Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Putin Cracks Down On Dissent In Russia

Prominent anti-corruption blogger and opposition figure Alexei Navalny leaves the Investigative Committee in Moscow, Russia, on Tuesday. Reuters

Russia Charges Anti-Putin Protester Alexei Navalny In Latest Crackdown On Dissent -- NBC

MOSCOW -- Russian investigators charged street protest leader Alexei Navalny with theft Tuesday and banned him from leaving the country, threatening a heavy jail term in what supporters say is a growing crackdown on dissent by President Vladimir Putin.

Navalny, an anti-corruption blogger who has organized demonstrations that have dented Putin's authority, dismissed the charge as absurd and other opposition leaders accused Putin of using KGB-style tactics to try to silence his critics.

Other moves which the opposition depict as a crackdown on dissent since Putin began a six-year term in May include a law increasing fines for protesters, closer controls of the Internet and tighter rules for foreign-funded campaign and lobby groups.

Read more ....

More News On Russia's Latest Crackdown On Dissent

Alexei Navalny Charged; Faces 10 Years in Prison -- Voice of America
Russia charges top Putin foe with embezzlement -- AFP
Russia Accuses Activist of Embezzlement -- Wall Street Journal
Russian opposition leader charged amid crackdown fears -- Russia
Russian opposition leader faces ‘quite absurd’ charges of timber theft -- Scotsman
Russian blogger Navalny charged with embezzlement -- BBC
Anti-Putin activist charged with theft -- USA Today

My Comment:
Protest leader Alexei Navalny was stepping on too many toes .... and this is the government's way of putting him in his place. It is easy for me to now predict what will happen next .... he will be arrested, put in jail, the trial will happen in about a year, and he will then be convicted for theft and sentenced to 7 years. In short .... they are going to shut him down for almost a decade.

A Euro Collapse Will Mean A Global Recession

Eurozone Break-Up Would Trigger £1 Trillion Of QE, See Banks Nationalised And Deep Recession, Warns Fathom -- Philip Aldrick, The Telegraph

A Eurozone break-up would plunge the UK into an even deeper recession than the last one, force the Government to nationalise the banks, and trigger a £1 trillion bout of money printing, leading economic consultancy Fathom has warned.

According to Fathom Consulting, the economy would shrink by 5.2pc in 2013 if the euro collapsed – a projection that former Bank of England deputy governor Sir John Gieve, speaking at Fathom’s quarterly Monetary Policy Forum, described as “modest”. In 2009, the worst year of the recent recession, the economy shrank by just 4pc.

The warning came as Moody’s, the ratings agency, lowered its UK growth forecast to just 0.4pc this year and 1.8pc in 2013, in the wake of the shock 0.7pc contraction in GDP in the second three months of the year. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development separately said the economy would shrink this year as a whole.

Read more ....

My Comment: A sobering essay on what many are fearing will be the final outcome.

Israel's Red Line In The Syrian Civil War

Israel's Red Line Fate of Syrian Chemical Weapons May Trigger War -- Ronen Bergman, Juliane von Mittelstaedt, Matthias Schepp and Holger Stark/Spiegel Online

As the battle against Syrian rebels reaches a new stage, Israel is worried that President Assad might use his vast arsenal of chemical weapons against his own people or neighbors -- or perhaps even give some to Hezbollah. Though many experts view this as unlikely, Israel is still weighing whether to strike.

The small village of Buqata is located on the Israeli side of the border that extends across the Golan Heights. From here, it's possible to see deep into Syrian territory. Right at the foot of the hill lies Jubata al-Khashab, a town just 55 kilometers (34 miles) southwest of Damascus, Syria's capital.

Every day, hundreds of concerned Israelis have been gathering along the barbed wire at the border and using binoculars to gaze at their neighbors in Jubata al-Khashab, who have been subjected to artillery fire in recent days. Thick clouds of smoke have been billowing from concrete apartment complexes there.

Read more ....

My Comment:
Will these "red lines" be crossed? As the situation continues to deteriorate in Syria .... who knows what will be happening next. But I do know one thing .... when Gaddafi fell in Libya, his arms depots were opened wide for everyone to take what they wanted. If Assad should fall .... I am 100% sure that the same will happen, and Syria's WMDs will be there for the taking. The hope is that a new provisional government would send it's most loyal solders to guard these depots .... including using the Syrian soldiers who are guarding them now. But this will take days (if not weeks) to organize .... and I am not sure if they will be up to the job.

New Ideas To Curb The Drug Wars Are Being Floated

How Latin America Is Reinventing The War On Drugs -- Sara Miller Llana, Christian Science

Frustrated with US dictates, countries across the region are floating new ideas to curb drug trafficking, from 'soft' enforcement to legalization.

Like thousands of other Bolivians, Marcela Lopez Vasquez's parents migrated to the Chapare region, in the Andean tropics, desperate to make a living after waves of economic and environmental upheaval hit farming and mining communities in the 1970s and '80s.

The new migrants, who spread across the undulating green hills here, planted bananas. They planted yucca and orange trees. But it was in the coca leaf that thrives in this climate that they found the salvation of a steady cash crop – and themselves at the nexus of the American "war on drugs."

Read more ....

My Comment: What's my take .... in the end these drugs are going to be legalized and managed by government. It will be done to lessen the power of the drug cartels, and to put a handle on the violence that it brings. Unfortunately .... it is going to bring about other problems .... the number one problem being medical/social problems associated with drug addition. We see it in Afghanistan .... where a sizable portion of the population are already addicted to opium/heroin .... bringing enormous social and medical problems that are crippling what is already a crippled medical system. We may not like the war against drugs because of it's human toll .... but maybe it is the lesser of two evils.

Commentaries, Opinions, And Editorials -- July 31, 2012

India's Power Outage: Why Coal Hasn't Been A Savior -- Rebecca Byerly, Christian Science Monitor

Some 600 million people lost power across India this week. The country relies on coal, which is neither helpful with peak power shortages, nor is regulated enough.

