Tuesday, September 14, 2010

North Korea: Meet the new boss - same as the old boss?

North Korea's ruling party could start a rare conference called to pick new leadership as early as Wednesday, Japan's Yomiuri newspaper reported, citing a source close to the issue.

Representatives from different areas of the country had gathered in Pyongyang as of Monday and a delay to the start of the conference could have been due to flooding in August, Yomiuri quoted the source as saying.

The source denied reports that the North's ruling party had delayed the conference due to leader Kim Jong-il's health, Yomiuri said.

The Workers' Party (WPK) conference, bringing together the secretive state's ruling elite for the first time in 30 years, was called to pick new leadership and likely anoint an heir -- Kim's youngest son -- to the dynasty as Kim's health deteriorates. The meeting had been due to start anytime between Sept. 1-15. (Reporting by Yoko Kubota; Editing by Edmund Klamann)

Breaking: Eiffel Tower evacuated.

About 2,000 people have been evacuated from the Eiffel Tower in Paris and its surrounding park after a bomb scare.

The alarm was raised after an anonymous call to the company which manages the famous landmark, officials said.

A police cordon has been thrown around the tower and about 1,000 people have been moved to the banks of the nearby River Seine, French media reported.

The 324m (1,063ft) iron lattice tower, built in 1889, is one of the world's most popular tourist attractions.

The evacuation of the tower and the Champ de Mars park took place calmly shortly before 2100 local time (1900 GMT), police said.

Officers with sniffer dogs are carrying out a thorough search of the area.

A police officer earlier said about 25,000 people had been evacuated from the area.

The French government increased security at certain sites between 2 August and 15 September, in part because of threats from al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, French TV channel TF1 reported.

Possibly related:

The French senate approved Tuesday a law banning any veils that cover the face -- including the burqa, the full-body covering worn by some Muslim women -- making France the first European country to plan such a measure.

The law passed by a vote of 246 to 1, with about 100 abstentions coming essentially from left-leaning politicians.

F-35 program cut by ten planes.

A key Senate appropriations subcommittee approved cutting Joint Strike Fighter production from 42 planes to 32, and to build just one Littoral Combat Ship, not two, in 2011.

Overall, the subcommittee chopped $8.1 billion from the budget President Barack Obama requested for the U.S. Defense Department for 2011. The cuts come mainly in procurement and operations and maintenance accounts.

Sen. Daniel Inouye, D-Hawaii, subcommittee chairman, said the JSF cuts are warranted because the program is behind schedule. "I would inform my colleagues that the Defense Department has not yet awarded a contract to build 30 aircraft which the Congress funded nearly a year ago."

Similarly, with the Navy's LCS, Inouye said that "two ships funded in 2010 have not yet been contracted. Under the new plan, the Navy would seek to award four ships to a single contractor in the coming year. There is virtually no way that the winning contractor would be able to begin construction of four ships in 2011."

Funding for one ship in 2011 "is more than adequate," he said. And it saves $615 million.

Similar reductions were made to "dozens of programs where the requested funding level is above what is required to meet adjusted schedules," Inouye said.

The THAAD missile interceptor program, for example, was cut by $425 million because of production delays.

The defense appropriations subcommittee approved spending $680.9 billion on the military in fiscal 2011, which begins Oct. 1.

Obama requested $708.2 billion for the Defense Department and $18 billion for nuclear weapons managed by the Energy Department.

That Senate appropriations number appears to be much lower than the president's request in part because it does not include more than $14 billion that was requested for military construction. That is funded by Congress in a separate bill.

Of the $680.9 billion, $157.7 billion is to pay for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Obama asked for $159.3 billion to pay for the wars.

Inouye said his subcommittee cut support for Iraq Security Forces in half - from $2 billion to $1 billion. The subcommittee also cut funding for the Commander's Emergency Response Program from $1.3 billion to $900 million.

Senators approved $167.3 billion in operations and maintenance spending; the Obama administration requested $200.3 billion.

And they set procurement spending at $104.8 billion - the 2010 level. The administration wanted $112.9 billion.

