Friday, December 31, 2010

O'Donnell, who denied being a witch, also now denies she's a crook

Christine O'Donnell, who kept the Fall national elections interesting with her remarkable pronouncements, including a commercial in which she denied being a witch,is under investigation for misuse of her campaign funds for personal expenses. The Senatorial candidate from Delaware, and a Tea Party favorite, retorts that VP Joe Biden --- a former First State Senator --- and others are out to get her.

Times Square security beefed up for dropping of tonight's Big Ball

Let's hope that the Big Ball is the only ball dropped tonight by security specialists seeking to keep Times Square safe. Nearly a million folks, who don't mind freezing in order to feel a part of the New Year's self-appointed ground zero, will be jammed up against the ring of steel surrounding the internationally broadcast festivities. This year's event is made even more interesting than usual, due to the 12 inches or so of snow recently dumped on the Big Apple.

Meanwhile, many will be harking back to the Times Square wannbe bomber, whose attempt to explode a truck bomb in one of the world's busiest places, was thwarted earlier this year by the FBI.

Nice work if you can get it!

This story from the Associated Press:

NEW ORLEANS – BP money is being used to pay $950 an hour to a law professor who has declared the administrator of the $20 billion claims fund for Gulf oil spill victims independent of the oil giant.
Fund czar Ken Feinberg said Thursday he has agreed to pay New York University professor Stephen Gillers for his advice. Since being hired, Gillers has written a letter stating that Feinberg is neutral and not subject to BP's direction or control.
Feinberg said the Gulf Coast Claims Facility, created to administer payments from the fund to people and businesses, is billing BP for Gillers' services.

No one above the law?

Two convictions, one out of Russia, the other out of Israel, indicate how the mighty can fall in a court of law... but perhaps for two different reasons.

In Jerusalem, Former President Moshe Katsav has been convicted of raping one of his staffers and sexually harassing two other women. The most serious case ever brought against a high ranking Israeli official, it drove Katsav from office in 2007. Reportedly, Katsav at one stage in the criminal justice process agreed to a plea agreement but later backed out. He contended he would prove his innocence in open court. But in the end the trial judge called his version of events "unserious" and "riddled with lies." Rape convictions in Israel are said to typically carry sentences of four to 16 years.

Katsav In Sex Case.(Moshe Katsav): An article from: APS Diplomat News Service

Justice?: Military Court System in the Israeli Occupied Territories
Meanwhile, in the late, great Evil Empire, Russia's one-time richest man got an additional seven years tacked onto his current 8-year sentence. Many jurists believe that Mikhail Khodorkovsky was framed by Vladimir Putin in reprisal for challenging Putin's power. This time around, the ex-billionaire was found guilty of embezzlement and money-laudering. Reportedly, he'll be in the pokey until 2017.

Population and Immigration: Is this what we really want?

This from the VisaNow legal team:

Last week, the U.S. Census Bureau released its data on the 2010 Census. According to the data, as of April 1, 2010, the total U.S. resident population reached 308,745,538, which indicates that the total resident population has grown by 9.7% over the past decade. Most noteworthy though, is that three-quarters of the 9.7% growth rate was due to immigration. Since 2000, 13.1 million new immigrants (legal and illegal) have arrived in the U.S. Additionally, immigrant women gave birth to approximately 8.2 million babies. Despite the findings, it's also essential to report how the recession has altered the immigrant population throughout the U.S.
Prior to the recession, cities such as Tampa, Phoenix, and Riverside-San Bernardino experienced a strong growth in immigration. Currently, these cities are losing immigrants, with Phoenix suffering the greatest loss of 64,000, equating to roughly 9% of Phoenix’s foreign-born population. At the same time, Houston experienced the greatest increase in its immigrant population with 74,000. Miami came in second with 54,000, followed by Dallas with 50,000 new immigrants. Lastly Jackson, Mississippi and Birmingham, Alabama experienced the largest percent increase in their foreign-born populations with 50% and 25%, respectively.

These population changes lead to a shift in the number of congressional seats. Florida, South Carolina, Georgia, and Texas will all gain seats due to the increase in their Latino populations. President Obama will transfer the apportionment counts to Congress once it reconvenes for its first regular session in January. The new congressional seats may have the ability to shift immigration legislation and reform in the upcoming year.

I've said it before and I'm going to say it again:

This may sound a little nasty… but the dumbest reason I’ve heard for legalizing the 11 million illegal aliens in the U.S. is “My grandparents got to come here. These people deserve the same chance.” I’ve heard that a lot lately. So let’s follow the logic of this notion and see where it leads us.

My Italian grandparents came here just about a century ago. My grandmother gave birth to 16 kids. Gee, wouldn’t it be great if every illegal-alien family currently in the U.S. had 16 kids? Since the Supreme Court already ruled 20 years ago that the children of illegals are entitled to a K-12 public education, our school districts would experience a spectacular increase in classroom diversity. Since we lack a national “English-only” law, the classroom teachers would no-doubt embrace the challenge of mainstreaming these kids under the “No Child Left Behind” Act. My senior-citizen neighbors --- many of whom already are struggling to pay their school taxes --- will undoubtedly grin and bear the added burden.

Once all these kids are educated and grown, half could stay at home to help their parents on the family farm while the other half could pack up their Conestoga wagons and head west to… whoops, I just remembered: The U.S. Interior Department declared the American frontier officially closed in 1896.

Just four years later in 1900 the U.S. Census counted 76,212,168 inhabitants in the U.S.A. In 2000 the Bureau counted 281,421,906 souls in America. That’s about 3.7 times as many people as a century earlier. This single fact might make a difference in some folks’ thinking.

Professor Marshall McLuhan, the Sixties media guru best remembered for “the media is the message,” also said that we lived (mentally) in “Bonanza-land.” Readers with a touch of gray at their temples will remember the popular weekly Western “Bonanza.” Younger eyes can take a gander at the retro-website They’re all there: Ben, big daddy and “the soul of Ponderosa,” the family’s mega-ranch; Adam, the wise-beyond-his-years eldest brother; Little Joe, the hot youngest brother, played by teen idol Michael Landon; and, Hoss, the lovable, lumbering family idiot, reminiscent of Lenny in “Of Mice and Men.”

My favorite from among the quotes posted on the “Bonanza” site is this Ben Cartwright profundity: "Well maybe I've never been to Heaven, and maybe I'm never going to get the chance, but Heaven is going to have to go some to beat the thousand square miles of the Ponderosa."

