Monday, July 16, 2007

Al Jazeera - The Neo Taliban

Excerpt from a TV documentary on the "Neo-Talibans", which aired on Al-Jazeera TV on July 5, 2007:

Al-Jazeera TV reporter Ahmad Zeidan: Opium is known as "the petroleum of the Afghans." The abundance of water in this region has been invested in a remarkable way. When America built these conduits in the days of Afghan king Zahir Shah, it did no know they would be irrigating the poppy fields behind me. These fields, which account for half of Afghanistan's GNP, were destroyed by the Afghan Taliban movement, but they appeared again after its fall. Now, Taliban says it will not interfere in the daily affairs and livelihood of the Afghans. What was prohibited yesterday is permitted today. Watch the Al Jazeera Report - Pilotless Robot Bomber Squadron Heads for Afghanistan, Iraq - Technology News | News On Technology

"BALAD AIR BASE, Iraq — The airplane is the size of a jet fighter, powered by a turboprop engine, able to fly at 300 mph and reach 50,000 feet. It's outfitted with infrared, laser and radar targeting, and with a ton and a half of guided bombs and missiles.

The Reaper is loaded, but there's no one on board. Its pilot, as it bombs targets in Iraq, will sit at a video console 7,000 miles away in Nevada.

The arrival of these outsized U.S. 'hunter-killer' drones, in aviation history's first robot attack squadron, will be a watershed moment even in an Iraq that has seen too many innovative ways to hunt and kill.

That moment, one the Air Force will likely low-key, is expected 'soon,' says the regional U.S. air commander. How soon? 'We're still working that,' Lt. Gen. Gary North said in an interview.

The Reaper's first combat deployment is expected in Afghanistan, and senior Air Force officers estimate it will land in Iraq sometime between this fall and next spring. They look forward to it" (more)

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Iranian Jews blast offer of cash for immigrating to Israel

Iranian Jews blast offer of cash for immigrating to Israel
By Yossi Melman, Haaretz Correspondent

An Iranian Jewish organization announced over the weekend that it rejected an initiative to promote Iran's Jewish community to immigrate to Israel using cash incentives.
Iranian Jews in Tehran synagogue

"[The money is]inappropriate and politically immature," the group said in a statement that was carried by Western and Iranian news outlets. It added Iran's Jewish community has remained loyal to the Islamic Republic and that their "Jewish Iranian identity is not a commodity that passes from the hands of one merchant to another in return for money."

The statment addressed an offer by expatriate Iranian Jews offering a sum of $10,000 to each individual to immigrate to Israel.

The $10,000 offer doubled the existing $5,000 allocated each Jewish Iranian upon arrival to Israel by the Ministry of Absorption and the Jewish Agency.

Iran's Jewish community has decreased from 80,000 before the Islamic revolution, to about 20,000 today.

It is represented in parliament by a Jewish lawmaker and is the largest Jewish community in the Middle East outside of Israel. (more)

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Hamas Boycotts Meeting of Palestinian Legislature - New York Times

Published: July 11, 2007

JERUSALEM, July 11 — The Palestinian president, Mahmoud Abbas, convened the Palestinian legislature today, but a boycott by the Hamas party meant there was no quorum, which was precisely what Mr. Abbas wanted. With parliament unable to transact business, he can extend the life of the emergency cabinet that he appointed after Hamas fighters took control of the Gaza Strip. Fatha politicians in PA parlaiment.

Fatah members of the Palestinian legislature convened in Ramallah, but Hamas boycotted the session.

Hamas legislators, who won a majority of seats in the most recent parliamentary election in January 2006, stayed away from today’s session and said it was illegal. Salah al-Bardawil, a Hamas legislator, said in Gaza that convening the legislature “without arrangements with the biggest bloc, and with the Israeli arrest of Hamas legislators, was an attack on Palestinian legitimacy.” (more)

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Green Zone Is Hit By Barrage of Shells -

BAGHDAD, July 10 -- More than two dozen mortar shells pounded the Green Zone on Tuesday, killing three people, including a U.S. military member, and injuring 18, among them five Americans, U.S. officials said.

