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Thursday, September 30, 2010

U.S. Military Space Programs Are At Risk

U.S. Military Space Programs Are At Risk

Photo: Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Henry (Trey) Obering. (Radio Free Europe)

Military Space Programs at Risk, Experts Say -- Global Security Newswire

WASHINGTON -- U.S. national security space capabilities, so critical to deployed combat forces and national missile defense, and the supporting industrial base are at a dangerous "tipping point" and need focused leadership and long-term stability in programs and budgets to avoid a crisis, a panel of administration officials and defense space experts warned yesterday (see GSN, July 27).

Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Henry (Trey) Obering, the former director of the Missile Defense Agency, warned that the soaring cost and prolonged development time for new satellites had left the nation with no backup systems to replace any that could be affected by hostile action.

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I Have Seen the Enemy, And He Is Bob Woodward -- Adam Weinstein, Current Intelligence

Young Bob Woodward and his computer, immortalized in wax at Madam Tussaud's. Photo by Cliff1066/Flickr

Everybody – which is to say, everybody who works in the Washington media – is talking about this Bob Woodward book, Obama's Wars, that went on sale this week. Everybody in the Washington media always talks about every new Bob Woodward book. Once, as a young man, his reporting helped bring down a president. Having thus made his name, he’s spent the interceding decades selling it out, franchising WOODWARD!-branded ventures in Oval Office access journalism. He is to presidential exposés what Ray Kroc is to hamburgers. Woodward’s books have the same effect as a Kroc-created Big Mac. You get hungry; you see one; you consume it; it never quite satisfies. And you wonder whether you’d have ever been so hungry for one if it wasn’t hawked in your face on every street corner.

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Pentagon Loses Control of Bombs to China Metal Monopoly

U.S. Bomb Output Is Now Limited By China Metal Quotas

Photo: Motors in missiles like the JDAM might be three times as big without advanced magnets. The JDAM has been used extensively in Iraq and Afghanistan. Photographer: Philip A. McDaniel/U.S. Navy via Bloomberg
Pentagon Loses Control Of Bombs To China Metal Monopoly -- Bloomberg

A senior manager at a company that churns out metals routinely used in U.S. smart bombs pauses in mid-sentence when his phone rings: a Wall Street stockbroker looking for information. He makes a note to have an assistant call back -- someone who is fluent in English, not just Chinese.

“It’s a seller’s market now,” says Bai Baosheng, 43, puffing a cigarette in his office in Baotou, China, where his company sells bags of powder containing a metallic element known as neodymium, vital in tiny magnets that direct the fins of bombs dropped by U.S. Air Force jets in Afghanistan.

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New Book by Avner Cohen Calls on Israel to Modify Nuclear Policy

New Book by Avner Cohen Calls on Israel to Modify Nuclear Policy

Please read the release from Columbia University Press regarding CNS senior fellow Avner Cohen's new book, "The Worst-Kept Secret: Israel's Bargain with the Bomb." From the press release:
"In his new book, The Worst-Kept Secret, Avner Cohen, author of the critically acclaimed Israel and the Bomb, draws on newly revealed historical data to offer a bold and original study of Israel's decades-long policy of nuclear opacity. Democratic governance at home and compliance with international standards for responsible nuclear behavior, Cohen argues, require that Israel acknowledge its nuclear might and openly confront its many ramifications. Cohen concludes with fresh perspectives on Iran, Israel, and the effort toward global disarmament."
For more information, to arrange an interview with the author, or to receive a review copy, contact Meredith Howard at (212)-459-0600, ext. 7126 or email

World's first 'cyber superweapon' attacks China

A computer virus dubbed the world's "first cyber superweapon" by experts and which may have been designed to attack Iran's nuclear facilities has found a new target -- China. The Stuxnet computer worm has wreaked havoc in China, infecting millions of computers around the country, state media reported this week.
Stuxnet is feared by experts around the globe as it can break into computers that control machinery at the heart of industry, allowing an attacker to assume control of critical systems like pumps, motors, alarms and valves.
It could, technically, make factory boilers explode, destroy gas pipelines or even cause a nuclear plant to malfunction.
The virus targets control systems made by German industrial giant Siemens commonly used to manage water supplies, oil rigs, power plants and other industrial facilities.
"This malware is specially designed to sabotage plants and damage industrial systems, instead of stealing personal data," an engineer surnamed Wang at antivirus service provider Rising International Software told the Global Times.
"Once Stuxnet successfully penetrates factory computers in China, those industries may collapse, which would damage China's national security," he added.
Another unnamed expert at Rising International said the attacks had so far infected more than six million individual accounts and nearly 1,000 corporate accounts around the country, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
The Stuxnet computer worm -- a piece of malicious software (malware) which copies itself and sends itself on to other computers in a network -- was first publicly identified in June.
It was found lurking on Siemens systems in India, Indonesia, Pakistan and elsewhere, but the heaviest infiltration appears to be in Iran, according to software security researchers.
A Beijing-based spokesman for Siemens declined to comment when contacted by AFP on Thursday.
Yu Xiaoqiu, an analyst with the China Information Technology Security Evaluation Centre, downplayed the malware threat.
"So far we don't see any severe damage done by the virus," Yu was quoted by the Global Times as saying.
"New viruses are common nowadays. Both personal Internet surfers and Chinese pillar companies don't need to worry about it at all. They should be alert but not too afraid of it."
A top US cybersecurity official said last week that the country was analysing the computer worm but did not know who was behind it or its purpose.
"One of our hardest jobs is attribution and intent," Sean McGurk, director of the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC), told reporters in Washington.
"It's very difficult to say 'This is what it was targeted to do,'" he said of Stuxnet, which some computer security experts have said may be intended to sabotage a nuclear facility in Iran.
A cyber superweapon is a term used by experts to describe a piece of malware designed specifically to hit computer networks that run industrial plants.
"The Stuxnet worm is a wake-up call to governments around the world," Derek Reveron, a cyber expert at the US Naval War School, was quoted as saying Thursday by the South China Morning Post.
"It is the first known worm to target industrial control systems."

