(November 29, 2013) — The top US commander in Afghanistan apologized to President Hamid Karzai for a drone strike that killed a child and NATO promised an investigation Friday as rising tensions threatened efforts to persuade the Afghan leader to sign a long-delayed security agreement.
Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford called Karzai late Thursday to express “deep regrets for the incident and any civilian casualties,” the commander’s spokesman said.
The US-led international coalition in Afghanistan, known as the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), announced hours earlier that it is investigating an airstrike it launched that Afghan officials said killed a child and injured two women, leading to a condemnation of the attack by the country’s president.
ISAF reported Thursday’s airstrike also killed an insurgent in southern Afghanistan’s Helmand province.
“The International Security Assistance Force confirms that an airstrike was conducted on a known insurgent riding a motorbike in Helmand,” ISAF said.
It added that it was also aware that Afghan authorities said “that in addition to the insurgent being killed, there was one child also killed and two women injured. ISAF, along with Afghan authorities, will immediately conduct an investigation into the incident.”
The coalition said it regretted any civilian casualties as a result of its airstrike and that it was “committed to ensuring that all measures are taken to prevent civilian casualties. Coalition officials will work with Afghan officials to determine what happened and why. We extend our deepest sympathies to the families and loved ones of those killed or wounded.”
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has criticized the coalition for civilian casualties from some airstrikes. Such incidents have fallen off sharply in recent years after stricter guidelines by NATO on the use of air power against ground targets.
Karzai has demanded an end to all such incidents along with a stop to all raids on Afghan homes by foreign forces as a condition for him to sign a long-delayed security deal with the United States.
He has already deferred signing a deal until his second and last term expires in April but has not completely excluded the possibility of doing so.
The Taliban and other insurgent groups are blamed for the overwhelming majority of civilian casualties, most of which are caused by roadside bombs targeting Afghan or foreign forces.
They also have carried out attacks against government and elected officials as well as people working for the administration.
In one such attack Friday in Kabul, a suicide bomber wounded a parliament deputy at his home.
Claiming to be a constituent, the attacker detonated a bomb hidden in his turban when he entered the home of Hamidullah Tokhi, a deputy from southern Zabul province, Kabul police chief Mohammad Zahir said.
It was unclear why Tokhi was targeted, but he has been a vociferous critic of the Taliban and fought them when they ruled the country.
Zahir said Tokhi was hospitalized but was not seriously wounded. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, though the Taliban have used bombs hidden in turbans to carry out other suicide attacks.
In southern Kandahar, provincial spokesman Jaweed Faisal said a suicide bomber also tried to attack a NATO convoy but missed, instead killing a child and wounding three passers-by.
Karzai Condemns US Strike that Killed Toddler, Threatens Not to Sign Security Deal RT News
(November 29, 2013) — President Hamid Karzai has blamed the US for a drone strike on a home in southern Afghanistan that killed a 2-year-old child and wounded two women, vowing that he will not sign a key bilateral security deal if such attacks continue.
“This attack shows that American forces are not respecting the life and safety of Afghan people’s houses,â€ Karzai said in the statement Thursday. “For years, our innocent people have become victims of the war under the name of terrorism, and they have had no safety in their homes.â€
Karzai made it clear that he will not sign the security agreement if such “oppressions by foreign forces continue.â€
The president stated that the airstrike was suspected to have been carried out by US “pilotless aircraftâ€ and targeted a house in Helmand Province. Karzai added that he received his information from the governor of the province, Mohammad Naem.
No details were provided by the US-led coalition about Thursday’s airstrike. But the NATO-led force in Afghanistan said it will investigate it, adding that it “deeply regrets” any civilian deaths that happened, according to Reuters.
The strike came as US and Afghanistan are in the midst of negotiating a bilateral security agreement that has so far not fleshed out the details about under what conditions US troops will stay in Afghanistan past the NATO forces’ pullout in 2014.
Last week US had thought it finalized the deal by proposing to leave 15,000 soldiers in Afghanistan to train and assist the country’s military. But, Karzai had doubts about signing the deal, expressing concerns over US meddling in Afghanistan’s internal affairs.
This week, Karzai has called on the US to cease all military operations against civilian homes and show a clear dedication to the peace process before a security pact is signed.
Karzai set the conditions in a meeting with US National Security Advisor Susan Rice, the US envoy to the region and the NATO commander in Afghanistan, Reuters reported. “President Karzai outlined new conditions for signing the agreement and indicated he is not prepared to sign the BSA promptly,” the White House said.
The conditions included returning Afghan citizens from the US detention center at Guantanamo Bay as a clear step to launch the peace process ahead of the scheduled exit of most US and NATO forces beyond 2014.
Karzai’s new conditions for a Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) come after he rejected the endorsement of the security deal by an assembly of Afghan elders on Sunday. The Loya Jirga, or grand assembly, recommended Karzai to sign the agreement.
Earlier, the US government said that if the deal with Afghanistan is not signed by the end of 2013 then it will have to begin withdrawing its troops completely starting next year.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
Pakistan Protests Continue as US Drone Strike Kills Three Jason Ditz / AntiWar.com
(November 29, 2013) — Pakistani protesters continued to take to the street of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwah (KP) Province today as yet another US drone attack hit the nation’s tribal areas.
Today’s attack destroyed a house in Chasma Pul, killing three people and wounding two others. None of the victims were identified, but all of them were labeled “suspected militants,” as is common practice for US attacks.
One local resident said the house was being rented by the men, who were believed to be part of the Punjabi Taliban, a faction which is not generally at war with Pakistan’s government.
US drone strikes have increasingly targeted Taliban fighters who either have or are in the process of establishing peace deals with Pakistan’s government, undermining the deals and fueling anger across Pakistan
PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Three suspected militants were killed and two others were wounded in a US drone attack in the Miranshah area of the North Waziristan tribal region in northwest Pakistan on Friday.
Pakistani security officials and villagers in Miranshah said the drone fired two missiles, which struck a house in Chasma Pul village that they said was being used as a hideout by the militants.
“All the victims were members of the Urdu-speaking Punjabi Taliban. They weren’t fighting against Pakistani forces but would cross the Afghan border and attack foreign forces in Afghanistan,” said a security official in Miranshah, the headquarters of Pakistan’s volatile North Waziristan region.
The official, who requested anonymity, said the militants were affiliated with the Afghan Taliban.
Local resident Mohammad Ayub said the militants had been living in a rented house near Miranshah town for the past four months.
Doctors at the Miranshah government hospital said two wounded men were brought there.
“Both of them suffered multiple burn injuries and are critical condition,” said Dr. Sharaf of the hospital.
Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf, the political party known as PTI, led by former cricket star Imran Khan, has been protesting over drone strikes and has asked the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa police to charge the CIA director and the agency station chief in Pakistan for carrying out drone strikes and killing innocent people in Pakistan.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa police Chief Nasir Durrani said his agency would soon register names of two CIA officials in the police report and would charge them for a Nov. 21 drone attack in Hangu district in which nine people, including senior militant commanders of the Afghan Taliban-linked Haqqani network, were killed and eight others wounded.
At the direction of Khan, PTI workers have blocked NATO supply routes through the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region for the past week and have pledged to continue the blockade until US drone attacks in Pakistan stop.
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(November 29, 2013) — School-age refugees who have fled Syria’s civil war to neighboring countries are cut off from education and are increasingly becoming primary providers for families who lack resources for basic survival, the United Nations said Friday.
