Thursday, January 28, 2010

White House Offers 1.4% Pay Raise In 2011

The White House will propose a 1.4 percent military pay increase in 2011, which if approved would be the smallest since the start of all-volunteer military in 1973. That figure represents a steep drop from the 3.9 percent boost troops saw earlier this month. White House officials said the 1.4 percent figure, which will be included in the fiscal 2011 budget to be unveiled Monday, is based on projected private sector wage increases for next year. By law, the administration’s pay increase proposal is resrticted to no more than the Employment Cost Index, which for 2011 is the lowest in more than a decade. But officials also note that housing allowance increases, new retention bonuses and specialty pays will drive troops’ actual compensation up about 4.2 percent next year. They admitted the pay raise figure islow, but said they’re confident troops will be satisfied with the full compensation package, especially considering the country’s continued economic difficulties. News of the diminished pay raise proposal came before First Lady Michelle Obama addressed military spouses at Bolling Air Force Base on Tuesday, touting a series of efforts to improve the quality of life for military families.The 2011 budget will also include a 3 percent increase in spending for family support programs, including $1.3 billion to cover child care shortages and $1.9 billion to provide more family counseling options. The budget plan also calls for the replacement or renovation of 103 Defense Department schools by 2015 -- many of which are overseas, officials said -- and $262 million for veterans employment and training programs, $6 million more than in the last budget. “We’ve seen the huge burden of eight years of war on our troops: tour after tour, year after year, missing out on moments every parent treasures,” she said. “We’ve seen sacrifices of families on the home front. ... That’s why my husband and his administration have worked to do right by our armed forces and their families, to be there like you have been for us, to lighten your load as you have lightened ours.” Officials also said that the first lady played a key role in setting military family priorities in the budget, calling attention to the complaints and needs of spouses and wounded troops whom she met with over the course of the last year.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Republicans Say Nation Can't Afford Democratic Policies

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell says in the Republican response to the State of the Union address that the nation cannot afford the spending Democrats have enacted or the tax increases they propose. McDonnell, in excerpts of his speech released in advance, said Democratic policies are resulting in an unsustainable level of debt. He said Americans want affordable health care, but they don't want the government to run it.McDonnell is to deliver the Republican response after President Barack Obama's speech Wednesday evening. McDonnell will speak live from the Virginia House of Delegates in Richmond before a friendly audience of about 300.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Fugitive In Mexico Murder Caught In Minnesota

A fugitive wanted in connection with a murder in Mexico has been captured by federal officials in Minnesota. The U.S. Attorney's Office and U.S. Marshals Service announced that Abizahi Dominguez Rios was arrested a day earlier at his Burnsville residence. He made his first appearance Friday in federal court and was ordered held pending an extradition hearing.Authorities say Rios is a Mexican national charged in connection with the murder of his cousin. He's accused of aiding the Aug. 23, 2008 murder of Juan Dominguez Moctezuma. Authorities say Rios and his brother allegedly challenged Moctezuma to a fight. Rios' brother allegedly beat Moctezuma with an object and stabbed him.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Britain Terrorist Threat Level Raised To 'Severe'