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Stuxnet file hints at Israeli link: NY Times

Stuxnet file hints at Israeli link: NY Times Washington (AFP) Sept 30, 2010 The Stuxnet worm
attacking computers in Iran includes a reference to the Book of Esther, the Old Testament story in which the Jews pre-empt a Persian plot to destroy them, and is a possible clue of Israeli involvement, The New York Times reported Thursday. A file inside the Stuxnet code is named "Myrtus," an allusion to the Hebrew word for Esther, and is a possible Israeli calling card or, perhaps, a "red herring" designed to throw investigators off the track, the Times said.
According to security software experts and analysts, Stuxnet may have been designed to target Iran's nuclear facilities and suspicions have fallen on Israel and the United States.
Iran said this week that Stuxnet is mutating and wreaking havoc on computerised industrial equipment there but denied the Islamic republic's first nuclear plant at Bushehr was among the facilities penetrated.
Stuxnet specifically attacks Siemens supervisory control and data acquisition, or SCADA, systems commonly used to manage water supplies, oil rigs, power plants and other industrial facilities.
The self-replicating malware has also been found lurking on Siemens systems in India, Indonesia and Pakistan, but the heaviest infiltration appears to be in Iran, according to researchers.
No one has claimed credit for Stuxnet and a top US cybersecurity official said last week that the United States does not know who is behind it or its purpose.
The Times noted that there is no consensus among security experts about who may be behind Stuxnet but said "there are many reasons to suspect Israel's involvement."
Israel has poured huge resources into Unit 8200, its secretive cyberwar operation, and Stuxnet may be a "clear warning in a mounting technological and psychological battle" with Iran over its nuclear program, the newspaper said.
The Times said Ralph Langner, a German computer security consultant, was the first to note that "Myrtus" is an allusion to the Hebrew word for Esther.
Shai Blitzblau, head of the computer warfare laboratory at Maglan, an Israeli company specializing in information security, told the Times he was "convinced that Israel had nothing to do with Stuxnet."
"We did a complete simulation of it and we sliced the code to its deepest level," he said. "We have studied its protocols and functionality. Our two main suspects for this are high-level industrial espionage against Siemens and a kind of academic experiment."

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Tom Engelhardt | The War Addicts: 2016 and Then Some

Tom Engelhardt | The War Addicts: 2016 and Then Some
Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch: "Sometimes it's the little things in the big stories that catch your eye. On Monday, the Washington Post ran the first of three pieces adapted from Bob Woodward's new book Obama's Wars, a vivid account of the way the US high command boxed the Commander-in-Chief into the smallest of Afghan corners. As an illustration, the Post included a graphic the military offered President Obama at a key November 2009 meeting to review war policy. It caught in a nutshell the favored 'solution' to the Afghan War of those in charge of fighting it - Admiral Mike Mullen, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General David Petraeus, then-Centcom commander, General Stanley McChrystal, then-Afghan War commander, and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, among others."
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Pakistan Halts NATO Supplies After Border Attack -- Yahoo News/AP

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistani authorities blocked a vital supply route for NATO troops fighting in Afghanistan on Thursday, angered by a cross-border NATO airstrike that killed three Pakistani soldiers, officials said.

Trucks and fuel tankers for foreign forces in Afghanistan were stopped at Torkham border post in Khyber tribal region near the city of Peshawar, hours after the raid, the fourth reported by Pakistani authorities in recent days.

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More News On Pakistan Stopping NATO Supplies To Afghanistan

Pakistan halts NATO supplies after border attack -- Reuters
Pakistan halts NATO supplies to Afghanistan -- Yahoo News/AFP
Pakistan Halts NATO Supplies to Afghanistan After Attack -- New York Times
Pakistan blocks NATO's Afghan-bound supply trucks after airstrike that officials say killed 3 soldiers -- Washington Post
NATO supply truck to Afghanistan blocked -- UPI
Pakistan cuts Nato supply line after helicopter strike -- BBC
Pakistan blocks Nato supply route to Afghanistan -- The Guardian
Officials: Pakistan Blocks NATO Supply Trucks -- FOX News
Pakistan Blocks NATO Supplies After Air Strike Kills 3 Soldiers -- Businessweek/Bloomberg
Pakistan cuts off Nato supply route -- Al Jazeera
Pakistan Blocks Some NATO Trucks At Afghan Border -- NPR
Pakistan seals off NATO supply line to Afghanistan after US air attack -- Christian Science Monitor
Pakistan bans NATO supply convoys after reports of deaths -- CNN
Why Pakistan Has the Obama Administration Sweating -- Time Magazine
'Obama gives Pakistan ultimatum' -- Press TV
With friends like these -- Shyema, Dawn

Backstage Drama Policy infighting over the Afghan war: Who dissed whom? And who cares?By MAX BOOT

