A former CIA agent writes about recent contemporary assassination methods. Technology has changed the world and its connection with assassinations. Did Mossad bungle? Did they even do it? Dubai believes so as do many other nation's whose passports were faked.(See 1 below.)
Current psychiatry needs to lay on a couch and be analyzed. (See 2 below.)
First California, then New York. The Wall Street Journal's Editorial suggests New Jersey should move over but I would rebut - New Jersey may be back on track while Michigan remains in a death spiral. Is what is happening in our states symptomatic of bigger problems? I would argue yes.
Spending more on welfare attracts more to welfare. Allowing unions to control services drives up costs. Tolerating corruption and The Mafia to run businesses and intimidate other legitimate ones also increases costs.
The solution - raise taxes. This drives wealthier out and the loop feed back approach breeds spiral down consequences.
Let's be very simplistic and relate New York's political behaviour pattern to a family structure. Soon you will have a dysfunctional and ruined family.
Yet, this is what Obama, Pelosi and Reid are prescribing for our nation. Buy votes of Congressional members, pay off unions, fail to support choice education, present a weak face to adversaries, impose complex government solutions, raise taxes, heighten uncertainty and then wonder why investors are fleeing, capitalists are unwilling to borrow to expand, un-employment remains high, deficits soar and social rot spreads.(See 3 below.)
Letter I sent to local paper and cogent response from one of my son-in-laws. (See 4 below.)
Marjah now deemed more or less cleared of Taliban. (See 5 below.)
GW, in act of vengeance , sends Tsunami towards Hawaii - warns Obama to quit 'messin' with me!
Hawaii's Governor refuses to blame GW despite warning from Obama they may be cut off from health care largess! (See 6 below.)
More than a little difference between a Republic and a Democracy.In the former soveriegnty rests in the individual and the latter with the group. Ben Franklin allegedly once said to a scullery maid as he left Constitution Hall: 'we have a Republic if we can keep it.' Lately we have been doing a lousy job. (See 7 below.)
Randall Hoven chooses not to compromise when it comes to voting for moderate Republicans. (See 8 below.)
The Administration is seeking to resore full diplomatic relations with Syria on the one hand, then turns around and warns Syria to quit supplying Hezballah with arms transfers. (See 9 below.)
IAF engages in training for rapid refueling. I have been told the IAF has the capability of sending over 100 planes on a mission to Iran should the need arise. (See 10 below.)
1)A Perfectly Framed Assassination:Stepped-up surveillance technology may be tipping the scales in the cat-and-mouse game between spies and their targets. Robert Baer on the current state of spycraft
By ROBERT BAER
It was a little after 9 p.m. when a Palestine Liberation Organization official stepped out of the elevator into the lobby of Paris's Le Meridien Montparnasse, a modern luxury hotel that caters to businessmen and well-heeled tourists. The PLO official was going to dinner with a friend, who was waiting by the front desk. As they pushed out the Meridien's front door, they both noticed a man on a divan looking intently at them. It was odd enough that at dinner they called a contact in the French police. The policeman advised the PLO official to go directly back to the hotel after dinner and stay put. The police would look into it in the morning.
When the PLO official and his friend came back from dinner, the man on the divan was gone, and the Meridien's lobby was full of Japanese tourists having coffee after a night on the town. From here the accounts differ; in one version, a taxi blocked off traffic at the end of the street that runs in front of the Meridien, apparently to hold up any police car on routine patrol. In another, the traffic on the street was light.
What is certain is that as soon as the PLO official stepped out of the passenger side of the car, two athletic men in track suits came walking down the street, fast. One of them had what looked like a gym bag. When the friend of the PLO official got out of the car to say goodbye, he noticed the two but didn't think much of it. They looked French, but other than that it was too dark to see more.
One of the men abruptly lunged at the PLO official, pinning him down on the hood of the car. According to the PLO official's friend, one of the men put his gym bag against the head of the PLO official and fired two quick rounds into the base of his neck, killing him instantly. There was a silencer on the weapon. The two fled down the street and disappeared into an underground garage, never to be seen again.
That was 1992. And the world of assassins has changed a lot in the intervening years.
I knew the PLO official, and his assassins have yet to be found. Israel's Mossad security agency was quickly assumed to be behind the killing. Israel had accused the PLO official of having been a member of Black September, and his assassination seemed to be the last in an Israeli campaign to hunt down the perpetrators of the 1972 Munich Olympic attack. So far so good, but unable to identify even the nationality of the assassins, the French could do nothing but grumble. With no casings from the pistol found, no closed-circuit TV coverage in front of the Meridien, and no good description of the assassins, the French could not even send a strong diplomatic protest to the Israelis. If Israel indeed assassinated the PLO official, it got away with it cleanly.
Fast forward 18 years to the assassination of Hamas military leader Mahmoud al-Mabhouh on Jan. 20, and it is a graphic reminder of just how much the world has changed. Nearly the entire hit was recorded on closed-circuit TV cameras, from the time the team arrived at Dubai's airport to the time the assassins entered Mr. Mabhouh's room. The cameras even caught team members before and after they donned their disguises. The only thing the Dubai authorities have been unable to discover is the true names of the team. But having identified the assassins, or at least the borrowed identities they traveled on, Dubai felt confident enough to point a finger at Israel. (Oddly enough several of the identities were stolen from people living in Israel.)
Dubai had on its side motivation—Mr. Mabhouh had plotted the kidnapping and murder of two Israeli soldiers and reportedly played a role in the smuggling of Iranian arms into Gaza. And none of this is to mention that the Mabhouh assassination had all the hallmarks of an Israeli hit: a large team, composed of men and women, and an almost flawless execution. If it had been a Russian hit, for instance, they would have used a pistol or a car bomb, indifferent to the chaos left behind.
After Dubai released the tapes, the narrative quickly became that the assassination was an embarrassing blunder for Tel Aviv. Mossad failed spectacularly to assassinate a Hamas official in Amman in 1997— the poison that was used acted too slowly and the man survived—and it looks like the agency is not much better today. Why were so many people involved? (The latest report is that there were 26 members of the team.) Why were identities stolen from people living in Israel? Why didn't they just kill Mr. Mabhouh in a dark alley, one assassin with a pistol with a silencer? Or why at least didn't they all cover their faces with baseball caps so that the closed-circuit TV cameras did not have a clean view?
