Chief of Staff, Lt. Gen. Benny Gantz in action during a live fire exercise for Israeli army battalion commanders taking place on the Golan Heights, Israel, 04 September 2012. (photo credit: Shay Wagner /IDF/FLASH90) Officials Warn Of Syria Conflict Quickly Spiraling Out Of Control — Times of Israel Army chief says flare-ups could devolve into serious confrontations; minister predicts rockets on Israeli cities ‘only a matter of time’. IDF Chief of General Staff Benny Gantz toured the Golan near the border with Syria Tuesday, and told lawmakers that tensions in the north could quickly devolve into war. Other senior officials echoed his worries, with Home Front Defense Minister Gilad Erdan warning that it was only a matter of time before major Israeli cities started getting pounded by rockets. The statements were made the day before a large Home Front Command drill scheduled for the Ashkelon region in the south of the country, which comes against the backdrop of increasingly harsh rhetoric on both sides of the border. Read more …. More News On Israeli Concerns That The Syrian Civil War Is Spiraling Out of Control General says Israel ready to attack Syria should Assad fall — Daily Star Amid Syria tensions, IAF chief says ‘surprise war’ a threat — Jerusalem Post Israeli Air Force Chief Warns of Syrian Attacks — ABC News/AP Israel warns Syria over Golan Heights clashes — The Australian/AFP Israel warns Syria: More strikes loom — Washington Times General says Israel ready to attack Syria should Assad fall — Reuters Israel warns Syria to halt attacks after exchange of fire in the Golan Heights — Washington Post Syria-Israel tensions simmer over Golan Heights skirmish — Deutsche Welle
Fox News Video Allegedly Shows Israeli Special Forces Returning From A Mission In Syria — Business Insider Fox News has published a video which it says “captured, for the very first time, Israeli commandos coming back from inside Syria on a mission.” While not very surprising (if accurate), the video raises some interesting aspects of Israel’s role in the 26-month-old conflict on its northern border. First, Israeli soldiers returning from Syria highlights what the country means by intervention, as apparently sending commandos into Syria doesn’t count. The official Israeli position on Syria is that “Israel has so far refrained from intervening in Syria’s civil war and will maintain this policy as long as Assad refrains from attacking Israel directly or indirectly,” which is what a senior Israeli official told the New York Times this week. Israel has executed three unilateral airstrikes inside Syria since January — one of which hit Assad’s mountain stronghold in Damascus — based on the conviction that it will not allow sophisticated weaponry to be transferred to Lebanese militant group Hezbollah. Read more …. My Comment: I expect Mossad to be observing (and spying) WMD movements in Syria …. and producing reports on what is the state of the Syrian civil war that is independent from Syrian/rebel/international reports …. but sending Israeli commandos into Syria …. if this report is true it this is telling me that there is probably more happening on the border than what they are telling us.
