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Archive for February 16th, 2011

US admiral: Carrier killer won’t stop US Navy

Posted by Admin on February 16, 2011

FILE - In this Oct. 1, 2009 file photo, military ...
In this Oct. 1, 2009 file photo, military vehicles carrying the Dong Feng 21D missiles for a parade.
By ERIC TALMADGE, Associated Press Eric Talmadge, Associated Press Tue Feb 15, 6:55 am ET

YOKOSUKA, Japan – A new “carrier killer” missile that has become a symbol of China’s rising military might will not force the U.S. Navy to change the way it operates in the Pacific, a senior Navy commander told The Associated Press.

Defense analysts say the Dong Feng 21D missile could upend the balance of power in Asia, where U.S. aircraft carrier battle groups have ruled the waves since the end of World War II.

However, Vice Adm. Scott van Buskirk, commander of the U.S. 7th Fleet, told the AP in an interview that the Navy does not see the much-feared weapon as creating any insurmountable vulnerability for the U.S. carriers — the Navy’s crown jewels.

“It’s not the Achilles heel of our aircraft carriers or our Navy — it is one weapons system, one technology that is out there,” Van Buskirk said in an interview this week on the bridge of the USS George Washington, the only carrier that is home-based in the western Pacific.

The DF 21D is unique in that it is believed capable of hitting a powerfully defended moving target — like the USS George Washington — with pinpoint precision. That objective is so complex that the Soviets gave up on a similar project.

The missile would penetrate defenses because its speed from launch would not allow enough time for carriers or other large ships to complete countermeasures.

That could seriously weaken Washington’s ability to intervene in any potential conflict over Taiwan or North Korea, as well as deny U.S. ships safe access to international waters near China’s 11,200-mile (18,000-kilometer) -long coastline.

Van Buskirk, whose fleet is responsible for most of the Pacific and Indian oceans, with 60-70 ships and 40,000 sailors and Marines under its command, said the capabilities of the Chinese missile are as yet unproven. But he acknowledged it does raise special concerns.

“Any new capability is something that we try to monitor,” he said.

“If there wasn’t this to point to as a game changer, there would be something else,” he said. “That term has been bandied about for many things. I think it really depends in how you define the game, whether it really changes it or not. It’s a very specific scenario for a very specific capability — some things can be very impactful.”

The development of the missile comes as China is increasingly venturing further out to sea and is becoming more assertive around its coastline and in disputes over territory.

Late last year, China and Japan were locked in a heated diplomatic row over several islands both claim in the East China Sea, an area regularly patrolled by U.S. Navy vessels. A flotilla of 10 Chinese warships, including advanced submarines and destroyers, passed through the Miyako Strait last April in the biggest transit of its kind to date.

Experts saw it as an attempt by China to test Japan and the United States and demonstrate its open water capabilities.

China has also expressed strong displeasure with U.S. carrier operations off the Korean Peninsula, saying that they posed a security risk to its capital.

Still, van Buskirk said the Navy has no intention of altering its mission because of the new threat and will continue to operate in the seas around Japan, Korea, the Philippines and anywhere else it deems necessary.

“We won’t change these operations because of this specific technology that might be out there,” he told The AP while the USS George Washington was in its home port just south of Tokyo for repairs last week. “But we will carefully monitor and adapt to it.”

The faster-than-expected development of the missile has set off alarm bells in Washington. Further, China is developing a stealth fighter jet that could be used to support its navy in a potential conflict and hopes to deploy its first aircraft carriers over the next decade.

Before visiting Beijing last month, U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he has been concerned about the anti-ship missile since he took office.

In December, Adm. Robert Willard, the head of the U.S. Pacific Command, told Japan’s Asahi Shimbun newspaper he believed the missile program had achieved “initial operational capability,” meaning a workable design had been settled on and was being further developed.

The missile is considered a key component of China’s strategy of denying U.S. planes and ships access to waters off its coast. The strategy includes overlapping layers of air defense systems, naval assets such as submarines, and advanced ballistic missile systems — all woven together with a network of satellites.