'Obama's Wars," Bob Woodward's latest epic of insiderdom, quotes National Security Adviser James Jones telling his deputy, Tom Donilon, that he had made a mistake—"he had never gone to Afghanistan or Iraq, or really left the office for a serious field trip. As a result, he said, you have no direct understanding of those places. . . . The White House, Situation Room, interagency byplay, as important as they are, are not everything." Good advice. Too bad Mr. Woodward hasn't followed it himself.
While chronicling the Obama administration's Afghanistan policy, Mr. Woodward apparently visited Afghanistan only once, traveling with Mr. Jones. His description of the trip is inadvertently hilarious and revealing. He recounts flying "into the heart of the Taliban insurgency in Helmand province." Here, he proclaims, "was the war without the filter of a Situation Room briefing. The cool evening air hit my face as the plane's rear loading ramp was lowered. . . . All that was missing was the haunting and elegiac theme music from Oliver Stone's movie Platoon." The experience, he continues, is "exhilarating and frightening." The camp is "supposedly safe from sniper and mortar fire," but when he makes a midnight head call, he is decidedly nervous, "anticipating a random shot."
You would think that Battlefield Bob had bivouacked in a foxhole a few hundred yards from an enemy position. Actually he is in Camp Leatherneck, a giant Marine base (1,500 acres housing 10,000 personnel) in the middle of nowhere. The greatest danger at Leatherneck is overeating in the chow hall. That Mr. Woodward makes it seem like a frontline position is indicative of how far removed he is from the war.
To read "Obama's Wars" is to feel trapped in a daylong meeting in an airless room. That's because much of the book consists of a near- verbatim account of meetings—specifically the National Security Council meetings last fall where the administration hashed out its Afghanistan policy. As we know, the president ultimately decided to send 30,000 additional troops while pledging to start pulling them out in the summer of 2011. More at:

Foreign Policy and the 2010 Midterms: New START and Arms Control from - The Council on Foreign Relations by Council on Foreign Relations

A new arms control agreement with Russia has met political opposition in the U.S. Senate, and some analysts believe its fate it tied to the outcome of the 2010 midterm elections. This Backgrounder examines the Senate debate.

China Warns US Yuan Bill Could Damage Ties

Risky Business The Chinese goods tariff bill currently in Congress is a bad solution to the very real problem of the dollar's value. Matthew Yglesias

The problem with the bill in Congress is that the proposed solution misses the mark. Threatening to slap high taxes on Chinese-made goods could cause the Chinese government to change its approach. By the same token, threatening to shoot a nuclear missile at Beijing could also produce such an effect. Or it might lead to a downward spiral of retaliation and recrimination that only makes things worse. At the end of the day, putting higher taxes on Chinese-made goods is only going to make things worse for American consumers and Chinese workers alike. The proposition that it will help U.S. manufacturers is based on the dubious notion that U.S.-China trade is mostly in identical goods. Realistically, the main consequences of a trade war would be Americans purchasing more stuff from countries that are similar to China (Vietnam, Bangladesh) while China buys more from Canada, Europe, and Japan.

A New Low in Middle East Diplomacy from Stephen M. Walt by Stephen M. Walt

Back in 2007, a couple of political scientists wrote the following:
One might think that U.S. generosity would give Washington considerable leverage over Israel's conduct, but this has not been the case. When dealing with Israel, in fact, U.S. leaders can usually elicit cooperation only by offering additional carrots (increased assistance) rather than employing sticks (threats to withhold aid)." (pp. 37-38)
They offered several examples to illustrate this phenomenon, and quoted Israeli leader Shimon Peres saying that: "As to the question of U.S. pressure on Israel, I would say they handled us more with a carrot than with a stick."

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

Yesterday the Jerusalem Post reported that the Obama administration has offered Israel a generous package of new benefits if it will just extend the settlement freeze for another two months. The source for the report was David Makovsky of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a key organization in the Israel lobby. Makovsky is also a co-author with Obama Middle East advisor Dennis Ross, so presumably he has accurate knowledge about this latest initiative.
Assuming this report is true, it marks a new low in U.S. Middle East diplomacy. Just consider the message that Obama's team is sending the Netanyahu government. Netanyahu has been giving Obama the finger ever since the Cairo speech in June 2009, but instead of being punished for it, he's getting rewarded for being so difficult. So why should any rational person expect Bibi's position to change if this is what happens when he digs in his heels?
Although failure to achieve a two-state solution is ultimately much more of a problem for Israel than for the United States, we have been reduced to begging them and bribing to stop building settlements -- please ... please ... pretty please? ... and then only for a mere 60 days.  
Not only is the United States acting in a remarkably craven fashion, it's just plain stupid. How will this latest bribe change anything for the better? What do we think will have changed in two months? Remember that there isn't even a genuine freeze right now, only a slowdown, which means that a deal will be just a little bit harder in two months than it is today. Does Obama think his bargaining position will be stronger after the midterm elections? And if construction resumes, what then? 
Back when direct talks were announced, I said they wouldn't go anywhere, and I've made it clear in the past that I think this situation is a brewing tragedy for all concerned. And then I said I hoped the Obama administration would prove me wrong. Looks like there's little danger of that, alas.
P.S. Haaretz reports that Netanyahu is not inclined to accept the administration's offer, which leaves us right where we started. That is to say, with little hope that this latest round of talks will lead anywhere. The real question is: When will the United States try a different approach?

Don't Miss the Largest Celebration of Science in the U.S. on Oct. 23-24!

Don't Miss the Largest Celebration of Science in the U.S. on Oct. 23-24!
What is the universe made of? Why did dinosaurs go extinct? What do magic tricks and hip-hop have to do with math? What can amphibians and reptiles tell us about the environment? What do engineers have to do with baseball?

K-12 students and anyone with a curious mind can find out at the first ever USA Science & Engineering Festival Expo on the National Mall! Explore science and engineering with over 1500 free, hands-on activities and over 75 stage shows featuring science celebrities, jugglers, magicians, bands and more. The two day expo is perfect for teens, children and their families, and anyone with a curious mind who is looking for a weekend of fun and discovery. Build an underwater robot, chat with a Nobel Laureate, explore the science behind the magic of Hogwarts Academy and see a car that drives itself. From bugs to birds, kitchen chemistry to computer games, environmental monitoring to electronic music-the Expo has something for everyone and is completely free of charge.

