Thursday, August 30, 2012

Exclusive: Pentagon threatens legal action over bin Laden book

(Reuters) - The Pentagon warned on Thursday that it was considering legal action against a former U.S. Navy SEAL for material breach of non-disclosure agreements with his first-hand account of the raid that killed Osama bin Laden. In a letter obtained by Reuters, and subsequently released by the Pentagon, the Pentagon's top attorney also warned that it was also considering legal options against anyone "acting in concert" with the author. The letter, addressed to "Mark Owen," the pseudonym under which the book was written, identified two separate non-disclosure agreements he signed with the Navy that legally committed him to never divulge classified information. "You are in material breach and violation of the non-disclosure agreements you signed," the letter by Jeh Johnson, the Pentagon's General Counsel, said. "The Department of Defense is considering pursuing against you, and all those acting in concert with you, all remedies legally available to us in light of this situation." U.S. officials said last week they were surprised by the book, which was not vetted by government agencies to ensure that no secrets were revealed. The book has received widespread media coverage and the Pentagon letter noted that some copies have already been released, even ahead of the book's formal release next week. "Further public dissemination of your book will aggravate your breach and violation of your agreements," the letter warned. Earlier this week, the author said in a statement from his publisher that the book was written "with respect for my fellow service members while adhering to my strict desire not to disclose confidential or sensitive information that would compromise national security in any way." But many in the special operations community have privately expressed disappointment in recent days over the book and the publicity it has received. The author now faces threats against his life. An official al Qaeda website last week posted a photograph and the real name of the former Navy commando, calling him "the dog who murdered the martyr Sheikh Osama bin Laden." Reuters

Brutal LAPD arrest caught on video; Department investigating cops seen bodyslamming nurse twice during cell phone traffic stop (VIDEO)

The Los Angeles Police Department is investigating two officers who were allegedly caught on surveillance camera slamming a nurse on the ground twice — and then fist bumping afterward — during a recent traffic stop. The two officers pulled over Michelle Jordan, 34, of Sunland, Aug. 21, for allegedly talking on her cell phone while driving in Tujunga, in northeast Los Angeles, the department said. Jordan pulled into the parking lot of a Del Taco restaurant and got out of her car to confront the officers, cops said. The taco joint's surveillance video appears to show the officers, both men, yanking the 5-foot-4 inch registered nurse from the open driver's seat and then slamming her on the ground to cuff her. The duo then yank Jordan to her feet and bring her to the patrol car, where they pat her down. Moments later, one of the cops slams the married mom to the ground a second time. After placing her in the cruiser's backseat, the two appear to share a celebratory fist-pound. Jordan was booked for resisting arrest and later released. Police Chief Charlie Beck said in a statement Tuesday that the video caused him "to have serious concerns about this use of force." "We will investigate this thoroughly and hold our officers accountable for their actions," Beck said, according to KABC-TV. The officers, whose names were not given, were placed on desk duty while the department investigated the alleged beatdown. One was said to be a 20-year-veteran of the force while the other was a probationary officer on the force for 10 months, according to local reports. Jordan's lawyers said Jordan mouthed-off at the cops, but that her behavior didn't warrant the officers' goon squad-style takedown. "We have a defenseless woman in a sun dress, two fully armed police officers with training and various restraining devices that they could have used, and instead they used nothing but brute force," one of her lawyers, Arthur Corona, told KABC. Jordan was said to be weighing a lawsuit, according to local reports. NYDaily

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

If running a business is now an electoral disadvantage, this isn't the America I thought I knew

The US elections ought to be determined by just one issue: the economy. The country has emptied its treasury and exhausted its credit. The national debt is now at a literally indescribable level: no superlative comes close to conveying what $15 trillion means. The overwhelming majority of Americans are worse off than they were 12 months ago, and will be yet worse off 12 months from now. This shouldn’t just be the only question at stake on polling day; it should be the only thing anyone is talking about at all. So what issues are dominating the campaign? Todd Akin, gay marriage, whether there is a racist undertone to attacks on welfare dependency, whether Mitt Romney is a stiff. As a visitor, I can only goggle in bafflement. From the point of view of Democrat strategists, of course, it’s clever politics. When 64 per cent of Americans say that they expect their standard of living to deteriorate under Obama, and when Romney has a 19-point advantage on economic competence, it makes sense to talk about anything except the economy. As a fair-minded GOP delegate from Idaho told me, ‘Now I now how they must have felt when we kept talking about Kerry’. Sensing that some Republicans were diffident about their nominee, Lefties tried to make the election all about Mitt Romney: he was a ruthless plutocrat, they said, a Montgomery Burns type who laid people off for pleasure. He’s also (whisper it) a devotee of some weird cult that baptises the dead. Will it work? I think – I certainly hope – that Democrats underestimate the extent to which creedal pluralism and mutual respect for religions is built into the American republic. Any faith can be caricatured by having its tenets stated in an exaggeratedly reductionist way. You might just as well say that Joe Biden and Paul Ryan are members of a sect whose devotees believe they devour the body of Jesus in the form of a wafer. Americans generally don’t think such things, of course, because they know that religious practices must be understood in the context of faith. Their history, their constitution, their natural good manners and their common humanity tell them to show due reverence to other people’s innermost convictions. When they consider Romney’s Mormonism, their first thought is not of theology, but of how his religion has made him behave: the way it made him give away his father’s inheritance, the way it made him work for others as a young missionary, the way it informs the charitable work of which he never speaks, because he understands that giving is a privilege, not a boast. Do Americans really believe that setting up and running a big business – a business which not only generated profits, but made capital available to other entrepreneurs – is a disqualification? If so, they are not the nation I thought I knew. 'Sobriety, frugality, industry and honesty seldom fail of success in America', wrote Franklin. Was he wrong? Who will win? It’s anyone’s guess. Every election since 1960 has been won by the candidate who was ahead in the Gallup poll 100 days before polling day (except in 1988). What did that Gallup poll show last month? A dead heat: 48 per cent each. Another handy rule is that the candidate who leads going into the conventions wins. Who led going into the conventions? Obama in four big polls, Romney in two, and one dead heat. On most issues, voters have made up their minds. There is little that can happen between now and November that will cause a major reassessment of, say, the economy or Medicare. Only a major geopolitical event – conflict between Iran and Israel, for example – might upset things. The one factor that is still in play is Mitt Romney himself. If, by the end of this week, he is seen as the unacceptable face of capitalism, he’ll lose; but if he can convince people that he is a hard-working, decent, respectable businessman, whose ability to read a balance sheet is more valuable than ever at a time like this, and whose choice of running mate shows that he has a plan to tackle the debt problem, then it’s his for the taking. Ann Romney has made the best possible start in Tampa. In an evening of uplifting speeches, hers was the most finely crafted, the most touching and the most effective. It’s the kind of thing that wouldn’t happen in Britain: our cynical media would tear its sentimentalism to pieces. But, listening from the floor to her artless description of the man she loved, I was quite moved. Before last night, I’d have put the odds at 75 per cent Obama, 25 Romney; now I’d say 55, 45. Who knows where we’ll be by Friday. Telegraph

Bolivians Express Doubt in Uranium Seizure

After declaring that authorities had arrested four men in connection with trafficking uranium in La Paz, Bolivian authorities are backing off the claim that the material found inside nylon bags may be the alleged radioactive material. Bolivian Government Minister Carlos Romero said late Tuesday that the Bolivian Institute of Nuclear Technology is conducting a study on the material to determine its composition. “There is the possible existence of uranium in the screening solids, but it deserves research and scientific expertise,” Romero said, according to the Bolivian daily Los Tiempos. Romero also tried to assuage fears of people in the neighborhood where the material was found – which includes a number of embassies – that there was no risk of a radioactive blast. Police on Tuesday confiscated two tons of the alleged uranium that was being stored at a building in central La Paz located near the U.S. and Spanish embassies, said Bolivian Deputy Interior Minister Jorge Pérez. The commander of the elite police unit that carried out the operation, Col. Eddy Torrez, said the seizure was the fruit of a six-week investigation. Police pounced when they learned the people in possession of the uranium planned to meet Tuesday with a potential buyer, the colonel said. Perez said one of the people arrested is an engineer who told police he was holding the uranium for other people, but provided no information on the owners of the cache. Romero estimated that the material – found to be uranium - is worth $50 million, adding that the international law prohibits the trade in radioactive substances that are used for nuclear weapons. Since Bolivia does not produce uranium, Perez said, authorities assume the consignment originated in either of two neighboring countries that do: Brazil or Chile. Los Tiempos reported that one of the men arrested – an engineer named Espinoza - claimed the findings were just a depository of the mineral, while another detainee said it was tantalum, a rare, hard, blue-gray, lustrous transition metal used in electronic an laboratory equipment. However, Romero said that version is likely to "camouflage" the radioactive cargo and to feign compliance with safety standards. Private geophysicist Jorge Telleria expressed doubts that the material found was uranium because it is considered unlikely that a uranium dealer would store the material in bags and transfer it by truck, knowing the danger that exists. He also expressed concern of the Bolivian government’s rush to inform the public of the price of the uranium without first taking time to measure the amount of the material. “I do not want to make inferences about the methodology of calculation by the police,” Telleria said. “But personally I would have preferred to first measure the degree of radioactivity (if any) of the cargo to reassure the public and especially the residents of the building.” “At this point, my suggestion is that it would have been better to measure first and talk later,” he added. Fox News latino