The truth is that Mr. Mabhouh's assassination was conducted according to the book—a military operation in which the environment is completely controlled by the assassins. At least 25 people are needed to carry off something like this. You need "eyes on" the target 24 hours a day to ensure that when the time comes he is alone. You need coverage of the police—assassinations go very wrong when the police stumble into the middle of one. You need coverage of the hotel security staff, the maids, the outside of the hotel. You even need people in back-up accommodations in the event the team needs a place to hide.
I can only speculate about where exactly the hit went wrong. But I would guess the assassins failed to account for the marked advance in technology. Not only were there closed-circuit TV cameras in the hotel where Mr. Mabhouh was assassinated and at the airport, but Dubai has at its fingertips the best security consultants in the world. The consultants merely had to run advanced software through all of Dubai's digital data before, during and after the assassination to connect the assassins in time and place. For instance, a search of all cellular phone calls made in and around the hotel where Mr. Mabhouh was assassinated would show who had called the same number—reportedly a command post in Vienna. It would only be a matter then of tracking when and where calls were made from these phones, tying them to hotels where the team was operating or staying.
Not completely understanding advances in technology may be one explanation for the assassins nonchalantly exposing their faces to the closed-circuit TV cameras, one female assassin even smiling at one. They mistook Dubai 2010 for Paris 1992, and never thought it would all be tied together in a neat bow. But there is no good explanation why Israel, if indeed it was behind the assassination, underestimated the technology. The other explanation—the assassins didn't care whether their faces were identified—doesn't seem plausible at all.
When I first came into the CIA as a young field operative, there was an endless debate about whether assassinations were worthwhile. The CIA was humiliated by its failed attempts to kill Fidel Castro in the early 1960s, and embarrassed by the accusation that it was complicit in the murder of Chile's President Salavador Allende in 1973.
In the mid-1970s the Church-Pike committees investigating the CIA put an end to CIA assassinations. Since then every CIA officer has been obligated to sign Executive Order 12,333, a law outlawing CIA assassinations. It had—at least until 9/11—a chilling effect on everything CIA operatives did, from the informants they ran to the governments they dealt with. I myself ran afoul of E.O. 12,333.
In March 1995 I was brought back from northern Iraq, accused of having tried to assassinate Saddam Hussein. It was true there had been a running fight between the Kurds and Saddam's army in the north, but if there had been a real attempt on Saddam's life I wasn't aware of it. And neither was the FBI, which was ordered by the White House to investigate the CIA for an illegal assassination attempt. The lesson I walked away with was that the word assassination terrified the White House, more than even Saddam. And as far as I can tell, it still does to a degree.
Post-9/11 the CIA got back into the assassination business, but in a form that looks more like classic war than the Hollywood version of assassination. The CIA has fired an untold number of Hellfire missiles at al Qaeda and Taliban operatives in the mountains between Pakistan and Afghanistan. One of its most spectacular assassinations was that of Baitullah Mehsud, the leader of Pakistan's Taliban, last year. In addition to the intended targets, thousands of other people have been killed. What strikes me, and what makes it so different from the assassination of the PLO official in Paris and Mr. Mabhouh in Dubai, is that the assassinations are obscured by the fog of war. Western TV cameras are not allowed in to film the collateral damage, and that's not to mention we're all but at war with Pakistan's Pashtun who live in these mountains.
Israel's conflict in the West Bank and Gaza is less than clear cut in the sense that Israel is not at war with the Palestinians, or even really with Hamas. It is at war with Hamas militants, people who have shed Israeli blood. The Israelis know who they are, and as a matter of course send hit squads into Gaza and the West Bank to kill them. The Israelis call it "targeted killings"—assassination by any other name.
A couple of years ago I visited the house where the Israeli military assassinated a Palestinian militant in the West Bank. It was in a makeshift refugee camp, where you could touch houses on both sides of the path only by raising your arms. The place was teeming with people. How the Israeli team got in, assassinated the militant and got out without any casualties, I will never know. The point is that the Israelis have become very good at it.
If in fact Mossad assassinated Mr. Mabhouh in Dubai, it no doubt modeled its planning on targeted killings in Palestinian areas—with the use of overwhelming force, speed and control of the environment. The problem with Dubai, which should be painfully obvious to Tel Aviv, is that it is not the West Bank. Nor is Paris now with its web of closed-circuit TV cameras and the ability of the French to track prepaid telephones. The art of assassination, the kind we have seen over and over again in Hollywood movies, may be as passé as killing people by arsenic or with a garrote. You just can't get away with it anymore.
In America's war on terror, there has been a conspicuous absence of classical assassination. The closest thing to it was when the CIA kidnapped an Egyptian cleric in Milan and rendered him to Egypt in 2003. Most of the CIA agents behind the rendition were identified because, like the assassins in Dubai, the agents apparently did not understand that you can't put a large team on the ground in a modern country and not leave a digital footprint. It took a matter of days for the Italian prosecutors to trace their supposedly sterile phone to their hotels, and from there to their true-name email accounts and telephone calls to family. We might as well have let Delta Force do it with helicopters with American insignia on the side.
Israel has yet to feel the real cost of the hit in Dubai. But the longer it is covered in the press, the higher the cost.
And was Mr. Mabhouh worth it? Other than taking revenge for killing the two Israeli soldiers, he will be quickly replaced. Arms dealing is not a professional skill, and as long as Hamas's militants are at war with Israel they will find people to buy arms and smuggle them into Gaza. In short, it's looking more and more like Mr. Mabhouh's assassination was a serious policy failure.
In cold prose, it sounds inhuman, but there should be a cost-benefit calculation in deciding whether to assassinate an enemy. With all of the new technology available to any government who can afford it, that cost has gone up astronomically. Plausible deniability is out the window. Obviously, if we had known with any specificity 9/11 was coming, we would have ignored the high cost and tried to assassinate Osama bin Laden. And there's certainly an argument to be made that we should have assassinated Saddam Hussein rather than invade Iraq. The bottom line, it seems to me, is that assassination is justified if it keeps us out of a war. But short of that, it's not. The Mabhouhs of the world are best pursued by relentless diplomatic pressure and the rule of law.
—Robert Baer, a former CIA field officer assigned to the Middle East, is the author of "See No Evil" and "The Devil We Know: Dealing with the New Iranian Superpower."
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------2)Psychiatry Needs Therapy: A manual's draft reflects how diagnoses have grown foggier, drugs more ineffective.
