Saturday, December 31, 2011

The Amazing Story On How Our Supersecret, Cold-War Spy Satellites Took Photos Of The Soviet Empire



TOP SECRET: Your Briefing On The CIA's Cold-War Spy Satellite, 'Big Bird' -- The Atlantic

The amazing story of how our supersecret, Cold-War spy satellites took photos of the Soviet empire and dropped them to Earth, all without the help of computers, bandwidth, or digital cameras.

Here's your mission, should you choose to accept it: build a camera that can take high-resolution photographs of the Earth from orbit and return them to the Central Intelligence Agency. There's only one catch: you don't get to use a computer or a single kilobyte of network bandwidth.

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My Comment: For more info on this spy program, go here.

U.S. Air Force Buys The Latest Version Of Armed Drones

An Avenger drone is seen here in flight. It was designed to carry 2,000-pound bombs, as well as missiles, cameras and sensor packages. (Chad Slattery, General Atomics Aeronautical Systems / December 30, 2011)

Air Force Buys An Avenger, Its Biggest And Fastest Armed Drone -- L.A. Times

The new radar-evading aircraft, which cost the Air Force $15 million, has a maximum takeoff weight of 15,800 pounds and can fly at 460 mph. The drone, built near San Diego, is for testing purposes.

The Air Force has bought a new hunter-killer aircraft that is the fastest and largest armed drone in its fleet.

The Avenger, which cost the military $15 million, is the latest version of the Predator drones made by General Atomics Aeronautical Systems Inc., a San Diego-area company that also builds the robotic MQ-9 Reapers for the Air Force and CIA.

The new radar-evading aircraft, also known as the Predator C, is General Atomics' third version of these drones. The Air Force picked up only one of them, strictly for testing purposes.

Read more ....

Update: The Air Force Just Bought Its Biggest And Fastest Armed Drone Ever -- Business Insider

My Comment: It will only be a matter of time before we have drones that can fly Mach 1+ that carry even larger lethal payloads.

The Growing Role Of Civilian Contractors In U.S. Drone Operations Are Raising Concerns

Personnel at March Air Reserve Base in Riverside County last year control a Predator drone flying over Ft. Irwin, northeast of Barstow. (Don Bartletti, Los Angeles Times)

Civilian Contractors Playing Key Roles In U.S. Drone Operations -- L.A. Times

Reporting from Washington — After a U.S. airstrike mistakenly killed at least 15 Afghans in 2010, the Army officer investigating the accident was surprised to discover that an American civilian had played a central role: analyzing video feeds from a Predator drone keeping watch from above.

The contractor had overseen other analysts at Air Force Special Operations Command at Hurlburt Field in Florida as the drone tracked suspected insurgents near a small unit of U.S. soldiers in rugged hills of central Afghanistan. Based partly on her analysis, an Army captain ordered an airstrike on a convoy that turned out to be carrying innocent men, women and children.

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Update: US Civilians Are Now Helping Decide Who To Kill With Military Drones -- Business Insider

My Comment: These concerns are justified. As the U.S. military becomes more dependent on civilian contractors .... more accidental deaths and questionable calls will probably be raised.

Military And Intelligence News Briefs -- December 31, 2011



Russian Nuclear Submarine Fire ‘Totally Extinguished’ After Day-Long Blaze -- National Post/Reuters

Russia said on Friday it had doused a raging blaze aboard a nuclear submarine after nearly a full day and night, by partially submerging the vessel after battling the flames with water from helicopters and tug boats.

There was no radiation leak and crew inside the submarine were monitoring the stricken vessel’s nuclear reactors which had been shut down, Russian officials said.

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MILITARY AND INTELLIGENCE NEWS BRIEFS

Russian nuclear submarine blaze injures nine after crew remain inside -- The Guardian

NATO coalition at risk from French vote on Armenian deaths -- UPI

India takes delivery of Russian N-submarine -- Times of India

India's Navy floats out first Indigenous Aircraft Carrier -- the Hindu

Indian army eating out-of-date food -- UPI

Finland to Widen Missile Shipment Inquiry: Customs -- Defense News

Saudi F-15s tip of $123B gulf arms plan -- UPI

Strike Eagle Sale Sets Stage For Lucrative SNEP II Deal -- Aol Defense

Air Defense: America Buys Into New Israeli Tech -- Strategy Page

Boeing wins $3.48 billion U.S. missile defense contract -- Yahoo News/Reuters

The Super Hornet as a Stealth Killer? -- Defense Tech

DoD Reliance on Contractors Widens -- Military.com/UPI

Finding budget sanity in the carrier air wing -- Eric Palmer

Aggressive Phishing Attack Targets Military -- DoD Live

US National Guards conduct more military funerals -- Wall Street Journal

JBLM suicides hit grim milestone in 2011 - most ever
-- News Tribune

Air Force divorce rate highest in military -- Air Force Times

New enemy infiltrates U.S. ranks: Use of synthetic pot that causes day-long hallucinations and schizophrenic symptoms 'skyrockets' in military -- Daily Mail

2011: The year that was -- DoD Buzz

Afghanistan War News Updates -- December 31, 2011



Over 560 ISAF troops die in Afghan war in 2011 -- Montreal Gazette/AFP

KABUL — Foreign troops fighting in Afghanistan continue to pay a high toll, with more than 560 killed in 2011, the second highest number in the 10-year war against the Taliban-led insurgency.

