Friday, December 30, 2011

Assad and his Syrian regime are disgusting butchers - a gold pistol for Assad

Assad (Syria)
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English: Brasilia - The president of the Syria...
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Demonstrators protesting against al-Assad in Kafranbel earlier this month
Demonstrators protesting against al-Assad in Kafranbel earlier this month Photograph: Handout/REUTERS
Between bursts of machine-gun fire and the crump of explosions – unmuffled in crisp mountain air – the starry sky above the Syrian frontier offers ethereal distraction. It's 3am and the town of Tal Kalakh, less than two miles to the north – just inside the Syrian Arab Republic – is under sustained attack, its residents reportedly refusing to hand over a small band of defectors who have holed up there, trying to bolt for Lebanon to join the insurgents.
All around are mountains among which ancient armies have battled for millennia. And below, in besieged Tal Kalakh, a western outpost in the restive governorate of Homs, the Syrian army is once again hard at work, killing its own people. Tal Kalakh has felt the full force of violent repression many times since the Syrian revolt erupted back in March. One day, Tal Kalakh will doubtless appear on the revolutionary roll of honour. For now, this town of 80,000 people doesn't even merit a mention in my guidebook.
"We don't kill our people," President Bashar al-Assad said last week in an American television interview. "No government in the world kills its people unless it's led by a crazy person." Those who dare oppose al-Assad do not think their leader crazy. Crazed, maybe. But today they see straight through him. They're tired of the lies. They have seen too much.
Between late November and early December, I was one of just two foreign reporters granted an official journalist visa to this repressive police state. I spent nine days in Damascus, capital of al-Assad's Republic of Fear, as a guest of the government. There, I encountered an angrily defiant regime, robust and resolute and unapologetic. Earlier in this Arab spring, I spent six weeks in Libya. There are echoes of Gaddafi in the personality cult surrounding al-Assad, but Syria's political and security apparatus is bigger and badder than anything Gaddafi could muster. I do not mean to belittle the suffering of Libyans, but Syria has four times the Libyan population and 10 times the menace.

