Archive for February 2011
Straight from Fox News: “A new “carrier killer” missile that has become a symbol of China’s rising military might will not force the U.S. Navy to change the way it operates in the Pacific, a senior Navy commander told The Associated Press.
Defense analysts say the Dong Feng 21D missile could upend the balance of power in Asia, where U.S. aircraft carrier battle groups have ruled the waves since the end of World War II.
However, Vice Adm. Scott van Buskirk, commander of the U.S. 7th Fleet, told the AP in an interview that the Navy does not see the much-feared weapon as creating any insurmountable vulnerability for the U.S. carriers — the Navy’s crown jewels.
“It’s not the Achilles heel of our aircraft carriers or our Navy — it is one weapons system, one technology that is out there,” Van Buskirk said in an interview this week on the bridge of the USS George Washington, the only carrier that is home-based in the western Pacific.
The DF 21D is unique in that it is believed capable of hitting a powerfully defended moving target — like the USS George Washington — with pinpoint precision. That objective is so complex that the Soviets gave up on a similar project.
The missile would penetrate defenses because its speed from launch would not allow enough time for carriers or other large ships to complete countermeasures.
That could seriously weaken Washington’s ability to intervene in any potential conflict over Taiwan or North Korea, as well as deny U.S. ships safe access to international waters near China’s 11,200-mile (18,000-kilometer) -long coastline.
Van Buskirk, whose fleet is responsible for most of the Pacific and Indian oceans, with 60-70 ships and 40,000 sailors and Marines under its command, said the capabilities of the Chinese missile are as yet unproven. But he acknowledged it does raise special concerns.
“Any new capability is something that we try to monitor,” he said.
“If there wasn’t this to point to as a game changer, there would be something else,” he said. “That term has been bandied about for many things. I think it really depends in how you define the game, whether it really changes it or not. It’s a very specific scenario for a very specific capability — some things can be very impactful.”
The development of the missile comes as China is increasingly venturing further out to sea and is becoming more assertive around its coastline and in disputes over territory.
Late last year, China and Japan were locked in a heated diplomatic row over several islands both claim in the East China Sea, an area regularly patrolled by U.S. Navy vessels. A flotilla of 10 Chinese warships, including advanced submarines and destroyers, passed through the Miyako Strait last April in the biggest transit of its kind to date.
Experts saw it as an attempt by China to test Japan and the united States and demonstrate its open water capabilities.
China has also expressed strong displeasure with U.S. carrier operations off the Korean Peninsula, saying that they posed a security risk to its capital.
Still, van Buskirk said the Navy has no intention of altering its mission because of the new threat and will continue to operate in the seas around Japan, Korea, the Philippines and anywhere else it deems necessary.
“We won’t change these operations because of this specific technology that might be out there,” he told The AP while the USS George Washington was in its home port just south of Tokyo for repairs last week. “But we will carefully monitor and adapt to it.”
The faster-than-expected development of the missile has set off alarm bells in Washington. Further, China is developing a stealth fighter jet that could be used to support its navy in a potential conflict and hopes to deploy its first aircraft carriers over the next decade.
Before visiting Beijing last month, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he has been concerned about the anti-ship missile since he took office.
In December, Adm. Robert Willard, the head of the U.S. Pacific Command, told Japan’s Asahi Shimbun newspaper he believed the missile program had achieved “initial operational capability,” meaning a workable design had been settled on and was being further developed.
The missile is considered a key component of China’s strategy of denying U.S. planes and ships access to waters off its coast. The strategy includes overlapping layers of air defense systems, naval assets such as submarines, and advanced ballistic missile systems — all woven together with a network of satellites.
At its most capable, the DF 21D could be launched from land with enough accuracy to penetrate the defenses of even the most advanced moving aircraft carrier at a distance of more than 900 miles (1,500 kilometers).
To allay regional security fears, van Buskirk said, China needs to be more forthcoming about its intentions.
“It goes back to transparency,” he said. “Using the United States as an example, we are very clear about our intent when conducting routine and normal operations in international waters … That is what you might expect from other nations that might operate in this region.”
