Friday, July 30, 2010

US. Embassy Workers "unwell" after handling suspicious package

PARIS — Two employees of the U.S. Embassy in Paris were being given medical tests Friday after handling a suspicious package and reporting feeling "unwell," officials said.
However, an embassy official said no-one appeared to be in danger, with preliminary test results indicating the envelope was "not harmful."

French police officials said the two people involved were feeling "unwell" and that the incident was being investigated. A mobile laboratory was deployed at the site to test for poisonous substances.
Elizabeth Detmeister, deputy press attache at the embassy, said in a statement: "The embassy confirms that a suspicious envelope was received. Per embassy security procedures, the two employees who were exposed to it were evaluated by medical professionals and the envelope is being analyzed by a laboratory."
"Preliminary results indicate that the envelope was not harmful," she added.

She told that the two employees concerned worked in the mailroom at the embassy.
"They thought there was something suspicious [about the envelope], they reported it and our normal procedure is to have them treated or looked at by medical officials just in case," Detmeister said.
She said she was not aware of what caused the workers to be suspicious but added there was "no powder."

Embassy spokesman Paul Patin added: "We have no indication that anyone is in danger or hurt."
Reuters, The Associated Press and NBC contributed to this repor

Thursday, July 29, 2010

C-17 crash in Alaska claims 4

CNN) -- All four airmen on board an Air Force C-17 were killed when the cargo plane crashed during a training mission near Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska on Wednesday, the Air Force reported Thursday. The names were being withheld, pending notification of next of kin.
The aircraft, assigned to the 3rd Wing at the base, crashed about 6:14 p.m. local time, Air Force Capt. Uriah Orland said.

In a statement Thursday, 3rd Wing commander Col. John McMullen said, "Our deepest sympathy and sincerest condolences go out to the family and friends of those airmen killed in this crash. Yesterday, we lost four members of our Arctic Warrior family and it's a loss felt across our entire joint installation. Right now, our immediate focus is on providing all possible support to the loved ones of our fallen aviators. We are also engaged in a deliberate investigative process."
Gov. Sean Parnell issued a statement expressing his sympathy for the crash victims.
"Alaskans are very connected to the military and our thoughts and prayers are with Alaska's Air Force family," Parnell said.

A board of officers will investigate the accident, Orland said.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Predator MQ-1B crashes at Cannon AFB , New Mexico

An unmanned plane crashed through a perimeter fence at Cannon Air Force Base Wednesday morning before coming to rest in a nearby cornfield.

There were no injuries, according to a statement from Cannon.

Cannon officials said the plane was an MQ-1 B Predator assigned to Cannon’s 3rd Special Operations Squadron.

The Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) reportedly taxied off the base runway, crashing before it got airborne.

The aircraft was carrying practice munitions that posed no threat, Cannon stated in a press release.

The crash occurred off of N.M. 467 just east of Cannon’s south perimeter gate, also known as the Portales Gate.

Curry County Undersheriff Wesley Waller said deputies were called to assist Cannon personnel around 8:30 a.m. but left shortly because base personnel had the situation under control.

Joe Black said he was contacted by sheriff’s deputies just after 8:30 a.m. and went out to the crash site. Black manages the farm for owner Art Schaap.

Black said there were base emergency response vehicles on scene and hazardous materials personnel in protective clothing cleaning the area.

“It looked like they had it pretty well under control,” Black said.

He said he didn’t see any fluid leaks and there was no significant damage to crops or nearby irrigation equipment.

“It was approximately 20 to 30 feet from our pivot system ... (the damage) was just their fence and probably a little bit of road work that will have to be done,” he said. “But it was okay, everything’s going to be okay.”

Black said in eight years working on the farmland near the base, “we see a lot of planes every day go over,” but he has never seen an aircraft crash in the area before.
Cannon personnel are continuing to recover debris.

Cannon Spokesman Elliott Sprehe said the cause of the crash is unknown and more information will be released as it becomes available.

Suspect named in WikiLeaks scandal

Washington (CNN) -- The Pentagon is focusing on jailed Army Pfc. Bradley Manning as the main suspect in the leak of tens of thousands of secret U.S. military documents related to the war in Afghanistan, a senior Pentagon official told CNN Wednesday.

Manning, 22, is believed to have accessed a worldwide military classified internet and e-mail system to download tens of thousands of documents, according to the official, who did not want to be identified because of the ongoing criminal investigation of the soldier.

The FBI is assisting in the investigation as well, its director, Robert Mueller, said Wednesday.
"We're currently supporting the (Defense Department) investigation into that leak, and to the extent that DOD needs our assistance or we can be of help we are providing that support at this juncture," Mueller told the Senate Judiciary Committee. "I can't say as to where that particular investigation will lead."

The Pentagon official said investigators now believe Manning logged into a system called the Secret Internet Protocol Router Network, which essentially provides military members who have appropriate security clearances access to classified e-mails and the military's classified internet system. But the official emphasized passwords and other control measures such as physical access are needed to log onto specific systems that provide information classified at the highest levels.

Pentagon officials have said for the past several days that so far the only material they have seen on the website is classified at the "secret" level, a relatively low-level designation that allows for a large number of military personnel to access the information.
Video: Pentagon has 'main suspect' in leak

The senior Pentagon official told CNN that for now, Defense Secretary Robert Gates is relying on the Army criminal investigation into Manning and the leaks to determine how it happened and what might need to be done to prevent future cases.
"The secretary is determined to get to the bottom of this," the official said.

The editor-in-chief of WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, has refused to say where his whistle-blower website got about 91,000 United States documents about the war. Some 76,000 of them were posted on the site Sunday in what has been called the biggest leak since the Pentagon Papers about the Vietnam War.

Pentagon officials have not found anything top-secret among the documents, a Defense Department spokesman said.

"From what we have seen so far, the documents are at the 'secret' level," Col. David Lapan said Tuesday. That's not a very high level of classification.

Lapan emphasized that the Pentagon has not looked at all of the papers published on WikiLeaks.
President Barack Obama said Tuesday that he is "concerned about the disclosure of sensitive information" about the U.S. mission in Afghanistan but asserted that the documents don't shed much new light on the war.

Manning was charged in June with eight violations of the U.S. Criminal Code for allegedly illegally transferring classified data, reportedly including an earlier video that wound up on The private had top-secret clearance as an intelligence analyst for the Army when he was stationed in Iraq.


Saturday, July 17, 2010

Cuban spies sentenced

Washington (CNN) -- A former State Department analyst was sentenced to life in prison Friday for spying for Cuba for almost 30 years.
His wife and partner in spying received a sentence of six years and nine months, but will get credit for more than a year already served.