The Expo is the pinnacle event of the inaugural USA Science & Engineering Festival to be held in the greater Washington D.C. area October 10-24, 2010. The USA Science & Engineering Festival is a collaboration of over 500 of the nation's leading science and engineering organizations including, Case Western Reserve University, Duke University, Harvard University, Howard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Johns Hopkins, and the University of Maryland, AAAS, American Chemical Society, American Physical Society, FIRST, Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, National Society of Black Engineers, National Society of Hispanic Engineers, the U.S Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Academy of Sciences, NASA, the National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Health and many others. The Festival is funded through corporate sponsorships, grants and private donations.

I ask that you learn more and attend the USA Science & Engineering Festival Expo. Please get involved and visit If you have any questions, don't hesitate to contact Larry Bock at

Pakistan Closes NATO Supply Line

Pakistan Closes NATO Supply Line

Pakistan closed the most crucial border crossing (NYT) for supplies to NATO-led troops in Afghanistan after an earlier attack by coalition helicopters on a Pakistani security post. The incident Thursday, which Pakistani officials said killed three Pakistani border security soldiers, followed two attacks in a week by coalition helicopters in Pakistan, fueling anger over the growing use of drone strikes. The rare border supply closure signals a deteriorating military relationship between Pakistan and the United States just three months before the Obama administration evaluates progress in Afghanistan. Pakistani interior minister Rehman Malik indicated NATO strikes in Pakistan were being taken very seriously. "We will have to see whether we are allies or enemies," he said. Pakistan is an ally (WashPost) in the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan, but it does not allow international combat troops or operations on its soil. On Monday, Pakistan protested NATO helicopters' use of Pakistani airspace to attack insurgents in Pakistan. It called the moves a violation of the UN mandate for coalition forces in Afghanistan, which requires operations to stop at the border. NATO said it had launched an investigation (al-Jazeera) into the reports. Previously, NATO has said it has the right to self defense.


In the Washington Post, an adaptation of Bob Woodward's new book Obama's Wars describes President Obama's long-held view that Afghanistan was threatened by a "cancer" in Pakistan, which was a safe haven where al-Qaeda and the Afghan Taliban could recruit Westerners whose passports allowed them to move freely in Europe and North America.

In the Wall Street Journal, Sadanand Dhume says Pakistan could learn about economic growth and confronting terrorism from former eastern province Bangladesh.

On Stratfor, George Friedman says Obama is "not going to order a complete withdrawal of all combat forces any time soon--the national (and international) political alignment won't support such a step. At the same time, remaining in Afghanistan is unlikely to achieve any goal and leaves potential rivals like China and Russia freer rein."
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House Fires Shot Across China’s Bow

A measure passed by the House tonight, which would permit the US to impose tariffs on countries that keep their currencies artificially low, is at this juncture a mere statement of intent. It is nevertheless playing into a dynamic of the hardening of stances between the US and China.
Note that the bill has yet to pass the Senate, but given its wide approval margin, and more important, broad bipartisan support, a win there seems assured. But the bill does not require action, and so leaves any escalation in the hands of the executive branch. Given Obama’s tendency to talk tough and do little beyond elaborate symbolism, such as misbranded reform measures, I would not expect the Administration to suddenly change stripes and increase pressure on China in a meaningful fashion. Not surprisingly, China pointedly lowered the value of the renminbi today, clearly signaling it has no intention of cooperating.
More at:

In a Computer Worm, a Possible Biblical Clue By JOHN MARKOFF and DAVID E. SANGER

Deep inside the computer worm that some specialists suspect is aimed at slowing Iran’s race for a nuclear weapon lies what could be a fleeting reference to the Book of Esther, the Old Testament tale in which the Jews pre-empt a Persian plot to destroy them. That use of the word “Myrtus” — which can be read as an allusion to Esther — to name a file inside the code is one of several murky clues that have emerged as computer experts try to trace the origin and purpose of the rogue Stuxnet program, which seeks out a specific kind of command module for industrial equipment.
Not surprisingly, the Israelis are not saying whether Stuxnet has any connection to the secretive cyberwar unit it has built inside Israel’s intelligence service. Nor is the Obama administration, which while talking about cyberdefenses has also rapidly ramped up a broad covert program, inherited from the Bush administration, to undermine Iran’s nuclear program. In interviews in several countries, experts in both cyberwar and nuclear enrichment technology say the Stuxnet mystery may never be solved.
There are many competing explanations for myrtus, which could simply signify myrtle, a plant important to many cultures in the region. But some security experts see the reference as a signature allusion to Esther, a clear warning in a mounting technological and psychological battle as Israel and its allies try to breach Tehran’s most heavily guarded project. Others doubt the Israelis were involved and say the word could have been inserted as deliberate misinformation, to implicate Israel.
More at :

The Neocons' 'Democracy' Fraud By Ivan Eland

Editor’s Note: “Democracy” was always the P.R. selling point for the neoconservative plan to achieve regime change in Muslim countries across the Middle East. In his much-ballyhooed Second Inaugural, President George W. Bush repeated this sales pitch again and again to the near-unanimous approval of Washington commentators.
However, the U.S.-approved “democracy at gunpoint" at the center of the neocon plan has proved to be as illusory as it has been bloody, as the Independent Institute’s Ivan Eland explains in this guest essay:
American policymakers love to see purple thumbs in the developing world, especially in countries in which the United States has undertaken “nation-building” projects (read: invasions and occupations) More at: .

