Test Sites chosen for civilian, private use of drones

The U.S. approved drone test centers in six states, including New York, as the start of research efforts to eventually allow civilian unmanned aircraft widespread access to the nation’s airways.

The Federal Aviation Administration, after sifting through 25 applicants, also approved bids from Alaska, Nevada, North Dakota, Texas and Virginia…

The selection is one of the first U.S. regulatory moves to begin integrating unmanned aircraft with piloted planes and helicopters as companies including Amazon.com…push to develop commercial drones…

The test sites will be used to help the FAA develop certification standards for unmanned aircraft and how they can be operated within the air-traffic system, according to the law requiring the sites…

The winners were the University of Alaska, which also has test sites located in Hawaii and Oregon; the state of Nevada; Griffiss International Airport in Rome, New York, which also plans to use a facility in Massachusetts; the North Dakota Department of Commerce; Texas A&M University at Corpus Christi; and Virginia Polytechnic Institute, in Blacksburg, which will also conduct testing in New Jersey.

The first site will become operational within 180 days and will operate at least through 2017, Huerta said.

In response to concerns that drones put people’s privacy at risk, the FAA will require test-site operators to maintain records of devices flying at the facility, create a written plan for how data collected by airborne vehicles will be used and retained, and conduct a yearly privacy review.

Facilities must also adhere to all privacy laws that may apply to drone use, such as restrictions on law enforcement to obtain search warrants, according to the FAA’s privacy policy.

And we all know how thoroughly the federal government guarantees privacy laws. Right?

U.S. fails to block accord against cluster bombs

The dangerous task of removing cluster bombs dropped by Israel on Lebanon

A U.S.-led push to regulate, rather than ban, cluster munitions failed Friday after 50 countries objected, following humanitarian campaigners’ claims that anything less than a outright ban would be an unprecedented reversal of human rights law.

While the United States, China and Russia want rules about the manufacture and use of cluster bombs, activists say such regulations would legitimize the munitions, backtracking from the Oslo Convention, an international treaty that seeks a worldwide ban.

“Against all odds it looks like we’re going to have success this evening,” Steve Goose, head of the arms division at Human Rights Watch, told a press conference in Geneva. “How often do you see the U.S., Russia, China, India, Israel and Belarus push for something, and they don’t get it? That has happened largely because of one powerful alliance driving the Oslo partnership.”

Cluster bombs, dropped by air or fired by artillery, scatter hundreds of bomblets across a wide area and can kill and maim civilians long after conflicts end…

Those lining up against the U.S. plan included the International Committee of the Red Cross and the top U.N. officials for human rights, emergency relief and development.

The U.N. agency chiefs said cluster bombs were a particular threat to children, who were attracted by their unusual, toy-like shapes and colors. They said they were extremely concerned at plans to do anything less than ban them…

Activists said the opposition to the U.S. proposal was led by Norway, Mexico and Austria, while 12 signatories to the 2008 Oslo Convention, including Japan, France and Germany, said they were in favor of regulation of cluster bombs under the CCW.

China and Russia, which like the United States are major producers of cluster munitions, were strongly supportive of the U.S. measure.

No surprises in any aspect of the politics on display here. Whether the question is one of allowing torture – or carrying on with the manufacture, deployment and distribution of anti-personnel weapons generally used by the most reactionary regimes on Earth – the United States has supported continuing use.

Questions of use and abuse of weapons using phosphorus, napalm – questions regarding carpet bombing, land mines and cluster bombs – and most recently the revival of torture as acceptable, the United States has lagged the rest of civilization. Whichever domestic decisions have been made by American voters, foreign policy enforced by military means and guided by allegiance to Pentagon protocols and Congressional fiat has relied on death and destruction applied with equal weight to military and civilian targets.

We accepted all the premises from the Axis we fought against in World War 2. And invented new rationales, more lies for the Cold War and beyond.

Pentagon report: McChrystal did not violate US military policy

A Pentagon investigation has found insufficient evidence that General Stanley McChrystal, the former US and Nato commander in Afghanistan sacked by Barack Obama last year, violated military policy.

McChrystal’s dismissal came after publication of an article in Rolling Stone, The Runaway General, which portrayed him and his inner circle as being out of control, and making contemptuous and dismissive remarks about the US civilian leadership…

The investigation expressed doubts about the version of some events reported in the article, written by Michael Hastings, who spent several days with McChrystal and his team. The investigation added that it could not substantiate some of the quotes.

The investigation, carried out by the Pentagon’s office of inspector general, concluded: “The evidence was insufficient to substantiate a violation of applicable department of defense standards with respect to any of the incidents on which we focused. Not all of the events at issue occurred as reported in the article…A polite way of saying Hastings is a liar and Rolling Stone is opportunist and unconcerned with journalistic standards.

The article, published in June last year, suggested that McChrystal was unimpressed with Obama at their first meeting, and that one of his team viewed the White House national security adviser, James Jones, as a clown. His team was also alleged to have been dismissive of vice-president Joe Biden and the late state department envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke.

