Friday, September 28, 2012

Baumgartner set for world record breaking jump

Austrian daredevil, Felix Baumgartner, 43, aviation pioneer, B.A.S.E jumper and a world renowned extreme athlete is all set to break not only one but a number of world records. For this purpose he along with Red Bull Stratos team which whom he has been practicing for years to break the record of the highest altitude jump which was set 52 years ago. A special capsule has been prepared for this purpose.
It had been through a series of tests at an altitude chamber in Brooks City Base in San Antonio, Texas. This capsule that weighed 1.315 kgs was the one in which Baumgartner used to test jump from an altitude of 29,610 meters in July this year at a speed of 864 kmph. Now on October 8th, Baumgartner will attempt the world record once again wherein he will be breaking records for highest speed in freefall, highest jump, highest manned balloon flight and longest freefall.
The balloon itself is made of plastic, 1/10th the thickness of a Ziploc bag and is an 850.000 cubic meter helium balloon. Weather conditions permitting, Baumgartner will attempt this feat at Roswell, New Mexico where he will jump from an altitude of 36,576 meters. If successful this will be the world's highest ever skydive. The current record for the same feat stands at 31,333 meters and was set in 1960 by US Air Force Capt. Joe Kittinger who now serves as the adviser for Baumgartner's mission.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Marines speaking out on Camp Bastion attack.

New details have emerged of the large-scale response to a Taliban attack last week on Camp Bastion in Afghanistan's Helmand province.
The BBC has been given exclusive access to the US Marines and Royal Air Force gunners who were involved in the counter-attack.
The Taliban attackers who broke through Camp Bastion's perimeter chose the darkest night of the year to launch their assault.
They quickly made their way to the US Marine Harrier flight line.
They were dressed in American army uniforms but, instead of boots, they wore training shoes.
Their beards were another give-away, but the darkness meant that the coalition forces on the base only realised they were insurgents when they opened fire.
In quick succession, they fired rocket-propelled grenades at eight Harrier jump jets under canvas hangers, destroying six and damaging two.
Trained riflemen
Capt Kevin Smalley of Marine Attack Squadron 211 had just finished a combat mission when he heard the first explosion.
Every Marine, whether a mechanic or pilot, is a trained rifleman.He said: "I didn't get a good bead on how many enemy were out there because it was very smoky and there were a lot of flames and explosions as our rounds were cooking off. But I could see at least one enemy from my position, as I secured the area."
Squadron Commander Lt Col Chris Raible ran 150 metres across open ground under fire. He was carrying only his service pistol.
As he lay down, shooting at the insurgents, a rocket-propelled grenade exploded nearby, killing him.
Sgt Bradley Atwell was also killed by an RPG as he pushed forward with a counter-attack.
Capt Smalley said: "Lt Col Raible was one of the best Harrier pilots we have in the entire fleet... He wrote on many of the tactics and techniques that the Harrier uses."
Bastion is one of the biggest camps in Afghanistan - its perimeter is 37km in length.
It appears the Taliban got close to the perimeter through a network of dry river beds that run along the camp perimrter.

Although Bastion is in an area of desert, the surroundings are not uninhabited.

The Royal Air Force's 51 squadron, the base's quick response force, crossed the runway in two heavily-armed, Coyote open-topped vehicles.
A four-and-a-half hour long firefight then ensued.
Sgt Roy "Doc" Geddes was one of those leading the counter-attack.
"This is something we weren't expecting, the base is quite well defended," he said.
"Obviously they've found the weak point, and managed to exploit that and get on to the base, but once they were on they were dealt with effectively and quickly."
The airfield's four fire appliances made their way to the site (nearby fuel pits had also been set alight). They needed to be resupplied with water three times.
"The flames were about 100ft," said Sgt Simon Allsop, watch manager of the Red Watch in Camp Bastion's fire section.
"And there were more flames from the Harriers, there were large thuds going off, explosions going on, obviously from rocket attack. 
Attack helicopters were called in too - from Prince Harry's squadron. The Prince was not involved in the counter-attack: he was taken to a secure location on the base.
American helicopters killed the three remaining Taliban, who had hidden behind concrete blast walls. In total 14 were killed, and one was injured.
Their tactics bore all the hallmarks of the Haqqani network, a Taliban affiliate based in Pakistan.
At Bastion, military sources were not commenting, an investigation is underway.
The one surviving insurgent is believed to be undergoing treatment at Bastion's hospital.
Within hours of the attack, parts of the Bastion runway were operational again.
Two new Harriers arrived at the base earlier this week; four more will follow shortly.
The two that weren't destroyed by the Taliban will be returned to the US for extensive repairs.