Kendall Myers, 73, pleaded guilty last November to conspiracy to commit espionage and wire fraud. His wife, Gwendolyn Steingraber Myers, 72, admitted to one count of conspiracy to gather and transmit national defense information.
Kendall Myers' life sentence does not include the possibility of parole.
In a prepared statement, Myers said he and his wife never wanted to harm Americans."

We wish to add at this time that we acted as we did for 30 years because of our ideals and beliefs," he said. "We did not seek nor receive payment for our work. We did not act out of anger at the United States or from a feeling of anti-Americanism. Nor did we ever intend to hurt any individual Americans. Our overriding objective was to help the Cuban people defend their revolution. We also hoped to forestall conflict between the two countries."

"We share the dreams and ideals of the Cuban revolution," he added. "We are equally committed to helping the struggling people of the world, whether they are here at home or abroad."
As part of their sentences, the couple also agreed to pay the government more than $1.7 million, a figure matching Kendall Myers' estimated salary over the years while working for the U.S. government and secretly spying for Cuba.
The two were arrested in June 2009 after meeting several times with an undercover FBI agent to whom they admitted their activities on behalf of Cuba. Those meetings were captured on video and audio tape.

Court documents painted an intriguing picture of a couple motivated by admiration for Fidel Castro and the Cuban revolution. They used code names. Kendall Myers was known as Agent 202. Gwendolyn Myers used the names Agent 123 and Agent E-634.
They used a shortwave radio to communicate from their District of Columbia home with their Cuban handlers. The couple also admitted they met Cuban agents on overseas trips to various places, including Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Mexico, Brazil, Ecuador and Argentina.
Kendall Myers worked at the State Department's Foreign Service Institute and later at the department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research. He received a "top secret" security clearance in 1985.

According to court documents, Myers told the undercover FBI agent he usually took information from the State Department by memorizing it or taking notes, and upon occasion he actually took classified documents home. Gwendolyn Myers said she would process the information to be delivered to their Cuban intelligence handlers.

At the request of the defense, U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton agreed to recommend the Myerses serve their time in facilities near one another to make it easier for family members to visit them. The Bureau of Prisons will make the ultimate decision on that.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

UFO over China - secret aircraft?

A photo taken by a resident in Hangzhou shows an unidentified flying object hovering over Hangzhou, capital of East China's Zhejiang province, late Wednesday, July 7, 2010. (Photo: Metro Express)


An unidentified flying object (UFO) forced Xiaoshan Airport in Hangzhou, China to cease operations on July 7. A flight crew preparing for descent first detected the object around 8:40 p.m. and notified

A UFO in China's skies forced Xiaoshan Airport to cease operations for one hour.

Eighteen flights were affected. Though normal operations resumed an hour later, the incident captured the attention of the Chinese media and sparked a firestorm of speculation on the UFO's identity.

UPDATE: Aviation experts are expected to complete late Friday their investigation into an unidentified flying object that disrupted air traffic over east China for an hour on Wednesday.

An investigation team, comprising police and aviation officials, are still trying to identify the UFO that was located over Zhejiang Province.

"No conclusion has yet been drawn," said Wang Jian, head of air traffic control with Zhejiang branch of the Civil Aviation Administration of China, told Xinhua Friday.

Media have reported speculation that the UFO might have been a private aircraft, based on the increasing number of privately-owned aircraft in the province.

But an industry insider who declined to be named Friday ruled out the speculation as "too unprofessional" without giving further explanation.

Wang Jian said the private plane was "just a guess."

Xiaoshan Airport in the provincial capital of Hangzhou was closed after a UFO was detected at around 9 p.m. Wednesday, and some flights were rerouted to airports in Ningbo and Wuxi cities.

C-5 at Sunrise ...

Discovered this amazing looking well-worn C-5 Galaxy that flew into Amarillo some time during the wee-hours last night. I think it was here to pick up (or deliver) V-22 Osprey fuselage (or parts) to the Bell/Boeing plant here in Amarillo.

I hope you like this shot - because I literally went through hell to get it. I was attacked my a squadron of blood-sucking mosquitos (lying in wait in the open airport field) that ambushed my bare legs.

I think I lost a pint or two trying to get this shot just right!


(C) Steve Douglass

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Tali- bananas?

Taliban terrorists have a secret weapon to destroy the infidel American enemy — monkey marksmen.
According to The People’s Daily in China, the Taliban in Afghanistan is “training monkeys to use weapons to attack American troops.

The newspaper’s bizarre story says the Islamic insurgents have drafted macaques and baboons to be all that they can be, arming them with AK-47 rifles, machine guns and trench mortars in the Waziristan tribal region near the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

The monkeys, being rewarded with bananas and peanuts, are being turned into snipers at a secret Taliban training base.

The newspaper says “photos have been widely spread by media agencies and Web sites across the world.”

One of those sites is the Pakistan Defense Forum, which has pictures of gun-toting monkeys, and makes the wild claim that a monkey-soldier program was first launched by the CIA in Vietnam.
“Today, the Taliban forces have given the American troops some of their own medicine,” The People’s Daily said.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Have you flown a FORD lately?

US aerospace mammoth Boeing yesterday rolled out its "Phantom Eye" unmanned strato-plane, able to cruise high above the airlanes for up to four days - powered by two ordinary Ford car engines running on hydrogen.

"The program is moving quickly, and it’s exciting to be part of such a unique aircraft," said Drew Mallow, Phantom Eye program manager, in a statement issued yesterday. "The hydrogen propulsion system will be the key to Phantom Eye's success. It is very efficient and offers great fuel economy, and its only byproduct is water, so it's also a 'green' aircraft."

To be specific, the Phantom Eye uses 2.3 litre four-cylinder engines of a type normally found in some models of petrol-burning Ford Fusion, turbocharged and tweaked so as to run on hydrogen at 65,000 feet.

Four days would suggest pretty good fuel economy, right enough. However "green" is a bit of a stretch as hydrogen at the moment is normally made by reforming natural gas. This releases copious amounts of carbon into the atmosphere - usually more than one would generate by running an ordinary fossil-fuelled car engine - so it is hardly green*.

One might also quibble with the "moving quickly" description of Phantom Eye. True, Boeing announced that it would start work on the Eye only in March, which would suggest impressive speed by the Phantom Works engineers.

In fact, however, the company has been touting Ford-powered high altitude drones for several years now. Indeed, back in 2007 it managed to get some military development cash for the previous "Orion" single-engined version, which could also stay up for four days. At that time, Boeing considered that a twin-engined job along Phantom Eye lines would be good for 10 days, not four - though the firm seems to have walked back on that somewhat.

