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Saturday, April 30, 2005

Singapore, Laos, Cambodia and Japan sign anti-piracy initiative

A regional plan: Singapore, Laos, Cambodia and Japan sign anti-piracy initiative
A Japanese initiative to strengthen regional cooperation in the fight against maritime piracy received a boost on Thursday when Singapore, Laos and Cambodia became the first nations to sign on.
The three nations plus Japan signed the Regional Cooperation Agreement on Combating Piracy and Armed Robbery against Ships in Asia, a key pillar of which will be a Singapore-based information sharing centre (ISC).

"The ISC will facilitate communication and information exchanges between the member countries, as well as improve the quality of statistics and reports on piracy and armed robbery against ships in the region," the Singapore foreign ministry said in a statement.
Not too surprising that Japan is involved, they need the oil sea lanes clear.

Friday, April 29, 2005

Voter ID Requirement

Yep. La Shawn Barber has got it right:
If your reaction to reasonable voting requirements is to whine about “disenfranchisement” and act like buffoons, perhaps you shouldn’t be voting anyway. Your sense of history is warped if you think this is reminiscent of an era where your grandparents and great-grandparents had to jump through unfair yet legal hoops to vote.
See my earlier post on why it should be made harder to vote (for everyone) here.

Kosovo freedom?

Well, after nearly 6 years of UN and NATO "supervision, in which things have barely improved, there are High stakes in Kosovo's freedom bid.
UN Security Council Resolution 1244 mandated the international community’s entry into Kosovo after an illegal but legitimate 78-day NATO bombing campaign forced Slobodan Milosevic’s atrocity-prone Serbs to the negotiating table.

The aspirant statelet has been in political limbo ever since.

"We’re almost into the final stretch, and as we get more close to status discussions the stakes are higher and the risks increase," said Mr Jessen Petersen.

"There are three phases. One is status, two is UN support and monitoring, and three is transition and phasing out. In between phases two and three will come a new UN Security Council resolution."

Kosovo will then have its status determined. But will this be full independence? David Gowan, Britain’s ambassador to Belgrade, suggested this week that independence was one option being considered.

The UK is one of the six countries that make up the so-called Contact Group, along with France, Germany, Italy, Russia and the United States.

The Contact Group is currently considering how much progress Kosovo as a whole has made towards fulfilling an internationally-decided list of "standards" in areas such as good democratic governance and respect for ethnic minorities.

Richard Holbrooke, US Ambassador to the UN during the Clinton Administration thinks Kosovo should be set free from Serbia:
One notable policy change has gone virtually unnoticed -- the one concerning Kosovo, where, after four years of neglect and mistakes, the administration has made a major shift. Ever since the 78-day NATO bombing campaign freed the Kosovar Albanians from Slobodan Milosevic's oppressive grip in 1999, political control of Kosovo has been in the semi-competent hands of the United Nations, while NATO has maintained a fragile peace between the majority Albanian and minority Serb populations.

Under Security Council Resolution 1244, passed in 1999, the final status of Kosovo was supposed to be worked out through negotiations that would result in either independence, partition or a return by Kosovo to its former status as part of a country once known as Yugoslavia, now "Serbia and Montenegro." But instead of starting this process years ago, Washington and the European Union fashioned a delaying policy they called "standards before status," a phrase that disguised bureaucratic inaction inside diplomatic mumbo-jumbo. As a result, there have been no serious discussions on the future of Kosovo for the past four years, even as windows of opportunity closed and Albanian-Serb tensions rose. Finally, bloody rioting erupted last March, leaving eight Serbs and 11 Albanians dead, a thousand people injured and the region teetering on the brink of another war. Tensions have remained high ever since; just two days ago there was a bomb attack on the offices of an opposition party in Kosovo.

Last month, after warnings about the explosiveness of the situation from Philip Goldberg, America's senior diplomat there, Rice sent Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns to Europe for meetings with the nearly moribund Contact Group (the United States, Britain, France, Italy, Russia and Germany). Burns told them that the situation in Kosovo was inherently unstable and, unless there was an acceleration of efforts to determine its final status, violence would probably increase, with NATO forces, including U.S. troops, tied down indefinitely.

Under American pressure -- always the necessary ingredient in dealing with the sluggish, process-driven European Union -- a new Contact Group policy has begun to emerge. This summer a special U.N. representative will "determine" that Kosovo has met the necessary standards -- self-governance, refugees, returnees, freedom of movement, etc. -- and is therefore ready for status talks. (Of course, this should have been done years ago, but better late than never.) Then will come the really tough part: What should Kosovo's final status be? Separate nation, Serb province, partition?

Although no one is talking on the record in Washington or in Europe, I find it hard to see any ultimate outcome for Kosovo other than independence, perhaps on a staged basis over the next several years. But such an outcome requires strong guarantees for the endangered Serb minority that remains in Kosovo -- between 100,000 and 200,000 people. The protection of Kosovo's Serbs will require some sort of continued international security presence. In addition, the deeply divided Kosovar Albanians, whose last prime minister is now facing war crimes charges in The Hague, must achieve a much higher level of political maturity.

Ultimately, Belgrade will have to accept something politically difficult: giving up Serbian claims to Kosovo, which Serbs regard as their historic heartland. The Serbs will have to choose between trying to join the European Union and trying to regain Kosovo. If they seek their lost province, they will end up with neither. But, if it can opt for the future over the past, Serbia would have a bright future as an E.U. member, and the ancient dream of an economically integrated, peaceful Southeast Europe (including Greece and Bosnia) would be within reach. The European Union, however, must make a real deal on Kosovo an integral part of the membership process for Serbia.

There are many complicated subplots here, involving Montenegro, Bosnia, Albania, the United Nations, the E.U. and NATO. But for now the important thing is that after ignoring the issue for four years, the administration is doing something in the Balkans, where nothing happens without U.S. leadership. Given that instability in the Balkans -- and Kosovo is highly unstable now -- has historically spread into other parts of Europe, and that the region lies in the heart of the growing NATO sphere, this is the sort of problem that must be addressed before it grows again into a major crisis.
(source) Not surprisingly, the Serbian ambassador to the US does not agree:
It is surprising to hear that for Richard Holbrooke, a former diplomat, "the standards before status" policy in Kosovo amounts to a disguise for "bureaucratic inaction inside diplomatic mumbo-jumbo" ["New Course for Kosovo," op-ed, April 20]. Devised by the U.N. Security Council and fully supported by the United States, this policy was aimed at ensuring the basic standards of democratic governance, including the return of refugees and safety and freedom of movement, before any decision was made on the future status of the U.N.-administered province of Serbia. As such it represents the only hope for a peaceful and multiethnic Kosovo. Yet, in his scorn for the policy or the reality in Kosovo, Mr. Holbrooke suggests that this summer the special U.N. representative should simply determine that the standards have been met and move on.

Unfortunately the standards are far from being met. Less than 1 percent of the 230,000 Serbs expelled from their homes by the majority Albanians have returned, not one of the 130 Christian churches that were destroyed has been rebuilt and the remaining Serbs still live in guarded enclaves.

In his scorn for the "sluggish" European Union, Mr. Holbrooke also proposes a new E.U. accession policy: "The European Union . . . must make a real deal on Kosovo an integral part of the membership process for Serbia." In other words, the aspirant members of the European Union need not strive to fulfill the requirements stemming from European values. Instead, they can simply trade in a part of their territory.

This is poor advice. The evaluation of standards in Kosovo should be based on facts, not political wishful thinking, let alone blackmail.

Embassy of Serbia and Montenegro

Update: Oh, yes. I'm still trying to figure out what President Clinton's "exit strategy" was. Mr. Holbrooke seems to have adopted the "declare victory and leave" policy that "concluded" the U.S. Vietnam experience.

Kosovo's nickel plant up for sale

Interesting that Kosovo's nickel plant up for sale.
Kosovo is the poorest region in the Western Balkans with an annual gross domestic product per capita of around euro1,000 (US$1,300) and a jobless rate of at least 50 percent, according to EU figures despite the fact that is rich in mines and minerals.

The privatization of Feronikeli would be the most important sell-off of socially owned enterprises, a term used for enterprises owned by the workers and managers under a system set up under communist-era Yugoslavia.

Privatization is also among the most sensitive economic issues in Kosovo, a disputed province which was put under U.N. protection in June 1999 following a NATO air war that pushed Serb forces out of the province after they cracked down on ethnic Albanians seeking independence.

The process of privatization is complex, in part because it is unclear whether Kosovo will become independent or remain part of Serbia-Montenegro, the successor state of Yugoslavia.

Serbia's authorities have fiercely opposed the process of privatization.
(Gosh, and I thought Generel Wes Clark was tellling us that all was well with Kosovo's economy...(see here.)

50% unemployment? Maybe there's gold in them thar nickel mines...

Latest ONI World Wide Threat to Shipping Posted

Last ONI World Wide Threat to Shipping posted here (click on 27 Apr 05 date to open). Highlights:
1. IRAQ: An unidentified bulk carrier was boarded 22 Apr at 2350 local time in position 29:37N, 048:45.7E, Umm Qasr anchorage. Three robbers, armed with guns and a knife boarded the vessel using hooks attached to ropes. They took several crewmembers
hostage, assaulted them, and demanded money. They took crew
one by one to their cabins and stole cash and personal belongings. They also stole money from the ship's safe and master's personal belongings. They disembarked in a 5m long wooden boat waiting with an accomplice. Master reported incident to coalition warships in the area (IMB).

