Sunday, July 31, 2011

A Story Of Hope From Iraq

Captain Tom Hickey (R) speaks with Mohammad Adnan with his daughter Sadeel at the table. A colleague of Captain Hickey is between them. Hickey helped save Sadeel's life in 2007 when his soldiers rushed her to hospital after she was shot in the Baghdad neighborhood of Amariyah. Jane Arraf

A US Soldier Reunites With The Iraqi Girl He Saved -- Christian Science Monitor

For US Army Capt. Tom Hickey and his platoon, saving Sadeel in 2007 was the best part of their tour in Iraq.

Eight-year-old Sadeel giggles and holds up her curly black hair, revealing the faint scar from a bullet wound.

"I'm so happy to see you," says US Army Capt. Tom Hickey, sounding nervous and slightly overwhelmed. It's the first time the two have seen each other since he helped rush her to the hospital four years ago, her body seemingly lifeless in her father's arms. "I don't know if you remember me. It was a long time ago," he says, looking at the lively little girl across the table.

Read more ....

My Comment: After reading this story ... what can I say but read it all and remember.

Why China Is Watching The U.S. Debt Debate

China’s $2 Trillion Hole -- Minxin Pei, The Diplomat

The US debt negotiation ceilings are going to the wire. China, the biggest holder of Treasury debt, is watching on helplessly as it gets taken to the financial cleaners.

The political drama in Washington over raising the United States’ federal debt ceiling has grabbed the world’s attention. While the main protagonists in the play are the Republicans and Democrats, one spectator anxiously awaiting the outcome of the bitter partisan struggle is undoubtedly China, the largest single holder of US Treasury debt (roughly $1.1 trillion).

Read more ....

Update: President Obama: Deal reached on debt crisis -- CBS News

My Comment: Tonight's agreement in Washington on resolving the US debt problem is NOT going to solve the long term U.S. problem of too much debt, and a trend of even greater debt in the future. Credit rating agencies have been blunt that none of these plans will maintain America's credit rating, and for foreign holders of debt like China .... expect further depreciation and a lower value of your US holdings.

China being taken to the cleaners .... LOL .... they have seen nothing yet.

Wanted Dead Or Alive: Manhunts From Geronimo To Bin Laden (Book Review)

Author Writes Of US Military's Strategic Manhunts -- Lancaster Online

"Wanted Dead or Alive: Manhunts From Geronimo to bin Laden" (Palgrave Macmillan), by Benjamin Runkle: When U.S. Navy SEALs last spring ended a seemingly endless manhunt by killing Osama bin Laden in his hide-out in an affluent suburb north of Pakistan's capital, the world learned that the code name given to the al-Qaida leader during that operation was Geronimo.

Although the designation upset some Native Americans, it had some compelling logic. The strategic manhunt launched by U.S. forces 125 years ago was targeted at Geronimo, the tribal warrior whose savage attacks on American settlers in the Southwest made him the target of Army troops who pursued him on both sides of the border with Mexico.

Read more ....

My Comment: Being a military history buff .... stories like this stirs my blood.

The Next Middle East War

Seeing Red Along The Blue Line -- Foreign Policy

Five years after the end of the Israel-Hezbollah war, both sides are furiously preparing for another round.

On July 30, 2006, an Israeli warplane dropped its deadly munitions on an apartment building in the southern Lebanese town of Qana as part of its military operations against Hezbollah during the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war. The aerial bombardment buried two large Lebanese families beneath the rubble -- killing 28 civilians, including 16 children. The attack carried grim echoes of the 1996 Israeli shelling of a U.N. compound in Qana, which killed 106 Lebanese civilians and wounded 116 more.

Read more

My Comment: Another Israel - Hezbollah will be a welcome distraction supported by many of the regions tyrants .... Gaddafi of Libya, Assad of Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, and the mullahs in Iran being the principle ones who will benefit from this change of focus from their behavior to that of a new war. And it is because of this need to change the narrative, that Hezbollah is now being pushed to start such a conflict .... a conflict that the Israelis themselves are more than eager to get embroiled into without any reservations.

What is my prediction .... I do not expect war, but if war breaks out the destruction that it will cause in Israel will be severe, and in response the Israelis will unleash a level of destruction on Lebanon not seen since the Israeli invasion of 1982.

More Calls To Rescind Military Ban On Women In Combat Roles

Activists, Lawmakers Renew Push To End Military’s Ban On Women In Combat Roles -- Washington Post

After 10 years of war, the work of women in the military is increasingly equal with that of men and yet, under a Defense Department policy, they are still technically barred from combat roles. That, some lawmakers, activists and service members fear, has meant their absence in the higher echelons of the force.

On Thursday, an overwhelmingly female group of lawmakers, activists and service members gathered on Capitol Hill as the Caucus on Women in the Military called for the removal of the policy, which states that women may not operate on the front lines of combat — “well forward on the battlefield” — or in places where they cannot be accommodated, long taken to mean environments like submarines.

Read more

My Comment: Personally .... I do not favor women participating in combat roles. But .... women are serving in combat roles, and will continue to do so in future wars regardless of my opinion. My prediction .... the military’s ban on women in combat roles will be officially eliminated in the next 5 years (if not sooner).