North Korea Vows To Strengthen It's Nuclear Deterrent

North Korea will not give up and rather bolster its nuclear deterrent as long as the United States threatens the communist nation, according to North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Pak Kil-yon. Yonhap News
North Korea To Strengthen Nuclear Deterrent -- RIA Novosti

North Korea vowed on Wednesday to strengthen its nuclear forces due to the threat posed by the United States.

"As long as U.S. nuclear aircraft carriers sail in the seas around our country, our nuclear deterrent can never be abandoned, but should be strengthened further," North Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Pak Kil-yon told the UN General Assembly.

"This is the lesson we have drawn," he said.

Read more

More News On North Korea's Commitment To A Nuclear Deterrent

North Korea vows to strengthen "nuclear deterrent" -- Reuters
NKorea vows to strengthen nuclear arms -- AP
North Korea says nuclear arms must be strengthened -- AFP
N. Korea vows to bolster nuclear deterrent to counter U.S. threat -- Yonhap News
North Korea to maintain nuclear deterrent until US leaves region -- M&C
N. Korea Attributes Nuclear Development To US Presence In The Region -- RTT News

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

China Is Now Making Silent Power Grabs All Over The World Vincent Fernando, CFA

Recent rhetoric exchanged between China and the U.S. is a huge mistake -- for China -- writes Anne Applebaum in the Washington Post.
That's because China has done so well using silent power, making multiple silent 'power grabs' across the world over the last few years to which the U.S. has appeared completely oblivious. This isn't meant to cheer the U.S., but rather to provide a warning.
For example, China is consolidating itself in Afghanistan where U.S. soldiers fight and make enemies every time an error causes a civilian casualty, while Chinese businessmen take advantage of their protection to build companies and make friends every time they provide a job.
Washington Post:

The fruits of this success are everywhere. Look at Afghanistan, for example, where American troops have been fighting for nearly a decade, where billions of dollars of American aid money has been spent -- and where a Chinese company has won the rights to exploit one of the world's largest copper deposits. Though American troops don't protect the miners directly, Afghan troops, trained and armed by Americans, do. And though the mine is still in its early phases, the Chinese businessmen and engineers -- wearing civilian clothes, offering jobs -- are already more popular with the locals than the U.S. troops, who carry guns and talk security. The Chinese paid a high price for their copper mining rights and took a huge risk. But if it pays off, our war against the Taliban might someday be remembered as the war that paved the way for Chinese domination of Afghanistan.
Something similar is happening in Iraq, via a similar strategy of winning power while avoiding conflict, rather than winning power through conflict, as the U.S. seems to be fond of.
It's not just about wars either. China has also taken Western nations for a ride when it comes to clean energy initiatives, says Ms. Applebaum:
Along with Western Europeans, Americans are pouring vast amounts of public and private money into solar energy and wind power, hoping to wean themselves off fossil fuels and prevent climate change. China, by contrast, builds a new coal-fired plant every 10 days or so. While thus producing ever more greenhouse gases in the East, China makes clever use of those government subsidies in the West: Three Chinese companies now rank among the top 10 producers of wind turbines in the world.
In addition she highlights China's dominance of the global rare earths market, which, as we said earlier this morning, means that the U.S. would lose any true trade war with China.

Read more:

The Next Step In The Currency War: Capital Controls And Tariffs This isn't just a China-U.S. story.

This is getting serious. The currency war between the world's powers is expanding beyond the typical Japanese intervention, Chinese yuan pegging, and aggressive U.S. quantitative easing to include, "Brazil, Mexico, Peru, Colombia, Korea, Taiwan, South Africa, Russia and even Poland," according to Ambrose Evans-Pritchard.
But what does this mean, and why is it happening?
Essentially, all the easy money flooding the market through U.S. quantitative easing is making the dollar weak and increasing the value of other currencies. Japan is front and center here, worried one of its chief export markets could be priced out of purchasing its goods.
FirecrackerSimultaneously, it is making U.S. goods more competitive, which means emerging markets countries like China, Brazil, Mexico etc. al. need to move in to devalue their currencies against the dollar.
And this whole process spirals and spirals and spirals...until someone does something different.
That different approach could be capital controls, according to Ambrose Evans-Pritchard.

Read more:


From Secrecy News:

By censoring Anthony Shaffer's new book "Operation Dark Heart" even though uncensored review copies are already available in the public domain, the Department of Defense has produced a genuinely unique product:  a revealing snapshot of the way that the Obama Administration classifies national security information in 2010.

With both versions before them (excerpts), readers can see for themselves exactly what the Pentagon classifiers wanted to withhold, and can judge for themselves whether the secrecy they tried to impose can be justified on valid national security grounds.  In the majority of instances, the results of such an inspection seem disappointing, if not very surprising, and they tend to confirm the most skeptical view of the operation of the classification system.

The most commonly repeated "redaction" in Operation Dark Heart is the author's cover name, "Christopher Stryker," that he used while serving in Afghanistan.  Probably the second most common redactions are references to the National Security Agency, its heaquarters location at Fort Meade, Maryland, the familiar abbreviation SIGINT (referring to "signals intelligence"), and offhand remarks like "Guys on phones were always great sources of intel," which is blacked out on the bottom of page 56.

Also frequently redacted are mentions of the term TAREX or "Target Exploitation," referring to intelligence collection gathered at a sensitive site, and all references to low-profile organizations such as the Air Force Special Activities Center and the Joint Special Operations Command, as well as to foreign intelligence partners such as New Zealand.  Task Force 121 gets renamed Task Force 1099.  The code name Copper Green, referring to an "enhanced" interrogation program, is deleted.

Perhaps 10% of the redacted passages do have some conceivable security sensitivity, including the identity of the CIA chief of station in Kabul, who has been renamed "Jacob Walker" in the new version, and a physical description of the location and appearance of the CIA station itself, which has been censored.

