A senior military adviser in Baghdad said the U.S. should "declare victory and go home." Is he right?
Friday, July 31, 2009
WASHINGTON (Army News Service, April 3, 2009) - Some Soldiers seem to have a sixth sense at being able to spot improvised explosive devices, researchers found, while others were unable to see the deadly weapons hidden in brush or buried in the middle of a road.
How and why only certain Soldiers could see IEDs was something the Joint Improvised Explosive Device Defeat Organization decided needed to be studied. So for the last 18 months a joint group of researchers has been striving to identify what particular skills, abilities and characteristics are needed to detect IEDs.
The study's director, Jennifer Murphy, Ph.D., said JIEDDO leadership was hearing stories from the field every now and then that there would be a Soldier who just happened to be exceptional in his ability to identify IEDs, so she and the Army Research Institute for the Behavioral and Social Sciences came into the picture.
"Wouldn't it be great if there was a way we could identify people who have this skill before they deploy because it would save so many lives," she said, "because right now the way it is, we have to wait for the tour to unfold to see who is good and who's not."
She said being able to identify who these sixth-sense Soldiers are in advance would allow the Army to strategically place them in various locations throughout a convoy. It would save time and lives since most IED casualties occur at the beginning and at the end of a Soldier's tour - at the beginning because Soldiers are learning about their surroundings; at the end because Soldiers start to focus on returning home.
Murphy and her team first started to question the reasons why some Soldiers were particularly good at finding IEDs - what was it that made them good and why?
"If you talk to a Soldier about what he thinks makes him good, he'll say, 'I've got a spidey sense, a sixth sense and I can just feel something is wrong, I don't know what it is, but something is out of place, not quite right,'" she said. "Obviously we can't measure 'spidey sense,' but I can tell you that we can determine to a large degree how eyes and certain cognitive functions work together."
The research team began studying the human factors such as measuring the light that enters the eyes to the information being passed to the brain, added in personality factors, through a variety of tests as well as the personal experiences a Soldier has in the field and what they might have had in earlier life. Things like, did the individual hunt or fish; were they familiar with their terrain? Those are all components of what could possibly make somebody good at finding IEDs, Murphy said.
Next the researchers identified core components, broke them down into basic processes, figured out ways to measure them, then began assessing IED detection ability. They assessed 800 warfighters, including Soldiers, Marines and Airmen who were each given a battery of 15 or 16 tests. Through statistical analysis, the researchers were able to filter out the most important predictors of performing well in finding IEDs.
Tests the warfighters went through included a training-lane criterion measure which provided a performance-based measure of visual IED detection skill. It comprised three factors: physical environment, targets and emplacement locations. Another was DARWARS Ambush, a virtual-reality game-based system that measured the ability to visually detect IEDs on a simulated route-clearance mission.
Vigilance performance was also studied using a computer-based assessment. Also included were Peer- rating tests that Murphy said are used by Fortune 500 companies to determine who should go where in a company structure.
Paper-and-pencil tests measured knowledge, skills and abilities that could be related to IED detection. They covered detection of hidden objects, abstract reasoning skills, knowledge of the IED threat and also personal and military background.
"We're not just looking for an ability in someone, we're looking for differences between people because that's how we identify the ones who are going to be best at this task," said Murphy. "Most Soldiers have vision that has been corrected, but there are some people who can see above and beyond that. I'm not going to know what 'above and beyond' is unless I know how everyone else performs."
Murphy added that aside from having strong vision, there are skills the researchers were looking at which are inherent in Soldiers who can spot IEDs -- certain cognitive capacity characteristics, working memory spatial representations Soldiers keep in their brains. These are things the researchers can measure, but they can't train.
"Some of the things we're looking at are skills that actually can be trained," Murphy said. "Things like the ability to pay attention for a long period of time. We can train vigilance, that's something research has show we can actually do to improve performance."
What the team found is that Soldiers who are sensitive to various subtleties often are the same folks who go down the same route every day - such as in a convoy -- are able to see and sense that something is missing or is new that was or wasn't there the day before.
"These are people who notice extraordinary subtle changes in the environment," Murphy explained. "They can recognize the tread marks of their vehicles and they can see where another vehicle has gone over and down the road that's not theirs.
"The one thing that you'll find is that the good route-clearance guys understand this and they'll set themselves up so they can notice changes," she said. "In their minds, they'll proactively clear the area. It's called desanitization, which is where they are able to get rid of all the trash, all the garbage, all the foliage, virtually everything along the side of the road and in the process they minimize IED hiding places. They're able to segregate items from the background."
Presently the research team is compiling its data and will file the results and recommendations to JIEDDO headquarters in the next month.
"What will happen if this all gets implemented is that the folks who have the most potential to be successful at IED detection will get extensively trained, then strategically placed so they can do the most good," Murphy said.
"Now that we've identified the critical skills, such as vigilance, the question will be how do we train so that everybody improves in the detection process," she said. "That will maximize our capability to detect and that will be a great weapon that insurgents can't stop."
Friday, July 31, 2009
Google’s CEO once said the company wants to know more about you than you know about you. It looks like the search engine giant may not be far from reaching that goal.
With applications including Google Finance, Google Translate, Google Earth, Google Images – just to name a few – Google is emerging as a "big brother-ish" trove of information with limitless access to our personal lives, raising some serious concerns.
Take Google’s simple Web search engine, for starters. Consumers who use Google to find fast facts and answers to questions are giving the company a database of information. The company tracks all search words, storing each entry for up to a year and a half.
"As Google knows more about us, it has a greater ability to control our activity, to try to direct us to things that Google wants us to do," said Marc Rotenberg of the Electronic Privacy Information Center.
Users of Gmail, Google’s e-mail system, offer the company even more personal information. The company's computers scan all e-mail sent and received on the site, and Google uses the words contained in the e-mail messages to tailor the pop-up ads featured on the site to each individual consumer.
"It's just creepy," Charlie Heffernan, a Gmail user, said. "Somebody is reading the content of my e-mail to discover what I'm talking about."
There's more. Google may know your address, where you drive and — if you sign up for Google Health — the personal information on your health records. Sound a bit extreme?
It turns out it’s par for the course with the giant search engines, and Christine Chen, a Google spokesperson, said individual users' information isn't being combed over by the companies employees.
"This is basically all done by computer, there are no humans that ever read this and this is the same technology that's also used to prevent spam," Chen said.
