Monday, February 28, 2011

In one of final addresses to Army, Gates describes vision for military's future

I told this to my adversaries a decade ago.

WEST POINT, N.Y. - Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates, in one of his last addresses to the Army, said Friday that he envisages a future ground force that will be smaller, pack less heavy firepower and will not engage in large-scale counter-insurgency wars like those in Iraq or Afghanistan.

"In my opinion, any future defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia or into the Middle East or Africa should 'have his head examined,' as General MacArthur so delicately put it," Gates quipped.

(Wally: So much for Rumsfeld- worse than McNamara)

Gates, who is expected to leave his post later this year, predicted a greater role for the Navy and Air Force in the future and warned the Army to gird itself for a period of relative austerity compared with the gusher of defense spending that has sustained it over the past eight years. In particular, Gates suggested that the Army will have a tough time justifying its spending on heavy armor formations - which have been the core of its force for decades - to lawmakers and the White House.

"In the competition for tight defense dollars, the Army ... must confront the reality that the most plausible, high-end scenarios for the U.S. military are primarily naval and air engagements - whether in Asia, the Persian Gulf or elsewhere," he said.

The defense chief predicted that Army and Marine forces would increasingly be asked to focus more on short-duration counterterrorism strikes and disaster relief. As he has for the past several years, Gates called on the Army to devote more of its best personnel to training and equipping foreign militaries.

Gates said he was not advocating the Army should become a counter-insurgency or nation-building force. "By no means am I suggesting that the Army will, or should, turn into a Victorian nation-building constabulary - designed to chase guerrillas, build schools or sip tea."

Despite a big push in recent years to build the Iraqi and Afghan militaries, the U.S. Army has traditionally treated the training and equipping of foreign armies as a career backwater, and Gates's efforts to raise the importance of the mission within the U.S. military have met with mixed results.

"How do we institutionalize security force assistance into the Army's regular force structure, and make the related experience and skill set a career-enhancing pursuit? Gates asked, repeating a question he first put to the Army in 2008.

Much of Gates's speech to the West Point cadets focused on his concerns that officers who have been given wide latitude to take chances and the heavy responsibility of leading their troops in combat would grow disillusioned with the risk-averse nature of military bureaucracy and leave the service.

"Men and women in the prime of their professional lives, who may have been responsible for the lives of scores or hundreds of troops, or millions of dollars in assistance, or engaging or reconciling warring tribes, may find themselves in a cube all day re-formatting PowerPoint slides," Gates told the West Point cadets. "The consequences of this terrify me."

(Wally: Or, what happened after Viet Nam)

To head off this malaise Gates urged the cadets to take career risks, taking assignments that in the past might have been seen by their peers as career dead-ends. "I would encourage you to become a master of other languages and cultures, a priority of mine since taking this post," he said.

The huge growth in the Army bureaucracy over the past decade has also created an almost insatiable demand for mid-level staff officers within the Army. These days almost every major in the Army is guaranteed promotion to lieutenant colonel.

In recent months, Gates has begun an effort to trim back some of this bureaucracy by cutting as many as 100 general and admiral slots. These senior officers typically are given large staffs of young officers. As the demand for young officers decreases, the military will be able to be choosier about whom it promotes and give greater weight to opinions of peers and lower-ranking officers in choosing the next generation of Army leaders.

"It's time that the Army's officer evaluations also consider input from peers and subordinates - the people hardest to fool by posturing, B.S. and flattery," Gates said. "A more merit-based, more individualized approach to officer evaluations could also do much to combat the risk-averse, zero-defect culture that can take over any large, hierarchical organization."

Indeed, Gates envisioned a future in which one of the biggest threats to the Army would come from its own bureaucratic and, at times, rigid culture. "The tendency of any big bureaucracy is to revert to business as usual at the first opportunity - and for the military, that opportunity is, if not peacetime, then the unwinding of sustained combat," he said.

Observations 28 FEB 2011

When I was an early teen, I discovered the wonder of the Flair pen. I though, then that if I documented and cartooned everything, I would have a reference log, a dead reckoning plot for the blur of time.

You can guess how well I kept that promise.

Certain days do seem to be markers. Three weeks ago Saturday, the first birds began arriving, just after the ice storm. This Sunday morning, the first lawnmowers were heard. We had our first truly "spring" tornado outbreak Sunday night.

And, this week, I pretty much confirmed I'm my Mom's son. I got sick Thursday night, so I took time off Friday, rested and pushed fluids. Height of the fever was late Friday/early Saturday. The cough wouldn't quit though. So I called an RN friend, and asked for advice.

It took her all of ten seconds to say, get thee hence to a doctor.

I was feeling great, compared to Friday. It was only a cough. Reluctantly, I went to the nurse practitioner clinic at Walgreen's. Grumble.

Oh, yes. My temperature was *down* to 102.7 F. And we can't X-Ray your right lung here for pneumonia. Go to the ER. Now.

An IV push (too many things to mention), and nebulizer, and many pills later, I was sent home. Severe bronchitis, influenza, and a suspicious right lung. Do not go back to work for two more days.

Mom never thought she was a better doctor than the doctors, right? And, her self-treatments never just masked more serious problems, right? Do not be a malingerer, Sergeant. You're a soldier. Stop whinging.

It did keep Mom out of the healthcare system until her last week.

If I had not been whacked over the head by Alice, I would be far worse off, now.

Last year, my health took a permanent blow. Being a tough guy, it was hard to face being over fifty now counted. The circumstances following Mom's death, both physical and psychological, took a much heavier toll than I was willing to admit. My sister accused me of having my tail between my legs, and at least one of my co-workers resented my being ill, and conserving my health. The ex-Marine thought I was an incompetent goldbrick. I did not bother replying that I had held the fort, by myself, for nearly a decade before he came along. It's small comfort that with the re-org, we will be at separate locations, with doubled workloads.

There is no way I can leave my job to recover, as I could have thirty years ago. Those days are gone. I must now acknowledge my limits. Boxed in. Humbling.

I've missed my church meetings, as well. No need to make them sick.

The outside world is mad. It's amusing to wonder if I would rather be Ghadaafi or Charlie Sheen... :) Another reason to bid good riddance to the political board.

I will have to go grocery shopping soon. It's amazing how fast you can go through chicken soup and toilet paper.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Iran hunts for uranium

VIENNA – Iran is expanding its covert global search for the uranium it needs for its nuclear activities and a key focus is Zimbabwe, says a new intelligence report acquired by The Associated Press.

The report is in line with international assessments that Iran's domestic supplies cannot sustain its nuclear program that could be turned toward making weapons.

An intelligence report from a member country of the International Atomic Energy Agency — shared with the AP by an official from that nation — says Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi met secretly last month with senior Zimbabwean mining officials "to resume negotiations ... for the benefit of Iran's uranium procurement plan."

"This follows work carried out by Iranian engineers to map out uranium deposits in Africa and assess the amount of uranium they contain," said the two-page intelligence summary.

The report — confirmed independently by an official from another IAEA country — was shared as an Iranian delegation led by the head of the Cooperative Ministry Abbas Johari was meeting Thursday with "agriculture and mining interests" in the Zimbabwean capital Harare.

The official confirming the intelligence described the Salehi visit as part of an international Iranian effort that stretches across Africa, Asia and South America and may involve more than a dozen countries. Both officials — whose countries closely follow Iran's nuclear program — asked for anonymity in exchange for discussing intelligence matters.

The assessments are important because they call into question recent Iranian assertions meant to dispel doubts about the country's capability to sustain and expand its uranium enrichment program.

Iran says it is enriching solely to power a future network of nuclear reactors. But it has been targeted by U.N. sanctions because enrichment can also create fissile warhead material — and because of its nuclear secrecy and refusal to cooperate with IAEA probes into its activities.

The assessments come days ahead of the latest IAEA report on Iran, which has been under nearly a decade of international nuclear perusal over concerns it might seek to develop nuclear arms.

Diplomats said Thursday that report may contain an index listing experiments the agency suspects Iran conducted as part of work on a nuclear weapons program. The alleged experiments have been known for years, but republication would show the agency's impatience with Iran's prolonged refusal to cooperate with its investigation.

Tehran still has hundreds of tons of uranium hexafluoride — the gas derived from ore that is spun by centrifuges into the enriched uranium that can be used as reactor fuel and to arm nuclear missiles. But both Western intelligence agencies and IAEA officials say that it does not seem to have meaningful domestic supplies of the ore itself. That means that Iran's enrichment efforts would ultimately have to be curtailed unless new domestic or foreign supplies are secured.

Tehran denies any shortages. Because U.N. sanctions ban countries from selling Iran any nuclear material, it is publicly focusing on searching and exploiting possible domestic supplies at its only operating mine near Bandar Abbas and at a site at Saghand, both in southern Iran. Salehi in December said it had started uranium ore processing for the first time from domestic production instead of using supplies it imported decades ago.

Still — despite asserting it has plentiful ore reserves at Saghand — there have been no attempts to exploit the site, because of what officials say is a lack of money.

"Iran's known uranium ore reserves are limited and mostly of poor quality making them commercially unprofitable to mine," says former United States Deputy Assistant Secretary for Nonproliferation Mark Fitzpatrick.

With the completion date of any Iranian nuclear reactor network decades away, Tehran may have other pressing reasons to look for replenishable ore supplies, said Fitzpatrick, now head of nonproliferation for the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies.

