Stop Me If You’ve Heard This One Before

A colleague told me this and I hope it brings us up from all the recent doom and gloom. Yes, it has a few of the hallmarks of an urban legend but the punch line doesn’t involve severed limbs, hastily scrawled messages on a mirror, or anyone winding up in a bathtub full of ice and a missing kidney.

“My girlfriend’s best friend’s boyfriend works for a ‘famous online travel agent’. They outsource their IT to Delhi in India. The UK office has been forwarding IT related emails to the Delhi office with the subject line ‘FYI’ and for the last 6 months, the Delhi office has replied with messages entitled ‘FYE’. No one at this ‘famous company’ knew what this stood for, so finally today someone questioned itÂ…” Continue reading

Ain’t nobody here but us chickens (updated)

Poor Pervez. Too much pressure!

Two or three of the four London bombers may have visited Pakistan last year. Musharraf’s response? Blame the UK and tell it to get it’s own house in order.  Problem solved!

But the Little General didn’t get even one moment to rest. After Saturday’s bombings, the Egyptians started to look for six Pakistanis and things got uncomfortable again. Even after the Egyptians stated that the Pakistanis are not suspected of the bomb attack (it’s a “routine security check”) it still left a bad taste.

So “Our Man in Pakistan” decided to settle the matter once and for all. He called a press conference and told the world that “Al-Qaeda does not exist in Pakistan any more.”

Got that? Stop blaming Pakistan! No more hatin’!

Pakistan has destroyed al-Qaeda’s ability to operate on its soil, President Pervez Musharraf has said. He said the network could not have orchestrated deadly bombings in London, Egypt or elsewhere from his country. President Musharraf said al-Qaeda “sanctuaries” in Pakistan had been over-run, and that Pakistani security forces had arrested 700 of the movement’s fighters.

We have shattered and eliminated their command system there,” he said. Al-Qaeda’s communications system had been reduced to a “courier network”.

“Is it possible in this situation that an al-Qaeda man sitting here, no matter who he is, may control things in London, Sharm al-Sheikh, Istanbul or Africa? This is absolutely wrong,” the president said.  [cite]

I feel so much safer now that he’s clarified all of this. Don’t you?

UPDATE: Radio Open Source has a show “at bat” on this subject, so you should check out their entry … Continue reading

Babbar Khalsa International “Roundup”

jagtar singh hawara.jpgJuly has been a tough month. Besides the bombings in London, the shooting of an innocent man in London, the terrible bombing at a resort in Egypt, and the ongoing bombings occurring daily in Iraq, there have also been important developments involving terrorism that is home-grown to India.

The news is both good and bad. The good news is, Indian Express reports that the Punjab police have arrested more than 60 members of a Sikh militant group called Babbar Khalsa International (BKI), many of them with large caches of arms and explosives, including 53 kilograms of RDX and PETN (as specified here). The arrests took place mainly in Chandigarh and Delhi. The key arrest might be that of Jagtar Singh Hawara (pictured left; photo from Frontline), who masterminded the murder of Punjab Chief Minister Beant Singh some years ago. Hawara is clearly a brutal man bent on killing — a sort of criminal mastermind (he committed his first murder — of a Sikh Granthi — at the age of 15). He had escaped from a Chandigarh prison in February 2004, when he dug a 60 foot tunnel over several months that prison authorities claim they didn’t notice. He is, perhaps most importantly, the ringleader of BKI in India; we should all be glad this guy is behind bars again. Hopefully this time he will stay there.

The bad news is, there may be more terrorists as well as explosives out there. Since the BKI has been quiet since 1997-1998, when it initiated a bombing campaign in Punjab, Indian police hoped that the organization had gone defunct. Its current global leadership is based in Pakistan, where the leader, Wadhawa Singh is reportedly ailing. But the current arrests tell a different story. Not only is BKI not defunct, the police readily admit there are still known members as well as an alarming quantity of explosive material in India that has not been recovered. Continue reading

“I will kill every American that I see…”

It’s becoming a sickeningly familiar story; a young man who seems at home in the “western world” ends up fundamentally altered. This. This is what terrifies me. Someone who had the same $70k/year programming job which so many people whom we all know do, someone who was a Yankees fan, incredibly, someone whose own mother escaped one of the towers before it fell…is someone who hates us. When a man can sympathize, nay, enthusiastically support and participate in a movement that almost killed his own mother…we’re fcuked.

From today’s WaPo:

It is safe to assume that most people would not react to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in quite the same way as Mohammed Junaid Babar. After all, the longtime resident of Queens, N.Y., told a Canadian television network that his own mother had been one of the survivors — barely escaping from the ninth floor of one of the towers before it collapsed.
Yet, Babar said in that same interview from Pakistan in the fall of 2001, his “loyalty is to the Muslims, not the Americans.”
“I will kill every American that I see in Afghanistan, and while I am in Pakistan, if I see them in Pakistan, I will kill every American soldier I can in Pakistan,” he said during the interview with ITN Five News.