Straight from Fox News: “The debate in Congress this week over spending is a sideshow in the battle against debt and deficits because entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare are threatening to destroy the nation’s fiscal security.
The problem is a familiar one — the government made far more promises than it can pay for.
“Social Security and Medicare deficits together equal around 75 trillion dollars,” said Andrew Biggs of the American Enterprise Institute. “But that figure is in today’s dollars, meaning you had the money today in the bank earning interest. If we delay fixing these programs then the costs only get larger.”
And with some 75 million baby boomers about to retire, and far fewer young people paying taxes, that will mean a massive transfer of wealth.
“So much of what the government is doing is to take money from younger people and give it to older people,” Biggs said.
It was the creation of Social Security in 1935 that opened a new era of what are called entitlement programs.
These are “programs that are basically on autopilot,” said Maya MacGuineas, president of the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. “You don’t actually decide each year how much money you’ll spend on them. You just pay out what’s demanded by the rules that you’ve set up.”
And that payout is growing exponentially.
Back in 1935, when Social Security was created, promises to those over 65 years old were easy to make “because many people didn’t even survive to retirement age,” Biggs said.”Those that did live to age 65 didn’t live for long after that.”
In fact, at the time, the average life expectancy for men was only 60 years and for women, about 64. Now, it is 75 for men and 80 for women. That’s one reason entitlements are getting more and more expensive.
But benefits have also expanded.
In 1939, before Social Security was even fully operating, new benefits were added for surviving spouses and children. In 1956, disability benefits were added.
Then, in 1965, President Lyndon Johnson and Congress created Medicare and Medicaid to help the elderly and poor.
“Medicare took care of the elderly, Medicaid was originally designed to take care of the poor,” said Michael Tanner of the Cato Institute. “Although an increasing portion of Medicaid now covers the elderly in nursing homes.”
And as they age, entitlements themselves tend to expand and take on a life of their own.
“At the time [of creation], I don’t think anybody ever anticipated the kind of monstrosity the entitlement would turn into,” MacGuineas said.
But the programs kept expanding, inflation protections were added and now, entitlements are poised to overwhelm the entire federal budget.
“Today, Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid make up about half the budget,” Biggs said. “Going into the future they could conceivably swallow up the entire budget.”
“By the end of the decade,” Tanner said, “we’ll be at the point where the entitlement programs plus interest on the debt will consume the entire amount of federal revenue that we bring in. You’ll have to raise taxes just to keep the government functioning.”
The coming financial crisis over entitlements is so dire that Andrew Biggs said “the joke among entitlement analysts is that the government will eventually turn into a pension plan with an army.”
In other words, by the time we pay for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, there will only be enough federal revenues left over to cover the military, but no other functions of government.
That’s what entitlement policies have come to.
And though we can’t even pay for promises already made, the new health care law created yet another entitlement, one for the disabled, which most analysts believe will also run short of money, early in its history.
Various panels and commissions have been warning about unsustainable entitlement programs for a good three decades. But politicians, says one analyst, always seem to be more worried about the next election than the next generation.”
Straight from Fox News: “If the planet is warming, why is a third of America locked in a deep freeze, with record-low temperatures as far south as the Mexican border, where the thermometer in Ciudad Juarez plummeted Wednesday night to a bone-chilling 9-below zero?
Self-proclaimed planetary climate czar Al Gore thinks he has answer.
“As it turns out, the scientific community has been addressing this particular question for some time now, and they say increased heavy snowfalls are completely consistent with what they have been predicting as a consequence of man-made global warming,” Gore write in a blog post. The Nobel Prize-winning former vice president was responding to a question posed by Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly, who wondered on air why global warming was such an urgent science policy priority when the New York City area had become a “tundra” this winter.
Gore also indicated that he believes a rise in global temperatures is creating “all sorts of havoc,” from hotter dry spells to colder winters and ever more violent storms. This is even endangering certain species of animals and leading to forest fires and floods.
But not surprisingly, some climate-change skeptics are a bit hot under the collar over Gore’s “scientific” explanation.
“Gore’s statement actually indicates a deeper problem — lack of precise predictions,” said Dr. William M. Briggs, a statistician and climate scientist. His research shows that there are no increased weather problems because of global warming, Briggs told FoxNews.com.
