TBR News January 14, 2012

Jan 14 2012

The Voice of the White House


The editor is on a short fishing trip to a local aquarium and will return for the next issue. He used to telephone for fish in carp ponds but now uses a taser instead.

The Case of the Iranian Missiles

January 14, 2012

by Craig Gottlieb

            Over the past few years, the American media has been breathlessly informing the public about “probable attacks” on Iran because, it is stated, that country is developing atomic weapons to use on Israel. Of course whatever happens to Israel is of vital importance to the United States and is mostly non-Israeli citizens.

            The U.S. has been placing economic sanctions on Iran and this is damaging their economy. Their response? They have threatened to close the international waterway, the Straits of Hormuz! Since almost all Iranian oil, on which they depend for a significant part of their national income, comes from selling, and shipping, oil, this is mere sound and fury, signifying nothing. This false bravado is also designed to build public morale in Iran with national elections looming.

            This threat, and the subsequent threat to attack an American Navy aircraft carrier carry with them the danger that a rigged Gulf of Tonkin incident can be arraigned to supply a legitimate motive for the U.S. Navy to take “retaliatory measures” against Iran. In the mountains on Iran’s western border on the Gulf are numerous missile bases, constructed with aid of the Russians. Recently, Russia made a deal with the United States, In return for allowing Russian naval units to berth in and protect Syrian gulf ports, they gave the Americans all the coordinates of their missile sites! In the event of a “hostile act” on the part of Iran (Perhaps a small military type MTB wearing an Iranian flag, would lunch relatively small surface-to-surface at some large American ship. There would be explosions and, out of necessity, American deaths. Shocked headlines in the CIA-controlled New York Times and Washington Post and a stunned Congress would demand revenge.  Then our Naval units would attack the missile bases and turn them into large, rubble-filled holes and our next target would be far to the north in Tehran. Our military is stretched too thin to become involved in yet another political war but the Navy and Air Force have been unscathed and would do the attacking. Naturally, the Israeli units would be unable to assist this effort to save them from possible attack because they were too busy protecting the Sacred Motherland to get killed elsewhere and, even worse, to lose expensive aircraft to air defense missiles.

            What is causing a deliberate escalation of this project is multifaceted in nature. China does a good deal of oil business with Iran. China has reached a trade volume of 53 billion dollars with Iran and also has a treaty to manage an aslect of the South Pars oil fields. China has been threatening our allies lately, hacking into sensitive governmental computers sites and threatening us with dire fiscal problems because they own so much of our Treasury notes and intercepted messaging indicates China is trying to forge more important ties with Tehran, just short of an open military or other alliance that would upset the balance of power. Tehran and North Korea have also had other missile-oriented dealings such as, 4000 km ranged Musudan missiles which are similar to Taepodong – 1 and Taepodong – 2 missiles. Iran now has the ability to mass produce aversive balllistic missile systems with the technical aid of both North Korea, China and Russia. The North Koreans, and their Pakistani friends, are now lower down the list of supporters but China is coming to the fore   Using technical assistance as noted at this time Iran has build and can build intercontinental ballistic missiles that now have a range of more than 5500 km.            IRSL-X-2 and Shahab-6. missiles have the capacity to strike into the eastern end of the Mediterranean and shorter range missiles have been developed to attack American naval units in the Gulf area. Threat and counterthreats have driven the Iranian programs deep underground where American missile or bunker-buster bombing attacks could not destroy them and there are a number of hidden underground missile sites which have been carefully concealed from American aerial surveillance efforts and Israeli as well.  The Chinese, in furtherance of both financial gain and merely fishing in troubled waters, have supplied the Iranians with surveillance paths and times of both American and Israeli drones which they obtained by gaining clandestine admittance to secret American and Israeli military defense computer sites.

            Much more serious, from Israeli’s point of view is that the Chinese have given a GPS missile control system to the Iraninans which will permit them pinpoint accuracy in directing their present long range missiles to exact targets, be they important Israeli sites like Dimona or U.S. Naval facilities in Muscat or elsewhere.

             Tensions build on a daily basis but sometimes the gamblers do not realize the chances they might be taking with something erratic and uinplanned for happening and then the whole Middle East would erupt in bloody warfare. The thesis of the “Arab Spring” is sreading outside its intended and the Iranians are aware that both the American CIA and its Israeli counterpart, the Mossad, have penetrated into Iran and are not only spying but engaging in acts of murder and potential sabotage. In a society as paranoid as Iran’s it might take very little for someone to push a button and once lanuched, a missile, or flight of missiles, cannot be called. We all know how wars start but none of know how they will end!


U.S. acts quickly to tamp down Afghan video scandal


January 12, 2012

by Craig Whitlock and Greg Jaffe,

Washington Post


The Obama administration on Thursday strongly condemned a viral video that apparently depicts Marines desecrating corpses as U.S. officials tried to prevent a popular backlash in Afghanistan and forestall damage to nascent peace talks with the Taliban.

As the images of Marines urinating on three bloodied bodies circulated around the globe, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta denounced the video as “utterly deplorable” and called Afghan President Hamid Karzai to assure him that the incident would be thoroughly investigated.

“I wanted him to know how grieved we were at what happened here,” Panetta said in an interview while traveling to Fort Bliss, Tex. “What I want is an investigation into what happened here, what laws were violated by what took place, who these individuals were.”

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton expressed “total dismay” at the apparent behavior by Marines. Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that he was “deeply disturbed” and that the actions “erode the reputation of our joint force.”

The swift U.S. response was intended to stave off the kind of international outrage that followed the 2004 release of pictures depicting the humiliating treatment of Iraqi prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison. Military officials said they feared the photographic evidence of apparent Marine misconduct could produce a severe setback at a critical time in Afghanistan.

U.S. officials have stepped up their long-shot efforts to negotiate a political settlement with the Taliban while struggling to maintain support from Karzai. The United States is also confronting an increasingly war-weary population in Afghanistan, where people often lend a sympathetic ear to Taliban propaganda about the presence and motives of foreign troops.

Before receiving Panetta’s call Thursday, Karzai reacted sharply to news of the video, describing it as “completely inhumane and condemnable in the strongest possible terms.” His administration called on the U.S. military to “apply the most severe punishment to anyone found guilty in this crime.”

Panetta said the phone call seemed to mollify the Afghan leader. “He appreciated what I was saying and appreciated the fact we understand how damaging this could be and that we are taking that kind of action.”

Video implicates Marines

The video, which runs for less than a minute, appears to show four Marines in combat gear laughing and joking as they urinate on three male bodies lined up on the ground next to a toppled wheelbarrow. The caption refers to the corpses as “dead Talibans,” but it was unclear whether they were civilians or fighters killed after a battle.

A caption that accompanies the video asserts that the Marines are part of a scout sniper team with the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines, an infantry unit from Camp Lejeune, N.C. Marines from the unit were deployed to Afghanistan last year but returned to the United States in September.

The NATO-led security force in Kabul said in a statement that the acts of desecration “appear to have been conducted by a small group of U.S. individuals, who apparently are no longer serving in Afghanistan.” The statement did not elaborate.

A Marine official said investigators were questioning two individuals whom they had preliminarily identified as being in the video. The Marine Corps is “fairly confident” that all four were members of the 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines, the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is underway.

It was unclear where or when the video was made. It was posted on the Internet on Wednesday and began to circulate quickly as news sites reported on its existence.