Many other redactions are extremely tenuous.  The name of character actor Ned Beatty is not properly classified in any known universe, yet it has been blacked out on page 15 of the book.  (It still appears intact in the Index.)

In short, the book embodies the practice of national security classification as it exists in the United States today.  It does not exactly command respect.

A few selected pages from the original and the censored versions of Operation Dark Heart have been posted side-by-side for easy comparison here (pdf).

The New York Times reported on the Pentagon's dubious handling of the book in "Secrets in Plain Sight in Censored Book's Reprint" by Scott Shane, September 18.

Water Use in Southwest Heads for a Day of Reckoning

Las Vegas Bay, Lake Mead, southern NevadaImage via Wikipedia

Jim Wilson/The New York Times
The Southern Nevada Water Authority is tunneling under Lake Mead to install an intake valve that could continue operating until water levels dropped below 1,000 feet.
Barring a sudden end to the Southwest’s 11-year drought, the distribution of the river’s dwindling bounty is likely to be reordered as early as next year because the flow of water cannot keep pace with the region’s demands.
For the first time, federal estimates issued in August indicate that Lake Mead, the heart of the lower Colorado basin’s water system — irrigating lettuce, onions and wheat in reclaimed corners of the Sonoran Desert, and lawns and golf courses from Las Vegas to Los Angeles — could drop below a crucial demarcation line of 1,075 feet.
If it does, that will set in motion a temporary distribution plan approved in 2007 by the seven states with claims to the river and by the federal Bureau of Reclamation, and water deliveries to Arizona and Nevada would be reduced.
This could mean more dry lawns, shorter showers and fallow fields in those states, although conservation efforts might help them adjust to the cutbacks. California, which has first call on the Colorado River flows in the lower basin, would not be affected.
But the operating plan also lays out a proposal to prevent Lake Mead from dropping below the trigger point. It allows water managers to send 40 percent more water than usual downstream to Lake Mead from Lake Powell in Utah, the river’s other big reservoir, which now contains about 50 percent more water than Lake Mead.
In that case, the shortage declaration would be avoided and Lake Mead’s levels restored to 1,100 feet or so.
Lake Powell, fed by rain and snowmelt that create the Colorado and tributaries, has risen more than 60 feet from a 2004 low because the upper basin states, Colorado, New Mexico, Wyoming and Utah, do not use their full allocations. The upper basin provides a minimum annual flow of 8.23 million acre feet to Arizona, Nevada and California. (An acre-foot of water is generally considered the amount two families of four use annually.)
In its August report the Bureau of Reclamation said the extra replenishment from Lake Powell was the likeliest outcome. Nonetheless, said Terry Fulp, the bureau’s deputy regional director for the Lower Colorado Region, it is the first time ever that the bureau has judged a critical shortage to be remotely possible in the near future.
More at

More Coverage Of Bob Woodward's Book "The Obama Wars" We Need To Make Clear . . . The Cancer Is In Pakistan' -- Washington Post

More Coverage Of Bob Woodward's Book "The Obama Wars"

President Obama dispatched his national security adviser, retired Marine Gen. James L. Jones, and CIA Director Leon Panetta to Pakistan for a series of urgent, secret meetings on May 19, 2010.

Less than three weeks earlier, a 30-year-old U.S. citizen born in Pakistan had tried to blow up an SUV in New York City's Times Square. The crude bomb - which a Pakistan-based terrorist group had taught him to make - smoked but did not explode. Only luck had prevented a catastrophe.

Read more

More News On Bob Woodward's Book "The Obama Wars"

Obama's Wars: Bob Woodward tells the inside story of President Obama’s Afghan strategy review -- Washington post (Complete Coverage)
Military Thwarted President Seeking Choice -- Washington Post (Pt.1)
Biden Warned Obama Not to Become 'Locked In' -- Washington Post (Pt.2)

Woodward book: 'rogue Pakistani officers were involved in Mumbai attack' -- The Telegraph
'U.S. will respond to any Pak-linked attack’ -- The Hindu
US warned Pakistan after foiled attack: book -- AFP
Woodward book outlines Graham's influence on Obama's Afghan policy -- Miami Herald
Bob Woodward's Inside Account Of 'Obama's Wars' -- NPR (Audio)
Sobering revelations and insider backbiting in Bob Woodward's 'Obama's Wars' -- L.A. Times
The Quick Read: Obama's Wars, by Bob Woodward -- The Atlantic
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Volcker's Full Speech to the Chicago Fed (video)

US Military Needs to Get Off Oil by 2040: Report by Matthew McDermott

aerial refueling photo
photo: John Martinez Pavliga via flickr
The United States military must entirely get off oil by 2040 if it wants to reduce operational vulnerabilities, reduce costs, stop new security risks caused by climate change and avoid the coming peak oil supply crunch. That's the word from the Center For a New American Security, whose Fueling the Future Force report details the hows and whys of the situation.
afghan convoy attacked photo
DVIDSHUB via flickr
Petroleum is 77% of Military Energy Supply
Report authors Christine Parthemore and Dr. John Nagl say, "Reducing dependency on petroleum will help ensure the long-term ability of the military to carry out its assigned missions. Moving beyond petroleum will allow DoD to lead in the development of innovative technologies that can benefit the nation more broadly, while signaling to the world that the United States has an innovative and adaptable force."
How big is that dependency? Currently US forces rely on petroleum for 77.2% of all energy needs, with "other electric" sources coming in second at 11.4% and natural gas coming at 8.4%.
In Thirty Years Oil Will Be Hard to Come By
Why the 2040 timeframe? The report lays it out (emphasis is mine):