Operation "Fast and Furious" Is Raising Temperatures On Both Sides Of The U.S.-Mexican Border

For Mexicans, Fury Over Fast And Furious Only Confirms U.S. Role In Drug Violence -- McClatchy News

MEXICO CITY — While a gunrunning sting known as Fast and Furious is drawing criticism in Congress for losing track of weapons that were smuggled into Mexico, Mexicans say the controversy only confirms their conviction that the U.S. gun industry profits off of bloodshed south of the border.

As new details of the U.S. undercover operation emerged last week in congressional hearings in Washington, a broad array of Mexicans said the scandal simply underscores the ease with which brutal crime gangs obtain large quantities of assault weapons from U.S. gun shops near the border.

Read more ....

More News On Who Knew What On Operation "Fast and Furious"

ATF: The White House Knew -- FOX News
'Fast and Furious' traced to White House -- Catharine Evans, American Thinker
Fast & Furious Hearing Sending Shockwaves Towards White House & Eric Holder -- Ammo Land

Operation Fast and Furious: White House Kept in Dark On Botched Gun Trafficking Program -- IBTimes
Emails to White House didn't mention gun sting -- L.A. Times
Emails Debunk IBD's "The White House Knew" Claim -- Media Matters

My Comment: What is my take .... such a program would never be authorized .... I repeat .... it would be authorized unless it was OK'd by senior officials in the Justice department .... and maybe even higher than that. To think that this was a rogue operation from certain ATF officers is not convincing, especially in regards to the large number of weapons involved.

But .... there is still enough evidence (or lack of) to make one wonder if administration officials were kept in the dark, and that this was in fact a rogue operation. Either way .... this scandal is screaming for a special prosecutor .... and one should be appointed in the next few months.

Only 43 Percent Of The U.S. Navy’s Deployed Aircraft Are Fully Mission-Ready

An EA-18G Growler aligns itself for an at sea landing on the flight deck of the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan. Torrey Lee/U.S. Navy

Navy: Aircraft Better Off Than Reports Say, Future Readiness Still An Issue -- Stars And Stripes

A House Armed Services Committee report shows that only 43 percent of the Navy’s deployed aircraft are fully mission-ready.

Navy officials say the service is meeting war-time requirements despite such statistics but that the pace likely cannot be maintained, Military Times reported.

“Overall, the Navy’s readiness is acceptable,” Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Jon Greenert said last week at a House readiness subcommittee hearing, the military newspaper group reported.

Read more

My Comment: LOL .... "Future readiness is still an issue" .... you got to be kidding me .... read my previous post to know why this is an issue.

Proposed U.S. Debt Deal Will Cut $750 Billion From Defense Over 10 Years

Debt Deal Is Close, But Defense Cuts A Sticking Point -- McClatchy News

WASHINGTON -- White House and congressional negotiators were close to a last-minute deal Sunday to cut trillions of dollars in future federal spending while raising the nation's debt ceiling, but an agreement remained agonizingly elusive.

"We're hopeful and confident it can be done," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., who signed off on a deal subject to approval of his caucus. Virtually all other key players were said to be close to agreeing.

But House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, did not approve a deal, reportedly because he was concerned that defense spending could be cut too much.

Read more ....

Update: Reid Backs Debt Deal; Defense Cuts Still in Debate -- New York Times

My Comment: The key paragraph is the following ....

-A 12-member, bipartisan legislative committee to recommend further spending cuts, with the goal to come up with $1.5 trillion. If it fell short, the rest would be made up with automatic spending cuts, about half from defense and the rest from non-defense programs. Social Security, Medicare and veterans benefits would be exempt.

In short .... $750 billion in cuts from defense over 10 years.

No Decision On U.S. Troops Staying In Iraq, But Purchase Of U.S. Jets Is Still On

Five U.S. Air Force F-16 fighters jets fly in formation over the United States en route to an exercise in this undated file photograph. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Maliki said Saturday that his government would buy 36 fighters from the United States to strengthen its weak air defenses. (Reuters)

Iraq Boosts Purchase Of U.S. Jets, But No Decision On Troops -- McClatchy News

BAGHDAD — Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki on Saturday signaled continuing military cooperation with the United States, doubling the size of a planned purchase of U.S. fighter jets, but he sidestepped the crucial question of whether American troops will be asked to stay in the country past a Dec. 31 deadline for their withdrawal.

Maliki told reporters that the Iraqi government planned to buy 36 F-16 fighter jets to help the fledgling Air Force defend the country. Baghdad had postponed plans to purchase 18 of the multimillion-dollar jets, diverting almost $1 billion of the money to buying food for impoverished regions in a response to rising anti-government protests.

"We have to provide Iraq with aircraft to safeguard its sovereignty," Maliki said in announcing that the Iraqi military would revive the F-16 contract. "We will make it 36 instead of 18."

Read more

My Comment: The number one priority for any (and every) government is national security. If there is no national security, all the food aid programs in the world will not solve one's socio/economic ills and problems.

Iraq is in this situation today. The security situation is getting worse, and as a result investment, business growth, economic development, etc. .... this is now on the bottom of everyone's priority list. While providing food aid for the needy is noble, this will not solve Iraq's deep political/security/economic ills ... in fact .... it is just creating a dependency class that will only produce more resentment and anger in the future.

: Yes .... I know .... 36 jet fighters will not make a difference in Iraq's security situation. I am focusing on the bigger picture, of which having a functioning air force is just one minor but important detail.