Gulam’s youthful brown eyes gaze at the coal mines just a few yards from the tiny thatched hut she shares with her family.

The scene before her, in the Jaintia Hills of northeast India, looks like something out of an apocalyptic movie: mountains of tar-black coal, polluted orange rivers, and seemingly bottomless holes plunge more than a 100 feet beneath the earth’s surface.

Read more ....

Commentaries, Opinions, And Editorials

Inaction May Force Syrian Rebels to Deal with the Devil -- Evan Moore and Robert Zaeate, Weekly Standard

Violence in Iraq? It’s the politics, stupid! -- Joost Hiltermann, Special to CNN

Mission not accomplished yet in south Yemen -- Katherine Zimmerman, AEI

It Ain't Just a River in Egypt -- Shadi Hamid, Foreign Policy

Japan’s $1.45 Trillion Whale May Crush Yen Bulls -- William Pesek, Bloomberg

China's Leaders Head to the Beach -- Christopher K. Johnson, Foreign Affairs

Middle Class Fleeing Putin's Russia -- Yulia Latynina, The Moscow Times

Before Deadly Bulgaria Bombing, Tracks of a Resurgent Iran-Hezbollah Threat
-- Sebastian Rotella, Foreign Policy

Cuba's Economic Desperation -- Sean Goforth, National Interest

Report: Precious Little Religious Freedom
-- Ben Cohen, Commentary

A bill to stop security leaks puts a plug on democracy -- Washington Post editorial

Will Congress Avert Defense Cuts?
-- Alana Goodman, Commentary

Following Reagan’s Eye on National Security -- Jamie M. Fly, NRO

The ghosts of Munich and the birth of the modern Olympics -- Paul Hockenos, Toronto Star

UK's true Olympic challenge remains
-- Jeremy Warner, The Telegraph

Drunk and Broke in the U.K. -- Peter Popham, Daily Beast

World News Briefs -- July 31, 2012 (Evening Edition)

2nd Day Of Power Failures Cripples Wide Swath Of India -- New York Times

NEW DELHI — The world’s largest blackout ever crippled roughly half of India for a second consecutive day on Tuesday, sending officials scrambling for an explanation.

The power failure spread across 22 of the country’s 28 states, an area whose population is nearly 700 million, almost 10 percent of the world’s population. Hundreds of trains stopped across the region and, in Delhi, the subway system stalled, and massive traffic jams collected as traffic lights stopped functioning.

Read more ....


Syria government's Aleppo assault stalls. Syrian army pounds Aleppo, rebels claim successes.

Arab Islamist fighters eager to join Syria rebels.

Humanitarian problems worsen in besieged Syria city of Aleppo as refugees flee.

U.S. lawmakers reach compromise on Iran sanctions.

Courts rebuke Iran’s President with sentences and ally’s firing.

Officials: 20 killed in twin Iraq car bombs.

Eight killed in clashes near Yemen Interior Ministry.

Yemen battles hunger while struggling with multiple crises.

Inside Turkey, concern over ‘Kurdish phobia’ around Syria.

Four sentenced to death over $2.6bn Iran bank fraud.


India's energy crisis threatens its economic growth.

Hundreds of millions without power after Indian grid goes down for second time in 2 days. India: 600 million without power in 'biggest ever blackout'.

Japan concerned by Chinese naval activity, lack of transparency in decision-making process.

Japan’s New Korea policy: Closer — but not close enough.

In Afghanistan, targeted attacks on leaders an ominous trend.

Pakistan, US sign troop supply deal; Washington releases $1.1 billion in frozen aid.

Philippines to bid out disputed South China Sea oil, gas blocks.

North Korea's Kim Jong-un may be planning first China trip.

Anti-nuclear campaigners launch Japan's first green party.

China calls US report on religion biased, ignorant.


Gaddafi son cannot get fair trial in Libya: lawyers.

Washington prepares to ramp up military cooperation with Tunisia.

Egypt court move suspends constitution row.

Sudan's Bashir turns down summit with South Sudan's Kiir.

Tanzania asks Malawi to halt oil search in disputed lake.

Mali gov’t condemns Islamist executions in north.

Guinea-Bissau drug trade 'rises since coup'.

Secretary Clinton heads to Africa Tuesday.


Euro crisis building again on several fronts before ECB meeting.

Eurozone unemployment at record high in June.

Investigators launch new criminal investigation against Russian protest leader Navalny. Russian prosecutors charge protest movement leader.

Romania's Traian Basescu survives impeachment vote.

New Russia internet law deemed censorship by critics.


U.S. pledge to rebuild Haiti not being met.

U.S. Post office nears historic default on $5B payment.

Survivors of crash that killed Cuba's Paya say it was an accident.

5 ATF officials found responsible for botched gun-tracking operation.

Mother of WikiLeaks founder in Ecuador to plea for son's asylum request.

Cocaine production drops by 25 percent in Colombia.

US: Peru overtakes Colombia as top cocaine producer.

Analysis: Venezuela joins trade bloc big on politics, protectionism.


Al Qaeda decline hard to reverse after Bin Laden killing: U.S.

Ex-Guantanamo inmate surrenders to Saudi authorities.

White House: 'Fabrication' that Obama called off bin Laden raid.

Pentagon condemns return of al Qaeda in Iraq, promises 'unrelenting' response.

Chicago man pleads guilty to plan to fight for Al-Shabaab terror group.

Report: Iran funding terror camp in Iraq.


Online poker sites settle fraud charges for $731m.

Corn prices hit record as crops shrivel.

Testimony expected in iPhone, iPad patent trial.

US rallies opponents of EU carbon tax on airlines.

Facebook share issues hit UBS results.

Colombia Is No Longer The World's Top Cocaine Producer

United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime "World Drug Report 2011". The Washington Post. Published on April 10, 2012, 11:42 a.m.