Phantom Eye, then, hasn't appeared with lightning swiftness: though one might excuse the Phantom Works engineers for that. The event which actually got the ball rolling again on the Phantom Eye was Boeing's decision to provide development cash itself, having failed to get any from government customers. Lately, companies such as General Atomics have won a lot of government UAV business by offering finished products rather than insisting on taxpayers furnishing development money up front.

The next move for Phantom Eye is shipment to NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards Air Force Base in California. It's expected to make its first flight next year.

Hearts & Minds - turn against Taliban?

Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Villagers in eastern Afghanistan repelled an insurgent attack Tuesday, an incident that left an Afghan civilian and "numerous" Taliban dead, the NATO-led command said.
The incident took place in Ghazni province, where Taliban fighters tried to attack the village of Aalai Shahea. After unsuccessful attempts to overpower the village, they were "met with effective resistance" by its residents and quickly left the scene, NATO's International Security Assistance Force said in a statement.

The event is one in a series of examples of villagers withstanding and repelling insurgent attacks, including the successful defense of a village in the Gizab district in southeast Afghanistan in April that resulted in several insurgent deaths and four arrests, the statement said.

The insurgents traveled from neighboring Uruzgan province to conduct Tuesday's attack on the village, which is largely populated by Afghan security forces and their families, ISAF said.
"Attacking local people in their houses and villages demonstrates how desperate the Taliban have become in their failing operations to terrorize the Afghan people, and today the villagers fought back and won," said Maj. Paul Oliver, a military spokesman.


Captured these two new helicopters (Cobra AH1Z and UH-1Y) coming in after a test flight today (here in Amarillo) to the Bell/Textron plant.


-Steve Douglass

Meet Taranis!

Looming ominously like a space ship from Star Wars, this is the future of unmanned flight.

Defence firm BAE Systems today officially unveiled its first ever high-tech unmanned stealth jet.

The Taranis, named after the Celtic god of thunder, is about the same size as a Hawk jet and is equipped with stealth equipment and an 'autonomous' artificial intelligence system.

The plane will test the possibility of developing the first ever autonomous stealthy Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV) that would ultimately be capable of precisely striking targets at long range, even in another continent.

Taranis, the prototype of an unmanned combat aircraft of the future, which was unveiled today

The trial aircraft cost £143 million pounds to construct and spearheads BAE's drive to convince the Ministry of Defence to invest in the next generation of unmanned aircraft.

Almost invisible to ground radar, it is designed to travel at high jet speeds and cover massive distances between continents.

The plane is built to carry out intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance on enemy territory using onboard sensors.

And it has been designed to carry a cache of weapons - including bombs and missiles -, giving it a potential long-range strike capability.

It can be controlled from anywhere in the world with satellite communications.

Experts say the cutting-edge design is at the forefront of world technology and as advanced as any US development.

The plane began development in December 2006, and is intended to prove the UK's ability to produce a stealthy UAV.

Taranis will be stealthy, fast, able to carry out use a number of on-board weapons systems and be able to defend itself against manned and other unmanned enemy aircraft.

The concept demonstrator will test the possibility of developing the first ever autonomous stealthy Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV) that would ultimately be capable of precisely striking targets at long range, even in another continent

Any future need hinges on the outcome of the Strategic Defence and Security Review, which will conclude around October.

Speaking at the unveiling ceremony at BAE Systems in Warton, Lancashire, Minister for International Security Strategy Gerald Howarth said: 'Taranis is a truly trailblazing project.

'The first of its kind in the UK, it reflects the best of our nation’s advanced design and technology skills and is a leading programme on the global stage.'

He added: 'Taranis shows the UK's advanced engineering, research, technology and innovation sector at its world-beating best.'

Taranis is an informal partnership of the UK MoD and industry British engineering firms including BAE Systems, Rolls Royce, QinetiQ and GE Aviation.

Rolls-Royce will focus on the next generation propulsion system for the Taranis demonstrator.

Speaking on behalf of the industry team, Nigel Whitehead, Group managing director of BAE Systems' Programmes & Support business, said: 'Taranis has been three and a half years in the making and is the product of more than a million man-hours.

'It represents a significant step forward in this country's fast-jet capability. This technology is key to sustaining a strong industrial base and to maintain the UK's leading position as a centre for engineering excellence and innovation."

The Taranis prototype will provide the MOD with knowledge on the technical and manufacturing challenges and the potential capabilities of Unmanned Combat Air Systems.

Test flights for the Taranis plane are due to start in 2011.

Defective Defector Wants To Go Back to Iran

Editors note: Mr Amir thinks he'll be greeted with open arms by the Iranian government if he returns to Iran. Most likely he will be - but one of them will be holding an axe. It's a fact he revealed the existence of several secret Iranian nuclear facilities.

A missing Iranian nuclear scientist, who Tehran says was kidnapped a year ago by the CIA, has taken refuge in the Iran section of Pakistan's US embassy.

A spokesman from Pakistan's Foreign Office, Abdul Basit, told the BBC that Shahram Amiri was seeking immediate repatriation to Iran.

In June videos purportedly of Mr Amiri but containing contradictory information on his whereabouts emerged.

The US rejected Tehran's claims that it was behind Mr Amiri's disappearance.

Iranian media say Mr Amiri worked as a researcher at a university in Tehran, but some reports say he worked for the country's atomic energy organisation and had in-depth knowledge of its controversial nuclear programme.

Two videos supposedly showing Shahram Amiri emerged on 8 June
ABC News reported in March that he had defected and was helping the CIA, revealing valuable information about the Iranian nuclear programme.

But earlier this month, Tehran said it had proof he was being held in the US.

The allegation came after three videos purportedly of Mr Amiri emerged - the first said he had been kidnapped, the second that he was living freely in Arizona, and the third that he had escaped from his captors.

Diplomatic standoff

The BBC's former correspondent in Tehran, Jon Leyne, says that Iran's version of the story seems to be backed up by events unfolding in Washington DC.

Our correspondent says Mr Amiri's sudden appearance is a major embarrassment for the American spy agencies and could lead to a diplomatic stand-off.

There are two diametrically opposed versions of the Shahram Amiri story. Iran says he was kidnapped. American sources said that he defected and was spilling the beans on the Iranian nuclear programme.

On the face of it, the Iranian version now sounds a lot more credible. However those inclined to give the US the benefit of the doubt will point out that it is still conceivable that Mr Amiri was persuaded, blackmailed, or even conceivably kidnapped by the Iranians themselves back into their hands.

Either way this is a big embarrassment for the American spy agencies, who have let slip a man they had been building up as a major catch.

Profile: Shahram Amiri
According to Mr Basit in Pakistan, the head of Iran's interest section, Dr Mostafa Rahmani, is planning to repatriate the scientist back to his country.

But while US authorities cannot enter Iran's diplomatic premises, they could prevent Mr Amiri leaving.

