Archive for the ‘America’ Category

Could Mumbai Terrorism Occur In America?

December 3, 2008

Like the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in America, the Mumbai terrorist assault last week began with a hijacking. Islamic militants seized a private fishing boat at sea rather than commercial jetliners, according to U.S. counterterrorism officials. But the attackers displayed the same deadly ability to coordinate a complex operation against multiple targets as did their predecessors on Sept. 11.

By David Ignatius
The Washington Post
.
The terrorists were from a Pakistani group called Lashkar-i-Taiba, which has loose links with al-Qaeda, U.S officials believe. The attackers began by boarding the boat in the Arabian Sea and killing the captain. They then piloted the boat toward the Mumbai harbor. As they neared the coast on Wednesday, Nov. 26, they launched several rubber lifeboats for the final amphibious assault.

The attack was meticulously planned: The raiders dispersed to several targets across the crowded city that had been studied by advance reconnaissance teams. They maintained communications silence on the way in, U.S. officials believe. And most important, they carried with them enough guns, ammunition and supplies for a long battle inside India’s largest city.

Then the mayhem began: The terrorists stormed their targets — three luxury hotels, a Jewish cultural center, a railway station — turning the nearby streets into a free-fire zone. It took about 10 hours for Indian anti-terrorism commandos to arrive at the besieged hotels, and it was almost three days before all the attackers had been captured or killed.

The Mumbai attacks were a ghastly reminder of the threat still posed by al-Qaeda and related terrorist groups. The militants have the training, the logistical support and, most of all, the determination to pull off spectacular attacks. They read their enemies’ tactical vulnerabilities well — understanding in this case that urban police forces have trouble combating moving bands of shooters. And they appeared to have had a cleverly divisive strategic goal — of reanimating tension between India and Pakistan just as the two were beginning to make common cause against terrorism.

For Americans watching the carnage, the obvious question was: Could it happen here? U.S. officials say the answer, unfortunately, is yes. And then comes a second question: If America is hit with another Sept. 11-style terrorist assault, how should the country react?

The Department of Homeland Security has been worried for more than a year about the danger of seaborne attacks. With an estimated 17 million small vessels plying the thousands of miles of U.S. coastline, the vulnerability is obvious. The DHS announced a “small-vessel security strategy” in April to focus on ports and coastal waterways, and it has held four regional small-vessel “security summits” this year, in Buzzards Bay, Mass., Long Beach, Calif., Orlando and Cleveland. A fifth such gathering is planned for Houston next month.

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/20
08/12/02/AR2008120202722.html?hpid=opinionsbox1

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US maintaining naval-air-marine might in Arabian Sea opposite India, Pakistan, Iran

December 1, 2008

Three US aircraft carriers with strike groups, task forces and nuclear submarines have piled up in the waters of the Arabian Sea opposite the shores of India, Pakistan and Iran, and in the Persian Gulf.

DEBKAfile‘s military sources report that the US began massing this formidable array of floating firepower at the outset of the Islamist terrorist attack on the Indian city of Mumbai last Wednesday, Nov. 26.

Tehran responded typically with a threat of retaliation should the Americans decide to use the Mumbai terrorist attack to hit Iran.

It is more likely, according to our military sources, that the Americans are on the ready in case the rising tensions between India and Pakistan over the New Delhi’s charge of Pakistani involvement in the Mumbai atrocity explodes into an armed clash on their border.

This is indicated by the units now deployed:

1. the USS John C. Stennis, which carries 80 fighter-bombers and 3,200 sailors and airmen and leads a strike group..

This carrier joins two already there, the USS Theodore Roosevelt, which patrols the northern Arabian Sea, part of whose strike group cruises opposite Iran’s southern coast; and the USS Iwo Jima, which carries a large marine contingent on board.

2. New to these waters, according to DEBKAfile‘s military sources, is the Destroyer Squadron 50/CTF 55, which has two task forces: Patrol Forces Southwest Asia (PATFORSWA) for strikes against warships and the rapid deployment of marines to flashpoint arenas; and Mine Countermeasures Division 31, which stands ready to prevent New Delhi or Islamabad from mining the Arabian Sea routes connecting their ports. Those routes are vital waterways for US marine traffic supporting the war in Afghanistan.