Over the course of those nine days, I interviewed three government ministers, an army general and the mayor of a rebellious city. I heard nothing but denials that the security forces were shooting, shelling and torturing civilians. The government blames "armed gangs" and "terrorists" and invokes the spectre of Islamist insurgents, just as Gaddafi's henchmen did. And like them, they see western-backed conspiracies. They talk of a media war in which Arab and western satellite TV stations broadcast "lies" and "fabricated videos."
"Do you really think that we would accept torture?" I was asked by a seemingly incredulous Bouthaina Shaaban – presidential adviser and senior government minister – when I challenged her on the persistent allegations, most recently documented in great detail by the UN Human Rights Council's Independent Commission of Inquiry. "Syria has no policy of torture whatsoever," she said. "We do not have Guantánamo or Abu Ghraib. That is absolutely unacceptable by us. Absolutely unacceptable." Every government minister complained of the outside world's anti-Syrian agenda, which overlooked the barbarous excesses of "armed gangs" that, they claimed, had tortured, killed and often dismembered 1,400 Syrian soldiers.
Syria is party to the 1984 UN Convention Against Torture. This convention defines "torture" as any act which intentionally inflicts severe pain or suffering, physical or mental, with the intention of obtaining information, a confession or punishing an individual for something he or someone else has committed or is suspected of committing.
"It's rampant," says Nadim Houry, the Beirut-based deputy director of Human Rights Watch for the Middle East and North Africa, who has taken testimony on hundreds of cases of torture from Syria, "and, the odds are, if you're detained, you will be ill treated and most likely tortured. We know of at least 105 cases of people who were returned from the custody of security services in body bags to their loved ones … and those are only the ones that we know of." Mr Houry says he has evidence that tens of thousands of Syrians have been arbitrarily detained over the months.
"But we have also documented what I would call "meaningless torture" – if there is ever such a thing. They've got all the information but they want to teach you a lesson. I think that lesson is "you need to fear us". And the striking thing that I've seen is that despite that torture, people are no longer afraid. The wall of fear has been broken."
A short drive from the frontier, along hair-pinned mountain roads, past Lebanese checkpoints where friendly soldiers shiver, is a Syrian safe-house. There is no electricity. The place is crammed with refugees; there are children sleeping everywhere. In an upstairs room, next to a small wood-burner, a weathered former tractor driver from Tal Kalakh – who is in his 50s – winces as pains shoot through his battered body, lying on a mattress on the concrete floor. He manoeuvres himself on to a pile of pillows and lights a cigarette. He's relieved to have escaped to Lebanon but he's already yearning to go home. He can't though. His right leg is now gangrenous below the knee; he can barely move. So far he's had only basic medical treatment.
Before sunrise one morning, he told me, as troops laid siege to his town, he'd been shot twice by "shabiha", pro-al-Assad militia. Unable to run, he had been rounded up, thrashed and driven down the road to nearby Homs with many other detainees, being beaten all the way. For the next few weeks, his bullet wounds were left to fester, he says, while he was subjected to torture so extreme that his accounts of what had happened to him left those of us who listened stunned and feeling sick. During his time in detention, he had been passed, he claimed, to five different branches of al-Assad's sadistic secret police, the Mukhabarat.
In flickering candle-light, he told me in gruesome detail of beatings he'd received with batons and electric cables on the soles of his feet (a technique called "falaka"). He had been hung by his knees, immobilised inside a twisting rubber tyre, itself suspended from the ceiling. He had been shackled hand and foot and hung upside down for hours – the Mukhabarat's notorious "flying carpet". Then hung up by his wrists ("the ghost"), and whipped and tormented with electric cattle prods.
When he wasn't being tortured, he had been crammed into cells with up to 80 people, without room to sit or sleep, he claimed. They stood hungry, naked and frightened in darkness, in their filth, unfed, unwashed. He recalled the stench and listening to the screams of others echoing through their sordid dungeon. He told of being thrown rotting food. And of the sobbing of the children.
"I saw at least 200 children – some as young as 10," he said. "And there were old men in their 80s. I watched one having his teeth pulled out by pliers." In Syria's torture chambers, age is of no consequence, it seems. But for civilians who have risen up against al-Assad, it has been the torture – and death in custody – of children that has caused particular revulsion.
The tractor driver told of regular interrogations, of forced confessions (for crimes he never knew he had committed); he spoke of knives and other people's severed fingers, of pliers and ropes and wires, of boiling water, cigarette burns and finger nails extracted – and worse: electric drills. There had been sexual abuse, he said, but that was all he said of that.
Having finished in one place, he'd been transferred to yet another branch of the Mukhabarat and his nightmare would start all over again. And as the beatings went on day in, day out, his legs and the soles of his feet became raw and infected. That was when they forced him to "walk on rocks of salt". He told me, speaking clearly, slowly: "When you are bleeding and the salt comes into your flesh, it hurts a lot more than the beating. I was forced to walk round and round to feel more pain."
He lit another cigarette, then said: "Although we are suffering from torture, we are not afraid any more. There is no fear. We used to fear the regime, but there is no place for fear now." If the intention of torture is to terrorise, it has in recent months had the opposite effect. Each act of brutality has served, it seems, to reinforce the growing sense of outrage and injustice and has triggered ever more widespread insurrection.
I met other survivors in other safe houses and each account corroborated the other. A pharmacist, abducted by militia from a hospital to which he'd been taken after being shot. His experience of torture was every bit as bad as that of the tractor driver. The 16-year-old boy, beaten, electrocuted to the point he thought he would die, then threatened with execution. He was now having trouble sleeping.
Another man, placed in what he called "the electric coffin" – in which a detainee is forced to lie inside a wooden box, across two metal plates through which they pass a current. The 73-year-old man was mercilessly whipped, electrocuted and beaten because of his son's known opposition activities abroad. He talked of hundreds of detainees pushed into cells, humiliated and naked. Another torture refugee told of a device they called "the German chair", so named, apparently, because it was devised by the Stasi. In it, a detainee is bent backwards until he feels his spine will snap.
What emerged was a pattern of systematic brutality, a revolving door of terror through which thousands of people have passed in recent months. This is Syria's torture machine. It is torture on an industrial scale.
While in Syria, we lived in a bubble, seeing nothing of the extreme brutality and killing for which the Syrian regime is so notorious. We were taken to mass rallies, where thousands of frenzied supporters kissed portraits of al-Assad for our cameras and chanted slogans in defiance of Arab League sanctions.
For two days we were not granted filming permits – and it's probably no coincidence that one of those days was a Friday, the day on which hundreds of anti-government demonstrations are guaranteed to break out right across the country after midday prayers. One day, while we were legally filming on a street, our government minder – despite wielding official documents embossed with Ministry of Information double-headed eagles – was arrested by angry Mukhabarat agents. We never found out why this particular location was so sensitive. Our minder returned, visibly shaken, 15 minutes later. "We cannot film here," he said. "Let's go."