By EDWARD SHORTER
To flip through the latest draft of the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual, in the works for seven years now, is to see the discipline's floundering writ large. Psychiatry seems to have lost its way in a forest of poorly verified diagnoses and ineffectual medications. Patients who seek psychiatric help today for mood disorders stand a good chance of being diagnosed with a disease that doesn't exist and treated with a medication little more effective than a placebo.
Psychopharmacology, or the treatment of the mind and brain with drugs, has come to dominate the field. The positive side is that many illnesses respond readily to medication. The negative side is that the pharmaceutical industry seeks the largest possible market for a given drug, and advertises huge diseases, such as major depression and schizophrenia, the scientific status of which makes insiders uneasy.
In the 1950s and '60s, when psychiatry was still under the influence of the European scientific tradition, reasonably accurate diagnoses still sat at center stage. If you felt blue, uneasy and generally jumpy, "nerves" was a common diagnosis. For the psychotherapeutically oriented psychiatrists of the day, "psychoneurosis" was the equivalent of nerves. There was no point in breaking these terms down: clinicians and patients alike understood "a case of nerves," or a "nervous breakdown."
Our psychopathological lingo today offers little improvement on these sturdy terms. A patient with the same symptoms today might be told he has "social anxiety disorder" or "seasonal affective disorder." The increased specificity is spurious. There is little risk of misdiagnosis, because the new disorders all respond to the same drugs, so in terms of treatment, the differentiation is meaningless and of benefit mainly to pharmaceutical companies that market drugs for these niches.
For those more seriously ill, contemplating suicide or pacing restlessly and saying "It's all my fault," melancholia was the diagnosis of choice. The term has been around for donkey's years.
All the serious disorders of mood were once lumped together technically as "manic-depressive illness"—and again, there was little point in differentiating, because medications such as lithium that worked for mania were also sometimes effective in forestalling renewed episodes of serious depression.
Psychopharmacology—the treatment of disorders of the mind and brain with drugs—was experiencing its first big push, and a host of effective new agents was marketed. The first blockbuster drug in psychiatry appeared in 1955 as Wallace Lab's Miltown, a "tranquilizer" of the dicarbamate class. The first of the "tricyclic antidepressants" (because of their chemical structure) was launched in the U.S. in 1959, called imipramine generically and Tofranil by brand name. It remains today the single most effective antidepressant on the market for the immediate treatment of serious depression.
In the 1960s an entirely different class of drugs appeared, the benzodiazepines, indicated for anxiety rather than depression. (But one keeps in mind that these indications are more marketing devices than scientific categories, because most depression entails anxiety and vice versa.) In the benzodiazepine class, Librium was launched for anxiety in 1960, Valium in 1963. Despite an undeserved reputation for addictiveness, the benzos remain today one of the most useful drug classes in the history of psychiatry. They are effective across the entire range of nervous illnesses. In one World Health Organization study in the early 1990s, a sample of family physicians world-wide prescribed benzos for 28% of their depressed patients, 31% of their anxious patients; the figures are virtually identical. In the 1950s and '60s physicians had available drugs that truly worked for diseases that actually existed.
And then the golden era came to an end. The 1978 article of British psychiatrist Malcolm Lader on the benzos as "the opium of the masses" would be a good landmark. The patents expired for the drugs of the 1950s and '60s, and the solid diagnoses were all erased from the classification in 1980 with the appearance of the third edition of the DSM series, called "DSM-III." It was largely the brainchild of Columbia University psychiatrist Robert Spitzer, an energetic and charismatic individual who had been schooled in psychometrics. But his energy and charisma nearly led psychiatry off a cliff.
Mr. Spitzer was discouraged with psychoanalysis, and wanted to come up with a new illness classification that would ditch all the old Freudian concepts such as "depressive neurosis" with their implication of "unconscious psychic conflicts." Mr. Spitzer and company wanted diagnoses based on observable symptoms rather than on speculation about the unconscious mind. So he, and members of the Task Force that the American Psychiatric Association designated, set out to devise a new list of diagnoses that correspond to natural disease entities.
Yet Mr. Spitzer ran smack against the politics of the American Psychiatric Association, still heavily influenced by the psychoanalysts. Mr. Spitzer proposed such diagnoses as "major depression" and "dysthymia," diagnoses that were themselves highly heterogeneous, lumping together a number of different kinds of depression. But the terms turned out to be politically acceptable.
So in DSM-III there was a lot of horse-trading. The biologically oriented young Turks got a depression diagnosis—major depression—that was divorced from what they considered the psychoanalytic mumbo-jumbo. And the waning but still substantial number of analysts got a diagnosis—dysthymia—that sounded like their beloved "neurotic depression," that had been the mainstay of psychoanalytic practice. Psychiatry ended up with two brand-new depression diagnoses with criteria so broad that huge numbers of people could qualify for them.
There was one more bow to psychoanalysis: DSM-III continued to make depression separate from anxiety (because the analysts thought anxiety the motor that drove everything). And in homage to several influential figures in European psychiatry, DSM-III brought in "bipolar disorder," a condition alternating between depression and mania thought separate from "major depression."
A word of explanation: The evidence is very strong that the depression of "major depression" and the depression of "bipolar disorder" are the same disease. Experienced clinicians know that in chronic depressive illness many patients will have an episode of mania or hypomania; it is implausible that such an event would change the patient's diagnosis completely from "major depression" to "bipolar disorder," given that they are classified as quite different illnesses.
These rather technical issues in the classification of disease had enormous ramifications in the real world. Bipolar disorder became divorced from unipolar disorder. And anxiety—the original indication for the benzos—became soft-pedaled because the benzos were thought, incorrectly, to be highly addictive, and anxiety became associated with addiction.
Major depression became the big new diagnosis in the 1980s and after, replacing "neurotic depression" and "melancholia," even though it combined melancholic illness and non-melancholic illness. This would be like incorporating tuberculosis and mumps into the same diagnosis, simply because they are both infectious diseases. As well, "bipolar disorder" began its relentless on-march, supposedly separate from plain old depression.
New drugs appeared to match the new diseases. In the late 1980s, the Prozac-type agents began to hit the market, the "SSRIs," or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, such as Zoloft, Paxil, Celexa and Lexapro. They were supposedly effective by increasing the amount of serotonin available to the brain.
The SSRIs are effective for certain indications, such as obsessive-compulsive disorder and for some patients with anxiety. But many people believe they're not often effective for serious depression, even though they fit wonderfully with the heterogeneous concept of "major depression." So, hand in hand, these antidepressants and major depression marched off together into the sunset. These were drugs that don't work for diseases that don't exist, as it were.