Abhi wrote an SM post about Babar almost a year ago, after the erstwhile New Yorker attended a “terrorist summit” in Pakistan:

from Queens in New York City came Mohammed Junaid Babar, a Pakistani American who arrived with cash, sleeping bags, ponchos, waterproof socks and other supplies for the mountain-bound jihadis.

The “boy scout” of Al Qaeda also brough along night-vision goggles, helpfully enough. In that SM post, Abhi mentioned that Babar was wanted in connection with a “future terrorist attack”. As of two weeks ago, that future is here. This naturalized U.S. Citizen turned Jihadi joined al Qaeda just so he could battle U.S. soldiers…and civilians in Britain. Such bravery.

At least the Son-of-a…woman who is apparently expendable is useful:

Now in U.S. custody after pleading guilty to terrorism charges last year, Babar has proved invaluable to U.S. and British investigators probing this month’s attacks on the London transit system, numerous officials said. He has identified at least one of the suicide bombers, Mohammed Sidique Khan, through photographs and has provided other details that may be helpful in unraveling the plot, according to law enforcement and intelligence sources.

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Enjoy The Show


Some kids wanted to be Bollywood stars. I on the other hand wanted to be the location scout and production assistant. Even though “exotic” locations and sets are de rigueur in most Bollywood films today, the location scout and PA positions still look appealing to me.

I can picture it now; some fat cat producer and a sweatshop of screenwriters churn out the same old pap then decide to inject some excitement into the plot when the hero/heroine/villain decides to train/prance/meet somewhere other than India.

“I want skyscrapers! Lots of them, and maybe some bridges, they have railings that come in handy for the dance sequence. Get me some damn railings!” says the director.

“And cars, sleek fast sports cars – convertibles, they have to have the top down for the song sequence!” Get me some fast convertible cars dammit.” (IÂ’m picturing the Indian version of the 1940s Hollywood executive here barking these in Hindi)

This is when a producer usually chimes in since he has a good chunk of change invested.

“Can we get some gardens or amusement parks in the sequence?”

“Yeah, get me some g**damn amusement parks!! If we need to reserve Six Flags in New Jersey for a whole week, just do it!” Continue reading

Pointing the finger

An innocent bystander is dead, shot by the good guys. Now the London mayor is claiming that Jean Charles de Menezes, the ‘South Asian-looking’ guy shot by British special forces, was actually a victim of terrorism rather than the cops. It’s Livingstone, I presume:

London Mayor Ken Livingstone described Mr Menezes as a “victim of the terrorist attacks”. [Link]

More innocent people could be shot dead by police… Scotland Yard’s chief admitted yesterday. [Link]

Livingstone’s statement is faulty moral calculus and actively blocks the solution. First and foremost, you must assign responsibility accurately, otherwise you’ll never fix the problem. The terrorist attacks are a contributing cause. The primary cause is the commando who held him down and shot him seven times in the head.

Shoot to kill is indeed a good policy when you’re highly certain the suspect is a suicide bomber. But the criteria have to be tightened and the threshold for action tweaked. We have empirical proof of it: it’s de Menezes’ body. ‘He ran’ and ‘he had brown skin’ aren’t reason enough to kill someone. The criminal justice system doesn’t execute or even imprison people for those reasons.

This is an issue apart from the terrorists, who are obviously mass murderers. It’s of interest because society holds sway over its government’s shoot-to-kill criteria in a way that it doesn’t over deluded, nihilist 19-year-olds. We grant governments a monopoly on the use of force precisely because they have the duty and the means to use it correctly.

Several nonlethal weapons which might work exist today: bomb jammers, stun guns, beanbag gunsrubber bullets, plastic bullets, pepperball guns, sticky shockers, immobilizing goo, veiling glare lasers, flash bang grenades, pain-inducing microwaves and millimeter wave body scanners for detecting explosives.

Even more advanced solutions such as electromagnetic pulse guns and microwave guns which only affect electronics are under development. Many waves (electromagnetic and laser) affect different materials in different ways, for example by discriminating between the human body and explosives or detonators. X-rays, CAT scans, surgical and dental lasers, and luggage scanners rely on a variety of these effects.

But when you say ‘it wasn’t our fault,’ when you go into denial, you immediately truncate the search for a fix and the R&D investment needed to solve the problem. Western militaries have invested significantly in technology to curtail friendly fire. It’s worth doing so for law enforcement as well.

Previous post here.