Update: Iraq set to double planned purchase of F-16s, but will US troops stay into 2012? -- Christian Science Monitor

Why Are We Releasing Terrorists?

President Obama signed executive orders Thursday directing the Central Intelligence Agency to shut what remains of its network of secret prisons and ordering the closing of the Guantánamo detention camp within a year. Doug Mills/The New York Times

Terrorists Go Free -- Max Boot, The Daily

Early release for political killers is dangerously common.

In 2009, Scotland released on “humanitarian grounds” Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi, the only person convicted in connection with the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, which killed 270 people. The purported Libyan intelligence officer had served only eight years of a 27-year minimum sentence. Afflicted with prostate cancer, he supposedly had only three months to live. Yet there he was this week on Libyan state television, appearing at a rally for Moammar Gadhafi in Tripoli. He was in a wheelchair, looking frail, but he was undoubtedly alive.

Read more ....

My Comment: A good summary on our history of releasing terrorists. It seems we do not learn from our past.

UFO Found On The Ocean Floor?

UFO Found On Ocean Floor? -- MSNBC

Swedish explorer reports circular anomaly, but is it a 'flying saucer'? Hardly.

An ocean exploration team led by Swedish researcher Peter Lindberg has found what some are suggesting is a crashed flying saucer.

Lindberg's team, which has had success in the past recovering sunken ships and cargo, was using sonar to look for the century-old wreck of a ship that went down carrying several cases of a super-rare champagne. Instead, the team discovered what it claims is a mysterious round object that might (or might not) be extraterrestrial.

Read more

My Comment: My fun story for today.

Drones In Pakistan

This program does not exist, and Pakistan does not help it

Drones in Pakistan: Out Of The Blue -- The Economist

A growing controversy over the use of unmanned aerial strikes.

ONE day in March an American drone circled above Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal area, zeroed in on a gathering of village men, some of whom were armed, and unleashed three missiles in quick succession. It turned out to be a meeting to settle a dispute over a chromite mine. Most of the 40 or so killed were civilians, according to accounts, though a dozen Taliban also died in the attack, including a local commander, Sherabat Khan. The Taliban nowadays often adjudicate quarrels in the tribal areas, a wild buffer zone that runs along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan.

Read more ....

My Comment: Because there are no other viable options (short of sending ground forces into Pakistan), this is the best bet that we have so far.

Pictures Of Afghanistan Through An iPhone (Photo Gallery)

Left: Lance Cpl. Kevin Daly during a military operation near Doghaka village in Musa Qala district, Helmand province, Afghanistan, on Nov. 7, 2010. Right: Ali Mohammad, a 10-year-old refugee from Kandahar province, stands in front of his makeshift house in the Charahi Qambar refugee camp in Kabul on Feb. 27.

The War in Hipstamatic -- Foreign Policy

A rare and beautiful look at Afghanistan, through an iPhone.

It's been nearly 10 years since the U.S. war in Afghanistan began back in October 2001. Journalists and photographers flocked to Kabul and Tora Bora as the first bombs fell. The iPhone had not yet been invented; it would be another three years until anyone knew what Facebook was. Back then, Afghanistan was a war of necessity, a war of revenge. A decade later, Osama bin Laden -- the erstwhile target of the U.S. invasion -- is dead. The Taliban are dispersed; but still potent, still deadly. And we're almost five generations into the world's favorite smartphone.

Read more

My Comment: More iphone photo galleries are the following ....

II. Heavy Metal
III. Female Engagement
IV. Outside the Wire

Unrest In Syria -- News Updates July 31, 2011

Dozens Reportedly Die As Syrian Army Storms Restive City -- MSNBC

Newspaper: Bodies scattered in street after tanks strike opposition stronghold.

Syrian army tanks stormed the city of Hama at dawn on Sunday, killing dozens of civilians, residents and rights groups said, after besieging it for nearly a month to crush some of the biggest demonstrations against President Bashar al-Assad's rule.

At least 45 civilians were killed, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told Reuters, quoting hospital officials in the city.

The Associated Press, meanwhile, reported that at least 23 people have been killed in Hama.

Read more ....

More News On The Unrest in Syria

Syrian unrest: 'Many deaths' as army attacks Hama -- BBC
Syrian army 'kills at least 95' in Hama -- AFP
SYRIA: Videos show Assad regime's bloody pre-Ramadan offensive -- L.A. Times
Over 120 dead in Syria crackdown -- Al Bawaba News
Slaughter on the streets of Syria: 45 killed as tanks storm rebel city of Hama -- Daily Mail
Syrian tanks kill protesters in Hama -- The Guardian
Scores dead as Hama attacked by Syrian troops -- The Telegraph
Groups: Government forces, protesters clash in Syria, killing 67 -- CNN
Dozens killed as Syria army storms Hama -- Vancouver Sun/Reuters
Syrian Raid on Hama Kills 45 -- Voice of America
Syrian troops intensify raids ahead of Ramadan -- Washington Post
Factbox: Syria's city of Hama, site of new assault -- Reuters

Afghanistan War News Updates -- July 31, 2011

Sources: ISAF via Brookings Institution, AP. By The Washingon Post. Published on July 30, 2011, 9:36 p.m.

As Drawdown Approaches, U.S. Commanders In Afghanistan Reluctant To Leave -- L.A. Times

Garmser, Afghanistan — This farming district along the Helmand River, once one of the most Taliban-saturated corners of southern Afghanistan, has turned so quiet over the past three months that some U.S. Marines here quietly wish for a gunfight. “Just to get off a few rounds,” said one, “so we can feel like Marines.”