More on this story at the BBC HERE

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Attack in Benghazi leaves CIA reeling

WASHINGTON — The attack in Benghazi, Libya, that killed Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans has dealt the Central Intelligence Agency a major setback in its intelligence-gathering efforts at a time of increasing instability in the North African nation.

Among the more than two dozen American personnel evacuated from the city after the assault on the American mission and a nearby annex were about a dozen C.I.A. operatives and contractors, who played a crucial role in conducting surveillance and collecting information on an array of armed militant groups in and around the city.
“It’s a catastrophic intelligence loss,” said one American official who has served in Libya and who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the F.B.I. is still investigating the attack. “We got our eyes poked out.”
The C.I.A.’s surveillance targets in Benghazi and eastern Libya include Ansar al-Sharia, a militia that some have blamed for the attack, as well as suspected members of Al Qaeda’s affiliate in North Africa, known as Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
Eastern Libya is also being buffeted by strong crosscurrents that intelligence operatives are trying to monitor closely. The killing of Mr. Stevens has ignited public anger against the militias, underscored on Friday when thousands of Libyans took to the streets of Benghazi to demand that the groups be disarmed. The makeup of militias varies widely; some are moderate, while others are ultraconservative Islamists known as Salafis.
“The region’s deeply entrenched Salafi community is undergoing significant upheaval, with debate raging between a current that is amenable to political integration and a more militant strand that opposes democracy,” Frederic Wehrey, a senior policy analyst with the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace who closely follows Libya and visited there recently, wrote in a paper this month, “The Struggle for Security in Eastern Libya.”
American intelligence operatives also assisted State Department contractors and Libyan officials in tracking shoulder-fired missiles taken from the former arsenals of the former Libyan Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s forces; they aided in efforts to secure Libya’s chemical weapons stockpiles; and they helped train Libya’s new intelligence service, officials said.
Senior American officials acknowledged the intelligence setback, but insisted that information was still being collected using a variety of informants on the ground, systems that intercept electronic communications like cellphone conversations and satellite imagery. “The U.S. isn’t close to being blind in Benghazi and eastern Libya,” said an American official.
Spokesmen for the C.I.A., the State Department and the White House declined to comment on the matter on Sunday.
Within months of the start of Libyan revolution in February 2011, the C.I.A. began building a meaningful but covert presence in Benghazi, a locus of the rebel efforts to oust the government of Colonel Qaddafi.
Though the agency has been cooperating with the new post-Qaddafi Libyan intelligence service, the size of the C.I.A.’s presence in Benghazi apparently surprised some Libyan leaders. The deputy prime minister, Mustafa Abushagour, was quoted in The Wall Street Journal last week saying that he learned about some of the delicate American operations in Benghazi only after the attack on the mission, in large part because a surprisingly large number of Americans showed up at the Benghazi airport to be evacuated.
“We have no problem with intelligence sharing or gathering, but our sovereignty is also key,” said Mr. Abushagour.
The attack has raised questions about the adequacy of security preparations at the two American compounds in Benghazi: the American mission, the main diplomatic facility where Mr. Stevens and another American diplomat died of smoke inhalation after an initial attack, and an annex a half-mile away that encompassed four buildings inside a low-walled compound.
From among these buildings, the C.I.A. personnel carried out their secret missions. The New York Times agreed to withhold locations and details of these operations at the request of Obama administration officials, who said that disclosing such information could jeopardize future sensitive government activities and put at risk American personnel working in dangerous settings.
In Benghazi, both compounds were temporary homes in a volatile city teeming with militants, and they were never intended to become permanent diplomatic missions with appropriate security features built into them.
Neither was heavily guarded, and the annex was never intended to be a “safe house,” as initial accounts suggested. Two of the mission’s guards — Tyrone S. Woods and Glen A. Doherty, former members of the Navy SEALs — were killed just outside the villa’s front gate. A mortar round struck the roof of the building where the Americans had scrambled for cover.

Mini-shuttle X-37B ready for next mission/may land in Florida

By: Leonard David Published: 09/25/2012 07:24 AM EDT on 

The U.S. military's hush-hush robotic X-37B space plane is slated to blast off again next month, Air Force officials say.

 The mission will test the robotic spacecraft's reusability and may eventually land on the Florida runway once used for NASA space shuttles. The X-37B space plane's next mission — called Orbital Test Vehicle-3, or OTV-3, because it is the program's third-ever spaceflight — is scheduled to launch aboard an Atlas 5 rocket from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station (CCAFS) sometime in October. "Preparations for launch at Cape Canaveral have begun," said Major Tracy Bunko at the Pentagon’s Air Force press desk. "We are on track to launch OTV-3 next month; however, the exact date remains subject to change based on range conditions, weather, etc."