3. To manage this armada, the command and control vessel, USS Mount Whitney, has been brought over from the Mediterranean.

4. Four nuclear submarines.

The arrival of the southwest Asian marine patrol carrier Stennis and the Mount Whitney to the Arabian Sea opposite Iran’s shores set alarm bells ringing in Tehran. Our Iranian sources note that the Islamic republic’s rulers remember that after al Qaeda’s attack on the United States on Sept. 11, 2001, the Americans did not only invade Afghanistan, but also Iraq and they fear a similar sideswipe.

The Iranian chief of staff, Maj. Gen. Ataoallah Salehi sounded a warning when he stated Sunday, Nov. 30: The “heavy weight” of enemy warships provides the Iranian side with an ideal opportunity for launching successful counter-attacks.

Related:
Iran Holds Military Games Near Hormuz Strait


Above: U.S. Navy operates at sea with allies…

U.S. Navy cruisers carry long range cruise missiles.  Seen here: USS Gettysburg

See the DEPKA file:
http://www.debka.com/headline.php?hid=5747

American Media and Culture Go Global; Even As America’s Image Sours

December 1, 2008

Shortly after the attacks on 9/11, a delegation of high-level media executives, including the heads of every major studio, met several times with White House officials, including at least once with President Bush’s former top strategist, Karl Rove, to discuss ways that the entertainment industry could play a part in improving the image of the United States overseas.

By Tim Arango
The New York Times
.
One of the central ideas was using “soft power” by spreading American television and movies to foreign audiences, especially in the Muslim world, to help sway public opinion.

There were few tangible results from the meetings — lesser ways of supporting the war on terrorism like public service announcements and packages of free DVDs sent to American soldiers.

But since then, the media companies have gotten what they wanted, even if the White House has not. In the last eight years, American pop culture, already popular, has boomed around the globe while opinions of America itself have soured.

The television program “CSI” is now more popular in France than in the United States. Hollywood movies routinely sell far more tickets overseas than at home. A Russian remake of the TV show “Married With Children” has been so popular that Sony, the producer of the show, has hired back the original writers to produce new scripts for Russia. Even in the Muslim world, American pop culture has spread.

But so far, cultural popularity has not translated into new friends. The latest data from the Pew Global Attitudes Project, released in June, shows that the image of the United States remained negative in the 24 countries in which Pew conducted surveys (although in 10 of those the favorability rating of the United States edged up slightly).

Joseph S. Nye Jr., the Harvard professor who coined the phrase “soft power” in 1989 to refer to the ways beyond military muscle that America influences the world, said that “what’s interesting about the last eight years is that polls show a decline in American attractiveness.”

He added: “But then you ask the follow-up questions and you see that American culture remains attractive, that American values remain attractive. Which is the opposite of what the president has said — that they hate us for who we are and what we believe in.”

Jeffrey Schlesinger, the head of international television at Warner Brothers, had a simpler explanation for the popularity of American entertainment.

“Batman is Batman, regardless….

Read the rest:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/01/business/media/01soft.html?_r=1&hp

Fading American Economic and Military Dominance; Even More Global Danger – Experts

November 19, 2008

The top U.S. intelligence panel this week is expected to issue a snapshot of the world in 2025, in a report that predicts fading American economic and military dominance and warns of a nuclear arms race in the Middle East.

By Nicholas Kralev
The Washington Times

The predictions come from the National Intellignce Council (NIC), part of Director of National Intelligence Michael McConnell’s office.

The NIC report, a draft copy of which is titled “Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World,” is slated for release as early as Thursday.

The report also predicts “a unified Korea” is likely by then, and that China  will be the world’s second-largest economy and a major military power.

“The United States will remain the single most powerful country, although less dominant,” according to a “working draft” of the document obtained by The Washington Times. “Shrinking economic and military capabilities may force the U.S. into a difficult set of tradeoffs between domestic and foreign-policy priorities.”

