US faces smaller, smarter enemy in Afghanistan by Lara Jakes

After three tours in Iraq, U.S. Marine Sgt. Andre Leon was used to brutal shootouts with enemy fighters and expected more of the same in Afghanistan.

Instead, what he’s seen so far are anonymous attacks in the form of mines and roadside bombings — the mark of what he calls a cowardly adversary.

“I’m not impressed with them,” Leon, 25, of Herndon, Va., said this past week from a Marines camp deep in the southern province of Helmand, where U.S. forces are challenging Taliban insurgents and their devastating use of IEDs, or homemade bombs. “I expected more of a stand-and-fight. All these guys do is IEDs.”

Marines on the front lines in southern Afghanistan say there’s no question that the militants are just as deadly as the Iraqi insurgents they once fought in Iraq’s Anbar Province. The Afghan enemy is proving to be a smaller, but smarter opponent, taking full advantage of the country’s craggy and enveloping terrain in eluding and then striking at U.S troops.

In interviews, Marines across Helmand said their new foes are not as religiously fanatic as the Syrian and Chechen militants they fought in Iraq and often tend to be hired for battle. U.S. commanders call them the “$10 Taliban.”

Taking advantage of the Afghanistan’s mountainous rural landscape, the fighters often spread out their numbers, hiding in fields and planting bombs on roads, rather than taking aim at U.S. forces from snipers’ nests in urban settings, as often was the case in Iraq. And they are not as bent on suicide, often retreating to fight another day.

“One thing about Afghanistan, they’re not trying to go to paradise,” said Sgt. Robert Warren, 26, of Peshtigo, Wis. He served a tour in both Iraq and Afghanistan before his current assignment at Combat Outpost Sharp, a Marines camp hidden in cornfields and dirt piles.

“They want to live to see tomorrow,” Warren said. “They engage with us, but when they know we’ll call in air support, they’ll break contact with us. … They’re just as fierce, but they’re smarter.”

Marine commanders believe they face between 7,000 and 11,000 Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, although it is unclear how many are low-level militants hired for battle as opposed to extremist leaders.

By comparison, officials still are unsure how many members of al-Qaida in Iraq remain. Earlier estimates ranged between 850 to several thousand full-time fighters, although commanders believe that number has been reduced significantly as a result of counterinsurgency efforts in Iraq.

There are some similarities between the fighters in Iraq and Afghanistan. Officers and enlisted troops said both foes have no qualms about using civilians as human shields.

Brig. Gen. Larry Nicholson, commander of the Marine brigade leading the current fight in Helmand, said the Taliban’s use of IEDs shows the extremists’ disregard for Afghan civilians — much as in Iraq. “Enemy here is equally brutal and cowardly in conducting despicable acts of intimidation and cruelty directed against (the) local population,” said Nicholson, who was severely wounded in a rocket attack in Fallujah in 2004 during the first of his two commands in Iraq. Both foes are also sometimes known to use drugs — troops have reported finding syringes and needles in enemy camps.

Training does not seem to be an issue for Marines who have been making the transition from Iraq to Afghanistan. Their skills appear to have held up in both war zones. But new U.S. battle guidelines that limit shooting into or otherwise attacking buildings without ensuring there are no civilians inside have at times made the fighting more difficult. The rules were put into place this summer after dozens of Afghans were killed in a May battle in Farah province that ended when U.S. forces bombed a building where Taliban fighters were believed to be hiding.

“It’s frustrating to be attacked from a building,” said Lt. Joe Hamilton of Baltimore as he scrutinized two-story village structures on the other side of dirt-and-barbed wire walls at Combat Outpost Fiddler’s Green. “You can’t shoot back because you don’t know if there are civilians there.” He added: “They’re more disciplined. They wait longer until we get in their kill zones, then they attack us.” Once in Iraq, now in Afghanistan, the Marines say they relish the battle in either place, preferring the action to staying home, out of the fight.

Asked where he felt the threat was most dire, Sgt. Warren shrugged his shoulders. “Camp Lejeune,” he said wryly. The North Carolina base is where Marines train and live between deployments.

Bring On the Replicator Already by Jack Loftus

A gadget site Taste Test week wouldn’t be complete without a hat tip to that fictional food-creating staple of the Star Trek universe, the replicator.

A replicator was a device that used transporter technology to dematerialize quantities of matter and then rematerialize that matter in another form. It was also capable of inverting its function, thus disposing of leftovers and dishes and storing the bulk material again. [Memory Alpha]

Yes, I know it’s not real. We got that bit out of the way right up there in the lead. Now we can have some fun hypothesizing and waxing all futuristic like about how these fantastical infinite buffets could (stress could) be possible some day.

In fact, in the most primitive sense, there’s a form of replication happening in manufacturing shops around the world right now. Called 3D printing, the technique isn’t even that new, with roots extending back to the 1990s. They were really expensive then, of course, but today they’re relatively ubiquitous in companies large and small. The technique is pretty simple. In layman’s terms, a user creates or downloads a 3D model of real world object on their workstation, and then a special printer works to recreate that object using resin or plaster or plastic or whatever the material may be. Voila. Instant prototype, and you can have all the tchotchke trinkets your heart desires, on demand, beamed to you from anywhere in the world.

But you can’t eat a resin hamburger. And you can’t drive the mockup that just got spit out of your rapid prototyping rig. The replicator could do both these things.

What we need is something that physically assembles atoms and molecules into tasty shapes so we can tell some uber supercomputer with a soothing female voice to get us some Tea. Earl Grey. Hot. Oh, and it has to create a little glass cup for us to drink it in too (Quick trivia: What did Picard do with all those dirty dishes? Answer above!).

This is where things get a bit sticky (food!), exciting (recent discoveries!) and depressing (its a LONG way off!) all at once. Theoretically, people are debating and thinking about “molecular assemblers” right this instant. In fact, these hypothetical machines would implement some form of nanotechnology, which is already used in everyday items like batteries, fuel technologies and even bikinis. Hell, there’s a Wikipedia page for molecular assemblers up right this instant—our replicator must be right around the corner, right?

Unfortunately, current nanotech implementations are almost what I’d call “dumb” deployments of the technology. We’re just coating a material with some nano bits to repel liquid; or we’re placing nanorods in a battery to improve efficiency… nothing, in other words, that would have Geordi doing a double take. Certainly not that Wesley Crusher kid either, for that matter (More asides: Wes, my man. Your replicators could produce anything you wanted—what the hell was up with that rainbow jumper?!).

But there is some hope. As recently as November, scientists had silver nanoparticles self-assembling into specific structures. Now, Guinan can’t serve us up a plate of silver, so that doesn’t really count as a replicator just yet, but it does drive our research in the right direction. The same direction that saw IBM scientists imaging molecular bonds for the first time ever on Thursday:

By “seeing” these bonds scientists think they can better understand how to manipulate them. For IBM scientists that means quantum processors and such in the far future. For guys and gals like you and me, it might mean snacks on demand as we start to understand why snacks look and feel the way they do on the molecular level.