1. STRAIT OF MALACCA: An unidentified container ship was
approached 24 Apr at 1050 local time while underway in position
02:48.56N, 101:03.0E. A speedboat approached the container ship and altered course to port but then suddenly increased speed and headed for the ship. Master raised alarm and crew mustered. The approaching boat reduced speed and moved away. The speedboat was 7 to 8 meters in length, white hull, one dark outboard motor, dark sunroof, and had four to six persons wearing dark clothes (IMB)...

8. INDONESIA: An unidentified tanker was boarded 23 Apr at
1950 UTC while at Belawan anchorage. One robber, armed with a long knife, boarded a tanker at forecastle while another robber climbed up the anchor chain. Duty seaman challenged the robbers and raised alarm. Robbers jumped overboard and escaped in a speedboat waiting with two additional accomplices. Port authorities were informed (IMB)...

9. INDONESIA: An unidentified general cargo ship was boarded 22 Apr at 0500 while underway in position 00:27.1S, 105:09.0E, off Lingga Islands. Pirates, armed with guns, then ordered the crew to sail the tin-laden ship to Pasir Gudang port, in Malaysia's southern Jahor state. The vessel docked in Pasir Gudang port for two days while the crew unloaded the tin into a warehouse under threat of being killed if they didn't cooperate. On 25 Apr, the pirates ordered the ship back to Indonesian waters and escaped in a speedboat, leaving the crew uninjured. After the incident was reported, authorities checked the warehouse and found the cargo of tin intact; investigation continues. ONI NOTE: This incident appears to represent a return to a form of piracy not reported since China's crackdown on Black Market activity, wherein a ship is targeted for seizure at its load port and the cargo is taken to some destination where arrangements for disposal have already been concluded. The complexity of the operation suggests transnational players at the ship selection and cargo-disposal ends of the operation. Crew and ship owner complicity cannot be ruled out, since they have no immediate financial interest in the cargo, per se (IMB, LL, ONI, REUTERS) (emphasis added)...

25. SOUTH CHINA SEA: An unidentified bulk carrier was
approached 25 Apr at 0315 local time while underway in position
07:15.4N, 108:20.4E. Persons in two fishing boats attempted to
board the carrier by tying ropes to ship's side. Attempt foiled (IMB).
My posting on "tin ship" action here.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

It Starts with One Person Brave Enough to Tell the Truth

One of the most impressive acts of "speaking truth to power" I have ever read has been posted by Simon World here.
If truth be told, however, China and Japan have much in common. China shares many of Japan's flaws and has yet to master some of its important strengths.

We Chinese are outraged by Japan's World War II crimes - the forcing of Chinese into sexual slavery as "comfort women," the 1937 massacre of unarmed civilians in Nanking, and the experiments in biological warfare. Our indignation redoubles when the Japanese distort or paper over this record in their museums and their textbooks. But if we look honestly at ourselves - at the massacres and invasions strewn through Chinese history, or just at the suppression of protesters in recent times - and if we compare the behavior of the Japanese military with that of our own soldiers, there is not much to distinguish China from Japan.

This comparison haunts me. When I think of the forced labor in Japanese prison camps, I am reminded of forced labor camps in China, and also of the Chinese miners who lose their lives when forced to re-enter mines that everyone knows are unsafe. Are the rights of China's poor today really so much better protected than those of the wretched "colonized slaves" during the Japanese occupation? There was the Nanking massacre, but was not the murder of unarmed citizens in Beijing 16 years ago also a massacre? Is Japan's clumsy effort to cover up history in its textbooks any worse than the gaping omissions and biased blather in Chinese textbooks?
Original in the NYTimes here. I don't know who Pu Zhiqiang is, but wow!

Excess of Naval Aviators?

Did I mention my older son is a Navy pilot? I imagine his attention might get focused on this.

Woodpecker Thought Extinct Rediscovered

The Ivory Billed woodpecker, thought to be extinct for almost 60 years seems to have been in hiding in rural Arkansas, as reported here.


Rumsfeld: 'The last thing we need is a draft'

Mr. Rumsfeld bettr watch out, he's going to get a "reputation" for plain speaking -Rumsfeld: 'The last thing we need is a draft'
Sen. Daniel Inouye, the Democrat from Hawaii, said, "For the first time in many years the Army and Marine Corps are not meeting their recruiting targets. There are some who are already discussing the draft."

Rumsfeld leaned closer to the microphone and said, "I think the only people who could conceivably be talking about a draft are people who are speaking from pinnacles of near-perfect ignorance."

He added, "The last thing we need is a draft. We just don't." He explained that recruitment and retention in the part-time forces have been affected by active duty troops who are staying longer in the regular military.
"Pinnacles of near- perfect ignorance" - perfect.

The Politically Incorrect Fight Against Malaria

The Daily Demarche finds that political correctness kills here in the on-going war against malaria.
The United States donates $19 billion a year in foreign aid, yet millions of children are dying as a result of mosquito bites. Why? Because the environmental lobby in America and the rest of the world won the battle over DDT in the 1970’s...

See my earlier post on malaria here.

A "mystery" ship?

Everyone likes a mystery, even the Air Force Times reporting on a ship visiting the Portland, Maine, harbor...

The truth is out there...

Hat tip: Naval Open Source Intelligence

Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Pirates and Terrorists

Bill Roggio over at the The Fourth Rail has a nice summary piece on the GWOT and its "ocean front." Referring to the recent commentary from the Strait Times (my post here) in which the commentator expressed the view that the current piracy/terrorist concerns are but a potential excuse to meddle in the affairs of the nations bordering the Malacca Strait, Mr. Roggio sums up the problems nicely:
This attitude is perhaps the most difficult obstacle to overcome in this war. Domestic and foreign leftist groups and governments have portrayed American security interests as 21st Century Colonialism, and world governments do little to dispel this notion. This is ironic; particularly in the case of maintain safe passage in the world’s oceans, as American’s attempts to keep the sea lanes open also happen to coincide with the security interests of the major world economies. France, Germany, China, and a host of nations, including those of the Middle East who depend on oil exports to bolster their regimes, are dependent on the US Navy to maintain order on the open seas. Yet [they?] promote the notion of American imperialism, which hinders the much needed cooperation between the United States and various world governments.
We need to be very careful in how we try to counter this notion. I suspect an offer of some patrol boats and helicopters to be used by the Straits nations would be appreciated more than the offer of a US Task Force doing the work for them...

New Malaysia maritime agency for Malacca Straits

In a step in the right direction, Malaysia has formed the Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, or MMEA. Patrols start in June:
Malaysia has formed a new maritime agency that will begin patrolling the Malacca Straits in June to curb rising piracy and the threat of terrorism, a news report said Wednesday.

The Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency, or MMEA, will start monitoring the straits and other territorial waters with six patrol boats and crew drawn from the Malaysian navy, the New Straits Times quoted navy chief, Adm. Mohamad Anwar Mohamad Nor, as saying.

He said the navy and other agencies would assist the new agency until it gets its own helicopters and speedboats. The agency would need at least 39 vessels to patrol Malaysia's coastline, the report said.

"We reckon it will take up to five years for MMEA to be effective on its own," Anwar was cited as saying. "But its presence is important to maintain the country's status as a safe maritime trading nation, free of threats from pirates and terrorists."

Anwar also said the agency would strengthen maritime security to deter smuggling, human trafficking, illegal fishing and environmental pollution. The agency will also carry out search and rescue missions, he said.

Coming Attractions

Someday soon I'll be putting all the posts I have created concerning pirates, and terrorism at sea in an easy link site below the archives on the right. Not being the most adept html user, it will probably take me a little while to figure out how to make the area user friendly...(right now it just say "test")

Any positive help and/or suggestions are welcomed.

Small Boats, Upgraded Weapons

Strategy Page reports here about the Philippine Navy using a ~5 mile range anti-tank missile on some of its small patrol boats:
The Philippine Navy has been arming small patrol boats with portable anti-tank missiles, such the Israel's Spike. This is a fire and forget missile, which has a range of about 8 kilometers. It’s easy to operate, even when the launcher is bolted to the deck of a small speedboat. The seagoing Spike has proven useful in dealing with pirates, since the missile reportedly can blow out a hole in the hull of a fleeing, fast moving, pirate ship.
SP goes on to explain that such weapons in the wrong hands could cause trouble for non-pirates, such as a merchant ship or Naval vessels.

Time to bring back heavy side armor for warships?

The USS New Jersey (BB-62) had armor up to 12 inches thick in places...(info on battleship armor here and here)

Latest Piracy Report from ICC Commercial Crime Services

Latest piracy report from ICC CCS is here. Highlights:
24.04.2005 at 1050 LT in position 02:48.56N - 101:03.0E Malacca straits. A speedboat approached a container ship underway. Ship altered course to port but the boat suddenly increased speed and headed for the ship. Master raised alarm and crew mustered and the boat reduced speed moved away. Description of boat, length 7-8 metres, white hull, 1 dark obm, dark sunroof with 4 - 6 persons wearing a dark clothes.