The dead also included an Iraqi and a person of unknown nationality. Two of the wounded Americans were service members and three were contract employees, the U.S. Embassy said in a statement.

The attack, around 4 p.m., was the latest in a series of mortar and rocket strikes in recent months against the Green Zone, which houses the U.S. Embassy and other Western missions along with Iraqi government buildings. In April, a suicide bomber attacked inside Iraq's parliament building.

A U.S. official in Washington, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that "around 30" mortar shells had hit the Green Zone. "They got hammered," the official said


Inside Israel's Secret Talks with Hamas - TIME

Having secured the release of kidnapped BBC correspondent Alan Johnston on July 4th, Hamas officials are now moving discreetly to negotiate freedom for another Gaza hostage — Israeli soldier Gilad Shalit. Shalit, seized in June 2006 in a raid by Palestinian militants who had tunneled under the Israeli security wall around Gaza, is currently being held by kidnappers who include members of Hamas' own military wing, as well another radical group, the Popular Resistance Committees.

An investigation by TIME reveals a marked contrast in how the Israelis and Hamas view their complicated on-again, off-again negotiations over Shalit's release. The disconnect arises partially out of Israel's refusal to deal directly with Hamas, which they consider a terrorist organization. While some informed Israelis say they are 'optimistic' that Shalit will be free 'within weeks,' Hamas officials are far more cautious — one offered the glum assessment that bargaining could drag on for another year." (more)

Monday, July 09, 2007

'Hamas army' established in Gaza, intelligence source says - Israel News, Ynetnews

"Southern Command intelligence officer tells Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi that Hamas' military industry is being run in organized manner and developing in many areas. 'Hundreds of thousands of Palestinians are controlled in Strip by Hamas army,' he says

Hamas' military industry is giving serial production numbers to the roadside charges and Qassam rockets it manufactures, a senior intelligence officer in the Southern Command told Italian Prime Minister Romano Prodi during his visit to the rocket-battered town of Sderot on Monday.

According to the officer, intelligence sources believe that a real 'Hamas army' exists in the Gaza Strip and includes between 7,000 and 10,000 soldiers, who are being armed continuously with weapons smuggled through the Philadelphi route." (more)

Fragments from Floyd, Virginia: America's Roadside Bloomery

"America's Roadside Bloomery Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

I had a thought after I posted this image of Black Eyed Susans (and other flowers) taken yesterday on a Floyd County roadside. Here it is:

It would be neat for contributors from all over the country to offer their images to an aggregate gallery called Unplanted Gardens: America's Roadside Bloomery.

All images would include in their composition a road of some kind, just to place it, and then the wildflowers that grow there unplanted. Hiway department wildflower beds don't count.

Each image should be 72 dpi, max size of 800 pixels on the largest side. Information should minimally include the location, if possible some ID on the flowers, and any other pertinent or interesting information." (more):

Private contractors outnumber U.S. troops in Iraq - Los Angeles Times

The number of U.S.-paid private contractors in Iraq now exceeds that of American combat troops, newly released figures show, raising fresh questions about the privatization of the war effort and the government's capacity to carry out military and rebuilding campaigns.

More than 180,000 civilians — including Americans, foreigners and Iraqis — are working in Iraq under U.S. contracts, according to State and Defense department figures obtained by the Los Angeles Times.

Including the recent troop buildup, 160,000 soldiers and a few thousand civilian government employees are stationed in Iraq.

The total number of private contractors, far higher than previously reported, shows how heavily the Bush administration has relied on corporations to carry out the occupation of Iraq — a mission criticized as being undermanned.