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Kumbhakarna awakes

‘Cooperate, or we’ll throw you in a hole so deep that no one will even remember your name.’ Inspired by the Soviet gulags, variations of that line are a staple of trite Hollywood screenplays.

Unfortunately, it also happened in real life. A villager from Assam was just released after spending 54 years imprisoned (thanks, Kool). He’s been held for almost as long as India’s been independent.

Seventy-seven year old Machang [Machal] Lalung was arrested in 1951 from his native village of Silsang… Police said that Mr Lalung… was booked for “causing grievous hurt”…. police said there were no evidence to support the allegation, so within a year of his arrest, he was transferred to a psychiatric institution [for schizophrenia]. “It seems the police just forgot about him thereafter,” says Assamese human rights activist Sanjay Borbora…

In 1967, the authorities at the institution certified Mr Lalung as “fully fit” and said that they intended to release him. But instead of being freed, police transferred him to another jail… Last year, local human rights activists brought Machang’s case to the attention of the National Human Rights Commission, which took up the case immediately and sought his release. [Link]

… the court papers wrongly mention the name as “Machang”… he had been languishing at Tezpur Mental Hospital… Machal, however, doesn’t remember what his crime was. “They say I hit someone,” he said… [Link]

The Medical Superintendent has stated that he has not been on any psychotropic medicine for several years and is free of any signs of mental illness. [Link]

I wonder whether someone will teach Lalang the words ‘compensation’ and ‘lawsuit.’ He could buy himself some chamak-chamak, ’cause that’s the way he rolls. Imagine the adjustments this Kumbhakarna has to make after being so long away from the world: audiotapes, nuclear power, PCs, video games, the Internet, the moonshot, space stations, cloning, the Berlin Wall, disco, the Indian wars with Pakistan and China, ‘India Shining,’ Zeenat, Shabana, Amitabh and Aishwarya. But no — at his age, it’s all about the water and the loo.

“I don’t like the kutcha toilet or people having to draw water from wells…”

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New York has double-deckers too


Fear and paranoia continue to sweep the land. I suppose if you have nothing to hide it’s not a big deal though. The New York Daily News reports (thanks for the tip Brian):

New York was fear city yesterday as heavily armed police swarmed a double-decker bus packed with tourists in Times Square…

In a dramatic sign of the city’s edginess since the London transit bombings, cops evacuated buildings, shut midtown streets and forced about 60 terrified tourists to march off the double-decker bus, with their hands up, in the heart of Broadway.

Cops in riot gear handcuffed a group of apparently harmless South Asian-looking men with British accents after a jittery tour bus worker reported they seemed suspicious.

The men were forced to kneel on the sidewalk, with their hands bound behind their backs, between 50th and 51st Sts. in front of the Winter Garden theater on a sunny summer Sunday with the city packed with tourists.

Here is a checklist I have been working on for myself. Life runs more efficiently when you use checklists for everything I have found:

1) Don’t sweat
2) Don’t carry a large bag
3) Conceal any accent of any kind
4) Read a newspaper (someone about to blow himself up probably wouldn’t be reading the news)
5) Do not pack your lunch in a plastic container

The five men in yesterday’s incident quickly were freed after cops determined they were tourists – not terrorists.

“We just want to clear our heads of the whole thing,” one of the men told the Daily News. “We were humiliated enough.”

“We just want to go,” added another.
Oh wait. I forgot the most ironic part:
“I was definitely frightened from the beginning,” said the driver, Mohammed Stout, 43, of the Bronx. “That’s human nature.”
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The many uses of take-out containers

made in india.jpg Buried within a BBC article about the Police naming two suspects in last ThursdayÂ’s bombing in London was a tidbit that caught my attention…but first, the news:

Officers are looking for Yasin Hassan Omar, 24, and Muktar Said Ibrahim, 27. Ibrahim is being linked to a house in north London, which is being raided…
Two more people have been arrested, taking the total number held to five.

Now exactly what did I find so fascinating? This:

“All five of these bombs had been placed inside dark colored rucksacks or sports bags. All of them were made using the same type of plastic food storage container. These were manufactured in India, and are exported through one company into this country and then sold in approximately 100 outlets across the United Kingdom.
“The type we are interested in is this six and a quarter liter-sized container with a white plastic lid,” he said. “It has a label describing it as a ‘Delta 6250 with Lid,’ and also has another colored label with the description ‘Family Containers, Delta, Superior Quality.’ Please note that we are only interested in the white lid variety. They are also produced in other colors.”

Who keeps the labels on those things? I peel them off. Anyway, of course, now authorities are appealing to shop owners who remember selling several containers all at once…which sounded logical to me at first…until I remembered that my own saintly Mother never buys these things one at a time. :)

All you Aunties out there (as well as those of you who merely shop like them)…quit acting so suspicious. ;) Continue reading