“He’s saying that anything bad that happens must be because global warming caused it. Activists like Gore are great at identifying events after the fact as being caused by global warming, but terrible at predicting them beforehand,” Briggs said.
Meteorologist Art Horn agreed, noting the extensive history of devastating weather over the millennia — none of which he connects with global warming.
“If one actually studies the history of weather over the last 2,000 years, you see massive storms, amazing heat, brutal cold waves, devastating droughts, terrible floods and disastrous hurricanes — none caused by global warming,” he told FoxNews.com.
“Gore has no appreciation for large natural variability in weather,” Horn said.
Other scientists were quick to leap to Gore’s support, arguing that the extreme cold weather is a logical, expected outcome for our warming planet.
“It’s not hard at all to get temperatures cold enough for snow in a world experiencing global warming,” meteorologist Jeffrey Masters told FoxNews.com. “There will still be colder than average winters in a world that is experiencing warming with plenty of opportunities for snow.”
The contretemps over global warming and winter weather — and the bickering among scientists about man’s effect on the climate — has had a profound impact on public opinion around the globe.
A January poll by Rasmussen Reports indicates that Americans are still more inclined to believe global warming is primarily caused by long-term planetary trends, although the gap narrowed a bit this month. But Americans don’t blame global warming for this winter’s weather.
Skepticism is very clearly increasing overseas; a poll released this week by the Office for National Statistics in the U.K. indicated that the number of climate skeptics there had nearly doubled during the last four years. The proportion of people who said they were “not very concerned” about global warming now numbers more than one in five, the U.K. government said.
But many still argue that global warming is real, and the ultimate cause of the wretched weather. One environmental consultant pointed FoxNews.com to an article that detailed a polar bear’s nine-day swim to find an ice raft for refuge — due to global warming’s impact on the environment of Alaska.
Others take a less anecdotal approach, and say that pure science supports Gore’s global-warming argument.
“It’s basic atmospheric physics,” said Meg Wilcox, a spokeswoman for Ceres, a national network of investors and environmental organizations. “Warmer air holds more moisture. This fact is apparent when you see water vapor hanging in the air after turning off a hot shower. When warm air holding moisture meets cooler air, the moisture condenses into tiny droplets that will fall as precipitation, rain or snow, depending upon atmospheric conditions.”
Warm air meets cold air seems simple enough. So why can’t scientists agree?
If it all seems confusing and contradictory, other experts say, the real blame lies not with the climate, or with science, or even scientists or former politicians, but with the incompetent media for failing to provide critical context for readers.
“The last 2,000 years is full of incredible weather events that dwarf what we see today,” said Horn. “Nature isn’t cooperating with the global warming camp and theory.”
He points to a New York Times story from the 1970s, which said the planet was getting so cold that humanity was in danger of starving to death. The article argued that the world’s weather would soon be so frigid that it could no longer permit the cultivation of crops for food. The Times’ headline on August 8, 1974, was simple enough: “Climate changes Endanger World’s Food Output.”
“First we were told the world was cooling. Then it was getting hotter,” Dan Gainor, a spokesman for the Media Research Center, tells FoxNews.com. “Then cooling again. Then hotter. Now it’s just climate change – so they can’t be wrong no matter what change occurs.””
Straight from Gizmodo: “Already missing the soon to be shelved Space Shuttle? You might not have to, with private contractor United Space Alliance considering a $1.5 billion a year proposal to take the fleet private.
“It is safe. We have a lot of history, we understand how to operate it,” explains United Space Alliance’s chief. We’re not so sure about that first part—since, you know, the shuttle is being retired in part because it’s sort of falling apart. What could go wrong?”
Straight from the Debka File: “Hosni Mubarak and his family have moved a large part of their assets – guesstimated at between $20 and $70 billion – from European banks to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Republics against personal guarantees from King Abdullah and Sheik Al Nahyan to block access to outside parties.This is reported by Gulf and West European sources. Tunisian ex-ruler Zein Al Abdain Ben Ali received the same guarantee when he fled his country and received asylum in the oil kingdom.
