catching up with blackwater

This tasteful, quaint red-brick house on a tree-lined street in northwest Washington doesn’t appear to be the headquarters for a private security company that stands to make millions in a war zone. But the online trail for a mysterious firm, partially owned by Blackwater, leads here. And that company not only just won part of security contract with the State Department worth up to $10 billion last week. It’s also the latest in a series of cutouts used by the notorious mercenary firm to hide its work from public scrutiny. The business that’s listed at this house? Blackwater’s 34th front company, if you’re counting.

friday night roundup

Here’s a simple strategy to win in Afghanistan. What could possibly go wrong?


More about Blackwater:

Notice how carefully phrased the denial is:

Mark Corallo, a spokesman for Blackwater, said Thursday that it was never under contract to participate in clandestine raids with the C.I.A. or with Special Operations personnel in Iraq, Afghanistan or anywhere else.

So did they do it without a contract? Or under contract to someone else?


Here’s a new stealth drone operating out of Afghanistan. The Wikipedia article points out the most salient question: what’s it doing there?

The fact that the UAV is deployed to Afghanistan, in spite of the Taliban not possessing radar, has led to speculation that the aircraft is being used to spy on Pakistan or Iran.

And finally tonight, this:

erik prince and the pirate economy

I ripped on Blackwater’s Erik Prince the other day at, but fortunately Jeremy Scahill has a more intelligent analysis at the Nation:

The term of art for what Prince appears to be doing in the VF interview is graymail: a legal tactic that has been used for years by intelligence operatives or assets who are facing prosecution or fear they soon will be. In short, these operatives or assets threaten to reveal details of sensitive or classified operations in order to ward off indictments or criminal charges, based on the belief that the government would not want these details revealed. “The only reason Prince would do this [interview] is that he feels he is in very serious jeopardy of criminal charges,” says Scott Horton, a prominent national security and military law expert. “He absolutely would not do these things otherwise.”

Somalia Pirate Riches

And here’s a story about pirates:

Two years ago, a teen named Adani lived on the streets of Bossaso. Now, at only 19 years old, he is a pirate and owns a big house and large truck. He says he has taken part in two hijackings that earned him $75,000, and plans to take part in one more high-seas heist.

“When you have nothing people despise you and if they see that you have money you will be respected,” said Adani, who gave only one name for fear of reprisals. “This next job will be my last in the piracy trade. I know it’s a big risk but I believe in gambling. If I win, I will get married and give up piracy.”

pirates and space – a quickie

Still no pirates in space yet, sad to say.

And your space roundup today is all hands-on. No pretty pictures from Hubble or exciting new discoveries, just the work of making it all happen. Or not, as the case may be.

And as long as I’m here:

news stories- lots of ufos and lots of awesome

Some late arrivals for X-day? Sorry, guys. The beer is all gone.
Did you spot the mysterious lights over Sheffield?
Tens of People Witnessed UFO in Kaliningrad
Our garden was buzzed by a UFO!

Yesterday I gave you jetpacks. Today it’s flying cars. Is that awesome? (yes/yes)
Transition roadable-plane/flyable-car prototype on show

Yesterday I gave you Sasquatch. Today it’s Yeti. Is Yeti awesome? (yes/yes)
‘Yeti hairs’ examined

Space is awesome too.
Cracks Appear In Ice Under Mars Lander
NASA Craft To View Solar System’s Invisible Frontier

At the edge of our solar system in December 2004, the Voyager 1 spacecraft encountered something never before experienced during its then 26-year cruise through the solar system — an invisible shock formed as the solar wind piles up against the gas in interstellar space. This boundary, called the termination shock, marks the beginning of our solar system’s final frontier, a vast expanse of turbulent gas and twisting magnetic fields.

Are crazy Russians with multi-barrel grenade launchers awesome? Depends which end of the launcher you’re on. This one earns a rare and coveted “mayhem” tag.
How to beat sea piracy: put grenade launchers on boats

OK, so the Arctic is definitely awesome. But militarizing it and digging it up for oil are not. Neither is global warming. Sorry, kids. Not everything can be awesome all the time.
Arctic sheds huge chunks of ice
Announcement: Arctic Oil Won’t Eliminate Our Energy Needs!

A separate USGS study estimates that a billion-barrel Arctic oil field would cost about USD37 per barrel to produce, plus about USD3 per barrel in exploration costs. It costs about USD2 per barrel to pump oil from the ground in Saudi Arabia and USD5 to USD7 per barrel in Venezuela and Azerbaijan.

And here are more well-armed Russians:
Russian warships resume patrols of the Arctic sea

And finally, just to keep it balanced, things that really suck:
Blackwater May Have Fudged Numbers to Get $100M in Contracts
Flint seeks sponsors for police surveillance cameras; some question whether it’s appropriate

the news- lazy saturday morning edition

Military space policy in 2012
LRO (Lunar Reconnaisance Orbiter) Launch Delayed to 2009

Launching in place of the NASA missions on an Atlas V from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., will be a classified DOD spacecraft, sources say. That mission will go in the November time frame originally targeted for LRO/LCROSS.