The Iran interest section is part of Pakistan's embassy in Washington, but run by Iranians. The US cut diplomatic relations with Iran shortly after the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Iranian state radio has reported that Mr Amiri said in a telephone interview from inside the embassy that the US government had wanted to quietly return him to Iran using another country's airline and in doing so "cover up this abduction".

"After my comments were released on the internet, the Americans realised that they were the losers of this game," he was quoted as having said.

Mr Amiri went missing a year ago while on pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia.

The first two videos, telling starkly contradictory stories, were posted on the video-sharing site YouTube on 8 June.

In the first, initially broadcast by Iranian television, a man purporting to be Mr Amiri says he was kidnapped by the US while on pilgrimage in the Saudi Arabian city of Medina and that he is now living in the US state of Arizona.

At the time the Iranian government described the video as evidence that he was being held in the US against his will.

In the second, posted hours later on YouTube, a similar-looking man claiming to be the scientist says he is happy in the US, living in freedom and safety.

Plea for help

In the third video, which was broadcast by Iranian state TV on 29 June, a man claiming to be the missing scientist says: "I, Shahram Amiri, am a national of the Islamic Republic of Iran and a few minutes ago I succeeded in escaping US security agents in Virginia.

In the most recent video the man claims to have escaped US custody
"Presently, I am producing this video in a safe place. I could be rearrested at any time."

The man in the video also dismisses the second recording, in which it was claimed that the scientist was living freely in the US, as "a complete fabrication".

"I am not free here and I am not permitted to contact my family. If something happens and I do not return home alive, the US government will be responsible."

The video finishes with the man urging Iranian officials and human rights organisations to "put pressure on the US government for my release and return".

"I was not prepared to betray my country under any kind of threats or bribery by the US government," he adds.

Friday, July 9, 2010

NSA's "Perfect Citizen" program fuels privacy debate.

From DailyTech

It's little secret that the U.S. cybersecurity could use some help. Recent studies have shown the nation's power grid and armed forces to be highly vulnerable to a cyberattack from an internet savvy nation like China or Russia. Under President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama slow steps have been made to improve that state of affairs.

But now there's a growing debate over one of the most ambitious cybersecurity initiatives yet, a program developed by the National Security Agency called "Perfect Citizen". The program is designed to detect, neutralize, and counter cyberattacks on critical parts of the U.S. private sector -- such as defense contractors, power plants, and major internet firms like Google. Its critics, though, contend that it is government meddling and playing "Big Brother".

Raytheon Corp. has reportedly been selected to spearhead the initiative, receiving a $100M USD initial phase surveillance contract.

Internally, there's been discord over the government's plans to peer inside private networks. States a Raytheon email leaked to The Wall Street Journal, "The overall purpose of the [program] is our Government...feel[s] that they need to insure the Public Sector is doing all they can to secure Infrastructure critical to our National Security. Perfect Citizen is Big Brother."

While the NSA had no official comment, unnamed U.S. officials took issue with the claim that they were playing "Big Brother". They said the program was vital to protecting the nation and no more intrusive to privacy than traffic cams over intersections.

At the core of the issue is the fact that many "mission critical" systems which drive subway systems, air-traffic control networks, and more are composed of aging machines which were built at a time when security was less understood and considered. The NSA believes that China and Russian may have gained deep access and exploration into these networks, but it needs to watch them in order to determine the full extent of the penetration.

One of the U.S. government's critical roles is to provide for the defense of the nation. Under the U.S. constitution the government has the power to "raise and support armies," "provide and maintain a navy," and to "make rules for the government and regulation of the land and naval forces".

Initially, the government began to interface with the private sector -- such as power utilities -- to solve physical problems; for example sealing a manhole cover to a power line going to a critical government center. However, those efforts quickly expanded to the digital realm.

"Perfect Citizen" sprung from an earlier surveillance project called "April Strawberry". The new project is still in its early stages, but NSA officials have reportedly met with utility executives and politely asked them to cooperate with the surveillance. Participation is reportedly voluntary, but those who comply will earn incentives, such as additional government contracts.

Ultimately it may be too early to judge the merits of "Perfect Citizen", but as the program is fleshed out, it seems likely to provoke a lively debate about the government, privacy, and intervention in the private sector.

Today's excerpt from "The Interceptors Club & the Secret of the Black Manta.

A loud cracking sound as Excalibur broke the sound barrier forced Freaks to look up.

High above he caught site of the aircraft, spiraling out of control and headed straight down.

“Come on buddy. You can do it!” Freaks caught himself saying out loud.

As the Manta spiraled in, condensation contrails formed on the wingtips trailing out white mist behind it marking the Manta’s path through the sky like a big exclamation point, pointing down at the desert floor.

“Come on- now!” Freaks said watching the aircraft diving lower and lower.

Caysi couldn’t watch, preferring to stare at the noise on the video screens than watch Stanley die.

Gavin, Harley and Sami had left the Remote Humvee, stepped outside and stood gazing into the air at the Manta now tumbling down out of control.

“Any time now Static.” Gavin yelled.

“I can’t look.” Sami said turning away.

It was clear to everyone if something didn’t happen in the next few seconds, it never would.


Northrop's Spy Blimp ...

July 8, 2010

By Graham Warwick
AVWK Washington

Airships are survivors—a genus of aircraft that has been around since the dawn of aviation and is now being offered another chance at lasting success. This time the mission is persistent surveillance, but can undisputed endurance carve out a role for unmanned airships that lasts beyond today’s war?

As it embarks on a $517-million contract to develop the Long-Endurance Multi-intelligence Vehicle (LEMV) for deployment by the U.S. Army to Afghanistan in early 2012, Northrop Grumman believes the unmanned airship can find long-term roles in border security and disaster relief, as a communications and surveillance platform. “There is a lot of emphasis on today’s war, but tomorrow the airship can provide inexpensive surveillance,” says Alan Metzger, Northrop Grumman LEMV program director.

The vehicle will use 15,000-20,000 lb. of fuel to stay aloft for 3-4 weeks in the surveillance role. “That’s only $20,000-25,000,” he says. The Army calculates it would take 12 MQ-9 Reaper-class fixed-wing unmanned aircraft and their crews to sustain the same mission.

The LEMV’s role is to maintain continuous surveillance over a wide area, providing correlated video, radar and signals intelligence data to the brigade combat team on the ground. Stripped of its sensors and long-endurance fuel tanks, the same vehicle could lift 20 tons of cargo with minimal modification, says Metzger, adding: “Airships are not for everything, but there are opportunities they are suited for. It will come down to economics.”


Let's make a deal ... Spies traded!