A senior intelligence official said some details have changed in the final report, but “the thrust is the same.”

The draft says:

“The next 20 years of transition toward a new international system are fraught with risks, such as a nuclear arms race in the Middle East and possible interstate conflicts over resources.”

“We see a unified Korea as likely by 2025 and assess the peninsula will probably be denuclearized, either via ongoing diplomacy or as a necessary condition for international acceptance of and cooperation with a needy new Korea.”

Thomas Fingar, deputy director of national intelligence for analysis and chairman of the NIC, said Tuesday that the report “should not be viewed as a prediction.” Even “projection” is not entirely correct, he said, though he used that word several times during a luncheon at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2008
/nov/19/panel-foresees-lesser-us-role/

Hollywood out of step with American morals

November 17, 2008

A majority of Americans say Hollywood doesn’t share their moral values, according to a poll commissioned by the Anti-Defamation League, a group that fights anti-Semitism.

Sixty-one percent of those surveyed said that religious values in America are “under attack,” and 59% agreed that “the people who run the TV networks and the major movie studios do not share the religious and moral values of most Americans.”

By Gregg Kilday, Reuters

Tourists pause on a walkway at a shopping mall which offers ...
Tourists pause on a walkway at a shopping mall which offers a view of the famed Hollywood sign at the hills in California March 14, 2008.(Fred Prouser/Reuters)

The poll, titled “American Attitudes on Religion, Moral Values and Hollywood,” was conducted by the Marttila Communications Group, which surveyed 1,000 adults nationwide. It was released Friday at the ADL’s annual meeting in Los Angeles.

“These findings point to the challenges that we face in dealing with issues of religion in society,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL national director. “The belief that religion is under attack underlies the drive to incorporate more religion into American public life. Disturbingly, 43% of Americans believe there is an organized campaign by Hollywood and the national media to weaken the influence of religious values in this country.”

Among the survey’s findings:

— 61% of respondents agree that “religious values are under attack in this country,” while 36% disagree with that statement.

— 43% said that Hollywood and the national media are waging an organized campaign to “weaken the influence of religious values in this country.”


But maybe not EVERY American city….

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20081117/us_nm/us_
poll;_ylt=AmvJz752.auDPw4x7kNNWEes0NUE

Race, Obama, World: After U.S. Breakthrough, Europe Looks in Mirror

November 12, 2008

In the general European euphoria over the election of Barack Obama, there is the beginning of self-reflection about Europe’s own troubles with racial integration. Many are asking if there could be a French, British, German or Italian Obama, and everyone knows the answer is no, not anytime soon.

By Steven Erlanger
The New York Times

It is risky to make racial comparisons between America and Europe, given all the historical and cultural differences. But race had long been one reason that Europeans, harking back to the days when famous American blacks like Josephine Baker and James Baldwin found solace in France, looked down on the United States, even as Europe developed postcolonial racial problems of its own.

“They always said, ‘You think race relations are bad here in France, check out the U.S.,’ ” said Mohamed Hamidi, former editor of the Bondy Blog, founded after the 2005 riots in the heavily immigrant suburbs of Paris.

“But that argument can no longer stand,” he said.

For many immigrants to Europe, Mr. Obama’s victory is “a small revolution” toward better overall treatment of minorities, said Nadia Azieze, 31, an Algerian-born nurse who grew up here. “It will never be the same,” she said, over a meal of rice and lamb in the racially mixed Paris neighborhood of Barbès-Rochechouart.

Her sister, Cherine, 29, is a computer engineer. Mr. Obama “really represents the dream of America — if you work, you can make it,” she said. “It’s a hope for the entire world.”

But the sisters are less optimistic about the realities of France, where minorities have a limited political role, with only one black deputy elected to the National Assembly from mainland France.

Has the Obama election caused any real self-reflection among the majority here? “It’s politically correct to say, ‘O.K., great! He’s black,’ and clap,” Nadia said. “But deep down, there’s no change. People say one thing and believe another.”