Since the 1st Battalion of the 3rd Marine Regiment arrived in Garmser in mid-April, they have struck fewer than 10 roadside bombs, none of which have proved fatal. Just one grenade and “no more bullets than you could fit in your front pocket” have been fired their way, said the battalion’s commander, Lt. Col. Sean Riordan.

Read more

More News On Afghanistan

FACTBOX-Security developments in Afghanistan, July 31 -- Alertnet

Afghanistan: Suicide attack in Lashkar Gah 'kills 13'
-- BBC
Suicide car bomber kills 10 Afghan policemen -- L.A. Times
Afghan blast kills 12 policemen, one child -- Yahoo News/Reuters
Bomb kills 11 at police HQ in southern Afghanistan -- Yahoo News/AP
Suicide bomber kills 10 Afghan officers, 1 child outside police headquarters -- Washington Post
10 Police, Child Killed in Southern Afghanistan -- Voice of America
Suicide Blast At Afghan Police Station Kills 13 -- Radio Free Europe

Afghanistan: Army officer 'worked for Taliban' -- BBC
Suspected Taliban spy arrested in Kabul, officials say -- CNN
Senior Afghan official arrested - secrets leaked -- SFGate/AP

Afghan civilians pay lethal price for new policy on air strikes
-- The Independent
Marine forces in demand: special operations grows into Afghan role -- Sign On San Diego
US military chief Mike Mullen takes the heat in Afghanistan -- BBC
In Kabul, Mullen Promotes U.S. Pullout -- New York Times
Mullen Confident Afghans Will Be Ready to Shoulder Security -- US Department of Defense
US troop drawdown plans due by mid-October; commanders concerned about Ramadan fighting -- Washington Post
US commanders concerned about Ramadan fighting -- Yahoo News/AP
Taliban leaders may take Ramadan break, US military says -- Jerusalem Post/Reuters
Gen. Stanley McChrystal: 'Jury is out' on U.S. efforts in Afghanistan --
Warlords, Government Capacity Threaten Afghan Mining-Watchdog -- New York Times/Reuters
In Afghanistan, Rage at Young Lovers -- New York Times
Afghanistan: The Taliban And The Impossible Dream -- Strategy Page
NATO casualties total 330 in Afghanistan since beginning 2011 -- Shanghai Daily

World News Briefs -- July 31, 2011

Syrian Tanks Kill Protesters In Hama -- The Guardian

Syrian troops' assault on opposition stronghold appears to be part of nationwide offensive ahead of start of Ramadan

Scores of people have been shot dead and there were reports of bodies lying in the streets of the opposition stronghold of Hama following a tank assault as Syrian troops unleashed an apparent nationwide offensive targeting protesters against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

Read more ....


95 dead in Syrian army attack on Hama: activist. Activists: Syrian military kills 45 in Hama attack. Syrian forces attack 4 opposition strongholds.

Iraq boosts purchase of U.S. jets, but no decision on troops. Iraq says to buy 36 F-16 fighters from U.S.

Airstrikes kill 40 pro-government Yemeni tribesmen.

Police: 50,000 protest soaring housing prices in Tel Aviv.

Verdict on US hikers in Iran 'soon'.


China: Unrest in Kashgar, Xinjiang, leaves 15 dead. 11 killed in 2 attacks in troubled NW China.

Suicide car bomber kills 10 Afghan policemen.

Pakistan puts travel curbs on US diplomats.

US presses N. Korea for 'irreversible' disarmament move.

Taiwan eases up on mainland Chinese visitors.


Libya rebels overrun rogue faction. Rebels clash with Gaddafi loyalists near Benghazi. Rebels attack last Gaddafi western mountain stronghold.

Somalia famine: African Union calls 'pledging summit'.

Mubarak's trial moved to police academy for security reasons. Trial judge for Egypt's Mubarak to speed process.

Nigeria plans talks with Islamist group Boko Haram.

Moroccan King renews call to mend ties with Algeria.

Ramadan from Monday in Saudi, other Muslim nations.


The damning of Tony Blair: Former PM to be held to account on Iraq in Chilcot report on war.

Norway attacks: Breivik 'had other targets'.

Serbia calls for peace in crisis with Kosovo.

Ukraine mourns 37 dead in mining accidents.


US parties hopeful for deal on US debt limit. Possible debt plan emerges as lawmakers race clock to clinch deal.

Plane from New York crashes at Guyana airport.

Aide to former Colombian president faces arrest.

Report: Leader of La Linea gang arrested in Mexico.


U.S. is refocused on covert strikes in Pakistan.

Pakistani Taliban, linked to al-Qaeda, targeted for UN sanctions.

White House adviser says U.S. has 6 months to ‘knock out’ rattled Qaeda leadership.


Goldman's new money machine: warehouses.

What the government debt crisis means to you.

Global confidence in U.S. Treasuries has ‘slightly eroded,’ Lagarde says.

Camouflage Guru Guy Cramer Interviewed on NPR

SOTG Soldier in Support of Afghan National Police. Photo by ISAFMedia

Camouflage Guru Guy Cramer Interviewed on NPR -- Tactical Gear and Military Clothing News

Guy Cramer was featured on NPR today giving his background information, previous projects, and current camouflage innovations he has been working on.