A Swiss financial source commented: “If he had any real money in Zurich, it may be gone by now.”
According to debkafile’s sources, the transfers took place on Feb. 12-13. Although a weekend when European banks are closed, high-ranking officials in Riyadh had their managers hauled out of home to execute Mubarak’s transfer orders without delay.
The ousted Egyptian ruler was on the phone to Saudi King Abdullah Friday, Feb. 11, immediately after his vice president Omar Suleiman went on state television to announce his resignation and handover of rule to the army. Mubarak called it a military putsch conducted under pressure from Washington. He denied he had resigned or passed any powers to the army. “I had no idea Omar Suleiman was about to read out that statement. I would never have signed it or allowed it to be published,” said Mubarak.
The Saudi king voiced understanding for the ex-president’s plight and said the Riyadh government was under orders to meet any requests for assistance received from him.
Mubarak views himself still as the rightful president of Egypt. Aware of this, the High Military Council Sunday, Feb. 13, abolished the constitution. Otherwise, Mubarak would have been correct and the military would have had no authority to issue decrees and pass laws without his signature.
The military junta’s Western sympathizers were quick to read in the military statement a pledge to call an election in six months. This was not exactly stated. The military council announced that the incumbent (Mubarak-appointed) cabinet would stay in office “for six months or until elections.”
Elections cannot be held until a new a new constitution is enacted because the old one has been abolished leaving a void which is filled by martial law and no clear obligation for an election date.
One major obstacle confronting orderly transition to civilian rule is the opposition’s clamor for an all-inclusive investigation of corruption within the Mubarak family and its ruling circle. As one of the opposition leaders George Ishak put it: “We will research everything, all of them: the families of the ministers, the family of the president, everyone.”
Prof. Samer Soliman, of the American University in Cairo said: “The corruption of the Mubarak family was not stealing from the budget; it was transforming political capital into private capital.”
debkafile’s military sources stress that all 25 generals serving in the High Army Council can be relied on to raise a high wall against any such probe. Members of Egypt’s high officer class are heavily invested in Egyptian industry, financial institutions and banks, having built their personal fortunes by the same methods as the Mubarak clan and its hangers-on.
An exhaustive investigation might also bring to light American and Israel capital interests linked to businesses close to the Mubarak regime. The military will not doubt use its powers under martial law to put a spoke in the opposition’s demand for an inquiry.”
Straight from Fox News: “UPDATE: The Wicker Amendment to deny TSA agents the ability to collectively bargain was defeated by a vote of 47 to 51. It failed to meet the 60 vote threshold needed for passage.
As the Senate continues its debate on the FAA Authorization bill, a key amendment barring Transportation Security Administration (TSA) agents from collectively bargaining will receive a vote later Tuesday afternoon (aprox 230pm). The ban, sponsored by Sen Roger Wicker, R-Miss., seeks to nullify recent action by the Administration to allow the nation’s 43,000 airport screeners to negotiate for nonsecurity-related work measures and benefits, like pay scale and vacation.
Republicans fear that any union influence (typically collective bargaining agreements are negotiated by a union) could jeopardize national security and disrupt airport operations.
Supporters of the right for TSA workers note that many other first responders have not been hampered by their unions, citing the many law enforcement and emergency medical personnel who rushed to Ground Zero in Manhattan on September 11, 2001.
The Wicker amendment must overcome a high hurdle, 60 votes for passage. It is unclear if he and his backers, including the top Republican on the Senate Homeland Security panel, Susan Collins of Maine, can muster enough support. But the two modified the amendment Monday to help boost its chances, allowing TSA screeners to fall under the Whistleblower Protection Act, and allowing the security officials, should they choose, to join a union.
TSA chief John Pistole told lawmakers last Thursday he would be “willing” to fire TSA employees en masse should they go on strike or cause a slowdown in operations.”
Straight from the Debka File: “Israel’s security leaders ought not to have been surprised when Hamas fired two long-range Iranian-made Grad missiles Wednesday night, Feb. 23 at the Negev cities of Beersheba and Netivot. The attack occurred exactly when Iranian Navy commander Adm. Habibollah Sayyari was due in Syria’s Latakia port to attend the welcoming party for the two Iranian warships which made it through the Suez Canal without US or Israeli interference. It also marked a fresh, redoubled Hamas offensive against Israel.
