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Researchers Develop Cheaper, Safer Way of Making Solar Cells

June 30th, 2014 - by admin

Pallab Ghosh / BBC News – 2014-06-30 00:56:35

http://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-27987827


LONDON (25 June 2014) — Researchers have developed a new manufacturing method, which could bring down the cost of making a type of solar cell. A team at Liverpool University has found a way of replacing the toxic element in the process with a material found in bath salts. The scientists say that this could have a “massive, unexpected cost benefit.”

The research has been published in the Journal Nature and unveiled at the ESOF conference in Copenhagen. Dr. Jon Major, who led the research said that his team’s work might be the development that brings the cost down to the level of fossil fuel,” he told BBC News.

More than 90% of the solar cells are made from silicon. Around 7% are made from a material called cadmium telluride. The cadmium telluride cells are thinner than silicon and these are popular because they are also lighter and cheaper.

They have the drawback that a toxic chemical, cadmium chloride, is needed to manufacture them. Cadmium chloride is also expensive. A significant proportion of the manufacturing cost of cadmium telluride cells is to protect the workforce from toxins and to dispose of contaminated waste products safely, according to the research team.

Dr. Major discovered that a cheaper, non-toxic alternative, magnesium chloride, could be used instead of the toxic compound and work just as well.

Magnesium chloride is completely safe — no need for a protective mask. It is used to make tofu and is found in bath salts. It also extracted from seawater and so is a small fraction of the price of cadmium chloride.

Dr. Major’s boss, Prof Ken Durose, who is the director of the Stephenson Institute for Renewable Energy at Liverpool University, believes that his colleague’s discovery has the potential to transform the economics of solar energy.

“One of the big challenges with solar energy is to make it cheap enough to compete with conventional power generation,” he told BBC News. “Solar will progressively get cheaper until it will become more and more feasible for solar power to be produced from solar electricity farms.”

The cost of materials and dealing with toxins is a very small fraction of production costs. Comparing the relative costs of different energy technologies is extremely difficult because they are so different and the results are contentious. But when pressed, Prof. Durose made his best guess to assess the potential impact of the new technique, stressing that his figures were rough and ready and contained assumptions that could and probably would be challenged.

That said, he estimated that the cost of electricity produced from current cadmium telluride technology is very approximately 10 pence per unit, significantly higher than the 8.25 pence per unit for electricity produced from gas. But he thought that the benefits of cheaper materials and the cost saving from not having to deal with toxic materials could bring the cost of cadmium telluride cells to 8.2 pence per unit — lower than gas.

However, Dr. Nigel Mason of PV Consulting believes that the researchers are being very optimistic in their assessment of the impact their development will have on the price of solar energy. “The development is great for the environmental management and safety of the production process but the cost of cadmium chloride material and dealing with its safe disposal is a relatively small fraction of production cost,” he told BBC News.

A key factor is that tellurium is one of the rarest elements on Earth so there would not be enough of the chemical to make enough solar cells if the technology took off, according to Dr. Mason. But Dr. Major believes that solar energy could eventually meet the world’s energy needs.

“There is enough sunlight that falls on the Earth every hour to generate enough electricity for the planet for a year,” he said. “The way solar is progressing it will just be a matter of time before it becomes competitive with fossil fuels and eventually replace them.”

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

US Fears Israel Will Be Drawn into Iraq-Syria War

June 30th, 2014 - by admin

Roi Kais / Ynet News & Yifa Yaakov / The Times of Israel – 2014-06-30 00:52:58

http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4535424,00.html

Report: US Fears Israel Would Be
Dragged into War with ISIS

Roi Kais / Ynet News

TEL AVIV (June 28, 2014) — The Obama administration has voiced concern that Israel and the United States may be dragged into a war against the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIS), the extremist Sunni organization that is threatening to transform Iraq and other countries into Islamist territories, the Daily Beast reported.

According to the website, senior Obama administration officials told senators in a briefing last week that while ISIS has already seized control of parts of Iraq and Syria, the jihadist group is now eying westward territories — including Jordan.

ISIS’s attack on Jordan can only further complicate the already complex conflict, the officials said in the briefing, according to the Daily Beast. They believe that if the Jordanians feel threatened by ISIS, they will attempt to recruit Israel and the United States for an all-inclusive war that is coming into being in the Middle East.

“The concern was that Jordan could not repel a full assault from ISIS on its own at this point,” said one senator, the report quoted one senator as saying.

According to another source that was present at the briefing, the American officials responded to the question of how Jordan’s leaders would act in the case of an attack by ISIS by saying: “They will ask Israel and the United States for as much help as they can get.”

The United States has already begun to intervene in the crisis in Iraq, and on Friday confirmed that it has started flying armed drones over Baghdad to protect US interests in the Iraqi capital.

In this way, the US is essentially cooperating with Iran, which is also trying to help the central authorities in Iraq in their battle against the Sunni jihadists. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu advised US President Barack Obama not to make any promises to Iran in the nuclear talks, as part of the same cooperation in Iraq.

However, the Daily Beast article states that Israeli diplomats told their American counterparts that Israel would be willing to take military action to save the Hashemite Kingdom.

Earlier this week, a Jordanian official told Ynet that in the backdrop of ISIS’s success in Iraq and its actions on the border with Jordan, “There is a very good cooperation between us regarding ISIS’s growing presence in Iraq and Syria, but also on issues relating to other radical forces in the Middle East which have their sights set on Israel and Jordan.”