Many articles have been released lately covering his camouflage designs, and some of his projects have created quite the buzz. Many are touting him as a great innovator while other detractors think it is all hype.

Read more

My Comment: The audio interview is a must listen to.

Even If Al Qaeda is Gone, The Islamist Terrorist Threat Remains

Whatever the Fate of al-Qaeda, the Islamist Terrorist Threat Remains -- Max Boot, Commentary

There is a clear and present danger of premature triumphalism when American counter-terrorism officials proclaim al-Qaeda is “on the brink of collapse.” As Daveed Garstenstein-Ross notes at National Review, we have been hearing such proclamations since 2003, and each time, al-Qaeda has managed to defy reports of its demise. In fact, the al-Qaeda network has shown an impressive ability to regenerate itself–hardly surprising since the resources needed to carry out a single terrorist attack, even one as high-profile as 9/11, are fairly small.

Read more ....

My Comment: Could not have said it any better.

What Will Be The Future Of The Russian Army? (Photo Gallery)

Mi Night Hunter. The helicopter is supplied with a tank gun 2A42, which is never overheated. The helicopter can stay above the object as close as 5 meters and handle the head-on attack of 20 mm cannon. It is superior to the American Apache AH-64.

My Comment: From English Russia ....

.... In 2011 rearming of the Russian fighting forces was announced. It is planned to purchase 1000 helicopters, 600 military airplanes, 100 military ships, including 8 nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines. Let’s see what Russian Army will look like in a couple of years.

The photo gallery can be seen here.

If You Like Low Passes and Good Music

My Comment: Some of these passes are waaayyyyy tooooo low for me.

For Most Muslims Ramadan Starts This Monday

Saudi, Most Gulf States To Start Ramadan On Monday -- Reuters

Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, will start the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan on Monday along with most other Gulf states, regional media said on Saturday.

Reports from Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates said the new moon had not been sighted after sunset on Saturday, indicating that Sunday would be regarded as the last day of the Muslim lunar month preceding Ramadan.

In nearby Yemen, Ramadan will also start on Monday.

Read more

My Comment: The AFP says it best for governments facing today's popular uprisings ..... "Throughout history, Ramadan has been the month of revolutions and victory".


A U.S. - Saudi Nuclear Pact?

Obama Administration Mulls India-Style Nuclear Pact With Saudi Arabia -- Christian Science Monitor

US officials are planning to hold talks with Saudi Arabia next week over a potential civilian nuclear pact. But Israeli concerns and Saudi Arabia's rivalry with Iran could complicate matters.

The Obama administration is quietly moving ahead on the groundwork for a possible civilian nuclear trade agreement with Saudi Arabia – an agreement that could prove to be the most controversial of a string of such US deals in recent years.

The US plans to hold what State Department officials are calling “exploratory talks” in Riyadh next week to gauge Saudi objectives behind their interest in a civilian nuclear deal. The US also wants to explore whether the Saudi government would accept restrictions to ensure its nuclear fuel is used purely for civilian purposes, according to congressional sources.

Read more ....

Update #1: U.S., Saudis to Discuss Nuclear Agreement -- Wall Street Journal
Update #2: Lawmaker: US seeks Saudi nuclear energy deal -- AP
Update #3: US, Saudi Arabia to discuss nuclear cooperation -- AFP

My Comment: I guess this is what they mean when you make a pact with the devil .... you have to because your options are very limited.

Nuclear-Detection Effort Is Halted

Nuclear-Detection Effort Is Halted as Ineffective -- New York Times

ASPEN, Colo. — The Obama administration has quietly canceled a much-criticized billion-dollar program to equip ports across the United States with detectors to pick out radioactive material and nuclear weapons being shipped into the country, after acknowledging that the devices did not work.

The decision amounts to a major setback for an effort begun by the Bush administration after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, to ease fears that terrorist groups could easily slip nuclear weapons or the parts to build them into one of the millions of cargo containers that enter the country each year.

Read more ....

My comment: This is not good news ... not good at all.

Picture Of The Day

SABRE SUNRISE - The sun rises over the flight deck on the nuclear aircraft carrier USS George Washington in the Indian Ocean, July 22, 2011. The USS George Washington is participating in Talisman Sabre 2011, a bilateral exercise to train Australian and U.S. forces in planning and conducting combined operations to improve combat readiness and interoperability. U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Marcus D. Mince

Mogadishu Flooded With Starving Refugees

Despite continued fighting in Mogadishu, thousands of refugees from Somali's drought-hit south are arriving in the capital. Above, refugees queue for food in a camp in the suburbs. Photograph: Mustafa Abdi/AFP/Getty Images

Somali Refugees Brave Fighting In Mogadishu In Hope Of UN Food Aid -- The Guardian

Tens of thousands flee drought-hit southern Somalia as UN begins food deliveries to war-torn capital.

Hit by the worst drought in 60 years, tens of thousands of people are leaving the rural areas of central and southern Somalia for the war-ravaged capital, Mogadishu, where last week the UN's World Food Programme (WFP) started an airlift operation to deliver to 20 feeding centres.

Despite continuing fighting, with troops of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) and African Union-led forces battling the Islamic militants of al-Shabaab, more and more people are coming into the city, hoping to find relief from a drought that is affecting 11 million in Somalia alone.

Read more

My Comment: When you are starving and thirsty, bullets flying around are the least of your worries.

