The US military has landed its robotic space plane, ending a classified 22-month mission that marked the third in Earth orbit for the experimental programme widely believed to be related to spying.
The X-37B touched down at Vandenberg air force base in California on Friday, bringing to a close the third and longest mission the vehicle has undertaken since its maiden voyage in 2010.
The spacecraft conducted unspecified experiments for 674 days while in orbit. The US air force said the orbiter, built by Boeing, performed “risk reduction, experimentation and concept-of-operations development for reusable space vehicle technologies”, although details of the missions are secret.
In a written release announcing the craft’s return, the air force only said it had been conducting “on-orbit experiments”…
US officials have previously denied the project had anything to do with creating a “space weapon” that could knock down other satellites.
But, our government, our military ain’t about to tell ordinary citizens a damned thing. We just get to pick up the tab.
A U.S. government watchdog agency is asking the Air Force to explain why it decided to destroy 16 aircraft initially bought for the Afgan air force and turn them into $32,000 of scrap metal instead of finding other ways to salvage nearly $500 million in U.S. funds spent on the program.
John Sopko, special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, asked Air Force Secretary Deborah James to document all decisions made about the destruction of the 16 C-27J aircraft that were stored at Kabul International Airport for years, and what the service planned to do with four additional planes now in Germany…
The U.S. government spent $468 million to buy and refurbish 20 older C-27A airplanes from Alenia, a unit of Italy’s Finmeccanica SpA , but later canceled the program because a lack of spare parts was severely limiting their availability for military use.
Instead, the Pentagon decided to buy four larger C-130 planes built by Lockheed Martin Corp to do the work…
In an interview last year with NBC News, Sopko said it was unclear if the incident was criminal fraud or mismanagement, but the waste was not an isolated incident in Afghanistan.
The Pentagon’s inspector general has also investigated the issue, which the non-profit group Project on Government Oversight (POGO) calls “a shining example of the billions wasted in Afghanistan.”
No immediate comment was available from the Air Force or the Pentagon.
You know, the definition of corruption in government isn’t limited to direct theft, stealing from the till – so to speak. When you have a bureaucracy with job descriptions based on interchangeability between the Pentagon and the military-indiustrial complex – there is a whole range of corruption that starts with ordering trials of hardware we don’t need, building the hardware we don’t need and ends with destroying the crap we never needed – instead of at a minimum trying to find other military idiots who will buy this useless crap.
It feels like the volume of waste, theft and corrupt use of taxpayer dollars didn’t decrease a jot between the neocon thieves in the Bush Administration and the vaguely liberal dunces in the Obama Administration.
Voting-rights advocates have asked Wisconsin’s attorney general to investigate a Facebook group that has been calling for armed individuals to confront voters at the polls in November…
The Politicususa.com site posted an article about the group’s focus on African American voters and included a screen shot of a Twitter conversation between Wisconsin Poll Watcher Militia and a user identified as Patrick Murray.
The Wisconsin Poll Watcher Militias said: “We prefer our people be armed. Some will be heading to some of Milwaukee, Racine and Beloit’s worst areas. We will be armed with a list of people to look for at each location.”
Patrick Murray replied: “Just so you are aware, I will not report Republicans. Only Democrats”.
Wisconsin Poll Watcher Militia said: “We will be targeting heavy Democrat districts, so it is doubtful this will even be an issue…”
Andrea Kaminski, executive director of the League of Women Voters of Wisconsin, told the Guardian that such an exchange constitutes conspiracy to commit a felony – voter intimidation. “They call themselves a militia, although who knows, it could be two guys with nothing better to do sitting in their basement,” Kaminski stated in a phone interview. Still, she said, “whether anybody will go to the polls or not, they’re already committing a crime because conspiring to commit a crime is a felony.”
Idjits are alive and well in Wisconsin – apparently including the most backwards variety of White Citizens Council scum who can’t abide our constitutional right to vote.
Now, the shit-for-brains “independent” who setup the Facebook account says it was just a joke to fool journalists and bloggers. Andrea Kaminski – from the League of Women Voters – original response to the post was, “it could be two guys with nothing better to do sitting in their basement.”