Daoud further added that “we have taken all the precautionary measures. So far, we have not detected any abnormal movement. However, if anything threatens our security or gets near our borders it will face the full strength of our Jordanian Armed Forces.” Earlier this week, as part of the same precautionary approach, Jordan closed a central border crossing with Iraq.

Jordanian Protestors Raise al-Qaeda flags
Meanwhile, pressure is mounting in Jordan. ISIS supporters raised black flags and rallied in the southern city of Ma’an in two different demonstrations last week. During the protests, which saw support for the Jihadist organization for the first time in Jordan, demonstrators shouted slogans against King Abdullah.

“We don’t believe in the government anymore, and are seeking for an alternative that will grant us our basic rights,” said one of the protestors at the rally, adding that “we found that alternative in an Islamic State.”

Muhammad Abu Salah, a local political leader in Ma’an that helped organizing protests against the government, explained the background to the protests. “The city was neglected. The only service we receive is the police. No jobs, no development, no respect.”

Countries east of Israel are not the only ones threatened by ISIS. The Al-Masry Al-Youm Egyptian newspaper cited on Friday night a security official in northern Sinai who said that Egyptian security forces arrested 15 suspects affiliated with ISIS when they attempted to infiltrate Sinai from the Gaza Strip through tunnels in Rafah.

According to the security official, terrorists organizations based in Gaza paved the militants’ way to Gaza through one of the tunnels.

He claimed the terrorists were arrested by special forces and commando forces immediately upon their entry to Sinai. The detainees told interrogators that they had attempted to deliver a message to terrorist organizations in Egypt in order to establish a branch of ISIS in the country.

The suspects further stated that they were supposed to oversee the groups that were to be founded. So far, an official confirmation on the report from Egypt’s army has yet to be received.

Since ISIS began their conquest of Iraq two weeks ago, the Sunni jihadists carried out hundreds of executions of Iraqi soldiers Shi’ite soldiers in Iraq’s army. The Jihadists consider the Shiites heretics.

The US-based rights group said militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and al Shams killed between 160 and 190 men in two locations in Tikrit between June 11 and June 14.

“The number of victims may well be much higher, but the difficulty of locating bodies and accessing the area has prevented a full investigation,” it said.

Associated Press contributed to this report.


US: Jordan May Ask Israel
To Go to War against ISIL

Yifa Yaakov / The Times of Israel

(June 28, 2014) — Jordan may ask Israel and the United States to help it fight the al-Qaeda-linked jihadi group that threatens Syria and Iraq if it threatens Amman as well, senior Obama administration officials said.

According to a Friday report by The Daily Beast, the officials told senators in a classified briefing earlier this week that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) is eyeing Jordan as well as its war-torn neighbors, and that some of its jihadists have already tweeted out photos and messages saying they have seized a key Jordanian town.

The Daily Beast quoted one of the Senate staff members who attended the briefing as saying that, according to the administration officials, if Jordan were to face a military onslaught from ISIL, it would “ask Israel and the United States for as much help as they can get.”

Israel and Jordan signed a peace treaty in 1994.

Another senator said the main “concern” voiced during the briefing was that “Jordan could not repel a full assault from ISIL on its own at this point.”

On Thursday, the US met with its top Sunni state allies in the Mideast to consider how to confront the region’s growing turmoil that has been spawned by a Sunni Muslim insurgency group.

US Secretary of State John Kerry said the threat posed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant reaches beyond the two countries — Iraq and Syria — where it is currently based.

“The move of ISIL concerns every single country here,” Kerry said at the start of the meeting held at the US ambassador’s residence in Paris.

If Israel were to join regional efforts to fight ISIL, it would effectively be joining forces with the likes of Iran and Syrian President Bashar Assad, whose forces have been fighting together in Syria and Iraq to overpower the jihadi group.

However, according to The Daily Beast, Israel has indicated behind the scenes that it would be willing to give military assistance to its ally Jordan, with which it signed a peace treaty in 1994.

“I think Israel and the United States would identify a substantial threat to Jordan as a threat to themselves and would offer all appropriate assets to the Jordanians,” the media outlet quoted Thomas Sanderson, the co-director for transnational threats at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, as saying.

In Washington, Jordanian embassy spokeswoman Dana Daoud sounded more optimistic regarding her country’s ability to face the jihadi threat.

“We are in full control of our borders and our Jordanian Armed Forces are being very vigilant. We have taken all the precautionary measures. So far, we have not detected any abnormal movement. however, if anything threatens our security or gets near our borders it will face the full strength of our Jordanian Armed Forces,” Daoud reportedly said.

Meanwhile, Rep. Adam Schiff, a Democrat who serves on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and is a co-chair of the Congressional Friends of Jordan Caucus, told The Daily Beast that the Jordanian army was “more than a match” for ISIL.

“I don’t think there is any sense that the rank and file Jordanian forces will melt away the way the Iraqis did,” he said.

Since its formation in April 2013 out of al-Qaeda in Iraq, ISIL has become one of the main forces fighting against Assad in Syria and gaining military control of parts of Iraq. Emboldened by these victories, the burgeoning jihadi group may set its sights on Jordan next.