Iran, he said, now has enough uranium gas to make 20 or 30 nuclear weapons, should it choose to turn what it says is a peaceful program into making such arms. If that supply were destroyed by a military attack or sabotage, "that could put a serious crimp into Iran's ability to reconstitute the program."

"That's why for strategic reasons its not surprising that Iran is continuing to try to acquire additional sources," he added.

Many of the world's uranium producers — or countries with large reserves — are in Africa. And while some, like South Africa, observe U.N. sanctions slapped on Iran in efforts to crimp its enrichment programs, there are doubts about more reclusive countries.

The intelligence summary said "part of Iran's plan is to gain a foothold in Zimbabwe and other African countries such as Congo, Nigeria (and) Senegal." The official who provided the summary said Salehi also visited Senegal in mid-January, apparently to patch up tensions created by allegations that Iran was supporting Senegalese separatists with weapons.

Other officials familiar with Iran-Zimbabwe relations said that Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and others had expressed interest in Zimbabwe's uranium supplies several times since April, when Ahmadinejad visited Harare. But they said that action has been stalled by the problem of how to exploit the reserves.

Because the uranium ore is not near existing mining operations, large-scale extraction would draw international attention because it could not be covered up as expansion of existing platinum or other mining projects, they said, also asking for anonymity because their information was privileged.

Large uranium deposits were first found decades ago in the Kanyemba district nearly 250 kilometers (almost 150 miles) north of the capital, Harare, but were left unmined because of low prices. The site has an estimated 450,000 tons of uranium ore that would produce 20,000 tons of enrichable uranium.

Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe denied news reports after Ahmadinejad's April visit that the Iranians had secured mining rights for his country's uranium but his office said Iran had a right to apply for them.

U.S. officials would not specifically confirm the Zimbabwe connection but did not refute it in comments warning against violating U.N. Security Council resolutions on Iran.

"We know Iran is looking for countries that might be prepared to violate the UNSC resolution to address its uranium shortage," said U.S. National Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor. "We urge all countries to abide by their international commitments."

It's the Inequality, Stupid

Out Of Gas

Schools cut lunch options for kids who can't pay: Will grades suffer?

CBS) - How about a cheese sandwich? In some parts of the country, that may be the only option for public school students unable to afford school lunches. With budget cuts and a down economy, many school districts are offering bare-bones "alternative" lunches as a way to balance their budget.

The Lee County, Flordia school district - the 40th largest in the country - is among many school systems that have started offering "alternative options." Since the beginning of the school year, the school district was losing roughly $2,000 a week serving lunch. In a district of 80,000 students, school officials said 1,100 were not paying for meals.

The solution? Offer the cheapest meal possible. Public schools are required by the National School Lunch Program to provide nutritious meals to students. Fortunately for schools trying to cut back, that mandate is apparently met by a cheese sandwich and a 4-ounce juice box. That's the alternative option being offered in Lee County.

School districts across the country are offering similar options. In December, Harrison Hills City School District in Ohio began offering non-paying students a small carton of milk, two slices of bread and a slice of cheese. Things are a little better in Homewood City, Alabama, where students get a piece of fruit to go with their cheese sandwich.

Are such slimmed-down meals enough for students? Alternative meals "are missing all the needs of a child going throughout the day," nutritionist Marissa Sherry tells CBS News. She said that the bare-bones lunches are "not providing enough for a child to properly function in a school setting."

With the U.S. economy in the tank, and school districts facing big budget problems, alternative meals may increasingly become mainstream meals. That doesn't seem to be good news if parents want children to have enough energy throughout the day.

But it's great news if those kids like cheese.

St. Louis economy shrank sharply in '09

We all know the Great Recession was tough around here. Wednesday morning we got another indication of just how tough.

The $124 billion economy of the St. Louis region shrank by 5.1 percent in 2009, according to new numbers from the Commerce Department. That's faster than most places and more than twice the average pace among U.S. metro areas.

Blogger posing as GOP donor dupes Wisconsin governor

MADISON, Wis. • Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, believing he was talking to prominent financial backer David Koch, revealed to a Buffalo, N.Y., blogger on Tuesday his strategies to deal with public-sector unions and to lure Democrats boycotting the Senate back to Wisconsin.

In the 20-minute talk, he also likened his tough stance to take away most bargaining rights from public workers to former President Ronald Reagan successfully combating the air traffic controllers union three decades ago. "That was the first crack in the Berlin Wall in the fall of Communism, because from that point forward, the Soviets and the Communists knew that Ronald Reagan wasn't a pushover," Walker said according to the recording.

In a news conference on Wednesday, Walker said his remarks to the prank caller jibed with his public remarks.

Critics seized on the remarks made by Walker in the call, saying they showed his proposed rollback of public worker bargaining rights was aimed at killing the unions.

After Walker spoke, state Rep. Brett Hulsey, D-Madison, crashed the news conference. Walker's staff opened the doors to the room, so chants and drumming by protesters poured in the room and nearly drowned out Hulsey.

Census: Near-record level of US counties dying

In America's once-thriving coal country, 87-year-old Ed Shepard laments a prosperous era gone by, when shoppers lined the streets and government lent a helping hand. Now, here as in one-fourth of all U.S. counties, West Virginia's graying residents are slowly dying off.

Hit by an aging population and a poor economy, a near-record number of U.S. counties are experiencing more deaths than births in their communities, a phenomenon demographers call "natural decrease."

Years in the making, the problem is spreading amid a prolonged job slump and a push by Republicans in Congress to downsize government and federal spending.

"You're the anchors of our Main Streets," President Barack Obama told small business leaders in Cleveland on Tuesday. "We want your stories _ your successes, your failures, what barriers you're seeing out there to expand. .How can America help you succeed so that you can help America succeed?"

Local businesses in Welch began to shutter after U.S. Steel departed McDowell County, which sits near Interstate 77, once referred to as the "Hillbilly Highway" because it promised a way to jobs in the South. Young adults who manage to attend college _ the high-school dropout rate is 28 percent, compared with about 8 percent nationwide _ can't wait to leave. For some reason, the fish in nearby Elkhorn Creek left too.

"There's no reason for you to come to Welch," says Shepard, wearing a Union 76 cap at a makeshift auto shop he still runs after six decades. "This is nothing but a damn ghost town in a welfare county."


In all, roughly 760 of the nation's 3,142 counties are fading away, stretching from industrial areas near Pittsburgh and Cleveland to the vineyards outside San Francisco to the rural areas of east Texas and the Great Plains. Once-booming housing areas, such as retirement communities in Florida, have not been immune.

West Virginia was the first to experience natural decrease statewide over the last decade, with Maine, Pennsylvania and Vermont close to following suit, according to the latest census figures. As a nation, the U.S. population grew by just 9.7 percent since 2000, the lowest decennial rate since the Great Depression.

"Natural decrease is an important but not widely appreciated demographic phenomenon that is reshaping our communities in both rural and urban cores of large metro areas," said Kenneth Johnson, a sociology professor and demographer at the University of New Hampshire's Carsey Institute who analyzed the census numbers.

Johnson said common threads among the dying counties are older whites who are no longer having children, and an exodus of young adults who find little promise in the region and seek jobs elsewhere. The places also have fewer Hispanic immigrants, who on average are younger and tend to have more children than other groups.

"The downturn in the U.S. economy is only exacerbating the problem," said Johnson, whose research paper is being published next month in the journal Rural Sociology. "In some cases, the only thing that can pull an area out is an influx of young Hispanic immigrants or new economic development."


The predicament is starkest in places like Welch. In the 1960s, McDowell County ranked tops in the U.S. in coal production. Even as it began to stumble, President John F. Kennedy took notice and pushed federal aid to the region. McDowell residents were the first to get federal food stamps when they were rolled out in the Kennedy administration.

After U.S. Steel sold the last of its mining operations by 2003, folks in southern West Virginia began counting on new highway projects to prop up the long-struggling area.

"One of the promises we're waiting to come is the highway," said Carolyn Falin, an assistant schools superintendent in McDowell County.

From the east, the Coalfields Expressway would bypass the many two-lane, truck-clogged roads zigzagging through the mountainous region. It would link a freeway to the Virginia state line 65 miles to the southwest. So far, only a few miles are open. Design work on most of it hasn't been finished.

From the west, a 95-mile King Coal Highway is also envisioned, with some bridge work and a few miles now under construction.

Shepard, who walks to work from a nearby apartment, watched the county's population plummet 80 percent after U.S. Steel's exit. Even with the recent opening of a federal prison, Shepard bemoans the area's decline, including the end of "20 years of the best fishing you ever saw."

Nowadays, he says, "you can fish but you won't catch any trout. It's like the coal mines. It's all gone."

Recently the U.S. Senate rejected a $900,000 appropriation for a proposed interchange of the King Coal Highway and the Coalfields Expressway near Welch.


Dying counties in the U.S. were rare until the 1960s, when the baby boom ended. By 1973, as farming communities declined, roughly 515 counties _ mostly in the Great Plains _ reported natural decrease. The phenomenon then began to show up in industrial regions, such as upstate New York and California. Natural decrease peaked in 2002 at a record 985, or 1 in 3 counties, before increasing births and an influx of Hispanic immigration helped add to county populations during the housing boom.

Following the recent recession, birth rates have dropped to the lowest in a century. Preliminary census numbers for 2007-09 now show that the number of dying counties is back on the upswing. Recent additions include Pittsburgh and its surrounding counties.

