October 31, 2014

Women are gaining more political power in parts of Africa, Asia and Latin America. Where are the West’s female leaders?

Right: Minna Salami is a Nigerian-Finnish writer and the founder of MsAfropolitan, a multiple award-winning blog covering contemporary Africa and Diaspora society and culture from a feminist perspective.

Where are the west’s female leaders?
Minna Salami Guardian UK October 31, 2014


The region with the largest positive change is Latin America where, just last weekend, Brazil re-elected a woman president, Dilma Rousseff.’ Photo: Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters. Visit this page for its embedded links.

A report this week has exposed how progress towards gender equality is slowing down in the west. The Global Gender Gap Report showed that Europe has undergone the smallest change in terms of closing the gender gap. In terms of political empowerment, from Britain to Austria to Spain, in only nine years, women’s rankings have sunk sharply.

By contrast, the region with the largest positive change is Latin America where, just last weekend, Brazil re-elected a woman president, Dilma Rousseff. Also known as the world’s most powerful feminist, Rousseff will lead the world’s seventh-largest economy and fifth-largest nation for another four years. Voters in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and the Caribbean have also done a better job of electing women presidents and prime ministers. Today, only three of the 22 female heads of government are in the west (Germany, Denmark and Norway).

It’s commonly perceived that the western world is at the forefront of the campaign for women’s rights. State bodies such as the British Department for International Development, organisations such as the Cherie Blair Foundation and celebrities such as Madonna and Angelina Jolie all invest in women’s empowerment in the developing world, which is often seen as lagging well behind. But in truth, as the survey shows, when it comes to having women at the top levels of political leadership, industrialised western countries actually lag behind developing ones. Of 142 countries, Britain came just 63rd for the number of women in parliament and 75th for the number of women in ministerial jobs. The US was 83rd and 25th.

So what’s gone wrong with the struggle for equality in the west? A poll of 11- to 17-year-old girls in the US that was published on Tuesday found that 74% of girls believe that if they pursued a political career, they would “have to work harder than a man to be taken seriously”. Perhaps not so surprising in a country that has never elected a female head of government. What’s more, the EU – not included as a region in the report – is chronically male-biased. In October, despite EU commission president Jean-Claude Juncker’s pleas for member states to put female candidates forward for his team, he ended up with only nine women representing the interests of Europeans. As Juncker put it himself, the outcome was “pathetic”.

It seems that, while positioning itself as the region that champions gender equality, the west has failed to look in the mirror. If it did, it would spot an ongoing revivalism of old, patriarchal, conservative values and a backlash against women’s rights that makes it difficult for female leaders to rise as they should.

Posted at: October 31, 2014 - 1:01 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

The Western Axis war on Russia … oops, sorry, the Western Axis war on ISIS, aka Islamic State

Below: Sibel Edmonds is the Publisher & Editor of Boiling Frogs Post and the author of the memoir Classified Woman: The Sibel Edmonds Story. Ms. Edmonds is the founder and president of the National Security Whistleblowers Coalition (NSWBC), a nonprofit organization dedicated to aiding national security whistleblowers. She has appeared on national radio and TV as a commentator on matters related to whistleblowers, national security, and excessive secrecy & classification.

The secret stupid Saudi-US deal on Syria
William Engdahl Boiling Frogs Post USA October 24, 2014

Visit this page for its appended links.

The details are emerging of a new secret and quite stupid Saudi-US deal on Syria and the so-called IS. It involves oil and gas control of the entire region and the weakening of Russia and Iran by Saudi Arabian flooding the world market with cheap oil. Details were concluded in the September meeting by US Secretary of State John Kerry and the Saudi King. The unintended consequence will be to push Russia even faster to turn east to China and Eurasia.

One of the weirdest anomalies of the recent NATO bombing campaign, allegedly against the ISIS or IS or ISIL or Daash, depending on your preference, is the fact that with major war raging in the world’s richest oil region, the price of crude oil has been dropping, dramatically so. Since June when ISIS suddenly captured the oil-rich region of Iraq around Mosul and Kirkuk, the benchmark Brent price of crude oil dropped some 20% from $112 to about $88. World daily demand for oil has not dropped by 20% however. China oil demand has not fallen 20% nor has US domestic shale oil stock risen by 21%.

What has happened is that the long-time US ally inside OPEC, the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, has been flooding the market with deep discounted oil, triggering a price war within OPEC, with Iran following suit and panic selling short in oil futures markets. The Saudis are targeting sales to Asia for the discounts and in particular, its major Asian customer, China where it is reportedly offering its crude for a mere $50 to $60 a barrel rather than the earlier price of around $100. [1] That Saudi financial discounting operation in turn is by all appearance being coordinated with a US Treasury financial warfare operation, via its Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, in cooperation with a handful of inside players on Wall Street who control oil derivatives trading. The result is a market panic that is gaining momentum daily. China is quite happy to buy the cheap oil, but her close allies, Russia and Iran, are being hit severely.

The US-Saudi oil price manipulation is aimed at destabilizing several strong opponents of US globalist policies. Targets include Iran and Syria, both allies of Russia in opposing a US sole Superpower. The principal target, however, is Putin’s Russia, the single greatest threat today to that Superpower hegemony. The strategy is similar to what the US did with Saudi Arabia in 1986 when they flooded the world with Saudi oil, collapsing the price to below $10 a barrel and destroying the economy of then-Soviet ally, Saddam Hussein in Iraq and, ultimately, of the Soviet economy, paving the way for the fall of the Soviet Union. Today, the hope is that a collapse of Russian oil revenues, combined with select pin-prick sanctions designed by the US Treasury’s Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence will dramatically weaken Putin’s enormous domestic support and create conditions for his ultimate overthrow. It is doomed to fail for many reasons, not the least, because Putin’s Russia has taken major strategic steps together with China and other nations to lessen its dependence on the West. In fact the oil weapon is accelerating recent Russian moves to focus its economic power on national interests and lessen dependence on the Dollar system. If the dollar ceases being the currency of world trade, especially oil trade, the US Treasury faces financial catastrophe. For this reason, I call the Kerry-Abdullah oil war a very stupid tactic.

In a narrow sense, as Washington neo-conservatives see it, who controls Syria could control the Middle East. And from Syria, gateway to Asia, he will hold the key to Russia House, as well as that of China via the Silk Road.

Religious wars have historically been the most savage of all wars and this one is no exception, especially when trillions of dollars in oil and gas revenues are at stake. Why is the secret Kerry-Abdullah deal on Syria reached on September 11 stupid? Because the brilliant tacticians in Washington and Riyadh and Doha and to an extent in Ankara are unable to look at the interconnectedness of all the dis-order and destruction they foment, to look beyond their visions of control of the oil and gas flows as the basis of their illegitimate power. They are planting the seeds of their own destruction in the end.

Below: Caliph Ibrahim’s Islamic State is now for all practical purposes an oil major worthy of OPEC membership, with US$2 million in profits a day from juicy energy deals and prices to die for. All its gains would not even be remotely possible without US/Western overt/covert complicity, proving once and for all that The Caliph is the ultimate gift that keeps on giving in the Global War On Terror.

The Caliph fit to join OPEC
Pepe Escobar Asia Times Online Hong Kong October 31, 2014

Islamic State leader Caliph Ibrahim – aka Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi – never ceases to amaze us – and most of all his powerful petrodollar-stuffed backers. The Caliph is for all practical purposes now an oil major worth of membership of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). His takfiri/mercenary goons – in theory – have for some time been extracting, refining, shipping and/or smuggling and clinching juicy deals involving vast quantities of oil, reaping profits of roughly US$2 million a day.

The Caliph’s oil prices are to die (be beheaded?) for; after all, he’s implementing the same low-price strategy concocted by the people he wants to dethrone in Mecca, the House of Saud. The caliphate’s GDP across “Syraq” has only one way to go: up.

