Tagged: military

Why should Americans care about protests – and murder – in Mexico?


Click to enlarge

Christy Thornton is earning a doctorate in Latin American history at New York University and is a board member of the North American Congress on Latin America.

In early October, I attended a rally outside the Mexican consulate in New York City to protest the disappearance of a group of students taken by police in the state of Guerrero two weeks earlier. On a busy midtown Manhattan street, a dozen people gathered to call attention to the missing students and demand their return. A passerby, puzzled by the commotion, stopped a protester to ask what they were shouting about. When he was told what had happened, he asked incredulously, “But they were Mexican students? Killed in Mexico? Why should we care here?”

Indeed, why should ordinary Americans care about the rampant corruption, extrajudicial violence and culture of impunity that has overtaken Mexico in the eight years since then-President Felipe Calderón declared war on the drug cartels? Why should they care about 100,000 dead and at least 20,000 disappeared, some of whose remains are being uncovered in a quickly metastasizing map of mass graves? Why should they care about the 43 teachers in training, rounded up by police and turned over to a gang of killers who, it is alleged, burned their bodies and dumped what remained in a local river? Why should they care about the surging protests, the tens of thousands marching in the streets of Mexico’s cities and towns, calling for the renunciation of President Enrique Peña Nieto and declaring “Fue el estado” (It was the state)?

Here’s why Americans should care: We are collectively funding this war. Our tax dollars, in the form of security aid, provide the equipment, weapons and training to state security forces responsible for an ever-lengthening rap sheet of human rights abuses. U.S. drug habits, in the form of an insatiable market for narcotics, marijuana and amphetamines, provide the liquid cash that has proved so corrosive when it has come into contact with every level of the Mexican state.

This is our war, on our drugs. We have created the Mexico from which we now distance ourselves — but we can’t afford to turn our backs any longer.

Since 2007, the U.S. government has spent roughly $3 billion on security aid to Mexico, through the George W. Bush–era Mérida Initiative, which was extended indefinitely by President Barack Obama, and through counternarcotics programs run by the Defense and Justice departments. Those funds served to militarize the war on drugs and contributed to the extraordinary increase in violence under Calderón…

The aid provided by the U.S. government pales compared with the estimated $30 billion a year that the sale of drugs in the United States sends to Mexico. And it is that money that is coursing through Mexico’s political veins, infecting everyone from small town mayors and state governors to federal security officials, rotting the Mexican state from within and leaving the protesters without recourse. Small wonder that many in Mexico have taken up the slogan that brought down the Argentine government in 2001: Que se vayan todos (Throw them all out).

The U.S. government’s response to the demands of the Mexican people for respect, answers and justice has been tellingly quiet. No word from Obama or Secretary of State John Kerry. So far, we have only the pleas of a State Department spokeswoman for “all parties to remain calm.” This statement was triggered by fears that the protests will turn violent, an outrageous worry, given the scale and brutality of state violence that provoked them.

The White House continues the great American tradition of deciding for the rest of the world whose violence counts and whose doesn’t. If people rise up to strike out against corruption that has nothing to do with the management of official America’s response. As usual, money talks. Policy set in motion decades ago by some of the most useless politicians in our history – are accepted as holy writ.

Thanks, Mike

This smartphone will self-destruct in 3… 2…1…


“What do you mean…sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander?”

Boeing has unveiled a smartphone that appears to come straight from a James Bond spy movie…In addition to encrypting calls, any attempt to open the casing of the Boeing Black Smartphone deletes all data and renders the device inoperable.

The secure phone marks an extension of the communications arm of the Chicago-based aerospace and defense contractor, which is best known for jetliners and fighter planes…

Boeing’s tamper-proof phone is aimed at government agencies and contractors who need to keep communication and data secure, according to Boeing and filings with the U.S. Federal Communications Commission…

Due to the phone’s security features, Boeing is releasing few details about the wireless network operators or manufacturer it is working with, and has not provided a price or date by which the phone might be widely available, but said it has begun offering the phone to potential customers.