While we’re down at the molecular level, I’d be remiss not to mention the nano pinhole camera some enterprising Russian scientists created in June:

In their atom pinhole camera, the atoms act like photons in an optical pinhole camera, but instead of light traveling through a lens, it travels through a pinhole on a mask and creates a high-res inverted image on a silicon substrate. This camera is capable of resizing nanostructures down to 30 nm-10,000 times smaller than the original. So, a camera with say 10 million pinholes could produce large numbers of identical (or diverse) nanostructures simultaneously.

It’s the most promising “replicator related” discovery in recent memory, but even so we joked that the Giz crew would probably be slurping pureed baby food and soiling our adult undergarments by the time it came to fruition. Still, the research is there, and every month IBM or the CERN folks or someone else who’s much smarter than I am is firing off a new research paper about manipulating the world of the very, very small.

The replicator, in short, would be a paradigm shift the likes of which the world has never seen. Famine? Potentially gone forever. Shortages? See ya. Alinea? Probably the first place to get one. You and I? Optimistically speaking, we’ll probably need some Depends by the time one comes along. Silver lining is we can crap to our hearts content and dispose of the mess in our replicator. Then it’s lunch time!

Apple Gets Higher Profile in HTML Standardization by Stephen Shankland

An Apple manager has become a co-chairman of the group standardizing HTML, giving the company a higher-profile role in a crucial time for development of the language used to build Web pages.

The World Wide Web Consortium’s HTML Working Group had been led by IBM’s Sam Ruby and Microsoft’s Chris Wilson. Wilson has stepped down and is being replaced by two others, Paul Cotton, who manages Microsoft’s Web services standards team, and Maciej Stachowiak, who manages Apple’s WebKit WebApps team, according to an e-mail announcement by W3C Director Tim Berners-Lee.
“Why three co-Chairs?” Berners-Lee asked in the note. “Clearly, there is a lot of work to do. Sam, Paul, and Maciej bring particular skills to the job (whether it is Maciej’s experience with WebKit or Paul’s with Working Group processes).”

Indeed, the two new co-chairs arrive during a crucial time. The W3C stopped developing HTML with version 4.01 in 1999, focusing instead on a very different standard called XHTML 2.0 that ultimately met its official demise in July. Browser makers, meanwhile, went their own way with a group called WHATWG, short for Web Hypertext Application Technology Working Group.

WHATWG’s work ultimately grew into HTML 5 as the W3C embraced HyperText Markup Language once again. It’s got a number of features to make the Web a better foundation not just for static Web pages but also for more interactive Web applications. For example, one Web storage lets Web-based applications store data on a computer, helping Web applications work even when a network connection isn’t available.
The standardization process is complicated, though, with a complex back-and-forth between the standards group and browser makers trying new features on their own.

And Aaron Boodman, a programmer involved with Google’s Chrome browser, suggested on the HTML 5 mailing list, “I would like to propose that we get rid of the concepts of ‘versions’ altogether from HTML. In reality, nobody supports all of HTML 5…Instead of insisting that a particular version of HTML is a monolithic unit that must be implemented in its entirety, we could have each feature (or logical group of features) spun off into its own small spec.”

China Urges Burma to Bridle Ethnic Militia Uprising at Border by Tim Johnston

A Burmese government crackdown on powerful ethnic militias that have challenged its rule for more than 60 years has driven 10,000 refugees into neighboring China, prompting a rare rebuke from Chinese authorities, the Burmese regime’s key allies.

The refugees fled over the border into China’s Yunnan province in the past few days after fighting erupted between Burmese government troops and ethnic militia fighters from the Kokang region of the nation also known as Myanmar.

China called on the Burmese authorities to “properly handle domestic problems and maintain stability in the China-Myanmar border region,” according to a statement from Foreign Ministry spokesman Jiang Yu. “We also urge Myanmar to protect the security and legal rights of Chinese citizens in Myanmar.”

China has been balancing support for the Burmese government with backing for the armed ethnic groups that occupy much of the Burmese side of the border. The border regions are heavily influenced by China, with many Chinese businesses taking advantage of the trade in gems, timber and jade.

Analysts say the fighting is just the most obvious sign of tensions arising from the Burmese government’s desire to control the armed ethnic groups with which it has co-existed uneasily since a round of cease-fires that began 20 years ago ended decades of open conflict.

The recent fighting in the Kokang region has pitted government troops against the Myanmar National Democratic Alliance Army as well as drawing in other ethnic groups involved in the cease-fire including the United Wa State Army, which with about 20,000 fighters is the largest ethnic army in the country.

A cease-fire agreement between the government and the National Democratic Alliance Army had been in place since 1989.

Researchers Hope to Mass-Produce Robots on a Chip

Tiny robots the size of a flea could one day be mass-produced, churned out in swarms and programmed for a variety of applications, such as surveillance, micromanufacturing, medicine, cleaning, and more. In an effort to reach this goal, a recent study has demonstrated the initial tests for fabricating microrobots on a large scale.

The researchers, from institutes in Sweden, Spain, Germany, Italy, and Switzerland, explain that their building approach marks a new paradigm of robot development in microrobotics. The technique involves integrating an entire robot – with communication, locomotion, energy storage, and electronics – in different modules on a single circuit board. In the past, the single-chip robot concept has presented significant limitations in design and manufacturing. However, instead of using solder to mount electrical components on a printed circuit board as in the conventional method, the researchers use conductive adhesive to attach the components to a double-sided flexible printed circuit board using surface mount technology. The circuit board is then folded to create a three-dimensional robot.

The resulting robots are very small, with their length, width, and height each measuring less than 4 mm. The robots are powered by a solar cell on top, and move by three vibrating legs. A fourth vibrating leg is used as a touch sensor. As the researchers explain, a single microrobot by itself is a physically simple individual. But many robots communicating with each other using infrared sensors and interacting with their environment can form a group that is capable of establishing swarm intelligence to generate more complex behavior. The framework for this project, called I-SWARM (intelligent small-world autonomous robots for micro-manipulation) is inspired by the behavior of biological insects.

“I look upon them more like a manufacturing way for future robots,” Erik Edqvist of Uppsala University in Sweden told “There are cool experiments going on with flying insects, swimming robots and so on. But it is time for the miniaturized robots to leave the research laboratories and find useful applications. That is where this work fits in. It is an attempt (with a somewhat small budget) to try to build robots in a mass-fabricated way.”

As this was the first test of this fabrication technique, the researchers noted that they encountered some fabrication problems. The single largest problem was to connect the naked integrated circuit to the flexible printed circuit board by the conductive adhesive. Also, some solar cells did not stick due to weak adhesion. At this stage in the production process, the robots were folded manually, but the researchers hope to design a tool to enable a faster and more accurate alignment when folding. Many of these complications could likely be corrected, with the important result being that the microrobots can be assembled using a surface mounting machine, whereas prior robots have usually been manually assembled with a soldering iron.

In the future, the researchers hope to move from building academic prototypes to manufacturing the robot on a commercial basis, which is necessary for overcoming some of the technical issues. By mass-producing swarms of robots, the loss of some robotic units will be negligible in terms of cost, functionality, and time, yet still achieve a high level of performance. Currently, the researchers hope to find funding to reach these goals.