Despite daily requests, we were refused access to cities such as Homs and Hama whose residents were posting videos on YouTube showing tanks firing at random into civilian areas. When we were finally taken to Dara'a, the southern city that had been the cradle of this insurrection, we travelled in the presence of four government minders and, when we attempted to talk to anyone, we found ourselves surrounded by Mukhabarat who instructed our interviewees to tell us everything was normal. It was very claustrophobic.
Despite this, an astonishing number of Syrian people did approach us, subtly – and often quaking – to tell us that all was not as it appeared, that they detested the regime and that there were thousands out there like them. One man touched my arm as I stood in the midst of a mass rally in downtown Damascus, completely surrounded by the ranting and raging regime-faithful. As I looked round, he caught my eye and simply uttered the word "Bashar" as he drew his index finger across his throat, before melting into the loyalist crowd. If he'd been spotted he might as well have signed his own death warrant.
A road snakes up the barren rock of Mount Qasioun which overlooks Damascus and on a clear day, from 1,000m up, there's a magnificent panoramic view across the capital. From this vantage point, if you know what you're looking for, it is possible to pick out at least seven locations where you can say with a good degree of certainty that people are being tortured at any single moment. The thought spoils the view.
Each of the four main pillars of the Mukhabarat – military intelligence, air force intelligence, the political security directorate and the general security directorate – has its headquarters in the city. And each has sub-branches: general security has three – including the feared Palestine branch – and military intelligence has several, among them the notorious Branch 235. No one seems to know what the number means. Each of these agencies is an empire inside an empire, with bureaux the length and breadth of Syria. Since the revolt started, detention facilities have not been confined to known intelligence buildings; the Mukhabarat have used stadiums and football fields in several cities to detain and torture suspects. In smaller towns and villages, market squares suffice. The four main intelligence agencies are thought to be directly under the control of the president.
While al-Assad increasingly faces armed insurrection from those weary of life in his Big Brother world, the most potent weapon in opposition hands is the mobile phone. Grainy footage of violent acts of repression – and of those tortured and killed by the regime – has been uploaded and rebroadcast to a global audience of millions.
These videos make distressing viewing. In one, a mother is seen weeping over the body of her 27-year-old son who has been delivered home, dead, after a week in detention. He has marks and bruises all over his body and there is a bullet wound. "May Allah take revenge against all tyrants," the woman wails. "On each and every unjust person, Bashar and his aides, my God, may You take revenge on him."
Such footage has caused irreparable damage to al-Assad's regime. But the government ministers I spoke to about these videos roundly dismiss them as faked or filmed somewhere else at another time. If verified, however, such footage would present important evidence of the crimes the regime now stands accused of by the UN Human Rights Council Inquiry. The sheer volume of such material – upwards of 30,000 videos have now been posted on the internet by Syrian opposition activists – spurred Channel 4 to commission a documentary investigation.
We employed a team of experts to forensically examine video footage, subjecting it to a strict verification protocol. We have independently checked, when possible, the sources of the material, looked for time-specific clues, then examined location details with Syrians from those places. Specific incidents have been cross-checked and corroborated by independent sources. Exiled former members of the Syrian security forces have checked vehicles, uniforms and military insignia. A growing number of these videos show soldiers actually committing acts of torture, openly filming each other. It's chilling: not one of them appears to be worried about being identified.
Accents have been carefully listened to. And the records of those uploading video have been examined for consistency and reliability. We sought the advice of a specialist doctor from the charity Freedom from Torture. We employed a forensic pathologist, Professor Derrick Pounder, to examine grim video evidence of those whose relatives allege were killed under torture.
The result is a grotesque compendium of verified video material which we believe to present irrefutable prima facie evidence of crimes against humanity.
Talking me through this material, Pounder said the videos show "compelling evidence of crude physical violence, strangulation, homicide, shootings and general assaults. There is a very distinctive pattern of … physical violence in an extreme form," he said. "It would suggest that what was happening was happening on a wide scale and it would suggest that what was happening was carried out with impunity … There is no consequence for them even if there is clear evidence of an assault." So much for the UN Convention Against Torture.
One evening, when I was interviewing torture victims in a Syrian safe house in Lebanon, there was a great commotion. A Syrian army defector, who had commanded resistance in the district of Baba Amr in Homs – the city Syrians have dubbed "Capital of the Revolution" – was being carried into the safe-house by four men. He had been shot nine times and had somehow survived, but he was in terrible pain. He had recently been smuggled into Lebanon from Tal Kalakh.
The next morning, he was well enough to talk briefly. It was my first encounter with a former member of the Syrian security forces. He told me that mass detention and severe torture were commonplace. "When the army carries out a detention campaign," he said, "they start to torture the detainee until the security services arrive. They then take him to the military security branch, which is like a human slaughter house. Most of the people taken there alive are discharged dead."
While a platoon commander in the army he had accompanied officers in house-to-house searches for wanted men in Homs, he said. "When they don't find their target, they either rape the women, or kill the children." He named the officers in charge and his commanding officer. They were all Allawites, he said – members of the prominent Syrian Shia sect to which the president belongs. When they had failed to find one man on their wanted list, he claimed, they had taken his son, beheaded him and hung his head above the door of the family home. He related this account in a faltering manner as though struggling to find the words, and as he did so, tears rolled down his face. But he was so badly wounded, he couldn't wipe the tears away. This, he told me, was what had prompted his defection.
I told him that the UN had just raised its estimated death count to 4,000 civilians killed since March. (This week they raised that to 5,000.) He looked at me in disbelief. He said the number was much higher. After four decades of al-Assad rule, one man is held accountable for this bloody-thirsty repression: the army's commander-in-chief and the head of Syrian Intelligence – the president of the republic himself. And if al-Assad was to attempt to stop all this, could he, I asked Nadim Houry. "I don't know the answer to that," he said. "But I do know that he never tried to stop it."
Syria's Torture Machine, 19 December, 11.10pm, Channel 4. To watch the programme and for more information visit:
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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sweden legalises and regulates Cannabis...

