Sunday, February 28, 2010

President Obama Signs An Extension To The Patriot Act For One More Year

Obama Signs One-Year Extension Of Patriot Act -- AJC

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama has signed a one-year extension of several provisions in the nation's main counterterrorism law, the Patriot Act.

Provisions in the measure would have expired on Sunday without Obama's signature Saturday.

The act, which was adopted in the weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, expands the government's ability to monitor Americans in the name of national security.

Three sections of the Patriot Act that stay in force will:

Read more ....

My Comment: An important topic of discussion that was completely absent from the Sunday morning news/political talk shows.

Technology Has Made It Impossible To Conduct Assassinations In The Shadows

Some of the identity photographs of suspects in the killing of Mahmoud al Mabhouh released by the Dubai police on Wednesday. Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

A Perfectly Framed Assassination -- Wall Street Journal

Stepped-up surveillance technology may be tipping the scales in the cat-and-mouse game between spies and their targets. Robert Baer on the current state of spycraft.

It was a little after 9 p.m. when a Palestine Liberation Organization official stepped out of the elevator into the lobby of Paris's Le Meridien Montparnasse, a modern luxury hotel that caters to businessmen and well-heeled tourists. The PLO official was going to dinner with a friend, who was waiting by the front desk. As they pushed out the Meridien's front door, they both noticed a man on a divan looking intently at them. It was odd enough that at dinner they called a contact in the French police. The policeman advised the PLO official to go directly back to the hotel after dinner and stay put. The police would look into it in the morning.

Read more ....

My Comment: I am sure that many intelligence agencies will be spending a lot of time in understanding what went right ... and what went wrong .... in this assassination hit. Robert Baer gives some insight on what they are up against.

New Think And Old Weapons -- A Commentary

From The New York Times:

Every four years the White House issues a “nuclear posture review.” That may sound like an anachronism. It isn’t. In a world where the United States and Russia still have more than 20,000 nuclear weapons — and Iran, North Korea and others have seemingly unquenchable nuclear appetites — what the United States says about its arsenal matters enormously.

President Obama’s review was due to Congress in December. That has been delayed, in part because of administration infighting. The president needs to get this right. It is his chance to finally jettison cold war doctrine and bolster America’s credibility as it presses to rein in Iran, North Korea and other proliferators.

Read more ....

My Comment:
An interesting set of ideas .... but the Russians (so far) have shown zero interest in pursuing any of them. Their focus is to go step by step .... and they do not want surprises like missile defense thrown into the mix. But in the meantime they are modernizing their nuclear stockpiles, and keeping their options open.

The U.S. should do the same.

Zimbabwe Slides Back Into Economic Crisis

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe attends the swearing-in ceremony of his Mozambican counterpart Armando Guebuza for a second term in office in the capital Maputo, January 14, 2010. Credit: Reuters/Grant Lee Neuenburg

Mugabe Forces Handover Of White-Owned Companies To Black Zimbabweans -- Times Online

A law to force white-owned companies to surrender 51 per cent of their shareholdings to black Zimbabweans comes into effect today, amid panic in the country’s business sector and fears of a catastrophic slide back into economic chaos.

Six weeks from now all companies with a relatively modest asset value of at least US$500,000 (£325,000) will have to submit official forms detailing the race of each of their shareholders. If whites are in the majority they will have to submit their “indigenisation plans”, which have to be carried out within five years.

Read more ....

More News On Zimbabwe

Mugabe defends sale of foreign firms to locals -- AFP
ZANU-PF Politburo Endorses Controversial Zimbabwe Indigenization Regulations -- Voice of America
Zimbabwe presses on with local ownership law: minister -- Washington Post/Reuters
We're taking white-owned companies! -- Al Jazeera
Zimbabwe's Mugabe, 86, to party amid distress -- Reuters
African leaders show there are many countries for old men -- The Guardian
Zimbabwean President Mugabe Says Government Too Broke To Raise Wages -- Voice of America
Mugabe to celebrate 86th birthday with televised £325,000 lobster feast -- The Telegraph

Violent Islamic Groups Within Pakistan Are Now Targeting Their Own Country

Frustrated Strivers In Pakistan Turn To Jihad -- New York Times

LAHORE, Pakistan — Umar Kundi was his parents’ pride, an ambitious young man from a small town who made it to medical school in the big city. It seemed like a story of working-class success, living proof in this unequal society that a telephone operator’s son could become a doctor.

But things went wrong along the way. On campus Mr. Kundi fell in with a hard-line Islamic group. His degree did not get him a job, and he drifted in the urban crush of young people looking for work. His early radicalization helped channel his ambitions in a grander, more sinister way.

Read more ....

My Comment:
The New York Times uses the example of a medical student and his road to jihad as an illustration of what ails Pakistan, but this example is just the tip of the iceberg. All of Pakistan's Islamic base insurgencies can be traced to the explosive growth and the Islamic radicalization of madrases in Pakistan's educational system. Instead of teaching science, engineering, practical skills and knowledge for the future .... millions are instead taught about Islam, intolerance, jihad, and hatred towards "non-believers" .... all educational skills that have zero value in the real world. With no prospects or future ahead of them .... jihad then becomes the career choice for many of Pakistan's young.