And oh, the irony Top customers for The Caliph’s cheap oil happen to be “Sultan” Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Earthly paradise, aka Turkey – a North Atlantic Treaty Organization ally – and that King “Playstation” Abdullah II ibn al-Hussein’s domain impersonating a country, aka Jordan.

Meanwhile, the awesome, immensely sophisticated military apparatus/intel agency acronym fest deployed by “free” US/NATO somehow is simply unable to register/intercept this racket.

Not surprising, when they somehow had not previously registered/intercepted The Caliph’s goons taking over large swaths of “Syraq” this summer with their cross-desert version of rolling thunder – that gleaming white Toyota promo ad.

As for the Empire of Chaos “solution” to intercept The Caliph’s oil profits, the only decision so far has been to bomb oil pipelines that belong to the Syrian Arab Republic, that is, ultimately, the Syrian people.

Never underestimate the capacity of US President Barack Obama’s “Don’t Do Stupid Stuff” foreign policy doctrine to soar towards unreachable stupidity heights.

Then there’s that fateful Secretary of State John Kerry/House of Saud capo hand-kissing fest that took place in Riyadh last month.

In this masterful piece, William Engdahl goes no-holds-barred on the supposed Saudi-US cheap oil/bomb Bashar al-Assad/undermine Russia deal. Yet there may not have been a direct deal; more like Washington and Riyadh working in tandem towards common objectives: regime change in Syria in the long term, and undermining both Iran and Russia in the short term.

The Caliph, anyway, is bound to remain on a roll. Absolutely none of the above would be remotely possible without US/Western overt/covert complicity, proving once and for all that The Caliph is the ultimate gift that keeps on giving in the eternal GWOT (Global War On Terra). How come the Dick Cheney regime never thought about that?

Below: The US-led coalition’s purported fight against Islamic State in Kobani is akin to a parent trying to discipline a disruptive child. No matter how harsh the punishment, it will not include killing. Islamic State is simply too useful to the nefarious interests of coalition members to be eliminated. Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say. Ismael Hossein-zadeh is Professor Emeritus of Economics (Drake University). He is the author of Beyond Mainstream Explanations of the Financial Crisis (Routledge 2014), The Political Economy of US Militarism (Palgrave-Macmillan 2007), and Soviet Non-capitalist Development: The Case of Nasser’s Egypt (Praeger Publishers 1989).

What stays the coalition’s hand in Kobani
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh Asia Times Online, Speaking Freely Hong Kong October 31, 2014

The dark force of Islamic State is apparently an invincible and unstoppable war juggernaut that is mercilessly killing and conquering in pursuit of establishing a caliphate in Iraq and Syria. In reality, however, it is not as out of control as it appears.

It is, indeed, carefully controlled and managed by its creators and supporters, that is, by the United States and its allies in the region – those who now pretend to have established a coalition to fight it.

The US, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and other allies do not really need to fight IS to (allegedly) destroy it. All they need to do to extinguish the hellish flames supplying fuel for its fire; that is, stop supplying it with funds, mercenaries, military training and armaments.

There are many ways to show the fact that, in subtle ways, IS benefactors control its operations and direct its activities in accordance with their own geopolitical interests.

The US approach to IS would be better understood when it is viewed in the context of its overall objectives in the region – and beyond. That overriding objective, shared and reinforced by its client states, is to undermine or eliminate “the axis of resistance,” consisting of Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, Hamas and, to a lesser extent, Shia forces in Iraq, Yemen, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

The achievement of this goal would also mean the achievement of another, even broader, goal: undermining Russia’s influence and alliances in the region and, by extension, in other parts of the world – for example, its critically important role within both the Shanghai Cooperation Council (China, Russia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan) and the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa).

To intervene in order to achieve these goals, the US and its allies need pretexts and/or enemies – even if it means inventing or manufacturing such enemies. Without IS, resumption of US military operations in Iraq and extension of those operations into Syria would have been difficult to justify to the American people. A year or so ago, the Obama administration’s drive to attack Syria was thwarted by the opposition from the American people and, therefore, the US Congress. The rise of IS quickly turned that opposition to support.

Viewed in this light, IS can be seen as essentially another (newly manufactured) instrument in the tool-box of US foreign policy, which includes “global terrorism,” the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center, weapons of mass destruction, Iran’s nuclear technology, al-Qaeda, and many other radical Islamic groupings – all by-products of, or blowbacks to, imperialistic US foreign policies.

Posted at: October 31, 2014 - 12:58 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

Canadian warplanes have flown their first operational flights over Iraq

First Iraq missions over, no bombs dropped
Murray Brewster The Canadian Press/National Newswatch Canada October 31, 2014

A Canadian Armed Forces CF-18 Fighter jet from 409 Squadron taxis after landing in Kuwait on Tuesday, October 28, 2014. Photo: The Canadian Press/Handout, DND-MND

KUWAIT CITY, Kuwait – Canadian warplanes have flown their first operational flights, but have yet to carry out strike missions against Islamic State targets.

Six CF-18 jet fighters, two CP-140 Aurora surveillance planes and a C-150 refuelling jet are operating out of undisclosed airfields in Kuwait and will launch bombing missions against the forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant soon.

“Operational flights have begun,” said a senior defence source. “No bombs have been dropped, but ops are indeed underway.”

The source would not reveal when the missions were conducted and what sort of tasks the fighters carried out, whether it was training or combat air patrols, or if the Auroras have started to carry out surveillance of potential ISIL targets.

Word of the missions comes from a series of defence sources because the Canadian military has not allowed media access to the airfields, citing security concerns of their Kuwaiti hosts.

The aircraft receive their strike orders and targets from the U.S.-led coalition and join aircraft from a number of different countries, including the U.S., Britain, Australia and several Gulf States.

The jets will be bombing military targets, such as command centres, vehicles and artillery, most of which is U.S-made hardware that Islamic State fighters seized from fleeing Iraqi army forces earlier this summer.

A number of fresh reports are circulating that coalition jets could face an increased anti-aircraft threat as Islamic State fighters are now apparently armed with sophisticated shoulder-launched missiles.

U.S. officials, speaking on background to the New York Times earlier this week, described the appearance of the Chinese-made FN-6 heat-seeking missiles as “game changers.” It is believed the weapons were originally provided to moderate Syrian rebels by Qatar and possibly Saudi Arabia, according to the report.

The missiles are a major threat to low-flying aircraft, such as attack helicopters. ISIL reportedly shot down an Iraqi Army Apache gunship using the weapons.

Prior to the beginning of the campaign, Canadian military commanders acknowledged the anti-aircraft threat, but noted that both the CF-18s and the Auroras can fly higher than the effective range of the missiles, known as Manpads.

A bigger concern, according to defence experts, is that Islamic State fighters might get their hands on an SA-24, the latest generation of Russia-made anti-aircraft weapons. The Iraqi government recently acquired such a system and those missiles have a longer range and the ability to manoeuvre in a more nimble fashion to avoid the counter-measures of its target.

The Canadian contribution to the air campaign is mandated to last six months, but is likely to be extended.

The operations are being carried out under a blanket of secrecy as western bases, embassies and institutions throughout the Gulf region remains on heightened security alert for possible retaliation by Islamic State supporters.

Posted at: October 31, 2014 - 11:57 am -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

Canada and the ‘War on Terror': The Ottawa shootings, what really happened?

Canadian terror wave a modern-day Gladio
Tony Cartalucci Land Destroyer Report Thailand October 23, 2014

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As warned, after multiple staged incidents used to ratchet up fear and paranoia in the build-up to US and its allies’ military intervention in Syria and Iraq, at least two live attacks have now been carried out in Canada – precisely as they were predicted.