At its most capable, the DF 21D could be launched from land with enough accuracy to penetrate the defenses of even the most advanced moving aircraft carrier at a distance of more than 900 miles (1,500 kilometers).

To allay regional security fears, van Buskirk said, China needs to be more forthcoming about its intentions.

“It goes back to transparency,” he said. “Using the United States as an example, we are very clear about our intent when conducting routine and normal operations in international waters … That is what you might expect from other nations that might operate in this region.

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Bahrain protesters gather in capital for third day

Posted by Admin on February 16, 2011

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/us_bahrain;_ylt=A0wNdPF9dFtNT28BHxas0NUE;_ylu=X3oDMTNhbGphY2EzBGFzc2V0A25tLzIwMTEwMjE2L3VzX2JhaHJhaW4EY2NvZGUDbW9zdHBvcHVsYXIEY3BvcwMxBHBvcwMyBHB0A2hvbWVfY29rZQRzZWMDeW5fdG9wX3N0b3J5BHNsawNiYWhyYWlucHJvdGU-

Protesters serve coffee and tea at the Pearl ...
Reuters – Protesters serve coffee and tea at the Pearl Roundabout, a famous landmark of Bahrain
By Cynthia Johnston Cynthia Johnston 30 mins ago

MANAMA (Reuters) – Thousands of Shi’ite demonstrators, inspired by popular revolts that toppled rulers in Tunisia and Egypt, gathered in Bahrain’s capital on Wednesday to mourn for a second protestor killed in clashes this week.

Several hundred gathered at a funeral procession for a man shot dead when police and mourners clashed at an earlier funeral procession on Tuesday.

“We are requesting our rights in a peaceful way,” said Bakr Akil, a 20 year-old university student, wearing a sheet stained with red ink that he said was a symbol of his willingness to sacrifice his life for freedom.

“I am optimistic that our big presence will achieve our demands,” Akil said.

Women dressed in black abayas followed the procession with their own chants calling for peace and Bahraini unity.

Elsewhere in central Manama, witnesses say about 2,000 protestors had spent the night in tents at Bahrain’s Pearl Roundabout, similar to the number marching on the streets a day earlier.

It remains to be seen whether the number would rise or fall during Wednesday. Some will have to return to work, after a public holiday on Tuesday to mark the Prophet Mohammed‘s birthday.

Police kept their distance, mostly confining themselves to a nearby dirt lot with dozens of SUV police vehicles. The ministry of Interior announced that all roads were open.

The demonstrators from Bahrain’s Shi’ite majority say the ruling Sunni minority shuts them out of housing, healthcare and government jobs.

“The United States is very concerned by recent violence surrounding protests in Bahrain,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said in a statement. “We also call on all parties to exercise restraint and refrain from violence.”

The main Shi’ite opposition bloc Wefaq, which boycotted parliament to protest the clampdown by Sunni security forces, said it would hold talks with the government on Wednesday.

Protesters said their main demand was the resignation of Prime Minister Sheikh Khalifa bin Salman al-Khalifa, who has governed the Gulf Arab state since its independence in 1971.

An uncle of King Hamad bin Isa al-Khalifa, he is thought to own much land and is seen as a symbol of the wealth of the ruling family.

DEMOGRAPHIC BALANCE

Activists say they also want the release of political prisoners, which the government has promised, and the creation of a new constitution.

Poverty, high unemployment and alleged attempts by the state to grant citizenship to Sunni foreigners to change the demographic balance have intensified discontent among Bahrain’s Shi’ites.

Around half of the tiny island kingdom’s 1.3 million people are Bahraini, the rest being foreign workers.

Analysts say large-scale unrest in Bahrain, home to the U.S. Navy’s Fifth Fleet and a regional offshore banking center, could embolden marginalized Shi’ites in nearby Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter.

King Hamad expressed his condolences for “the deaths of two of our dear sons” in a televised speech and said a committee would investigate the killings.

Bahrain, in a move appeared aimed at preventing Shi’ite discontent from boiling over, had offered cash payouts of around 1,000 dinars ($2,650) per family in the run-up to this week’s protests.