Iran Rebel Group Jundallah Announces A New Leader

Jundallah say Abdolmalek Rigi's confession of US links was extracted under torture [AFP]

Iranian Rebels Pick New Leader -- Al Jazeera

Iran's most prominent rebel Sunni movement, Jundullah, has named a new leader to replace Abdolmalek Rigi, following his capture by security forces earlier this week.

According to the SITE monitoring agency on Sunday,
Muhammad Dhahir Baluch was appointed to head "the People's Resistance Movement in Iran".

Rigi, Iran's most wanted fugitive, was seized on Tuesday after Iranian warplanes reportedly forced a flight from Dubai to Kyrgyzstan to land in Iran.

Read more ....

More News On The Jundullah Rebel Movement In Iran

Iranian insurgent group chooses new leader -- AP
Iran rebel group Jundallah announces new leader -- Christian Science Monitor
IRAN: In televised appearance, rebel leader confirms Tehran hardliners' narrative of U.S. support for opposition -- L.A. Times
Iran Sunni rebel says U.S. offered him military aid: report -- Reuters
Rebel leader capture delights Iranian press -- BBC
Pentagon denies links with Jundallah terrorists -- Press TV (Iran)

Downsizing The US Coast Guard

Budget Cuts Proposed for Coast Guard -- First Coast News

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The U.S. Coast Guard is facing $155 million in cuts to its capital spending budget, according to federal documents.

The cuts, described in documents from U.S. Rep. John Mica's office, came as a shock to Mica of Florida.

"We were stunned - both Republicans and Democrats - that the administration would propose dramatic cuts in the Coast Guard which is our first line of national security and domestic defense and safety," said Mica in a phone conversation Friday.

Mica said the proposed federal budget for 2011 would:

Read more ....

More News on the US Coast Guard

Coast Guard pick wants to refine homeland mission -- AP
Senators Oppose Coast Guard Budget Cut -- Global Security Newswire
Increasing Opposition to Coast Guard Budget Cuts -- HS Today
Obama's coast guard cuts: a recipe for disaster (Rep. John Mica) -- The Hill
Obama Coast Guard Budget Courts Disaster -- Cape May Herald County
Putting the Coast Guard Out to Sea -- New York Times

Is The Locker Bomber Beating Cancer?

Home comforts: Al-Megrahi with his family at their villa last year
after he was freed on compassionate grounds

Lockerbie Bomber May Beat Cancer (But Wasn't He Sent Back To Libya To Die? -- The Daily Mail

Freed from his life sentence, the Lockerbie bomber was sent home by the Scots on compassionate grounds because he had 'just three months' to live.

But six months later, Abdelbaset Ali Mohamed al-Megrahi is still living - and doing it in the lap of luxury.

Yesterday, his elderly father even held out the prospect of him beating the prostate cancer that doctors said would kill him by last Christmas.

Read more ....

My Comment: Everyday that this convicted mass murderer lives, everyday it makes a mockery of British/Scottish justice and any "moral" position that it believes it holds.

Is There A Morale Crisis In The British Army?

Photo: Sir David Richards has said cuts are damaging soldiers' morale. Photo from Press Association.

Top General Says Afghanistan Army In Morale Crisis -- Times Online

THE head of the army has warned that British troops are facing a crisis of deteriorating morale on the home front that risks undermining the war in Afghanistan.

In a confidential draft memo prepared for ministers, General Sir David Richards, chief of the general staff (CGS), said that recent cuts to the defence budget are having a “cumulative and corrosive effect on our soldiers and their families”.

Cuts to housing, shortages of training equipment and even the cancellation of sports events between soldiers’ tours of duty were making them and their families feel “undervalued”, the army chief wrote.

Read more ...

More News On The "Morale Crisis" In The British Army

Troops in Afghanistan face defeat at home -- Times Online (opinion)
British troop morale at home risk to Afghan effort - Army chief -- Reuters
Cuts 'damaging morale of soldiers' -- Press Association
Leaked Memo: Troops' Morale Hurt By Cuts -- SKY News

My Comment: It is not only the budget cuts that is undermining morale, it is the lack of leadership and willingness to sacrifice from the PM on down .... that is hurting morale. Couple that with funding being freely administered to Al Qaeda preachers and supporters while British soldiers have problems obtaining financial support for their injuries and disabilities .... one should not be surprised that morale is in the gutter. Hell .... I am depressed just writing about this.

ETA Chief Arrested In France

Photo: Gogeascoechea (left) with the two other ETA suspects
captured by Spanish police. Photo from CNN

ETA Leader Arrested In France -- The Telegraph

French and Spanish security forces dealt a big blow to ETA on Sunday with the arrest in north-west France of the alleged leader of the Basque separatist movement.

Ibon Gogeascoetxea Arronategi was arrested with two of his alleged top lieutenants at a country house in the tiny village of Cahan in Normandy – 400 miles north of the Spanish frontier.

The predawn raid on Cahan, which has a population 300 and is south of Caen, was the climax of a joint operation by the intelligence branches of the Police Judiciare – the French detective force – and Spain's paramilitary Civil Guard. It netted three of ETA's most wanted men.

Read more ....