SEAL Book Says Bin Laden Was Unarmed, Killed Outside His Bedroom

Several news outlets have finally got their hands on a copy of the new book about the raid on Osama bin Laden's Pakistan compound, and the details emerging contradict many of the earlier reports about what happened inside the house on the night the al Qaeda leader was killed. No Easy Day is set to be released September 11, but The Huffington Post's Marcus Baram picked up a preview copy in a used bookstore, which is a common way to find pre-released books. The Associated Press bought a copy as well. The book, written by ex-Navy SEAL Matt Bissonnette (under the pseudonym Mark Owen), is a first-person account of the raid on the Abbottabad compound where bin Laden had been in hiding for years. According Bissonnette's version of events, there was no extended firefight between SEAL Team 6 members and bodyguards and bin Laden himself never got the chance to confront or even see the soldiers before they killed him. Instead, he was shot in the hallway outside of his bedroom, then "disappeared into the dark room." By the time the soldiers entered, he was already dying of wounds to the head. Bissonnette says he and another team member then shot him several more times in the chest to ensure he was dead. The book also says that while there were two guns found in bin Laden's room, neither was loaded and he never had a chance to defend himself. Bissonnette even calls him a "pussy" for not being prepared to defend or kill himself. Even though bin Laden was killed without resisting, the SEAL were instructed beforehand that it was not an assassination mission and that bin Laden should have been brought back alive, if possible. Bissonnette is also critical of President Obama in his story, saying that no one on the team was a fan of the president and that they believed he and other leaders would inflate their own roles in the story. Even before the raid began, the SEALs joked about how they would help Obama get re-elected and also speculated about who would play them in the Hollywood movie. Despite their personal feelings about Obama, however, the SEALs did agree that he made the right call, saying "Although we applauded the decision-making in this case, there was no doubt in anybody’s mind that he would take all the political credit for this too.” They also complained that after a White House meeting with Obama and Vice President Joe Biden ("he reminded me of someone’s drunken uncle at Christmas dinner") the President invited them to return some other time for a beer, but that call never came. Atlantic Wire

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

James O’Keefe not allowed to fly to Tampa

Conservative filmmaker and activist James O’Keefe wasn’t in Tampa, Fla., but the show he was supposed to headline went on as planned. O’Keefe spoke via Skype on “the role of the citizen journalist” and took audience questions at Tuesday’s luncheon sponsored by the James Madison Institute, a Florida-based nonprofit organization. Tanja Clendinen, the institute’s communications director said O’Keefe was not granted permission by the government to travel to Tampa. "He is currently on probation from some of his Louisiana investigation activities, and his travel permission was revoked,” she said. Via email, O’Keefe said the event was a success. "The audience was pleased to learn that we are building an army of citizen journalists and investigators who are now in almost every state working to protect the American people from voter fraud by exposing deficiencies in the security of our electoral processes,” he wrote to POLITICO. “We talked about the series of highly successful and publicized voter integrity investigations which have helped to shape the debate surrounding this vital issue, and which have prompted responses from governors, attorneys general, and state legislatures since January of this year." He added: “With respect to the handling by the government of the misdemeanor case against me, we discussed the fact that my videotape in Lousiana was destroyed and the circumstances surrounding that event, the fact I was cleared by the government of all felony charges, and whether it’s grossly disproportionate at best or unconstitutional at worst to restrict the travel of a journalist for three years following a class-B misdemeanor." O’Keefe was sentenced to three years of probation after pleading guilty to the misdemeanor charge of entering federal property — the office of Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) — under false pretenses. Politico How does stuff like that happen?

Monday, August 27, 2012

US Veterans Forcibly Sequestered in Mental Hospitals is Indefinite Detention

After Special Justice Walter Douglas Stokes sentenced former US Marine Brandon Raub to 30 days detention in the psychiatric ward of the Veterans Hospital, Circuit Court Judge Allan Sharrett dismissed the case citing that the original petition was “devoid of any factual allegations that it could not be reasonably expected to give rise to a case or controversy.”

John Whitehead, attorney for the Rutherford Institute and Raub has stated that since the former Marine’s detention case, he has received numerous stated from other veterans who are being discriminated against. The latest trend is to have our former US service men and women declared mentally ill and detained against their will.

Just as Raub was forcibly detained in a mental ward, another veteran has been taken without charge or criminal activity. His firearms were confiscated and he was given a court date.

In a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, collaborating with the VA Medical Center, an estimated 1/3rd of veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq were determined to be mentally or psychologically ill.

Touting post-traumatic stress disorder (PSTD), more than half of returning veterans are considered suffering from a war-related mental disorder.

The authors of the study explain: “Our results signal a need for improvements in the primary prevention of military service-related mental health disorders, particularly among our youngest service members . . . because they are young, they are more likely to be of lower rank and more likely to have greater combat exposure than their older active-duty counterparts.”

However, the authors do admit that “our results may overestimate the burden of mental health disorders because veterans with mental health disorders may be more likely to seek treatment at a VA facility than those without.”

Most recently is the inception of oppositional defiance disorder (ODD) which is described as a mental disease wherein free thinkers, non-conformists, civil disobedience supporters, those who question authority and are perceived as being hostile toward the government are labeled mentally ill.

Psychiatrics claim that sufferers have “a recurrent pattern of negativistic, defiant, disobedient, and hostile behavior toward authority figures that persists for at least 6 months” which includes:

• Persistent stubbornness
• Resistance to directions
• Unwillingness to go along with the crowd
• Deliberately annoying others
• Testing limits by ignoring orders

The RAND Corporation asserts that the cost of caring for mentally ill veterans was more than $12 billion in 2007. Katherine Watkins, senior natural scientist for RAND said: “With some changes, the VA could provide even better and more cost-effective care for the nation’s veterans, as well as serve as a model for other health care systems.”

The RAND Corporation paints US veterans as dangerous because of the degree to which they are mentally affected by their service exposure to war and war-like conditions. The globalist think-tank says veterans are suffering from “schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, posttraumatic stress disorder, major depression, and substance use disorders.”

Doctors have classified Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) as an incurable brain disease that soldiers returning from war suffer from. After having injured the brain during battle, soldiers are being touted as displaying large bursts of anger and depression while having their vital motor skills and memory impacted.

Symptoms of CTE are recognized as memory loss, confusion, impaired judgment, impulse control problems, aggression, depression, and, eventually, progressive dementia.

US veterans, being diagnosed with traumatic brain injury (TBI) are being tracked by the Department of Defense (DoD) because they may display personality changes that could come on without warning and effect their ability to acclimate back into American society.

Researchers are claiming that even mild TBI can develop into CTE, which will cause veterans to possibly become a danger to themselves and those around them.

In 2009, the Office of Intelligence and Analysis published a report entitled Rightwing Extremism, wherein domestic extremists were proposed to be the newest and most dangerous threat to the US since al-Qaeda.

While admitting that they did not have definitive proof that “domestic rightwing terrorists are currently planning acts of violence, [however] rightwing extremists may be gaining new recruits by playing on their fears about several emergent issues. The economic downturn and the election of the first African American president present unique drivers for rightwing radicalization and recruitment.”

The DHS wanted to instill the idea that veterans were being recruited to become “right-wing extremists” upon returned from Iraq and Afghanistan. Janet Napolitano intimated that military veterans could become instruments of domestic terror. When Napolitano’s comments were met with public distain, the DHS amended their assertion that extremist groups were highly-marked; but rather it was a lone wolf type that would carry out the biggest act of domestic terrorism.

Mainstream media has spun the propaganda perfectly by asserting that “the return of military veterans facing significant challenges reintegrating into their communities could lead to the potential emergence of terrorist groups or lone wolf extremists capable of carrying out violent attacks.”

A plan is unfolding that connects US veterans to the probability of committing horrendous acts of violence. The MSM provides the social dialogue while various federal agencies in collaboration with the US Army are using a medical condition to justify the coming accusations. We have seen this before.

When the US government rolls out marital law, the biggest threat to their total lockdown of America will be the US veteran. Former active duty soldiers are trained in tactical procedures and pose a real risk because they can easily combat the US military that will show up in every city across the entire nation.

In May of this year, Federal Court Judge Katherine Forrest ordered that the US military could not arbitrarily imprison Americans based on alleged terrorist activity in regard to the indefinite detention clause in the NDAA. Although Obama’s lawyers appealed the ruling, the decision still stands.

However, committing an individual to a mental hospital is not illegal. This may be why we are seeing our US veterans being targeted, called mentally ill, and forcibly removed from their homes. Coinciding with the growing number of mentally ill US veterans we are seeing the removal of their firearms and right to even own firearms. This is another scheme the Obama administration is implementing to set the stage for their complete takeover of America after marital law is declared.


"if they volunteered to serve, they must be crazy"

British soldiers resort to 'baiting' Taliban to beat rules of engagement

British soldiers in Afghanistan are being forced to act as bait in an attempt to draw the Taliban into opening fire, a serving platoon commander has alleged.

Soldiers are risking their lives to get round strict rules of engagement that allow them to shoot only if they are being attacked or are in "imminent danger".

The Taliban are increasingly exploiting the rules by hiding weapons in undergrowth near patrol routes – meaning British forces cannot act against them until they actually pick up their guns.

The claims are made by Lieutenant Jimmy Clark , a platoon commander who recently returned from a tour of Afghanistan.

Shocking scenes to be broadcast in a documentary, Our War, on BBC Three this evening reveal how it was only by luck that soldiers survived a bomb while on a patrol nicknamed "Op Bait" late last year.

Lt Clark from 2 Mercian, who was leading the patrol, describes his frustration at the rules of engagement, which led to soldiers acting as bait to tempt the Taliban into attacking them. "It's difficult really to 'fight' an enemy we're not allowed to fight. Under our rules of engagement we can only really return fire and sometimes it's very frustrating." Footage of Op Bait, shot from headcams on soldiers' helmets, released by the Ministry of Defence, shows how the plan almost backfired.

Lt Clark sums up the approach: "You have a foot patrol which has air support… you get contacted, you're being fired at and the helicopter can come in and kill that guy." For the avoidance of doubt, he adds: "Our job was to get shot at."