A report published by the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR) says children represent 52 percent of the total Syrian refugee population, which now exceeds 2.2 million. Seventy-five percent of those children are under the age of 12.
“If we do not act quickly, a generation of innocents will become lasting casualties of an appalling war,” Antonio Guterres, the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said in launching the report.
The UNHCR report found a majority of the refugee children live in Syria’s neighboring countries, with Jordan and Lebanon combined hosting more than 60 percent. As of the end of October, 291,238 Syrian refugee children were living in Jordan and 385,007 in Lebanon.
“This is the moment for the international community to fully understand that the support provided to the countries of the region needs to be strongly enhanced, needs to be really massive, because there is a risk for the asylum space if that doesn’t happen,” Guterres added.
The turmoil in Syria has torn families apart, with more than 3,700 children in Jordan and Lebanon living without one or both of their parents or with no adult caregivers at all.
As of of September 2013, the UNHCR had registered 2,440 unaccompanied or separated children in Lebanon and 1,320 in Jordan. In some cases, the parents have died, been detained or sent their children into exile alone out of fear for their safety.
“Some of them are literally speechless because they have seen horrors that affected them so much â€¦ They can’t get it out of their mind, and they are highly traumatized,” UNHCR spokeswoman Roberta Russo told Al Jazeera.
Another disturbing symptom of the crisis is the vast number of babies born in exile who do not have birth certificates.
A recent UNHCR survey on birth registration in Lebanon revealed that 77 percent of 781 refugee infants sampled did not have an official birth certificate. From January to mid-October, only 68 certificates were issued to babies born in Jordan’s sprawling Za’atari camp.
A grave consequence of the conflict is that a generation is growing up without a formal education.
More than half of all school-age Syrian children in Jordan and Lebanon are not in school.
It is estimated that in Lebanon, up to 200,000 school-age Syrian refugees could remain out of school at the end of the year.
In Jordan’s Za’atari camp, most of the 680 small shops employ children, the report said. A UNHCR assessment of refugee children living outside the camp found that in 11 of the country’s 12 provinces, nearly half the refugee households surveyed relied partly or entirely on income generated by a child.
In Lebanon hundreds of refugee children — many of them girls ages 7 to 12 — are picked up daily at dozens of informal refugee settlements dotting the Bekaa Valley and border areas in the north, loaded onto trucks and taken to the fields, where they work for six to eight hours and earn up to 6,000 Lebanese pounds (about $4) per day.
Many Syrian refugee children in Lebanon fall into the hands of criminal gangs specializing in exploiting the most vulnerable victims of the conflict. They are seen begging on the streets of Beirut or, more frequently, selling flowers or gum for their often abusive patrons.
“It’s another tragic consequence of the crisis. Young Syrian refugee children who should be in school are instead out working in the fields from early morning until late afternoon for a pittance,” Sonia Zambakides, Save the Children’s director for Lebanon, told The Associated Press. The British-based charity is giving the most vulnerable families cash donations through the winter as part of program that provides parents with an alternative to sending their children to work.
The charity also supports thousands of children in various learning programs and back-to-school campaigns in Lebanon so that thousands of children — many of whom have been out of school for more than two years — will be able to continue their education.
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Help the Children of Gaza Sail towards Freedom on Saturday November 30th GazaArk.org
(November 29, 2013) — “You can help brighten a dark path. Lead the way and sail with the children of Gaza towards freedom.” said Heba Hayek of Gaza, a member of Gaza’s Ark committee.
Your efforts will help launch almost 200 mini-Arks in order to spotlight the inhumane conditions to which the Palestinians in Gaza, and particularly the children, are subjected. Groups all over the world, from North America and Europe to South Africa and Australia will sail small boats on their lakes, rivers and swimming pools and stage community actions with symbolic mini-Arks on the same day, November 30th.
We are asking you, without delay, to: 1) Create a Mini-Ark Action in your community: Make your own Mini-Arks with your children and/or children in your community. Write a message of solidarity or write: “Gaza: End the silence! End the Blockade!” Take pictures/video, send them to us and we’ll post it on online, or post it yourself at our Facebook event. We will share your images with the children of Gaza. This is a deeply symbolic act of hope that is sure to bring a smile to all involved!
2) Spread the word, join the mini-Ark Facebook event and follow this action on Twitter @GazaArk. Every person counts! Tell anybody and everybody: help us end the blockade and the silence! Invite your Facebook contacts to https://www.facebook.com/GazaArk and tweet about Gaza’s Ark on Twitter, asking your followers to follow us too. Tweet and re-tweet about the Gaza Mini-Ark project using “mini #GazaArk”: https://twitter.com/GazaArk .
Stay tuned for our next announcement. We want everyone who reads this plea from the children of Gaza to help them â€˜sail their boats to freedom.
The mini-Arks initiative is supported by a growing number of Palestinian organizations in Gaza, including:
â€¢ Al Amal Institute for orphans
â€¢ El Wedad association
â€¢ Atfaluna association for deaf children
â€¢ Rehabilitation and development program for women
â€¢ Dr. Haider abed el Shafi Center for Training
â€¢ Society and Family development association
â€¢ For Palestine children ( Atfal Palestine)
â€¢ Al Qalaa center for training and development
â€¢ Oxygen Youth Group
â€¢ Talk youth group
â€¢ Zahrat E-Tfoola
â€¢ National agency for family care
â€¢ Afaq Jadeeda (New Horizons)
â€¢ Palestinian Womenâ€™s Union (PWU)
More background info at www.GazaArk.org/faq or email email@example.com
Help Kids in Gaza Spread their Message of Freedom Megan Iorio and Robert Naiman / Just Foreign Policy
(November 29, 2013) — Tomorrow, November 30, hundreds of Palestinian children will gather in the port of Gaza to launch nearly two hundred “mini arks” — small model boats with sails — into the sea to challenge the Israeli blockade. As part of this action, we are working with Gaza’s Ark to launch a Twitter campaign at 4PM Gaza time on Nov 30 (9AM Eastern/6AM Pacific) to help spread the word, including photos, videos, and press about the children’s effort.
Here are two ways you can participate: Join our Thunderclap. When you sign on to our campaign, Thunderclap will automatically tweet on your behalf at 9AM ET/6AM PT. Simply go to the following link, click on the button to support with Twitter, but please DO NOT use the hashtag in your personal tweets OR spread the word about the campaign via Twitter until AFTER the start time: https://www.thunderclap.it/projects/6986-gaza-kids-sail-against-siege?locale=en
This is the message that will be tweeted: I support the hundreds of #GazaKids launching mini arks into the sea today to challenge the Israeli blockade
If you don’t have Twitter, you can also support the campaign through Facebook. Also note that Thunderclap does not retain access to your Twitter or Facebook data beyond the one message at the designated time.
Be on Twitter at 9AM ET/6AM PT to participate in the Twitter storm. After the Thunderclap tweets go out at 9AM ET, join us on Twitter using the hashtag #GazaKids to help spread photos, videos, press, and personal messages about the event and the blockade.
If enough people are tweeting at the same time, we can get the hashtag to trend, which will help raise awareness about the children’s plight.
A few tips: i. Tweet as many times as you can on hashtag #GazaKids between 9AM ET and 10AM ET. ii. Do not use any other hashtag in your tweets besides #GazaKids. iii. RT’s do not count for trending, so if you see a tweet you like, copy and paste it. iv. We have a webpage with tweet and media resources that will be accessible a few hours before the start time: http://tinyurl.com/lg9ql3k
(November 23, 2013) — We came, we saw, we stayed. Forever. That’s the essence of the so-called Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) to be struck between the Obama administration and Afghanistan — over 12 years after the start of the never-ending War on Terror.