More News On The Arrest Of The ETA's Leader

Spain says ETA chief arrested in France -- AP
Suspected Eta leader arrested in France, Spanish officials say -- The Guardian
Spain: Basque ETA chief arrested -- CNN
Spain says top ETA rebel leader captured in France -- Deutsche Welle
Spain says ETA rebels' top leader caught in France -- Reuters'
Suspected ETA leader arrested in France -- UPI

How To Win The Cyber-War We're Losing

Photo: Mike McConnell

From The Washington Post:

The United States is fighting a cyber-war today, and we are losing. It's that simple. As the most wired nation on Earth, we offer the most targets of significance, yet our cyber-defenses are woefully lacking.

The problem is not one of resources; even in our current fiscal straits, we can afford to upgrade our defenses. The problem is that we lack a cohesive strategy to meet this challenge.

The stakes are enormous. To the extent that the sprawling U.S. economy inhabits a common physical space, it is in our communications networks. If an enemy disrupted our financial and accounting transactions, our equities and bond markets or our retail commerce -- or created confusion about the legitimacy of those transactions -- chaos would result. Our power grids, air and ground transportation, telecommunications, and water-filtration systems are in jeopardy as well.

Read more ....

My Comment: Another call from a former Washington Intelligence official who is deeply concerned about the trends towards cyber "insecurity" and international threats.

A Changing Of The Guard In Colombia's Presidential Politics

Colombian President Alvaro Uribe

Colombia Election Race Starts, Santos Favored -- Reuters

BOGOTA (Reuters) - The race for Colombia's presidency began Saturday, with former defense minister Juan Manuel Santos the favorite after the South American nation's popular incumbent was blocked from running for a third term.

The Constitutional Court's decision to bar a referendum on re-election heralds an end to President Alvaro Uribe's eight-year rule, during which the U.S. ally beat back left-wing guerrillas, stabilized the economy and drew investors.

With Colombian politics fixated for more than a year on the re-election issue, and polls showing Uribe would have won easily if allowed to run, Friday's ruling represented a starting gun for other presidential aspirants.

"The campaign kicks off," leading daily El Tiempo said.

Read more ....

More News On Colombia's Presidential Election

Colombian Court Blocks President’s Bid for a Third Term
-- New York Times
Colombia court rules out any Uribe bid for third term -- L.A. Times
Uribe's Bid to Seek Third Term Is Rejected -- Wall Street Journal
Colombian president can't run for third term, high court rules -- CNN
Colombia’s Uribe to Retire, Opening Path for Santos -- Business Week/Bloomberg
After eight years, Uribe a fighter until the end -- Reuters
Colombia's president: Third time, unlucky -- The Economist

The Growing Importance Of Drone Operators

Combat Generation: Drone Operators Climb On Winds Of Change In The Air Force - -Washington Post

The question, scrawled on a Pentagon whiteboard last fall, captured the strange and difficult moment facing the Air Force.

"Why does the country need an independent Air Force?" the senior civilian assistant to Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, the service's chief of staff, had written. For the first time in the 62-year history of the Air Force, the answer isn't entirely clear.

The Air Force's identity crisis is one of many ways that a decade of intense and unrelenting combat is reshaping the U.S. military and redefining the American way of war. The battle against insurgents in Afghanistan and Iraq has created an insatiable demand for the once-lowly drone, elevating the importance of the officers who fly them.

Read more ....

My Comment: They play an important role today .... one can only imagine the role that they will play 10 years from now .... 20 years .... etc.

Earthquake In Chile -- News Updates February 28, 2010

Chile Counts Cost Of Earthquake As Tsunami Fears Ease -- BBC

Chile has begun to count the cost of its deadly 8.8 magnitude earthquake as nations around the Pacific eased their fears of a devastating tsunami.

The quake, on Saturday morning, killed at least 300 people - 90% of them in their homes. It is feared the damage may cost tens of billions of dollars.

One major rescue effort is in the city of Concepcion, where dozens are feared trapped in a collapsed apartment block.

Read more ....

More News On Chile's Earthquake

Rescuers struggle to save lives after Chile quake -- Yahoo News/AP
Chile Earthquake Leaves Millions Homeless, Grazes Hawaii -- ABC News
Pfficials Breathe Sigh of Relief as Tsunami Passes -- New York Times
Major earthquake strikes Chile; Hawaii, Japan escape without tsunami damage -- Washington Post
Rescuers Dig for Chile Quake Survivors as Looting Erupts -- New York Times/Reuters
Death Toll Rises from Chilean Quake, Resulting Tsunami Appears Mild -- Voice of America
Chile earthquake: millions affected as toll rises to 300 -- Times Online
Chile earthquake: nation in shock as death toll climbs">Chile earthquake: nation in shock as death toll climbs -- The Telegraph
Afraid of Aftershocks, Chileans Sleep Outdoors -- Voice of America
Chile earthquake update: At least 2 million affected, president says -- CNN
1.5 Million Displaced After Chile Quake -- New York Times
Chile reels from 8.8 earthquake -- L.A. Times
Chile assesses damage after quake -- Financial Times

Chile earthquake: Photos -- CNN
Massive earthquake strikes Chile (Pictures) -- Yahoo News

Afghanistan War News Updates -- February 28, 2010

Afghan Mission 'Gone Well' But Real Battle To Come -- BBC

On a visit to Helmand, the head of the armed forces has said that British troops have performed superbly in Operation Moshtarak, and that the initial phase has gone well.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Jock Stirrup was speaking as he flew in to Showal, formerly the heartland of the Taliban's shadow government.