Moscow, Russia (CNN) -- A spy swap between the United States and Russia took place Friday at the airport in Vienna, Austria, Russian state media reported.
A plane carrying 10 Russian agents, who were expelled from the United States for intelligence gathering, took off from Vienna, apparently bound for Moscow, Russia, state TV reported.

A separate plane carrying four people convicted of spying for the United States took off from Vienna, too, bound for a destination in the West, according to Russia Today, the state television station.
The elaborately choreographed transfer -- reminiscent of a scene from the Cold War -- took about an hour, Russian state media reported.

The 10 pleaded guilty in the United States on Thursday for failing to register as foreign agents and were ordered out of the country. They then boarded a U.S.-chartered flight accompanied by U.S. Marshals, a federal law enforcement source said.
Video: Spy swap between U.S., Russia Video: Russian spies: Deal or no deal? Video: Accused spy responds to photos

Their expulsion was in exchange for Russia's release of the four prisoners, officials from both countries said Thursday.
In Washington, Attorney General Eric Holder said none of the 10 had passed classified information and therefore none was charged with espionage.

"They were acting as agents to a foreign power," he told CBS News, referring to the Russians who, U.S. officials have said, had been under observation by federal authorities for more than a decade.
All of their children have been repatriated, he said. Attorneys for some of the Russians involved in the case said no children were aboard the Vienna-bound flight.

White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel told PBS' "NewsHour" that although the 10 didn't plead guilty to being spies, they "were clearly caught in the business of spying."
In a conference call with reporters, senior administration officials said the agents agreed never to return to the United States without permission from the U.S. government.
Holding them would have conferred no security benefit to the nation, they said.
This "clearly serves the interests of the United States," one official said.

A second official said the four prisoners in Russia were in failing health, a consideration that prompted quick completion of the deal.
Under the plea agreements, the defendants disclosed their true identities in court and forfeited assets attributable to the criminal offenses, the Justice Department said in a news release.
"Defendants Vicky Pelaez, Anna Chapman and Mikhail Semenko, who operated in the United States under their true names, admitted that they are agents of the Russian Federation; and Chapman and Semenko admitted they are Russian citizens," the Justice Department said.

Carlos Moreno, an attorney for Pelaez, said his client does not want to take up residence in Russia and would prefer ultimately to live in her native Peru or in Brazil where she has family. Pelaez hopes to continue her work as a journalist, according to Moreno.
Pelaez told the court that Moscow has promised her free housing in Russia and a $2,000 monthly stipend for life, as well as visas for her children to travel to see her. Pelaez and her husband, both naturalized American citizens, were stripped of their citizenship as a part of the plea deal.

Authorities have lost track of an 11th suspect, who was detained in Cyprus, released on bail, and then failed to check in with authorities as he had promised to do.
In Moscow, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed a decree Friday pardoning the four individuals imprisoned for alleged contact with Western intelligence agencies, the Kremlin press service said, according to state-run RIA Novosti.

Though the four Russians were released to the custody of the United States, that does not necessarily mean they would go to America, an embassy spokesman said.

"Three of the Russian prisoners were convicted of treason in the form of espionage on behalf of a foreign power and are serving lengthy prison terms," the Justice Department said in a letter to U.S. District Judge Kimba M. Wood. "The Russian prisoners have all served a number of years in prison and some are in poor health. The Russian government has agreed to release the Russian prisoners and their family members for resettlement."

It added, "Some of the Russian prisoners worked for the Russian military, and/or for various Russian intelligence agencies. Three of the Russian prisoners have been accused by Russia of contacting Western intelligence agencies while they were working for the Russian (or Soviet) government."

The individuals pardoned by Russia are Alexander Zaporozhsky, Gennady Vasilenko, Sergei Skripal and Igor Sutyagin.

All four appealed to the Russian president to free them after admitting their crimes against the Russian state, press secretary Natalia Timakova said.

But in Washington, State Department spokesman Mark Toner denied Thursday that Sutyagin had been a spy.

The Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said the move was made "in the general context of improving Russian-American relations, and the new dynamic they have been given, in the spirit of basic agreements at the highest level between Moscow and Washington on the strategic character of Russian-American partnership."

Thursday, July 8, 2010

New head of CENTCOM announced!

Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis has been chosen as the new head of the U.S. Central Command, Defense Secretary Robert Gates announced Thursday. Mattis replaces Gen. David Petraeus, who was recently tapped by President Barack Obama to head the military campaign in Afghanistan.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

How to build a $5,000 dollar UHF SATCOM antenna for under $20 Part 3

DIY: Military UHF SATCOM antenna
By Steve Douglass

By now you might be wondering when I’m going to finally write about the nuts & bolts of building my DIY UHF SATCOM antenna.

I mean – isn’t that why you tuned in?

To recap, I wrote (and you patiently read) about my motivation and my rant about the high cost of new and surplus antennas, not to mention a little about the cool Uniden receiver(s) (Uniden BCD-998T/BCD-396XT) I intend to use(said) antenna with.

So without further delay –

I once reasoned that if I ever came across one of the Dorne & Margolin antennas again – if I could just take some photos and (maybe) some measurements I might be able to reverse-engineer one and possibly build my own version.

Heck, I had (on many occasions) built home-brew UHF Yagi beams and in fact sold quite a few in the past, offering them for sale on my now (long defunct) Intercepts Newsletter – with many of them still in use today.

All it would take (I figured) was some educated-best guess-photogrammetric analysis (with something in the image to indicate scale) and I could probably Yankee-engineer a decent-working-prototype with the final goal selling (either antennas or the plans to build their own) to like-minded UHF MILCOM aficionados like myself.

As fate would have it, at an open house (air show) at Cannon Air Force Base I finally (after quite a few years wait) was able to inspect (up close) and take a few photos of another D&M antenna.

It was part of a military PR –display – connected to a DAMA portable (man-pack) UHF SATCOM transceiver. I again pumped the airman (in charge of the display) for information about the system and took a few close-up photos. I couldn’t help but notice his raised eyebrows at my more-than-passing curiosity and intense interest in his radio rig he but didn’t say anything.

I try to reassure him by saying I was a communications-technology-enthusiast, which (from his reply) he took to mean ham-radio-operator. He tells me (in civilian life) he is a ham.

My reply apparently put him at ease as he proceeded to fill me in on more technical details about the DAMA system, even going so far as to show me how to find the elevation and azimuth of the military satellite his rig was communicating through.

Later (as I examined my photos) I came to the (false) realization that the antenna must be a simple X-beam design. I guessed (incorrectly) they weren’t much more complicated than the Yagi’s I had constructed.

The driven elements looked much like two folded dipoles, attached to a short boom (six feet) situated behind a series of x-shaped directors with a wire-mesh reflector at the back. How hard could that be to replicate?