Read the rest:
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/12/world/europe
/12europe.html?_r=1&oref=slogin

U.S. shows that soft power can work in a hard war

November 12, 2008

Soft power is about to come to U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) – America’s military command in the Middle East – in a big way.

Gary Schaub Jr.
The Washington Times

Associated Press U.S. Central Command's Gen. David Petraeus speaks during an interview last week at a U.S. military base in Bagram, north of Kabul, Afghanistan.

Above: Central Command’s Gen. David Petraeus speaks during an interview last week at a U.S. military base.  Photo by the Associated Press

By winning friends and influencing people, the idea goes, the United States can defuse potential conflicts before they start and achieve America’s goals without firing a shot.

Soft power has currency in a cash-strapped U.S. military. The commander of SOUTHCOM, America’s military command for Central and South America, has undertaken many such missions. Adm. James Stavridis has sent Navy hospital ships to countries in that area to provide free medical care, train local doctors and build schools.

The new command in Africa – AFRICOM – has announced that such soft-power missions will be its top priority.

But these are relative backwaters. CENTCOM, where the United States is engaged in two wars and is prepared for others, is where soft power will have its largest impact.

Army Gen. David Petraeus, who is best known as the general behind the successful “surge” strategy in Iraq, has just taken over CENTCOM, and he is bringing soft power to bear.

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2
008/nov/11/us-shows-that-soft-power-
can-work-in-a-hard-war/

Loss of Tax Revenue, Plus More Students Makes For Ugly School Prognosis

November 10, 2008

Schools all over Ameroca are discovering that the global economic crisis means smaller tax revenues to spend on schools.  Plus many areas have more new students, many of them immigrants needing additional help and special teachers.  Here is a report from two big counties near washington DC….

By Michael Alison Chandler and Daniel de Vise
Washington Post Staff Writers
Monday, November 10, 2008; 4:13 PM

Leaders of the region’s two largest school systems outlined today their grimmest scenarios to date for how looming budget shortfalls could play out in classrooms, with Fairfax County schools facing an average increase of 2 1/2 students per class and Montgomery County forced to renegotiate teacher pay increases or cut positions.

Fairfax Superintendent Jack D. Dale sketched a proposal to close a $220 million projected shortfall for the fiscal year that begins in July by eliminating summer school, except for certain special education students, and cutting more than 1,000 positions, including custodians, office workers and teachers.

The $2.2 billion spending plan would be only slightly smaller than the current budget but would absorb about $50 million in lost state revenue and $46 million in added expenses because of projected enrollment increases. Officials expect the 169,000-student system, the region’s largest, to grow to 174,000. The proposal assumes no increase in Fairfax County’s share of the budget.

“It will take decades to recover” from such cuts, Dale said. “We hope this is the worst-case scenario.” The superintendent will present the proposal Friday to the Board of Supervisors, which funds nearly three-quarters of the school system’s budget.

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/11/10
/AR2008111002066.html?hpid=topnews

To Rescue the Economy: How Much Government?

November 9, 2008

What is the right amount of government intervention in the American economy?  That is the question.

China manages its economy from the halls of the Beijing communist government’s headquarters.  Yet the communist government, unable even to assure people of basic safeties like pure and untainted food, often blames other “criminals” that they themselves are unable to deter, prevent or defend against.  Even today, China wants Western nations to clean up the environmental disaster that is China today: despite the fact that China’s communists have gotten unbelievably wealthy by ignoring the environmental lessons learned in the West for decades.

Personally, the fact that China’s ground water is now polluted to a degree of about 90% doesn’t sound like an issue the West should have to deal with: the Chinese communists have allowed filth to proliferate and now they live in filth.  Corrective action is up to them.

A policeman stands gaurd amid the smog in Beijing's Tiananmen Square one month before the Olympic Games start.
Above: A policeman stands gaurd amid the smog in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square one month before the Olympic Games started this summer.  Photo: Reuters

So we know, or should know, that too much government intervention may not be a good thing.  Judging from the vast number of pages of our Tax Code and the fact that even smart accountants often have to consult “outside experts” to figure their own taxes, my faith in the U.S. government’s ability to manage the economy and my life is, let us say, tenuous…..