22.04.2005 at 2350 LT in position 29:37nN - 048:45.7E, Umm Qasr anchorage, Iraq. Three robbers armed with guns and a knife boarded a bulk carrier using hooks attached to ropes. They took hostage several crewmembers, assaulted them and demanded money. They took crew one by one to their cabins and stole cash and personal belongings. They also stole money from ship's safe and master’s personal belongings. They took master poop deck and disembarked into a 5 metre wooden boat waiting with an accomplice. Master reported incident to coalition warships in the area.

22.04.2005 at 0500 in position 00:27.1S - 105:09.0E, off Lingga islands, Indonesia.
Pirates armed with guns boarded a general cargo underway from stern. They tied up all crew and held the ship for two days. All cargo on board was unloaded. On 25.04.05 pirates left the ship in speedboats. Further details are awaited.
First report of robbery of a ship off Iraq in awhile. Details on last seizure were posted earlier here and here.

Singapore & Indonesia: "We can protect Straits"

As reported in the The China Post
"Meeting in the Indonesian capital Jakarta, the military chiefs of the two countries agreed to step up military cooperation and increase personnel exchanges in an effort to improve the safety of the waterway that borders Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia.

'We have come to the conclusion that the Malacca Straits have to be secure from pirates,' Indonesian military chief Gen. Endriatono Sutarto told reporters. 'Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia can work together effectively in order to prevent such attacks.'

Just last week, pirates hijacked a tin-laden Indonesian ship traveling to Singapore and held the crew captive for two days while unloading the cargo in a Malaysian port, a maritime watchdog said Tuesday.

The pirates, believed to be Indonesians, fired gunshots at the ship and boarded it Friday shortly after it had left Muntok port on the southern tip of Sumatra island, said Noel Choong, head of the International Maritime Bureau's piracy reporting center in Kuala Lumpur.

'The crew members were warned they would be killed if they didn't cooperate,' Choong said.

The pirates eventually took the ship back into Indonesian waters and escaped in a speedboat, leaving the crew uninjured, Choong said.

Indonesia's waters are the world's most pirate-afflicted. Last year, 93 attacks _ more than a quarter of the worldwide total _ were in Indonesia. But that figure did not include another 37 attacks in the Straits of Malacca, a key shipping lane between Sumatra and peninsular Malaysia."
The proof of such protection, of course, is in the results, which, as set out above, are not all that impressive to date.

Malacca No "Private" Security Escorts

You might recall that there is at least one firm offering armed escort services to commercial shipping in the Strait of Malacca. Now on jurisdiction (Malaysia) has said that's a "no-no", as reported here:
Only the marine police are permitted to provide security escort service to merchant vessels plying the Straits of Malacca.

The Federal Director of Internal Security and Public Order, Datuk Othman Talib, warned today that stern action would be taken against anyone else offering such services to merchant vessels.

He said the Internal Security Ministry had never issued permits to companies to provide escort services.

"Anyone who carries huge quantities of weapons in their vessels to provide security services can be detained as they are infringing upon the sovereignty of the country."

"Their presence in our waters is considered an intrusion," he told reporters after visiting the Southern Region Marine Police here today.

More Malacca Pirate Arrests

According to The Jakarta Post - Batam Police arrest pirates:
Riau Islands' air and water police apprehended seven out of 12 pirates who had taken over boats for eight hours in Berakit waters in Riau Islands regency, an official said on Tuesday.

Water police unit commander, Sr. Comr. Imam B. Sumpeno, told The Jakarta Post that the boats, Bahar XXVII and Bahar 11 belonging to PT Habco Primatama in Pekanbaru, were taken by force by 12 pirates operating in the Malacca Strait on Sunday at 1 a.m.

The boats had just been made by PT Bandar Victory Shipyard in Sekupang Batam.

"We got the report at 9 a.m. (on Sunday). As soon as we obtained the boats' route from the owners, we searched for the pirates. These waters (near Riau Islands) are prone to piracy," Imam said.

The seven arrested pirates were Doni, 39; Anton, 29; Hermansyah, 35; Maksimus N., 28; Frans B., 54; Samsudin, 51; and Daymond, 28. The remaining pirates managed to escape.

The two boats, worth Rp 30 billion (US$3.1 million), were scheduled to travel from Sekupang in Batam to South Kalimantan.

The pirates managed to change the name of Bahar 11 to Ayu.

"The pirates are part of an international ship piracy syndicate," said Imam, adding that the boats would have been taken to Thailand...

Commander of Bahar 11 ship, Dwi Darmanto, said the pirates moved to his ship from a small motorized boat in Berakit waters, and threatened the crew with sharp weapons.

"One of the pirates who was using a homemade firearm, demanded that I surrender the ship's documents. After that they dumped us on Karas island. Fortunately, my cell phone still worked there so we could contact the company and called the police," Dwi said.
Memo to pirates: Make sure to get all the cell phones.

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

More on the Attack on the Sailing Yachts Gandalf & Mahdi

I posted about the pirate attack earlier here and now there is an addeddum published at the site: here:
The attack on Gandalf and Mahdi, which occurred on 8 March 2005 in the Gulf of Aden was perpetrated by pirates (?) or terrorists (?). They did not act like normal pirates (how do normal pirates act?). They were certainly trying to kill us from the outset. There is a very real possibility that it was an attempted hostage situation, especially if advance information was sent from Salalah, Oman that 4 US boats had departed for Aden, Yemen. The 2 slower boats were 20-30 miles behind us at the time of the attack. The real motivation for the attack will probably never be known. You would like to think that it is possible to transit the area at night, but the area of reported attacks is too large. You make your decisions based on circumstances at the time and live with them...If Jay on Gandalf had not had the presence of mind to veer over into one boat and ram it, the outcome of this attack would have been totally different. All they needed to do was stand off a ways and shoot us to pieces with automatic weapons. We were extremely lucky. We broadcast Mayday calls on all VHF and HF radio frequencies, including two HF emergency frequencies supplied by the US Coast Guard a few days before. The Coalition Forces in the area were supposed to be monitoring these frequencies. There was no response except from a commercial ship in the area on VHF 16 who approached and observed the disabled pirates for a bit, then sailed along side of us for 2-4 hours until dark to make sure we would be all right.

The pirates were well organized and well armed...

How to learn to distrust the Chirac French

Read this Transatlantic Intelligencer: Do Allies Talk Like This?.

Ask yourself, do I trust Chirac and his abettors?


Wing in Ground Yachts? Now from BUGATTI Yachts

Okay, I've referred to them as potential war ships*, but BUGATTI Yachts - Ekranoplan Yachts sees them as high speed yachts for wealthy people who need to get places at 250 knots.

Oh, boy.

* See here,here, and here.

Bold pirates seize cargo ship, then use Malaysian port to offload cargo

They might say there are no more bold pirates on the Seven Seas, but this crew might fill the bill as reported here: The Jakarta Post - Pirates hijack Indonesian cargo ship, then breach Malaysian port security
Pirates hijacked a tin-laden Indonesian ship traveling to Singapore and held the crew captive for two days while unloading the cargo in a Malaysian port, a maritime watchdog said Tuesday.

The pirates, believed to be Indonesians, fired gunshots at the ship and boarded it Friday shortly after it had left Muntok port on the southern tip of Sumatra island, said Noel Choong, head of the International Maritime Bureau's piracy reporting center in Kuala Lumpur.

They ordered the crew to sail to Pasir Gudang port in Malaysia's southern Johor state, where the vessel docked for two days while the crew hauled the cargo into a warehouse, Choong said.

"The crew members were warned they would be killed if they didn't cooperate," Choong said.

The pirates eventually took the ship back into Indonesian waters and escaped in a speedboat, leaving the crew uninjured, Choong said.

After the incident was reported, officials checked the warehouse and found the cargo intact.

"We are baffled over what happened," Choong said. "They went through all that trouble to steal the cargo, but it was still there in Pasir Gudang."

However, the incident raised concerns about port security in Pasir Gudang because the pirates had somehow obtained documents that allowed them to book a berth where the vessel could dock and discharge the metal shipment, Choong said.
(emphasis added)
Gosh, "concerns about port security?" You might think so. And perhaps some questions about corruption, too.

See my earlier report here.

Update: More from Hindustan Times
"It is a daring operation to go into a port. It is the work of a professional syndicate. The syndicate may have made prior arrangements for the ship to unload the cargo in Pasir Gudang port," Choong said.

The ship is now in Singapore, he said.

Looks like the crew and ship might have been released and reported the "sea robbery" before the crooks could get the tin out of the warehouse.

Monday, April 25, 2005

It Ain't "Piracy" - It's "Sea Robbery" ...And Paranoia

This column contends that the use of the word "piracy" in the context of the Straits of Malacca is being used as a excuse to violate some national rights:
The issues in the Straits of Malacca are no longer related to international law but increasingly to geopolitics. It is about maritime powers imposing their will on coastal states and their excuse to enforce jurisdiction in national waters.

Under international law, piracy is a universal crime — a crime against humanity — whereby universal jurisdiction applies. The courts of the states that seize a pirate may decide on the penalties.

I suspect talk of instability, terrorism and bomb-floating vessels are excuses by some maritime powers and institutions to claim a stake in the governance of the strategic waterway.