“Right now the robots need a new ASIC [application-specific integrated circuit] and some other redesigns to be able to work properly, and currently the funding for such a redesign is missing,” Edqvist said. “We have, however, (in a not yet published article) shown that the robot would have been able to walk at 3.0 V (the solar cell delivers 3.6 V), so with new funding, they could be up and running and be produced in large numbers.”

More information: Erik Edqvist, et al. “Evaluation of building technology for mass producible millimeter-sized robots using flexible printed circuit boards.” J. Micromech. Microeng. 19 (2009) 075011 (11pp).

Hacker Ring Tied To Major Breaches Just Tip Of The Iceberg by Kelly Jackson Higgins

The long arm of the cybercrime gang allegedly behind some of the biggest data breaches — TJX, Heartland Payment Systems, Hannaford Bros., and 7-Eleven — may be connected with yet another major hack: that of a network of Citibank-branded ATM machines.

According to a new report in the Financial Times, indicted hacker Albert Gonzalez and his associates breached the ATM network of 2,200 kiosks located inside 7-Eleven stores for several months, starting in late 2007 and through around February 2008, according to law enforcement sources who spoke to FT. The ATM machines were owned by CardTronics, and the perpetrators stole card and PIN numbers from the machines to create new cards that they then used to steal about $2 million in cash from ATM machines in other locations.

The FT report says the attackers also compromised iWire cards, which were used to withdraw $5 million — most of which was then sent to Russia.

Gonzalez, who previously had been charged for his alleged role in the breach of TJX, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Barnes & Noble, and Dave & Buster’s, last week was indicted for allegedly conspiring to break into computers and stealing debit and credit cards from Heartland, Hannaford’s, 7-Eleven, and two other major national retailers whose names were withheld in the filing. Aside from the news that one man is suspected to have had a hand in all of these major breaches, security experts say the even bigger news is that Gonzalez and his cohorts used attack methods that are typically found in most cybercrime cases and could have been prevented with the appropriate defenses — SQL injection, packet sniffing, and backdoor malware — designed to evade detection.

The SQL injection attacks ultimately led to the theft of more than 130 million debit and credit card accounts.

But security experts say while the latest revelation that the gang was also allegedly hacking ATM machines shows how entrenched this group was in their online fraud, there are likely other big breaches executed by other hacker groups yet to be revealed.

“I suspect that in the future there will be larger cases than the Gonzalez scam. I think Gonzalez is really the tip of the iceberg,” says Randy Abrams, director of technical education for Eset. “This isn’t the only criminal gang that has long arms. The ante for entering this arena is pretty low, but the skills required to pull it off without getting caught quickly separate the pros from the script kiddies. Undoubtedly, there are more professional gangs than the Gonzalez gang.”

And even more telling may be the names that weren’t named in Gonzalez’s indictment — called “Hacker 1” and “Hacker 2” from in or near Russia. Security experts say Gonzalez was caught because he was in the U.S. His Eastern European accomplices aren’t likely to be arrested in that region, and it’s still unclear how their activities tie into other Eastern European cybercrime rings.

“He got caught up in something bigger than him, and he’s taking the heat,” says Paul Ferguson, a senior threat researcher at Trend Micro. “He had already been caught for previous breaches, so he’s no Einstein. Something smells [fishy].”

Ferguson says while it’s difficult to trace these crimes back cleanly to all of the perpetrators behind them, large breaches like those that Gonzalez allegedly helped mastermind likely come from a smaller pool of bad guys. “It’s probably a much smaller group with the background and experience to perpetrate these,” he says.

Day-to-day social engineering and malware campaigns, meanwhile, tend to be conducted by multiple parties and layers of cybercriminals, he says. “These tend to have a lot of people’s fingers involved,” Ferguson says.

The ATM breach at the 7-Eleven stores apparently began with a back-end system outsourced by 7-Eleven, according to the FT article.

While the Gonzalez case finally puts a face to some major identity theft and cybercrime incidents, many other cases are likely to come to light, some experts say.

Just because Gonzalez’s alleged capers have been exposed doesn’t mean he and his gang were the most prolific. “Although the Gonzalez gang has been tied to the largest known heists, it doesn’t mean they are the most prolific,” Abrams says. “Were it not for disclosure legislation, it is unlikely we would even know of the Heartland breach and other breaches.”

Tribute to Senator Robert F. Kennedy by Senator Edward M. Kennedy

St. Patrick’s Cathedral
New York City
June 8, 1968

On behalf of Mrs. Robert Kennedy, her children and the parents and sisters of Robert Kennedy, I want to express what we feel to those who mourn with us today in this Cathedral and around the world. We loved him as a brother and father and son. From his parents, and from his older brothers and sisters – Joe, Kathleen and Jack – he received inspiration which he passed on to all of us. He gave us strength in time of trouble, wisdom in time of uncertainty, and sharing in time of happiness. He was always by our side.

Love is not an easy feeling to put into words. Nor is loyalty, or trust or joy. But he was all of these. He loved life completely and lived it intensely.

A few years back, Robert Kennedy wrote some words about his own father and they expressed the way we in his family feel about him. He said of what his father meant to him: “What it really all adds up to is love – not love as it is described with such facility in popular magazines, but the kind of love that is affection and respect, order, encouragement, and support. Our awareness of this was an incalculable source of strength, and because real love is something unselfish and involves sacrifice and giving, we could not help but profit from it.

“Beneath it all, he has tried to engender a social conscience. There were wrongs which needed attention. There were people who were poor and who needed help. And we have a responsibility to them and to this country. Through no virtues and accomplishments of our own, we have been fortunate enough to be born in the United States under the most comfortable conditions. We, therefore, have a responsibility to others who are less well off.”

This is what Robert Kennedy was given. What he leaves us is what he said, what he did and what he stood for. A speech he made to the young people of South Africa on their Day of Affirmation in 1966 sums it up the best, and I would read it now:

“There is a discrimination in this world and slavery and slaughter and starvation. Governments repress their people; and millions are trapped in poverty while the nation grows rich; and wealth is lavished on armaments everywhere.

“These are differing evils, but they are common works of man. They reflect the imperfection of human justice, the inadequacy of human compassion, our lack of sensibility toward the sufferings of our fellows.

“But we can perhaps remember – even if only for a tirne – that those who live with us are our brothers; that they share with us the same short moment of life; that they seek – as we do – nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and happiness, winning what satisfaction and fulfillment they can.

“Surely this bond of common faith, this bond of common goal, can begin to teach us something. Surely, we can learn, at least, to look at those around us as fellow men. And surely we can begin to work a little harder to bind up the wounds among us and to become in our own hearts brothers and countrymen once again.

