Friday, January 31, 2014

Editor's Note

I am finishing up on a work project. Blogging will return late Sunday night/Monday morning.

Commentaries, Opinions, And Editorials -- January 31, 2014

Syrian Government Accused Of 'Starve Or Surrender' Policy Against Civilians -- Paul Lewis, The Guardian

• US condemns Assad regime tactics in rebel-held cities
• Geneva eace talks fail to reach any discernible agreement

The United States accused Syria of enacting a “starve or surrender” policy toward civilians in rebel-held areas on Friday, after peace negotiations between the regime and opposition groups failed to achieve any discernible progress.

There had been hope that the first round of talks, which ended on Friday, would yield an agreement to allow aid convoys to deliver food and medicine to hundreds of thousands in the suburbs of Damascus and Homs.

Read more ....

Commentaries, Opinions, And Editorials

How Kerry Put Netanyahu in a Bind -- Jeffrey Goldberg, Bloomberg

On Iran, compromise is needed -- Fareed Zakaria, Washington Post

Comment: West Africa - the new epicentre of piracy -- Keith Johnson, Foreign Policy/SBS

Obama giving up on Afghanistan? -- Benny Avni, New York Post

China and Japan Must Find Middle Ground -- Rana Mitter, Bloomberg

United Against China? -- New York Times editorial

US to China: “Happy New Year.” China to US: “Give us our money back.” -- Lily Kuo, Quartz

Pacific Pivot? More Like Retreat -- John Feffer, Real Clear World

How Washington is losing Asia to China -- Harry J. Kazianis, Washington Times

Why Russians feel adrift in a post-Soviet world -- David Greene, Washington Post

Don’t Fear El Salvador’s Leftists -- William G. Walker, New York Times

El Salvador in Peril: If leftist Sánchez Cerén becomes president, the future would be grim. -- Otto Reich, NRO

Argentina’s coming collapse -- Washington Post editorial

Argentina is no danger to the world - but the eurozone is -- The Telegraph

Obama’s foreign policy ‘to-do’ list -- Brian Katulis, Washington Post

Why Should You Be Worried About NSA Surveillance? -- NPR

The New Age of Nationalism -- Zachary Keck, The Diplomat

World News Briefs -- January 31, 2014

Syria Crisis: Geneva Peace Talks End In Recriminations -- BBC

The Syrian government and opposition have traded insults after a week-long peace conference in Geneva ended with no firm agreement.

Foreign Minister Walid Muallem said the opposition were immature, while the opposition's Louay Safi said the regime had no desire to stop the bloodshed.

However, UN envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said he had seen some "common ground", and scheduled more talks for 10 February.

The opposition has agreed to take part, but Mr Muallem refused to commit.

Read more ....


Syria talks end first round, government not committed to return. Syria peace talks end without breakthrough.

Gaps 'wide' as Syria talks wrap up first round.

UN humanitarian chief: Frustrated that Syrian talks ended with no deal for trapped civilians.

Activists: 1,900 killed in Syria during talks.

More than 1,000 killed in Iraq in January.

Iraqi militants target Baghdad airport with rocket strike.

Egypt says it killed 13 'extremists' in Sinai airstrikes.

Next round of Iran nuclear talks slated for mid-February. Six powers, Iran to begin new nuclear talks on February 18.

Yemeni militants kill 15 soldiers in Hadramawt attack.

Hundreds protest against Israeli settlements.

U.S. hopes for 'framework' Mideast peace deal within weeks.

Peace plan would allow 75 percent of Jewish settlers to remain in West Bank, envoy says.


N. Korea nuclear, missile programs making progress.

After billions in U.S. investment, Afghan roads are falling apart.

International ocean drilling expedition heads for South China Sea.

Malaysian Admiral plays down talk of Chinese naval incursion.

Musharraf's plea to leave Pakistan rejected. Pervez Musharraf: Pakistan issues new arrest warrant.

Anger as China forces out US journo.

U.S. FAA downgrades India aviation rating; Air India, Jet hit.

Australia Great Barrier Reef dredge dumping plan approved.


AU: Standby force needed to respond to conflicts.

Exclusive: South Sudan rebel leader says government derailing peace talks.

South Sudan: MSF workers 'flee into bush'.

Defense expert calls for thousands of US troops in Africa.

Red Cross: 30 killed in CAR capital.

CAR emergency food supplies very low.

Insight-surge in cocaine trade undermines Conde's bid to revive Guinea.

Tsvangirai urged to quit as Zimbabwe opposition leader.

UN targets wildlife traders in Africa sanctions.

UN denounces Egypt's clampdown on journalists.


Ukraine president signs amnesty but anger remains, currency slumps. Ukraine’s President signs amnesty bill; Military wants 'stabilization'.

Ukraine faces debt downgrade as Russia puts loan on hold.

‘I believe Sochi is safe’ – Obama.

Anglo-French summit puts EU reform differences on display.

Kerry seeks to calm German anger at NSA reports.

Goldman investment sparks political row in Denmark.

Fall in eurozone inflation rate fuels deflation concerns.

Royal Navy strengthens presence in Gibraltar.

Vodka blamed for high death rates in Russia.


With Obama, CEOs pledge to stop ignoring the long-term unemployed.

U.S. to push for early release of more federal prisoners.

Nearly half of America lives paycheck-to-paycheck.

Record Brazil heat pressures crops, energy prices, government.

Mexico arrests Jalisco New Generation drug lord El Menchito.

Analysis: Argentina policies adrift as inflation spiral looms.

CSEC Snowden docs: Canadian MPs grill defence minister on spying revelation.

Venezuela's best and brightest camp on sidewalks.

Web developers gather for 'Hackathon for Cuba'.