Pentagon officials said that they were still trying to confirm the video’s authenticity but that they had no reason to believe it was a fake. “It certainly appears to us to be what it appears to be to you guys,” Capt. John Kirby, a Defense Department spokesman, told reporters.

Gen. James F. Amos, the commandant of the Marine Corps, said he asked the Naval Criminal Investigative Service to “pull together a team of their very best agents and immediately assign them responsibility to thoroughly investigate every aspect of the filmed event.”

He also said he would assign a Marine general and a senior lawyer to conduct a parallel inquiry. Marine officials said that probe would be led by Lt. Gen. Thomas D. Waldhauser, head of the Marine Corps Forces Central Command.

“Rest assured that the institution of the Marine Corps will not rest until the allegations and the events surrounding them have been resolved,” Amos said.

U.S. military law and the Geneva Conventions prohibit the desecration, mishandling or exploitation of bodies of people killed in war.

Digital dilemma of war

Battlefield videos and photography have become a common hobby among deployed troops. Many amateur productions wind up on the Internet. On occasion, the trend has caused severe embarrassment for the U.S. military, or, in rare cases, such as the Abu Ghraib scandal in Iraq, triggered international controversy and legal action.

Some military analysts praised the Pentagon for its prompt condemnation of the Marines’ apparent behavior but said that such incidents are hardly new in the history of warfare.

“We shouldn’t be shocked that this kind of thing happens in a war,” said Andrew M. Exum, a retired Army captain who served in Afghanistan and is a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security in Washington. “The difference today is now we have smartphones.”

The Taliban, which has a long-standing reputation for brutality and beheadings, sought to exploit­­ the Marines’ actions. “It was inhuman and despicable, an unforgivable act,” said Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi.

At the same time, the Taliban did not indicate that it would use the video as an immediate excuse to walk away from the negotiating table. In a statement Thursday, the group said it would continue to pursue a political solution to the decade-long conflict in Afghanistan.

Jaffe reported from Fort Bliss. Correspondent Kevin Sieff in Kabul contributed to this report.



US marines identified in urination video likely to face court martial

Four men shown urinating on the bodies of dead Afghans constituted ‘grave breach’ of military law, top commander says

January 13, 2012

by Chris McGreal in Washington


Four US marines identified by the military as the soldiers filmed urinating on corpses in Afghanistan are likely to face a court martial after an American military commander said such actions are a “grave breach” of the laws of war.

The Naval Criminal Investigation Service (NCIS) has interviewed two of the soldiers featured in the video laughing and making snide remarks as they urinated on the bloodied bodies of three Afghan men, who have not been identified. It is not clear if the men were members of the Taliban.

In attempt to dampen the growing diplomatic storm around the abuse, the commanders of US forces in Afghanistan on Friday ordered American troops to treat the bodies of killed enemies and civilians with “appropriate dignity and respect”.

The soldiers were members of a sniper unit that completed a six-month tour of duty in Afghanistan’s Helmund province in September and returned to Camp LeJuene in North Carolina where the video was passed around. The two others are believed to have left the military.

The nature of the charges are unclear although desecrating bodies is a crime under US military law and the Geneva conventions.

The deputy commander of US forces in Afghanistan, lieutenant general Curtis Scaparrotti, said in a message to troops on Friday that “defiling, desecrating, mocking, photographing or filming for personal use insurgent dead constitutes a grave breach” of laws governing armed conflict. He said it also violates “basic standards of human decency, and can cause serious damage to relations with the Afghan government”.

The US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, said she believed the men may be guilty of a war crime.

“Anyone, anyone found to have participated or know about it, having engaged in such conduct, must be held fully accountable,” she said.

In the 39-second video, the four soldiers in combat gear and carrying weapons are seen acting in unison as they stand over the corpses and urinate. They sigh and laugh. One of the marines says “Have a great day, buddy” while another comments “Golden, like a shower”.

They are clearly not concerned at being caught. One of them asks a fifth soldier who is filming the incident: “You got it on the video?”

It is not publicly known who posted the footage of the incident on the web, which prompted a wave of denunciations.

The Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, called the soldiers’ actions “inhumane” and the US defence secretary, Leon Panetta, said that after watching the video he found it “utterly deplorable“.

But the actions of the soldiers were not met with universal disapproval. A prominent anti-Muslim activist in New York, Pamela Geller, who was at the forefront of the campaign against an Islamic centre near ground zero and has been embraced by some mainstream Republicans including Newt Gingrich, praised the soldiers for desecrating the Afghan corpses who she called “murderous savages”.

“I love these marines. Perhaps this is the infidel interpretation of the Islamic ritual of washing and preparing the body for burial,” she wrote on her blog, Atlas Shrugs.

Geller leads two groups, the Freedom Defence Initiative (FDI) and Stop Islamisation of America (SIOA) that have become increasingly influential as conservative politicians seek to exploit anti-Muslim sentiment in the US.

The marine corps has launched its own inquiry led by a general and a senior lawyer.

“Rest assured that the institution of the marine corps will not rest until the allegations and the events surrounding them have been resolved,” said the corps’ commander, general James Amos.


Obama drags Middle East baggage to Asia
by Peter Lee

Asia Times

            The signature event in United States-Chinese relations last week was not the anti-climactic release of the US Defense Strategic Review, which re-emphasized the Barack Obama administration’s widely touted ambitions to perform a strategic pirouette from the Middle East to East Asia. It was the murder of another Iranian nuclear scientist in Tehran.
            The assassination of Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan by forces unknown serves as a message that the Obama administration will find it difficult to reinvent itself as the savior of Asian peace and prosperity; instead, the United States will find itself reprising its dreary and detested role in the Middle East soap opera as defender of the pro-Israel/anti-Iranian status quo.
            In some respects, the 2012 campaign against Iran is a rerun ofthe drama of 2010 (which itself was a re-run of the George W Bush sanctions push of 2008, which in turn was a reprise of the sanctions push begun in 2006), with the US badgering China to jump on the anti-Iran bandwagon, and Washington brandishing the stick of sanctions against the Chinese banking system while simultaneously dangling the carrot of sweet, sweet Saudi crude before Beijing.
            But there’s a big difference as well.
            In 2010, Nobel Peace Prize winner Barack Obama could hold out the hope that hope that coercing Iran on its alleged nuclear ambitions would be balanced by an integration of Israel into the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) regime and a nice, geo-friendly win-win outcome for the Middle East (including Iran) and the world.
            In 2012, pressure by the Israeli government and its US allies, enablers, and opportunistic supporters; Saudi Arabia’s post-Arab Spring anxiety and aggressiveness; and the demands of the upcoming presidential campaign have combined to compel Obama to abandon his dreams of Middle East denuclearization, peace, and rapprochement with Iran.
            Instead, Obama joins the dismal, unbroken series of recent US presidents whose only option is to demand Iran’s head on a plate as part of a zero-sum win for Israel’s Likud and the House of Saud … and unambiguous loss for the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Certainly, Obama has done his best to escape his Middle East conundrum, if not solve it.
            Recent statements of the White House, State Department, and, with the announcement of the Defense Strategic Review, the Pentagon have been filled with the Obama administration’s palpable yearning to refocus the United States as the indispensable counterweight to rising China, the welcomed champion of militarily weak East Asian free market democracies (plus handy ally communist Vietnam, of course), and deserving piggy at the trough of runaway Asian economic growth.
            Indeed, there is a decent fit between the Asian ambitions of the United States and the needs of China’s smaller and put-upon interlocutors in Asia.
            The idea of a nuanced dance between the American eagle and Chinese dragon, not driven by ideology or security anxieties, but a realist tango of interest orchestrated by the intellectual brilliance of Beltway international relations wonks has understandably engaged the fancy … of Beltway international relations wonks.
            United States foreign policy insider Steve Clemons reported the official line at his blog The Washington Note, together with the welcome news that Vice President Joe Biden, an affable and indefatigable schmoozer, will serve as the human face of America in dealing with the Chinese leadership – a role I suspect that the cool, tense, and intensely cerebral Obama has little inclination or ability to fill, especially since his mission in Asia is now to administer self-righteous public scoldings to China for its perceived transgressions:

China Vice President Xi Jingping, widely estimated to be the successor later this year to Hu Jintao as China’s next generation President, will visit Washington, DC in February – and the message, communicated by new China handler-in-chief Joe Biden, will be constructive but hard-headed, interest-driven mutual US-China engagement in which the US will communicate that it’s legs in the region aren’t weakening with China’s rise – but rather getting stronger and providing an ongoing platform for the peace and stability that have benefited much of the region including, as one senior White House national security official told me, CHINA. [1]

Since CHINA has been upgraded to all-caps status, we can assume that the US is very serious about the policy. Will harsh reality support this carefully thought-out plan?
            In support of the effort, in January Obama paid a visit to the Pentagon to roll out the Defense Strategic Guidance intended to put the military aspects of the vaunted “strategic pivot” to Asia in place…and sound a combined warning klaxon/dinner bell to American defense contractors.
            The Washington Post made the inadvertently unnerving point that Obama’s election year strategy was to give the uniformed services what they wanted, so that partisan-minded Republican critics would be confronted by a solid phalanx of top brass:

By enlisting the military’s help in defining its strategic priorities, Obama has sought to ensure that he has the military’s support when his defense budget goes before congress, including the committees led by some of his toughest Republican critics. Military leaders, in turn, now have reason to believe that Obama will not agree to more cuts. [2]

As to what the military and the civilian leadership want, well, it’s China. Quoting from the report:

US economic and security interests are inextricably linked to developments in the arc extending from the Western Pacific and East Asia into the Indian Ocean region and South Asia, creating a mix of evolving challenges and opportunities. Accordingly, while the US military will continue to contribute to security globally, we will of necessity rebalance toward the Asia-Pacific region. [italics in original] [3]

However, the document also states that the United States military, reflecting the Obama administration’s infatuation with the 21st century War Lite model of regional proxies supported by US airpower and low-cost drones, will be a leaner machine, capable of fighting one and a half full-dress wars, instead of the traditional two-fer.

Even when US forces are committed to a large-scale operation in one region, they will be capable of denying the objectives of – or imposing unacceptable costs on – an opportunistic aggressor in a second region.[italics in original]

Analysts are welcome to draw the inference that Asia-Pacific is the main theater, and the US military is going to equip itself for an ocean war over there.
            That’s certainly the conclusion that the “Center for a New American Security” (CNAS) – a left-leaning think tank founded by current State Department China honcho Kurt Campbell – drew.    CNAS jumped in to flesh out the US policy with commendable (or suspicious) alacrity, issuing a 115-page report on the Asia-Pacific theater titled “Cooperation From Strength” backed by an interactive website designed to publicize and sell the menace. The recommendation of the report: Anchors Aweigh!

The United States should strengthen its naval presence over the long term by building toward a 346-ship fleet rather than retreating to the 250-ship mark that the United States faces due to budget cuts and the decommissioning of aging warships in the next decade. Diplomatic and economic engagement with China and others will work better when backed by a credible military posture.

The conclusion: We come in peace!

The United States will need to get its China policy right. This will require active diplomatic and economic engagement backed by a strong US military and a growing economy. A realistic policy begins by shoring up American power and then actively supports rules-based cooperation; it avoids military conflict but not diplomatic confrontation. [4]

The call for an expanded navy is a canny but perhaps inevitablemove.

            With cutbacks looming for the US defense budget, somebody has to come out a winner or the Pentagon will be united in resistance to the White House. Might as well be the navy this time after the Army/Marine funding feast over the last 10 years. Also, dangling the prospect of a sizable defense build up linked to Asia-Pacific policy builds momentum for the policy itself.
For China, these recent statements of US intent are not surprises.
            The US had already telegraphed the “strategic pivot” in Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s article on “America’s Pacific Century” in Foreign Policy magazine in October, and President Obama’s “walks and quacks like economic and military containment of China” Return to Asia tour after the APEC meeting in November. [5]
            In January, the People’s Republic of China government has been remaining cautiously distant, hoping the US effort will fizzle due to budgetary and geopolitical realities without requiring Beijing to step up and antagonize Washington and its Asian neighbors directly with overt opposition.
            Hannah Beech reported on the mild Chinese response to the announcement of the Defense Strategic Guidance in Time:

When US President Barack Obama announced earlier this month that the US military would be re-orienting itself toward the Asia-Pacific – a move that many perceive as an attempt to counter China’s rising power – China’s state-run news agency, Xinhua, responded quickly. But instead of the usual blustery anti-Americanism, the piece was titled “Constructive US role in Asia-Pacific welcome.” Parts of the story were certainly less sunny than the headline, warning that America’s “possible militarism will cause a lot of ill will and meet with strong opposition in the world’s most dynamic region.” Still, the headline’s positive spin – and the absence of pages more of aggrieved Chinese commentary in the following days – was telling. Here’s more from the Xinhua piece: “The US role, if fulfilled with a positive attitude and free from a Cold War-style zero-sum mentality, will not only be conducive to regional stability and prosperity, but be good for China, which needs a peaceful environment to continue its economic development.” [6]

But every time Obama tries to position the US as the guarantor of peace and prosperity in Asia, something or somebody yanks his chain back to the Middle East, war, and the prospect of global economic ruin.
            The murder of Ahmadi Roshan came on the one-year anniversary of the murder of two other Iranian nuclear scientists by similar methods (motorcyclist + bomb + car). It also came at a time of heightened tensions (anyway, tensions higher than the usual heightened tensions), inviting the inference that somebody, probably somebody in the region, wants to goad the Iranian government into a response that could start the military action ball rolling.
            It is a safe bet that Obama, disengaging from two futile, polarizing, and massively expensive land wars, does not want war with Iran. It is also plausible that Saudi Arabia does not relish the opportunity to prove that it really does have the excess capacity to replace Iranian energy shipments to China, Japan, and South Korea.
            And it is certain that Obama does not want the corpse of Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan to serve as the poster child for US foreign policy, or that he wishes to ingratiate himself to America’s East Asian friends and allies by bearing the gift of $200/barrel oil (while Beijing exploits its relationship with Iran to buy energy at a discount).
            And he certainly doesn’t want Asian importers (or for that matter Swiss bankers offended by the aggressive US push on disclosure) to start thinking about sanctions-busting alternatives to US financial coercion – like a shadow bank network for Iran transactions, as Asia Times Online’s Pepe Escobar has suggested, or the ultimate horror: a drift away from the dollar to some International Monetary Fund special drawing rights, euro, barter, or yuan settlement system that removes the US dollar from the absolute center of the world financial equation. [7]
            But Iran won’t go away: Israel, Saudi Arabia, and their US supporters in both parties won’t let it.
            Because these powerful stakeholders want to make sure that plans to widen the US diplomatic and military footprint in East Asia don’t come at the expense of their perceived existential interests in the Middle East.
            So Obama has to drag his Middle Eastern baggage to Asia and make the case that Asia-Pacific should help America work through its Iran obsession.
            Instead of exporting American solutions to Asia, the US seems to be exporting American problems.
            It does not appear that the Obama administration has figured out how to make lemonade from this sackful of citrus.
            One can imagine that the Obama message to Asia is “Believe the policy, not the politics”, ie, the United States knows where its interests and future lie, and is not going to drive the world off a cliff because election year politics demand appeasement of the anti-Iran cranks.
             However, Asia has zero votes in US politics. On the other hand, the people who are caught up in the rhetoric of war with Iran do have the votes, interest, and money to make their influence felt in US politics.
            And the growth of that influence is undeniable, not only in the Republican Party.
             Within the Democratic Party, the chant that “something must be done about Iran” is a mantra that draws strength from political strategy as well as private conviction of the burgeoning and influential neo-liberal wing that essentially went into hiding after the interventionist debacle of the Iraq War but has now re-emerged.
            Several commentators have also noted the “If you build it they will come” argument ie if one talks enough about war with Iran, the regime is sufficiently demonized and delegitimized, war with Iran looks less like an undesirable option and more like a justified imperative.
            It is also true that Obama has also nibbled cautiously yet happily at the apple of (undeclared, unilateral) warfare in the Libyan conflict; and a crowd-pleasing limited conflict with Iran that manages to discommode China at the same time might be just what the electoral campaign doctor ordered for a frustrated and constrained American chief executive.
            But, as Agence France-Presse reported, “China Says War Over Iran Will Bring Disaster” and quoted a PRC diplomat, Wang Xiaodong, as saying:

Everyone knows that 40 percent of the oil shipped daily to every part of the world goes through the Strait of Hormuz, so once war starts in this region not only will the relevant nations be affected and attacked, it would also … bring disaster to a world economy deep in crisis. [8]

That’s a message that Obama would do well to heed … even if he dislikes the messenger.

1. Obama’s Team Could Learn from Rumsfeld on Defense Department Shifts, The Washington Note, Jan 9, 2012.
2. In creating new defense strategy, Obama attempts to outflank Congress, Washington Post, Jan 8, 2012.
3. Substituting USGlobal Leadership, US Department of Defense, January 2012.
4. Cooperation from Strength, Center for a New American Security, January, 2012.
5. America: The new sick man of Asia?, Asia Times Online, Nov 19, 2011.
6. The US Military Eyes the Asia-Pacific. China’s Response? So Far, A Shrug, The Global Spin, Jan 9, 2012.
7. The US-Iran economic war, Asia Times Online, Jan 7, 2012.
8. China says war over Iran will bring disaster, Yahoo News, Jan 10, 2012.

Peter Lee writes on East and South Asian affairs and their intersection with US foreign policy.

How Secret U.S. Military Messages were Intercepted by Russian Military Intelligence

            The US military used the SINCGARS (Single Channel Ground And Airborne Radio System) frequency-hopping radios in the field. These radio sets are categorized as Low Probability of Intercept (LPI) Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum (FHSS) transceivers. The FHSS method is not new: it originated from the Second World War and, simply stated, it employs a narrow band carrier, shifting frequency in a pattern known only to the transmitter and the receiver. The frequency can be changed several hundred times per second.

The FHSS military radios are synchronized daily to use the same frequency modulation algorithm. The synchronization process occurs either through a direct physical connection of the radio sets to each other or to a special device known as the programmer. Some radios can also synchronize frequency modulation algorithms via an encrypted transmission of the frequency modulation algorithm in a non-frequency-hopping mode, although this method is generally considered to be less secure.

The military radios in the US armed forces commonly use encryption and the frequency hopping methods provide an additional layer of security during transmission of the encrypted signal. An example of a frequency-hopping field VHF/FM transceiver used by US Special Forces would be the Caracal RPM 4740 manufactured by Thales Communications of France.

The Caracal covers the 30 to 87.975 MHz frequency range. It also has 10 programmable simplex or half-duplex channels out of its repertoire of 2,320. Hopping in narrowband (6.4 MHz) and wideband (30 to 87.975 MHz) orthogonal modes, Caracal contains high-grade internal digital encryption and has an output of 1 W. Insertion of frequency and security codes is accomplished using the MA 4073B programmer or MA 4083B fill gun. A reset switch on each radio is used to erase codes rapidly. The synchronization function is broadcast, requiring about 6 seconds. Other features include receive-only selective calling, frequency barring and `hailing’ by fixed-frequency radios when in the hopping mode.

However, security afforded by frequency-hopping methods is very dependant on the strict adherence to protocols for operating such radios. The US troops and other operators of frequency-hopping radio sets frequently disregard these protocols. An example would be an artillery unit passing digital traffic in the frequency-hopping mode, which would enable an unauthorized listener to determine the frequency-hopping algorithm and eavesdrop on the transmission.

Even when proper protocols for using frequency-hopping radios are being adhered to interception and decryption of these signals is still possible. The frequency-hopping interceptors are special advanced reconnaissance wideband receivers capable of simultaneously tracking a large number of frequency-hopping encrypted transmissions even in high background noise environments.

An example of such a reconnaissance device would be the FH-1 frequency-hopping interceptor manufactured by VIDEOTON-MECHLABOR Manufacturing and Development Ltd of Hungary. The FH-1 frequency-hopping interceptor is a modern reconnaissance system based on parallel signal processing technology.

The equipment has 160 independent receiving channels covering a 4 MHz wide IF band with 25 kHz channel spacing, 60 dB channel selection and 60 dB intermodulation suppression.  The 4 MHz wide IF band is the IF output of a special high-speed front-end receiver which has a 20 to 1,000 MHz frequency range.

The digitized output signals of the channels are multiplexed and fed as 1 Mbits/s data to a fast dedicated signal-processing computer. As the processing time of the 160 channels is 200 µs with the front-end receiver 4 MHz frequency setting time, the processing speed of this interceptor is 4 MHz/200 µs or 20 GHz/s. This high speed makes it possible to process the complete 30 to 80 MHz ground-to-ground VHF band within a 2.5 ms time slot.

The system’s processing algorithm filters out noise spikes and stationary transmissions and in this way hopping transmissions can be classified either in the traditional frequency versus amplitude mode or in a waterfall-like frequency versus time display mode. Optional software modules are available for direction-finding the FH transmission and for controlling a remote follower/jammer.


‘Yoga can damage your body’ article throws exponents off-balance

A $5bn industry is outraged over a New York Times article saying that the keep fit regime is bad for your body

January 14, 2012

by Joanna Walters in New York


One of the most common sights in New York is slim, young professional women scurrying across the city with a rolled-up yoga mat under one arm and a determined look, cramming in a dawn or lunchtime session between power moves in the office. So perhaps it should come as no surprise that an incendiary magazine piece in the New York Times, under the headline, “How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body”, has turned the usually chilled community of yoga-lovers upside down. In the US, and perhaps even in Britain, where an estimated million people practise regularly, yoga may never be the same again.

The offending article, which appeared across several pages of the paper’s prestigious Sunday magazine, was written by senior science writer William Broad. In it, he alleged that students and even “celebrated teachers” were injuring themselves “in droves” by over-ambitious and under-taught yoga moves.

He also quoted at length the views of local yoga veteran Glenn Black, who seriously hurt his back after years of practice. According to Black, “the vast majority of people should give up yoga altogether” because it’s too likely to cause them serious damage.