The latest draft of the DSM fixes none of the problems with the previous DSM series, and even creates some new ones.
A new problem is the extension of "schizophrenia" to a larger population, with "psychosis risk syndrome." Even if you aren't floridly psychotic with hallucinations and delusions, eccentric behavior can nonetheless awaken the suspicion that you might someday become psychotic. Let's say you have "disorganized speech." This would apply to about half of my students. Pour on the Seroquel for "psychosis risk syndrome"!
DSM-V accelerates the trend of making variants on the spectrum of everyday behavior into diseases: turning grief into depression, apprehension into anxiety, and boyishness into hyperactivity.
If there were specific treatments for these various niches, you could argue this is good diagnostics. But, as with other forms of anxiety-depression, the SSRIs are thought good for everything. Yet to market a given indication, such as social-anxiety disorder, it's necessary to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on registration trials to convince the FDA that your agent works for this disease that previously nobody had ever heard of.
DSM-V is not all bad news. It turns the jumble of developmental syndromes for children into a single group of "autism spectrum disorders," which makes sense because previously, with Asperger's as a separate disease, it was like trying to draw lines in a bucket of water. But the basic problems of the previous DSM series are left untouched.
Where is psychiatry headed? What the discipline badly needs is close attention to patients and their individual symptoms, in order to carve out the real diseases from the vast pool of symptoms that DSM keeps reshuffling into different "disorders." This kind of careful attention to what patients actually have is called "psychopathology," and its absence distinguishes American psychiatry from the European tradition. With DSM-V, American psychiatry is headed in exactly the opposite direction: defining ever-widening circles of the population as mentally ill with vague and undifferentiated diagnoses and treating them with powerful drugs.
The New Abnormal
A selection of new ailments in the planned manual.
Hoarding: This is defined as "persistent difficulty discarding or parting with personal possessions, even those of apparently useless or limited value, due to strong urges to save items."
Mixed Anxiety-Depression: "The patient has the symptoms of major depression…accompanied by anxious distress." The combination of depression and anxiety has been recognized clinically for years; only now does it make it into the handbook.
Binge Eating: This means eating "an amount of food that is definitely larger than most people would eat in a similar period of time under similar circumstances," in addition to having "a sense of lack of control over eating."
Minor Neurocognitive Disorder: "Evidence of minor cognitive decline from a previous level of performance," a commonplace occurrence for anybody over 50.
Temper Dysregulation Disorder With Dysphoria: A new definition for all children with outbursts of temper. It is seen as a way to avoid using the term "bipolar."
—Edward Shorter is professor of the history of medicine and psychiatry in the Faculty of Medicine of the University of Toronto. His latest book, written with Max Fink, "Endocrine Psychiatry: Solving the Riddle of Melancholia," is forthcoming from Oxford University Press.
3)The Decline of New York: It's enough to make Groucho Marx cry
Move over, New Jersey, you're getting a run for your tax money as the nation's most dysfunctional state from the once great mecca of commerce and finance known as New York. Politics in the Empire State has become a carnival of spendthrifts, sexual miscreants and the all-purpose ethically challenged.
In the latest sign that the Apocalypse is upon Albany, New York Governor David Paterson announced yesterday that he won't seek election to a full term in November only two weeks after he had announced that he would. Mr. Paterson, a Democrat who became governor in March 2008 after Eliot Spitzer resigned in a prostitution scandal, has spent the past two years lurching from one fiasco to the next.
He's currently being investigated for awarding a lucrative casino contract to a political backer. And this week he was accused of contacting a woman who was seeking a protective order against one of his aides. State police are reported to have pressured the woman to drop her complaint.
Mr. Paterson's troubles have been catnip for "Saturday Night Live," but the state's voters are laughing to keep from crying. New York's budget deficit is an estimated $8.2 billion, due in no small part to state spending that has risen by nearly 70%, or $35 billion, over the past decade. The recent financial crisis has exposed the state's overreliance on tax revenue from Wall Street.
Mr. Paterson has promised several times to stop this, only to give in to the legislature and tax and spend again. He'll now be the lamest of lame ducks, and if he wanted to do the public at least one good turn he'd resign early and let the state be run through next year by his Lieutenant Governor, Richard Ravitch, who is at least competent.
This mess is all part of the culture of Albany, arguably the most corrupt legislature on Earth. Last June, the state government was paralyzed for more than a month when Democratic Senators Pedro Espada and Hiram Monserrate joined the Republican caucus, making it unclear which party was in control. Eventually, both men returned to the Democratic side of the aisle.
Mr. Espada would later be investigated for not living in his district and funneling state money to health clinics that he operates. Mr. Monserrate was later convicted of assaulting his girlfriend. Two weeks ago the Senate voted 53-8 to expel Mr. Monserrate over his conviction, which reminds us in reverse of Groucho Marx's famous line about not wanting to belong to a club that would have him. You know you're special when even the Albany legislature won't have you, though Mr. Espada did vote to keep Mr. Monserrate around, perhaps to deflect investigator attention.
Meanwhile, this sense of entitlement also seems to extend to New York's Congressional delegation. Democrat Charles Rangel of Manhattan was admonished yesterday by the House ethics committee for taking junkets to the Caribbean in 2007 and 2008 that his staff knew were financed by corporations. The committee said staff aides tried to tell him three times about the corporate sponsors.
Mr. Rangel replied yesterday that the committee's "conclusion is wrong on the facts and unsupported by the law." He added that, "If Members are to be charged with knowledge of everything that each of their staffs know or should know, Members will be blind-sided with ethics problems." That's his defense.
Mr. Rangel is also being probed for his use of multiple rent-stabilized apartments, for failing to pay taxes on rental income from a property he owns in the Dominican Republic, and for belatedly reporting half a million dollars in personal assets on his official House disclosure forms.
He has refused to step down as Chairman of the Ways and Means Committee and has had the full support of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. When former House Majority Leader Tom DeLay was admonished by the House in 2004, Mrs. Pelosi had demanded that he resign as GOP leader. Needless to say, Republicans are enjoying this one.
Meanwhile, back in Manhattan and in the spirit of the current New York state of mindlessness, Mr. Spitzer is said to be plotting a comeback. As gossip columnist Cindy Adams of the New York Post likes to say, "Only in New York, kids, only in New York." Alas.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------4) Permit me to pose a rather impolitic question.
Our elected servants apparently are quite happy with their health care program(s.) If that be factually correct, then what is good for the goose should be good for the gander.
