Friday, September 30, 2011

Tell Southwest Airlines to apologise for over-reacting to public expression of endearment...

LOS ANGELES, CA - APRIL 05:  A Southwest Airli...Image by Getty Images via @daylife
Tell Southwest to apologize for kicking lesbian couple off flight
Sign the Petition

Leisha Hailey and Camila Grey weren't expecting anything out of the ordinary when they boarded their Southwest Airlines flight last Monday. Camila kissed Leisha -- just a typical "I love you" peck like any couple might share. 
Apparently, this was not okay with their flight attendant, who came over to explain that two women kissing was not acceptable, because Southwest is "a family-oriented airline."
Leisha and Camila were extremely upset. The flight attendant wouldn't back down. The conflict escalated. And Leisha and Camila were kicked off their flight.
Southwest claims to be a supporter of LGBT rights -- and, as corporations go, Southwest has excellent anti-discrimination policies. It's even the official airline for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). But now that those policies are being put to the test, Southwest is failing miserably.
In multiple statements, Southwest has refused to accept responsibility for the actions of its employee, and has instead blamed Leisha and Camila for bringing this discrimination on themselves. But Leisha and Camila would have had no cause to get upset if they hadn't been targeted by their flight attendant for their sexual orientation.
Eradicating homophobia means more than saying the right buzzwords and sponsoring the right organizations. It means making sure that LGBT families are treated equally every day. If Southwest can brush this incident under the rug, what's to stop other well-meaning companies from doing the same? 
Southwest has already received an avalanche of bad publicity for both its employee's discriminatory behavior and its failure to accept responsibility for the incident. The airline's executives need to understand that potential customers aren't going to let this go until Southwest issues an official, meaningful apology. 
Please sign Jeremy's petition asking that Southwest apologize to Leisha and Camila:

Acknowledgements:  Eden and the team

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Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Danger for US - China Ties - US actions criticised...

The national emblem of the Republic of China (...Image via Wikipedia

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By Wenran Jiang

The US is wrong if it assumes it can always be business as usual after arms sales to Taiwan. As China rises, the temptation to push back grows.
The Obama administration’s decision to sell $5.8 billion in arms to Taiwan has been roundly criticized by Beijing, and has clouded bilateral relations at a time of global economic uncertainty, increased tensions in the South China Sea and ahead of the leadership transition in China next year. Add in presidential elections in the United States and Taiwan in 2012, and it’s clear that this is an extremely sensitive period in Sino-US ties.

Unlike the $6.4 billion arms sales to Taiwan last year, which had been initiated by President George W. Bush in 2008 and only implemented by the current administration, Obama’s package to Taiwan reflects his administration’s own delicate balancing act between multiple interests. By providing one of the largest ever weapons sales to Taiwan, the White House hopes to satisfy demands from Taiwan for continuous US political and military support while staving off critics at home who charge he is backing down in the face of Beijing’s threats of retaliation.

But by choosing to upgrade Taiwan’s existing fleet of F16 A/B fighters rather than offering the newest F16 C/D models as requested by Taiwan, Obama has also tried to mitigate Beijing’s concerns and soften its response. Indeed, editorials in the West have already been quick to dismiss the expected outcry from China as simply a formality. Much thunder, little rain, they predict, arguing there’s very little the Chinese government can do
In the short term, it may well be the case that after some measured retaliatory response, the bilateral relationship will indeed return to normal, as we witnessed last year. The United States may be tempted to believe it can have it all: jobs for its arms industry at home, a strategic presence in East Asia and political leverage over mainland China’s ties with Taiwan, all the while maintaining good political and economic ties with Beijing.

But in the long run, continued US arms sales to Taiwan will have a profoundly negative impact on how the Chinese mainland perceives US intentions. One recent online opinion poll in China showed that 84 percent of those surveyed opposed US arms sales to Taiwan, with 76 percent demanding the Chinese government adopt strong retaliatory measures; more than 50 percent supported sanctions against US enterprises. While polls like this in China's state-controlled media may have to be taken with a grain of salt, a no doubt still angry Chinese public certainly isn’t good news for the United States.