As they prepare to go on the patrol, soldiers try to hide their nerves by joking. One says: "Hi, I'm Lance Corporal Shepherd, this will be the last you see of me, I'm going on suicide." To howls of laughter, another says: "Hi, I'm Private Morgan, I'll be picking up Shep's legs."

The soldiers then silently move out on patrol, aware they are being watched by Taliban fighters just across the canal they are walking alongside. Suddenly two large explosions ring out followed by screams – the world temporarily turned to smoke. Amid heavy gunfire, the soldiers pull back. Miraculously, none of the patrol are killed.

In the aftermath, an exhausted Lt Clark says: "It is incredibly frustrating to be leading soldiers out on patrol with the purpose of getting shot at. There's a line between bravery and stupidity and so far we are pushing the limits."

In an interview with The Independent, Lt Clark said: "What the Taliban were extremely good at doing was walking around without weapons, having cached them in undergrowth or behind cover, walking up to those locations, which were already ready-made firing positions, and shooting at us."

The number of British soldiers being shot dead in Afghanistan has spiralled as new tactics stop them from shooting at the Taliban until they have been fired at. Fourteen have been killed by enemy gunfire in Helmand Province in the past four months, compared with three in the same period in 2011.

Last month it emerged that the US general John Allen, head of coalition forces, had instructed the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) not to shoot first unless attacked, although the Ministry of Defence has denied this amounted to a change in the rules of engagement.

In a statement the MoD said: "We have always been very clear, as has ISAF, that our troops go to great lengths to avoid civilian casualties. Recent amendments to the ISAF tactical directive reflect that commitment."


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Egypt blocks 120 tunnels in the Sinai

CAIRO: Egyptian military engineers have blocked 120 tunnels used for smuggling to and from the Gaza Strip since the start of operations in the neighboring Sinai Pensinsula, security officials said on Saturday.
“Tunnel entrances are being demolished every day and the operation will continue until all underground passageways are shut,” one official told AFP.
No less than 12 tunnels were blocked in the past two days on the Egyptian side, the source said, adding that the most of the tunnels lie in a four-kilometer (2.5 mile) stretch of the border.
Until now, the army has not used explosives or water to plug the tunnels, which are also found in residential areas.
Seven homes sitting on top of tunnel exits were levelled and two massive underground passages used to smuggle cars into the Gaza Strip were sealed, security officials said.
The military sent in tanks and soldiers into the lawless peninsula which neighbors both Gaza and Israel after gunmen killed 16 soldiers in an attack on an army outpost on August 5.
Egypt is also searching for 120 wanted militants and believes around 1,600 extremists, including foreigners, are hiding out in the Sinai, the official MENA news agency reported Wednesday.
Militants wounded three Egyptian policemen in the Sinai last week in an ambush of their vehicle with a rocket propelled grenade, a security official said.
The government has long struggled with militancy and smuggling in the region but unrest has worsened since an uprising overthrew veteran strongman Hosni Mubarak in February last year, prompting the collapse of his discredited police force.


Confessions of a Microfinance Heretic: How Microlending Lost Its Way and Betrayed the Poor

Very little solid evidence exists that microloans make a dent in long-term poverty. Sadly, evidence does exist for negligence, corruption, and methods that border on extortion. Part exposé, part memoir, and part financial detective story, this is the account of a one-time true believer whose decade in the industry turned him into a heretic.

Hugh Sinclair worked with several microfinance institutions around the world. He couldn’t help but notice that even with a booming $70 billion industry on their side, the poor didn’t seem any better off. Exorbitant interest rates led borrowers into never-ending debt spirals, and aggressive collection practices resulted in cases of forced prostitution, child labor, suicide, and nationwide revolts against the microfinance community.

Sinclair weaves a shocking tale of a system increasingly focused on maximizing profits—particularly once large banks got involved. He details his discovery of several scandals, one of the most disturbing involving a large African microfinance institution of questionable legality that charged interest rates in excess of 100 percent per year, and whose investors and supporters included some of the most celebrated leaders of the microfinance sector. Sinclair’s objections were first met with silence, then threats, attempted bribery, and a court case, and eventually led him to become a principle whistleblower in a sector that had lost its soul.

Microfinance can work—Sinclair describes moving experiences with several ethical and effective organizations and explains what made them different. But without the fundamental reforms that Sinclair recommends here, microfinance will remain an “investment opportunity” that will leave the poor with hollow promises and empty pockets.


NYPD: Ballistics show all 9 wounded outside Empire State Building were shot by police

NEW YORK — All nine people injured during a dramatic confrontation between police and a gunman outside the Empire State Building were wounded by gunfire from the two officers, police said Saturday, citing ballistics evidence.

The veteran patrolmen who opened fire on the suit-clad gunman, Jeffrey Johnson, had only an instant to react when he whirled around and pointed a .45-caliber pistol at them as they approached him from behind on a busy sidewalk.

Officer Craig Matthews shot seven times, and Officer Robert Sinishtaj fired nine times, police said. Neither had ever fired their weapons before on a patrol.

The volley of gunfire felled Johnson in just a few seconds and left nine other people bleeding on the sidewalk.

In the initial chaos Friday, it wasn’t clear whether Johnson or the officers were responsible for the trail of the wounded, but based on ballistic and other evidence, “it appears that all nine of the victims were struck either by fragments or by bullets fired by police,” Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly told reporters Saturday at a community event in Harlem.

Police officials have said the officers appeared to have no choice but to shoot Johnson, whose body had 10 bullet wounds in the chest, arms and legs.

The officers confronted Johnson as he walked, casually, down the street after gunning down a former co-worker on the sidewalk outside the office they once shared. The shooting happened at 9 a.m., as the neighborhood bustled with people arriving for work.

The gunman and his victim, Steve Ercolino, had a history of workplace squabbles before Johnson was laid off from their company, Hazan Import Corp., a year ago. At one point, the two men had grappled physically in an elevator.

John Koch, the property manager at the office building where the men worked, said security camera footage showed the two pushing and shoving. The tussle ended when Ercolino, a much larger man, pinned Johnson against the wall of the elevator by the throat, Koch said. Ercolino let him go after a few moments, and the two men went their separate ways.

“They didn’t like each other,” Koch said.

After shooting Ercolino, Johnson, an eccentric T-shirt designer and avid bird-watcher who wore a suit every day, even when photographing hawks in Central Park, walked away as if nothing had happened.

Alerted by a construction worker, officers Matthews and Sinishtaj gave chase as Johnson rounded a corner and walked along Fifth Avenue in front of the landmark skyscraper.

A security videotape from the scene shows several civilians — including three sitting on a bench only a few feet away — scattering as the officers opened fire.

Police have determined that three people were struck by whole bullets — two of which were removed from victims at the hospital — and the rest were grazed “by fragments of some sort,” Kelly said.

Two women with leg wounds and a man with a wound to his buttocks required surgery and remained hospitalized Saturday. They were listed in stable condition.

Both Matthews, 39, and Sinishtaj, 40, joined the nation’s largest police department 15 years ago.

Matthews had drawn attention this year by suing the New York Police Department, accusing his superiors of unfairly punishing him for not meeting arrest quotas. A judge threw out the complaint.

The union representing the two officers didn’t immediately respond to a message left seeking comment.

The shooting didn’t deter tourists from flocking to the Empire State Building as usual on Saturday.

Patricia Flynn, 57, a retired schoolteacher, visited the building’s peak with her elderly mother, who once worked in the skyscraper as a secretary.

“But I didn’t tell her what happened,” said Flynn, adding that her mother was unaware of Friday’s shooting. “And she really enjoyed the view.”

A group of 31 tourists from France held a meeting Friday night at their nearby hotel to decide whether to cancel their planned Empire State Building visit.

“We were scared, and we thought it was a risk,” said Catherine Krukar, 38, a teacher.

But in the end, they went ahead with the visit, she said after descending from the observation tower,

“We know it can happen anywhere, and we wanted to see the Empire State Building,” Krukar said. “It was beautiful!”


Saturday, August 25, 2012

Bowing to Beijing: How Barack Obama is Hastening America's Decline and Ushering A Century of Chinese Domination

Flattery Won’t Tame a Raging Dragon

While the Obama administration is mired in big-government “solutions” to “threats” such as global warming, unregulated businesses, and free-market healthcare, Obama officials have ignored and compounded the single biggest danger facing the United States: the rising power of communist China.

In Bowing to Beijing, Brett M. Decker and Bill Triplett cut through the fog of soothing, pro-China propaganda to reveal the disturbing truth: far from the gradually reforming “partner” portrayed by its many American apologists, China is an aggressive and rapidly militarizing criminal state feverishly striving to displace America as the world’s preeminent power. Shockingly, despite Chinese leaders showing their hostile intentions in every realm, the Obama administration refuses to take action or even acknowledge the threat—and as new evidence indicates, has gone so far as to actively cover up China’s misdeeds.

In this alarming book, Decker and Triplett reveal:

How China’s accumulating wealth is solidifying the Communist Party’s grip on power, funding a major military build-up, and making the regime more bellicose

How Obama’s reckless government spending and utopian green policies are empowering China at our expense

China’s role as a major global proliferator of weapons of mass destruction to rogue regimes and Islamic terrorist groups

China’s recurring pattern of stealing U.S. military, trade, and company secrets

Beijing’s vast program to buy influence in American politics and universities

Why Obama’s policies guarantee increasing Chinese aggression toward America in the near future

With China threatening everything from our national security to our food supply, Bowing to Beijing explains how the Chinese regime is conspiring against America—and how our own leaders remain willfully blind to the danger


BOLTON: Will Obama stop Iran’s nuclear ambitions?

The Western world’s media are again filled with speculation, leaks, purported leaks and flat-out disinformation about whether and when Israel will use military force against Iran’s nuclear-weapons program. As America’s Nov. 6 elections draw inexorably closer, pundits and commentators are assessing whether Israel can take seriously President Obama’s assurances that he will not permit Iran to become a nuclear-weapons state.

