11 March 2013


Two U.S. soldiers killed in “insider” attack in Afghanistan

Mon Mar 11, 2013 8:51am EDT

KABUL (Reuters) – Two American soldiers were killed in a so-called insider attack when a person in an Afghan military uniform turned his weapon on U.S. and Afghan forces at a joint base in the restive east of the country, coalition forces said on Monday.

Three policemen and two Afghan army officers were also killed in the attack, said a senior police official.

The attack took place as a deadline expired for U.S. special forces to quit the eastern province of Wardak, after Afghan President Hamid Karzai accused them and Afghans working for them of overseeing torture and killings in the area.

An Afghan interior ministry official said the attack occurred in Jalriz district of Wardak. It was not immediately clear if it was directed at U.S. special forces.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, who left Afghanistan early on Monday after a three-day visit, raised the sensitive issue of Wardak when he met Karzai.

U.S. forces have denied involvement in any abuses in Wardak.

Hagel sounded hopeful that a deal could be reached on their continued deployment, but acknowledged no breakthroughs were made in his talks with Karzai.

Afghans are divided over their expulsion, saying the departure of the U.S. special forces could leave a vacuum for insurgents to fill, which would pose a security risk for nearby Kabul.

Incidents involving Afghan security forces turning their weapons on the NATO-led forces who train them and fight Taliban insurgents have increased sharply over the past year.

The insider, or green-on-blue, attacks have seriously eroded trust between coalition and Afghan forces, who are under mounting pressure to contain the insurgency before most foreign troops leave by the end of next year.

(Reporting by Jeremy Laurence and Hamid Shalizi; Editing by Ron Popeski)



Wired on the Navy

Navy Might Lose Its Technological Testing Ground — The Drug War

  • By Sam LaGrone
  • 03.11.13

Budget cuts have forced the Navy to cancel its deployments to Latin America supporting the drug war. And what happens in Latin America doesn’t stay in Latin America. The region is one of the Navy’s premier technological testing grounds, meaning what the U.S. doesn’t do south of the border today could limit what it can do around the globe tomorrow.

U.S Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) is best known as the hub for the Pentagon’s part in interdicting drug traffickers. In that fight, the Navy has tested some of its most cherished new technology in the hunt for 70-knot “go-fast boats” full of illicit pharmaceuticals and cocaine-laden drug submarines.

Before the U.S.S. Freedom left for Singapore on March 1, the Navy’s high-speed Littoral Combat Ship ran down drug traffickers in the Caribbean in 2010. The same year, in one of its first deployments, a Fire Scout drone helicopter flown from the U.S.S. McInerney in the Pacific coast of Central America loitered in darkness and spotted a fishing vessel packed with cocaine. In 2011, the robo-copter deployed to northern Afghanistan before hunting pirates off the eastern African coast.

“When they’re out there doing this kind of testing,”  Capt. William Ipack, deputy chief of SOUTHCOM’s counter-narcotics division, tells Danger Room, “not only can they get valuable data, they’re doing something real.”

But that testing is in jeopardy. This year’s cuts to the defense budget strip the Navy of $9 billion for operations in 2013. And they’ve hit SOUTHCOM — already a military backwater — hard. “SOUTHCOM has not been the main effort for quite some time,” said Norberto Santiago, with SOUTHCOM’s surveillance and reconnaissance arm. All that means the Navy is pulling back from sending its best on-the-bubble tech to South America for a real-world workout.

Earlier this month, the Navy said it wouldn’t replace two frigates tasked with drug patrols once they return from SOUTHCOM. Future deployments attached to missions in the theater, like the current mission of the catamaran HSV-2 Swift, are also at risk.

Swift, an angular aluminum catamaran, was leased in 2003 as an experimental platform to test concepts of high-speed, low-draft ships for the Navy. Swift’s ability to cruise at 30 knots and sprint at 45, far faster than most warships, informed requirements for the Littoral Combat Ship and the Joint High Speed Vessel. The ship has also served as a platform for testing throughout the Navy.

This time around, Swift is fielding a tethered aerostat balloon laden with sensors to supplement a ship’s radar and vastly expand its electronic vision. “You put [a radar] on top of the mast and you can see 20, 40, 60 miles out there,” Ipack explains. “You put one of these things up on a line and it goes up a couple hundred feet, then you have increased by an order of magnitude the amount of area you can surveil…. That’s a piece of equipment we expect great things from.”

more after the jump:



Science Daily

Length of DNA Strands Can Predict Life Expectancy

Can the length of strands of DNA in patients with heart disease predict their life expectancy? Researchers from the Intermountain Heart Institute at Intermountain Medical Center in Salt Lake City, who studied the DNA of more that 3,500 patients with heart disease, say yes it can.