The result has been acrimony, recrimination and a ferocious backlash from representatives of a $5bn-plus industry in America with an estimated 20 million followers – five times more than 10 years ago. Drivel, sensationalism, disgraceful hype, bizarre and misleading were just some of the criticisms posted online and expressed to the Observer. After more than 700 comments had been posted on the New York Times website, there was no room for more.

The well-known Ashtanga New York group retaliated with an article on its own website entitled “How the New York Times Can Wreck Yoga”.

Meanwhile, the controversy quickly became the talk of the hundreds of studios all over the city and the hundreds of thousands beyond.

“I’m shocked. Yoga transformed my life and I love going to practice – it’s made me healthier and much calmer and my body feels more alive,” said Susan Davies, 28, a software designer, as she walked near Central Park on the way to her twice-weekly class. “I’m more balanced and yet more assertive and efficient at work – my friends who do yoga say the same.”

Paula Tulsi, who runs the Manhattan practice Reflections Yoga, said: “The controversy is massive. People in the circles I run in are going crazy, because lots of people who were going to try yoga – the people you can bring in and heal – are going to be afraid now and think yoga’s bad. That’s so tragic and angering.”

“I thought it was insulting to the yoga community,” said massage therapist Eddie Rodriguez, who runs the Maio Physical Therapy practice in New York. But Rodriguez did point out that many yoga classes are too crowded and most people aren’t aware that many instructors are barely trained – even though they may look the part. “I encourage my clients to try yoga. But get a recommendation by word of mouth, don’t just go to a studio because it’s got a free offer, it’s on the gym schedule or it’s nearby and has classes at convenient times. It’s definitely a case of buyer beware,” he said.

And in New York, at least, tales of yoga disasters are not difficult to find. Arts administrator Elizabeth Bennett, 45, slipped a disc in her neck after being “bullied” into a headstand at a New York yoga studio. “When I hesitated, he called me a wimp. There are too many teachers who push unwitting students too far to serve their own egos,” she said.

Despite having health insurance, she ended up spending about $8,000 of her own money on acupuncture and months of physiotherapy until she was pain-free again. Bennett added that people trust yoga and rely on it as a source of healing, not injury, but are now learning to be a lot more sceptical and discerning in their choice of studio.

Anatomy experts also warn – as did Broad’s article – about the risks of inverted poses, which can strain cervical vertebrae or restrict blood flow into the head, either acutely or progressively.

David Patane sees up to 10 clients a year with a current or past yoga injury at his Physique corrective exercise, movement and lifestyle coaching business in Manhattan. He said the computer age has given so many people slouched postures and expanded waistlines that they are inviting injury if they jump up from their chairs and unthinkingly start twisting themselves, on demand, into poses that hyper-extend the often already weakened neck and lumbar spine.

“A neck pushed forward one inch in front of the plumb line of correct alignment – common with slumped posture – is already putting seven pounds of stress on the cervical spinal column,” he said. When these people flipped into a shoulder stand, or bent their legs back over their heads in “plough pose”, there was a greater risk of injury, he said.

Megan Branch, 22, an executive assistant at a web company, strained her back last year simply by doing the “superman'”, where you lie on your front and raise your legs and arms simultaneously, because she was in a class that was so crowded with up to 70 people that she had to lie at an odd angle so the next student did not have his feet in her face.

“I felt something snap in my back and then I went limp,” she said. She recovered by resting and stretching carefully, but her back now feels less stable.

The $5 community class, like many, simply had a leader to mimic, with no expert correction of students’ postures or warnings about injuries or not pushing one’s limits. In an industry where there is cursory certification and no official licensing, yoga teachers can become “qualified” with a 200-hour online course.

“Many teachers are coming out of training and don’t even know the three different hamstring muscles,” said Emilia Conradson, who branched out from teaching the Forrest school of yoga into her own therapy business Body In Balance in New York, which also treats yoga injuries. “Their understanding of anatomy is laughable, and yet yoga is about the physical as well as the spiritual and needs to be safe.” Other experts blame the “westernisation” of yoga as more of a workout than a holistic practice.

Even Tulsi, while furious at the inflammatory nature of Broad’s attack, does admit that the debate is timely. “It’s not yoga, it’s the bad translation or teaching of yoga that’s the problem,” she said.

After a row that threatened to throw one of America’s favourite middle-class leisure pursuits off balance the lesson for devotees is clear: take care and take your time when choosing your next yoga class.

‘They blamed my bad karma’

Professional photographer Naomi Harris, 38, was delighted with her special offer of an unlimited yoga pass to attend a popular studio near her home in Manhattan in the summer of 2008.

“I decided I was going to get really into it, and for about six months I went four or five times a week and was feeling and looking really good.” But one day, descending the stairs from her fifth storey apartment, her knee buckled. “It was like a little ‘pop’ and didn’t feel good.”

She continued going to yoga for a few days, but the knee got worse until it would collapse without warning. A scan revealed a bad tear in the meniscal cartilage, the knee joint’s shock absorbers, requiring surgery.

“The surgeon asked me what I’d been doing and I said I was really healthy and active, doing yoga up to five times a week and he said, ‘That’s it!’.”

He said he saw lots of yoga injuries and hers probably stemmed from “pigeon pose”, where the knee is folded inwards at an angle under the body. After keyhole surgery, Harris was on crutches and bumped into her favourite yoga instructor and one of the studio administrators.

“The instructor was, like, ‘Oh my God, what happened?’ I told her my surgeon said I was doing too much yoga and she just walked away.”

The administrator then told her the studio owner said if you got injured doing yoga it was because you had “bad karma”.

“I’m anti-yoga now,” she says.



How Yoga Can Wreck Your Body

January 5, 2012
by William J. Broad 
New York Times


On a cold Saturday in early 2009, Glenn Black, a yoga teacher of nearly four decades, whose devoted clientele includes a number of celebrities and prominent gurus, was giving a master class at Sankalpah Yoga in Manhattan. Black is, in many ways, a classic yogi: he studied in Pune, India, at the institute founded by the legendary B. K. S. Iyengar, and spent years in solitude and meditation. He now lives in Rhinebeck, N.Y., and often teaches at the nearby Omega Institute, a New Age emporium spread over nearly 200 acres of woods and gardens. He is known for his rigor and his down-to-earth style. But this was not why I sought him out: Black, I’d been told, was the person to speak with if you wanted to know not about the virtues of yoga but rather about the damage it could do. Many of his regular clients came to him for bodywork or rehabilitation following yoga injuries. This was the situation I found myself in. In my 30s, I had somehow managed to rupture a disk in my lower back and found I could prevent bouts of pain with a selection of yoga postures and abdominal exercises. Then, in 2007, while doing the extended-side-angle pose, a posture hailed as a cure for many diseases, my back gave way. With it went my belief, naïve in retrospect, that yoga was a source only of healing and never harm.

At Sankalpah Yoga, the room was packed; roughly half the students were said to be teachers themselves. Black walked around the room, joking and talking. “Is this yoga?” he asked as we sweated through a pose that seemed to demand superhuman endurance. “It is if you’re paying attention.” His approach was almost free-form: he made us hold poses for a long time but taught no inversions and few classical postures. Throughout the class, he urged us to pay attention to the thresholds of pain. “I make it as hard as possible,” he told the group. “It’s up to you to make it easy on yourself.” He drove his point home with a cautionary tale. In India, he recalled, a yogi came to study at Iyengar’s school and threw himself into a spinal twist. Black said he watched in disbelief as three of the man’s ribs gave way — pop, pop, pop.