Pirates seize five Russians

Jeremy Scahill:
Media Goof Again: Blackwater Isn’t Going Anywhere

Brzezinski Warns of Afghanistan Offensive

Kosovo wants talks with Serbia; Belgrade says ‘no’

U.S. wants Georgia, Abkhazia talks without preconditions
Georgia: Conflict mediation faces hurdles
And finally, roadside bombs are a new development in South Ossetia:
Deadly bomb blasts rock S Ossetia

the news – pirates, ufos and stupid crimes

Suspects in Monroe burglary found sleeping on bed of loot

The only man Somali pirates trust
Efforts on for safe release of seamen seized in Somalia
Pirates demand ransom for 20 Filipino seamen

Chopper ‘chase’ joins UFO files
Moon-walker claims alien contact cover-up

Defense Secretary Gates Questions Use of Private Contractors

S.Ossetia Releases Georgian Man

And finally, two updates to stories I’ve covered in the past:
Culberson apologizes for calling NASA waste of funds
Sound waves, goo guns won’t be used on DNC protesters

news headlines – crime stories and outer space

Dangerous criminals are loose upon the land:
Police arrest man accused of taking 42 cents from mall fountain

More updates on this one:
SF mayor gets codes to hijacked city network
Inside the mind – and config – of Terry Childs

Space News:
Joint Manned Spacecraft Unveiled
European Probe Swings Close by Martian Moon
Here’s an older picture of Phobos from Mars Express:

NASA, USDA Sign Space Station Research Agreement
And this one is sort of vague and ambiguous, yet makes me think I should be preparing to smash things up:
Celestial Marketing Set to Take Brands to New Heights: Start-Up Agency Boasts New Space Advertising Model

And the usual other crap:

US diplomat says order must return to ‘lawless’ northern Kosovo

Blackwater’s All-Seeing Airships

This one doesn’t say much that’s new, but it’s interesting to get the Lloyd’s view:
Protecting against the modern-day pirates

As levels of piracy rise, so ship owners can expect insurance premiums to go up, with Ken Alston of risk specialist Marsh saying this was an eventuality to be ‘expected’. He added that the scale of the additional premium being charged at the moment is ‘unlikely to have an impact on the consumer’ but if the number of incidences increases, this may change. In May 2008, the Joint War Committee added the Gulf of Aden, located between Somalia and Yemen, to a list of places at high threat of hull war, strikes, terrorism and related perils. It is now comparable to the likes of Iraq in terms of insurance risk, according to the committee.

news stories – a pirate story every day or your money back!

Separated at birth?

Radovan Karadzic, the butcher of Bosnia, vs. Cesare Bonizzi, the heavy metal monk.

New Project to Develop GPS-Like System for the Moon

He described incidents during past lunar missions when astronauts were traveling to a target site such as a crater, and got within a few yards of it — but couldn’t see the crater because of difficult terrain.

“They were so close, but they had to turn back for safety’s sake,” he said.

Canada’s spreading cannabis crop

Somali pirates seize Japanese ship

US troops train Georgians amid tension
Georgia says S.Ossetia ‘kidnaps’ were arrests by police

Kosovo moves to issue passports

Blackwater Plans Exit From Guard Work
A cynic might wonder if they’ll just shift the security operations to a different subsidiary, or maybe a corporation that’s not legally connected at all, and keep a lower profile. Do you know a cynic like that?

Advertising: A Product’s Place Is on the Set
Read the article, folks. It’s about product placement on the news.

the news- too many videos

Heavy metal monk in second album

Covington Partner Demonstrates Treatment of Detainees

It sounds like the real threat here is that he was trying to open the emergency door. But it’s nakedness that people felt threatened by:
FBI: Pro Soccer Players On Flight Subdue Man Who Took Off Clothes
For what it’s worth, I’m totally naked right now. Someone call the police.

NASA’s Deep Impact Films Earth as an Alien World

This may be more threatening than naked people. It’s an article that covers the candidates’ actual position. Someone call the police.
The Candidates’ Positions on Private Security Contractors

Head of Abkhazia region rejects settlement plan
Georgia, running military exercises, protests Russia’s own wargames

Coalition troops mass at Afghan/Paki border

WFP seeks urgent navy escorts for Somalia food aid

The United Nations said on Friday food shipments to Somalia were grinding to a halt as few vessels were willing to hazard the country’s pirate-infested waters, and it called on governments to provide naval escorts.

It’s hard to imagine that anyone is surprised by this:
Md. Police accused of spying on political activists

Update: San Francisco System Admin Pleads Not Guilty

Culberson weighing legislation for NASA overhaul