Sweden legalizes and regulates cannabis

Stockholm, December 19 - The Swedish Parliament has approved a law which will regulate the growing, usage and trade of cannabis. This is according to the Health and Social Services of Sweden, Jonas Grönhög, who was quoted, "We don't want to make the same mistakes which the USA has done, we do not want to be prohibitionists because the war on drugs has been lost long ago. It is better to prevent marginalization of young people than jail them for soft drugs usage which are comparatively harmless. If we allow the sale of alcohol, there is no reason to ban the soft drugs no longer."

Cannabis products are going to be available in the pharmacies in Sweden as non-prescription medicine since April 20 in 2012 and customers more than 18-year-old can buy 10 grams at once. Growing for personal usage will be tolerated up to 200 grams of dried marijuana and larger amounts stay illegal. It is likely that this will target the Police resources on more serious crime, especially on organized crime, drug trafficking and trafficking in human beings which have been increased for lack of the Police resources in recent years.

Source: 420 Dagbladet, Stockholm, December 19 2011

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Kiwis kowtow to World Trade Organisation...

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Kiwis kowtow to WTO...

NZ food bill to make growing food a government privilege rather than a human right
Ethan A. Huff, staff writer for , wonders why the New Zealand Government is so keen to sign up to a draconian new "Food Security" Bill.

The God-given human right to freely cultivate food is under attack in New Zealand (NZ) as special interest groups and others are currently attempting to push a "food security" bill through the nation's parliament that will strip individuals of their right to grow food, save seeds, and even share the fruits of their labor with friends and family members.

In accordance with the World Trade Organization's (WTO) Codex Alimentarius scheme for global food control, the NZ Food Bill, if passed, will essentially transfer primary control of food from individuals to corporations under the guise of food safety. And unless massive public outcry and awakened consciences within the NZ government are able to put a stop to it, the bill could become law very soon.

According to NZ Food Security, a group working to protect the food freedom of New Zealanders, the bill will turn growing and sharing food into a government-granted privilege rather than a human right. It will also make it illegal to distribute any type of food based on the bill's language. This includes seeds, nutrients, natural medicines, minerals, and even water -- without expressed government permission.