Thus, why can't us 'pee-ons' be given access to the same health care package our elected servants have? It should not take 2800 plus pages of complex gobbledygook to draft. In fact these elected dolts could simply pass a resolution expanding their plan to cover their constituents. Also, think how enthralled this would make Greens saving all those trees to make reams of pulp .
I am sure there is a simple answer - probably would cost too much!
Maybe someone can ask our president when he visits this week if he is submitting to any questions?
Son-in-law: "Better yet, why not scrap their plan altogether and force them to use the coverage their ridiculous laws impose on the rest of us? Maybe then we'll get some real 'change'."
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------5)Troops clear last pockets of resistance in Marjah
By ALFRED de MONTESQUIOU and DEB RIECHMANN,
Marines and Afghan troops cleared the last major pocket of resistance in the former Taliban-ruled town of Marjah on Saturday — part of an offensive that is the run-up to a larger showdown this year in the most strategic part of Afghanistan's dangerous south.
Although Marines say their work in Marjah isn't done, Afghans are bracing for a bigger, more comprehensive assault in neighboring Kandahar province, the birthplace of the Taliban where officials are talking to aid organizations about how to handle up to 10,000 people who could be displaced by fighting.
"I was in Kabul, and we were talking that Kandahar will be next, but we don't know when," said Tooryalai Wesa, the governor of Kandahar. He's begun working with international aid groups to make sure the next group of displaced Afghans have tents, water containers, medicine, food, blankets, lamps and stoves.
"Hopefully things will go smoothly, that people have learned lessons from the Marjah operation," he said.
Shortages of food and medicine have been reported during the 2-week-old Marjah operation. The international Red Cross evacuated dozens of sick and injured civilians to clinics outside the area. The U.N. says more than 3,700 families, or an estimated 22,000 people, from Marjah and surrounding areas have registered in Helmand's capital of Lashkar Gah 20 miles (30 kilometers) away.
Walid Akbar, a spokesman for the Afghan Red Crescent Society, said government aid was mostly received by those who made it to Lashkar Gah, Akbar said. Those stuck outside the city are getting little help, he said.
The Marjah offensive has been the war's biggest combined operation since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion to topple the Taliban's hard-line regime. It's the first major test of NATO's counterinsurgency strategy since President Barack Obama ordered 30,000 new American troops to try to reverse Taliban gains.
The operation in Marjah is the tactical prelude to the bigger operation being planned for later in Kandahar, the largest city in the south and the former Taliban headquarters, according to senior officials with the Obama administration. It was from in and around Kandahar that Taliban overlord Mullah Omar ruled Afghanistan before the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.
Bringing security to Kandahar city is a chief goal of NATO operations this year, according to the officials, who spoke to reporters in Washington on Friday on condition of anonymity so they could discuss national security issues. If this year's goal is to reverse the Taliban's momentum and give Afghan government an opportunity to take control, then NATO-led forces have to get to Kandahar this year, one official said.
On Saturday, after a four-day march, Marines and Afghan troops who fought through the center of Marjah linked up with a U.S. Army Stryker battalion on the northern outskirts of the former Taliban stronghold.
"Basically, you can say that Marjah has been cleared," said Capt. Joshua Winfrey, commander of Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines Regiment.
Lima Company's more than 100 heavily armed Marines, along with nearly as many Afghan army soldiers, spent days advancing north, searching every compound for possible Taliban holdouts.
There were no Taliban in sight, and the Marines didn't fire a shot during the final advance — except at a couple of Afghan guard dogs who threatened the unit.
The Marines' hookup with the Army battalion means the operation is somewhere between the clear and hold phases, although suspected Taliban fighters remain on the western outskirts of town.
Marine spokesman Capt. Abe Sipe said that while armed resistance has "fallen off pretty dramatically" in the past four to five days, the combined forces expect to face intermittent attacks for at least two more weeks.
"We are not calling anything completely secure yet," Sipe said.
Capt. Abdelhai Hujum, who spent two decades with various Afghan militias before joining the nascent Afghan National Army, said he suspected most of the local Taliban buried their guns and blended with the civilian population.
"They're not stupid. I'd do the same if I saw a company of U.S. Marines coming my way," said Hujum, commander of an Afghan unit.
"I can sense them all around us," Hujum said Friday as squads of Afghan troops and some Marines stormed a mosque where a child had said eight insurgents were preparing an ambush. Villagers exhibited hostility. One threw a stone at a Marine waiting outside. Still, there wasn't a single rifle or Taliban insurgent in sight.
On Saturday, Marine sniffer dogs and metal detectors found a cache of explosives and weapons as they finished clearing out a northern Marjah neighborhood. The cache, detonated by a bomb squad, contained over 80 pounds of homemade explosives, half a dozen rocket-propelled grenades, Chinese-made rockets, artillery rounds and other bomb-making materials.
"It made a pretty big boom," said Staff Sgt. Paul Bui, 20, from El Monte, California.
Bui and other explosives experts said the cache was hidden in freshly upturned earth near a canal, appearing to confirm residents' accounts that Taliban fighters had fled just a few days earlier.
Establishing a credible local government is a key component of NATO's strategy for Marjah, a longtime Taliban logistical hub and heroin-smuggling center. Earlier in the week, the government installed a new administrator, and several hundred Afghan police have started patrolling newly cleared areas of Marjah and southern Helmand.
President Hamid Karzai's spokesman, Waheed Omar, told The Associated Press on Saturday that success in Marjah would be measured by whether its people, who have lived for years under Taliban rule, eventually feel secure.
"The president was very clear before the operation that we have to convince the people of Marjah that we'll bring them security, we'll bring them good governance and life will be better for them than under the Taliban," Omar said.
While the insurgents laid low in southern Afghanistan, the Taliban struck Friday in the capital of Kabul, killing at least 16 people in assaults on two small hotels in Kabul. Half the dead were foreigners. The attack served as a reminder that the insurgents still have the strength to launch attacks — even in the capital.
At least six of the victims were Indian citizens whose bodies were returned home Saturday on a military jet sent from New Delhi.
An Indian statement said Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was "outraged" at the attack. Karzai telephoned Singh on Saturday to express regret and promise his government would take extra security measures, the presidential office said.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------6)Hawaii Gov signs disaster declaration: Tsunami threatens Hawaii, most of Pacific rim .
By JAYMES SONG,
Hawaii's Gov. Linda Lingle has declared a state of emergency as the island chain prepares for possible tsunami damage.