I also suspect that all the loose talk is intended to provide legitimate excuses for external powers to intervene with their navies to rewrite the rules of engagement in straits used for international navigation. The Malacca Straits is their pilot scheme.

On the point of maritime terrorism as the current equivalent of piracy, a noted authority on international law cautions that "Terrorism cannot by traditional forms of argument be shown to be criminal whatever its quality might be in the municipal law of the state or groups of states the terrorists are trying to destabilise".

It would not surprise me if a big accident were to be staged in the Straits of Malacca by those with sinister designs to provide evidence, to legitimise fears for their impending threat scenarios.
Of course, when a huge amount of world trade flows by your door, and "robbers" keep popping out to hold up participants in the trade, you might expect the robbed will eventually look to you to stop the robbers. And if you fail to do so, they might do it for you.

It is hardly incumbent of them to take another path, as suggested here:
My advice to those who fear "pirates" in the straits is that they should bypass it; use instead alternative routes like the Straits of Sunda and Lombok or, in future, the proposed pipelines across the Isthmus of Kra.

Pirates take $4.6mln ship of tin off Indonesia

Pirates attack seize a ship with a valuable load of tin as reported here.
The ship, whose name was not immediately available, was attacked in Muntok, off the island of Sumatra, on Friday while en route to Singapore, the International Maritime Bureau (IMB) said.
"Details are still sketchy but we know they were firing gunshots, threatened to kill the crew and tied them up," Jayant Abhyankar, deputy director of the IMB in London, told Reuters.
He said the ship was carrying tin but it was not clear whether the pirates discharged the cargo ashore or removed it by sea.
Citing Indonesian sources, a London metal trader said the ship was laden with at least 575 tonnes of refined tin, which at current prices would be worth about $4.6 million.
The amount would account for about 13 percent of London Metal Exchange (LME) warehouse tin stocks, at a time when prices of tin and most base metals are soaring.

EMP - Iran plans to knock out U.S. with 1 nuclear bomb

Little Green Footballs links to Iran plans to knock out
U.S. with 1 nuclear bomb
which reports
The stunning report was first published over the weekend in Joseph Farah's G2 Bulletin, the premium, online intelligence newsletter published by WND's founder.

Yeah, well, see this and this for EMP info that preceded Mr. Farah by several days.

Scribbles and I can scare you first for less.

The Problems of Company E

When I read to NY Times article this morning about "Company E", it raised as many questions as it answered. With thanks to Instapundit, here's some more information that lays out a little better background from someone who was there and understands the military.

The good things about the Reserves and National Guard mentioned using civilian expertise to get a grip on local matters is important. And it's very hard to teach experience to younger troops... And even to active duty officers who sometimes fail to grasp how good the Reserve/National Guard "street smart" civilian experience can be for these Civil Affairs/Combat missions...

While regular troop rotation is part of our system now, there are times when some extensions of key players would have helped make the transition described byJason Van Steenwyck much, much smoother. Someone above the company level needs to be paying attention to the turnover schedule. Lives could have been saved had some "lessons learned" experience been there for al longer time...

Still Waiting...

Remember this?
"10.04.2005 1200 UTC in posn 00:50S-047:36E off eastern coast of Somalia.

Armed pirates boarded a ship underway. They took hostage all 17 crewmembers, hijacked the ship and forced her to anchor close to Somali coast. IMB piracy reporting centre alerted relevant authorities. Further news is awaited."

15 days later and no new news.

Stay well offshore Somalia.

Prior post.

Al-Qaeda Divers and the UK Navy fleet

Froggy at Froggyruminations has discounted the likelihood of success of such an attack, but the Times of London has raised scuba divers as part of an Al-Qaeda threat to Trafalgar fleet.
SECURITY chiefs fear Al-Qaeda terrorists trained as scuba divers could mount attacks against a royal review of the fleet being held to mark the 200th anniversary of the battle of Trafalgar.
A senior Ministry of Defence (MoD) police officer has disclosed that militants using techniques learnt in western diving schools to attack Royal Navy ships are considered the main threat to the event.

Officials fear Al-Qaeda divers could attach bombs to the hulls of the ships, detonate explosives strapped to their bodies in suicide attacks or even board vessels and kill some of those on board.
As I have said before, you don't have to sink a military ship to accomplish a terrorist mission. In fact, the diversion of time, money and personnel to preventing an unlikely threat is, in itself, a sort of a victory for terrorists...

Hat tip: (belated) The Counterterrorism Blog.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Chinese Using European GPS?

According to Strategy Page, the Chinese are buying into a European alternative to GPS so as to free themselves from the American GPS system with interesting ramifications in case of war.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Norwegian Dawn Investigation

Following the "rouge wave" incident, more info on an investigation
"The Bahamas Maritime Authority is investigating the incident because Norwegian Dawn is flagged in the Bahamas. On Monday, the National Transportation Safety Board dispatched one of its investigators to help with the investigation."

The Borking of Bolton

The dangers of creeping "high schoolism" in The Borking of Bolton.

And this
Senate Democrats on the Foreign Relations Committee spent much of last Tuesday afternoon shouting down their opponents, gesticulating wildly, interrupting speakers, and making unsubstantiated claims--all of this in an effort to delay a vote on the Bolton nomination. He is unfit for the job, they claim, because over the course of his career Bolton is alleged to have shouted down his opponents, gesticulated wildly, interrupted speakers, and made unsubstantiated claims. Washington at its finest.

Update: "Biden Claims Bolton Staring at Him During Hearing" saysScrappleface in an amazingly accurate report of the level of discourse over Mr. Bolton.

Update2: Hey, I'm not alone in finding these hearings preposterous so is Captain Ed
You know, it was just seventeen months ago that Ted Kennedy roared into a microphone that Janice Rogers Brown was a "Neanderthal" unworthy of consideration for the federal appellate bench. How about addressing that before getting to what people said ten and twenty years ago?

Quite frankly, I don't care if Bolton got snappy with subordinates twenty-two years ago -- and considering the absolute morass of corruption at the UN, impatience almost sounds like a prerequisite rather than a hindrance. Democrats still have not read the memo that starts This nation is at war, preferring to live in the fantasy world of political correctness that they have constructed where smiles and handshakes get everyone what they want. The only possible way this could get sillier is if the Republicans start to buy into this.

Over a thirty-year career, everyone who ever accomplished anything will leave behind peers, subordinates, and even bosses with hurt feelings and axes ready to grind. The fact that the Democrats have dug twenty-three years into history in order to find one should create laughter about their own lack of perspective and incompetence, not doubts about Bolton's qualifications. This may be the silliest confirmation process yet staged by Boxer and her gang of idiots.

Need More Marine Involvement at SOCOM? Rumsfeld finds a way...

The Navy League's magazine, Sea Power reported: "Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld is pressuring the Marine Corps and U.S. Special Operations Command [SOCOM] to reach a consensus on an expanded role for the Corps, and the possible formation of a Marine special operations component within the command."

Of course, one way around the problem of lack of "consensus" (meaning "cooperation?") is to put a new boss in place as in appointing, for the first time ever, a Marine to be the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff as reported here. General Peter Pace, a Vietnam combat veteran (and we're running out of those on active duty) seems like a great choice to me.

I think he'll be able to smooth the path that has had some stumbling blocks:
At the center of the interservice struggle is DoD’s planned transformation of the military, the operational strain on the Army and SOCOM’s growing clout within the U.S. military hierarchy.

SOCOM was created to provide an acquisitions channel for specialized weapons and equipment and a ready force of specially trained warriors in support of joint and regional commands. But SOCOM’s purpose was enlarged in the aftermath of 9/11 and the advent of the global war on terrorism, and the Pentagon’s increased emphasis on covert and specialized unit tactics.

Rumsfeld designated SOCOM, which is largely comprised of Army units, as the lead joint command for planning the ongoing war. The resulting strain on those Army units, and the increasing need for additional special operations forces, are cited as the reasons he wants to push the Corps into the SOCOM fold.

The expertise in small units tactics with the firepower and integrated command and control the Marine Corps has organically throughout its force structure make it a natural for integration into SOCOM. The Corps has always had special operations units, and assigns Marines to SOCOM as needed.
Looks like a pretty good "purple suit" fit to me. 'Course, I'm just a "squid."

P-3 Launchable UAVs

The Arizona Star reports on Small UAVs geared to be eyes in skies
Advanced Ceramics... is developing the Coyote, a yard-long, electric-powered UAV, for the U.S. Navy that can be launched from P-3 Orion reconnaissance planes...

Extending its expertise in developing inexpensive UAV technology, the company met a challenge to develop a small UAV that could be launched using the same tubes the P-3s use to launch sonar buoys for submarine detection...

The UAVs can be equipped with cameras and sensors that allow operators to view a remote area the UAVs are patrolling...

Hat tip: UAV Blog Awards 2004

Sure, it's April and these may have been out for awhile, but I like them, the Awards 2004.

If only we could get some newsreader to report these as breathlessly as the original, erroneous, stories were reported.