Commanders from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) say violence is declining following the U.S. military surge which saw an extra 33,000 troops on the ground.

But the UN says violence is up, while recent mass casualty strikes by the Taliban on civilians and coalition troops have fuelled analyst predictions that more bloodshed is likely as NATO hands control for security to Afghan forces.

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More News On Afghanistan

FACTBOX-Security developments in Afghanistan, Dec 31 -- Reuters
Blast kills British soldier in Afghanistan -- AFP
UK soldier killed in Afghanistan -- BBC
565 foreign troops killed in Afghan unrest -- Herald Sun
U.S. Military Fights Rising IED Attacks in Afghanistan -- ABC News
Taliban to get official HQ as U.S. seeks peace deal; break from Al Qaeda is a must -- New York Daily News
Afghan President Welcomes US Remarks on Taliban -- Voice of America
Afghan president welcomes US remarks on Taliban not being America’s enemy -- Washington Post/AP
U.S. hopes to resume talks with Taliban in spring -- SFGate/AP
Liaison Office Seven Taliban leaders take families to Qatar -- Pakistan Observer
French defence minister visits Afghanistan -- Yahoo News/AFP
Taliban Ringtones Are Saving Lives in Afghanistan -- Gizmodo
Soldier's guide to surviving Afghanistan war - written 92 years ago -- Mirror
Could giving the Taliban a street address bring peace to Afghanistan? -- Tom A. Peter, Christian Science Monitor

World News Briefs -- December 31, 2011

Dec. 31, 2011: Fireworks burst over the Sydney Opera House, right, as New Year's celebrations begin in Sydney.

World Rings In 2012, Bids Goodbye To Rough Year -- FOX News

SYDNEY – A glittering rainbow of fireworks in the shape of butterflies, hearts and a cascading waterfall exploded over Sydney's iconic Harbour Bridge on Sunday, as cheering revelers welcomed 2012 and bid a weary adieu to a year marred by natural disasters, mass protests and economic turmoil.

More than 1.5 million people crowded onto yachts and along the shores of the city's harbor to watch the shimmering pyrotechnic display that was designed around the theme "Time to Dream" -- a nod to the eagerness many felt at moving forward after the rough year.

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MIDDLE EAST

Iran, world powers to hold nuclear talks. Iran proposes new nuclear talks with world powers.

Iran naval commander: 'Missiles will be test-fired shortly'. Iran to test-fire missiles in key oil waterway. Iran delays missile test.

Death toll mounts in Syria as tens of thousands take to the streets.

Syrian opposition unite to chart path to democracy.

Arab League observer 'concern' at Syria snipers.

Iraq row festers as speaker denies penning op-ed.

Kurds question Turkey's deadly air raid. Kurds protest airstrike killing dozens in Turkey.

Yemen protesters demand end to southern fighting.

Maliki declares 'Iraq Day' to mark US pullout.

ASIA

Over 560 ISAF troops die in Afghan war in 2011.

North Korea's new leaders lash out at South Korea and allies.

North Korea says names Kim Jong-un top military commander.

India: Pakistani troops' fire wounds border guard.

42 killed as cyclone hits southeast India.

Man dies from bird flu in southern China.

China seeks to combat hi-tech crimewave.

China: Tens of thousands of ruins 'disappear'.

AFRICA

Ethiopian troops capture Beledweyne from Somalia militants.

Libya's army tries to reassert itself as militias have their way.

Nigeria's Jonathan vows to "crush terrorists".

Egypt to return seized equipment and money, U.S. officials say.

Divisions emerge between Islamists in Egypt.

Rhino poaching hits record as horns worth more than gold.

EUROPE

Putin sends New Year's greetings, with a wink. Russian protesters set a plan for 2012.

Russia denies radiation leak in nuclear sub blaze.

'Euro will be stable' claim is ridiculed.

FTSE loses £90bn over year but eurozone fares worse.

Spain makes €9bn budget cuts to cover rising deficit.

AMERICAS

Obama hopeful for more economic progress in 2012.

Haiti leader paves way for new elections.

World pays Ecuador not to extract oil from rainforest.

Los Angeles plagued by arson fires as authorities search for culprit.

Muslims boycott Mayor Bloomberg's interfaith breakfast.

TERRORISM/THE LONG WAR

Shabaab leader recounts al Qaeda's role in Somalia in the 1990s.

Al-Qaeda-linked faction leader killed by Israelis.

Al-Qaeda trying to recruit fighters in Libya: officials.

ECONOMY/FINANCE/BUSINESS

Dow logs gain in volatile 2011; S&P ends flat.

$6.3tn wiped off markets in 2011.

Gold's 10 percent gain in 2011 extends run to 11th year.

Rumors of new iPads heat up as 2012 arrives.