US: Peru Overtakes Colombia As Top Cocaine Producer -- NBC

Peru has again become the top producer of pure cocaine in the world, outpacing Colombia, where output fell by an estimated 25 percent in a year, according to a White House report issued Monday.

Drug czar Gil Kerlikowske, director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy, said Monday that potential cocaine production in Colombia was down by 72 percent since 2001. Colombia now ranks third, behind Bolivia in addition to Peru.

"Potential production of pure cocaine in Colombia is down to 195 metric tons (in 2011) from 700 metric tons in 2001, the lowest production potential level since 1994 and the first time since 1995 that Colombia is producing less cocaine than either Peru or Bolivia," Kerlikowske said in a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Read more

More News On The Decline Of Cocaine Production In Colombia, And Increasing In Peru

Cocaine production drops by 25 percent in Colombia -- AP
Colombia cocaine production drops 25%, says US report -- BBC
White House says Colombia not leader in cocaine -- USA Today
Cocaine Production Largely Declined in Colombia -- FOX News
U.S. Drug Czar Says Colombia Cocaine Output Behind Peru, Bolivia -- Bloomberg Businessweek
Colombia no longer top cocaine producer -- USA Today
White House Touts Drops in Cocaine Colombian Production, US Consumption -- US News and World Report
Peru now top cocaine producer, followed by Bolivia -- Seattle Times/L.A. Times

Pentagon Chief Panetta Voices Confidence That Morsi Is ‘President Of All’ Egyptians

Panetta, In Cairo, Voices Confidence That Morsi Is ‘President Of All’ Egyptians -- Washington Post

CAIRO — Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta played down concerns Tuesday about a rift between Egypt’s newly elected president and its military chief following a brief stopover in Cairo aimed at giving senior U.S. officials a better sense of how the country’s first Islamist administration will govern.

The recent election of President Mohamed Morsi, a former member of the Muslim Brotherhood, has provoked unease among secular Egyptians, the military and Egyptian Christians, who worry that the country’s Islamists will upend a long tradition of secular rule.

Read more

More News On Pentagon Chief Panetta Meeting With Egypt's New President

Pentagon chief says Egyptian leaders have vowed to steer country toward full democracy -- Washington Post/AP
Panetta praises Egypt leader for democracy resolve -- Reuters
In Cairo, Panetta Declares Support for Egypt’s New President -- New York Times
Panetta: New Egyptian president “his own man” -- CNN
Panetta Warns Egypt on Sinai as Potential Base for Terrorists -- Bloomberg Businessweek

My Comment:
I do not share Panetta's "enthusiasm" .... I prefer to wait and see how they govern in the next year.

Russia's Navy Ready To Evacuate It's Citizens In Syria

Russian Navy To Evacuate Syrian Base In Emergency -- RT

If the lives of the personnel at the Russian naval base in the Syrian port of Tartus are put at serious risk, they may be evacuated, Russia’s Navy chief says. This comes as Russia holds a major naval drill not far from the Syrian coast.

“If an emergency happens, we will remove the base’s personnel,” Vice-Adm. Viktor Chirkov told Echo Moscow radio Saturday, when asked what the Russian military would do if the base at the Syrian port Tartus came under attack.

He added that it would be up to the Russian president to order such a move.

Read more

My Comment
: There are only 50 Russian navy personnel at the Tartus naval port .... but there are also an unknown number of Russian military personnel throughout Syria .... as well as diplomats, dependents, and common Russian citizens. This will be a big evacuation .... if it comes to that. But by having the Russian Navy chief come out publicly to state that this may happen .... Russia is tipping its hand that it does not have confidence in the long term future of the Assad regime in Damascus.

Frontline Pictures Reveal Terror On The Streets Of Aleppo

Onslaught: Smoke rises between buildings after shelling by forces loyal to Assad in the busy Salaheddin district

Chilling Shots From A City Under Siege: Frontline Pictures Reveal Terror On The Streets Of Aleppo As Rebels Fight For Control -- Daily Mail

* Thousands have fled the violence and others are running low on supplies
* Rebels say they will turn the city into the 'grave' of the Assad government
* They are advancing on Aleppo's centre and have taken army tanks
* But government have more weapons at their disposal
* More than 100 people were killed in Syria yesterday

These are the heartrending images captured on the streets of Aleppo as rebels and the Syrian government battle for power.

Rebel fighters have claimed President Bashar al-Assad's army has been forced into retreat, but on the frontline of the clashes, a grim picture of the bitter fighting can be seen.

Rebels say they will turn Aleppo into the 'grave' of the Assad government, and thousands have now fled, with those left running short of food and fuel and afraid for their lives.

Read more ....

My Comment: In the battle of Aleppo .... this is becoming a fight to the finish. If the rebels lose .... they will leave and regroup to attack again. If the Assad regime and the military lose .... this is one step to their eventual defeat . With no hope for reconciliation or restraint .... I predict that a sizable section of Aleppo will probably be destroyed .... and the ancient quarter of the city .... which is also a UN World Heritage site .... will probably be severely damaged in the fighting.

Syria's Assad Is Losing Control Of The Countryside

Syrian Rebels Seize Rural Territory While Assad Forces Focus On Major Cities -- Washington Post

AL-BAB, Syria — War came late to this little farming town set amid rolling hills in the Syrian countryside east of Aleppo, where the absence of upheaval was long construed as an implicit signal of support for the government led by President Bashar al-Assad.

But once the battle started in May, it unfolded at lightning speed, at least by the standards of a revolt that is dragging into its 17th month. Residents are celebrating their near-complete victory over regime loyalists after the town’s last army garrison fled Sunday, its food supplies gone and its morale shredded.

Read more

My Comment: The rebels are holding territory outside the cities .... but have yet to control a major entire city itself. This is why the battle for Aleppo is so important .... if Assad loses control of this city, it will only be a matter of time before Damascus is threatened .... and after that it will be a retreat to the Alawite communities in the northwest of the country for a last stand.

