Thursday, March 31, 2011
Wednesday, March 30, 2011
I have spent time working with Afghan Nationals while overseas and they are good people who want to provide for their families, just like the rest of us. Family means a lot in their culture.
While there are differences, I found the people I met to be warm and curious of the difference between America and Afghanistan. Here is a good insight into how we are helping the people of Afghanistan learn to be more independent and gain the insights they will need to work with those who are there to help.
Afghan men, hungry for work, learn how to respond to Americans
5:27 AM, Mar 29, 2011 by Tony Leys Desmoins Register
Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan – The bearded teacher stood in front of his 20 pupils, going through basic English questions and commands that they should understand if they’re working for the Americans here.
“What does ‘Do not enter’ mean?” the teacher, whose name is Ahmadullah, asked one of the local men seated before him. Teacher Ahmadullah, standing at left, leads a basic English class for workers at Bagram Airfield Tuesday. (
“You cannot go inside,” the man replied in heavily accented English.
“If you are stopped at a roadblock and told to get out immediately, what do you do?” Ahmadullah asked another man. “I turn back,” the man replied.
The teacher corrected him. “You get out immediately,” he said.
Ahmadullah asked a third man to stand. Then he said, “Put your hands on your head.” The man put his hands on his head. “Turn around.” The man turned around. “Get on the ground.” The man got on the ground, face down. Staff Sgt. Paul Brisbois, an Iowa National Guardsman from Des Moines, watched from off to the side. “That’s a really important one to know,” he said of the set of commands American soldiers give when they want to search an Afghan man.
Brisbois helps oversee the vetting of local workers for Bagram Airfield. About 5,000 Afghan men work on the giant base, which houses about 30,000 military members and civilians from the United States and allied countries. Most of the Afghan employees make $5 per day performing menial tasks, such as cleaning bathrooms, serving food or collecting trash.
Ahmadullah, who uses just one name, gives his hour-long daily lessons in a classroom just inside the gate where local men come into the base. The men in his class already hold entry-level jobs on the base, but they want to become certified as “escorts.” Locals with that designation can make $15 per day for overseeing up to five other Afghan workers. Brisbois is impressed by how quickly many of the Afghan men pick up basic English.
Many of them can’t read or write in any language, but they speak proficiently in two: Pashto and Dari. That’s one more than most Americans can speak, the staff sergeant noted. The men walk or bike to the base, sometimes from 10 or more miles away. Most of them are employed by private contractors. “They’re definitely willing to work,” Brisbois said. “Most people in the area want the same things Americans want. They want to have a good job, they want to make some money, and they want their families to be safe.”
Brisbois, 45, said each potential worker faces several levels of vetting, including extensive interviews by U.S. officials, such as former FBI or CIA agents. Because of security concerns, Afghan workers may not use cell phones or take pictures on base, and they are only allowed into areas where they work. Their work permits can be suspended if they break the rules.
After Ahmadullah’s class, his students said the military base offers much better opportunities than they’d find anywhere else in the area. The men said they worry that insurgents will harm them or their families for helping the Americans, though they said such retribution rarely happens. They also worry that the Americans will leave, and the jobs will disappear. “Right now, there is freedom,” Aqa Gul, 38, said through an interpreter. “If the Americans leave, it will be very bad.”
Tuesday, March 29, 2011
A Year at War - Take a ride with the US Army 1st Battalion, 87th Infantry of the 10th Mountain Division
A Year at War Some good stuff on what our troops experience....take a look...well worth the time invested
Panoramas: New Views From Forward Operating Base Kunduz following the men and women of US Army First Battalion, 87th Infantry of the 10th Mountain Division This is will give you a good panoramic view of being there.....
This amounted to a Presidential level " Whatever"....
People are acting more delusional and Facebook is leading the way in assisting them.
It used to be that if you made something up to deceive others, it was seen as dishonest and wrong...now, we have a start-up company that will provide you with an online " Cloud Girlfriend " who will provide you with "the illusion" of a real person who is your girlfriend....and chats with you online so other Facebook users can see this....
WTF?? I think by the nature of what it represents, and how people use the product (by design), we should rename Facebook to FAKEBOOK as the stuff it shows people is more fake than real....
One more sign that people should ditch Facebook and focus on having real realtionships with friends & family....Facebook and the "Cloud Girlfriend" start-up offer a "fake" sense of connection to real relationships...and the narcissistic nature of this type of behavior is just repugnant.
Fake Facebook Girlfriends From "Cloud Girlfriend" Will Be Run By Real People Dylan Love Mar. 28, 2011, businessinsider.com
Get A Fake Facebook Girlfriend With New Startup "Cloud Girlfriend"
"Cloud Girlfriend," is a startup that creates the "perfect girlfriend" out of thin air for users. The "perfect girlfriend" then sends you public messages on your Facebook wall, so you can deceive your friends into thinking you have a girlfriend as well as make you feel like you have a companion.
After we covered the company, co-founder David Fuhriman reached out to fill us in on some more details about Cloud Girlfriend: Cloud Girlfriend will consist of a network of real human beings, not automated bots, that users will interact with over Facebook. Fuhriman thinks it can help guys get a girlfriend.
If visitors to your Facebook profile to see wall posts from your imaginary sweetheart, they might think, "Someone else thinks highly enough of this person to date him, so maybe I should too." Cloud Girlfriend is not a porn site or adult chat service. (Although it does remind us of a hotline where you can talk to someone of the opposite sex if you're lonely.)
Fuhriman said the site has a therapeutic value and can fulfill psychological needs like intimacy and friendship even though the interaction is virtual. He also maintains that these interactions can even build self confidence and help users navigate real-life situations. We asked Fuhriman for some details about how he plans to follow Facebook's terms of service and make money, but he said those were details he couldn't go into.
If he's going to be toying with Facebook profiles to create fake girlfriends, we assume Facebook will hammer him. Facebook doesn't want spammy accounts filling up the social network. Fuhriman thinks his company will enhance someone's experience on a social network, not dilute it. He also notes it's already filled with fake accounts: "There will always be more profiles of dogs and cats on social networks than there will ever be of Cloud Girlfriends."