Britain's terrorist threat level was raised tonight from “substantial” to “severe” - meaning that counter-terrorism agencies believe an attack is “highly likely”. The measure was approved at a meeting of the Government’s Cobra emergency committee and announced by Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary. The Times understands that the decision to raise the threat level is connected to the conference on Afghanistan taking place at Lancaster House, London, next Thursday. Sources said there had been intensive discussions throughout the day relating to intelligence suggesting a possible attempted “spectacular” by an al-Qaeda affiliated group. But the shift was also described by one source as “precautionary” rather than rooted in any firm information that an identified terror cell was plotting an attack. Mr Johnson said: “The Joint Terrorism Analysis Centre has today raised the threat to the UK from international terrorism from substantial to severe. This means that a terrorist attack is highly likely, but I should stress that there is no intelligence to suggest than an attack is imminent. JTAC keeps the threat level under constant review makes its judgments based on a broad range of factors, including the intent and capabilities of international terrorist groups in the UK and overseas.“In his statement to Parliament on security and counter terrorism earlier this week, the Prime Minister said that the first and most important duty of government is the protection and security of the British people. We still face a real and serious threat to the UK from international terrorism so I would urge the public to remain vigilant and carry on reporting suspicious events to the appropriate authorities and to support the police and security services in their continuing efforts to discover, track and disrupt terrorist activity.” The threat level was lowered to substantial - meaning an attack is “a strong possibility” - in July last year and a number of counter-terror measures in central London, such as stop and search, have been relaxed. The terror threat status was first published at the beginning of August 2006 when it stood at severe. It was raised to critical, meaning an attack is imminent, within a fortnight after the transatlantic airline bomb plot was thwarted. It dropped a rung a few days later but was raised again in June 2007 after the attempted car bomb attacks at a London nightclub and Glasgow airport. MI5 says the threat levels give “a broad indication” of the likelihood of an attack and assessments are based on "a range of factors including current intelligence, recent events and what is known about terrorist intentions and capabilities". It adds: "This information may well be incomplete and decisions about the appropriate security response are made with this in mind."

Monday, January 18, 2010

MSNBC Talk Host Ed Schultz: 'Cheat To Keep These Bastards Out'

MSNBC television and syndicated radio host Ed Schultz declared that he would stuff the ballot box in Massachusetts if he could to prevent Republican Scott Brown from upsetting Democrat Martha Coakley in the race to fill the state's Senate seat formerly held by Edward M. Kennedy. Whatever it takes to keep "the bastards" out of power. "I tell you what, if I lived in Massachusetts I'd try to vote 10 times," said Schultz on his Friday radio show. "I don't know if they'd let me or not, but I'd try to. Yeah, that's right. I'd cheat to keep these bastards out. I would. 'Cause that's exactly what they are." Schultz's statement was broadcast on "The Ed Schultz Show," which is aired weekdays, 12-3 p.m, as well as on satellite radio. His show's website boasts Schultz is "the most listened-to progressive radio talk show host in America" and "the first progressive talker to hit 100 affiliates, both satellite networks and the Armed Forces Radio Network." His comments about cheating to turn the tide of an election, however, have already sparked heavy criticism. Talk radio commentator Brian Maloney of The Radio Equalizer scoffed at Schultz's statement by rephrasing it: "Who needs democracy when it leads to outcomes one might not like?"
Noel Sheppard of quipped, "Who says there's liberal bias in the media?" Sheppard also points out that Schultz's comments came on the same day fellow MSNBC host Chris Matthews lamented that Democrat operatives couldn't "buy" enough votes in Massachusetts to ensure Coakley's victory: "You know, in the old days – maybe I shouldn't be harkening back to the old days – if the Democrats faced this kind of a disaster in the works, you'd go back to your ones, the people you were sure are going to vote Democrat, and you'd make sure they got to the polling place, you'd get them lunch, you'd get them a car," Matthews said. "You'd make sure they got there, and in some cases you'd be buying people to get them, not officially buying them, but getting them there as block secretaries, as block captains, you'd be getting them there with street money – legitimate, but it's a little bit old school." Commented Sheppard, "The good folks at General Electric and NBC must be thrilled to know that two of their on-air personalities are so biased in their political views that they publicly advocate cheating for their party to be victorious." Reporters contacted "The Ed Schultz Show" for clarification or comment on the host's statement, but has yet to receive a reply.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Soldiers See Through Walls

