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December 27, 2010

Julian Assange's book deal

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange has been forced, forced, forced to sign a $1.3 million book deal to pay his mounting legal bills.

New York publishing house Alfred A. Knopf confirmed Monday that it has signed Assange on to write his autobiography. There are no specifics on when it will be published.

"I don't want to write this book, but I have to," Assange told the Sunday Times in an interview. "I have already spent 200,000 pounds for legal costs and I need to defend myself and to keep WikiLeaks afloat." Assange has been charged with sexually assaulting two women in Sweden.

After being held in a London jail for a week, he was released on house arrest in a British mansion owned by one of his supporters. He has vehemently denied the charges, saying he is being chased for publishing government documents on WikiLeaks.

Interestingly, the Wall Street Journal had a piece recently that said Assange paid himself two-thirds of WikiLeaks budget for his salary or $86,000 in 2010.

I wonder how much he will really reveal in light of the furtive public life he has led so far. Either way, it is an interesting development that a man known for publishing what other people write will now have to final produce his own words.

December 24, 2010

Tracking Santa Claus' movements

Today’s posting is for those who truly believe in the spirit of Christmas. You can track Santa’s movement at this site, provided by NORAD, so you know exactly when he is coming to a chimney near you. For the first time, the site provides 3-D images of Santa, his sleigh and reindeer as they fly around the world. Since Christmas is about to begin in Australia, that is where he is at the time of this posting.

We would like to also use this opportunity to say Merry Christmas everyone, especially those of you serving overseas. We are also thinking about your families who will celebrate the joy of the holidays even as they miss you being home alongside them.  And to those who lost a loved one in Iraq or Afghanistan or find themselves consoling a loved one injured in the wars, you are in our hearts and prayers everyday, but even more so at time of the year. We wish you all a peaceful holiday season. 


December 23, 2010

It was 20 years ago today...

Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all our readers!

Speaking of the New Year - and this is unbelievable to those of us who have been covering foreign policy and national security for awhile - in February it will be 20 years (yes, 20) since U.S.-led forces liberated Kuwait from Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein's forces. For you younger readers, that was the First Gulf War... the one where Pappy decided it wasn't a good idea to go ALL the way to Baghdad.

We hear that the Bush 41 crowd is planning a celebration to mark the event, probably at President George H.W. Bush's presidential library at Texas A&M University. ... With all that's happened since, it seems long ago and far away.


December 20, 2010

Do you want to read about Afghanistan?

One of most interesting stories of the day on Afghanistan was about precisely how little American voters care about the war. A Pew Research Center poll found that only four percent of today’s news coverage is about the war, even as nearly 100,000 U.S. troops are serving in Afghanistan

My fellow war correspondents were shocked that the number was that high, according to this story.

I can’t help but think about another poll finding is related to that number. According to ABC News/Washington Post poll released a few days ago, 60 percent of Americans say that the war in Afghanistan is not worth fighting. I wonder if that number is driving the former one. I hope not. It seems to me that the more people question the merits of the war, the more important it is that citizens read, listen and watch what is happening to determine whether the war truly leads to a more secure United States. I am not objective of course as your reading keeps me employed. But I fear that instead people are too warn out of war to have a national debate about the legitimacy of yet another protracted conflict.

How about you? How much do you want to read about the war in Afghanistan? And why?

December 17, 2010

Social networking spreads globally

Use of social networking technology like Facebook, MySpace and Twitter is expanding across the globe, according to a new poll by the respected Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Project.

Out of 22 countries surveyed, the United States, where social networking largely originated, remains No. 1 (at least we're still No. 1 in something). A full 46 percent of Americans use social networking sites. Shockingly, 18 percent report they do not use the Internet at all.

But social networking is relatively big in other countries as well, including Russia (33 percent), Turkey (26 percent), Mexico (23 percent), and Egypt (18 percent).

Cell phone usage has exploded even more rapidly. Across 16 countries surveyed, the poll says, the median percentage of those who say they own a cell phone has gone from 45 percent in 2002 to 81 percent today.




December 15, 2010

Government watchdog concerned over Obama's nuclear security initiative

A new report by Congress' nonpartisan investigative arm raises significant concerns about President Barrack Obama's initiative to secure the world's vulnerable nuclear materials from theft by terrorists by the end of 2014.

A Government Accountability Office review found that "the interagency strategy for the 4-year global nuclear material security initiative lacks specific details concerning how the initiative will be implemented, including the identity of and details regarding vulnerable foreign nuclear materials sites and facilities to be addressed."

Also unclear is which U.S. agencies and programs are responsible for dealing with specific sites as well as the "potential challenges and strategies for overcoming those obstacles, anticipated deadlines, and cost estimates," said the GAO report released today.

Obama unveiled his initiative with great fanfare at a 47-nation Nuclear Security Summit that he hosted in Washington in April. At the time, however, he conceded that securing the world's vulnerable nuclear materials from theft within four years "is an ambitious goal."

National Security Council officials overseeing the effort told GAO investigators that "they believe developing . . . a single cross-agency plan could take years."

"However, we found that absent such an implementation plan, essential details associated with the four-year initiative remain unclear, including the intiative's overall estimated costs, time frame and scope of work," said a GAO report submitted to Reps. Peter Visclosky, D-Ind, and Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-NJ, the chairman and ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development.


December 03, 2010

The service chiefs on DADT, a brillant summary

Here is the best summary of Friday’s Senate Armed Services Committee hearing with the military service chiefs on Don't Ask, Don't Tell, with apologies to Jackie Mason. This is courtesy of a friend of mine who gave me permission to repost this here.

We want to do it, but not now.

Maybe later. I don’t know.

We’re ready. But not yet.

It’s the right thing to do. But not a good idea. And not now.

We need time. Don’t ask how much. We’re too busy.

Do it when we’re busy. We won’t notice.

But not too busy. We can’t handle it.

We can handle anything. But not now.

Do it in 2012. I don’t know why.

But not in 2011. We’re too busy.

We can do it slow. But not fast. But don’t make us do it slow.

We can do it here. But not there.

We could do it there. But not now. Maybe when we get back. Tuesdays are good.

Don’t put me in a foxhole with a gay guy. Unless I don’t know. Then it’s OK.

If I find out later, even better. Then we’re pals.

Be what you want. But don’t tell me.

Marines can do anything. Except deal with that.

Don’t make me sleep on the ground. I have a bad back. It’ll give me the grippe.

I can do it. But not now. Maybe later. Call me. We’ll talk.


"Nukes & Spooks" is written by McClatchy correspondents Jonathan S. Landay (national security and intelligence), Warren P. Strobel (foreign affairs and the State Department), and Nancy Youssef (Pentagon).

jon, nancy & warren

Landay, Youssef and Strobel.

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