Fears Of A Muslim - Christian War Intensify In Nigeria



Nigerian Violence Threatens To Ignite Wider Muslim-Christian Conflict -- CNN

(CNN) -- There are ominous signs in Nigeria that the campaign of violence by the militant Islamist group Boko Haram is leading to wider and more explosive sectarian tensions -- in a country where Christian-Muslim relations are often tense and sometimes bloody.

The last two months have seen widespread bloodshed in northern Nigeria, with churches and police stations among the targets.

Boko Haram (which according to the group means "Western civilization is forbidden") has claimed responsibility for a series of attacks on churches in central and northern Nigeria on Christmas Day, including one near the capital, Abuja, which killed nearly 30 people.

Read more ....



More News On the Muslim - Christian Conflict In Nigeria

Four dead as ANOTHER major blast rocks Nigeria... as tensions between Christians and Muslims continue to rise -- Christian Science Monitor
Unclaimed attack on Islamic school raises tension in Nigeria -- Christian Science Monitor
Nigeria's Boko Haram blamed for Maiduguri attack -- BBC
Bomb at Arabic school in Nigeria adds to sectarian fears -- AFP
Fear grips Nigerians as insecurity heightens -- Xinhuanet
Nigeria Boko Haram clashes: 'Thousands flee Damaturu' -- BBC
Nigeria Steps Up Efforts to Combat Terrorism -- Voice of America
Church bombings are declaration of war, say Nigerian Christians -- The Guardian
Nigerian bishops call for help to fight sect -- AFP
Nigerian Christians Dismayed by President’s Security Response -- Voice of America
Nigeria Christians 'to defend churches from Boko Haram' -- BBC
Insight: Islamist attacks strain Nigeria's north-south divide -- Reuters
Nigeria attacks stir fears of reprisal across ancient divide -- Irish Times

Mossad Chief: It Is Not The End Of The World If Iran Has Nuclear Weapons

Tamir Pardo. Photo by: Moti Milrod

Mossad Chief: Nuclear Iran Not Necessarily Existential Threat To Israel -- Haaretz

Tamir Pardo says Israel using various means to foil Iran's nuclear program, but if Iran actually obtained nuclear weapons, it would not mean destruction of Israel.

A nuclear-armed Iran wouldn't necessarily constitute a threat to Israel's continued existence, Mossad chief Tamir Pardo reportedly hinted earlier this week.

On Tuesday evening, Pardo addressed an audience of about 100 Israeli ambassadors. According to three ambassadors present at the briefing, the intelligence chief said that Israel was using various means to foil Iran's nuclear program and would continue to do so, but if Iran actually obtained nuclear weapons, it would not mean the destruction of the State of Israel.

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My Comment:
The best part of this report is the last paragraph .... Israeli and U.S. officials have drawn up red lines that Iran must cross before military action will be taken .... but even with these red lines .... U.S. officials are not sure if President Obama will follow through if Iran crosses them.

Kim Jong Un Named ‘Supreme Commander’ Of The North Korean Military

New North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un

Kim Jong-un Named Leader of North Korean Army -- New York Times

SEOUL, South Korea — North Korea announced on Saturday that its new leader, Kim Jong-un, had officially been named supreme commander of the country’s powerful army, a day after the country warned that it would not soften its stance toward South Korea.

The announcement of Mr. Kim’s new military position was not unexpected, but his rise has taken place much faster than anticipated. Analysts have said the speed with which the relatively untested Mr. Kim is collecting titles after the death of his father, Kim Jong-il, suggests that he is vulnerable and that his supporters are trying to forestall any challenges to his power.

Read more ....

More News On Kim Jong-un Being named As Leader of the north Korean Military

North Korea names Kim Jong Un its supreme military commander
-- Deutsche Welle
Kim Jong-un appointed supreme commander of North Korea's military -- The Telegraph
North Korea says names Kim Jong-un top military commander -- Reuters
North Korea names Kim Jong Un Supreme Commander -- Seattle PI/AP
Kim Jong-Un assumes ‘supreme commandership’ of North Korea’s army: State media -- National Post
Kim Jong Un Named ‘Supreme Commander’ -- Radio Free Europe
Kim Jong Un now controls N. Korean military as ‘Supreme Commander’ -- Chicago Sun Times

North Korea: Where Are Kim Jong-un's Brothers?


North Korea Drama: Where Are Kim Jong-un's Brothers? -- Christian Science Monitor

Conspicuously absent from all images coming out of North Korea are Kim Jong-il's two other sons.

The two older sons of the late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il face uncertain fates as political exiles, while brother Kim Jong-un assumes the mantle of power in Pyongyang.

Analysts offer that view after finding no signs that either has come to visit their father’s body lying in state in a glass-enclosed coffin in Pyongyang.

In fact, say analysts, the spectacle of two blood brothers in the wings would be more than a mere distraction. It would be difficult to convince people that at least one of them wasn't waiting to take over, especially since they're both older and the "supreme leader," after all, has done little to prove he's worthy of the title.