 A mysterious mission As with the X-37B program's two previous spaceflights — OTV-1 and OTV-2 — OTV-3's payload and mission details are classified. But the focus remains on testing vehicle capabilities and proving the utility and cost-effectiveness of a reusable spacecraft, Bunko told [Photos: The X-37B Space Plane] Bunko said in an earlier communiqué that this third flight will use the same X-37B spacecraft that flew the first test flight, the OTV-1 mission, back in 2010. That maiden voyage of the miniature space plane lasted 225 days.

It launched into orbit on April 22, 2010, and then landed on Dec. 3 of that year, zooming in on autopilot over the Pacific Ocean and gliding down onto a specially prepared runway at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. A different X-37B vehicle made a similar Vandenberg touchdown this past June 16, having stayed in orbit for 469 days on its OTV-2 mission.

 The X-37B program is being run by the U.S. Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office. The two space planes — which are 29 feet (8.8 meters) long and 15 feet (4.5 m) wide, with a payload bay about the size of a pickup truck bed — were built by Boeing Government Space Systems.

 While they're sparing with details about the X-37B program, Air Force officials say the vehicles enable them to test out how new technologies perform in space. “One of the most promising aspects of the X-37B is it enables us to examine a payload system or technology in the environment in which it will perform its mission and inspect them when we bring them back to Earth,” Bunko said. “Returning an experiment via the X-37B OTV enables detailed inspection and significantly better learning than can be achieved by remote telemetry alone.” A new landing site? While both previous X-37B missions touched down at Vandenberg, the Air Force is considering landing future flights at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, next door to the Cape Canaveral launch site.

 In fact, the Air Force is currently conducting taxi and braking tests as part of an ongoing appraisal. The prospect of a returning the robotic space plane to the KSC landing strip — which was used by NASA's now-retired space shuttle fleet — is seen as a cost-saving measure. "We are also considering consolidating landing, refurbishment and launch operations at KSC or CCAFS in an effort to save money," Bunko said.


Sunday, September 23, 2012

"Rock" explodes at suspect Iranian nuke site.

Al ARABIYA NEWS :  A spy device camouflaged as a rock exploded when it came into contact with Iranian troops near an underground nuclear enrichment plant, The Sunday Times reported this week.

Last month, Revolutionary Guards at the Fordo nuclear facility, near the northern city of Qom, came across the rock and attempted to move it, according to sources who spoke to the newspaper.
The guards, who had been on patrol to check terminals connecting data and telephone links to the site, reportedly witnessed the disguised spy device exploding when they came into contact with it.

Experts who surveyed the scene of the explosion, according to the newspaper, analyzed remnants of the device and found it had been able to intercept data from computers at the nuclear plant, where uranium is enriched.

News of the explosion was reportedly first kept secret by the Iranians. But last week, Fereydoun Abbasi the Iranian vice-president and the head of the nuclear energy agency, revealed that the power lines between Qom and the Fordo facility were blown-up in August.

The finding has sparked speculation over whether the spy device could have been a significant source of intelligence for Western countries, which has now been lost.

Israel believes Iran's nuclear program to be aimed at developing an atomic weapons capability that would menace its own existence, and its current status as the Middle East's sole, if undeclared, nuclear weapons power.

Iran insists its program is exclusively for peaceful, civilian ends, but it is locked in a deepening standoff with the U.N. nuclear watchdog and the U.N. Security Council over the issue.

The existence of the site was unknown until it was uncovered three years ago in 2009, according to The Sunday Times, which added that the nuclear plant has been under surveillance by American, British and Israeli intelligence agencies.

It is believed that there are up to 3,000 centrifuges which are pieces of equipment used to separate substances of different densities and rotates at high speed that are hidden under 260ft of rock.

There are reports that claim the explosion was planned to cut the power supply to the plant and damage the centrifuges, however, inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, who visited the site the day after the explosion occurred did not state that there was any damage or disruption to the plant in their reports.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Harrier jet squadron leader killed and six AV-8B Harriers damaged in attack