France-UK effort against young Syria-bound Islamists.

Indonesian extremists drawn to Syrian conflict.

House targets Obama claim that al Qaeda is ‘on the path to defeat’.

Egypt faces new threat in al-Qaida-linked group Ansar Beyt al-Maqdis.

Report: Senior al Qaeda facilitator 'back on the street' in Iran.


Report: Keystone XL pipeline 'won't boost oil sands use'.

Facebook and Google buy two India-based start-ups.

Michael Bloomberg tapped to be UN envoy for cities and climate change.

Military And Intelligence News Briefs -- January 31, 2014

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

US Navy Faces Aircraft Carrier Cuts -- Zachary Keck, The Diplomat

Even as China moves to quadruple its carrier fleet, the US may reduce the number of carriers it fields and deploys.

Even as China moves to quadruple its carrier fleet, the U.S. is seeking to reduce the number of aircraft carriers it fields and deploys.

Earlier this week, Defense News reported that, while no decisions had been made, the Pentagon is actively considering eliminating one of the eleven aircraft carriers the U.S. Navy currently fields as part of its 2015 fiscal year budget request. The report, which cited numerous unnamed sources “in the Pentagon, on Capitol Hill, [and] in the defense industry,” said that a carrier air wing could also be eliminated as part of the FY 2015 budget.

Read more ....


AU: Standby Force Needed to Respond to Conflicts -- Voice of America

Inside Pakistani Anti-Bomb School -- AP

N. Korea Nuclear, Missile Programs Making Progress -- Voice of America

US Alleges Russian Missile Treaty Violation – Report -- RIA Novosti

US briefs Nato on Russian 'nuclear treaty breach' -- BBC

Russia Arms Sales Grew Sharply in 2012 – Report -- RIA Novosti

Russian Women Urged to Join Army Ranks -- RIA Novosti

UK could afford to cut Trident submarines, report says -- BBC

Royal Navy strengthens presence in Gibraltar -- Gibraltar Chronicle

China Making Air Force, Navy Upgrades, U.S. Officials Say -- Bloomberg Businessweek

The Type 056 corvette: China's new anti-sub weapon of choice -- Want China Times

Pentagon says PLAAF would be strained by conflict in South China Sea -- (Hat Tip: Alert Five)

Malaysian Admiral Plays Down Talk of Chinese Naval Incursion -- New York Times

US cavalry battalion arrives in Korea for 'plus-up' deployment -- Stars and Stripes

American tanks return to Europe after brief leave -- Stars and Stripes

Hagel Hails Poland as Important Strategic Ally -- US Department of Defense

Kerry Seeks to Calm German Anger at NSA Reports -- AP

Defense expert calls for thousands of US troops in Africa -- Stars and Stripes

Army Looks to Build Air-Droppable Armored Vehicle --

Forty years later, Lockheed is still building F-16s -- Stars and Stripes/Fort Worth Star-Telegram

Bunker-Buster Bomb Upgrades Effective, Tester Finds -- Bloomberg

SOCOM Develops Dry Submersible Mini-Sub for SEALs -- Defense Tech

Driverless Trucks Will Keep Army Safe From IEDs -- Danger Room

Premature Weapons Testing Drains Military Budget -- DoD Buzz

Northrop Grumman Accused of Missile-Defense Contract Fraud -- Bloomberg Businessweek

Commission: Cut active-duty Air Force, boost Reserves -- The Hill

Report puts Snowden-like leaks as No. 2 threat to US security -- Stars and Stripes/Tribune Washington Bureau

FACT CHECK: NSA leaks worst intelligence breach? -- Stars and Stripes

Suicides in the Army declined sharply in 2013 -- Stars and Stripes/USA Today

One year later, military criticized over rate of progress for women in combat -- Stars and Stripes

Congress to investigate Navy bribery scandal -- Stars and Stripes

Enable the Warrior-Diplomat -- Karl Kadon, War On the Rocks

Corruption May Be The Chinese Military's Toughest Problem

Soldiers of the Chinese People's Liberation Army 1st Amphibious Mechanized Infantry Division prepare to provide Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Adm. Mike Mullen with a demonstration of their capablities during a visit to the unit in China on July 12, 2011. Mullen is on a three-day trip to the country meeting with counterparts and Chinese leaders. (DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley/Released)

The Chinese Military's Toughest Opponent: Corruption -- Shannon Tiezzi, The Diplomat

Is Xi Jinping willing to bring his anti-corruption drive to bear on the People’s Liberation Army?

South China Morning Post reported details this week on an official government raid of the home of Lt. Gen. Gu Junshan, one of the highest-ranking PLA officers to ever be investigated for graft. Gu, who used to be the deputy chief of the PLA’s General Logistics Department, reportedly had quite a collection of treasures at his home in Henan Province, including “a pure gold statue of Mao Zedong, a gold wash basin, a model boat made of gold and crates of Maotai liquor.”

For all the recent fervor in the United States over China’s military modernization programs, corruption within the ranks could be weakening these efforts behind the scenes. According to Xinhua, China’s official defense budget for 2013 was $114.3 billion, a 10.7 percent increase over 2012. Western analysts such as Andrew S. Erickson and Adam P. Liff have noted that it is incredibly difficult to tell exactly what this money is being used for. “China still does not release even basic information that would provide insight into intra-PLA spending priorities, including a budget breakdown by service, the total amount spent on weapons imports, or the procurement costs of specific weapons and platforms,” they told the National Bureau of Asian Research in 2013.

Read more ....

My Comment: As one who has lived in China and who travels there regularly .... the number one problem that all of my Chinese friends and business associates in China always bring up to me is the problem of corruption. It is endemic and deeply ingrained .... and it is the number one peeve among everyone who lives there. The fact that the Chinese military has not been able to escape this scourge does not surprise me one bit.