He said there were still pockets of resistance further south in Marjah, where the Americans have been fighting, and some resistance in Nad Ali, but that levels had eased considerably over the last few days.

Security was tight for Sir Jock's visit.

Read more ....

More News On Afghanistan

Expect major offensive in Kandahar: U.S official -- Globe And Mail
In Afghanistan, U.S. Plans Next Major Offensive Into Kandahar -- Huffington Post
Troops clear last of Marja -- Toronto Star
Normalcy takes root in Marja after allied offensive -- L.A. Times
Foreign soldier killed in Afghanistan: NATO -- Yahoo News/AFP
Blast kills 11 civilians in southern Afghanistan -- Yahoo News/AP
UK troops in Afghanistan 'for five years' -- Times Online
An Attack in Kabul Targeted Indian Citizens -- The Atlantic
In Afghanistan, U.S. seeks to fix a tattered system of justice -- Washington Post
Russia blames Nato for heroin surge from Afghanistan -- BBC
Taking It to the Taliban -- Time Magazine

World News Briefs -- February 28, 2010

Major Earthquake Strikes Chile; Hawaii, Japan Escape Without Tsunami Damage -- Washington Post

SANTIAGO, CHILE -- One of the most powerful earthquakes on record jolted central Chile on Saturday, smashing homes and bridges and unleashing tsunami waves that coursed across the Pacific, prompting alerts in Hawaii and dozens of countries. More than 300 people have died in the coastal South American nation.

Waves generated by the 8.8-magnitude quake started to smack Hawaiian beaches about noon local time, but they were smaller than the six-foot monsters scientists had feared. The water surged more than three feet in Kahului Bay in Maui. But there were no reports of flooding or damage, and the tsunami warning was canceled in the early afternoon, officials said.

Read more


Israel police storm holy site to quell protest.

Iranian rebel 'admits US links'. Iranian insurgent group chooses new leader.

Dubai: Hamas operative drugged, suffocated.

W. Bank sealed off for Purim.

Yemen arrests 21 separatists in south as tensions rise.


US, Afghan forces clear last parts of Taliban area.

Suicide car bomber kills four in NW Pakistan.

Thai PM orders more security after bank blasts. Thailand’s Ex-Premier vows to keep up fight.


Robert Mugabe annexes white-owned firms.

Nigeria's Presidential spokesman denies leadership rift.


Germany's frugality bemoaned for inhibiting euro zone growth.

Eta 'leader' Ibon Gogeascoetxea arrested in France.

Violent storms kill at least 15 in France.

Renewed tension looms in Turkey after military arrests.


Rescuers struggle to save lives after Chile quake. Navy pulls ships from Pearl Harbor ahead of tsunami.

Haiti plans to shrink capital, shift settlements.

Colombian election race starts, Santos favored. Colombia's Uribe blocked from re - election.

Olympic Wire...


WTC firm says terror attack cost it $1 billion.

Taliban and Al Qaeda financiers are tied at the hip!!

New Obama interrogation unit not deployed to question captured Taliban chief.


Man who broke the Bank of England, George Soros, 'at centre of hedge funds plot to cash in on fall of the euro'.

US Economy likely expanding at half of 5.9% government estimated for last quarter.

Germany, France mull 30 billion-euro aid for Greece, WSJ says.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Editor's Note

Traveling at the moment. Blogging will return 20:00 EST.

Update February 27, 23;30 EST: We got home before midnight. Very tired. Regular blogging will return when I wake up tomorrow morning.

Can Brazil Become A Failed State

Youths flaunt guns on the streets of Rio de Janeiro. (Pablo Jacob/Extra/O globo)

The Gun-Toting Boys From Brazil Who Rule Rio’s ‘Corner Of Fear’ -- Times Online

A boy steps boldly into the night traffic and waves a gun to bring the cars to a halt, clearing a path for a motorcycle which screeches into the intersection. Riding pillion is another boy, brandishing a machinegun.

Later two teenagers, also riding pillion on motorbikes, flash their guns at other motorists; nearby, a boy can be seen taking aim with a rifle equipped with a telescopic sight. Other youths wander the street smoking crack.

Read more ....

My Comment: This is Brazil's lost generation. But while the focus is on Brazil, we can easily look at ourselves. Every major US city has a problem with youth gangs, drugs, and the violent culture that it produces. While we may lament on what is happening in North Rio de Janeiro, the sad fact is that every major US city has the same problem.

When It Comes To Nuclear Enrichment, What Are The Iranians Thinking?

Another Puzzle in Iran After Nuclear Fuel Is Moved -- New York Times

WASHINGTON — When Iran was caught last September building a secret, underground nuclear enrichment plant at a military base near the city of Qum, the country’s leaders insisted they had no other choice. With its nuclear facilities under constant threat of attack, they said, only a fool would leave them out in the open.

So imagine the surprise of international inspectors almost two weeks ago when they watched as Iran moved nearly its entire stockpile of low-enriched nuclear fuel to an above-ground plant. It was as if, one official noted, a bull’s-eye had been painted on it.