It wasn't all cuts, though. The subcommittee added funding for more search and rescue helicopters for the Air Force and Army, and added $121 million to buy 13 more Standard missile interceptors for the Navy's missile defense ships. The National Guard and service reserves received $500 million for buying new equipment.

Senators boosted spending on health care by $600 million to care for wounded troops and conduct medical research. Total spending on health care is $31.5 billion.

Inouye included a scolding for Pentagon finance managers. While some cuts were made because programs are far behind schedule, others, particularly those in operations and maintenance accounts, were made "because of lax budgeting practices by the military departments."

Inouye said the Defense Department "has not yet recovered from years of neglect in financial management." The Pentagon's effort to eliminate wasteful spending ought to start with "improving its budget preparation," he said.

Inouye called some of the cuts his subcommittee proposes "tough measures," but he said, "We believe in total the package is not only fair, but presents a carefully balanced set of recommendations" that meet U.S. security needs for 2011.

How to build a $5,000 dollar UHF SATCOM antenna for under $20 Part 4-1

DIY: Military UHF SATCOM antenna
By Steve Douglass

Authors note: The construction part (since it is complicated ) of this ongoing series of articles will be spread out over several postings.

Be patient! Following parts will be posted shortly.

First a disclaimer:

You may or may not be able to build your DIY SATCOM antenna for under twenty bucks.

Yeah- I know that’s the title of this series of articles - but how expensive your antenna will be is conditional on the tools you have on hand and the antenna materials you may or may not have access to. Still, if this rig costs you fifty bucks, you’re already way ahead of the $5K cost for a new SATCOM antenna.

Some of the parts I already had were aluminum antenna elements (rods) salvaged from on old two-meter Ham antenna, coax and various RF connectors, not to mention a sturdy tripod (used and bought originally for $10 on Ebay) also some hollow antenna tubes from a broken Radio Shack Discone antenna.

One could easily use aluminum metal (welding) rods also available at Home Depot. Buy them along with the various sizes of PVC pipe used for the main antenna structure and most everything else.

Parts include:
Nylon cable ties (various sizes)
Two aluminum yardsticks (Home Depot $3.00 each)
Two (TV type) panel-mount F- connectors. (Radio Shack #278-212) $2.19 (2)
12 feet of RG-6 coax, plus four more F-connectors (Note: The Home Depot (crimp) ones are better than the Radio Shack.
1 Radio Shack F connector coupler (#278-304)
8 short (half-inch long) wingnuts & corresponding bolts (doesn’t matter what size) these will be used to hold the main antenna elements together.
Assorted screws and nuts and five feet of solid copper (insulated) wire.
PVC glue
Black electrical tape
Black spray paint (optional)
I used black spray truck bed-liner paint to give it a cool heavy-duty military-textured look.
Six feet of ½ inch PVC pipe (Note: all PVC is Schedule 40 for rigidity and weather ability)
Six ½ pipe PVC connectors
1 ½ inch PVC end cap
Six feet of 3 inch PVC pipe
Two 3-inch PVC end caps
One 3-inch PVC T- connector
One 3 inch to ½ inch PVC (fitting/coupler)
6 feet 3/16th heat-shrink tubing (available at Harbor Freight or Radio Shack)

Tools: Soldering Iron
Drill press)
Handsaw for cutting PVC pipe.
Propane torch to shrink, shrink-tubing (or you can use a lighter or even a hair drier)
F-connector crimping tool

We will start with the “element director boom” since it’s the easiest part to build.
This boom will hold eight x-crossed (parallel) metal elements – each 15 inches long and spaced five inches apart with the last element spaced 4 inches from the flat receiving elements.


First cut a length of ½ inch PVC pipe to 32 inches. Decide which end will point toward the satellites and measure & cut (from the end every 4 1/4 inches) until you have seven pieces of pipe.

Next re-connect the sections with six 1/2inch pipe connectors. Don’t glue these if you want your antenna to be portable. On the sky-end you’ll mount a ½ inch PVC cap and on the far end you’ll mount a 1/2inch to 1 inch PVC adaptor pipe.

From the end (with PVC connectors installed) measure in five inches increments and mark the spot- most likely in the middle of the connector. Element spacing isn’t very critical at this point so don’t sweat the details.