Friday, April 22, 2005

IAF's Car Nicobar base battle-ready

The Times of India reports IAF's Car Nicobar base battle-ready- The Times of India
"CAR NICOBAR: The sonic boom generated by the Sukhoi-30 and Jaguar strike fighters asthey tear into the sky over the Andaman and Nicobar Islands gives one clearsignal: India recognises the archipelago's strategic value and is ready tosecure the international sea lanes converging towards the Malacca

The IAF base here, thecountry's last defence outpost in the eastern region, has now arisen like themythical phoenix from the ashes, after being devastated by the gigantic tsunami on December 26.

'The fighter operations demonstrate the Carnic base is fully combat ready now...the IAF flag is flying high here once again,' said a 'proud' IAF chief Air Chief Marshal S P Tyagi.

Grappling with the numbing loss of 116 lives of personnel and families, coupled with large-scale infrastructure damage, the IAF and Army worked round-the-clock to make the base
fully operational in a short span of three months.
See my earlier post on the base and its "prime" location (with maps).

Indonesian pirates caught off Malaysian waters

Kyodo News reports Indonesian pirates caught off Malaysian waters.
Malaysian marine police have arrested seven suspected Indonesian pirates believed to be active in the southern region near Singapore, the official news agency Bernama reported Friday.
Marine police chief Abdul Rahman Ahmad said the seven, aged between 37 and 50, were caught Thursday night after a high-speed chase by the marine intelligence unit while patrolling in waters off the southeast of Johor state, which borders Singapore.

They were believed to be looking for a ship to rob, he said.

"The group has been active in the Johor waters and is believed to be involved in four robbery cases last year and two early this year," Abdul Rahman was quoted saying.

The latest was on April 8 where the Singapore-registered tanker Kyosei Maru was attacked by some 10 pirates armed with long knives and wearing ski masks. They tied up the crew and fled after robbing them of cash and valuables worth an estimated 30,000 ringgit ($7,895).

In Thursday's case, a police search of the pirates' boat turned up six long knives, a pair of binoculars, a satellite phone, seven ski masks, several rolls of raffia strings and money in various foreign denominations.

"We believe this group was involved in all the robberies based on the reports we received such as the size of the group, the weapons used and the raffia string that was used to tie up the victims," Abdul Rahman said.
six long knives, a pair of binoculars, a satellite phone, seven ski masks, several rolls of raffia strings and money in various foreign denominations? Sound like ordinary fishermen's supplies to you?

Update: More information on the capture here. Pirates had a a boat, described as
The suspected vessel, 20ft long by 4ft wide, was equipped with a 200HP engine and three 30-litre fuel tanks.

A handout picture released by the Malaysian marine police on April 23, 2005 shows suspected pirates arrested after a high-speed chase off the Malaysian state of Johor, bordering Singapore, in this picture taken on April 21. Malaysian police detained seven Indonesian men suspected of robbing several ships, including a Japanese oil tanker, near the Singapore strait, a newspaper said on Saturday. Picture taken April 21, 2005
Here's the gang:

Fun with the Sun

Alec Rawls at Error Theory has a provocative posting on a "mirror hanging in the sky"* at Earth Day 2030: "A new eye blinked open upon the world".

*Comes from a vaguely remembered Donovan song, "To Try for the Sun"

"Mirror, mirror, hanging in the sky,
Won't you look down what's happening here below?
I stand here singing to the flowers,
So very few people really know."
Earth Day.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Guns & Ammo

Okay, I've had enough of the artillery "zen" over at the "castle" - I feel like Crocodile Dundee ("You call that a knife?" )

Try this for a simple projectile:

16" round from the battleship Massachusetts.

Back to you, John.

Update: And a response to John's broadside:

(more battleship photos here.)

By the way, John, I'm a Surface Warfare guy - the lawyer thing came later.

Update2: Though I am a little jealous of this:

"Steel Rain"

This Has Got to Be a Joke

Joke? LA Weekly: News: Sweatshop on the Sea

I hope.

What a Rogue Wave Looks Like

At sea, things don't always photograph as dangerous as they are. In this photograph

found here on the Maine Maritime Acadmey website, Captain G.A. Chase reports a rogue wave off Charleston, SC:
We were on the wing of the bridge, with a height of eye of 56 feet, and this wave broke over our heads. This shot was taken as we were diving down off the face of the second of a set of three waves, so the ship just kept falling into the trough, which just kept opening up under us. It bent the foremast (shown) back about 20 degrees, tore the foreword firefighting station (also shown) off the deck (rails, monitor, platform and all) and threw it against the face of the house. It also bent all the catwalks back severely. Later that night, about 1930, another wave hit the after house, hitting the stack and sending solid water down into the engine room through the forced draft blower intakes.

The conditions were not especially bad before this rogue wave hit, as Captain Chase puts it, "It was actually a nice day with light breezes and no significant sea. Only the very long swell, of about 15 feet high and probably 600 to 1000 feet long."

The lesson is that it is not necessary that the weather be awful for a unexpectedly large wave to appear at sea and cause serious damage.

Update: Interesting article on "freak waves" from the BBC here.

Update2: And some more "heavy weather" photos here, though to be fair, the weather was pretty bad generally in most of these.

Update3: More heavy weather - this time the "perfect storm" and the US Coast Guard is out trying to rescue people as seen at this site. In this photo, take look at the small Coast Guard boat enroute to help a yacht crew.

(Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer Scott Vriesma.)

And you thought it was just a movie...

GeoPoliticalReview: France Sinks to New Low

GeoPoliticalReview says France Sinks to New Low. Gosh, just because of this?
During a state visit to China, French Premier Raffarin threw support behind a law allowing China to attack Taiwan and continued to push for a lift of the EU arms embargo.
At the outset of a three-day visit to China, French Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin said he supported Beijing's "anti-secession" law on Taiwan, and vowed to keep pushing for an end to an EU arms embargo that could open the door for Paris to sell weapons to the Asian giant.

"The anti-secession law is completely compatible with the position of France," he said in a joint press conference with his Chinese counterpart Wen Jiabao.
France apparently has little or no trade with Taiwan and since it lacks any territory to protect from the Chinese, isn't in danger of losing much by this ploy and a great deal to gain. The Chinese could get stuck with Renaults and Peugeots, in addition to French fighter aircraft and missiles. The French may become partially relevant again. New low indeed.

Wave Struck Cruise Ship: Let the lawsuits begin

As reported by the New York Post and predicted earlier, legal action against Norwegian Cruise Line is gearing up:
Dozens of passengers from the cruise ship battered by a 70-foot freak wave are looking to launch legal action against Norwegian Cruise Line and the ship's captain, The Post has learned.
The Norwegian Dawn, which docked Monday morning, sailed through harrowing gale-force winds Friday night and was struck by a monster swell that injured four passengers as it steamed back to New York for a TV shoot for "The Apprentice."

Norwegian Cruise Line confirmed for the first time last night that the ship was scheduled to be filmed for "The Apprentice" Sunday morning but refused to disclose any terms involved. As The Post reported yesterday, sources close to the show say the cruise line paid a fee of more than $1 million for its cameo.

The news sparked a flurry of calls from furious passengers to their lawyers.

Patrick McKay of Mt. Arlington, N.J., was on the cruise with 19 friends and family members and says the group is consulting attorneys about filing suit against the cruise line. At least a dozen other passengers are doing the same.

"For them to put the safety of all the passengers and crew in jeopardy for the sake of money is completely disturbing," said McKay, 38.
Norwegian Cruise Line has strenuously denied that Capt. Niklas Peterstam was under any pressure to hurry back to New York, and said he acted appropriately and in the interests of the safety of the passengers and crew.

The incident has inspired at least one attempt at humor here.

In addition, a Google page reveals a 'sponsored link" to a law firm reading, in part "Norwegian Dawn Accident
We help cruise ship injury victims..." No, I won't link to them.

The ship, meanwhile, is back in action as reported here. You can visit its bridge webcam here.

Update: Here are some actual quotes from people who were on the ship as it weathered the storm:
The storm bore down on the ship soon after it left Miami at 1 a.m. Friday. For hours, the giant waves picked up the 965-foot vessel and slapped it back down. Wave after wave knocked against the windows. Cold saltwater ran down the halls and into the cabin Russo shared with her husband and three children...

...The 39-year-old mother from Wayne was petrified. She sloshed through ankle-deep water while her 6-month-old son, Gianluca, cried in his crib. Nine-year-old Francesca was screaming and Jessica, 13, was vomiting.

That's when they heard the boom.

In the Impressions restaurant on the sixth deck, a speaker came loose from the ceiling and plummeted to the floor. A waiter fell over. In the gift shop on the seventh deck, thousands of dollars' worth of Swarovski crystal slid from the displays and smashed.

Just before daybreak, a mammoth wave smashed into the bow of the ship, pounding the forward cabins on the ninth and 10th decks. Sixty-two cabins were swamped. Windows broke. The flying glass cut people. Two of them banged on Caterina Russo's door..."