Why take such a huge risk?

Read more ....

My Comment: When it comes to Iran there is one simple rule that everyone should follow .... do not trust them. Iran has a terrible history in the international arena of diplomacy and respecting the sovereignty of other countries and negotiated agreements. Death to America and threatening the annihilation of Israel in every speech and demonstration tends to get dry after a while ... but they are listed as a state sponsor of terror for a reason and every threat and comment made by the regime in Tehran must be taken seriously. So .... moving their nuclear fuel may be a puzzle to the New York Times .... but trust me .... there is a very blunt reason on why they are doing this ..... it is just that we have not figured it out yet.

Massive Earth Quake In Chile -- Massive Destruction And Casualties Expected

8.8-Magnitude Earthquake Hits Central Chile -- Yahoo News/AP

SANTIAGO, Chile – A massive 8.8-magnitude earthquake struck Chile early Saturday, killing at least 78 people, collapsing buildings and setting off a tsunami.

A huge wave reached a populated area in the Robinson Crusoe Islands, 410 miles (660 kilometers) off the Chilean coast, said President Michele Bachelet.

Tsunami warnings were issued over a wide area, including South America, Hawaii, Australia and New Zealand, Japan, the Philippines, Russia and many Pacific islands.

Read more

More News On Chile's Massive Earthquake

Huge earthquake batters Chile, 78 dead -- Yahoo News/Reuters
At least 78 killed as huge 8.8 quake rocks Chile -- Yahoo News/AFP
Pacific under tsunami threat after massive 8.8 quake strikes Chile -- CNN
Asia braces for tsunami after Chile quake -- Washington Times/AP
Tsunami threatens Hawaiian islands: U.S. agency -- Reuters
Chile earthquake: Easter Island evacuation as tsunami brings disaster to Pacific islands -- The Telegraph
Chile earthquake kills 76 and triggers tsunami -- Times Online
Tsunami warning in effect for New Zealand -- Xinhuanet
Guam Civil Defense Issues Tsunami Warning -- PNC
Chile earthquake: 'Everyone fears aftershocks' -- BBC
Chile well prepared for quakes -- BBC
In pictures: Chile earthquake -- BBC

Afghanistan War News Updates -- February 27, 2010

In Afghanistan, U.S. Plans Major Push Into Kandahar -- Washington Post

Even as Marines in Afghanistan continued to fight for control of the Taliban stronghold of Marja, senior Obama administration officials said Friday that the United States has begun initial planning for a bigger, more complex offensive in Kandahar later this year.

The assault on Marja, the largest U.S.-NATO military operation since 2001, is a "prelude to larger, more comprehensive operations," senior Obama officials said Friday. Administration officials declined to say when the Kandahar offensive will begin, but military officials have said that it probably will kick off in late spring or early summer after additional U.S. forces have moved into the area.

Read more ....

More News On Afghanistan

U.S. Eyes New Target: Heartland of Taliban -- New York Times
UK troops to remain in Afghanistan 'for five years' -- BBC
Suicide squad kill foreigners in onslaught on city hotels -- Times Online
Attack in Kabul points to shifting Taliban tactics -- L.A. Times
Taliban attack in Kabul; insurgents not crippled -- Washington Times
Pakistani Court Blocks Extradition of Top Afghan Taliban Commander -- Voice of America
Training the trainers: Nato shows Afghan security forces the ropes -- Times Online
Fortress Afghanistan -- Strategy Page
Analysts Uncertain on Outcome of NATO's Afghanistan Strategy -- Voice of America

World News Briefs -- February 27, 2010

An image generated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) West Coast and Alaska Tsunami Warning Center shows the projected tsunami travel times following a 8.8-magnitude earthquake that rocked Chile early February 27, 2010. REUTERS/NOAA/Handout

Huge Earthquake Batters Chile, 78 Dead -- Reuters

SANTIAGO, Chile (Reuters) - A massive magnitude-8.8 earthquake struck south-central Chile early on Saturday, killing at least 78 people, knocking down buildings and triggering a tsunami.

President Michelle Bachelet said there were 78 confirmed deaths and that more were possible. Telephone and power lines were down, making it difficult to make an early assessment of the damage, but serious damage was reported in two southern cities.

"Never in my life have I experienced a quake like this, it's like the end of the world," one man told local television from the city of Temuco, where the quake damaged buildings and forced staff to evacuate the regional hospital.

Read more ....


High-ranking military arrests stir fresh Turkey concern.

U.N. presses for more investigations into Israel-Gaza war.

A year after Israeli assault, uneasy peace settles over Gaza.


Asia braces for tsunami after Chile quake.

US, Afghan forces clear last parts of Taliban area.

Thailand court orders much of Thaksin Shinawatra's assets seized.

Philippines: Suspected militant attack kills 11.


Sudan's SPLM reaches 'breakthrough deal' on poll.

Darfur fighting mars peace pact in Sudan.

Ex-UN nuclear chief: Egypt is desperate for change.


Swiss face 'holy war' with Gadhafi's Libya.

Greek PM to meet Merkel, Obama amid debt crisis.

Danish paper apologises for printing Muhammad cartoon.


