching account of the “real” story from former  DHB President, Jim Magee.

This (sic the David Brooks story) goes deeper than “defective body armor.” I quit as Point Blank Body Armor’s president after designing the Intercepter vest, and managing the Arthur D. Little Modular Body Armor (Intercepter) program when my DHB boss, David Brooks agreed to a US Army procurement office demand that Point Blank meet the Army’s target price of $626 each, regardless of what had to be given up in wearer protection. The price was Army procurement’s ONLY concern. When I pointed out we would have to reduce the vest’s protective coverage areas to reduce the Kevlar costs, coverage required by the Army’s Natick R+D and PM-Soldier Intercepter spec’s, Army procurement’s response was “…that’s not our problem; make coverage changes to cut your costs if you have to, but we’re only paying $626 per vest.”

Brooks told me to cut out all of the Army’s Protection Area III, (244 sq inches of lower abdomen and kidney area coverage), “make the vest in size medium but mark them large, etc.” and cut way down on the side and shoulder coverage to make it cheaper to manufacturer.” I told him we’d be screwing the wearer, and that I would resign first.

He laughed, and I quit. Brooks was a horrible human being; consistently abusive of all around him; a belligerent, hateful person. In one particularly doped up incident (he was either over medicated or under medicated-read doped up), he yelled at me on the production floor to “fire all the niggers.” My thirty or so Haitian and Jamaican-born sewers went nuts until I physically pushed Brooks out of the plant’s loading dock, and then told them I’d give them a couple of paid hours of unearned overtime to defuse the atmosphere.

Making lots of money was Brooks only concern. He routinely told anyone who worked for him, “people were to be used.” He had no idea why short changing the war-fighter, and delivering a substandard vest – short of PM Soldier’s specs – bothered me to the point where I would walk away from a potential million dollars in income and stock. Integrity and honesty were unknown character traits in Brooks. He viewed them as “weaknesses.”

I still haven’t decided whether he was a sociopath or a psychopath. Either way, he had and has no redeeming qualities. Prison is too good for him. A violent death would have been more suitable.

While one can argue whether Brooks is a sociopath or psychopath, the fact remains that our military leadership knowingly sanctioned the use of  defective body armor.   The Inspector General has reported many body armor testing violations that have been conveniently covered up by our military leadership.  In fact, the DoD continues to  block favorable court rulings requested by SFTT to release the autopsy  reports of military personnel killed in action wearing defective body armor.

More to the point, the public has been aware for quite sometime that “something is wrong in Denmark” when NBC’s Lisa Meyer reported on quibbling within the Army over the best body armor.

The corruption goes far deeper than the simple incarceration of  David Brooks. The dreadful and dishonest sycophants who approved and promoted this defective body armor are – in my opinion – accessories to manslaughter or even worse. Why aren’t they in jail? I suspect that most have been promoted or are now in lucrative contracts as “outside consultants”  perpetuating the merry-go-round of corrupt behavior or “business as usual” in our military procurement process.

How many more brave heroes have to die to feed the insatiable greed of people like Brooks?

Thanks for coming forward Jim.  I know it has been painful.  If more concerned individuals would do so, we could weed these monsters out of positions of trust.  Our men and women in uniform deserve better.

bth: I can tell you that what Col. Charles reports here are true. Further Col. Mcgree has been entirely consistent in his statements for over half a decade that I have been in correspondence with him. It is a coverup and crime that Mr. Brooks wasn't brought up on manslaughter charges which is at the heart of the 'accounting' issues he was charged with. I believe several hundred marines and soldiers were killed over this issue and eventually SFTT's FOIA request will prove this out. Many of th defective vests are at Dover. Unfortunately the short-changed pieces the reduced panels the 'small' labeled 'large' to save a buck have life and death consequences to many who will never know why their lives were permanently altered with wounds or worse.

Greenwald Partner falsely detained as Terrorist: How to Create a Dictatorship - Informed Consent by Dr. Cole

Greenwald Partner falsely detained as Terrorist: How to Create a Dictatorship | Informed Comment

How to turn a democracy into a STASI authoritarian state in 10 easy steps:

1. Misuse the concept of a Top Secret government document (say, the date of D-Day) and extend classification to trillions of mundane documents a year.

2. Classify all government crimes and violations of the Constitution as secret

3. Create a class of 4.5 million privileged individuals, many of them corporate employees, with access to classified documents but allege it is illegal for public to see leaked classified documents

4. Spy on the public in violation of the Constitution

5. Classify environmental activists as terrorists while allowing Big Coal and Big Oil to pollute and destroy the planet

6. Share info gained from NSA spying on public with DEA, FBI, local law enforcement to protect pharmaceuticals & liquor industry from competition from pot, or to protect polluters from activists

7. Falsify to judges and defense attorneys how allegedly incriminating info was discovered

8. Lie and deny to Congress you are spying on the public.

9. Criminalize the revelation of government crimes and spying as Espionage

10. Further criminalize whistleblowing as “Terrorism”, have compradors arrest innocent people, detain them, and confiscate personal effects with no cause or warrant (i.e. David Miranda, partner of Glenn Greenwald)

Presto, what looks like a democracy is really an authoritarian state ruling on its own behalf and that of 2000 corporations, databasing the activities of 312 million innocent citizens and actively helping destroy the planet while forestalling climate activism

Iran budget crisis - Nightwatch

NightWatch 20130818 - KGS

Iran: For the record. Press sources report that Iran faces a budget shortfall of one third in this year's budget because of lower than expected revenues, senior government officials said.

Oil exports have halved since 2011 as the result of sanctions on Iranian oil sales, shipping and banking imposed by Western nations over Iran's nuclear program. About one-third of the approximately $68 billion budget for March 2013-March 2014 will not be realized, according to Vice-President Eshaq Jahangiri, citing figures provided by the administration of former President Ahmadi-Nejad.

Jahangiri was quoted by the ISNA news agency as saying on Sunday that officials told him that "more than one third of the budget is unrealistic" and it must be cut to about $45 billion. "We face a serious budget shortfall."

Comment: Assuming the Vice President's statement is accurate, the nuclear program should be affected by a 33% budget cut. President Rouhani said that Iran will not compromise on its principles but implement a "slogan-free" foreign policy, referring to Ahmadi-Nejad's bombastic style of government. This means, however, the style will change, but the substance will not. There will be continuity of substance between the administrations of Ahmadi-Nejad and Rouhani.

The contraction of the economy should delay, if not degrade, the nuclear program in the coming year, though the effects might not be easily detected for some time.

-bth: sanctions will bite even harder if we can get India off Iranian oil and over to Iraqi suppliers.

Al-Qaeda 'targeting European rail network': report

Al-Qaeda 'targeting European rail network': report - FRANCE 24

AFP - Al-Qaeda is plotting attacks on Europe's high-speed rail network, German mass circulation daily Bild reported on Monday, citing intelligence sources.

The extremist group could plant explosives on trains and tunnels or sabotage tracks and electrical cabling, said Bild, Europe's most widely read daily.

Bild said the information came from the National Security Agency (NSA) in the United States, which had listened in to a conference call involving top Al-Qaeda operatives.

The attacks on Europe's rail network was a "central topic" of this call, Bild said.....

I always feel like Obama's watching me: Rockwell parody.