China Goes 'All-Out' To Control The Media Message

China Kills Off Discussion On Weibo After Internet Crackdown -- The Telegraph

Exclusive: An aggressive crackdown on Sina Weibo has seen numbers of postings on the Twitter-like microblogging site plummet according to research commissioned by the Telegraph.

China has succeeded in neutering the country’s most free-flowing and important source of news and opinion according to new research which shows a dramatic drop in activity on the online phenomenon Sina Weibo.

Research commissioned by the Telegraph shows that the number of posts on the hugely successful Twitter-like microblog may have fallen by as much as 70 per cent in the wake of an aggressive campaign by the Communist party to intimidate influential users.

Once an incalculably important public space for news and opinion - a fast-flowing river of information that censors struggled to contain - it has arguably now been reduced to a wasteland of celebrity endorsements, government propaganda and corporate jingles.

Read more ....

My Comment: The Chinese government is also focusing on the foreign media.

U.S. Military Intelligence: China's Navy And Air Force Continues To Upgrade Their 'Assets'

Developing China’s carrier-borne air force. Xinhuanet

China Making Air Force, Navy Upgrades, U.S. Officials Say -- Bloomberg

China’s air force is fielding new precision-guided cruise missiles, long-range bombers and drones as its Navy expands its long-range punch, according to U.S. military intelligence officials.

“While we would not characterize the modernization as accelerated,” it’s “progressing at a steady pace” and is significant, Lee Fuell, a director at the Air Force’s National Air and Space Intelligence Center, said in a presentation released yesterday.

Fuell’s presentation and one prepared by the Office of Naval Intelligence for a hearing of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission in Washington are the most detailed new public assessments of the Chinese air force’s and navy’s growing military capabilities.

Read more ....

My Comment: Apparently the Chinese are also looking at developing and fielding more "exotic" weapons.

Senior US Congressional Delegation Ignored On A Trip To The Saudi Kingdom

Saudis Snub US Congressional Delegation -- Washington Free Beacon

Saudi Arabian diplomats and military officials refused to meet with a bipartisan delegation of senior congressional staffers who visited the Middle Eastern country last week, an unusual snub that suggests increased tension between the U.S. and a key ally.

"Everyone on the trip definitely took it as a snub," one of the staffers who went on the trip, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Washington Examiner. The delegation was comprised of "high level" staff from three House committees: Intelligence, Homeland Security, and Armed Services.

The staffer said that the delegation asked to meet with representatives of Saudi Arabia's Foreign Affairs Ministry and Defense Ministry during the weeklong trip, but the Saudis denied both requests. The rejection is especially unusual because the Saudis paid for the delegation's visit, but did not allow them to talk to their most natural counterparts in the Saudi Arabian government. The aide, who has visited the country multiple times on such delegations, said every previous trip featured a meeting with at least one of the two ministries.

Read more ....

My Comment: I have never seen U.S. - Saudi relations in the toilet that it is in right now .... that is why I am scratching my head over this Congressional delegation being surprised that they were snubbed on this trip. Either they are in denial of the situation .... or are just feigning surprise for public consumption.

Latest Edward Snowden NSA Revelation: Canada's Spy Agency Uses Airport Wi-Fi To Track Travelers


CSEC Used Airport Wi-Fi To Track Canadian Travelers: Edward Snowden Documents -- CBC 

Electronic snooping was part of a trial run for U.S. NSA and other foreign services.

A top secret document retrieved by U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden and obtained by CBC News shows that Canada's electronic spy agency used information from the free internet service at a major Canadian airport to track the wireless devices of thousands of ordinary airline passengers for days after they left the terminal.

After reviewing the document, one of Canada's foremost authorities on cyber-security says the clandestine operation by the Communications Security Establishment Canada (CSEC) was almost certainly illegal.

Read more ....

More News On Reports That Canada's Spy Agency Is Using Airport Wi-Fi To Track Travelers  

Spy Agency Tracked Passengers For Days Through Free Wi-Fi At Major Canadian airport: Report -- National Post/Canadian Free Press
Snowden leaks: Canada 'spied on airport travellers' -- BBC
Attention fliers: Canada’s electronic spy agency is following you - new Snowden leaks -- RT
Canada Used Airport Wi-Fi To Track Travelers, Snowden Leak Alleges -- NPR
Spy Agency Tracked Canadians at an Airport -- AP
Canadian spies scooped up airport Wi-Fi in NSA trial: Reports -- ZDnet
NSA reportedly helped Canada spy on airport passengers using free Wi-Fi -- The Verge
Spy agency's airport data gathering aimed at countering kidnappers: document -- Global Post
Defence minister insists spy agency did not track Canadian travellers -- CTV News
No travellers were tracked after using airport Wi-Fi: CSE --
Now we know Ottawa can snoop on any Canadian. What are we going to do? -- Ron Deibert, The Globe and Mail

The NSA's Edward Snowden Talking Points Have Been Classified 'Top Secret'

An illustration picture shows the logo of the U.S. National Security Agency on the display of an iPhone in Berlin, June 7, 2013. REUTERS/Pawel Kopczynski

The NSA's 'Top-Secret' Edward Snowden Talking Points -- Conor Friedersdorf, The Atlantic

Would releasing any of them really "cause exceptionally grave danger to national security"?
Once Edward Snowden began leaking classified documents, National Security Agency officials knew that they'd be forced to respond. They began developing talking points. By their own account, the attempt spread across 156 pages of records. Or so the NSA told Jason Leopold, a transparency activist who wants to see them. The NSA has now officially refused his Freedom of Information Act request, using a number of legal arguments. Can you guess which one bothers me?