Mainstream Syrian rebels and the Al-Qaeda-linked Al-Nusra Front accuse the jihadists of ISIL of responsibility for a string of atrocities.

On Friday, a watchdog and jihadist sites said it had executed and crucified one of its own men for corruption in Syria.

Photographs posted on websites showed the body and bloodied head of a bearded man with a placard reading: “Guilty: Abu Adnan al-Anadali. Sentence: execution and three days of crucifixion. Motive: extorting money at checkpoints by accusing drivers of apostasy.”

For Israel, an ISIL assault on Jordan would mean it faces a jihadi threat on two fronts. On Friday, a senior Israeli military commander announced that almost the entire Syrian side of the Golan Heights is now under the control of rebel forces, including radical Islamist groups.

The Israeli officer said that the dramatic gains made by the rebel forces in the area appeared to explain why Syrian troops fired a missile on Sunday that killed a 15-year-old boy on the Israeli side of the border, mistaking an Israeli civilian vehicle for a rebel truck.

The Golan Heights is a strategic plateau on the Israeli-Syrian border. Israel captured the territory in the 1967 war, having been attacked from the Golan over the previous 20 years, and extended Israeli law to the area in 1981.

Unsuccessful peace efforts over the years have seen Israel ready to trade most of the Golan for a permanent accord with Damascus, but the notion of Israeli-Syrian peace has all but disappeared as Syria collapsed into anarchy over the past three years of civil war.

Times of Israel staff, AP and AFP contributed to this report.


Syria: 4 Killed, 9 Wounded in Israeli Airstrikes
Fox News

JERUSALEM (June 23, 2014) — The Syrian government said Monday a series of Israeli airstrikes targeting its troops in retaliation for a deadly cross-border attack killed four people and wounded nine others, in its first comment on the overnight incident.

It said the attack was a “flagrant violation” of Syrian sovereignty, but in a departure from previous incidents when Israeli warplanes struck targets in Syria, the government did not vow retaliation.

Israel’s prime minister on Monday warned the warring parties in Syria against any attempt to heat up tensions along the disputed frontier, hours after the Israeli air force carried out a string of airstrikes in Syria in response to the attack, which killed an Israeli teenager riding in a civilian vehicle.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Israel would respond with even tougher force if there are any further attacks. “Last night we operated with great force against Syrian targets that acted against us, and if needed we will use additional force,” he told members of his Likud Party. “We will continue to forcefully hurt anyone who attacks us or tries to attack us.” The Israeli military said the air raids struck nine targets in neighboring Syria.

A statement issued by Syria’s Foreign Ministry said five Israeli warplanes carried out the raids, which were accompanied by mortar rounds and tank shells. It said four people were killed and nine others wounded, adding that the attacks caused extensive damage to Syrian army positions and equipment. It did not provide further details.

The director of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, Rami Abdurrahman, said the Israeli strikes destroyed two tanks, two artillery batteries and the headquarters of Syria’s 90th brigade. The Observatory collects its information through a network of activists inside Syria.

The Israeli military said “direct hits were confirmed” on the targets, which were located near the site of Sunday’s violence in the Golan Heights and included a regional military command center and unspecified “launching positions.”

Israel has kept a close eye on the Syrian uprising since it began in March 2011, although it has avoided backing either side. On several occasions, artillery rounds have landed on the Israeli side of the de facto border, drawing limited Israeli reprisals.

Israel also has carried out several airstrikes in Syria over the past three years, primarily targeting suspected weapons shipments allegedly destined for Hezbollah militants in neighboring Lebanon. In each of the cases, the Syrian government vowed retaliation, but refrained from taking any action.

The latest air raids, however, came after an Israeli civilian vehicle was struck by what the Israeli military said was a Kornet anti-tank missile fired from the Syrian side of the border as it drove in the Israeli-controlled Golan Heights.

A teenage Israeli boy was killed and two other people were wounded in what was the first deadly incident along the volatile Israeli-Syrian frontier since the start of the Syrian civil war. It was not clear whether the attack was by government troops or rebels. But Israeli officials said suspicion was focused on Syria or its Hezbollah allies, since both are known to possess Kornet missiles.

Israel captured the Golan Heights, a strategic plateau overlooking northern Israel, from Syria in the 1967 Mideast war. Its subsequent annexation of the area has never been recognized internationally. Israel has repeatedly said it holds the Syrian government responsible for any attacks emanating from its territory, regardless of who actually carries them out.

Israeli security officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to talk to the media, said they did not expect the situation to escalate immediately but that it remains tense. Much would depend on Syria’s response to the Israeli airstrikes, they said.

Defense officials have feared that Hezbollah or some other militant group might try to open a new front with Israel at a time when the army is carrying out a broad operation in the West Bank. Thousands of troops have been searching for three teenagers who disappeared on June 12 and are believed to have been kidnapped by Palestinian militants.

Sunday’s incident occurred in the area of Tel Hazeka, near the Quneitra crossing. The Observatory said Syrian troops had shelled nearby targets on the Syrian border earlier in the day. Israeli police identified the boy as Mohammed Krakra, 14, of the Arab village of Arabeh in northern Israel. Local media said he had accompanied his father, the truck driver, to work.