At each increment you will drill a hole through the connector and ¼ inch behind it for the corresponding cross element. The size hole you drill will be dependent on what you are using for metal antenna elements. Just make sure they fit snugly. I learned it is better to be to small then too big. You can always make the drill hole bigger, if you need to. See the photo if you are confused.

END CAP and ELEMENTS (painted) showing X element CLICK TO ENLARGE

NOTE: A drill press will insure your holes are perpendicular to each other in a perfect cross shape.


Each metal element (rod) should be cut to 15 inches and inserted into each hole with ¼ inch space between the two crossed elements.

Once all the rods are inserted – and made parallel you can drill and add small self-tapping set-screws to hold them in place – or glue them with PVC cement if you don’t plan on making your antenna come apart for portability. Each (crossed) element can be secured to each other (Inside the PVC pipe) with a nylon cable tie. Cut off the long (loose) end of the cable tie.



Today's excerpt from The Interceptors Club and the Secret of the Black Manta

Chin pressed the barrel of the gun hard against Flatlander’s temple, purposely grinding it into his skull. Flatlander winced in pain.

“It’s a simple deal gentlemen. You will pilot Excalibur out of here or I will kill you both. You try anything funny and I kill you both. The aircraft crashes and I not only kill you both but I hunt down anyone you care about and kill them as well.”

Minister squirmed in his chair. The sight of seeing his friend with a pistol pointed at his brains sickened him. He had to remind himself they had Chin right where they wanted him.

“Pilot it to where?” Minister asked.

“To a remote landing strip in Mexico. I’ll provide you with the coordinates, but it must land intact or –“

“You’ll kill us both. I get it.” Flatlander said.

“You learn fast.” Chin said.

He slapped Flatlander hard across the face.

“That’s for being insolent.” Chin said. “Imagine what I will do to you if you screw this up."

Chin motioned to Hoang, his chief henchman.

“Take them and put them with the General. Lucsoon is fueling the aircraft now. I’ll call for them when it is ready for take off. ”

Hoang gestured for them to rise. He said something in Korean which Minister interpreted as “Come with me or I’ll shoot you.”

Standing up with hands cuffed behind their backs was difficult and Flatlander teetered, struggling to get his balance.

“You can take the cuffs off when you get them in their cell. They aren’t going anywhere.”

Hoang ordered them out of the room and into a hallway with curved concrete walls lined with obscene graffiti.

Some of the graffiti looked like someone had attempted to sandblast it off, apparently in an attempt to make the place look better for prospective tenants. Minister recalled seeing the realtor’s SOLD sign attached to the security fence when Chin had brought them in.

Hoang opened up a metal box attached to the concrete wall revealing a ten-digit keypad. He punched in a code: 7-2-5-5-7 and pressed ENTER. Minister committed the sequence to memory for future reference.

There was a slight grinding noise as an electronic mechanism released the bolts holding a very thick metal vault-like door closed.

Hoang motioned them to turn around. They both did.

Hang took out a handcuff key and released them from the painful shackles that gripped their wrists. He then shoved them in the room and closed the door behind them.

Inside they found General Hogle, lying in a ball on the floor. He stirred and turned toward them.

Minister noticed he had been badly beaten. He also looked malnourished and very sick.

He knelt down to Hogle.

“Are you okay?” Minister asked. “Can you sit up?”

Hogle pulled himself up with Minister’s help. He coughed and wheezed.

“Who are you guys?” Hogle managed to get out between coughs.

“We are here to help you. “ Flatlander said.

Hogle’s eyes had trouble focusing. He could tell they were wearing Air Force fatigues but not much more.

“You bring a strike team?” He said hoarsely.

“Sort of. They are on the way. It shouldn’t be long now, sir.” Flatlander said.

Hogle’s eyes began to focus. He looked up and caught sight of Minister and Flatlander’s nameplates on their uniforms. He then looked at their faces. He was puzzled.

“You guys aren’t Peck and Hollifeld!”

“Quiet. They’ll hear you!” Flatlander said.

