Monday, May 2, 2011

Year Deux Entrée

Year Two of Rink Rats begins with the news of the death of Osama bin Laden. Our thoughts are with many people today but especially with Rink Rats friend Kevin G. and all his fellow New York City firefighters, paramedics and police officers. The grief will go on but today is cause to feel a sense of justice has been done.

INSIDE THE SITUATION ROOM – President Obama rejected original plan for bombing; wanted proof - Navy SEALS held two rehearsals last month, with war cabinet monitoring from White House - Raid planned for Saturday but pushed off a day because of weather - Chopper stalled as it hovered over the compound - Forces blew it up and left in a reinforcement craft -- How the fiery raid went down, as told to Rink Rats by senior administration officials: The compound -- about an acre, with a three-story house - is in Abbottabad, a suburb of the Pakistani capital, Islamabad. Officials were very suspicious of the 12- to 18-foot-high walls, and seven-foot wall on the upper balcony. Residents burned their trash, and there was no telephone or Internet connection to the compound, valued at $1 million. But officials never had anything directly proving that Osama bin Laden was living there. The U.S. had discovered the compound by following a personal courier for bin Laden. Officials didn't learn his name until 2007, then it took two years to find him and track him back to this compound, which was discovered in August 2010. "It was a "Holy cow!" moment," an official said.

The original plan for the raid was to bomb the house, but President Obama ultimately decided against that. "The helicopter raid was riskier. It was more daring," an official said. "But he wanted proof. He didn't want to just leave a pile of rubble." Officials also knew there were 22 people living there, and Obama wanted to be sure not to kill all the civilians. So he ordered officials to come up with an air-assault plan. The forces held rehearsals of the raid on April 7 and April 13, with officials monitoring the action from Washington.

As the actual raid approached, daily meetings were held of the national security principals, chaired by National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, and their deputies, chaired by John Brennan, the president's counterterrorism adviser. At an April 19 meeting in the Situation Room, the president approved the assault, in principle, as the course of action. He ordered the force to fly to the region to conduct it. On April 28, just after his East Room announcement that CIA Director Leon Panetta would be succeeding Robert Gates as Defense Secretary, the president held another meeting in the Situation Room, and went through everyone's final recommendations. He didn't announce his decision at that time, but kept his counsel overnight.

At 8:20 a.m. Friday, the president informed National Security Adviser Tom Donilon that he was authorizing the operation. Donilon signed a written authorization to CIA Director Leon Panetta, who commanded the strike team. The raid was scheduled for Saturday, but weather pushed it to yesterday. The Navy SEALs arrived at the compound at 3:30 p.m. ET yesterday and were gone by 4:15 p.m. Obama monitored the operation all day from the Situation Room, surrounded by Donilon, White House Chief of Staff Bill Daley, Deputy National Security Adviser Denis McDonough, Secretary of State Clinton, Secretary of Defense Gates, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mike Mullen, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and others. Panetta was at CIA headquarters, where he had turned his conference room into a command center that gave him constant contact with the tactical leaders of the strike team.

The helicopter carrying the assault force appeared to stall as it hovered over the compound, producing heart-stopping moments for the officials back in Washington. Aides thought fearfully of "Black Hawk Down" and "Desert One," the failed Iranian hostage rescue mission. The pilot put the bird down gently in the compound, but couldn't get it going again. The assault force disembarked. "They went ahead and raided the compound, even though they didn't know if they would have a ride home," an official said. The special forces put some bombs on the helicopter and blew it up. Bin Laden resisted the assault force, and was shot in the face during a firefight. With the team still in the compound, the commander on the ground told another commander that they had found Osama bin Laden. Applause erupted in Washington. Reinforcements came and picked up the SEALs, who had scavenged every shred and pixel of possible intelligence material from the house. U.S. forces took photographs of the body, and officials used facial-recognition technology to compare them with known pictures of bin Laden. It was him.