Boeing’s website says the phone can be configured to connect with biometric sensors or satellites. Other attachments can extend battery life or use solar power…

“We saw a need for our customers in a certain market space” that Boeing could meet with its technology expertise, she said.

That’s a polite way of saying – “we already deal with the creepiest paranoids in the United States government. This is one more way we can rake in more taxpayer dollars.”

GOP candidate says spousal rape shouldn’t be a crime

MakingDinner

After taking a drubbing in last year’s state elections, Virginia Republicans are debating whether their party has come to be defined by its extremists. But in a congressional district in Northern Virginia, one of the state’s main instigators of culture warfare, state Sen. Richard H. “Dick” Black, is running in the Republican primary to replace longtime GOP moderate Rep. Frank Wolf, who is retiring. And he’s guaranteed to ignite wedge-issue passion. Exhibit A: As a state legislator, Black opposed making spousal rape a crime, citing the impossibility of convicting a husband accused of raping his wife “when they’re living together, sleeping in the same bed, she’s in a nightie, and so forth.”

Black has referred to emergency contraception, which does not cause abortions, as “baby pesticide.” Black also fought to block a statue of Abraham Lincoln at a former Confederate site in Richmond. He wasn’t sure, he explained at the time, that statues of Lincoln belonged in Virginia. He has argued that abortion is a worse evil than slavery…

Black entered politics in the late 1990s after retiring as a military prosecutor. He spoke frequently to media outlets about sexual assault in the military, and called military rape “as predictable as human nature.” “Think of yourself at 25,” Black told a newspaper in 1996. “Wouldn’t you love to have a group of 19-year-old girls under your control, day in, day out?”

One more illustration of what the term “conservative” has come to mean in today’s Republican Party. Brutality and bigotry in the War on Women accepted as an ideological standard.

Why are US nuclear bombs still based in the Netherlands?

Some 22 US nuclear weapons are stored on Dutch territory, says former Dutch Prime Minister Ruud Lubbers…Mr Lubbers, a centre-right prime minister from 1982-94, said they were stored underground in strong-rooms at the Volkel air base in Brabant.

He made the revelation in a documentary for National Geographic – saying: “I would never have thought those silly things would still be there in 2013.”

The presence of nuclear weapons on Dutch soil has long been rumoured…However, Mr Lubbers is believed to be the most senior person to confirm their existence.

“I think they are an absolutely pointless part of a tradition in military thinking,” Mr Lubbers said.

The Telegraaf newspaper quoted experts as saying the weapons held at Volkel were B61 bombs that were developed in the US in the 1960s. At 50 kilotons, they are four times the strength of atom bombs used on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima or Nagasaki at the end of World War II…

The “poorly kept secret” of the existence of nuclear weapons in concrete vaults emerged in 2010 in the classified US documents published by Wikileaks, reported NRC Handelsblad newspaper.

It was mentioned in a report on a conversation involving US Ambassador to Berlin Philip Murphy, US diplomat Phil Gordon and German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s national security adviser, Christoph Heusgen.

In November 2010, then-Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal declined to give any explanation to the Dutch parliament.

A spokesman for the Royal Dutch Air Force was quoted by Dutch broadcaster NOS on Monday as saying these issues “are never spoken of“…”[Mr Lubbers], as former prime minister, knows that well,” he added.

Just as American liberals or conservatives fall right in line with every wish of the Pentagon and our military-industrial complex, governments around the world click their heels and listen to Uncle Sugar. It’s easier than thinking for yourself. Less trouble than cutting the umbilical cord to American death machines – and the dollars that flow into government treasuries and, sometimes, Swiss bank accounts.

Just as Obama uses the same excuses as George W Bush, governments of convenient coalitions – Center-Left, Center-Right, patriotic, independent politicians in other nations pay close attention to the people who own the United States – and never get out of line. Transparency is a cool word that still depends upon who owns the house and the windows.

Malnutrition causes 3.1 million deaths among children

Malnutrition is the underlying cause of death for at least 3.1 million children, accounting for 45% of all deaths among children under the age of five and stunting growth among a further 165 million, according to a set of reports released ahead of a nutrition summit in London.

The shocking figures, published in the Lancet on Thursday, emerged as world leaders prepare to meet on Saturday to pledge extra money for nutrition, ahead of the G8 summit of industrialised countries on 17 June…

Aid for basic nutrition came to $418 million in 2011, only 0.4% of total official development assistance. Similarly, nutrition has been a low government priority in Africa.

Saturday’s nutrition summit, co-hosted by the UK, Brazil and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), is expected to see financial pledges from rich governments and declarations of commitments from poor countries.

Aid campaigners, who see the summit as the biggest opportunity in a decade to secure financial and political commitments on nutrition, expect pledges that will take the overall figure for nutrition to between $600m and $800m a year. Enough Food For Everyone IF, a coalition of more than 200 NGOs and faith groups, which is holding a rally in Hyde Park on Saturday to coincide with the summit, is calling for $1bn a year by 2015.

Even if the summit comes up with more money, it will fall far short of the $9.6bn a year the Lancet says is needed to reduce the number of deaths from malnutrition among under-fives by 1 million. The money would be targeted at 34 countries with high malnutrition rates, supporting interventions identified in the 2008 Lancet series as cost-effective. These include exclusive breastfeeding and appropriate, healthy foods for infants; providing mothers and children with sufficient vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A and zinc supplements, iodised salt, and other micronutrient powders and fortified foods; and the prevention and treatment of cases of acute, severe malnutrition…

Brazil has been one of the success stories in reducing malnutrition. Daniel Silva Balaban, a director at the UN World Food Programme who was involved in Brazil’s nutrition policy, emphasised that hunger and malnutrition was a political problem, not an economic one.

Balaban pointed out that the success of a school feeding programme key to Brazil’s success in tackling malnutrition involved not just the ministry of education but also the co-operation of the education, health, social development and finance ministries.

It also helps if you’e not one of the nations whose military assumes a much higher priority than ordinary citizens – or their children.

Gaza athletes banned from Bethlehem marathon

Israeli military authorities have not issued travel documents to 21 men and one woman who had hoped to compete in this Sunday’s race in Bethlehem, despite an official request from the head of the Palestine Olympic Committee, Jabril Rajoub.

It means the athletes will have missed the chance to run in two marathons within weeks after the United Nations’s relief agency, UNWRA, last month cancelled its race in Gaza – scheduled for April 11 – in protest at a decision by the territory’s Hamas rulers banning women runners.

The controversy has opened the military to accusations of hypocrisy from critics who point out that the Israeli Defence Forces (IDF) posted a blog on its website criticising Hamas’ decision as a denial of human freedom…

Among the would-be Gaza runners are Sanaa Abu-Bahit, 29, a woman who has entered the 5km part of the race, and Nader Al-Masri, who represented Palestine in the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.

I wouldn’t expect anything less than hypocrisy, allegiance to Israel’s apartheid ideology.

Jet airliner reports close encounter with drone – over Brooklyn!


This is similar to the design seen by the Alitalia pilot

The Federal Aviation Administration is investigating a report from a pilot of an Alitalia passenger jet who says he saw an unmanned aircraft while landing at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York.

We saw a drone, a drone aircraft,” the pilot can be heard telling controllers on radio calls captured by the website LiveATC.net.

“The FAA is investigating a report… he saw a small, unmanned or remote-controlled aircraft while on final approach to Runway 31 Right,” according a statement sent to CNN by FAA spokeswoman Laura Brown. “The sighting was approximately four to five miles west of the airport at an altitude of approximately 1,500 feet,” she said.

That description puts the aircraft somewhere over Brooklyn and on the other side of the airport from where the plane was coming in for a landing…

The Alitalia aircraft did not have to take any evasive action and landed safely at JFK…

For recreational hobbyists, flying remote-controlled planes is only allowed by the FAA up to 400 feet in the air, and within sight of the operator. If they are going to fly within three miles of an airport, they have to let air traffic controllers know.

Flying unmanned aerial vehicles is illegal for most business purposes; however, governments and public entities such as police departments can apply for permission to operate them.