Might turn out to be just one guy. Since he says he’s alone, I guess this is political masturbation he’s practicing.
The only map sketched by Lawrence of Arabia is expected to fetch up to £100,000 when it goes under the hammer in London next month.
The map, on faded yellow paper, shows northern Arabia and was sketched by the famous adventurer and military commander some time between 1918 and 1922 as he described his battle alongside Arab troops.
It records a ‘pivotal moment’ in the Arab Revolt against the Ottoman Empire that led to the capture of the Red Sea port town Aqaba in 1917.
Experts believe it is the only map depicting the journey Lawrence took across the hostile Saudi Arabian desert in 1917, which eventually led to the capture of a major port.
It shows the route he and a group of Arab armies followed after leaving the port of al Wejh, and then reaching the Hejaz railway…
The drawing was done for a well-known cartographer and explorer called Douglas Carruthers who Lawrence befriended towards the end of the war.
Lawrence knew that his travels towards Aqaba were of interest to cartographers and carefully created the map for his friend by carefully plotting the route on a single sheet of paper, signing it and writing the words ‘This is the only drawn copy so please do not lose it prematurely’.
David Lean’s movie got so much right. The focus of the end of his film “Lawrence of Arabia” took the time to record the powers of European colonialism gathered to divide the spoils of war, oil-bearing lands, providing decades of profits and death. Profits for the Oil Kings. Death for nationalists who fought for freedom from Oil kings and Arab kings.
And so it continues…
Denouncing Israel’s treatment of Palestinians under occupation, a group of veterans from an elite, secretive military intelligence unit have declared they will no longer “take part in the state’s actions against Palestinians” in required reserve duty because of what they called “our moral duty to act.”
In a letter sent Thursday night to their commanders as well as Israel’s prime minister and army chief, 43 veterans of the clandestine Unit 8200 complained that Israel made “no distinction between Palestinians who are and are not involved in violence” and that information collected “harms innocent people.” Intelligence “is used for political persecution,” they wrote, which “does not allow for people to lead normal lives, and fuels more violence, further distancing us from the end of the conflict.”
The letter, revealed Friday in Israel’s Yediot Aharonot newspaper as well as The Guardian in Britain, echoes similar periodic protests by reservists over the years, including a group of 27 pilots who refused to participate in what Israel calls targeted assassinations, and 13 members of the vaunted commando unit known as Sayeret Matkal, both in 2003. But it is the first public collective refusal by intelligence officers rather that combat troops. Unit 8200 has a special role in Israeli society as a coveted pipeline to its high-technology industry.
“After our service we started seeing a more complex picture of a nondemocratic, oppressive regime that controls the lives of millions of people,” said one of the group’s organizers, a 32-year-old sergeant major who was on active duty from 2001 to 2005. He spoke on the condition of anonymity because the military prohibits Unit 8200 members from being publicly identified.
“There are certain things that we were asked to do that we feel do not deserve the title of self-defense,” he added in a telephone interview. “Some of the things that we did are immoral, and are against the things we believe in, and we’re not willing to do these things anymore.”
The new refuseniks said their group began a year ago and was not motivated by Israel’s battle with Palestinian militants in the Gaza Strip this summer, which a member said was “just another chapter in this cycle of violence.”
RTFA. Please. A rare divergence from US/Israel foreign policy. Our own government exhibits no concern whatsoever for the lot of Palestinians living under the heel of brutal colonial repression – in the name of Lebensraum for Israel.
The 80-20 rule persists, whether discussing markets or military. Though the whole of participants may appear to come from a homogeneous population, there generally is a small percentage with perception and the ability to decide to wander away from the herd in search of something better. In this case, honesty, loyalty to a standard of democracy ignored by Israel’s government for decades, ignored by a United States government more than satisfied with a nation of legionnaires prepared to commit any crime to satisfy policies natural only to the greediest of elites.