U.S. Debt Crisis: Foreign Bond-Holders Will Be Paid Before Soldiers Fighting in Afghanistan

Now America Warns Troops They Might Not Be Paid As Debt Stand-Off Threatens To Plunge World Economies Back Into Recession -- Daily Mail

*Soldiers told their salaries are lower priority than interest payments to foreign bond-holders
*Renewed bi-partisan talks tonight as leaders make desperate last-minute stab at compromise

American soldiers in Afghanistan have been warned they may not be paid after President Obama failed in an 11th-hour attempt to reach a settlement over the U.S. deficit.

In a crisis that has potentially devastating consequences for the world economy, the U.S. will run out of money to pay its bills next Wednesday unless squabbling Washington legislators raise the country's $14.3 trillion (£8.7tn) debt ceiling.

Troops fighting in Afghanistan have been told that the Obama administration is expected to make their salaries a lower priority than interest payments to foreign bond-holders.

Read more

My Comment: No leadership (or budget/debt proposal) from the White House, a Senate 2 and half years behind in submitting a budget, and a Congress determined to block any attempt to raise the debt ceiling. A disaster in the making .... and it will be some young soldier in some far distant FOB with a young family back home dependent on his pay who will suffer.

Changes In Turkey's Military Leadership Increases Tensions Between Islamists And Secularists

Turkey's Prime Minister Appoints New Armed Forces Chief -- Voice of America

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has appointed the chief of the paramilitary police, Necdet Ozel, as acting head of the armed forces. The move came after Turkey's entire military command resigned Friday amid escalating tensions between the secularist military and Islamic-rooted government.

Necdet Ozel's appointment to head the armed forces came within hours of the mass resignations, as Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul moved quickly to defuse the crisis.

Speaking at a news conference, President Gul downplayed the resignations.

Read more ....

More News On Changes In Turkey's Military Leadership

Turkish Leaders Assert Control Following Resignation of Top Military Chiefs -- IBTimes
Turkey curbs power of the military after generals resign -- The National
Erdogan focuses on constitution as Turkey's top brass quit -- Reuters
Erdogan unfazed by military resignations -- The Hindu
Turkey's resignations, a sign of military decline -- AP
Turkey seeks solution to army resignation crisis -- AFP
The Turkish military snaps -- CNN
Turkey's top generals resign in apparent rift with Erdogan government -- Christian Science Monitor

Saturday, July 30, 2011

One Tough Bomb-Hunting Dog Of War The Taliban Couldn't Kill

Courage: Hobo with Private Patrick Medhurst-Feeny, one of the vets who helped to treat him

Back On Duty: The Plucky Bomb-Hunting Dog Of War The Taliban Couldn't Kill -- Daily Mail

An army dog which suffered life-threatening injuries in a Taliban attack less than two weeks ago will be celebrating his third birthday back on the frontline tomorrow.

Hobo, a bomb-hunting black labrador with A Company, 2nd Battalion Royal Gurkha Rifles, was badly wounded when a patrol came under heavy fire in Helmand Province ten days ago.

As enemy grenades were hurled at the patrol’s position, Hobo was hit three times by shrapnel in his neck, abdomen and body. Comrades saved his life by giving first aid to stem the bleeding until he was taken by helicopter to the safety of Camp Bastion along with wounded soldiers.

Read more ....

My Comment: This story reminds me of a post that Theo Spark had today.

The Debate On Using Drone Strikes Against Al Qaeda Leaders Continues

Top US Officials Debate Drone Strikes In Pakistan -- Times of India

ASPEN: The White House's top adviser on Afghanistan and Pakistan said on Friday that taking out three to five key al-Qaida leaders could amount to a "knockout punch" against the group.

Speaking at the Aspen Security Forum, retired Lt. Gen. Douglas Lute said now is the time to keep up US counterterrorist actions in Pakistan, even if they upset the Pakistani government.

Lute said killing al-Qaida successor Ayman al-Zawahri and four of his lieutenants in the next six months could "significantly jeopardize al-Qaida's capacity to regenerate."

Read more ....

My Comment
: The strikes will continue until a better alternative is found .... which for the moment there is none.

Is China Causing Africa's 'Catastrophic Famine'?

Dead livestock in Somaliland (Oxfam). Image:

Germany Accuses China Of Causing 'Catastrophic' Starvation In Africa -- Business Insider

Germany's Africa policy chief Guenter Nooke said that the destructive drought in the Horn of Africa is a man-made "catastrophe."

According to Agence France-Presse, he blames Chinese land buy-ups there for greatly exacerbating the already tremendous humanitarian crisis and causing social conflicts and conditions that rob small farmers of their livlihoods.

Read more ....

My Comment
: Man is responsible for the 'catastrophic' starvation in Africa, but it is not the fault of China for this disaster. Failed states, perpetual war, tribal/religious conflicts .... Africa has failed itself .... and it has not needed outside intervention to accomplish this.

Is Iran Developing Missiles That Could Reach The U.S. Shores?

Part of Iran's Navy. Payvand

Iranian Missiles Could Soon Reach U.S. Shores -- Reza Kahlili, Washington Times

Mullahs’ navy equips ships for attacks from Atlantic.

While America focuses on its internal problems and its involvement in three wars and the world focuses on the global economy, Iran is progressing on three dangerous fronts: nuclear weapons, armed missiles and naval capability.