Still, the retaliatory options for the Chinese government are limited, for now at least. Its economic interdependence with the United States is deepening, with $400 billion in annual bilateral trade at stake, mostly in China’s favour. Any punishment of US firms, then, could also hurt China’s own interests.

In addition, Beijing also has to balance its opposition to the US arms sales with support for the administration of Taiwanese President Ma Ying-jeou, who Beijing hopes will prevail in next year’s poll. Ma advocates a stable and closer relationship with the mainland, while seeking US arms – it’s less about the beefing up of Taiwan’s military strength than ensuring political backing from Washington that gives Taipei leverage in its dealings with Beijing. Ma therefore remains the best choice for the mainland in terms of being able to provide a predictable and manageable cross-strait relationship.

Despite this, the Chinese leadership will be under increasing pressure to take more substantive steps in countering US arms sales. As China’s economy and military grow stronger, Beijing will have increasing leverage over Washington in the coming years. The current pattern of large scale arms sales to Taiwan, followed by vehement complaints and some response from China, followed by business as usual, can’t go on forever. It’s likely that Beijing will further strengthen its military capabilities with an eye on Taiwan at the regional level, and the US globally. If US sales continue, China will undoubtedly feel the urge to retaliate – an extremely dangerous prospect that will leave no winners.

China’s rise a reality, and the United States needs to understand that arms sales to Taiwan won’t change the balance of power across the Taiwan Strait. Washington therefore requires a long term vision for how to deal with China’s rise. Beijing, for its part, needs to reassure Taiwan that it won’t use force to achieve its goal reunification.

Ultimately, Washington and Beijing need to do more to weaken the hardliners in both countries who perceive the other as an enemy, and who believe that both sides need to prepare for a war they believe is inevitable. It’s the only way forward.

Wenran Jiang is associate professor of political science at the University of Alberta and senior fellow at the Asia-Pacific Foundation of Canada.
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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Is it time to withdraw NZ troops from Afghanistan

BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan?Two members of t...Image via Wikipedia
Lance Corporal Leon Smith was flown by helicopter to a hospital 10 minutes away, but died on the operating table soon after he arrived there. Photo / New Zealand Defence Force

Lance Corporal Leon Smith was flown by helicopter to a hospital 10 minutes away, but died on the operating table soon after he arrived there. Photo / New Zealand Defence Force

A New Zealand SAS soldier who was shot dead in Afghanistan yesterday may have been caught up in family feud, it has been alleged.

Lance Corporal Leon Smith was shot in the head during an operation in Wardak province, southwest of Kabul, at a compound suspected of housing Taleban bomb-makers preparing for an attack in the capital.
An Afghan Crisis Response Unit of about 50 men went to the compound with an Interior Ministry arrest warrant.

They were accompanied by legal officers and about 15 of the 38 SAS troops in Afghanistan.
At 1.30 pm, when Prime Minister John Key, Defence Minister Wayne Mapp and Defence chief Lieutenant General Rhys Jones announced Lance Corporal Smith's death - without naming him - the operation was continuing. It ended later in the afternoon
General Jones said he had reports that two civilians, a child and a man, had been injured.
He said insurgents shot Lance Corporal Smith as coalition forces set up a cordon around the compound.
He was flown to a medical base about 10 minutes away where a neurosurgeon was available, but died on the operating table.

However Dutch investigative journalist, Bette Dam, told Radio New Zealand Afghan authorities had told her the soldiers may have been caught up in a family feud.

She said she was told the SAS and the Afghan allies were incorrectly told by one family that the home was occupied by Taleban bomb-makers.

The governor of Warduk told her the Afghan man who was killed, Younus Khan, was innocent, as were nine others who were injured.

"The governor's office told me that the people actually in the house that got raided were unarmed," she said.
"A lot of things are not clear yet, but for me, from he governor's office and even from the head of the response unit, there seems to be a different situation than you expect, like a Taleban being in the house, trying to Kabul, here at a hotel or whatsever - that seems not the case."