According to McLuhan (a Canadian), we Americans were driving down the road of life, looking into our rearview mirrors, where we saw the four Cartwright men riding side-by-side straight out of our TV screens. If the prophet of pop-culture could come back to 21 st century America, his opinion probably wouldn’t change. Just look at what we’re driving these days: Ford Mustangs, Jeep Cherokees, Dodge Dakotas, Honda Ridgelines (Motor Trend’s 2006 truck of the year, by the way), Hyundai Santa Fe’s and Tucsons.

The trouble is that, when we take our eyes away from that rearview mirror and stare out the front windshield, most of us never see the Ponderosa unrolling in front of us. More likely, we’re looking at the latest housing development, cheek-to-jowl with the newest strip mall, both of which we have plenty of time to ponder, because they’ve entailed the installation of yet another set of traffic lights. Or we may be gazing at yet another inner-city neighborhood, rundown and cluttered with trash.

Warm-hearted souls, who favor an open-door policy, ought to ask which Americans benefit and who loses, when our borders are left wide open and laws against hiring illegals go essentially un-enforced. Businesses wishing to keep their labor cost low are the big winners. Despite all the folklore that illegal aliens take jobs no American citizens want, our poorest citizens --- who, under current welfare rules, must enter the workforce --- suffer from illegal competition.

Bill Fletcher, former education director of the AFL-CIO and currently president of TransAfrica Forum, a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit, in 2004 told the Pacific News Service, “It's like an urban legend, which sees competition taking place everywhere. If African Americans were moving from lower to higher level jobs, there would be no reason for fear. But that's not the case." Black workers are not the only ones trapped in temporary, low-paying, no-benefit jobs, he added.

No, folks, this is not Bonanza-land. This isn’t your grandpa’s America. Get your eyes off that rearview mirror. Get over it.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Safety 101 Training Camp, March 28-29 in Las Vegas

What every Human Resource Professional and Business Manager should know about the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) regulation…what is required and how to comply!

We will break the regulations down to simple language in outline form…so you get just what you need to comply. We will make it simple to understand compliance.

You will leave this class with the tools you need to comply with the OSHA regulations in no time. A significant amount of time will be spent addressing the OSHA Recordkeeping requirements and answering all of your questions once and for all!

Employer Responsibilities and Rights under OSHA
Employers have certain responsibilities and rights under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. The following provides a review of some of those obligations. We will discuss the OSH Act and the OSHA Standards and what the HR Professional’s responsibilities are under both.

You will learn how to:

Meet general duty responsibility to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees, and comply with standards, rules, and regulations issued under the Act.
Be familiar with mandatory OSHA standards and make copies available to employees for review upon requests.
Inform all employees about OSHA.
Examine workplace conditions to make sure they conform to applicable standard
Minimize or reduce hazards.
Make sure employees have and use safe tools and equipment (including appropriate personalprotective equipment) and that such equipment is properly maintained.
Use color codes, posters, labels, or signs when needed to warn employees of potential hazards.
Establish or update operating procedures and communicate them so that employees follow safety and health requirements.
Provide medical examinations when required by OSHA standards.
Provide training required by OSHA standards (e.g., hazard communication, lead, etc.).
Report (and what) to the nearest OSHA office
Keep OSHA-required records of work-related injuries and illnesses, and post a copy of the totals from the last page of OSHA No. 300
Post, at a prominent location within the workplace, the OSHA poster informing employees of their rights and responsibilities. (In states operating OSHA-approved job safety and health programs, the state’s equivalent poster may be required.)
And much more! Check out the complete agenda here.

In the never-ending battle of wits, on-line retails enhance safeguards after Wikileak attacks

This from the FBI's Infragard alert:

16. December 27, London Telegraph – (International) Online stores insure against cyberhacking after Wikileaks protest. Online retailers will be offered insurance against cyber-hacking following the recent attack by supporters of Wikileaks. IMRG, a trade body in England, will provide protection against politically-driven “denial of service” attacks that threaten Britain’s 57.8 billion pound online shopping industry. It follows the targeting of payment services PayPal, Visa and Mastercard earlier in December by “hacktivists” who accused them of bowing to U.S. pressure to hinder the release of embarrassing diplomatic cables. Amazon was also attacked because it had removed Wikileaks information from its servers. Christmas shopping was not disrupted, but the movement behind the attacks, calling itself Anonymous, said it would mount similar campaigns in the future. A member of the online security organization ISACA and chief executive of security consultants First Base Technologies, said: “Politicallymotivated denial of service is a new threat to online retail because previously the threat has only been from criminals.” Source: insure-against-cyber-hacking-after-Wikileaks-protest.html

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A take on Obama's Iran Strategy...

... from the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

OBAMA’S IRAN STRATEGY: FDD’s Mark Dubowitz and Reuel Marc Gerecht explain what it is now and how it should quickly ratchet up. They write that
few in the administration now believe that Khamenei will compromise unless sanctions endanger his regime….

The contentious issue in Iran policy isn’t the goal -- do we want Khamenei and his Revolutionary Guards to fall? Democrats and Republicans differ on this far less than they did when President George W. Bush saw an “axis of evil.” The issue is timing: Can we put enough pressure on Khamenei and his praetorians to either crack the regime or make the supreme leader believe that the nuclear program actually threatens his rule? …

A negotiated “deal” with Tehran that concedes Iranian enrichment is a face-saving way for the West to avoid confessing that it would rather risk Khamenei’s having a nuke than face the two alternatives: a crippling sanctions regime, which could spike the price of oil, or an American preventive military strike. ...

And unless Benjamin Netanyahu and much of Jerusalem’s political elite are just bluffing, the countdown for an Israeli preventive strike starts when the West concedes uranium enrichment to the supreme leader and his Revolutionary Guards. …

The U.S.-led sanctions regime has shown that Washington can still have a significant impact on the Islamic Republic’s economy and politics …

The near-miraculous attack of the centrifuge-destroying Stuxnet virus has bought the administration time and further strengthened those who want to use sticks to stop Khamenei’s nuclear aspirations….

Washington needs an incremental approach -- implemented rapidly -- that does not spook the oil markets and that allows for the market and increasing oil supplies from Iran’s competitors to dull the effect of less Iranian crude being traded. …

Gary Samore, the White House’s nuclear proliferation point man has already let it be known that more sanctions are on the way [He did that at FDD’s recent Washington Forum.] Yet it is one thing for the administration to know intellectually that Khamenei will not buckle without the severest pain; it is another matter to overcome the State Department’s love of diplomatic gradualism. …

[T]he key to successful diplomacy with Khamenei’s Iran is to view engagement as the supreme leader does: All scenarios are win-lose. If the West is to stop Tehran’s quest for a nuke, it must convince the supreme leader, and the Revolutionary Guards who oversee Iran’s nuclear program, that their pursuit of the bomb will destroy the regime. …

Current sanctions and the regime’s atrocious economic management have brought hard times. For the United States and its allies to be successful, the times need to be made a good deal harder still.