James Follain, senior fellow and economist at the Nelson A. Rockefeller Institute of Government at the University of Albany, said a new kind of declining city may be emerging in the wake of the housing bust _ metropolitan areas that rapidly overbuilt earlier in the decade and then suffered massive foreclosures.

He cited as examples Las Vegas, Miami, parts of Arizona, and Stockton, Modesto, Fresno and Riverside in California. Like traditional ghost towns, Follain says, portions of these areas could spiral down from persistent loss of jobs and population and lose their reason for being.

Follain also pointed to a tighter fiscal environment in Washington that will limit help to troubled areas. The Obama administration announced this month it would shrink the government's role in the mortgage system to reduce taxpayer exposure to risk. House Republicans also are pushing federal spending cuts of more than $61 billion, even if it means reducing jobs.

"It's going to be a very slow recovery," Follain said.


Not all U.S. areas are declining. Most places with the fastest growth since 2000 were able to retain or attract college graduates and young professionals who came for jobs and later started families. Metro areas with diversified economies such as Austin, Texas, Raleigh, N.C., and Portland, Ore., all saw gains in college graduates; other places seeing gains or reduced losses in young adults, such as Washington, D.C., Boston and San Francisco, have burgeoning biotech industries.

In West Virginia, more than 40 of its 55 counties had natural decrease over the past decade. Yet the state still gained population overall, and averted a loss of a U.S. House of Representatives seat based on the 2010 census.

It wasn't because of a last-minute turnaround. Most of West Virginia's population gains are new residents spilling over into the eastern part of the state from the blossoming Washington-Baltimore metropolitan area. The three counties on the Maryland line _ Morgan, Berkeley and Jefferson _ each had substantial increases.

It's a different story in West Virginia's northern panhandle, along the edge of Pennsylvania near Pittsburgh.

On a recent afternoon, a group of students mingled during a cigarette break at West Virginia Northern Community College in Wheeling and chatted about their futures. "It's not that bad an area," said Demetrius Paige, 19, but there are "not a lot of jobs." He plans to leave within six years.

Kayla Murphy, 19, of Moundsville wants to stay in the state and become a nurse to help children like her brother, who has celiac disease and diabetes. She says moving out is the only real option for career-oriented people. They include her boyfriend, who left for Wisconsin to teach history.

"You have to," Murphy said. "Working at McDonald's isn't cool."

Pentagon orders probe of ‘psy-ops’ report

Gen. David Petraeus said Thursday that the Pentagon is preparing to investigate the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan for allegations that he ordered a ordered a “psychological operations” team in Afghanistan to manipulate visiting members of Congress into providing more troops and funding for the war there.

The probe comes after Rolling Stone magazine reported late Wednesday that Lt. Gen. William Caldwell “repeatedly pressured” a group of soldiers working in “information operations” at Camp Eggers in Kabul to use their techniques on visiting dignitaries. The story was written by Michael Hastings, the reporter whose revealing profile of Gen. Stanley McChrystal precipitated the general’s resignation last June.

Petraeus will appoint an officer to look into the facts in the story, said a top Pentagon spokesman, Marine Col. Dave Lapan, but he didn’t have any additional information about who will investigate or how long the probe will take.

Among the intended targets of the “psy-ops” tactics, the magazine reported, were Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and at least five high-profile senators – John McCain (R-Ariz.), Joe Lieberman (I-Ct.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Al Franken (D-Minn.) and Carl Levin (D-Mich.). The team was also asked to use psy-ops on Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), of the House Appropriations Committee, as well as the Czech ambassador to Afghanistan and influential think tankers.

“My job in psy-ops is to play with people’s heads, to get the enemy to behave the way we want them to behave,” Lt. Col. Michael Holmes told the magazine. “I’m prohibited from doing that to our own people. When you ask me to try to use these skills on senators and congressman, you’re crossing a line.” Holmes said he has since been retaliated against with an Army investigation.

Holmes said Caldwell wanted the information operations unit to research visiting dignitaries and get a sense of their likes, dislikes and “hot-button issues.” In one e-mail message, Caldwell’s staff asked for assistance in crafting his presentations to visiting VIPs and how to “refine our messaging.”

In a statement to Rolling Stone, a spokesman for Caldwell said the general “categorically denies the assertion that the command used an Information Operations Cell to influence Distinguished Visitors.”

An Army spokesman did not have an immediate comment on the report when contacted by POLITICO on Thursday morning.

Rolling Stone executive editor Eric Bates said Thursday on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” that Hastings’ only agenda is honesty. “Michael Hastings has the agenda of a good journalist – get out the news and information that’s important. Sometimes that news and information is something the Pentagon or the Defense Department would rather not get out, but he has an agenda in service of the truth.”

Bing West, a former assistant secretary of defense, said Caldwell is a “wonderful human being” and would “not do anything to hurt the United States of America in any way.”

Bank Closings Tilt Toward Poor Areas

Lockerbie ordered by Qaddafi: Swedish paper

Colonel Muammar Qaddafi ordered the 1988 terror attack that downed a Pan Am airliner over Lockerbie in Scotland, the Libyan leader's former justice minister told a Swedish reporter on Wednesday.

"I have evidence that Qaddafi gave the orders for Lockerbie," Mustafa Abdel-Jalil told a reporter for Swedish tabloid Expressen who is currently stationed in Libya.

Until Monday, Abdel-Jalil served as minister of justice to Qaddafi, but resigned in protest "over the excessive use of violence against government protesters" he is quoted as telling the privately-owned Quryna newspaper.

According to Abdel-Jalil, his former boss gave the orders to carry out the Lockerbie bombing, which claimed the lives of 259 people on board Pan Am Flight 103 as well 11 people in the Scottish village below.

Among those killed in the bombing was Swedish diplomat Bernt Carlsson, who was serving in the United Nations at the time.

Following a lengthy probe involving Scotland Yard and the US Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), as well as other agencies, investigators concluded that the bomb had been placed on the plane by two Libyan nationals working for the country's intelligence services.

In 1991, charges were filed against Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, a Libyan intelligence officer and the head of security for Libyan Arab Airlines (LAA), as well as Lamin Khalifah Fhimah, a Malta-based LAA station manager.

Following lengthy negotiations, Qaddafi agreed to hand over the two suspects to Scottish police in 1999 so they could stand trial in the Netherlands.

Although neither man chose to testify, al-Megrahi was convicted of murder in January 2001 by a panel of Scottish judges, while Fhimah was acquitted.

In 2003, Megrahi appealed his conviction and in 2009 he was released from prison on humanitarian grounds because he was said to be suffering from cancer.

According to Abdel-Jalil, Qaddafi worked hard to ensure that al-Megrahi was released.

"In order to hide it, he did everything in his power to get al-Megrahi back from Scotland," the former Libyan minister told Expressen.

"He (Qaddafi) gave the order to al-Megrahi to do it."

While admitting it was difficult to verify Abdel-Jalil's account, Aron Lund, an editorial writer with the Upsala Nya Tidning (UNT) newspaper who has also written reports on the Middle East for Swedish Institute of International Affairs (Utrikespolitiska institutet -- UI), said there is reason to believe what the former justice minister has to say about Qaddafi's role in the Lockerbie bombing.

"When you have a dictatorship with an extremely centralised power structure like Qaddafi's, it's safe to assume that any such decision was taken at the highest level," he told The Local.

"At the same, considering Al Jeleil just left the regime, there may be a credibility issue. It could be that these sorts of leaks from former members of the regimes are more about distancing themselves from Gadaffi as than revealing the truth."

The full interview with Abdel-Jalil, which was conducted on Wednesday and reportedly lasted 40 minutes, is to be published on Thursday in Expressen's print edition.

Depression, loss of aid spurs dropping out (of college)

ANN ARBOR, Mich., Feb. 22 (UPI) -- Depression or a loss of financial aid may be the main reasons why some 40 percent of U.S. college students fail to graduate in six years, researchers say.

Lead researcher Tim Pleskac of Michigan State University and colleagues developed a mathematical model that describes how students decide to quit college.

They used the model to analyze surveys from 1,158 freshmen at 10 U.S. colleges and universities that listed 21 critical events or "shocks" and asked students if any of these events had happened to them. Later the students were asked whether they planned to leave college.

The most critical event influencing dropping out was depression, followed by students recruited by an employer or another institution, losing financial aid, experiencing a large increase in tuition or living costs, an unexpected bad grade and roommate conflicts.

Students were less sensitive to a death in the family, significant injury, inability to enter an intended major, becoming addicted, coming into a large sum of money, losing a job needed to pay tuition and becoming engaged or married.

"Prior to this work, little was known about what factors in a student's everyday life prompt them to think about withdrawing from college," Pleskac says in a statement. "We now have a method to measure what events are 'shocking' students and prompting them to think about quitting."

The findings are scheduled to be published in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes.

New Report: 'Higher Hate Group Count Than Ever

A new study by the Southern Poverty Law Center describes a big rise in hate groups across the country.

By its count, there are now more than 1,000 active extremist groups in the U.S. Experts say the largest increase comes from militias that consider the federal government their enemy.

Mark Potok, director of the Intelligence Project at the law center, has been studying hate groups for a long time. But Potok says even he was surprised when he started counting extremists for his annual report.

"We have absolutely explosive growth of these groups in 2009," Potok says. "And what we have now found is that that growth continued through 2010. We have a higher hate group count than we've ever had."

The Southern Poverty Law Center, a nonprofit organization that tracks extremist movements, says there are three major reasons for the increase: the bad economy, the wide reach of the Internet and changing racial patterns in the country.