Here they are, via Leopold:

Read more ....

My Comment: One can only imagine the resources that the NSA has dedicated on the Edward Snowden file .... suffice it to say that it must be enormous.

President Obama Names Navy Vice Admiral Rogers As NSA Director

Photo: Navy Vice Adm. Michael S. Rogers, who currently serves as the U.S. Fleet Cyber Command commander and commander of the U.S. 10th Fleet, is President Barack Obama's nominee to become the next commander of U.S. Cyber Command, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a DOD news release issued Jan. 30, 2014. U.S. Navy photo

Vice-Admiral Michael Rogers To Take Command Of Embattled NSA -- The Guardian

Rogers is currently commander of navy Fleet Cyber Command
Richard Ledgett will become the NSA's new deputy director
New leaders to face ongoing fallout from Snowden disclosures

The embattled National Security Agency is about to get new leaders to deal with the ongoing fallout from whistleblower Edward Snowden’s surveillance disclosures.

Vice-admiral Michael Rogers, the commander of the US navy’s tenth fleet and its Fleet Cyber Command, will take over from NSA Director Keith Alexander, who reluctantly became a global figure in the wake of the Snowden revelations.

Richard Ledgett, the head of the agency’s investigation into Snowden – who publicly floated the prospect of an amnesty for the former contractor – will become the NSA’s new deputy director and top civilian leader.

Read more ....

More News On President Obama Naming Navy Vice Admiral Rogers As The Next NSA Director

Rogers Tabbed as Next Cyber Command Chief -- US Department of Defense
N.S.A. Choice Is Navy Expert on Cyberwar -- New York Times
NSA Pick Michael Rogers Is Steeped in Intelligence -- Wall Street Journal
U.S. government names Navy man to head beleaguered NSA -- Reuters
Navy admiral is pick for next head of NSA -- NBC
Obama Plans to Name Navy Vice Admiral Rogers as NSA Chief -- Bloomberg
Obama to name Navy's cyberwarfare chief to run NSA -- UPI
Obama to name Navy Vice-Adm Michael Rogers to lead NSA -- BBC
US President Obama nominates new NSA chief -- Deutsche Welle
Obama Taps Admiral to Run NSA -- Voice of America
US government names new head of NSA and US Cyber Command -- The Register
Hagel: Navy admiral to be next NSA chief -- USA Today
Hagel says Navy admiral is Obama's choice to take reins of NSA -- FOX News
Obama Taps Navy Man to Lead NSA -- Time
Navy 3-star nominated to helm NSA/Cyber Command -- Army Times
Obama to Nominate Navy Admiral as NSA Director -- Defense One
Obama Picks Navy Admiral For NSA; Keeps CyberCom Ties -- Breaking Defense
Obama selects Navy cryptologist to head NSA -- Computerworld

F-16s Will Be Enforcing A No Fly-Zone Over The Super Bowl Stadium This Sunday

New York News

No-Fly Zone Over MetLife Stadium -- My

The skies above and around MetLife Stadium will be in a no-fly zone on Super Bowl Sunday.

The first level of defense will be provided by Black Hawk helicopters with U.S. Customs and Border Protection. The unarmed helos will serve as the eyes in the sky.

And if a hostile aircraft enters restricted air space near MetLife stadium, New Jersey Air National Guard F-16s based in Atlantic City will be scrambled.

Colonel Brad Everman of the 177th Fighter Wing said his pilots have been training for months and are prepared to secure the skies above the big game.

Read more ....

My Comment: Bottom line .... security will be tight.

Editor;s Note

Struck in meetings this morning. Blogging will return this afternoon.

More Problems For The F-35

The U.S. Navy variant of the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, the F-35C, conducts a test flight over the Chesapeake Bay. Lt. Cmdr. Eric "Magic" Buus flew the F-35C for two hours, checking instruments that will measure structural loads on the airframe during flight maneuvers. Wikipedia

Lockheed F-35 Develops Cracks, Pentagon’s Tester Finds -- Bloomberg

Lockheed Martin Corp. (LMT)’s F-35 jet developed cracks in testing of the fighter’s durability and wasn’t sufficiently reliable in training flights last year, the Pentagon’s chief tester found.

On-ground testing of the Air Force and Marine Corps versions of the fighter revealed “significant findings” of cracks on five occasions in fuselage bulkheads, flanges, stiffeners and engine mounts “that will require mitigation plans and may include redesigning parts and additional weight,” according to an annual report on major weapons by Michael Gilmore, director of operational testing.

Read more ....

Update #1: New Tests Find Significant Cracking In The F-35 -- Business Insider/
Update #2: Cracks plague Lockheed Martin F-35 -- Washington Business Journal

My Comment: Not surprising .... many do not know what to believe anymore .... US hears conflicting accounts on Lockheed’s $400bn F-35 fighter -- Financial Times

Is China Playing Chicken With The US Military?

Photo: The Navy says this photo shows two Chinese trawlers forcing the Impeccable to make an emergency "all stop." CNN

China Is Playing Chicken With The US Military In The South China Sea -- Benjamin Carlson, Global Post

War by other means: As China attempts to wrest control of the South China Sea, the US is forced to flinch or crash.

HONG KONG — As anyone who has seen “Rebel Without a Cause” knows, playing chicken is dangerous for California teenagers in hot-rods.

But playing chicken with warships, cruisers, and fighter jets — well, that’s just another level of crazy.

Unfortunately, vessels from the US military and from other countries increasingly find themselves in such high-stakes confrontations on the East Asian seas, where China has adopted a strategy of making rivals flinch or risk collision.

Read more ....

My Comment: This is nothing new. China has a long history of playing chicken with U.S. forces ....some of which resulted in deadly collisions.