Of course, Mr. Obama has created during his presidency the most antagonistic relationship ever between Israel and the White House. Nonetheless, his administration is now embarked on a systematic publicity campaign to persuade Israelis and Americans he will use military force in the long run, if only Israel will refrain from doing so in the short run.

How much confidence can Israel have in the assertions of Mr. Obama’s advisers that they will, in fact, launch such an attack before Iran crosses the nuclear-weapons finish line? We hear constantly that “all options are on the table.” Unfortunately, this is a statement that the Obama administration itself doesn’t really believe, that Tehran finds laughable and that Jerusalem should ignore.

Israel’s political class is split over what its course should be, and Mr. Obama is doing everything he can to exploit these internal divisions. Last week, Israeli President Shimon Peres took the extraordinary step of saying publicly that Israel should not strike on its own. Sounding surprisingly like an Obama surrogate, Mr. Peres said, “I am convinced [Obama] recognizes the American interest, and he isn’t saying this just to keep us happy.”

In a sense, Israel is united on one key point: Everyone prefers that the United States unilaterally destroy Iran’s nuclear program, or at least take the lead in a joint operation. This universal preference is straightforward and understandable, given the vast superiority of American military capabilities. An Israeli strike against just the known Iranian nuclear targets will strain its capacity to the outer limits, poses substantial risks of heavy losses in the initial attack, and raises grave fears of Iranian retaliation, either directly or more likely through Hezbollah and Hamas. Obviously, the U.S.-led option is superior.

There is, however, a serious problem. Israel’s assessment and its ultimate decision are complicated precisely because of the superiority of American military strength. If Jerusalem defers to Washington and does not strike early enough, Iran’s program could well pass the point where Israel has the necessary capabilities to break Iran’s control over the nuclear fuel cycle. Or, even worse, Iran could fabricate nuclear weapons before being detected by either U.S. or Israeli intelligence, risking that a strike by either country could bring a nuclear response from Iran.

There are three principal reasons not to credit Mr. Obama’s assurances. First, the president’s every ideological inclination is not to use U.S. military force pre-emptively. By contrast, two months before Pearl Harbor, Franklin Roosevelt defended American attacks against Nazi submarines in the North Atlantic, saying, “When you see a rattlesnake poised to strike, you do not wait until he has struck before you crush him.” Plainly, Mr. Obama is no Franklin Roosevelt.

Moreover, conveniently for Mr. Obama, his ideological proclivities conform to his pre-election political imperatives. He and his campaign are desperately worried that unpredictable international events, such as hostilities in the Middle East, could interfere with his campaign strategy and cost him the election. Of course, it is possible an Israeli strike would help Mr. Obama politically, given America’s tendency to rally round its president in times of crisis. The basic “no-drama Obama” approach is: Why take the risk? Once safely re-elected, he has absolutely no domestic political incentive to act, thus again powerfully aligning his political interests with his ideology.

Second, Mr. Obama really does think Iran can be contained and deterred. Although his advisers vigorously assert that containment is not their policy, too many clearly think that containment is still workable, even if less than optimal. In reality, of course, not only is the Tehran regime not subject to rational deterrence calculus, the problem doesn’t stop with Iran. Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey would certainly acquire nuclear weapons if confronted with a nuclear Iran, making the entire Middle East far more dangerous and unstable.

Third, time is on Iran’s side. Even if Mitt Romney wins, there is no guarantee U.S. policy could change quickly enough to stop Iran. There is much about Iran’s nuclear program we do not know, and what we don’t know is almost certainly bad news. Moreover, Republicans are divided on the issue of when to strike. Mr. Romney himself has wisely avoided any statements that dishonest Obama surrogates could twist to their own advantage.

The hard reality, therefore, is that Israel must make its own military decision, preferably one based on physics, not politics. Israel most likely still has time if it wishes to act independently, but there is no guarantee how long.

Washington Times

America's Real Strategic Petroleum Reserve

As oil prices ticked above $115 per barrel last week, a White House leak revealed that President Barack Obama may dip into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), the United States' 695 million barrel stockpile of emergency fuel supplies. The leak might have been a signal that Washington wants Gulf countries to take action to lower oil prices. It might also have been an attempt to wring the risk premium out of current prices by reassuring the market that America won't let a potential war with Iran shut off the spigot. The one thing we can say for sure is that the announcement highlights two interrelated problems with U.S. energy policy: that every president since Ronald Reagan has used Saudi Arabia as his de facto SPR and that there exist no clear standards for when to dip onto the actual SPR. Both problems have the potential to bite us -- badly.

Over the years, the United States has been surprisingly reluctant to release SPR during times of crisis, preferring instead to let Saudi Arabia handle the problem by simply increasing its production. For decades, in fact, U.S. presidents have been able to count on the Middle Eastern petro giant to pre-release oil in anticipation of times of war. For example, Riyadh flooded the market ahead of the first Gulf War and, though many do not remember, it also put extra oil on the market ahead of the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003. Saudi Arabia even increased its oil production after the 9/11 attacks, which badly strained U.S.-Saudi relations. Likewise, this spring, when the Obama administration was debating whether or not to release the SPR ahead of the tightening of sanctions against Iran, Saudi Arabia helpfully boosted its production above 10 million barrels per day, causing oil prices to fall more than $10 a barrel and eliminating the need for the White House to make a firm decision.
But relying on Saudi Arabia, while politically convenient, is not without risks. The most obvious is that the Saudis have come under increased pressure -- both internal and external -- as a result of their longstanding oil-for-security alliance with Washington. Iran has warned its fellow Gulf producer not to make up the slack resulting from American and European sanctions, threatening direct retaliation if it does. Saudi Arabia isn't taking any chances. In recent months, it has arrested prominent Shiite dissidents -- always suspected of possible ties to Iran -- and doubled the number of Saudi National Guard forces in the Eastern Province, home to the vast majority its 2 million-plus Shiite citizens as well as the close to 90 percent of its oil production.

Oil markets might have taken solace in Saudi preparedness until rumors surfaced of an assassination attempt aimed at the kingdom's intelligence chief, a move purported to be a revenge killing by Iran for similar assassinations of senior military leaders in Syria. The rumors proved to be false, but like much of the region's murky political intrigue, it moved markets and served as a reminder that a tit-for-tat game of high level assassinations is not out of the realm of possibility. The oil implications of this unpredictability are clear: It will be hard to keep global oil markets calm in the coming weeks and months. Deaths of rulers can change dynamics overnight virtually anywhere in the region, and Israel's defense policy remains an ever-present black swan. Saudi Arabia's own rumored pursuit of new nuclear-style ballistic missiles from China adds an additional layer of uncertainty about a nuclear arms race in the region.

America's ability to fall back on the Saudis is further imperiled by the inherent instability of the kingdom's political and economic system. Saudi Arabia is going to need more and more oil revenue just to keep its population from growing restive. Riyadh-based Jadwa Investment predicts that Saudi Arabia will be forced to run budget deficits from 2014 onwards, even at a break-even price forecast of $90.70 per barrel in 2015. Other forecasts are even bleaker in the medium term, estimating the breakeven price at $110 a barrel in 2015. Either way, the kingdom's thirst for cash is likely to mean that U.S. and Saudi interests diverge. The oil-for-security deal between the two countries has destabilized the kingdom in the past by igniting support for al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and it could be used again by agents of internal opposition groups. Moreover, the recent pro-democracy upheavals in Egypt, Syria, and above all Bahrain are bound to influence U.S.-Saudi relations over time in ways that are hard to predict.

For the time being, these risks have been at least temporarily mitigated. Recent leadership successions in the senior ranks of the Saudi security apparatus (defense, interior, and intelligence) and the common interest in containing Iran has brought Saudi oil policy closer in line with White House goals -- at least for now. Saudi oil shipments to the United States have been on the upswing this year -- a reversal of previous policy that favored sales to China -- and the kingdom, together with Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates, has stockpiled oil in ships off the coast of Al-Fujairah, outside the critical shipping chokepoint of the Strait of Hormuz, and added emergency crude oil stocks in China, Japan, South Korea, and Rotterdam. This coordination helped keep oil prices from spiking when Western countries tightened the sanctions regime against Iran's oil industry. The extra Gulf crude was aimed not only to wean Asian and European buyers off Iranian oil but also to give the United States (or even Israel) more economic leeway for a military strike against Iran's nuclear facilities in the event that diplomatic negotiations stalled out. But as more and more Iranian oil comes off the market and the specter of military action intensifies, the impact of these significant moves is wearing off.

But if Obama's trial balloon reveals the dangers of treating Saudi Arabia as a de facto emergency stockpile, the absence of concrete standards for releasing the real SPR will also make the president's job harder. There exists no defined mechanism to trigger a release, and each time it seems to make sense, the United States winds up initiating a cumbersome, time-consuming diplomatic process of negotiations with foreign allies and the International Energy Agency (IEA) that often over-politicizes the result. Moreover, the actual process of getting the oil from the reserves to the pump isn't instantaneous. It takes weeks after the announcement of an SPR sale for the U.S. Department of Energy to collect bids and award sales volumes. Then, the buyers have to schedule oil with nearby pipeline companies, so by the time the oil actually reaches the refineries and is processed into gasoline another several weeks will have passed. Thus, releasing stocks after a major crisis is a losing strategy -- better to plan ahead to shape the marketplace.

There is no question that the United States should get more oil onto the market, not only because prices have been rising but also because the war drums are beating again over Iran. But within the constraints posed by poorly designed energy policies, the president has made it harder for himself by adopting a non-committal approach. The optimum utilization of strategic oil stocks requires broad diplomatic coordination, a transparent policy, and well-articulated procedures. In 1991, that coordination was well advertised months in advance and markets knew what to expect. As a result, the oil-price impact of the Gulf war was small (by today's standards) and short-lived, and its impact on the U.S. and global economy was muted compared with other similar crises.