Gulf Coast Leadership COnference in the offiing

Dear James O.,

You are invited to participate in the Gulf Coast Leadership Summit, scheduled on April 19 - 21, 2011 during the first anniversary of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. The Summit will be held at the Hilton New Orleans Riverside, site of the first hearing of the National Oil Spill Commission.

To register: Click here to respond Government officials, military officials, and diplomats register for free for all three days. Registration for the April 19, 2011 program is free for all registrants.

In recent years, the five states of the U.S. Gulf Coast have been slammed by major hurricanes and by a major oil disaster. The people, businesses, institutions, and environment of the Gulf Coast continue to be affected by these disasters. But there is also a major opportunity to chart a better future. Especially with the billions of dollars being spent in the region by BP and the Gulf Coast Claims Facility and billions more expected to be provided to the region by BP oil spill fines.

The Gulf Coast Leadership Summit brings together large and small businesses; investors from throughout the U.S. and around the world; local, state, and federal government officials; military bases; nonprofit organizations and professional associations; celebrities interested in making a difference; and the media to empower a better future for the U.S. Gulf Coast.

The vision of the Summit is to bring together everyone who wants a better future for the U.S. Gulf Coast. For individuals, this means seeing what new jobs the Summit has to offer. For small businesses, it means identifying additional oil spill compensation and other resources needed to rebuild and expand. For local and state economic development officials, it means listening to and meeting investors from around the country and beyond, interested in investing in new economic sectors in the five U.S. Gulf States. For local and state emergency management officials, it means identifying the latest and most effective solutions to prepare for and respond to future disasters, including more oil spills and future hurricanes.

The Summit features general sessions, break-out sessions, an exhibition, press conferences, and networking opportunities.

April 19, 2011 Program (FREE FOR ALL)

The Summit program on April 19 features the latest information on the impact of the BP oil spill on people, businesses, and the environment. Experts from Louisiana, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas will provide individuals with details on the latest opportunities for jobs. And government and business leaders will provide small businesses with details on additional oil spill compensation and other resources. This day is organized as a public service and is free to all.

April 20, 2011 Program (Free for government, military, diplomats; fees for corporate, nonprofit, association, and education attendees)

The Summit program on April 20 features local, state, and federal officials listening to presentations from a wide variety of investors, interested in expanding in the U.S. Gulf Coast. Investors making presentations will represent the television and motion picture industry; the renewable energy industry, including solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, and ocean energy; companies producing environmental technologies, interested in new locations in the Gulf Coast; major infrastructure projects, such as high-speed rail; companies producing disaster response solutions, interested in new locations in the Gulf Coast; and foreign companies seeking new locations in the Gulf Coast for new manufacturing operations. The April 20 program will also feature presentations to local, state, and federal officials on the latest disaster response technologies and solutions.

April 21, 2011 Program (Invitation Only)

The Summit program on April 21 features working sessions for leaders representing Louisiana, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, and Texas, providing an opportunity to develop roadmaps for each of the five states. The roadmaps will serve as a powerful plan to empower a better future for the people of the five states.

You may register for the entire event; for one day only; or for a combination of two days. Registration is complimentary - as a public service - for all government officials, the military, and diplomats. Various fees, to cover Summit expenses, are charged to corporate, nonprofit, association, and education registrants - a substantial discount applies if you register by December 24, 2010.

To register: Click here to respond

If you have an interest in Summit sponsorship, exhibiting, or speaking, please contact us via email at

The Summit is produced by the Gulf Coast Leadership Forum ( The Summit organizers have worked for years trying to improve the lives of the people of the U.S. Gulf Coast, producing four national Katrina reconstruction conferences and two national oil spill disaster response conferences.

We look forward to seeing you soon!

Best Regards,

Gulf Coast Leadership Forum
Click here to respond

Monday, December 27, 2010

Package bombs arrive in two embassies in Rome

This, too, from the FBI's 12/27 Infragard alert:

24. December 23, Associated Press - (International) Blasts at 2 embassies in Rome; 2 hurt. Rome's police chief says all embassies have been informed about a pair of package bombs that exploded at the Swiss and Chilean embassies, injuring two people who opened them. The police chief spoke to reporters as he arrived December 23 at the Chilean embassy, where witnesses say an explosion was heard shortly after 3 p.m. One person was injured. Three hours earlier, a package bomb exploded inside an office in the Swiss Embassy, wounding the staffer who opened it. He was taken to the hospital with serious hand injuries but his life is not in danger, the Swiss ambassador said. The police chief also said a suspicious package found at the Ukrainian embassy turned out to be a false alarm. The Italian Foreign Minister condemned what he called a "deplorable act of violence," and offered Italy's solidarity with the embassy staff and the victim. There have been growing concerns in Europe about holiday season attacks following a suicide bombing in Sweden and security services' fears of an assault on a European city modeled on the deadly shooting spree in Mumbai, India. Source:

Nigerian refineries shut down due to attacks

This from the FBI's Infragard daily alert for 12/17:

4. December 22, Reuters - (International) Nigeria shuts refineries after pipeline attacks. Nigeria's state-oil company said on December 22 three of the country's four refineries were not operating because pipelines feeding the facilities were damaged in militant sabotage attacks. The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) said vandalism of pipelines led it to shut down the Warri, Kaduna, and Port Harcourt refineries but it did not say how long they had been out of action. Africa's most populous nation usually imports around 85 percent of its fuel needs but purchases from foreign suppliers may increase as the refinery closures are likely to cut out most of the country's 445,000 barrel per day (bpd) refining capacity. "The rate of the crude pipeline vandalism from Bonny to Port Harcourt refinery and the Escravos to Warri and Kaduna refinery is alarming and I wish to request the army to concentrate on these pipelines as they are critical to our operations," a spokesman said. The choking off of Nigeria's local oil product supply adds to signs that a resurgence in violence by militants in the oil-producing Niger Delta region is having a significant impact on Africa's largest oil and gas industry. U.S. energy firm Chevron said this week it had suspended production from a major pipeline after a sabotage attack, while fellow oil majors Shell and Exxon have also suffered outages recently. Source:

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Critical linkages among education, employment and homeland security?

Visit my other blog, Education and Employment Watch.