Experts say the most negative energy seems to be coming from people who think the federal government is conspiring to take away their freedom.

"It is not ... harmless in the sense that the patriot movement has produced a great deal of criminal violence," Potok says. "There were an enormous number of plots that came out of the patriot movement, particularly in the late 1990s, and we're beginning to see that again."

Jim Cavanaugh, a retired federal investigator at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, has built cases against a lot of extremists.

"You know, it's the challenge of American law enforcement to see through the smoke and try to get to the people who are really going to try to hurt somebody," Cavanaugh says.

In many cases, that means people at the fringes of organized groups who carry out plots on their own.

Take the police blotter in January, for instance.

That month, authorities arrested a neo-Nazi headed for the Southwest border. He was carrying a dozen homemade grenades. Police hauled in another man in Dearborn, Mich. They said he had a history of fighting with the federal government, long before he parked near a crowded mosque with explosives in his car.

The FBI and local authorities are still trying to find out who put a bomb on the parade route in Spokane, Wash., just in time for Martin Luther King Jr. day.

Cavanaugh says he thinks more people need to start talking about hate groups, because, he says, a movement gets stronger when it hides in the shadows.

The new SPLC report might help jump-start that discussion.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Free Trove of Music Scores on Web Hits Sensitive Copyright Note

New Hacking Tools Pose Bigger Threats to Wi-Fi Users

You may think the only people capable of snooping on your Internet activity are government intelligence agents or possibly a talented teenage hacker holed up in his parents’ basement. But some simple software lets just about anyone sitting next to you at your local coffee shop watch you browse the Web and even assume your identity online.

“Like it or not, we are now living in a cyberpunk novel,” said Darren Kitchen, a systems administrator for an aerospace company in Richmond, Calif., and the host of Hak5, a video podcast about computer hacking and security. “When people find out how trivial and easy it is to see and even modify what you do online, they are shocked.”

Until recently, only determined and knowledgeable hackers with fancy tools and lots of time on their hands could spy while you used your laptop or smartphone at Wi-Fi hot spots. But a free program called Firesheep, released in October, has made it simple to see what other users of an unsecured Wi-Fi network are doing and then log on as them at the sites they visited.

Without issuing any warnings of the possible threat, Web site administrators have since been scrambling to provide added protections.

“I released Firesheep to show that a core and widespread issue in Web site security is being ignored,” said Eric Butler, a freelance software developer in Seattle who created the program. “It points out the lack of end-to-end encryption.”

What he means is that while the password you initially enter on Web sites like Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, Amazon, eBay and The New York Times is encrypted, the Web browser’s cookie, a bit of code that that identifies your computer, your settings on the site or other private information, is often not encrypted. Firesheep grabs that cookie, allowing nosy or malicious users to, in essence, be you on the site and have full access to your account.

More than a million people have downloaded the program in the last three months (including this reporter, who is not exactly a computer genius). And it is easy to use.

The only sites that are safe from snoopers are those that employ the cryptographic protocol Transport Layer Security or its predecessor, Secure Sockets Layer, throughout your session. PayPal and many banks do this, but a startling number of sites that people trust to safeguard their privacy do not. You know you are shielded from prying eyes if a little lock appears in the corner of your browser or the Web address starts with “https” rather than “http.”

“The usual reason Web sites give for not encrypting all communication is that it will slow down the site and would be a huge engineering expense,” said Chris Palmer, technology director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, an electronic rights advocacy group based in San Francisco. “Yes, there are operational hurdles, but they are solvable.”

Indeed, Gmail made end-to-end encryption its default mode in January 2010. Facebook began to offer the same protection as an opt-in security feature last month, though it is so far available only to a small percentage of users and has limitations. For example, it doesn’t work with many third-party applications.

“It’s worth noting that Facebook took this step, but it’s too early to congratulate them,” said Mr. Butler, who is frustrated that “https” is not the site’s default setting. “Most people aren’t going to know about it or won’t think it’s important or won’t want to use it when they find out that it disables major applications.”

Joe Sullivan, chief security officer at Facebook, said the company was engaged in a “deliberative rollout process,” to access and address any unforeseen difficulties. “We hope to have it available for all users in the next several weeks,” he said, adding that the company was also working to address problems with third-party applications and to make “https” the default setting.

Many Web sites offer some support for encryption via “https,” but they make it difficult to use. To address these problems, the Electronic Frontier Foundation in collaboration with the Tor Project, another group concerned with Internet privacy, released in June an add-on to the browser Firefox, called Https Everywhere. The extension, which can be downloaded at, makes “https” the stubbornly unchangeable default on all sites that support it.

Since not all Web sites have “https” capability, Bill Pennington, chief strategy officer with the Web site risk management firm WhiteHat Security in Santa Clara, Calif., said: “I tell people that if you’re doing things with sensitive data, don’t do it at a Wi-Fi hot spot. Do it at home.”

But home wireless networks may not be all that safe either, because of free and widely available Wi-Fi cracking programs like Gerix WiFi Cracker, Aircrack-ng and Wifite. The programs work by faking legitimate user activity to collect a series of so-called weak keys or clues to the password. The process is wholly automated, said Mr. Kitchen at Hak5, allowing even techno-ignoramuses to recover a wireless router’s password in a matter of seconds. “I’ve yet to find a WEP-protected network not susceptible to this kind of attack,” Mr. Kitchen said.

A WEP-encrypted password (for wired equivalent privacy) is not as strong as a WPA (or Wi-Fi protected access) password, so it’s best to use a WPA password instead. Even so, hackers can use the same free software programs to get on WPA password-protected networks as well. It just takes much longer (think weeks) and more computer expertise.

Using such programs along with high-powered Wi-Fi antennas that cost less than $90, hackers can pull in signals from home networks two to three miles away. There are also some computerized cracking devices with built-in antennas on the market, like WifiRobin ($156). But experts said they were not as fast or effective as the latest free cracking programs, because the devices worked only on WEP-protected networks.

To protect yourself, changing the Service Set Identifier or SSID of your wireless network from the default name of your router (like Linksys or Netgear) to something less predictable helps, as does choosing a lengthy and complicated alphanumeric password.

Setting up a virtual private network, or V.P.N., which encrypts all communications you transmit wirelessly whether on your home network or at a hot spot, is even more secure. The data looks like gibberish to a snooper as it travels from your computer to a secure server before it is blasted onto the Internet.

Popular V.P.N. providers include VyperVPN, HotSpotVPN and LogMeIn Hamachi. Some are free; others are as much as $18 a month, depending on how much data is encrypted. Free versions tend to encrypt only Web activity and not e-mail exchanges.

However, Mr. Palmer at the Electronic Frontier Foundation blames poorly designed Web sites, not vulnerable Wi-Fi connections, for security lapses. “Many popular sites were not designed for security from the beginning, and now we are suffering the consequences,” he said. “People need to demand ‘https’ so Web sites will do the painful integration work that needs to be done.”

Home prices near 2009 lows -- and may fall more

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- Home prices took a big hit at the end of 2010, even as the rest of the economy gained steam.

National home prices fell 4.1% during the last three months of 2010, compared with 12 months earlier, according to the latest report from the S&P/Case-Shiller home price index, a closely watched indicator of market trends. They were down 1.9% compared with three months earlier.

A Physicist Solves the City

After two years of analysis, West and Bettencourt discovered that all of these urban variables could be described by a few exquisitely simple equations. For example, if they know the population of a metropolitan area in a given country, they can estimate, with approximately 85 percent accuracy, its average income and the dimensions of its sewer system. These are the laws, they say, that automatically emerge whenever people “agglomerate,” cramming themselves into apartment buildings and subway cars. It doesn’t matter if the place is Manhattan or Manhattan, Kan.: the urban patterns remain the same. West isn’t shy about describing the magnitude of this accomplishment. “What we found are the constants that describe every city,” he says. “I can take these laws and make precise predictions about the number of violent crimes and the surface area of roads in a city in Japan with 200,000 people. I don’t know anything about this city or even where it is or its history, but I can tell you all about it. And the reason I can do that is because every city is really the same.” After a pause, as if reflecting on his hyperbole, West adds: “Look, we all know that every city is unique. That’s all we talk about when we talk about cities, those things that make New York different from L.A., or Tokyo different from Albuquerque. But focusing on those differences misses the point. Sure, there are differences, but different from what? We’ve found the what.”


The correspondence was obvious to West: he saw the metropolis as a sprawling organism, similarly defined by its infrastructure. (The boulevard was like a blood vessel, the back alley a capillary.) This implied that the real purpose of cities, and the reason cities keep on growing, is their ability to create massive economies of scale, just as big animals do. After analyzing the first sets of city data — the physicists began with infrastructure and consumption statistics — they concluded that cities looked a lot like elephants. In city after city, the indicators of urban “metabolism,” like the number of gas stations or the total surface area of roads, showed that when a city doubles in size, it requires an increase in resources of only 85 percent.


In essence, they arrive at the sensible conclusion that cities are valuable because they facilitate human interactions, as people crammed into a few square miles exchange ideas and start collaborations. “If you ask people why they move to the city, they always give the same reasons,” West says. “They’ve come to get a job or follow their friends or to be at the center of a scene. That’s why we pay the high rent. Cities are all about the people, not the infrastructure.”