Monday, March 28, 2011
"Lt. Colonel Donald Harwood Lee, Jr.(Ret), 90, of Eufaula, Okalhoma succumbed to cancer on February 20, 2011 in Edmond and is home with the Lord. Donald was born on June 27, 1920 in Ypsilanti, Michigan to Donald and Hazel Estelle Lee. He attended and graduated from Ypsilanti High School in 1938. Following college at the University of Michigan, Donald entered the United States Army Air Corps. He served in World War II and in the Korean War as a fighter pilot. For his service, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross Medal, the Bronze Star Medal, and the Purple Heart, among others.
Don was my father in law, he flew, P-40, P-51, his favorite the P-38, in WW2, and the F-86 in Korea. The fact that he never bragged, never asked for credit, he simply did what needed to be done. Among the awards he was given, he recieved the bronze star with clusters, meaning he basically recieved three bronze stars, the Distinguished Flying Cross was the medal he was most proud of. He was a humble man that asked nothing of anyone he wasn't willing to give of himself."
Schools put themselves into a "financial vise" and expect us to pay for unreasonable pay increases when they can't deliver quality education
The issue here is not "better" schools but more $$$. If $$$ alone made better schools, we would have the best in the world as we spend more $$$ per student than anywhere in the world....and in the end, Johnny still places about 25th in education compared to his peers in other countries....wonderful. We pay top $$$ but get a poor return....it would be like paying for a Camaro and getting back a Yugo....
Let's delve into the story....The schools are losing " Stimulus Funds" they had last year....Funny money that was given out by POTUS and is not something you should count on as it doesn't exist in the real world....You can't expect that kind of money to appear year after year... Then if you read the whole article, you find the meat of the story at the end...
" In Everett, School Superintendent Frederick Foresteire said his district will get a $4.9 million state aid increase next year. But he said his budget will be tight in light of other factors, including the loss of $1.3 million in stimulus money; a nearly $1 million drop in city spending on schools; a $650,000 increase in charges for health insurance and other costs; and the $700,000 needed to cover step increases and other union contractual obligations."
Health insurance and Union obligations added $1.35 million in cost to their budget - WELL, no wonder why you can't pay the bills - The Unions helped themselves to a nice pay increase and the Health Insurance is increasing (without the employees paying a larger cut, like in the private sector ) The media wonders why there is outrage against the schools?? Easy - Poor performance by teachers and students, unreasonable $$$ and benefits expectations by school employees and a poor return on the investment made....Did I miss anything?
Schools caught in a vise Loss of stimulus funds worsens budget outlook Area school districts are worried the Legislature will reduce the amount of state aid for education proposed by Governor Deval Patrick
By John Laidler Globe Correspondent / March 27, 2011
In Danvers, the School Committee has approved a budget proposal that would cut 21 positions during the next fiscal year. In Revere, however, school officials are struggling to close a projected $5 million fiscal 2012 budget gap without layoffs. Across the region, school districts are facing difficult choices as they struggle to balance their fiscal 2012 books in the face of a bleak confluence of factors, including rising costs and the end of federal stimulus dollars.
“It is very challenging,’’ said Danvers School Superintendent Lisa Dana, whose district’s proposed cuts include the equivalent positions of 11 teachers and nine aides. The budget also calls for a 20 percent increase in fees. Officials said the district must absorb cost increases in areas such as special education and contractual obligations, and a loss in federal stimulus money, while keeping to an overall 2.07 percent spending increase. “There’s definitely an impact when you are cutting the equivalent of 21 positions,’’ Dana said.
But the budget keeps core services to students intact through such means as restructuring or doing without services that support that core, she said. Revere School Superintendent Paul Dakin called the fiscal 2012 budget “certainly the most difficult in recent years, because we are losing stimulus money that we had over the last couple of years.’’ Dakin said about half the district’s projected $5 million budget shortfall is the result of the loss of those federal dollars. The remainder is owed to rising costs in areas such as fuel, health insurance, contracted salary increases, and transportation.
He said state school aid is up $2.8 million, but that is not enough to make up for the other budget pressures. The district is pursuing potential ways to eliminate the shortfall, including saving money in this fiscal year to carry into the next one; and seeking through negotiations to have unions agree to health care concessions, one to two furlough days, and deferring part of a 2 percent salary increase owed to them next year, he said. Dakin cautioned that even if the district manages all those changes, “we’d be in real trouble’’ if the Legislature allots less for state aid than Governor Deval Patrick has proposed.
Tom Scott, executive director of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents, said districts have seen job and service cuts the last few years, but federal stimulus money has helped moderate those reductions. “We have now arrived at the perfect storm where we have lost all the federal money and we are probably at the bottom of where our resources are,’’ he said. “The costs of education continue to be significant. So this is going to be a tough year for most of the school districts.’’ Scott said most districts face the need to make cuts that “are going to increase class size or reduce direct programs and services for kids.’’ But he agreed with Dakin that the severity of those cuts will be determined in part by whether the Legislature adopts school aid figures below those proposed by the governor.
In Everett, School Superintendent Frederick Foresteire said his district will get a $4.9 million state aid increase next year. But he said his budget will be tight in light of other factors, including the loss of $1.3 million in stimulus money; a nearly $1 million drop in city spending on schools; a $650,000 increase in charges for health insurance and other costs; and the $700,000 needed to cover step increases and other union contractual obligations. Foresteire said balancing the budget will require job cuts, including layoffs, but the extent is still to be determined. “Everything is on the table,’’ he said.
Peabody School Superintendent C. Milton Burnett said his district will be able to replace some stimulus money with funds it received last year from the federal Education Jobs Fund program. But he said fiscal 2012 is still shaping up as difficult due to rising health costs and the need to carry out deferred maintenance to HVAC systems. He said it was premature to say if job cuts will be needed. In Salem, School Superintendent William J. Cameron Jr. predicts a “tough budget year’’ in which “the best I can plausibly expect is to maintain level services.’’ Cameron said that over the past several years, Mayor Kimberley L. Driscoll and the City Council have provided the schools with enough funds to weather the decline in state aid. It remains to be seen, he said, “whether that level of commitment to the schools will still be possible.’’ © Copyright 2011 Globe Newspaper Company.