Will Japan Or South Korea Go Nuclear?

Will America's Asian Allies Go Nuclear? -- David Santoro, National Interest

North Korea’s nuclear-weapon developments and belligerent rhetoric, along with China’s military modernization and growing assertiveness, are creating direct challenges for Japan and South Korea, Washington’s Northeast Asian allies. In response, the United States has adapted its force posture and declaratory policy, and taken important steps to strengthen deterrence and reassure its allies. The recent decision to send an additional US Army combat force of eight hundred soldiers to South Korea with tanks and armored troop carriers and the pledge to maintain the US nuclear umbrella against North Korean threats is another step in Washington’s efforts to enhance defense of its ally.

While major conflicts have been deterred, it is unclear whether Japan and South Korea are reassured. Publicly and in private discussions, Japanese and South Korean officials insist that they trust US defense commitments. But they ask revealing questions about the conditions under which the United States would act, and how it would do so. They wonder about their roles and responsibilities, as Washington presses them to assume more of the defense and deterrence burden. And they worry about the reduction of roles and numbers of nuclear weapons in US strategy and, despite Washington’s rebalance to Asia, the ability of the United States to defend them well in a fiscally constrained environment. Plainly, US disengagement is a concern.

Read more ....

My Comment: It all comes down to trust .... can South Korea and Japan trust the U.S. to keep to it's promises and treaty commitments to the region. For the moment .... I doubt that Japan or South Korea will pursue the development of nuclear weapons .... but it is clear that they are concerned.

Bringing A Multi-Barrelled Machine Gun To An Airsoft Battle

Handyman Firing 3,000 Rounds A Minute From A Machine Gun Becomes Unlikely Star Of YouTube With 20Million Hits -- Daily Mail

* Rab Hailstones, 40, filmed firing £3,000 gun in 'airsoft' battle in a forest
* Video of mock battle has attracted 20million YouTube views in four years
* American fans have flocked to Scotland after watching the video

A handyman who is obsessed with guns has become an unlikely online star after a video of him firing 50 rounds a second in a battle roleplay attracted 20million views.

Rab Hailstones was filmed deploying his £3,000 'machine gun' filled with plastic bullets during a playful skirmish in a Scottish wood.

The clip has apparently become Scotland's biggest amateur YouTube hit ever thanks to millions of fans of a new military-based sport, and has turned its star into a minor celebrity.

Read more ....

My Comment: The things that some people do fo fun.

Poll: The U.S. Public See The Iraq And Afghan Wars As Failures

Poll: Grim Assessment Of Wars In Iraq, Afghanistan -- USA Today

WASHINGTON — As two of the nation's longest wars finally end, most Americans have concluded that neither achieved its goals.

Those grim assessments in a USA TODAY/Pew Research Center poll underscore the erosion in support for the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan and the loss of faith in the outcome of the wars, both launched in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. The public's soured attitudes may make it harder the next time a president tries to persuade Americans of the value of military actio

n when it involves putting thousands of U.S. troops in harm's way.

In the survey:

Read more ....

Update #1: More Now See Failure than Success in Iraq, Afghanistan -- PEW Reseach
Update #2: Poll: More see failure rather than success in Iraq, Afghanistan -- McClatchy News

My Comment: What's my opinion .... the wars have become a failure but the U.S. should not shoulder all the blame. The Iraqis and Afghans are now the ones who are "screwing up", and as long as they remain bitterly divided both countries will only experience more violence and bloodshed for the foreseeable future.

Afghanistan Cannot Be Trusted With U.S. Aid

Afghan workers carry 50 kg bags of wheat out of a United Nations warehouse to load onto a truck in Kabul November 5, 2009. Credit: Reuters/Jerry Lampen

U.S. Aid to Afghans Flows On Despite Warnings of Misuse -- New York Times

KABUL, Afghanistan — With billions of dollars in American aid increasingly flowing straight into Afghan government coffers, the United States hired two global auditing firms three years ago to determine whether Afghanistan could be trusted to safeguard the money.

The findings were so dire that American officials fought to keep them private. But the money has continued to flow, despite warnings from the auditors that none of the 16 Afghan ministries could be counted on to keep the funds from being stolen or wasted.

The problems unearthed by the auditors are detailed in a report to be published Thursday by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, an American government watchdog. The findings raise new questions about the efficacy and wisdom of giving huge amounts of aid directly to a government known for corruption.

Read more ....

Update: Report: Afghanistan cannot be trusted with US aid -- RT

My Comment: When I read reports of waste like this one .... $600k in U.S. taxpayer dollars buys medieval hospital in Afghanistan .... I cannot help but feel that the U.S. taxpayer is being hosed.

The Inspector General's report can be read here.

Afghanistan's Army Can't Fight

U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Schuerger, left, goes over mission plans during the classroom portion of a field artillery exercise on Camp Eagle, Zabul province, Afghanistan, Jan. 20, 2014. Schuerger is assigned to the 2nd Cavalry Regiment and serves as a field artillery security force assistance team member to the Afghan National Army's 205th Corps. The exercise was the culmination of a month-long training course to teach Afghan soldiers from four brigades the basics of field artillery. U.S. Army photo by Cpl. Clay Beyersdorfer

Afghanistan's Oversized Army Can't Read Or Fight -- James Gibney, Bloomberg

Clint Eastwood is no Clausewitz -- or even much of a convention speaker -- but he was onto something when he intoned, in "Magnum Force," that "a man's got to know his limitations."

That lesson seems to have been lost on planners for Afghanistan's post-occupation security forces, envisioned at a strength of 352,000 in the Afghan National Army and the Afghan National Police. The latest evidence of the gap between vision and reality comes from a report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction on the force's level of literacy: According to one Bloomberg News story, more than half the force's members will probably still be illiterate after a $200 million literacy program.