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My Comment: Kn Jong-un's two brothers have it right .... being leader of North Korea is be a "shitty" job. Best stay in Macau and have fun gambling (Kim Jong-nam), or travel to rock concerts (Kim Jong-chul).

Corruption Cannot Be Hidden Anymore


Corrupt Elites Are Being Named And Shamed – By The People -- The Telegraph

Around the world, tyrants and thieving officials are running out of places to hide.

It will be a year ago next Wednesday that a Tunisian fruit vendor called Mohamed Bouazizi died, 18 days after dousing himself with paint thinner, setting himself alight, and inspiring a series of protests which we now remember as the Arab Spring. At the time, these protests were widely described as political. But in a recent, brilliant article for Foreign Policy magazine, the economist Hernando de Soto pointed out that these movements also had a very specific set of economic inspirations. In fact, Bouazizi was a frustrated entrepreneur, a would-be businessman who was unable to get ahead because of weak property rights, bad laws and rigged markets.

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My Comment: Stalin once remarked .... how many divisions does the Vatican have? But it was a Polish Pope who got the ball rolling that ended communism in Eastern Europe. The same can be said about social media today .... how many divisions does Twitter, Facebook, and You Tube have .... hmmmm .... considering what is happening .... I would say a huge army. And for dictators and tyrants who thrive on secrecy and isolation and live on the corruption that they spawn .... both big and small .... 2011 was not a good year, and it looks like 2012 is going to be worse.

Al Qaeda Beach-Head In Libya?



Source: Al Qaeda Leader Sends Veteran Jihadists To Establish Presence In Libya -- CNN

Al Qaeda's leadership has sent experienced jihadists to Libya in an effort to build a fighting force there, according to a Libyan source briefed by Western counter-terrorism officials.

The jihadists include one veteran fighter who had been detained in Britain on suspicion of terrorism. The source describes him as committed to al Qaeda's global cause and to attacking U.S. interests.

The source told CNN that the al Qaeda leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, personally dispatched the former British detainee to Libya earlier this year as the Gadhafi regime lost control of large swathes of the country.

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Hat Tip: Gateway Pundit

My Comment: Libya is disorganized and dysfunctional .... but an Al Qaeda cell planning and growing in the countryside .... hmmmm .... I have my doubts that it will amount to anything.

Picture Of The Day

A UH-60L Black Hawk helicopter, assigned to the 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Calvary Division, takes flight, stirring up the snow as it passes over another UH-60A Black Hawk helicopter on Camp Marmal, Afghanistan, Dec. 21, 2011. The helicopters departed on a mission the morning after an overnight snowstorm. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Richard Wrigley

Is This The New Trend On How Our Politicians Honor The Fallen?

Honoring the dead: The President prepares to lay a wreath in memory of those who died in the attacks during the Second World War in Hawaii

Remembering The Fallen: Obama Takes A Break From Golf And Fine-Dining To Honour America's War Heroes At Pearl Harbor -- Daily Mail

* First couple laid a wreath with words 'In Loving Memory' and scattered orchids in the water at USS Arizona Memorial
* Obama family went with friends for 'shave ice' treats earlier in the day

After days of playing golf and eating out with friends at Hawaii's most exclusive restaurants, Obama returned to some official business yesterday as he laid a wreath at a memorial honouring those killed in the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941.

The president was joined at the USS Arizona Memorial by his wife, Michelle, just before sunset. After a moment's silence, the Obamas scattered orchids into the water.

This year marks the 70th anniversary of the Japanese attacks, which claimed the lives of 2,390 Americans and brought the United States into the Second World War.

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My Comment: I personally do not care about the president's vacation plans, and I have a strong feeling that President Obama and his wife do not care what I or anyone else may think of their vacation plans either. But I do know that for soldiers who are stuck at some cold and damp FOB base in Afghanistan .... or anywhere else .... this ain't cool.

President Bush had it right when it came to his vacations .... when soldiers are fighting and sacrificing in the field .... best give up on the golf and the great vacations in exotic places. Stay home and honor the troops here .... because lets face it .... when you are the President optics is everything .... both here and abroad.

Getting Ready For Armageddon

Burlington, a command bunker buried under 100 feet of earth at Corsham, Wilts Photo: ALAMY

1961 Files: Codeword To Enter Secret Bunker At The End Of The World -- The Telegraph

Files released at Kew today include the 1962 Cabinet Office War Book, a brief but chilling guide to Armageddon, as seen from Downing Street.

Armageddon would be signalled by one word from Whitehall: orangeade.

This was the codeword that would allow a civil servant in London to be put through to Burlington, a secret bunker in Corsham, Wiltshire, warning that it was about to become the last bastion of British government after Soviet nuclear bombs had devastated the country. The procedure, detailed in the 1962 Cabinet Office War Book, released under the 50-year-rule, is a brief, chilling guide to what steps should be taken in the last hours before an attack.

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My Comment:
Thank God that such a day did not happen.

North Korea's Leaders May Hate America, But They Love Our Cars

The casket of Kim Jong-il, who hated the United States, sat atop an American-made Lincoln Continental. The next leader, Kim Jong-un, is at left. AP

Deeply Hated, But Present: A U.S. Touch At Kim’s End -- New York Times

Kim Jong-il hated the United States. But an American carried him to the grave.