FBI: Cyberattacks on DOD are down

This from the November FBI Newark "National Security Threat Awareness Monthly Bulletin":

(U) Are Cyberattacks Against DOD on the Decline? Although Numbers May be Down, the Threat
is Still Prominent, Some Experts Say (Federal Computer Week, 29 OCT 2010)
(U) A new report says the number of attempted attacks on Defense Department computer networks seems to have decreased compared with the rate of attempts last year. However, the finding will hold only if the trend recorded in the first half of the year continues through the end of the year, and it conflicts with statements of DOD officials who say the number of attacks and probes is on the rise. The US-China Economic and Security Review Commission noted in their 2010 annual report, that “incidents of malicious cyber activity” declined in 2010, the first time that's happened in this millennium, according to Wired’s Danger Room blog. Although last year there were 71,000 incidents, the first half of this year had 30,000, according to the report. “If the rate of malicious activity from the first half of this year continues
through the end of the year,” the draft report said, “2010 could be the first year in a decade in which the quantity of logged events declines.”
(U) The count conflicts with statements made by William Lynn, deputy defense secretary, over the past year and also with testimony from Army LTG. Keith Alexander, the newly installed commander of US Cyber Command. Alexander testified during his Senate confirmation hearing in April that he is “alarmed in the increase, especially this year” of the number of probes into DOD's computer networks. In May, Lynn told reporters at the US Strategic Command Cyber Symposium pointed to a growing and volatile cyber threat. “The Internet doesn’t respect sovereignty,” Lynn said. “The cyber threat doesn’t track well with the history of traditional military power. We can’t predict where the threat will come from.”
(U) Industry is also invoking the gravity of increased cyber attacks. “There is no question we are in the midst of a cyber war,” the vice president of threat research at McAfee, said in April at the RSA Security Conference in San Francisco. It appears the public has bought into the fears. A survey by Narus, Inc., which analyzes cyber intelligence, reported Oct. 6 that 93 percent of the security professionals it queried believe cyber attacks are increasing, and 88 percent think the government is not equipped to protect itself.
(U) Cybersecurity experts caution that the US-China Commission’s report may not accurately reflect the true landscape of DOD cyber threat. “A decline in successful intelligence events does not correlate directly into a decline in the potential for military attacks using cyber techniques,” said the, director and senior fellow of the Technology and Public Policy program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “We could be facing a greater risk of attack by sophisticated opponents even if the number of successful accessions to DOD networks has decreased.” The commission’s report does recognize that the
reduced number of threats could be attributed to an improved DOD cybersecurity stance, acknowledging that the decrease “may or may not represent a decrease in the volume of attempts to penetrate defense and military networks.” According to the McAfee vice president, the report incorrectly correlates malicious cyber activity with risk. “DOD might have cut down on the number of low level exploits, but we could still be seeing as many high level cyber incidents. We can't tell from this,” he said.

Cyber Terrorism and Information Warfare (Terrorism: Documents of International and Local Control, Second Series.Volumes 5-8.)

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Santa Claus as Terrorist

Proving perhaps that there remains nothing on earth that isn't on Google, my search entitled "Santa Claus Terrorist" called up 2,780,000 hits. A few examples:


Time and again, we've seen innocent people or peace groups improperly spied upon and added to terrorist watchlists. Well you won't believe who was placed on a watchlist this time -- Santa Claus! After St. Nick balked at a TSA grope down, authorities took him in for questioning regarding possible terrorist activities.

A folding paper Santa-the-Terrorist toy available here.

A survey here, asking whether people think Santa fits the "terrorist" profile. Here are someof the responses:


Answer i
Yes, nowadays, you should not be fooled of the looks. There are people who are gentle looking but terrorists.

* 8 months ago
* Report Abuse


Answerer 2
I prefer to call him Father Christmas but he does look suspicious when he's climbing down chimneys and wearing that outlandish outfit of his. He could be mistaken for a terrorist I suppose.

* 8 months ago
* Report Abuse


Answerer 3
I've heard some comic or television show do this bit. Stop biting off it.

* 8 months ago
* Report Abuse


Answerer 4
No i don't think he does.
Neither does the Easter Bunny.
Common sense.

* 8 months ago
* Report Abuse


Answerer 5
Only if the gifts he leaves blow up...

Then there is Santa as counter=terrorist, as reported by this site:

Armed Santa Claus takes on terrorist in holiday gun cards


From a release.

Santa Claus points a handgun at a masked terrorist on a Christmas card that John Michael Snyder, public affairs director of the Citizens Committee for the Right to Keep and Bear Arms, sends this year to a number of recipients.

Named Dean of gun lobbyists by The Washington Post and The New York Times, Snyder includes the president and members of Congress as addressees.

And how's this for a stocking stuffer?

And, yes, Virgia, there really is a Santa Claus, Georgia.

If you want to know more about the Santa Claus, Georgia, murders without buying the book, check out this site:

The Santa Claus, Georgia Murders
Jerry Scott Heidler is the subject of the book "Fear Came to Town" by Doug Crandell. It's about this young man who murdered basically the only people who'd ever cared about him, Foster parents Danny & Kim Daniels, along with their 16 year old daughter and 8 year old son. He kidnapped 3 little girls in the family and molested one of them.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Holiday wishes from the Student Veterans Association

During this holiday, families across the world will gather together to celebrate the holiday season. We are also a family who'se members are spread across our great country, and globe.

Extended, our student Veteran family is unique in that, among us, we share a special and common bond. We all understand the inherent sacrifices and hardships which define our individual and shared military service. Moreover, we are blessed to be able to celebrate together the heritage and legacy of hope which our Veteran status represents to our Nation.

Freedom is at the center of this celebration. We have the freedom to choose the manner of our customs, traditions, or types of celebration the holiday season may bring. We are able to do so because our nation's military, whose courage, honor, and sometimes total sacrifice, unwavering and unquestioned, is constantly securing those blessings of freedom and liberty. Our nation is stronger as a result of this duty and honor for country.

Additionally, as men and women a world away stand on the front lines in defense of our nation, take a moment to remember them. They cannot be with their families; however, they are members of ours. As Veterans, once standing where they do now, this holiday season let's remind everyone to honor and hold dear all the freedoms and personal liberties their service affords our nation.

This holiday, on behalf of everyone in the Student Veterans of America Family, I wish to extend to you and yours the most sincere greetings of joy and happiness.

Jeremy Glasstetter National President
Dan Sewell National Vice President
Andrea Werner National Secretary

-- ----
The Academic Achievement of Veteran and Nonveteran Students.