Sunday, March 27, 2011
The 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment leaves Afghanistan - Unit suffered more KIA / WIA than any other USMC unit in Afghan War taking on Sangin
SEMPER FI to the 3/5 and our condolences for the losses suffered, prayers for all who suffered the loss of family & friends along with hopes of speedy recovery for those wounded defending the citizens of Afghanistan from the Taliban.
Best Wishes to the 1/23 in taking on a tough mission. You have the thanks of a grateful nation and this Seabee who shared time at Camp Leatherneck with these brave men & women.
I do not consider myself as a Hero, but I have been in the company of Heroes in Afghanistan and Iraq....the 3/5 are American Heroes and I was grateful to have shared time with them in both locations.
Marine unit that suffered most casualties coming home Camp Pendleton Unit scaling back role in Afghanistan
By MARK WALKER - firstname.lastname@example.org
North County Times The Californian Thursday, March 24, 2011 The Camp Pendleton unit that has seen more troops killed and wounded in action than any other Marine Corps unit in the 10-year-old Afghan war is coming home. The 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment will return in a couple of weeks ahead of a wave of other units from the base's I Marine Expeditionary Force.
The lead role in Afghanistan is being taken over by the II Marine Expeditionary Force based at Camp Lejeune, N.C.
A transfer of command ceremony is set for Saturday at Camp Leatherneck, the main Marine base in the southern Helmand province where most Marines are assigned. At that ceremony, Camp Pendleton Maj. Gen. Richard Mills, who has overseen the fighting by the 20,000 Marines in Afghanistan for the last year, will relinquish that command and return home.
The number of locally based troops at war in the south-central Asian nation will fall from slightly more than 10,000 to about 7,000 by the end of spring and down to about 2,000 by midsummer, said 2nd Lt. Joanna Cappeto, a Camp Pendleton spokeswoman.
Among the most anticipated homecomings is the return of the battered 3rd Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment, whose nickname is the "Dark Horse Battalion." The approximately 950-member infantry unit was engaged in heavy fighting in the Sangin District of the Helmand province from the time it arrived there at the end of the summer until recent weeks.
The region was rife with Taliban insurgents, who used the district as a haven for illicit drug trafficking and manufacturing roadside bombs. In its aggressive pursuit of the insurgents, the battalion saw 25 of its members killed in action, most of them from the bombs that are the weapon responsible for most U.S. and NATO troop casualties.
More than 150 battalion troops were wounded, including more than a dozen who had single- or multiple-limb amputations. One of the men wounded in that fashion was Oceanside resident Lt. Cameron West, a platoon leader who lost a leg and suffered other injuries in an Oct. 15 blast while leading a patrol less than three weeks after arriving in Afghanistan. West, who continues to undergo therapy at Naval Medical Center San Diego, said Tuesday that he's eager to see the battalion get back to Camp Pendleton. "I've been waiting for the last six months," West said. "These are my guys and I can't wait to see them."
When the battalion gets back, commanders have ordered that it be kept as intact as possible for three months to allow its troops to decompress from the rigors of war and violence they experienced. "We won't transfer anybody until at least 90 days after they come," said Col. Willy Buhl, regimental commander. "We are keeping people together during that critical decompression time to enable getting them the education and the observation and natural decompression that occurs when you are with your buddies. They are the only ones who can truly understand what they've been through."
The battalion also will be closely monitored by mental health specialists under the direction of Rear Adm. C. Forrest Faison III, commander of Navy Medicine West and Naval Medical Center San Diego. The specialists will work with the troops and their families as a part of an effort to stave off post-traumatic stress disorder and destructive behaviors. "We're trying to see how we can take (post-combat care) to the next level of assistance after 10 years of war," was how Buhl termed the effort during a recent conversation at Camp Pendleton.
Bill Rider, president of the Oceanside-based American Combat Veterans of War that counsels troops in distress, said the post-deployment care is a wise move. "Maintaining unit cohesion after war is good for the troops because it will allow them to talk to their brother warriors and work things out," he said. "It's not a panacea that will fix everything, but it's a good start." Rider said the battalion will need to confront the carnage it suffered. "They are going to have to work out in their own minds all that happened and all the little hobgoblins that come along, such as 'Why did I survive when all the others didn't?'" he said.
The 25 battalion deaths are among 61 combat fatalities for Camp Pendleton troops since March 1, 2010, according to records kept by the North County Times based on Department of Defense casualty releases. As the 3/5 battalion comes home, troops from Camp Pendleton's 1st Battalion, 5th Marine Regiment have been deploying to Afghanistan, where a traditional lull in fighting during the winter months is ending. Other major Camp Pendleton units heading out include Combat Logistics Battalion 7 and the 3rd Battalion, 4th Marine Regiment
Saturday, March 26, 2011
This cannot be good...Libyan rebel commander admits his fighters have links to Al Qaeda..and advanced weaponry they could use against the US Military
The idea that we will be arming and supporting Libyan Rebel Forces, who are also alligned with Al Qeada, in the fight against Momar Ghaddafi, who a few years ago were fighting our troops in Iraq & Afghanistan is more than worrisome....it is wrong.
And the news only gets worse - " Idriss Deby Itno, Chad's president, said al-Qaeda has managed to pillage military arsenals in the Libyan rebel zone and acquired arms, "including surface-to-air missiles, which were then smuggled into their sanctuaries".
That info, if true, constitutes a clear and present danger to our forces across the Middle East and Afghanistan....a grave danger.
Again, any sane person would start to question what we have waded into in Libya if one of the outcomes is arming sworn enemies of the United States with advanced weaponry that could cause the deaths of our troops...I feel that POTUS has a lot more explaining to do as this would constitute a failure of his position as Commander-in-Chief. I will be interested in seeing how he explains this revelation when he gets around to letting us know what we are doing in Libya....
Libyan rebel commander admits his fighters have al-Qaeda links
Abdel-Hakim al-Hasidi, the Libyan rebel leader, has said jihadists who fought against allied troops in Iraq are on the front lines of the battle against Muammar Gaddafi's regime.
By Praveen Swami, Nick Squires and Duncan Gardham - UK Telegraph
Mr al-Hasidi admitted he had earlier fought against 'the foreign invasion' in Afghanistan
In an interview with the Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore, Mr al-Hasidi admitted that he had recruited "around 25" men from the Derna area in eastern Libya to fight against coalition troops in Iraq. Some of them, he said, are "today are on the front lines in Adjabiya".