She told a news conference Saturday at the state civil defense center inside Diamond Head Crater that the declaration would allow the release of disaster funds. She says the U.S. Pacific Command is standing by to help.
She says authorities are deciding whether to close wastewater pumping stations on Oahu and Maui to prevent damage from seawater.
Lingle says leprosy patients from the Kalaupapa settlement on Molokai have been moved from an isolated area on a peninsula to higher ground. Helicopters are standing by if they need to be shifted elsewhere.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------7)REPUBLIC vs. DEMOCRACY
I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America,
and to the Republic for which it stands,
one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
In the Pledge of Allegiance we all pledge allegiance to our Republic, not to a democracy. "Republic" is the proper description of our government, not "democracy." I invite you to join me in raising public awareness regarding that distinction.
A republic and a democracy are identical in every aspect except one. In a republic the sovereignty is in each individual person. In a democracy the sovereignty is in the group.
Republic. That form of government in which the powers of sovereignty are vested in the people and are exercised by the people, either directly, or through representatives chosen by the people, to whome those powers are specially delegated. [NOTE: The word "people" may be either plural or singular. In a republic the group only has advisory powers; the sovereign individual is free to reject the majority group-think. USA/exception: if 100% of a jury convicts, then the individual loses sovereignty and is subject to group-think as in a democracy.]
Democracy. That form of government in which the sovereign power resides in and is exercised by the whole body of free citizens directly or indirectly through a system of representation, as distinguished from a monarchy, aristocracy, or oligarchy. [NOTE: In a pure democracy, 51% beats 49%. In other words, the minority has no rights. The minority only has those privileges granted by the dictatorship of the majority.]
The distinction between our Republic and a democracy is not an idle one. It has great legal significance.
The Constitution guarantees to every state a Republican form of government (Art. 4, Sec. 4). No state may join the United States unless it is a Republic. Our Republic is one dedicated to "liberty and justice for all." Minority individual rights are the priority. The people have natural rights instead of civil rights. The people are protected by the Bill of Rights from the majority. One vote in a jury can stop all of the majority from depriving any one of the people of his rights; this would not be so if the United States were a democracy. (see People's rights vs Citizens' rights)
In a pure democracy 51 beats 49[%]. In a democracy there is no such thing as a significant minority: there are no minority rights except civil rights (privileges) granted by a condescending majority. Only five of the U.S. Constitution's first ten amendments apply to Citizens of the United States. Simply stated, a democracy is a dictatorship of the majority. Socrates was executed by a democracy: though he harmed no one, the majority found him intolerable.
SOME DICTIONARY DEFINITIONS
Government. ....the government is but an agency of the state, distinguished as it must be in accurate thought from its scheme and machinery of government. ....In a colloquial sense, the United States or its representatives, considered as the prosecutor in a criminal action; as in the phrase, "the government objects to the witness." [Black's Law Dictionary, Fifth Edition, p. 625]
Government; Republican government. One in which the powers of sovereignty are vested in the people and are exercised by the people, either directly, or through representatives chosen by the people, to whome those powers are specially delegated. In re Duncan, 139 U.S. 449, 11 S.Ct. 573, 35 L.Ed. 219; Minor v. Happersett, 88 U.S. (21 Wall.) 162, 22 L.Ed. 627. [Black's Law Dictionary, Fifth Edition, p. 626]
Democracy. That form of government in which the sovereign power resides in and is exercised by the whole body of free citizens directly or indirectly through a system of representation, as distinguished from a monarchy, aristocracy, or oligarchy. Black's Law Dictionary, Fifth Edition, pp. 388-389.
Note: Black's Law Dictionary, Fifth Edition, can be found in any law library and most law offices.
Notice that in a Democracy, the sovereignty is in the whole body of the free citizens. The sovereignty is not divided to smaller units such as individual citizens. To solve a problem, only the whole body politic is authorized to act. Also, being citizens, individuals have duties and obligations to the government. The government's only obligations to the citizens are those legislatively pre-defined for it by the whole body politic.
In a Republic, the sovereignty resides in the people themselves, whether one or many. In a Republic, one may act on his own or through his representatives as he chooses to solve a problem. Further, the people have no obligation to the government; instead, the government being hired by the people, is obliged to its owner, the people.
The people own the government agencies. The government agencies own the citizens. In the United States we have a three-tiered cast system consisting of people ---> government agencies ---> and citizens.
The people did "ordain and establish this Constitution," not for themselves, but "for the United States of America." In delegating powers to the government agencies the people gave up none of their own. (See Preamble of U.S. Constitution). This adoption of this concept is why the U.S. has been called the "Great Experiment in self government." The People govern themselves, while their agents (government agencies) perform tasks listed in the Preamble for the benefit of the People. The experiment is to answer the question, "Can self-governing people coexist and prevail over government agencies that have no authority over the People?"
The citizens of the United States are totally subject to the laws of the United States (See 14th Amendment of U.S. Constitution). NOTE: U.S. citizenship did not exist until July 28, 1868.
Actually, the United States is a mixture of the two systems of government (Republican under Common Law, and democratic under statutory law). The People enjoy their God-given natural rights in the Republic. In a democracy, the Citizens enjoy only government granted privileges (also known as civil rights).
There was a great political division between two major philosophers, Hobbes and Locke. Hobbes was on the side of government. He believed that sovereignty was vested in the state. Locke was on the side of the People. He believed that the fountain of sovereignty was the People of the state. Statists prefer Hobbes. Populists choose Locke. In California, the Government Code sides with Locke. Sections 11120 and 54950 both say, "The people of this State do not yield their sovereignty to the agencies which serve them." The preambles of the U.S. and California Constitutions also affirm the choice of Locke by the People.
Thomas Jefferson said that liberty and ignorance cannot coexist.* Will you help to preserve minority rights by fulfilling the promise in the Pledge of Allegiance to support the Republic? Will you help by raising public awareness of the difference between the Republic and a democracy?
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------8)To Be or Not to Be Conservative
By Randall Hoven
Should conservatives support moderate Republicans? I provide here pragmatic arguments for supporting more conservative Republicans right now.
To be clear, I am talking about the value of voting for the more conservative candidates in Republican primaries. I am not talking about a third party or the general election. Such cases can be made, but I do not make them here.
The counterargument is that if we support the more conservative candidate, we risk losing to an extremely liberal Democrat. We make perfect the enemy of the good.