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

South China Sea Security Issues

A long article at OhmyNews International.
From the Taiwan Strait to the Strait of Malacca, security concerns are growing around the South China Sea. While the Bush Administration sees a resurgent Chinese military threat across the Taiwan Strait and a terrorist threat in the Strait of Malacca, many countries between the Straits are more concerned about security for their maritime resources from the threats of competitors, traffickers, poachers, and pirates...
The large volume of shipping in the South China Sea/Strait of Malacca littoral has created opportunities for attacks on merchant shipping. Piracy can threaten a disaster through a collision, grounding, chemical or toxic spill or closing of a strait. Since the 1990's, around half of the world's reported piracy took place in the South China Sea. The big increase in piracy in Indonesian waters and ports may be attributed to its economic crisis and domestic instability. It may also result from more sophisticated attacks by organized crime groups.

The response of coastal countries was delayed by uncertainties over legal jurisdiction, disputed sovereignty, and uncoordinated efforts at recovery of crew, cargo, or ships. Even when pirates were detected, "hot pursuit" across national boundaries was seldom attempted. Sensitive to sovereignty issues in their territorial and EEZ waters, coastal countries have slowly started multilateral programs to monitor piracy attacks and bilateral exercises to coordinate anti-piracy patrols. The International Piracy Control Center in Kuala Lumpur, and the International Maritime Organization's Piracy Reporting Centre in London have stepped up monitoring efforts. The ASEAN Regional Forum convened a meeting of maritime specialists to coordinate coast guard action, information exchange, and investigation of piracy reports.

Latest ONI World Wide Threat to Shipping

Click on ONI World Wide Threat to Shipping and then the date to get the latest report.

3. SOMALIA: An unidentified ship was boarded, hijacked
10 Apr at 1200 UTC while underway in position 00:50S, 047:36E,
off the eastern coast of Somalia. Armed pirates took all 17
crewmembers hostage and hijacked the ship, forcing it to anchor
close to the Somali coast. IMB piracy reporting center alerted
relevant authorities. Further news is awaited (IMB).
4. SOMALIA: M/V (TIM BUCK) was boarded 10 Apr at 1000
local time while underway in position 03:24N, 048.17E, approximately 55 NM off the coast of Somalia. Pirates, armed with grenade launchers and automatic weapons, set fire to a starboard rescue boat but failed to penetrate inside the ship. The crew acted in strict compliance with the International Ship and Port Facility Security Code (ISPS Code) in this emergency situation. The fire was localized. There were no injuries to the crew and no goods were taken. The vessel sustained a small amount of damage.
ONI NOTE: The long distance from shore at which recent attacks
have occurred off the Somali coastline demonstrates an increased tenacity by local pirates. All vessels transiting this area should take precautions.
See this post for more info.

Voinovich gets the Dodo

As we can learn by reading Power Line Senate Slanderfest to Continue and Roger L. Simon Your Foreign Relations Committee at work!, and from my earlier post, the Bolton confirmation hearing has turned into an amazing display of high school-level gossip and ego-pumping nonsense.

Could Senator Joe Biden, a confirmed plagarist, ever sit in front of one of these committees and be confirmed to anything? Would Senator John Kerry's war record be questioned on the record if he were the nominee- would the Swift Vets be called as witnesses and given the same credibiity as some woman who claims Mr. Bolton chased her around a Moscow hotel? (by the way, it's been 80 days since Senator Kerry said that he would sign his SF-180)

It was bad enough when the Democrats themselves were playing politics, but now a couple of erstwhile Republicans have joined the game, too, effectively delaying the hearings until more witnesses that can attest to temper tantrums by Mr. Bolton can be found.

I imagine soon we will be hearing from grade school playmates who remember him beating up on sensitive kids like John Kerry when he was a lad.

But of all the goofiness that has taken root in this part of the "world's greatest deliberative body" the most astonishing comment comes from Senator Voinovich: "The passion on the other side on this, I don't think is political."

Right, Senator, exactly right. And the moon is made of green cheese and I've got a lovely bridge in Brooklyn that I would like to offer you at a special bargin price...

For this level of idiocy, beyond the normally high levels achieved by so many of our elected officials, I award Senator Voinovich the EagleSpeak Dodo Award:

Update: Of course, there are contrary views, such as that of Stygius who has raised some substantive concerns and still argues
Senator Biden and his staff not only need to detail these charges, they need to synthesize them all into one document; one case file that analytically makes the charges of intimidation, obstruction, falsehood and retaliation. If all of these elements remain separate, there is room to make excuses that some arbitrary burden of proof hasn't yet been met. But if they all form part of one story --where the work ethics, intelligence manipulation, political grandstanding, bureaucratic infighting, congressional obstruction, organizational disloyalty, and above all the policy subversion are interrelated-- then the case makes itself.
I understand the argument, but fail to see how that makes Mr. Bolton different from any other high ranking official or (as I set out above) from the men sitting in judgment of him -virtually all of whom could be proven to have engaged in any of the activities that Stygius raises. If Stygius is arguing that the game of bureacracy isn't played by many, many others as he says Mr. Bolton played it, then Stygius hasn't been around enough. There may be reasons to say "no" to Mr. Bolton, but these aren't them.

For the Morbid: Odds of Dying

In preparing an update for this cruise ship posting, I came across the National Safety Council's report posing the interesting question, "What are the odds of dying?" Of course, these are not illness related, and there are the usaul caveats:
The odds given...are statistical averages over the whole U.S. population and do not necessarily reflect the chances of death for a particular person from a particular external cause. Any individual's odds of dying from various external causes are affected by the activities in which they participate, where they live and drive, what kind of work they do, and other factors.
. Is it comforting or not to know that death by "Ignition or melting of nightwear" resulted in 13 fatalities in 2002? And that the 1 year odds of it happening are one in 22,149,325 or the lifetime odds are one in 286,537? (Unanswered question- Are the odds different for non-smokers?)

Choose your own-uh- poison.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Japan/China and the Senkaku / Diaoyutai Islands: It's all about the oil

Global Security has a good post on the current dust up between Japan and China Senkaku / Diaoyutai Islands . Not surprisingly, it involves more than just the lovely nature of the rocks in the middle of the ocean, but the possibility of large energy deposits nearby.

It all makes CDR Salamander's neck hairs rise. Navy guys get paid to worry about bad things happening.

Pirates: New ICC CCS Piracy Report Posted

At the ICC Commercial Crime Services the piracy report for 12-18 April is posted with this warning:
Somalian waters – after a quiet spell, serious attacks have resumed off Somalia. Since 31.03.2005, three incidents were reported where pirates armed with guns and grenades have attacked ships and fired upon them. These attacks took place far away from Somali coast. Eastern and north eastern coasts of Somalia continue to be high-risk areas for hijackings. Ships not making scheduled calls to ports in these areas should stay away from the coast.
And from the waters of the Malacca Strait:
14.04.2005 at 0800 UTC in position 02:59N - 100:47E, Malacca straits.
An airborne helicopter from a French warship spotted four 15m long boats, powered by three outboard engines with their front covered by canvas. Each boat was manned by two persons wearing masks. Boats approached a container ship underway and came within 300 metres. Upon sighting the helicopter, boats altered course and headed towards Indonesian coast.
Hmmm, a French warship with its helo scouting for it? Interesting. Also interesting is the description of the boats and crew "three outboard motors" and "persons wearing masks." Probably just pleasure boaters, n'cest pas?

Update: Of course, I missed this earlier:
0.04.2005 1200 UTC in posn 00:50S– 047:36E off eastern coast of Somalia.
Armed pirates boarded a ship underway. They took hostage all 17 crewmembers, hijacked the ship and forced her to anchor close to Somali coast. IMB piracy reporting centre alerted relevant authorities. Further news is awaited.

As reported by Maritime Global Net
SEVENTEEN crew members are being held hostage on their ship, which is now anchored off the Somali coast after armed pirates boarded the ship while it was underway. Very few details have been released but the International Maritime Bureau, in its latest weekly report, says its piracy reporting centre alerted relevant authorities. It adds: “Further news is awaited.”
More info on other Somali attacks:
An attack by pirates on a Russian cargo ship off the coast of Somalia on Sunday was repulsed by the ship’s crew.

The Tim Buck cargo ship with a Cypriot flag was on its way from the port of Jeddah in Saudi Arabia to the Tanzanian port of Dar el-Salam. It was leased by the Murmansk Shipping Line.

Pirates from two speedboats attempted to board the Russian vessel. There were armed with assault rifles and grenade launchers, Interfax news agency reported citing the head of the shipping company’s press service, Vladimir Blinov.

The attackers fired two grenades at a life boat that subsequently caught fire. However, the cargo ship’s crew repulsed the attack. Blinov said the crew “acted in compliance with the international code of vessels protection”. None of the crew was injured during the attack. After the incident, the Tim Buck continued on its journey.

The International Navigation Bureau recommends that captains avoid coming within 100 nautical miles of the Somali coast due to pirate activity.

Thailand shelves 'land bridge'

There once was a plan to run a 250-kilometer (roughly 150 mile) pipeline across Thailand from the Gulf of Thailand to the Andaman Sea, but that plan has been put on hold due to lack of money and interest as reported here
nvestor interest waned because Beijing has become increasingly focused on boosting its own transnational pipelines, including one between Siberia and northern China, according to Prasert.
Investors from South Korea and Japan also have yet to sign up for the project, which envisions a link between Phang Nga province on the west coast with Nakhon Si Thammarat on the east and new refineries at either end.
The project would have shortened the distance from oil producers in the Middle East to consumers in Southeast Asia and the Far East and avoided piracy problems often encountered through the Malacca Straits...
Earthquakes were cited as a consideration and, I suspect, terrorist activity in the area might have come into play, too.