Lt. Col. Chris "Otis" Raible, commanding officer of the jet squadron whose Harrier fleet was decimated last week at Camp Bastion, was among two Yuma Marines killed when insurgents infiltrated the main NATO strategic base in southwestern Afghanistan.
Raible, 40, died early Saturday during an unprecedented breach on the sprawling base in Helmand province that also resulted in the destruction of six AV-8B Harriers and significant damage to two more jets from the unit he commanded, Marine Attack Squadron (VMA) 211.
Also killed was Sgt. Bradley W. Atwell, 27, of Kokomo, Ind. The electrical systems technician served with Marine Aviation Logistics Squadron 13, the 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing announced Monday.
Both units are part of the airwing headquartered in San Diego at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar.
In addition to the two deaths, nine other coalition personnel were wounded in the brazen overnight assault on Camp Bastion, according to details released Saturday by NATO’s International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan. The injuries do not appear to be life-threatening.
Three refueling stations were also destroyed and six aircraft hangars damaged during the attack on both fixed wing and rotor craft, coalition officials said. With each of the six Harrier jets destroyed costing at least $24 million, damages in the attack total well over $144 million.
The deadly rampage on the Bastion flight line left the Marine Corps' relatively small and tight-knit aviation community reeeling with sadness and rage.
Some questioned whether the drawdown of more than half the Marine force in Helmand province over the last year had compromised the security of remaining personnel. The Marine force swelled to about 20,000 during the height of the surge, but has since dropped under presidential order close to 7,000.
Marine airwing commanders vowed to remain steadfast in their combat mission.
Maj. Gen. Gregg Sturdevant, the San Diegan serving as commanding general of the Marine air element in Afghanistan, said "Despite this tragedy, our Marines, sailors and civilians remain focused on the protection of our force and execution of our mission. I ask that you please keep the families of the fallen in your thoughts and prayers."
Brig. Gen. Steven W. Busby, commanding general of 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing, said: "The deaths of Lt. Col. Chris 'Otis' Raible and Sgt. Bradley Atwell are a stark reminder of the selfless service and extraordinary sacrifices made by our Marines and Sailors and their families each and every day.
"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families, friends and loved ones of those brave Marines. We will honor their memories and continue to support our Marines and Sailors still in the fight and their loved ones here at home," Busby said.
Raible's Arizona-based squadron, nicknamed “the Avengers,” is the only Marine Harrier unit serving in Afghanistan. After deploying to Afghanistan in April, VMA-211 relocated its fleet of AV-8B Harrier jump jets from Kandahar Airfield to the British-run airfield at Camp Bastion this summer, because of the drawdown and consolidation of Marine forces.
Raible flew the first jet to the base in Helmand province on July 1.

NASA reschedules shuttle ferry

NASA managers have postponed the ferry flight of space shuttle Endeavour to Wednesday, Sept. 19. 

The decision was made to ensure a safe flight for Endeavour and the Shuttle Carrier Aircraft. A low pressure front in the northern Gulf of Mexico is generating thunderstorms along the predicted flight path.

Managers will hold another weather briefing at 11 a.m. Tuesday. 
The route of photo-ops is in keeping with the final flights taken by the shuttle Enterprise, which flew by the Statue of Liberty on its way to a New York City museum, and the shuttle Discovery, which buzzed monuments in Washington, D.C., before landing at a Smithsonian annex at Dulles International Airport.
On its trip from Kennedy Space Center, Endeavour will also do fly-bys of NASA facilities that played big roles during the 30-year shuttle program.
Endeavour will leave Kennedy Space Center at sunrise Sept. 19, flying over Florida's Space Coast and then over NASA's Stennis Space Center near Bay St. Louis, Miss., and its Michoud Assembly Facility in New Orleans.
It will then fly over Houston, Clear Lake and Galveston in Texas before landing at Ellington Field near NASA's Johnson Space Center.
On Sept. 20 the shuttle will head to Biggs Army Airfield in El Paso for refueling and conduct low-level flyovers of White Sands Test Facility near Las Cruces, N.M.
About midday, Endeavour is expected to touch down at NASA's Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards air base in the Mojave Desert, where it sometimes landed on its own after space missions.

"Models" of secret RQ-170 drone to be exhibited in Iran

Speaking to reporters in Tehran on Monday, Commander of IRGC's Tehran Corps General Seyed Mohsen Kazzemeini said exhibitions will be held on the occasion of the Sacred Defense Week (September 21-28), marking the Iranians' sacrifices during the 8-year-long Iraqi imposed war on Iran in the 1980s. 

He added that models of the US RQ-170 spy drone will be displayed in one of the exhibitions due to be held in Police Park in Northeastern Tehran. 

In February 2012, the IRGC displayed a model of the United States' RQ-170 spy plane, that was "downed"  by the country's Armed Forces in December (actually in crashed) after violating the Iranian airspace, during the February 11 rallies - marking the 33rd anniversary of the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran. 

A model has been built by the aerospace unit of the IRGC and was displayed during the pro-government rallies in Tehran at the time. 

Iran announced on December 4 that its defense forces had downed the aircraft (yeah right) through a sophisticated cyber attack. 

Protests continue over stupid online film

(CNN) -- Protests sparked by an online film that mocks Islam's holy prophet entered a second week Monday, raising questions about whether the furor is isolated or a sign of broader anti-American sentiment in the Muslim world.