One supposed example of such a case was provided recently by Senator Orrin Hatch. According to the Salt Lake Tribune,
Hatch blamed extreme conservatives for the 2008 defeat of Sen. Gordon Smith, a politically moderate but fiscally conservative Republican from Oregon. Hatch said if the Tea Party had not backed a constitutionalist candidate in that race, Smith wouldn't have lost to Democrat Jeff Merkley, whom Hatch described as "the most liberal senator," by 45,000 votes.
Merkley received 49% of the vote, Smith received 46%, and David Brownlow, the Constitution Party candidate, received 5%. The Hatch calculation was that if the third-party voters had gone for Smith, he would have won 51-49 over Merkley.
The result was that instead of a senator with an American Conservative Union score of 33, we have one with an ACU score of 4. (Smith's 2008 ACU score put him one point above Mary Landrieu  and nine points below Arlen Specter , both Democrats now.)
I now present my arguments, both specifically against this Gordon Smith example and also more generally.
First, the Gordon Smith example refers to support for a third-party candidate in the general election. That is a straw man. What most of us are talking about is whom conservatives should support in Republican primaries. That, at least, is the only case I'm making now.
Secondly, the third party in this case was the Constitution Party, not the Tea Party at all. To associate the Constitution Party with the Tea Party movement was an irresponsible leap of logic.
Third, the phrase "politically moderate but fiscally conservative" is simply inaccurate (as it almost always is). The National Journal breaks down vote scores into economic, social, and foreign categories. The NJ's economic score for Gordon Smith (54) was actually below his social score (60). His foreign score was even lower (46). The next four economic scores below him belonged to Susan Collins (53), Evan Bayh (52), Mary Landrieu (51) and Clair McCaskill (49), the last three being Democrats. Gordon Smith was moderate on everything and conservative on nothing.
Fourth, conservatives and moderates make up 75% of all of us, and even 70% of Oregonians. Why should we have to choose between candidates who are between 4% and 33% conservative?
The way to avoid a Gordon Smith type outcome is to remove the Gordon Smith candidate in the primary and replace him with someone more conservative. Yet the GOP's continued support for incumbents and favored candidates works precisely against such a thing.
If conservatives vote for Republicans no matter what, the GOP receives no signal that it must move right. Then the GOP learns nothing, drifts left, and keeps nominating ever-more-liberal candidates as long as they are at least a hair more conservative than the Democrats. Where does that lead?
It leads to 2001-2006, when Republicans had the presidency, the House, and the Senate, and they accomplished nothing on the domestic front except
No Child Left Behind,
Campaign Finance Reform,
Prescription coverage under the already-bankrupt Medicare system,
Arlen Specter, and
Ignominious electoral defeat in 2006 and 2008.
You get more of what you consistently vote for.
Finally, there can be a short-term reason to vote for the more conservative Republican in a primary, even if you think he or she has a lower chance of winning the general election than the moderate Republican. There is a fundamental calculation in any one race that can be made in a cold, rational manner.
BEGIN MATH WARNING (Skip to end of MATH WARNING if you are math-phobic.)
The game-theory, or decision-theory, payoff matrix is given here. (MBAs learn how to do this in graduate school. Engineers learn it in one of their easy classes.)
Payoff to Conservatives For Four Possible Outcomes
If we had our choice among all possible outcomes, we would of course choose the "Good" one: The conservative Republican wins. But we do not have that choice. The voting comes in two steps: the primary and the general election. In a primary, we choose only between Republicans. And which Republican we choose also affects the probability that that Republican will win the general election.
The new payoff matrix is four probabilities. In a primary, we get to choose only between the two rows. I define "Pc" as the probability that the conservative Republican would win the general election over the Democrat and "Pm" as the probability that the moderate one would.
Expected Payoff to Conservatives For Four Possible Outcomes
Pc X Good
(1-Pc) X Bad
Pm X Fair
(1-Pm) X Bad
If we choose the Conservative Republican, our total expected payoff is the sum of the two possibilities in that row.
(Pc X Good) + [(1-Pc) X Bad]
We want to choose the row with the highest expected payoff: the best chance of having the most conservative officeholder after the election. If you trust my algebra, we should choose the moderate Republican in the primary if
Pm/Pc > (Good - Bad)/(Fair - Bad)
If you followed this so far, you are now wondering what numbers to put in. For Good, Bad, and Fair, we could use, say, ACU scores. Let's use a real primary race as an example: the McCain-Hayworth race.
McCain's lifetime ACU score is 82, but his most recent score was only 65. I'm going to give him a generous score of 70, which replaces "Fair" in the formula. Hayworth's lifetime score was 97, with his last two years being 96 and 100. So "Good" will be 97. I'll assign a typical Democrat ACU score of 10 for "Bad."
Our decision criterion is then
Pm/Pc > (97 - 10)/(70 - 10) = 1.45
We should vote for McCain if we think his chances of beating the Democrat are at least 1.45 times better than Hayworth's.
McCain has a good chance of winning the general election -- let's say 90%. Then by the above formula, if conservatives think Hayworth has at least a 62% chance of winning the general election, they should vote for him; otherwise, they should vote for McCain.
(Frankly, this analysis makes it a pretty close call, or even favors McCain. I can assure you that that was not my intention. But you don't have to use my numbers. Maybe ACU scores are not what you consider the best measures of "goodness," after all.)
END OF MATH WARNING (You may now proceed to the meaning of all this math.)
I admit that the mathematical approach was a bit tongue-in-cheek, but not totally. The idea is that this can be looked at rationally. We might not know all the numbers required for the rational calculation, but the lesson is this:
It is not necessarily stupid to vote for the more conservative candidate in a Republican primary, even knowing his or her chances of winning the general election are lower than the moderate's chances.
The "right" decision depends on how good, bad, or indifferent we think the candidates are and their relative chances of winning in the general election. But the calculation is not a no-brainer. It depends.
And even that formulaic approach is purely for a single race, trying to maximize the "conservativeness" of your next office holder. If we look at the longer term, there are stronger reasons to favor the more conservative candidates having to do with signals from the voters and learning by the GOP.
Essentially, voting for the more conservative candidates is the only way conservatives can send a signal to the GOP to move right. If the party does not learn this the easy way in the primaries, then it could very well learn it the hard way in the general elections. I would say that 2008 was a hard lesson for the GOP. Did they learn anything?
9)U.S. warns Syria: Stop arming Hezbollah immediately
By Barak Ravid, Natasha Mozgovaya, Avi Issacharoff and Jack Khoury
The U.S. administration has asked Syrian President Bashar Assad to immediately stop transferring arms to Hezbollah. American officials made the request during a meeting Friday with the Syrian ambassador to Washington.