President Obama and US Secretary of State John Kerry define it as a ‘strategic partnership’. If that’s the case, it’s one of the most lopsided in history; Afghan President Hamid Karzai is no more than a sartorially impeccable American puppet.
Kerry announced the so-called BSA in Washington on Wednesday even before a Loya Jirga (‘Grand Council’, in Pashto) of 2,500 Afghan tribal leaders, clerics, members of parliament and merchants started their four-day deliberations in a tent on the grounds of the Polytechnical University in Kabul on Thursday.
But then Karzai, probably in his last major speech as president, pulled off a fabulous stunt. He knows he is, and will be, accused of selling Afghanistan down the (Panjshir) river. He knows he is sacrificing Afghan sovereignty for years to come — and there will be nasty blowback for it.
So once again he channeled Hamid the Actor, and played his best honest broker impersonation, stressing the BSA should be put off until the Afghan presidential elections in April 2014, and be signed by his successor.
It Was High Drama
“There’s a mistrust between me and the Americans. They don’t trust me and I don’t trust them. I have always criticized them and they have always propagated negative things behind my back,” he claimed.
I have been to Jirgas in Afghanistan; even looking at those inscrutable, rugged tribal faces is a spectacle in itself. So what were they thinking in Kabul? Of course they did not trust the Americans. But did they trust Karzai? Could they see this was all an act?
A consultative Loya Jirga cannot veto the BSA. Even the Jirga chairman, Sibghatullah Mojadeddi, stressed Karzai may sign without any consultation. Yet Karzai insists he will not sign without the Loya Jirga’s approval.
Many members of the Afghan parliament and the entire Afghan opposition already voted with their feet, boycotting the Jirga. Not to mention the Taliban — essential to any agreement on the future of Afghanistan — and the still fully weaponized Hezb-e-Islami. Everyone is eagerly waiting to hear Taliban supremo Mullah Omar’s take on the whole kabuki.
The BSA ‘negotiation’ has been like an extended Monty Python sketch. Washington has always insisted US soldiers can break into Afghan homes at will and remain immune to any sort of Afghan prosecution. Otherwise the Americans will leave for good at the end of 2014, leaving just the poorly trained and largely corrupt Afghan National Army (ANA) to fight the Taliban.
Up until Karzai’s latest stunt, the Obama administration considered the deal was in the bag. Just look at the letter Obama sent to Karzai.
And by the way, no apologies. National Security Advisor Susan Rice said Washington does not need to apologize for killing and injuring tens of thousands of civilians in Afghanistan since 2001, not to mention occupying vast swathes of the country. Earlier, a Karzai spokesman said that would be the case.
If in doubt, just listen to super-hawk US Senator Lindsay Graham, who told Reuters, “I’m stunned. Apologize for what? Maybe we should get the Afghan president to apologize to the American soldiers for all the hardship he’s created for them.”
There’s nothing ‘residual’ about a US occupation to be disguised as ‘forces’ necessary to train and ‘advise’ the roughly 350,000 soldiers and police which are part of ANA, built from scratch over the last few years.
And what we’re talking about here is a deal starting in 2015 and in effect up to 2024 ‘and beyond’.
The final agreement is not much different from this previously leaked working draft. An update has been circulating this week in the Pentagon and the US Congress. The Pentagon, via Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey, justifies the whole thing by the proverbial need to ‘maintain Afghanistan’s security’ and make sure foreign aid is not being squandered (as it has always been).
There will be plenty of US military outposts and bases; Afghan bases and other bases of which the US has ‘exclusive use’. Bagram, Kandahar, Jalalabad and Mazar-e-Sharif are inevitably on the list. Once again, this is the US Empire of Bases — so well characterized by the late Chalmers Johnson — in pristine form.
Marine General Joseph Dunford, the current US/NATO military commander in Afghanistan, wants up to 13,000 troops to stay, not including security guards and the cream of the crop, the counterterrorism gang. In theory, these forces won’t engage in combat “unless otherwise mutually agreed.” The draft text emphasizes, “US military operations to defeat Al-Qaeda and its affiliates may be appropriate in the common fight against terrorism.”
Translation: a future festival of raids by Special Forces, and a counter-terror free-for-all.
The draft text only mentions, vaguely,” full respect for Afghan sovereignty and full regard for the safety and security of the Afghan people, including in their homes,” as Obama also mentioned in his letter to Karzai.
And there’s absolutely nothing on the critical issue of drones based in Afghan bases that have been used for incinerating the odd commander but also scores of innocent civilians in the Pakistani tribal areas.
All about Pivoting to Asia
The Maliki government in Baghdad had the balls to confront the Pentagon and veto the immunity for US forces — effectively kicking out the occupying force in Iraq. Hamid Karzai, for his part, caved in on virtual every US demand. The key question in the next few months is for what; Mob-style protection if he stays in Afghanistan, or the equivalent of the FBI’s witness protection program if he moves to the US?
Even assuming the Loya Jirga endorses the BSA (not yet a done deal) and Karzai’s successor signs it (with Karzai removing himself from the tight spot), to say this opens a new Pandora’s box is an understatement.
The occupation, for all practical purposes, will continue. This has nothing to do with fighting the War on Terror or jihad. There’s no Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan. The few remnants are in Waziristan, in Pakistani territory. The US is — and will remain – essentially at war with Afghan Pashtuns who are members of the Taliban. And the Taliban will keep staging their spring and summer offensives as long as there are any foreign occupiers on Afghan soil.
The drone war will continue, with the Pentagon and the CIA using these Afghan bases to attack Pashtuns in Pakistan’s tribal areas. Not to mention that these US bases, to be fully operational, need unrestricted access to the Pakistani transit routes from the Khyber Pass and the Quetta-to-Kandahar corridor. This means Islamabad keeps profiting from the scam by collecting hefty fees in US dollars.
No one knows yet how the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) will respond to this. Not only Russia and China — who are adamantly opposed to US bases in Afghanistan — but also Iran and India, SCO observers and two countries that can sway Afghanistan away from the Taliban in a non-military way.
We just need to picture, for instance, a practically inevitable future development; Washington deciding to deploy the US missile defense system in Afghanistan (it already happened in Turkey). Russia and China already see that the US may have lost the economic race for Central Asia — as China clinches deal after deal in the context of expanding its New Silk Road(s) grand strategy.
What’s left for Washington is — guess what — bits and pieces of the same old Pentagon Full Spectrum Dominance doctrine, as in military bases to ‘monitor’ both China and Russia very close to their borders.
What’s certain is that both Russia and China — not to mention Iran — all see this Operation Occupy Afghanistan Forever for what it is; yet another (military) chapter of the American ‘pivoting to Asia’.
Asia Times/Hong Kong, an analyst for RT and TomDispatch, and a frequent contributor to websites and radio shows ranging from the US to East Asia.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
(November 22, 2013) — How can some policymakers claim to be fiscal conservatives when they won’t allow small spending cuts to the defense budget to go through?
We’ve seen that the “sky is falling” predictions about sequestration haven’t materialize. Yet lawmakers in both houses of Congress are still seeking to at least partially undo the spending reductions in the Budget Control Act of 2011, despite evidence the Pentagon is wasting taxpayer dollars on overly expensive — and arguably unnecessary — projects.