“Our answer is to rely on youth – not a time of life but a state of mind, a temper of the will, a quality of imagination, a predominance of courage over timidity, of the appetite for adventure over the love of ease. The cruelties and obstacles of this swiftly changing planet will not yield to obsolete dogmas and outworn slogans. They cannot be moved by those who cling to a present that is already dying, who prefer the illusion of security to the excitement and danger that come with even the most peaceful progress. It is a revolutionary world we live in; and this generation at home and around the world, has had thrust upon it a greater burden of responsibility than any generation that has ever lived.

“Some believe there is nothing one man or one woman can do against the enormous array of the world’s ills. Yet many of the world’s great movements, of thought and action, have flowed from the work of a single man. A young monk began the Protestant reformation, a young general extended an empire from Macedonia to the borders of the earth, and a young woman reclaimed the territory of France. It was a young Italian explorer who discovered the New World, and the thirty-two-year-old Thomas Jefferson who proclaimed that all men are created equal.

“These men moved the world, and so can we all. Few will have the greatness to bend history itself, but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation. It is from numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.

“Few are willing to brave the disapproval of their fellows, the censure of their colleagues, the wrath of their society. Moral courage is a rarer commodity than bravery in battle or great intelligence. Yet it is the one essential, vital quality for those who seek to change a world that yields most painfully to change. And I believe that in this generation those with the courage to enter the moral conflict will find themselves with companions in every corner of the globe.

“For the fortunate among us, there is the temptation to follow the easy and familiar paths of personal ambition and financial success so grandly spread before those who enjoy the privilege of education. But that is not the road history has marked out for us. Like it or not, we live in times of danger and uncertainty. But they are also more open to the creative energy of men than any other time in history. All of us will ultimately be judged and as the years pass we will surely judge ourselves, on the effort we have contributed to building a new world society and the extent to which our ideals and goals have shaped that effort.

“The future does not belong to those who are content with today, apathetic toward common problems and their fellow man alike, timid and fearful in the face of new ideas and bold projects. Rather it will belong to those who can blend vision, reason and courage in a personal commitment to the ideals and great enterprises of American Society.

“Our future may lie beyond our vision, but it is not completely beyond our control. It is the shaping impulse of America that neither fate nor nature nor the irresistible tides of history, but the work of our own hands, matched to reason and principle, that will determine our destiny. There is pride in that, even arrogance, but there is also experience and truth. In any event, it is the only way we can live.”

This is the way he lived. My brother need not be idealized, or enlarged in death beyond what he was in life, to be remembered simply as a good and decent man, who saw wrong and tried to right it, saw suffering and tried to heal it, saw war and tried to stop it.

Those of us who loved him and who take him to his rest today, pray that what he was to us and what he wished for others will some day come to pass for all the world.

As he said many times, in many parts of this nation, to those he touched and who sought to touch him:

“Some men see things as they are and say why. I dream things that never were and say why not.”

LG Electronics and Nortel Complete World-first 3GPP Compliant Active Handover

LG Electronics (LG), a global leader and technology innovator in mobile communications, and Nortel have demonstrated the world’s first 3GPP standards compliant active handover of a data transmission between a Long Term Evolution (LTE) network and a CDMA network.

The demonstration successfully showed that online activities such as video downloads, web surfing and VoIP calls can be maintained when a mobile data user moves between LTE and CDMA coverage zones.
LG contributed to the demonstration by developing a CDMA/LTE device, the M13. LG has been focusing on developing CDMA/LTE devices and equipment since 2006 to drive the next generation of mobile technology, achieving prominence with the unveiling of the world’s first modem chipset for 4G LTE devices in December 2008.

Operators around the world are preparing to launch LTE with major deployments expected as early as 2010. Initially, LTE networks will co-exist with existing CDMA networks but will eventually be expanded to provide widescale 4G mobile broadband coverage. Inter-technology handover allowing mobile users the ability to move between LTE and CDMA networks without losing data connectivity means that operators can run these networks concurrently without impacting services. This will help to ensure that users have full network coverage while taking advantage of LTE speeds, wherever initially available.

“The 2010 LTE commercial launch for CDMA operators represents a milestone,” said Kim In-kyung, Vice President of 4G Development Team, LG Electronics Mobile Handset R&D Center. “LG’s new M13 terminal is the result of successful collaboration with Verizon Wireless and Qualcomm. The technology is the key to enabling CDMA network operators an incremental LTE network deployment over a national CDMA network.”

The test by LG and Nortel successfully demonstrated the feasibility of idle mode handover between CDMA and LTE and active mode handover from LTE to CDMA leveraging device assisted, network controlled functionality. The demonstration was conducted over 700MHz spectrum using Nortel CDMA Evolved High-Rate Packet Data (eHRPD) 1xEV-DO and Nortel LTE solution with LG’s dual-mode CDMA-LTE M13 terminal. The M13 terminal is a test device created with commercial grade components that will form the basis for a consumer device which is expected to be available in 2010.

The handover between CDMA and LTE networks was completed in a live-air environment at Nortel’s Research and Development Centre in Ottawa, Canada.

iPhone Meets Genome

With employees spread across five continents, effective mobile communications are essential for Illumina, a San Diego, CA-based biotechnology company that designs breakthrough tools for genetic analysis. Using iPhone, sales reps can track customers, executives can manage employees, and everyone can stay in touch. And soon Illumina will make it possible for consumers to carry their personal genomes with them on iPhone.

iPhone was an obvious technology choice, says Jay Flatley, Illumina’s President and CEO. “First and foremost, it’s a great phone. But what our employees need goes well beyond that. They need a computer in their hands that can do calculations and data searches, and can manage sales using SalesForce Mobile. Because of the flexibility of the interface, iPhone was the ideal tool for us.”

With iPhone apps like Workday HR management software and Cisco WebEx Meeting Center, Illumina executives can do everything from tracking payroll to participating in meetings wherever they are. “iPhone has improved the overall productivity of people at Illumina,” says Scott Kahn, Illumina’s Chief Information Officer. “It’s rare that you deploy a tool and don’t get any negative feedback. But with iPhone, the first response is usually ‘Thank you.'”

Easy Integration

Deploying iPhone within Illumina’s existing IT infrastructure couldn’t be easier. Using iPhone Configuration Utility, the IT staff can push configuration profiles for their virtual private network (VPN) and enforce passcodes to secure each device. Setting up iPhone to leverage Exchange capabilities is as simple as double-clicking a configuration file, says Scott Skellenger, Senior Director of Global IT Operations. “All we have to do is direct the phone to the Exchange server and input the user’s credentials, and they’re off and running.”

“iPhone has definitely delivered for Illumina,” Kahn agrees. “We found it to be an enterprise-ready device primarily because of the security features. Having the ability to remotely wipe the device was key. It also had to have Exchange, and it needed to be web savvy. On iPhone, those features alone opened the door.”

Illumina sees even more business benefits with the latest iPhone software and hardware. “Improvements such as cut-and-paste and the device-wide search capability have added extraordinary value,” Skellenger says. “With iPhone 3.0 software, we’re able to search our emails, access the global address list in a seamless way, and calendar as if we were sitting at our desks.”

The Mobile Personal Genome

For Illumina, iPhone is more than a great mobile business device – it’s the delivery platform for an ambitious new approach to personalized medicine.