Where the oil markets are concerned, the president's coy, "see what you can get first" negotiating strategy with Western and Middle East allies might be less than useful. Transparency and planning are what takes volatility out of prices. In days gone by, a photo-op of senior U.S. and Saudi officials shaking hands was enough to convince the markets that oil would be there in a crisis. In the volatile post-Arab Spring world, however, this style of oil diplomacy can no longer be implemented without unexpected political consequences -- suggesting that the United States needs to shift its thinking about how it manages the SPR and oil crises in general. The time to revise the trigger mechanism for the SPR is now, before we hit a major crisis. Dithering only helps our enemies and puts the global recovery at risk.

That said, there is no wrong answer for when to time an SPR release. Given how long the process takes, an early release now means that markets would be physically well supplied by the time a possible war breaks out, potentially muting the impact on prices then. If the president waits, however, and announces perhaps an even larger release at the time of a crisis, it could have greater psychological power to move prices sharply lower all at once. The only wrong policy is to be indecisive. Having no policy means that market participants cannot plan whether to build commercial inventory or not. It gives speculators free rein and increases the chance American consumers will pay unnecessary fuel-risk premiums.

The geopolitics of the Middle East has likely changed forever as a result of the Arab Spring, and the United States has neither the resources nor the power to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. We must acknowledge this fact and forge an emergency oil stocks policy that fits 21st-century realities. Not only does Washington need to break its habit of falling back on the Saudis, it needs clearer definitions for the goals and mechanisms of an SPR release. It should also consider requiring U.S. refiners to hold a mandated minimum level of gasoline inventories (as is done in Europe and Japan) to ensure that Americans have immediate supplies of fuel in the event of a major oil disruption from the Middle East. Such domestic fuel stocks proved invaluable to Japan in the aftermath of the Fukushima nuclear crisis last spring. A more transparent and effective strategic stocks policy would not only better protect the U.S. economy in times of oil-market uncertainty, it would also give America more freedom of maneuver in the new Middle East.


24 dead, more than 80 hurt after huge explosion at Venezuela's biggest oil refinery

CARACAS, Venezuela — A huge explosion rocked Venezuela's biggest oil refinery and unleashed a ferocious fire Saturday, killing at least 26 people and injuring more than 80 others in the deadliest disaster in memory for the country's key oil industry.

Balls of fire rose over the Amuay refinery, one of the largest in the world, in video posted on the Internet by people who were nearby at the time. Government officials pledged to restart the refinery within two days and said the country has plenty of fuel supplies on hand to meet its domestic needs as well as its export commitments.

At least 86 people were injured, nine of them seriously, Health Minister Eugenia Sader said at a hospital where the wounded were taken. She said 77 people suffered light injuries and were released from the hospital.

Officials said those killed included a 10-year-old boy, and that 17 of the 26 victims were National Guard troops stationed at a post next to the refinery.

President Hugo Chavez declared three days of mourning in the country.

"This affects all of us," Chavez said by phone on state television. "It's very sad, very painful."

Chavez said he ordered a "deep investigation" to determine what caused the explosion.

Vice President Elias Jaua, who traveled to the area in western Venezuela, said the authorities tried "to save the greatest number of lives."

Officials said firefighters had controlled the flames at the refinery on the Paraguana Peninsula, where clouds of dark smoke were still billowing at noon.

Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez said the state oil company should be able to "restart operations in a maximum of two days."

"We have sufficient supplies... in the entire country, and our production at the maximum to deal with any situation in our domestic market," Ramirez said. "In that sense, we won't have major effects."

An official of the state oil company, Petroleos de Venezuela SA, said the country also has enough supplies on hand to guarantee its international supply commitments. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he wasn't authorized to speak publicly about the matter.

The blast occurred about 1:15 a.m. when a gas leak created a cloud that ignited, Ramirez said. An adjacent National Guard post was severely damaged by the blast, along with nearby homes, he said.

"That gas generated a cloud that later exploded and has caused fires in at least two tanks of the refinery and surrounding areas," Ramirez said. "The blast wave was of a significant magnitude."

Images in the early hours after the explosion showed the flames casting an orange glow against the night sky. One photograph showed an injured man being wheeled away on a stretcher.

"The areas that had to be evacuated were evacuated," Falcon state Gov. Stella Lugo said on television, according to the state-run Venezuelan News Agency. "The situation is controlled. Of course there's still a fire rising very high, but ... the specialists tell me there is no risk of another explosion."

Ramirez said a panel of investigators was being formed to investigate the cause of the gas leak. A prosecutor also was appointed to lead the investigation. Troops were deployed to the area.

Ramirez said that nine storage tanks were damaged. He said supplies of fuel had been cut off to part of the refinery, and that the fire had been brought under control, though the flames continued to burn up fuel in some of the tanks.

Firefighters were using foam to extinguish the flames in one of the remaining tanks, Ramirez said.

"This regrettable and sad event is controlled, is under control," Ramirez said on television, while plumes of smoke continued to rise from the refinery.

Amuay is part of the Paraguana Refinery Complex, which also includes the adjacent Cardon refinery. Together, the two refineries process about 900,000 barrels of crude per day and 200,000 barrels of gasoline. Venezuela is a major supplier of oil to the U.S. and a member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

While the cause of Saturday's disaster remained unclear, some critics of President Hugo Chavez's government have recently pointed to increasing numbers of smaller accidents and spills as an indication of problems within the state-run company known as PDVSA.

"This tragedy is probably the worst one the oil industry has had in many years. Accidents happen, of course, although the problem with PDVSA is the inordinate amount of accidents that have taken place during the last years," said Gustavo Coronel, an energy consultant and former executive of PDVSA. Considering that record overall, Coronel said, "we are not talking about bad luck but about lack of maintenance and inept management."

Deadly accidents also occurred in Venezuela's oil and natural gas industry in the past. In 1993, a natural gas pipeline exploded beneath highway in Las Tejerias, engulfing a passenger bus and cars. Officials said 36 people were killed.

On Saturday morning, Ramirez said the explosion occurred in an area of the refinery where storage tanks are located. On television, he showed an aerial map of the rows of tanks where the flames raged.

"All of the events happened very quickly," he said. "When we got here in the middle of the night, at 3 or 3:30 in the morning, the fire was at its peak."


Could spell the end of Hugo

BBC News HD - Syrian rebels try to use prisoner for suicide bombing 2012

18 killed in US drone attacks in Pakistan

ISLAMABAD: US missiles slammed into three compounds close to the Afghan border yesterday, killing 18 suspected militants, Pakistani officials said, just a day after the government summoned an American diplomat to protest drone strikes in the country’s northwest tribal region.
The suspected militant hideouts were hit minutes apart. They were located several kilometers from each other in the North Waziristan tribal area, said intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to reporters.
The US has carried out seven drone strikes in the past week in North Waziristan, ignoring Pakistani protests that they violate the country’s sovereignty.
The attacks have exacerbated the already troubled relationship between the two countries, but the US has refused to stop the strikes.
On Thursday, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry summoned a US diplomat to protest the wave of drone strikes.
“A senior US diplomat was called to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and informed that the drone strikes were unlawful, against international law and a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty. It was emphatically stated that such attacks were unacceptable,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. The diplomat was not identified.
The Pakistani government is widely believed to have supported the strikes in the past. That cooperation has come under strain as the relationship between the two countries has deteriorated, but US officials say privately that there are still senior members of Pakistan’s government and military who condone the attacks. The US rarely discusses the covert CIA-run drone program in Pakistan publicly.
The strikes are unpopular in Pakistan because many people believe they kill mostly civilians — an allegation denied by the US
The suspected militant hideouts that were attacked Friday in the Shawal area of North Waziristan were each hit by two missiles, said the intelligence officials. Militants often use the hideouts when they are crossing into Afghanistan, the officials said. In addition to the 18 suspected militants who were killed, 14 others were wounded, they said.
There has been a string of drone strikes over the past week.
On Saturday, five allies of a powerful warlord, Hafiz Gul Bahadur, whose forces often strike US troops in Afghanistan, died when a US drone struck their hideout. On Sunday, American drones fired a flurry of missiles into the Pakistani tribal area bordering Afghanistan, killing 10 suspected militants in two separate strikes. On Tuesday, missiles targeting a vehicle killed five more suspected militants.
One of the reasons the US has increased the number of drone attacks in Pakistan is the government’s refusal to launch an offensive in North Waziristan against militants who carry out cross-border attacks against American forces in Afghanistan.
US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta recently said Pakistan plans to launch an operation in North Waziristan in the near future. But it is likely to focus on Taleban militants who have been at war with the Pakistani state, not those who have been fighting the US-led coalition in Afghanistan.

Arab News

2K, 1 by 1

The past few days have been challenging ones, with many men and women having passed through my door, most of whom I know well. Fortunately many are doing well. Unfortunately some are not.

It’s the nature of my business.

Sadly, there is an additional factor in the nature of my business. It’s called reality.

Reality, this week, has not been kind. For as many readers may already know, this past week our Nation achieved–if one only could, without bitter irony, call it that–a milestone."
Paving the Road Back

A blog from a VA psychiatrist
I just paid $3.95 per gallon to fill up a car for the Hurricane

Friday, August 24, 2012

US general: We hacked the enemy in Afghanistan

The U.S. military has been launching cyberattacks against its opponents in Afghanistan, a senior officer says, making an unusually explicit acknowledgment of the oft-hidden world of electronic warfare.

Marine Lt. Gen. Richard P. Mills' comments came last week at a conference in Baltimore during which he explained how U.S. commanders considered cyber weapons an important part of their arsenal.