Mr al-Hasidi insisted his fighters "are patriots and good Muslims, not terrorists," but added that the "members of al-Qaeda are also good Muslims and are fighting against the invader".
His revelations came even as Idriss Deby Itno, Chad's president, said al-Qaeda had managed to pillage military arsenals in the Libyan rebel zone and acquired arms, "including surface-to-air missiles, which were then smuggled into their sanctuaries".
Mr al-Hasidi admitted he had earlier fought against "the foreign invasion" in Afghanistan, before being "captured in 2002 in Peshwar, in Pakistan". He was later handed over to the US, and then held in Libya before being released in 2008.
US and British government sources said Mr al-Hasidi was a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, or LIFG, which killed dozens of Libyan troops in guerrilla attacks around Derna and Benghazi in 1995 and 1996.
Even though the LIFG is not part of the al-Qaeda organisation, the United States military's West Point academy has said the two share an "increasingly co-operative relationship". In 2007, documents captured by allied forces from the town of Sinjar, showed LIFG emmbers made up the second-largest cohort of foreign fighters in Iraq, after Saudi Arabia.
Earlier this month, al-Qaeda issued a call for supporters to back the Libyan rebellion, which it said would lead to the imposition of "the stage of Islam" in the country.
British Islamists have also backed the rebellion, with the former head of the banned al-Muhajiroun proclaiming that the call for "Islam, the Shariah and jihad from Libya" had "shaken the enemies of Islam and the Muslims more than the tsunami that Allah sent against their friends, the Japanese".
Well it seems that a reporter from Iowa found out that there are rules even at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan...
Bringing order to a lawless land -one Parking Ticket at a time
Mar 25, 2011 by Tony Leys
Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan - This place is just like a real city – in the most annoying of ways.
Our National Guard guide got smacked with a pink ticket for parking his clunker pickup truck inappropriately on “Warrior Loop” today. It looked like an OK spot to us at the time, but I guess not.
The base officer who filled out the ticket did a lovely, efficient job. The boxes are neatly checked, and the spelling is perfect. You have to appreciate a public servant who displays such craftsmanship.
But here’s the question: What’s the punishment?
As soldiers here like to say, “What are they gonna do, send me to Afghanistan?”
Tracking a customer’s whereabouts is part and parcel of what phone companies(and online programs) do....
I am no fan of Facebook and it's pervasive intrusion into all aspects of online life...updates available through your car's computerized systems are obnoxious...The ability for others to gain info is bad enough but people willingly sign up for this crappola...and pay for it too! My vehicle needs to start, run and get me from point " A" to " B " and back again....If I need to let people know where I am, I can call them or text them.....Having the car update them or getting updates from my car is plain stupid. Do yourself a favor and KILL your Facebook account while you can....really...you'll thank me later on.
So now we get to the cell phone....a necessity these days....I have a non-GPS phone that texts and calls but not much else....It works fine and I really don't need mobile games or e-mail....I have the IPAD for that stuff...as needed.
Well owners of the so called " Smartphones" might want to read this....they are tracking your every move and you are enabling them to do so....Like anything else, that info is fine as long as it isn't misused....just like the rest of the technology helpers we have....makes you think about it, eh?
One Politician in Germany decided to find out what they were tracking about himself...the picture he paints ain't pretty.....
It’s Tracking Your Every Move and You May Not Even Know
By NOAM COHEN - NT TIMES
Published: March 26, 2011
A favorite pastime of Internet users is to share their location: services like Google Latitude can inform friends when you are nearby; another, Foursquare, has turned reporting these updates into a game.
Malte Spitz was surprised by how much detail Deutsche Telekom had about his whereabouts.
But as a German Green party politician, Malte Spitz, recently learned, we are already continually being tracked whether we volunteer to be or not. Cellphone companies do not typically divulge how much information they collect, so Mr. Spitz went to court to find out exactly what his cellphone company, Deutsche Telekom, knew about his whereabouts.
The results were astounding. In a six-month period — from Aug 31, 2009, to Feb. 28, 2010, Deutsche Telekom had recorded and saved his longitude and latitude coordinates more than 35,000 times. It traced him from a train on the way to Erlangen at the start through to that last night, when he was home in Berlin.
Mr. Spitz has provided a rare glimpse — an unprecedented one, privacy experts say — of what is being collected as we walk around with our phones. Unlike many online services and Web sites that must send “cookies” to a user’s computer to try to link its traffic to a specific person, cellphone companies simply have to sit back and hit “record.”
“We are all walking around with little tags, and our tag has a phone number associated with it, who we called and what we do with the phone,” said Sarah E. Williams, an expert on graphic information at Columbia University’s architecture school. “We don’t even know we are giving up that data.”
Tracking a customer’s whereabouts is part and parcel of what phone companies do for a living. Every seven seconds or so, the phone company of someone with a working cellphone is determining the nearest tower, so as to most efficiently route calls. And for billing reasons, they track where the call is coming from and how long it has lasted.
“At any given instant, a cell company has to know where you are; it is constantly registering with the tower with the strongest signal,” said Matthew Blaze, a professor of computer and information science at the University of Pennsylvania who has testified before Congress on the issue.
Mr. Spitz’s information, Mr. Blaze pointed out, was not based on those frequent updates, but on how often Mr. Spitz checked his e-mail.
Mr. Spitz, a privacy advocate, decided to be extremely open with his personal information. Late last month, he released all the location information in a publicly accessible Google Document, and worked with a prominent German newspaper, Die Zeit, to map those coordinates over time.
“This is really the most compelling visualization in a public forum I have ever seen,” said Mr. Blaze, adding that it “shows how strong a picture even a fairly low-resolution location can give.”
In an interview from Berlin, Mr. Spitz explained his reasons: “It was an important point to show this is not some kind of a game. I thought about it, if it is a good idea to publish all the data — I also could say, O.K., I will only publish it for five, 10 days maybe. But then I said no, I really want to publish the whole six months.”
In the United States, telecommunication companies do not have to report precisely what material they collect, said Kevin Bankston, a lawyer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, who specializes in privacy. He added that based on court cases he could say that “they store more of it and it is becoming more precise.”