On Monday, demonstrators took to the streets in Afghanistan, Indonesia, Pakistan and Lebanon. Answering a call from the leader of the Hezbollah -- deemed a terrorist organization by the United States -- thousands packed the streets of Beirut's southern suburbs and chanted "Death to America!"

The largely peaceful crowd waved the yellow flag of Hezbollah and carried posters that read, "No to the insulting of the prophet."

"Prophet Mohammed is our commander," they chanted. "Down with Zionism."

Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah called for fresh protests Monday over the video, which he described as "a dangerous turn in the war against Islam and the great prophet."

Earlier in the day in Afghanistan, hundreds of demonstrators attacked police officers along a road leading to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul. In neighboring Pakistan, at least one person was killed Monday when protesters clashed with police in an anti-American demonstration in the tribal region along the Afghan border.

And in Indonesia, protesters threw rocks and used slingshots to launch marbles at riot police outside the U.S. Embassy in Jakarta. Police responded with tear gas.

The United States has made it clear that it did not sanction the low-budget, amateurish 14-minute movie trailer posted on YouTube and produced privately in the United States. The clip, which has been banned by YouTube in several countries, mocks the Prophet Mohammed as a womanizer, child molester and killer.

The film clip was relatively unheard of until last Tuesday, when protesters upset about it attacked the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, killing Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. The same day, rioters breached the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, although there were no casualties.

Islam forbids any depictions of Mohammed, and blasphemy is taboo among many in the Muslim world.

Since last Tuesday, protests have spread to more than 20 nations, and the United States has increased security at its embassies and consulates worldwide.

The demonstrations are part of the turbulence that is inevitable in a region that has undergone tremendous change over the past year, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice told CNN on Sunday."It's a change that the United States has backed because we understand that when democracy takes root, when human rights and people's freedom of expression can be manifested, it may lead to turbulence in the short term, but over the long term, that is in the interest of the United States," she said.

Rice described the mobs outside U.S. embassies as a minority. "They're the ones who have largely lost in these emerging democratic processes, and just as the people of these countries are not going to allow their lives to be hijacked by a dictator, they're not going to allow an extremist mob to hijack their future and their freedom," she said.

Libya has taken steps to find and arrest those responsible for last week's deadly consulate attack, arresting dozens over the weekend, according to Libyan officials. The exact number of arrests was unclear. Four others were arrested Thursday.

The United States has also sent FBI agents to the region to investigate the Benghazi attack, which Rice said appears to have been spontaneous.

"We do not have information at present that leads us to conclude this was premeditated or preplanned," Rice told CBS on Sunday. She said "extremist elements" joined in a violent protest outside the consulate that had been "sparked by this hateful video."

While U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta told reporters over the weekend that the worst of the violence appeared to be over, the United States was tightening security measures anyway.

Nonessential personnel were ordered to leave the American diplomatic missions in Sudan, Tunisia and Libya. In Yemen, consular services have been suspended until the end of the month. And on Monday, the U.S. State Department -- citing "current safety and security concerns" -- urged U.S. citizens to avoid all travel to Lebanon.

But the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, the scene of five consecutive days of protests, returned to full staffing Sunday, the U.S. State Department said.

Despite U.S. officials' condemnation of the video, some Muslims do not accept that it could have been produced without Washington's approval, one analyst said.

That is particularly true for people raised in countries whose governments must authorize any film production, Council of Foreign Relations scholar Ed Husain said.

The movie trailer was privately produced by Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, a California man on probation for bank fraud.

Reports that Nakoula, who initially told The Wall Street Journal he was an Israeli, is a Coptic Christian have raised concern about a possible backlash against the minority religious group in Egypt, where tensions between Copts and Muslims have risen in recent years.

Reports that Nakoula is a Coptic Christian have raised concern about a possible backlash against the minority religious group in Egypt, where tensions between Copts and Muslims have risen in recent years. Nakoula initially told The Wall Street Journal he was an Israeli.

Muslim and Coptic leaders were scheduled to hold a joint news conference Monday in Los Angeles to condemn the violence.

Google India has blocked access to the video, India's external affairs spokesman Syed Akbaruddin said Sunday in a statement.

Japan & US agree on new missile defense system

Published: Yesterday

TOKYO (AP) - U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Monday that U.S. and Japanese officials have agreed to put a second defense system in Japan aimed at protecting the country from the threat of a missile attack from North Korea.

The exact location of the radar installation has not yet been determined. It will be in the south, U.S. officials said, but not in Okinawa.

Officials stressed that the system would be aimed at protecting the region against the threat from North Korea and is not directed at China.

The U.S. already has similar early warning radar systems on ships in the Asia-Pacific.
This second Japan-based system will allow the U.S. vessels to spread out and cover other parts of the Asia-Pacific region.