Of course, as in the US military, fear of political and criminal retaliation reduces that percentage of those willing to act publicly, to speak out as citizens of decency. The pressure to live whatever passes for a normal life is usually sufficient to quiet most dissent. Especially in a time and place that treats dissent as the greatest enemy of governance.
These members of Unit 8200 deserve recognition for their courage.
An airman stationed at Creech Air Force Base in Indian Springs, Nevada, was prohibited from re-enlisting in the U.S. military last month for omitting the words “so help me God” from a service oath he was required to recite and for refusing to sign the oath containing the same words on his enlistment form, according to the American Humanist Association (AHA).
In a letter of complaint sent to the Air Force’s inspector general on Tuesday, the Appignani Humanist Legal Center, the AHA’s legal wing, said the airman — who is an atheist — “was told that his options were to say ‘so help me God’ or to leave the Air Force.’”
The AHA, which describes itself as “advocating values and equality for humanists, atheists and freethinkers,” characterized the ultimatum as a civil rights violation and demanded the Air Force correct the matter.
“Requiring [redacted] to take an oath containing this religious affirmation violates his clearly established constitutional rights under the First Amendment. This letter demands that you immediately allow [redacted] to re-enlist using a secular affirmation,” the letter stated.
“The Air Force cannot compel anyone to swear to God as a condition of enlistment,” AHA attorney Monica Miller said. “Doing so violates the establishment clause and the free exercise clause of the First Amendment.”
“Numerous cases affirm that atheists have the right to omit theistic language from enlistment or re-enlistment contracts,” she added…
…Until October 2013, Air Force Instruction 36-2606, under which the enlistment oath falls, stipulated that “airmen may omit the words ‘so help me God,’ if desired for personal reasons,” The Air Force Times reported.
On Oct. 30, 2013, the Air Force appears to have quietly done away with that option. “The relevant section of that AFI now only lists the active-duty oath of enlistment, without giving airmen any option to choose not to swear an oath to a deity,” the Air Force Times said.
You know, just because George W. Bush is out of office doesn’t mean all the idiots in government – and our military – are out looking for honest jobs. You still have to keep on eye on the clowns who would dilute and destroy what constitutional rights we have – for whatever out-of-date ideology they seem to need as a snuggy-wuggy.
UPDATE: He won!
Another grenade found on the beach – absent barnacles
A beach walker threw a stone for his dog to fetch – only to discover that it was a live wartime GRENADE.
The man picked up the barnacle-encrusted “stone” for his pet to chase along the sands without realising it was deadly World War 2 explosive.
In an incredible stroke of luck, an off-duty military explosive expert also on the seafront at Dovercourt, near Harwich, Essex recognised the dog’s new “toy” and immediately raised the alarm.
A 100-foot cordon was hastily put up by police around the grenade as a bomb disposal team rushed to the scene.
Inspector Paul Butcher of Essex Police said…”We think the grenades may have been in a crate that ended up in the sea during World War Two and that it might now be breaking up or has been disturbed by dredging work in the area.
“The result is that these five devices have all been washed ashore on the same stretch of the bay so we are asking people to be vigilant if they go onto the beach and dial 999 if they find any of these devices.
“Some have been covered in barnacles but the one found on Saturday looked almost like new despite the fact it had been in the sea for many years.”
I’m glad the dog was OK.
Wind-blown sand still uncovers sun-bleached bones of men and mules dead for centuries along New Mexico’s Jornado del Muerte, the waterless hell where Spaniards died traveling between Santa Fe and Chihuahua. Few large areas in the United States can match its barren, flat desolation.
Near the center of this vast expanse lies man’s first great insult against the earth – - Trinity Site.
Ground Zero, where a massive steel tower holding the first atomic bomb was vaporized at 5:29 a.m., July 16, 1945, was a slight depression in the silent flatness. For a radius of more than 100 feet melted sand in the form of green glass covered the desert like a splotchy carpet shining in the light from above, dull by night, bright by day. This monument to man’s inhumanity to man, the largest blur on the landscape, was surrounded by a high fence, tight strands of barbed wire, a locked double gate and multilingual warning signs.