After class, I asked Black about his approach to teaching yoga — the emphasis on holding only a few simple poses, the absence of common inversions like headstands and shoulder stands. He gave me the kind of answer you’d expect from any yoga teacher: that awareness is more important than rushing through a series of postures just to say you’d done them. But then he said something more radical. Black has come to believe that “the vast majority of people” should give up yoga altogether. It’s simply too likely to cause harm.

Not just students but celebrated teachers too, Black said, injure themselves in droves because most have underlying physical weaknesses or problems that make serious injury all but inevitable. Instead of doing yoga, “they need to be doing a specific range of motions for articulation, for organ condition,” he said, to strengthen weak parts of the body. “Yoga is for people in good physical condition. Or it can be used therapeutically. It’s controversial to say, but it really shouldn’t be used for a general class.”

Black seemingly reconciles the dangers of yoga with his own teaching of it by working hard at knowing when a student “shouldn’t do something — the shoulder stand, the headstand or putting any weight on the cervical vertebrae.” Though he studied with Shmuel Tatz, a legendary Manhattan-based physical therapist who devised a method of massage and alignment for actors and dancers, he acknowledges that he has no formal training for determining which poses are good for a student and which may be problematic. What he does have, he says, is “a ton of experience.”

“To come to New York and do a class with people who have many problems and say, ‘O.K., we’re going to do this sequence of poses today’ — it just doesn’t work.”

According to Black, a number of factors have converged to heighten the risk of practicing yoga. The biggest is the demographic shift in those who study it. Indian practitioners of yoga typically squatted and sat cross-legged in daily life, and yoga poses, or asanas, were an outgrowth of these postures. Now urbanites who sit in chairs all day walk into a studio a couple of times a week and strain to twist themselves into ever-more-difficult postures despite their lack of flexibility and other physical problems. Many come to yoga as a gentle alternative to vigorous sports or for rehabilitation for injuries. But yoga’s exploding popularity — the number of Americans doing yoga has risen from about 4 million in 2001 to what some estimate to be as many as 20 million in 2011 — means that there is now an abundance of studios where many teachers lack the deeper training necessary to recognize when students are headed toward injury. “Today many schools of yoga are just about pushing people,” Black said. “You can’t believe what’s going on — teachers jumping on people, pushing and pulling and saying, ‘You should be able to do this by now.’ It has to do with their egos.”

When yoga teachers come to him for bodywork after suffering major traumas, Black tells them, “Don’t do yoga.”

“They look at me like I’m crazy,” he goes on to say. “And I know if they continue, they won’t be able to take it.” I asked him about the worst injuries he’d seen. He spoke of well-known yoga teachers doing such basic poses as downward-facing dog, in which the body forms an inverted V, so strenuously that they tore Achilles tendons. “It’s ego,” he said. “The whole point of yoga is to get rid of ego.” He said he had seen some “pretty gruesome hips.” “One of the biggest teachers in America had zero movement in her hip joints,” Black told me. “The sockets had become so degenerated that she had to have hip replacements.” I asked if she still taught. “Oh, yeah,” Black replied. “There are other yoga teachers that have such bad backs they have to lie down to teach. I’d be so embarrassed.”

Among devotees, from gurus to acolytes forever carrying their rolled-up mats, yoga is described as a nearly miraculous agent of renewal and healing. They celebrate its abilities to calm, cure, energize and strengthen. And much of this appears to be true: yoga can lower your blood pressure, make chemicals that act as antidepressants, even improve your sex life. But the yoga community long remained silent about its potential to inflict blinding pain. Jagannath G. Gune, who helped revive yoga for the modern era, made no allusion to injuries in his journal Yoga Mimansa or his 1931 book “Asanas.” Indra Devi avoided the issue in her 1953 best seller “Forever Young, Forever Healthy,” as did B. K. S. Iyengar in his seminal “Light on Yoga,” published in 1965. Reassurances about yoga’s safety also make regular appearances in the how-to books of such yogis as Swami Sivananda, K. Pattabhi Jois and Bikram Choudhury. “Real yoga is as safe as mother’s milk,” declared Swami Gitananda, a guru who made 10 world tours and founded ashrams on several continents.

But a growing body of medical evidence supports Black’s contention that, for many people, a number of commonly taught yoga poses are inherently risky. The first reports of yoga injuries appeared decades ago, published in some of the world’s most respected journals — among them, Neurology, The British Medical Journal and The Journal of the American Medical Association. The problems ranged from relatively mild injuries to permanent disabilities. In one case, a male college student, after more than a year of doing yoga, decided to intensify his practice. He would sit upright on his heels in a kneeling position known as vajrasana for hours a day, chanting for world peace. Soon he was experiencing difficulty walking, running and climbing stairs.

Doctors traced the problem to an unresponsive nerve, a peripheral branch of the sciatic, which runs from the lower spine through the buttocks and down the legs. Sitting in vajrasana deprived the branch that runs below the knee of oxygen, deadening the nerve. Once the student gave up the pose, he improved rapidly. Clinicians recorded a number of similar cases and the condition even got its own name: “yoga foot drop.”

More troubling reports followed. In 1972 a prominent Oxford neurophysiologist, W. Ritchie Russell, published an article in The British Medical Journal arguing that, while rare, some yoga postures threatened to cause strokes even in relatively young, healthy people. Russell found that brain injuries arose not only from direct trauma to the head but also from quick movements or excessive extensions of the neck, such as occur in whiplash — or certain yoga poses. Normally, the neck can stretch backward 75 degrees, forward 40 degrees and sideways 45 degrees, and it can rotate on its axis about 50 degrees. Yoga practitioners typically move the vertebrae much farther. An intermediate student can easily turn his or her neck 90 degrees — nearly twice the normal rotation.

Hyperflexion of the neck was encouraged by experienced practitioners. Iyengar emphasized that in cobra pose, the head should arch “as far back as possible” and insisted that in the shoulder stand, in which the chin is tucked deep in the chest, the trunk and head forming a right angle, “the body should be in one straight line, perpendicular to the floor.” He called the pose, said to stimulate the thyroid, “one of the greatest boons conferred on humanity by our ancient sages.”

Extreme motions of the head and neck, Russell warned, could wound the vertebral arteries, producing clots, swelling and constriction, and eventually wreak havoc in the brain. The basilar artery, which arises from the union of the two vertebral arteries and forms a wide conduit at the base of the brain, was of particular concern. It feeds such structures as the pons (which plays a role in respiration), the cerebellum (which coordinates the muscles), the occipital lobe of the outer brain (which turns eye impulses into images) and the thalamus (which relays sensory messages to the outer brain). Reductions in blood flow to the basilar artery are known to produce a variety of strokes. These rarely affect language and conscious thinking (often said to be located in the frontal cortex) but can severely damage the body’s core machinery and sometimes be fatal. The majority of patients suffering such a stroke do recover most functions. But in some cases headaches, imbalance, dizziness and difficulty in making fine movements persist for years.

Russell also worried that when strokes hit yoga practitioners, doctors might fail to trace their cause. The cerebral damage, he wrote, “may be delayed, perhaps to appear during the night following, and this delay of some hours distracts attention from the earlier precipitating factor.”

