400,000 Troops needed For Afghanistan

No, that’s not a typo. The outgoing US commander of NATO troops in Afghanistan says it would require 400,000 troops to secure that country.

ISAF Commander McNeill has said himself that according to the current counterterrorism doctrine, it would take 400,000 troops to pacify Afghanistan in the long term. But the reality is that he has only 47,000 soldiers under his command, together with another 18,000 troops fighting at their sides as part of Operation Enduring Freedom, and possibly another 75,000 reasonably well-trained soldiers in the Afghan army by the end of the year. All told, there is still a shortfall of 260,000 men.

Gen Dan McNeill is one of the straight-shooters of the US military, he says what he means and says it when it needs said. Four hundred thousand troops. As opposed to the less than 200,000 sent to Iraq for the Surge.

Worse, it costs the U. S. three times to maintain a soldier in Afghanistan that it costs it to maintain a soldier in Iraq. Consequently, the U. S.’s maintaining a force of 400,000 in Afghanistan would cost us nearly ten times what we’re spending in Iraq right now.

But as Brandon Freidman points out today, the alternative – what is happening right now – is that the US is losing on the central front of the poorly named “War On Terror”.

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Fishermen clash with police at EU


Riot police confront fishermen in Brussels

Police have clashed with hundreds of fishermen protesting against the high cost of fuel outside the headquarters of the European Union in Brussels.

Several windows in EU buildings were broken and at least one car was overturned during the demonstration.

Riot police responded by firing water cannon and launching baton charges.

The fishermen have said they will go out of business unless the EU allows national governments to give them more financial aid and subsidise their fuel.

French fishermen have been on strike for several weeks over the price of diesel, which has risen by 240% in the past five years.

In recent days they have been joined by members of fleets from the UK, Spain, Portugal and Italy, who have blockaded ports across Europe, and truck drivers.

Restructuring

With foghorns, flags and flares, hundreds of mainly French and Italian fishermen stopped traffic on the main road in the European district of the Belgian capital.

We came here… to tell Europe to stop getting in the way of the French government trying to help us
Philippe Margoud

After several hours of stand-off, the protest turned violent. A car was overturned, bins were set on fire and windows were smashed by flares.

Riot police lined up behind a barbed-wire barricade in front of the European Commission responded by attempting to disperse the crowd with water cannons and baton charges.

Earlier, a delegation of fishermen met senior EU officials briefly outside the Commission’s headquarters to explain their grievances and demand emergency aid from both the EU and their countries’ governments.

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McCain: I’d Spy on Americans Secretly, Too

If elected president, Senator John McCain would reserve the right to run his own warrantless wiretapping program against Americans, based on the theory that the president’s wartime powers trump federal criminal statutes and court oversight, according to a statement released by his campaign Monday.

McCain’s new tack towards the Bush administration’s theory of executive power comes some 10 days after a McCain surrogate stated, incorrectly it seems, that the senator wanted hearings into telecom companies’ cooperation with President Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program, before he’d support giving those companies retroactive legal immunity.

As first reported by Threat Level, Chuck Fish, a full-time lawyer for the McCain campaign, also said McCain wanted stricter rules on how the nation’s telecoms work with U.S. spy agencies, and expected those companies to apologize for any lawbreaking before winning amnesty.

But Monday, McCain adviser Doug Holtz-Eakin, speaking for the campaign, disavowed those statements, and for the first time cast McCain’s views on warrantless wiretapping as identical to Bush’s.

[N]either the Administration nor the telecoms need apologize for actions that most people, except for the ACLU and the trial lawyers, understand were Constitutional and appropriate in the wake of the attacks on September 11, 2001. […]

We do not know what lies ahead in our nation’s fight against radical Islamic extremists, but John McCain will do everything he can to protect Americans from such threats, including asking the telecoms for appropriate assistance to collect intelligence against foreign threats to the United States as authorized by Article II of the Constitution.

The Article II citation is key, since it refers to President Bush’s longstanding arguments that the president has nearly unlimited powers during a time of war. The administration’s analysis went so far as to say the Fourth Amendment did not apply inside the United States in the fight against terrorism, in one legal opinion from 2001.

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UK: Compulsory microchipping of dogs

Related article: CASPIAN RELEASES MICROCHIP CANCER REPORT

The Government is being urged to consider the compulsory microchipping of dogs to reduce the number of strays and help combat irresponsible owners.

If that failed to solve the problems, mandatory licences could be the solution, David Bowles, the RSPCA’s head of external affairs, said.

“Why do we still have a stray animal problem? Why do we have an increasing dangerous dog problem? The answer has to come down to education, enforcement of legislation and, in certain cases, microchipping and dog licensing,” he said.

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Water Fluoridation: Company Refuses to Give Details of Areas Affected

THE company that could be forced to add fluoride to Hampshire residents’ tap water has refused to tell the Daily Echo exactly where the medicated supplies would go.

Southern Water says it is referring all requests for information on the proposed fluoridation scheme to South Central Strategic Health Authority (SHA), because it doesn’t want to run the risk of giving out conflicting details.

As revealed in yesterday’s Daily Echo, more than 36,000 people living outside Southampton’s boundaries would also receive fluoridated water.

But when the paper contacted the company for details of the areas the request was refused.

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U.S. Internet will shrink to 2 strong players

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – An Internet analyst for a major Wall Street firm argues in a new report that Google Inc and Amazon.com Inc will be long-term winners, while Yahoo and IAC InterActiveCorp fall by the wayside and eBay Inc becomes a merger target.