Despite four sets of United Nations sanctions and pressure by the United States and Europe, Iran has chosen not only to continue its nuclear program but to expand it. Iran’s leaders, dominated by fanatical mullahs, announced in mid-July that the installment of faster centrifuges had begun and that they will soon triple the production of enriched uranium to 20 percent at the Fardo nuclear facility deep in the mountain near the city of Qom. It is estimated that Iran will have enough highly enriched uranium for one nuclear bomb within two months and currently has enough low-enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs.

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My Comment: I doubt that the Iranians have the capability or resources to accomplish such a feat. And if they did, in the event of hostilities they would be easily targeted and taken out by US forces. If we are to be concerned about Iranian missile development targeting the U.S, it would be through developments like this one.

Marines Show Off Stealth F-35 Jet

Iran's Gas Pipelines Targeted By Opponents

Explosion Rocks Iranian Gas Line To Turkey -- UPI

TEHRAN, July 29 (UPI) -- Natural gas supplies from Iran to Turkey were disrupted when an explosion struck a natural gas pipeline connecting the countries, Iranian officials said.

A blast early Friday struck a natural gas pipeline near Maku, which is near the Iranian-Turkish border, cutting gas supplies, unnamed officials told Iran's semiofficial Mehr news agency.

The report indicated that responders were able to get the blaze under control and extract excess gas from a broken pipeline section.

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More News On Iran's Gas Pipelines Being Targeted

Iran resumes gas exports to Turkey after pipeline blast -- Reuters
Gas Pipeline Explodes Near Iran-Turkey Border -- Eurasia Review
‘US, Israeli mercenaries’ blow up Iran-Turkey gas line -- DAWN
'US, Israeli mercenaries' blow up Iran-Turkey gas line - -AFP

My Comment: The list of possible suspects is long, and I would not put Israel or the US at the top of that list.

More On Waste And Fraud In Pentagon Contracts

Photo: Dod Buzz

Dubai Firm Overbilled Pentagon $900 for $7 Switch, Bowen Says -- Bloomberg

A U.S. contractor in Iraq overbilled the Pentagon by at least $4.4 million for spare parts and equipment, including $900 for an electronic control switch valued at $7.05, according to a new audit.

Based on the questionable costs identified in a $300 million contract with Dubai-based Anham LLC, the U.S. should review all its contracts with the company in Iraq and Afghanistan, which total about $3.9 billion, said Special Inspector General For Iraq Reconstruction Stuart Bowen.

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My Comment: For more on this horrid story of waste and fraud, read this.

The War Against Vets Committing Suicides Continues

Battle Within Fort May Decide War On Suicide -- Star Tribune

Fort Campbell, home to the most often deployed combat force in the Army, is using new approaches to combat an alarming rate of suicide.

Sgt. Patrick Cummings suffered his second traumatic brain injury when a 155mm shell exploded midbarrel as he and other soldiers fired a howitzer against the Taliban. The blast should have killed everyone within a 100-yard radius, but here was Cummings, sitting on a table at the All American Tattoo Company outside Fort Campbell, spending his Valentine's Day night alongside two fellow soldiers who also survived the blast.

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My Comment: This is a problem that is going to be with us for a very long time.

Lighter, Newer, Deadlier Gear On The Way For U.S. Soldiers

The XM806 Lightweight .50 Caliber Machine Gun provides vehicle and weapon squads with a lightweight .50 caliber weapon system that is easily dismounted from vehicles for ground mount applications.

Lighter, Newer, Deadlier Gear May Be On The Way -- Army Times

60mm mortar is on the horizon, but.50-cal, new tank ammo face hurdles.

A lighter 60mm mortar is gun-up, new tank ammo is loaded but in a tactical pause, and the lightweight .50-caliber machine gun is clearing a considerable jam. Such is the status of three key weapon and munitions programs.

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My Comment: Another good article to read on lightening the load for US soldiers is .... Soldiers May Soon Have Lighter Machine Gun.

Iraq Is Now More Dangerous Than A Year Ago

Photo: Iraq is a less safe place than one year ago, just months ahead of a US withdrawal a US watchdog warned. Big Pond News

U.S. Review Finds Iraq More Dangerous Than A Year Ago -- Washington Post

BAGHDAD — Increased attacks on U.S. troops, a continuing wave of assassinations targeting government officials and a growing number of indirect rocket strikes on Baghdad’s Green Zone are making the security situation in Iraq more dangerous than a year ago, according to a new government watchdog report issued Saturday.

“Iraq remains an extraordinarily dangerous place to work,” U.S. Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction Stuart W. Bowen Jr. wrote in his quarterly report to Congress and the Obama administration. “It is less safe, in my judgment, than 12 months ago.”

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More News On The Deteriorating Situation In Iraq

US review finds Iraq deadlier now than a year ago
-- Yahoo News/AP
U.S. official: Iraq 'less safe' than it was last year -- CNN
U.S. review finds Iraq is deadlier now than it was a year ago -- Stars and Stripes
US watchdog warns Iraq less safe than a year ago, security slipping -- Herald Sun/AFP
Iraq less safe than a year ago -- Big Pond News

My Comment
: These findings are confirming the concerns and worries that many have had on the early withdrawal of US troops, and the inability of Iraq's security forces to quell the violence. My prediction .... the US State Departments efforts to train Iraq's security forces will stumble, and the security situation in Iraq (by next year) will have worsened.