Using the photos as my guide, I experimented and over the years I built many antennas. Although they all worked (as good UHF MILAIR antennas) I was never able to monitor the UHF satellites with any real success. The most I could ever manage were choppy or weak, static filled brief intercepts. My assumption was I just didn’t have the element measurements figured out right.

Then one day while doing some research on the Internet I stumbled across this:

Marlborough Communications Limited is a British Company that builds military-communication gear under various government contracts, for both her Majesty’s special armed services as well for us Yanks.

Like other companies of this type, seeking lucrative government bid-approval, specifications of all their products are (SOP) posted online in downloadable Adobe Acrobat .pdf form.

However, standing out clearly among the usual obtuse list of equipment specifications, frequency ranges and MilSpec nomenclature was something I had never seen - a simplified three-view drawing of their manpack foldable UHF SATCOM antenna known as the AV2040-2 – complete with metric dimensions.


Dimensions! Was this the missing data I needed? I quickly downloaded the .pdf and printed it out.

I then took it to my computer guru, Wilhelm Scream (not his real name) since he is to math what Lance Armstrong is to cycling.

He took a long look at the three-view and the dimensions posted, produced a set of digital calipers and placed them on the drawing.

After a few minutes of caliper(ing) calculating and re-calculating, Scream said, “This drawing is to scale. Within a small degree of error – we could upscale it and use them as blueprints to build your antenna. “

Over the next few minutes, Scream produced the measurements that had eluded me for so long. A slow grin spread across my face when I realized that it was very possible to build a working UHF SATCOM antenna, an esoteric passion to be sure, but one that had been floating around in the back of my consciousness for a very long time.

After several brain- sessions with Scream, we drafted up a laundry list of parts we would need, which included: several sections of various-sized PVC piping, aluminum rods of various length, copper wire, RF connectors, RG-6 coax feed-line and flat aluminum bar-stock for construction of the driven elements.

Most of the tools we would need to cut, drill and shape our parts, Scream already had – which included electric saws, a Dremel and a drill press.

Armed with our list we went to the only place that had everything an Interceptor could need to build a UHF SATCOM antenna system – Home Depot.

It took several trips – but soon we had everything we needed – and incredibly I paid something in the neighborhood of $20.00.

To be continued in PART 4.



You might also like: The Interceptors Club & the Secret of the Black Manta

Accused Russian spies due in court today ...

CNN) -- More information about an alleged Russian spy ring that was operating in the United States is expected to be revealed Wednesday at court hearings in Virginia and Massachusetts, court officials said.

Accused Russian spies Donald Howard Heathfield and Tracey Lee Ann Foley have a newly scheduled hearing in Boston federal court at 11 a.m., according to their attorney, Paul Krupp.
Three other suspects, Michael Zottoli, Patricia Mills and Mikhail Semenko, are scheduled to appear for a preliminary hearing Wednesday morning in an Alexandria, Virginia, federal court, the officials said.

Zottoli and Mills have already admitted that they are Russian citizens and have been living as a couple under false identities in Virginia. Prosecutors said that they made the admissions soon after being arrested and authorities have found evidence to support that information.
The other suspect, Semenko, is accused of aiding the plot by allegedly conducting private wireless computer links to communicate with a Russian government official, court documents said.

In all, 11 suspects were arrested in the alleged spy plot in late June.
Meanwhile, a human rights activist has raised the possibility that a Russian researcher convicted of spying for U.S. intelligence services could be exchanged for one of the spy suspects in the United States.

Ernst Chyorny, a member of the Public Committee in Defense of Scientists in Russia, told CNN on Wednesday that the mother of Igor Sutyagin, the convicted Russian spy, told him about the development.

Earlier on Wednesday, Russian news agencies also reported that Sutyagin may be swapped along with other individuals in exchange for the people suspected of spying for Russia and detained in the United States.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Another Most Wanted Taliban Commander Buys The Farm - awww!

CNN) -- The Pakistani army killed one of the most wanted Taliban commanders on Sunday in the country's tribal region, the military said Tuesday.

He is Ameer Ullah Mehsud, one of the founders of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP.
Mehsud, 45, was from the town of Makeen in South Waziristan, one of the seven districts of Pakistan's lawlessness tribal region bordering Afghanistan.

The military said Mehsud, wanted for a bounty of $234,000, was killed during an exchange of fire with soldiers near Miran Shah in North Waziristan. He was known as Mazloomyar, which means "friend of the oppressed."

Surveillance Blimp to watch over oil

New Orleans, Louisiana (CNN) -- A massive, silver-colored blimp is expected to arrive in the Gulf Coast Tuesday to aid in oil disaster response efforts.
The U.S. Navy airship will be used to detect oil, direct skimming ships and look for wildlife that may be threatened by oil, the Coast Guard said Monday.

The 178-foot-long blimp, known as the MZ-3A, can carry a crew of up to 10. It will fly slowly over the region to track where the oil is flowing and how it is coming ashore.
The Navy says the advantage of the blimp over current helicopter surveillance operations is that it can stay aloft longer, with lower fuel costs, and can survey a wider area.
The Coast Guard has already been pinpointing traveling pools of oil from the sky.

"The aircraft get on top of the oil. They can identify what type of oil it is and they can vector in the skimmer vessels right to the spot," Coast Guard Capt. Brian Kelley said.
But the problem since last Wednesday has been the ability to clean it up before it approaches land.

Rough seas have hampered cleanup efforts and tests by the boat -- called A Whale -- billed as the world's largest skimmer.
Tests of A Whale's ability so far are "inconclusive," meaning the massive converted oil tanker--which is 3.5 football fields long -- has yet to prove its Taiwanese owner's claim that it can skim between 15,000 and 50,000 barrels of oil off the sea in a day.

The Coast Guard said the testing period for the A Whale has been extended through Thursday.
So far, crude oil floating in the sea has not been concentrated enough for A Whale to skim effectively, according to oil company BP, even though it appears the ship has been surrounded by pools of oil just a few miles from the gusher.

"We've got oil coming up from over a mile below the surface. And it doesn't always come up in one spot. It's not always predictable. So, in fact, we need to locate the oil first, and then assign the ship to the areas of heaviest concentration," BP spokesman Hank Garcia said.

Bad weather has hindered cleanup efforts, he said.
"When you've got 6-foot, 8-foot seas, it's not going to lend itself to good capture of the oil."
According to the National Hurricane Center's 8 a.m. ET update Tuesday, two low-pressure weather systems over the Gulf of Mexico are persisting for another morning, but neither has more than a 30 percent chance of evolving into a tropical depression or more severe storm over the next 48 hours.

On Monday, authorities said tar balls linked to the crude gushing from BP's ruptured deepwater well had reached Louisiana's Lake Pontchartrain and hit the beaches near Galveston, Texas.