Read more ....

My Comment: There are many units in Afghanistan's army that can and do fight .... but it also true that a lack of discipline and professionalism exists in many other units. I guess this is one of the situations where you can look at the glass as half full .... or half empty. Personally .... I am seeing it as half empty. As for the U.S. literacy program in Afghanistan .... intentions were probably good at the beginning but right now .... that is money not being well spent.

The Military Task Of Leaving Afghanistan Will Be Massive (And Costly)

The Mammoth Military Task Of Leaving Afghanistan --- BBC

As the UK and the US prepare to withdraw the last remaining troops from Afghanistan, hundreds of bases, thousands of vehicles and tonnes of equipment are being packed up and shipped home, sold off or scrapped. Just how is this done? Dominic Bailey finds out.

Withdrawing international forces from Afghanistan by the end of December 2014 is not just a case of putting troops on aircraft and flying them home.

The mammoth logistical operation to withdraw by land, sea and air is well under way and ongoing, as combat missions continue until the 31 December deadline.

Nato estimates that about 218,000 vehicles and containers of military equipment need to be shipped out of Afghanistan between March 2012 and December 2014. To date, approximately 80,000 vehicles and containers have been moved out of theatre.

Read more ....

My Comment: Here is an easy prediction .... the cost of leaving Afghanistan will be higher than projected when it is finally completed.

U.S. And NATO Forces Are Now Planning For A Fast Exit From Afghanistan

U.S. Army Spc. Nickolas Evangelista-Reitner scans the area while providing overwatch security for another unit in Ghazni province, Afghanistan, Jan. 22, 2014. Evangelista-Reitner is assigned to U.S. Army National Guard's 216th Mobile Augmentation Company. U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Laura Beth Beebe

Military Plans Reflect Afghanistan Uncertainty -- New York Times

WASHINGTON — American and NATO military planners, facing continued political uncertainty about whether foreign troops will remain in Afghanistan after December, have drawn up plans to deploy a force this summer that is tailored to assume a training mission in 2015 but is also small enough to withdraw if no deal for an enduring presence is reached, alliance officials said.

With President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan refusing to sign security agreements approving a presence for American and NATO troops after 2014, allied military planners have been forced to prepare for both sudden success and abject failure of proposals for a continuing mission to train, advise and assist Afghan forces after combat operations officially end this year.

Read more ....

Update: U.S.: Afghanistan can't 'keep deferring' decision on security pact -- Reuters

My Comment: My prediction still holds that a U.S. - Afghan security agreement will eventually be signed .... albeit less than what the U.S. was planning for.

U.S. Accuses Russia Of Violating The 1987 Arms Control Treaty

The 1987 treaty, signed by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev, was seen as a major factor in bringing an end to the Cold War (stock picture)

U.S. Says Russia Tested Missile, Despite Treaty -- New York Times

WASHINGTON — The United States informed its NATO allies this month that Russia had tested a new ground-launched cruise missile, raising concerns about Moscow’s compliance with a landmark arms control accord.

American officials believe Russia began conducting flight tests of the missile as early as 2008. Such tests are prohibited by the treaty banning medium-range missiles that was signed in 1987 by President Ronald Reagan and Mikhail S. Gorbachev, the Soviet leader at the time, and that has long been viewed as one of the bedrock accords that brought an end to the Cold War.

Beginning in May, Rose Gottemoeller, the State Department’s senior arms control official, has repeatedly raised the missile tests with Russian officials, who have responded that they investigated the matter and consider the case to be closed. But Obama administration officials are not yet ready to formally declare the tests of the missile, which has not been deployed, to be a violation of the 1987 treaty.

Read more ....

More News On U.S. Accusations That Russia Has Violated The 1987 Arms Control Treaty

Russia has tested new ground-launched cruise missile, despite landmark arms control treaty, U.S tells Nato -- Daily Mail
US Alleges Russian Missile Treaty Violation – Report -- RIA Novosti
US says Russia conducted missile test banned by 1987 treaty -- FOX News
Report: US officials say Russia violated treaty -- The Hill
US briefs Nato on Russian 'nuclear treaty breach' -- BBC
Obama mum as Russia violates arms treaty forged by Reagan -- Washington Times

Air Force Nuclear Missile Cheating Scandal Is Expanding To Include 92 Officers

Air Force Cheating Scandal Wider Than Previously Believed -- Wall Street Journal

Cheating Involves Nearly Half of Officers on Nuclear Missile Crews

WASHINGTON—Investigators found a cheating scandal at an Air Force base in Montana is far wider than previously believed, involving nearly half of the officers on nuclear missile crews, Air Force officials said Thursday.

The Air Force said 92 officers out of 190 on intercontinental ballistic missile crews at Malmstrom Air Force Base have been tied to a cheating scandal in which answers to a nuclear missile proficiency test were electronically passed around.

The Air Force said 40 of the officers are suspected of cheating while the remaining 52 may have known about the compromise of the test and failed to report it.

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More News On The Air Force Nuclear Missile Cheating Scandal Expanding To Include 92 Officers

92 nuclear officers implicated in Air Force cheating scandal -- Chicago Sun Times/AP
US says 92 nuclear missile officers implicated in cheating -- Reuters
US nuclear officer cheating scandal widens as top brass investigates -- The Guardian
92 nuclear missile officers implicated in cheating scandal, Air Force says -- NBC
Cheating Scandal Within Air Force Nuclear Missile Corps Widens -- CBS
Air Force Cheating Scandal Widens; 92 Nuclear Officers Linked -- NPR
Air Force nuclear cheating scandal expands to 92 officers -- CNN

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Commentaries, Opinions, And Editorials -- January 30, 2014

Needed: A New NATO For The 21st Century -- Harlan Ullman, UPI

WASHINGTON, Jan. 29 (UPI) -- This weekend marks the 50th anniversary of the annual Munich Security Conference. First focused on Europe, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the Cold War, several years ago the conference broadened its agenda to cover global security.