(Reporting by Frederik Richter; writing by Reed Stevenson; editing by Matthew Jones)

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Government: No electronic flaws in Toyotas

Posted by Admin on February 16, 2011

Toyota Logo

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110208/ap_on_re_us/us_toyota_recalls

By KEN THOMAS, Associated Press Ken Thomas, Associated Press Tue Feb 8, 6:12 pm ET

WASHINGTON – Electronic flaws weren’t to blame for the reports of sudden, unintended acceleration that led to the recall of thousands of Toyota vehicles, the government said Tuesday.

Some of the acceleration cases could have been caused by mechanical defects — sticking accelerator pedals and gas pedals that can become trapped in floor mats — that have been dealt with in recalls, the government said.

And in some cases, investigators suggested, drivers simply hit the gas when they meant to press the brake.

“We feel that Toyota vehicles are safe to drive,” declared Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

The investigation bolstered Toyota’s contentions that electronic gremlins were not to blame and its series of recalls — involving more than 12 million vehicles globally since fall 2009 — had directly addressed the safety concerns.

Transportation officials, assisted by engineers with NASA, said the 10-month study of Toyota vehicles concluded there was no electronic cause of unintended high-speed acceleration. The study, launched at the request of Congress, responded to consumer complaints that flawed electronics could be the culprit behind complaints that led to Toyota’s spate of recalls.

Recalls to fix sticking accelerator pedals, gas pedals that became trapped in floor mats, and other safety issues have posed a major challenge for the world’s No. 1 automaker, which has scrambled to protect its reputation for safety and reliability. Toyota paid the U.S. government a record $48.8 million in fines for its handling of three recalls.

Toyota said the report should “further reinforce confidence in the safety of Toyota and Lexus vehicles” and “put to rest unsupported speculation” about the company’s electronic throttle control systems, which are “well-designed and well-tested to ensure that a real world, un-commanded acceleration of the vehicle cannot occur.”

Toyota reported a 39 percent slide in quarterly profit earlier Tuesday but raised its full-year forecasts for earnings and car sales. The financial results and government report boosted shares of the automaker on Wall Street by more than 4 percent, to close at $88.57.

Analysts said the report would help Toyota’s reputation but the company would still need to work hard to regain its bulletproof image of reliability. Toyota was the only major automaker to see a U.S. sales decline last year at 0.4 percent.

“This is really something that is going to take years and years to recover,” said Rebecca Lindland, director of automotive research with consulting firm IHS Automotive.

Federal officials said they thoroughly examined the acceleration reports and could not find evidence of an electronic problem. Instead, investigators with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said the evidence showed that cases in which owners complained about ineffective brakes were most likely caused by “pedal misapplication,” in which the driver stepped on the accelerator instead of the brakes.

Many of the complaints involved cases in which the vehicle accelerated after it was stationary or at very low speed.

LaHood said NASA engineers “rigorously examined” nine Toyotas driven by consumers who complained of unintended acceleration. NASA reviewed 280,000 lines of software code to look for flaws that could cause the acceleration. Investigators tested mechanical components in Toyotas that could lead to the problem and bombarded vehicles with electro-magnetic radiation to see whether that could make the electronics cause the cars to speed up.

Electronic problems can include buggy software, circuitry influenced by electrical interference and electrical shorts. The problems are often difficult to spot and can surface when combined with environmental factors like a blast from a heater vent or moisture from the road.

A preliminary part of the study, released last August, failed to find any electronic flaws based on a review of event data recorders, or vehicle black boxes.

Not everyone was convinced. Rhonda Smith, of Sevierville, Tennessee, who last year testified before a congressional committee that her Lexus raced up to 100 miles per hour without her control, said Tuesday there had to be a cause other than floor mats or sticky gas pedals because she said neither happened in her case.

“There is a defect in that car whether they want to believe it or not,” Smith said. “They need to keep searching.”

NHTSA administrator David Strickland, however, told reporters that the agency conducted extensive tests on Smith’s vehicle and found “no other vulnerabilities” beyond trapped floor mats.

