Saturday, April 05, 2014

Hail and farewell - Catullus

“Driven across many nations, across many oceans
I am here, my brother, for this final parting,
to offer at last those gifts which the dead are given
and to speak in vain to your unspeaking ashes,
since bitter fortune forbids you to hear me or answer,
O my wretched brother, so abruptly taken!
But now I must celebrate grief with funeral tributes
offered the dead in the ancient way of the fathers;
accept these presents, wet with my brotherly tears, and
now and forever, my brother, hail and farewell.

Memorial ceremony set to read names of Iraq and Afghanistan war dead at Vietnam Wall - WaPo

“Last month was the first month that no American was killed in Afghanistan” since the start of the war there, said Jan C. Scruggs, president of the fund and the creator of the memorial and its wall.
“It just seemed like the time was right to do this,” he said. “And the Vietnam veterans are the ones who have to do this. We’re not going to let happen to these people what happened to us.
“This will provide them some recognition,” he said. “This will be a way for the nation to honor the war dead.”
The event is sponsored by, among others, the memorial fund, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, and the American Gold Star Mothers of America. The names will include in-theater hostile and non-hostile deaths, the fund said.
Andrews, for example, was reportedly killed in Qatar in a forklift accident while building a runway. He was an Air Force master sergeant.
On five previous occasions, the fund has hosted the reading of the 58,000 names of those killed in Vietnam and listed on the wall. That program takes 19 hours a day over four days, Scruggs said.
Such readings are “another step in the process, if you will, of a nation going to war” and coming home again, said David Petraeus, a retired Army general who served as the top U.S. commander in both Iraq and Afghanistan.
“There are a number of these steps,” he said. “At some point, there will be a memorial for those who served in the post-9/11 wars.” The reading is one of those milestones, he said.
He said he plans to attend the ceremony and read some of the names.
Barbara Benard, 67, of Columbia, Pa., the national president of American Gold Star Mothers, said: “It means a lot to us mothers from this generation. Who knows when there will be anything built for our sons and daughters?
“I think it’s wonderful that they’re doing this,” she said....

-bth: I am very grateful that the Vietnam era veterans arranged to make this name reading happen for Iraq and Afghan war dead.  After scouting out locations for a possible memorial to Iraq and Afghanistan last summer on the Washington Mall and the ensuing publicity, I have become doubtful that a memorial will ever be raised for the current era veterans in DC.  The political will is simply not there.  By law it will take at least a decade post conflict and the Afghan conflict is at least another year away.  I just don't think the DC folks care enough and the politicians there would sooner forget than have the country remember their contemptible culpability which created the Iraq war in the first place. Still one hopes and as Petraeus said this is the first step in what will be a long process of recognition.

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Saudi sweeping anti-terrorism laws cover most forms of dissent - Nightwatch

Saudi Arabia: The interior ministry is enforcing the new anti-terrorism law and new regulations on what constitutes "terrorism" in the Kingdom. The sweeping provisions criminalize virtually any expression or association critical of the Kingdom and its understanding of Islam. These "terrorism" provisions include the following:

Article 1: "Calling for atheist thought in any form, or calling into question the fundamentals of the Islamic religion on which this country is based."

Article 2: "Anyone who throws away their loyalty to the country's rulers, or who swears allegiance to any party, organization, current of thought, group, or individual inside or outside the kingdom."

Article 4: "Anyone who aids "terrorist" organizations, groups, currents of thought, associations, or parties, or demonstrates affiliation with them, or sympathy with them, or promotes them, or holds meetings under their umbrella, either inside or outside the kingdom; this includes participation in audio, written, or visual media; social media in its audio, written, or visual forms; internet websites; or circulating their contents in any form, or using slogans of these groups and currents of thought, or any symbols which point to support or sympathy with them."

Article 6: "Contact or correspondence with any groups, currents of thought, or individuals hostile to the kingdom."

Article 8: "Seeking to shake the social fabric or national cohesion, or calling, participating, promoting, or inciting sit-ins, protests, meetings, or group statements in any form, or anyone who harms the unity or stability of the kingdom by any means."

Article 9: "Attending conferences, seminars, or meetings inside or outside the kingdom targeting the security of society, or sowing discord in society."

Article 11: "Inciting or making countries, committees, or international organizations antagonistic to the kingdom."

Comment: The laws and supporting decrees were enacted in March. They gave jihadis in Syria 15 days to return or be considered terrorists. They also labeled the Muslim Brotherhood a terrorist organization and criminalized atheism as "terrorism."
The new regulations are the most far reaching and restrictive of any enacted to date. They criminalize any form of protest or advocacy of reform. They are as severe and as authoritarian as any in North Korea. Cumulatively, they are an indicator that the monarchy is concerned seriously about internal stability.

End of NightWatch for 2 April.
NightWatch is brought to you by Kforce Government Solutions, Inc. (KGS), a leader in government problem-solving, Data Confidence® and intelligence. Views and opinions expressed in NightWatch are solely those of the author, and do not necessarily represent those of KGS, its management, or affiliates.