Google can provide such a wide range of services to consumers precisely because it can sell so many ads. It can sell so many ads because it knows its consumers so well.
But Google's omniscience is raising eyebrows, even attracting the attention of lawmakers in Washington. Congress, taking a closer look at Google’s seemingly endless access, held a round of hearings last month on whether the consumer should be able to opt out of such arguably invasive practices.
So, will it happen? You can probably follow the progress on Google.
WASHINGTON — A senior American military adviser in Baghdad has concluded in an unusually blunt memo that Iraqi forces suffer from entrenched deficiencies but are now able to protect the Iraqi government, and that it is time “for the U.S. to declare victory and go home.”
The memo offers a look at tensions that emerged between Iraqi and American military officers at a sensitive moment when American combat troops met a June 30 deadline to withdraw from Iraq’s cities, the first step toward an advisory role. The Iraqi government’s forceful moves to assert authority have concerned some American officers, though senior American officials insisted that cooperation had improved.
Prepared by Col. Timothy R. Reese, an adviser to the Iraqi military’s Baghdad command, the memorandum details Iraqi military weaknesses in scathing language, including corruption, poor management and the inability to resist Shiite political pressure. Extending the American military presence beyond August 2010, he argues, will do little to improve the Iraqis’ military performance while fueling growing resentment of Americans.
“As the old saying goes, ‘Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days,’ ” Colonel Reese wrote. “Since the signing of the 2009 Security Agreement, we are guests in Iraq, and after six years in Iraq, we now smell bad to the Iraqi nose.”
Those conclusions are not shared by the senior American commander in Iraq, Gen. Ray Odierno, and his recommendation for an accelerated troop withdrawal is at odds with the timetable approved by President Obama.
A spokeswoman for General Odierno said that the memo did not reflect the official stance of the United States military and was not intended for a broad audience, and that some of the problems the memo referred to had been solved since its writing in early July.
Still, the memo opens a rare window into a debate among American military officers about how active the American role should be in Iraq and for how long. While some in the military endorse Colonel Reese’s assessment, other officers say that American forces need to stay in Iraq for the next couple of years as the Iraqis struggle with heightened tensions between the Kurds and Arabs, insurgent attacks in and around Mosul and checking authoritarian tendencies of the Iraqi government.
“We now have an Iraqi government that has gained its balance and thinks it knows how to ride the bike in the race,” Colonel Reese wrote. “And in fact they probably do know how to ride, at least well enough for the road they are on against their current competitors. Our hand on the back of the seat is holding them back and causing resentment. We need to let go before we both tumble to the ground.”
Before deploying to Iraq, Colonel Reese served as the director of the Combat Studies Institute at Fort Leavenworth, Kan., the Army’s premier intellectual center. He was an author of an official Army history of the Iraq war — “On Point II” — that was sharply critical of the lapses in postwar planning.
As an adviser to the Baghdad Operations Command, which is led by an Iraqi general, Abud Qanbar, Colonel Reese drew examples from Baghdad Province, which is less volatile than the area near Mosul in northern Iraq, where the Sunni insurgency is strongest. But he noted that he had read military reports from other regions and that he believed that there were similar dynamics nationwide.
Colonel Reese, who could not be reached for comment, submitted his paper to General Odierno’s command, but copies have circulated among active-duty and retired military officers and been posted on at least one military-oriented Web site.
Colonel Reese’s memo lists a number of problems that have emerged since the withdrawal of American combat troops from Baghdad, completed June 30. They include, he wrote, a “sudden coolness” to American advisers and the “forcible takeover” of a checkpoint in the Green Zone. Iraqi units, he added, are much less willing to conduct joint operations with their American counterparts “to go after targets the U.S. considers high value.”
The Iraqi Ground Forces Command, Colonel Reese wrote, has imposed “unilateral restrictions” on American military operations that “violate the most basic aspects” of the security agreement that governs American and Iraqi military relations.
“The Iraqi legal system in the Rusafa side of Baghdad has demonstrated a recent willingness to release individuals originally detained by the U.S. for attacks on the U.S.,” he added.
A spokeswoman for General Odierno, Lt. Col. Josslyn Aberle, said of the memo: “The e-mail reflects one person’s personal view at the time we were first implementing the Security Agreement post-30 June. Since that time many of the initial issues have been resolved and our partnerships with Iraqi Security Forces and G.O.I. partners now are even stronger than before 30 June.” G.O.I. is the abbreviation for the government of Iraq; the Iraqi Security Forces are sometimes referred to as the I.S.F.
Colonel Reese appears to have anonymously circulated a less detailed version of his memo on a blog called “The Enchanter’s Corner.” The author, listed on the site as “Tim the Enchanter,” is described as an active-duty Army officer serving as an adviser in Iraq who is “passionate about political issues.” That post on Iraq, along with one criticizing President Obama’s health care proposals, has been removed but can be found in cached versions.
Under the plan developed by General Odierno, the vast majority of the approximately 130,000 American forces in Iraq will remain through Iraq’s national elections, which are expected to be held next January. After the elections and the formation of a new Iraqi government, there will be rapid reductions in American forces. By the end of August 2010, the United States would have no more than 50,000 troops in Iraq, which would include six brigades whose primary role would be to advise and train Iraqi troops.
Some experts, like Stephen Biddle, a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and a former adviser to Gen. David H. Petraeus, have argued that this timetable may be too fast “Renewed violence in Iraq is not inevitable, but it is a serious risk,” Mr. Biddle wrote in a recent paper. “The most effective option for prevention is to go slow in drawing down the U.S. military presence in Iraq. Measures to maximize U.S. leverage on important Iraqi leaders — especially Maliki,” he added, referring to Iraq’s prime minister, Nuri Kamal al-Maliki “— can be helpful in steering Iraqis away from confrontation and violence, but U.S. leverage is a function of U.S. presence.”
During a recent appearance at the United States Institute of Peace, a Washington-based research organization, Mr. Maliki appeared to be contemplating a possible role for American forces after the December 2011 deadline for the removal of all American troops under the security agreement.
But while General Odierno has drawn up detailed plans for a substantial advisory role, Colonel Reese argued in favor of a more limited — and shorter — effort, and recommended that all American forces be withdrawn by August 2010.
“If there ever was a window where the seeds of a professional military culture could have been implanted, it is now long past,” he wrote. “U.S. combat forces will not be here long enough or with sufficient influence to change it. The military culture of the Baathist-Soviet model under Saddam Hussein remains entrenched and will not change. The senior leadership of the I.S.F. is incapable of change in the current environment.”