Israel Strikes Syria, Says Targeting Hezbollah Arms
Dominic Evans and Oliver Holmes / Reuters

BEIRUT (May 5, 2013) — Israeli jets devastated Syrian targets near Damascus on Sunday in a heavy overnight air raid that Western and Israeli officials called a new strike on Iranian missiles bound for Lebanon’s Hezbollah.

As Syria’s two-year-old civil war veered into the potentially atomic arena of Iran’s confrontation with Israel and the West over its nuclear program, people were woken in the Syrian capital by explosions that shook the ground like an earthquake and sent pillars of flame high into the night sky.

“Night turned into day,” one man told Reuters from his home at Hameh, near one of the targets, the Jamraya military base.

But for all the angry rhetoric in response from Tehran and from the government of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, it was unclear whether the second such raid in 48 hours would elicit any greater reaction than an Israeli attack in the same area in January, which was followed by little evident change.

The Syrian government accused Israel of effectively helping al Qaeda Islamist “terrorists” and said the strikes “open the door to all possibilities”; but Israeli officials said that, as in January, they were calculating Assad would not pick a fight with a well-armed neighbor while facing defeat at home.

Denying it was weighing in on the rebel side on behalf of Washington – which opposes Assad but is hesitating to intervene – officials said Israel was pursuing its own conflict, not with Syria but with Iran, and was acting to prevent Iran’s Hezbollah allies receiving missiles that might strike Tel Aviv if Israel made good on threats to attack Tehran’s nuclear program.

What Israel was not doing, they stressed, was getting drawn into a debate that has raged in the United States lately of whether the alleged use of poison gas by Assad’s forces should prompt the West finally to give military backing to oust him.

Israel was not taking sides in a civil war that has pitted Assad’s government, a dour but mostly toothless adversary for nearly 40 years, against Sunni rebels, some of them Islamist radicals, who might one day turn Syria’s armory against the Jewish state.

It is a mark of how two years of killing in which at least 70,000 Syrians have died has not only inflamed a wider, regional confrontation between Shi’ite Muslim Iran and Sunni Arabs, some of them close Western allies, but have also left Israel and Western powers scrambling to reassess where their interests lie.

Egypt, the most populous Arab state and flagship of the 2011 Arab Spring revolts where elected Islamists have replaced a Western-backed autocrat, has no love for Assad. But on Sunday it condemned Israel’s air strikes as a breach of international law that “made the situation more complicated”.

ROCKETS TARGETED
Israel does not confirm such missions explicitly – a policy it says is intended to avoid provoking reprisals. But an Israeli official told Reuters on condition of anonymity that the strikes were carried out by its forces, as was a raid early on Friday that U.S. President Barack Obama said had been justified.

A Western intelligence source told Reuters: “In last night’s attack, as in the previous one, what was attacked were stores of Fateh-110 missiles that were in transit from Iran to Hezbollah.”

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his aim for Israel was to “guarantee its future” – language he has used to warn of a willingness to attack Iran’s nuclear sites, even in defiance of U.S. advice, as well as to deny Hezbollah heavier weapons.

He later flew to China on a scheduled trip, projecting confidence there would be no major escalation – though Israel has reinforced its anti-missile batteries in the north.

Syrian state television said bombing at a military research facility at Jamraya and two other sites caused “many civilian casualties and widespread damage”, but it gave no details. The Jamraya compound was also a target for Israel on January 30.

Hezbollah’s Al-Manar television showed a flattened building spread over the size of a football pitch, with smoke rising from rubble containing shell fragments. It did not identify it.

Syrian state television quoted a letter from the foreign minister to the United Nations saying: “The blatant Israeli aggression has the aim to provide direct military support to the terrorist groups after they failed to control territory.”

Obama defended Israel’s right to block “terrorist organizations like Hezbollah” from acquiring weapons after Friday’s raid, and a White House spokesman said on Sunday: “The president many times has talked about his view that Israel, as a sovereign government, has the right to take the actions they feel are necessary to protect their people.”

It was unclear that Israel had sought U.S. approval for the strikes, although the White House spokesman said: “The close coordination between the Obama administration, the United States of America, is ongoing with the Israeli government.”

Obama has in recent years worked to hold back Netanyahu from making good on threats to hit facilities where he says Iran, despite its denials, is working to develop a nuclear weapon.

On Sunday, some Israeli officials highlighted Obama’s reluctance to be drawn into new conflict in the Middle East to explain Israel’s need for independent action.

Syria restricts access to independent journalists. Its state media said Israeli aircraft struck three places between Damascus and the nearby Lebanese border. The city also lies barely 50 km (30 miles) from Israeli positions on the occupied Golan Heights.

Tehran, which has long backed Assad, whose Alawite minority has religious ties to Shi’ite Islam, denied the attack was on armaments for Lebanon and called for nations to stand firm against Israel. A senior Iranian commander was quoted, however, as saying Syria’s armed forces were able to defend themselves without their allies, though Iran could help them with training.

Hezbollah, a Shi’ite movement that says it is defending Lebanon from Israeli aggression, declined immediate comment.

ISRAELI CONCERNS
Analysts say the Fateh-110 could put the Tel Aviv metropolis in range of Hezbollah gunners, 100 km (60 miles) to the north, bolstering the arsenal of a group that fired some 4,000 shorter-range rockets into Israel during a month-long war in 2006.

“What we want is to ensure that inside the Syrian chaos we will not see Hezbollah growing stronger,” Israeli lawmaker Tzachi Hanegbi, a confidant of Netanyahu, told Army Radio.