World News Briefs -- July 31, 2012

World's Biggest Blackout: 620 Million People Without Power In India -- Christian Science Monitor

World's biggest blackout: More than half of India's population was without electricity Tuesday. The blackout hit 20 of India's 28 states as the power failure cascaded across the grids.

India's energy crisis cascaded over half the country Tuesday when three of its regional grids collapsed, leaving 620 million people without government-supplied electricity for several hours in, by far, the world's biggest-ever blackout.

Read more ....


Syrian army pounds Aleppo, rebels claim successes.

Humanitarian problems worsen in besieged Syria city of Aleppo as refugees flee.

Officials: 20 killed in twin Iraq car bombs.

Eight killed in clashes near Yemen Interior Ministry.

Yemen battles hunger while struggling with multiple crises.

Inside Turkey, concern over ‘Kurdish phobia’ around Syria.

Four sentenced to death over $2.6bn Iran bank fraud.


Hundreds of millions without power after Indian grid goes down for second time in 2 days. India: 600 million without power in 'biggest ever blackout'.

Pakistan, US sign troop supply deal; Washington releases $1.1 billion in frozen aid.

Philippines to bid out disputed South China Sea oil, gas blocks.

North Korea's Kim Jong-un may be planning first China trip.

Anti-nuclear campaigners launch Japan's first green party.

China calls US report on religion biased, ignorant.


Sudan's Bashir turns down summit with South Sudan's Kiir.

Tanzania asks Malawi to halt oil search in disputed lake.

Mali gov’t condemns Islamist executions in north.

Guinea-Bissau drug trade 'rises since coup'.

Secretary Clinton heads to Africa Tuesday.


Euro crisis building again on several fronts before ECB meeting.

Eurozone unemployment at record high in June.

Investigators launch new criminal investigation against Russian protest leader Navalny. Russian prosecutors charge protest movement leader.

Romania's Traian Basescu survives impeachment vote.

New Russia internet law deemed censorship by critics.


Survivors of crash that killed Cuba's Paya say it was an accident.

5 ATF officials found responsible for botched gun-tracking operation.

Mother of WikiLeaks founder in Ecuador to plea for son's asylum request.

Cocaine production drops by 25 percent in Colombia.

US: Peru overtakes Colombia as top cocaine producer.

Analysis: Venezuela joins trade bloc big on politics, protectionism.


White House: 'Fabrication' that Obama called off bin Laden raid.

Pentagon condemns return of al Qaeda in Iraq, promises 'unrelenting' response.

Chicago man pleads guilty to plan to fight for Al-Shabaab terror group.

Report: Iran funding terror camp in Iraq.


Corn prices hit record as crops shrivel.

Testimony expected in iPhone, iPad patent trial.

US rallies opponents of EU carbon tax on airlines.

Facebook share issues hit UBS results.

The Collapse Of India's Electrical Grid Will Have Worldwide Implications

India's Power Grid Collapses Again -- Wall Street Journal

NEW DELHI--Much of India's electricity supply network collapsed Tuesday in the country's second major outage in two days, affecting more than 680 million people—double the population of the U.S.—and causing business losses estimated to run into the hundreds of millions of dollars.

Thousands of offices and factories had to switch to generators or shut shop, more than 200 trains were brought to a standstill while hospitals had to ask nurses to manually work critical equipment such as ventilators as 21 provinces experienced a near-total blackout that raised questions about the infrastructure in Asia's third-largest economy.

Read more ....

More News On India's Power Grid Collapse

Half of India Crippled by Second Day of Power Failures -- New York Times
India power cut hits millions, among world's worst outages -- Reuters
Day Two of India's Blackout Hits Half the Population -- Bloomberg Businessweek
Second major blackout hits India -- Financial Times
More than 600 million people affected by latest blackout in India -- L.A. Times
India’s Blackout Doubles in Size, Continues into Second Day, Leaving 620 Million in the Dark -- Time/AP
Hundreds of millions without power in India -- BBC

My Comment: When I was living in China in 1988 .... power failures were a nuisance that everyone knew had to be solved in order for China to become a major economic world player. The same can be said about India today ..... but this blackout should not surprise those who are familiar with India. India .... like China .... is heavily dependent on coal fired plants to provide electricity. But unlike China .... India has closed coal mines and is trying to divert to alternative energy sources. They obviously did not realize (or calculate) that shutting down these coal-fired generators may have some consequences .... which we are now seeing today. I do expect India to solve this problem .... and they will do it by opening more coal mines and coal powered plants. If CO2 release and global warming is your thing .... this should concern you.

Iran Will Keep Open The Strait Of Hormuz Unless More Sanctions Or Military Action Occurs

(Click on Image to Enlarge)

Strait Of Hormuz Will Stay Open Unless Iran’s Interests Are Harmed: Military Commander -- National Post/Reuters

DUBAI — Iran will keep the vital Strait of Hormuz shipping lane open as long as the waterway served its interests, a military commander was on Monday quoted as saying.

Iranian politicians and officials have often said that Iran could block the strait — the neck of the Gulf through which 40% of the world’s seaborne oil exports passes — in response to sanctions or military action.

Read more

My Comment:
The Iranians are sending a message to Panetta who is in the region.

US Defense Secretary: Denies Iran 'Attack Plans' in Works With Israel

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta gives an in-flight press briefing while flying to Tunis, Tunisia, July 29, 2012. Panetta is on a five-day trip to the region, including stops in Tunisia, Egypt, Israel and Jordan. DOD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo

Panetta Denies Iran 'Attack Plans' in Works With Israel -- Wall Street Journal

CAIRO—Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Tuesday that the U.S. has been working on contingency plans for a possible conflict with Iran and is discussing them with Israel but brushed aside suggestions he would share "attack plans" during a visit that begins Tuesday.