According to the data, whenever a city doubles in size, every measure of economic activity, from construction spending to the amount of bank deposits, increases by approximately 15 percent per capita. It doesn’t matter how big the city is; the law remains the same. “This remarkable equation is why people move to the big city,” West says. “Because you can take the same person, and if you just move them to a city that’s twice as big, then all of a sudden they’ll do 15 percent more of everything that we can measure.”


Consider the data: When Bettencourt and West analyzed the negative variables of urban life, like crime and disease, they discovered that the exact same mathematical equation applied. After a city doubles in size, it also experiences a 15 percent per capita increase in violent crimes, traffic and AIDS cases. (Of course, these trends are only true in general. Some cities can bend the equations with additional cops or strict pollution regulations.) “What this tells you is that you can’t get the economic growth without a parallel growth in the spread of things we don’t want,” Bettencourt says. “When you double the population, everything that’s related to the social network goes up by the same percentage.”

West and Bettencourt refer to this phenomenon as “superlinear scaling,” which is a fancy way of describing the increased output of people living in big cities. When a superlinear equation is graphed, it looks like the start of a roller coaster, climbing into the sky. The steep slope emerges from the positive feedback loop of urban life — a growing city makes everyone in that city more productive, which encourages more people to move to the city, and so on. According to West, these superlinear patterns demonstrate why cities are one of the single most important inventions in human history. They are the idea, he says, that enabled our economic potential and unleashed our ingenuity. “When we started living in cities, we did something that had never happened before in the history of life,” West says. “We broke away from the equations of biology, all of which are sublinear. Every other creature gets slower as it gets bigger. That’s why the elephant plods along. But in cities, the opposite happens. As cities get bigger, everything starts accelerating. There is no equivalent for this in nature. It would be like finding an elephant that’s proportionally faster than a mouse.”

Because our lifestyle has become so expensive to maintain, every new resource now becomes exhausted at a faster rate. This means that the cycle of innovations has to constantly accelerate, with each breakthrough providing a shorter reprieve. The end result is that cities aren’t just increasing the pace of life; they are also increasing the pace at which life changes. “It’s like being on a treadmill that keeps on getting faster,” West says. “We used to get a big revolution every few thousand years. And then it took us a century to go from the steam engine to the internal-­combustion engine. Now we’re down to about 15 years between big innovations. What this means is that, for the first time ever, people are living through multiple revolutions. And this all comes from cities. Once we started to urbanize, we put ourselves on this treadmill. We traded away stability for growth. And growth requires change.”


For West, the impermanence of the corporation illuminates the real strength of the metropolis. Unlike companies, which are managed in a top-down fashion by a team of highly paid executives, cities are unruly places, largely immune to the desires of politicians and planners. “Think about how powerless a mayor is,” West says. “They can’t tell people where to live or what to do or who to talk to. Cities can’t be managed, and that’s what keeps them so vibrant. They’re just these insane masses of people, bumping into each other and maybe sharing an idea or two. It’s the freedom of the city that keeps it alive.”

Risky customers take hit with credit card reform

It pays to be rich if you need a credit card.

A year after sweeping credit card regulations upended the industry, banks are showering perks and rewards on big spenders with sterling credit scores. And they're socking customers with spottier histories with higher interest rates, lower credit limits and new annual fees. In some cases the riskiest customers are being dropped altogether.

"When you look at the regulations, it's a net positive for consumers," says Peter Garuccio, a spokesman for the American Bankers Association. "But there have been some trade-offs."

The widening differences between how customers are treated is largely the result of new constraints on card issuers. The Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure Act, or the CARD Act, was signed into law with great fanfare at a time when borrowers across the country were struggling to make payments. It swept away several practices that for years had grated on cardholders.

The regulations are already transforming the cards on the market. To make up for the drop in revenue, banks are imposing new annual fees and hiking interest rates — but mostly for those with the lowest credit scores. The best customers are more prized than ever.

The CARD Act means banks can no longer freely raise rates or impose fees to manage their default risk, says Dennis Moroney, a credit card analyst with TowerGroup. So when they issue cards, "they have to have their ducks in a row from a risk point of view."

There's no doubt the riskiest customers have become toxic in this environment. In 2009 alone, banks wrote off a record $83.27 billion in credit card debt.

It's no wonder that card issuers have slashed available credit overall since 2007 by nearly a third, or $1.5 trillion, according to TowerGroup.

With bigger issuers such as Capital One the choices for customers with tarnished credit are pretty much limited to secured credit cards. These cards are intended to help borrowers rebuild credit, but require deposits and offer small credit limits. There are often activation fees as well.

Defense leaders fear military-civilian 'disconnect'

I warned the idiots on the political board about this:

Spouses of service members are badly stressed from years of long deployments — so stressed that some have taken their own lives. Children who’ve had a parent away at war for almost their entire conscious lives are leaving home to go off to college. And the troops themselves continue to struggle with substance abuse, post-traumatic stress, and devastating physical and mental wounds.

Some of Washington’s top national security leaders are worried that Americans don’t know — or worse, don’t care.

Top Defense Department officials and other leaders began talking quietly last year about a “gap” or “split” between the military and the general population. But in recent weeks, they’ve been expressing those concerns more often and more boldly.

Former House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), who lost his seat in Congress in November, warned early this month that “those who protect us are psychologically divorced from those who are being protected.”

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told House lawmakers on Wednesday that there’s a “growing disconnect between the American people and the military.” The public knows generically that their troops are at war, but “the day to day connections are less than they used to be, the depth and breadth of who we are and what we’re doing, isn’t there.”

It’s not a recruiting problem: All four services continue to hit or exceed their goals each year. It’s a perception problem: The wars, the military and its sacrifices are just not on most Americans’ minds, many top commanders and officials believe.

How could the U.S. military fight for almost a decade and yet drift away from — not closer toward — the public consciousness? And just how divorced from the realities of today’s military is the general public?

A smaller military, one that depends less on junior newcomers than on highly trained, professional volunteers, means fewer Americans have a diminishing number of relatives or friends who serve, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has said. And even though, by one measure, American troops have now been fighting in Afghanistan longer than they did in Vietnam, today’s anti-war movement is much smaller and less visible, perhaps in part because young people don’t have to worry about being drafted.

Plus, there are technological factors: The military has become so good at protecting and keeping alive its troops that many more of them can make multiple deployments than ever before, Mullen said in a Feb. 7 speech. Thanks to today’s advanced, protected vehicles, he said, some 98 percent of troops who survive roadside bomb attacks in Afghanistan return to battle . State-of-the-art first aid and medical care also have saved the lives of many troops whose wounds might have killed them in earlier conflicts. Thus, even though, with 711 American losses, last year was the deadliest for American troops since the beginning of the Afghanistan war, it might have been twice or three times worse in the eras of Vietnam or Korea — and as such, would have made a bigger impression on average Americans.

Americans also take cues from political leaders, who have mostly chosen not to discuss Iraq and Afghanistan over the past several months, except for occasional sessions such as last week’s congressional hearings on the defense budget. The 2010 midterm elections passed with almost no debate on Iraq or Afghanistan. According to an analysis by Time magazine, President Barack Obama used the fewest words on national security in last month’s State of the Union address since President George W. Bush’s first such speech in 2001.

It’s tough to quantify just how “disconnected” Americans are, because the issue can depend on something as simple as a matter of distance — in a city like San Diego, for example, with several installations and heavy economic dependence on the military, people may be more aware about the toll of the wars than in, say, Los Angeles, which has a much smaller military presence.

To be sure, poll after poll shows that even as popular support wavers for the wars, Americans consistently say they “support the troops,” and in a Rasmussen poll released earlier this month, 65 percent of voters surveyed said they believe the U.S. military is the most powerful in the world.

The first living Medal of Honor recipient of the 21st century, Staff Sgt. Sal Giunta, was honored at the Super Bowl, and it seems as though every big-league sporting event now includes a mandatory ovation for a featured group of returning troops.

But Mullen and others have said this is, at best, a superficial acknowledgment. “We … can’t kid ourselves,” he said in a speech last year. “As much as our young men and women appreciate the gestures of kindness we see today in tribute to our military and our veterans, a free ticket to a football game or a pat on the back will not solve their problems.”

There is plenty of anecdotal evidence of the drift. Hollywood movies about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan tend to tank at the box office. When the Navy created its ad campaign, “America’s Navy: A Global Force For Good,” one of its top goals was informing young people that America still had a Navy. And fewer young people than ever, in today’s more sedentary generation, have what it takes to even consider joining the force: A December report by DOD found that nearly a quarter of applicants couldn’t pass the exam, and earlier studies have said some 75 percent of recruit-age Americans are ineligible to join the military because they aren’t fit enough or have had problems with crime and drugs.

By comparison, not only did many more Americans serve in earlier eras, their idols did, too. When Gates gave his first major speech on the “split” in September, he cited the examples of Elvis Presley and Willie Mays, both of whom took a break from their careers to serve in the Army. Baseball fans lament that Red Sox great Ted Williams may have missed what could have been his most productive slugging years because of his service in World War II and Korea.

Gates, Mullen and others usually conclude their warnings about the civil-military divide by listing ways they hope Americans will help the 1 million or so troops who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. For example, Mullen wants government and private-sector employers to give preference, or at least an equal shot, to veterans looking for jobs. He has also warned that Americans must be prepared for decades’ worth of support to keep today’s veterans from becoming homeless in the numbers that the military saw after Vietnam.

And now that the Pentagon is in the midst of repealing its ban on open service by gays and lesbians, President Barack Obama has called on elite colleges to restore their Reserve Officer Training Corps programs and to again admit military recruiters, so that Ivy League students may take a bigger share of military service.