A recent amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act by Republican Sens. James Inhofe, R-Okla., John McCain, R-Ariz., and Jeff Sessions, R-Ala., attempts to mitigate sequestration’s impact on the Pentagon by stretching the reductions out over the next eight years.
According to Congressional Quarterly, their amendment “would raise the cap on defense spending in fiscal 2014 from $498 billion to $524 billion and lower the annual increase in defense spending between fiscal 2015 and fiscal 2021 from 2.5 percent to 1 percent, significantly below expected gross domestic product growth during the same period.”
Considering the inability of current policymakers to impose spending restraint on future congresses, trading actual cuts today for unlikely slower growth in spending tomorrow would be best described as a “dessert today, spinach tomorrow” plan.
Besides, for all the complaints about how the defense caps and sequester cuts are hurting our ability to defend the nation, there is a substantial and well-documented amount of evidence that there is a lot of waste and abuse in the Department of Defense.
As Steve Ellis of Taxpayers for Commonsense told me recently, “The Pentagon budget is riddled with projects and programs that underperform and end up costing taxpayers dearly. You don’t have to look any further than the F-35, the largest acquisition project, to find cost overruns and delays.”
Indeed, the F-35, a nuclear-capable fighter jet built by defense contractor Lockheed Martin, was undertaken in 2001 and to this day still isn’t fully operational.
Writing for AlterNet in March 2013, William Boardman sums it up: “Now, more than a decade overdue and more than 100-percent over budget, the plane is expected to cost $1.5 trillion over its useful life, of which about $400 billion has already been spent.”
Also, a February report for the Secretary of Defense by the director of operational test and evaluation, J. Michael Gilmore, explained in detail how the F-35 can’t fly at night or in clouds or near lightning. That’s right. For now, the Pentagon can only use its pricey toy in warm sunny weather.
Even if the plane was functioning properly, it would still be a waste of our money. As Jonathan Bydlak of the Coalition for Reduced Spending said:
The jets were created to face Soviet fighters but are impotent in the face of 21st-century warfare. Even if everything goes perfectly in the future (doubtful after years of design flaws and healthcare.gov-reminiscent dysfunction), the F-35 is years away from meeting minimal operational standards.
Why is that? The incentives in government are rarely geared toward decisions that address real problem with well-suited solutions at reasonable costs.
In addition, many spending decisions are driven by special interests and their needs. In the case of the F-35, Ellis noted, “Lockheed Martin has spread around the work and the cash to grease the political wheels and get lawmakers addicted to this junk.”
Unfortunately, there is a very long list of other wasteful spending in the Pentagon’s acquisition system. And the problems are elsewhere too, such as the terrible bookkeeping practices — the Defense Department still can’t pass an audit of its books — and fraud.
But the Pentagon isn’t the only one to blame. Michi Iljazi of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance notes that Congress shares a large part of the blame for continuing to fund expensive projects that even the Pentagon doesn’t want.
This, sadly, is just a sample of the problems that have been going on for years at the expense of taxpayers and at the expense of a better defense.
The worst part of all: While there is a lot of money wasted on weapons and employees that the Pentagon doesn’t need or shouldn’t be paying for, other areas are underfunded.
But allowing the defense budget to grow without constraint isn’t the solution to this problem. Maintaining the budget caps and sequester levels will force the Pentagon and Congress to make adjustments, identify some priorities, shunt others, and cut ineffective and useless spending.
Veronique de Rugy, a Washington Examiner columnist, is a senior research fellow of the Mercatus Center at George Mason University.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
Josh Lyons / Human Rights Watch & David Smith / The Guardian – 2013-11-29 00:03:30
Central African Republic: What a War Crime Looks Like from Space Josh Lyons / Human Rights Watch
(November 26, 2013) — The telltale signs of a devastating attack are obvious — even via satellite.
Satellite images of the remote, gold mining village of Camp Bangui in the Central African Republic show dozens of black “burn scars” — all that is left of more than 200 homes reduced to ashes following a November 10 attack by former Seleka fighters who have been wreaking havoc in the region.
The images, recorded the morning of November 23, 2013, show large portions of the village have been burnt to the ground likely by arson, leaving more 235 buildings — around half the village — destroyed. The commanding officer during the attack on Camp Bangui, General Abdallah Hamat, told Human Rights Watch that only four homes were burned during fighting.
Because of overhanging tree cover, it is likely that a small percent of destroyed or severely damaged buildings have not been identified suggesting that actual damages are likely to be even higher than the satellite images indicate.
Camp Bangui is accessible only on foot or motorcycle through a narrow dirt road. It is so remote it can’t be found on maps so Human Rights Watch established its location by taking the GPS coordinates of the village during an on-site inspection after the attack. It had been laid to waste.
The attack on Camp Bangui violates international humanitarian law, which prohibits attacks against civilians and destruction and looting of civilian property. Those who ordered or carried out the attacks are responsible for war crimes.
Human Rights Watch has already collected detailed satellite evidence of arson attacks on 15 additional villages and towns across the Central African Republic and will be actively monitoring the conflict in the weeks and months to come.
As the conflict escalates within the Central African Republic, leaving scores of villages burned to ground and hundreds of thousands of civilians displaced, Human Rights Watch is actively documenting major human rights abuses and war crimes on the ground and via satellite imagery.
Human Rights Watch researchers have documented first hand the destruction of villages by former Seleka rebel fighters, recently nominally integrated into the national army. Punitive raids by the ex-Seleka against predominantly Christian villages have been followed by revenge attacks against Muslims, marking a dangerous new sectarian dimension to the conflict.
Because of the scale of the conflict and lack of access to many remote villages, Human Rights Watch is using satellite imagery to monitor reports of new village attacks and to provide detailed figures on destroyed buildings across the conflict-affected areas of the country.
BOSSANGOA (November 22, 2013) — A massacre of the innocents is taking place in the heart of Africa as the world looks the other way.
One man describes how his four-year-old son’s throat was slit, and how he saw a snake swallowing a baby. A woman explains that she is caring for a young girl because her mother went searching for medicine and was bludgeoned to death with Kalashnikov rifles. A young man tells how he was bound and thrown to the crocodiles, but managed to swim to safety.
This is the world of horrors that the Central African Republic (CAR) has become. Thousands of people are dying at the hands of soldiers and militia gangs or from untreated diseases such as malaria. Boys and girls as young as eight are press-ganged into fighting between Christians and Muslims. There are reports of beheadings and public execution-style killings. Villages are razed to the ground.
Never much more than a phantom state, the CAR has sucked in thousands of mercenaries from neighbouring countries and, France warned on Thursday, now stands “on the verge of genocide.” Yet many would struggle to find the country on a map, despite the clue in its afterthought name.
The humanitarian emergency in the CAR, a landmass bigger than France where the average male life expectancy is 48, remains a blind spot for most of the international community. Samantha Power, the US ambassador to the UN, noted recently that the situation in the CAR has been referred to as “the worst crisis most people have never heard of”.
That is nothing new for a country that stands as one of the most profound indictments of European colonialism, a contrivance that since independence in 1960 has endured five coups, infrastructure run on a shoestring and a self-declared emperor whose lavish coronation was inspired by Napoleon.
Rich in gold, diamonds, timber and uranium, the CAR has proved irresistible to warlords such as Joseph Kony, the leader of a cult-like militia who the government claimed this week is finally negotiating surrender.
