Health effects of military burn pits are uncertain, study says
Burn pit smoke on base in Al Taqaddum, Iraq in 2007
October 31st, 2011
02:37 PM ET

Health effects of military burn pits are uncertain, study says

By Jennifer Rizzo and Saundra Young

The long-term health effects of exposure to military burn pits used for trash disposal are still uncertain, according to a new study commissioned by the Defense Department.

The Institute of Medicine says "insufficient data" on service members' exposures to open-air pit emissions is one reason the results were inconclusive. High background levels of pollution in the surrounding area, along with a lack of information about the amount and makeup of the waste burned, also made it difficult to analyze the data.

The emissions have been the source of controversy as troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have blamed health problems such as cancerous tumors and respiratory issues on exposure to burn pit emissions.
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Filed under: Afghanistan • Iraq
The irony of America cutting UNESCO funds
U.S. delegation at the UNESCO proceedings
October 31st, 2011
02:30 PM ET

The irony of America cutting UNESCO funds

The U.S. didn’t waste any time cutting funding for UNESCO after the United Nations devoted to promoting education, culture and science granted the Palestinians full membership.

Currently the U.S. covers approximately one fifth of the UNESCO costs but by cutting that funding it will be even harder for the American agenda at UNESCO to be accomplished.

That agenda is not just about protecting previous cultural sites, or teaching Afghan women, children and even police officers to read, or about helping to continue the Tsunami early warning system.  It’s also about protecting Israel.

The irony of the decision to cut funding is that UNESCO is one of the few United Nations groups where the U.S. finds a sympathetic ear on issues related to Israel.  UNESCO is actively working with America to promote tolerance and is working to deepen understanding of the Holocaust in countries where people don’t even believe it existed.

Even more important U.S. interests will be at stake if the World Intellectual Property Organization grants Palestinians membership, which as an affiliate of UNESCO they are almost certain to do.  That is where you start directly encountering obvious and significant interests to American business. When an intellectual property dispute involves the Googles or the Apples of the world and China, it is critical for the U.S. to be a member of good standing, which it will not be if Congress cuts funding. FULL POST

U.S. cuts UNESCO funding after Palestinian membership vote
Foreign Minister of the Palestinian Authority, Riyad Al-Malki delivers a speech at UNESCO meeting in Paris
October 31st, 2011
02:01 PM ET

U.S. cuts UNESCO funding after Palestinian membership vote

By National Security Producer Jamie Crawford

The United States is cutting funding to the U.N. education and science agency UNESCO after the agency voted to accept a Palestinian bid for full membership, the U.S. State Department said Monday.

"Today's vote by the member states of UNESCO to admit Palestine as member is regrettable, premature and undermines our shared goal of a comprehensive just and lasing peace in the Middle East.," said State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland.

"The United States will refrain from making contributions to UNESCO," she said.

The United States was going to make a $60 million payment in November, and will now not do so, she said.

Some U.S. lawmakers had called on the Obama administration to withhold funding to UNESCO if the measure was approved.

The lawmakers cited U.S. law, which states that funds must be denied to any organization granting the Palestine Liberation Organization "the same standing as member states."

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Mission to UNESCO - the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization - said the United States contributes $80 million a year.

Read the whole story here

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Filed under: Congress • Diplomacy • Israel • Middle East • Palestine • UNESCO
The Army's next top model
October 31st, 2011
01:46 PM ET

The Army's next top model

By National Security Producer Jennifer Rizzo

The Terminator's "I'll be back" promise has been upheld with an advanced robot soon to be added to the military's arsenal of machines. The new human-like bot is being built for the Army to test chemical protective clothing.

Robot maker Boston Dynamics released a new video of the humanoid robot they call PETMAN. In the video, PETMAN is seen walking on a treadmill, bending and even doing push ups. At one point in the clip the robot is shoved by one of the engineers and the robot reacts by just sliding over and continuing on its way.

Meant to mimic the human form and range of movement PETMAN is able to perform various activities– walking, crawling, and calisthenics– all while exposed to various chemical warfare agents, according to Boston Dynamics. FULL POST

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Filed under: Army • Technology
Officials split on Haqqani connection to deadly weekend attack
Afghan security forces and NATO troops inspect the site of a suicide attack in Kabul on Saturday.
October 31st, 2011
12:55 PM ET

Officials split on Haqqani connection to deadly weekend attack

By CNN's Nick Paton Walsh reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan

The investigation into the suicide bombing that killed 17 people on Saturday suggests it was the work of the Pakistan-based Haqqani network, an Afghan official said Monday.

"We have some contacts and some evidence on the ground and some information about the vehicles used and the people used," Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said, stressing that the results of the investigation were preliminary.

"This is another sophisticated attack by the operatives of the Haqqani network, and we are also optimistic to arrest some of their operatives in Kabul in the days ahead," he said.

However, a spokesman for international forces in Afghanistan, which lost nine troops in the attack, said they have no indications yet that the Haqqani network was involved. FULL POST

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Filed under: Afghanistan • Haqqani • Kabul • Military • NATO • Pakistan
October 31st, 2011
10:50 AM ET

FBI releases Russian spy trove

By Senior National Security Producer Suzanne Kelly

They called it "Operation Ghost Stories", and judging by the trove of detailed information posted online by the FBI, it was an espionage investigation that could have occurred at the height of the Cold War.

The FBI investigated, and then arrested, 10 Russian spies last year in a case that captured the nation's attention. Now, in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request, the law enforcement agency is posting photographs, documents, and video clips of the suspects in secretly-taped meetings with undercover FBI agents.

The Russian Foreign Intelligence operatives (SVR) were suspected of trying to obtain classified documents (though the FBI says they never got any of them) and the FBI describes the operation as "well-funded" and "far-ranging".

One video details how Russian operative Christopher Metsos passed information to an official from the Russian Mission in New York in what's known in intelligence circles as a "brush pass." FULL POST

North Korea's nuclear express
October 31st, 2011
05:00 AM ET

North Korea's nuclear express

By Senior National Security Producer Suzanne Kelly

The U.S. and North Korean delegations left Geneva last week with no firm plan for re-starting talks aimed at ending Pyongyang's nuclear program - perhaps not surprising, but concerning, given that nuclear experts estimate that North Korea has enough plutonium to arm about a dozen weapons.

Even more concerning is recent evidence of just how quickly North Korea's nuclear program is being developed.

Professor Siegfried Hecker, who helps lead the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University, and advises the U.S. government, is one of the few who have seen the evidence that the North Korean program has progressed enormously since the last official talks ended in 2002.

On a trip to North Korea last November, he saw two things that concerned him.  The first was an experimental light-water reactor (LWR) that appeared to be in the early stages of construction, suggesting that North Korea had mastered the technology to make a LWR on its own.

The LWR could be used to help drive a civilian nuclear power program, but could also be easily adapted to manufacture the material needed for a nuclear bomb. But even that discovery paled in comparison to what else he saw.

Hecker was led by his North Korean handlers into a facility that he described as "ultra-modern" and "clean."  There, before him, were some 2,000 large cylinders lined up as far as he could see.

"It was far beyond my expectations," said Hecker, who has visited the country as an invited expert more than half a dozen times. FULL POST


Filed under: Diplomacy • North Korea • Nuclear • Six-Party Talks • State Department • Syria