The Coast Guard reported over the weekend that a shift in weather patterns could send more oil toward sensitive shores in Mississippi and Louisiana, and bad weather over the past few days has significantly hampered cleanup efforts.

Anne Rheams, executive director of the Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation, said Monday that the pattern was expected to persist for at least three more days.
The National Hurricane Center said early Tuesday morning that a low-pressure area located near the Louisiana coast was producing a few showers and thunderstorms, but it was not likely to develop into a tropical cyclone in the next 48 hours.

Federal estimates say between 35,000 and 60,000 barrels (about 1.5 million to 2.5 million gallons) of oil have been gushing into the Gulf daily since April 22, when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig sank in the Gulf, two days after it exploded in flames.
The accident left 11 workers dead and uncorked an undersea gusher that BP has been unable to cap for 11 weeks.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Speed Agile Stealth Transport concept design discovered


Patent Lifts Veil on Boeing's Speed Agile
Posted by Graham Warwick at 7/2/2010 9:02 AM CDT

I am researching something on future airlifters and wanted artwork on the stealthy super-STOL tactical transport Boeing windtunnel tested under the US Air Force Research Laboratory's Speed Agile program. I asked Boeing if they had a releasable image. No, they said. I asked AFRL. No, said they. So there I was passing the time browsing the US Patent and Trademark Office website and what do I find but this:

Source: USPTO

The patent is here and it's Speed Agile, or close to it based on the one image of a 2008 windtunnel model that I do have, from a presentation by the Boeing program manager at an AIAA conference.

Photo: Boeing

Speed Agile involved low- and high-speed windtunnel tests of a stealthy airlifter concept that could take off in 1,500ft and cruise at Mach 0.8. Usually STOL aircraft aren't that fast. Boeing's design achieves this "speed agility" using a "propulsive wing" - engines embedded in the wing exhaust throught slots at the trailing edge to provide lift as well as thrust.


Source: USPTO

Speed Agile is part of studies into a potential C-130 replacement once called AMC-X, then the Advanced Joint Air Combat System (AJACS), but now morphed into the Air Force/Army Joint Future Heavy Lift. AFRL says Lockheed Martin is now building models of its design for low- and high-speed windtunnel testing. Lockheed has previously shown what could be their Speed Agile concept.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Missed it by that much! Cargo spacecraft keeps going ...

CNN) -- An unmanned cargo spacecraft failed to dock as scheduled Friday with the International Space Station, a NASA spokeswoman said.
The Progress cargo vessel, a resupply craft, was trying to dock with the space station when a technical problem occurred about 20 minutes before the scheduled docking time, said Lynette Madison, the spokeswoman.
The vessel flew about two miles past the space station.

"This is kind of a fluke event," she said. "We normally don't have any problems with Progress dockings. We dock those every few months. So this is an unusual event."

Six people aboard the space station -- three Americans and three Russians -- are not in danger, Madison said.

Engineers with the Russian Space Agency will try to dock the vehicle again, but they do not plan to try that on Friday, she said. They have "some" control of the vehicle, she said.

The craft launched Wednesday from the Baikonur Space Center in Kazakhstan, the state-run RIA-Novosti news agency of Russia said.

It planned to deliver "fuel, oxygen, scientific equipment and video and photo equipment" to the space station along with food, water and personal items for crew members, the news agency said.
Progress re-supply vehicles typically deliver supplies to the space station and haul away trash, burning up on re-entry.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Pakistan shrine attack may signal coming attack against American interests

Police are on high alert across Pakistan after a deadly suicide attack on a Sufi Islamic shrine in the eastern city of Lahore.

Security has been increased in Lahore and at Sufi shrines across the country, after 42 people died at the Data Darbar shrine on Thursday.

Protesters have demonstrated outside the shrine, in anger at what they say were lax security measures.

Wider demonstrations are expected for later in the day, after Friday prayers.

No group has yet said that it carried out the attack, but the finger of blame is being pointed at the Taliban.

The type of target, a Muslim shrine, is unusual. There are some elements among Islamist extremists, including the Taliban, who believe that worshipping at the shrines of saints is un-Islamic, and this is one theory why this shrine was attacked.

There was another sectarian attack just over a month ago in Lahore in which 80 people died, when two mosques used by Ahmadi Muslims were hit by militants.

This could be a battle within a battle that the militants are having with the Pakistani state.

The popular shrine holds the remains of a Persian Sufi saint, Abul Hassan Ali Hajvery.

It is visited by hundreds of thousands of people each year from both Sunni and Shia traditions of Islam.

The impact of the two blasts ripped open the courtyard of the shrine. Rescuers had to clamber over rubble as they carried out the victims.

The first attacker struck in the underground area where visitors sleep and prepare themselves for prayer, officials said.

As people fled, a second bomber detonated his explosives in the upstairs area.

The bombers are thought to have used devices packed with ball-bearings to maximise the impact of their attack.

A volunteer security guard at the shrine described scenes of devastation.

"It was a horrible scene," said Mohammed Nasir. "There were dead bodies all around with blood and people were crying."

The attack is the biggest on a Sufi shrine in Pakistan since militant attacks began in 2001.

No group has said it carried out the attack, but correspondents say the attacks continue a growing trend among militants to target members of other sects as well as minorities.

The attack may also feed the pervading anti-American sentiment, a sense that US interference in the region is indirectly to blame, says the BBC's Jill McGivering.

Lahore has been hit by a series of bomb attacks, including a suicide blast at anti-terrorist offices in March, when at least 13 people died.


28 May 2010 - 93 people killed in attacks on two Ahmadi mosques in Lahore
19 Apr 2010 - At least 23 die in suicide bombing at market in Peshawar
1 Jan 2010 - A bomb at a volleyball match kills about 100
28 Oct 2009 - At least 120 die in car bomb attack on packed market in Peshawar
15 Oct 2009 - About 40 die in a series of gun and bomb attacks
9 Oct 2009 - At least 50 die in Peshawar suicide blast
In May, more than 90 people were killed in a double attack on the minority Ahmadi sect in the city.

Earlier, security chiefs had been congratulating themselves after June was the first month in two years in which there had been no suicide bombings in Pakistan.

They said it was proof the militant networks had been disrupted.

Last year Pakistan launched a major military offensive against militant strongholds in South Waziristan.

In December the military said they had achieved victory, but subsequent reports have suggested the militants remain active in the region.

The Spy WHo Loved Me ..

London, England (CNN) -- The former husband of alleged Russian spy Anna Chapman said her personality changed after she started having "secretive meetings" with Russian friends a few years ago.