Thursday, July 30, 2009
U.S. Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the National Press Club in Washington that al-Qaida's leadership, a top military target, was hiding out in the volatile regions along the border with Afghanistan.
Airstrikes from suspected unmanned U.S. aerial drones have struck targets inside Pakistani territory in an effort to take out top al-Qaida leaders, including Osama bin Laden.
"The top priority, with respect to that strategy, is to defeat al-Qaida," said Mullen.
Mullen went on to praise Pakistani military efforts to take on the lingering insurgency in the volatile tribal regions following the collapse of a cease-fire agreement with the Taliban earlier this year.
"A year ago, not many people would have said that the Pakistani military could pull that off, and yet they have made an awful lot of progress," he said.
Suspected U.S. missile strikes in Pakistan killed at least 45 militants and extremists, reportedly wounding a key Taliban leader, Maulana Fazlullah.
Pakistani forces, for their part, have pledged to take out Baitullah Mehsud, the head of the Pakistani Taliban.
U.S. intelligence officials claimed they "almost" took out Mehsud in a June attack in South Waziristan in the tribal region.
Osama bin Laden
I believe he is alive. I know Benazir Bhutto told David Frost on al-Jazeera (11/2/07) that he is dead. The most recent outside news suggesting bin Laden is still alive comes from Pakistan's The News where on 7/21 Rahimullah Yousafzai, the only reporter to interview OBL, Mullah Omar and al-Zawahiri, more than once, writes of OBL in the present tense. He has excellent jihadi and intel contacts.
On 6/3/09, on the eve of Obama's trip to Saudi Arabia, al Qaeda issued an OBL audio tape, which experts like Richard Clarke claim is valid.
His most recent video was 9/7/07. If you recall, in this one his beard was jet black. I didn't think at the time that he, a Wahhabi, most interested in jihad, would dye his beard to look younger. I have since been around Wahhabi fighters and have seen their vanity, their dyed beards; some men with young wives, like OBL, don't want to look old. He was 52 on March 10.
Al Qaeda has issued more than 60 messages since 9/11.
I don't think that OBL is in the tribal zones. His sons could certainly be there. Benazir, in her autobiography, Daughter of the East, said Musharraf warned her that Hamza bin Laden, one of OBL's teenage sons, was part of a group of "designated assassins" trying to kill her. See U.K.'s Telegraph of 7/21.
I'm told he is in Pakistan. Some believe he is in Saudi Arabia, others in Yemen. Michael Semple, former high official in the U.N. Mission in Afghanistan, co-author of an article in the current issue of Foreign Affairs on the Taliban, told me he thinks that OBL is hiding in a chateau in Europe.
The Telegraph (7/23) reports that some of OBL's family went to Islamabad after the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. Hamid Gul, former ISI head, told me that Gulbadeen Hekmaytier's family was living in Islamabad. The families of such men, one an Arab, the other a Pashtun, both with bounties on their heads, could not hide in a Punjabi city like Islamabad unless they had official protection.
The Death of Saad bin Laden
According to U.S. intelligence officials, Saad, 27, the oldest son of OBL's 19 children, may have been killed by a Predator missile in the tribal zones in the past several months. Officials base their assertion upon communication intercepts.
The U.S. has launched 45 missile attacks in the tribal zones since August 2008, more than it did under Bush. No one, it seems, has seen his body, nor is there a DNA sample.
Saad is said to have gone to Iran after 9/11 and returned to Pakistan in 2007. If he was killed, and if he was an active part of al Qaeda, it would be the most significant al Qaeda death, in the tribal zones, since 9/11.
Thus far, all the major al Qaeda figures have been captured or killed in Pakistan's "settled areas," or in major cities.
Unless Pakistan or the U.S. provides proof I would question this report. While the Taliban and their al Qaeda allies use phones and walkie-talkies, they, and Pakistan, are expert in the art of dissembling. The Taliban know when Predators appear overhead. They know the U.S. listens in on their conversations.
Al Qaeda and the Taliban fight together, but the Taliban are in charge. Contrary to what Petreaus says, al Qaeda is still in Afghanistan. Saeed bin Laden could have been there.
Pakistan, which provides much of the onsite intelligence to the U.S., would have its own reasons for saying he is dead, mainly to show the U.S. that it is providing good intelligence, anything, people say, to keep the aid money flowing.
The Wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan
The Taliban will get stronger. They will continue to attack anyone attached to the West, and to the Karzai government, to weaken morale. According to USA Today (7/9) there were 736 IEDs in June.
The war has now become the second longest in U.S. history. The U.S. is losing this war itself. As Abdullah Abdullah, the presidential candidate with, it seems, the best chance to force Karzai into a runoff, said in speech in Herat (New York Times, 7/24) "Because of abuses and bombings by U.S. and NATO forces stationed here, people have started to hate the foreign troops."
Karzai is promising that, if re-elected, he will renegotiate the status of foreign soldiers in Afghanistan.
According to The Times of London online (7/24), "The conduct of U.S. troops is the biggest issue in the Afghan presidential debate."
Time noted on 7/10 that the U.S. and its allies killed 838 civilians in 2008. "There is no question that the situation has deteriorated over the past two years," said Petraeus.
Every Afghan seems to know of the 650 plus men in prison in Bagram, of Gitmo. They will know of the Afghanistan Human Rights Commission story (Reuters 5/9) of the U.S. torturing a 12 year old boy there. Men talk of secret U.S. prisons. These things drive people into the arms of the Taliban.
McChrystal told The Washington Post on 7/10 that "The Afghan people are our mission." Yes.
The Taliban cannot survive on their own. Every Taliban group I was with had contact with tribal chiefs and with villagers, and not just isolated villages high up in the mountains. Their leaders go back and forth across the border. The U.S. is often dependent upon its interpreters. They have families. The Taliban know who they are.
The U.S. Marines in Helmand (NY Times 7/8) acknowledge that the Afghans are not going to tell them the truth.
Holbrooke, asked, rhetorically (AP 7/26) "Do you want the Afghanistan people to abandon the election in the face of a small band of Taliban."
According to The Wall Street Journal (7/9) the U.S. just awarded $15.5 billion in contracts to Fluor and DynCorp to build new U.S. bases in Afghanistan. This small band is tough. The Dallas Business Journal (7/8) reports that Fluor will supply 74 U.S. bases in northern Afghanistan.