Olympic Wire...

Utility crews struggling to restore power in US NE.

Colombian Govt confirms death of FARC leader 'Edgar Tovar'.

Court blocks Colombia's Uribe from third term.


Congress extends Patriot Act, no new protections.

Freed French hostage speaks of al-Qaeda ordeal in Mali.

Judge expanded review on terrorism suspect.

Experts: Plenty of proof to convict alleged 9/11 mastermind.


Head of IMF proposes new reserve currency.

Fannie taps Treasury for $15.3 billion more after a 10th loss.

US senator warns of ‘financial meltdown’ risk.

Israel's Intelligence Agency Mossad Has No Probelm Getting Recruits

Israelis Rush To Join Mossad After Mahmoud al-Mabhouh Killing -- Times Online

Would you be prepared to cross-dress? And kill a guest in an adjacent hotel room? If the answer to these questions is a resounding “yes”, and you can also act, enjoy luxury international travel with a twist and can carry off a convincing Irish or Australian accent, then the job could be yours.

The Israeli spy agency Mossad may be the target of international reproach since it allegedly killed the Hamas leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh in a Dubai hotel this month, but at home emerging details of the operation have generated Mossad mania.

Read more ....

My Comment: When neighboring countries like Iran and Syria plus groups like Hamas and Hezbollah are always discussing ways on how they are going to destroy you .... you will never have problem getting recruits.

I suspect that the reason why there is a rush to join up with Mossad is because of the publicity. If groups like Shin Bet, Israeli special forces, etc. were doing the same thing, they will also be experiencing a rush of recuits.

Video: In Attempt at True VTOL, F-35 Makes Shortest, Slowest Landing Yet

From Popular Science:

To perfect the vertical and short takeoff and landing ability of the F-35 Lightning II, test pilots have been taking off and landing at progressively shorter distances and slower speeds, building up to the final, true vertical boost. And today, engine manufacturers Pratt and Whitney released video of the slowest, shortest takeoff and landing yet, in which the jet cruises to a stop at 130 knots.

Read more ....

A New Way For Subs To Communicate?

An artist's conception of how the optical modem could function at a deep ocean cabled observatory. Autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) collect sonar images (downward bands of light) and other data at a hydrothermal vent site and transmit the data through an optical modem to receivers stationed on moorings in the ocean. The moorings are connected to a cabled observatory, and the data are sent back to scientists on shore. Scientists, in turn, can send new instructions to the AUVs via the optical modem as well. (Credit: E. Paul Oberlander, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution)

Optical System Promises To Revolutionize Undersea Communications -- Science Daily

Science Daily (Feb. 25, 2010) — In a technological advance that its developers are likening to the cell phone and wireless Internet access, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) scientists and engineers have devised an undersea optical communications system that -- complemented by acoustics -- enables a virtual revolution in high-speed undersea data collection and transmission.

Read more ....

My Comment: This type of tech is impressive.

Rep. Grayson And His History With Blackwater/Xe

Rep. Grayson, Blackwater Critic, Finds Himself In A Jam. Blackwater To The Rescue. -- Washington Examiner

Rep. Alan Grayson, the outspoken Florida Democrat, has been a big critic of several military contractors, especially Blackwater, the company now known as Xe. But last week, Grayson, on congressional business in Niger, found himself in a dicey situation when violence broke out and a coup was underway. (Grayson could hear the gunfire from a nearby building.) After a stay at the U.S. Embassy, Grayson was able to catch a flight, arranged by the State Department, out of Niger to Burkina Faso, from which he returned to the United States.

And who ran the flight that evacuated Grayson from the dangerous situation in Niger? None other than Blackwater. Late this afternoon, Grayson's office confirmed that it was an Xe flight that took the lawmaker from Niger to Burkina Faso.

Read more ....

More News On Rep. Grayson And Blackwater/Xe

Blackwater Rescued Progressive House Rep. Alan Grayson from Niger's 'Civil Unrest' -- Alertnet
Grayson: Even If Blackwater Saved Me From Coup, I Stand By Criticism Of Contractors -- TPM
Grayson flees African coup in copter of contractor he criticized -- Orlando Sentinel
I’m a Congressman, Get Me out of Here! -- The Danger Room
Did Blackwater Rescue Alan Grayson in Niger? -- Mother Jones
Blackwater Did Rescue Alan Grayson -- Mother Jones

My Comment: The irony is unbelievable. No surprise .... Rep. Alan Grayson feels uncomfortable praising the organization that saved his butt from a possible dangerous situation.

But will this change anything .... I doubt it. He made his fortune suing contractors like Blackwater, and his political leanings are extreme left. I predict that after a week of lying low (if not sooner) he will be back to his normal self.

Do Chinese Spies Pose The Biggest Espionage Threat To The U.S.?

Watch CBS News Videos Online

Caught On Tape: Selling America's Secrets -- CBS News/60 Minutes

Rare Video Obtained By "60 Minutes" Shows Pentagon Employee Selling Secrets to Chinese Spy

(CBS) "60 Minutes" has obtained an FBI videotape showing a Defense Department employee selling secrets to a Chinese spy for cash. The video, which has never been made public before, offers a rare glimpse into the secretive world of espionage and illustrates how China’s spying may now pose the biggest espionage threat to the U.S.