That said, the future of NATO must remain among the West's highest security priorities. For a number of reasons, that isn't happening.

The dissolution of the Soviet Union a quarter of a century ago removed the threat for which NATO was uniquely created. The alliance manfully began the transformation to a post-Cold War world. Since major threats now lay beyond NATO's borders, the alliance expanded its reach. "Out of area or out of business" became the new mantra.

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Commentaries, Opinions, And Editorials

The sick Middle East -- Daniel Pipes, National Post

Falling short on Afghanistan -- Washington Post editorial

Playing with fire: Hamid Karzai’s vilification of America is risking his country’s security -- The Ecoonomist

Planned EU mission is not enough for Central Africans -- Deutsche Welle

Nigeria Will Have More People Than the United States by 2050 -- Joshua Keating, Slate

Why Nigeria Is About to Become Africa's Biggest Economy -- Erin Conway-Smith, Global Post

Scotland's Bitter Civil War Will Last Years -- Alan Cochrane, The Telegraph

The triumph of Vladimir Putin -- The Economist

Did Russian missile tests violate 1987 treaty with Soviet Union? -- UPI

Why Kerry Is Scary -- Thomas Friedman, New York Times

John Kerry: Master of the Interim Deal -- David Ignatius, Washington Post

Nobel Nomination Nonsense -- Michael Moynihan, Daily Beast

World News Briefs -- January 30, 2014 (Evening Edition)

Ukraine's Descent Into Chaos Continues As Protesters Reject Amnesty Offer And The President Goes On SICK LEAVE With 'Flu' -- Daily Mail

* President Yanukovych has 'acute respiratory disease' and a temperature
* Protesters reject amnesty offer saying 'these laws are a lie'
* Six killed in Kiev and other Ukrainian cities in widespread protests
* Activists are occupying key buildings and have erected street barricades

Protesters in Kiev defiantly rejected an amnesty offer passed by the Ukrainian parliament that promised to free imprisoned activists if they stood down and left occupied buildings.

Six people have been killed in Kiev and other Ukrainian cities in protests that erupted more than two months ago after President Viktor Yanukovich walked away from a treaty with the European Union under pressure from Russia.

Protesters have occupied key buildings in various cities, set up encampments in squares and erected barricades in streets. Under the conditions of the amnesty these would have to be dismantled and buildings vacated. It allows for peaceful protests, though.

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US says Syria must comply on chemical weapons.

Shared moment of silence but little headway at Syria talks. UN: No substantive results in Syria talks.

Report: Syria government has razed neighborhoods. Syrian government 'demolished thousands of homes'.

Report: Obama's Syria deal good for Assad.

Beirut suburb on high alert after wave of bombings.

Iraq releases rare 'ISIL chief' photo.

Bombings hit Baghdad as Iraq death toll tops 900 for January.

At least 18 killed in militant assault on Iraqi ministry building.

Iran's Zarif says Obama remarks for 'domestic consumption'.

Israel MoD boss blasts US Mideast missteps.


N. Korea building missile launch pad capable of aiming at U.S.: report.

U.S.: Afghanistan can't 'keep deferring' decision on security pact.

As election nears, Thai protesters increase pressure. Thai army to deploy more troops amid warning of poll violence.

N. Korea warns against war games in rare news conference.

North Korean diplomat: Kim Jong-un's executed uncle committed 'tremendous crimes'.

Asia history tensions flare at UN debate.

New Zealand may vote on dropping Union flag.

Beijing boots U.S. reporter over stories of Communist corruption.


Rwanda calls Congo 'crybaby' at U.N., Congo says Rwanda 'arrogant'.

Ruthless Christian militias hunt down Muslims in CAR capital.

AU holds key summit; Talks dominated by conflicts in South Sudan, CAR.

Mauritania leader new African Union chairman

Somali President: AMISOM operations against Al-Shabab to begin soon.

Popular wave could lift Egypt army chief to office.

Saudi Arabia to give Egypt up to $4 billion more aid: report.

Striking S.African mineworkers reject wage offer.

Libya sets February 20 for constitution assembly vote.


Exclusive: In diplomatic shift, Europe seeks improved ties with Cuba.

Amanda Knox found guilty of murder again by Italian court.

Ukraine protesters defy terms of new amnesty law. Ukrainian opposition rejects protester amnesty law.

Ukrainian president takes sick leave amid crisis.

Russia to await new Ukraine government before fully implementing rescue: Putin.

US renews offer to help Russia with security at Olympics.

Russia says identifies bombers, arrests two in Volgograd blasts. Volgograd bombers were Dagestan militants, say Russian authorities,

‘Our views are far apart’: German chancellor slams US, UK over spying.

Greece: Govt rules out early general election.

Paris flights cut by 20 percent as air traffic controllers strike.


Panama orders release of North Korean sailors.

Atlanta recovering after snowstorm strands thousands.

Sandinista consolidation of power advances in Nicaragua with reform of military code.

El Salvador vote pits ex-rebel vs gang-fighting rightist.

Ecuador former police chief Edgar Vaca arrested in the US.

Latin America, Caribbean proclaim 'zone of peace',

Rob Ford conspired in beating of sister's ex-boyfriend, lawsuit says.


US prosecutors seek execution of marathon suspect.

Israeli general says Al-Qaida's Syria fighters set up in Turkey.