“Illumina is developing an iPhone application that will allow consumers to carry around their genomic information,” Flatley explains. “Part of it may be on the phone itself, part of it may be in the cloud that the phone would have access to. It would allow the customer to bring up the application and interact with it live in conjunction with their doctor.”

The iPhone SDK has been extremely easy to work with, Flatley says. Though Illumina’s developers had never written an iPhone application before, they were able to produce a fully functional prototype of the application within just ten days. When completed, the final application will allow the company to present complex genomic datasets in an easy-to-understand, consumer-oriented interface.

“The understanding of the human genome, which is very inaccessible to most people, can start to become accessible through iPhone,” Flatley says. “It will be a mechanism for communications, for sharing, and for data management. iPhone can translate something very complicated into something very user-friendly.” At Illumina, the convergence of science with iPhone is helping transform the future of individual health care.

Terrorist Drop Outs: One Way of Promoting a Counter Narrative by Michael Jacobson


The answer to the question whose voice is most effective in terms of delivering a counter-narrative to al-Qaeda’s Single Narrative depends on which audience one wants to reach. Arguably, the terrorists themselves (as opposed to segments of their envisaged constituency) are the most difficult audience to reach. However, there is one group that might have special credibility with them – former terrorists. This article explores, by way of examples, how former terrorists and extremists could contribute to reducing terrorist violence.

As the United States continues to fight militarily to disrupt the efforts of al-Qaeda and its affiliates, the U.S. government has slowly come to the realization that military force alone cannot defeat radical extremism. Countering the ideology that drives this extremism has become a critical element in the effort to prevent and defeat the violence that emerges from it. Focusing on the “softer” side of counterterrorism has become a new and necessary approach of U.S. and its allies alike. One of the main foci in this new battle is the recognition of the importance of the so-called “battle of ideas.” Al-Qaeda’s ideas and those of like-minded groups must be challenged with a counter-narrative of stronger appeal.

As the United States and other parties have attempted to begin crafting their own narrative to counter that of radical groups in this “battle of ideas,” it has become clear that in order to develop an effective message, it is necessary to better understand the radicalization process itself for the factors that cause people to choose this path must be properly understood. If this is not the case, it will be impossible to figure out which messages will resonate among terrorist recruits and which might be effective to counter the radicalization process.

An examination of the reasons why, and the processes by, which individuals are radicalized, has made clear that, as one British government official stated “there is no single path that leads people to violent extremism.” The same official noted that “social, foreign policy, economic, and personal factors all lead people to throw their lot in with extremists.” Consequently, there might also be more than one ‘single narrative’ to persuade an individual to join the extremist cause. While al-Qaeda employs a global narrative centered on the West being at war with Islam, Hamas and Hizballah have different narratives to build their following – narratives that rely heavily on their track record of providing needed support to local populations.

As the U.S. has begun to focus on the softer side of counterterrorism, there has been a great deal of attention paid to what a counter-narrative may do to try to prevent radicalization from occurring in the first place. However, an effective counter-narrative will need to address not only those vulnerable to the extremist message, but also those on the path toward radicalization, and those already radicalized. It is clear that the U.S. government and others cannot develop a single, overarching counter-narrative that can be expected to work across the board.

In order to determine what counter-narrative might be effective among those apparently hardened individuals already incorporated in terrorist organizations or those well along the path to radicalization, it is useful to look at examples of people who have voluntarily walked away from these organizations. Determining the reasons for a change in perspective could help governments craft messages designed to peel people away from terrorist groups; this is one vital element of an effective counter-narrative. Determining who might be best positioned to deliver this ‘liberating’ message is another key angle from which to view the efficacy of a counter-narrative.

There are several common themes that emerge from an analysis of why various drop-outs left terrorist organizations. Governments may be able to take advantage of this emerging knowledge and discern trends to better formulate appropriate counter-narratives.

“Naming and Shaming,” or the undermining of terrorist and extremist leadership should be one part of the approach. For this, crafting messages that significantly detract from leaders’ authority and credibility is vital. A general lack of respect for a group’s leadership has often been a factor in stimulating the exit of members from terrorist organizations. Essam al-Ridi, an Egyptian veteran of the 1980s jihad against the Soviets, testified during the 1998 East African embassy bombings trial that he resented taking battlefield orders from bin Laden and others who lacked military experience during the Afghan jihad.[1] The decisive factor for al-Ridi’s change of perspective occurred in a battle in which many jihadis died—in his view needlessly—as a result of inept leadership. In that particular battle, al-Qaeda nevertheless declared victory. Al-Ridi, however, stated, “My judgment as a person living here, not in the hereafter, is that this is pure killing. If you don’t know what you’re doing, you are killing your people… I became more angry and more opposing [to] what’s happening in Afghanistan and what’s happening to Osama and how he became a leader of his own.”

Another example: Ziad Jarrah, one of the 9/11 hijackers, was unhappy with Mohammed Atta’s leadership while the 19 plotters were in the US; the two often clashed.[2] Jarrah had been on his own for most of his time in the United States before 9/11 and strongly resisted Atta’s attempts to exert more direct control. At least in part due to his problems with Atta, Jarrah appeared to be contemplating dropping out of the plot during the summer of 2001.

The United States has tried this approach of undermining the leadership of terrorist organizations more than once. For example, the US made efforts to undermine al-Qaeda in Iraq’s leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi by showing captured video footage that made clear that he did not know how to handle a gun. This was potentially effective in deterring would-be jihadists to serve under him. More generally, taking steps that might help avoid the building up of reputations of terrorist leaders also has potential merit. For example, before 9/11, President Clinton said that he tried to avoid mentioning bin Laden’s name too often in order not to make him a bigger hero in some parts of the world than he already was. Based on the evidence available, this strategy appears to have merit.

An effective counter-narrative should also strive to demonstrate civilian and Muslim suffering at the hands of the terrorists. Showing the resulting deaths of Muslims and focusing on the hypocrisy of an ideology that purports to defend Muslims but kills them instead is a worthwhile endeavour. A review of further cases of terrorist drop-outs does indicate that this tactic has potential. Disillusionment with the terrorists’ strategy and ideology has, historically, been a major reason why militants have left their groups. Some of them simply felt that their groups’ fellow members or its leader had finally gone too far.

One example is Omar bin Laden, Osama’s fourth son. He had spent nearly five years living in Afghan training camps. Yet following 9/11, Omar quit al-Qaeda and called the attacks “craziness,” according to journalist Peter Bergen. He continued, “Those guys are dummies. They have destroyed everything, and for nothing. What did we get from September 11?”

Nazir Abbas, one of the top commanders in Jemaah Islamiyah (JI), left his organization for similar reasons.[3] He trained hundreds to become terrorists in the JI camps that he had helped to establish. He later questioned a bin Laden fatwa in 2000, which said that killing Americans and Jews everywhere is the highest of act of worship and good deeds. He alone among the JI commanders refused to carry out an ordered attack. His view was that jihad was to be fought only on the battlefield in defense of Islam as he had always been taught that the killing of civilians had nothing to do with “holy war.”