"I can tell you that as a commander in Afghanistan in the year 2010, I was able to use my cyber operations against my adversary with great impact," Mills said. "I was able to get inside his nets, infect his command-and-control, and in fact defend myself against his almost constant incursions to get inside my wire, to affect my operations."

Mills, now a deputy commandant with the Marine Corps, was in charge of international forces in southwestern Afghanistan between 2010 and 2011, according to his official biography. He didn't go into any further detail as to the nature or scope of his forces' attacks, but experts said that such a public admission that they were being carried out was itself striking.

"This is news," said James Lewis, a cyber-security analyst with the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies. He said that while it was generally known in defense circles that cyberattacks had been carried out by U.S. forces in Afghanistan, he had never seen a senior officer take credit for them in such a way.

"It's not secret," Lewis said in a telephone interview, but he added: "I haven't seen as explicit a statement on this as the one" Mills made.

Pentagon spokesman Lt. Col. Damien Pickart declined to elaborate on Mills' comments, saying in an email that "for reasons of security . we do not provide specific information regarding our intentions, plans, capabilities or operations."

The email said that the Pentagon's cyber operations were properly authorized and that they took place within the bounds of international law and the "confines of existing policy."

U.S. defense planners have spent the past few years debating that policy, asking how and under what circumstances the Pentagon would launch a cyberattack against its enemies, but it's only recently become apparent that a sophisticated program of U.S.-backed cyberattacks is already under way.

A book by The New York Times reporter David Sanger recently recounted how President Barack Obama ordered a wave of electronic incursions aimed at physically sabotaging Iran's disputed atomic energy program. Subsequent reports have linked the program to a virus dubbed Flame, which prompted a temporary Internet blackout across Iran's oil industry in April, and another virus called Gauss, which appeared to have been aimed at stealing information from customers of Lebanese banks. An earlier report alleged that U.S. forces in Iraq had hacked into a terrorist group's computer there to lure its members into an ambush.

Herbert Lin, a cyber expert at the National Research Council, agreed that Mills' comments were unusual in terms of the fact that they were made publicly. But Lin said that the United States was, little by little, opening up about the fact that its military was launching attacks across the Internet.

"The U.S. military is starting to talk more and more in terms of what it's doing and how it's doing it," he said. "A couple of years ago it was hard to get them to acknowledge that they were doing offense at all - even as a matter of policy, let alone in specific theaters or specific operations."

Mills' brief comments about cyberattacks in Afghanistan were delivered to the TechNet Land Forces East conference in Baltimore on Aug. 15, but they did not appear to have attracted much attention at the time. Footage of the speech was only recently posted to the Internet by conference organizers.


Camel trading blogs?

I want to be a crony

Iran's progress on nuclear fuel speeding up, say UN inspectors

INTERNATIONAL nuclear inspectors will soon report that Iran has installed hundreds of new centrifuges and may be speeding up production of nuclear fuel while negotiations with the United States and its allies have ground to a near halt, according to diplomats and experts briefed on the findings.
Almost all of the new equipment is being installed in a deep underground site, on a military base near the city of Qom, that is considered virtually invulnerable to attack. It would suggest that a boast by senior Iranian leaders late last month - that the country had added more than 1000 new machines to its installation despite Western sabotage - may be true.

The report will also indicate, according to officials familiar with its contents, that Iran is increasingly focused on enriching uranium to a level of 20 per cent - a purity that experts say gets it most of the way to the level needed to produce a workable nuclear bomb.

The report does not try to answer the question of whether Iran has made a decision to build a nuclear weapon. US intelligence officials believe it has not, and Iran insists it wants to use nuclear power for peaceful ends.

Nonetheless, the report by the International Atomic Energy Agency's experts is likely to renew the debate over Iran's intentions at a time when Israel is stepping up warnings that the window to conduct a pre-emptive military strike is closing.

A faction led by Israeli Defence Minister Ehud Barak will almost certainly argue that Iran has moved closer to what he calls a ''zone of immunity'', the point at which so much equipment is installed in the underground facility, called Fordow, that it will be too late for Israel to stop Iran from producing a weapon should it choose to do so.

The report could also become an issue in the US presidential race. The presumptive Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, used a trip to Israel last month to claim President Barack Obama had wasted time in fruitless negotiations with Iran.

''This will stir more discussion of how much time is left for diplomacy,'' said Olli Heinonen, the former chief inspector for the IAEA and now a fellow at Harvard's Belfer Centre for Science and International Affairs. ''Even if the new centrifuges are not operating yet, a thousand new ones would represent a 20 per cent increase - and an increased production level will be a red line for many people.''

Under an offer the US, its Western allies and Russia presented to Iran privately in the late northern spring, Tehran would be allowed to retain some enrichment capability if it turned over its stockpile of 20 per cent-enriched uranium and answered the questions by international inspectors about evidence that it has worked on a weapon.

Although Iranian officials have privately expressed some interest in the plan, it has gone nowhere, and no new negotiating sessions are scheduled, US officials say.

The report, expected to be the last by the IAEA before the US presidential election, will lay out a stark reality: Despite increasingly painful sanctions, and a covert program called ''Olympic Games'' that aimed to slow the Iranian program with cyber attacks, Iran has made substantial progress in producing enriched uranium in recent years - from about one bomb's worth when Mr Obama took office in 2009 to about five today.

But the fuel would require considerable additional enrichment before it was usable in a weapon and, even then, Mr Obama and others have insisted the US would almost certainly have considerable notice before Iran developed a weapon. The Israelis disagree.

They say Iran cannot be permitted to reach a weapons capability, a position Mr Romney seemed to endorse during his visit to Israel in July. Mr Obama has said only that he would prevent Iran from obtaining a weapon.

Many in Israel's military and intelligence establishments argue this is not the time for an attack, and the recently retired chief of staff of the Israel Defence Forces, Gabi Ashkenazi, this week joined former officials urging Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to look for other options, from further sanctions to additional covert action.

The Age

82-Yr-Old Activist Breaches “Stringent Security” At U.S. Nuclear Weapons Lab

In an inconceivable breach, an 82-year-old nun along with two other seniors somehow managed to evade what the U.S. government calls the “most stringent security in the world” to break into a nuclear weapons laboratory often referred to as the “Fort Knox of Uranium.”

So much for the feds protecting nuclear labs from a terrorist attack with topnotch—and costly—security systems; this staggering story comes from the Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. It’s operated by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), which is responsible for the management and security of the country’s nuclear weapons, nuclear nonproliferation and naval reactor programs.

This is serious stuff, which is why Uncle Sam allocates hundreds of millions of dollars to secure facilities like the Y-12 National Security Complex. It has a sophisticated $500 million system that includes high-tech cameras and sensors, according to a news wire dedicated to covering homeland security issues. There is also a substantial staff of guards and the property is surrounded by huge security towers and special fences.

After all, the Y-12 National Security Complex is the country’s main storage facility for bomb-grade uranium and it makes uranium parts for every warhead in the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Old weapons are also dismantled at the compound, which claims to “maintain the safety, security and effectiveness of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile.” On its website the Y-12 also assures that it reduces the “global threat posed by nuclear proliferation and terrorism” and that it provides “safe and effective nuclear propulsion systems for the U.S. Navy.”

So how did an 82-year-old Catholic nun, a renowned antinuclear activist long on the government’s radar, and her two buddies—one 63 and the other 57—penetrate the facility and go undetected by security for two hours? With flashlights and bolt cutters, according to various news reports. The trio of protesters also splashed blood around the nuclear complex and hung banners outside its walls.

The story was so unbelievable that one the nation’s largest newspapers wrote a profile on the Roman Catholic nun, Sister Megan Rice who has been charged with federal trespassing and destruction of property. She’s been arrested before for acts of civil disobedience, the story says, but this was the biggest security breach in the history of the nation’s atomic complex. This is a huge embarrassment for President Obama, the article points out, reminding that he led a campaign to eliminate or lock down nuclear materials as a way to fight atomic terrorism.


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Odds of Global Recession Are 100%: Marc Faber

There’s still a 100 percent chance the world heads into recession, Marc Faber, publisher of “The Gloom, Boom & Doom Report,” told CNBC’s “Closing Bell” on Thursday, echoing a call he made in May.

When you look at the major economies, Europe, the U.S., China and the emerging markets that are dependent on China for growth, Faber, aka Dr. Doom, only sees weakness.

“Europe is already in recession,” he said. “Germany is still growing very, very slightly, but is likely to go into recession soon.”

Growth in the U.S. is also falling off. “The U.S. economy has decelerated and I don’t see much growth in the next six to 12 months,” Faber said.

There’s also little the Federal Reserve and other policy makers can do to turn the U.S. economy around. “I think that if you look at the injection of liquidity and the intervention by the Federal Reserve and the Treasury with fiscal measures, it has already impoverished the U.S. economy,” he said.

It would take “massive easing, a huge balance sheet expansion,” to boost economic activity in the U.S., according to Faber. (Read More: More Easing Not Needed If Growth Holds Up: Fed's Bullard.)

Faber also doesn’t expect much change in the U.S.’s finances regardless of who wins the election in November. “The deficit is $1.3 trillion and, in my view, will go up,” he cautioned. (Read More: The Biggest Holders of US Government Debt.)

Even corporate profits, the lone bright spot, look to be at risk. “The corporate sector has recovered remarkably since the trough in earnings in 2009 and we are at record high earnings,” Faber said, but added, “Corporate profits will disappoint over the next 12 to 18 months.”


Va. judge orders release of detained vetera

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) — A judge on Thursday ordered the release of a former Marine who was detained for psychiatric evaluation after posting strident anti-government messages on Facebook.

Prince George County Circuit Judge W. Allan Sharrett said at the end of a one-hour hearing that the involuntary commitment order issued by a magistrate against Brandon J. Raub was invalid because it contained no allegation or basis to hold him, according to the head of a civil liberties organization that represented the 26-year-old veteran.

