Sunday, September 30, 2012

President Hadi of Yemen claims he personally signs off on each U.S. drone attack

The president of Yemen Mansour Hadi confirmed today that he personally signs off on each drone attack made by the U.S. in Yemen. This is a complete turnaround from previous policy which was to refuse to acknowledge U.S. involvement in attacks.
President Hadi was formerly vice-president under the long-ruling Saleh regime. In a deal brokered by the Gulf Cooperation Council with the support of the U.S., Saleh stepped down and turned over power to Hadi in return for immunity for him, his family, and cronies for any crimes committed during an uprising against his regime that killed many protesters. Later Hadi, supported by the U.S., ran unopposed for president. and won. Hadi warned that Yemen is still unstable and unless proper security measures are taken could descend into a civil war worse than Afghanistan. Hadi said that unrest could continue as well if an upcoming months-long national dialogue is unable to resolve the Arab Gulf state's deep political and societal rifts.
Hadi noted that he had an excellent counter-terrorism relationship with the U.S. and said that he personally "signs off" on every drone strike conducted by the U.S. This statement is quite extraordinary since the U.S. position is that the Yemen drone program is classified. This should make the ACLU suit under the freedom of information act more powerful since so far the Obama administration claims that to even affirm or deny that the program exists would jeopardize U.S. security. The ACLU has been seeking in vain to obtain information about the drone program.
The president praised the precision of the drones and claimed that past "mistakes" were being avoided. This might be a reference to Yemeni civilians who had been killed by drones. Hadi said he had visited the center from which the drone strikes are launched and said that he could see the operations unfolding "step by step."
The Yemeni military, with U.S. aid, was able to drive Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and other militant groups from territory that they had occupied last summer. However the militants have retreated to the mountains and underground to wage a guerrilla type terror warfare which still takes its toll on the government. The government attacks upon the towns taken over by Islamic militants ruined many houses and destroyed infrastructure so that many inhabitants still remain in cities such as Aden as refugees.
Yemen is still plagued by separatist movements both in the north with Houthi rebels, and separatists in the south, as well as Islamic militants. As with his predecessor Hadi uses the threat of Islamic militants to plead for aid from the U.S. and others. There are still divisions within the Yemeni government and armed forces as well, with members of former president Saleh's family and supporters still having considerable influence.
In a recent Friends of Yemen meeting in New York about $1.5 billion was pledged to help the country bringing the total promised by international donors to $8 billion. How much of this money will go for humanitarian purposes or for reconstruction or how soon was not made clear. No one knows how much of the aid will be siphoned off through corruption either!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

South Korean pop star PSY: Gangnam Style (Video)

"Gangnam Style" is popular Korean single by Korean musician PSY. The music video has been praised for its catchy rhythms and the unique dance moves.
As of today the music video appended had over 284 million views! This is You Tubes' most watched K-pop video so far. K-pop refers to Korean popular music a genre that includes dance, hip hop, R and B, and other pop music originating in South Korea. A popular subculture has also grown up around the music among young people globally.
Many celebrities have shared the video on the internet including: Britney Spears, and Tom Cruise. The video has even been featured in the Wall Street Journal, and Financial Times! By early this month the video had also generated "Gangnam Style" flash mobs in a number of cities around the world. Inevitably reaction and parody videos appeared including one by The Oregon Duck, another by a group from the US. Naval Academy and, last but not least, by the North Korean government. PSY brought his dance to The Today Show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show among other locations. The song has topped iTunes Charts in 31 countries including the U.S. and Canada.
"Gangnam Style" refers to a lifestyle linked to the Gangnam district in Seoul. People there are supposedly hip, trendy, and "classy" and live a lavish lifestyle. From the video this would seem to involve having horses! The PSY single is a takeoff on the style. For those of you who do not understand Korean I append below an English translation of the lyrics:
Oppa is Gangnam style
Gangnam style
A girl who is warm and humanle during the day
A classy girl who know how to enjoy the freedom of a cup of coffee
A girl whose heart gets hotter when night comes
A girl with that kind of twist
I’m a guy
A guy who is as warm as you during the day
A guy who one-shots his coffee before it even cools down
A guy whose heart bursts when night comes
That kind of guy
Beautiful, loveable
Yes you, hey, yes you, hey
Beautiful, loveable
Yes you, hey, yes you, hey
Now let’s go until the end
Oppa is Gangnam style, Gangnam style
Oppa is Gangnam style, Gangnam style
Oppa is Gangnam style
Eh- Sexy Lady, Oppa is Gangnam style
Eh- Sexy Lady oh oh oh oh
A girl who looks quiet but plays when she plays
A girl who puts her hair down when the right time comes
A girl who covers herself but is more sexy than a girl who bares it all
A sensable girl like that
I’m a guy
A guy who seems calm but plays when he plays
A guy who goes completely crazy when the right time comes
A guy who has bulging ideas rather than muscles
That kind of guy
Beautiful, loveable
Yes you, hey, yes you, hey
Beautiful, loveable
Yes you, hey, yes you, hey
Now let’s go until the end
Oppa is Gangnam style, Gangnam style
Oppa is Gangnam style, Gangnam style
Oppa is Gangnam style
Eh- Sexy Lady, Oppa is Gangnam style
Eh- Sexy Lady oh oh oh oh
On top of the running man is the flying man, baby baby
I’m a man who knows a thing or two
On top of the running man is the flying man, baby baby
I’m a man who knows a thing or two
You know what I’m saying
Oppa is Gangnam style
Eh- Sexy Lady, Oppa is Gangnam style
Eh- Sexy Lady oh oh oh oh