At the time, McChrystal apologised after the piece, saying it was a mistake reflecting poor judgment and should never have happened. He flew back to Washington to see Obama, who dismissed him, saying: “The conduct represented in the recently published article does not meet the standard that should be set by a commanding general.”

The investigation’s conclusions open Obama to charges that he was too hasty in dismissing McChrystal.

The former general, though no longer in the army, was partially rehabilitated last week when the White House invited him to join a panel to try to improve the life of military families. The report reached the White House 3 days before the job offer.

The new investigation is more favourable to McChrystal than an initial one published in August last year.

There are lots of details in the report. Mostly boring high dudgeon over situations and context as unimportant than who gives the finger to whom in your daily commute.

It probably explains the how and why of Obama inviting General McChrystal into the Administration, last week. As admission that our news-as-entertainment-media prompted the removal of a significant military leader from the South Asian theatre. The only surprise is that the Kongressional Klowns didn’t follow through with their usual opportunism, sound bites and slapstick. Yet.

In India, using Facebook to catch thoughtless drivers

“Vehicle overloaded with goods and passengers”

Delhi – This city is famous for its snarled traffic and infamous for its unruly drivers — aggressive rule-breakers who barrel through red lights, ignore crosswalks and veer into bicycle or bus lanes to find open routes.

Now, the city’s overburdened traffic police officers have enlisted an unexpected weapon in the fight against dangerous driving: Facebook.

The traffic police started a Facebook page two months ago, and almost immediately residents became digital informants, posting photos of their fellow drivers violating traffic laws. As of Sunday more than 17,000 people had become fans of the page and posted almost 3,000 photographs and dozens of videos.

The online rap sheet was impressive. There are photos of people on motorcycles without helmets, cars stopped in crosswalks, drivers on cellphones, drivers in the middle of illegal turns and improperly parked vehicles.

Using the pictures, the Delhi Traffic Police have issued 665 tickets, using the license plate numbers shown in the photos to track vehicle owners, said the city’s joint commissioner of traffic, Satyendra Garg.

Despite some concerns about privacy, and the authenticity of the photos, the public’s response has been overwhelmingly positive, he said…

Mr. Garg acknowledged that it was possible photos could be manipulated to incriminate someone who was not actually breaking the law. But, he said, drivers can contest the tickets if they think they were wrongly issued. The police advise residents not to let personal animosity influence their photo-taking, and not to do anything to compromise their own security, like antagonizing law-breakers while snapping photos.

I love it. American society is so afraid someone’s privacy might be compromised, say, versus catching some SOB who just ran a red light and almost killed six kids – red light cameras are becoming illegal.

The nearest city to Lot 4 has a photo van which cost $50K – which they park by the side of the road in different trouble spots every day – after they notify the local press where it will be.

Delhi has the equivalent of dozens of photo vans for the cost of a couple of coppers taking a few minutes to check their Facebook page, every day.

Thirty thousand Pakistanis dead through terrorism since 2003

According to figures made available to DawnNews by senior Pakistani military officials, at least 30 thousand Pakistanis have lost their lives or were injured since 2003.

More Pakistanis have lost their life in the ongoing war against terror compared to two full scale wars against India in 1965 and 1971.

The casualties include death or injures to at least 22 thousand civilians and policemen in various acts of terror or suicide bombings.

Pakistan’s military, which launched operations against the militants in the tribal areas, suffered at least 8 thousand casualties, including at least 23 hundred officers and soldiers who lost their lives.

What is there to say?

Arrested for watching police – wins compensation – after 5 years!

Ken Hinds

A black youth worker arrested and charged for watching at a distance as police detained a teenager at a London railway station is to receive an apology and £22,000 compensation from the British Transport police…

Fiona Murphy, of solicitors Bhatt Murphy, also condemned the BTP for failing to properly investigate the incident over a period of five years, and only settling when faced with a high court claim for false imprisonment and malicious prosecution. Incidents in which black men were arrested for no apparent reason remained “almost routine” despite decades of efforts to eradicate racism among police forces in London, she added.

Hinds was returning home from an Arts Council event in May 2004 and had arranged to meet his son, then aged 12, at Seven Sisters train station in north London. While waiting in the ticket hall, he saw a group of police arresting a young black man and stood where he could observe from a distance in case he was needed as a witness. He was then approached by another officer, from the BTP.

He walked over and said: ‘Do you know that young man?‘ I said no. He said: ‘Fuck off, then. It’s got nothing to do with you,'” Hinds said. After insisting calmly that he was within his legal rights to remain, Hinds was first threatened with arrest and then marched across the station in handcuffs by two BTP policemen…

“That is the disappointing thing about this,” said Murphy. “Despite apologising to Mr Hinds, the BTP have demonstrated a complete unwillingness to investigate properly, mislaying CCTV footage of him in the station and failing even to try and track down the emails between the officers.”

I guess he must consider himself lucky that it only took the BTP five years to own up to their racism and incompetence – and that the coppers in question weren’t armed.