“Phones have become a necessary part of modern life,” he said, objecting to the idea that “you have to hand over your personal privacy to be part of the 21st century.”
In the United States, there are law enforcement and safety reasons for cellphone companies being encouraged to keep track of its customers. Both the F.B.I. and the Drug Enforcement Administration have used cellphone records to identify suspects and make arrests.
If the information is valuable to law enforcement, it could be lucrative for marketers. The major American cellphone providers declined to explain what exactly they collect and what they use it for.
AT&T, for example, works with a company, Sense Networks, that uses anonymous location information “to better understand aggregate human activity.” One product, CitySense, makes recommendations about local nightlife to customers who choose to participate based on their cellphone usage. (Many smartphone apps already on the market are based on location but that’s with the consent of the user and through GPS, not the cellphone company’s records.)
Because of Germany’s history, courts place a greater emphasis on personal privacy. Mr. Spitz first went to court to get his entire file in 2009 but Deutsche Telekom objected.
For six months, he said, there was a “Ping Pong game” of lawyers’ letters back and forth until, separately, the Constitutional Court there decided that the existing rules governing data retention, beyond those required for billing and logistics, were illegal. Soon thereafter, the two sides reached a settlement: “I only get the information that is related to me, and I don’t get all the information like who am I calling, who sent me a SMS and so on,” Mr. Spitz said, referring to text messages.
Even so, 35,831 pieces of information were sent to him by Deutsche Telekom as an encrypted file, to protect his privacy during its transmission.
Deutsche Telekom, which owns T-Mobile, Mr. Spitz’s carrier, wrote in an e-mail that it stored six months’ of data, as required by the law, and that after the court ruling it “immediately ceased” storing data.
And a year after the court ruling outlawing this kind of data retention, there is a movement to try to get a new, more limited law passed. Mr. Spitz, at 26 a member of the Green Party’s executive board, says he released that material to influence that debate.
“I want to show the political message that this kind of data retention is really, really big and you can really look into the life of people for six months and see what they are doing where they are.”
While the potential for abuse is easy to imagine, in Mr. Spitz’s case, there was not much revealed.
“I really spend most of the time in my own neighborhood, which was quite funny for me,” he said. “I am not really walking that much around.”
Any embarrassing details? “The data shows that I am flying sometimes,” he said, rather than taking a more fuel-efficient train. “Something not that popular for a Green politician.”
Friday, March 25, 2011
The Speech Obama Hasn't Given - - - The American Public deserves to know what we hope to accomplish in Libya
" What are we doing in Libya ?"
We need a plan of action as without a plan, we are not only heading down the road to disaster, we are betraying the pledge we make to our servicemen & women to not place them in harm's way without clear guidance as to what they need to do and what they will accomplish....The NATO allies can't state clearly what we are doing and we need some idea of what we are trying to accomplish.
I hate to use the metaphor but watching POTUS seems to be like something the Joker said in the movie DARK KNIGHT:
The Joker: Do I really look like a guy with a plan? You know what I am? I'm a dog chasing cars. I wouldn't know what to do with one if I caught it. You know, I just... do things.
I hate to say it, but when it comes to Obama, that line fits.
The Speech Obama Hasn't Given
What are we doing in Libya?
Americans deserve an explanation.
It all seems rather mad, doesn't it? The decision to become involved militarily in the Libyan civil war couldn't take place within a less hospitable context. The U.S. is reeling from spending and deficits, we're already in two wars, our military has been stretched to the limit, we're restive at home, and no one, really, sees President Obama as the kind of leader you'd follow over the top. "This way, men!" "No, I think I'll stay in my trench." People didn't hire him to start battles but to end them. They didn't expect him to open new fronts. Did he not know this?
He has no happy experience as a rallier of public opinion and a leader of great endeavors; the central initiative of his presidency, the one that gave shape to his leadership, health care, is still unpopular and the cause of continued agitation. When he devoted his entire first year to it, he seemed off point and out of touch. This was followed by the BP oil spill, which made him look snakebit. Now he seems incompetent and out of his depth in foreign and military affairs. He is more observed than followed, or perhaps I should say you follow him with your eyes and not your heart. So it's funny he'd feel free to launch and lead a war, which is what this confused and uncertain military action may become.
What was he thinking? What is he thinking?
Which gets me to Mr. Obama's speech, the one he hasn't given. I cannot for the life of me see how an American president can launch a serious military action without a full and formal national address in which he explains to the American people why he is doing what he is doing, why it is right, and why it is very much in the national interest. He referred to his aims in parts of speeches and appearances when he was in South America, but now he's home. More is needed, more is warranted, and more is deserved. He has to sit at that big desk and explain his thinking, put forward the facts as he sees them, and try to garner public support. He has to make a case for his own actions. It's what presidents do! And this is particularly important now, because there are reasons to fear the current involvement will either escalate and produce a lengthy conflict or collapse and produce humiliation.
Without a formal and extended statement, the air of weirdness, uncertainty and confusion that surrounds this endeavor will only deepen.
The questions that must be answered actually start with the essentials. What, exactly, are we doing? Why are we doing it? At what point, or after what arguments, did the president decide U.S. military involvement was warranted? Is our objective practical and doable? What is America's overriding strategic interest? In what way are the actions taken, and to be taken, seeing to those interests?
From those questions flow many others. We know who we're against—Moammar Gadhafi, a bad man who's done very wicked things. But do we know who we're for? That is, what does the U.S. government know or think it knows about the composition and motives of the rebel forces we're attempting to assist? For 42 years, Gadhafi controlled his nation's tribes, sects and groups through brute force, bribes and blandishments. What will happen when they are no longer kept down? What will happen when they are no longer oppressed? What will they become, and what role will they play in the coming drama? Will their rebellion against Gadhafi degenerate into a dozen separate battles over oil, power and local dominance?
What happens if Gadhafi hangs on? The president has said he wants U.S. involvement to be brief. But what if Gadhafi is fighting on three months from now?
On the other hand, what happens if Gadhafi falls, if he's deposed in a palace coup or military coup, or is killed, or flees? What exactly do we imagine will take his place?
