The Envoy
  • No. 2 Defense official to step down

    Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn III says he plans to step down. (Department of Defense)Less than a week after Leon Panetta started as Secretary of Defense, the Pentagon's low-profile number 2, Deputy Defense Secretary Bill Lynn, says he plans to step down from the job, but has agreed to stay on until a successor is appointed, the Associated Press' Robert Burns reports:

    Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III said in an Associated Press interview that he told Panetta last Friday, on Panetta's first day as Pentagon chief, that he planned to resign for personal reasons.

    "I thought this was a logical point for me to depart the Pentagon," Lynn said during the interview in his office.

    He said he told Panetta that he would be best served by having a deputy who was willing to stay at least through President Barack Obama's first term, which ends in January 2013. ...

    Lynn said he was leaving for "personal, family reasons," and wanted to spend more time with his children. He said it had nothing to do with Obama's choice of CIA director Panetta to succeed Robert Gates. Lynn said he knew Panetta only slightly from periodic contact while both served in the Clinton administration. [...]

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  • The father of Pakistan's nuclear program, Abdul Qadeer Khan, has long asserted that he conducted all his nuclear bomb-making and proliferation activities with a full complement of blessings, winks and nods of the Pakistani state. Naturally, Pakistan has denied all of Khan's claims--but also freed Khan from house arrest and refused to give U.S. officials access to question him.

    Today, the Washington Post reported on documentation released by Khan purporting to show that North Korean officials bribed senior Pakistani military officials to help obtain and transport nuclear enrichment technology in the late 1990s.

    The Post has tried to authenticate one 1998 letter that is allegedly from a top North Korean official to Khan, describing the terms of the supposed transaction. U.S. officials told the Post's Jeffrey Smith they believe the document and signature to be authentic and describe transactions they believed had occurred, while also saying they couldn't be absolutely confident of the document's veracity.

    Meanwhile--and again, unsurprisingly--the two retired generals described as receiving bribes in the letter vigorously deny the claims and denounce the letter as a fabrication. (Adding to the awkwardness, one of them, former Pakistani Army Chief of Staff Gen. Jehangir Karamat, served as Pakistan's ambassador to Washington from 2004-2006.)

    "The major takeaway from the story here is the extent that corruption in Pakistan—which we already know exists—may have crossed over into facilitating proliferation," Paul Brannan, a nuclear expert with the Institute for Science and International Security, told The Envoy.

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  • U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, center, is seen with Ambassador to Iraq James F. Jeffrey, left, and Gen. Lloyd Austin, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, in Baghdad, Iraq, on Jan. 13, 2011. (Maya Alleruzzo/AP)The United States is planning for keeping as many as 10,000 U.S. troops in Iraq next year, the Associated Press reports. The decision would require a formal request from the Iraqi government, which as yet has not issued it, though U.S. leaders have dropped numerous hints it might be a good idea.

    "Already ... the White House has worked out options to keep 8,500 to 10,000 active-duty troops in Iraq to continue training security forces in 2012, according to senior Obama administration and U.S. military officials," the Associated Press reported, citing foreign diplomats in Baghdad who have also been briefed on the matter.

    "We have said for a long time now if the Iraqi government asks us to maintain some level of troops beyond that end of the year deadline, we would consider it," White House spokesman Jay Carney told journalists Tuesday, adding the United States has not yet received such a request.

    "Right now there are no plans to keep troops in Iraq beyond" the end of the year, National  Security Council spokesman Tommy Vietor told the Washington Post Tuesday. He added that an Iraqi request for a follow-on force "would be given serious consideration by this administration."

    One troubling recent shift in the Iraqi conflict: the increasingly brazen use by Iranian-backed Shiite militias of Iranian-origin weapons in their attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq, U.S. envoy to Baghdad Jim Jeffrey and the top U.S. military commander in Iraq Gen. Lloyd Austin told the Post. 

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(679 Stories)
  • AP Analysis: Putin digs in for long Ukraine fight
    AP Analysis: Putin digs in for long Ukraine fight

    MOSCOW (AP) — Riding a wave of military gains by Russia-backed rebels, President Vladimir Putin has made it exceedingly clear that he wants a peace deal for Ukraine on his terms and will not be stopped by economic costs.

  • US Air Force's Secretive X-37B Space Plane Passes 600 Days in Orbit
    US Air Force's Secretive X-37B Space Plane Passes 600 Days in Orbit

    Air Force's mysterious unmanned space plane has winged beyond 600 days in orbit on a classified military mission that seems to have no end. The X-37B space plane is carrying out the Orbital Test Vehicle-3 (OTV-3) mission, a long-duration cruise that marks the third flight for the unpiloted Air Force spaceflight program. The Air Force launched the miniature space shuttle into orbit on Dec. 11, 2012 using an expendable Atlas 5 rocket. By the end of Friday (Aug. 29), the space plane had spent 627 days in orbit.

  • School starts in Chicago with more safety guards
    School starts in Chicago with more safety guards

    CHICAGO (AP) — School opened in Chicago on Tuesday, with children and parents making their way past security guards whose bright neon vests served as a reminder of the city's efforts to protect students from the violence that plagues its streets.

  • European Commission to hold gas talks with Russia on Thursday

    The European Commission will hold expert-level talks with Russia on Thursday to try to solve the Ukraine gas price row, Energy Commissioner Guenther Oettinger said on Tuesday. "We will first hold a technical meeting on expert level between my services and Russia in Brussels on Thursday September 4," Oettinger said in a statement. The meeting is a follow-up to Oettinger's meeting with Russian Energy Minister Alexander Novak in Moscow last Friday and aims to further analyze figures on security of supply next winter. Oettinger said he would then meet Ukrainian Energy Minister Yuri Prodan in Baku, Azerbaijan, on Sept. 8.

  • It's no longer safe to recline your airplane seat
    It's no longer safe to recline your airplane seat

    NEW YORK (AP) — Squeezed into tighter and tighter spaces, airline passengers appear to be rebelling, taking their frustrations out on other fliers.

  • Scientists use E.coli bacteria to create fossil fuel alternative
    Scientists use E.coli bacteria to create fossil fuel alternative

    British and Finnish scientists have found a way of generating renewable propane using a bacterium widely found in the human intestine and say the finding is a step to commercial production of a fuel that could one day be an alternative to fossil fuel reserves. "Although we have only produced tiny amounts so far, the fuel we have produced is ready to be used in an engine straight away," said Patrik Jones of the department of life sciences at Imperial College London, who worked on the research. He said while work is at a very early stage, possibly 5-10 years from the point where commercial production would be possible, his team's findings were proof of concept for a way of producing renewable fuel now only accessible from fossil reserves. It is already produced as a by-product during natural gas processing and petrol refining, but both of these are fossil fuels that will one day run out.

  • Dethroned Myanmar beauty queen blasts pageant boss
    Dethroned Myanmar beauty queen blasts pageant boss

    YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — A dethroned 16-year-old beauty queen from Myanmar said Tuesday she won't return her bejeweled $100,000 crown until pageant organizers apologize for calling her a liar and a thief.


    DEAR ABBY: My son married an educated professional woman from another country. When their twins were born, my daughter-in-law immersed them in her native language so it would become their mother tongue. Although I understand and respect the benefits of being bilingual, this caused a lot of communication gaps and frustration between us and the grandkids during their early years. They attend a bilingual elementary school now, and their English is superb and communication between us is great. ...

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