20 years ago, it would have been called a UFO.

NASA trying to come up with missions for spare spy telescopes

NASA is looking for new ideas on what to do with two space telescopes left over from a once-secret U.S. spy satellite program.

The U.S. space agency asked the scientific community on Tuesday for its input into possible missions for a pair of space telescopes donated last year to NASA by the National Reconnaissance Office, which operates the nation’s spy satellites…

Topping the list of existing proposals is to use one telescope for a mission to learn more about an anti-gravity force known as “dark energy,” which is believed to be responsible for speeding up the universe’s rate of expansion…

The National Academy of Sciences has made that mission, known as the Wide-Field Infrared Survey Telescope, its top choice for an astrophysics space mission for the next decade.

NASA estimates the WFIRST mission would cost $1.5 billion to $2 billion, but it cannot begin a major new astrophysics project until spending winds down on the over-budget and delayed James Webb Space Telescope, which is a successor to the Hubble Space Telescope and is scheduled for launch in 2018.

Another option is to pair the WFIRST mission with a new initiative to view Earth-sized planets beyond the solar system, said Princeton University researcher David Spergel, who organized a workshop for scientists in September to discuss telescope proposals.

The extra-solar planet hunter also could be a stand-alone mission.

Another idea is to use one of the telescopes to study how the sun affects Earth’s magnetic field…

Too bad the red tape-rules of the transfer of ownership prohibit these being used to observe Earth. Bet we could sell them to Google or Apple.

Danes propose scrapping military service


The winds of change

Compulsory military service may be suspended in order to help the Ministry of Defence find the 2.7 billion kroner of cuts it has promised to make.

The news comes ahead of the start of negotiations today between the government and the parties that voted in favour of the last defence budget that expires in two years time.

Compulsory military service is written into the Danish constitution, making it difficult to abolish. That is why the government has instead proposed to suspend the tradition…

Reports suggest that the preliminary negotiations seem to have found about two billion kroner of cuts, while suspending military service is hoped to save an additional 500 million kroner a year.

Almost all 18-year-old Danish men – and a small number of women – serve at least four months of military service once they complete upper secondary school.

The tradition started in the middle of the 19th century and is now considered a rite of passage for most men while also providing the Danish military with a large recruitment ground for its professional army.

As a result, right-wing parties the Konservative (K) and Dansk Folkeparti (DF) are against suspending it.

DF’s defence spokesperson, Maria Krarup…and K’s defence spokesperson, Lene Espersen…said blah, blah, blah!

Opposition party Liberal Alliance (LA) is for getting rid of it though.

National service belongs to the past,” LA’s defence spokesperson Villum Christensen told Ritzau. “It’s a very expensive way to educate soldiers. We would rather have a professional army.”

Overdue. Of course, even having such a discussion is beyond the comprehension of the slurry of Cold Warriors and spineless hacks we have in Congress.

Traders in Nazi souvenirs take to grave-robbing for supplies

Bodies dug from graves to fuel trade in Nazi souvenirs…

Servicemen’s groups have condemned the trade in Nazi souvenirs, which has seen hundreds of artifacts – including dog tags and tank parts – stripped from graves in Demyansk, near Novgorod in Russia, and Kurland in Latvia.

The items end up for sale on websites or at specialist fairs while the bodies are dumped in mass graves.

Paul Reed, a military archaeologist, told The Times: “It’s wholesale looting of battle sites, and the bones are just tipped into holes at the end of the day.

“Second World War archaeology is in its infancy at the moment, and these people are destroying our future, as well as desecrating the graves of fallen soldiers. None of them deserved to have their bones dug up.”

Items have reportedly been offered at War and Peace, the biggest military fair in Europe, which takes place at Hop Farm, in Kent.

While the trade is outlawed in France and Germany, it is legal in the UK. And, of course, the US.

Collectors insist they are military historians rather than neo-Nazis who prefer to buy modern replicas.

I don’t care which specific kind of creep these people are – they still are ghouls. Especially the flavor who know damned well they’re buying from grave-robbers.