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

China's first aircraft carrier now in service

The aircraft carrier Liaoning, named after the province where it was refitted, was formerly a Soviet vessel. A Chinese company purchased the ship from the Ukraine. For now, the ship will just be used for training with no operational aircraft on board.
The Liaoning has already undergone extensive trials at sea. Premier Wen Jiabao said the ship would have "a mighty and deep significance". This significance will be mostly symbolic I expect. The U.S. for example has more aircraft carriers than the rest of the world put together and they are much larger and more sophisticated than a refitted Soviet era ship such as the Chinese have. However, the Liaoning does send a signal to other countries that China has growing ambitions and is expanding its naval strength. The new ship may also send a message to countries such as Japan, the Philippines, and Vietnam over claims to disputed islands.
It will take considerable time for the Chinese to learn how to operate a carrier and how to operate with other ships. Using the vessel first for training makes sense. No doubt China wants to point to its expanding naval power as it braces for a leadership change.
The Chinese defense ministry said in a statement:
"Having the aircraft carrier enter the ranks will be of important significance in raising the overall fighting capacity of our nation's navy to a modern level...The vessel will increase [China's] capacity to defend, develop its capacity to co-operate on the high seas in dealing with non-traditional security threats and will be effective in defending the interests of state sovereignty, security and development".
The Liaoning began life in the 1980s as the Varyag constructed for the Soviet navy but never completed. A company associated with the People's Liberation Army purchased the ship before it was sold for scrap. The company intended to turn the Varyag into a floating casino in Macau and towed it to China in 2001. However in June 2011 the Chinese military announced the ship was being refitted as an aircraft carrier.
Building up the Chinese navy is part of a larger move to modernize China's military in order to project military power as well as economic power throughout the region. However, China is far behind many countries. The U.S. spends almost as much on its military as all other countries combined. China does not even have aircraft or pilots trained for operating on an aircraft carrier. Some critics have said that aircraft carriers are outmoded already and building them a waste of money. While this may be true of countries such as the UK, many would claim the carriers are quite useful to countries such as the U.S. who project their power on a global scale.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Syrian rebels clash with Lebanese army near Lebanon border

Free Syrian Army (FSA) rebels attacked a Lebanese military post near the Syrian border. After a brief gun battle the FSA rebels fled into the mountains. The Lebanese military has sent reinforcements to the area.
A statement from the Lebanese Army said that the attack was the second time in less than a week that a Free Syrian Army unit had entered Lebanese territory. There were no casualties reported in the latest clash. The Lebanese Army has sent units into the mountainous area to track down the rebels.
The Syrian rebels cross into Lebanon to avoid the Syrian military. The Syrian military so far has not crossed the border in pursuit, no doubt fearing an international incident. Speaker of the Lebanese parliament, Nabih Berri, said he supported moves by the Lebanese Army after the attack on the weekend in the north east by the border with Syria.
In newspaper interviews Berri said:
“We have said it over and over again... the army is a red line. Let it fulfill its tasks, it is just carrying out its responsibilities to the fullest [of its capabilities]."
Many Sunni Muslims in Lebanon are supporters of the rebels while Hezbollah supports the Assad regime. The conflict has at times spilled over into Lebanon.
Some time ago there were clashes in Tripoli between those supporting and those opposed to the Assad regime. In the resulting violence 17 people were killed before a truce was established. Those supporting the rebels in Lebanon opposed the move of the Lebanese army to pursue the rebels who had come across the border. Berri said of those opposing the move:
“Such voices will not affect the army’s national role which we fervently support. The army is above such statements anyways."
Lebanon has not only been impacted by an inflow of refugees and division within the country but has also faced a wave of criminal activity including kidnappings. The appended video shows some of the background of the situation in Syria. Many fear that the Syrian conflict could serve to reignite civil war in Lebanon..

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Georgians protest prisoner abuse.

The protests arose after graphic videos were published showing guards kicking and abusing prisoners. There is an election on October 1 and this scandal could hurt the chances of re-election for the pro-Western Saakashvili government.
On Friday (Sept.21) thousands rallied to demand that top officials who were fired be charged and punished as well after a prison abuse scandal. President Saakashvili immediately tried to control the damage by firing his interior minister as well as the minister in charge of penitentiaries. He also moved some prison personnel to different prisons. However rallies went on for a third day. No doubt the opposition sees a golden opportunity to attack the government.
The main opposition party leader Bidzina Ivanishvili is cautioning his own supporters about taking the battle to the streets. The multibillionaire politician fears a government crackdown on protests could derail the electoral process and prevent the opposition from gaining a victory. If the opposition wins then Ivanishvili would become prime minister next year. Under recent reforms power has been shifted from the president to the parliament and prime minister.
The Saakashvili government claims that the opposition deliberately waited until the final weeks of the election campaign to release the videos. One of the TV channels that showed the videos is owned by Ivanishvili. Both sides say they are committed to a peaceful election process going ahead. A leading member of Invishvili's Georgian Dream coalition said:
"Elections must be held in a quiet environment. Let people express their opinion at the polls."
Many students involved in the protests have stopped protesting at least until after the vote. However many hundreds of demonstrators rallied outside the Gidani prison in the capital Tbilsi. This is the prison where the abuses were filmed.
The European Union has urged the Gerogian government to punish those involved in the abuse. Catherine Ashton, EU foreign policy head, said that she was "appalled by the shocking footage of abuses committed against inmates in Gldani prison." She continued:
"It is of vital importance that these and other incidents are thoroughly and transparently investigated and that those responsible are held to account."
A spokesperson for the UN human rights office in Geneva, Rupert Colville, urged the Georgian authorities to quickly and impartially investigate all the cases of abuse and ensure that Georgian prisons and detention centers were managed in line with international standards and human rights. In just over a week Georgians will find out whether this abuse has managed to help put the Georgian opposition in power.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