Many of the rebels refused to disarm and leave the militias as ordered but veered further out of control, killing, looting and burning villages. They also systematically stripped administrative offices down to the light fittings and destroyed public records.
The US estimates that nearly 400,000 people have been displaced â€“ many hiding in the jungle without access to malaria or HIV treatment â€“ and 68,000 have gone to neighbouring countries.
The Seleka are playing judge, jury and executioner without regard even for Djotodia. Last Saturday, when a prominent judge was assassinated by men on motorbikes in the ramshackle capital, Bangui, the Seleka rounded up three suspects and offered his family the chance to kill them; when the family refused, citing the judge’s dedication to due process, the Seleka shot the suspects dead outside their front gate. The family still do not know if they were the real culprits.
Sonia Mackotoua, 37, with a photo of her cousin Modeste Martineau Bria, the judge killed by men on motorbikes in Bangui. Photograph: David Smith for the Guardian
Two days later and 185 miles away in the town of Bossangoa, Jislain Ngangaguende was among five men accused of plotting against the Seleka who were tied up, beaten with guns and thrown off a bridge into a river with perils including crocodiles and hippos.
“I started to drink water so I brought my head up, but a soldier saw me and tried to shoot me,” recalls the 24-year-old, multiple sticking plasters on his head. “I stayed down for minutes and when I came up they were gone. I bit on a branch and moved up the river but my hands were still tied behind my back. I thought I was dead but the power of God made me get out.”
Fear of the Seleka’s brutality can be seen in ghost villages that line a rutted dirt road running north of Bangui through a vast sprawl of lush green African bush. Mudbrick houses with thatched roofs stand empty beneath the trees, raising the question of where the residents have fled. The answer can be found in Bossangoa, where about 34,000 people have sought refuge at the St Antoine de Padoue Cathedral.
Inside, the white-walled church remains immaculately clean. Two delicate chandeliers hang from a wood-beam ceiling and, beyond the rows of empty pews, flowers grace the altar and a fresco depicts the sun, a golden chalice and two angels against a blue sky. But the serenity mocks the monumental human tragedy manifesting itself outside the padlocked gate.
The Catholic mission compound is a melee of men, women and many children, their colourful T-shirts and dresses wearing a layer of grime, some carrying bowls of food or firewood on their heads, some even restarting their lives with barber shops, cooking pots, food stalls, sewing machines and livestock.
Washing lines hang between row after row of blue and white tarpaulin tents marked Unicef. It is a sanctuary of sorts, with a constant hubbub of voices, but the cramped conditions leave women sleeping rough in corridors, children playing in the dirt, waste piling up and worries about an outbreak of cholera.
Everyone here has a sad story to tell. Zita Nganamodei, 26, has a baby girl tied to her back who is not her own. Yesterday, she says, her neighbour, Josephine Kolefei, brought the baby for medical treatment without realising she was crossing an arbitrary boundary that the Seleka had just imposed.
The 35-year-old was beaten with a Kalashnikov and taken to hospital, where she died. “I went to site and found the baby on the ground,” says Nganamodei, who has two children of her own. “I brought her to the hospital to be treated.”
Zita Nganamodei with 18-month-old Arethas Demba, whose mother was bludgeoned to death after unknowingly crossing an arbitrary boundary while taking her daughter for medical treatment. Photograph: David Smith for the Guardian
She says she will now take care of the girl, 18-month-old Arethas Demba, but will one day have to explain how her mother died. “I do not know why they had to kill her. I ask that justice be done for this killing. I don’t know what will happen in the future if these killings continue.”
Meanwhile a 35-year-old first aid worker who wants to be known as Papa Romeo claims that, on 8 November in the village of Bombi Te, the Seleka were outrun by motorcyclists carrying weapons and took revenge on the population. “My wife was in the field with our four-year-old, Richide,” he says. “The Seleka took her money and gold and told her to leave and not come back.
“They started to attack my son. They tried to shoot him but the gun was not working. So they slit his throat instead. What threat does this child pose to the Seleka? He is just a child. My heart is right here: if Michel Djotodia was here, my heart would destroy him.”
Papa Romeo (not his real name), 35, whose four-year-old son was murdered in Bossangoa. Photograph: David Smith for the Guardian
More than 30 people have been killed in the village of around 5,000, situated near a gold mine about 30 miles from Bossangoa, Romeo estimates. “I went to the field where my wife was and found a boa constrictor eating a baby because its mother had been killed. Then I saw a woman shot in the leg with a child whose intestines were falling out.”
An “us and them” mentality of mutual distrust and paranoia is taking root, with some Christians taking up arms in vigilante militias known as “anti-balaka” — meaning anti-sword or anti-machete — and committing atrocities of their own, giving the Seleka a pretext for yet more aggression. The spiral of violence has become a recruiting sergeant for thousands of child soldiers.
Everyone at the Catholic mission in Bossangoa is Christian; internally displaced Muslims are gathered in a part of town including about 450 at a school, where wood desks and benches lie abandoned under trees and the blackboards are frozen at 2 August 2013. It is a stark physical separation. Romeo adds: “We have never seen religions tensions like this in the CAR before.
The CAR is not a Muslim country; it is a Christian country. We have never seen so many Muslims in the country before. They have come from other countries.” Like many in the CAR, he feels it is being ignored and abandoned to its fate. “International leaders should open their eyes to what is going on. Children are sleeping on the floor like goats. Is it because we have black skin?”
The Seleka are also torturing suspected enemies, according to a 47-year-old who gives his name only as Laurent. When they accused him of trying to pass on fake money, he claims, they jailed him and tortured two of his adult sons with a pepper paste rubbed into the armpits and legs to create a burning sensation.
“They put it in the ears and nose of one of my sons and forced him to inhale it, then hit him so he almost asphyxiated. He was bleeding from his ears and mouth. I asked them to kill me and let my children go.”
Eventually they were released. The son, 24, spent two days in hospital and still has breathing difficulties. Laurent, who has 12 children in all, adds: “The Seleka are criminals. In the beginning, the relations between Christians and Muslims were good here but the Muslims followed the Seleka and now things have changed.”
Tonfio is pleading for global intervention before it is too late. “I have only been able to count on my colleagues in the church. The silence of the international community is like they are accomplices allowing this to happen. It’s almost as if the Sekela is stronger than the international community. Everyone knows what is going on here. Every day that we delay, more people die.”
The local Seleka commanders, officially now part of the national army, deny responsibility for what Amnesty International has called human rights violations on an “unprecedented scale” and claim Tonfio is being obstructive. A Chadian colonel named Saleh says: “He says one thing and does something else. We said to everyone at the church they can return to their homes but they refused. Civilians need to return home because we will take care of their security.
“We don’t say this is Christian or this is Muslim. We work for everybody. Even if someone who’s Muslim is wrong, we will put him on the right path.”
The atmosphere remains tense and unpredictable here and in other towns. Bouca, to the east, has been destroyed in heavy fighting in recent days, with around 3,000 people â€“ more than half of them children — again seeking sanctuary at the Catholic mission there.
Lewis Mudge, a Human Rights Watch researcher, says he witnessed a Seleka colonel telling them: “If there are people here tomorrow at eight o’clock in the morning, we will shoot and burn the mission. If you are still here, you will see what we do.”
The arrival of African regional peacekeepers neutralised that threat for the time being, but their 2,500-strong force is still too small and ill-equipped to carry out its mandate of protecting civilians.