Obama, first lady Michelle Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Jill, also have become involved in a public awareness campaign for troops’ families, which has included Michelle Obama’s visits to Fort Jackson, S.C., and to the Oprah Winfrey show. Mullen praised that kind of high-level attention, which he said might be the key to binding Americans back to their troops.

“It’s one thing for the chairman and his wife to do it,” he said, referring to himself. “It’s a whole ‘nother level for the president and first lady to do this … this issue of connecting America with the realities of what we’ve been through.”

Housing data may have understated extent of collapse

WASHINGTON — A housing trade association is examining the possibility that the data it releases underestimated the collapse of the housing industry, the Wall Street Journal reported on Monday.

The National Association of Realtors, which issues the monthly existing home sales report that is closely watched by economists and financial markets, may have over-counted home sales dating as far back as 2007, the newspaper said in an article posted to its web site.

As U.S. Agencies Put More Value on a Life, Businesses Fret

WASHINGTON — As the players here remake the nation’s vast regulatory system, they have been grappling with a subject that is more the province of poets and philosophers than bureaucrats: what is the value of a human life?

The answer determines how much spending the government should require to prevent a single death.

To protests from business and praise from unions, environmentalists and consumer groups, one agency after another has ratcheted up the price of life, justifying tougher — and more costly — standards.

Yeah, Stock Up On Those Precious Metals!

Guy put all his savings into metals at home, and talked about it:

$750,000 in silver stolen from home

Two robbers dressed as cops force man to give up combination to his vault

A Chilliwack man was punched, stabbed and tied up by homeinvading thieves who made off with his life savings in silver bars.

The two thugs, wearing what he described as fake police uniforms, unloaded his vault and spirited away $750,000 in silver the man had bought as an investment last year.

The 52-year-old victim, still shaken by the Feb. 9 robbery at his Imperial Street home, now wonders who among his friends or acquaintances is behind the brazen midday theft.

"Obviously, some friend, or friend of a friend, or friend of a family member was told and they leaked it to the wrong people," he said Wednesday.

Due to the circumstances, the man's name is being withheld by The Province.

The home invaders initially told the victim they were investigating a domestic assault, then said they were looking for methamphetamine in his vault. One carried a gun.

After punching him hard in the face, they forced him into providing the combination for his vault, which was stacked with what Chilliwack police describe as "several thousand ounces" of silver.

"It's the bulk of my life savings," said the man.

Silver has almost doubled in price in the past year, from $17 per ounce to just above $30.

"When I bought it in January a year ago, some people said, 'You are crazy,'" he said.

"It turns out that it really was one of the best investments I've ever made."

The man wouldn't say how much he paid for the bullion, though $750,000 in silver bullion was worth about $415,500 this time last year.

A bank refused to store the silver, he said, because it took up too much space.

He didn't insure the silver, he said, because the price to do so was astronomical.

Eddy Siu, a trader at Vancouver Bullion and Currency Exchange, said it's not uncommon for people to stash investments in silver in their houses, storage units or warehouses due to its bulk.

"It does happen," Siu said.

The suspects are white, with a medium build, in their early 30s, with dark hair and some facial hair. They may have been in a white sedan, possibly a Toyota Camry or Pontiac G6.

Anyone with information is asked to call Chilliwack RCMP at 604-792-4611 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-8477.

Read more:

Across the South, the Civil War is an enduring conflict

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — With the firing of a cannon, the raising of the Stars and Bars and the singing of Dixie, people in antebellum finery will come Saturday to re-enact a most divisive moment in U.S. history: Jefferson Davis' inauguration 150 years ago as president of the Confederacy.

There will be a parade to the state Capitol along Davis' 1861 route, a landscape that since has become the Jerusalem of Southern memory — sacred to both the Confederacy and the civil rights movement.

The procession will start near the spot where, in 1955, black seamstress Rosa Parks boarded a public bus and refused to give her seat to a white man, sparking the Montgomery bus boycott. It will go up the avenue where Martin Luther King Jr. and his followers completed the Selma-to-Montgomery voting rights march in 1965. It will pass the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, the first congregation King served as pastor, whose parsonage was firebombed in 1956 while King's wife and baby daughter were there.

And it will come within two blocks of the old Greyhound station where Freedom Riders, trying to desegregate interstate bus travel, were beaten bloody by a white mob in 1961 as police stood by.

"The ironies are rich," says Mark Potok of the Southern Poverty Law Center, a civil rights group, "and particularly ugly. This is a racist event, celebrating a government that stood on a foundation of slavery." Bernard Simelton of the Alabama NAACP likens the re-enactment to "celebrating the Holocaust."

The group staging the event, the Sons of Confederate Veterans, says it's merely honoring those who fought what it calls "the War for Southern Independence." Hundreds are expected to attend.

"We're celebrating the only president the Confederate States of America ever had," says Tom Strain, an organizer whose ancestor of the same name was a cavalry soldier in the Confederate Army of Tennessee. "It's not about slavery. It's about remembering our history."

The Civil War still divides Americans, especially at a time when some in the Tea Party movement talk of states' rights and secession; when many states are rebelling against federal initiatives such as the health care overhaul; and when America's changing demographics make some nostalgic for a society in which white Christians were more dominant.

The five-year sesquicentennial of the war promises to be such a political, emotional and historical minefield that Congress has not created a centralized national effort, and only a few states have formed and funded their own commissions to mark the anniversary.

"We're walking on eggshells," says Cameron Freeman Napier, honorary regent for life of the First White Houseof the Confederacy, where Davis lived for several months before the capital moved to Richmond, Va.

The 150th anniversary of the war's first shot at Fort Sumter, S.C., is almost two months off, but controversies already have erupted across the South:

•Revelers in period dress gathered in Charleston in December for a "Secession Ball," described in invitations as a "joyous night of music, dancing, food and drink" to commemorate the 150th anniversary of South Carolina's withdrawal from the Union. More than 100 protesters gathered outside what state NAACP leader Lonnie Randolph called "a celebration of slavery."

•Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, a Republican, apologized last year after not mentioning slavery while proclaiming April "Confederate History Month." (Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour, a Republican, added to the ruckus by saying the omission "doesn't matter for diddly.") McDonnell later decided the state will commemorate the entire war in Virginia.

•The Virginia Education Department issued a disclaimer last year after a college history professor noticed that her daughter's fourth-grade textbook said that thousands of blacks fought for the Confederacy — a claim most professional historians reject.

•The Sons of Confederate Veterans in Mississippi is seeking approval of a license plate to honor Nathan Bedford Forrest, a Confederate cavalry general who made millions of dollars trading slaves; was accused of massacring hundreds of black Union POWs, and after the war became the first national leader of the Ku Klux Klan. Barbour said Tuesday he won't denounce the proposal but added he doesn't think Mississippi legislators will approve it.

Forrest, Potok says, has "dethroned" Gen. Robert E. Lee as the paragon among some hard-line neo-Confederates, because of Lee's conciliatory attitude toward the North after the war: "These groups don't talk about Lee. He's seen as a wimp."

Sesquicentennial observances of the Civil War may reveal as much about the nation's current mindset about that period as who did what to whom at which battle. It coincides with a revival of notions such as secession and nullification, ideas that flourished in the South in the first half of the 19th century and seemed to have been discredited by the Civil War.

Some Alaskans, including former governor Sarah Palin's husband, Todd, have talked seriously about secession. In 2009, Texas Gov. Rick Perry, a Republican, hinted it was a possibility for his state "if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people."

At least a half-dozen states are considering measures to nullify the Obama administration's overhaul of the nation's health-care system, for example. In Alabama, a bill sponsored by Republican Sen. Scott Beason passed the state Senate last year before dying in a Democrat-led House committee.

He plans to try again. It's time, he said, "for the states to try to flex some sovereignty muscle."
A centennial to forget

In some ways, Americans are more divided by the war on its 150th anniversary than they were on its 100th in 1961. Then, says Yale historian David Blight, slavery and race were swept under the rug to celebrate Blue-Gray reconciliation — albeit a reconciliation of whites, achieved by sacrificing black civil rights after Southern Reconstruction ended in the 1870s.

The federal Civil War Centennial Commission created in 1957 under the leadership of Ulysses S. Grant III, grandson of the Union general and president, tried to show the valor of fighters on both sides and the unified nation born of the struggle.

These were themes the South had been pushing since its defeat. It was a rare occasion, says James Loewen, author of Lies My Teacher Told Me, "where the history of a war was written by the losers." But historian Robert Cook says the rise of the civil rights movement in the early 1960s overran the commission's spin on the war.

This anniversary will be different. S. Waite Rawls III, director of the Museum of the Confederacy in Richmond, promises more attention to slaves, women and children, as well as black Union soldiers. In ads, the museum uses the Union battle cry, "On to Richmond!" — unthinkable at a Southern institution 50 years ago.

The new focus dismays some, including the re-enactor who will read Davis' inaugural speech Saturday here. Tyrone Crowley of Prattville, Ala., declined to be interviewed. But on his Sons of Confederate Veterans (SCV) chapter's website, he complains that, unlike 50 years ago, "when the Centennial was used to honor the Confederacy and the Lost Cause," now "there is an obvious, deliberate attempt to ignore and suppress all things Confederate ... as seen by the fact that Alabama state agencies use 'Civil War.' "

The neo-Confederate position on the war holds that the South had the constitutional right to secede; the war's cause was not slavery but an economically motivated Northern invasion, and that tens of thousands of Southern blacks, most of them slaves, willingly fought with the Confederate army.