“The world is helplessly looking on at events in Syria, the Americans in particular, and this president in particular,” he added of Obama. “He has left Iraq, Afghanistan and has no interest in sending ground troops to Syria … That is why, as in the past, we are left with our own interests, protecting them with determination and without getting too involved.”

Video footage uploaded onto the Internet by Syrian activists showed a series of blasts. One lit up the skyline of Damascus, while another sent up a tower of flames and secondary blasts.

Syrian state news agency SANA said Israeli aircraft struck in three places: northeast of Jamraya; the town of Maysaloun on the Lebanese border; and the nearby Dimas air base.

“The sky was red all night,” one man said from Hameh, near Jamraya. “We didn’t sleep a single second. The explosions started after midnight and continued through the night.”

Central Damascus was quiet on the first day of the working week, and government checkpoints seemed reinforced. Some opposition activists said they were glad strikes might weaken Assad, even if few Syrians have any liking for Israel: “We don’t care who did it,” Rania al-Midania said in the capital. “We care that those weapons are no longer there to kill us.”

(Additional reporting by Mariam Karouny in Beirut, Marwan Makdesi in Damascus, Maayan Lubell, Dan Williams, Jeffrey Heller and Crispian Balmer in Jerusalem, Khaled Yacoub Oweis in Amman, Roberta Rampton Aboard Air Force One and Arshad Mohammed and Phil Stewart in Washington; Writing by Alastair Macdonald.)

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

US Begins World’s Largest Naval Exercise: China Joins In

June 30th, 2014 - by admin

Audrey McAvoy / Associated Press & David Brunnstrom and David Alexander / Sydney Morning-Herald – 2014-06-30 00:31:47

http://news.yahoo.com/worlds-largest-maritime-exercises-begin-hawaii-000633060.html

World’s Largest Maritime Exercises begin in Hawaii
Audrey McAvoy / Associated Press

HONOLULU (June 26, 2014) — Weeks of naval maneuvers involving the militaries of nearly two dozen nations are beginning in Hawaii. For the first time, Chinese vessels are participating in the drills that the U.S. Pacific Fleet hosts every two years.

The Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercises are the world’s largest maritime drills. They begin Thursday and are scheduled to last through Aug. 1.

Some ships started their training en route. Nine ships from Brunei, China, Singapore and the U.S. sailed together from Guam to Pearl Harbor.

USS Chosin commander Capt. Patrick Kelly says the ships practiced communications, maneuvering and weapons-firing drills. They also held personnel exchanges.

China sent military observers to watch RIMPAC drills in 1998, but it has never sent ships before.


China’s Naval Power on Display in Hawaii, Amid Tensions in Asia
David Brunnstrom and David Alexander / Sydney Morning-Herald

WASHINGTON 
(June 27, 2014) — A giant US-led naval exercise began off Hawaii on Thursday with China joining its Asia-Pacific rivals for the first time, but analysts doubted the drills will ease tensions over Chinese maritime claims and some said Beijing could use them to strengthen its navy.

Washington and its allies hope China’s participation in the five-week Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercises, involving 55 vessels, more than 200 aircraft and some 25,000 personnel from 22 countries, will build trust and help avert misunderstandings on the high seas that could escalate into crisis.

But analysts say the maneuvers may only help Beijing strengthen its growing naval capability by observing the forces of the United States and its allies.

Twenty-three nations had been expected to participate in RIMPAC this year. But Thailand will not take part, the Pentagon said on Thursday. Thailand is a long-time US treaty ally, but Washington has suspended some cooperation projects with the country since its May 22 military coup.

China has sent four ships for its debut at RIMPAC, which runs until August 1.

The Chinese ships are the missile destroyer Haikou, the missile frigate Yueyang, the supply ship Qiandaohu and the hospital ship Peace Ark. Chinese forces include two helicopters, a commando unit and a diving unit, a total 1100 personnel.

The Haikou has a sophisticated battle-management system similar to the Aegis system used on many US warships, which uses integrated radar and computer systems to track and destroy targets.

The Chinese ships rendezvoused off the US Pacific island of Guam with warships from the United States, Singapore and Brunei before sailing to Hawaii. Nine ships from the four countries conducted drills involving maneuvering, communications and live weapons fire while en route to Pearl Harbor, where they arrived on Tuesday.

US Navy chief Admiral Jonathan Greenert said last year RIMPAC allowed participating forces to practice high-end ballistic missile defense, surface and anti-submarine warfare in simulations and live-fire missile and torpedo exercises.

This year’s exercises will include “cross-decking,” where liaison officers from one country will be aboard the ship of another during the maneuvers, a US defense official said. “It benefits both countries and helps communications. It’s a win-win situation,” the official said.

US officials say exercises like RIMPAC help navies involved learn how to work together in a wide range of operations, including disaster relief and countering pirates.

China Gains Most
They say deeper US-China military ties help encourage transparency and clear lines of communication. But critics question whether including China in events like RIMPAC benefit China far more than they do the United States and its allies.

The exercises come at a time when tensions are high between Beijing and US allies such as Japan and the Philippines over China’s pressing of territorial claims in the South and East China Seas and Vietnamese vessels have clashed with China over waters claimed by both nations.