North Korean nuclear test to ring in the New Year?

So says Reuters this morning:

(Reuters) - North Korea could carry out a third nuclear test next year to strengthen the credentials of its young leader-in-waiting, Kim Jong-un, a research report from a South Korean Foreign Ministry institute said on Friday.

The report came a day after Pyongyang vowed a nuclear "sacred war," using its nuclear deterrent, after the South vowed to be "merciless" if attacked again and held a major military drill near the border.

The North, which carried out nuclear tests in 2006 and 2009, has yet to show it has a deliverable weapon as part of its plutonium arms program, but a third test would raise tensions further on the divided peninsula and rattle global markets.

Well, if things get shooting hot on the peninsula, here's hoping the South Koreans can take care of themselves, because I doubt Uncle Sam is an any position to help them out much. Of course, it's always possible that the Chinese will find it in their interest to squash North Korean aggression.

US-China Economic and Security Report...

... Compliments of the FBI's November Threat Assessment:

(U) US-China Economic and Security Review Commission Releases 2010 Annual Report to
Congress (USCC Press Report, 17 NOV 2010)
(U) The US-China Economic and Security Review Commission was created by Congress to report on the
national security implications of the bilateral trade and economic relationship between the United States
and the People’s Republic of China. In November, the US-China Economic and Security Review
Commission released its 2010 Report to Congress. The Commission’s Chairman and Vice Chairman
discussed the Commission’s findings and recommendations.
(U) In his opening statement, Commission Chairman Dan Slane said “The 2010 Annual Report reflects
the Commission’s conclusions that China has failed in some notable areas to fulfill the promises it made
nine years ago when it joined the World Trade Organization. Specifically, China is adopting a highly
discriminatory policy of favoring domestic producers over foreign manufacturers. Under the guise of
fostering “indigenous innovation” in its economy, the government of China appears determined to
exclude foreigners from bidding on government contracts at the central, provincial, and local levels. In
addition, China has proposed that its many state-owned corporations be exempt from WTO rules on
procurement. The Chinese government quite simply intends to wall off a majority of its economy from
international competition.”
(U) In her opening statement, Vice Chairman Carolyn Bartholomew commented on China’s military
modernization, saying “As a result of China’s improved offensive air and missile capabilities, the Chinese
military has strengthened its capacity to threaten US forces and bases in the region. Currently, China’s
conventional missile capabilities alone may be sufficient to temporarily knock out five of the six United
States air bases in East Asia. Saturation missile strikes could destroy US air defenses, runways, parked
aircraft, and fuel and maintenance facilities. Complicating this scenario is the future deployment of
China’s anti-ship ballistic missile, which could hold US aircraft carriers at bay outside their normal
operating range.”
(U) Among the topics in the 316-page report:
(U) Economics and Trade Issues:
(U) National Defense Issues:
• China’s growing air and missile capabilities, and the increasing capacity to strike US bases and
allies in the region.
• China’s improving commercial aviation manufacturing capabilities, and the spillover benefits for
China’s defense aviation industry.
• The increasingly sophisticated nature of malicious computer activity associated with China.
(U) Foreign Affairs Issues:
• China’s increasing political, economic, energy and security interactions with Southeast Asia, and
the implications for US interests in the region.
• Recent developments in the China-Taiwan relationship, and implications for the United States.
(U) Energy and Environmental Issues:
• China’s efforts to promote green energy in order to increase its energy security, prevent
environmental degradation, and develop a globally competitive green energy industry.
• Ohio’s response to China’s promotion of its alternative energy industries.
(U) Censorship Issues:
• How China’s revised state secrets laws may conflict with US disclosure requirements and put US
investments in Chinese firms at risk.
The full report is available at:

Berlin praised by "This Week in Germany"

The city's own tourism office, more tourists flocked in 2010 to Berlin than Rome, although more people on average still visit Paris and London than the German capital.
This tourism influx has of course been good news for Berlin's hotel and hospitality industry, which as a result has been booming lately, even if the city itself was once famously described by its governing mayor, Klaus Wowereit, as "poor, but sexy" (which by the way also just happens to be the name of a fantastic DC-based funk-rock outfit headed by none other than former TWIG editor and Poor But Sexy lead singer David Brown).

Today's Berlin combines the past and present at the crossroads of East and West in dazzling, manifold layers of diverse architecture; international diplomacy; world-class cultural venues; lively contemporary art, film and fashion scenes; vibrant festivals and nightlife; vast public transit networks; and cutting-edge technology.

The upshot: Germany's capital is a very livable and lovable place that attracts movers and shakers from the fields of politics, media and science, as well as young people and artists embracing a liberal lifestyle and a modern zeitgeist.

"Berlin is the place to be ... Berlin is a political decision-making center in Europe, a cosmopolitan cultural center, a magnet for the creative scene and a modern technology location," Wowereit has been quoted as saying.

"We're the city of change. Berlin's program consists of development, progress, change. The city is international, exciting, tolerant, open-minded and always new - you should definitely come to Berlin."

Of course Wowereit would put a positive spin on Berlin, but the city clearly must hold some enduring appeal as it continues to attract ever more tourists, not to mention people from all over the world who have decided to call the German capital home, including artists who flock to the city from New York, London, and other global capitals, drawn like moths to a flame by Berlin's affordable housing and eclectic avant-garde scene.

The city is steeped in layers of history, both painful and glorious, and has undergone multiple transformations over the past century, which is part of its attraction.

Berlin is both Germany's capital city and one of its 16 states. With a population of 3.4 million, it is also Germany's largest city. And it is the center of the wider northeastern Berlin-Brandenburg metropolitan area, comprised of 5 million people from over 190 nations.

First documented in the 13th century, Berlin has served as a German capital since 1701. After World War II, the city was divided: East Berlin became the capital of East Germany, while West Berlin became a western exclave, with the Berlin Wall artificially cutting the city in half from 1961 to 1989. Following German reunification in 1990, the city regained in 1999 its status as a capital of a united Germany hosting more than 145 foreign embassies.

Berlin's largely service sector oriented economy includes creative industries, media corporations, environmental services, and convention venues, as well as logistics, IT, medical, and biotech industries. The city serves as a major transport hub and is a popular tourist destination.

Berlin's cultural program is amazing: The city boasts three opera houses, over 150 theaters and playhouses, over 170 museums and collections and over 200 private galleries. In addition, the capital plays host to numerous top acts, artists and bands - every day nearly 1,500 events are on Berlin's cultural calendar.

Need any more reasons to visit Berlin?

Happy Holidays from!