This is a story. A relatively small group of young men have forced the U.S. and its allies, soon to number 91,000, and to maybe surpass the number of Soviet soldiers here in the 1980s, with bases all around the country, into a real fight. The NY Times, on 7/25, quoting U.S. soldiers, says the Taliban stand and fight, they maneuver. They do not fire and run like insurgents in Iraq.
They will not give in. They, unlike al Qaeda in Iraq, are fighting for their homeland. For them, this is a nationalist war, as well as a religious war. Their goal is martyrdom. Their reward is Paradise.
Malalai Joya, the most courageous public woman in Afghanistan (worthy of a story), wrote in The Guardian on 7/25, that "Sending more troops and expanding the war into Pakistan will only add fuel to the fire."
Cronkite talked of a stalemate in Vietnam. Be wary of one here.
The main story is the fear of the Talibinazation of Pakistan. Why is it growing? How is it growing?
On 7/23, Natasha Yefimov, assistant to N. Kristoff, columnist at The NY Times, wrote in an online column that scoring to the Jamestown Foundation, the Taliban will next focus their war on Karachi, the commercial capital of Pakistan. About 75% of the materiel for the war in Afghanistan comes by boat to Karachi and is then shipped overland up to Afghanistan. Newsweek this week echoed this feeling.
The Taliban plan to continue to try to cut the U.S. supply routes into Afghanistan. Karachi is the second largest Pashtun city, after Peshawar, in the world. Pashtuns were settled there as refugees during the 1980s.
The suicide attacks continue, in Peshawar and even in Lahore, but few, if any, have ever been investigated. Even the U.N. investigation into the death of Benazir is being controlled.
Another story idea: Lashkar-e-Taiba (Army of the Pure), the Pakistani jihadi organization, said to be responsible for the Mumbai attacks. LeT now operates under the banner of Jamaat-ud-Dawa (Islamic Missionary Organization). It is tied to al-Qaeda. It is tied to the Taliban. It was created by the Pakistani army. Its recruits are young and unmarried, thus able to devote all their time to jihad.
The NY Times noted on 7/25 that "Obama administration officials are trying to understand the state of relations between Pakistan and Lashkar-e-Taiba." To understand LeT is to go to the heart of the jihadi movement in South Asia.
Story idea: The U.S. House of representatives recently passed spending bills allocating $2.7 billion to Afghanistan and $1.5 billion to Pakistan. The U.S. has now given over $11 billion to Pakistan since 9/11. Where does this money go?
On 7/26 Foreign Minister Quershi, under pressure from the U.S., said that Pakistan would no longer protect the Quetta shura, meaning Mullah Omar. We shall see.
Final story idea: Journalists under fire. According to the AP (7/26) there were about 2,000 journalists in Pakistan in 2001. Under Musharraf's liberalization program the number went up to 20,000, largely in radio and television. Five journalists were killed in 2008, 45 since 2001. Pakistan, like Iraq (11 killed last year) and Somali are the most dangerous places for journalists in the world.
Jere Van Dyk spent a number of months from 2006 - 2008 along the Afghan-Pakistani border. Beginning, September 2007, he crossed four times over the mountains into the tribal zones of Pakistan, and was with the Taliban five times, on both sides of the border.
He has written a book about part of these experiences which will be published by Times Books, date to be announced. It will be an inside look at the Taliban, based upon his experiences in Afghanistan and Pakistan as a journalist over the years, and as a consultant to the U.S. government in the 1980s.
shifting drones from pakistan? doesn't say. i'm thinking the cia drones are staying put in the FATA.could this also reflect the absence of al-qaeda in afghanistan? In May there was this story: "Petraeus: Al Qaeda No Longer Operating in Afghanistan."
By Julian E. Barnes
July 30, 2009
The move, described by government and Defense Department officials, represents a major change in the military's use of one of its most precious intelligence assets. It also illustrates the hard choices that must be made because the drones are in short supply.
But a shortage of drone aircraft could limit the effectiveness of the thousands of additional troops being sent as part of the Obama administration's new focus on Afghanistan, officials say. A preliminary review has concluded that the command in Afghanistan requires up to four times as many Predators as it currently has.
To try to meet the demand, the military has shifted about eight Predator drones assigned to special operations forces in Afghanistan to conventional forces. It is refocusing them on major insurgent strongholds rather than on scouring remote mountain ranges for suspected terrorists.
The sweeping redeployment means that insurgent groups that have carried out ambushes and roadside bombings will for the first time be tracked by dozens of drones capable of remaining over a target for hours undetected, identifying key individuals, and firing missiles within a matter of seconds.
A focus on hunting Al Qaeda reflected priorities set early in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks. A move away from that strategy could invite protest from U.S. politicians and experts who believe that it could allow the organization to rebuild strength.
Osama bin Laden and the most senior Al Qaeda leadership planned the Sept. 11 attacks from Afghanistan, which was ruled by the Taliban until a U.S.-led invasion ousted it. The Al Qaeda leadership is believed to have reestablished itself across the border in Pakistan. U.S. military and intelligence services are also using drones to attack Al Qaeda figures and their Taliban allies there.
U.S. military officials believe mid-level Al Qaeda figures remain in Afghanistan, where special operations forces have been directed to hunt them down. The military also has long hoped it could learn clues to Bin Laden's whereabouts by spying on his former associates.
Despite the shift, the special operations forces retain a substantial amount of Predators. But officials say they are working to ensure that unconventional missions are more closely aligned with the new counterinsurgency strategy of the overall force.
But top military officials have concluded that they need to keep Afghanistan from sliding further into chaos in order to keep Al Qaeda from rebuilding there. Doing so will require a campaign to build confidence in the government and make the population feel more secure.
"We have been overly counter-terrorism-focused and not counter-insurgency-focused," said one U.S. official.
Senior government officials said Bin Laden remained a prime target but that they needed to focus on fighting the Taliban.
"We might still be too focused on Bin Laden," the official said. "We should probably reassess our priorities."
Although military officials emphasize that the drones will be used primarily as spy planes, the aircraft are armed. Predators carry two Hellfire missiles. Reaper drones, which are also being sent, are armed with Hellfires and precision-guided bombs.
Airborne attacks carry their own set of risks for the war effort. Afghan officials have repeatedly complained about civilian deaths resulting from airstrikes, and the Taliban seeks to make maximum use of such incidents' propaganda value.
A new directive from the top commander in Afghanistan is forcing the military to be more careful about airstrikes. But with up to 20 more drones dedicated to the task, the military may have more chances to attack key Taliban leaders.