"This is a great victory," Rutherford Institute executive director John Whitehead said. "He's a good human being. He just got caught in some weird bureaucratic meanderings and the judge recognized that there's really no true facts to hold this man in a psychiatric ward."

Raub was released from the Salem Veterans Affairs Medical Center late Thursday and was on his way back to his home in the Richmond area, a Rutherford Institute spokeswoman said. Both Raub and his mother, Cathleen Thomas, were unavailable for comment.

Raub, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, was taken into custody Aug. 16 after being questioned by Chesterfield County police and federal agents about his Facebook posts. The FBI said the interview was prompted by complaints from people who read his ominous posts, including some that spoke of a pending revolution. One said "a day of reckoning" was coming, and another said: "Sharpen my axe; I'm here to sever heads."

Onlookers shot a video of Raub being led away from his home in handcuffs and posted it on You Tube, fueling a groundswell of support for the veteran and criticism that the government was trampling on his free-speech rights. The Charlottesville-based Rutherford Institute came to his defense, characterizing the government's actions as those of a police state. Raub was not charged with a crime.

"Brandon Raub was arrested with no warning, targeted for doing nothing more than speaking out against the government, detained against his will, and isolated from his family, friends and attorneys," Whitehead said. "These are the kinds of things that take place in totalitarian societies. Today, at least, Judge Allan Sharrett proved that justice can still prevail in America."

He called Raub's release a victory for the First Amendment.

"People a have right to go on Facebook or the Internet (and) say things that people might not agree with, "Whitehead said. "But that doesn't mean they're crazy or should be incarcerated for it."

Raub initially was taken the John Randolph Medical Center in Hopewell, where he was held over the weekend for a preliminary evaluation. After a hearing Monday, another judge ordered Raub detained for an additional month and transferred him to the Salem VA hospital.

Thursday's hearing was expected to be limited to Raub's objection to the transfer, so Whitehead said Sharrett's decision came as a surprise.

"The petition is so devoid of any factual allegations that it could not be reasonably expected to give rise to a case or controversy," the order says.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

TSA Rifles Through Bags, Conducts Pat Downs At Paul Ryan Event

For some time we have been warning that the TSA is systematically moving beyond the nation’s airports and conducting operations on the streets of America.

The latest example of this kind of activity occurred at an event organized by Mitt Romney’s GOP running mate Paul Ryan this past weekend in The Villages, Florida.

The Shark Tank blog reports that TSA officers showed up alongside Secret Service and the local Sumter County Sheriff’s Office, and proceeded to do what they do like no one else does.

“A big WTF is in order here.” the blog notes, adding “We heard that the TSA was going to expand its ummm, ‘reach,’ but to assist in political campaigns is quite the jump in broadening their ‘transportation security horizons.’”

“I counted no less than (6) TSA agents alongside the usual uniformed Secret Service detail-not to be confused with the ‘Men In Black’ looking agents.” blogger Javier Manjarres notes, with a picture of the agents in action (below).

As we have previously documented, airport security style checkpoints and inspection procedures are already in place at bus terminals, train stations, and are rapidly being expanded to the streets of America.

Agents have even been spotted roaming around at public events such as sports games and music concerts, and even at high school proms.

The TSA even moved beyond its own borders this summer as agents were dispatched to airports in London for the Olympic Games.

The TSA has also announced its intention to expand the VIPR program to include roadside inspections of commercial vehicles, setting up a network of internal checkpoints and rolling out security procedures already active in airports, bus terminals and subway stations to roads and highways across the United States.

These internal checkpoints, run by Homeland Security, the Department of Transportation, and the TSA, involve trucks being scanned with backscatter x-ray devices in the name of “safety” and “counter terrorism”.

Homeland Security is also developing technology to be used at “security events” which purports to monitor “malintent” on behalf of an individual who passes through a checkpoint.

Since its inception in the US after 9/11, the TSA has grown in size exponentially. The agency was slammed in a recent congressional report for wasting hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars on security theatre.

If people think they can avoid the TSA by staying away from airports, they’re going to be in for a rude awakening. TSA is clearly engaged in a total takeover of society and plans to have its agents searching, patting down, scanning and harassing Americans at all levels of society, not just at transport hubs but at public events, in the street and on highways and roads across the country.

The implementation of ‘Checkpoint USA’, where citizens are routinely stopped, searched and radiated by federal VIPER teams is further evidence of how America is crumbling into a Soviet-style police state where the presumption of innocent until proven guilty is abolished and the 4th amendment eviscerated.


Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Japanese journalist killed covering Syria fighting

TOKYO (AP) - A veteran Japanese war correspondent was shot and killed while covering Syria's civil war, her family and the government said Tuesday.

Mika Yamamoto worked for The Japan Press, an independent TV news provider that specializes in conflict zone coverage.

She was hit by gunfire Monday while she and a colleague were traveling with the Free Syrian Army in the northwestern city of Aleppo, said Masaru Sato, a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry in Tokyo. The rebel army is trying to topple the regime of President Bashar Assad.

A YouTube video posted by an activist in Syria shows Yamamoto, 45, inside a van wrapped in blankets with only her face visible. An Associated Press reporter who had worked with Yamamoto and who viewed the video confirmed her identity.

In another video, apparently taken at a field hospital, her Japanese colleague Kazutaka Sato wept as he looked into her blood-smeared face, then gently pressed his cheek against hers.

"Why? You are wearing a flak jacket," he said, speaking to her lifeless body. "That must hurt. Did you suffer? Were you shot in the head?" he asked, sobbing. Then he saw her arm with gunshot wounds, apparently suffered as she covered her head. "Oh, that hurt, didn't it?"

Yamamoto was shot in the neck, her father Koji Yamamoto cited Japanese government officials as saying.

She had covered the war in Afghanistan after 2001 and the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq from Baghdad as a special correspondent for NTV, according to Japan Press' website.

She was the fifth foreign journalist to be killed in Syria since the start of the war, the media watchdog group Reporters Without Borders said. A sixth journalist died from a severe asthma attack during an undercover reporting trip.

The group said about 30 Syrian journalists and citizen-journalists have also been killed.

In the YouTube video, Capt. Ahmed Ghazali, a rebel fighter in the northern Syrian city of Azaz, says the Japanese journalist was killed by regime forces in Aleppo.

"We welcome any journalist who wants to enter Syria," Ghazali says. "We will secure their entry, but we are not responsible for the brutality of Assad's forces against the media."

Activists say Syria's conflict has killed more than 20,000 people since March 2011. Ghazali expressed frustration that the international community has not intervened in the war and said he hopes the journalist's death will encourage international action.

"I hope that these countries that have not been moved by Syrian blood will be moved by the blood of their people," he says.

Ghazali also said two other journalists were captured by Syrian government forces in Aleppo, including a reporter with Al-Hurra TV named Bashar.

A statement from Springfield, Virginia-based Al-Hurra said the video referred to correspondent Bashar Fahmi and his cameraman Cuneyt Unal. The company has not been able to reach either man since they entered Syria on Monday morning.

"We are currently working to gather more information about their status. The safety and wellbeing of our journalists is of utmost concern to us," it said.

Yamamoto's body has been transferred to Turkey, where Japanese consular officials were providing assistance, the Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman said.

In an interview with a Japanese TV network from his home in Yamanashi, just north of Tokyo, Yamamoto's father said he respected her as a journalist who "always stood against those with power and thought of the weak."

He said he saw her as a journalist who cared about people, not as a war reporter.

"Whenever she was out on a reporting trip, I prayed for her safety. That's all I could do as a parent," he said. He recently sent her an email with the subject line "Praying for your safety," he said.

Just a few days earlier, Yamamoto said she was in Kilis, a Turkish village near the border.

"It's a very peaceful Turkish village," she wrote in her last message to her father.


US drone kills 5 militants in northwest Pakistan

ISLAMABAD (AP) - An unmanned American aircraft fired missiles at a vehicle in a Pakistani tribal area bordering Afghanistan Tuesday, killing five suspected militants and injuring two, Pakistani intelligence officials said.

The strike was part of a spike in American drone attacks, which have drawn official Pakistani criticism in the past. The spurt of drone action threatened to add tensions to relations between the two allies, just as they appeared to be improving.

The latest drone strike came near Shana Khora village in North Waziristan, two officials said.

They said the area of the drone attacks is dominated by anti-U.S. militant commander Hafiz Gul Bahadur. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters.

Bahadur's group is known for frequent attacks on U.S. troops in Afghanistan, but generally it does not carry out operations inside Pakistan. Several recent drone strikes have killed militants affiliated with Bahadur's group.

Tuesday's was the third drone attack in North Waziristan within three days. On Sunday, drone-fired missiles killed 10 suspected militants in two strikes 12 hours apart.

The covert CIA drone program has drawn strong criticism in Pakistan. Pakistani officials charge such strikes violate their country's sovereignty. Many Pakistanis complain that the strikes kill innocent civilians.

The U.S. insists that drone strikes are essential to combat militant groups, like al-Qaida. There is evidence that despite their critical public stance, the Pakistanis have sometimes quietly condoned the drone attacks.

The U.S. complains that the Pakistani army has carried out offensive against militants in all other tribal regions, but not North Waziristan. The area has become a safe haven for militants, who use it as a base to attack American and other NATO troops in neighboring Afghanistan.

Pakistan has resisted U.S. pressure for action in North Waziristan, saying its military is already overtaxed by fighting in other parts of the country. Analysts have said Pakistan does not want to engage militant groups that could be allies in Afghanistan after foreign forces leave. NATO is due to hand over security responsibility to Afghan forces at the end of 2014.

Relations hit a snag after American airstrikes killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in November. Pakistan closed down the main NATO supply route to Afghanistan in response. The route was re-opened only seven months later, in July, after the U.S. apologized, and ties began to improve.