The next edition of The Week in Germany will appear in January, 2011.

Karen Carstens

Editor, The Week in Germany


I well remember my first visit there, about five years ago: the remnants of the Berlin Wall, Checkpoint Charlie... all that Cold War History ala John LeCarre. Len Deighton and the rest.

Funeral in Berlin 1st Edition

Thursday, December 23, 2010

How far would North Korea go?

This from Reuters today:

(Reuters) - North Korea threatened a nuclear "sacred war" on Thursday and South Korea vowed a "merciless counterattack" if it was attacked again as both sides raised the rhetoric on a day of more military exercises in the South.

South Korea's land and sea exercises prompted North Korea, which has threatened to reduce the South to ashes on many occasions, to denounce its richer neighbor as a warmonger.

On one hand, if North Korea goes nuclear, China and the US are likely allies in crushing the rogue country. On the other, international crises --- up to and including war --- have always served as "solutions" for failed states no longer able to meet their domestic needs. And that sure seems to describe North Korea.

(And here it is, almost Christmas Eva. Ho, Ho, Ho!)

No surprise this pipeline exploded!

From the FBI Infragard daily alert for 12/23:

2. December 21, Fox News Latino – (International) Pipeline blast won’t affect flow of gasoline, diesel, Pemex says. The pipeline explosion December 19 in central Mexico that killed at least 28 people will not affect gasoline and diesel supplies in the country, Pemex said December 21. The national refining system has sufficient crude on hand to continue producing fuel at normal levels, Pemex said. The explosion was likely caused by fuel theft on a 30-inch segment of the Nuevo Teapa-Venta del Carpio pipeline, investigators said. They found about 100 illegal taps on the pipeline involved in the explosion, the Pemex chief said December 20. The theft of fuel from Pemex pipelines, known in Mexico as “milking,” is common, with individuals and organized crime groups involved in the illegal activity.

Netflix users, beware!

This from the FBI's Infragard alert for 12/22:

39. December 21, Help Net Security – (International) Worm blocks access to Facebook. A relatively new worm Symantec named "W32.Yimfoca" presents a never before seen modus operandi. A variant of the worm spreads via Yahoo! Messenger and, once installed, downloads and installs W32.Yimfoca on the target system. Lately, it has been noticed it specifically targets Facebook users by denying them access to their accounts if they do not complete a survey. Every time a user lands on the Facebook homepage, a window offering the surveys pops up. Also, while the victim fills out the survey, a progress bar is shown accompanied by a "threat" - "You have only 3 minutes to fill out the selected survey or you will not have access to your account." Once the user has completed a survey he/she can access his/her account. If the user does not complete the survey within 3 minutes, the worm will not allow him/her to access the account while it is running - and it resets even after a reboot of the infected computer. The worm blocks access to Facebook only if Internet Explorer is being used. Using any other browser fails to trigger the worm and a user can access his/her Facebook account without being sidetracked by pop-ups. Source:

National Council on US-Arab Relations seeks donors

December 2010

Dear National Council Friend and Supporter:

The National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations, established in 1983, is conducting its End of the Year Fundraising Campaign. The goal is to make it possible for the National Council to continue pursuing its educational mission and contributing to the national dialogue on America's relations with the Arab world, and vice versa. I invite you to support the Council's educational programs and activities by making a tax-deductible contribution to this campaign. Your gift will help enable the Council to build as many new bridges, and strengthen as many existing ones, as possible. To this end, it will enhance the Council's ability to expand its signature educational programs and activities - specifically the:
Model Arab League/Arab-U.S. Relations Youth Leadership Development Program for University and High School Students;
Malone Fellowship in Arab and Islamic Studies Program for University Faculty and Armed Services Officers;
Student Arabic Language and Study Abroad Programs;
U.S.-Arab Relations Year-Round and Summer University Student Intern Programs;
Congressional and Public Affairs Briefings; and the
Annual Arab-U.S. Policymakers Conference.
In order for the National Council to continue making a difference in American knowledge and understanding of the Arab world and Arab-U.S. relations, as well as the need to strengthen and expand the innumerable the positive and mutual benefits of both, your support is especially needed at this time. It is needed not least in light of the mounting doubts and uninformed perspectives by growing numbers of Americans whose questioning of the efficacy of these relationships is grounded largely in irrational fear and unwarranted prejudices that are unfair and cannot be allowed to go unchallenged.

In the eyes of America's foremost charity accrediting agencies, the National Council's transparency, management, and overall fiscal responsibility for administering its resources in the most effective manner possible has attracted coveted national attention. Indeed, the continuing efforts of the Council's board, management, and staff to explore ways to become ever more effective and efficient stewards of contributions received from people like you have not been without positive effect. They have made it possible in the past two years for the Council to be awarded a 4 out of 4 star rating by Charity Navigator, America's premier charity evaluator, for the Council's efficient management and growth of its finances.

Please make your tax-deductible contribution online by clicking here or on the black button to the left or below. The link will lead you to the National Council's secure donation Web site. Alternatively, you may mail a contribution to the National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations, 1730 M Street, NW, Suite 503, Washington, DC 20036.

Thank you for your time, generosity, and investment in what the National Council seeks to accomplish.


Dr. John Duke Anthony
President & CEO

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

US and EU launch new website to combat counterfeiting and piracy

From the EU December News Brief:

In connection with this month's Transatlanti! c Council Meeting in Washington, DC, a new joint EU-US website was launched to help businesses across the Atlantic – particularly small and medium-sized enterprises – protect and enforce their intellectual property rights in foreign markets around the world.

"Improved IPR protection and enforcement will result in greater employment prospects and economic growth," said European Commission Vice-President Antonio Tajani, Commissioner for Industry and Entrepreneurship. "Counterfeiting and piracy cause great damage to businesses, not least to small and medium size enterprises. Both the EU and US are committed to helping companies compete fairly on both sides of the Atlantic."

EU launches a new website in fight against human trafficking

From the December EU News Brief:

The European Commission launched a new website dedicated to the fight against trafficking in human beings.

"Trafficking in human beings is an extremely serious crime and a gross violation of human rights, which can be classified as a modern form of slavery," said EU Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmström. "My intention with this website is to raise awarenes! s of the problem and to show what is being done at EU-level and in the Member States to fight this injustice. It is my hope that the website will also help to promote exchange of ideas and cooperation between all organizations and people involved in the fight against trafficking in human beings and the protection of victims."

The European Commission also appointed Ms. Myria Vassiliadou to serve as the first EU Anti-Trafficking Coordinator.