This 30-year timeframe reflects market indicators pointing towards both higher demand for petroleum and increasing international competition to acquire it. Moreover, the geology and economics of producing petroleum will ensure that the market grows tight long before petroleum reserves are depleted. Some estimates indicate that the current global reserve-to-production ratio--how fast the world will produce all currently known recoverable petroleum reserves at the current rate of production--is less than 50 years. Thus, given projected supply and demand, we cannot assume that oil will remain affordable or that supplies will be available to the United States reliably three decades hence. Ensuring that DOD can operation on non-petroleum fuels 30 years from today is a conservation hedge against prevailing economic, political and environmental trends, conditions and constraints.
In other words, 30 years from now there odds aren't good that there will be petroleum to fuel anything with much consistency or at minimum with any level of affordability. This echoes recently revealed reports that the German military is pretty freaked out about the prospect of peak oil as well.
Oil Price Rises Cost Military Millions, Dependency Creates Security Risks
As for costs of continued military oil dependence, the report notes that for every dollar increase in the price of petroleum an additional $130 million is added to the Department of Defense's operating costs.
The report itself outlines a twelve-point plan to transition the military off oil--which is frankly all pretty ordinary stuff for regular TreeHugger readers--as well as some of the security issues of continued oil dependency (Iran and Venezuela get further leverage over US) and logistical challenges (currently purchased vehicles require petroleum and have a long service life).
Read more: Fueling the Future Force: Preparing the Department of Defense for a Post-Petroleum Era [PDF]
soldier at dusk photo
photo: US Army via flickr
How Much Less Energy Needed, If We Didn't Have to Secure Oil?
Though it sounds somewhat cynical, I ask this quite practically: I wonder what how much the US military's energy demand and required size would be if part of its (not loudly or fully stated) mission weren't positioning itself around the world to secure the very energy supplies which are going to be relatively soon depleted? It's not like the military's purpose ceases to exist absent having to secure oil supplies, not by a long shot, but surely its size and fuel demand would be reduced.
TH NOTE: In a previous version of this article the names of the report authors were incorrectly stated. This has been corrected.
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More on Oil:
Minus Oil: Energized Ideas For Surpassing Petroleum
The German Military is Freaked Out by Prospect of Peak Oil
After Oil, The Extreme Risk of Biofuel Dependency

The Way Toward a Global 'Reset' By MIKHAIL GORBACHEV

The Way Toward a Global 'Reset'

By: MIKHAIL GORBACHEV | International Herald Tribune
The close association of Russia, Europe and North America must be seen as an imperative.

'Credible But Not Specific' Threat of New Terrorist Attack -- ABC News

Officials in Europe, US on High Alert for Commando-Style Raids After Capture of Suspected German Terrorist

US and European officials said Tuesday they have detected a plot to carry out a major, coordinated series of commando-style terror attacks in Britain, France, Germany and possibly the United States.

A senior US official said that while there is a "credible" threat, no specific time or place is known. President Obama has been briefed about the threat, say senior US officials.

Read more ....

More News On A Suspected Terror Plot Against Europe

Experts: Terror threat against Europe still active
-- AP
Al-Qaeda terror plot targeting Europe uncovered -- BBC
Terrorist Plot Uncovered in Europe -- New York Times/AP
Al-Qaeda terror plot targeting Europe 'uncovered' -- Yahoo News/AFP
Officials: Credible Europe Terror Plot Thwarted -- CBS News
Mumbai-style terror attacks in London, France and Germany, planned by Al Qaeda, uncovered -- New York Daily News
'Mumbai-Style' Terror Attack in Europe Foiled -- FOX News
Plot to Attack European Cities Foiled: Report -- Yahoo News/Reuters
Terror Plot Reportedly Uncovered In Europe -- Radio Free Europe
U.S. Probes Scope of Suspected Terror Plot -- Wall Street Journal
Plans for al-Qaida attacks in Europe found -- UPI
Islamists plot commando raids on European cities, reports say -- Deutsche Welle
Mumbai-style terror attack on European cities foiled -- Economic Times
Western Officials Remain Concerned about Attack in Europe -- Der Spiegel
CIA ups drone strikes over Europe attacks plot: report -- Daily Times
Reports: European Terror Plot Foiled By Drone Strikes In Pakistan -- NPR
CIA foils Mumbai-style terror plot on Europe with series of drone strikes on militants in Pakistan -- The Daily Mail
Terror plot against Britain thwarted by drone strike -- The Telegraph
How the Mumbai terror attacks changed British anti-terror tactics -- The Telegraph
Al Qaeda plotters at large in Britain after attacks across Europe are foiled -- London Evening Standard
Germany says knew of pointers to Al Qaeda attacks -- Reuters
Germany Says No Imminent Terror Threat on German Soil -- Bloomberg Businessweek
9/11 Mosque Continued To Produce Jihadis -- ABC News
US intelligence chief declines comment on alleged Qaeda plot -- AFP
Pakistan dismisses Qaeda terror plot report -- AFP

America Will Lose A Trade War With China Because It Desperately Needs Rare Earth Metals Vincent Fernando, CFA

