Monday, June 7, 2010


Obama secretly deploys US special forces to 75 countries across world

Times Online

President Obama has secretly sanctioned a huge increase in the number of US special forces carrying out search-and-destroy missions against al-Qaeda around the world, with American troops now operating in 75 countries.

The dramatic expansion in the use of special forces, which in their global span go far beyond the covert missions authorised by George W. Bush, reflects how aggressively the President is pursuing al-Qaeda behind his public rhetoric of global engagement and diplomacy.

When Mr Obama took office US special forces were operating in fewer than 60 countries. In the past 18 months he has ordered a big expansion in Yemen and the Horn of Africa — known areas of strong al-Qaeda activity — and elsewhere in the Middle East, central Asia and Africa.

According to The Washington Post, Mr Obama has also approved pre-emptive special forces strikes to disrupt terror plots, and has given the units powers and authority that was not granted by Mr Bush when he occupied the White House.

It also emerged yesterday that Robert Gates, the US Defence Secretary, has ordered the Pentagon to find savings of more than $100 billion (£68 billion) over the next five years to redistribute more funds for combat forces — including special operations units. Mr Gates has called on all departments to come up with proposals by July 31, and is initially demanding $7 billion in cuts and efficiencies for the 2012 fiscal year, and further cuts each year up to 2016.

The effort to provide more money for combat forces in Afghanistan and Iraq — including special operations units — is likely to lead to a clash with Congress, and also with the defence industry if favoured equipment programmes are scrapped.

The aggressive secret war against al-Qaeda and other radical groups has coincided with a surge in the number of US drone attacks in the lawless border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan, an al-Qaeda and Taleban haven, since Mr Obama took office.

Did the Bush Administration Experiment on Detainees?

Not only were terrorism suspects tortured, they were also used as human guinea pigs, a new report alleges.

According to the report, which draws on numerous declassified government documents, "medical professionals working for and on behalf of the CIA" frequently monitored detainee interrogations, gathering data on the effectiveness of various interrogation techniques and the pain threshholds of detainees. This information was then used to "enhance" future interrogations, PHR contends.

By monitoring post-9/11 interrogations and keeping records on the effectiveness of various techniques, medical professionals could also provide Bush administration lawyers with the information they needed to set guidelines for the use of so-called "enhanced" interrogation tactics. For instance, attorneys in the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) who were devising the legal rationale for the interrogation program could use the research to determine how many times a detainee could be waterboarded. Or, based on the observations of the medical personnel monitoring the interrogation sessions, they could assess whether it was legally justifiable to administer techniques like stress positions or water dousing in combination or whether these methods needed to be applied separately.

Physicians for Human Rights makes the case that since human subject research is defined as the "systematic collection of data and/or identifiable personal information for the purpose of drawing generalizable inferences," what the Bush administration was doing amounted to human experimentation:

Human experimentation without the consent of the subject is a violation of international human rights law to which the United States is subject; federal statutes; the Common Rule, which comprises the federal regulations for research on human subjects and applies to 17 federal agencies, including the Central Intelligence Agency and the Department of Defense; and universally accepted health professional ethics, including the Nuremberg Code... Human experimentation on detainees also can constitute a war crime and a crime against humanity in certain circumstances.

Ironically, one goal of the "experimentation" seems to have been to immunize Bush administration officials and CIA interrogators from potential prosecution for torture.

10 US Military Aircraft That Never Quite Made It

Over the years the USA has developed many formidable aircraft.  However, there were many that didn't ever get far from the drawing board for a variety of reasons.  

Some were simply before their time while others were of no time in particular (or perhaps shouldn't have been).  

Others still look like they were designed for a science fiction movie.  Take a look at ten US military aircraft that never quite made it.

X-13 Vertijet

In 1947 the US Navy awarded the Ryan Company a contract to see whether or not a fighter plane would take off vertically and the result was ultimately the X-13, after the Air Force took over the project in 1943.  The ultimate aim at the beginning was to evaluate whether or not submarine based aircraft would be feasible and it is easy to imagine this beauty leaping from the seas.  Later still, once the Air Force became involved the aim was to develop a jet powered VTOL (Vertical Take-Off and Landing) aircraft.

It did indeed make a vertical take-off, transitioned to horizontal flight and back again in 1957. It was then demonstrated in Washington DC where it crossed the Potomac River, coming to rest at the Pentagon.  Unfortunately the Air Force chose not to develop the Ryan X-13 Vertijet any further because there was a lack of operational requirement.

HZ-1 Aerocycle

Reconnaissance is important in the field and the US Army wanted, in the 1950s, to have a simple personal helicopter that could be operated by pilots with limited flight experience and with a small amount of instruction.

It was seen as a potential motorcycle of the air and, certainly, the early tests showed quite a lot of promise.

However, once further studies had been conducted it was discovered that the HZ-1 was too difficult to control in untrained hands.