"It is the wrong characterization to say we're going to be discussing potential attack plans," Mr. Panetta told reporters in Cairo before flying to Israel for talks on Iran. "What we are discussing are various contingencies and how we could respond." Mr. Panetta was responding to Israeli news reports this weekend that American officials have detailed plans for attacking Iran.

Read more ....

My Comment: So what are these "contingency plans" .... and is Israel sharing it's plans with the U.S.? I would love to be a fly in that room when that meeting happens.

U.S. - Pakistan Agree To Allow Supply Routes To Afghansitan Until 2015

Paramilitary soldiers escort a convoy of trucks carrying supplies for NATO troops before crossing into Afghanistan from the Pakistan border town of Chaman on July 16, 2012. Pakistan and the U.S. reached a deal to reopen land routes that NATO uses to supply troops in Afghanistan. Stringer/Pakistan/REUTERS

U.S., Pakistan Sign Deal To Allow Supply Routes Through 2015 -- Washington Post

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pakistan will allow NATO supply convoys to cross its territory into Afghanistan until the end of 2015, one year beyond the deadline for withdrawal of U.S. combat forces there, under an agreement signed on Tuesday by U.S. and Pakistani officials.

The pact seems to close, for now, one of the most contentious chapters in the long-turbulent relationship between Washington and Islamabad, cementing cooperation by Pakistan in winding down the war in Afghanistan at least in terms of logistical assistance. Washington also has urged Islamabad to step up its participation in the peace process by bringing to the negotiating table militant groups that shelter in Pakistani’s tribal belt and regularly cross the border to attack NATO troops.

Read more ....

More News On Pakistan And The US Agreeing To Maintain The Supply Lines Until 2015

Pakistan, US sign troop supply deal -- AP
Pakistan, US sign NATO convoy deal -- AFP
U.S., Pakistan Formalize NATO Transit Deal -- RIA Novosti
Taliban happy Pakistan reopened NATO supply line -- AP

My Comment: What a waste of money .... but at least we now have a firm date on when our forces and equipment must be out of Afghanistan.

When 'Friends' Attack, Who Can You Trust?

A linguist, left, shares a smartphone device with a Afghan Army command sergeant major during a security meeting at the Qara Bagh district's center in Afghanistan's Ghazni province, July 16, 2012. Smartphone devices are increasing in use on the battlefield in Afghanistan. U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Michael J. MacLeod

Afghanistan War: When 'Friends' Attack, Who Can You Trust? -- Tom Engelhardt, L.A. Times

In Afghanistan, our soldiers are being attacked by the men they're training to take over for them. That's a mission failure.

It has a name: green-on-blue violence. But the label doesn't begin to suggest the seriousness of the increasingly common phenomenon of Afghan soldiers, policemen and security guards attacking their NATO or U.S. mentors, the people who are funding, supporting and teaching them. Think of it as death-by-ally.

Such incidents have occurred at least 21 times so far this year, resulting in 30 American and European deaths. That's the same number of green-on-blue attacks reported in all of 2011. And, according to the Associated Press, the U.S. and NATO don't always release news of the assaults unless they result in deaths, so the number could be higher.

Read more ....

My Comment: Trusting your fellow soldier is crucial in any war zone .... break that trust and the mission will fail. In Afghanistan .... green on blue incidents are poisoning this trust .... and yes .... it makes you question the mission and it's chances of success.

Afghanistan War News Updates -- July 31, 2012

U.S. Army paratroopers scan for the insurgent triggerman who initiated an improvised explosive device, striking a route-clearance vehicle along Highway 1 in Afghanistan's Ghazni province, July 23, 2012. U.S. Army photo by Capt. Thomas Cieslak

In Afghanistan, Targeted Attacks On Leaders An Ominous Trend -- L.A. Times

The attacks on Afghan leaders come as the NATO force hands over more security duties to the Afghan police and army and begins its troop drawdown in earnest.

KABUL, Afghanistan — Tamim Nuristani used to own a pizza chain in California. Now he's a marked man in Afghanistan.

This month, insurgents ambushed the provincial governor's convoy in northeastern Afghanistan, sparking a fierce battle that pinned down his entourage for the night. When the motorcade tried to move in the morning, the assailants struck again. Miraculously, all those in the convoy survived.

It was not the first attempt on Nuristani's life; he did not expect it to be the last. Not long ago, security forces discovered and defused a remote-controlled explosive device apparently meant for him, and a defecting Taliban fighter told officials that he had been personally tasked with assassinating the Nuristan governor.

Read more ....

More News On Afghanistan

ISAF Joint Command morning operational update, July 31 -- ISAF
War in Afghanistan News - 31 July 2012 -- War On Terror News
2 California soldiers killed in Afghanistan -- Sacramento Bee/AP
NATO troops' death toll up in Afghanistan in July -- Xinhuanet
100 U.S. Dead in Afghanistan in Three Months -- Bob Geiger, Huffington Post
Foreign troop numbers in Afghanistan -- Business Recorder

Afghanistan, Pak to talk about cross-border raids -- Hindustan Times
Pakistan, US sign troop supply deal -- AP
Taliban cheers reopening of NATO supply line -- FOX News/AP

French hand over base in Afghanistan -- AP
France begins Afghanistan troop pullout -- Euronews
France withdraws from Afghan district -- The Australian

U.S. strategy in Afghanistan questioned -- UPI
Millions wasted in Afghan reconstruction projects, finds report -- BBC
Report: Delays in Afghan projects could hurt NATO strategy -- USA Today
Project delays could cost Afghan hearts and minds, report warns -- L.A. Times
Millions lost in Afghan reconstruction: US watchdog -- AFP
In Afghanistan, Roads (And Power Lines) To Nowhere -- International Business Times
Afghanistan's economy is seen as 'not sustainable' -- Stars and Stripes
DOD, U.S. Agencies Help Afghanistan Exploit Mineral Wealth -- US

Crocker On Afghanistan's 'Extraordinary Achievement' -- NPR
Afghans Hopeful, But Worried About Future -- Voice of America
Commentary: Taliban are their own worst enemy -- Mina Habib, Times Colonist

Military And Intelligence News Briefs -- July 31, 2012

Sea Ghost concept. Image: Lockheed Martin

Killer-Drone Showdown Set As Lockheed Unveils Jet-Powered ‘Bot -- Danger Room

Sometime in the next few years the world’s most sophisticated drone prototypes will likely face off in what could be a multi-billion-dollar competition to shape the future of air warfare. And now we finally know what all four contestants look like.