-bth: it would appear most forms of free thought could be considered terrorist activity in Saudi Arabia.  Nightwatch analysis is excellent as usual.

Putin & Sarah Palin Phone Call on "Tonight Show"

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Russia could achieve Ukraine incursion in 3-5 days: NATO general

Reuters) - Russia has massed all the forces it needs on Ukraine's border if it were to decide to carry out an "incursion" into the country and it could achieve its objective in three to five days, NATO's top military commander said on Wednesday.

Calling the situation "incredibly concerning", NATO's supreme allied commander in Europe, U.S. Air Force General Philip Breedlove, said NATO had spotted signs of movement by a very small part of the Russian force overnight but had no indication that it was returning to barracks....

-bth: this entire article does not specify what the Russian objective actually is that they could achieve in 3-5 days.

Monday, March 31, 2014

An Ukrainian immigrant goes to the Department of Motor Vehicles to apply for a driver's license.

He has to take an eye test. The clerk shows him a card with the letters:


"Can you read this?" the clerk asks.

Read it?" the Ukrainian replies, "I know the guy."

Russia has no intention to send troops into Ukraine – Lavrov - RT

There is no intention in Moscow to send its troops into eastern Ukraine, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said. Hopefully, the growing understanding in the West of Russia’s position will allow for a de-escalation of the tension, he added.
In an interview with Rossiya 24 TV channel, Lavrov spoke on the futile western attempts to isolate Russia diplomatically, the growing acceptance of the need for constitutional reform, which Moscow proposes, the prospects of NATO’s expansion into Ukraine and the potential for global presence of the Russian Navy....

The full transcript of Lavrov's talk is here

It is worth reading in full.  Basically it says they want the US to help break up the Ukraine using a federation structure, they want to block any further expansion of Nato and that Russia's navy is expanding but will not create massive overseas bases.

Dossier of Dubiousness: Did Putin's Man in Crimea Have Mafia Ties?

Chandeliers hang from the ceiling of St. George Hall in the Grand Kremlin Palace. Gold stars evoke the glory of the past. Inscriptions extolling Russia's heroes of past and present engraved between them: "For service and bravery." In 1945, the victors of the battle of Berlin were honored in the hall and, in 1961, Yuri Gagarin, the first man in space, was fĂȘted. It's a hall for marking historical occasions.
Last Tuesday, a man stood in the limelight of St. George Hall who had previously attracted attention largely for lacking any scruples when it came to growing his private assets. Sergei Aksyonov, who was installed as Crimea's prime minister by pro-Russian forces and is known in mafia circles under the alias "Goblin," took a seat in the Kremlin in the very front row, next to the Russian prime minister....

-bth; any prime minister with the mafia nickname the Goblin has got to be interesting.

China seizes $14.5 bln assets from family, associates of ex-security chief

Chinese authorities have seized assets worth at least 90 billion yuan ($14.5 billion) from family members and associates of retired domestic security tsar Zhou Yongkang, who is at the centre of China’s biggest corruption scandal in more than six decades, two sources said.
More than 300 of Zhou’s relatives, political allies, proteges and staff have also been taken into custody or questioned in the past four months, the sources, who have been briefed on the investigation, told Reuters.
The sheer size of the asset seizures and the scale of the investigations into the people around Zhou — both unreported until now — make the corruption probe unprecedented in modern China and would appear to show that President Xi Jinping is tackling graft at the highest levels.
But it may also be driven partly by political payback after Zhou angered leaders such as Xi by opposing the ouster of former high-flying politician Bo Xilai, who was jailed for life in September for corruption and abuse of power.
Zhou, 71, has been under virtual house arrest since authorities began formally investigating him late last year. He is the most senior Chinese politician to be ensnared in a corruption investigation since the Communist Party swept to power in 1949....
-bth: this is huge.

Exclusive: Photographs Expose Russian-Trained Killers in Kiev - Daily Beast

Most of the photographs accompanying this article were taken on February 20, and they appear to reveal the truth about who carried out the shootings in Independence Square on that day—a fateful one for both Ukraine and for Europe, which suddenly witnessed the continent’s worst political violence of the 21st century. The pictures shared exclusively with The Daily Beast show members of a crack anti-terrorist unit known as the Alfa Team in the courtyard of the headquarters of Ukraine’s feared state security service, the SBU, preparing themselves for battle. The agency’s seven-story headquarters occupies an entire city block and is just three streets from the Maidan.
The SBU is the successor intelligence agency to the Ukrainian branch of the Soviet-era KGB and it still maintains exceptionally close ties to Moscow. For many years “leading SBU functionaries came from the KGB,” says Boris Volodarsky, a former Russian military intelligence officer and author of the book The KGB’s Poison Factory. He says Russia’s intelligence service, now known as the FSB, has made sure over the years to maintain deep penetration of its Ukrainian counterpart and to ensure that its “agents and associates remain in place.” That was easily done during thepresidency of the pro-Russian Yanukovych....
-bth: this establishes that the snipers were Russian or Ukrainian SBU