You see, agribusiness giants like Monsanto want full control of the food supply, which means putting an end to small-scale agriculture systems that operate "off the grid," so to speak. This is why they have worked so hard in places like the US to convert conventional, staple crop systems to genetically-modified (GM) ones that are continually reliant upon new seeds and chemical interventions.

As far as enforcement, the NZ bill also authorizes private companies to deploy "Food Safety Officers" that can raid private property without warrant. Not only will these "Food Safety Officers" be permitted to draw weapons against those they are pursuing, but they will also be immune from criminal and civil prosecution for their illegal actions.

You can read a full summary of what the NZ Food Bill entails here:

What all this means, of course, is that the NZ government may soon be able to arbitrarily decide at any time to restrict individual freedom to plant vegetable gardens and share the produce with their neighbors, for instance. Even "cottage industries," which include at-home food artisans, could be restricted under the new law.

To learn more and to help defeat the NZ Food Bill, visit:

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Friday, December 09, 2011

Tuition to teach bloggers in oppressive states how to communicate freely...

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Hillary Rodham Clinton APU.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivers a speech at the Conference on Internet Freedom, …
THE HAGUE, Netherlands – The European Union should help teach bloggers living under oppressive regimes how to communicate freely and avoid detection, and develop technology to help them, the bloc's digital affairs commissioner said Friday.
Speaking at an online free speech conference, Neelie Kroes said digital dissidents need tools that are "simple and ready-made."
"I want the EU to help develop and distribute these tools," she said.
Governments, companies and civil liberties groups are meeting at the Freedom Online conference at the Dutch Foreign Ministry in hopes of creating a coalition of like-minded groups to promote Internet freedoms.
Bloggers and users of social networks played a key role in fomenting the revolutions of the "Arab Spring" — and took great risks.
In an emotional speech, Syrian blogger Amjad Baiazy said his country's surveillance system was built by Western companies. He said he was arrested and tortured in May for expressing his opinion online, and a friend was arrested as recently as this week for a Facebook posting. He called on governments to fight for "security of citizens, not corporations or governments."
On Thursday U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton opened the conference with a call for companies not to sell surveillance tools to authoritarian regimes.
Dutch member of parliament Marietje Schaake echoed Clinton's call, saying that companies "with a reputation to lose" — such as Google, one of the conference's sponsors — are more likely to heed it.
However, she said less well-known companies may need incentives or laws to restrain them.
She said it was ironic there is also conference being held this week in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, aimed at disseminating advanced surveillance techniques.
"We need to get ahead of the curve," she said. "Some governments curb freedom before the Internet fully arrives there."
Schaake also slammed the U.S. for its proposed "Stop Online Piracy Act," which would require U.S. telecommunications companies to block access to foreign-based websites that infringe U.S. copyrights.
This will "give great incentives to governments like China to do the same," she said, blocking political speech they don't approve and arguing that their censorship practices are no different than those in the West.
Karen Reilly of the TOR project, which helps Internet users browse the web anonymously, said governments should listen less to the copyright lobby. She said her organization could use assistance in answering technical questions in local languages, noting that addition of a Persian service had opened up a flood of communication from Iran.
Among concrete actions taken Friday, the Dutch government pledged euro1 million ($1.3 million) to develop "mesh" networks — networks that use mobile phones to create a backup system to disseminate information when a government tries to block the Internet or social networks. He named Syria, Iran and Zimbabwe as target countries.

Acknowledgements: Associated Press
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Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Afghan president pardons imprisoned rape victim - providing she marries her attacker...

Chief Justice Shinwani from the Supreme Court ...
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And the international community.

Karzai’s office said in a statement that the woman and her attacker have agreed to marry. That would reverse an earlier decision by the 19-year-old woman, who had previously refused a judge’s offer of freedom if she agreed to marry the rapist.
Her plight was highlighted in a documentary that the European Union blocked because it feared the women featured in the film would be in danger if it were shown.
More than 5,000 people recently signed a petition urging Karzai to release the woman. She had the man’s child while in prison and raised her daughter behind bars, which is common among women imprisoned in Afghanistan.
A statement released by Karzai’s office says that after hearing from judicial officials, the decision was made to forgive the rest of the sentence she received for having sex out of wedlock, a crime in Afghanistan. The presidential statement did not say when the woman was to be released or how much prison time had been pardoned.
The woman told The Associated Press in an interview last month that she had hoped that attention generated by the EU film might help her get released. With the film blocked, she said that she was losing hope and considering marrying her rapist as a way out. She said her attacker was pressuring her to stop giving interviews.
About half of the 300 to 400 women jailed in Afghanistan are imprisoned for so-called “moral crimes” such as sex outside marriage, or running away from their husbands, according to reports by the United Nations and research organizations. Fleeing husbands isn’t considered a crime in Afghanistan

The Riverman Reports:  The international community  condemns this decision, but should refuse to continue to prop up  an administration that supports such inhuman Islamic Sharia law.