On Friday, number-one defense contractor Lockheed Martin released the first official teaser image of its Sea Ghost jet-powered killer drone. Along with previously disclosed unmanned aerial vehicle designs from rivals Boeing, Northrop Grumman and General Atomics, the Sea Ghost will go head-to-head for a Navy contract to put fast, stealthy, missile- and bomb-armed drones on the decks of aircraft carriers by 2018.

Read more ....

Commentaries, Opinions, And Editorials

US arms deals in the works with uneasy Gulf allies -- FOX News/AP

Japan flags China military's policy role as potential risk -- Reuters

New Russian bomber: needless expenditure or future necessity? -- Voice of Russia

Russia to get stronger nuclear navy, Putin says
-- Reuters

Paint flakes ground Israeli F-16 fighters -- Flight Global

Iron Dome Defenses Increasing by 2013 -- Arutz Sheva

U.S. defense chief: Syria military must remain intact when Assad goes -- Reuters

Ecuador, Brazil to help set up Haiti new military -- Chicago Tribune/Reuters

Washington prepares to ramp up military cooperation with Tunisia -- The Cable/Foreign policy

If You Are An American Taxpayer, Then These Are Your Latest Defense Purchases -- Business Insider

More Subs, Bombers, And Missiles Could Be On Their Way To The Pacific -- Business Insider

F-22s arrive at Kadena, no reported oxygen problems
-- Defense Tech

What the F-22 vs. the Typhoon tells us
-- Eric Palmer Blog

The A-10: Tough Old Bird Updated -- Strategy Page

Poverty And The Long-Range Strike Bomber
-- Strategy Page

X-47B Completes First Pax River Flight
-- Defense Tech

Naval Presence Shifts Towards 2020 -- Information Dissemination

Budget officials: Navy’s 30-year shipbuilding plan underfunded by $94 billion -- Stars and Stripes

Navy taking measures to fill undermanned at-sea billets -- Stars and Stripes

New Raytheon warhead lethal to enemy rockets
-- Space Daily

Army campaigns to defend current detector of bombs -- Washington Times

Military jury finds sergeant accused of hazing fellow soldier not guilty of negligent homicide -- Washington Post/AP

Anti-leak measure targets background briefings -- Washington Post

Five things you need to know about U.S. national security -- CNN

Vets Eye Iraq Violence With Regret, Detachment -- Military.com/AP

The danger of Obama’s inaction on sequestration
-- Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, Washington Post

The Strategic Consequences Of The Euro Crisis

The Strategic Consequences Of The Euro Crisis: Cracks In NATO, New Euro Map -- Aol Defense

The Euro crisis is not simply a financial dynamic. It is the end of a period of history, the confluence of several trend lines: the unification of Germany, the end of the Soviet Union, the collapse of the Berlin Wall, the expansion of NATO, the expansion of the European Union, and the creation of the single currency together constitute a unique period in modern European history.

The trend line was also defined by moving the borders of Europe eastward with the expectation that an expanded Europe would manage its own internal dynamics well and provide stability in an historically unstable region of the world.

Read more ....

My Comment:
What good is a military alliance when many of it's members are too broke to sustain a viable military .... and that is the heart and essence of what Europe's debt/Euro crisis has spawn for NATO. As for everything else .... the EU as we know it will change .... with the southern nations suffering an economic depression and debt crisis that will prevent them from being serious players on the European diplomatic scene for years if not decades.

Is America's Tank Builder About To Shut Down?

M1 Abrams tanks sit on the assembly line at a plant in Lima, Ohio, the only place where the tanks are manufactured. Plant and local officials fear the plant won't survive if the military temporarily halts new tank orders. General Dynamics Land Systems

M1 Abrams Tank Builder Pushes Congress To Keep Contract Going -- McClatchy News

WASHINGTON — The M1Abrams tank has survived the Cold War, two conflicts in Iraq and a decade of war in Afghanistan. No wonder: It weighs as much as nine elephants and it’s fitted with a cannon that’s capable of turning a building to rubble from two and a half miles away. But now the machine is a target in an unusual battle between the Defense Department and lawmakers who are the beneficiaries of large campaign donations by its manufacturer.

The Pentagon, facing smaller budgets and looking toward a new global strategy, wants to save as much as $3 billion by freezing refurbishing work on the M1 from 2014 to 2017, so it can redesign the vehicle from top to bottom. Its proposal would idle a large factory in Lima, Ohio, as well as halt work at dozens of subcontractors in Pennsylvania, Michigan and other states.

Read more ....

My Comment: Shutting down parts of America's defense-industrial complex with the promise of opening it up in the future with a 'new program' is raising concerns .... and with just cause. I heard the same thing when I was living in Russia and the Russian government made the decision after the collapse of the Soviet Union to mothball key parts of their military industrial complex for a few years .... they even retired my uncle who was a director in their military-satellite communications division. Guess what .... those plants were never opened again .... and in today's world the present Russian government is now faced with huge costs in starting this up all over again.