If there's one thing the latest political spat between Chinese and Japan has exposed, it's China's massive control of the global rare earths market. At the Money Game we've previously discussed China's near-monopoly over the rare earths used in all kinds of modern technology, including many types of U.S. military hardware.
As tensions flared over Japan's detention of a Chinese ship captain, and the China's detention of Japanese soon after, Japanese companies reported that rare earth shipments from China were being delayed or blocked. The central Chinese government has denied the reports, but it's pretty clear by now that some sort of retaliatory action happened even if it wasn't a policy decision given substantial concern from Japan. Local Chinese players on the ground might have decided to take it upon themselves to punish Japan with delayed rare earth exports, even if the central government didn't want them to do it.
It's huge a wake up call for Japan and other nations around the world, including the U.S., because many parts of the modern technology economy are dependent on rare earths.
The problem is that while rare earths production can be developed in many other parts of the world, (The U.S. actually has an abundant amount of rare earths, it's just not mined currently) in the short-term almost nothing can be done to remove China's choke hold over this niche of the technology supply chain. It takes time to get new mines up and running.
Thus in the case of Japan, this harsh reality means they simply have to capitulate and keep China happy, because the economic costs of losing rare earths is far too great, as highlighted by a Japanese government minister on Tuesday:
“The de facto ban on rare earths export that China has imposed could have a very big impact on Japan’s economy,” the economic and fiscal policy minister, Banri Kaieda, told a news conference Tuesday. “We need to restore Japan-China ties, especially economic exchanges, as soon as possible.”
The same would be the case for America, should China ever choose to flex its trade war muscles. We understand that U.S. officials are A) trying to thread the needle between a true trade war and simply winning some concessions and B) creating a foreign political enemy to focus attention on ahead of the U.S. elections, but Japan's experience shows how they are playing with fire -- The U.S. economy doesn't need any additional shocks right now.

Now see a fantastic overview of China's grip on rare earth metals

Read more:

The pope and the atheists

By GWYNNE DYER LONDON — The best defense is a good offense. A less worldly pope, making a state visit to Britain as the revelations about Catholic priests and bishops abusing the children in their care spread across Europe, might have been reduced to shame and silence. But Benedict XVI knows about the uses of power — he was the late Pope John Paul II's chief enforcer — and he immediately launched an attack on all the people he sees as the church's enemies.

Speaking in Scotland the week before last, he condemned "aggressive forms of secularism" and the threat of "atheist extremism." Never mind the hundreds or thousands of priests who raped little boys (and occasionally little girls). The real threat is the people who don't believe in God, and therefore have no morals. He even equated atheists with Nazis.

That was rich coming from a man whose predecessor, Pope Pius XII, personally negotiated a treaty with the Nazis in 1933 that was advantageous for German Catholics, and did not publicly condemn Hitler's extermination of the Jews although he was well informed about it. But Benedict's tactics worked very well, because all that the media could talk about after his Scottish speech was whether nonbelievers can be trusted to behave morally.

"As we reflect on the sobering lessons of atheist extremism of the 20th century," said the itinerant pope, "let us never forget how the exclusion of God, religion and virtue from public life leads ultimately to a truncated vision of man and of society and thus a reductive vision of a person and his destiny." God, religion and virtue on one side; Nazis and Communists as well as a selfish, hedonistic wasteland of sex and secularism on the other.

Set the terms of the argument and you are already halfway to winning it. That is Benedict's game, and it is played by many other leaders of every religion. Only the fear of God makes people behave morally: Without that fear of divine punishment, they would act out every evil fantasy that popped into their minds. So stick with us.

It's an easy allegation to make, and almost impossible to test — or so those who make the allegation believe. But actually, it has been tested, at least for the Christian parts of the world, and guess what? Religion does not make people behave better. It makes them behave worse.

We're not talking about suicide bombers and other religious extremists here. We're talking about ordinary people committing ordinary acts of violence, everyday thefts and run-of-the-mill sex crimes. The more religious a particular society or region is, the more of that sort of stuff happens.

As researcher Gregory Paul puts it: "In general, higher rates of belief in and worship of a creator correlate with higher rates of homicide, juvenile and early adult mortality, venereal disease, teen pregnancy, and abortion." Whereas according to Pope Benedict's argument, the United States, one of the world's most religious countries, should be a crime-free paradise, while secular Sweden should be a vortex of crime and violence.

Direct observation suggests otherwise. So do Gregory Paul's two articles, "Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies: A First Look," published in the Journal of Religion & Society in 2005, and "The Chronic Dependence of Popular Religiosity upon Dysfunctional Psychosociological Conditions," published in Evolutionary Psychology Journal in 2009.

Even within the United States, Paul reported, "the strongly theistic, anti-evolution South and Midwest" have "markedly worse homicide, mortality, sexually transmitted disease, youth pregnancy, marital and related problems than the Northeast, where societal conditions, secularization and acceptance of evolution approach European norms."

There's a chicken-and-egg question here, because what Paul's research actually shows is that people are more religious in societies where socio-economic conditions are poor. There is more crime and anti-social behavior in such societies, but are people behaving badly because they are religious, or just because they are poor, ill-educated and desperate?

The real statistical correlation is between religiosity, poverty and ignorance. Hundreds of millions of religious people are neither poor nor ignorant, but the bottom of the pecking order is where religion has its strongest grip in any society. Raise that bottom level, as countries with good social welfare systems do, and religious belief will gradually decline.

Besides, it's not really secularism, per se, that horrifies Pope Benedict and his minions. Cardinal Kasper, his top official for relations with the Church of England, gave the game away in an interview with the German magazine Focus, condemning England as "a secular, pluralistic country. When you land at Heathrow, you sometimes think you might have landed in a Third World country."

Kasper was promptly removed from the list of high church officials traveling with the pope, but Vatican spokesman Monsignor Oliver Lahl, defended his remarks: "All he was saying is that when you arrive in Britain today it is like arriving in Islamabad, Mumbai and Kinshasa all at the same time."

It's the diversity, tolerance and necessary secularism of modern multicultural societies that religious leaders of every stripe really can't stand. Such societies have to be secular to accommodate all the different strands of belief and disbelief that must live alongside one another in peace, whereas the pope and his friends still long for the humble, homogeneous peasant societies where everybody believed, and believed the same thing.

Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.
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