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Saturday, December 03, 2011

The Amish don't get autism - And they don't get vaccinations - possible link...

People outside the alternative health community are often confused by the lack of autism in the Amish people. The Amish do not experience autism, or any of the other learning disabilities that plague our technological society. The Amish live in a society that consists of outdated technologies and ideals, by contemporary standards. Their diet consists of eating organic, fresh, locally-grown produce, and of course, they do not follow the established vaccination routines. To the dismay of the mainstream media and the medical establishment, this has resulted in a healthier people, that are void of all of our chronic diseases. Heart disease, cancer, and diabetes are virtually non-existent in Amish villages. Equally non-existent are modern, chemically-engineered medicines, enhanced (chemically-engineered) foods, G.M.O. foods, and of course, vaccines. How is it that those who are without the “miracles” of modern orthodox medicine are healthier? The truth about health, medicine, and how they both relate to the Amish is becoming an embarrassment to some rather powerful people.
There have been 3 (yes three) verified cases of autism in the Amish, and at least two of those children were vaccinated. No information is available for the third. The strong correlation between vaccinations and autism is absolutely undeniable, unless you work for the medical establishment, the government, or Big Media. Proponents of the status-quo claim that the Amish obviously have a special super gene that makes them immune to autism. They pathetically try to rationalize that autism is some type of genetic failure (i.e. God’s fault), which attacks a brain based on religious affiliation. We’re tentatively expecting a space alien theory next, in a similar vein to the aliens theory used to attack those who believe in a Creator. This is truly is F.D.A. and A.M.A. science in all its shining glory. Vaccine proponents are willing to espouse any ridiculous explanation, so long as they do not have to accept that their entire industry of vaccinations is causing chronic disease, leaving autism for 1 in every 100 children now.

When the Amish are simply left alone, to live free of chemical toxins found in our medicines and foods, they are not plagued with diseases, learning disabilities, or autism. They are categorically more intelligent, with the exception of advanced (college-level) writing skills, which is explainable by the fact that English is not their primary language. Could it be those same Amish ‘super genes’ at work again? Society could learn greatly from their example, if we would only stop poisoning ourselves, and our children on a routine basis.

Read More: The Health Wyze Report
Photo Credit: Bob Jagendorf via Flickr
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Thursday, December 01, 2011

Drones cleared for domestic patrol use within the US..

Drones cleared for domestic use across US
Drones cleared for domestic use across US