In the new study, presented Saturday, March 9, at the American College of Cardiology’s Annual Scientific Session in San Francisco, the researchers were able to predict survival rates among patients with heart disease based on the length of strands of DNA found on the ends of chromosomes known as telomeres — the longer the patient’s telomeres, the greater the chance of living a longer life.

The study is one of 17 studies from the Intermountain Heart Institute at Intermountain Medical Center that are being presented at the scientific session, which is being attended by thousands of cardiologists and heart experts from around the world.

Previous research has shown that telomere length can be used as a measure of age, but these expanded findings suggest that telomere length may also predict the life expectancy of patients with heart disease.

Telomeres protect the ends of chromosome from becoming damaged. As people get older, their telomeres get shorter until the cell is no longer able to divide. Shortened telomeres are associated with age-related diseases such as heart disease or cancer, as well as exposure to oxidative damage from stress, smoking, air pollution, or conditions that accelerate biologic aging.

“Chromosomes by their nature get shorter as we get older,” said John Carlquist, PhD, director of the Intermountain Heart Institute Genetics Lab. “Once they become too short, they no longer function properly, signaling the end of life for the cell. And when cells reach this stage, the patient’s risk for age-associated diseases increases dramatically.”

Dr. Carlquist and his colleagues from the Intermountain Heart Institute at Intermountain Medical Center tested the DNA samples from more than 3,500 heart attack and stroke patients.

more after the jump:



Seattle Times

South Korea revisits having its own nuclear arms

The heightened threat of a North Korean attack is causing some influential South Koreans to break a decades-old taboo by openly calling for the South to develop its own nuclear arsenal.


The New York Times

SEOUL, South Korea — As their country prospered, South Koreans largely shrugged off the constant threat of a North Korean attack. But breakthroughs in the North’s missile and nuclear programs and fiery threats of war have heightened fears in the South that even small miscalculations by untested leaders on either side could have disastrous consequences.

Now this new sense of vulnerability is causing some influential South Koreans to break a decades-old taboo by openly calling for the South to develop its own nuclear arsenal, a move that would raise the stakes in what is already one of the world’s most militarized regions.

While few here think this will happen anytime soon, two recent opinion polls show that two-thirds of South Koreans support the idea posed by a small but growing number of politicians and columnists — a reflection, analysts say, of hardening attitudes since the North’s Feb. 12 underground nuclear test, the nation’s third such test since 2006.

“The third nuclear test was for South Korea what the Cuban missile crisis was for the U.S.,” said Han Yong-sup, a professor of security policy at the Korea National Defense University in Seoul. “It has made the North Korean threat seem very close and very real.”

In recent weeks, the North has approached a crucial threshold with its weapons programs, with the successful launching of a long-range rocket, followed by the test detonation of a nuclear device that could be small enough to fit on top of a rocket. Those advances have been followed by a barrage of apocalyptic threats to rain “pre-emptive nuclear strikes” and “final destruction” on Seoul, the South’s neon-drenched capital. This intensification of North Korea’s typically bellicose language has shocked many South Koreans, who had thought the main target of the North’s nuclear program was the United States.

Adding to South Koreans’ worries, the North and its nuclear arsenal are in the hands of a young new leader, Kim Jong Un, whose dangerous brinkmanship appears to be an effort to ensure the support of his nation’s powerful military.

The South also has a new president, Park Geun-hye, the daughter of a military strongman who stood firm against North Korea, who also faces pressure to stand fast against the North. Just two weeks after her inauguration, Park faces a crisis as the North makes vague threats interpreted by many South Koreans as the precursor to some sort of limited, conventional military provocation. Park has promised to retaliate if her nation is attacked, aware of the public anger directed at her predecessor, Lee Myung-bak, when he showed restraint after the North shelled a South Korean island in 2010, killing four people.

That kind of limited skirmish is a more likely threat than a nuclear attack, but such an episode could quickly inflame tensions and escalate out of control. Over the years, North Korea has sent armed spies across the border, dug invasion tunnels under it and infiltrated South Korean waters with submarines.

more after the jump: