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Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Obama calls for deep cuts in U.S. oil imports

(Reuters) - President Barack Obama set an ambitious goal on Wednesday to cut U.S. oil imports by a third over 10 years, taking up a challenge that eluded previous U.S. leaders, as high gasoline prices threaten to undermine the country's economic recovery.

Obama outlined his strategy in a speech after spending days explaining U.S.-led military action in Libya, where fighting, accompanied by unrest elsewhere in the Arab world, has helped push U.S. gasoline prices toward $4 a gallon.

"There are no quick fixes...And we will keep on being a victim to shifts in the oil market until we get serious about a long-term policy for secure, affordable energy," Obama said.

In his speech to roll out a blueprint on energy security that directly acknowledged the "big concern" caused by fuel prices, Obama said the country must curb dependence on foreign oil that makes up roughly half of its daily fuel needs.

But previous presidents have made similar promises on energy imports and failed. And any new policy initiatives can expect tough opposition from Republicans who control the House of Representatives and see high energy prices hurting Democrats in the 2012 presidential and congressional elections.

Republicans have mocked the idea of Obama curbing oil imports a week after visiting Brazil, where he said the United states wanted to be a good customer for its oil exports.

Obama laid out four areas to help reach his target of curbing U.S. dependence on foreign oil: lifting domestic energy production, fostering the use of more natural gas in vehicles like city buses, making cars and trucks more efficient, and boosting alternative energy by encouraging biofuels.

"We cannot keep going from shock to trance on the issue of energy security, rushing to propose action when gas prices rise, then hitting the snooze button when they fall again," he told students at Georgetown University in Washington.


Analysts and experts said Obama's goal is ambitious.

"All U.S. presidents since the early 1970s have outlined ambitious plans to reduce their reliance on imported oil," said John Sfakianakis, chief economist at the Banque Saudi Fransi.

Truly reforming U.S. energy use would involve sweeping changes, including possible fuel taxes to encourage Americans to change their habits, which could be politically toxic, analysts said.

Polls show Americans have mixed feelings about getting entangled in a third Muslim country, with the United States still engaged in Iraq and Afghanistan, and they are clearly worried by high gas prices before the summer driving season.

The latest measures of consumer confidence have also been dented by rising energy prices, which sap household spending and could derail the U.S. recovery if prices stay high enough for a long time, hurting Obama's re-election prospects.

A Quinnipiac University poll released on Wednesday showed that 48 percent of American voters disapprove of Obama's job performance, and 50 percent think he does not deserve to be re-elected in 2012, compared with 42 percent who approve and 41 percent who feel he does deserve to be re-elected.

Those were his lowest ratings ever, Quinnipiac said.

The poll of 2,069 registered voters, conducted March 22-28, has a margin of error of plus or minus 2.2 percentage points.

Some analysts reckon Obama may tap America's emergency oil stockpiles if U.S. oil prices hit $110 a barrel. Prices were hovering just over $104 a barrel in Wednesday's trade.

The United States consumed almost 20 million barrels of oil a day in 2010 of which roughly half was imported. Canada and Mexico are the country's two largest suppliers, followed by Saudi Arabia and Venezuela.

The U.S. Interior Department estimates millions of acres (hectares) of U.S. energy leases are not being exploited by oil companies and the White House wants that to change.

This argument also helps the administration push back against Obama's Republican opponents, who claim he is tying the hands of the U.S. energy industry by denying leases and restricting offshore drilling in the wake of the 2010 BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

(Additional reporting by Timothy Gardner and Caren Bohan; Editing by Vicki Allen and Doina Chiacu)

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Tampa Bay area gasoline prices inch closer to $4 a gallon

Rumsfeld on getting Qaddafi out

What Not to Sell on eBay: Drones !!!!

MANILA, Philippines – A Filipino has been charged in a US federal court for attempting to sell an unmanned military aircraft on eBay, the U. S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) said.

The HSI identified the suspect as Henson Chua, 47, a resident of Manila, who has been charged for violations of the Arms Export Control Act and smuggling.

He was arrested on the evening of February 10 in Los Angeles. He is facing a maximum penalty of 20 years in federal prison.

The HSI said that Chua "knowingly and willfully caused the temporary import into the United States" of an RQ-11B "Raven" Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV). It said that Chua also aided and abetted the attempted export from the United States of the item, without obtaining from the U.S. Department of State a license or written authorization.

Chua is also accused of knowingly bringing an item into the United States contrary to law.

The HSI said that the UAV was recovered from Chua after he tried to sell it on eBay.

"ICE HSI is committed to protecting the security of our homeland and our troops abroad by ensuring that the sale and distribution of weapons and military technology is done lawfully, and that these items do not fall into the wrong hands," said Susan McCormick, special agent in charge of ICE HSI in Tampa.

“We make use of our full statutory authority to investigate and enforce criminal violations of all U.S. export laws related to military items, controlled 'dual-use' commodities and sanctioned or embargoed countries. Our national security depends on it,” she added.

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Raven UAV


Raven UAV Demo

Trinity lecture combines humor, straight talk.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell, appearing at Trinity University's Laurie Auditorium on Tuesday evening, displayed the charm, wit, straight talk and toughness that made him a trusted adviser to presidents and a formidable diplomat.
An audience of 2,500 listened as the 74-year-old retired four-star general who was national security adviser and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff presented “Diplomacy: Persuasion, Trust and Values.”

The main message of his casual address: The world still looks to America for answers in times of crisis.

“America still is the leader,” Powell said.

Powell also found time to discuss his love for his Chevrolet Corvette, his passion for education and his life as a retired soldier and Cabinet member.

Or as he put it: Just another guy.

“One day you're the No. 1 diplomat of the free world,” Powell said. “The next day you're out.”

Later he joked, “I miss my airplane.”

He was a soldier for 35 years. His autobiography was a best-seller. But Powell and his wife of 49 years, Alma, share a passion for educating young people.

In 1997, Powell founded America's Promise Alliance, a public and private partnership of more than 400 organizations.

He outlined its promises: getting responsible adults in children's lives; creating safe places for after school; health care (Powell called the millions of people uninsured in the U.S. “a national disgrace”); achieving marketable skills through education; and real economic opportunities.

He said demographic changes will see minorities become the majority “in a generation.”

“We can't afford not to educate that minority population,” he said.

Though he is a partner in a Silicon Valley venture capital company, Powell joked that his oldest grandson has helped him with the challenges of the Twitter and Facebook generation.

But he was much more serious about the way technology shapes the world.

“The information revolution has flattened the world for us,” he said. “I'm desperately trying to keep up with how the world is changing.”

Powell addressed the unrest in the Middle East, Egypt and Libya, advising everyone “to step back.” He added that American leaders must focus on economic growth and creation of wealth at home, saying to fail at that task poses a greater threat in the long run.

About military intervention in Libya, Powell expressed “concern that we've chosen a side.”

“We're on the side of the revolutionaries,” he said.

What happens after the battles when “all the institutions collapse” will be the real challenge of Libya, he added.

The funniest moment of the night came when Powell recounted a trip to the Soviet Union at the behest of President Ronald Reagan near the end of the Cold War. He found himself on the receiving end of a tirade from President Mikhail Gorbachev as they sat eye-to-eye across a table.

Powell admitted he caught himself thinking, “I don't care what you say — you're still a commie.”
“He was having a bad century,” Powell said.

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 Libya mission, causing a growing backlash in Congress.

U.S. fires missiles at weapon sites

Stepping up attacks far from the front-line fighting, a U.S. Navy ship fired 22 Tomahawk cruise missiles at weapon-storage sites for surface-to-surface missiles near the Libyan capital, while combat aircraft of the U.S. and its partners struck at ammunition-storage depots and other military targets in western Libya.

The rebels, though, were reported in full retreat after trying to march on Sirte, a city about halfway between Tripoli and the de facto rebel capital of Benghazi.

All 22 Tomahawks were launched from the USS Barry, a guided-missile destroyer in the Mediterranean, even as the Navy has reduced the number of missile-firing ships and submarines off the coast and as the U.S. has prepared to give NATO full control of the Libya campaign.

Mission's price tag for U.S. hits $550M

WASHINGTON — The military intervention in Libya has cost the United States "about $550 million" in extra spending so far, a Defense Department spokeswoman said Tuesday, providing the first official estimate of the mission's price tag.

Cmdr. Kathleen Kesler said future costs are expected to run about $40 million over the next three weeks as the U.S. military scales back its activity and NATO forces take the lead.

Thereafter, the Pentagon estimates that its added costs for the Libyan operation will total about $40 million a month.

Almost 60 percent of the total cost has been for munitions, the most expensive of which are Tomahawk missiles, which cost more than $1 million each to replace.

President Obama has said the Libya mission could be paid for with money already appropriated for the Defense Department, but Republican lawmakers have pressed the president on whether supplemental funding will be requested from Congress.

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BGM-109 Tomahawk Land Attack Missile (TLAM)

BGM-109 Tomahawk Cruise Missile

Tomahawk Missile Variants

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Nanotechnology to Detect Internal Damage to Aircraft

By Cameron Chai

Brian L. Wardle, associate professor of aeronautics and astronautics, department of electronics at MIT, says if aluminium is hit, it shows a dent, but when a composite is hit, it does not show any dent, though an internal damage may have occurred.
Airplane manufacturers have started using composites of high-strength fibres, such as carbon or glass, integrated in a plastic or metal matrix to construct aircraft. These materials are strong and lightweight, but it is difficult to detect internal damages in case of impacts

The team of researchers led by Wardle has discovered a technique to help identify internal damage with a simple portable system and a camera that is sensitive to heat-. The composites comprise carbon nanotubes, to produce heat essential for the test. The research paper has been published in the online March 22 issue of the journal Nanotechnology. The solution will help airlines check their aircraft rapidly. This multiple year project has been financed by the aerospace industry in an effort to enhance the mechanical features of aerospace-grade composites. The team is endeavoring to deploy the technology in aircraft and vessels belonging to the US Air Force and Navy. The nano-materials can also be used in the construction of cars, bridges and wind-turbine blades.

Up until now, infrared thermography, which identifies infrared radiation caused by the surface being heated, can help detect internal damage. If the layers of the composite are separated or form cracks. The heat flow will be redirected. A thermographic camera will capture images of such unnatural flow pattern. But this method needs huge industrial heaters to be kept alongside the surface. The team has integrated carbon nanotubes in the composite. A nano-curent of electricity is applied to the surface, causing the nanotubes to heat up. This removes the need for external heaters. The damage will be visible using a thermographic camera. The technology deploys carbon nanotube features to provide an internal source of heat, according to Douglas Adams, associate professor of mechanical engineering at Purdue University.


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Nanotechnology Takes Off - KQED QUEST

How Nanotechnology Works

Arms dealer arrested in FBI sting pleads guilty

A Florida arms dealer has pleaded guilty to trying to bribe a foreign official to sell military equipment.

Associated Press

Jonathan Spiller, a British citizen and owner of two companies in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., was arrested last year with 21 other military suppliers in a sting operation.

Spiller admitted in federal court in Washington on Tuesday that he thought he was dealing with aides to the defense minister in the African country of Gabon. He agreed to pay a $3 million commission for a $15 million deal to provide rifle-mounted cameras and tactical vehicles to outfit the presidential guard.

The aides were actually undercover FBI agents. Gabon's defense minister was not involved.

Spiller is cooperating with investigators in hopes of reducing his possible sentence of up to five years in prison.

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Until uprising, Gadhafi’s son was on U.S. internship

By Zachary Roth
When unrest exploded in Libya last month, Khamis Gadhafi--the youngest son of the country's embattled leader Muammar Gadhafi--wasn't around. He was on an internship program in the United States.

Khamis, who runs Libya's special forces, quickly returned to his home country, where he has led a military unit that has brutally suppressed rebel forces.

The internship, which lasted a month, was sponsored by AECOM, a Los Angeles-based global engineering and design company that has been working with the Libyan regime to modernize the country's infrastructure. Khadis made stops in San Francisco, Colorado, Houston, Washington, and New York City, meeting with high-tech companies (including Google, Apple, and Intel), universities, and defense contractors like Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin. While in the Big Apple, Khamis even took in the Broadway show "Mamma Mia."

News of Khamis's internship, which was approved by the State Department, was first reported by ABC News.

Since coming home, Khamis appears to have played a key role in helping his father's regime in its violent campaign to quell the uprising. He has led the elite 32nd Reinforced Brigade, known at the Khamis Brigade, which reportedly has been involved in brutally suppressing rebel forces.

Vice Adm. William Gortney of the Joint Chiefs of Staff described the Khamis Brigade, whose headquarters were the target of U.S. Tomahawk missiles, as "one of the most active in terms of attacking innocent people."

On Monday night, Libyan television showed Khamis dressed in his military uniform and greeting people at his father's Tripoli compound.

A spokesman for AECOM told CNN that the company was "shocked and outraged" to learn of Khamis' military role.

AECOM added in a statement: "The educational internship, which consisted of publicly available information, was aligned with our efforts to improve quality of life, specifically in Libya, where we were advancing public infrastructure such as access to clean water; quality housing; safe and efficient roads and bridges; reliable and affordable energy; and related projects that create jobs and opportunity."

This isn't the first time that Gadhafi's sons--and their ties to the west -- have hit the headlines. As we've written, the regime was embarrassed after Wikileaks cables shed light on the lavish New Year's parties that another son, Muatassim, has held on the Caribbean island of St. Barts, at which Mariah Carey, Usher, and Beyonce have all been paid to perform. And the current crisis also has spotlighted the Libyan leader's own personal eccentricities.

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Colonel Gaddafi's son Khamis spotted on Libyan TV

Talk to Jazeera - Saif al-Islam Gaddafi

House Republicans Hold Strategy Session On Anti-Union Measure In Aviation Bill

House Republicans are holding a strategy session on Tuesday to chart out a way to pass language inside the Federal Aviation Administration reauthorization bill that would make it more difficult for rail or aviation workers to unionize.

A labor source passed along an alert sent out by Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy’s (R-Calif.) office, calling for a session in which aides could discuss how to best prep their bosses on the controversial provision. Sponsored by House Transportation Chairman John Mica (R-Fla.), the law would mandate that if an eligible voter fails to vote for union representation, he or she be tallied against representation.

In addition to relevant committee staff, Tuesday's meeting will feature Elizabeth Dougherty a Republican member of the National Mediation Board, as well as flight attendants from Delta Airlines -– the airline most affected by changes in union election laws.

“The House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee will be holding a Republican LA staff briefing on the National Mediation Board / FAA Reauthorization bill tomorrow, March 29th at 11:00 AM in 2167 Rayburn,” wrote McCarthy’s aide, Kelly Dixon. “As you know, we are scheduled to begin debate on the FAA bill this Thursday. This is a great opportunity for you to learn more about the NMB process and ask any questions you may have as you prepare your boss for debate on FAA Reauthorization.”

The labor source who passed along the notice said it’s telling “for the whips office to put out an alert for a special briefing on just one issue in a big bill.” Though the FAA reauthorization is a major piece of legislation that touches on a host of industry-wide issues, a spotlight has begun to settle on the language involving union elections, a policy which had been the law prior to being changed last July. Union officials, wary of the extra burden of rounding up all voters rather than a simple majority, are working to remove the language from the bill before it reaches the president’s desk.

While the email from McCarthy’s office may hint House Republicans aren’t entirely sure they can pass the measure, the Democratic-controlled Senate remains labor’s best hope to remove it. Sen. Jay Rockefeller (D-W.Va.), the chairman of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation committee, and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) have both expressed opposition to reverting back to the old law.

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Caterpillar CEO Warns He May Leave State In Response To Corporate Tax Hikes

Across the midwest, public workers have protested proposed cuts to benefits, pay, and collective bargaining rights. But in Illinois, one chief executive is now leading a different kind of protest: following personal and corporate tax hikes in January, Caterpillar CEO Doug Oberhelman has threatened take his business out of state.

Last week, Oberhelman sent a letter to Illinois Governor Pat Quinn, noting that four states have invited the Peoria-based heavy equipment colossus (Caterpillar employs more than one hundred thousand globally) to relocate, Reuters reports.

"I want to stay here. But as the leader of this business, I have to do what's right for Caterpillar when making decisions about where to invest," Oberhelman wrote.

Illinois is facing a potential $15 billion budget gap, according to Reuters. CNBC ranks it number one (tied with Nevada) for worst state budget gaps in 2011. In January, the state legislature passed a bill raising the corporate tax rate from to 7 percent from 4.8 percent and personal income taxes 5 percent from 3. The U.S. corporate tax rate is 35 percent.

A recent report by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities concluded that U.S. corporations are now paying taxes at "historical lows as a share of the [total] economy," thanks, in large part, to creative use of tax structures.

While Oberhelman's letter does not specifically mention the tax increases, Caterpillar spokesman Jim Dugan said the recent tax increase played a significant role in triggering the note, according to According to Dugan, the letter is not a threat, but rather "an olive branch to offer our help." In past interviews, Oberhelman has expressed concern about the state deficit but always cautioned that he didn't believe tax cuts would be the right way to address this issue.

Caterpillar employs 23,000 people in Illinois and 104,000 globally.

Oberhelman isn't alone among CEOs who have suggested they may be forced to move their companies over concerns about corporate taxes. Last month, 3M CEO George Buckley, suggested that U.S. companies could leave for Canada or Mexico.

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GE Defends Tax Record, Attacks New York Times In Twitter Campaign

After a damning New York Times story accusing General Electric of having paid $0 in American taxes despite $5.2 billion in domestic revenue, the company is fighting back--by Twitter.

In a peculiar gambit, GE's strategy seems to be to use Twitter --via @GEpublicaffairs, a still uncertified account--to respond to a random assortment of writers at various outlets totally unaffiliated with the New York Times, who just happened to tweet the story at some point.

Recipients of @ replies from the GEpublicaffairs account include such figures as Slate's tech columnist Farhad Manjoo, Business Insider editor-in-chief Henry Blodget, and a slew of other writers from places including the National Journal and Atlantic Wire.

Though most received the form response "@_____ learn more GE tax facts visit" followed by nuggets contradicting the Times story, like "GE paid almost $2.7 billion in cash taxes in 2010" and "GE didn't receive payment back from govt as a result of the tax benefit," others, like the Business Insider main account were harangued to "Stop the misleading attacks."

The GE public affairs account calls the Times story "inaccurate," "erroneous," and "grossly oversimplified."

But some people GE has reached out to with an @ reply seem less than convinced. Carla Zilka tweeted, "I don't know if NYT would print false facts re: GE, so someone is not being, ahem, "honest.""

The dispute: what kind of taxes constitute that $2.7 billion GE claims to have paid? @khivi tweeted "@Gepublicaffairs tweets confirm @nytimes that GE paid $0 corporate tax," to which GE responded "They are separate. Of $2.7B income tax paid, signf portion was US fed. GE also paid $1B+ in payroll, state & local use & property tax."

Henry Blodget, in particular, has engaged in an interrogation of the account. After asking them whether the Times was wrong about GE's $0 US tax bill, GE Public Affairs responded, "Well, GE paid U.S. $2.7B in cash taxes in 2010."

At this point, he dragged the Times' Bill Keller into the fight, tweeting, "If I'm not mistaken, GE has now said that the NYT story saying it paid no US taxes last year is flat-out wrong. @gepublicaffairs @nytkeller"

Interestingly enough, though, Blodget goes a step further than the official GE response, which, while calling the story "distorted and misleading," skirts around actually saying the story is "wrong."

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Monday, March 28, 2011

World's First 'Practical' Artificial Leaf Can Cheaply Turn Water Into Energy

by T Goodman
A team of chemistry and engineering scientists from MIT today announced the completion of their quest to create an artificial leaf that creates electricity from water like a leaf produces oxygen and food from carbon dioxide.

The discovery, formally presented by its leader, MIT chemist Daniel Nocera, at the National Meeting of the American Chemical Society, doesn't look like a leaf, but rather like a very thin credit card. But placed in a gallon of water, the biomimicked leaf can produce enough electricity for a day in a house in a developing country. In the lab, Nocera was able to keep a prototype running for 45 hours without a drop in activity.

"A practical artificial leaf has been one of the Holy Grails of science for decades," said Nocera. "We believe we have done it. The artificial leaf shows particular promise as an inexpensive source of electricity for homes of the poor in developing countries. Our goal is to make each home its own power station," he said. "One can envision villages in India and Africa not long from now purchasing an affordable basic power system based on this technology."

Tata Motors has already signed up Danel Nocera to commercialize his artificial leaf. An unidentified spokesperson from the company said that it was the latest step in Tata's efforts to serve the "bottom of the pyramid." With each home having the equivalent of a mini power plant, Tata's intention just may be to bring power to the three billion people in the world who don't have it.

There have been other successful attempts at creating electricity from water, but they were too expensive to produce on a large scale. The MIT leaf is made of inexpensive materials that are readily available - silicone, electronics, and special catalysts.

It was Nocera's recent discovery of several catalysts made from nickel and cobalt, that created his breakthrough. These catalysts are what split the water into hydrogen and oxygen under very simple conditions - even dirty water can be used. His artificial leaf is now 10 times more powerful than a natural leaf at photosynthesis, and Nocera is confident that, in the future, it will be much more powerful.

"Nature is powered by photosynthesis, and I think that the future world will be powered by photosynthesis as well in the form of this artificial leaf," he said.
Nature has it all, doesn't it?

sources: PopSci, LiveMint via Fast Company, American Chemical Society, Nocera abstracts
T Goodman

Medicine, Science, & Bio-Inspired Innovations

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Faces of the Recovery Act: Sun Catalytix

EADS Cuts Funding Request to Germany, France, Spain for Drone

European Aeronautic, Defence & Space Co. is asking Germany, France and Spain for a combined 300 million euros ($423 million) over three years to help it develop the Talarion unmanned aerial vehicle, the chief of EADS’s defense unit said.

EADS said in January 2010 it needed 1.5 billion euros in total from the three governments to continue developing Talarion, which is intended to perform reconnaissance and surveillance missions. EADS trimmed its request, recognizing the countries’ severe budget constraints, said Stefan Zoller, chief executive officer of the defense unit, Cassidian, said today at a briefing in Munich.

Government money is critical for a program that would help keep Europe’s defense industry competitive with U.S. rivals, which benefit extensively from state-funded research contracts, said Zoller.

“We don’t want to lose a competitive edge, so we’ve already started financing it on our own,” said Zoller. “Today all the teams are still going full speed on development, pre- financed with our own money, but we still lack financing from the three nations.”

EADS Chief Executive Louis Gallois said last July his company might pull the plug on Talarion research unless the governments pledged funds by the following quarter. It kept spending even after the countries failed to commit, however. EADS has spent 500 million euros to 600 million euros developing technologies in recent years for unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVS, Zoller said, declining to break out a specific figure for Talarion.

Cassidian, based in Munich, has self-financed 4 percent of research costs in recent years, with the rest coming from governments, Zoller said. The figure earlier was 2.5 percent to 3 percent, he said.

Dassault Project
Dassault Aviation SA (AM), a French company that is 46 percent- owned by EADS, has been working on a drone program called the Neuron. It has built a demonstration model, representing the first stage of development of unmanned combat aerial vehicles, fighter planes that could be controlled by people outside the aircraft, either in the ground or in other aircraft behind.

Dassault recently agreed to work together with the U.K.’s BAE Systems Plc (BA/) on the project. Cassidian has no involvement in the Dassault program, even though the companies share an investor in parent EADS, and Zoller said he considered the Talarion project to be far more advanced than Neuron.

Turkey wants to join the Talarion development program, and if any of the three western European nations fail to commit, EADS will ask the other two if they would accept Turkey as a partner, he said. That would require Turkish companies to get a third of the overall share of work on the project, he said.

Orders Fell

Cassidian’s activities include the German and Spanish portions of the Eurofighter combat plane, a project that also involves BAE and Finmeccanica SpA (FNC) of Italy.

Cassidian contributed 5.93 billion euros in revenue in 2010 to EADS’s total of 45.8 billion euros, two-thirds of which came from Airbus SAS, which makes commercial airplanes. The unit won orders of 4.3 billion euros, down from 8 billion euros in 2009.

Zoller is seeking to reshape Cassidian as European defense ministries’ budgets come under pressure. The goal, he said, is to have more than 60 percent of revenue from new markets such as Brazil, India, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, in 2020. Zoller said the principal means of breaking into new markets would be through developing joint ventures.

Cassidian said last week it plans to cut 600 jobs, or 10 percent of its workforce of 6,000. Another 5 percent of employees are being redeployed to new jobs in areas where Cassidian wants to grow, such as in cyber security, Zoller said. A reorganization taking effect Aug. 1 will erase boundaries between divisions, he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Andrea Rothman in Paris at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Benedikt Kammel at

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NASA's Small Unmanned Aerial Vehicle

Incredible Unmanned Vehicles- UAVs and More

Helios Aircraft

Five Target Audiences for Obama’s Libya War Speech

By Chris Stirewalt
Obama justifies US intervention

After eight baffling days, President Obama will address the American public about his decision to enter the Libyan civil war on the side of rebel forces.

Perhaps never in the television era has a president waited so long after launching a war or even military strikes to address the nation.

For historical context: When Ronald Reagan ordered the invasion of Grenada on Oct. 25, 1983, he spoke to a national audience on the subject two days later. When George H.W. Bush sent the Army after narco-strongman Manuel Noriega on Dec. 19, 1990 he made an Oval Office address the next night. Bill Clinton spoke many, many times about the slowly escalating NATO effort in Bosnia. By the time the first bombs fell in April of 1994, Clinton had been publicly pushing for an escalation since he was running for office in 1992.

Whether it is a result of Obama’s low profile in defending the war or just general war fatigue among the American people, Gallup found initial public support for the conflict was lower than any U.S. military intervention of the past 20 years. Since the U.S. entered the war, Obama has also seen his own job approval rating dip.

Obama’s primary objective in the speech from the National Defense University tonight is to rally the American public, or at least plead for patience. While Obama’s decision to bring the U.S. into the war just before leaving the country with his family for a tour of Latin America may have shielded the president from public scrutiny on the subject, it also allowed doubts to fester.

Obama, it seems, underestimated the level of interest and concern with which the electorate would greet the involvement of the U.S. in a third war in a Muslim country. Obama tonight can be expected to make much of NATO’s agreement to take over command for the aerial assault, now bloodlessly dubbed Operation Unified Protector instead of the previous cryptic moniker of Operation Odyssey Dawn, which sounded like the name for a Cream album or a rejected title for a James Bond movie starring Timothy Dalton.

Obama will not likely make as much of the fact that the change in command hasn’t meant a change in U.S. involvement, but instead just put a Canadian general in charge.

So, while Obama mostly needs to reassure regular Americans that getting in this war was a good idea and that he has a plan for getting out of it, there are several specific audiences to which the president will also be directing his remarks.

Power Play offers five of the most important groups for the president to reach tonight:

Team Qaddafi

“There wasn’t resistance. There was no one in front of us. There’s no fighting.”

-- Libyan rebel soldier Faraj Sheydani talking to the New York Times

The good news for President Obama is that the Libyan rebels have regained the momentum in that country’s civil war. The bad news is that it may be part of a strategic retreat by the Libyan army.

Bolstered by hundreds of coordinated U.S. air strikes over the past week (88 in the past day alone), rebels began advancing out of the coastal positions that once promised to be their last stand. But in their eastward push toward the capital, Tripoli, the rebels met no resistance – not even in Dictator Muammar al-Qaddafi’s hometown of Sirte in the heart of the country’s oilfields.

As U.S. forces continue to bombard Qaddafi’s troops as they race away from rebel territory, the call has gone up from the Libyan government – How can you attack a retreating army under the auspices of defending civilians?

Qaddafi may dress like Lady Gaga and talk like Charlie Sheen, but he is an expert at holding power and manipulating international opinion. He has not managed to stay in power for 42 years after deposing a king from the tribes now in revolt by being just a weirdo.

Obama has engaged in a strange rhetorical parsing in his limited comments on the war thus far. He has maintained that the purpose of the war is to protect civilians even as he maintains that it is the policy of his administration to push Qaddafi from power. This legalistic position is intended to preserve an exit strategy for the U.S. and avoid deepening the already acute alarm in the Arab world that the U.S. would start knocking over desert despots willy nilly.

What Qaddafi will be listening for tonight is whether Obama maintains this rhetorical division or if he begins to blur the lines. There is an increasing sense in Washington that whatever Obama does now, he cannot leave Qaddafi in power. But pushing the mission into direct regime change also leaves the U.S., already financially broken, on the hook for building a new nation in its place. By the Powell Doctrine, to which Obama seems to subscribe: We broke it, we bought it.

If Qaddafi is pulling back to make a last stand in Tripoli, that would mean using American force to root him out. The idea of blasting the city and killing innocents in a bid to root Qaddafi out must be a very unappealing thought to Obama.

If Obama sticks with the legalistic division on civilian protection and regime change, it will be a sure sign to Qaddafi that his effort to play the victim of Western aggression might work. If Obama drops the lawyer speak, Qaddafi will know that it’s time to start preparing for martyrdom or looking for exile havens – must have good plastic surgeons who accept payment in gold bullion.

Members of Congress

“It simply leaves the whole situation up for grabs in which there's hopefulness, maybe, that Qaddafi will leave or that something bad will happen to him or, in fact, that somehow these persons who are the rebels who we really don't know who have no particular government are going to form something that is more friendly to us or to the Europeans.”

-- Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., on “Meet the Press”

President Obama has engaged in the military equivalent of a recess appointment. After three weeks of watching the Libyan civil war, Obama waited until Congress left town for a weeklong recess before starting his attack on Muammar al-Qaddafi’s forces.

Democrats have mostly muted their original outrage on the subject of being circumvented. While they once spoke of the need for congressional authorization of military action, Democrats have changed their tune with one of their own in the White House.

The administration’s basic argument, now repeated by congressional Democrats, is that prior authorization was not necessary because the U.N. had blessed the enterprise – that it wasn’t a unilateral attack like certain cowboy presidents who had a paltry 40 nations on his side when invading Iraq. While it isn’t going to win the Democratic caucuses any awards for consistency, Obama can be comforted to know that he has the backing of his party’s leaders on the Libya war.

But, the still-resistant Democrats and most of the Republicans could band together to cause serious problems for Obama’s efforts. To avoid that Obama needs some plausible argument for the war but also to stroke some legislative egos.

Obama is big on name-dropping in speeches – especially bipartisan name-dropping.

When Obama used to talk about his commitment to transparency and good government, he would discuss his work on ethics with conservative Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla.

When he talked about his defense policies, Obama has lately favored Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind. But Obama can’t tout Lugar’s support tonight. Lugar, the defense dean of the Senate GOP, backed Obama on a missile treaty with Russia, a nation-building surge in Afghanistan and more, but Lugar has balked at the idea of joining the Libyan civil war.

If Obama wants to tout bipartisan support for the Libya war, he will have to point to his old adversary Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., whose message on the war has been that Obama is botching a worthy effort, and many of his Republican colleagues agree with McCain only on the “botching” part. Not exactly the kind of endorsement one likes to tout unless they’re in a pickle.

Obama presumably has a name in mind to drop tonight – whether it is McCain’s or someone else’s – as a way to say, “If respected Sen. ____________ thinks it’s ok to go to war without congressional approval, why listen to some peacenik and isolationist lightweights?”

The Rest of the Muslim World

"It is obvious Syria is the target of a project to sow sectarian strife to compromise Syria and the unique co-existence model that distinguishes it.”

-- Buthaina Shaaban, adviser to Syrian despot Bashar Assad, quoted by the state-controlled press on the cause for the attacks by government troops against protesters

How many civilian protestors may a Middle Eastern ruler kill before running afoul of the emerging Obama doctrine that calls for military action in defense of “basic rules of the road” for dictators?

The Syrians are currently testing the standard, with the Assad government dispatching its army to put down a revolt within the Sunni Muslim majority in the country. Dozens are dead and reports continue to emerge of snipers slaughtering protesters.

There are many similarities to Libya – Syria is a state sponsor of terrorism. The conflict involves ancient tribal and sectarian conflict – the ruling Assad clan is part of the Shiite faith (the Alawite branch) while the majority of the country is of the more moderate Sunni faith. Like in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, such differences were downplayed during the era of Arab nationalism, but have reemerged as the regime is threatened.

The Obama administration has worked hard to make the case that Libya is unique because of the amount of firepower Qaddafi has brought to bear, but Assad and others want to know where the line is.

Obama will likely reassure them that they are still in the tolerable zone for killing dissidents.

Also watching will be increasingly skeptical American allies in Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and elsewhere who have grown deeply frustrated with the new American standards for conduct in the region. The crackdown by the Sunni royal houses of the gulf state is at odds with what Obama has sometimes said.

The Arab media will endlessly parse Obama’s speech for signs that he has addressed inconsistencies in his policy or for suggestions about what level of civilian slaughter will be abided.

The U.S. Military

“No, I don’t think it’s a vital interest for the United States, but we clearly have interests there.”

-- Defense Secretary Robert Gates on “This Week”

American military commanders demonstrate obvious discomfort with the Libyan mission. Defense Secretary Robert Gates did his duty and appeared on the Sunday shows (though inexplicably stiff arming “FOX News Sunday”), sitting mutely while Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expounded on the merits of internationalism and the United Nations.

Gates, who mostly limited himself to discussing the hows of the mission and not the whys, undercut the administration position a couple of times anyway. Gates said that Libya wasn’t a “vital interest” for the U.S. and indicated that the war could in fact be a very long one depending on what happens next.

Gates nay-said the idea of entering the war long before Obama embraced it, and his public reticence on the subject has left standing his previous warning about the dangers of getting involved.

Current and retired military officers reinforce these concerns to Power Play and other outlets. The deep concern is that with Afghanistan heating up again, sectarian violence threatening the timetable for U.S. withdrawal from Iraq and China flexing its military muscle in the Pacific, this was not a good time to add another preemptive war to the Pentagon’s to-do list.

Another worry is funding. The Libya war has been very expensive – likely approaching $1 billion – at a time when the Pentagon is deeply concerned about its budget. The government is currently operating on short-term continuing resolutions, which keeps the Pentagon on fiscal tenterhooks.

The president, meanwhile, has suggested that funding for the Libya war can come out of the non-existent budget – that there is cash available for such a contingency.

The war fighters seem to disagree and see the second half of the budget year as a brutal time: Republicans are unwilling to grant any increase in spending and Democrats are eating up capacity with new conflicts.

The president’s choice of the National Defense University at Ft. McNair for the speech is a nod to the Pentagon’s concerns. He is coming to them to talk about the war. Of course, Obama’s low-key speech at West Point in 2009 to announce the Afghan surge was something of a flop. Delivering an apologia for a war in front of an audience that will have to go fight it turned out to be something of a mistake.

The American military hated the internationalist interventions of the Clinton era, leading to a hostile relationship between the commander in chief and his forces.

Obama has shown great deference to the military so far, and will likely offer a double dose tonight.

Obama’s Political Base

“Why didn't this same moral calculus justify the attack on Iraq? Saddam Hussein really was a murderous, repressive monster: at least [Qaddafi’s] equal when it came to psychotic blood-spilling.”

-- Columnist and ardent Iraq war opponent Glenn Greenwald writing at Salon

Barack Obama was not the anti-war candidate in 2008. He was the anti Iraq war candidate. And with his attack on Libya, Obama has undercut the very basis for his political ascension.

Obama has strained the affection of his early supporters in a variety of ways, but he has had ideological arguments for his actions. The left doesn’t like the Afghan war, but Obama inherited it. The left doesn’t like the continued operation of Guantanamo Bay, but Congress won’t let him close it. The left doesn’t like the idea of a secret war fought with CIA drones around the Muslim world… well, he has arguments for most of his actions.

In Libya, Obama has engaged in a preemptive strike on a foreign country that posed no immediate threat to the U.S. and done so without the blessing of Congress – all things that liberals and Obama accused George W. Bush of doing in Iraq.

While Obama has lost much of his base already, the anger and objections of the intellectual core of the American left can continue to erode Democratic enthusiasm about having “four more years.”

Obama might opt to explain obliquely tonight how Libya differs from Iraq, but will likely steer clear of the subject. He can continue to reach out to the left in less public ways, but Obama also knows that his early supporters will be listening and he must duly resist the desire to appeal to the broader electorate by adopting any macho talk, lest he be freshly accused of being Bushier than Bush.
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Obama to address nation on US role in Libya

Obama: US has responsibility to oppose Libya's Gadhafi