One lone protester in Marseille, France, greeted by 60 riot police

In Marseille authorities were well prepared to deal with any illegal demonstrations They were determined to enforce the ban on demonstrations against the anti-Islam film "Innocence of Muslims" and cartoons mocking the Prophet in Charlie Hebdo magazine.
The situation was tense and dramatic. The French government had banned demonstrations in the interests of public safety after a French magazine published insulting anti-Islam cartoons that mocked the Prophet. There had been protests already virtually around the globe against the film "Innocence of Muslims". The authorities were prepared. Well prepared.
Overhead there was a police helicopter. On the ground there were sixty massed riot police ready for any violence. More than two dozen journalists had their cameras ready to capture all the action.
Then Omar Djellil entered and perched on a concrete block from which he harangued passersby:
“I may be the only one today but I am the spokesman of a silent majority."
Djellil had attempted to get permission for a demonstration but police refused as there is a ban in place. As well as lecturing people Djellil also plastered walls in the southern port city with posters. One said: "French Muslims don't need authorization to defend their rights". Another spoke of Hebdo pigs a reference to the satirical French magazine, Charlie Hebdo, that published cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed some of them showing him naked.
The police stood by, the helicopter hovered, but no one moved to arrest Djellil. The French Interior Minister Manuel Valls said that he would not sanction any protests since they would represent a threat to public order. Djellil's unauthorized protest ended without incident. Having made his point Djellil no doubt just went home as did the riot police, the reporters, and the helicopter.
Riot police were deployed in several different areas of the French capital, Paris, to enforce the ban on demonstrations but as of mid-afternoon there were no reports of demonstrations or trouble. There were squads of riot police at the Grand Mosque near the Eiffel Tower and also on the Place de la Concorde where a week ago a demonstration against the anti-Islam film had resulted in the arrest of 150 protesters.
Back on November 2, last year Charlie Hebdo's office was fire-bombed and its website hacked. The magazine had planned a special edition called "Charia Hebdo" with the Prophet Mohammed listed as editor-in-chief.

Walmart will no longer sell Kindle devices

Walmart has decided that it will no longer sell Kindle devices beyond present commitments to do so. Walmart claims the move is simply part of its marketing strategy but many think that the decision is related to concerns about competition from Amazon.
Just five years ago Walmart, the largest retail chain on the globe, did not need to worry much about the world's largest online mall, Only around one quarter of Walmart customers also shopped at Amazon. However, half of Walmart customers now say they shop at Amazon as well. Amazon is emerging as a big competitor as on line purchases increase. Walmart realizes what is happening and is increasing its own online presence and e-commerce. Amazon is butting in on traditional Walmart merchandise from diapers to vacuum cleaner bags. In its latest fiscal year Amazon revenue grew 41% while Walmart grew 8%. It is not surprising that given this situation Walmart should refuse to help its competitor by selling Kindle devices from Amazon. Every new Kindle Fire owner is at least potentially another shopper. When a customer buys a Kindle Fire they often decide that the best thing to do with the device is to watch movies and TV episodes. After viewing a few episodes or movies costing a few dollars each it dawns upon them that they could join Kindle Prime for just $79 dollars a year or around $7 dollars a month. As the owner of the Kindle Fire navigates content there are constant reminders that if they are members of Amazon Prime they will have access to thousands of free TV shows and movies as well as 180,00 e-books. No doubt many Kindle Fire owners will become Prime members. One of the benefits of being a Prime member is free two-day shipping from Amazon. For many it will be good bye Walmart, hello Amazon.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Whose speech had highest rating at recent presidential conventions?

It wasn't Barack Obama and certainly not Mitt Romney. So was it Bill Clinton or Clint Eastwood? No! Democratic Vice-President Joe Biden topped the ratings.
According to Nielsen ratings 14.7% of the 289.7 million in the U.S. in homes with televisions watched Joe Biden's speech at the Democratic national convention. Obama managed 13.7% and second place with Mitt Romney coming third at 12.5%. Former President Bill Clinton came in fourth with 10.9%. Clinton however was competing with the NFL opening game. Clinton had more viewers. The rather bizarre performance by actor Clint Eastwood at the Republican convention had 9.9% for his viewing audience. The three major U.S. networks had an hour coverage for each of the two conventions. Perhaps the 43.6 million people who tuned in to see and listen to Joe Biden expected him to make some historic gaffes as happens often in Biden speeches. I include three memorable gaffes by Biden. Biden certainly certainly does not denigrate his opponent Hillary Clinton in order to become Vice President of the U.S:
“Hillary Clinton is as qualified or more qualified than I am to be Vice President of the United States of America. Let’s get that straight. She’s a truly close personal friend. She is qualified to be President of the United States of America. She’s easily qualified to be Vice President of the United States of America. Quite frankly, it might have been a better pick than me. But she’s first rate.” — Sept. 10, 2008, speaking in Nashua, N.H.
In describing Barack Obama Biden gets all tongue tied in politically incorrect praise:
I mean, you got the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy. I mean, that’s a storybook, man.” - Jan. 31, 2007, describing Barack Obama during the Democratic primary. Biden later apologized.
Finally Biden appears to be counting challenged but at least he had the spelling correct:
Look, John’s last-minute economic plan does nothing to tackle the number-one job facing the middle class, and it happens to be, as Barack says, a three-letter word: jobs. J-O-B-S, jobs.” — Oct. 15, 2008, speaking in Athens, Ohio.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Song from Peshawar: "My gaze is as fatal as a drone attack".

A new romantic song by Pakistani singer Sitara Younis compares the gaze of a beautiful dancing girl to a drone attack. Both are equally fatal to men.
The appended video comes from the city of Peshawar. The song from a popular movie has some of the standard lyrics of love songs. There is mention of rosebuds and wine. The blaring music celebrates a temptress who has "sweet lips". Her smile is as fresh as early dew..However the repeated chorus is:
"My gaze is as fatal as a drone attack".
This hit for Younis follows upon another last year in which the temptress warns a drunken man to stay away:
"Don't chase me, I'm an illusion, a suicide bomb."
Khalid Jilanii a part time lyricist and professional driver said that singers and poets are more and more drawing upon the local situation for ideas and images. Jilani said:
"It's been a hit because people like the music and the movie that it was written for. Now you hear it all the time being played at wedding halls and in cars."
Younis's performance was getting many hits on You Tube before You Tube was shut down by the government due to anger over the anti-Islamic film trailer posted on the site.
The composer of the music Maas Wesal claims the drone reference has nothing to do with politics just that the eyes of a beautiful dancing temptress can destroy men just like a drone. Nevertheless the song shows that events in the adjacent tribal territories are being reflected in popular culture.
Music such as this would be suppressed in the tribal areas where the Taliban along with drones are active. However the music flourishes in Peshawar a vibrant and quite diverse city of over three and a half million people.
Bakhtar Khattack, a composer in Peshawar, said:
"In the last five years we have suffered a lot of losses because of this war. People hear about so many different incidents that it becomes part of their psyche. It is actually very destructive to our society that these things are being taken lightly and people are even dancing to these sorts of tunes."
Some critics believe the songs are harmful to Pashtun culture and want a board of censors to ban this type of material in spite of or perhaps because of its popularity. The Express Tribune newspaper said: "All in all, the war on terror in these tribal areas has not only become a part of their art, literature and cinema but even the Pashto tele-films, which are famous for vulgarity and Kalashnikov culture."
Although the Pashto is not translated in the video you can see the characters with Kalashnikov's in the background. The video is vibrant and vulgar and I expect to the Taliban quite unIslamic.

Read more:

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Libyan Militant groups unapologetic about Benghazi attack

Militant group Ansar Al-Sharia claim they had no part in killing U.S. embassy staff in Benghazi but do not understand why tears are shed about the death of a diplomat. The real crime to them is the insult to Muslims in the film "Innocence of Muslims".
Powerful militias of various stripes simply refuse to lay down their weapons and cede power to the central government even though the Gaddafi regime is long gone. These groups include Ansar al-Sharia. Some have accused the group of being responsible for the attack on the Bengghazi consulate that killed the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three others. The group itself admits that members were present at the demonstration but deny any part in the killings. The government claims to have arrested 50 people as part of its investigation into the attack but has not said whether any are from Ansar al-Sharia.
The group's name Ansar al-Sharia means roughly "patrons of Sharia law". They want to impose Sharia law in areas they control and throughout Libya. There is a group with the same name in Yemen which controlled considerable territory a year ago but have now retreated into the mountains. The U.S. considered them an Al Qaeda linked group. However often such associations are a device to ensure that the U.S. will help the Yemen government suppress them. Once a few drone attacks are made on them they are very apt to link up with AQAM (Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula) anyway. The Ansar al-Sharia in Libya are said not to have any links with the Yemen group but they do have links to Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia.
Sometimes the group is called Ansar al-Sharia in Beghazi (ASB) since they are quite active in the city. The group is led by Muhammad Zahawi. As well as being linked to the Tunisian Ansar al-Sahri the group is also linked to other smaller Salifi-jihadist battalions including one led by a former Guantanamo prisoner. Some analysts blame the attack on another militia theOmar Abdul Rahman brigades
In an interview with the BBC, the leader of Ansar al-Sharia, Sheikh Mohammed Zahawi justified the group's decision not to give up their arms as follows:
"The battle is not yet over. There are many Gaddafi loyalists in the new administration."
He is no doubt referring not to people who stayed with the Gaddafi regime but who defected and joined the rebels and are now part of the government. Zahawi also said the group sympathized with other militant groups including Al Qaeda. This view is not uncommon.
Diaa Rahman from the Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies in Cairo said that often Al Qaeda is identified simply as a brand to be adopted because of sympathy with their ideas. This makes it even easier for those in the west to label militant groups as Al-Qaeda or Al-Qaeda affiliated even though Al Qaeda as a central organization probably does not even exist.
Rahman says:“
Al Qaeda as an organization, as a command, it doesn’t exist..There are no orders from Ayman Zawahri coming to jihadists in Libya or Sinai to make something....Since the death of Osama bin Laden, Al Qaeda has been in a sense reborn because some of its ideas and the model have inspired new militants.”
The Ansar al-Sharia does not want democracy in Libya but Sharia law:
"We don't believe in the democratic system because even those who live in such systems know it's a fake. We want to tell the world that the democratic project doesn't suit us and doesn't suit Islam."
In Benghazi there is a half-built town on the outskirts meant to house about 200,000 people. It was abandoned by the Chinese as the revolt against Gaddafi gathered steam. The Libyan government wants to entice western capital back into Libya and there are lucrative oil deals waiting to be signed. However, as long as security is weak and the government unstable capital will no doubt flow to more friendly climes.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Delaware man steals his own truck

Donald Smith II, 30, stole his own truck from a repair shop in New Castle Delaware. The truck was in the shop for repairs.

At 12:30 in the morning the Delaware State Police were called to the repair shop after the theft was reported. The owner told police that a section of fence had been torn down and a 1999 Chevrolet Siverado pickup truck was gone.

A surveillance video at the site showed that a front-end loader complete with forklifts had driven down one side of the property and then out of view. Later the loader appears again carrying the pick up truck in its forks.

After the repair shop owner left a message with Smith to inform him that his truck was gone he later received a return call from Smith who told the repair shop owner that he had retrieved his truck.

At 1:15 in the morning police received a call that a person was operating a front end loader in the parking lot of a local restaurant and tavern. The loader entered a heavily wooded area. When it was located, the loader again evaded police. However, the loader finally drove into a retention pond bringing to an end a 35 minute chase!

Smith actually had to swim to shore where he was taken into custody. Smith faces numerous charges including criminal mischief, trespassing, and several traffic violations. After posting $5,750 dollars bail he was released. He probably will not need his truck for a while. For more see this article.

Loot lost by Swedes recovered at bottom of Vistula River in Poland

Loot lost by 17 century Swedish invaders of Poland has been revealed at the bottom of the Vistula river by record low water levels. Elaborate marble stonework lies in the mud of the river bed.
A huge cargo of large blocks of the marble stonework apparently sank to the bottom of the Vistula river almost four centuries ago. The blocks were likely being transported back to Sweden by Swedish invaders. Record drought and low water levels have revealed the blocks. They are are covered in a yellow foul-smelling mud.
Researchers had known about the artefacts but retrieving them had been difficult as they were several feet under water. However, the task is still difficult because the water level is so low large floating cranes cannot get near enough to lift up the blocks and regular equipment sinks into the mud. Even so researchers are thankful the drought revealed the blocks.
Hubert Kowalski of the University of Warsaw Museum said:
"The drought helped us a lot because what had been lying underneath is now at the surface,"
Previous to the revelation of the blocks, knowledge about what had happened when the Swedes invaded was quite sketchy but now there is clear material evidence of the invasion.
Historians think that the Swedes were trying to move the loot to Gdansk where the Vistula flows into the Baltic Sea and then ship the blocks to Sweden. As yet, it is not known exactly why the barges sank. Kowalski said that so far they have located 10 tonnes of stonework but they think there is much more. The barges had a capacity of about 50 to 60 tonnes each.
The Museum authorities intend to take the masonry to Warsaw's Royal Castle one of the sites believed to have been looted by the Swedes. However until the river level is a bit higher again progress will be quite slow.
The lowest water levels since records have been kept about 200 year ago have also revealed World War II explosives and pieces from Jewish gravestones. If water levels do not rise soon, power stations in the city that use the river water for cooling may be forced to close.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Taliban destroy 8 jets in Camp Bastion attack