The Davis inauguration is the first in a series of sesquicentennial "heritage rallies" planned around the South.
One city, two traditions

Two of America's most violent internal struggles played out in Montgomery. Today you can still touch Martin Luther King's old pulpit and a few blocks away see Jefferson Davis' Bible, bed and slippers.

Miriam Norris, an African American born shortly after the bus boycott, is a tour guide at Dexter Avenue Baptist. She's standing in the basement, where King helped organize the boycott. She's not eager to discuss the Davis re-enactment but eventually says she finds it "personally insulting. I see it as a black vs. white thing. ... It's silly for them to pay so much attention to a war they lost. They ought to get over it."

Black leaders say they plan no protests.

"That would be counterproductive," says state Rep. Alvin Holmes, a Democrat. "We don't want to give them publicity."

Cameron Napier and her husband, John, are an older white couple with deep roots in the South and contacts with both the black community and the Sons of Confederate Veterans, whose local chapter John helped revive.

Over chicory coffee and beignets at their stately brick home on an old cotton plantation south of the city, they say they have no problem with an accurate re-enactment of a historical event. But they express dismay over the distortion of Civil War history by what John Napier calls "Confederate extremists."

They're particularly vexed by the neo-Confederate claim that the Civil War was not caused by slavery. "Of course the war was about slavery," says John Napier, a retired Army general and amateur historian. "Read the state secession convention documents."

Cameron Napier agrees. "Some people don't even want to say the S word, but I say it — 'slavery.' How can you understand the Civil War without understanding slavery, and how can you understand the civil rights movement without the Civil War?"

Why is the Civil War such a hot potato? There are several explanations:

•The war failed to settle several of the disputes over which it was fought, according to James Robertson, a Virginia Tech historian who worked on the centennial observance in 1961. In 1865, the South accepted defeat and union; it never accepted a new racial order or the demise of states' rights.

•The sesquicentennial coincides with increasing racial, ethnic and religious diversity, symbolized by the election of the nation's first African-American president, notes Potok, who studies hate groups for the Southern Law Poverty Center. He describes the debate over the war's causes and legacy as being more about the present than the past — a proxy for some whites' anxiety about losing majority status.

•Although re-enactments of Civil War battles have been largely uncontroversial, similar commemorations of political events such as the Davis inauguration are more charged, says Robert Sutton, the National Park Service's chief historian.
A week to remember

Fifty years ago this week, the white citizens of Montgomery staged a week-long pageant about the six months leading up to the first battle of the war, the South's capture of Fort Sumter in Charleston Bay.

The 16-act spectacle, which began with an overture entitled A Salute to the Belle of the South, had a professional directing staff of 18,100 primary actors and dancers and a supporting cast of 1,000. There was a stage crew of 100, 3 miles of electric wiring, 1,000 props and 9,000 costume items shipped from New York and Hollywood in 83 trunks.

Tens of thousands attended; no one in Montgomery had ever seen anything like it. "Every dressmaker was busy," recalls Cameron Napier, whose mother got out her old hoop skirt for the occasion.

Festivities concluded Feb. 18 at the Capitol, with the re-enactment of Davis' swearing-in as three Southern governors looked on. "Dexter Avenue was more crowded than on the same day in 1861," The Montgomery Advertiser reported.

In a front-page editorial, the Advertiser defended the celebratory treatment of an event that ended in disaster: "The North and South are commemorating the origin of a tragic but noble heritage. No combative spirit is aroused."

Combat, and change, lay ahead. Three months later, the Freedom Riders would arrive in town. King, who had left his pulpit the prior year, would be back. And that summer, Barack Obama would be born in Hawaii, the newest state that Davis had sought to rend asunder.

Were he to attend Saturday's re-enactment, the old rebel might recall the atmosphere on Feb. 18, 1861, which contrasted sharply with his own mood.

Davis could not see the future — 620,000 dead, slavery abolished, the South in ruins. But later he would write that when he looked at the thousands below, "I saw troubles and thorns innumerable."

Today, 50 steps up from the street, standing on the brass star that marks the spot where Davis spoke, you can see them still.

Warning: Coupons make you spend more

I've said before, and not too long ago, that only people with poor impulse control buy things at retail prices. But I've recently come to understand that deal-seekers, people who habitually try to save money by using social-shopping sites like Groupon or coupon directories like RetailMeNot, may actually be even more valuable to the retail industry than people who buy stuff at list price. Because they spend more.

Read more:

TSA Source: Armed Agent Slips Past DFW Body Scanner

An undercover TSA agent was able to get through security at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport with a handgun during testing of the enhanced-imaging body scanners, according to a high-ranking, inside source at the Transportation Security Administration.

The source said the undercover agent carried a pistol in her undergarments when she put the body scanners to the test. The officer successfully made it through the airport's body scanners every time she tried, the source said.

"In this case, where they had a test, and it was just a dismal failure as I'm told," said Larry Wansley, former head of security at American Airlines. "As I've heard (it), you got a problem, especially with a fire arm."

Wansley said covert testing by the TSA is commonplace -- although failing should be rare.

Where Have The Good Men Gone?

Relatively affluent, free of family responsibilities, and entertained by an array of media devoted to his every pleasure, the single young man can live in pig heaven—and often does. Women put up with him for a while, but then in fear and disgust either give up on any idea of a husband and kids or just go to a sperm bank and get the DNA without the troublesome man. But these rational choices on the part of women only serve to legitimize men's attachment to the sand box. Why should they grow up? No one needs them anyway. There's nothing they have to do.

They might as well just have another beer.

Media Black Hole: So Much News That We'll Implode?

Have you noticed? The news cycle is spinning faster. And faster. Andfasterandfaster.

Congressman Christopher Lee (R-NY) resigns because of a scandal even before the scandal is known to the public. On websites we get Tuesday's news on Monday. As online commenters, we discuss articles we haven't read and dis movies we haven't watched. Google anticipates the stories we want to see even before we know we want to see them. And as one person tweeted recently: "Tunisia's revolution took four weeks. Egypt: 17 days. Who's next and how much time do they have?"

When it comes to the news of the day, newspapers, websites, bloggers, cable networks and aggregators all trip over themselves to be the fastest and the first. The competition has always existed, but technology has ramped up the rivalries.

At this increasingly accelerated pace, is it inevitable that noteworthy events — and the news they engender — will rush lickety-split into each other? What happens when things just cannot occur any faster? What if the rapidity of the newscycle outpaces the news itself and we wind up in some form of warp speed — living life in a wormholish, time-wrinkled world?

Texas poised to pass bill allowing guns on campus

AUSTIN, Texas (AP) — Texas is preparing to give college students and professors the right to carry guns on campus, adding momentum to a national campaign to open this part of society to firearms.

Internet v. Courts: Googling for the perfect juror

Feb 17 (Reuters Legal) - When picking a jury, lawyers always try to stack the panel with people likely to take their side. Now, some are taking the vetting process to a new level: they're quietly trawling social networks and other sites to ferret out the most intimate details of potential jurors' lives, from their sexual orientation to their income level and politics.

Child brain scans to pick out future criminals

The seeds of criminal and anti-social behaviour can be found in children as young as three, scientists have claimed.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Theft gangs using smartphones to steal bank card numbers

787 Dreamliner teaches Boeing costly lesson on outsourcing

787 Dreamliner teaches Boeing costly lesson on outsourcing The airliner is billions of dollars over budget and about three years late. Much of the blame belongs to the company's farming out work to suppliers around the nation and in foreign countries Los Angeles Times Online 02/15/2011
Author: Michael Hiltzik