The coffin of Mr. Kim, the cultish North Korean leader, sat atop the roof of a polished masterpiece of American automotive grandeur: a mid-1970s armored black Lincoln Continental, which wended through the snowy streets of Pyongyang on Wednesday in a rigorously choreographed funeral. Mr. Kim’s gigantic, smiling portrait was balanced atop a second Lincoln limousine. A third, slightly smaller Lincoln brought up the rear, its roof bearing an immense wreath. The aging but impeccably maintained cars gave the footage on North Korean state television the quality of a cold war Hollywood film.

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My Comment: The hypocrisy from North Korea is sometimes too much .... but then again there is one thing that I do know about Koreans (both North and South) .... hell will need to freeze over first before they start to drive Japanese cars.

First Day On The Job, And North Korea's New Ruler Is Now Threatening War



Kim Jong-Un Just Issued His First Threat Of War Against South Korea -- IBD Editorial

Kim Jong-un, who was declared Supreme Leader of North Korea yesterday, issued his first terrifying threat of war today.

North Korea may "smash the stronghold of the puppet forces" in the South in retaliation for "hideous crimes" committed during the mourning period for Kim Jong-il.

Threats of war from Kim Jong-un's father, though terrifying, were routine. His father threatened and attacked the South multiple times, but he never started a war or launched a nuclear offensive or used his artillery force to devastate Seoul.

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My Comment: So much for trying to find common ground with North Korea's new leader.

The Shape Of Things To Come?

Xinhua (More sections of China's own orbiting space station head up)

More 'Change': China Plans Manned Moon Landings As U.S. Rents Seats On Russian Rockets -- IBD Editorial

Americans better get used to it: Watching China's rockets and astronauts launching from Earth to explore new frontiers in space, near and very far.

With the U.S. space shuttle fleet now fully retired and decommissioned by the Obama administration, NASA must rent $62 million seats on Russian rockets to get Americans up to the International Space Station. And no farther.

On Thursday, the emerging superpower of China, flush with cash from its booming economy and overseas investments, released a major policy paper, announcing far more ambitious goals for its own national space explorations.

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My Comment: For the past 25 years I have made it a routine to visit the States at least once a year .... and I am usually in China visiting friends or former business colleagues every second year. These visits have given me a perspective that is unique .... but also sad. The United States that I learned to love and admire is not the United States of 25 years ago .... it has become something else. And while I am not going to bore you with on why I believe liberalism and statism coupled with union, Washington, and Wall Street cronyism has destroyed the vibrancy that once made America great ....I will instead point out that China .... a poor and confused country with multiple problems has instead embraced in the past 25 years what we have abandoned .... a free entrepreneurial spirit with a view and a determination to embrace the future even though (for most Chinese) they still live a destitute existence. Hope is what gives us the energy to continue ... and I can easily say right now that for the Chinese .... even with all of their problems and poverty .... they have buckets of it.

In the end, I do not know if the Chinese will succeed. The problems over there are incredible .... but I do know that we are failing, and if these trends continue there will be a day when we look at the Chinese as the trend makers, while the U.S. will become like today's Britain ..... a great empire that once was the center of the universe .... but is now just a so-so tourist spot.

British Files Indicate Level Of Support For The Afghan Mujahideen In 1981

Moscow's forces pulled out of Afghanistan in 1989 after a decade of war Photo: REUTERS/Mikhail Evstafiev

1981 Files Hint At Afghan Secret War -- The Telegraph

Evidence of an escalating secret war in Afghanistan is revealed in confidential documents which have been released to the National Archives.

The documents detail Britain and America’s contribution to supporting Afghan militants fighting against the Soviets following the invasion of 1979 and an increasing propaganda war around the Moscow Olympics of 1980.

With some of those figures still active in Afghan politics, in places the Foreign Office documents have been censored or pages have been removed.

A “top secret memo” from the Foreign Secretary’s private secretary in September 1980 wrote of training and equipping 26 cameramen to be sent into Afghanistan to “take films of Russian atrocities and military activities in Afghanistan.”

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My Comment: I guess I am starting to get old because for me .... 1981 .... it feels like yesterday.

Hot Spots For 2012



North Korea's Tricky Succession—And Two More Holiday Hotspots To Watch -- Popular Mechanics

Three of the world's most combustible regions are flaring as 2011 comes to an end. Here are the battles, civil wars, and massacres to keep an eye on over eggnog.

North Korea: Who's Controlling Those Nukes and Chemical Weapons?

After Kim Jong Il died this weekend, the South Korean military went into alert—and South Korean defense stocks rose 15 percent when the dictator's death was announced. South Korea's leaders, and investors, know that Stalinist regimes tend to have rocky transitions when their leaders die.

Read more ....