The first attack involved a deadly hit-and-run that left one Canadian soldier dead. AP would report in its article, “Terrorist ideology blamed in Canada car attack,” that:

A young convert to Islam who killed a Canadian soldier in a hit-and-run had been on the radar of federal investigators, who feared he had jihadist ambitions and seized his passport when he tried to travel to Turkey, authorities said Tuesday.

The second, most recent attack, involved a shooting in Ottawa injuring several and killing another Canadian soldier. RT in its article, “Ottawa gunman ‘identified’ as recent Muslim convert, high-risk traveler,” would report that:

While the name of the Ottawa gunman is yet to be announced, a number of officials told numerous media that the shooter is believed to be Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, a recent Muslim convert, allegedly designated as a high-risk traveler.

Michael Zehaf-Bibeau was born in Quebec as Michael Joseph Hall north of Montreal, two US officials told Reuters, claiming that American law enforcement agencies have been advised that the attacker recently converted to Islam.

AP sources also identified the man to be Zehaf-Bibeau. A Twitter account associated with Islamic State militants tweeted a photo they identified as the Ottawa shooter. The Globe and Mail reports that the shooter was designated a “high-risk traveler” by the Canadian authorities with his passport seized.

Clearly, both suspects were under the watch of not only Canadian authorities, but also US investigators, before the attacks.

That the FBI and Australian authorities had coordinated staged security operations in tandem on opposite ends of the globe to terrify their respective populations into line behind an impending war with Syria, and now two highly suspicious attacks have been carried out using the very script Western security agencies were using to lead suspects through “sting operations,” suggests a new “Operation Northwoods” or “Operation Gladio” of sorts is already being executed.

Staged executions on cue by ISIS in the Middle East of US and British citizens at perfectly timed junctures of the West’s attempt to sell intervention both at home and abroad, and now live shootings just in time to heighten a new “strategy of tension” reek of staged mayhem for the sole purpose of provoking war. Could grander and ultimately more tragic mayhem be in store? As ABC News’ article on Operation Northwoods and the Military Channel’s documentary on Operation Gladio suggest, there is no line Western special interests will hesitate to cross.

With the West attempting to claim ISIS now has a “global” reach, the US and its partners’ attempts to obfuscate the very obvious state-sponsorship it is receiving will become exponentially more difficult. That the FBI is admittedly stringing along easily manipulated, malevolent patsies who at any time could be handed real weapons and sent on shooting sprees and/or bombings – and now apparently have been – Americans, Canadians, Europeans, and Australians would be foolish to conclude that their real enemy resides somewhere in Syria and not right beside them at home, upon the very seats of Western power.

Canada and the War on Terror: The Ottawa shootings, what really happened?
Mahdi Darius Nazemroaya Strategic Culture Foundation/Global Research Russia/Canada October 24, 2014/October 25, 2014

Prime Minister Steven Harper and the Canadian federal government are using the shooting rampage on Parliament Hill as a justification for imposing surveillance and detainment measures that they were already implementing and going forward with.

On October 22, 2014 a solitary gunman named Michael Zehaf-Bibeau (originally Michael Joseph Hall) from the city of Laval, Quebec went on a shooting spree in downtown Ottawa, the capital of Canada.

Firstly, it was reported that there were shootings in the Rideau Centre which from the northern side of the Mackenzie King Bridge faces National Defence Headquarters (NDHQ), the nerve of Canada’s Department of National Defence (DND). This proved to be false or wrong. The gunman had killed a reservist guard in front of the National War Memorial and then made his way northward to Parliament Hill.

Secondly, it was reported that there were multiple gunmen. As a result all government employees were not allowed to enter or leave their respective buildings throughout the interprovincial National Capital Region, which includes the city of Gatineau. Although the police did the right thing in taking precautions to make sure that there were no other gunmen and declined to give explanations, the public was led to believe that there were multiple shooters. This justified the lockdown and suspension of mobility that took place for hours.

A lot of important questions also remain unanswered. NBC News reported on October 8, 2014 that US intelligence officials told it «that Canadian authorities have heard would-be terrorists discussing potential ISIS-inspired ‘knife and gun’ attacks» inside Canada. Canadian officials, however, dismissed the report. Did US intelligence know something that its Canadian counterparts did not know? Why the contradictions?

Another important question is the following: how could an armed gunman that had already started a rampage make his way into the Centre Bloc of the Canadian Parliament unchallenged? Anyone that has been to Parliament Hill knows that there is a relatively large armed presence on the whole area and, specifically, at the entranceway and doors which is comprised of Canada’s national police force (the Royal Canadian Mounted Police), the local municipal police (the Ottawa Police Services), and two special federal forces (the House of Commons Security Services and Senate Security).

Also, if he was indeed in touch with terrorist groups, how was he communicating with them?

Framing: Media Discourse and Government Policy Links

Complicating the picture is the case of Martin Couture-Rouleau. Couture-Rouleau is a French-Canadian who became a Muslim in 2013. He deliberately hit two Canadian soldiers with his car in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec on October 20, 2014. One of the soldiers would later die.

Couture-Rouleau would be chased by the police and then gunned down after his hit-and-run attack. Although the fatal hit-and-run murder in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu is a criminal act, it has been presented as terrorism and linked to Canada’s involvement in the fighting in the Middle East.

The two attacks respectively in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu and Ottawa have no connection whatsoever, but have been portrayed as part of some coordinated attack plan. The hit-and-run attacks have been added to the narrative of what happened on October 22 to construct the image of an all-out battle. This is part of what sociologists call a moral panic.

What exactly motivated the gunman in Ottawa? It appears that Michael Zehaf-Bibeau was not part of some intricate plot against Canada by the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). He had a criminal record and appeared to be psychologically deteriorating from increasing narcotics usage. He was troubled by hallucinations and heavy drugs, and became a Muslim relatively recently. According to information coming from people who knew him, it appears that he was upset with «the government» for not leaving him alone. This anger could be tied to the social workers and parole officers in his life and a suffocating feeling of being caught in a downward spiral.

Michael Zehaf-Bibeau had been staying at the Ottawa Mission, a homeless shelter, between two weeks and a month. Before he went on his rampage, he told other people at the homeless shelter to pray because the world was coming to an end. In this context, it is also important to ask: how a psychologically troubled man staying at the Ottawa Mission homeless shelter could get a weapon?

Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, however, has been portrayed to varying degrees as an ISIL member, which is being used to support the narrative that Canadians are under immediate threat from the ISIL by societal actors that sociologists call «moral entrepreneurs». The goals of moral entrepreneurs is to change societal norms, values, laws, and regulations. In this case the moral entrepreneurs want to sell a security agenda.

Although the gunman that attacked Parliament Hill was a French-Canadian (with the last name of his Arab-Canadian father — who had adopted him — and his French-Canadian mother’s maiden name) that spent most of his life as a Roman Catholic (starting off as a devout Christian and then falling out of practice over the years), he has been portrayed or framed differently. From the start there was a tacit drive to give him an Arab and Muslim persona. Even when his identity was discovered, his Arab-Canadian father who had adopted him was portrayed as his biological father. The adoption of his father’s Arabic last name was tacitly presented as a marker of his Muslim identity, even though he was a Christian when he adopted the Arabic last name alongside his mother’s maiden name for legal reasons.

Very telling was how the media initially described Zehaf-Bibeau. He was referred to as a «Canadian-born man.» This is very deceptive language and discourse that needs to be critically analyzed. When someone is called «Canadian-born» it means that they are not really Canadian, but are merely born in Canada. Referring to a Canadian citizen in these terms conceptually strips them of their Canadian identity and otherizes them as a foreigner that does not belong to the collective.

The Media Reaction

Many Canadians are proud of their media’s reaction and have contrasted it to the sensationalism of US media. Although the media in Canada was much calmer than how the US media would have reacted under similar circumstances if the same incident took place in the United States, it was still emotionally charging the atmosphere with a sense of siege on Ottawa. Headlines and news broadcasts included titles like «Ottawa under attack.» Ottawans were liberally afraid that the ISIL was attacking Canada’s shores.