Obama calls for limited strikes against al-Qaida.

US intel sees uptick in Olympic threat reports.

Europeans are flocking to the war in Syria. What happens when they come home?


Oracle's Ellison downplays threat of NSA database snooping.

Federal Reserve cuts QE by further $10bn to $65bn a month.

Google sells Motorola Mobility unit to Lenovo for $3bn.

Royal Dutch Shell halts Alaska exploration as profits fall.

Boeing has record sales of $87 billion in 2013.

U.S. Seeks The Death Penalty For The Marathon Bomber

U.S. Seeking Death Penalty in Marathon Bombing -- New York Times

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department said Thursday that it would seek the death penalty against Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev, the man accused of killing and maiming people with homemade bombs at the Boston Marathon finish line last year.

The decision sets in motion the highest-profile federal death penalty case since Timothy J. McVeigh was prosecuted and executed for the 1995 bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City.

The decision, however, is not cast in stone. In nearly half of federal death penalty cases, prosecutors withdraw the threat of execution before trial, typically because of a plea deal, according to the Federal Death Penalty Resource Counsel.

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More News On The U.S. Seeking The Death Penalty For The Marathon Bomber

US to seek death penalty for Tsarnaev -- Boston Globe
US prosecutors seek execution of marathon suspect --
U.S. to seek death penalty in Boston bombing case -- Washington Post
US to seek death penalty for accused Boston bomber -- AFP
Feds seek death penalty for Boston bombing suspect Tsarnaev -- CNN
Prosecutors seek death penalty for Boston Marathon bombing suspect -- FOX News

My Comment: I expect a plea agreement that will result in Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev spending the rest of his life in jail.

Human Rights Watch: The Syrian Regime Is Systematically Destroying Homes In Rebel Controlled Areas

Rights Group Describes Campaign of Destruction By Assad Regime -- Time

A new report by Human Rights Watch documents the wholesale destruction of neighborhoods loyal to the Syrian opposition

Over the past two years, the Syrian government has embarked on a systematic campaign to demolish large swaths of urban areas and raze entire neighborhoods in an effort to punish opposition supporters and drive suspected rebels out of strategic areas, according to a new report by Human Rights Watch. The report details the destruction, by explosives and bulldozers, of thousands of residential buildings spread across seven neighborhoods in Damascus and Hama, two of Syria’s largest cities. The practice of destroying civilian areas, either as a form of punishment or in an attempt to clear ground, contravenes the laws of war, says Ole Solvang, emergencies researcher at Human Rights Watch. “Wiping entire neighborhoods off the map is not a legitimate tactic of war,” Solvang says. “These unlawful demolitions are the latest additions to a long list of crimes committed by the Syrian government.”

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More News On The Latest Human Rights Watch Report That The Syrian Regime Is Systematically Destroying Homes In Rebel Controlled Areas

Syrian government 'demolished thousands of homes' -- BBC
Syria has razed pro-opposition neighbourhoods, rights group says -- Globe and Mail/AP
Syria regime razed homes as 'collective punishment': HRW -- AFP
Syria wiping neighbourhoods off the map to punish residents – rights group -- The Guardian
Report: Syria destroyed thousands of homes in Damascus, Hama -- UPI
Syrian government demolished thousands of homes, report says -- CNN
Syrian Government Demolishes Thousands of Homes: Report -- Bloomberg
‘We want to destroy’: Shocking satellite images show devastation in Syrian districts that back opposition to Assad -- The Independent
Human rights group: Syrian authorities razed entire neighbourhoods -- Euronews
Report: Syrian government demolishes neighborhoods in quest for control -- Al Jazeera
Sliding Satellite Images Show What It Looks Like When A Syrian Neighbourhood Is Flattened -- Business Insider

WNU Editor: Human Rights Watch report on Syria’s Unlawful Neighborhood Demolitions in 2012-2013 can be read here.

US And Britain Are Now Accusing The Assad Regime Of Dragging Its Feet On Removing Chemical Weapons

Norway and Denmark are providing transport for Syria's weapons from the port of Latakia. BBC

US And Britain Question Syria's Motives Over Slow Chemical Weapons Handover -- The Guardian

US defence secretary Chuck Hagel says lack of action is worrying with second removal deadline certain to be missed

The US and Britain have expressed concern over the Syrian government's delay in removing chemical weapons materials due to be destroyed under an international disarmament deal.

Chuck Hagel, the US defence secretary, revealed on Thursday that he had asked his Russian counterpart, Sergei Shoigu, to pressure Damascus to comply with the agreement, and urged the Syrian government to intensify efforts to transport chemical arms to Latakia port for destruction.

"I do not know what the Syrian government's motives are - if this is incompetence - or why they are behind in delivering these materials," Hagel told reporters in Warsaw. "They need to fix this."

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More News On The Slow Pace Of Removing Chemical Weapons From Syria

U.S. concerned by chemical weapons delay, urges Syria to comply -- Reuters
Assad regime dragging its feet on removing chemical weapons, U.S. says -- Washington Post
U.S. slams Syria for failing to meet chemical weapons commitments -- L.A. Times
US 'concern' at Syria chemical weapons delay -- BBC
U.S. blasts Syria for "seriously languished and stalled" removal of chemical weapons -- CBS
White House: Syria Must Do More on Chemical Weapons Removal -- Voice of America
U.S.: Syria Behind Schedule On Dismantling Chemical Stockpile -- NPR
US 'concerned' by Syria chemical weapons delay: Hagel -- Ahram Online
U.S. ‘concerned’ by Syria chemical weapons delay -- Al Arabiya
US 'concerned' by delay in Syria chemical weapons move -- Al Bawaba
Syria has shipped out less than 5 percent of chemical weapons -- FOX News