Alex Chapman told The Daily Telegraph newspaper he "hardly knew her anymore" after she became involved with shadowy contacts.
Anna Chapman also confided to her husband that her father, Vasily, had been a senior KGB agent.

The Chapmans met at a London rave or party in 2001, when Alex Chapman, then 21, saw her across the dance floor and told her she was "the most beautiful girl" he had ever seen. She was 19.
They married six months later.

Her "carefree" bohemian lifestyle soon changed, however, he told the paper, and she became obsessed with money and moving to America.

"It was like someone having a midlife crisis, but in their 20s," Chapman told the paper. "She would arrange to go out, but when I said I would join her, she told me not to bother because they would all be speaking Russian. She was adamant I wasn't to meet them."

Chapman said he had suspicions she was being "conditioned" by shadowy contacts by the time their marriage broke down in 2005.

"She had never been materialistic during the years we were together, but in 2005 and 2006, after she started having these meetings with people she referred to as 'Russian friends,' she was transformed into someone with access to a lot of money, boasting about all the influential people she was meeting."

There was such a "dramatic change" in her thoughts and behavior that "I felt I hardly knew her anymore," he said.

Chapman is one of 10 suspects arrested this week in the States as part of an alleged Russian spy ring. She was denied bail and has her next hearing July 27.
The suspects were "trained Russian intelligence operatives," a U.S. Justice Department spokesman said, and information from court documents alleged they were part of a mission to plant "deep-cover" agents in the United States.

The Justice Department said the suspects were supposed to recruit intelligence agents, but were not directly involved in obtaining U.S. secrets themselves. They were charged with acting as agents of a foreign government, and nine also were charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering.

The case resulted from a "multiyear investigation" conducted by the FBI, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Southern District of New York and the Justice Department's National Security Division, according to a Justice Department statement.
Chapman and another suspect, Mikhail Semenko, allegedly conducted the private wireless computer links to communicate with a Russian government official, one court document alleged. In one instance, Chapman was in a bookshop and the Russian government official drove by in a van to make the wireless connection, the document said.

Wednesday, a Security Service officer visited Alex Chapman at his current home in Bournemouth, England, to question him about his ex-wife, the Telegraph reported. The officer wanted to know whether Anna Chapman could have been recruited in London or even spied on Britain while she lived there, the paper said.

Alex Chapman met his former father-in-law for the first time during the couple's delayed honeymoon to Africa in 2002, he said."

Her dad was scary," he said. "He was very concerned about which direction my life was going, how I was going to earn my money. Anna told me he worked as a diplomat for the Russian government. It was only much later that she told me he had been a KGB agent."
The Chapmans remained close after their divorce in 2006, the Telegraph reported, and Alex

Chapman "watched with bemusement" as his former spouse achieved success in America.
"She had always said she didn't like America," Chapman told the paper. "She didn't like their accents and would always imitate them when American TV shows were on.
"In late 2006 she went back to Russia and said she was staying there for good, but then all of a sudden she wanted to go to America. She started seeing a very rich American guy who took her to the States, and when she came back, she said she loved it."
Anna Chapman told her ex-husband she was having trouble making her Internet real estate agency a success, he said, but the business suddenly flourished last year and she was employing 50 people.

"Clearly a lot of money had been pumped into the business from somewhere, but I couldn't work it out," he said.
Anna Chapman "seemed distant" when he last spoke to her four weeks ago, Alex Chapman told the paper.

"I thought I knew her, but she has taken this path I don't believe she consciously knew she was going down," he said. "I believe in my heart there has been some sort of influence on her, some sort of conditioning. Then, when push came to shove, she found herself in a situation she couldn't get out of."

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Anti-American messages adorn spy's pages

Reuters) - Patriotic, anti-American messages adorn the pages of two alleged Russian spies on Russia's answer to Facebook, a reminder of historic suspicions and resentments that have survived the end of the Cold War.

"Russia will never abandon you!" is the repeated message on the pages of Mikhail Semenko and Anna Chapman, arrested in the United States on suspicion of being part of a Russian spy ring. Over 100 people left similar messages of support on the Russian language social netowrking site on Wednesday.

"Hang on in there Misha (Mikhail)... Everyone knows this is an American witch-hunt," one surfer posted on Semenko's page, referring to U.S. Senator Joseph McCarthy's anti-Communist investigations at the height of the Cold War.

The U.S. arrests earlier this week of 10 alleged spies and tales of secret meetings, invisible ink and secret handovers, have been splashed over the front pages of U.S. media.

Russia has angrily rejected the allegations but later said ties between the Cold War foes would not be damaged.

Semenko's page says he is 27 and last visited on May 24. In his profile picture, the floppy-haired smiling Russian poses in front of the White House in Washington.

"Those yanks really know how to freak people out," another surfer wrote in one of many comments slamming Americans and protesting the innocence of those arrested.

People ranging from teenage boys to female pensioners posted the comments.

Chapman, who Russian media say is actually called Kushchenko, last visited the site on June 20. The 28-year-old's photo shows her casting a sideways glance, clad in a bright blue bustier and with flowing brown hair.

One of her many female supporters wrote: "Soon Anna will return home... Enormous respect is due to Anna. A book will be written about her and a film made."

The spy ring is accused of gathering information ranging from data on high-penetration nuclear warhead research programs to background on CIA applicants for the Russian government.

(Reporting by Amie Ferris-Rotman, additional reporting by Aleksandras Budrys; editing by Ralph Boulton)

Operation Moshtarak bags Taliban chief

(CNN) -- International and Afghan security forces wounded and captured a Taliban district chief and killed a "large number" of insurgents in a four-hour firefight, NATO's International Security Assistance Force said in a statement Thursday.
The battle took place in a compound outside a village in the Baghran district of Afghanistan's Helmand province after insurgents opened fire on security forces with rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns, ISAF said.

No security force members or civilians were killed or wounded in the fighting, but a "large number of insurgents" died, ISAF said, without providing specific numbers.
"Dozens of automatic weapons, RPG launchers and rounds, a machine gun, grenades, and ammunition were discovered along with 20 pounds of wet opium" after the fighting, the statement said.

"This joint force operation dealt another significant blow to the Taliban network," said Col. William Maxwell, ISAF Joint Command Combined Joint Operations Center director. "These joint efforts are key to further establishing peace in the region."

NATO-led forces have been waging an offensive against the Taliban in southern Afghanistan.
Dubbed Operation Moshtarak, the offensive was launched in February by an international coalition of 15,000 troops including Afghans, Americans, Britons, Canadians, Danes and Estonians.
The Taliban had set up a shadow government in Helmand province's Marjah region, long a bastion of pro-Taliban sentiment.
It is a key area in Afghanistan's heroin trade and full of the opium used to fund the insurgency.


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