French armoured vehicles could also be seen patrolling north of Bangui again this week but their contingent of 400 troops can do little more than protect the airport and other assets. The UN security council meets on Monday to discuss a possible peacekeeping mission.
A Seleka fighter poses with his weapon at the former Bangui firefighters barracks, now a Seleka base. Photograph: Xavier Bourgois/AFP/Getty Images
Headline-grabbing claims of mass rapes or infiltration by Islamist militant groups such as Boko Haram from Nigeria or al-Shabaab from Somalia are currently unfounded, according to Mudge and humanitarian sources working in the area. One said of the Seleka: “These guys are not Islamic fundamentalists. They are Muslim-lite. They are here for prosperity and power; they are not here to change anyone’s confession.”
Nor, says Mudge, should this be called a genocide â€“ yet. It is too chaotic for that, meaning that the international community still has time to prevent another Rwanda. Six thousand peacekeepers would be a start, Mudge says.
“The world needs to find the CAR on the map and start paying attention on humanitarian grounds. It’s still early enough to avert a crisis in this country. It’s not a genocide and it’s not a civil war but it’s certainly trending in that direction.”
The Central African Republic
Population 4.6 million (UN, 2012)
Area 622,984 sq km (240,535 sq miles)
Life expectancy 51 years for women 48 years for men (UN)
Religion Christian 50%, Muslim 15%, indigenous beliefs 35%
1894 Area named Ubangi-Chari and set up as a dependency by the French
1910 Integrated in the Federation of French Equatorial Africa
2007 Three rebel groups â€š the Union of Democratic Forces for Unity (UFDR), the Union of Republican Forces (UFR) and the Convention of Patriots for Justice and Peace (CPJP)â€š form an alliance called Seleka. After an accord with the government, they join the CAR army
2012 Some rebels take up arms once more and gain control of the north and centre of the country
CIA’s Most Senior Officer in Pakistan ‘Unmasked’ by Imran Khan’s Party Jon Boone / The Guardian
ISLAMABAD (November 27, 2013) — The political party led by the former cricket star Imran Khan claims to have blown the cover of the CIA’s most senior officer in Pakistan as part of an increasingly high-stakes campaign against US drone strikes.
The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party named a man it claimed was head of the CIA station in Islamabad in a letter to police demanding he be nominated as one of the people responsible for a drone strike on 21 November, which killed five militants including senior commanders of the Haqqani Network.
John Brennan, the CIA director, was also nominated as an “accused person” for murder and “waging war against Pakistan”.
The US embassy said it could not comment but was looking into the matter. The CIA spokesman Dean Boyd would not confirm the station chief’s name and declined to immediately comment, AP reported.
If his identity is confirmed it will be the second time anti-drone campaigners have unmasked a top US spy in Pakistan.
In 2010 another CIA station chief, Jonathan Banks, was named in criminal proceedings initiated after a drone strike. Banks was forced to leave the country.
As with the Banks case, questions will be raised about how the PTI came to know the identity of the top US intelligence official in the country.
Although nearly all foreign spies in Pakistan use diplomatic cover stories to hide their occupation, many, including station chiefs, are declared to the country’s domestic spy agency.
The letter signed by the PTI spokeswoman Shireen Mazari demanded the named agent be prevented from leaving the country so that he could be arrested. The PTI said it hoped he would reveal “through interrogation” the names of the remote pilots who operated the drone.
“CIA station chief is not a diplomatic post, therefore he does not enjoy any diplomatic immunity and is within the bounds of domestic laws of Pakistan,” the letter said.
The accusation comes at a time when drones have once again become a matter of intense controversy in Pakistan.
The country’s interior minister, Chaudhry Nisar, denounced a drone strike in early November. Although the attack killed the much hated chief of the Pakistani Taliban, Hakimullah Mehsud, Nisar said it had wrecked the government’s efforts to hold peace talks with militant groups.
And it infuriated Khan, who has built much of his political platform around opposition to drones, which he claims are largely responsible for the upsurge of domestic terrorism in Pakistan in recent years â€“ a suggestion disputed by many experts.
The 21 November strike was even more provocative as it was one of the first ever strikes outside the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, where nearly all attacks by the unmanned aircraft have taken place in the past.
The attack on a religious seminary associated with the Haqqani Network was in Hangu, an area in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the province where Khan’s PTI leads a coalition government.
Khan responded with a massive rally in the provincial capital of Peshawar and ordered PTI activists to block vehicles carrying supplies to Nato troops in Afghanistan.
However, party workers have struggled to identify Nato cargo amid all the sealed containers plying the roads to Afghanistan. The exercise has received no support from the national government and the police have tried to stop PTI workers blocking lorries.
ISLAMABAD (November 28, 2013) — The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf on Wednesday moved the police to nominate US CIA Director John O Brennan and his station chief here, Craig Osth, as accused of ‘committing the gross offences of murder and waging a war against Pakistan.’
PTI Central Information Secretary Dr. Shireen Mazari wrote to the station house officer Tal, Hangu for inclusion of the CIA boss and senior official in the FIR, already registered by the party about the recent Hangu drone strike.
She held a media conference here at the party’s central secretariat on the matter along with other senior PTI office-bearers.The PTI information secretary called for initiation of cases under the Pakistan Penal Code and the Anti-Terrorist Act against the US CIA spy Craig, who, she alleged, was running a big spying network from the American Embassy here.
Dr. Mazari continued that the government should include name of the Islamabad-based CIA station chief in the exit control list. On this count, she referred to ex-station chief of CIA Jonathon Banks, who had allegedly fled Pakistan after the drone attacks in 2010.
She added Craig was facilitating the drone strikes through GPS equipment and the recent drone attack on Hangu was one of them. She contended that the CIA station chief was involved in waging a war in Pakistan and creating a law and order situation. It is unusual that a leading political party, which leads a coalition government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, has gone public against CIA and its top operative in Pakistan.
This development takes place a day after Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak wrote a letter to the prime minister calling for suspension of Nato supplies to and from Afghanistan via Pakistan and proposed convening of a meeting by the federal government to thrash out a strategy on how to stop drones inside Pakistan.
In the letter, a copy of which has been sent to inspector general of police Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and DPO Hangu, she says:
“I, the undersigned would like to record my statement on behalf of my party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf as its Central Information Secretary wherein I would like to nominate the accused persons behind the drone strike that occurred on 21-11-2013 in the vicinity of your police station and within the sovereign territory of Pakistan, and against which you have already filed an FIR No 555 dated 21.11.2013 against unknown individuals.
“It is through this statement that I would like to nominate the US clandestine agency CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) Station Chief in Islamabad, namely Craig Osth and CIA Director John O. Brennan for committing the gross offences of murder and waging war against Pakistan as indicated in the FIR lodged in your police station.
“It has further come to my knowledge that Craig Osth is running an illegal clandestine spying operation throughout Pakistan but specifically in KP and annexed Tribal Areas, wherein Craig Osth and his allies (names not known yet) throw a GPS (Global Positioning System) device at a targeted house/car and the drone (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle), which is remotely controlled from undisclosed location, strikes at the target. In the instant case it was Craig Osth and his clandestine network which threw a GPS device on behest of the accused at the Madressah in Tal and further ordered/conspired the missile strike, which killed and injured a large number of those present including children.
“It is pertinent to mention here that the Peshawar High Court has already declared such drone strikes illegal and violation of Pakistani and International laws vide its judgment dated 09-11-13 titled Foundation for Fundamental Rights Vs Federation of Pakistan.