The occupants of the Beersheba home, hit by the first long-range Grad surface missile to reach the Negev city from the Gaza Strip (30 km away) since Israel’s Cast Led campaign of 2009, saved themselves by using the seconds between the warning siren and the explosion to take shelter in a bomb-proof room. That was the only part of their home to survive the blast. Eleven shock victims were hospitalized along the battered street.
The town of Netivot was spared by the Grad falling outside the built-up area. Earlier that day, a shoot-out flared at the Karni crossing when a Palestinian gang laid explosives at the border fence and followed up with mortar fire. IDF border patrols and tanks crews returned the fire, injuring 11 Palestinians. A second round of Palestinian mortar fire followed against a Shaar Hanegev kibbutz.
No Israelis were hurt in this round of incidents.
Wednesday night, Israel put the communities within range of the Gaza Strip, including the cities of Beersheba, Netivot, Ofakim, Sderot, Ashkelon and Ashdod, on heightened alert status for further Palestinian attacks. That night, Israeli air strikes hit a Jihad Islami missile team and then spread out to bomb Hamas command centers, which had meanwhile been hurriedly evacuated in expectation of Israel’s routine aerial reprisal.
debkafile’s military sources report that more aggression from the Gaza Strip is inevitable given the Netanyahu government’s feeble or non-response despite the urgent need to shore up Israel’s security situation continuously eroded by the turbulence in Arab capitals.
Even though it was obvious that Hamas had been strengthened by Hosni Mubarak’s fall in Egypt, Israel stood by as Hamas rampaged out of Gaza and into Sinai and the Egyptian-Israeli border areas – even when a Hamas special team on Feb. 5 blew up the Egyptian pipeline which conveyed 43 percent of Israel’s gas needs. Replacement sources have added close to $400 million a month to Israel’s energy bill.
All Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu did was to permit an additional Egyptian troop brigade and a half to enter Sinai, some of them to guard the pipeline, which Cairo shows no sign of repairing.
Western military sources report that the Iran-backed Palestinian Hamas is further exploiting the shaky situation in Cairo and Israeli inaction to double or even triple the quantities of weapons smuggled via the Suez Canal and Sinai into the Gaza Strip. One Israeli officer said he had never before seen surface-to-surface missiles, anti-aircraft missiles and anti-tank missiles secreted into Gaza in such bulk.
The free passage afforded the two Iranian warships for transiting the Suez Canal Tuesday, Feb. 22 – without Egypt or US and Israeli warships even inspecting their cargoes – has encouraged Tehran to press on with its expansionist ambitions. Hamas understood that its redoubled offensive against Israel would be most welcome. The Palestinian extremists held their fire until Tehran announced the warships had put into Latakia Wednesday and the arrival of Iran’s navy chief that night. And then they went into action – first against an IDF border patrol, then to fire Grads at Beersheba and Netivot.
Israel’s policy-makers have chosen to ignore the role of those two vessels as the thin edge of a wedge: They are to set up a permanent base on the Mediterranean with more Iranian naval vessels continuing to pass through the Suez Canal and joining them at Latakia.
Hamas is counting on Iran building up its military presence and on Israel to stand by helplessly – just as it did when its request to the new military rulers of Egypt to stop the Iranian flotilla’s passage through Suez went unanswered.
The Palestinians ruling Gaza are sending Grad missiles as messengers to Israel that they now enjoy Iranian support close by in the Mediterranean. debkafile’s military sources wonder if this message will not finally act as a wakeup call for Jerusalem.”
Straight from Fox News: “Israeli tank fire wounded 11 people, including at least six militants, in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday following an attack on an Israeli patrol, the military and Palestinian officials said. One of the wounded later died in a hospital.
The Israeli military said its tanks opened fire after the militants detonated a bomb targeting the Israeli patrol near the border and then fired mortars at the soldiers.