Supporters of U.S. intervention have argued that if we mean to protect Libya's civilians, as we have declared, then we must force regime change. But in order to remove Gadhafi, they add, we will need to do many other things. We will need to provide close-in air power. We will probably have to put in special forces teams to work with the rebels, who are largely untrained and ragtag. The Libyan army has tanks and brigades and heavy weapons. The U.S. and the allies will have to provide the rebels training and give them support. They will need antitank missiles and help in coordinating air strikes.
Once Gadhafi is gone, will there be a need for an international peacekeeping force to stabilize the country, to provide a peaceful transition, and to help the post-Gadhafi government restore its infrastructure? Will there be a partition? Will Libyan territory be altered?
None of this sounds like limited and discrete action.
In fact, this may turn out to be true: If Gadhafi survives, the crisis will go on and on. If Gadhafi falls, the crisis will go on and on.
Everyone who supports the Libyan endeavor says they don't want an occupation. One said the other day, "We're not looking for a protracted occupation."
.Mr. Obama has apparently set great store in the fact that he was not acting alone, that Britain, France and Italy were eager to move. That's good—better to work with friends and act in concert. But it doesn't guarantee anything. A multilateral mistake is still a mistake. So far the allied effort has not been marked by good coordination and communication. If the conflict in Libya drags on, won't there tend to be more fissures, more tension, less commitment and more confusion as to objectives and command structures? Could the unanticipated results of the Libya action include new strains, even a new estrangement, among the allies?
How might Gadhafi hit out, in revenge, in his presumed last days, against America and the West?
And what, finally, about Congress? Putting aside the past half-century's argument about declarations of war, doesn't Congress, as representative of the people, have the obvious authority and responsibility to support the Libyan endeavor, or not, and to authorize funds, or not?
These are all big questions, and there are many other obvious ones. If the Libya endeavor is motivated solely by humanitarian concerns, then why haven't we acted on those concerns recently in other suffering nations? It's a rough old world out there, and there's a lot of suffering. What is our thinking going forward? What are the new rules of the road, if there are new rules? Were we, in Libya, making a preemptive strike against extraordinary suffering—suffering beyond what is inevitable in a civil war?
America has been through a difficult 10 years, and the burden of proof on the need for U.S. action would be with those who supported intervention. Chief among them, of course, is the president, who made the decision as commander in chief. He needs to sit down and tell the American people how this thing can possibly turn out well. He needs to tell them why it isn't mad.
Copyright 2011 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Fridays also spur retrospective observations....You try to sum up the week's efforts and prepare yourself for some well earned weekend activity....so I'll take a bash at sharing some observations from my AOR (area of responsibility - Military speak for your present location)
- We are entering Spring but the weather here seems to not want to move away from winter....we had snow here twice this week and thankfully, it didn't add up to much...gone within hours once the temps rose back to the low 40s
- The Herring are "running", which means returning to the rivers here in Southeastern Massachusetts as they do each Spring....you can tell because there is a large flock of Seagulls squawking and following them as they make their way up the river....and of course, leaving behind the calling cards that only seagulls can.....ewww
- "March Madness" is in full swing.....whatever. Too much attention is paid to the NCAA and it has turned March into a month dominated by college Basketball.....sorry, not interested. Spring Training for the Red Sox....more please.....Roundball just isn't that exciting, in my humble opinion.
- Two Oldest came by last night and we shared dinner and some early birthday cake along with the Mrs., daughter and daughter-in-law.....it was a good evening of humor, sibling rivalry and a game of Wii Golf....I actually won the round despite predictions that Dad would peter out on the tougher holes....I enjoy these evenings as the Number 1 and Number 2 sons have grown to be honorable men....I am proud of their efforts and it is very enjoyable to spend time in their company. The company of family in these tough times is something everyone needs more and less have the ability to enjoy....
- The political posturing for the 2012 Elections is already rearing it's ugly head and the field could not be more full of empty-headed fools who look in the mirror and see themselves as the next Thomas Jefferson....."Let me be clear about this"....the country is in serious need of leadership and we got nobody.......zero, zilch, nada.....no one.....not a single person has appeared on the horizon who the country can get behind and feel confident on the outcome.....Romney, Gingrich, Palin, Bachman, Trump, Barbour, Pawlenty, etc, etc. - All are woefully over matched and none of them has anything we want or need....they are all a bunch of self-centered fools......the "Empty Suit" who occupies the office is an abject lesson in what we should NOT do...elect some feckless idjit promising " hope & change " - We need to " Hope" we can "Change" him outta there as he is a blight upon the world stage and an embarrassment .....feckless, incompetent and lacking the sense God gave a dog.....really....and who will be the replacement???
- Meanwhile, we have Japan (prayers for them), Libya, Middle East unrest, Oil spiking, Deficit issues, etc, etc......did I miss anything ??
- I think this may be why we all are eager for Spring to come along....to allow us to enjoy the great outdoors and for a moment, leave the issues behind......especially on an ALOHA FRIDAY.
Thursday, March 24, 2011
Here is the " WHY "....This is why the Marines of the 3/5 were glad to win the battles in Sangin. They were doing it for others, not themselves.
Afghanistan war diary: the girls of Sangin
By Gretel C. Kovach
Wednesday, March 23, 2011 at 5:27 p.m.
SANGIN, Afghanistan — Many Marines stationed in Sangin have a soft spot for the little girls who scamper after them on patrol. Knowing there is no chance that these bright-eyed little lasses will join the insurgency after they are grown and shoot at them is one reason, but the young Afghan girls are also simply adorable.
Despite the decline in power of the Taliban, female teenagers and women are still rarely seen in public in southern Afghanistan outside the provincial capital -- not even in the peacock blue burqas the Kabulis wear or the dark shroud more common to this area that lacks an eye-slit or grille. But young girls dressed in bright red or green shifts trimmed in sparkling thread play alongside their brothers in streets and fields, or tote babies with kohl-streaked eyes on their narrow hips. (The eyeliner is thought to improve the infants’ eyesight.) If the Marines don’t stop giving these girls so much candy, there will not be a woman left in Helmand province in 20 years who has any teeth.