“It is further stated that the names of the remote pilot of said drone and other involved is not known at the moment but can be ascertained through interrogation of Craig Osth, and/or the undersigned tends to inform the police on knowledge of the same.
“Craig Osth is currently residing and operating from the United States Embassy situated in Diplomatic Enclave in Islamabad, which is a clear violation of diplomatic norms and laws as a foreign mission cannot be used for any criminal activity within a sovereign state. CIA Station Chief is not a diplomatic post therefore he does not enjoy any diplomatic immunity and is within the bounds of domestic laws of Pakistan.
It is a fact that the nominated accused Craig Osth is not a Pakistani citizen, but under Pakistan Penal Code he is clearly subject to the jurisdiction of Pakistan. Under Section 3 of Pakistan Penal Code it is clearly stated that:
‘Any person liable, by any Pakistan Law, to be tried for an offence committed beyond Pakistan shall be dealt with according to the provision of this code for any act committed beyond Pakistan in the same manner as if such act had been committed within Pakistan.’
Furthermore, Section 2 of Pakistan Penal Code states: ‘Every person shall be liable to punishment under this code and not otherwise for every act or omission contrary to the provisions thereof, of which he shall be guilty within Pakistan.’
“Every person” has been explained by the superior courts to include all persons without limitation and irrespective of nationality, allegiance, rank, status, caste, colour or creed [PLD 1958 SC (Ind.) 115].
The undersigned believes that Craig Osth is guilty of committing an offence u/s 302, 319, 109, 121 PPC and/or u/s 7 ATA or any other penal clause which might be attracted. The undersigned is further concerned that the accused Craig Osth might try to avoid the course of law and run away from the country, therefore it is requested that Ministry of Interior be contacted to put his name on ECL (exit control list).
It is further stated that the undersigned will name others who were involved in the drone strike that occurred on 21.11.2013 in Tal, on any further information.
The AP adds: CIA spokesman Dean Boyd would not confirm the Islamabad station chiefs name and declined to immediately comment.
http://www.monitor.net/monitor/9905a/copyright/brazilciadea.html Craig Peters Osth Linked to CIA Scandal in Brazil
CIA, DEA, Operated Without Oversight in Brazil Carlos Castiho / InterPress Service & Albion Monitor
RIO DE JANEIRO (May 31, 1999) — The military aide to Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso admitted that the government did not have complete control over US intelligence agents operating in Brazil.
The military aide, General Alberto Cardoso, said the lack of control was only transitory. But he failed to explain just why the CIA and DEA agents enjoyed such freedom of action here. Nor did the general explain how the government planned to resolve the problem.
The actions of US agents in Brazil hit the headlines after a local magazine, Carta Capital, reported early this month that the CIA had bugged President Cardoso’s private telephones two years ago.
According to the weekly, Cardoso’s phones were bugged in search of inside information regarding the negotiations on the installation of a sophisticated air surveillance system aimed at detecting drug trafficking operations in Brazil’s Amazon region.
The project, known by its acronym SIVAM, sparked heated debate due to allegations of corruption among high-level military officers and government officials, denounced by executives of the US company Raytheon, interested in holding onto a deal worth an estimated one billion dollars.
The connections between the CIA, DEA, the military and drug traffickers returned to the Brazilian political agenda after the discovery, in the last week of April, that Brazilian air force officers were involved in shipping cocaine to Europe in military airplanes.
One of the main suspects in that case is Lieutenant-Colonel Paulo Sergio Oliveira, one of the officers in charge of air surveillance over the Amazon basin, where SIVAM operates.
Oliveira and three other officers were identified after a suitcase carrying 33 kilos of Colombian cocaine was found April 19 on a Hercules air force plane, shortly before it was to take off to Las Palmas, on Spain’s Canary islands.
The entire operation, that culminated in the interception of the drugs, was coordinated by US agents — which annoyed Brazil’s military brass and gave rise to friction with the US Embassy, according to the local press.
US adviser Craig Peters Osth was identified by the magazine Carta Capital as the head of the CIA in Brazil.
The Hercules airplane incident remains shrouded in mystery, despite parallel probes launched by the military and parliament.
Although the president’s aide-de-camp denied that the DEA and CIA had listened in on Cardoso’s phone conversations, he acknowledged that US agents enjoyed ”too much freedom” to move about and operate in Brazil.
The general said the Brazilian government had more control over CIA agents than those working for the DEA.
According to Deputy Jose Genoino of the opposition leftist Workers Party, the DEA has at least 12 agents working secretly in Brazil.
Foreign Minister Luis Felipe Lampreia and Justice Minister Renan Calheiros will be summoned before parliament this month to account for the latest episode in the complex saga involving business, narco-trafficking, espionage and corruption.
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Polar Bear Numbers in Hudson Bay of Canada on Verge of Collapse Suzanne Goldenberg / The Guardian
CHURCHILL, Manitoba (November 27, 2013) — Polar bear populations are a sensitive topic for the Canadian government, which has faced international criticism for its policies on climate change and for allowing limited hunting of bears, mainly by indigenous communities.
The Canadian environment minister provoked outrage last October when she discounted abundant scientific studies of polar bear decline across the Arctic, saying her brother, a hunter, was having no trouble finding bears. Leona Aglukkaq, an Inuk, spoke of a “debate” about the existence of climate change.
“Scientists latch on to the wildlife in the north to state their case that climate change is happening and the polar bears will disappear and whatnot,” she said. “But people on the ground will say the polar bear population is quite healthy. You know, in these regions, the population has increased, in fact. Why are you [saying it’s] decreasing?” she told a meeting. “My brother is a full-time hunter who will tell you polar bear populations have increased and scientists are wrong.”
Scientists dispute this. One single polar bear population on the western shore of Hudson Bay, for example, has shrunk by nearly 10% to 850 bears in under a decade, according to the latest Canadian government estimate seen by the Guardian.
The rate of decline — and an even sharper drop in the birth and survival rate of young cubs — puts the entire population of western Hudson Bay polar bears at risk of collapse within a matter of years, scientists have warned.
“All indications are that this population could collapse in the space of a year or two if conditions got bad enough,” said Andrew Derocher, a polar bear scientist at the University of Alberta.
“In 2020, I think it is still an open bet that we are going to have polar bears in western Hudson Bay.”
The latest Canadian government estimates, which have yet to be shared with independent scientists or the public, confirm scientists’ fears that the polar bears of the western Hudson Bay have little chance of long-term survival.
In 1987, when the first reliable estimates of polar bear population were made, using a technique known as mark and recapture, there were about 1,200 bears in the western Hudson Bay area; by 2004, the figure had dropped to 935.
“Now we are somewhere in the ballpark of 850,” said Nick Lunn, an Environment Canada scientist, who is considered to be the leading expert on the polar bear population of western Hudson Bay.
“This gives us a glimpse of what may be coming down the road for other subpopulations.”
The polar bears of western Hudson Bay are at greater risk in a warming Arctic because of their relatively southern exposure. But scientists have projected two-thirds of all polar bears could disappear by 2050 under climate change.
Polar bear experts had been braced for a 10% decline in the western Hudson Bay population, based on observations about the retreat of sea ice and the deteriorating condition of polar bears, especially mothers and cubs.
The ice-free season in Hudson Bay has expanded by about a day every year for the past 30 years, reaching 143 days last year. Scientists have predicted polar bears will be unable to survive once it reaches 160 days.
Earlier break-up is forcing polar bears off the ice at their peak feeding time in the spring, when bears typically pack on two-thirds of the weight they need to survive the year.