Speculation about a Middle East connection kept being raised throughout the day. By the time that Prime Minister Harper spoke in the evening, it was clear that he wanted to link the events in St-Jean-sur-Richelieu and Ottawa to the Middle East and the terrorism panic to justify his national security agenda. When Harper said that Canada would not be intimidated, it was hollow posturing against an enemy being constructed in the imagination of Canadians

ADDENDUM

Important details have emerged that strengthen the case against the Harper Government as intellectually dishonest opportunists.

Although security can be cited for this, it can also be looked at politically as part of a means of keeping the public in suspense and allowing a state of shock to reverberate across Canada so that the Harper Government can justify its foreign policy and security initiatives.

Related: A year before a gunman stormed Parliament, the House of Commons rejected demands from its guards to be armed while on duty outside.

Commons guards rebuffed in demand for weapons
Bruce Campion-Smith Toronto Star Ontario Canada October 30, 2014

OTTAWA—A year before a gunman stormed the front doors of Parliament, the House of Commons rejected demands from its guards to be armed while on duty outside, telling them instead to “retreat” from any crisis.

The 2013 demand from the union representing Commons security staff related to the times when guards were working on the grounds of Parliament Hill, assisting RCMP officers at frequent rallies and protests.

The Commons guards work alongside Mounties to help identify MPs and get the politicians through security lines during events that bring large crowds to Parliament Hill.

But the Security Service Employees Association complained that the Commons administration was not providing employees with the tools needed to do the task safely.

The association wanted the unarmed Commons’ constables to be provided with a firearm to ensure they are ready to react in the event of a security crisis.

But in a reply to the association, Commons’ clerk Audrey O’Brien rejected the guards’ concerns saying that outside, at least, the security officials were only in place to support the RCMP.

And because of that, she laid out an explicit demand that Commons guards not get involved in any security situation that happens outside.

“House of Commons constables are not to respond to a security crisis should one occur; they are requested to retreat and let the RCMP manage the situation,” O’Brien wrote in an Oct. 28, 2013 letter.

She said that “adequate” precautionary measures had been taken by the employer and RCMP and that Commons guards “do not need to be armed in order to safely perform visual identification.”

Asked for comment on Wednesday, Heather Bradley, spokesperson for Commons Speaker Andrew Scheer, said the context of the association’s complaint “should be made clear.”

“This matter related to House of Commons Security Services personnel on the grounds outside the parliament buildings, which is under the exclusive jurisdiction of the RCMP,” Bradley told the Star.

She said the demand did not relate to the arming of Commons personnel inside the buildings. And Bradley said Commons security guards are responsible for handling a crisis situation that happens inside the building, a point driven home by last week’s attack.

Still, there have been serious questions raised about security on the Hill after Michael Zehaf-Bibeau barged through the main doors of Centre Block carrying a .30-30 Winchester rifle, past two unarmed, uniformed Commons guards.

And the brazen attack has put a spotlight on the jurisdictions that see four separate security agencies have a hand in protecting Parliament Hill.

At the time of the Oct. 22 attack, only plainclothes Commons security staff were armed, meaning the two uniformed guards at the front entrance of Centre Block had no weapons.

Zehaf-Bibeau had just shot and killed Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, who was standing sentry duty at the nearby National War Memorial, when he crossed to Parliament Hill.

As Zehaf-Bibeau entered the main entrance of Centre Block, Const. Samearn Son grabbed at the rifle barrel and yelled out an alert to other guards. In the tussle, the rifle discharged, wounding Son in the leg.

Zehaf-Bibeau continued down the main hall, where it’s believed he was wounded by a plainclothes Commons security guard before being killed in a round of gunfire led by Sergeant-at-Arms Kevin Vickers.

In the wake of the unprecedented attack, Scheer has launched several reviews of security procedures but the Commons administration has moved quickly with several changes to boost security

Since Monday, some uniformed Commons guards have begun carrying sidearms, adding firepower to the already armed plainclothes officers also on duty. The number of armed uniformed guards is expected to grow over the coming weeks as more and more are trained in the use of firearms.

Senate guards — authorized in June to carry firearms — will be armed once they are trained.

And armed RCMP officers, who until the attack had jurisdiction to guard the prime minister outside the Parliament buildings, now accompany him inside as well.

Posted at: October 31, 2014 - 11:54 am -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

Titanic blunder: Canada’s National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy

Titanic Blunder: Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ships on Course for Disaster
Michael Byers and Stewart Webb Canadian Center for Policy Alternatives Canada April 2013

This is a 50-page PDF.

There is no likelihood of Arctic states going to war. — Prime Minister Stephen Harper, January 20101

In December 2005, then opposition leader Stephen Harper announced that, if elected, he would budget $5.3 billion over five years “to ensure sover- eignty over our land, waters, and airspace in Canada’s north.”2 Central to the commitment was the purchase of “three new heavy naval ice breakers” and the construction of “a new combined military civilian deep water dock- ing facility in the Iqaluit region.”3 Mr. Harper added: “At least 500 sailors will be committed for operating these icebreakers and the docking facility.”4

In July 2007 Harper, who was by then Prime Minister, announced a change of plans. Instead of heavy icebreakers, he promised the “construction and deployment of six to eight new state-of-the-art offshore patrol ships” that would be “custom-designed and built in Canada” and “exceptionally versa- tile, with equal ability to navigate the major rivers, coastal waters and open seas of Canada’s Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic.”5 These Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ships (A/OPS) would have steel-reinforced hulls “able to crunch through ice up to a metre thick.”6

During the same speech, Mr. Harper said he would soon announce the location for “the construction of a deep water port in the far North” that would “serve as a forward operating base for the new patrol ships, but… have important civilian and commercial applications as well.”7 One month later, in August 2007, he did just that, announcing the “Arctic Docking and Refuelling Facility” would be located at Nanisivik on northwest Baffin Is- land where an old wharf exists at the site of a disused lead-zinc mine, 34 kilometres from the Inuit hamlet (pop. 1000) of Arctic Bay.8

Originally, the construction contract for the A/OPS was supposed to be awarded in 2009, with delivery of the first vessel set for 2013.9 This contract has yet to be signed and the first delivery has been delayed, initially to 2015, and now until at least 2018.10

Construction of the “Arctic Docking and Refuelling Facility” was supposed to begin in 2010, with an initial operating capability in 2012 and a full operational capability by 2015.11 The opening of the facility has since been delayed until at least 2016, with “a significant reduction of the site layout and function plan” that will see it “operational during the navigable (summer) season” only.12

Ottawa is buying the wrong boat to defend the Arctic
Stewart Webb iPolitics Canada October 30, 2014

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The Harper government just can’t seem to catch a break on military procurement. Successive government and media reports indicate that the National Shipbuilding Procurement Strategy is in bad trouble. It could be a blessing in disguise.

We should all remember that the A/OPS was supposed to be the trial run before the more important Canadian Surface Combatant (CSC) program got under full steam. The CSCs are supposed to replace the Halifax-class frigates. Last year, a highly-critical Auditor General’s report suggested that, because the project’s budget had not been revised or increased in more than half a decade, the Navy might not get the number or type of ships it needs.

In the case of the A/OPS, budget problems could give the Harper government an opportunity to step away from a bad buy. The PBO report restated a major critique of the program: that the A/OPS isn’t really an ice-breaker. It has an ice-strengthened hull — think of it as ‘icebreaker lite’ — and even with climate change reducing the ice pack in Canada’s Arctic, the presence of year-round ice makes the ships far too vulnerable. A ‘growler’ — a floating slab of glacial ice — sank the MS Explorer, a Canadian-owned, ice-strengthened cruise ship, in Antarctica.
Another problem with the A/OPS: they’re slow. A large part of the rationale for offshore patrol is the need to combat marine terrorism and nacro-trafficking. To fulfil that role, offshore patrol ships have to be faster than the bad guys. The A/OPS has a proposed top speed of 17 knots. BC Ferries’ Queen of Nanaimo — built in 1964 — has a top speed of 16.5 knots. Given time, an A/OPS could outrun a BC ferry. Whether it could outrun anything else is a matter open to some doubt.