Gaza health officials said one of the wounded militants died and another was in serious condition. Both Islamic Jihad and Hamas militants said they fired mortars at the troops. No Israeli soldiers were hurt.
Israel and Hamas have largely observed an unofficial cease-fire since an Israeli military offensive in Gaza two years ago. But clashes sporadically flare up along the volatile border as Gaza militants fire rockets and mortars into Israel, drawing military reprisals.
Wednesday’s incident marked the first time in weeks the clashes have produced casualties.
After nightfall, two rockets exploded in Israel’s south. No one was hurt. One exploded in the Israeli city of Beersheba, 20 miles (30 kilometers) from Gaza, police said, setting a house on fire.
Another rocket landed near the town of Netivot.
The rockets were Grads, which have a longer range than the homemade rockets often fired from Gaza.
Israel Radio said it was the first rocket attack on Beersheba since Israel’s bruising invasion of Gaza two years ago to try to stop daily rocket salvos.
Israel hit back with an airstrike in eastern Gaza City, Palestinians said, wounding three Islamic Jihad militants. The Israeli military said it targeted the squad that fired the rockets.
Also Wednesday, a large explosion in the southern Gaza Strip killed a 10-year-old girl and wounded two others. Militants from the Hamas-linked Popular Resistance Committees said the explosion was accidental. They identified the dead girl as the daughter of the PRC’s local commander.
Internal explosions are common in Gaza. They often take place in the homes of militants where explosives and other armaments detonate prematurely.”
The Captain America movie trailer with the music it actually deserves:
Straight from Gizmodo: “We put up with the TSA’s potentially harmful scanners and overzealous gropings because they make our air travel safe, right? Right! Oh wait, maybe not. According to a high-ranking source inside the TSA, an undercover agent was able to pass through five full-body scanners at the Dallas Ft. Worth International Airport last weekend with a gun stuffed in her underwear. None of the security personnel lifted a finger.
The TSA did not deny the reported results of the tests, though they did offer this boilerplate statement:
Our security officers are one of the most heavily tested federal workforces in the nation. We regularly test our officers in a variety of ways to ensure the effectiveness of our technology, security measures and the overall layered system. For security reasons, we do not publicize or comment on the results of covert tests, however advanced imaging technology is an effective tool to detect both metallic and nonmetallic items hidden on passengers.
Surprisingly, none of the agents responsible for letting the firearm slide through security were disciplined. Welp, I’m glad I’m not planning any trips to Texas anytime soon.
Straight from Fox News: “A second suspected nuclear installation has been identified in Syria, according to commercial satellite photos, providing new evidence that Damascus may have been pursuing atomic weapons before a 2007 Israeli military strike.
The publishing Wednesday of the photos by Washington’s Institute for Science and International Security could increase pressure on the United Nations to demand expansive new inspections of suspect Syrian facilities during a March board meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
IAEA inspectors visited eastern Syria in 2008 and reported that they recovered traces of processed uranium from a site called Dair Alzour, which the Bush administration alleged housed a nearly operational nuclear reactor. Israeli jets destroyed the facility nearly eight months before the IAEA’s visit.
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government has rebuffed repeated IAEA requests to conduct additional inspections of the site as well as three other facilities the U.N. agency believes could be related to a covert Syrian nuclear program. Damascus’s rejection of IAEA inspections could result in Syria being declared noncompliant with its U.N. commitments and referred to the Security Council for formal censuring.
Mr. Assad denied in an interview with The Wall Street Journal last month that his government has pursued a nuclear program. He also said he wouldn’t allow the IAEA expansive powers to inspect his country.
The photos published by the ISIS think tank identifies what it says are one of the three additional sites the IAEA believes could be connected to the Dair Alzour facility. In a series of photos, ISIS displays what it alleges were apparent Syrian attempts to disguise the activities of site after the Israeli attack.
“Laying down a new foundation could be an attempt to defeat the environmental sampling the IAEA inspectors would like to carry out to see if uranium was present,” the ISIS report reads.
ISIS says the location and contours of the building suggests it housed uranium-conversion equipment that is used to produce nuclear fuel. The facility, in a town called Marj as Sultan, is on the outskirts of Syria’s capital, Damascus.”