July 29, 2014

Israel plans a longer campaign to find and destroy Gaza tunnel network

Signaling an escalation of Israel's Gaza operation, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Israelis Monday to be ready for a "prolonged" war. After three weeks of bloodshed, both Israel and Hamas are holding out for bigger gains and a cease-fire remains elusive.

US News has an analysis of the rocket situation and the Gaza tunnels.

Theodore Postol, a professor at MIT and an expert on rocket and missile technology as a part of global security, points to the sharp disparity in death tolls on either side of this fight.

“There is no doubt at all that the rockets have caused tremendous amounts of disruption to Israeli society. No doubt at all,” he says. “They rarely do much damage, but they occasionally hit something.”

Tallies of the death count as a result of Hamas’ constant barrage of rockets since 2001 do not exceed 30. Postol attributes the low casualty rate to the millions of dollars Israel has poured into developing an early warning system. Israelis – depending on their location – have between 15 seconds and a minute to get to the omnipresent bomb shelters throughout the country. Rocket attacks in 2012 demonstrated the first publicly announced use of Israel’s new Iron Dome missile shield, though Postol says that likely has little to do with protecting Israelis.

However, Palestinians have become adept at sneaking in and developing rockets. The Qassam class of rockets carry a small warhead weighing 10 to 20 pounds and can be built in a basement employing a fuel made from sugar and potassium nitrate, Postol says. Others, such as the larger Grad class of weapons, are made of components that resemble household and plumbing products, making them more easy to smuggle into the country. Hamas has also recently begun deploying the much more lethal and long-range Fajr-5 rockets, an Iranian-made weapon that is capable to reaching targets as far away as 50 miles. Its 200-pound warhead can inflict widespread damage that far outweighs its smaller and more improvised predecessors.

“Hamas hasn’t killed a smaller number of Israelis than Gazans for lack of trying,” says Schneider, who has previously lived in Israel. “Hamas is firing at school buses, at schools, factories, community centers. They are launching their rockets at literally every community within Israel.”

Israel’s ability to warn its own citizens about an impending attack does not release the culpability of Hamas for trying to kill Israelis, he says.

No nation, anywhere, would accept an unrelenting indiscriminate barrage of rockets,” Schneider adds. “Can you imagine this country, or any other country, accepting nine, or 90, or 900 rockets without responding, and responding in force?”

For years, Hamas has constructed an "underground Gaza," while investing nothing in the welfare of "upper Gaza." The Israeli military has discovered 36 Hamas-dug tunnels, but estimates there are many more.

On the eve of its incursion into the Gaza Strip, Israel agreed to an Egyptian outline for a cease-fire to restore calm. It was only after 13 militants from the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades penetrated Israel in an attempt to launch a terrorist attack in Kerem Shalom that the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) got the green light to begin a ground assault. And it was only then that soldiers discovered there was an underground Gaza just like there was an aboveground Gaza, and that the Hamas movement had invested an enormous amount of resources into constructing that underground Gaza.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was very wary of defining his precise objectives to end Operation Protective Edge. Instead, both he and his government are making do with more general goals, such as “removing the rocket threat” and ''restoring quiet to the citizens of Israel.” It was only following the failed infiltration operation and during the UN-sponsored five-hour humanitarian cease-fire that it became clear how pressing and urgent the tunnel threat really was, and that it could pose an even greater threat to Israel than Hamas’ rockets.

US provided $121 billion in mostly military aid to Israel and $25 billion to train and arm Iraq and over $26 billion to train and arm Afghan forces

Israel is the largest cumulative recipient of U.S. foreign assistance since World War II. To date, the United States has provided Israel $121 billion (current, or non-inflation-adjusted, dollars) in bilateral assistance. Almost all U.S. bilateral aid to Israel is in the form of military assistance, although in the past Israel also received significant economic assistance. Strong congressional support for Israel has resulted in Israel receiving benefits not available to any other countries; for example, Israel can use some U.S. military assistance both for research and development in the United States and for military purchases from Israeli manufacturers. In addition, U.S. assistance earmarked for Israel is generally delivered in the first 30 days of the fiscal year, while most other recipients normally receive aid in installments, and Israel (as is also the case with Egypt) is permitted to use cash flow financing for its U.S. arms purchases. In addition to receiving U.S. State Department-administered foreign assistance, Israel also receives funds from annual defense appropriations bills for rocket and missile defense programs.