EU Ambassador to US calls for new forms of international cooperation

From the December EU News Brief:

Ambassador João Vale de Almeida, Head of the European Union Delegation to the United States, discussed EU-US relations at the European Institute in Washington, DC. Noting that this is a moment in history when the pace of change is accelerating, he stressed the importance of new forms of international coope! ration and collective governance to deal with the challenges of globalization. "The principle of 'shared problems, shared solutions' has been at the heart of the European project for the last 50 years. In a sense, we have already managed a 'regional globalization', one that could usefully serve as a model for the rest of the world," he said.

He added that "in shaping these new forms of global governance, we, the United States and Europe, need to decide if we want the world to be shaped by our values of freedom, democracy, rule of law and respect for human rights. If that is the case, as I am sure it should be, then we must work together, combine our efforts and maximize our influence. For that to happen, we need to set aside our differences, concentrate on what unites us and move forward with a positive agenda, making full use of the potential of each of our member states as well as the EU as a whole."

Reflecting on the agonies of Afghanistan

I'm spending some time time, during this holiday season, reflecting on the 30 years of misery that have been Afghanistan's current history and present state. I'm revisiting some books I read before and reading/viewing some new stuff.

The communist take-over of the country in the late 1970s, and the diaspora that resulted, are well documented in "The Kite Runner," a powerful book and a not-so-powerful film.

When the communist regime began to falter under assault by Jihadists, the Soviet Union sent in more than 100,000 troops to prop up the swaying regime. This gave the CIA its chance to engineer a Vietnam-style debacle for the Soviet Union. The USSR lost 25,000 dead and many more wounded and sickened soldiers, before finally retreating. The collapse of the "Evil Empire" followed swiftly. This is chronicled in fascinating detail by "Charlie Wilson's War," which was made into a reasonably good film with an outstanding cast.

Here's my review of the film, published on The History Place:
By Jim Castagnera
Special to The History Place

Charles Nesbitt Wilson, aka Good Time Charlie, served the Second Congressional District of Texas from 1973 until 1996. Reputedly a hard-drinking womanizer, Charlie Wilson is remembered in a couple of books, and as of Friday, December 21st, in a new Mike Nichols films mainly for funding covert arms to the Mujahedeen in Afghanistan. In the summer of 1980, while California Governor Ronald Reagan was making his second bid for the White House, Wilson reportedly read an Associated Press story about Afghan refugees fleeing into Pakistan to escape slaughter by the invading Russians. In the film, Wilson visits a refugee camp, where the children-amputees, in particular, move him into action.

That action, as a member of the House of Representatives Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, was to double the CIA's "black ops" funds for the Afghan resistance. If Wilson was the Mujahedeen's Lone Ranger, his Tonto was CIA operative Gust Avrakotos, the son of a Greek-immigrant soda manufacturer from Aliquippa, Pennsylvania. Avrakotos aggressively lobbied Congress for his cause, the defeat of the Russians. His tactic was simple: arm the resistance with Stinger missiles. The math, as Tom Hanks, portraying Wilson, points out to his subcommittee colleagues, is just as simple: a Soviet aircraft costs something in excess of $20 million; a Stinger costs something less than $70 thousand. Go figure.

The Charlie Wilson-Gust Avrakotos partnership stands on its own as the stuff of great buddy/adventure films. What makes the Mike Nichols take on their enterprise highly entertaining is the satirical way in which Director Nichols tells their tale. The film opens with Wilson/Hanks in a Las Vegas hot tub with naked showgirls. Throughout the film Hanks and co-star Phillip Seymour Hoffman (Avrakotos) exchange quips and jibes ala Crosby and Hope in a 'Road' movie. For Dorothy Lamour, substitute Julia Roberts. Roberts portrays Joanne Herring, a born-again rich girl from East Texas, who sleeps with Wilson, raises funds to bring down the Soviet Union, is the Honorary Consul to Pakistan, and refers to the Congressman's all-female staff as "sluts."

The humor in Charlie Wilson's War is welcome in the wake of a long series of grim post-9/11 films I've reviewed which include several about the fateful day itself, as well as Spielberg's gory and morally ambivalent Munich, and such cynical works of film-fiction as Syriana and The Kingdom.

Still, Nichols never lets us stray too far from the realities of war and real politics. Charlie Wilson is not the only one whose eyes fill with tears at the sight of Afghan toddlers lacking limbs, because they picked up devices they thought were toys. One refugee-camp worker tells the Congressman, "The Russians know that it's harder to deal with a wounded child than a dead one." And so, the implication runs, better to scatter small explosives, that sever arms and legs, rather than lethal mines.

Upon the Soviet evacuation of Afghanistan, Avrakotos, ever the realist, savors the ultimate victory at a party thrown by Wilson only briefly, before cautioning the Congressman that a Soviet-free Afghanistan must be rebuilt. Gust tells his sidekick in a balcony scene, the party in full flare behind them, that the radical fundamentalists are moving into the political vacuum left by the Russian retreat.

In the end, Wilson is depicted struggling ineffectively to pry a million or two from his subcommittee to rebuild Afghan schools. "We always leave," he complains to his colleagues' deaf ears. Did Wilson really say that? Did he really see what was in store for a liberated Afghanistan? Or are Nichols and Aaron (The West Wing) Sorkin, who scripted the film, exercising poetic license with 20/20 hindsight?

No matter, Charlie Wilson's War, ends the laughter and elation of victory with the ominous foreshadowing of the Taliban terror in the offing. The look on Charlie Wilson's face, as his Congressional colleagues decline to invest so much as a measly million in the Afghan infrastructure, is reminiscent of the look on Dustin Hoffman's face at the end of the Nichols classic, The Graduate. Hoffman, having just run off with the love of his life, sits with her at the back of a bus, her groom and half her wedding party panting along behind them. Both Hanks and Hoffman tell filmgoers, "There's worse to come."

I can recall reading back in 1969 a magazine article speculating about what that look might have meant for Hoffman's graduate: the military draft, criminal charges of one sort or another brought by his girlfriend's fiancée and their families, financial destitution. With regard to Afghanistan no such speculation is necessary. Uncle Sam is there today and is likely to remain there for the foreseeable future, finishing the job only half accomplished by the vanquishing of the Soviet army.

A final note: Almost as intriguing as the film itself are the video clips included on the movie's official Website. These include snippets from a 1988 60 Minutes profile of the real Good Time Charlie, firing a machine gin and riding horseback in native costume on the Pakistan-Afghan border, as well as bits from Courage Is Our Weapon, the propaganda film produced by Joanne Herring in 1981.