Consumer advocates and safety groups have raised concerns that flawed electronics could be causing unwanted acceleration in the Toyotas. They have questioned the reliability of the event data recorders studied by the government, saying they could be faulty or fail to tell the whole story of the individual crashes.

Joan Claybrook, a former NHTSA administrator who previously led consumer group Public Citizen, said the government investigation discounted research conducted by plaintiffs’ attorneys.

“The facts are still quite substantial that there’s a problem and I think they could have done a lot more in terms of gathering more expertise,” Claybrook said.

To promote safety, LaHood said NHTSA was considering new regulations. They include requiring brake override systems on all vehicles, standardizing keyless ignition systems and requiring event data recorders, or vehicle black boxes, on all new vehicles.

Transportation officials said they would also consider conducting more research on electronic control systems and review the placement and design of accelerator and brake pedals.

Since the recalls, Toyota has installed brake override systems on new vehicles. The systems automatically cut the throttle when the brake and gas pedals are applied at the same time.

The company also created engineering teams to examine vehicles that are the subject of consumer complaints and appointed a chief quality officer for North America amid complaints its U.S. division did not play a large enough role in making safety decisions.

Toyota’s safety issues received broad attention from the government after four people were killed in a high-speed crash involving a Lexus near San Diego in August 2009.

NHTSA has received about 3,000 reports of sudden acceleration incidents involving Toyota vehicles during the past decade, including allegations of 93 deaths. NHTSA has confirmed five of them.

Congress considered sweeping safety legislation last year that would have required brake override systems, raised penalties on auto companies that evade safety recalls and given the government the power to quickly recall vehicles. But the bills failed to win enough support.

The National Academy of Sciences is conducting a separate study of unintended acceleration in cars and trucks across the auto industry. The panel is expected to release its findings this fall.

___

AP Auto Writers Tom Krisher and Sharon Carty in Detroit contributed to this report.

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Indian waters not safe, pirates helped by some forces: Antony

Posted by Admin on February 16, 2011

Indian Navy @ Chennai

Indian Navy

http://news.in.msn.com/national/article.aspx?cp-documentid=4896967

09/02/2011

Kochi, Feb 8 (PTI) Voicing concern over recent incidents involving Somali pirates near Indian waters, Defence Minister A K Antony today said some other forces were helping them and the country cannot be a mere spectator to it.

“Our waters are not safe like before. There are some other forces helping them (pirates). We cannot remain mere spectators,” he said, adding the forces are yet to be identified.

The incidents point that the country”s coasts were not protected and “if we are not vigilant, danger would not be far behind”, he said while inaugurating Bharat Electrical Limited”s Product Support Centre at KINFRA Hi Tech Park at nearby Kalamassery.

Antony said Navy and Coast Guard would step up their surveillance along the Kerala-Lakshadweep-Tamil Nadu coast in the wake of arrest of pirates off Lakshadweep islands.

More Naval and Coast Guard vessels and aircraft would be deployed to increase surveillance, he said.

In the last one month, two vessels of the pirates had been seized in joint operations by the Navy and Coast Guard and last year 14 ships were attacked by pirates near the 8 Degree Channel in Lakshadweep.

Later talking to reporters, Antony said India had stated that UN should provide the lead in combating piracy.

On the arrest of some suspected Pakistan and Iranian nationals from a fishing vessel a few months ago near Lakshadweep, he said probe was still on.

Asked about the recent killing of a youth in Kashmir by security forces, he said it was ”unfortunate” and the army had ordered an enquiry. It was a case of mistaken identity, he said.

On the suicide by the uncle of Sandeep Unnikrishnan, the NSG commando who was killed during the Mumbai terror attacks, he said it was a very ”painful” incident.

The former Kerala chief minister refused to take any questions on politics saying, “No Politics, no masala.”
Navy also provides a helping hand to fishermen who are in distress when at sea, he said.

The BEL”s centre had been set up to provide waterfront support for the Southern Naval Command here and its to support outsourcing of Naval System projects to units of KELTRON.

Antony said the project, the foundation stone of which was laid in 2008 by him, could be completed in a record time, thanks to the support of the state government.

The Centre, state, local bodies had all come together to see the project became a reality, he said.

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