Austin Strange, a researcher at the US Naval War College’s China Maritime Studies Institute, said participation in the exercises was an opportunity for China’s navy to demonstrate its increased capabilities and to get a closer look at other navies.

“RIMPAC and China’s participation … is unlikely to directly impact peace in the Asia-Pacific region,” he said. Asia-Pacific stability rests more on the ways in which states communicate and pursue their national interests vis-à-vis other states in the region.”

The Pentagon’s emphasis on trust building and trying to promote common views on regional security were “misplaced,” said Oriana Mastro, an assistant professor of security studies at Washington’s Georgetown University.

“We are not forging personal relationships of the duration and degree necessary to keep two countries from going to war,” she said. “And in my opinion, dialogue will not successfully convince the Chinese to rethink what they consider to be national interests.”

However she said inviting China did help to counter Beijing’s line that the United States is trying to “contain” China and fitted with Washington’s assertion that it welcomes a greater Chinese global role, as long as it is constructive.

Roger Cliff, an analyst at Washington’s Atlantic Council think tank, said Washington may also hope China will reciprocate by inviting the US Navy to participate in a PLA Navy exercise.

But he said China was likely to gain more from RIMPAC than it gave away.

“They will … learn from observing us and the other participants, and they will not only learn about our capabilities, they will also learn how to perform things more efficiently or effectively, whereas they probably don’t have much to teach us in that regard,” he said. “So they probably will learn more than we do.”


Navy: RIMPAC Exercises Could Affect Garage Door Openers
Honolulu Star-Advertiser

HAWAII (June 24, 2014) — Pearl Harbor officials are warning residents in the area that their remotely operated garage door openers may be temporarily affected by increased radar activity from warships participating in the Rim of the Pacific exercise that begins on Thursday.

The Rim of the Pacific Exercise involves 25,000 participants from several Pacific nations and runs through the end of July. The Navy, in a written statement, said it is required to test surface search radars in port prior to getting underway.

Remotely controlled garage door openers operate at a low power and can be affected by electromagnetic activity generated by Navy ships and other sources, the Navy said. To ensure garage door openers function properly, the Navy advised owners to check with their door company.

The state estimates that the international naval war games will generate $52.5 million through purchases of supplies, fuel and food, and spending by family and friends of participating personnel.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Japan’s Plans to Abandon Peace Constitution and Rearm Brings Fiery Protest in Tokyo

June 30th, 2014 - by admin

Al Jazeera America – 2014-06-30 00:22:44

http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2014/6/29/japan-defense-fire.html

Man Self-immolates in Tokyo to
Protest Expansion of Japan Military Options

(June 29, 2014) — A man in Japan set himself on fire at a busy intersection in Tokyo on Sunday in an apparent protest against Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s plans to broaden Japan’s military capabilities, police and witnesses said.

Authorities hosed down the unidentified man and carried him away, according to witness accounts and pictures posted to social media. It was not immediately clear whether he survived.

Japan is poised for a historic shift in its defense policy by ending a ban that has kept the military from fighting abroad since World War II. Abe’s cabinet could adopt a resolution as early as Tuesday revising a long-standing interpretation of the constitution in order to lift the ban.

According to witnesses and social media posts, the man appeared to be wearing a suit, glasses and a tie. He sat atop a pedestrian bridge and spoke through a megaphone to protest plans to end a ban on exercising “collective self-defense,” or aiding a friendly country under attack.

A police spokeswoman confirmed the incident, which took place near bustling Shinjuku station, but would not provide further details.

Ryuichiro Nakatsu, an 18-year-old student, said, “he was sitting cross legged and was just talking, so I thought it would end without incident. But when I came back to the same place 30 minutes later, he was still there. Then all of a sudden his body was enveloped in fire.”

“He was yelling against the government, about collective self-defense,” he said.

After World War II and during its occupation of Japan, the US government drafted a constitution aimed at declawing a power that had just several years before swept across swaths of East Asia and Polynesia.

The planned change in defense strategy marks a major step away from US-imposed post-War War II pacifism and widens Japan’s military options. Under its constitution the country has had a limited, non-combatant role as part of the US-led occupation of Iraq, and in peacekeeping operations.

Although Japan still boasts modern military equipment today, it can’t use it under the agreement.

Japanese conservatives say the constitution war-renouncing Article 9 has excessively restricted Japan’s ability to defend itself. They also argue that a changing regional power balance — including a rising China — means Japan’s security policies must be more flexible.

The move will likely rile an increasingly assertive Beijing, whose already delicate ties with Japan have chilled due to a maritime dispute, mutual mistrust and the legacy of Japan’s past military aggression. Washington will welcome the move, having long urged Japan to become a more equal partner in the alliance between the two countries.

Since the end of World War II, the United States has maintained a strong military presence in Japan, tasked with protecting the country from international adversaries. The arrangement is costly for the US, which has seen its forces stretched thin over the last decade by wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Japan began its first military expansion at the western end of its island chain in more than 40 years in April, breaking ground on a radar station on a tropical island off Taiwan. The move risks angering China, locked in a dispute with Japan over nearby islands, which they both claim.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

$250 Million Up in Smoke: F-35 Burns on Runway During Testing

June 28th, 2014 - by admin

William Boardman / Reader Supported News – 2014-06-28 23:21:25

http://readersupportednews.org/opinion2/277-75/24466-focus-f-35-burns-on-runway-during-testing

F-35 Burns on Runway During Testing
One $100 million Air Force plane leaks oil,
another bursts into flame

(June 27, 2014) — Troubles never seem to end for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Not yet fully operational, the nuclear-capable fighter-bomber recently had different test versions either leak oil in flight or burst into flames on takeoff.