What do you know about drones? You know drones — those robotic, unmanned planes that fire missiles for the American military across Afghanistan, Pakistan and anywhere else the United States needs to get away with murder.
Well if you don’t know too much, don’t worry, that’ll change soon. The Federal Aviation Administration is looking into rules that will bring the controversial aircraft into the country, creating an United States airspace buzzing with tiny, robot planes to look over every inch of American soil — and maybe more.
An article published Tuesday in the Los Angeles Times reveals that new drone planes could be coming domestically quite soon, as both law enforcement and the agricultural sector are seeing benefits in keeping an arsenal of unmanned planes ready to patrol the skies. For farmers, drones could bring a new method of pumping pesticides into fields of crops from above; for the cops, the aircraft could conduct surveillance over suspected criminals (think police chopper but remote controlled). The Times reports that utility companies see a benefit in drones as well, giving them a new set of eyes to monitor oil, gas and water pipelines.
But with missile-equipped drones causing thousands of deaths overseas, the installation of a drone program stateside could be detrimental to America as the government all but deems the country fit as a warfront.
"It's going to happen," Dan Elwell, vice president of civil aviation at the Aerospace Industries Association, tells the Times. "Now it's about figuring out how to safely assimilate the technology into national airspace."
According to the Department of Homeland Security’s website, the government has already been using drones domestically for several years, but remains mostly mum on their missions, other than that they are regularly used for "support of disaster relief efforts."
In July, however, retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Michael Kostelnik, currently with the US Customs and Border Protection UAV program, told a congressional subcommittee that a third drone was being added to an arsenal of two that already fly over Texas to patrol the US/Mexico Border.
“On any given day there could be three or more (unmanned) aircraft in Texas,” said Kostelnik.
As the FAA investigates legislation to govern drones domestically for a variety of reasons, the US Air Force says that it will train more drone pilots than fighter and bomber pilots combined, reports National Public Radio. Though the military has not explicitly stated that they intend on flying Predator drones — the kind equipped with Hellfire missiles — through American airspace, it will soon have the manpower to up their robot game. Strangely enough, the US Senate is currently considering a provision to the National Defense Authorization Act which would make America a battlefield of itself, which RT reported on Monday.
Earlier this year, RT also revealed that the military is investing $23 billion into new drone crafts, and that the US has added bases to fly the planes in and out of across the world. A friendly fire strike gone disastrous in April killed two American troops mistaken as Taliban insurgents, and a September strike in Yemen killed two American citizens alleged to have ties to al-Qaeda. Following that strike, Republican Congressman Ron Paul told an audience during a televised GOP debate that “now we know American citizens are vulnerable to assassination.” A passing of the National Defense Authorization Act’s latest provision this week, coupled with a reinforced drone arsenal, could create such executions to be carried out stateside, by-the-books.
So far the FAA has issued 266 testing permits to allow for civilian drones in the United States, but the Times reports that the aircraft aren’t flying in large numbers yet, as the agency says that the crafts do not have the proper technology to keep them from crashing into each other as they start to soar in growing numbers. Small drones are being manufactured in the thousands, however, and AeroVironment Inc. has created a drone helicopter for police monitoring and intends on sending 18,000 of them to law enforcement agencies once the crafts have clearance. Those drones, reports the Times, weigh barely five pounds and could be controlled by a tablet computer.
"This is a tool that many law enforcement agencies never imagined they could have,” Steven Gitlin of the aerospace company tells the Times.
As the realm of drone-filled skies becomes a reality, Americans could be experiencing a police state that they never could have imagined, either.
AeroVironment’s planes are being manufactured particularly for law enforcement purposes and could create an eye-in-the-sky small enough to fit in the trunk of a car that'd monitor every action from high in the air — undetectable to the naked eye yet all knowing of every move.
"By definition, small drones are easy to conceal and fly without getting a lot of attention," John Villasenor, a UCLA professor and senior fellow at the Brookings Institution's Center for Technology Innovation, adds to the Times.
Also getting less attention are the programs used to create the crafts itself. A recent report in’s Danger Room reveals that the US military has been keeping members of the press off of drone bases in increasing numbers as of late, keeping the progress of the program overseas highly unreported.
“The change in guidance wasn’t a light switch that turned off all public access to information about [remotely piloted aircraft],” Lt. Col. Tadd Sholtis, spokesman at Air Combat Command, tells Danger Room. “It was a recognition of the sensitive nature of the mission and the risks involved in unrestricted media access to an operational unit.”
The US government has repeatedly dismissed claims that put drone attacks in alarming numbers contrary to their own count, responsible for a shocking toll of deaths; though reporting overseas has unearthed figures that would frighten most people living under skies patrolled by drones. According to a report this year from Britain’s Bureau of Investigative Journalism, US drone strikes have killed nearly 400 civilians in Pakistan alone, and that the CIA has launched 291 attacks by the report’s publishing in August — eight percent more than the Central Intelligence Agency had admitted to. Casualties in all, adds the UK’s Bureau, are at least 40 percent higher than what the US has reported.
Standing up for his research, Bureau Editor Iain Overton tells CNN that "All of our sources are credible and transparent, and where contradictory information exists, we make that clear.”
"It is unfortunate that instead of engaging with our work, the CIA sees fit to smear it,” adds Overton.
Pentagon spokesperson George Little reported to the press this October that the US launched nearly 150 airstrikes with drones over Libya in just the few months of NATO involvement in the oust of Muammar Gaddafi.
With drones coming to a sky near you — and your neighborhood soon being considered a battlefield — the number of strikes could increase and come a little too close to home. Literally.
"Most Americans still see drone aircraft in the realm of science fiction," author Peter W. Singer tells the Times. "But the technology is here. And it isn't going away. It will increasingly play a role in our lives. The real question is: How do we deal with it?"
With lawmakers pushing for drones to dominate our skies, American civilians aren’t left with many options to deal with it than just that — deal with it.
Both sides of the aisle have shown support for drones.
GOP presidential hopeful Jon Huntsman said earlier this month that “an expanded drone program is something that would serve our national interests” and that it “must be done.” The Bureau of Investigative Journalism report earlier this year calculated that President Obama has been in office for around 236 drone strikes against Pakistan — or one for every four days in office.
Foreign policy aside, politicians have shown support for bringing drones to America. Now that the FAA has given it the go ahead, it is only a matter of time before the robotic whizzing of robotic crafts being a regular occurrence.
“We know that there are Predator drones being flown for practice every day because we're seeing them; we're preparing these young people to fly missions in these war zones that we have,” Texas Governor Rick Perry said in New Hampshire earlier this year. “But some of those, they have all the equipment, they're obviously unarmed, they've got the downward-looking radar, they've got the ability to do night work and through clouds.”
“Why not be flying those missions and using (that) real-time information to help our law enforcement?” asked Perry.
Last year the Obama administration got behind a $600 million border security bill that will bring two more drones to the US/Mexico border. Congress approved it in 2010.
By this summer, the Customs and Border Protection had six drones in their arsenal to monitor their border. For those not in Texas, Arizona or anywhere near the southwest US, however, you could expect to see those numbers increase. Be sure to wave if you see them, too. “You have a lot of police chiefs and sheriffs that would love to have this information,” Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Laredo, said of the technology earlier this year.
“Technology is part of the long-term solution to securing the border,” Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, said in a letter to Congress earlier this year.
Say good-bye to long-term. Drones are here and they are only going to get smaller, stealthier and greater in numbers.
Smile, you’re on drone-craft camera.