"60 Minutes" correspondent Scott Pelley's report will be broadcast this Sunday, Feb. 28, at 7 p.m. ET/PT.

China may be the number-one espionage threat now. "The Chinese are the biggest problem we have with respect to the level of effort that they’re devoting against us, versus the level of attention we are giving to them," says Michelle Van Cleave, once America’s top counter-intelligence officer who coordinated the hunt for foreign spies from 2003 to 2006.

Read more ....

My Comment: What struck me was the selling of US secrets for $2,000. I repeat .... $2,000.

This traitor is lucky. In the past he would have been executed for treason instead of a few years in Club Fed.

Behind The Scenes With The U.S Military In Haiti: Gallery

SUNRISE AT GTMO: Guantanamo Bay, CUBA — The sun rises on Jan. 23, 2010, over a modified Boeing 747 cargo plane (background) while an MH-53 Super Stallion heavy-lift U.S. Navy helicopter sits on the flight line. With Haiti's one jet-capable airstrip operating well over capacity, Guantanamo Bay Naval Air Station is the major staging point for humanitarian aid bound for Haiti by way of Cuba. Several cargo planes such as this 747 arrive daily, unloading pallets of aid that are then loaded onto helicopters (such as the Super Stallion, with a 17,000-pound cargo capacity) and carrier-capable aircraft to be flown to one of several ships staged just off of Haiti's coastline.

From Popular Mechanics:

The NGOs and disaster-relief teams might have stolen the spotlight in the battle for survival in post-quake Haiti, but behind most of the aid was a massive U.S. military backbone. Here is a behind-the-scenes photo gallery of the U.S. military effort.

Read more ....

My Comment: These men and women are making a difference.

Friday, February 26, 2010

VA To Reopen Gulf War Vets' Files

From Time Magazine:

(WASHINGTON) — The Veterans Affairs Department says it will take a second look at the disability claims of what could be thousands of Gulf War veterans suffering from illnesses they blame on their war service, the first step toward potentially compensating them nearly two decades after the war ended.

VA Secretary Eric Shinseki said the decision is part of a "fresh, bold look" his department is taking to help veterans who have what's commonly called "Gulf War illness" and have long felt the government did little to help them. The VA says it also plans to improve training for medical staff who work with Gulf War vets, to make sure they do not simply tell vets that their symptoms are imaginary — as has happened to many over the years.

Read more ....

My Comment: I can now hear the collective sigh of relief from thousands of vets and their families.

IEDs Are Also Dangerous For The Taliban

The Taliban's IEDs killed 48 British troops last year.
Photo from The Independent

Taliban Blown up By Own Bombs -- The Sun

TALIBAN killers have blown themselves up laying booby-trap bombs, we can reveal.

Up to 20 are thought to have died planting Improvised Explosive Devices.

They were racing to plant the IEDs before the Allied offensive Operation Moshtarak. The triggers on the IEDs have become so sensitive the terrorists are accidentally detonating them as they hide them.

Last night a highly-placed source said: "The Taliban know only too well how effective the IED has proved to be.

Read more ....

My Comment: I confess .... my tears are crocodile tears.

Laying the Groundwork To Assassinate An American Who Works With Al Qaeda

Anwar al-Awlaki (Photo from The Long War Journal)

U.S. Builds Case For Targeting U.S.-Born Imam In Yemen -- Reuters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. spy agencies believe an American-born Muslim cleric based in Yemen played a bigger role than first thought in al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula's decision to start launching attacks against U.S. targets, counterterrorism officials said.

The revised assessment by intelligence analysts could help build a case for adding Anwar al-Awlaki to the U.S. target list to kill or capture top militants, though current and former officials said careful review was needed given his status as a U.S. citizen.

Read more ....

My Comment: I come from a time when the idea of sanctioning (so openly) the assassination of an American citizen abroad was never brought up .... never.

Today, I read it in the main stream media and everyone accepts it as normal behavior. Sighhh .... we live in different times.

Comment #2: What is my own opinion .... I think this is a very special case. But if I should read in the next few weeks that Anwar al-Awlaki had been killed .... it will not bother me one bit.

Is Sec. Of State Clinton About To Mediate The Falklands Dispute?

Lack of support: Barack Obama and his wife Michelle at a ceremony at the White House last night. America has not offered its support to the UK in the Falklands oil drilling row

Hillary Clinton Steps Into Falklands Row After 'Feeble' Obama Fails To Back Britain In Stand-Off With Argentina -- The Daily Mail

* Hillary Clinton 'prepared to mediate' in Falklands row
* Spanish oil company to drill near Falklands

U.S. secretary of state Hillary Clinton is due to meet with Argentina's president amid accusations of a snub to Britain over America's refusal to support the UK in the Falklands oil drilling row.

Mrs Clinton is to meet Cristina Ferndandez de Kirchner in Uruguay on March 1, Argentina's ambassador to the U.S. has announced.

Hopes are high in Argentina that Mrs Clinton will intervene on the country's behalf in the row with Britain over the disputed territory.

Read more ....

My Comment: Mediate what? The British surrender of the Falklands. With allies like this .... who needs enemies.

After Many Arrests Will The Afghan Taliban Leadership Survive?