Abbas felt that his fellow members in JI had an incorrect understanding of the JI mission. Jihad, to Abbas, was warranted in Afghanistan and the Philippines, countries facing an enemy attacking a Muslim community. Since he dropped out of JI, Abbas has turned against the organization and has been cooperating with the Indonesian government and even testifying against the group’s leadership.

Interestingly, Abbas did not think that attacking a repressive government was wrong; his qualms with JI and other terrorist organizations’ actions extended only to their use of violence against civilians. In his own words: “I couldn’t understand that exploding bombs against innocent civilians was jihad. That was the difference that made me escape from the group.” Abbas’ cooperation with the Indonesian government and his public criticism of his former organization has been invaluable.

In the same way, and for similar reasons, al-Ridi began assisting the US government, explaining that he wanted to cooperate because “I told them I have an interest in helping you because I think Osama has ruined the reputation of Muslims.” A counter-narrative that emphasizes the terrorist groups’ hypocrisy might resonate with those having similar doubts in terrorist organizations.

Related to this, painting terrorists as common criminals may help demonstrate the impurity of the ideology. Terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda, are increasingly getting involved in all types of criminal activities, including drug trafficking. The US should take advantage of this fact and portray them as hypocritical.

A further theme in a counter-narrative should be a focus on the reality of life as a terrorist. If people are joining a terrorist organization because it appears glamorous or because they believe they are fulfilling some larger purpose, demonstrating the harsh reality of life in the underground will help to dispel such myths. Terrorist recruits are, in fact, often treated badly by their own organizations. If this message can be promulgated, the counter-narrative would certainly be strengthened. There needs to be a platform for former members to speak out about their unsatisfying lives as members of a terrorist organization, hopefully emphasizing that it does not live up to the hype. We know for a fact that the tough reality of life as a terrorist constantly on the run has often helped drive people out of these organizations.

In fact, more broadly speaking, it is surprising that a number of seemingly trivial, petty factors can drive apparently fully committed terrorists away from their cells and groups. Through studying the personal stories of terrorist drop-outs, it can be discerned that perceived lack of respect was, for individual operatives, often influential in their decision to break away from the radical group. L’Houssaine Kherchtou, a Moroccan who trained to serve as bin Laden’s personal pilot, grew bitter after a bin Laden aide turned down his request for $500 to cover the costs of his wife’s Caesarean section. He grew livid when al-Qaeda subsequently paid the expenses for a group of Egyptians to renew their passports in order to travel to Yemen. “If I had a gun,” Kherchtou later testified, “I would shoot [bin Laden] at that time.” When the organization moved to Afghanistan, Kherchtou said that he refused to accompany them, thus violating his oath. From then on, he no longer considered himself to be a member of al-Qaeda.

Others have also bailed out for financial reasons – often regarding low wages as a sign that they were not being treated with adequate respect. Jamal al-Fadl, a Sudanese radical, fumed over his salary while al-Qaeda was based in Sudan.[4] He began embezzling funds and stole approximately $100,000 from bin Laden, according to his own testimony in the 1998 East Africa embassy bombings trial. When bin Laden got wind of al-Fadl’s theft, he ordered him to repay the money. Al-Fadl, after handing back about $30,000, fled from al-Qaeda, fearing retribution. Khertchou, as well, grew bitter after bin Laden ordered his followers to cut back on their spending. He felt that bin Laden—a notoriously rich Saudi—was being stingy.

A counter-narrative should also focus on the fear factor and make graphically clear why an individual should be afraid to be a suicide bomber. Given the fact that some have abandoned a planned attack even at the last minute, a fear-awareness approach could have some impact. This factor appears to have been significant in the case of Sajid Badat, a British citizen who was trained in Afghanistan and Pakistan to serve as the other “shoebomber.” In a letter he had sent earlier to his parents he spoke of his “sincere desire to sell my soul to Allah in return for Paradise.” Later, he dropped out because, as he told prosecutors, he wanted to “introduce some calm to his life.”

Mohammed al-Owali fled the scene of the 1998 embassy bombing in Nairobi before he could carry out what was supposed to be another component of the suicide attacks. While he did not drop out of al-Qaeda, his fleeing from the scene is significant in considering what could be done in influencing those who do not follow through on their assignments to commit suicide attacks. In the failed July 21, 2005, attacks in London, one of the bombers, Manfo Kwaku Asiedu, a 32-year old British Ghanian, abandoned his bomb in a West London park. While not much is known about him at this point, it can be presumed that fear was an important factor in this last-minute decision.

Another important element for governments to consider is the fact that they are not always the most effective messengers for the counter-narrative. There is certainly a role for the US government and other governments to play. There are many cases, however, where other actors may make more effective messengers than governments.

Former terrorists and extremists are one obvious party to consider when it comes to transmitting counter-narrative messages. Their messages would resonate particularly strongly compared to that of unknown government officials. They could deliver forceful messages about the reality of life as a terrorist and their disillusionment with the cause. Moves in this direction have already occurred organically to some extent. The UK-based Quilliam Foundation is the best known of non-governmental organizations challenging the extremist ideology, describing itself as the first “counter-extremism think tank.”

Led by two former members of Hizb ut-Tahrir, the Quilliam Foundation aims to undermine the ideological foundation of radical extremism by refuting its premises. Quilliam argues that the ideology must be criticized and refuted “wherever it is found,” a process that includes developing an effective counter-narrative to rebut the message put forth by radical extremist organizations. Addressing local grievances is also critically important in Quilliam’s view to ensure that the terrorists’ and extremists’ global narrative does not resonate in individuals’ minds. Another prominent figure who has spoken out against terrorist and extremist groups is former Egyptian Islamic Jihad head Sayyid Imam al-Sharif (also known as Dr. Fadl).[5] Al-Qaeda often cited his previous treatises as ideological justification for its actions. Dr. Fadl has since renounced bin Laden and written a new book rejecting al-Qaeda’s methods and tactics.

What is also important, the US. government in particular must better understand who can wield influence in the Muslim communities throughout the world. These potential messengers can include activists, entrepreneurs, business people, media personalities, and students, among others. The US embassies should play a leading role in trying to identify who these people are, and then to determine how most effectively incorporating them into any overall efforts to make their voices heard.

The families of terrorists could also play an important role in trying to persuade individuals to leave these organizations. Ties and renewed contacts with family members have been major factors that have caused militant individuals to reconsider their membership in a terrorist organization. A number of people who left their families to join organizations returned home, often as a part of their plot’s plan. Yet after renewed contact with their families, they subsequently decided to abandon the plots they had been selected to participate in. Illustrating this phenomenon, this included two individuals who had been selected for the 9/11 plot: they reconsidered participation when returning for a visit to their homes in Saudi Arabia.