The recent Taliban attack on Camp Bastion in Afghanistan destroyed eight Harrier jets. This is the worst one day loss of aircraft the U.S. has suffered since the Vietnam War.
Camp Bastion located in southwestern Afghanistan is the main British Military Base in Afghanistan but it also houses U.S. and Afghan troops. The base accomodates 28,000 people and is northwest of Lashkar Gah the capital of Helmand Province.
The Taliban attacked the camp on September 14th killing two U.S. marines. At the same time nine coalition personnel were wounded. The damage caused by the attack is estimated at $200 million dollars. The eight Harrier jets that were destroyed cost between $23 and $30 million dollars each. The attack was the most destructive on any base since the beginning of the Afghan mission.
Approximately 15 insurgents dressed in U.S. army uniforms penetrated the base perimeter on Friday night. The insurgents not only fired at and set fire to the jets but also badly damaged three refueling stations. A military official told the New York Times:
"It was a running gun battle for a while, two and a half hours, nonetheless they were able to get to the aircraft before we could intercept them.”
The insurgents had machine guns, rocket propelled grenades and perhaps even mortars. All but one of the insurgents was killed in the battle and the remaining attacker was taken into custody.
While the Taliban claimed the attack was in response to the anti-Prophet movie an official doubted that since the attack was quite sophisticated and probably there had been preparations and training for weeks in advance. While Prince Harry was at the base during the attack he was quite a ways from the action and was never in any danger. The attack shows that the Taliban are far from beaten and can even attack a well-defended base and cause extensive damage.

New negotiations for TPP at Leesburg Virginia Sept 6 to Sept. 15

A recent negotiating round of the Trans-Pacific Partnership took place in Leesburg, Virginia from September 6th through to September 15th.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) is a free trade agreement being negotiated with a total of eleven different Pacific Rim countries up to now. The negotiations began with just four countries but new countries keep joining in. As of now the following countries are invovlved: Brunei, Chile, Singapore, New Zealand, U.S., Australia, Peru, Vietnam, Malaysia, Mexico, and Canada. The TPP is describe by Wikipedia as follows:
In 2007, negotiations began for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a significantly expanded version of the agreement, encompassing a larger group of countries. These ongoing negotiations have drawn criticism and protest from the public and elected officials, in part due to the secrecy of the negotiations and a number of controversial clauses in draft agreements leaked to the public. 'Of the 26 chapters under negotiation, only a few have to do directly with trade. The other chapters enshrine new rights and privileges for major corporations while weakening the power of nation states to oppose them.'[2]
On Sunday September 9 the United States Trade Representative's office held what it calls a Direct Stakeholder Engagement. The event is to allow various stakeholders to talk with negotiators one-on-one, to raise questions and share views.
There were dozens of groups represented at the 'stakeholder forum' including the U.S. Chamber of Commerce but also the Brotherhood of Teamsters. Almost 150 representatives of different interested groups gathered in a protest on a hillside after the stakeholder forum. They called for proposals being negotiated to be made public and chanted: "Flush the TPP"
Arthur Stamoulis of the Washington-based Citizens Trade Campaign who organized the protest said:“We want negotiators to release the text, to tell people what they’re proposing in our names."
Transparency has long been an issue. Many consumer, labor, environmental groups, and even some U.S. politicians want positions of participants to be made public. The TPP is supposed to be a model for future pacts. Obama hopes to double U.S. exports by 2014. However, many aspects of the negotiations concern issues other than trade especially intellectual property rights.
Sixty different groups made presentations at the forum with varying agendas from Friends of the Earth to the American Automotive Policy Council. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce along with the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America asked that the agreement contain strong protections for copyrights and patents. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said of the negotiations:
“This free-trade agreement is central to America’s economic vision in Asia. By reducing market distortions and leveling the playing field, the TPP will raise the bar for competition in a way that benefits every economy in the region, whether it is an active partner in the TPP or not.”
Global capital will not need a world government to ensure there are global regulations that are in its own interest. These regulations can be achieved by free trade deals that will do an end run around national laws and regulations.

Obama administration to spend $350 billion upgrading nuclear arsenal

The Obama administration's modernization plan includes upgrading over 5,000 nuclear warheads and refurbishing storage facilities. Delivery systems for the weapons need to be replaced.
The U.S. has 5,113 nuclear warheads each of which could wipe out most of a major city. U.S. priorities are clear. While the U.S. debt is in the trillions and the country faces a fiscal cliff, it is regarded as imperative that all these weapons be retained and even upgraded.
The cost estimate of slightly more than $350 billion comes from the Stimson Center. The program is to last a decade. The Government Accounting Office (GAO) places the plan on a high-risk list for fraud, waste, and abuse. No doubt politicians will applaud the scheme as producing jobs and make sure that some of the work is channeled to their own constituencies.
The nuclear arsenal has been more or less neglected for two decades. Officials simply put off putting money into the aging arsenal. However each year the cost of upgrading to keep the arsenal safe and reliable increases.
U.S. military tactics have changed to reliance on Special Operations Forces and tactical strikes. It is difficult to see why so many nuclear warheads are even needed.Yet Federal Officials are determined to act now to maintain air, sea, and land nuclear superiority. These gargantuan expenses may cause economic stresses of such magnitude that the U.S. will lose the battle with rising giants such as China and India through U.S. unsustainable defense expenditures which are almost as much as the rest of the world added together.
The costs of renovation are huge. Just one of the seven types of stockpiled weapons the B61 bomb will likely cost $10 billion over five years. In comparison the budget for Fairfax County next year will cost just $3.5 billion and this includes the school system. The Virginia county has over a million people.
Fairfax County is a county in Virginia, in the United States. As of the 2010 census, the population of the county is 1,081,726, making it the most populous jurisdiction in the Commonwealth of Virginia, with 13.5% of Virginia's population. The county is also the most populous jurisdiction in the Washington Metropolitan Area.
The opportunity costs of money spent on outdated weapons many of which are probably not needed is huge but so will be the rewards to the military-industrial complex. An estimate of the world stockpile of nuclear weapons can be found here. The estimate for the U.S. is larger than in this article. Apparently some weapons are still waiting to be dismantled but are not operational. This may explain the difference.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Pakistani President Asif Zardari again demands U.S. end drone attacks