Panetta said the new installation would also be effective in protecting the U.S. homeland from a North Korea threat. He spoke during a press conference in Tokyo with the Japanese defense minister, Satoshi Morimoto.

Morimoto said it would not be appropriate at this time to specify a location for the new radar, and said a date for its deployment has not yet been set.
While officials insisted the radar system would not be aimed at China, the decision was sure to raise the ire of Beijing.

The radar will "enhance our ability to defend Japan," Panetta said, adding that he would talk to Chinese leaders about the system to assure them that this about protecting the U.S. and the region from North Korea's missile threat.

"We have made these concerns clear to the Chinese," he said. "For that reason ... we believe it is very important to move ahead" with the radar system.

Japan has worked closely with the U.S. for several years on missile defense, and has both land- and sea-based missile launchers.

North Korea's ballistic missiles are considered a threat to security in the Asia-Pacific region because of the risk of conflict erupting on the divided and heavily militarized Korean peninsula, and because of the secretive North's nuclear weapons program.
The long-range rockets it is developing have been test-fired over Japan and could potentially reach the U.S.
The North conducted its latest long-range rocket launch in April, defying a U.N. ban. Pyongyang said the launch was intended to send an observation satellite into space but it drew international condemnation as the rocket technology is similar to that used for ballistic missiles.
The launch was a failure and the rocket disintegrated shortly after takeoff.
Panetta is on his third trip to Asia in 11 months, reflecting the Pentagon's ongoing shift to put more military focus on the Asia-Pacific.

The defense chief is urging countries involved in territorial disputes in the region to find a way to peacefully resolve those problems before they spark provocations and violence.
Panetta's visit to Japan also included discussions with Morimoto about the deployment of V-22 Ospreys to the southwestern island of Okinawa. Tens of thousands of people have protested the hybrid aircraft's planned use, saying they are unsafe.

The U.S. had hoped to have the aircraft in place as early as next month, but Morimoto said no specific date has been set on that matter, either.
The Pentagon plans to deploy 12 of the aircraft, which take off and land like a helicopter, but fly like a plane. U.S. officials have assured Japanese leaders the Ospreys are safe.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Two marines die in assault on Camp Bastion

At least two US marines died when militants breached the perimeter of the sprawling base in Helmand province.
The Taliban told the BBC that they carried out the attack in revenge for a film mocking Islam which has triggered protests around the Muslim world.
Aircraft and buildings were damaged but Nato says its forces killed 18 of the insurgents and captured one.
Camp Bastion is situated in the middle of the desert with excellent visibility all around, says the BBC's Jonathan Beale in Kabul.
The attack came after at least seven people died in protests over the film mocking the Prophet Muhammad in Khartoum, Tunis and Cairo on Friday and amid fears of further unrest.
'Engulfed in fire'
Nato officials say insurgents used small arms, rockets and mortars in the attack on Camp Bastion which took place at about 22:00 on Friday (17:30 GMT), under cover of darkness.
Major Adam Wojack, from Isaf joint command in Afghanistan, said the attackers found a "vulnerable part of the perimeter" and quietly breached it.
Once inside, the insurgents attacked the airfield side of the compound and caused "some damage to aircraft, damage to structures and killed those two marines", the officer said.
The attack was finally fought off by mainly American and British personnel who "ended up killing 18 of those attackers", he said.
Update: Taliban fighters attacked the coalition base at Camp Bastion-Camp Leatherneck in Helmand Province just before midnight local time with small-arms fire and rocket attacks, according to U.S. officials.

A U.S. official said Prince Harry is safe and was not affected by the attack. The British Defense Ministry said today that Prince Harry had been deployed to Camp Bastion along with his Apache helicopter unit. It is Prince Harry's second deployment to Afghanistan.
A Taliban spokesman had said days after the announcement of Harry's deployment that they would try to kill him while he's in Helmand Province.

"We will do our best to kill Prince Harry and Britain's other troops based in Helmand," Zabihullah Mujahid said. "It is not important for us to kidnap him. We will target him and we will kill him."

The coalition camp houses as many as 28,000 international troops. The British side of the base is known as Camp Bastion, the adjoining U.S. facility is called Camp Leatherneck. Defense officials say the casualties and damage to buildings and aircraft occurred on a Marine portion of the base located at Camp Bastion.

A Defense official said two Harrier fighter jets flown by U.S. Marines were damaged in the attack.

Friday, September 14, 2012

US Intelligence warned embassy of threat 48 hrs in advance of attack.