N.Y. Times front page: 2-line, all-cap, ital. banner, "BIN LADEN KILLED BY U.S. FORCES IN PAKISTAN, OBAMA SAYS, DECLARING JUSTICE HAS BEEN DONE" See the page.

BIRTHDAYS THIS WEEK – George Clooney (50), Willie Mays (80), Sula Vanderplank …famous woman of the world, Tammy Wynette (69).

TALK RADIO ALERT - "Reliance on Uncle Sam hits a record: 2010 income was 18.3% entitlements, Americans depended more on government assistance in 2010 than at any other time in the nation's history ... A record 18.3% of the nation's total personal income was a payment from the government for Social Security, Medicare, food stamps, unemployment benefits and other programs in 2010. Wages accounted for the lowest share of income - 51.0% - since the government began keeping track in 1929."

PHILANTHROPY WATCH - L.A. Times second front, "DONORS TO FUND FREE USC TUITION: Couple's $110-million donation will provide scholarships for about 100 students a year," by Larry Gordon: "The University of Southern California will announced last week a $110-million donation for scholarships from a Colorado couple who made a fortune in the oil and gas industry. The gift is expected to cover tuition and some expenses for about 100 academically gifted undergraduates at the Los Angeles campus each year. The donation from USC engineering school alumnus John Mork and his wife, Julie, is aimed at encouraging more of the nation's top students to attend USC. ... John Mork, 63, is chief executive of the Denver-based Energy Corp. of America ... Mork said he worries that well-paying blue collar jobs are disappearing in America and that he wants as many young people as possible to obtain a university education as the ticket to a middle-class life."

RINK RATS FAVORITE - The CNBC anchor Erin Burnett has signed a long-term contract with CNN ... The signing will represent a shift to general news anchoring for Ms. Burnett ... Burnett, who was considered a rising star within CNBC and its parent, NBCUniversal Media, held talks with two broadcast networks, ABC and CBS, before deciding to join CNN ... Burnett could end up with an afternoon or evening time slot on CNN.

MORNING NEWS -- NBC ... is expected to hold a news conference Monday morning to announce that Ann Curry will succeed Meredith Vieira as the co-host of 'Today' ... in June ... Natalie Morales, a 9 a.m. anchor of 'Today,' will replace Ms. Curry as the news anchor, and Savannah Guthrie, a White House correspondent and MSNBC anchor, will become the 9 a.m. anchor.

DEBT CEILING UPDATE - Amid the jubilation over Bin Laden's demise, Congress will also return to Washington to a continued FY2012 budget battle and the imminent debt ceiling crisis. M.M. hears that Treasury is likely to offer an update to Congress early in the week on when the $14.3 trillion borrowing limit will be reached. ... The statement is likely to reiterate the May 16th initial date but could change the amount of time Treasury will be able to use "extraordinary measures" to avoid default. ... Business groups have also been preparing during the recess to make the case to members that the limit must be raised to avoid massive negative market reaction that would result even if the rhetorical point that the U.S. could divert existing resources to make interest payments is technically true. "The perception of possible default is what matters," one executive said last week, "not the Washington bean-counting."

MARKETS - The death of Osama bin Laden is sparking a rally in equity markets around the world, with U.S. stock index futures pointing to a sharply higher open this morning. A strong rally could give the Dow its first close above 13,000 since May 2008.
As has been the case in recent years, April ended with strong gains across the board for Wall Street's major averages, led by a 4% jump for the Dow. The news has also sparked a selloff in gold and silver, a drop for oil, and a rebound for the U.S. dollar off 3-year lows.

CONGRATULATIONS – To the University of La Verne baseball team for finishing in second place in the SCIAC with an overall record of 25-14 and a 20-8 league record. Chances are slim the second place Leopards will get an at-large D-III playoff bid with University of Redlands and Chapman College slated for spots. But a great season non-the-less especially under the dark cloud of future of instability as far as playing fields is concerned.

What was that vision we were talking about last week?

Next week, spring gardening, cooking and Dear Rink Rats.

Until next Monday, Adios.

Claremont, CA
May 2, 2011


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