After talks with special envoy to Pakistan Marc Grossman, President of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari, called for an end to drone strikes on militants in the tribal areas of Pakistan.
presidential spokesperson told reporters that Zardari and Grossman:
".. discussed bilateral relations, the fight against militancy, the regional situation, drug trafficking and drone attacks...(Zardari) reiterated his call for an end to the drone attacks, terming them counterproductive in the fight against militancy and in the battle of winning hearts..We need to discuss alternatives on the question of drone attacks,"
Zardari also said that the trust deficit between the two countries needed to be overcome to establish a long-term durable relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan. It is not at all clear how this trust relationship can be easily restored. The U.S. believes that at the very least Pakistani intelligence retains close relationships with the Haqqani network a group that mounts raids into Afghanistan from Pakistan.
Drone attacks are very unpopular in Pakistan as is the United States. There have been many demonstrations against the strikes in Pakistan claiming that the attacks are a violation of Pakistani sovereignty and often kill civilians. Zardari's statements against the attacks probably mean little. There have already been three different resolutions passed through the Pakistani parliament demanding the attacks cease. Ceasing attacks was also a condition of re-opening NATO transit routes through Pakistan. The routes have opened but there was a drone attack almost immediately after the re-opening as if to emphasize that there was no deal with respect to stopping drone attacks.
Grossman also spoke about trade relations saying that they should be based upon market access. The U.S is working on a bilateral investment deal that would improve market access and encourage U.S. investment in Pakistan. Grossman had talks with other Pakistani officials as well including the Foreign Minister, Army Chief Ashfaq Kayani, the Foreign Secretary, and some parliamentarians.
Grossman noted that the U.S. government had nothing to do with the anti-Islam film that has resulted in often violent demonstrations in numerous countries including Pakistan. Anti-U.S. feelings are already extremely high in Pakistan with over 90 per cent of Pakistanis considering the U.S. an enemy. This is one reason why Zardari demands that drone strikes cease while probably agreeing to them in private. Pakistan no doubt often provides intelligence to the U.S. for targeting purposes. As far as trust is concerned, Pakistan can trust the U.S. not to stop drone attacks in the tribal areas.

Obama appeals decision that blocked bill allowing indefinite detention of U.S. citizens

The Obama administration appealed a judge's decision to block a law allowing indefinite detention less than a day after the decision was made. The law gives the government power to detain U.S. citizens indefinitely without trial.
Judge Katherine Forrest ruled in New York last Wednesday ( Sept. 12 ) that the law violates the U.S. constitution. Prize-winning journalist Chris Hedges had brought a suit against the law claiming that it violated his rights of free speech even though Obama declared in a signing statement that his administration would never detain any American without a trial. Perhaps he would put them on his target list to be terminated by drones or other means however.
Even though the judge is an Obama appointee she found the law was worded too vaguely and that Congress should define more clearly what behavior fell within the scope of the law. In Forrest's opinion the law's present wording could be applied to free speech and the practice of journalism as Hedges had argued.
Attorney for Hedges, Bruce Aftran, said:
“Judge Forrest’s decision firmly rejects governmental overreach.... We now have a judgment that the NDAA, by threatening indefinite military detention as the price of speech, violates the First Amendment and threatens core American values. The federal court has denied the dangerous notion that American civilians can be taken into military custody and that the President is above the law outside of the reach of the courts. The decision is an affirmation of the American constitution.”
Lawyers from the office of U.S. Attorney Preet Bharar filed papers for an appeal of Forrest's ruling in Manhattan on Thursday. The law is part of the National Defense Authorization Act for 2012.
Baher Azmy, legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, explained some of the consequences of the law:
"It has no real geographical limitation, it has no temporal limitation. It basically puts into law, into permanent law, the ability to indefinitely detain, outside of a constitutional justice system, individuals the president picks up anywhere in the world that the president thinks might have some connection to terrorism."
The Forrest decision is quite limited in its critique of the law in that it only questions the vagueness of the language. Supposedly the NDAA does not suspend the right of habeas corpus. Legally speaking it does not. However, what it does is set up a kangaroo court that decides whether a suspect is legally held under the law:
Habeas corpus, in this context, means that for individuals in the United States, or at Guantanamo, the government only needs to prove to a federal judge that it’s more likely than not that the person in question is a “member” or “substantial supporter” of al Qaeda, the Taliban, or an “associated force”. It’s not clear what these vague terms mean, and in a habeas proceeding the government often presents classified information, the content of which is presumed by the judge to be accurate and reliable. Importantly, habeas corpus in this context does not guarantee a jury trial, at which the individual must be found guilty of crimes beyond a reasonable doubt, or ensure that the government only arrest people when it has probable cause.
No one will ever be able to challenge the information presented by the government because it is classified. The judge presumes the evidence to be accurate and reliable. The suspect has no right to be charged and tried. Habeas corpus is replaced by justice interruptus and presidential decrees.