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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Cap badge of the Republic of Fiji Military Forces
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Insignia of Tentara Nasional Indonesia (Indone...
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Fijian military regime admits to buying arms from Indonesia...

Fijian military regime admits to buying arms from Indonesia

A high-level Police and Military delegation is in Indonesia strengthening co-operation and links with the big Asia-Pacific republic.They are signing a police co-operation agreement, meeting Indonesia’s top military commander, seeing weapons about to be shipped to Fiji, and visiting training centres.
Minister for Defence, National Security and Immigration Joketani Cokanasiga leads the delegation for the signing of a Police Co-operation Agreement with the Indonesian National Police in Jakarta.
The delegation includes Police Commissioner Brigadier-General Iowane Naivalurua, Fiji Military Forces Land Force Commander Colonel Mosese Tikoitoga, Senior Superintendent of Police Maretino Qiolevu and Joji Dumukoro, of the Ministry of Defence.
Prior to the signing, they visited a weapons-making factory in Bandung, two hours drive from the capital.
The Minister was able to see first-hand the process of making armoured vehicles and light weapons by the State-owned company, PT.
Mr Cokanasiga and his delegation also saw a consignment of weapons recently ordered for the Fiji Military Forces which would be dispatched to Suva shortly.
They were accompanied on the visit by Fiji’s Ambassador to Indonesia Ratu Tui Cavuilati.
The delegation is this afternoon meeting Admiral Agus Suhartono, Commander-in-Chief of the Indonesian Military.
They will then visit the Military Academy in Magelang, the Police Academy and the Jakarta Centre for Law Enforcement Co-operation (JCLEC) in Semarang.
The delegation earlier met with the secretary to the Co-ordinating Ministry for Political, Legal and Security Affairs Dr Hotmangaradja Pandjaitan.
They were later treated to a welcome dinner by the Chief of the Indonesian National Police Timur Pradopo and his senior staff.
The delegation returns to Fiji on Saturday

Fijian military and police officials have visited Indonesia. It is believed that a shipment of arms will be sent to Fiji in the near future.  What are these arms for? Do they include large patrol craft and heavier weapons which could be fired from patrol craft. Does Fiji intend to "invade" Tonga to remove a high-ranking  Fijian military officer and deport him back to Fiji?   Few individuals own guns and other weapons in Fiji. What are all the weapons for? To keep Fijians fenced  in or to be aggressive to other island nations such as Tonga?

Military dictatorship has considered making arms in Fiji. Who would buy from them?

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