The Hunt For HMS Hood's Bell

Free: Mr Allen offered the Octopus for the expedition at no cost to the government

The Hunt For HMS Hood's Bell: Billionaire Offers To Fund Recovery So That It Can Be A Memorial To 1,415 Crew Who Drowned When Warship Was Sunk By The Bismarck In 1941 -- Daily Mail

A US billionaire has offered to lead an operation to recover the bell of the sunken battle cruiser HMS Hood, which was sunk in 1941 and killed 1,415 men, for free.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said US philanthropist and Microsoft co-founder Paul G Allen has offered his private yacht be used in the search to recover the bell at no cost to it.

HMS Hood, which was a state-of-the-art vessel for its time, is the largest Royal Navy vessel to have been sunk, causing the biggest loss of life suffered by any single British warship.

Read more

My Comment:
Kudos to Paul Allen for doing this.

US Intelligence: Poverty Will Be Eliminated By 2030

US Intelligence Predicts Poverty Plummet By 2030 -- CBS News

ASPEN, Colo. — Poverty across the planet will be virtually eliminated by 2030, with a rising middle class of some two billion people pushing for more rights and demanding more resources, the chief of the top U.S. intelligence analysis shop said Saturday.

If current trends continue, the 1 billion people who live on less than a dollar a day now will drop to half that number in roughly two decades, Christoper Kojm said.

"We see the rise of the global middle class going from one to two billion," Kojm said, in a preview of the National Intelligence Council's global forecast offered at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado.

Read more

My Comment:
I am skeptical .... but it is also true that wealth creation is spreading in many parts of the world. The National Intelligence Council's website is here.

Wisdom From The Retiring US Envoy To Afghanistan

Ryan C. Crocker, the departing ambassador to Afghanistan, says American policy makers had “better do some cold calculating.” Bryan Denton for The New York Times

Retiring Envoy to Afghanistan Exhorts U.S To Heed Its Past -- New York Times

KABUL, Afghanistan — The American diplomat most associated with the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan says that American policy makers need to learn the lessons of the recent past as they weigh military options for the future, including for Syria and Iran:

¶ Remember the law of unintended consequences.

¶ Recognize the limits of the United States’ actual capabilities.

¶ Understand that getting out of a conflict once you are in can often be dangerous and as destructive for the country as the original conflict.

Read more ....

My Comment: Will his advice be listened to .... probably not.

Will $500 Billion In U.S. Defense Cuts Be An Election Issue This Fall?

Parties Look To Make $1 Trillion In Sequestration Cuts A Campaign Issue -- The Hill

The $1 trillion in spending cuts under sequestration are emerging as a major issue in congressional races and the presidential campaign, as both parties think they have a winning hand heading into November.

The reductions in defense spending have been used in attack ads for races in military heavy states like Virginia, and President Obama and Mitt Romney traded barbs over the cuts in back-to-back foreign policy speeches this week.

The word “sequestration” certainly doesn’t roll off the tongue to voters, but campaigns in both parties are banking that the $500 billion reduction to defense spending will still hit home over national security concerns and — perhaps more importantly — the potential loss of jobs.

Read more

My Comment: The public sentiment is clear .... they want defense cuts. The key for the Republicans is to outline what are the consequences if such cuts go through .... but so far .... from my point of view .... their have failed to make their case.

Update: But even though polls favor defense cuts .... the White House is clearly worried.

Picture Of The Day

An EA-18G Growler launches from the USS George Washington during flight operations while under way in the Philippine Sea, July 19, 2012. The pilot is assigned to the Shadowhawks of Electronic Attack Squadron 141. The George Washington is based at Fleet Activities Yokosuka, Japan. U.S. Navy photo by Seaman Brian H. Abel

F-22s Arriving At Kadena, Japan

Hat Tip: Alert 5

Pentagon-Sponsored Report To Congress Calls For A Buildup Of Forces In Asia

The USS George Washington conducts a replenishment-at-sea mission with the USNS Tippecanoe while under way in the Philippine Sea, July 23, 2012. U.S. Navy photo by Seaman Declan Barnes

The East Asia Pivot -- Washington Free Beacon

Pentagon-sponsored report to Congress calls for buildup of forces in Asia

A Pentagon-sponsored report to Congress outlines the U.S. military’s new pivot to Asia and calls for adding attack submarines and Marines based throughout the Pacific to head off a future war with China.

The report by the Center for Strategic and International Studies presents three options based on impending cuts in defense spending. They include keeping the current status quo forces, mainly in Japan and South Korea, or modestly increasing military forces by adding attack submarines, Marine Air-Ground Task Forces, more warships and bombers, another aircraft carrier strike group, and more intelligence aircraft. A third option looks at sharply cutting forces throughout Asia, which the report said risks undermining stability.

Read more

My Comment:
What the Pentagon wants will cost billions of dollars .... a prospect that will not happen in view of the budget cuts that are going to happen just around the corner.

No Police Surveillance Policy Change At Skype

Skype Denies Police Surveillance Policy Change -- BBC

Microsoft's online message, phone and video chat service Skype has denied making changes to its system "in order to provide law officers greater access" to its members' conversations.

It follows reports suggesting infrastructure upgrades had made it easier to hand on users' chat data.

Skype has now posted a blog saying the changes were made solely to improve user experience and reliability.

But it added it would pass on messages to law enforcement when "appropriate".

Read more ....

My Comment:
But everyone now knows that the technology exists to make it possible .... a fact that Skype will never be able to discount. And while the focus is on police agencies .... no one is discussing what the intelligence agencies are doing.

Is Al Qaeda Coming Back?

Image: Flag of al-Qaeda in Iraq. Wikipedia

Al Qaeda’s Arab Comeback: Capitalizing on Chaos in Syria, Mali -- Bruce Riedel, Daily Beast

Destroying Timbuktu in Mali, exploiting the turmoil in Syria, successfully attacking in the Sinai—at the operational level, al Qaeda is stronger than it’s ever been, says Bruce Riedel.

Al Qaeda has exploited the Arab Spring to create is largest safe havens and operational bases in more than a decade across the Arab world. In the 18 months since the Arab revolutions first began, al Qaeda has grown stronger, despite founder Osama bin Laden’s death and a lack of mass appeal.