Under the Taliban’s fanatical interpretation of Islam, girls were not allowed to attend school, or boys for that matter unless it was one of the militants’ cultish madrasas. Women couldn’t work outside the home, and their access to quality medical care was limited since there were no women doctors. Ten years into the U.S. war against al-Qaeda and their onetime hosts in Afghanistan, the Taliban fighters that had reemerged like a poisonous weed are being rooted out from the heartland of their movement once again. But some of the old ways based in patriarchal tribal culture remain. Social mores still force girls indoors at adolescence, where they have few opportunities in life other than to marry and raise their children hidden behind high mud walls. Knowing what sort of claustrophobic existence awaits her in a few years makes the sight of a little girl running freely in the open air all the more joyous.
The Marines say they are not trying to impose American culture on Afghanistan (which is why the U.S. military builds mosques here, since almost everyone is Muslim and quite pious.) But the expansion of women’s rights and opportunities seems to be a fortunate side-effect of the war, and one that is fully in-line with mainstream Islamic beliefs. The Prophet Mohammed was married to a businesswoman afterall. Now some fathers in this ultra-conservative Pashtun region are sending their young girls to school in the classrooms popping up in tents and new buildings throughout the region. Disparities are still pronounced, even when it comes to the education of very young female students. During our visit to a new school the Marines established in Marjah, we saw several hundred male students but only about 40 girls. But the FETs, the Female Engagement Team of women Marines, recruited each of those girls one by one, including the first they literally pulled off the street. So it was a good start, if a modest one.
During our last visit to Afghanistan in August and September, photographer Nelvin Cepeda and I spent some time in the Laki area of Garmser district, a hinterlands community of farmers and shepherds. We listened to infantry Marines from the 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment stationed there at the time as they tried to convince local tribal elders to allow their daughters to attend school. The negotiations were delicate, and the education of all Laki children, girls and boys, hung in the balance as the Marines solicited the local power brokers for help organizing new schools. But the Marines succeeded in the end, because there is a girl’s school today in Laki.
It is easy for the Marines to push too far and too fast and alienate the Afghan people they are trying to win over, and they have on occasion. For instance, the FET Marines in Sangin have been quite successful in gaining access to the other half of the population in one of Afghanistan’s most violent areas. Some Afghan women have adopted them as second daughters of sorts or pointed out hidden bombs. But one of their biggest disappointments involved the only female doctor in Sangin, not counting the midwives. Hundreds of Afghans had started showing up to the FET’s health initiatives in Sangin, when they teach parents about basic hygiene and health care, such as the need to hydrate children suffering from diarrhea instead of the local custom of depriving them of liquids. But when they urged the sole female doctor practicing in Sangin to attend their next health outreach, the woman removed the sign outside her office and skipped town.
A recent women’s shura meeting was also something of a bust because of low attendance, Maj. Gen. Richard Mills, the senior Marine in command of NATO troops in southwestern Afghanistan, told me. In time, even the most remote and battle-scarred corners of Helmand province will nurture women leaders. For now, in an area of the country where roughly 10 percent of the men can read and write and perhaps one percent of the women, according to the Marines’ estimates, a sixth-grade education is a major accomplishment for a girl.
As a woman journalist who works with Marines in combat, I find a bit of delicious irony in the fact that infantry grunts -- that macho testosterone-fueled bunch of trained killers -- are on the front lines of this campaign to teach the daughters of Afghanistan to read. Many of these young riflemen are fathers as well as fighters. When their own daughters learn of what they’ve done, I think they will be proud.
The USS Arlington - why it was named USS Arlington / The ship will demonstrate “why we do the things we do ”
The fight continues and the US Navy shows that our determination to fight the foes of Freedom -
Our Resolve is as solid as the steel our ships are built with.....
Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of all who threaten it.
Twisted chunks of steel torn from the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, will be displayed aboard a new Navy ship named after Arlington County, Va.
The rusted fragments will be displayed in a Lucite box on the quarterdeck of the USS Arlington, a symbolic reminder for those aboard of the terrorist attacks on Virginia and New York.
“This will be very tangible to the young people on the ship,” said Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va., who yesterday attended a small ceremony at the Pentagon where the Secretary of the Navy presented the fragments to Arlington County officials.
“This will give them the history of why it was named” the USS Arlington “and why we do the things we do,” he added.
USS Arlington christening a time of joy and sadness
Published: Thursday, March 24, 2011, 5:39 AM
By Mississippi Press Editorial Board - The Mississippi Press
THE ESSENCE of what makes America great -- including its military, its workers and its patriotic spirit -- will be on display this weekend in Pascagoula, when the U.S. Navy christens its newest amphibious transport ship.
From the ceremonial champagne to the remembrance of those who died at the Pentagon on 9/11, Saturday promises to be a partly festive, partly somber day at Northrop Grumman Shipbuilding's Pascagoula shipyard.
The ceremony's keynote remarks will be delivered by Arlington County, Va., Fire Chief James Schwartz, who was incident commander at the time of the terrorist attack.
The ship was named for Arlington County, home of the Pentagon, where American Airlines Flight 77 crashed on Sept. 11, 2001, killing 184 people.
It is a worthy tribute to those who died, and also to the military and civilian employees at the Pentagon and the emergency personnel of Arlington County who responded to the crash.
May Gulf Coast residents show them the respect and gratitude they deserve for their selfless acts in the face of terror.
Certainly, the construction of the Arlington was a labor of love for Gulf Coast shipyard workers, who have a reputation for being among the nation's best shipbuilders, dedicated to their craft and country. As first lady Michelle Obama said last year, when she helped christen a Coast Guard cutter in Pascagoula, "Your hands have given us some of the greatest ships in the United States Navy and Coast Guard."
We predict that after it is commissioned next year, the USS Arlington will serve the nation well as it transports sailors, Marines and equipment to hot spots around the world.
As it carries out its various missions, the Arlington will also remind the world of the tragedy as well as the heroics that occurred at the Pentagon on that terrible day 10 years ago.
Wednesday, March 23, 2011
With the price of Regular Fuel, it could be a way to fight the rising prices as the restaurants need to get rid of the stuff and many will give it to you for free as they have to pay to dispose of it....
As the guys on TOP GEAR say all the time, " How hard can it be ???"
Here's how you do it.....
How to run a car on cooking oil
As petrol prices reach a record high, Christopher Middleton discovers the hazardous art of converting used oil from breakfast fry-ups into biodiesel.