Israel has a strong military that has defeated the combined armies of the Arab countries.

Iraqi Army that was trained and equipped by the United States at a cost of more than $25 billion, but which experienced a drop-off in training after the American withdrawal in 2011 and has been greatly handicapped by Mr. Maliki’s push to appoint commanders based more on political loyalty than military skill. A military assessment of Iaq forces had several conclusions

* Iraqi forces had the ability to defend Baghdad, but not necessary hold all of it, especially against a major attack. Already, the capital has been targeted by ISIS car bombs.

* General Dempsey noted the while Iraqi security forces had stiffened and were capable of defending Baghdad, they were not capable on their own of launching a counteroffensive and reversing the ISIS gains.

* only approximately half of Iraq's military units are capable of being advised by American commandos, and many units have been infiltrated by either Sunni insurgent informants or Shiite militia members backed by Iran. Iraqi forces loyal to embattled Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki are so dependent on the Shiite militias, as well as advisers from Iran's paramilitary Quds Force that American advisers could face safety risks if they are assigned to train certain units.

James M. Dubik, a retired Army lieutenant general who oversaw the training of the Iraqi Army in 2007 and 2008, said that Iraq’s security forces could make gains against ISIS even if only half its divisions were effective, but that an advisory effort was very important.

July 28, 2014

Hobbit : Battle of the Five Armies and other Comic-con 2014 Trailers

Telsa Motors prepares factory for Model X SUV and better batteries for the mass market hopeful Model 3

Tesla Motors has a backlog of customers waiting for its Model S sedan. Tesla has ceased production at its assembly plant becauase they are retooling the car factory for the forthcoming launch of its new Model X sport-utility vehicle. SUVs (and crossover models) passed a milestone in May by outselling sedans in the American market for light vehicles (36.5% to 35.4%). Tesla's hopes for a mass appeal breakthrough will be its third product line, which it will start selling in 2017.

At a starting price of around $35,000, a third of the cost of a top-range Model S, Tesla wants the car to compete against the BMW 3-Series and Mercedes-Benz C-Class sedans. With the Model 3 Tesla also hopes to settle once and for all concerns about the limited range and long charging times of electric cars. The Model 3 is expected to almost match the nearly 300-mile range of the bigger Model S. But it will probably not take so long to charge up. To do that and hold the selling price down won’t be easy. Industry analysts believe that the 85 kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery now used in the Model S costs Tesla almost as much as the $35,000 at which it plans to sell its smaller sedan.

The Model 3 will use a next-generation smaller, lighter and cheaper lithium pack. Tesla’s new “gigafactory” that will open somewhere in the south-western United States will also drive down manufacturing costs.

Carnival of Nuclear Energy 219

The Carnival of Nuclear Energy 219 is up at Hiroshima Syndrome

Jim Conca at Forbes - Nuclear-Renewable Mix Is Just What The EPA Ordered

The not-for-profit Energy Northwest in WA State is exactly what the EPA’s new carbon rules are supposed to encourage - a diverse mix of non-fossil fuel generating systems that operates over 90% of the time and emits less than 20 gCO2/kWhr for between 4.7 - 5.2¢/kWh, now and for the next 30 years.

Home Depot to sell 3D printers

Home Depot has signed an agreement with 3D printer company MakerBot to sell its line of Replicator machines. The consumer-grade, desktop MakerBot Replicator 3D printers will initially be part of a pilot program in 12 stores located in California, Illinois and New York.

MakerBot said both its printers and 3D scanning technology will be showcased in specific demo areas in the Home Depot stores and that trained MakerBot retail staff will be on hand to provide information about the products.

MakerBot's scanners allow solid objects to be transposed into a 3D computer-aided design image that can then be used to print out an object.

Customers will also be offered free 3D-printed items to take home with them, including adjustable wrenches, electrical outlet covers and drink cups.

Carnival of Space 364

The Carnival of Space 364 is up at Photos to space

Universe Today - The winged Dream Chaser mini-shuttle under development by Sierra Nevada Corp. (SNC) has successfully completed a series of risk reduction milestone tests on key flight hardware systems thereby moving the private reusable spacecraft closer to its critical design review (CDR) and first flight under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program aimed at restoring America’s indigenous human spaceflight access to low Earth orbit and the space station.