Meanwhile, the United States asked both Syria and Israel to lower the temperature and avoid an escalation in the region.
The decision to call Syrian Ambassador Imad Moustapha to the State Department was relatively unusual. In a statement, Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffrey Feltman asked the Syrian ambassador to meet.
The move was described as an opportunity to discuss the next steps following the visit to Damascus by Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs William Burns on February 17.
The administration also said the meeting was part of its efforts to achieve a direct dialogue with Syria on issues of interest to both sides.
Haaretz has learned that Burns' visit to Damascus ended unsatisfactorily for the U.S. administration. During Burns' meeting with Assad, the Syrian leader denied all American claims that his regime was providing military aid to terrorists in Iraq, or to Hezbollah and Palestinian terror groups.
Assad essentially told Burns that he had no idea what the American was talking about.
A senior diplomatic source who was briefed on the meeting with the Syrian ambassador said that one goal was to calm tensions between Syria and Israel.
The meeting with the ambassador was preceded by meetings in Washington between U.S. officials and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. On Thursday, U.S. officials met with their Israeli counterparts at the Foreign Ministry in Jerusalem.
The diplomatic source noted that Barak's meetings in Washington focused on arms transfers from Syria to Hezbollah.
"Barak stressed that the quantities of arms smuggled have increased, and there have also been significant upgrades in the quality of weapons," the source told Haaretz.
The source said the meeting with the Syrian ambassador dealt with the arms transfers to Hezbollah and the recent meeting in Damascus between Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah.
In its message to Assad, the United States asked that Syrian cooperation with Hezbollah cease and that arms transfers to the radical Lebanese Shi'ite group end immediately.
At the Foreign Ministry on Thursday, U.S. and Israeli officials discussed the tension along the northern border. The Israeli team was headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon and the Americans were headed by Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg.
A senior Israeli official said the Americans warned against a further deterioration on the border that could lead to a conflagration because of a miscalculation by either side.
Israeli officials asked the Americans to tell the Syrians that Israel had no plans to attack and wanted to calm the situation.
The Israeli officials insisted that Iran was behind the tensions and blamed Tehran for inciting Syria and Assad, as well as claiming that Israel had plans to go on the offensive.
Meanwhile, Barak, speaking in Washington on U.S.-Israeli ties, said he understood the "differences in perspective" between the two countries, adding that "I do not think that we need to coordinate each step."
"I understand that we are not the United States, and the U.S., I believe, recognizes that they are not in our situation," he said. "I do not want to talk in terms of time limits, but I do not think that any development in the region can put the existence of Israel into question. I do not accept any such assessments."
Barak also commented on the possibility of peace with Syria, describing it as "a strategic interest of Israel. And we all know what is on the table and what decisions each side must make."
The defense minister said that "if we navigate carefully, I consider this to be more an opportunity than a threat. However, we are powerful enough to deal with any deterioration along our northern border if this happens. We are not interested in this and we will not initiate it, but we follow what is happening in Lebanon, and the time has come to deal with it with greater determination."
Referring to Lebanon, Barak said that "it is a bizarre anomaly that it is a member of the United Nations but has a militia, with members of parliament and ministers, and an arsenal of 45,000 missiles and rockets that can hit all of Israel," he said.
"And they say they are ready to deploy it like in the past. We cannot accept this, we do not intend to chase down every individual terrorist, but we will consider the government of Lebanon, the country's infrastructure, as part of the equation with which we are confronted."
Also on Thursday, Ahmadinejad met with Nasrallah at the Syrian presidential palace. According to Hezbollah station Al-Manar, senior aides on both sides were present.
According to the report, the two leaders discussed the developments in the region and "the repeated threats of the Zionists against Syria and Lebanon."
The report did not indicate whether a meeting was held between the Iranian president, Nasrallah and Hamas politburo chief Khaled Meshal, who is based in Syria.
------------------------------------------------------------------------------------10) IAF trains for rapid refueling
By YAAKOV KATZ
In preparation for long-range missions and possible conflict with Iran, the Israel Air Force has expanded its training programs to include rapid refueling operations on runways.
It’s a dangerous practice since the aircraft’s engines are running while the fuel nozzle is still connected to the jets. The training is for both pilots and ground crews and it is being done to enable the aircraft to carry as much fuel as possible for long-range missions.
Fuel nozzles are traditionally disconnected from fighter aircraft while they are still parked in hangers and before they are rolled out to the runway, where they usually wait for several minutes before takeoff and while burning fuel. The new protocol includes keeping fuel trucks on the runway, having ground personnel reattach the nozzle and fuel the aircraft to the maximum fullness, disconnecting seconds before takeoff.
“We understand that many of our threats and challenges require us to develop a long-range capability,” one senior IAF officer explained. “Part of our preparation includes knowing how to fuel our aircraft so they can have as much fuel as possible.”
Last week, the IAF inaugurated a new unmanned aerial vehicle called the Heron TP. With the same wingspan as a Boeing 737, the Heron TP is Israel’s largest and most sophisticated drone, weighing 4,650 kg. and capable of flying for 36 hours while carrying a payload of hundreds of kilograms. The Heron will increase the IAF’s long-range capabilities, mainly in intelligence and surveillance, and according to foreign reports could also have missile strike capabilities.
Meanwhile on Saturday, The New York Times reported that Iran recently moved almost its entire stockpile of low-enriched uranium to an above-ground facility. According to a recent report by the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency, close to two tons of low-enriched nuclear uranium was moved all at once from storage deep underground to a facility where it can be enriched to a 20-percent level, putting the material just a jump away from the 80-to-90% that is required for nuclear weapons.
Iran’s action, which according to the report has confused Western officials, exposes the material to an air strike or even to ground-based sabotage.
The Times quoted one official as saying the move was tantamount to painting a bull’s-eye on the stockpile.
The paper raised several possible explanations, primarily that Iran might have run out of suitable storage containers for the radioactive material and was forced to move it all at once. It would, however, not require the entire two tons to enrich uranium for the aging reactor in Teheran where it makes medical isotopes.
Other explanations raised by the paper include the possibility that the Islamic Republic actually wants Israel to attack, since that would likely unite the Iranian people behind the regime and silence the opposition Green Movement and the demonstrations protesting against the results of June’s presidential election.
Teheran, the Times said, might be using the move as leverage against the West and as part of a threat to further enrich its entire stockpile if the international community did not reduce its pressure on the Islamic Republic.