By Suzanne Kelly CNN
Concerned about the reaction to an anti-Muslim film that was gaining attention online, the U.S. intelligence community sent a cable to the embassy in Egypt warning of the concern, a U.S. official told CNN. It was sent 48 hours before the protests in Cairo and Benghazi in Libya, the official said.
The cable did not discuss any specific threat, the official said. It warned instead about the existence of the movie being posted on the internet and the fact that it was gaining attention. A seven minute portion of the movie aired on an Egyptian TV talk show the weekend before the protests started, according to a Department of Homeland Security/Federal Bureau of Intelligence memo obtained by CNN on Thursday.
The cable was not sent to the embassy in Tripoli, Libya or the consulate in Benghazi. US officials have said there was no intelligence ahead of the attack in Benghazi, which intelligence officials still believe was not planned. The White House spokesman Jay Carney said Friday there was no "actionable intelligence" indicating an attack was being planned.
There are hundreds if not thousands of cables sent each day, the official said, and there was no specific threat attached to this one, because a specific threat was not known.

Former Navy Seal among dead in Libya

One of the Americans killed alongside Ambassador Christopher Stevens in an attack on a U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya Tuesday told ABC News before his death that he was working with the State Department on an intelligence mission to round up dangerous weapons in the war-torn nation.
In an interview with ABC News last month, Glen Doherty, a 42-year-old former Navy SEAL who worked as a contractor with the State Department, said he personally went into the field to track down so-called MANPADS, shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles, and destroy them.

After the fall of dictator Moammar Gadhafi, the State Department launched a mission to round up thousands of MANPADS that may have been looted from military installations across the country. U.S. officials previously told ABC News they were concerned the MANPADS could fall into the hands of terrorists, creating a threat to commercial airliners.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Is the US unwittingly letting Chinese cyberspies in the back door?

CBS News) The House Intelligence Committee will hold a hearing Thursday that focuses on two Chinese telecommunications companies that are trying to gain market share in the United States.
Critics say those companies may be under pressure to spy on American businesses and intelligence agencies.
China has a long record of inserting spies, from graduate students to respected scientists, into U.S. companies to siphon out valuable trade secrets.
What U.S. officials are worried about now is that bringing large Chinese telecommunications companies to the U.S. could give the Chinese government a way to spy on a massive scale, without ever having to use a single human being.
During the Olympics, a company that most Americans have never heard of was buying a lot of TV time. Huawei, the world's second largest telecommunications equipment maker, was putting its best foot forward to an American audience.
Huawei already has a presence in the U.S. market. Their phones can be found at any Cricket Outlet, and the company did $1.3 billion in business in the U.S. last year alone.
But Huawei wants a bigger stake in the U.S. market. The company wants to provide telecommunications systems and infrastructure to large U.S. companies, and that, U.S. intelligence officials are worried, could provide China with a giant Trojan horse.
Stewart Baker, former assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security, says the Chinese government could pressure a Chinese company like Huawei to use its technology to spy on the U.S.
Baker said, "If the Chinese government said, 'Your country needs you. You need to do this for your country,' it's hard to imagine that a patriotic company would refuse to do that."
Here is what some intelligence officials are afraid of: China has been accused of being behind a massive effort to infiltrate U.S. companies with spies to steal corporate trade secrets that may be worth millions - even billions of dollars. What if a Chinese-run telecommunications firm provided the very infrastructure - the phones, emails, and routers - that those trade secret pass through every day?
Shawn Henry, a former assistant director of the FBI for cyber security, says there are ways to easily add what they call a back door to any system. Henry said, "Telecommunications equipment is put in place, and its purpose is to route data through a network. An adversary who had control over programming that hardware or that software could potentially re-route data, so that it was able to be siphoned off or viewed by others."
Concerns about Huawei are underscored by the fact that its founder is a former high-ranking Chinese military officer.
"They're a communist government. They have more control over their companies and their citizens," Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, D-Md., said.
Ruppersberger is the ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, which launched a bipartisan investigation into Huawei and another company, ZTE Communications, last year.
Ruppersberger told CBS News, "If you're gonna put your technology in our country and that allows you the ability to steal information or cyber attack our companies and our citizens, then we want to protect our citizens. And that's our role, why we're doing this investigation."
Huawei says it welcomed the investigation as a chance to answer any questions. The company declined CBS News' request for an interview, but said in a statement that their integrity was proven and "Huawei has not and will not jeopardize our global commercial success nor the integrity of our customers' networks for any third party, government or otherwise."
Sources tell CBS News the Intelligence Committee's final report on Huawei is expected to be released in early October.
CBS News reached out to four telecommunications companies in the U.S. that use Huawei technology. They declined to speak on camera, but one provider told CBS News their company was replacing their Huawei equipment due to the congressional investigation.