The A/OPS’s search-and-rescue abilities are also less than impressive. The ships will be equipped with only a light helicopter — a Bell 212. They will not be able to launch or retrieve a helicopter in any sea conditions rougher than Sea State 3 — waves of roughly 1.25 meters. The Beaufort Wind Force Scale says Sea State 3 amounts to a “mod­erate breeze” of 11 to 16 knots. This is not the right ship for the Arctic.

The Royal Canadian Navy needs dedicated patrol vessels — ones that can cover both domestic green-water duties and international blue-water duties. Something like the Royal Netherland Navy’s Holland-class OPV would be ideal: It has a top speed of 21.5 knots and can operate and house a military NH-90 helicopter. It’s also much cheaper than the A/OPS, with a price tag of approximately US $150 million.

In short, the crisis in the A/OPS program is an opportunity — to cancel it outright and cut our losses. That would free up space in the shipyards to build cheaper and more capable offshore patrol vessels that can actually protect our coasts from terrorists and drug smugglers. Better for the government to swallow a little short-term political embarrassment than spend a lot of money on ships that can’t do the job.

Related: Russia warns it’s coming for the Arctic’s oil, including an area Canada claims as its own
Tom Parfitt The Telegraph/National Post UK/Canada October 31, 2014

MOSCOW — Russia has warned that it will revive its claim to a huge swathe of the Arctic in the hope that it can secure the rights to billions of tons of oil and gas.

Moscow has long seen the seabed off its northern coastline as a mine of valuable hydrocarbons and is keen to fend off rival bids for control over the region’s resources.

Sergei Donskoy, the minister for natural resources, said Russia had completed research on its submission to the United Nations, under which it hopes to gain an extra 740,000 kilometres. “That is a big increase to the country’s territory, that’s why we call this application an application for the future – an application for the future sustainable development of our country,” said Mr. Donskoy after greeting scientists returning home this week from the Arctic to St Petersburg on the Akademik Fedorov research ship.

Mr. Donskoy said Russia’s application, which could net it at least five billion tons of hitherto unexploited oil and gas reserves, would be submitted to the UN in the spring.

The announcement came as the Kremlin increases its military presence in the far north. Russia’s defence ministry said on Tuesday that it was going to build 13 new military airfields and 10 radar stations in the Arctic in case of “unwelcome guests”.

Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, told his security council in April that the Arctic was “a sphere of our special interest”.

Under the UN convention on the law of the sea, the five states with territory inside the Arctic Circle – Canada, Norway, Russia, the US and Denmark, via its control of Greenland – have economic rights over a 200-mile zone around the north of their coastline.

However, the convention is open to appeal and several countries are disputing the limits of the zone.

Posted at: October 31, 2014 - 10:36 am -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

October 30, 2014

Corporatism run amuck: The ‘Homeland Security Industrial Complex’ and James Risen and freedom of the press

James Risen is an American journalist for The New York Times who previously worked for the Los Angeles Times. He has written or co-written many articles concerning U.S. government activities. Risen is a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner. He won the 2006 Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting for his stories about President George W. Bush’s warrantless wiretapping program. He was also a member of The New York Times reporting team that won the 2002 Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting for coverage of the September 11 attacks and terrorism. Risen is the author of the book State of War: The Secret History of the CIA and the Bush Administration (January 2006). Risen was subpoenaed in relation to the Jeffrey Alexander Sterling case in 2008. Risen still faces the possibility of jail depending upon whether the federal prosecutors choose to pursue his testimony. He has stated that he will continue to refuse.

Audio NYT’s James Risen willing to be jailed for not revealing his sources on NSA’s wiretapping story
“The Current” CBC Radio One October 30, 2014


in his book, Paying Any Price, James Risen says both the Bush and Obama administrations have been on a dangerous path silencing journalists and whistleblowers. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images.

You can listen to this edifying interview (25:00) from a pop-up link on this page.

New York Times journalist James Risen documents outrageous accounts, including the hiring of a man who claimed to decipher secret messages in Al Jazeera newscasts … a con only uncovered after he’d been paid millions. We speak to the author of Pay Any Price on Greed, Power and Endless War.

Related: The reporter who exposed the NSA before Snowden will go behind bars to protect his source. But he will not let Obama’s Bushian addiction to power take us back to endless war without a fight.

James Risen is not going to let the US fear-mongering machine win in secret
Trevor Timm Guardian UK October 15, 2014

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For a man who could be forced into jail by the US government, possibly within “a few weeks”, after becoming the only journalist to be subpoenaed by both the Bush and Obama administrations, James Risen sure is busy.

In the past year alone, the New York Times investigative reporter who originally blew the lid on NSA wiretapping has interviewed with Edward Snowden, reported on multiple NSA revelations with Laura Poitras, and uncovered the incredible story of a Blackwater executive who threatened to kill a US state department employee who was investigating corruption – along with the government cover-up that followed. All while keeping mum as The Most Transparent Administration in American HistoryTM attempted to back him into a legal corner for doing his job as a reporter: protecting his sources.

“Maybe the Obama administration, at some point, is going to begin to back off, you would hope,” Risen told me on Monday afternoon. Until then, he’s speaking out upon the release of a new book, Pay Any Price: Greed, Power and Endless War, that takes us from the rise of the second Bush administration’s “homeland security-industrial complex” to an Obama administration that, in 2014, is more secret than ever, facing down yet another war in Iraq that could last years.

Posted at: October 30, 2014 - 4:06 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

October 29, 2014

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Cooperation is what makes us human

Ultimately, Tomasello’s research on human nature arrives at a paradox: our minds are the product of competitive intelligence and cooperative wisdom, our behavior a blend of brotherly love and hostility toward out-groups. Confronted by this paradox, the ugly side—the fact that humans compete, fight, and kill each other in wars—dismays most people, Tomasello says. And he agrees that our tendency to distrust outsiders—lending itself to prejudice, violence, and hate—should not be discounted or underestimated. But he says he is optimistic. In the end, what stands out more is our exceptional capacity for generosity and mutual trust, those moments in which we act like no species that has ever come before us. - Kat McGowan

Cooperation is what makes us human
Kat McGowan Nautilus USA October 23, 2014

ales about the origins of our species always start off like this: A small band of hunter-gatherers roams the savannah, loving, warring, and struggling for survival under the African sun. They do not start like this: A fat guy falls off a New York City subway platform onto the tracks.

But what happens next is a quintessential story of who we are as human beings.

On Feb. 17, 2013, around 2:30 a.m., Garrett O’Hanlon, a U.S. Air Force Academy cadet third class, was out celebrating his 22nd birthday in New York City. He and his sister were in the subway waiting for a train when a sudden silence came over the platform, followed by a shriek. People pointed down to the tracks.

O’Hanlon turned and saw a man sprawled facedown on the tracks. “The next thing that happened, I was on the tracks, running toward him,” he says. “I honestly didn’t have a thought process.”

O’Hanlon grabbed the unconscious man by the shoulders, lifting his upper body off the tracks, but struggled to move him. He was deadweight. According to the station clock, the train would arrive in less than two minutes. From the platform, O’Hanlon’s sister was screaming at him to save himself.

Suddenly other arms were there: Personal trainer Dennis Codrington Jr. and his friend Matt Foley had also jumped down to help. “We grabbed him, one by the legs, one by the shoulders, one by the chest,” O’Hanlon says. They got the man to the edge of the platform, where a dozen or more people muscled him up and over. More hands seized the rescuers’ arms and shoulders, helping them up to safety as well.