My Comment
: I would also add Egypt, Gaza, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Venezuela, Russia, the Euro .... well .... you get the picture.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Operation Homecoming



For Troops, Many Happy Returns -- Washington Times

With drawdown from Iraq, volunteers ratchet up Operation Homecoming


Each time the frosted-glass doors leading out of the international customs area opened, a crowd of more than 200 people broke into cheers, waving handmade signs above their heads and jangling cowbells.

As military men and women carting piles of camouflage-colored bags emerged, leather-clad bikers and Boy Scouts alike clamored to shake their hands and welcome them back from military deployments.

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My Comment: It's always good to be back home.

The Real Story Behind Veteran Unemployment Rates

The Real Story Behind Veteran Unemployment Rates: Perception vs. Reality -- G.I. Jobs

Chris Volk isn’t the kind of Soldier you usually see on TV. The 26-year-old Operation Iraqi Freedom veteran served in a combat zone, fixing HVAC equipment in a maintenance battalion. Volk used his education benefits when he left the Army to earn an associate degree, then landed an apprenticeship with Ameren Illinois, a subsidiary of Ameren Corporation. In June he’ll move up to gas utility journeyman – a good job with good benefits.

There’s nothing sensational about Volk’s success story. He’s not recovering from combat wounds, he’s not suffering from PTSD, he’s not homeless and he’s not coping with TBI. Volk made a smooth transition to civilian life, but stories like his don’t get much attention.

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My Comment: Fortunately .... most vets do find work or "something to do" after serving their country. I do know that the media always focuses on the "bad news" .... and that is OK .... but we should take everything in perspective, which the above story does very nicely.

WNU Editor: Hat Tip to Robert Ethan Hahn for this story.

What is My Take On U.S. Efforts To Re-Start Afghan-Taliban Peace Talks


U.S. Weighs Releasing Taliban Commander From Gitmo as Part of Peace Talks -- FOX News

WASHINGTON – The U.S. is considering a proposal to transfer a top Taliban commander out of the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay as part of a potential step toward peace talks with the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan.

A senior U.S. official confirmed to Fox News that Mullah Mohammed Fazl is among the prisoners being considered for release. Held at Guantanamo Bay since 2002, Fazl was suspected in sectarian killings of Shiite Muslims before the U.S. invasion that toppled the Taliban government in Afghanistan in 2001.

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My Comment: The U.S. now wants to make a deal with the Devil .... OK .... I am sure that a mass murderer like Mullah Mohammed Fazl has found his way, and he will not pursue his past vocation of exterminating hundreds if not thousands of innocent Shiites.

China's Growing Economy Makes It Impossible For American Containment To Succeed


Without Economic Changes, America Can't Contain China -- Aol Defense

The problem with military planners is that all they know is military stuff. The Pentagon may harbor some of the best strategists who ever gazed at a globe, but they seldom have much grasp of economics or demographics or cultural trends. So when a new threat arises, their natural inclination is to figure out how military force can be applied to deter or defeat it.

Thus it is with the growing challenge posed by a rising China in what used to be called the "Far East." The arc of countries stretching from Singapore to the Korean Peninsula has become the industrial heartland of the new global economy, and it is essential to U.S. national security that those nations not become dominated by China as Beijing's influence grows.

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My Comment: My must read post for today. The analysis in this post is sobering, but one that this blog has been warning about for as long as I can remember. China has not respected trade treaty obligations and promises, and as long as we permit them to continue behaving like this .... our economies and manufacturing base will decline even more .... shifting economic power from the West to this emerging Asian giant.

Commentaries, Opinions, And Editorials -- December 30, 2011



The Coming War With Iran -- Reza Kahlili, The Washington Times

Regional chaos might count as a win for the mullahs.

Iran’s tyrannical leaders, determined to make the Islamic regime a nuclear-armed state, are preparing for war. That’s exactly what the United States and Israel might have to deliver, and soon. @-Text.rag:Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei ordered the Revolutionary Guards in May to speed up the regime’s nuclear-bomb program and arm its missiles with nuclear warheads. Now, sources reveal, Ayatollah Khamenei has ordered the guards to prepare for war.

Read more ....

Commentaries, Opinions, And Editorials

Iran could disrupt but not halt oil traffic in strait and would pay heavy price, analysts say -- Lee Keath, Chicago Tribune/AP
Iran adept at chipping away at bigger enemies, analysts say -- Jim Michaels, USA Today
Are U.S., Iran headed for confrontation? -- David Jackson, USA Today
Dangerous mix: Iranian oil and U.S. sanctions -- Vali Nasr, Special to CNN
Iran and the Strait -- New York Times editorial
Iran’s Imperfect Trap for Obama -- Meir Javedanfar, The Diplomat

North Korea’s human rights abuses must end -- Kim Moon-soo, Washington Post

Glossy fa├žades can’t hide an Indian spring
-- John Pilger, New Statesman

Stomping on human rights in Egypt -- David J. Kramer, Washington Post

What’s Obama’s Plan B after Arab League monitors?
-- Tony Badran, NOW Lebanon

The Less Israel Says About Syria, the Better
-- Jay Bushinsky, Jerusalem Post

In His First Interview, Saif al-Islam Says He Has Not Been Given Access to a Lawyer -- Fred Abrahams, The Daily Beast

No more military custody for al-Qaeda fighters -- Philip Mudd, Washington Post

Russia pulling ahead in the Arctic -- Michael Byers, Toronto Star

In Europe, Change Just Means More Of The Same -- Victor Davis Hanson, IBD Editorial

World News Briefs -- December 30, 2011 (Evening Edition)



Death Toll Mounts In Syria As Thousands Take To The Streets -- L.A. Times

REPORTING FROM BEIRUT -- Any hope that the presence of Arab observers in Syria would bring a quick end to months of bloodshed evaporated Friday as opposition activists reported that security forces opened fire on anti-government demonstrations and clashes broke out with army defectors in a suburb of the capital, Damascus.