Charlie Wilson's War may rekindle the controversy about how big a role he, and for that matter Ronald Reagan and the "Reagan Doctrine" of opposing the Soviets everywhere, played in the crumbling of the Evil Empire. But the 60 Minutes and Courage clips attest to the fact that Wilson, Herring, and Avrakotos were real-life Cold Warriors extraordinaire.

Rated R for strong language, nudity/sexual content and some drug use.

Jim Castagnera is the Associate Provost/Associate Counsel at Rider University. His novel about 19th and 21st century terrorists is available at

Then, of course, the Jihadists dislodged the Commies and the Taliban took over. Afghanistan became "terrorism central" with the climax coming on 9/11. Next came the US invasion. This war has been going on for some 9 years now. In 2009 it was thoroughly documented by two terrific writers.

Here is my review of "Restrepo":

By Jim Castagnera
Special to The History Place

Sebastian Junger hit the big time 13 years ago with The Perfect Storm, a non-fiction best-seller that morphed into a major motion picture starring no less a celestial light than George Clooney. Some reviewers dubbed Junger the new Hemingway. But since then, his output – at least on the bookshelves – has been modest. Fire was a collection of magazine articles, notably including a few on America's Afghan War. A Death in Belmont came next. A combination childhood memoir and murder mystery, the book recounts the Junger family's proximity to the Boston Strangler killings and speculates on whether Albert DeSalvo was 'who done it.'

With Restrepo and a new book entitled War, Junger raises his Afghan reporting for Vanity Fair from journalism to art. Reviewing War for The Washington Post back in May, Philip Caputo, whose 1977 A Rumor of War captured the grunt’s reality in Vietnam, wrote: “He thus becomes a kind of 21st-century battle singer, narrating the deeds and misdeeds of his heroes while explaining what makes them do what they do. These reflections, drawing on his wide-ranging research into military history, biology and psychology as well as on his personal experiences, overreach once or twice. Otherwise, it's the best writing I've seen on the subject since J. Glenn Gray's 1959 classic, 'The Warriors: Reflections on Men in Battle.' "

Caputo might also have mentioned War Historian John Keegan’s 1976 The Face of Battle, another Yeoman’s effort at putting our imaginations alongside the boots on the ground. But what now distinguishes Junger from all of these predecessors is Restrepo. Virtually a companion piece to War, the film was reportedly self-financed by Junger, until National Geographic stepped up to the plate late in the game. Tim Hetherington, Junger’s photographer on the Vanity Fair pieces, shares credit as co-director. The title derives from the outpost in the viciously contested Korengal Valley, where the two journalists/filmmakers were embedded. The base was named after a combat medic, Pfc. Juan Restrepo, who had been killed in action. As Junger told news media enroute to winning an award at the Sundance Film Festival, "It's a completely apolitical film. We wanted to give viewers the experience of being in combat with soldiers, and so our cameras never leave their side. There are no interviews with generals; there is no moral or political analysis. It is a purely experiential film."

This, in my view, is both the strength and the weakness of the 93-minute film. On one hand, you are indeed there. Restrepo includes some great battle footage. Its directors obviously took some serious chances to take us into the fray. The downtime scenes also are instructive. One gets the sense that these soldiers – who, after all, did volunteer for this experience – sometimes missed the action, when the boredom of garrison life took hold.

But, at the same time, these men cannot escape the horrors of war. The interviews with individual soldiers, that intersperse the film, are very revealing. For instance, one enlisted man confides that he's tried four or five different sleeping pills and he still can't sleep. He adds that, actually, he no longer wants to sleep, because he relives the bad parts in his dreams.

We also see scenes in which the CO meets with village elders, assuring them that, if the Taliban are subdued, a road will be built. With it will come newfound prosperity. When the elders ask, what about the civilian dead we've endured, the CO says that happened on his predecessor's watch and they need to get past it.

No narration accompanies these powerful words and images. No experts – no talking heads – help us make sense of what we are seeing and hearing. This to some degree is also the film's greatest weakness. Junger, in an interview, indicated that the soldiers seldom discussed policy. Granting that in a Republic such as ours, this role falls to our elected civilian leaders, still some reflection on the meaning of it all would seem to be healthy.

Of course, this soldierly contemplation can't be done out loud, risk-free, in a public forum – as General Stanley McChrystal learned the hard way following his disastrous interview with Rolling Stone. All the same, McChrystal’s self-destruction may not have been a useless gesture. His doubts about the war's prospects are informative, and therefore valuable. Restrepo gives us a look at the adrenalin rush of combat, the occasional flashes of bloodlust that presumably accompany any military campaign, and the intense bonding and camaraderie of camp life.

But do the soldiers care – should they care – about the apparent futility of the 50 lives lost in taking and holding Restrepo? The outpost has since been abandoned. The promised road has never been built. The parallels to Caputo’s Vietnam, as he noted in his review of War, seem more and more compelling. Was Restrepo the Outpost another Hamburger Hill? If so, shouldn't Restrepo the Film explore that overarching issue, even if, as in McChrystal’s interview, the line between military and civilian roles is crossed?

The Hurt Locker, 2009’s Best Picture, which I also reviewed for The History Place, presents its director's point of view. When the protagonist finds it impossible to reintegrate into his former home life and returns instead to the war in Iraq, we get the message. Junger and Hetherington deliberately try to avoid interjecting a point of view. I wonder if they have been a bit too hands-off here, given that their film stands almost alone as a cinematic voice in the crucial national debate about the future of America's Afghan incursion.

Bottom line, I’d like to make three points.

One: For a taste of what the war in Afghanistan is like for the American combat troops, who experience it every day of their tours, this film can’t be beaten. We owe the filmmakers a debt of gratitude for risking their necks to take us there.

Two: If you want some help in making sense of what you will see on the screen, you should read War, either before or after you see the film. The book makes up for the deficiencies of the film that I have suggested in this review.

Three: If you want to see Restrepo on a big screen, you had better act quickly. In the whole of my hometown of Philadelphia, I was able to find it playing in only one downtown art house. I doubt it will be around for long. (However Netflix promises that it will be available soon, in case you can't find it in a theater near you.)
Rated R for language throughout including some descriptions of violence.

Jim Castagnera is the author of "Al Qaeda Goes to College: Impact of the War on Terror on American Higher Education" (Praeger 2009) and Handbook for Student Law (Peter Lang 2010). He is a Philadelphia lawyer and journalist. Visit his Webpage.

Jon Krakauer's book about Pat Tillman is my most recent armchair foray into Afghanistan and is also the best so far.