In the aftermath of the rescue, O’Hanlon says he has been surprised that so many people have asked him why he did it. “I get stunned by the question,” he says. In his view, anybody else would’ve done the same thing. “I feel like it’s a normal reaction,” he says. “To me that’s just what people do.”

More precisely, it is something only people do, according to developmental psychologist Michael Tomasello, codirector of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology.

For decades Tomasello has explored what makes humans distinctive. His conclusion? We cooperate. Many species, from ants to orcas to our primate cousins, cooperate in the wild. But Tomasello has identified a special form of cooperation. In his view, humans alone are capable of shared intentionality—they intuitively grasp what another person is thinking and act toward a common goal, as the subway rescuers did. This supremely human cognitive ability, Tomasello says, launched our species on its extraordinary trajectory. It forged language, tools, and cultures—stepping-stones to our colonization of every corner of the planet.

In his most recent research, Tomasello has begun to look at the dark side of cooperation. “We are primates, and primates compete with one another,” Tomasello says. He explains cooperation evolved on top of a deep-seated competitive drive. “In many ways, this is the human dilemma,” he says.

In conversation, Tomasello, 63, is both passionate and circumspect. Even as he overturns entrenched views in primatology and anthropology he treads carefully, backing up his theories by citing his experiments in human and primate behavior. He is aware of criticism from primatologists such as Frans de Waal, director of Living Links, a division of the Yerkes National Primate Research Center at Emory University in Atlanta, who has said Tomasello underestimates the minds of chimps and overestimates the uniqueness of human cooperation.

Nonetheless, Tomasello’s fellow scientists credit him with brave experiments and ingenious insights. Carol Dweck, a professor of psychology at Stanford University, who has done seminal research in child psychology and intelligence, has called Tomasello “a pioneer.” Herbert Gintis, an economist and behavioral scientist at the Santa Fe Institute, an interdisciplinary science research institution, agrees. “His work is fabulous,” Gintis says. “It has made clear certain things about what it means to be human.”

Posted at: October 29, 2014 - 12:52 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

Slowly but surely (not without difficulty), BRICS nations trudge toward their place in the new century: Neoliberals lose Brazil election & China, India tussle with each other over response to US “pivot” strategy in Asia

Irate Brazilian taxpayers are desperate for decent roads, urban security, better public hospitals and schools and less red tape and bureaucracy. But a slim majority still decided to stick with President Dilma Rousseff and her Xi Jinping-style anti-corruption drive over a turbo-neoliberalist challenger promising a “capitalist shock” that would see macroecomic policy run like a Wall Street fantasy.

And the loser in Brazil is – neoliberalism
Pepe Escobar Asia Times Online Hong Kong October 28, 2014

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Sun, sex, samba, carnival and at least until the World Cup hammering by Germany, the “land of football”. And don’t forget “vibrant democracy”. Even as it enjoys one of the highest soft power quotients around the world, Brazil remains submerged by cliches.

“Vibrant democracy” certainly lived up to its billing as President Dilma Rousseff of the ruling Worker’s Party (PT) was re-elected this Sunday in a tight run-off against opposition candidate Aecio Neves of the Social Democracy Party of Brazil (PSDB).

Yet another cliche would rule this was the victory of “state-centric” policies against “structural reforms”. Or the victory of “high social spending” against a “pro-business” approach – which implies business as the privileged enemy of social equality.

Exit cliches. Enter a cherished national motto: “Brazil is not for beginners”.

Indeed. Brazil’s complexities boggle the mind. It starts with arguably the key, multi-layered message a divided country sent to winner Dilma Rousseff. We are part of a growing middle class. We are proud to be part of an increasingly less unequal nation. But we want social services to keep improving. We want more investment in education. We want inflation under control (at the moment, it’s not). We support a very serious anti-corruption drive (here’s where Dilma’s Brazil meets Xi Jinping’s China). And we want to keep improving on the economic success of the past decade.

Rousseff seems to get the message. The question is how she will be able to deliver – in a continental-sized nation suffering from appalling education standards, with Brazilian manufacturing largely uncompetitive in global markets, and with corruption run amok.

Brazil is slowly but surely moving from the semi-periphery to being closer to the center of the action in international relations; because of its own regional geopolitical relevance and mostly because of its leading role among the BRICS. This is happening even as Washington could not give a damn about Brazil – or Latin America for that matter. US Think Tankland, by the way, abhors BRICS.

Politically, a victory for the Cardoso/Neves neoliberals – a ghost of the social democracy they once practiced – would have thrown Brazilian foreign policy upside down; not only against the way the historical winds are blowing, but also against Brazil’s own national interests.

As Rousseff argued at the UN last month, Brazil is trying to fight a global crisis marked by increasing inequality without provoking unemployment and without sacrificing workers’ jobs and salaries. As ace economist Theotonio dos Santos stressed the decadence of the West still exerting substantial influence over the Global South via their extensive network of collaborators, he also went one up; the key fight, as he sees it, is to control Brazilian oil.

Dos Santos is referring to Brazil’s top corporation, Petrobras, currently mired in a bribery scandal – which must be fully investigated – that obscures the Holy Grail: the future revenues from “pre-salt” oil – named after the billions of barrels of oil capped by a thick layer of salt lying several miles below the south Atlantic floor. Petrobras plans to invest $221 billion up to 2018 to unlock this treasure – and expects to make a profit even if oil trades around $45 to $50 a barrel.

Politically, in a nutshell, Rousseff’s narrow victory is crucial for the future of a progressive, integrated South America. It will reinvigorate Mercosur – the common market of the South – as well as Unasur – the union of South American nations. This goes way beyond free trade; it’s about close regional integration, in parallel to close Eurasia integration.

And starting in 2015, Brazil may be on the road to renewed economic expansion again – largely boosted by the fruits of “pre-salt” and compounded with accelerated building of roads, railways, ports and airports. That is bound to have a ripple effect across Brazil’s neighbors.

As for Washington/Wall Street, the Empire of Chaos is certainly not happy – and that’s a major euphemism, especially after betting on the wrong horse, Marina Silva, a sort of Amazon rainforest-born female counterpart to Obama’s “change we can believe in”. The fact is as much as the Brazilian model of income distribution is against the interests of big business, Brazilian foreign policy is now diametrically opposed to Washington’s.

Related: Pearls and diamonds in Indian Ocean
M K Bhadrakumar Indian Punchline India October 26, 2014

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The port call at Hai Phong, Vietnam, on August 5 by Indian Navy’s INS Shivalik, the state-of the-art guided missile frigate, was indeed a spectacular force projection by India in its “near abroad” on the other side of the Malacca Straits. Delhi said that “improving interoperability” with the Vietnamese navy was one of Shivalik’s main missions.

indeed, Shivalik is a jewel in the crown of the Indian Navy, a 4600-tonne vessel belonging to a class of three warships that were commissioned by India between 2010 and 2012 and incorporating the so-called “stealth” technology — reduced radar cross-section and IR features — into its superstructure. It is proudly touted as the Indian Navy’s “multi-purpose command-and-control platform capable of operating in a network-centric multi-threat environment.”

Unsurprisingly, Shivalik’s appearance in the troubled waters of the South China Sea raised eyebrows far beyond India’s shores. The IHS Jane’s Navy International commented as follows:

“The Indian Navy’s latest bid to enhance working relations with the Vietnamese could be a manifestation of India’s ‘necklace of diamonds’ approach — a strategy in which it forges security and defence alliances with various Asian countries, especially ones with uneasy relationships with Beijing, to counter China’s strategically assertive stance in projecting its naval capabilities… In December 2013 India announced that it will train 500 Vietnamese submariners to improve the PAVN’s underwater warfare capabilities as part of the expanded strategic and defence ties between the two countries.” (here).