Afghan army commandos stand on a sand bank as a US army Apache helicopter flies above them on February 24, 2010. While the recent capture of Quetta Shura leaders was in Pakistan, the organization runs operations have a wide reach, including within Afghanistan. Newscom

Can Afghanistan Taliban Absorb Blow To Quetta Shura? -- Christian Science Monitor

The Afghanistan Taliban is under pressure with 7 of 15 members of its top leadership council, the Quetta Shura, recently arrested. But still in place are senior leaders who might step up and other senior Taliban councils responsible for different parts of the country.

The Afghan Taliban now faces what may be its biggest test in recent years, with 7 of 15 members of its leadership council, the Quetta Shura, recently captured by Pakistani authorities.

From its perch in Pakistan, the Quetta Shura is said to act as a nerve center for all of the Afghan Taliban’s operations, formulating military and political strategy, appointing field commanders, and managing a shadow government.

Read more ....

Update #1: What's the Quetta Shura Taliban and why does it matter? -- Christian Science Monitor
Update #2: Afghanistan war: Who’s who in the Taliban leadership -- Christian Science Monitor
Update #3: The Afghan Taliban's top leaders -- Long War Journal

My Comment: The list of commanders and senior leaders as outlined by The Long War Journal and CSM reveals an organization that has depth and extensive contacts throughout both Pakistan and Afghanistan. This tells me only one thing .... arrest one commander will only result with someone else being promoted upwards .... and there are many who can be promoted.

World News Briefs -- February 26, 2010 (Evening Edition)

Taliban Kill At Least 17 In Kabul -- Wall Street Journal

KABUL—Taliban gunmen and suicide bombers attacked a major hotel and two guesthouses in the Afghan capital, killing at least 17 people and showing the group remains a potent force despite a string of recent setbacks.

The dead included Indian Army officers, a noted French filmmaker and an Italian diplomat who was slain in his room after phoning information about the assailants to officials.

Read more ....


U.A.E. taps Washington for help in probe of Hamas assassination.

Iraq to reinstate 20,000 Saddam-era army officers.

Iran, Syria mock U.S. policy; Ahmadinejad speaks of Israel's 'annihilation'.

Sectarian tensions rise before Iraq elections.

Will the UN put off the Goldstone report another five months?

More clashes over Israeli claim to shrine.

Jundallah arrest proves timely for Iran.


Former Thai leader guilty of abusing power for gain.

Cynicism in both India and Pakistan after talks.

At new Bagram prison in Afghanistan, some inmates buoyant.

Myanmar denies dissident’s appeal for freedom. Aung San Suu Kyi appeal rejected by Burma court.


France's belated Mea Culpa on Rwanda.

Algeria police chief shot dead at force headquarters.

Egypt's Mohamed ElBaradei creates National Front for change.

Niger: A coup for democracy?

After Yar'Adua return, Nigeria wonders when he'll take power. Nigeria's Goodluck Jonathan 'is acting president'.

Somali pirates release Singaporean ship for cash.

UN deplores Gaddafi call for anti-Swiss 'jihad'.

On visit to Rwanda, Sarkozy admits ‘grave errors’ in 1994 genocide.


Switzerland plays down Qaddafi’s calls for ‘Jihad’.

U.K. publishes
New Ukrainian President touts domestic reforms, non-aligned foreign policy.

European Union pushes cuts for indebted countries.

Greek PM says worst fears confirmed on economy.


Ousted Honduran leader calls charges persecution.

Olympic wire ....

Argentina seeks US backing in dispute with Britain over the Falklands.

Venezuela annuls election of anti-Chavez mayor.

Dissident's funeral spurs crackdown in Cuba.


US House Leaders stop vote to ban degrading treatment.

U.S. law aimed at terrorists may go too far on free speech (Commentary).

Freed French hostage speaks of al-Qaeda ordeal in Mali.

US drone kills top al-Qaeda operative in Pakistan.


In Greece’s crisis, Fed studies Wall St.’s activities.

Clinton says U.S. deficit now a security issue.

US senator warns of ‘financial meltdown’ risk.

Euro in danger as the Greek crisis deepens and Merkel admits currency is at risk.

Is President Obama's Middle East Envoy About To Quit Because Of White House Bias Towards Israel?

Photo: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.S. envoy George Mitchell in London last September. (Archive)

Arab Source: Mitchell Wanted To Quit Over U.S. Bias For Israel -- Haaretz

An Arab political source said Friday that special U.S. Mideast envoy George Mitchell has requested to resign due to his frustration with the way the Obama administration has been handling the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to a Nazareth-based daily.

Hadith a-Nass reported that Mitchell's request stemmed partly from to his own failure to advance the resumption of peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians and also from his perception that certain elements within the State Department hold biased favor toward Israel.

Read more ....

My Comment: I have been following the Middle East conflict for the past 30+ years. The present frustration level is now approaching the level that in the past always resulted in wars and an increase in terrorism.

So .... is war possible in the next year or two? In this case I cannot help but feel that all sides are now positioning themselves for another war, and I cannot help but believe that envoys like George Mitchell are aware that they are powerless to do anything to stop it.

I know that if I was George Mitchell .... I would probably be looking for the exits.