Entering a building and clearing rooms may become much safer for Soldiers in combat as Army scientists continue to develop Sense-Through-the-Wall technology to increase situational awareness. Research, Development and Engineering Command technicians demonstrated Sense-Through-the-Wall radar imaging and many other high-tech gadgets at the Army Strong Zone outside the Alamodome during the buildup to the 2010 All-American Bowl. The Army Strong Zone gave visitors a glimpse of career opportunities and futuristic Army equipment and vehicles. The radar imaging device emits an electromagnetic wave that penetrates physical barriers. The wave records Doppler movements and sends information to the receiver antenna. The imager then displays the range and general direction of all targets for the Soldier. Officials said the technology may be useful in urban areas where many of today's battles occur. Building clearing procedures take a priority in city streets and back alleys. A device that would allow Soldiers to recon a house and determine enemy locations would certainly save lives."This is giving Soldiers more awareness," said John Cua, Communications-Electronics Research, Development and Engineering Center, Fort Monmouth, N.J. "They have an extra piece of information to use in room clearance missions that would help them make the right decision." The technology has been in continuous development for 10 years, but the device has entered into a bidding process and Cua said testing continues to go well. "We have contacted Battle Labs at Fort Benning, Georgia. We gave them this equipment and asked them how they could integrate this technology into their strategies," he said. Although the bidding process has started, RDECOM continues to make improvements to the device, and Cua said Soldiers shouldn't treat it like a silver bullet. "The Soldiers obviously want an increased range and we're definitely trying to get the equipment lighter," he said. "We don't want to burden the Soldiers with a piece of heavy equipment that replaces another piece of equipment that could save lives." The device is user friendly and it takes less than two days of new equipment training before Soldiers become effective at using the technology. The graphic user interface is easy to read, and Cua said the feedback has been very positive. "Soldiers would love to have this capability at hand," he said. "If it's something that would help save their own lives and others then they're definitely welcoming it."

Saturday, January 16, 2010

The Buck Stops Where?

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Ray Stevens - We The People

Monday, January 11, 2010

Flashback: Obama In '02: 'The Republican Party Itself Has To Drive Out Trent Lott

In light of President Obama's decision to forgive Harry Reid's remarks about Obama's skin color and lack of a "Negro dialect," check out what Obama said about Trent Lott in 2002:

Illinois Senator Barack Obama (D-13th), who hosted WVON's Cliff Kelley Show, challenged the Republican Party to repudiate Lott's remarks and to call for his resignation as senate leader.

"It seems to be that we can forgive a 100-year-old senator for some of the indiscretion of his youth, but, what is more difficult to forgive is the current president of the U.S. Senate (Lott) suggesting we had been better off if we had followed a segregationist path in this country after all of the battles and fights for civil rights and all the work that we still have to do," said Obama.
He said: "The Republican Party itself has to drive out Trent Lott. If they have to stand for something, they have to stand up and say this is not the person we want representing our party."

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Kuwaiti MPs To Call For Freeze In Jordanian Relations Over Saddam Street Row

Kuwaiti Members of Parliament (MPs) said that they would call upon their government to freeze relations with Jordan if the controversial issue over naming a street in a Jordanian town after Iraqi former leader Saddam Hussain is not settled. The lawmakers, who will issue a communiqué on Sunday, said that they were scandalised by the decision by authorities in the city of Al Karak, south of Amman. “The MPs are pained by the move to pay tribute to Saddam Hussain despite the atrocities he committed in Kuwait during the occupation,” Kuwaiti daily Al Rai on Saturday quoted an unnamed parliamentarian source as saying. Iraqi troops invaded Kuwait in August 1990, but were driven out in February 1991 by a US-led coalition of several countries. “The MPs are also surprised that the Jordanian government did not issue a communiqué stating its stance on the naming of the street and whether it had endorsed it, particularly that relations between Kuwait and Amman have been steadily improving,” the sources said. “The silence of the Jordanian government towards such a provocative move is puzzling to the people of Kuwait, knowing that it is not logical to pay tribute to Saddam Hussain who occupied Kuwait for seven months.Jordan is a country that is supposed to respect the feelings and emotions of the Kuwaitis who are keen on bolstering relations with the Jordanians,” sources told Al Rai. According to the paper, several MPs will press the Kuwaiti government to suspend relations with Jordan in case Amman does not clarify its stance on the issue. Kuwaiti bloggers and online readers were divided over the issue. Most comments condemned the decision as a provocation of Kuwaitis’ feelings and memory of their dead during the Iraqi invasion. “This is happening when we thought that we have put the past behind us and that we are moving forward together in greater harmony. Nations need one another and should progress together,” one reader wrote. However, some comments insisted that Jordan was a sovereign country and that it could take its own decisions, including allowing an Israeli embassy in Amman. “We have to face the facts: To Kuwaitis, Saddam is a villain and a criminal, but to some Jordanians, he may be a hero,” one of the comments read.

Saturday, January 09, 2010

Obama's Buck-Stopping Goes Only So Far

He says "the buck stops with me," but nearly a year into office, Barack Obama is still blaming a lot of the nation's troubles — the economy, terrorism, health care — on George W. Bush. Over and over, Obama keeps reminding Americans of the mess he inherited and all he's doing to fix it. A sharper, give-me-some-credit tone has emerged in his language as he bemoans people's fleeting memory about what life was like way back in 2008, particularly on the economy. "Yes, we can"? Try "Yes, I have." While candid about what he called his team's "screw-up" in the botched Christmas airliner attack, Obama has made a point of underlining all the good he believes his government has done, too. "Our progress has been unmistakable," Obama said as the new year began. "We've disrupted terrorist financing, cutting off recruiting chains, inflicted major losses on al-Qaida's leadership, thwarted plots here in the United States and saved countless American lives." Yet every time Obama tries to offer a dose of perspective like that, he faces the reality that people live in the moment. On terrorism, Americans are less concerned about quiet successes than troubling failures, especially one that evoked harrowing memories of Sept. 11, 2001. On the economy, people prefer good news now, not updates on how things are gradually getting less bad. The way Obama sees it, the problems he took on — recession, war, health care, a warming planet — were always too huge and complicated to fix that fast. So he emphasizes progress by taking people back to where he began. Which means taking them back to Bush. "I don't need to remind any of you about the situation we found ourselves in at the beginning of this year," Obama told people at a Home Depot stop last month. And then he reminded them anyway, detailing a nation in financial free fall when he took office. The economy now is both groaning and growing. Gloomy employers just slashed another 85,000 jobs in December, but Obama rarely misses a chance, as he did again Friday, to remind people that, hey, remember the job erosion at the start of the year? About 700,000 a month. That is true, but it doesn't matter much to the man or woman who is out of work, a point Obama concedes. He's not just trying to give people context. He's trying to shore up his standing and his party's, hoping voters will let it all sink in during this big congressional election year. An overwhelming majority of people say 2009 was a bad year for the country, according to the latest Associated Press-GfK poll. As Democrats head toward midterm elections trying to hang onto control of the House and Senate, half of Americans still think the country is headed in the wrong direction. Obama needs to show that he gets results. And so he describes a year of overlooked achievement since his predecessor left town, addressing a range of problems: hate crimes, tobacco advertisements toward children, pay disparities for women, abuses by credit card companies and many more.In other words, change from Bush. Except for when Obama sounds just like Bush with tough words for the enemy. "We are destroying training camps, disrupting communications and dismantling air defenses," Bush said of the mission in Afghanistan in November 2001. Said Obama this week of terrorists seeking to kill Americans: "We are determined not only to thwart those plans but to disrupt, dismantle and defeat their networks once and for all." When Obama got heat for his government's decision to try the Sept. 11 mastermind, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, in a civilian court, he defended it by saying the justice system has handled other recent terror suspects just fine. He spoke of examples during Bush's administration. "We've done this before," he said. Even when Obama achieves what he wants, the public doesn't always seem to share the feeling of success. He may be close to signing what could be the one of the biggest domestic laws in decades, an overhaul of health coverage in America. The House and Senate have passed separate versions and are trying to give Obama a bill to sign within weeks. But the nasty, noisy partisan fights have left many people soured and confused. "I suspect he's just trying as best he can to give people a sense that what they've been experiencing, seeing and reading is not an accurate portrayal of what's actually gotten done," said Norman Ornstein, a politics scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. Obama has openly wondered how some of his work is forgotten so fast. "I think we have been successful in averting disaster," Obama said on Dec. 16 about righting the economy. "You know, you don't get a lot of credit for that, because nobody knows how bad it could have been." On this front, Obama often chides the media for what he sees as accentuating the negative and minimizing progress. As on Dec. 4 when Obama mocked the press for saying he had pivoted back from health care to jobs. He insisted that every day is about jobs. "Folks' attention spans are short," he said. Not everyone's. Nearly 15.3 million people are unemployed, an increase of 3.9 million during 2009, and a lot of Americans seem aware that that problem is far from over. A Gallup Poll near the end of the year found 25 percent of people — just one in four — feeling satisfied with how things were going in the United States. "The president himself, not surprisingly, may feel quite satisfied with accomplishments in his first year," said Frank Newport, editor in chief of the Gallup Poll. "But we don't see signs that the American public is positive."

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

The C-SPAN Lie? See Eight Clips of Obama Promising Televised Healthcare Negotiations

Judge Rules KSTP Can Access Ramsey County Ballots

A judge in Ramsey County ruled that KSTP can have access to rejected and unopened absentee ballots from the 2008 election. KSTP took Ramsey County to court last year after it refused the station's public data request to look at the ballots that were never opened and remain sealed in their original envelopes. In a ruling issued Tuesday, Judge Dale Lindman said all rejected and unopened absentee ballots from the 2008 election in Ramsey County are "public data that may be viewed by KSTP."KSTP wants to look at the ballots while protecting the privacy of the voter. A spokesperson for Ramsey County told KSTP the county is reviewing the judge's order and there is no decision on a possible appeal yet. Attorney Mark Anfinson who argued the case for KSTP called the ruling "very significant." The 2008 U.S. Senate race hinged on absentee ballots. In November, a 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS investigation uncovered inconsistencies in the way absentee ballots were handled and counted in the 2008 election. Because of those mistakes, cities and counties across the state are changing the way absentee ballots are counted.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Airline "Marker" Bag Caused MSP Evacuations

A bag that drew a response from a bomb-sniffing dog and led to evacuations at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport Tuesday did not contain anything suspicious, according to officials. Metropolitan Airports Commission spokesperson Pat Hogan, said around 2 p.m., the dog indicated the possible presence of explosive material in a bag coming off baggage carousel number 12. Hogan said the bag was never on a plane. It was a placeholder used by airlines to signal to passengers and employees that all bags have been unloaded from a flight. Before the bag was deemed safe, officials cleared people from portions of the baggage claim area and the upper and lower roadways used to drop-off and pick-up passengers. They also closed the east end of the ticketing level of the Lindbergh Terminal and several security checkpoints. A news crew estimated that there were about 600 people in line waiting to get through the remaining checkpoints around 3 p.m.Passengers who were dropped off were kept in an area attached to the parking garage and not allowed to enter the ticketing area. By 3:20 p.m. officials determined that there were no explosives in the bag and reopened the evacuated areas. Airport officials said some passengers did miss their flights, but in most cases the pilots delayed take-off to allow for passengers delayed by the partial evacuations. By 5 p.m. operations were back to normal. Officials don't know what caused the dog to react. Bomb-sniffing dogs can sometimes be thrown off by chocolate, cheese or fertilizer. Five K9 units patrol Minneapolis-St. Paul International daily. The dog was on routine patrol when he reacted to the bag. The Bloomington Police Bomb Squad assisted airport police.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Ahmed & Salim

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Israel Deputy Foreign Minister Ayalon: Iran Regime May Be Replaced This Year

Deputy Foreign Minister Daniel Ayalon on Saturday said he believes that after the sanctions the international community will impose against Iran over its nuclear program, it could very well lead to a regime change in Tehran. "It is not certain that the regime in power now in Iran will be there in one year," Ayalon said at a question-and-answer session in Tel Aviv. "The world is uniting against Iran's nuclear program and within a month there will be United Nations Security Council sanctions," Ayalon said. "There is agreement in Washington, Moscow and Beijing that a nuclear Iran would destroy the current world order."
Israel Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon.
Iran warned on Saturday that the West has until the end of the month to accept Tehran's counterproposal to a United Nations-drafted plan on a nuclear exchange, or the country will start producing nuclear fuel on its own. Ayalon also addressed Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's recent efforts to relaunch peace talks with the Palestinians, saying, "The Palestinians need to understand that time is working against them," Channel 10 news reported. He added that he believes the U.S. administration understands that the essential problem is that the "Palestinians aren't willing to be flexible in their approach."

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Iran's Opposition Leader Remains Defiant

Iran's opposition leader on Friday pledged to remain defiant in the face of new threats - including calls by hard-liners for his execution - and said he was ready to sacrifice his life in defense of the people's right to protest peacefully against the government. Mir Hossein Mousavi's remarks come after the worst unrest since the immediate aftermath of the disputed June presidential election. At least eight people died during anti-government protests on Sunday, including Mousavi's nephew. In one of his strongest statements to date, Mousavi said he was "ready for martyrdom" - the sacrifice of one's life for a higher cause - and lashed out at the bloody crackdown the authorities are waging against the opposition. He said the government was making more mistakes by resorting to violence and killings, and that it must accept the people's rights to hold peaceful demonstrations. Iranian hard-liners have called for the execution of Mousavi and other opposition figures, while a previously unknown group claimed in an online posting that suicide squads were ready to assassinate opposition leaders should the judiciary fail to punish them within a week. Iran's state prosecutor on Thursday warned opposition leaders could be put on trial if they don't denounce this week's anti-government protests. "I explicitly and clearly state that an order to execute, murder and imprison (opposition leaders) ... won't resolve the problem," Mousavi said in a statement on his Web site, Kaleme. "I'm not afraid to be one of the martyrs people have offered in the struggle for their just demands." The confrontation between clerical rulers and their opponents returned to the streets in recent weeks, after a harsh crackdown immediately following the June 12 balloting all but crushed the opposition movement. One of those killed in clashes Sunday between security forces and opposition protesters was Mousavi's nephew, Ali Mousavi.
Mir-Hossein Mousavi
He was gunned down but authorities claimed police didn't use firearms and said the nephew was "assassinated" by unknown assailants. The nephew was buried Wednesday in a hastily organized ceremony that was attended by the opposition leader and other family members. Authorities had taken the body from the hospital earlier in the week in what was seen as an attempt to prevent the funeral from turning into another pro-opposition protest. Hard-liners have become especially furious after some pro-opposition protesters chanted slogans against Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei - a taboo in Iran, where the supreme leader is considered answerable only to god. Sunday's unrest was followed by two days of pro-government protests Wednesday and Thursday in which crowds called for Mousavi's execution and that of another opposition figure, Mahdi Karroubi. Both Mousavi and Karroubi were losing candidates in the June election, in which Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was declared the winner. The opposition argues the election was rigged and that Ahmadinejad won by fraud. Some government supporters at the two days of rallies wore white funeral shrouds to symbolize a willingness to die in defense of Iran's clerical rulers. Several hundred turned out for demonstration Thursday in southern Tehran outside Khamenei's offices, state radio reported. In his statement Friday, Mousavi also denounced hard-liners who he said preached violence from state-funded podiums in the name of Islam, a reference to cleric Ahmad Alamolhoda who called the Khamenei's opponents "cows and goats." "Encouraging the killing of people ... is a tragedy carried out by specific individuals and the state TV," Mousavi said, adding that efforts to silence the opposition "through arrests, violence and threats," would not succeed. Iran, Mousavi said, was in a "serious crisis" and killing protesters will only make the opposition movement stronger. He cited words of the founder of Iran's 1979 Islamic revolution, late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini: "Kill us, we will become stronger."

Friday, January 01, 2010

Pakistan Warns Against Hasty Afghan Pullout

Pakistan warned the US-led coalition on Thursday against a hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan, expressing renewed concern about growing instability on its militant-infested border. Nuclear-armed Pakistan is Washington's ally on the frontline of the war against Al-Qaeda and under mounting US pressure to crack down on Islamist militants who use its soil to launch attacks in neighbouring Afghanistan. "The decision to leave Afghanistan should be taken when it is able to look after itself effectively," Pakistan's foreign ministry spokesman Abdul Basit told a press briefing. Pakistan enters 2010 after a year of rising casualties and worsening Taliban attacks in its cities and northwest, which have killed 2,800 people in 29 months, according to an tally. Washington is urging Pakistan to crack down on militant strongholds along its border, but US President Barack Obama unnerved many officials by vowing to begin drawing down US forces in Afghanistan in July 2011. "Coalition forces should not leave Afghanistan in haste," Basit said. Islamabad is concerned that President Barack Obama's plans to send 30,000 more US troops into Afghanistan might see militants flee into Pakistan's troubled northwest and southern border regions. "There are some concerns and we are in discussions with the US over these concerns," Basit said. Pakistan saw a flood of Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants enter its lawless borderlands after a US-led invasion ousted the Taliban from Afghanistan in 2001 and security has drastically deteriorated in the last eight years. Afghan and US officials suspect Pakistan's powerful military is sponsoring the Afghan Taliban, preparing for the day US troops leave so Islamabad can exercise influence over a Taliban government to offset regional superpower India. Pakistani commandos raided a private hospital before dawn Thursday in a Taliban stronghold near the Afghan border, killing four foreign militants and a woman, officials said.Troops laid siege to the private clinic in Wana, the main town of South Waziristan, at 2:00 am (2100 GMT) sparking gun battles until around 7:00 am (0200 GMT), local administration and intelligence officials said. A security official said the raid followed a tip-off that wounded militants were brought to the hospital from Sherwangi, a Taliban-dominated area where Pakistan has been pressing a major offensive. "Commandos and security forces raided the hospital. Militants fired on the troops and in the gunfight, which lasted more than four hours, four militants and a woman were killed, while 22 others were arrested," said the official. "One soldier was also injured. The three dead militants appear to be Arabs and one of Sudanese origin," the official added. South Waziristan is part of Pakistan's semi-autonomous tribal belt on the Afghan border that Washington has branded the most dangerous region in the world and a chief sanctuary for Al-Qaeda while it plots attacks on the West. Last October, Pakistan launched its most ambitious offensive to date in its tribal belt, fighting on three fronts against Tehreek-e-Taliban in its South Waziristan stronghold, where the military says it has killed 663 militants. Militants on Thursday blew up two boys' schools in Bajaur, in the northern tip of the tribal belt, administration official Muhammad Jameel Khan told reporters. Elsewhere, gunmen ambushed two vehicles carrying fuel for NATO forces in Afghanistan, killing a driver and his helper in the Qalat district of the southwestern province of Baluchistan, which borders Afghanistan and Iran. "A driver and his helper were killed, and another driver and helper were wounded when unknown gunmen opened fire at them in overnight attacks," local police official Abdul Hameed told reporters. Hundreds of people have died since Baluch insurgents rose up in 2004 demanding autonomy and a greater share of the profits from natural resources. NATO and US-led forces in landlocked Afghanistan are hugely dependent on Pakistan for supplies, with about 80 percent passing through Pakistan.