In conclusion, the bottom line is that the issue of countering the terrorist narrative with a counter-narrative is a complicated one, with no easy solutions. Broadly speaking, in order to break this disturbing cycle of radicalization, the United States and its allies must stimulate competition for the would-be “radicalizer” – loosely defined to include al-Qaeda and like-minded groups that engage in global jihadist propaganda efforts, influential extremist clerics, and local-level recruiters. At least at this point, the US. and other countries are starting to address the issue of radicalization and understand its importance. This represents progress in itself. The United States should deepen its efforts to counter the extremist narrative, both by better using its existing mechanisms and by increasingly relying on, and partnering with, those who can effectively transmit the messages. Understanding that there is no single, simple, overarching solution to becoming a member of a terrorist organization has been the most important first step.

Google Wave API Hackathon & Federation Day: Videos Available Now

Over two days in July, we flew in members of the Wave engineering team to go deep on various aspects of federation and the APIs, and we taped all the talks so that remote developers can hear what they had to say. The slides are linked from the API media gallery and the protocol site, but we’ve also embedded links and a player below for you here. Enjoy!

* Google Wave Hackathon Intro (with Lars’ Sept. 30th announcement)
* Google Wave APIs Overview

* Exploring the Java Robot API

* Google Wave Federation Day Intro

* Google Wave Federation Architecture Overview

Calling All Amateur Astronomers: Help Solve a Mystery by Hadley Leggett

A super-bright star is gradually going dim, and scientists want YOU to help them find out why.

For nearly 200 years, astronomers have been wondering why the star epsilon Aurigae turns down its light once every 27 years. Based on careful observations of the star’s periodic dimming, scientists believe that the supergiant star must have a mysterious companion that blocks its light periodically. But they still don’t know what that companion is.

Epsilon Aurigae’s next dip in brightness starts this fall, and telescope technology has come a long way since the star’s last eclipse in 1982-84. This time, astronomers are also hoping they’ll have the help of thousands of extra eyes: Starting today, a collaborative project called Citizen Sky is asking amateur astronomers to help solve the mystery of epsilon Aurigae.

“The star is too bright to be observed with the vast majority of professional telescopes,” astronomer Arne Henden of the American Association of Variable Star Observers said in a press release, “so this is another area where public help is needed.”

Because the star is so bright, even the most basic equipment — including the naked eye — can provide useful data. Normally the star can be seen from fall to spring in the Northern Hemisphere, even in urban areas with lots of light pollution. But beginning this fall, epsilon Aurigae is expected to gradually dim until it has lost half its light by early winter. The star will be dim during all of 2010 and then bounce back to its usual brightness by summer 2011.

Citizen Sky participants are being asked not just to collect data on the star’s brightness, but also to join in on other aspects of the scientific process. A three-year grant from the National Science Foundation will provide funds to recruit and train a team of citizen scientists, who will be taught to analyze data, create and test their own hypotheses and even to write up their results.

Scientists are hoping observations of this year’s eclipse will identify the star’s curious companion, as as well resolve the mystery of a second perplexing object that appears to be headed for the star. “To make things even more fun, we also have some evidence of a substantial mass, perhaps a large planet, spiraling into the mysterious dark companion object,” astronomer Robert Stencel of Denver University said in a press release. “Observations during the upcoming eclipse will be key to understanding this and predicting what will happen if the putative planet does eventually fall into the star.”

Innocent Until Proven Guilty by Joe Hewitt

I’d like to add my voice to the stream of complaints about the iPhone App Store, but before I say anything critical, I have to promise one thing. No matter how annoyed I get, I will not stop developing for Apple’s platforms or using Apple’s products as long as they continue to produce the best stuff on the market. I never forget how deeply Apple cares about making their users happy, and that counts more than how they treat their developers. Besides, when I have a problem with a friend, I don’t threaten to boycott our friendship until they change, so I’m not going to do that to Apple either.

Having said that, I have only one major complaint with the App Store, and I can state it quite simply: the review process needs to be eliminated completely.

Does that sound scary to you, imagining a world in which any developer can just publish an app to your little touch screen computer without Apple’s saintly reviewers scrubbing it of all evil first? Well, it shouldn’t, because there is this thing called the World Wide Web which already works that way, and it has served millions and millions of people quite well for a long time now.

Oh, but you say that iPhone apps are different, because they run native code and can do scary things that web pages can’t? Again, you’re wrong, because iPhone apps are sandboxed and have scarcely any more privileges than a web app. About the only scary thing they can do outside the sandbox is access your address book, but Apple can easily fix that by requiring they ask permission first, just like they must do to track your location.

The fact is this: Apple does not have the means to perform thorough quality assurance on any app. This is up to the developer. We have our own product managers and quality assurance testers, and we are liable to our users and the courts if we do anything evil or stupid. Apple may catch a few shallow bugs in the review process, but let’s face it, the real things they are looking for are not bugs, but violations of the terms of service. This is all about lawyers, not quality, and it shows that the model of Apple’s justice system is guilty until proven innocent. They don’t trust us, and I resent that, because the vast majority of us are trustworthy.

I shouldn’t have to argue for why it is better to assume people are innocent until proven guilty. There are plenty of successful platforms out there which free developers to publish anything, but punish them if they do something harmful. This allows developers to move fast, fix bugs immediately, get feedback from users at a very low cost. Any bug that Apple finds after their two week delay would have been found by users on day one, and fixed on day two. I’d rather have a bug in the wild for one day than have an app in the review queue for two weeks.

If you think that all apps should be held prisoner by Apple until proven safe, you should also be able to convince yourself that this is how the web should work. Perhaps I am just spoiled by my many years of web development. The next time I create a web app I will probably feel a little guilty when I upload the files to my web server, knowing that I didn’t have to ask the web police to review the app first to make sure I wasn’t evil.

(I should probably add the disclaimer that the opinions expressed here are my own, and not my employer’s.)

Lobbying Group Whines, CENTCOM Scrubs Petraeus Jibe by David Axe

In a speech at the Marine Corps Association Foundation dinner in Virginia last month, Central Command boss Gen. David Petraeus broke the ice with an age-old bit of comedy, comparing the grimy plights of ground soldiers with the comparatively comfortable lives led by many Air Force aviators. But the jab sparked an angry protest — and some rushed damage-control by Petraeus’ handlers.

“A soldier is trudging through the muck in the midst of a downpour with a 60-pound rucksack on his back,” Petraeus’ joke began:

‘This is tough,’ he thinks to himself. Just ahead of him trudges an Army Ranger with an 80-pound pack on his back. ‘This is really tough,’ he thinks. And ahead of him is a Marine with a 90-pound pack on, and he thinks to himself, ‘I love how tough this is.’ Then, of course, 30,000 feet above them … an Air Force pilot flips aside his ponytail. Now, I’m sorry — I don’t know how that got in there. I know they haven’t had ponytails in a year or two. And [he] looks down at them through his cockpit as he flies over. ‘Boy,’ he radios his wingman, ‘it must be tough down there.’

Harmless, sure. But tell that to the Air Force Association, the old-school lobbying group that fought tooth and nail to preserve the F-22 fighter and staunchly represents traditional Air Force values. AFA was pissed. Petraeus’ praising words for deployed airmen, elsewhere in his speech, “do not alleviate the offensiveness — and un-jointness — of his later comments,” a new AFA editorial asserted. “They are symptomatic of the long-held belief of many ground commanders that air power is no longer, if it ever was, relevant.”