Army Gen. Stanley A. McChrystal, the new U.S. commander in Afghanistan, made it clear in a recent interview that protecting the Afghan population, not hunting suspected terrorists, was his priority.
"I don't think there is enough focus on counter-insurgency. I am not in a position to criticize counter-terrorism," he said. "But at this point in the war, in Afghanistan, it is most important to focus on almost classic counter-insurgency."
Top commanders are ending the practice of blindly trolling for information with the Predators. McChrystal said the best way to use intelligence aircraft is to watch a single target for days, even weeks.
The shift of assets from Iraq is sensitive. Military officials said that U.S. generals in Iraq resisted, arguing that intelligence assets will be needed even after the U.S. drawdown speeds up next year.
But the Obama administration's primary military effort is now clearly Afghanistan. And a senior Defense official said Central Command, which has operational control over both wars, made its moves to shift Predator drones in consultation with McChrystal and the commander in Iraq, Army Gen. Ray Odierno.
The military also plans to increase the number of U2 flights.
The advanced camera on the U2 is useful in spotting locations where roadside bombs have been placed, but only if the planes fly over the same area every 24 hours.
In addition, all of the Air Force's unmanned Global Hawks are going to be shifted to Afghanistan, officials said.
internet archive(via lib.of congress):PUBLIC DOMAIN,COPYRIGHT-if NOT LABELLED,probably PUBLIC DOMAIN
You may upload movies that you own the copyright to, or that are in the public domain. We are not copyright lawyers, and copyright is a tricky business, so you may want to consult a copyright researcher to clear material before you use it. You may also want to check this list of movies that one of our volunteers has already researched. Here is some general information on the subject that may help you decide if your movie is okay to upload. The information below applies to films produced in the United States only. 1) Is there a copyright notice visible in the film? It is usually visible with the title or at the end of the film. If the work was made in 1923 or earlier, it is probably public domain and can be uploaded. NOTE! Restored versions of the film or new soundtracks for silent films can have more recent copyrights that are still valid - usually a copyright notice for a new soundtrack or restoration will appear in the film. For works made from 1923 to 1949, post a question to the movie forum on this site before you upload. The copyright could have been renewed and there isn't a way online to check a film's copyright status. For works made from 1950 to 1963, you can check the title at the Library of Congress Copyright Database for copyright renewals: http://www.copyright.gov/records/cohm.html . This will list copyright renewals for most films. If the copyright notice is 1964 or later, the copyright is probably still valid and the film should not be uploaded unless you are the copyright holder. 2) Is the copyright notice in the correct format? It needs to state three things - the word 'copyright' or the copyright symbol or '(c)', the year and who owns the copyright? If it is missing one of those elements or if there is no notice, it could be public domain. If you aren't sure, please post a question to the movie forum on this site. 3) Is the film foreign (not from the U.S.)? Foreign titles might not have a copyright notice, but still may be copyrighted in their country of origin. Traditionally the U.S. wouldn't recognize the copyright of a foreign film unless it was registered in the U.S. That has recently changed with the GATT treaty. Many foreign works had their copyrights restored. Please post a question to the movie forum on this site about these films before you upload.
You may upload movies that you own the copyright to, or that are in the public domain.
We are not copyright lawyers, and copyright is a tricky business, so you may want to consult a copyright researcher to clear material before you use it. You may also want to check this list of movies that one of our volunteers has already researched.
Here is some general information on the subject that may help you decide if your movie is okay to upload. The information below applies to films produced in the United States only.
1) Is there a copyright notice visible in the film? It is usually visible with the title or at the end of the film.
If the work was made in 1923 or earlier, it is probably public domain and can be uploaded. NOTE! Restored versions of the film or new soundtracks for silent films can have more recent copyrights that are still valid - usually a copyright notice for a new soundtrack or restoration will appear in the film.
For works made from 1923 to 1949, post a question to the movie forum on this site before you upload. The copyright could have been renewed and there isn't a way online to check a film's copyright status.
For works made from 1950 to 1963, you can check the title at the Library of Congress Copyright Database for copyright renewals: http://www.copyright.gov/records/cohm.html . This will list copyright renewals for most films.
If the copyright notice is 1964 or later, the copyright is probably still valid and the film should not be uploaded unless you are the copyright holder.
2) Is the copyright notice in the correct format? It needs to state three things - the word 'copyright' or the copyright symbol or '(c)', the year and who owns the copyright? If it is missing one of those elements or if there is no notice, it could be public domain. If you aren't sure, please post a question to the movie forum on this site.
3) Is the film foreign (not from the U.S.)? Foreign titles might not have a copyright notice, but still may be copyrighted in their country of origin. Traditionally the U.S. wouldn't recognize the copyright of a foreign film unless it was registered in the U.S. That has recently changed with the GATT treaty. Many foreign works had their copyrights restored. Please post a question to the movie forum on this site about these films before you upload.
The majority of the moving image materials in the Library of Congress collections are protected by copyright and as such are not available for duplication. Researchers are welcome to view copyrighted films at the Library to identify scenes of interest, but the copyright owner is usually the appropriate source for obtaining copies (see Archival/Stock Footage and Purchasing Moving Image Material).
Questions about the copyright status of film and television works should be addressed to the U.S. Copyright Office. The website has a wealth of information concerning copyright, including a comprehensive list of frequently asked questions, a complete collection of their publications, and registration forms. There is also an online database of registrations and renewals since 1978. Earlier records are in card files in the copyright office. The website describes how to access this information.
For information regarding copyright searches, contact:
U.S. Copyright Office
Reference and Bibliography Section - LM451 Library of Congress
Washington, DC 20559-6000
Phone: (202) 707-6850
Fax: (202) 252-3485
Sources for Public Domain Footage
National Archives and Records Administration
Motion Picture, Sound and Video Unit
NARA has an extensive collection of films created for and produced by the U.S. government that are in the public domain, including military films, educational and documentary films (1915-1976). NARA also has gift materials from private sources, such as Universal Newsreel releases and outtakes (1929-67). You can search some of their holdings using the ARC online catalog. For further information, contact:
National Archives and Records Administration
Special Media Archives
Motion Picture, Sound, and Video Unit 8601
Adelphi Road College Park, MD 20740
Internet Moving Image Archive
Provides near-unrestricted access to digitized collections of moving images. The largest collection is comprised of over 1,200 ephemeral (advertising, educational, industrial, and amateur) films made from 1927 through the present. Broadcast quality copies can be purchased through Getty Images.
Updated on 5/19/08 with comment from RealPlayer (see below)
Users of YouTube and other video-sharing sites could face $750 per clip penalties if they have watched a video that was uploaded without the copyright holder's permission.
Copyright infringement in the United States strict liability offense. What this means, is that users are liable when they illegally copy works, even if they're not aware that this is wrong, or that the work is protected by copyright.
As an example, let us consider the popular video sharing website YouTube.
Every week, 6 days after the show airs, HBO uploads the most recent episode of "Real Time with Bill Maher." However, within a few hours of the show's TV broadcast, a number of other users upload copies that they have recorded with their computers.
When a user visits YouTube, and searches for "Bill Maher", he will see a large number of results - some of which will be for official content uploaded by HBO, and the vast majority of which is for copyrighted content illegally uploaded by other users.
According to a strict reading of the copyright laws, and discussions with legal scholars, users could unknowingly be liable if they click on the wrong YouTube link. The fact that they're not aware that a video was illegally uploaded is irrelevant. All that matters is that they clicked on a link, and watched the video.
For BitTorrent websites like The Pirate Bay, where the vast majority of the files are illegal, it is at least semi-reasonable to expect most users to know that they are engaged in an illegal act. However, for sites like YouTube, where both legal and illegal content are available on the same platform, it is significantly trickier. How exactly, are the less-tech savvy amongst us supposed to determine if a file is legal to watch?
The issue of unintentional home user liability is the subject of a recent paper by Ned Snow, a law professor at the University of Arkansas. In "Copytraps", Professor Snow argues that copyright law unfairly exposes end users to significant liability, for actions which they have no reason to believe are illegal.
Professor Snow puts forth the following example: A user visits Google, and searches for the name of a band they like. One of the first results takes them to a website, named "legal-music-downloads.com". Once there, the user hands over her credit card, and pays $.99 per song to this unknown website. Now, imagine that "legal-music-downloads.com" is in fact a fraudulent website run by a couple guys in Eastern Europe. They download files from BitTorrent, and then illegally re-sell them to American consumers.
As Prof. Snow describes, the fact that the end user thought she was participating in a legal purchase is irrelevant. All that matters is that she has copied (downloaded) a copyrighted work, which was not sold through legitimate means. This user could be liable for up to $750 per song.
This may sound crazy, but it's completely possible under the existing system. Yes, the RIAA and MPAA have for now, gone after people who were sharing files. However, there is nothing in the law forcing them to stick to just those users. They are legally permitted to go after downloaders too.
To make sense of this, I turned to a few other experts in copyright law. First, I spoke with Corynne McSherry, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. McSherry told me that the scenarios I outlined were not beyond imagination, and quite possible under existing copyright law.
As an example of copyright holders going after downloaders, she pointed to a 2006 attempt by the Embroidery Software Protection Coalition to get the identities of all the participants of an online embroidery discussion forum. In support of their claims, the Coalition compared the stitchers' online screeds to "terrorist activities" and accused them of posting slanderous statements "that marched across the Internet bulletin boards and chat groups similar to Hitler's march across Europe."
The Embroidery Coalition, following tactics similar to the RIAA and MPAA, threatened grandmothers with lawsuits for downloading copyrighted embroidery patterns from the Internet. These little old ladies were given the choice of either paying a few hundred dollars, or facing a lawsuit.
Luckily, the lawyers at the EFF were able to get the Coalition to back down, but this does at least prove that left unchecked, copyright law can be used to go after the end users.
The EFF's McSherry told me that the penalties in copyright law were "not like many other areas of the law where you have to show harm." Thus, illegally copying a song that is sold for $.99 at the iTunes store can still lead to a $750 per song fine. McSherry labeled this as "completely disproportionate" and said that because of this, "for regular people, who don't have thousands of dollars, the inclination is to settle (the cases), rather than to fight."
YouTube users at risk
While Professor Snow focuses on the example of lying websites, I am personally far more interested in liability for users of major sites like YouTube.
Sherwin Siy, an attorney with Public Knowledge, told me that my YouTube fears might be overblown. Siy points to a difference between downloading a video, and streaming it. He told me that "arguing that a buffer copy (for a streaming view) is a duplication, that's even more of an uphill (battle), and the potential awards might not be worth the attorneys fees." He added that "merely watching a video on your screen, authorized or not, isn't going to be an infringement if you're not publicly performing or copying it."
Siy also noted that copyright law does allow for a reduced $200 per work penalty for infringement, if the pirate can prove that they had no reason to believe that they were infringing.
Siy clarified his point in a followup email: "For instance, if my local network TV affiliate were to broadcast an infringing copy of a TV show, and I were to watch it at home, I would definitely not be liable. The copytraps idea might come into play had I (however innocently) taped or DVR'd the broadcast."
While Siy makes some good points, I will have to disagree with him on the issue of viewing vs. downloading. There are many off the shelf tools that allow users to download YouTube videos. The most widely deployed of these is RealPlayer, which
automatically makes allows the user to make a local copy of every YouTube video that a user watches. YouTube has no way of knowing if someone is streaming or downloading a video - as it's simply a case of transferring bits over a wire. If the RIAA or MPAA ever subpoenaed YouTube's logs, they wouldn't be able to differentiate these users either.
A few years ago, a number of major firms started threatening Linux end-users with patent lawsuits. In response, one or two Linux companies to shield their customers from such lawsuits. That is, buy Linux from us, and we'll cover any potential legal bills.
Thinking along these lines, I reached out to YouTube to get their perspective. I wanted to know if they would offer to foot the bills of users who were sued after watching a video on their site. I also wanted to find out if YouTube has ever disclosed a list of infringing viewer IP addresses to a copyright holder.
YouTube's spokesperson ignored my actual questions, and instead told me that:
We prohibit users from uploading infringing material, and we cooperate with all copyright holders to identify and promptly remove infringing content as soon as we are officially notified.
As a company that respects the rights of copyright holders, we expect to continue to take the lead in providing state of the art DMCA tools and processes for all copyright holders.
While the liability for end users remains unclear, there is certainly the potential for some nasty lawsuits, should the copyright owners decide to go down that path. In a conversation with me, Prof. Snow described a scary future with Copyright Trolls who delay sending takedown letters to websites, so that the number of infringing users (who the company can later go after) will increase.
A scary future indeed.
Update: Jeff Chasen, a VP at RealPlayer contacted to let me know that I had erred in my original blog post. He told me that:
RealPlayer does not automatically download or make local copies of videos from YouTube. RealPlayer 11 gives users the option of downloading the video they are watching, but it requires that the user click a button to initiate the download. No copies or downloads occur until a user explicitly takes an action.
I do stand by my original point though, which is that YouTube (and any copyright holder who gets a list of the views/downloads via a subpoena) has no way to tell when a user is watching a video, and when a user is downloading them via a single-click RealPlayer tool.
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
The sight was not that unusual, at least not for Mosul, Iraq, on a summer morning: a car parked on the sidewalk, facing opposite traffic, its windows rolled up tight. Two young boys stared out the back window, kindergarten age maybe, their faces leaning together as if to share a whisper.
For all that scientists have studied it, the brain remains the most complex and mysterious human organ — and, now, the focus of billions of dollars’ worth of research to penetrate its secrets.
This is the third article in a series that is looking in depth at some of the insights these projects are producing.
Monday, July 27, 2009
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Even as hundreds of thousands of people stream back to the Swat Valley after months of fighting, one important group is conspicuously absent: the wealthy landowners who fled the Taliban in fear and are the economic pillar of the rural society.
The reluctance of the landowners to return is a significant blow to the Pakistani military’s campaign to restore Swat as a stable, prosperous part of Pakistan, and it presents a continuing opportunity for the Taliban to reshape the valley to their advantage.
About four dozen landlords were singled out over the past two years by the militants in a strategy intended to foment a class struggle. In some areas, the Taliban rewarded the landless peasants with profits of the crops of the landlords. Some resentful peasants even signed up as the Taliban’s shock troops.
How many of those peasants stayed with the militants during the army offensive of the last several months, and how many moved to the refugee camps, was difficult to assess, Pakistani analysts said.
But reports emerging from Swat show that the Taliban still have the strength to terrorize important areas. The army continues to fight the Taliban in their strongholds, particularly in the Matta and Kabal regions of Swat, not far from the main city, Mingora, where many refugees have reclaimed their homes.
In those regions, the Taliban have razed houses, killed a civilian working for the police in Matta and kidnapped another, worrying counterinsurgency experts, who fear that the refugees may have been encouraged by the Pakistani authorities to go back too soon.
The rebuilding of Swat, a fertile area of orchards and forests, is a critical test for the government and the military as they face Taliban insurgencies across the tribal belt, particularly in Waziristan on the Afghanistan border.
In a sign of the lack of confidence that Mingora was secure, the Pakistani military declined a request by the Obama administration’s special envoy to Pakistan, Richard C. Holbrooke, to visit the town last week.
There was nervousness, an American counterinsurgency expert said, that the plans by the Pakistani authorities to build new community police forces in Swat would not materialize quickly enough to protect the returning civilians, who are also starved of basic services like banks and sufficient medical care.
“There is no apparatus in place to replace the army,” said an American counterinsurgency official. “The army will be the backstop.”
About two million people have fled Swat and surrounding areas since the military opened its campaign to push back the Taliban at the end of April. The United Nations said Monday that 478,000 people had returned to Swat so far, but it cautioned that it was unable to verify the figure, which was provided by the government.
Assessment trips by United Nations workers to Swat scheduled for Monday and Tuesday were canceled for security reasons, and the United Nations office in Peshawar that serves as the base for Swat operations was closed Monday because of a high threat of kidnapping, a spokesman said.
The landlords, many of whom raised sizable militias to fight the Taliban themselves last year, say the army is again failing to provide enough protection if they return.
Another deterrent to returning, they say, is that the top Taliban leadership, responsible for taking aim at the landlords and spreading the spoils among the landless, remains unscathed.
If it continues, the landlords’ absence will have lasting ramifications not only for Swat, but also for the biggest province of Pakistan, Punjab, where the landholdings are vast, and the militants are gaining power, said Vali Nasr, a senior adviser to Mr. Holbrooke, the American envoy.
“If the large landowners are kept out by the Taliban, the result will in effect be property redistribution,” Mr. Nasr said. “That will create a vested community of support for the Taliban that will see benefit in the absence of landlords.”
At two major meetings with the landlords, the Pakistani military and civilian authorities requested that they return in the vanguard of the refugees. None have agreed to do so, according to several of the landowners and a senior army officer.
“We have sacrificed so much; what has the government and the military done for us?” asked Sher Shah Khan, a landholder in the Kuz Bandai area of Swat. He is now living with 50 family members in a rented house about 60 miles from Swat. Four family members and eight servants were killed trying to fight off the Taliban, he said.
At one of the meetings, Mr. Khan said he had asked the army commanders to provide weapons so the landlords could protect themselves, as the landowners had in the past.
The military refused the request, he said, saying it would fight the Taliban. Yet Pakistani soldiers had failed to protect his lands, he said. Twenty of his houses were blown up by the Taliban after the army ordered him and his family to leave their lands on two hours’ notice last September, he said.
A letter he sent last month to Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the head of the Pakistani military, asking for compensation has gone unanswered, he said. In the meantime, one of his tenants called asking if he could plant crops on Mr. Khan’s property. He refused but had little idea what was happening back home, Mr. Khan said.
Other landlords are equally frustrated. The mayor of Swat, Jamal Nasir, fled after his father, Shujaat Ali Khan, regarded as the biggest landlord in Swat, narrowly avoided being killed by the Taliban. Mr. Nasir, a major landowner himself, now stays in his house in Islamabad.
The top guns of the Taliban are still in Swat, or perhaps in neighboring Dir, Mr. Nasir said. “These people should be arrested,” he said. “If they are not arrested, they are going to come back.”
Another landlord, Sher Mohammad, said he was still bitter that the army refused to help as he, his brother and his nephew fought off the Taliban last year for 13 hours, even though soldiers were stationed less than a mile away. Mr. Mohammad was hit in the groin by a bullet and lost a finger in the fight.
At one of the meetings with the military in Peshawar, Mr. Mohammad, a prominent politician with the Pakistan Peoples Party, said he told the officers that he was not impressed with their performance.
“They said, ‘We will protect you,’ ” he recalled. “I said, ‘We don’t trust you.’ ”
Using YouTube's AudioSwap feature is an easy way to give your silent YouTube video a soundtrack. It's easy, legal, and free. This method removes your existing soundtrack, so only use this on videos that don't have any dialog.
First, log into your YouTube account and add the AudioSwap feature by clicking on the Try AudioSwap button.
Next, go to your My Videos page. Find the video you want to use and press the Replace Audio button.
Next, browse for the music you'd like to use. First select a style of music on the left. Next, select an artist, and then select a song. It tells you how long the song is, so you don't accidentally pick a song that's much shorter than your video.
You can preview the soundtrack along with your video on the right.
Once you've selected your soundtrack, press the Publish Video button. Keep in mind that any existing audio will be deleted from your video.
That's it. You now have a legal soundtrack for your video.
TipsIf you want to make your own fan video for a song, you may want to experiment by uploading a blank tester video and setting your broadcast options to private. You can get the timing right and upload the actual video later.
January 14, 2009
Perhaps this has been going on for a while, but I’ve never noticed it before. YouTube () users often create an original video using their favorite popular song as the audio. I’m afraid that they won’t be able to do that much longer, since YouTube has started muting videos that use unauthorized copyrighted music (and that pretty much means all user-created videos.)
The official notice from YouTube under the video says the following:
“This video contains an audio track that has not been authorised by all copyright holders. The audio has been disabled.”If YouTube starts being thorough about this, you can expect to see a significant percentage of all YouTube videos muted. The implications are a bit different than with removing copyrighted professionally produced content, like an official music video; we’re talking about tens of thousands of fan made videos, funny spoofs, remixes and the like being pretty much destroyed, and I’m guessing users will be less than thrilled about it.
Sunday, July 26, 2009
Arab News: Obama Lifts US Image, Far More Popular Than Bush, 1st Time US President More Popular Than Bin Laden
|Obama improves US image abroad: Poll |
Barbara Ferguson | Arab News
WASHINGTON: A new Pew Poll released this week concluded that if the world’s citizens were allowed to vote in US elections, President Barack Obama’s reelection in 2012 would be a foregone conclusion and there would be no need to worry about Republicans Sarah Palin, Mitt Romney or anybody else.
The report even found that in France and Germany, confidence in Obama exceeds that for French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Whatever the impact on policy, there has been a transformation in views of the American president abroad.
In 21 of the countries surveyed, an average of 71 percent of respondents had some confidence in the US president’s handling of world affairs, compared with 17 percent when Bush was in the White House last year. In many countries, opinions of the United States are now about as positive as they were at the beginning of the decade before Bush took office.
His popularity was double that of Bush in China, triple in Japan and Mexico, quadruple in Jordan and Egypt.
The contrast was even wider across Western Europe and in Turkey and Argentina.
In France, 13% viewed Bush positively last year; now 91% express confidence in Obama.
World opinion is that that Obama will “do the right thing in world affairs” — everywhere in the world, except in Muslim countries, where animosity toward the US persists in some predominantly Muslim nations, the poll said, particularly in Turkey, Pakistan and the Palestinian territories.
Obama’s speech in Cairo last month to the Muslim world increased the percentage of those in the Palestinian territories who said Obama “will consider our interests,” but it eroded the number of Israelis who felt that way.
Bush fared better than Obama in just one country surveyed. In Israel, 57% expressed confidence in Bush in 2007; 56% express confidence in Obama now.
Attitudes in the Middle East are not likely to improve significantly until progress is made in resolving the conflict between Israel and Palestinians, the poll noted.
Attitudes toward America rose slightly in US allies Egypt and Jordan and registered some improvement after Obama’s speech to the Muslim world in Cairo last month.
But Palestinians appeared unmoved and Israelis were unimpressed, the report said.
Attitudes toward the United States continued to be dismal in some predominantly Muslim countries. Just 14% of those surveyed in Turkey and 16% in Pakistan had a favorable opinion of the US.
For the first time in the Pew study, there was more confidence in the American president than in Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden in such predominantly Muslim countries as Turkey, Egypt, Jordan, Nigeria and Indonesia. Last year, most Muslim countries rated Bin Laden as high or higher than Bush.
Andrew Kohut, who headed the poll, said views of the president’s promise to close the prison for terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba — opposed by most Americans — and the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq had drawn broad international support.
In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks and the United States' subsequent invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, Bin Laden's popularity ratings soared in the Muslim world. In part, that was a reflection of rising disapproval of U.S. foreign policy in the region. At the same time, it was a reaction to the muscular rhetoric favored during the Bush administration about a global war on terror.
But the findings of the latest Pew study of global attitudes toward the U.S. suggest that Bin Laden increasingly has a public relations problem appealing beyond his base.
Public opinion polls are famously fickle but deep in his cave somewhere along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, Bin Laden would be hard-pressed to put a positive spin on his disappearing support. In fact, the only areas surveyed where confidence in Bin Laden remained high were Nigeria (54%) and the Palestinian territories (52%.) Everywhere else - Indonesia, Pakistan, Jordan, Israel, Lebanon, Turkey and Egypt - Bin Laden's numbers failed to get any higher than 28% (Jordan). Even among the Palestinians, where the al Qaeda leader as recently as 2003 received a 72% rating, there was a sharp decline to 52%.
Bin Laden's worst showing was in Turkey, where just 2% expressed support.
Along with declining support for suicide bombings, Bin Laden's hope for Islamist revolution in the region is not resonating with the majority of Muslims living in the region. To wit:
"The rise of Islamic extremism is a major concern in nations with substantial Muslim populations. Among the eight countries where the question was asked, majorities in seven say they are very or somewhat worried about the rise of Islamic extremism around the world."
Much has been made of the new tone voiced by the Obama administration in foreign policy - officials no longer refer to a "war" on terror - as well as the president's Cairo speech. The evidence, however, is thin on that latter point. The Pew polling took place just before and after the speech and the impact it had on views of the U.S. or Mr. Obama remains unknown, according to the report.
What is clear, however, is that putting a new face on U.S. foreign policy has made it more palatable to overseas listeners - even when there still is no major difference with the policy of the previous eight years. Here's how Pew put it:
"More generally, analysis of the survey finds that views of the U.S. are being driven much more by personal confidence in Obama than by opinions about his specific policies. That is, opinions about Obama personally are more associated with views of the U.S. than are judgments of his policies that were tested in the poll."
The only possible piece of good news in the report for Bin Laden is that the U.S.'s improved favorability ratings have done little to erase the fear of the world's remaining superpower. In six of the seven majority Muslim nations polled, there remains widespread anxiety that the U.S. could pose a military threat in the future.