The F-35 is the world’s most expensive weapons system — $400 billion and counting. The estimated lifetime cost of this military-industrial project is $1.5 trillion. The F-35 is already close to a decade behind schedule and its cost is already more than twice the original estimate. The Pentagon has lowered its performance specs and it’s still years from being operational.

On June 22, at Eglin Air Force Base in Florida, an F-35A was taking off on a routine training flight when the tail of the plane burst into flame. The pilot aborted the takeoff and escaped from the cockpit. A ground crew extinguished the fire with foam. There were no injuries, but the $100 million plane was possibly destroyed, according to officials.

All twenty-six F-35s at Eglin were grounded after the fire, while the Air Force tried to figure out why the plane had ignited. Air Force spokesperson Lt. Hope Cronin called the fire “significant,” but the cause is yet unknown. F-35s at other bases continue to fly.

Earlier this month, on June 13, the entire F-35 fleet (more then 100 planes at this point) was grounded because an F-35 was leaking oil in flight. The Air Force, the Marines, and the Navy each have a variation of the F-35 that range in estimated cost from $98 million (Air Force) to $104 million (Marines) to $124 million (Navy).

So far, this story has been managed by the Air Force and, to a lesser extent, Lockheed Martin, the plane’s manufacturer. Early reporting came from military-industrial-friendly outlets like the US Naval Institute News and Defense News. According to the former, “This is the first incident this severe for the JSF [F-35] during the life of the tri-service program.”

When the Los Angeles Times told the story, the paper used only official information. The Motley Fool, referring to corporate hopes that F-35 sales would “catch fire,” took a more irreverent view with this headline:

Lockheed Martin Corporation’s F-35 Fighter Jet
Catches Fire — In a Bad Way

Lockheed Martin hopes to sell more than 5,000 F-35s to the US and other governments. In the past two years, several of those other governments have expressed concern about the plane’s value, with some governments cutting back or cancelling orders.

As Motley Fool analyzed it:
What is clear is that the news out of Florida constitutes a significant PR snafu for Lockheed — and potentially a setback to a program that’s expected to eventually produce upward of $1 trillion in revenues for Lockheed Martin.

To make those potential revenues actual, Lockheed Martin must spend more time building new aircraft, and less time helping the Air Force fix problems with the aircraft it’s already bought and paid for. And with nearly 40% of all potential worldwide sales of the aircraft expected to come from international customers, getting revenues flowing will also require Lockheed to maintain enthusiasm for the plane among potential buyers.

Even though the F-35 has been in production since 2006, the plane is still in its test phase. Lockheed Martin is the prime contractor for the F-35, but these recent problems suggest the company is having quality-control problems with subcontractors.

The tail fire is thought to have started in the F-35 tail engine, designed by Pratt & Whitney (a unit of United Technologies). The oil leak, found on at least three F-35, stems from an oil flow management system produced by United Technologies, which also assembles the engine.

British Debut for F-35 Scheduled for July 4
Bad enough to have the world’s most expensive weapons system still dysfunctional after more than a decade, but these particular dysfunctions have come uncomfortably close to the F-35’s first overseas performance before Queen Elizabeth at the official naming ceremony of a new British aircraft carrier, the HMS Queen Elizabeth, on July 4. To make their first overseas appearance, three F-35s will be flying across the Atlantic Ocean.

According to a “Marine Corps centric blog,” SNAFU, it’s a “zany idea to fly prototype F-35B airplanes across the Atlantic for a ceremony.” But it explains:
The Brits want the F-35B as part of the ship’s complement. The United Kingdom is the only “tier one” partner on the F-35 development program, which means it’s kicked in some serious money for the F-35 development which started in 2001. They’ve also gained about fifteen percent of the manufacturing pie, with BAE Systems having completed the manufacture of 150 F-35 rear fuselages and tail sets already….

Originally the UK wanted 138 planes, but that has been decreased to 48 probably for cost reasons as with others. The UK owns (sort of) three F-35B now, and has been planning to order 14 more since at least last October…. Now we hear that this fateful announcement for the UK to “order” fourteen more (they have three) faulty F-35B prototypes will be made at the HMS QE naming ceremony where F-35B will be part of the ceremony! Ta-da …

But it’s not funny. No matter who originated the idea for this cheap political stunt, it has no doubt affected the decision not to ground the F-35 fleet after the fire at Eglin, even as they seek the root cause. This puts other pilots at risk.

For All its Technology,
The F-35 Cannot Fly in Bad Weather

Even before the recent oil leak and fire episodes, the F-35B (Marine edition) was scheduled to fly for the Queen only if the weather was good. (Another of the plane’s shortcomings is that it can’t fly with complete safety in the rain.) Pushing for the F-35’s presence was BAE Systems, one of the plane’s subcontractors and the prime contractor for the new carrier. F-35s aren’t expected to fly to or from the Queen Elizabeth itself before 2018 at the earliest.