"These numbers are big," said Peter Singer, a Brookings Institution scholar who has written on military contracting. "They illustrate better than anything that we went in without enough troops. This is not the coalition of the willing. It's the coalition of the billing." (more)

Saturday, July 07, 2007

IraqSlogger: Tribes Stockpile Weapons, Driving up Prices

Tribes in western Iraq, and in and around Anbar province specifically, have begun stockpiling different sorts of weapons, driving up the prices of weapons in the Iraqi market, al-Malaf Press reports in Arabic.

The agency writes that the alleged tribal buildup focuses on Kalashnikov rifles, in addition to other types of light and medium weapons such as mortar shells and launchers, PKCs and others.

Because the tribal arms buildup has reached unprecedented levels, the prices of arms have spiked to new highs in the area, al-Melaf Press reports.

One Kalashnikov in Anbar province goes for 750,000 Iraqi dinars (ID), while earlier an AK rifle could be had in Anbar province for less than 400,000 ID." (more)

Friday, July 06, 2007

More US Contractors Than US Troops In Iraq

The Big US Newspapers Finally Wake Up And Discover America's Private Army
By ROBERT Y. PELTON 07/04/2007 12:15 PM ET

Peruvian security contractors doze off beneath an American flag as they wait for helicopter transport in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, 19 February, 2006.

As predicted
in Slogger, the print media pile-on on military contractors is in full swing. The latest big daily to weigh in is the Los Angeles Times with T. Christian Miller's revelation that there are now more contractors than soldiers in Iraq.

Miller had to use FOIA’s to pull some of the numbers but even then, some large companies are still off the radar and official sources differ drastically on the actual count. It’s an article designed to promote more questions than answers among readers as the public begins to ask, “Who are those guys?” (more)

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

In Mauritania, Seeking to End an Overfed Ideal - New York Times

NOUAKCHOTT, Mauritania — At the Olympic Sports Stadium here, a collection of dun-colored buildings rising mirage-like from the vast Sahara, about a dozen women clad in tennis shoes and sandals circled the grandstands one evening in late June, puffing with each step.

Between pants came brief explanations for their labors. “Because I am fat,” said one, a dark-eyed 34-year-old close to 200 pounds. Another, a 30-year-old in bright pink sneakers, said, “For myself, for my health and to be skinny.” It is a typically Western after-work scene. But this is the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, the mirror opposite of the West on questions of women’s weight. To men here, fat is sexy. And in this patriarchal region, many Mauritanian women do everything possible — and have everything possible done to them — to put on pounds. (more)

For African-Americans, folly of this war hits home - The Boston Globe

By Derrick Z. Jackson, Globe Columnist | May 9, 2007

MILITARY SOCIOLOGIST David R. Segal was asked Monday over the telephone what he hears in his surveys of soldiers. He quoted an African-American veteran of the Iraq invasion and occupation: "This is not a black people's war. This is not a poor people's war. This is an oilman's war."

Gregory Black, a retired Navy diver who last year started the website, said that quote sums up what he too hears from African-American veterans of Iraq.

"African-Americans detest this war," Black said yesterday in a phone interview. "Everybody kind of knows the truth behind this war. It's a cash cow for the military defense industry, when you look at the money these contractors are making. African-Americans saw this at the beginning of the war and now the rest of the country has figured it out. It's not benefiting us in the least."(more)

ABC News: No Men Allowed: All-Female Beach Opens

On the Italian Adriatic coast, where romance reigns and beachcombers bask in the sun, the notorious Latin lover looks for his prey and he hunts his conquest with chat-up lines. The women are fed up.

"We run away from Italian men," said Tiziana Andreoletti. "They're such a drag."

And it happens all the time. Boy meets girl and boy annoys girl. So, the Italians have enacted an interesting solution to this problem. They have created a beach strictly for women. No men, children or loud disco music are allowed. (more)

Ayman Sez:

Gayest soccer ref

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Everybody Loves Mahmoud

Isn't that Iraqi president Jilal Talibani palling around with Iranian president Ahmadinejad.

Chavez visits Iran again, hope is still alive.