This was further evidence when on test flights the contraption crashed twice.  The project was cancelled. (Image Credit)

F2Y Sea Dart

Only a prototype for the Convair F2Y Sea Dart was ever made, but you can see where perhaps the inspiration for Thunderbird 4 came from.  It does hold one record, despite its short-lived life – it is the only seaplane to ever go faster than the speed of sound.  The seaplane was a result of a 1948 competition by the US Navy for a supersonic interceptor aircraft.

In November 1954 the Sea Dart disintegrated in mid-air during a demonstration for the Navy and the media, killing its test pilot.  That was the end of that, but the Navy had been losing interest anyway as problems with supersonic fighters on aircraft carriers had been solved and the Sea Dart had outlived its potential and use.

Anti-Semitic game: Isolated incident or growing problem?

by Keith Matheny

It's "just a game" with a "stupid name." No one was harmed.

That's what some La Quinta High School students and community members say about "Beat the Jew" — a game that school officials say seven students gathered at the school parking lot on May 20 to play. About 40 students were part of a Facebook group dedicated to the game, which was played off school property. An unspecified number of students will be suspended for their involvement, school officials said Friday.

But The Desert Sun has learned of numerous other alleged incidences of anti-Semitism at Coachella Valley schools, ranging from swastikas on school walls and desks, inappropriate jokes and taunts toward Jewish students, and worse.

"I've heard from two teachers that belong to other school districts (besides La Quinta). This is not an isolated incident," said Rabbi Avi Levine of Temple Sinai in Palm Desert.

Rabbi Shimon Posner of Chabad of Rancho Mirage concurred.

"There's definitely other things going on," said Posner, who has asked victims of anti-Semitism to contact him with their accounts.

Posner declined to provide details of specific incidents because they were relayed to him in confidence, he said.

Egypt to strip men married to Israelis of citizenship

cairoegypt Egypt to strip men married to Israelis of citizenship

CAIRO — A Cairo court on Saturday upheld a ruling to strip Egyptian men married to Israeli women of their citizenship in a case that has highlighted national sentiment towards Israel.

Judge Mohammed al-Husseini, sitting on the Supreme Administrative Court, said the interior ministry must ask the cabinet to take the necessary steps to strip Egyptian men married to Israeli women, and their children, of their citizenship.

The court said that each case should be considered separately, in a ruling that cannot be appealed.

The ruling reflects Egyptian sentiment towards Israel, more than 30 years after Egypt signed an unpopular peace deal with the Jewish state.

Before reading the verdict, Husseini said the case would not apply to Egyptian men married to Arab Israeli women.

Veteran White House reporter resigns after saying Jews should 'get the hell out of Palestine'


White House: Helen Thomas remarks on Israel 'offensive and reprehensible'; Washington school cancels White House reporter's speech at graduation.

By Natasha Mozgovaya and The Associated Press

Veteran White House journalist Helen Thomas resigned on Monday from her position with Hearst Newspapers, following the wave of criticisim she has faced since her recent declaration that "Jews should get the hell out of Palestine."

The Obama administration on Monday called Thomas' remarks "offensive and reprehensible." The comments also drew sharp criticism from Jewish group and former friends, and let a Washington-area high school to cancel its invitation for her to speak at its high school graduation.

Thomas, who joined Hearst Newspapers as a columnist in 2000, has apologized for comments captured on video by an interviewer for the website On the May 27 video, Thomas says Israelis should "get the hell out of Palestine," suggesting they go to Germany, Poland or the U.S.

Gibbs said Thomas' remarks "do not reflect certainly the opinion of most of the people here and certainly not of the administration."

The principal of the Bethesda, Maryland high school where she was scheduled to give a graduation speech sent out on e-mail on Sunday announcing that Thomas was no longer invited to speak.

Jihadi Calls For 'Suspicious Bags' To Be Left Throughout DC and NYC
FBI Warns Of Potential New Terror Tactic As Summer Tourist Season Begins

The so called "battle of suspicious bags" was encouraged by an unknown poster to a known jihadi website. On May 12th, the poster suggested an "invasions suspicious bags (sic)" in "the heart of Washington and New York," as the FBI's Washington Field Office Intelligence Division noted in its May 27th "Situational Information Report." The bags would contain not bombs, but innocuous items, a tactic that has been used by other political extremists in the U.S. in the recent past.
"The stated goal of the campaign," said the report, "was to exploit desensitization of first responders caused by response fatigue to suspicious, but harmless items."

Whistle Where You Work 26: Another BP Catastrophe Looming in the Gulf?


BP whistleblower Kenneth Abbott, project manager on the BP/Deepwater rig Atlantis, also in the Gulf and much larger than Horizon, says there are major safety problems there. His reports have been ignored by his company superiors, so he blew the whistle to get help. Mark Cohen discusses the issue with Whenonah Hauter, with Food and Water Watch. Then, according to Mandy Smithberger from Project on Government Oversight, the Minerals Management Service (MMS), will be split into three missions and safety will not be included.

Pete Seeger to Host SNL (please?)!

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