NATO air attacks kills women and girls gathering firewood

According to Afghan officials a NATO air strike has killed eight Afghan women and girls gathering firewood. At first International Security Assistance Force officials claimed that 45 insurgents were targeted but later admitted possible civilian casualties
As is often the case, NATO at first claimed that the targets were insurgents and that initial reports showed that only insurgents were killed in the strike. However this report was contradicted by information coming from Afghan officials who said that victims included eight women and girls who were out gathering firewood before dawn.
Once the Afghan officials contradicted the NATO report Jamie Graybeal a NATO spokesperson said that NATO took any charges of civilian deaths seriously. No doubt the charges were taken even more seriously after villagers from the Alingar district in Lagham province brought bodies of those killed to the governor's office in the provincial capital.
Sarhadi Zewak, a spokesperson for the provincial government, said:
“They were shouting ‘Death to America!’ They were condemning the attack."
A provincial health director said that there were also seven females injured who were brought to area hospitals for treatment. Some of the injured were as young as ten years old.
BBC now reports that NATO has acknowledged the civilian deaths.
Nato has conceded that between five and eight civilians died as it targeted insurgents, and offered condolences.
Afghan president Karzai has constantly complained about air strikes and the civilian casualties they have caused. However, he has so far been unable to stop them and no doubt they will continue even after security is turned over to Afghanistan in 2014. U.S. officials say that these missile attacks are very precise and that civilian casualties are rare. However, what are called signature attacks are now used. In these attacks people are targeted simply on the basis of suspicious behavior. Apparently people moving in the countryside before dawn arouse enough suspicion to be classified as suspected terrorists. There were probably never any insurgents targeted. The women collecting firewood were just classified as suspected insurgents.
Elsewhere in Afghanistan four more soldiers were killed in an apparent insider attack. The four killed were American troops. The killings happened at an observation post operated jointly with 6 coalition troops together with 6 Afghan National Police.. One of the Afghan members was found dead at the scene while the other five had disappeared. Over 50 NATO troops have now been killed so far this year in "insider" attacks.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Benghazi airport in Libya closed for over ten hours

The official story is that the airport was closed for over ten hours so that unmanned aerial drones could patrol overhead. Naturally the drones are not identified as U.S. drones even though everyone knows they are!
The manager of the Benghazi Benina International Airport claimed that the airport was closed shortly after midnight due to security concerns. The manager said:
“Benghazi airspace has been closed since 00:30 GMT for routine security checks."
He did not elaborate.
Some have suggested that flights were grounded to prevent suspects who might have taken part in the attack on the U.S. consulate from escaping. There have been reports that the attacks involved foreigners. But Cassie Blombaum an intelligence analyst with the UK-based Inkerman group said that the primary purpose of the closure was to enable American drone aircraft to mount patrols. One wonders why authorities would need to close the airport for this purpose.
Blombaum had reported as far back as June that U.S. drones had been operating in Libya and monitoring activity around Derna a city where militant commanders have long held sway. There have even been reports of drone attacks. One in particular was alleged to have been directed at a training camp run by commandeer Abdulbasit Azuz from Derna who himself complained of the attack. However there was no independent verification of such an attack. Of course the U.S. provides no information about the drone program and it is not known how many drones are in operation.
Some speculated that the airport was closed to allow deployment of U.S. Special Forces for an attack against militants. In any event, drones were launched over the city. In response militants fired at the drones with anti-aircraft guns. Many believe that the airport was closed in response to this action as authorities feared that civilian planes might be hit.. The Libyan government authorized the use of drones over Benghazi according to Libya's Deputy Interior Minister. The more the U.S. is visibly present in Libya the more backlash there will be and attacks against the Libyan government for cooperating with the U..S. may increase. In the appended video Pepe Escobar suggests that drones would be used to attack militant compounds.

A boss who appreciated his workers

Howard Cooper, 83, sold his Michigan car dealership in Ann Arbor in April so he could retire. However he also presented each of his 89 workers with a bonus of $1,000 for each year they had worked with him.
He sold his dealership to Ohio-based Germain Motor Co. only on condition that all his employees were retained as well. Cooper's dealership had been in business for 47 years. The bonuses were a complete surprise.
Employee Sandy Reagan said: '
I sat next to a person who drives the parts van and he's been here almost 28 years. He doesn't make a ton of money, but he got almost $28,000.
'I watched his face and he just said, "Oh my God," said Reagan, who has been with the company 46 years.
Cooper's dealership was family-run. Cooper said of the checks:
'I wanted to thank my employees and that was a way I could do it... I hope it makes a difference in their lives like they have made in mine.'
Not surprisingly Cooper received a standing ovation when he distributed the checks. Cooper did not reveal the total amount of money he distributed. Mechanic Bob Jenkins received $26,000. Jenkins said:.
'You just don't expect something like that. The whole place was just in shock. People are still talking about it.'
Jenkins said he was putting his money in the bank noting that he had two young children so the money would be put to good use.
Jenkins told CBC Radio that during his farewell to the workers Cooper gathered all his staff and told them he would give them each a check for a thousand dollars. Everyone thought that was great. But then Cooper added: "For every year of service you have been with the company". Jenkins estimates that Cooper must have given away over a million dollars.
Cooper told his employees:
'The business has been my whole life for 47 years...I love what I've done and I enjoyed going to work in the morning.'
No doubt Cooper had a successful business for almost half a century because he loved his work, had satisfied customers and treated his workers well.

Friday, September 14, 2012

Sensitive Documents missing from U.S. consulate after Benghazi attacks

Sensitive documents disappeared from the U.S. Benghazi consulate after the recent attack. Some of the documents contain names of Libyans working with Americans and others relate to oil contracts.
The U.S. faces a huge security problem in Libya and no doubt elsewhere as well. Libyan guards were either unable or unwilling to prevent protesters from entering the compound in Benghazi and attacking the consular building.
Most of the staff except for the ambassador and another staff member who died at the consul site were whisked off to a "safe house" that was supposedly in a secret location. However, that house came under sustained mortar attacks. It is clear that the attackers had knowledge of where the safe house was. More details of the attack are emerging that show how security was sorely lacking.
Security sources said that the consulate had been given a "health check" not long before the raid in case something might happen on the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks. When the attack actually happened the perimeter of the consul compound was breached within 15 minutes. Although there were 30 or so local guards they put up little defense. An observer , Ali Feton , who lived near by said::
"The security people just all ran away and the people in charge were the young men with guns and bombs."
The commander of the government-sanctioned Libya's Shield Brigade said that it was anger over the Mohamed video which led the guards to abandon their posts:
"There were definitely people from the security forces who let the attack happen because they were themselves offended by the film; they would absolutely put their loyalty to the Prophet over the consulate. The deaths are all nothing compared to insulting the Prophet."
This response is completely irrational. The U.S. government and certainly those in the consulate had absolutely nothing to do with the film blaspheming the prophet.
Ambassador Stevens was left in the building after staff could not find him in the dense smoke. Local people found him later unconscious and he was taken to a hospital where he died from smoke inhalation according to a doctor at the Benghazi Medical Centre, Ziad abu Ziad.
Libya's Deputy Interior Minister Wanis Al-Sharif said U.S. said staff were rushed to a Benghazi safe house following the initial attack. U.S. commando units were flown from Tripoli to evacuate the staff from there. The minister said:
"It was supposed to be a secret place and we were surprised the armed groups knew about it. There was shooting."
Indeed the safe house came under mortar fire and two Marines were killed there. Two other people were killed at the main consular building and between 12 and 17 wounded.
Senior diplomatic sources also say that the U.S. State Department had information 48 hours before the attack that Americans might be targeted. No warnings were given for diplomats to go on high alert. Probably the "health check" at the consulate was a response to those warnings.
Islamic militants have their own intelligence operatives in Libya. They seem to be much more effective than those of the U.S. and now they have valuable information as well. Probably the militants are hoping for intervention by the U.S. that is quite visible. This will help destabilize an already weak regime.
The U.S. has sent warships, more drones, and more marines and the U.S. has vowed that it will bring perpetrators of the Benghazi attack to justice.