Also Tuesday, a roadside bomb targeting a security convoy killed at least one civilian and wounded eight others in southwestern Pakistan.

Senior police officer Abdul Majid Bhatti said no soldiers were hurt in the attack on the outskirts of Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province.

No group claimed responsibility, but suspicion fell on nationalists who have waged an insurgency in Baluchistan for decades, demanding autonomy and a larger share of the province's natural resources. They often target Pakistani security forces.


Afghan rockets damage US general's plane

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - An insurgent rocket attack damaged the plane of the top U.S. general as it sat parked at a coalition base in Afghanistan on Tuesday, dealing another blow to the image of progress in building a stable country as foreign forces work to wind down the 10-year-old war.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the two rockets that landed near the C-17 transport plane that U.S. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, flew into Bagram Air Field north of Kabul on a day earlier. The claim was an attempt by the insurgents to score more propaganda points in what has been a deadly few weeks for the international coalition in Afghanistan.

Jamie Graybeal, a spokesman for the U.S. military and the international coalition, said Dempsey was in his staff quarters when the two rockets landed and was unhurt in the attack. But the damage to the plane forced Dempsey to use another aircraft for his flight from Bagram to Iraq on Tuesday.

Two aircraft maintenance workers were lightly wounded by shrapnel, and a nearby helicopter was damaged, Graybeal said.

Dempsey was in Afghanistan for talks with military leaders about the war as well as a disturbing rash of killings of U.S. military trainers by their Afghan partners or militants dressed in Afghan uniform.

Such turncoat attacks - which the Taliban also said they are behind - killed 10 Americans in the last two weeks alone, threatening morale and raising questions about the strategy to train Afghan security forces so they can fight the insurgency after foreign troops end their combat role in 2014.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid issued a statement Tuesday claiming Dempsey's aircraft was targeted by insurgents "using exact information" about its whereabouts.

Graybeal, however, rejected the claim, saying insurgent rocket and mortar attacks are "not infrequent" at Bagram and that such fire most often comes from so far away that it's virtually impossible to hit specific targets.

Pentagon spokeswoman Maj. Cathy Wilkinson also denied the strike was aimed specifically at Dempsey's plane. "Indirect fire at Bagram is not unusual, so we don't believe his aircraft was targeted."

Bagram, a sprawling complex that covers about 21 square kilometers (8 square miles) and houses tens of thousands of troops, is about an hour's drive north of Kabul, and usually serves as the first point of entrance for U.S. officials visiting the country. It is the hub for military operations in the east of the country and the largest U.S. base in Afghanistan.

During his visit, Dempsey met with U.S. Afghan commander Gen. John Allen in Kabul and also with a number of senior Afghan and coalition leaders.

Among the topics was the escalating number of "insider attacks" in which Afghan security forces or militants dressed in Afghan uniform turn their guns on coalition military trainers. Once an anomaly, the number of such attacks has been climbing in recent months. There have been 32 of them so far this year, up from 21 for all of 2011, according to NATO.

Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar last week said the killings were the result of an insurgent campaign of infiltration, though NATO has said it's too early to tell if the attacks were related to the insurgency or caused by personal disputes turned deadly.

The Taliban also claimed to have shot down a U.S. military helicopter that crashed during a firefight with insurgents in a remote area of southern Afghanistan on Thursday, killing seven Americans and four Afghans on board.

U.S. officials, however, said initial reports were that enemy fire was not involved in the crash.

Tuesday's insurgent attack was the second this year to come uncomfortably close to a high-level U.S. official visiting Afghanistan.

In March, an attacker tried to ram a car into a delegation waiting to greet U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta at Bastion Air Field in southern Afghanistan as his C-17 taxied toward the landing ramp. U.S. defense officials said Panetta was never in any danger, but if the attacker had waited just a few more minutes, Panetta's plane would have been at the ramp.

Another attack, this time at the entrance of Bagram, struck in 2007 as then-Vice President Dick Cheney visited Afghanistan. The suicide attacker did not penetrate the gates of the base but at least 23 people were killed in the blast.


Shhhhhut up about that, no one wants to hear how O has lost the war or how his strategy of drone zapping has fail to achieve any objectives, beyond killing lots of mostly random people.

Americans tune out Afghan war as fighting rages on

ABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - It was once President Barack Obama's "war of necessity." Now, it's America's forgotten war.

The Afghan conflict generates barely a whisper on the U.S. presidential campaign trail. It's not a hot topic at the office water cooler or in the halls of Congress - even though more than 80,000 American troops are still fighting here and dying at a rate of one a day.

Americans show more interest in the economy and taxes than the latest suicide bombings in a different, distant land. They're more tuned in to the political ad war playing out on television than the deadly fight still raging against the Taliban. Earlier this month, protesters at the Iowa State Fair chanted "Stop the war!" They were referring to one purportedly being waged against the middle class.

By the time voters go to the polls Nov. 6 to choose between Obama and presumptive Republican nominee Mitt Romney, the war will be in its 12th year. For most Americans, that's long enough.

Public opinion remains largely negative toward the war, with 66 percent opposed to it and just 27 percent in favor in a May AP-GfK poll. More recently, a Quinnipiac University poll found that 60 percent of registered voters felt the U.S. should no longer be involved in Afghanistan. Just 31 percent said the U.S. is doing the right thing by fighting there now.

Not since the Korean War of the early 1950s - a much shorter but more intense fight - has an armed conflict involving America's sons and daughters captured so little public attention.

"We're bored with it," said Matthew Farwell, who served in the U.S. Army for five years including 16 months in eastern Afghanistan, where he sometimes received letters from grade school students addressed to the brave Marines in Iraq - the wrong war.

"We all laugh about how no one really cares," he said. "All the 'support the troops' stuff is bumper sticker deep."

Farwell, 29, who is now studying at the University of Virginia, said the war is rarely a topic of conversation on campus - and he isn't surprised that it's not discussed much on the campaign trail.

"No one understands how to extricate ourselves from the mess we have made there," he said. "So from a purely political point of view, I wouldn't be talking about it if I were Barack Obama or Mitt Romney either."

Ignoring the Afghan war, though, doesn't make it go away.

More than 1,950 Americans have died in Afghanistan and thousands more have been wounded since President George W. Bush launched attacks on Oct. 7, 2001 to rout al-Qaida after it used Afghanistan to train recruits and plot the Sept. 11 attacks that killed nearly 3,000 Americans.

The war drags on even though al-Qaida has been largely driven out of Afghanistan and its charismatic leader Osama bin Laden is dead - slain in a U.S. raid on his Pakistani hideout last year.

Strangely, Afghanistan never seemed to grab the same degree of public and media attention as the war in Iraq, which Obama opposed as a "war of choice."

Unlike Iraq, victory in Afghanistan seemed to come quickly. Kabul fell within weeks of the U.S. invasion in October 2001. The hardline Taliban regime was toppled with few U.S. casualties.

But the Bush administration's shift toward war with Iraq left the Western powers without enough resources on the ground, so by 2006 the Taliban had regrouped into a serious military threat.

Candidate Obama promised to refocus America's resources on Afghanistan. But by the time President Obama sent 33,000 more troops to Afghanistan in December 2009, years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan had drained Western resources and sapped resolve to build a viable Afghan state.

And over time, his administration has grown weary of trying to tackle Afghanistan's seemingly intractable problems of poverty and corruption. The American people have grown weary too.

While most Americans are sympathetic to the plight of the Afghan people, they have become deeply skeptical of President Hamid Karzai's willingness to tackle corruption and political patronage and the coalition's chances of "budging a medieval society" into the modern world, says Ann Marlowe, a visiting fellow at the Hudson Institute, a policy research organization in Washington.

"With millions of veterans home and talking with their families and friends ... some knowledge of just how hard this is has percolated down," said Marlowe, who has traveled to Afghanistan many times.

It has also been hard to show progress on the battlefield.

World War II had its Normandy, Vietnam its Tet Offensive and Iraq its Battle of Fallujah. Afghanistan is a grinding slough in villages and remote valleys where success if measured in increments.

The Afghan war transformed into a series of small, often vicious and intense fights scattered across a country almost as large as Texas.

In July, 40 U.S. service members died in Afghanistan in the deadliest month for American troops so far this year. At least 31 have been killed this month - seven when a helicopter crashed during a firefight with insurgents in what was one of the deadliest air disasters of the war. Ten others were gunned down in attacks from members of the Afghan security forces - either disgruntled turncoats or Taliban infiltrators.

Many argue that bin Laden's death justifies a quick U.S. exit from Afghanistan. Others say it's important to stay longer to shore up the Afghan security forces and help build the government so that it can stand on its own. An unstable Afghanistan could again offer sanctuary to militants like al-Qaida who want to harm American and its allies, they say.

"Those of us who have been at this for a long time continue to think that it's important, and that we have a chance now of a path forward with a long-term perspective that will produce the results," said James Cunningham, the new U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan.

The U.S.-led coalition's combat mission will wind down in the next few years, leading up to the end of 2014 when most international troops will have left or moved into support roles.

Military analysts say the U.S. envisions a post-2014 force of perhaps 20,000 to hunt terrorists, train the Afghan forces and keep an eye on neighboring Iran and other regional powerhouse nations.

Americans aren't likely to know the number until later this year. But will anyone other than families of service personnel take note?

"I have heard others say that the danger that their spouses or children are serving in is just simply not being cared about," said Fred Wellman, a 22-year Army veteran who did three tours in Iraq. "I think a lot of veterans feel it is just forgotten."

Political satirist Garry Trudeau captured the apathy about the war in a comic strip this year showing a U.S. servicewoman stationed in Afghanistan calling her brother back home.

After he complains that his children have the flu and how he's struggling to keep up with their hectic hockey schedule, he asks her where she's calling from. She tells him she's in Afghanistan.

"Oh, right, right ..." her brother replies. "Wait, we're still there?"