She understood the bullet that killed Lance Corporal Smith "came from in or around" that house.
Ms Dam said it was a possibility the victims were related to the government in some way and the governor's office were attempting to cover this up.

Late last night, Defence Force officials refused to give any other details about Corporal Smith.
Aged in his early 30s, Lance Corporal Smith is the fourth New Zealand soldier to die in just over a year.
The Defence Force and the Government still describe the SAS troops' role as "mentoring" the Afghan Crisis Response Unit (CRU), despite two New Zealand deaths in two months.

Last month, Corporal Douglas Grant died after he was shot through a gap in his armoured vest during a Taleban raid in the capital, Kabul.

Prime Minister John Key said Lance Corporal Smith had "paid the highest price for his service to this country and we will mourn his death".

"His death, however, does not alter our commitment to helping Afghanistan. It continues to be the Government's intention to keep the SAS in Afghanistan until March as planned."

The PM said he deeply regretted Lance Corporal Smith's death, "but I don't regret the decision that we made to commit the SAS to Afghanistan".

"I think they are playing their critical part to free the world from global terrorism."
The SAS is on its fourth deployment to Afghanistan since the US-led invasion in 2001.

A foreign policy analyst at the University of Auckland says the SAS soldiers appear to have moved from their mentoring role.

Associate Professor Stephen Hoadley said two deaths in two months showed the unit was involved in frontline combat.

"The two deaths is certainly an indication that the SAS is no longer leading from behind, but is now leading from in front."

Professor Hoadley said there was a "slight disjunction" between what the public was being told and what the SAS was doing in Afghanistan.

"It appears that the SAS is doing a bit more than mentoring and training - and that may lead some to question whether the Government is telling the whole story."

Earlier, General Jones said the operations involving the SAS were led by the CRU, but the New Zealanders could be drawn on.

"Their primary role, though, is to train and assist in the decision-making and the execution that the Afghanis do in conducting that operation.

"To provide the level of advice and support and reassurance that the Afghans need, our people need to be quite close to the operation."

The death forced a change in Mr Key's plans. He cancelled arrangements to host Georgian Prime Minister Nikoloz Gilauri at his country's World Cup match against Romania last night in Palmerston North.
Mr Key said he would still have dinner with Mr Gilauri, but "I think it would be insensitive for me to go to the game"

The second death of a NZ SAS trooper in Afghanistan in just over a month, is beginning to create some opposition in New Zealand just a couple of months out from the general elections in November. The NZ Government plans to withdraw remaining SAS soldiers from Afghanistan in March, 2012, next year. They will not be replaced.
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Sunday, September 25, 2011

The lowdown on the Wireless Aerial Surveillance Platform - the Wasp...

Aerovision Fulmar UAV during a recent flightImage via Wikipedia

Mike Tassey posing with the Wireless Aerial Surveillance Platform, WASP.

How do one ex-Air Force official and one former airplane hobby shop owner, both of whom happen to have decades of experience as network security contractors for the military, spend their weekends? Building a flying, unmanned, automated password-cracking, Wi-Fi-sniffing, cell-phone eavesdropping spy drone, of course.

At the Black Hat and Defcon security conferences in Las Vegas next week, Mike Tassey and Richard Perkins plan to show the crowd of hackers a year’s worth of progress on their Wireless Aerial Surveillace Platform, or WASP, the second year Tassey and Perkins have displayed the 14-pound, six-foot long, six-foot wingspan unmanned aerial vehicle. The WASP, built from a retired Army target drone converted from a gasoline engine to electric batteries, is equipped with an HD camera, a cigarette-pack sized on-board Linux computer packed with network-hacking tools including the BackTrack testing toolset and a custom-built 340 million word dictionary for brute-force guessing of passwords, and eleven antennae.

“This is like Black Hat’s greatest hits,” Tassey says. “And it flies.”

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