The biggest mistake people make when talking about the outsourcing of U.S. jobs by U.S. companies is to treat it as a moral issue.
Sure, it's immoral to abandon your loyal American workers in search of cheap labor overseas. But the real problem with outsourcing, if you don't think it through, is that it can wreck your business and cost you a bundle.
Case in point: Boeing Co. and its 787 Dreamliner.
The next-generation airliner is billions of dollars over budget and about three years late; the first paying passengers won't be boarding until this fall, if then. Some of the delay stems from the plane's advances in design, engineering and material, which made it harder to build. A two-month machinists strike in 2008 didn't help.
But much of the blame belongs to the company's quantum leap in farming out the design and manufacture of crucial components to suppliers around the nation and in foreign countries such as Italy, Sweden, China, and South Korea. Boeing's dream was to save money. The reality is that it would have been cheaper to keep a lot of this work in-house.
The 787 has more foreign-made content - 30% - than any other Boeing plane, according to the Society of Professional Engineering Employees in Aerospace, the union representing Boeing engineers. That compares with just over 5% in the company's workhorse 747 airliner.
Boeing's goal, it seems, was to convert its storied aircraft factory near Seattle to a mere assembly plant, bolting together modules designed and produced elsewhere as though from kits.
The drawbacks of this approach emerged early. Some of the pieces manufactured by far-flung suppliers didn't fit together. Some subcontractors couldn't meet their output quotas, creating huge production logjams when critical parts weren't available in the necessary sequence.
Rather than follow its old model of providing parts subcontractors with detailed blueprints created at home, Boeing gave suppliers less detailed specifications and required them to create their own blueprints.
Some then farmed out their engineering to their own subcontractors, Mike Bair, the former head of the 787 program, said at a meeting of business leaders in Washington state in 2007. That further reduced Boeing's ability to supervise design and manufacture. At least one major supplier didn't even have an engineering department when it won its contract, according to an analysis of the 787 by the European consortium Airbus, Boeing's top global competitor.
Boeing executives now admit that the company's aggressive outsourcing put it in partnership with suppliers that weren't up to the job. They say Boeing didn't recognize that sending so much work abroad would demand more intensive management from the home plant, not less.
"We gave work to people that had never really done this kind of technology before, and then we didn't provide the oversight that was necessary," Jim Albaugh, the company's commercial aviation chief, told business students at Seattle University last month. "In hindsight, we spent a lot more money in trying to recover than we ever would have spent if we tried to keep many of the key technologies closer to Boeing. The pendulum swung too far."
Some critics trace Boeing's extreme appetite for outsourcing to the regimes of Harry Stonecipher and Alan Mulally.
Stonecipher became Boeing's president and later chief executive after its 1997 merger with McDonnell- Douglas, where he had been CEO. Mulally took over the commercial aviation group the following year and is now CEO of Ford. The merged company appeared to prize short-term profits over the development of its engineering expertise, and began to view outsourcing too myopically as a cost-saving process.
That's not to say that outsourcing never makes sense - it's a good way to make use of the precision skills of specialty manufacturers, which would be costly to duplicate. But Boeing's experience shows that it's folly to think that every dollar spent on outsourcing means a cost savings on the finished product.
Boeing can't say it wasn't warned. As early as 2001, L.J. Hart-Smith, a Boeing senior technical fellow, produced a prescient analysis projecting that excessive outsourcing would raise Boeing's costs and steer profits to its subcontractors.
Among the least profitable jobs in aircraft manufacturing, he pointed out, is final assembly - the job Boeing proposed to retain. But its subcontractors would benefit from free technical assistance from Boeing if they ran into problems, and would hang on to the highly profitable business of producing spare parts over the decades-long life of the aircraft. Their work would be almost risk-free, Hart-Smith observed, because if they ran into really insuperable problems they would simply be bought out by Boeing.
What do you know? In 2009, Boeing spent about $1 billion in cash and credit to take over the underperforming fuselage manufacturing plant of Vought Aircraft Industries, which had contributed to the years of delays.
"I didn't dream all this up," Hart-Smith, who is retired, told me from his home in his native Australia. "I'd lived it at Douglas Aircraft."
As an engineer at McDonnell-Douglas' Long Beach plant, he said, he saw how extensive outsourcing of the DC-10 airliner allowed the suppliers to make all the profits but impoverished the prime manufacturer.
"I warned Boeing not to make the same mistake. Everybody there seemed to get the message, except top management."
The company's unions have also kept singing an anti-outsourcing chorale. "We've been raising these questions for five years," says Tom McCarty, the president of the Boeing engineers' union. "How do you control the project, and how do you justify giving these major pieces of work to relatively inexperienced suppliers? There's no track record of being able to do this."
It would be easier to dismiss these concerns as those of unions trying to hold on to their jobs if they hadn't been validated by the words of Boeing executives themselves. A company spokeswoman told me that it's not giving up on outsourcing - "we're a global company," she says - but is hoping for a "continued refinement of that business model." Yet Albaugh and other executives acknowledge that they've blundered.
"We didn't want to make the investment that needed to be made, and we asked our partners to make that investment," Albaugh told his Seattle University audience. The company now recognizes that "we need to know how to do every major system on the airplane better than our suppliers do."
One would have thought that the management of the world's leading aircraft manufacturer would know that going in, before handing over millions of dollars of work to companies that couldn't turn out a Tab A that fit reliably into Slot A.

On-the-job training for senior executives, it seems, can be very expensive.

Will IBM's Watson put your job in jeopardy?

The technologies that power Watson will likely find their way into a variety of software applications and robots that can compete for both high and low skill jobs. As artificial intelligence software improves and hardware becomes dramatically faster and more affordable over the coming decade, job creation in both low and high skill occupations risks falling short of expectations. And employers in a wide range of industries may increasingly choose technology over people. Few, if any, economists seem willing to acknowledge that scenario, but if it does come to pass, what we consider unacceptable levels of unemployment today could become the new normal tomorrow.

Rhapsody mulls exiting Apple App Store

Music-subscription service Rhapsody today said it may have to yank its popular app from Apple's App Store as a new subscription model announced by the Mac maker carves into its razor-thin margins.

"With the costs that go to the publishers, labels, artists, all of our content costs -- it's not a workable economic model," Rhapsody President Jon Irwin told USA TODAY.

Apple today announced a new subscription-billing service to content publishers on its App Store that extends to magazines, newspapers, video and music. The change promises sellers in the App Store subscription fees and would allow Apple to grab a 30% cut. Apple had previously taken just a one-time 30% stake of the download price of apps.

"Our philosophy is simple—when Apple brings a new subscriber to the app, Apple earns a 30% share; when the publisher brings an existing or new subscriber to the app, the publisher keeps 100% and Apple earns nothing," Apple CEO Steve Jobs said in the announcement today.

If Apple's App Store were to shave 30% of that revenue from Rhapsody, recurring each month, under its new subscription model, it would be "economically untenable," Irwin said.

Rhapsody isn't alone. European company Spotify, which offers similar music services, will likely face the same App Store dilemma, Rhapsody's Irwin said. Both services boast about 750,000 subscribers. Rhapsody has a library of 11 million songs.

The move underscores Apple's increasing influence in the music industry as the distribution point for digital media.

"The issue is that Apple controls the distribution of content," said Forrester Research analyst Ted Schadler. "Now they have an opportunity to control movie distribution, music distribution, magazine distribution - -and those companies hate that."

U.S. govt finally declassifying Pentagon Papers

WASHINGTON — The Pentagon Papers were splashed over U.S. newspapers 40 years ago for the whole world to read. Not much of a secret after that.

Except to the U.S. government.

The National Declassification Center of the National Archives is now working to declassify the full text of the papers, which lay out the government's history of U.S. involvement in Vietnam.

The archives says the center also is declassifying documents on which the Pentagon Papers were based and investigative material about the 1971 leak of the papers by Daniel Ellsberg. The leak led to a major legal victory for press freedom when the Supreme Court upheld the right of newspapers to publish the leaked papers.

National Archives spokeswoman Susan Cooper confirmed Tuesday that the center is working on declassifying the material.

Curveball Lied, Colin Powell Died

For my political board adversaries:

LONDON — An Iraqi defector who went by the codename “Curveball” has publicly admitted for the first time that he made up stories about mobile bioweapons trucks and secret factories to try to bring down Saddam Hussein’s regime.

"I had a problem with the Saddam regime," Rafid Ahmed Alwan al-Janabi, who fled Iraq in 1995, told The Guardian newspaper. "I wanted to get rid of him and now I had this chance."

Al-Janabi’s information was used in part by the U.S. as justification for the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. More than 100,000 people, most of them Iraqi civilians, have died in the war. The U.S. began to withdraw its troops from Iraq last summer.

Janabi said he was comfortable with what he did, despite the war that ensued.

"Maybe I was right, maybe I was not right," he told the Guardian. "They gave me this chance. I had the chance to fabricate something to topple the regime. I and my sons are proud of that and we are proud that we were the reason to give Iraq the margin of democracy."

Al-Janabi’s admission that he lied comes a little over a week after the eighth anniversary of then-U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell's speech to the United Nations in which he laid out the case for the war by presenting U.S. intelligence that purported to prove that Saddam had weapons of mass destruction

At one point, Powell presented slides alleging that Saddam had bioweapons labs mounted on trucks that would be almost impossible to find.

"My colleagues, every statement I make today is backed up by sources, solid sources," Powell told the U.N. gathering. "These are not assertions. What we are giving you are facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence."

As it turned out, Powell was not told that one of the sources for the information — “Curveball" — had been flagged by the Defense Intelligence Agency as suspect and untrustworthy.

The Guardian said it recently interviewed Al-Janabi in a series of meetings in Germany, where he has been granted asylum. The Iraqi engineer said the BND, the German secret service, approached him in March 2000 looking for inside information about Saddam's Iraq.

He said he had told a German official about the existence of mobile bioweapons trucks throughout 2000.

The BND traveled to a Gulf city, believed to be Dubai, to speak with his former boss at the Military Industries Commission in Iraq, Dr. Bassil Latif.

Latif strongly denied al-Janabi's claim of mobile bioweapons trucks and another allegation that 12 people had died during an accident at a secret bioweapons facility in Baghdad, according to the Guardian.

German officials confronted al-Janabi with his boss’s denial and did not contact him again until the end of May 2002, al-Janabi told the Guardian. Despite his earlier disputed statements, al-Janabi said, Gerrman and U.S. authorities continued to take him seriously.

He said he was not asked again about the bioweapons trucks until a month before Powell's speech.

"I tell you something when I hear anybody — not just in Iraq but in any war — [is] killed, I am very sad. But give me another solution. Can you give me another solution?" he told the Guardian.

"Believe me, there was no other way to bring about freedom to Iraq. There were no other possibilities."

Tyler Drumheller, the former head of the CIA in Europe, said Curveball's admission made him feel better about himself.

Drumheller, who says he warned his superiors at the CIA before the 2003 invasion that Curveball might be a liar, said the confession would be a final wake-up call for those who continue to insist there had been weapons of mass destruction.

"The interesting part for me is that he has recanted what he said, which is fascinating in the sense that I think there are still a number of people who still thought there was something in that. Even now," Drumheller told the Guardian.