In 1973, a year after Russell’s paper was published, Willibald Nagler, a renowned authority on spinal rehabilitation at Cornell University Medical College, published a paper on a strange case. A healthy woman of 28 suffered a stroke while doing a yoga position known as the wheel or upward bow, in which the practitioner lies on her back, then lifts her body into a semicircular arc, balancing on hands and feet. An intermediate stage often involves raising the trunk and resting the crown of the head on the floor. While balanced on her head, her neck bent far backward, the woman “suddenly felt a severe throbbing headache.” She had difficulty getting up, and when helped into a standing position, was unable to walk without assistance. The woman was rushed to the hospital. She had no sensation on the right side of her body; her left arm and leg responded poorly to her commands. Her eyes kept glancing involuntarily to the left. And the left side of her face showed a contracted pupil, a drooping upper eyelid and a rising lower lid — a cluster of symptoms known as Horner’s syndrome. Nagler reported that the woman also had a tendency to fall to the left.

Her doctors found that the woman’s left vertebral artery, which runs between the first two cervical vertebrae, had narrowed considerably and that the arteries feeding her cerebellum had undergone severe displacement. Given the lack of advanced imaging technologies at the time, an exploratory operation was conducted to get a clearer sense of her injuries. The surgeons who opened her skull found that the left hemisphere of her cerebellum suffered a major failure of blood supply that resulted in much dead tissue and that the site was seeped in secondary hemorrhages.

The patient began an intensive program of rehabilitation. Two years later, she was able to walk, Nagler reported, “with [a] broad-based gait.” But her left arm continued to wander and her left eye continued to show Horner’s syndrome. Nagler concluded that such injuries appeared to be rare but served as a warning about the hazards of “forceful hyperextension of the neck.” He urged caution in recommending such postures, particularly to individuals of middle age.

The experience of Nagler’s patient was not an isolated incident. A few years later, a 25-year-old man was rushed to Northwestern Memorial Hospital, in Chicago, complaining of blurred vision, difficulty swallowing and controlling the left side of his body. Steven H. Hanus, a medical student at the time, became interested in the case and worked with the chairman of the neurology department to determine the cause (he later published the results with several colleagues). The patient had been in excellent health, practicing yoga every morning for a year and a half. His routine included spinal twists in which he rotated his head far to the left and far to the right. Then he would do a shoulder stand with his neck “maximally flexed against the bare floor,” just as Iyengar had instructed, remaining in the inversion for about five minutes. A series of bruises ran down the man’s lower neck, which, the team wrote in The Archives of Neurology, “resulted from repeated contact with the hard floor surface on which he did yoga exercises.” These were a sign of neck trauma. Diagnostic tests revealed blockages of the left vertebral artery between the c2 and c3 vertebrae; the blood vessel there had suffered “total or nearly complete occlusion” — in other words, no blood could get through to the brain.

            Two months after his attack, and after much physical therapy, the man was able to walk with a cane. But, the team reported, he “continued to have pronounced difficulty performing fine movements with his left hand.” Hanus and his colleagues concluded that the young man’s condition represented a new kind of danger. Healthy individuals could seriously damage their vertebral arteries, they warned, “by neck movements that exceed physiological tolerance.” Yoga, they stressed, “should be considered as a possible precipitating event.” In its report, the Northwestern team cited not only Nagler’s account of his female patient but also Russell’s early warning. Concern about yoga’s safety began to ripple through the medical establishment.

These cases may seem exceedingly rare, but surveys by the Consumer Product Safety Commission showed that the number of emergency-room admissions related to yoga, after years of slow increases, was rising quickly. They went from 13 in 2000 to 20 in 2001. Then they more than doubled to 46 in 2002. These surveys rely on sampling rather than exhaustive reporting — they reveal trends rather than totals — but the spike was nonetheless statistically significant. Only a fraction of the injured visit hospital emergency rooms. Many of those suffering from less serious yoga injuries go to family doctors, chiropractors and various kinds of therapists.

Around this time, stories of yoga-induced injuries began to appear in the media. The Times reported that health professionals found that the penetrating heat of Bikram yoga, for example, could raise the risk of overstretching, muscle damage and torn cartilage. One specialist noted that ligaments — the tough bands of fiber that connect bones or cartilage at a joint — failed to regain their shape once stretched out, raising the risk of strains, sprains and dislocations.

In 2009, a New York City team based at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons published an ambitious worldwide survey of yoga teachers, therapists and doctors. The answers to the survey’s central question — What were the most serious yoga-related injuries (disabling and/or of long duration) they had seen? — revealed that the largest number of injuries (231) centered on the lower back. The other main sites were, in declining order of prevalence: the shoulder (219), the knee (174) and the neck (110). Then came stroke. The respondents noted four cases in which yoga’s extreme bending and contortions resulted in some degree of brain damage. The numbers weren’t alarming but the acknowledgment of risk — nearly four decades after Russell first issued his warning — pointed to a decided shift in the perception of the dangers yoga posed.

In recent years, reformers in the yoga community have begun to address the issue of yoga-induced damage. In a 2003 article in Yoga Journal, Carol Krucoff — a yoga instructor and therapist who works at the Integrative Medicine center at Duke University in North Carolina — revealed her own struggles. She told of being filmed one day for national television and after being urged to do more, lifting one foot, grabbing her big toe and stretching her leg into the extended-hand-to-big-toe pose. As her leg straightened, she felt a sickening pop in her hamstring. The next day, she could barely walk. Krucoff needed physical therapy and a year of recovery before she could fully extend her leg again. The editor of Yoga Journal, Kaitlin Quistgaard, described reinjuring a torn rotator cuff in a yoga class. “I’ve experienced how yoga can heal,” she wrote. “But I’ve also experienced how yoga can hurt — and I’ve heard the same from plenty of other yogis.”

One of the most vocal reformers is Roger Cole, an Iyengar teacher with degrees in psychology from Stanford and the University of California, San Francisco. Cole has written extensively for Yoga Journal and speaks on yoga safety to the American College of Sports Medicine. In one column, Cole discussed the practice of reducing neck bending in a shoulder stand by lifting the shoulders on a stack of folded blankets and letting the head fall below it. The modification eases the angle between the head and the torso, from 90 degrees to perhaps 110 degrees. Cole ticked off the dangers of doing an unmodified shoulder stand: muscle strains, overstretched ligaments and cervical-disk injuries.


This article is adapted from “The Science of Yoga: The Risks and Rewards,” by William J. Broad, to be published next month by Simon & Schuster. Broad is a senior science writer at The Times.


Conversations with the Crow

            When the CIA discovered that their former Deputy Director of Clandestine Affairs, Robert T. Crowley, had been talking with author Gregory Douglas, they became fearful (because of what Crowley knew) and outraged (because they knew Douglas would publish eventually) and made many efforts to silence Crowley, mostly by having dozens of FBI agents call or visit him at his Washington home and try to convince him to stop talking to Douglas, whom they considered to be an evil, loose cannon.          

Crowley did not listen to them (no one else ever does, either) and Douglas made through shorthand notes of each and every one of their many conversation. TBR News published most of these (some of the really vile ones were left out of the book but will be included on this site as a later addendum ) and the entire collection was later produced as an Ebook.