Christopher Middleton 22 Mar 2011
From the outside, James Morfee’s headquarters are hardly a match for those of BP, Shell or any of the other global energy giants. Instead of operating from a 40-storey glass tower in the capital, he works in an oily, little outhouse at his parents’ home in rural Somerset. Instead of a massive petrochemical complex, he has a couple of metal drums and a collection of polythene containers.
The big difference, though, is that whereas the big, international companies charge £1.40 per litre for what they produce, Morfee makes his own biodiesel for just 18p per litre. What is more, he is happy to pass on the recipe to anyone who is interested in cutting the cost of driving.
These days, this applies to almost everyone, given that oil prices have, in the past year, risen from US$85 to US$115, and show no inclination to stop. The price of petrol is expected to reach an average of 133.17p per litre in Britain by the end of this week. Even those of us with the smoothest-running financial engines will have spluttered and choked at the size of the sums being demanded at the nation’s petrol pumps.
So, given the level of savings offered by the Morfee method, I filled up my car and headed for the West Country, viewing the cost of doing so (£84, as against £69 before Christmas) more as an investment than an expense.
On arrival, my first impression was that I had arrived at the premises of a catering supplies company. Stacked in the back of Morfee’s car are half a dozen large containers of cooking oil. Used cooking oil, too, with little pieces of frazzled bacon floating in it. “Technical term for those is BCBs,” he informs me. “Burnt, crispy bits.”
My first step in the fuel-production process is to strain the oil through a plastic sieve, in order to achieve a 100 per cent pure, BCB-free liquid. It doesn’t smell very pure, mind you. But that is because Morfee’s raw material comes not gushing straight from the geological substrata of the Arabian Desert, but in plastic tubs, from local restaurants.
“Two of my best suppliers are the Parrot Cafe in Langport, and the Unicorn Hotel in Somerton,” he says. “I pay them 10p a litre and take as much oil as they can give me.”
But does the oil have to be pre-used? Given that the chicken-dipper and fish-finger fragments don’t actually contribute anything to the petro-brew, why not just buy cooking oil straight from the shelves?
“You could, no problem,” comes the reply. “The oil would work just as well. The trouble is, the price of fresh cooking oil is around £1.10 per litre, so you’re not much better off. Time was, supermarkets would treat cooking oil as a loss leader, and charge 30p to 40p a litre, but they’ve stopped doing that now. So used oil is the only viable alternative.”
Now 26, Morfee began making biodiesel in earnest a year ago, driven both by the rising costs of running his own car, and by a lifelong interest in oily engines (“as a child, I was irresistibly drawn to fuel-powered lawnmowers”).
He learnt the basics of DIY diesel-making from a specialist website (of which there are many). These demonstrate that, while the process starts off quite simply, things soon get seriously scientific. Removing bits of fried breakfast is one thing; titration, it emerges, is another.
This is the process whereby one can determine the acid content of each batch of cooking oil (an essential prerequisite for successful bio-brewing). It involves some nifty pipette work, as well as measuring the precise amount of pre-mixed indicator solution it takes to turn the oil slightly pink (a sign of pH neutrality). There then follows a spot of arithmetical calculation on Morfee’s dog-eared notepad, which results in the conclusion that, for us, instead of mixing the standard 550 grams of sodium hydroxide with each 100 litres of de-BCB’d oil, we need to use 610 grams.
“It’s now,” he warns, “that this all starts to get a bit dangerous.”
I have been warned about this in advance, having mugged up on the Biofuels and Other Fuel Substitutes Regulations 2004, which read: “Making biodiesel is a potentially hazardous process that should only be carried out in controlled conditions by people with the proper training and experience.” And you can see what they mean.
“What we’ve got in this first barrel is methanol,” announces Morfee, who at this point reveals his degree was in mechanical engineering, not chemistry. “This stuff is more flammable than petrol, and lethal to swallow; drink 25 millilitres of it, and it’ll kill you.
“Meanwhile, what we’ve got in this second barrel is sodium hydroxide, otherwise known as caustic soda. Get it on your skin, it will burn you; get it in your eyes, and it will corrode your eyeballs.
“These materials are volatile, they’re hazardous, and we’re going to mix them together.”
Not a job for the apprentice, then. Although Morfee says the worst biodiesel-related injury he has ever suffered was when he was stung by an insect trapped inside one of his rubber gloves, I step well back as he pours the gloopy, clear methanol on to the flaky, salt-like sodium hydroxide, and begins shaking the mixture together. “The process generates quite a lot of heat,” he says, in the sort of way that TV chefs talk to camera. “Feel how warm the barrel’s getting.”
It is true. Even half an hour later, as we sit on the plastic container and pose for pictures, there is an unnervingly warm glow still emanating from the liquid below.
This, it transpires, is because it still has work to do. Once the mixture (known as sodium methoxide) has been added to the cooking oil, and heated up, the process of “transesterification” begins. This involves the sodium methoxide not only achieving the required reduction in viscosity (cooking oil is much thicker than diesel), but also altering the oil’s chemical make-up, splitting it into, on the one hand, a carbon-neutral biodiesel that will fuel a car, and, on the other, a mass of soap-like, solid brown glycerol (which Morfee uses as fuel for his outhouse stove).
The process is by no means immediate, though. After a few hours of simmering, the brew then needs at least a seven-day calming-down period in the settling tank, before it can be used.
This is one of the reasons why Morfee has not become a bulk producer; during the week he works in Southampton as a marine engineer, and cannot always get home to his parents’ place at weekends.
The other reason is financial; under current H M Customs and Revenue regulations, you don’t have to pay any duty on privately produced biofuel, provided you don’t make more than 2,500 litres per year.
“I brew about 150 litres a month, just for myself, and that’s all I need to keep my car on the road,” says Morfee, filling up his Volvo with some biodiesel he made earlier. “I get about 45-50 miles per gallon out of my stuff, as opposed to 55mpg from the diesel you buy at the pumps.
“The big difference is, that once I’ve paid the 10p per litre for the used cooking oil, it only costs me 7p per litre to make the fuel.
“Though, actually, you’d better make that 8p. My parents pay for the electricity.”
For more details of James Morfee’s operation, visit www.staroil.com. The website has links to 18 other small firms and individuals across the UK who collect cooking oil to make biodiesel