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MIDDLE EAST

Syria troops 'clash with Damascus activists'. Syrians activists call for mass protests as observers continue visit. Syrian defectors hold fire amid Arab League visit.

U.S. touts Saudi Arabia fighter jet deal as a foreign policy, security and economic boon.

Settlement outposts at root of Jewish violence in West Bank.

Iran tracks US aircraft carrier amid Strait of Hormuz tension.

Turkey: Funerals held after air strike.

Who's who in Iraq after the US exit?

ASIA

Maldives orders ban of all spas after Islamist prostitution claim.

North Korea vows no softening toward South. North Korea's new leadership lashes out at South Korea.

Pakistan judicial commission to probe memo scandal.

At least 8 dead in ethnic fighting in western China.

China's factories falter, pro-growth policies eyed. China warns of slowing economic growth rates.

China confirms plans for manned moon landing.

Cyclone Thane hits southern Indian coast.

Virus sickens 110,000 in Vietnam, kills 166.

AFRICA

Southerners 'killed by Sudan air raids'.

Foreign aid worker is killed and colleague is wounded in Somali capital. Deaths in Somalia underscore risks MSF endures.

Egypt says it will end NGO raids, return items seized. Egypt’s Generals intensify campaign against nonprofits, activists say. Egypt rights groups blast raids on NGO offices.

Church bombings are declaration of war, say Nigerian Christians. Nigeria: Christmas attacks death toll rises to 42.

Elephant poaching: 'Record year' for ivory seizures.

EUROPE

France makes it harder to become French.

Spain set to fire opening salvos in austerity drive. Spain says deficit bigger than expected, hikes taxes.

Disputed voting turns church, a Kremlin ally, into its critic.

Russia submarine fire "totally extinguished".

Ukraine ex-PM Tymoshenko moved to prison.

Hungary poised to widen rift with west.

AMERICAS

Birth rate plummets in Brazil.

US targets money laundering activity for cartels.

For Central America's pura vida state (Costa Rica), a drug war test.

US rejects Hugo Chavez remarks on Latin America cancer.

Jamaica opposition scores landslide win at polls.

Argentine dictator guilty of torture.

TERRORISM/THE LONG WAR

U.S. mulls transfer of Taliban prisoner in perilous peace bid.

Boot Hezbollah from Twitter or we sue, group says.

Counter-Terrorism: Caucasian nightmare.

Al-Qaeda's newest outpost.

No more military custody for al-Qaeda fighters (commentary).

ECONOMY/FINANCE/BUSINESS

Oil may rise as Iran threatens to block Strait, survey shows.

White House delaying debt ceiling request.

Apple in race to keep ahead in 2012.

Analysis: Dawn of a year of trading dangerously.

Euro falls to 10-year low versus yen, faces bleak 2012. Architects of a currency in crisis.

Only US Navy Can Check Iran, But Impending Cuts May Change That

ARABIAN LAUNCH
An F/A-18F Super Hornet launches from the USS John C. Stennis in the Arabian Gulf, Dec. 15, 2011. The John C. Stennis is deployed to the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility conducting maritime security operations and support missions as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Benjamin Crossley

High-Seas Diplomacy: Only US Navy Can Check Iran -- Arthur Herman, New York Post

Anyone wondering if we still need a strong US Navy should consider the current commotion over the Strait of Hormuz.

Iran has decided to raise the tension over its nuclear-weapons program by threatening to shut down that all-important waterway at the mouth of the Persian Gulf if Washington and its allies tighten sanctions on its crude-oil exports.

“Closing the Strait of Hormuz for Iran’s armed forces is really easy,” Iran’s top navy commander told Iranian TV Wednesday, “easier than drinking a glass of water.”

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My Comment:
Arthur Herman's concerns are justified .... but for Congress (and for most of the American electorate), the priority is that the money in the US budget (or what is left) should be spent elsewhere .... and not on the military. What is my take .... in the long run this is a prescription for disaster .... but for now .... most Americans (quite frankly) do not care.

The U.S. Navy's Numbers Do Not Add Up

The aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan travels through the Pacific Ocean with other ships assigned to the Rim of the Pacific 2010 exercise, north of Hawaii, July 24, 2010. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Dylan McCord

Challenging The Navy’s Numbers -- Walter Pincus, Washington Post

Since the Defense Department faces the need to reduce expenditures, here is one suggested new year’s resolution: Make the military services have a mandatory 80 percent confidence level in their estimated costs of a new weapons systems before major funding is approved.