This brings us to the “blame game” of the American and global economic and financial meltdown.  Russia blames the U.S.  But nobody who got rich due to the lavish practices of spending and lending seems to have been taken to account.  They got rich and they got away.

It might just be me but I believe in accountability — which seems to be gone in our modern society. 

Who paid for the economic meltdown? 

Apparently: you and me.

”These two entities — Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac — are not facing any kind of financial crisis,” said Representative Barney Frank of Massachusetts, the ranking Democrat on the Financial Services Committee. ”The more people exaggerate these problems, the more pressure there is on these companies, the less we will see in terms of affordable housing.”  Barney Frank, quoted by The New York Times, said this on September 11, 2003.  Had appropriate action been taken then perhaps we woulnd’t be in this mess.

House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank listens ... 
Above: House Financial Services Committee Chairman Barney Frank listens during testimony before the committee in a hearing on ‘the Future of Financial Services Regulation,’ on Capitol Hill, October 21, 2008.(Mitch Dumke/Reuters)

Republicans generally want less regulation.  Democrats generally want more.  That is the crux of the issue, as I see it.

And there is already at least some government involvement in the U.S. economy, as Walter E. Williams points out, (see link below) thanks to the Congress, BATF, CAA, CFTC, CPSC, DEA, EEOC, EPA, FAA, FCC, FDA, FDIC, FEMA, FERC, FRB, FTC, INS, IRS, NHTSA, NIH, NLRB, OHSA, SEC, the Departments of: Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Education, Commerce, Labor, Agriculture, Transportation, other federal agenciesand etc…..

Related:
 Capitalism, fiscal woes; contempt for economic liberty

Barack Obama recalls Abraham Lincoln as America revels in making history

November 8, 2008

Obama has something of a pardonable obsession with his fellow Illinois citizen – so much so that his speech on Tuesday night in Chicago quoted Lincoln’s first inaugural address in 1861 without at first identifying him – as if the whole watching political nation would automatically know who he was talking about, especially since Lincoln’s words spoke achingly of a national reconciliation even on the very threshold of civil war.

By Simon Schama
The Telegraph (UK)

It’s easy enough to guess what Lincoln, the 16th president, would make of Obama, the 44th. But what about the third? It was from Jefferson’s hand that so much of the tragic atrocity, as well as the ennobling idealism of the American experiment, followed. For unlike Washington, the author of the Declaration of Independence, who proclaimed to the world as a truism that all men were created equal, could never bring himself to free his 100 or so slaves. And although Jefferson professed to believe in the universal fraternity of mankind, he thought black people intellectually inferior to those of European descent and patronised appallingly the most gifted of their race – like the scientist and inventor Benjamin Banneker.

In August 1791, Banneker presumed to write to Jefferson in Paris asking him, as a man of enlightened ideas, to “eradicate that train of absurd and false ideas and opinions which so generally prevails with respect to us” since “your sentiments are concurrent with mine, which are, that the Universal Father hath given being to us all and that he hath made us all of one flesh but that he hath also, without partiality, afforded us all the same sensations and endowed us all with the same faculties”.

This was all very nice. But then Banneker took a step too far, adding his dismay at finding that Jefferson himself was one of those who detained “by fraud and violence a part of my brethren groaning under captivity and cruel oppression” and that “you should at the same time be guilty of that which you professedly detested in others”. Jefferson wrote back crisply from Paris that “no body wishes more than I do to see such proofs as you exhibit, that nature has given to our black brethren, talents equal to those of the other colours of men”. But then he added, with fatal condescension, that “the appearance of the want of them is owing merely to the degraded condition of their existence both in Africa and America”.

Jefferson insisted that no one “wishes more ardently to see a good system commenced for raising the condition both of their body and mind to what it ought to be”. But his ardour apparently stopped well short of emancipation.

Read the rest:
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstopics/uselection2008/barackobama
/3393459/US-election-Barack-Obama-recalls-Abraham-Lincoln-as-Americ
a-revels-in-making-history.html