With freeze-up occurring later each year, bears are skinnier and less healthy when it comes time to return to the ice.
“You can see their backbones and their hips and shoulder blades when they are moving and they are visibly thin,” said Ian Stirling, a wildlife biologist at the University of Alberta, who has studied the population for more than 35 years.
Scientists are already seeing the effects of that extended starvation on future generations of polar bears.
Female polar bears are now on average 88lbs lighter than they were in the early 1980s. They are having fewer cubs, and those cubs tend to be lighter, which means they have a lower rate of survival.
Stirling, who conducts aerial surveys of polar bears, said he was struck each year by the scarcity of young cubs returning to the ice in the autumn.
“There is no way a population can remain stable, if the young aren’t surviving,” said Stirling. “If the climate continues to warm, slowly and steadily, they are on the way out.”
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Arnon Milchan, Producer Behind ’12 Years a Slave,’ Admits To Double Life as Mossad Agent Ethan Sacks / New York Daily News
NEW YORK (November 24, 2013) — A major Hollywood mogul is breaking his silence on his secret role in a real life espionage thriller.
Israeli born producer Arnon Milchan, who could pick up an Academy Award for “12 Years a Slave,” delivered an acting performance for the ages by secretly acting procuring arms and scientific advisers for the Israeli government and helping promote the country’s fledgling nuclear program in the 1970s .
Milchan, whose film credits include 1990’s “Pretty Woman,” 1997’s “L.A. Confidential,” 1999’s “Fight Club” and the upcoming biblical drama “Noah,” even recruited other Israel-supporting Hollywood A-listers, like the late director Sydney Pollack, to help the acquire arms, Israel’s Haaretz reported.
“Pollack knew, but I didn’t want to scare him because he’s American,” Milchan told Israeli investigative journalist Ilana Dayan’s television show, “Uvda” (“Fact”), that airs Monday.
He could have said ‘no.’ He said ‘no’ many times, but he also said ‘yes’ many times.”
Reports of Milchan’s involvement as an Israeli intelligence agent have circulated for several years — a book, Confidential: The Life of Secret Agent Turned Hollywood Tycoon Arnon Milchan was published in 2011 — but the now 68-year-old Hollywood heavyweight never confirmed his covert moonlighting gig.
The head of New Regency Productions is set to spill his secrets on Dayan’s show, which has lined up a heck of a supporting cast that includes Robert De Niro, Russell Crowe and Ben Affleck.
Photo:Milchan (c.) is flanked by Israeli Vice Prime Minister Shimon Peres (L) and Finance Minister Benjamin Netanyahu at a 2005 press conference as he announces his donation of $100 million to establish a new university in Northern Israel.
In a clip made available ahead of the broadcast, De Niro admits that he know his friend was involved with a cloak and dagger double life.
“I did ask him once, we spoke about something, he told me that he was an Israeli and that he of course would do these things for his country,” De Niro says on the show, sitting next to Milchan, his producer on 1982’s “The King of Comedy,” 1985’s “Brazil” and 1995’s “Heat.”
‘I did it for my country and I’m proud of it,’ he says on the show.
“I remember at some point, I had asked Arnon about that, being friends I was curious, but not in an accusatory way, I just wanted to know.
“He gave me that answer and I accepted it,” De Niro added.
Milchan came in from the cold in the ’80s to concentrate on making movies full time.
“If people knew how many times I risked my life, back and forth, again and again, for my country. And suddenly, [I have to] defend myself — ‘I’m not an arms dealer, I don’t sell guns, I don’t sell rockets,’ he tells “Uvda,” according to Haaretz.
“I should have been aware of that, of what I’ll go through, and said, ‘F— you.’ You know what, I did it for my country and I’m proud of it.”
Did Hollywood Bigwigs Help Israel Buy Arms in the 1970s and ’80s? Longtime Hollywood film producer Arnon Milchan says they did, in an interview set to air Monday on the Israeli investigative journalism program ‘Uvda.’ Haaretz
TEL AVIV (November 24, 2013) — Hollywood is always on the lookout for blockbuster stories, and this coming Monday it will get the juicy details about how a producer working in Tinseltown since the late 1970s led a double life as an arms dealer and Israeli intelligence operative.
Arnon Milchan, the Israeli producer of such smash hits as “Fight Club,” “Pretty Woman,” and hundreds of other films, is opening up for the first time ever about his involvement in clandestine deals to acquire arms for Israel and his work to promote the country’s alleged nuclear program.
The film tycoon sat down with Israeli investigative journalist Ilana Dayan for the season premiere of her current affairs show “Uvda” (“Fact”), in which he discusses his efforts to engage Hollywood colleagues in his work for Israel’s Defense Ministry. Keshet’s show is scheduled to air Monday, November 25, on Israel’s Channel 2.
This isn’t the first time Milchan’s role in Israeli arms dealings and intelligence has surfaced: Just two years ago authors Meir Doron and Joseph Gelman published a book titled â€œConfidential: The Life of Secret Agent Turned Hollywood Tycoon Arnon Milchan” — which alleged that Milchan was an operative for Israel’s Bureau of Scientific Relations.
The bureau, headed by spy-masters Benjamin Blumberg and Rafi Eitan, gathered information for secret defense-related programs, including Israel’s alleged nuclear program. The bureau was closed after Jonathan Pollard was arrested for spying on behalf of Israel in 1986.
The “Uvda” report does, however, contain some shocking new details about Milchan’s work, including claims that other Hollywood bigwigs like the legendary, late director Sydney Pollack and at least one other Academy Award-winning actor, both figured into his work for Israel.
The report reveals that Pollack, who died in 2008, acquired arms and other military equipment for Israel in the 1970s. When asked if Pollack knew about the details of the deals, Milchan tells Dayan, “Pollack knew, but I didn’t want to scare him because he’s American… He could have said ‘no.’ He said ‘no’ many times, but he also said ‘yes’ many times.”
Milchan also tells Dayan that he used at least one big-name actor’s star quality to lure U.S. scientist Arthur Biehl — an expert on nuclear weapons and a co-developer of the hydrogen bomb — to a meeting. According to the report, Milchan invited Biehl to the actor’s home under the pretense that the actor was seeking scientific advice for a project he was working on.
Milchan said he thought Biehl would cooperate because, “Anyone who lives in California is a ‘star-fucker….’ They hear ‘star’â€¦they come running.”
The producer also confides in Dayan that his double-life wasn’t always easy to lead, particularly when what he really wanted was to dedicate himself to filmmaking. “In Hollywood they don’t like working with an arms dealer, ideologically,” he said. “[They don’t like working] with someone who lives off selling machine guns and killing. Instead of someone talking to me about a script, I had to spend half an hour explaining that I’m not an arms dealer…”
Milchan continued, “If people knew how many times I risked my life, back and forth, again and again, for my country. And suddenly, [I have to] defend myself — ‘I’m not an arms dealer, I don’t sell guns, I don’t sell rockets ‘ I should have been aware of that, of what I’ll go through, and said, ‘Fuck you.’ You know what, I did it for my country and I’m proud of it.”
The show also features interviews with Robert De Niro, Russell Crowe, Ben Affleck and other major Hollywood players.
Meanwhile, New Regency films, Milchan’s company, is working on four films slated for release in 2013-14, including “Noah,” a Darren Aronofsky-directed take on the Biblical flood story starring Crowe, Emma Watson and Anthony Hopkins.
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