In an apparent effort to head off a wider outcry, Central Command scrubbed the jab from its transcript of Petraeus’ comments. You can see an unedited video of the speech here.

Personally, I think AFA is missing the joke’s most politically charged implication. Petraeus said aviators haven’t had ponytails in a “year or two.” What happened a year ago? Secretary of Defense Robert Gates made a clean sweep of the Air Force, removing the air service’s two top officials, and clearing the way for a wide range of reforms that have made the Air Force more relevant to today’s ground wars.

Air Force Stalled for Years on New ‘Light’ Fighter by David Axe

In July, the Air Force launched a program to buy 100 small, inexpensive, “light” fighters for “strike, armed reconnaissance and advanced aircraft training in support of Irregular Warfare.” The attack planes will be part of a new, counterinsurgency-optimized wing that can rapidly dial between bombing bad guys and training local pilots to defend their own countries. As Gen. Norton Schwartz, the air service’s top officer, said in April, there is a “legitimate need” for lighter, smarter forces in the traditionally techy Air Force.

But the Air Force should have realized this, four years ago. From 2005 to 2007, there was a flood of papers and studies from the Air Force’s academic institutions, advocating the adoption of light fighters and other forces for small wars. Air Force generals’ myopic focus on the F-22 stealth fighter blinded them to the signs, emerging from within the air service, that smaller, cheaper planes were what we really needed.

The Air Force’s delay in buying light fighters echoed the Army’s and Marines’ heel-dragging on adopting the blast-resistant MRAP trucks that have saved so many lives in Iraq and Afghanistan. Some front-line soldiers and Marines were begging for MRAPs as early as 2005. It took two years for the Pentagon to finally fund the tough trucks.

The Air Force’s internal light-fighter advocacy seems to have begun with a December 2005 paper written by Maj. Arthur Davis, a student at the Air Command and Staff College in Alabama. Davis’ paper, “Back to the Basics: An Aviation Solution to Counter-insurgent Warfare,” examined “past examples of the use of air power in counterinsurgent warfare” in order to shed light “on the United States’ current failings in both equipment and doctrine as it wages this type of war.”

In short order, several officers followed up on Davis’ paper. Maj. Brett Blake found today’s “F-15Es and F-16s … simply not cost effective” for current wars. David Peeler, now a lieutenant colonel, examined which light fighters might be most effective and affordable, and compared their price and performance to the A-10 close-air-support jet. Maj. Max Weems chided the Air Force for its “nasty habit of forgetting the hard-learned lessons of irregular operations.”

Despite the growing body of research and advocacy, the Air Force brass all but ignored the need for a light fighter. “Given the Air Force’s pre-occupation with procurement of the F-22A advanced fighter aircraft, little attention is placed on obtaining a platform with specifications aimed at counterinsurgency operations,” Peeler wrote.

But then came Secretary of Defense Robert Gates. Last year, Gates fired the officials who were the F-22’s biggest supporters, ended the F-22 buy at 187 copies, and freed up nearly a billion dollars for new counterinsurgency planes. In short, Gates finally acknowledged what mid-ranking Air Force officers had known for years: that the air service needed to think and act differently to win today’s wars.

Iran’s Cynicism in the Face of Terrorism by Douglas Farah

One of the clearest signs of the danger that the Iranian presence poses in Latin America is the decision by president Ahmadinejad to name one of the masterminds of the 1994 AMIA bombings as minister of defense.

Ahamd Vahidi, who at the time of the bombing was the head of the Quds Force, is the subject of an Interpol Red Notice, asking for his arrest for his part in the worst terrorist attack in Latin America. He was deputy defense minister in Ahmadinejad’s first government, and is now being promoted. Seven other senior Iranian officials are subject of Interpol Red Notices as well.

Alberto Nisman, the Argentine prosecutor who has spent years investigating the case (and presenting enough evidence to Interpol to get the Red Notice issued), called Vahidi “a key participant in the planning and of having made the decision to go ahead with the attack.”

“It has been demonstrated that Vahidi participated in and approved of the decision to attack AMIA during a meeting in Iran on August 14, 1993. Iran has always protected terrorists, giving them government posts, but I think never one as high as this one,” Nisman told the Associated Press.

Given Iran’s rapidly-expanding and largely opaque diplomatic presence in Latin America and the history of Iranian diplomatic missions in housing Quds Force special operatives and Hezbollah, this is a bad sign indeed.

With a large and unmonitored diplomatic presence in Venezuela, Bolivia and Nicaragua, Iran has positioned itself for spreading mischief throughout the region. It is not happenstance that these resources are being spent in a continent where Iran has historically had no presence, no cultural affinity and no strategic interests.

What it does have is a marketable expertise in asymmetrical warfare, intelligence gathering and terrorism, and a shared hatred for the United States with Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales and Daniel Ortega.

And crossing Iran can be dangerous.

Argentina’s crime, in the eyes of Iran at the time, was to refuse to cut off the transfer of nuclear technology to Iran. The result was Iranian retaliation.

For a fascinating look at the relationship between Iran and Hezbollah, see this fascinating translation of two statements, one by Hezbollah and one by a senior Iranian official, of their mutual dependence and structure.

As one can read, Naim Qassem, Hezbollah’s deputy commander, says “the Imam Khamenei (Iran’s highest authority) is the one who “decides general guidelines for us, which free us from blame and give us legitimacy.”

So it was in the AMIA bombings. The Iranian leadership (including Vahidi) decided on the action, and franchised out the actual execution to Hezbollah, with the resulting 85 people dead.

Ahmadinejad’s willingness to spend precious political capital internally and externally by naming Vahidi to a highly public post shows how important it is for his regime to keep their ability to execute state terrorism operational at a very high level. (He has dismissed protests of Vahidi’s naming to the cabinet as part of “a Zionist plot).

This is not an accidental nomination, but one that should set off alarm bells across Latin America.

In Spite of WTF Moments, Life…….

As stated by Albert Schweitzer, life is about:

“Ethics cannot be based upon our obligations toward [people], but they are complete and natural only when we feel this Reverence for Life and the desire to have compassion for and to help all creatures insofar as it is in our power. I think that this ethic will become more and more recognized because of its great naturalness and because it is the foundation of a true humanism toward which we must strive if our culture is to become truly ethical.”

“Ethics, too, are nothing but reverence for life. This is what gives me the fundamental principle of morality, namely, that good consists in maintaining, promoting, and enhancing life, and that destroying, injuring, and limiting life are evil.”

As such, I thank God, country, family, blood brothers, and those with similar hopes, dreams, goals, and objectives for their support and assistance with my life. For also allowing me the ability to offer counterintelligence and counter-terrorism analysis and consulting. For also allowing me to pursue as a hobby the creation of analysis application that would utilize iPhone 3.1 Platforms and Web 2.0 to 3.0 Platforms (analysis application would be able to harness computer modeling and intelligence analysis to help intelligence analyst investigate threats and changes in any environment.)