The gate was chained shut. Three padlocks served as links in the chain in 1951, any one of which permitted entry when unlocked. A large steel lock was stamped AEC, for the Atomic Energy Commission. A heavy brass padlock was stamped War Dept. The third padlock, a new one hardly larger than the links it secured, replaced one of these links recently melted in two by Jesse Petty’s gas torch. Jesse, my best friend and fellow draftee army buddy, from Carrizozo, New Mexico, had snapped the chain back together wit the little lock during his trip to the site.
Jesse had volunteered, I’ll go out there and cut the chain for you and put on a new padlock, but I won’t go in there, not for anything,”
He had given me the keys when we each returned to Guided Missile School at Ft. Bliss, Texas, from our weekend trips to different home cities.
My plan was to drive a truck to the Trinity atomic bomb site, use my keys to pass through the unguarded US Government gate remove the radioactive glass called Trinitite and transport it close to Los Alamos for a proper burial at its spiritual origin…
…While living in the remote desert of northern New Mexico I had seen an aerial photograph of the radioactive site in a popular magazine. It looked like a giant scab. It was an impurity waiting to be taken away. Writers wrote about it. I was determined to remove it without a trace of publicity. My self-appointed task was to gain entry to the government glass and haul it off for burial, to repair the desert, clean away this radioactive afterbirth.
And so it goes. I’ve never heard this story before. Our online compadre, Mike, just suggested it. I read it – and it is fascinating.
When I was still on the road I’d drive by Trinity site every week or so and think about getting in on the annual visit. Always figured my years of pissing off the FBI, CIA, every piece of alphabetized fascist crap-mentality in government would probably get me arrested and thrown out. Never have visited.
Dr. Pray’s story is fascinating. The Feds let on that the Trinitite, the atomic glass burned from molten sand at that first test site disappeared over years of tourists taking souvenirs. Ralph Pray’s story makes a lot more sense.
He died May 30, 2014.
President Obama has ordered a review of the government’s decade-old policy of sending military equipment to local police departments across the country…
Federal officials began reconsidering civilian police department’s use of such equipment — including body armor, mine-resistant armored trucks, silencers and automatic rifles — following the unrest in Ferguson, Missouri. Local police used military-style equipment during violent clashes with demonstrators protesting the fatal shooting of an unarmed black teenager by a white police officer…
During widespread coverage of the Ferguson unrest, the public has absorbed images of heavily armed police, snipers trained on protesters and tear gas plumes.
“This equipment flowed to local police forces because they were increasingly being asked to assist in counterterrorism. But displays of force in response to mostly peaceful demonstrations can be counterproductive,” Attorney General Eric Holder said in a statement.
“It makes sense to take a look at whether military-style equipment is being acquired for the right purposes and whether there is proper training on when and how to deploy it,” Holder said…
As the country concludes its longest wartime period, the military has turned over thousands of surplus weapons and armored trucks to local police who often trained alongside the military.
A report by the American Civil Liberties Union in June said police agencies had become “excessively militarized,” with officers using training and equipment designed for the battlefield on city streets. The report found the amount of goods transferred through the military surplus program rose in value from $1 million in 1990 to nearly $450 million in 2013.
RTFA for details, examples.
IMHO, this crap follows logically from the War on Drugs becoming a War on All Citizens – especially as reactionaries and bigots get wedgies over ordinary folks moving in a progressive direction. From broad acceptance of civil rights for everyone including gays and lesbians – to the wave of decriminalization heading to a crest over the sillyass prohibition of cannabis.
The bottom of the lumpen that didn’t qualify for civilian jobs – who therefore joined the military – who still don’t qualify for a lifetime gig after being demobbed, jump at the chance to become some kind of copper. Maybe they fit in because the PD chiefs are racist. Maybe they don’t even qualify for that level of policing and sink down to lower economic levels, border cop or even TSA. But, whatever road, they’re already accustomed to treating every civilian as a furriner who isn’t white Christian enough to be a proper American.