The rise of Israel’s military rabbis – theocracy with guns?

Israel’s army is changing. Once proudly secular, its combat units are now filling with those who believe Israel’s wars are “God’s wars”.

Military rabbis are becoming more powerful. Trained in warfare as well as religion, new army regulations mean they are now part of a military elite.
They graduate from officer’s school and operate closely with military commanders. One of their main duties is to boost soldiers’ morale and drive, even on the front line.

This has caused quite some controversy in Israel. Should military motivation come from men of God, or from a belief in the state of Israel and keeping it safe?

The military rabbis rose to prominence during Israel’s invasion of Gaza earlier this year. Gal Einav, a non-religious soldier said there was wall-to-wall religious rhetoric in the base, the barracks and on the battlefield. As soon as soldiers signed for their rifles, he said, they were given a book of psalms. And, as his company headed in to Gaza, he told me, they were flanked by a civilian rabbi on one side and a military rabbi on the other…

Rabbis handed out hundreds of religious pamphlets during the Gaza war. When they came to light, they caused huge controversy in Israel. Some leaflets called Israeli soldiers the “sons of light” and Palestinians, the “sons of darkness”. Others compared the Palestinians to the Philistines, the bitter biblical enemy of the Jewish people.

Israel’s military has distanced itself from the publications, but they carried the army’s official stamp

Gal Einav thinks many soldiers will refuse to close settlements down. The settlement issue could well tear the army apart, he told me, adding that most of his officers are settlers these days.

“If it comes to a clash between political orders from Israel’s government and a contradictory message from the rabbis, settlers and religious right-wing soldiers will follow the rabbis,” he said.

RTFA. Not unlike the tasks committed to Bush’s Holy Campaigners within our own military. With one significant difference. Israel’s government is so politically beholden to the Orthodox religious Right, that government endorses the participation and direction of rabbis within the rule of their army.

Officers can discuss and differ over levels of responsibility. I don’t think they stand a chance when it comes to who obeys whom. It’s all not unlike what Stalin did with commissars in the desperation of the Great Patriotic War. And, then, the commissar system carried over into daily life.

The Holy State of Israel will complete the task of becoming a theocracy. Civilian and military.

Joint Chiefs Chairman criticizes results of Afghan air strikes

Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

In remarks to scholars, national security experts and the media at the Brookings Institution, Admiral Mullen said that the American air strikes that killed an undetermined number of civilians in Afghanistan’s Farah Province two weeks ago had put the U.S. strategy in the country in jeopardy.

“We cannot succeed in Afghanistan or anywhere else, but let’s talk specifically about Afghanistan, by killing Afghan civilians,” Admiral Mullen said, adding that “we can’t keep going through incidents like this and expect the strategy to work.”

At the same time, Admiral Mullen said, “we can’t tie our troops’ hands behind their backs.”

Admiral Mullen’s comments on the civilian casualties from the Farah air strikes, which have caused an uproar in Afghanistan, reflect deep concern within the Pentagon about the intensifying criticism from Kabul against the American military. Admiral Mullen, who noted that commanders in the region had in recent months imposed more restrictive rules on air strikes to avoid civilian casualties, offered no new solutions in his remarks. He only said that “we’ve got to be very, very focused on making sure that we proceed deliberately, that we know who the enemy is…”

Colonel Julian said at the peak of the fighting that day, some 150 Afghan soldiers and 60 Afghan police, along with their 30 American trainers, as well as two Marine Special Operations teams that made up a quick-reaction force, were battling about 300 militants, including a large number of foreign fighters…

The Fog of War gets thicker and thicker. From my cyber-viewpoint it isn’t easy to discern which of several causes are real and which are fiction.

I haven’t the level of confidence in satellite-guided bombs’ accuracy that some have. Even less in accepting the overkill of bomb sizes chosen for anti-personnel missions.

But, from personal experience, I have even less confidence in casualty figures from tribal villages and what passes for Taliban insurgent tactics. Imperial armies always claim anti-civilian tactics by their enemy. Even when I know there is some likelihood of truth, there have been so many decades of crying wolf, I find it hard to credit the “official story”.

U.S. kills 6 Afghan police + 1 civilian in friendly fire

U.S.-led coalition forces killed six Afghan policemen and one civilian in a case of mistaken identity while targeting a Taliban commander in southern Afghanistan on Wednesday, the U.S. military and police said.

Scores of Afghan civilians have been killed in air strikes by international troops in Afghanistan this year, Afghan officials say, feeding a perception that NATO-led and U.S. coalition forces do not take enough care when using air strikes.

One local national and six Afghan national police were killed in Qalat district in Zabul province, during an operation targeting a known Taliban commander,” said Lieutenant Commander Walter Matthews, a spokesman for the U.S. military in Kabul.

Thirteen others were also wounded, he said.

The U.S. military deeply regrets this case of mistaken fire, said Matthews.

At least, they didn’t kill any Canadians for a change. We’re beginning to run out of neighbors.