Libya: More drones being sent together with Marines

The Obama administration is sending more military reinforcements to Libya along with warships. However, drones have been operating in Libya and also U.S.agents have been carrying out missions ever since the NATO mission ended last year.
Army Lt. Colonel Steve Warren, a Pentagon spokesperson, told Wired's Danger Room:
Yes, we have been flying CAPs [combat air patrols] since the war ended,”
No doubt with the agreement of the Libyan government the U.S. has been engaged in surveillance with drones monitoring militant activity in Libya. Drones were used extensively during the NATO mission:
Predators launched 145 strikes on ex-regime targets. That was twice the barrage drones unleashed in all of 2011 on tribal Pakistan, the place commonly thought of as the epicenter of U.S. drone strikes.
Since the Benghazi incident more drones will be surveying Libya and an additional 50 marines are being sent although apparently most of these will be used to increase security at the U.S. embassy and consular offices.
There are no doubt already U.S. agents working in Libya on special missions. Indeed, one of the Americans killed in the Benghazi attack told ABC news a month ago that he was working on an intelligence mission to find some of the hidden caches of weapons that are stashed throughout Libya. No doubt there are a number of Americans helping out and no doubt trying to ferret out information about what is happening among militant groups.
More drones are now being sent to fly over Benghazi and eastern Libya. No doubt the drones will be watching for militant activities. Given there are also warships being sent equipped with Tomahawk missiles events could very well escalate. If there is an attack on a suspected jihadist compound or camp this could cause even more conflict with the central government which lacks its own forces to battle powerful militias.
We seem to be witnessing the beginning of a terrorist hunt in Libya no doubt provoked in part by the fact that the Benghazi attack seems to have been planned and executed by a militant group. The U.S. is experiencing a type of blowback as militant Islamic militants who actively fought again Gadaffi are now turning their sights on the U.S. exactly as happened in Afghanistan. The U.S. response may start a new front in the war against terrorism and create new arguments for not cutting the U.S. defense budget.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Video: How to train you dog not to mark its territory

The appended You Tube video has had over a million hits. This dog has never been trained to recognize that water can conduct electricity.It is quite possible that the dog may generalize and not pee to mark it territory.

This could result in some terrible neurosis and feaar of peeing to be relieved only by going to an expensive animal psychiatrist. On the other hand nature may simply force the dog's hand so to speak and it will go on peeing especially when it results in no further punishment.

Reaction to the video has been a bit delayed as far as humans are concerned. The video was posted a year ago in September it trended only this August. A number of You Tube users have copied the video.

The dog is probably a Boxer but the same result no doubt occurs if other breeds try the same thing.. The next stage will be to test this on a drunk human.

The 51 year old owner and uploader is from the U.S. A sadistic commenter on the video suggests that it could be one way to neuter your male dog.

Apparently the dog was not injured by the encounters but there is no accompanying notice that no animals were harmed in the filming of this video. There should be a notice saying that owners should not attempt to reproduce these results with their own dog..There should also be a notice on the fence: No Peeing Please, Electric Fence.

Wrong image at DNC convention shows Russian navy vessels

Democratic officials apologized yesterday for displaying an image of Russian navy vessels during a tribute to American veterans at the Democratic National Convention
On Sept. 6 an image of the Russian warships, many from the Soviet era, were projected on a giant screen at the DNC. The image was shown above 50 veterans as retired Admiral John Nathman honored U.S. veterans' contributions to the U.S. The error was spotted and Navy Times was notified and an apology was requested.
The DNC committee apologized on Wednesday (Sept 12) saying:
:"Due to vendor error, incorrect images appeared briefly on screen behind fifty-one veterans during the convention and the DNCC apologizes for this mistake...This error should not distract from the words of Admiral Nathman and others who spoke to President Obama's strong record on issues that impact those who have served our nation. We're proud of the service and sacrifice of our veterans and military families, and while they were an important and active part our of convention, Mitt Romney failed to even mention them in his speech in Tampa."
The DNC committee could not simply put a period after the apology but had to bring politics into it with a swipe at Mitt Romney.
There was no explanation of the vendor error. Naval experts who reviewed the image claimed that it was actually a composite of Russian ships together with F-5 trainer jets not used by the Russian navy streaking overhead. The experts were also able to identify specific ships including the cruiser Kerch now due to go to the scrap heap. The ships were identified as probably part of the Black Fleet.
There were a number of specific features of the ships that gave away their origin. Eric Wertheim noted several characteristic features associated with the Black Sea Fleet. The Kerch in the foreground had a square radar antenna at the top of the masthead he identified as the MR-700 Poberezovik 3D. Another ship had the MR-310 Angara air detection radar shaped like two bananas.
Another expert A.D. Baker III thought that the photo had been taken at least six years ago at a Navy Day parade near Sevastopol in the Ukraine where both the Black Sea Fleet and Ukrainian Navy are based. A former Air Force pilot thought that the planes could be Turkish Stars a demonstration team of the Turkish Air Force. Some veterans were angry that the DNC had not been able to detect the wrong image beforehand. The image can be viewed here. Maybe the vendor was a Republican!

Ireland's Data Protection Commissioner investigating Twitter over data privacy concern.

Irish privacy regulators are launching an investigation into precisely how much data Twitter collects from, its URL-shortening system....