Sanford C. Bernstein analyst Jeffrey Lindsay argues in a 310-page report entitled “U.S. Internet: The End of the Beginning” to be published on Tuesday that Google and Amazon are best placed to withstand the current economic downturn.

“We expect two players to continue to perform strongly, Google and Amazon,” Lindsay writes. “Both Google and Amazon.com are still racking up annual growth rates in the 30-40 percent range, with only a relatively modest slowdown in sight.”

Lindsay reiterates his previous positions that Yahoo eventually will be sold to Microsoft Corp and that Barry Diller’s IAC e-commerce conglomerate will go ahead in August with its five-way split-up, as planned.

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Study secretly tracks cell phone users outside US

Researchers secretly tracked the locations of 100,000 people outside the United States through their cell phone use and concluded that most people rarely stray more than a few miles from home.

The first-of-its-kind study by Northeastern University raises privacy and ethical questions for its monitoring methods, which would be illegal in the United States.

It also yielded somewhat surprising results that reveal how little people move around in their daily lives. Nearly three-quarters of those studied mainly stayed within a 20-mile-wide circle for half a year.

The scientists would not disclose where the study was done, only describing the location as an industrialized nation.

Researchers used cell phone towers to track individuals’ locations whenever they made or received phone calls and text messages over six months. In a second set of records, researchers took another 206 cell phones that had tracking devices in them and got records for their locations every two hours over a week’s time period.

The study was based on cell phone records from a private company, whose name also was not disclosed.

Study co-author Cesar Hidalgo, a physics researcher at Northeastern, said he and his colleagues didn’t know the individual phone numbers because they were disguised into “ugly” 26-digit-and-letter codes.

That type of nonconsensual tracking would be illegal in the United States, according to Rob Kenny, a spokesman for the Federal Communications Commission. Consensual tracking, however, is legal and even marketed as a special feature by some U.S. cell phone providers.

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Spying Telecoms Receive Billions in Government Contracts

The telecoms who are being sued for their cooperation in the government’s illegal warrantless surveillance program have received billions in government contracts. According to Washington Technology magazine, Verizon received $1.3 billion, Sprint $839 million and AT&T $505 million in federal prime contract revenue for fiscal 2007, for a total of $2.6 billion. While the companies have been government contractors for a long time, it still represents a significant increase in revenue.

Telecom apologists like to suggest that the communications companies’ motivation was not financial. As Judge Walker noted when examining EFF’s allegations of dragnet surveillance: “AT&T cannot seriously contend that a reasonable entity in its position could have believed that the alleged domestic dragnet was legal.” Yet, the prospect of $2.6 billion per year can go a long way to explaining why an industry might cooperate with a program far outside the limitations of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), despite the difficulty of believing it was legal.

Note that the numbers represent publicly available information for prime contracting only and do not include subcontracting revenue. Any monies paid for the secret NSA surveillance program would be in addition to the public contracting numbers.

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Brussels wants eID cards to work Europe-wide

The European Commission is running a three-year pilot project to get national identity cards to work in different countries.

The €20m project hopes to make eID cards work in 13 member states. The goal is to find a common set of specifications so different cards will allow access to services in all countries.

The Commission believes there are 30 million eID cards in use across Europe.

Viviane Reding, Commissioner for Information Society and Media, said: “By taking advantage of the development in national eID systems and promoting mutual recognition of electronic identities between Member States, this project moves us a step closer to seamless movement between EU countries that Europeans expect from a borderless Single European Market.”

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Silver Rationing

The 2008 Silver Eagle dollar coins have become so wildly popular, the U.S Mint stopped taking orders for the bullion coins in March, and late last month began limiting how many coins the exclusive group of 13 authorized buyers globally can purchase.

Silver’s growing popularity as an investment vehicle has stymied the U.S. Mint, which stopped taking orders for its American Eagle Silver Bullion coin, and rationed sales for the remainder of this year.

On Thursday, Michael DiRienzo, Executive Director of the Silver Institute, asked Edmund Moy, Director of the United States Mint, to meet with institute members to discuss immediate remedies to the shortage.

The American Eagle Silver Bullion coin is the country’s only official investment-grade silver bullion coin with weight, content and purity guaranteed by the U.S. Government. With their unique government backing, the Silver Eagle dollar coin can be sold for cash at most coin and precious metals dealers globally. They are also considered legal tender and sell at silver’s prevailing marketing price, plus a small premium to cover coinage and distribution costs.

The U.S. Mint advertised the coin as a building block for precious metals investment. “They increase your portfolio’s diversity by bringing balance because their value often moves independently of stocks and bonds. They offer liquidity, meaning they’re easy to buy and sell. And in this fast-paced world of electronic investing, Silver Eagles are tangible investments whose beauty and artistry you can literally enjoy in the palm of your hand.”

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that the coins are made at an armored facility in West Point, New York, next to the military academy. “Dealers said they heard that the mint had run out of planchets-round metal disks ready to be struck into coins. …The companies producing the blanks are also busy, limiting the mint’s ability to increase production. The mint won’t comment on the planchets.”

Jim Hausman of the Gold Center in Springfield, Illinois, one of eight U.S. companies authorized to buy silver eagles, told the WSJ that the rationing will halve his expected annual sales of 4 million eagles.

As of May of this year, the U.S. Mint reports that 7,252,500 of the silver bullion coins had been sold, which had promised to well exceed the total of 9,887,000 coins sold last year. (!!!)

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