Update: Here's what the plan was:


NYTimes: New Pope is Catholic

NY Times, apparently still stunned that some people hold consistent beliefs announces :Thousands Cheer in St. Peter's Square as New Leader Emerges:
"He has been described as a conservative, intellectual clone of the late pontiff, and, as the dean of the College of Cardinals, he was widely respected for his uncompromising - if ultraconservative - principles and his ability to be critical. As cardinal, he had shut the door on any discussion on several issues, including the ordination of women, celibacy of priests and homosexuality, defending his positions by invoking theological truth. In the name of orthodoxy, he is in favor of a smaller church, but one that is more ideologically pure. On Monday, at a Mass before the conclave convened, he delivered an uncompromising warning against any deviation from traditional Catholic teaching."
I guess the Unitarian applicants missed out.

Update: Although I quit reading Mr. Sullivan some time ago, Professor Bainbridge has discovered that Andrew Sullivan is an Ass. Sullivan's latest hissy fit seems to center on the problem that the Catholic church does not revolve around his "sexual preference."
So why is Sullivan so worked up? Here's his real gripe in his own words:

... the impermissibility of any sexual act that does not involve the depositing of semen in a fertile uterus ....

It's always about sex with Andrew, isn't it?
Seems to be.

Update2: Off topic, sort of, but just for the fun of it, here's another Andrew Sullivan low light.

Update3: From Best of the Web Today
"Cardinals on Tuesday elected conservative German prelate Joseph Ratzinger as the new leader of the world's 1.1 billion Roman Catholics, in a controversial choice to succeed Pope John Paul II," Reuters reported yesterday.

If ever there was a word that cried out for scare quotes, it's that "controversial." Ratzinger was elected in three votes over two days, which, as the Washington Post notes, was the promptest pope-picking since Pius XII in 1939.

Yesterday's item about liberals' unhappiness with Benedict XVI brought an interesting observation from reader Roger Gore:

Regarding Andrew Sullivan, et al., I find all this politicking and commentary that surrounds the new pope (and the process of election, which itself seems far too founded in the ways of the world) a bit curious.

I am not Catholic, but it seems to me that if the pope is really God's mouthpiece on the earth--as the Catholic Church claims he is--then why the dissent? Either the man speaks for God, or he does not. If he does, the dissent is at best foolish, for who in his right mind would think to argue with Almighty God over his own doctrine? Can God really be lobbied, swayed, and convinced over same-sex marriage, condoms, celibacy, etc.? If the pope does not speak for God, then the Catholic Church is void of its stated "divine authority," and so why have a pope to begin with?

Indeed. If you're not Catholic, and especially if you're an atheist or agnostic, then it makes sense to regard the church as just another worldly institution. After all, you don't believe in papal infallibility or the guiding hand of the Holy Spirit. But if you do believe in these ideas, what could it mean that you oppose the new pope and his adherence to tradition, other than that you're disappointed in or angry at God for not changing his mind?

Update4: Protestant minister has this to say:
Throughout the last few days, as the talking heads buzzed about Ratzinger's potential papacy, and during several news reports today, I was struck by the way many people in the media describe Ratzinger's efforts to reign in "loose-canon" Catholic theologians. They tend to use words like "narrow," "extreme," "ultra-conservative," and "divisive" to characterize Ratzinger's behavior. His cardinal sin – from a postmodern cultural perspective – is expecting Roman Catholic teachers to teach Roman Catholic doctrine, at least when it comes to major beliefs and hot-button issues. It's almost as if secular commentators envision the Roman Catholic Church as a modern university where the tenured professors can say anything they want without accountability. This seems to be both na├»ve and sadly out of touch with Roman Catholic reality.
Yep, he's still a Catholic.

Shipbuilding in Iran

An article on the potential for Iran in the maritime industry from the Iran Daily

Interesting quote:
Contrary to other industries, making poor quality products in the ship-building industry is almost impossible, compared to many other sectors.The situation in the auto industry provides an example. Iranians continue to put up with low-quality brands at unfairly high prices simply because they are left with little if any other options, as the government continues to impose a ban on import of foreign cars due to certain political considerations.
Such restrictions or rather inadequacies do not exist in the marine industry.
Ships failing to match global standards qualitatively and quantitatively are unlikely to make it in international waters. To ensure that the quality factor is preserved to its highest level, all procedures from the time the project starts to the time when finishing touches are put on the ship, are closely monitored and approved by the world's leading insurance companies.

Yet Another Threat

Thanks to American Scribbles for finding another reason to raise the threat level in Yet Another Threat. Scribbles references a Washington Post piece by Arizona Senator Kyl which includes:
Recently a Senate Judiciary subcommittee of which I am chairman held a hearing on a major threat to the American people, one that could come not only from terrorist organizations such as al Qaeda but from rogue nations such as Iran and North Korea.

An electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack on the American homeland, said one of the distinguished scientists who testified at the hearing, is one of only a few ways that the United States could be defeated by its enemies -- terrorist or otherwise. And it is probably the easiest. A single Scud missile, carrying a single nuclear weapon, detonated at the appropriate altitude, would interact with the Earth's atmosphere, producing an electromagnetic pulse radiating down to the surface at the speed of light. Depending on the location and size of the blast, the effect would be to knock out already stressed power grids and other electrical systems across much or even all of the continental United States, for months if not years.

Too farfetched? Here's an earlier post on Iran placing missiles on merchant hulls. And Scribbles has other links on his post that relate to the topic.

How EMP weapons work here and an August 2004 Heritage report here:
An EMP attack damages all unprotected electronic equipment within the blast's "line of sight" (the EMP's "footprint" on the earth's surface). The size of the footprint is determined by the altitude of the explosion. The higher the altitude, the greater the land area affected. A Scud-type ballistic missile launched from a vessel in U.S. coastal waters and detonated at an altitude of 95 miles could degrade electronic systems across one-quarter of the United States. A more powerful missile launched from North Korea could probably deliver a warhead 300 miles above America--enough to degrade the electronic systems across the entire continental United States.
Need more? A July 2004 Missile warning:
Such an attack would not require state-of-the-art missiles. Neither high accuracy nor a long range would be necessary. On the contrary, the report notes, terrorists or state actors could deliver an EMP attack with a “relatively unsophisticated missile.” And yet today, we remain defenseless against even an “unsophisticated” missile attack. It is worth noting that although the EMP threat from “terrorism” and “non-state actors” figure prominently in the report, Reuters’ reporting mentions neither, and notes only that North Korea and Iran could be seeking such a capability.
It's that old asymmetrical warfare thing again...

Monday, April 18, 2005

The Iranian Eastern Front

According to this piece at The American Thinker, Iran is not quite surrounded because the countries to its east need energy to fuel their economies:
Faced with the failure of their not-so-covert operations in Iraq, and their inability to shut down Iraq’s oil trade without suffering severe consequences, Iran’s leaders are now implementing a course of action similar to one that Hitler adopted after the failure to win the Battle of Britain over 60 years ago: turn east and establish a Second Front.

Contrary to popular belief, Iran is not surrounded. They have one remaining open avenue to influence the outcome of our campaign in the Central Region. By turning east through Baluchistan and dangling the economic and energy carrots to the eastern democratic anchor in the region, India, and our nominal ally in the War of Terror, Pakistan, the mullahs hope to keep their regime intact, while suppressing the nascent democratic movement within their borders.

Rather than massed conventional armies, Iran’s Second Front involves the revival of an expanded energy trade scheme coupled with politico-military pressure using the old stand-by of terror attacks. Simply put, India and Pakistan are energy consumers, and Iran will use its vast energy reserves to its geo-political advantage. Iran has the world's second largest natural gas reserves at an estimated 812 trillion cubic feet (Tcf), while India’s and Pakistan’s reserves amount to only 23 Tcf and 22 Tcf respectively. (A detailed discussion of South Asia’s energy needs and the Iran-India Pipeline can be found here.)...Nevertheless, the US has mounted an effective counter to Iran’s move to the east. During her visit to India, Secretary Rice referred to the pipeline deal when she stated,

"'Our views concerning Iran are very well known and we have communicated to the Indian government our concerns about gas pipeline cooperation between Iran and India,' Rice told a news conference in New Delhi. 'We need to look at the broader question of how India meets its energy needs in the next decade.' "

The sale of the F-16s to Pakistan is said to have angered some Indian leaders. But this sale must not be viewed in isolation, since this is only the beginning of a comprehensive strategy to defend against Iran’s Second Front. The Australian reports that the US is embarking upon a wide-ranging plan to help India become a major power in the 21st century. The US will boost India’s military capabilities with sales of fighter aircraft, anti-missile defense systems, and the latest digitized command and control gear. And most notably, the US and India will cooperate on economic and energy initiatives...Iran is in a pickle. Its Western Front effort has gone nowhere and is under increasing pressure from the military forces of the US and the Coalition in the Persian Gulf and Iraq. The mullahs' attempt to bribe India and Pakistan with the promise of cheap energy and a “jobs program” to construct the pipeline will come to naught. Also, the largest terrorist stronghold in the Central Region will see to it that maximum pain will be inflicted on any attempt to run the pipeline through Baluchistan.