 Now, we reliably learn, various Washington alphabet agencies are trying to find a way to block the circulation of this highly negative, entertaining and dangerous work, so to show our solidarity with our beloved leaders and protectors, and our sincere appreciation for their corrupt and coercive actions, we are going to reprint the entire work, chapter by chapter. (The complete book can be obtained by going to:


Conversation No. 109

Date: Monday, October 27, 1997

Commenced: 2;:29 PM CST

Concluded: 2:45 PM CST

GD: Good morning, Robert. I have just about finished your manuscript on the Vietnam war and I was wondering about what could be done?
RTC: Well, for one thing, Gregory, it can’t be printed as long as I am alive. I had to sign the obligatory document years ago stating that I would write nothing about my work with the Company unless and until I had them vet it first. No exceptions. Wait until I am dead and gone and then publish. What do you think about it?
GD: Explosive. The poor sheep-like public only know what the press and the paid court historians tell them. The Pearl harbor business is typical. Now all the paid hacks claim that Roosevelt knew nothing at all. Of course he knew. He pushed the Japanese until they attacked us and we broke their diplomatic codes so we knew what was coming. Now, all is denied by the likes of Stephen Ambrose and Bruce Lee and so on. Of course by now, no one cares anymore. I mean other than the Kimmel family. Now, the idiots are just beginning to forget about Kennedy. My God, what a bunch of airheads have been feasting on that one for years. And your people, Mrs, Farrell as I recall, are all pushinig the twits off on blind alleys. And in the end, we both you know your people did it but there is so much garbage afloat on the seas of indifference that it really does not matter. And if the public ever got wind of the butcheries and torture chambers in Vietman, probably they would not be too interested because our media would be telling them about a cat up in a tree somewhere. Charlie Burdick was there and he told me he still had nightmares over the screaming and the smell of burning flesh and that was in the interrogation centers. He said that thousands of perfectly innocent Vietnamese women and children were rounded up and machine gunned. Is that true?
RTC: Yes, it is but the Army did it. We wouldn’t. Nixon told the Army to get rid of the civilian population in certain areas where the Cong was known to be operating and they did it. Calley was the only one who got caught and Nixon in essence pardoned him. Don’t worry about this, Gregory. No one will never find out and if they do, they won’t care.

GD: You don’t murder civilians. They hanged Germans for doing that.

RTC: Ah, but the Germans lost their war, didn’t they?

GD: They did but we established a precedent at Nuremberg, don’t forget and we lost in Vietnam, didn’t we?
RTC: There are various ways of looking at that one. Yes, we lost.

GD: And we lost 60,000 dead and God knows how many wounded and permanently crippled. Oh, and let us not forget the dead Vietnamese. Johnson was such an asshole.

RTC: Nixon was far worse. Nixon was intelligent and knew better and Johnson was a thug with a Southern accent. Nixon got run out of Washington, partly because of things like his orders to kill civilians. Of course, he never put it in writing but he did order it. These things shouldn’t bother you, Gregory

GD: I think that the time is coming when the whole structure your people, and the others, have built up with the media will collapse. If the public realizes how badly they have been tricked over the years, there will be some kind of an explosion. I know the public are stupid but if you poke, prod and lie to stupid people long enough, they have the tendency to get mad and look for farm implements and matches, not to mention rope and ammunition.

RTC: Now, Gregory, too much coffee in the morning.

GD: No, just astonished at all that goes on. So obvious.

RTC: To you, perhaps, but not to others. We like to keep the public happy and quiet. Lost of news stories about your cat up in a tree. What difference does it make in the long run? You eat, sleep, piss regularly, hopefully when awake, and on we go to the end of the road. Why should you care about such things? We’ll both be dead when the deluge comes.

GD: I suppose so, probably you’re right but there are times when any kind of idealism is dangerous.

(Concluded at 2:45 PM CST)

Dramatis personae:


            James Jesus Angleton: Once head of the CIA’s Counterintelligence division, later fired because of his obsessive and illegal behavior, tapping the phones of many important government officials in search of elusive Soviet spies. A good friend of Robert Crowley and a co-conspirator with him in the assassination of President Kennedy

            James P. Atwood: (April 16, 1930-April 20, 1997) A CIA employee, located in Berlin, Atwood had a most interesting career. He worked for any other intelligence agency, domestic or foreign, that would pay him, was involved in selling surplus Russian atomic artillery shells to the Pakistan government and was also most successful in the manufacturing of counterfeit German dress daggers. Too talkative, Atwood eventually had a sudden, and fatal, “seizure” while lunching with CIA associates.

            William Corson: A Marine Corps Colonel and President Carter’s representative to the CIA. A friend of Crowley and Kimmel, Corson was an intelligent man whose main failing was a frantic desire to be seen as an important person. This led to his making fictional or highly exaggerated claims.

            John Costello: A British historian who was popular with revisionist circles. Died of AIDS on a trans-Atlantic flight to the United States.

            James Critchfield: Former U.S. Army Colonel who worked for the CIA and organizaed the Cehlen Org. at Pullach, Germany. This organization was filled to the Plimsoll line with former Gestapo and SD personnel, many of whom were wanted for various purported crimes. He hired Heinrich Müller in 1948 and went on to represent the CIA in the Persian Gulf.

            Robert T. Crowley: Once the deputy director of Clandestine Operations and head of the group that interacted with corporate America. A former West Point football player who was one of the founders of the original CIA. Crowley was involved at a very high level with many of the machinations of the CIA.

            Gregory Douglas: A retired newspaperman, onetime friend of Heinrich Müller and latterly, of Robert Crowley. Inherited stacks of files from the former (along with many interesting works of art acquired during the war and even more papers from Robert Crowley.) Lives comfortably in a nice house overlooking the Mediterranean.

            Reinhard Gehlen: A retired German general who had once been in charge of the intelligence for the German high command on Russian military activities. Fired by Hitler for incompetence, he was therefore naturally hired by first, the U.S. Army and then, as his level of incompetence rose, with the CIA. His Nazi-stuffed organization eventually became the current German Bundes Nachrichten Dienst.

            Thomas K. Kimmel, Jr: A grandson of Admiral Husband Kimmel, Naval commander at Pearl Harbor who was scapegoated after the Japanese attack. Kimmel was a senior FBI official who knew both Gregory Douglas and Robert Crowley and made a number of attempts to discourage Crowley from talking with Douglas. He was singularly unsuccessful. Kimmel subsequently retired, lives in Florida, and works for the CIA as an “advisor.”

            Willi Krichbaum: A Senior Colonel (Oberführer) in the SS, head of the wartime Secret Field Police of the German Army and Heinrich Müller’s standing deputy in the Gestapo. After the war, Krichbaum went to work for the Critchfield organization and was their chief recruiter and hired many of his former SS friends. Krichbaum put Critchfield in touch with Müller in 1948.

            Heinrich Müller: A former military pilot in the Bavarian Army in WWI, Müller  became a political police officer in Munich and was later made the head of the Secret State Police or Gestapo. After the war, Müller escaped to Switzerland where he worked for Swiss intelligence as a specialist on Communist espionage and was hired by James Critchfield, head of the Gehlen Organization, in 1948. Müller subsequently was moved to Washington where he worked for the CIA until he retired.

            Joseph Trento: A writer on intelligence subjects, Trento and his wife “assisted” both Crowley and Corson in writing a book on the Russian KGB. Trento believed that he would inherit all of Crowley’s extensive files but after Crowley’s death, he discovered that the files had been gutted and the most important, and sensitive, ones given to Gregory Douglas. Trento was not happy about this. Neither were his employers.

            Frank Wisner: A Founding Father of the CIA who promised much to the Hungarians and then failed them. First, a raging lunatic who was removed from Langley, screaming, in a strait jacket and later, blowing off the top of his head with a shotgun.           

            Robert Wolfe: A retired librarian from the National Archives who worked closely with the CIA on covering up embarrassing historical material in the files of the Archives. A strong supporter of holocaust writers specializing in creative writing. Although he prefers to be called ‘Dr,’ in reality he has no PhD.

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