What is a “confidence level?” the average taxpayer might ask. It is something the services have been doing for years but without much publicity. It is the percentage guesstimate by which the military service believes the cost it puts forward for a new, major acquisition will actually hit that figure.

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My Comment: Like all government programs .... military or not .... the ugly truth is that in the end they never rally add up.

New Drug Spice Proliferating In U.S. Military

Synthetic marijuana known as Spice can cause hallucinations. Schorle/wikipedia.com

New Drug Spice Proliferating In U.S. Military, Officials Admit; Can Cause Hallucinations -- New York Daily News

Synthetic marijuana led to more than 1,000 investigations in 2011.

A new drug that can leave its users hallucinating for days is spreading through the military ranks at an alarming rate, military officials admitted.

The drug, a synthetic marijuana known as Spice, has led to the investigation of 700 Marines and Navy sailors this year — up from 29 two years ago. The Air Force has punished 497 airmen so far this year alone as well, The Associated Press reported.

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More News On How The Drug Spice Is Proliferating In The U.S. Military

US military targeting users of dangerous ‘Spice’ drug that can bring days-long hallucinations
-- Washington Post/AP
US Military Cracks Down on 'Synthetic' Marijuana -- Medical Daily
Pentagon probes use of 'synthetic' pot by troops -- USA Today
Naval Hospital Sees Increased Number of Spice-Users -- San Diego Reader
‘Spice’ makers alter recipes to sidestep state laws banning synthetic marijuana -- Washington Post
Chemists find ways around spice laws -- UPI

Kyrgyzstan President Wants To CloseThe American Base In His Country

U.S. Base in Kyrgyzstan 'Very Dangerous': President -- Defense News/AFP

BISHKEK - Kyrgyzstan's new leader said Dec. 29 that it was "very dangerous" for his Central Asian nation to host a U.S. military base at Bishkek airport and that it must become a fully civilian airport by 2014.

Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambayev said he told visiting U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake that the annual users fee of $150 million which Washington paid was not worth the risks involved.

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More News On The Kyrgyzstan President Wanting To Close The U.S. Base In His Country

US base in Kyrgyzstan dangerous: president
-- MSN News
US base in Kyrgyzstan 'very dangerous' -- Business Recorder
US base in Kyrgyzstan 'very dangerous': President -- Express Tribune/AFP
U.S. Airbase Threatens Kyrgyz Security, Says President -- CRIEnglish
American Base In Kyrgyzstan Poses Threat To Country – OpEd -- Eurasia Review

WNU Editor: The Russians and Chinese have good reasons to be happy with this base closure. But the Kyrgyzstan President is also peeved off with the Russians.

War And Conflict Continues In South Sudan


South Sudan: At What Point Does Conflict Become a War? -- Alex Perry, Time

Assassinations. Pitched battles. Cross-border bombing raids. Hundreds of thousands of refugees. At what point will the rising conflict between Sudan and South Sudan be recognized as a new war?

South Sudan achieved independence from the north in July after a half century of grinding conflict in which more than 2 million people died. Separation has not led to peace, however, most importantly because neither side is happy with their new border. One point of conflict is a band of southern states in the new north Sudan — Darfur, South Kordofan and Blue Nile — which remain on the upper side of the divide despite being home to armies of rebel secessionists. Many of these fought for independence alongside the south and continue to do so today, with enduring southern support.

Read more ....



More News On The Conflict In South Sudan

South Sudan cattle clashes: UN moves troops to Pibor -- BBC
South Sudan: UN troops step in to prevent ethnic violence -- Global Post
S. Sudan youth planning to attack tribe, UN warns -- AFP
U.N. Sends Troops to S. Sudan: What Does it Mean? -- International Business Times
South Sudan: Tribal fighting in South Sudan worries UN -- Afrique En Ligne
Southerners 'killed by Sudan air raids' -- BBC
South Sudan says 17 killed in Sudanese air raids -- AFP
S. Sudan says Sudan air raids kill 17 civilians -- Reuters
Six dead in Sudan chopper crash, fire: army -- AFP
S. Sudan army 'accidentally shot' Christmas worshippers -- AFP
Sudan Files Complaint Against Support Provided to JEM by South Sudan -- Sacramento Bee/PR Newswire

Who Is The 'Giant North Korean Soldier' At Kim Jong-il's Funeral?

This photograph was taken by North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) and is one of several pictures which all appear to show the same giant soldier from different angles Photo: REUTERS

'Giant North Korean Soldier' Pays Respects To Kim Jong-il -- The Telegraph

At first glance it appears to be just another photograph of immaculately turned out troops paying their last respects to North Korea’s former leader Kim Jong-il.


But a closer inspection of the back row of one block of mourners reveals a far from ordinary sight - a soldier who appears to be well over 8ft tall.

The remarkable image was captured as the funeral procession of the late leader passed near the Kumsusan Memorial Palace in the capital Pyongyang.

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My Comment: That is one tall and large soldier.