There are very few options left to the Islamic Republic, none of which are very satisfactory from the mullah’s point of view...
Worth reading it all.

Update: Iran used to be surrounded by a buffer zone and with its seat of government tucked well inland, presented a challenge to get into. Things have changed...

See my earlier post about the "surrounded" mullahs here.

Update2: The NY Times has an article on topic:
As it faces the threat of global sanctions from the United States and Europe because of suspicions that it is turning its nuclear program to weapons production, Iran is fighting back with a powerful weapon of its own: its vast oil and gas resources.

Iran's ruling clerics are meticulously arranging energy sales and building partnerships with influential countries, including China and India, as a way to win stronger friendships around the world...
But it has some problems, too:
There is no guarantee, though, that Iran's clients will necessarily turn into political allies. Moreover, Iran's ability to buy friendships is undermined by its own limitations. While the country pumps close to four million barrels of oil a day, it spends $2 billion each year to import fuel because of a lack of refining capacity. Then it spends another $3 billion to subsidize gasoline that is sold here at one of the lowest prices in the world - 8 cents a liter, or about 30 cents a gallon.

And nearly a third of Iran's production is unavailable for export because it is tied up in domestic consumption, where much of it is squandered by inefficient cars, badly insulated homes or wasteful industries.

"Iran definitely has geology on its side," said Vincent Lauerman, the editor in chief of Geopolitics of Energy, an industry newsletter based in Calgary, Alberta. "But if you look at the fields that are producing, these tend to be mature and declining."

Still, for all its problems, Tehran is definitely making progress in its geopolitical campaign. In January, Iran said it would provide India with liquefied natural gas for 25 years, an agreement valued at $40 billion. It also gave India's state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Company, ONGC, a 20 percent stake in the Yadavaran oil field, a 300,000 barrel-a-day project.

That agreement came on the heels of a similar deal signed in October, a commitment to supply China with natural gas over 30 years that also granted China's state-owned oil company, Sinopec, a 50 percent stake in Yadavaran, which holds an estimated 3 billion barrels of oil reserves. This came with a potential value of $70 billion.

Iran is also trying to persuade the strategic rivals India and Pakistan to agree to the construction of a $4 billion pipeline that would carry Iranian gas through Pakistan to India...

Housing prices soaring in post-Saddam Baghdad

More tipping point news: Housing prices soaring in post-Saddam Baghdad
Elections and the creation of a new Iraqi interim government appear to have stabilized the market and sent prices higher. Property has started to change hands. The economy is picking up. Exiles are coming back.

Workers troop in and out of al-Difaie's office with stacks of home-sale documents to sign. "Iraq is a rich country," he says, looking up from a pile of paper on his desk. Bank loans are becoming available, but at least half the buyers use cash, he says.
See this also.

Washington Times: Pentagon China Report (?)

Pentagon China report:

Pentagon policy-makers and intelligence officials are close to finishing the latest annual report to Congress on the military power of communist China.

Officials tell us the report's most stark conclusion is this: The military balance across the Taiwan Strait will soon be in China's favor, increasing the danger of war. Beijing has 725 missiles pointed at Taiwan and could conduct a crippling surprise attack on the island, the report, due out next month, will state.

The shifting military balance creates instability and increases the possibility that a military miscalculation by China would draw the United States into a conflict.

Meanwhile, U.S. intelligence officials are investigating a Hong Kong press report published earlier this week that said China is set to buy up to 210 French jet fighter-bombers, should the European Union lift its arms embargo.

The Chinese-language Hong Kong Commercial Daily, quoting reliable sources, stated that talks on the sale of Mirage 2000 top-of-the-line fighters has been under way since late 2004, and the deal will include 1,200 Mica missiles. China also wants to buy 20 Atlantic ALF-3 maritime patrol aircraft from France's Dassault Aviation, which also makes the Mirage.

The report said Paris is so confident that the embargo will be lifted that it has scheduled pilot training for 40 Chinese pilots to begin in June. But yesterday, U.S. and EU officials said the embargo on China will not be lifted until Beijing improves its human rights record and eases tensions with Taiwan.

The EU arms embargo was imposed on China for its brutal military crackdown on unarmed Chinese pro-democracy demonstrators in Beijing's Tiananmen Square in June 1989.

The United States remains opposed to lifting the embargo because of concerns it will further shift the military balance in China's favor.
But the EU nations don't have much territory to protect in the area near China so the idea of a strong China is not as threatening to Europe as it is to Japan, S. South Korea, etc. And the idea of helping China "contain" the US must appeal to the Chirac French...

Sunday, April 17, 2005

The Cricket Gambit

Headline "Pakistan's Musharraf Arrives in India Today for Talks, Cricket"
Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf makes his first trip to India in four years for talks to improve ties and to watch a sporting encounter between two nations that have fought three wars with each other.

Musharraf, who is scheduled to arrive in New Delhi today, will meet Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and watch the one- day cricket match tomorrow between the South Asian nations in the Indian capital.
"Cricket diplomacy seems to be working to the extent that it is bringing the leadership of two countries closer,'' said Khalid Mehmud, a research analyst at the Institute of Regional Studies in Islamabad. "The solution of the Kashmir problem is far away but the two countries are moving step by step.''
Well, ping pong worked for the US and China. Of course, despite the "help" of A.E. Brain and From a Singapore Angle (see the comments), how cricket is played is not, uh, clear ... but if it helps smooth troubled waters...

Compare and contrast: Diplomats Against Bolton v. "Bolton Boosters"

For your information: Compare and contrast: Diplomats Against Bolton v. Bolton Boosters.

Well, of course, I'm sure they are all good people.

Update: And a complaint about the MSM coverage here.

Big Wave Hits Cruise Ship

It must have been a big wave to damage a 1000 foot long cruise ship as reported here.

Update: More info here (caution, some of it overwrought New York Daily News stuff)
It weathered most of a wild storm that featured gale-force winds and choppy seas. But then the vessel, longer than three football fields, was suddenly smacked by the "freak wave," said Norwegian Cruise Line spokeswoman Susan Robison. It broke a pair of windows and flooded 62 cabins, she said.

"The sea had actually calmed down when the wave seemed to come out of thin air at daybreak," Robison said. "Our captain, who has 20 years on the job, said he never saw anything like it."

The tidal wave wrecked windows on the ninth and 10th floors and wreaked havoc below decks, destroying furniture, the onboard theater, and a store that sold expensive gifts.
"Ninth and 10th floors?" Is this a ship? (ships have decks or levels) or...never mind.

On "rogue waves". Or here or here. And here's a cool NOAA page on waves.

Update2: More on the incident and some more links to interesting rogue wave info: here and here "Ship sinking monster waves!" Woo hoo!
Mariners who survived similar encounters have had remarkable stories to tell. In February 1995 the cruiser liner Queen Elizabeth II met a 29-metre high rogue wave during a hurricane in the North Atlantic that Captain Ronald Warwick described as "a great wall of water… it looked as if we were going into the White Cliffs of Dover."

A big wave from the Bay of Biscay:

And here's some video from a ship hit by a 50 foot wave (question-Why weren't those people taking a brace position instead of being in position to slide around?).

Update3; The slightly damaged cruise ship has returned to New York. Based on my experience most of the crowd meeting it at the pier consisted of personal injury lawyers. Now let the lawsuits begin! The coverage on Fox this morning raised an issue of why the ship left port to run through the storm it hit on its way back to New York. It seems some people are arguing that the prudent thing to do was to stay in port until the storm passed. As far as I know, the cruise line does not promise only "fair weather sailing" and ships have been known to ride out storms at sea... One interviewee seen earlier in the week announced that the wave had ruined his honeymoon and he lost a "lifetime" memory. I don't think so. Methinks he'll be exaggerting about the wave for many years to come...

You want complete safety? Stay home. Of course, there is this:
Deaths and Injuries in the Home
-There were 33,300 fatalities and 8,000,000 disabling injuries in 2002. This represents 11.9 fatalities per 100,000 population.
-In the home, there is a fatal injury every 16 minutes and a disabling injury every 4 seconds.
-The four leading fatal events in the home are poisonings, falls, suffocation by ingested object, and fires, flames and smoke.
-The leading cause of death in the home, poisoning, took the lives of 12,500 people in 2002. This number includes deaths from drugs, medicines, other solid and liquid substances, and gases and vapors. The 25 to 44 age group had the highest death rate.
-Falls took the lives of 8,000 people, four out of five of them over the age of 65.
-Smoke inhalation accounts for the majority of deaths in home fires.
(National Safety Council)
Maybe home is not such a good idea.

Update4: An article on the ship's "early" departure to get to NYC...
Stan Deno, director of operations for the International Council of Cruise Lines, a trade association, said that while the winds were fierce enough to make passengers uncomfortable, the situation wasn't dangerous.

"It's not even eyebrow-raising for a ship that size," Deno said of the 965-foot vessel.

The only way the ship's captain could have avoided the bad weather was to stay moored in Miami until the storm blew over Sunday morning, said David Feit, a meteorologist for the federal Ocean Prediction Center. But the captain didn't.

"He went right into the teeth of the storm," Feit said.
And that line will be in many lawsuits...