“I doubt it. The walls are three-foot thick.“ Hogle said. “It’s designed to survive a nuclear attack so I’m pretty sure they are sound-proof.”

Flatlander looked around the room. He suddenly recognized where he was, but instead of being alarmed by his imprisonment, he was thrilled.

“This must be the old missileer’s room. Where they received the go-code and turned their keys.” Flatlander said looking around.

“Good thing they never got the chance.” Minister said.

Flatlander took a few seconds to take in the room. It was barren, no furniture except for two chairs bolted to the floor that looked like they should be in a submarine. The room had been freshly painted and someone had began wiring the place for electrical and communications lines. An old, large and peeling Strategic Air Command decal was adhered to the inside of the hatch.

“Wow! I never thought I’d be in an actual nuclear launch center, the ultimate relic of the Cold War!”

Hogle looked at them strange. Are they rescuers or tourists? He thought,

“Imagine this Minister, two airmen used to sit right here, charged with turning two keys, simultaneously.

Minster walked over and tugged on some wire coming out of a conduit protruding out of the wall.

“This is new, not original.”

“They’d get the go code, probably over a speaker mounted somewhere over -- there.” Flatlander said pointing to a spot on the wall. They’d then check it with the daily code and if it was real, whoosh! – They’d turn their keys and destroy the world. Talk about blind devotion to duty!”

Flatlander sat in one of the chairs. It was dirty and worn but he didn’t care, He grinned broadly like a kid on Christmas morning.

Hogle looked at Minister, twirling himself in the missileers chair as if he as a little kid in a barbershop.

“Who in the heck you guys? You aren’t regular military and you sure don’t act like any - specialists.

“We are Interceptors.” Flatlander replied.


“Interceptors. I’m a computer technician and he’s a writer for Popular Technology Magazine.”

Hogle sighed.

“They sent a writer and a geek to rescue me?”


South Korean sinking verdict: It was a North Korean torpedo

A final report says a torpedo caused shockwaves that sunk a South Korean ship killing 46 sailors.
South Korea on Monday released its final report on the March sinking of the warship Cheonan, reaffirming that a North Korean torpedo sent the Cheonan to the bottom of the Yellow Sea, killing 46 sailors.

The full report, prepared based on an investigation conducted by South Korean, U.S., Swedish, British and Australian officials, offers new details to back up May’s preliminary report on the incident.

“The ROK Navy ship Cheonan was sunk by a North Korean torpedo attack while conducting a normal mission in the vicinity of Baengnyeong Island at 09:22 p.m. on March 26, 2010,” the English-version of the report says in its conclusion, according to a Korea Times report.

The report says the torpedo did not strike the ship, but the shockwave generated when it exploded nearby split the Cheonan in two.

"The detonation location was 3 meters to the port from the center of the gas turbine room and at a depth of 6 to 9 meters. The weapon system used was a CHT-02D torpedo with approximately 250 kilograms of explosives manufactured by North Korea." South Korea’s Yonhap news agency quotes the report as saying.

The shockwave effect is substantiated by survivors’ accounts, according to the Yonhap report.

"Forty-one survivors said that they smelled oil, but there were no witnesses of flames, fire or a water column, nor were there any injuries from these factors," Yonhap quotes the full report as saying.

Critics say the final report still leaves questions. For instance, while investigators found traces of explosives on the hull of the Cheonan, no trace of explosives was found on torpedo parts recovered from the scene.

Investigators said that could be because the torpedo parts were too small to hold trace explosives, according to a Korea Herald report.

The final report also includes communication between the captain of the Cheonan, Cmdr. Choi Won-il, and his boss, squadron commander Capt. Lee Won-bo, according to Yonhap.

"I think we've been hit by something," Choi tells Lee.

"What do you think it is?" Lee asks.

"I think it's a torpedo," Choi says.

North Korea has denied any involvement in the sinking of the Cheonan, calling the results of the preliminary report “sheer fabrication,” according to its official Korea Central News Agency. KCNA had not yet posted any reaction to the full report.

U.S. forces during the summer conducted anti-submarine exercises with South Korea. Further exercises are planned, U.S. officials say.


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