Protests over anti-Muslim film continue

Cairo (CNN) -- Protests over an offensive anti-Muslim film bled into a third day Thursday near the U.S. Embassy in Cairo.
Demonstrators threw rocks and Molotov cocktails as police tried to disperse them by firing tear gas canisters from police vehicles as they drove through Tahrir Square, near the embassy.
At least 13 protesters and six police officers were injured, Egyptian government officials said Thursday.
The clashes came amid heightened tensions at U.S. diplomatic missions in the region following Tuesday's attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that left Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other consular officials. of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, 
The protests follow the online release of a film produced in the United States that denigrates Prophet Mohammed.
About 500 people, many chanting anti-American slogans, demonstrated Wednesday in Cairo against the film. The protest continued into Thursday.
The protest turned violent as demonstrators threw rocks and pushed through barbed wire fencing outside the embassy, according to Alla Mahmoud, a spokesman for the Egyptian Interior Ministry. Two police trucks and a car were set afire.
"Forces were able to push them down toward Tahrir Square farther from embassy street," Mahmoud said, adding that some arrests had been made.
By early Thursday, protesters had been pushed 100 yards from the embassy, said journalist Ian Lee in Cairo.
Earlier, Egypt's president spoke in the "strongest terms" about Tuesday's incident at the Cairo embassy -- but not against the attack.
Tuesday, police and Egyptian army personnel formed defensive lines around the U.S. Embassy to prevent demonstrators from advancing, but not before the protesters placed a black flag atop a ladder in the American compound. Police arrested four protesters.
WhiIe Egypt's prime minister called Tuesday's incident "regrettable" and unjustified, its president condemned the anti-Muslim film that incited the protesters.
President Mohamed Morsy made a reference to Egypt's duty to protect diplomatic missions and its opposition to unlawful protesters, but did not mention those who stormed the embassy.
"The presidency condemns in the strongest terms the attempt of a group to insult the place of the Messenger, the Prophet Mohammed ... and condemns the people who have produced this radical work," the president said in a statement posted on his Facebook page. "The Egyptian people, both Muslims and Christians, refuse such insults on sanctities."
The statement noted that "the Egyptian government is responsible to protect private and public properties and diplomatic missions in addition to embassy headquarters of various countries" and that "it respects and protects the right of expression and the right to protest peacefully under the law and will firmly oppose any irresponsible attempt to veer off the law."
The incident comes during a delicate period in the relationship between the United States and Egypt under Morsy, the country's first leader since the overthrow last year of longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak -- a key Western ally.
U.S. President Barack Obama spoke with Morsy on Wednesday "to review the strategic partnership between the United States and Egypt, and our ongoing efforts to strengthen bilateral economic and security cooperation," the White House said in a statement early Thursday.
During the call, the statement said, Obama told Morsy that "he rejects efforts to denigrate Islam, but underscored that there is never any justification for violence against innocents and acts that endanger American personnel and facilities."
Morsy "expressed his condolences for the tragic loss of American life in Libya and emphasized that Egypt would honor its obligation to ensure the safety of American personnel," according to the White House statement.
The Cairo incident was not nearly as bad as the violence in neighboring Libya, where an attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi killed four Americans, including Stevens. A pro-al Qaeda group was to blame for that attack, according to sources tracking militant groups in the region.
In his statement, Morsy called on Egyptian diplomats in Washington "to take legal action against those people who seek to ruin relationships and discussions between people and countries.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Warships - Marines, Drones, heading to Libya

WASHINGTON - The Pentagon dispatched a contingent of Marines to Libya, moved warships toward its coast, and planned to use drones in a stepped up search for those responsible for an attack on a U.S. consulate that killed the American ambassador and three others.

A senior military official told CNN that the Pentagon and other agencies would review a video of Tuesday's assault by heavily armed militants on the diplomatic compound in Benghazi that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens, another diplomat and two security personnel.

Breaking: photos of slain US ambassador surface

Photos purporting to be of slain US Ambassador Christopher Stevens being dragged through the streets have begun surfacing on Libyan and Arabic TV networks. 

The Consulate was attacked by a group of protesters angry over a film that ridiculed Islam's Prophet Muhammad, according to the Associated Press, but evidence now indicate the attack was a premeditated plot by an al Qadea 
"This was a coordinated attack, more of a commando-style event," House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., told CBS News Capitol Hill producer Jill Jackson. "It had both coordinated fire -- direct fire and indirect fire. There appeared to be military maneuvers approaching the facility."

U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other Americans died in the attack.
Stevens, a diplomat and lawyer, was the first U.S. ambassador killed in the line of duty since 1979.

His ties to the Bay Area ran broadly and deeply. Born and raised in Piedmont, Stevens attended Piedmont High School before graduating from the University of California, Berkeley in 1982, and the University of California, Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco in 1989.


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