Like the rest of the world, the terror organization was surprised by the revolutions that toppled dictators in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen. Its ideology of violence and jihad initially was challenged by the largely nonviolent revolutionary movements that swept across North Africa and the Middle East. But al Qaeda is adaptive, and it has exploited the chaos and turmoil of revolutionary change to create bases and new strongholds from one end of the Arab world to the other.

Read more

My Comment: I guess reports of Al Qaeda's demise were 'greatly exaggerated'.

Is Al Qaeda Turning The Tide For The Rebels In Eastern Syria

Resistance ... members of the Free Syrian Army in Aleppo. Photo: Reuters

Al-Qaida Turns Tide For Rebels In Battle For Eastern Syria -- The Guardian

In his latest exclusive dispatch from Deir el-Zour province, Ghaith Abdul-Ahad meets fighters who have left the Free Syrian Army for the discipline and ideology of global jihad

As they stood outside the commandeered government building in the town of Mohassen, it was hard to distinguish Abu Khuder's men from any other brigade in the Syrian civil war, in their combat fatigues, T-shirts and beards.

But these were not average members of the Free Syrian Army. Abu Khuder and his men fight for al-Qaida. They call themselves the ghuraba'a, or "strangers", after a famous jihadi poem celebrating Osama bin Laden's time with his followers in the Afghan mountains, and they are one of a number of jihadi organisations establishing a foothold in the east of the country now that the conflict in Syria has stretched well into its second bloody year.

Read more ....

WNU Editor: More news and info on Al Qaeda in Syria can be read in this CNN report,
as well as in this New York Times report.

Jihadists push for role in Syrian resistance -- Sydney Morning Herald

Adm. McRaven Gives His First Interview On The Bin Laden Raid With A Journalist

McRaven On Bin Laden Raid: One Of History's "Great Intelligence Operations" -- CNN

While it was one of 11 missions carried out by U.S. special forces that night, the head of U.S. Special Operations command said the raid that killed Osama bin Laden will go down as one of the "great intelligence operations in history."

Admiral William McRaven spoke Wednesday before an audience at the Aspen Institute Security Conference on a panel discussion moderated by CNN's Wolf Blitzer. The talk was his first interview about the raid with a journalist.

McRaven also touched on some of the other pressing issues facing the U.S. military in the discussion that ranged from serious to light-hearted.

Read more ....

My Comment: Posted this story a few days ago, but it is the fist time that I am seeing the video that has Admiral William McRaven talking about the Bin Laden raid. On a side note .... on the night of the Bin laden raid there were 10 other raids by U.S. special forces. Would love to know what those other 10 were .... but I know that we will never know.

Is A Nuclear Iran America's 'Number One National Security Threat'

Mitt Romney in Israel. Stephen Crowley/The New York Times

Romney: Nuclear Iran Is 'Number One National Security Threat' -- CNN

Presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney clarified his March remark that Russia is the nation's top foe, saying in an interview which aired Monday on CNN's "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer" that Iran potentially poses the greatest national security threat to the U.S.

"The number one national security threat, of course, to our nation is a nuclear Iran," he told CNN's Wolf Blitzer, speaking in Jerusalem about the nearby nation.

Asked about Israel's borders, the broader Israeli-Palestinian conflict, withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, the London Olympics, and campaign finance, Romney offered little new policy or criticism of President Barack Obama.

Read more

My Comment: What's my take .... I still regard Al Qaeda and it's affiliated groups as our #1 national security threat. Iran's nuclear enrichment program is definitely up there .... but this has been the case for almost 20 years, and probably will continue to be the case for the next few years.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Germany's Merkel Wants A Weapons Export Policy That Promotes Stability

Merkel's Risky Weapons Exports -- Ulrike Demmer, Ralf Neukirch and Holger Stark, Spiegel Online

Drawing lessons from Afghanistan and Libya, German Chancellor Merkel has been making quiet changes to Berlin's arms exports policy. Instead of intervening in conflicts, she wants to help arm certain countries to provide stability in crisis regions. But if history is any guide, the plan could backfire.

When it comes to global issues, German Chancellor Angela Merkel often strikes a high-minded tone. In a keynote speech she delivered at the 2011 Munich Security Conference, she spoke of the "obligation to pursue value-based foreign policy." She also frequently says that no compromises can be made on human rights. And, in her view, the greatest thing to come out of the NATO summit held in Chicago this May was that Germany successfully pushed through passages related to nuclear disarmament in Europe.

Read more ....

My Comment: I wish her luck in trying to maneuver this 'fine line' of exporting weapons to only countries that will provide stability in crisis regions

Is Syrian Strongman Assad Playing For Time?

President Bashar al-Assad with leaders of the army at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Damascus Photo: Reuters

President In Name Only, Assad Plays For Time -- The Telegraph

By ceding large parts of Syria, the tyrant has effectively admitted that he cannot win.

From street protests to insurgency to national insurrection. The remorseless escalation of Syria’s conflict since it first broke out 16 months ago is the most striking feature of the challenge to President Bashar al-Assad’s rule.

Repression has bred resistance, and vice versa, to the point where the country’s biggest cities are becoming battlefields. Aleppo is dominated by the magnificent gatehouse of its Citadel, providing visual proof that possession of this ancient city has decided the fate of kings for centuries. So it is with Mr Assad today: his actions betray a grim awareness that the struggle for Aleppo is central to his regime’s survival. He has been willing to strip neighbouring provinces of troops and tanks in order to mobilise forces for this battle, even though this effectively means turning over large areas of his country to de facto rebel control.

Read more

My Comment: With Syria's civil war escalating every month .... he must now know that this is a losing proposition for him. He may have the soldiers and weaponry behind him, but in a war of attrition where his armed opponents comprise approximately 80% of the population .... it will only be a matter of time before his military advantages will start to degrade and crumble.