Are Washington And Tehran Headed For A Showdown?

How Iran And America Could Wind Up At War -- Ilan Berman, Forbes

Are Washington and Tehran headed for a showdown?

For much of the past decade, conventional wisdom has held that Iran’s dogged pursuit of a nuclear capability – carried out in spite of mounting pressure from the international community – will ultimately become a casus belli for Washington. Early on in his tenure, President George W. Bush even went so far as to declare that the U.S. “will not tolerate” Iran arming itself with nuclear weapons, and to indicate that he was prepared to use force to prevent it.

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My Comment: This is my must read post analysis for today. What is my take .... many of the wars that America has fought in its history has come about from the other side not realizing the commitment and determination of America to prosecute a full out war to the finish. Osama Bin Laden certainly did not believe it, and Saddam Hussein definitely underestimated this resolve. Will Iran do the same mistake .... I certainly hope not .... for theirs and our sake.

U.S. Default Fears Intensify

Default Dears Worsen As US Senate Blocks Debt-Ceiling Bill -- The Telegraph

The Democrat-controlled US Senate has blocked a Republican debt-ceiling bill, just two hours after it was narrowly passed in the House of Representatives.

Congress was earlier warned that it was "playing with fire" and President Barack Obama appealed for a compromise as the Tuesday deadline for a resolution of the debt crisis talks loomed ever closer.

The Senate is now instead debating a Democrat plan to avoid a US government default, a spectre that has created fears of a fresh world recession. The Treasury department says that the US will default on its financial obligations on Tuesday if agreement is not reached on raising the debt ceiling.

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Update: Senate headed for critical debt vote Sunday -- Washington Post

My Comment: What is my take .... an agreement will be reached before Tuesday. But I also agree with Moody's that in the end it is not going to make any difference.

Update: China loses patience with US leaders who 'kidnapped' world finance -- The Independent

U.S. Soldiers Fighting In Afghanistan Are Asking If They Will Get Paid

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen addresses the media on the tarmac at Joint Base Andrews Naval Air Facility, Md., July 28, 2011. Mullen is on a five-day USO tour with comedian Jon Stewart, NBA Legend Karl Malone and magician David Blaine visiting troops in Afghanistan. DOD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley

Troops Ask Amid Debt Crisis: Will We Get Paid? -- MSNBC

'I honestly can't answer that question,' Admiral Mike Mullen says in Afghanistan

CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan — A half a world away from the Capitol Hill deadlock, the economy and debt crisis are weighing heavily on U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

And the top question on their minds Saturday even as bombings rocked the city around them, was one the top U.S. military officer couldn't answer.

Will we get paid?

"I honestly can't answer that question," Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told troops at Kandahar air base in southern Afghanistan, as several expressed anxiety over budget wrangling in Washington.

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More News On The Debt Crisis And Its Impact On US Military Pay

Budget, debt worries plague troops -- AP
Anxiety in Afghanistan over troops pay if U.S. defaults -- Yahoo News/Reuters
Budget Woes Top List of Concerns in Afghanistan -- US Department of Defense
Anxiety in Afghanistan over troops' pay if U.S. defaults -- Stars and Stripes
Mullen hears litany of budget, debt worries from troops as he travels Afghanistan -- Newser

My Comment: This is unprecedented, but legitimate. With no support within Congress for a 'Pay Troops First' bill, a prolonged government shutdown will impact checks and payments. In turn, the negative impact on the morale of US soldiers in conflict zones will be profound and long lasting.

Afghanistan War News Updates -- July 30, 2011

Afghanistan's Warring Sides Seek Advantage Prior to Possible Talks -- Voice of America

The U.S.-led war in Afghanistan is approaching its 10-year anniversary with no end in sight to the fighting. There are efforts, however, to negotiate a political settlement to the conflict.

This is the fighting season, the summer months when poppy farmers are not in their fields and mountain paths are clear of snow. And the fighting is particularly intense as the Taliban look to retain control of territory, particularly in the east and south.

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More News on Afghanistan

ISAF Condemns Deadly IED Attack -- US Department of Defense
2 NATO troops, 7 Afghan soldiers die in blast -- Army Times
Roadside bombs kill 19 civilians, 2 NATO service members in Afghanistan -- Washington Post
Official: 7 Afghan soldiers, translator, killed -- AP
Afghanistan bombs kill 23 civilians on bus and tractor -- The Guardian
Coalition holds line on Taliban attacks, data show -- USA Today
U.S. Military Chief Aims to Reassure Afghans After Attacks -- New York Times/Reuters
Mullen: Coalition Maintains Momentum in Kandahar -- US Department of Defense
Violence up in southern Afghanistan -- Denver Post
Report Clears Afghanistan Training Commander --US Department of Defense
British soldiers face longer tours in Afghanistan because of savage cuts to troop numbers -- Daily Mail
UK judges say they cannot free Afghanistan detainee -- BBC
Kandahar mayor's battle against corruption cost him his life, daughter says -- Media News
Anxiety in Afghanistan over troops pay if U.S. defaults -- Yahoo News/Reuters
Taliban Graffiti Decorates Walls Of U.S. Marine Headquarters In Afghanistan (PHOTOS) -- Huffington Post
Kabul's economy leaves poor in the dark -- the Age
At least 1,571 US military deaths in Afghanistan since 2001 -- Washington Post