Nigeria Launches Air Strikes Against Militant Camps — Voice of America Nigerian forces have launched air strikes against suspected Islamist militant camps in the country’s northeast. A government spokesman said several camps were targeted and the attacks killed an undetermined number of insurgents. Some of the attacks took place in the Sambisa Game Reserve in Borno state, a known hideout of the radical sect Boko Haram. Witnesses reported the deployment of troops and jet fighters in Borno on Wednesday, a day after President Goodluck Jonathan said Boko Haram had taken over parts of the state. Read more …. More News On Nigeria’s War Against Boko Haram Nigeria begins offensive against Islamist sect — France24/AFP Nigerian forces bombard Islamist militant camps from the air — Reuters Boko Haram crisis: Nigeria air raids ‘kill militants’ — BBC Nigerian forces ‘shell fighters’ camps’ — Al Jazeera Nigerian troops shell Boko Haram hideout as jets join renewed offensive — The Guardian Official: Nigeria military shells suspected Islamic extremist camps in northeast, killing 21 — Washington Post/AP Nigeria military: Insurgents killed in raid on militant camps — CNN Nigerian army starts offensive against Islamists — Deutsche Welle Nigerian military strikes insurgent targets in northeast — Deutsche Welle Nigeria Military Begins Anti-Islamist Operations In Northeast — RTT News Nigeria: Security Forces Raid Boko Haram Camps in Borno — allAfrica.com Nigerian forces target Islamist strongholds — Reuters Nigerian army strikes out at Boko Haram in northeast — Euronews Nigerian military raids Boko Haram camps — UPI Gunmen Storm Nigeria Police Station — Voice of America Christian leader gunned down by Islamic militants in Nigeria — FOX News Nigeria: You’ve Declared War On Northern Nigeria, NEF Tells Jonathan — allAfrica.com Nigeria Rethinks Insurgency Battle — Wall Street Journal Nigerians Debate Amnesty for Boko Haram — Voice of America Nigeria: UN Chief ‘Very Concerned’ About Deteriorating Security in Northeast Nigeria — allAfrica.com
An armed gunman reacts as the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi is seen in flames September 11, 2012. REUTERS/Esam Al-Fetori U.S. Options To ‘Capture Or Kill’ Benghazi Suspects — CNN The U.S. military has updated plans to “capture or kill” alleged perpetrators of the deadly terror attack on the American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, CNN has learned. The development comes amid growing pressure on the White House to show progress in the effort to catch those who killed Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans last September 11. Officials emphasize that military planning has been underway since the immediate aftermath of the armed assault. One part of the plan calls for potentially putting U.S. military personnel on the ground inside Libya, if ordered by President Barack Obama. Read more …. My Comment: If true …. this is a blockbuster story. The key lines in this CNN report are the following …. …. The military has a list of several targets including some inside Benghazi and others in outlying areas. There are specific individuals named who are believed associated with the Benghazi attack as well other militants the United States wants to get. There are also militant camps or stronghold areas on the list that could be attacked. One military official said the military is well aware that if it is ordered into action now by the White House, it could be viewed as a political move in light of the ongoing controversy over Benghazi . But he noted that initial planning began shortly after the attack last year. This probably explains why 200 US marines were positioned nearer to Libya this week. In short …. and this is just speculation …. the U.S. military and the CIA already have their targets, but the controversies and scandals in Washington are making the White House nervous on how it would be perceived if the orders for a strike were issued now. Everyone will be screaming “Wag the Dog” …. and they will be right (to a point).
NASA announced a problem on Wednesday that threatens to cripple one of its highest-profile missions, the Kepler Space Telescope , an instrument dedicated to finding Earth-like planets orbiting other stars. Since its launch in 2009, Kepler has found 130 planets orbiting other stars and 2,500 planet candidates requiring further investigation. The space telescope has pulled back the veil on the true nature of the Milky Way, showing it to be a galaxy rich with planets, and potential homes for life outside of Earth. Gazette staff writer Alvin Powell discussed the problem with one of Kepler’s co-investigators, Astronomy Professor Dimitar Sasselov , asking what the glitch means for Kepler, for the quest for extra-solar planets, and for the search for life outside the solar system. GAZETTE: Can you tell us what is going on with Kepler? SASSELOV: The telescope needs to point very precisely in the direction in which it takes images. That pointing has been compromised by the breakdown of one of the reaction wheels — or gyroscopes — which keep it aligned. The wheels come in packages of four, with three needed and one a spare. We lost one last July, so we have been without the spare since then. Losing a second one means that the telescope cannot point, and hence the images are not precise enough for us to continue the scientific mission of the telescope. GAZETTE: Are there potential fixes or workarounds being considered? SASSELOV: What is happening now is an immediate assessment, and within a few days we’ll know the results. It’s very likely the engineers will test and implement some new workarounds in the coming weeks, trying to recover the wheel functionality. So they’re not going to write it off. However, there is no obvious workaround. We were forewarned that this may happen when the spare stopped working last July. So I don’t think there was a clear path to solve this if the second wheel really got stuck. GAZETTE: What are the implications for Kepler’s scientific mission? SASSELOV: We have collected data for a little bit more than 17 quarters. Only about two-thirds of that has been analyzed or downloaded to the ground. Inevitably, there is always a delay between what the telescope has obtained — in the can, so to say — and that data having been fully reduced and analyzed. In the next year and probably more, there will be analysis of data that is currently on the spacecraft. When that is done, you can say the scientific mission has been completed. You will continue hearing about Kepler discoveries at least for the next two or three years. It is not over yet. GAZETTE: Will the problem interfere with transmission of data already collected to the ground? SASSELOV: The satellite has two functional wheels and thrusters powered by hydrazine fuel. Those thrusters allow the telescope to point in different directions. It doesn’t allow the telescope to point precisely enough to allow for data collection, but under normal conditions it would be enough [to relay data to Earth]. GAZETTE: Just about a year ago, NASA extended Kepler’s mission through 2016. What had scientists hoped to learn during the additional time? SASSELOV: The telescope would gather additional data that would improve dramatically our statistical confidence of our final results. It was also kind of a no-brainer. The telescope was working fine and taking great data. At a minimal expense, you continue to use it. GAZETTE: Can we say Kepler has been successful, whatever the outcome of attempted workarounds for the balky wheel? SASSELOV: It’s been a resounding success. Not only because you hear about it in the news all the time, but because when you look at what we knew [before it launched] and what we know about exoplanets from all our other efforts combined, Kepler stands way above all of them. So just by sheer volume, it provided us new insights and data to understand how planets form, what they are, and where they are. [Kepler] has provided us with a mother lode of planetary systems that we will be exploring for decades in the future, not just a few years, but decades. Kepler has already delivered beyond expectations. So it was worth every penny. Artist’s composite of Kepler viewing a small planet. Since it launched in 2009, Kepler has found 130 planets orbiting other stars. Credit: Ames Wendy Stenzel/NASA GAZETTE: What’s the feeling of the scientific team now? SASSELOV: Obviously, we were very excited about the extension, and we did expect to find exciting new things in the additional four years. You shouldn’t be surprised that the team would feel that we have the best telescope working, and it’s a shame if it cannot deliver more. On the other hand, if this had happened two years ago, it would have been really a disaster for our efforts. We would have essentially failed if it were two years ago. Now we can forge ahead and plan our next steps. Kepler was able to accomplish two things. One was the research and new discovery. The other was helping prepare so the next step in our exploration is successful. That has been done, and, for posterity, that’s probably the most important thing. Now we have TESS [the Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite] already approved. GAZETTE: Is TESS the next step or is the James Webb Space Telescope? SASSELOV: Both. They go hand in hand. Kepler was supposed to deliver the numbers, the frequency of planets the size of the Earth around solar-type stars in the habitable zone. Now, we want not simply to improve the number, we want to find those planets we can study directly with high precision. Now we want to find the nearest ones. There, we need TESS to discover them, and then we need James Webb to analyze them. GAZETTE: Any possibility of a Hubble-like rescue for Kepler? SASSELOV: The answer is very clearly no. Kepler is in an orbit around the sun, very far from the Earth and the moon. It’s trailing behind the Earth, and no human has gone that far from the Earth before. You’re talking about capability similar to going to nearby asteroids, which we’re talking about developing, but we’re not there. GAZETTE: How does this change the work of researchers at Harvard? SASSELOV: A lot of this does relate to our efforts here at Harvard. Last summer, we installed a new spectrograph on the Canary Islands, together with our colleagues from Geneva. It is currently the highest-precision spectrograph in the world, and it has the specific goal to observe the planets that Kepler has discovered. The demise of the Kepler telescope would have very little effect on our plans for the work with the spectrograph because we already have the data. Once you identify the planets with Kepler, then you pick the best candidates and spend one to four years observing them with the spectrograph to determine the planet’s precise parameters. So in a certain sense, that second step has been happening for the past year. The original plan was that Kepler would gather data for four years, and then we’d continue with HARPS North, our spectrograph, for another four years. So from that point of view, our work here at Harvard is going on as scheduled.