Rewind to “one Sunday morning” last December when Beijing disclosed that one of its nuclear-powered attack submarines would pass through the Strait of Malacca. And it did two days later — to resurface near Sri Lanka and in the Persian Gulf, only to return through the straits and back to its base in China three months later in February. The force projection by Shivalik in August was presumably an Indian response.

Now, fast forward to late September this year. As a fascinating report in the Wall Street Journal earlier this week recounts, “The defence ministry [in Beijing] summoned the [foreign naval] attaches again to disclose another Chinese deployment to the Indian Ocean in September — this time a diesel-powered sub, which stopped off Sri Lanka.”

The Chinese sub in Sri Lanka came as a shock to Delhi, as it happened amidst a forceful “course correction” by the Narendra Modi government in India’s Sri Lanka Policy by soft-pedaling on the Tamil problem in the island country within the matrix of a strategic understanding that the two countries would always be sensitive toward each other’s core interests.

In strategic terms, this is now becoming a story of China’s “string of pearls” versus India’s “necklace of diamonds”. Will China give up on its tactical necessity to ply the high seas of the Indian Ocean through which the bulk of its trade flows? Will India blink on its prerogative under international law to wade into the disputed waters of the South China Sea and drill oil wells there if it felt like doing so — and proceed to test the “interoperability” of its military capabilities with Vietnam’s? To be sure, a keen tussle is developing.

Finally, is it really worthwhile to chase the Chinese subs, which are going to come to the Indian Ocean with far greater frequency? India has serious limitations where even a superpower such as the United States is striving hard to cope under severe budgetary considerations.

Put differently, should India think at all of such extravagant force projection in the South China Sea? Surely, it cannot be that India and Vietnam are jointly preparing to confront China. The problem with grandstanding is that sometimes even innocent grandstanding with no malice intended might generate serious misunderstanding among onlookers.

The point is, China is also strengthening its military cooperation with India’s other neighbors — just as India is doing with China’s neighbors — and India should either accept it as the emergent geopolitical reality, or alternatively, talk things over with China quietly to come to some sort of moduus vivendi – instead of making this an issue in India’s relations with its neighbors.

Suffice to say, it also becomes important to calmly, rationally analyze China’s motivations in the prevailing international situation and, specifically, in relation to the US’ “pivot” strategy in Asia, instead of lapping up the airy hypotheses originating from the US from time to time — “string os pearls”, et al — and thereupon set out to prescribe “red lines” to our neighbors, which we are not going to be able to impose anyway.

Posted at: October 29, 2014 - 12:49 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

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UK court settlement raises new questions about ethics of police infiltration

In Canada, there’s little question that undercover policing is alive and well.

Deep undercover: Police officer in UK fathered a child with an activist as part of an investigation
Adam Federman Earth Island Journal USA October 28, 2014

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What are the limits — if any — to undercover policing? At what point is a moral, ethical, or legal threshold crossed when an undercover operative insinuates himself into a targeted group or the lives of its members?

Last Thursday British media reported that the UK’s Metropolitan Police would pay £425,000 (about $686,000) in a settlement with a woman, known only as Jacqui, who was conned by a man who fathered her first child, said that he loved her, and then one day disappeared. She knew him as Bob Robinson. His real name, as she would learn 25 years later, was Bob Lambert. He was an operative with the Special Demonstration Squad (SDS), a special unit within the British police that infiltrated a host of environmentalist groups to gather intelligence. In several cases the operatives, almost always men, established long-term intimate relationships with women in order to gain access to the world of underground animal rights or environmental activists.

Jacqui’s was 22 when she first met Lambert. He was more than ten years older than her, and had already been a member of the Metropolitan police for several years. He went undercover in 1983 not long before he met Jacqui. As Rob Evans and Paul Lewis explain in their book Undercover, Lambert’s mission was to work his way into the “intensely furtive, hard-core wing of the animal rights movement: the Animal Liberation Front.” Having a girlfriend who was already trusted and well connected within activist circles was one of the easiest ways to become a “deep swimmer,” a phrase used by members of the SDS to describe spies who completely immersed themselves in the groups they were monitoring. In addition to Jacqui, Lambert is known to have had romantic relationships with three other women during his career as an undercover operative. Seven other women have also filed charges against the Metropolitan police.

The revelation that she shared her life with a man she did not really know has wrecked Jacqui’s life. The Guardian reports: “The woman has been receiving psychiatric treatment and has contemplated suicide since she read a newspaper in 2012 and found out the true identity of the man who had fathered her son before abandoning her and the child 24 years previously.”

The extent to which such tactics were condoned is unclear. The police have denied that there was ever any formal policy authorizing such behavior, but the history of the SDS remains rather murky. It took the agency years to even acknowledge that Lambert had been a mole; only when it became publicly untenable to continue the denials did the agency move beyond the pro forma response of neither confirming nor denying his role. But clearly there was an informal culture of using relationships with women to gain access to activist circles. An internal police review, known as Operation Herne, found that, “There was informal tacit authority regarding sexual relationships and guidance was offered for officers faced with the prospect of a sexual relationship.” Former SDS officer Peter Francis put it more plainly when he told the BBC that sex was “used by almost everybody who was serving in that unit.”

Posted at: October 29, 2014 - 12:42 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post

October 28, 2014

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Security and liberty: Some facts and thoughts following the events of last week

Below: APTN National News delivers the news of the day and provides a more in-depth look at the issues facing Aboriginal communities in Canada and around the world.

RCMP officers ‘not on full alert’ sitting in cruisers while monitoring Parliament Hill, says former deputy commissioner
Jorge Barrera APTN Canada October 28, 2014

The RCMP’s “system of coverage” for Parliament Hill failed last Wednesday when a lone gunman carrying a .30-30 Winchester, lever-action rifle managed to run onto the grounds, hijack a ministerial car, drive it to the Peace Tower, park and enter through the front doors without any interference.

That morning the RCMP would have stationed cruisers strategically around Parliament Hill with each cruiser responsible for a specific geographical location on the grounds, according to testimony from Kevin Vickers, the House of Commons’ Sergeant-at-Arms, before a parliamentary committee.

“There’s actually a system in place. It may look, from time to time, like they’re scattered about the precinct in a haphazard way, but there is a purpose behind the stationing of the vehicles at different points,” said Vickers, during testimony before the Commons procedure and House affairs committee in May 2012. “They do have a system of coverage of each car being responsible for a certain geographical area here on the Hill.”

Based on Vickers’ testimony, at least one RCMP cruiser was responsible for the area around the entrance next to East Block where Michael Zehaf-Bibeau entered at a sprint carrying a rifle. Zehaf-Bibeau was eventually killed in a hail of bullets inside Centre Block’s Hall of Honour by RCMP officers and Hill security.

During his testimony before the committee, which was probing why MPs kept getting stopped by the RCMP during VIP events, Vickers said the officers primarily monitor the grounds from their vehicles, rarely emerging to patrol on foot.

“You’re not really going to encounter or have face to face contact with the RCMP. As you know, they are stationed in their vehicles at different perimeters,” said Vickers. “If you are walking up to the building here, unless there was something amiss, the likelihood of your being stopped or being challenged by an RCMP officer would be remote.”

The RCMP officer or officers responsible for security in the geographical location by East Block may have missed Zehaf-Bibeau and the commotion that preceded his entrance because they were sitting in their cruisers, which likely reduced their situational awareness, said a former deputy commissioner for the RCMP.

“The whole thing happened in less than two minutes,” said Pierre-Yves Bourduas, who retired from the police force in 2008 after 33 years with the RCMP. “You are sitting in a police car, you are not on full alert, you are just there monitoring people back and forth conducting business, the way business is conducted on the Hill. All of a sudden they notice this car speeding in front of them.”

CBC News reported Monday that the RCMP and House of Commons security operate on different radio frequencies. This may have impeded the RCMP from alerting Commons security about the evolving situation, the report said.

But Patrick McDonell, deputy sergeant-at-arms and director general for House of Commons security services, told the procedure and House affairs committee on Oct. 9 there is a radio link between the two entities. McDonell said the RCMP’s vehicle screening facility on the west-side of Parliament Hill can communicate with the House of Commons communications centre via radio.

“Often they radio us and say that so-and-so is coming up to visit or whatever the case may be,” said McDonell.

It’s currently unclear what the House of Commons’ own surveillance cameras captured that morning. It is clear Commons security was unaware of what was transpiring. The front doors were unlocked when Zehaf-Bibeau pulled on the handle.

In successive press conferences last week, RCMP Commissioner Bob Paulson and Assistant Commissioner Gilles Michaud, who is in charge of National Division which is responsible for Hill security, basically argued that speed (the attack took 1:34 seconds from street to front door) and surprise allowed Zehaf-Bibeau to slip through the federal force’s security cordon on a day Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Opposition leader Tom Mulcair and Liberal leader Justin Trudeau were meeting with their caucuses inside Centre Block.

In theory, however, the cordon should have snared Zehaf-Bibeau.

Parliament Hill security has been prepared for the scenario of a lone gunman storming the grounds since 1984, said Bourduas. That May, a paranoid schizophrenic former Canadian Forces member named Denis Lortie stormed Quebec’s National Assembly armed with two submachine guns. He killed three people and injured 13. He was talked into surrendering by the National Assembly’s Sergeant-at-Arms Rene Jalbert.

“They looked at this particular incident, they did examine what kind of security was around the Hill at the time,” said Bourduas. “The challenge is to strike the right balance.”

Bourduas said the RCMP analyzes various scenarios as part of its security preparations for the Hill, but nothing is full-proof.

Related commentary: Ottawa shooting: Putting security before liberty
Duncan Cameron rabble.ca Canada October 28, 2014

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The Ottawa murder of a Canadian soldier last Wednesday brought a sudden outpouring of sentiments as large numbers of people felt his loss.

The senseless tragedy brought crowds out to gather at cenotaphs across Canada to honour the memory of Corporal Nathan Frank Cirillo. In bad times people want to come together, experience solidarity, what it means to be a part of something bigger than a family, or a neighbourhood.

The narrative surrounding the murderer is a murky one. Can one mentally disturbed individual with a rifle be linked to international terrorism? Efforts have been made by the RCMP to suggest the assassination was politically motivated.

The Conservatives passed Bill S-7 promoting anti-terrorism, and the ongoing threat to Canadians from terrorists is hardly a new theme for government ministers.

A new bill to toughen security laws will be brought forward this week. Parliament will debate whether Canadians can be arrested if they are deemed to represent a threat to national security, in what looks to be an attack on protection of personal security from arbitrary justice.

How about linking the murder to Islam? The national security lobby calls for increasing vigilance against international terrorists, all of whom seem to be Muslim.

“Standing on guard for thee” implies Canadians honour each other, not that the government tries to root out the enemy within, especially when “within” means … inside the Canadian Islamic community.

Respecting each other is a political virtue, something to do because it is the right way to live. Being Canadian is not about how we look, what we wear, or what religion we practice.

Sadly, the Muslim community needs more than the respect it should be entitled to as citizens of Canada. Today it needs to be defended against prejudice and hate, an offshoot of the appeal to strengthen national security.

Many Canadians will want to hear political leaders affirm that civic liberties need to be better protected, that no government should be able to subvert justice in the name of national security, especially without any evidence that Canadians are more in danger today than a week ago.

The get-tough crowd recoils in disgust when protection of civil liberties gets thrown in their faces. Let the debate be joined. The never-ending war on terror (an abstract noun) launched by an American president has inspired the Conservatives and their supporters. That way lies fear as the source of public policy decisions.

A just society eschews fear, embraces reason and compassion, and demands patience from those who would build it. Those Canadians who gathered at cenotaphs to honour a citizen soldier deserve no less.

Below: Ahmad Moussa is a Palestinian-Canadian writer and Visiting Professor at the University of Duhok, in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. He reveals, in detail, how Canadian Arabs and Muslims have been victims of discriminatory targeting, illegitimate racial profiling and subject to arbitrary arrest and torture.

Why Steven Harper is the real threat to Canadian national security
Ahmad Moussa CounterPunch USA October 28, 2014

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Prior to the unfortunate events on Parliament Hill, Canada had never been a country that was victim of a terrorist attack including September 11, 2001. Yet, the aftermath of September 11, 2001 resulted in the Global War on Terror campaign that included the involvement of Canadians in Afghanistan. Notwithstanding the fact that Canada was wise in its decision not to intervene in Iraq in 2003 due to the disastrous nature of the consequences in that country in particular- such as the rise of the Islamic State, Canada and particularly under the Harper government has been producing and advocating for anti-Muslim and anti- Arab policies of a war-mongering nature based on defacto statelessness imposed against them as citizens; targeting them as a particular culture, ethnicity and religion including the Middle East region as a whole. The unfortunate events that transpired on Parliament Hill which occurred after an initial incident that involved a hit and run against Canadian soldiers are a product of what this article will expose in terms of the Harper governments stances as mentioned above.

The silence and impotence of the Arab and Muslim community from the public, political and lobbying sphere in relation to these stances have betrayed those in the community who are feeling the particular potency of their marginalization and oppression as a result of the said stances that left them no other visible option but to become a self-fulfilling prophecy through these attacks while simultaneously betraying themselves and Canadian voters by allowing the Harper government to continue to unjustly win the hearts and minds of Canadians; clearly demonstrated with the new laws that the Harper government is in the process of passing in relation to excessive police and secret service powers[1]; thereby reinforcing the same stances that we should be putting an end to. The article will attempt to win the hearts and minds of Canadians to restore the reality of what is actually happening including the way forward. During the aftermath of the events on Parliament Hill, Prime Minister Stephen Harper gave a speech to the public over the recent events in Ottawa, where he stated the following:

We are also reminded that attacks on our security personnel and on our institutions of governments are by their very nature attacks on our country, on our value, on our society, on us Canadians as a free and democratic people who embrace human dignity for all.[2]

The problem has been and continues to be that human dignity is not applicable to Arabs and Muslims based on the historical and contemporary role that Canada has played in this respect. Notwithstanding the introduction of the Canada Anti-Terrorist Act, 2001 and its controversial essence due to the trampling on civil rights and liberties, there was a sunset clause to the provisions related to preventative detentions and investigative hearings that would expire in 5 years; an issue related to protection of civil rights and liberties in accordance with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms that the Harper government decided to ignore by introducing the Combating Terrorism Act to revive these expired provisions.[3]

Given this information, any Canadian citizen with a “heart and mind” will not accept that their country subjects some of their citizens and people of another region to such acts of humiliation and degradation in the name of “peace, order and good governance” that will only have a backfiring affect. It is time that Canadian Arab and Muslims start demonstrating and engaging in the highest form of citizenry and political efficacy by creating and organizing a strong, united, grounded and articulate voice in the public and political sphere within the Canadian political arena, through lobby groups, social movements, grass roots organizations and even political parties to reach the hearts and minds of Canadians, starting with collective self-empowerment as a community.

Harper had stated a decade after the attacks of September 11, 2001 that “the biggest security threat to Canada is Islamic terrorism.”[25] Federal elections are due in Oct 2015 making it time for the Arab and Muslim community to win back the hearts and minds of Canadians; showing that the contrary is true- the Harper government’s stances mentioned above are and and have proven to be a threat to national security of Canadians both domestically and abroad. [1]

Posted at: October 28, 2014 - 12:11 pm -- Posted by: Jim Scott -- Permalink: # -- Email This Post