Assuming the F-35 fly-by at the carrier-naming ceremony comes off without a hitch, the F-35 is scheduled to participate in two subsequent British air shows, the Royal International Air Tattoo (July 11-13) and the Farnborough Air Show (July 14-20). Then the planes will fly back across the Atlantic. These appearances were announced in April.

After taking all this into account, SNAFU wonders:
After this fire [at Eglin], so soon after the grounding of the fleet [for the oil leak], the question becomes clear. Why is the Pentagon ignoring common safety measures all for a publicity stunt in Europe?

Is the program on such shaky ground in the UK that a cancellation of the performance would kill the UK buy? Is the defense ministry so desperate that they would endanger their pilots for an air show?

The answer appears to be yes. Tech is now more important than the lives of our pilots.

Some Skepticism Is Available from an Australian Paper
In Australia, where the government is also expected to buy F-35s, the Herald Sun refers to the F-35 as “our trillion-dollar turkey” and treats the plane’s recent difficulties disdainfully as just more of the same.

But the paper also reports that shortly before the F-35 caught fire, so did another, unrelated stealth aircraft. Earlier in June, a prototype Sukhoi T-50 Russian fighter had one of its two engines catch fire in flight, but managed to land safely. The right engine burned away part of the plane’s fuselage.

On June 26, the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) issued a report on the 2015 defense spending bill recently passed by the House. The report criticized $6 billion more in spending on the underperforming F-35 and supported spending on the relatively cost-effective A-10 Warthog (for close air support to ground troops) that the Obama administration wants to cut.

The F-35 has long been controversial in Vermont, where Stop the F-35 activists have spent years trying to keep the Pentagon plane from basing the plane in the middle of Vermont’s most populous and only urban area. Nevertheless the Air Force has decided to bring the plane to Burlington, with the full backing of Vermont’s Democratic leadership and no dissent from Republicans or even Independent Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders.

Vermont Democrats — from Senator Patrick Leahy, Representative Peter Welch, Governor Peter Shumlin, Burlington Mayor Miro Weinberger, legislative leaders and members, with few exceptions — have goose-stepped in locked formation in support of this Pentagon wet dream of having a single flying computer of a plane that can accomplish any mission the Army, Navy, or Marines can dream up.

Republican senator John McCain, not exactly averse to American weapons of mass destruction, calls the F-35 “one of the great, national scandals that we have ever had, as far as the expenditure of taxpayers’ dollars are concerned.”

And speaking of taxpayers’ dollars, the BBC reported on June 26 that Iraq had bought 36 US F-16s for its skimpy Air Force, but that the US had been slow in delivering them. Now, running out of patience and wanting airstrikes against its rebels, the Iraqi government has bought “a number of used Sukhoi fighter jets from Russia and Belarus.” Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki said the planes could be flying missions within a few days.

The Sukhoi fighter is no F-35, for which Iraq should probably be grateful.

William M. Boardman has over 40 years experience in theatre, radio, TV, print journalism, and non-fiction, including 20 years in the Vermont judiciary. He has received honors from Writers Guild of America, Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Vermont Life magazine, and an Emmy Award nomination from the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences.

Reader Supported News is the Publication of Origin for this work.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Washington’s Pacific Missile Range: Kaua’i’s Biggest Bang Is Out of Sight

June 28th, 2014 - by admin

Jon Letman / Hawaii Independent – 2014-06-28 23:14:19

http://hawaiiindependent.net/story/pmrf-kauais-biggest-bang-is-out-of-sight

(June 26, 2014) — When you think of Kaua’i perhaps you envision lush tropical foliage, hiking in Waimea Canyon or kayaking the Wailua River. What you probably don’t think of are Advanced Hypersonic Weapons, Ballistic Missile Defense testing, Predator drones, low-earth orbit intercepts and sophisticated tracking systems that monitor activities around the globe.

Whale watching tourists sailing along Kaua’i’s famed Nā Pali Coast have no idea they are sharing the scenic waters with defense contractors Boeing, Raytheon, Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman and General Atomics, among others.

But just as Kaua’i is a major center for biotech companies (Syngenta, DupontPioneer, Dow AgroSciences, BASF), so is it a critical, albeit under-reported, testing and training hub for the US military, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), NASA, the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) and Sandia National Laboratories which all conduct programs at the Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF).

Unlike O’ahu, Kaua’i’s military presence goes largely unseen. Yet PMRF, which has nearly 75-year-old roots as an Army landing site, occupies a seven and a half by three-quarter’s mile wide swath of coast at Barking Sands on the edge of the Mānā Plain. This once marshy wetland, long ago drained to grow sugar cane, is today home to GMO crop fields that form a buffer around PMRF.

For most tourists and even many Kaua’i residents, PMRF remains terra incognita. Although PMRF is covered in the local Garden Island newspaper and the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, it’s rarely mentioned in national or international media unless there’s a major launch, like the May 22 Aegis Ashore ballistic missile defense (BMD) test.

Recently, I had the chance to spend a few hours touring PMRF with its commanding officer Captain Bruce Hay as my guide. As part of its community outreach, PMRF’s public affairs officer invited me (along with two other local reporters) to see what goes on largely out of view and without scrutiny.

Going ‘Open Kimono’
After a cafeteria-style lunch at PMRF’s Shenanigans café (during which Capt. Hay promised our tour would be “open kimono”), we were led to his car — a Chevy Malibu as blinding white as his uniform. We piled in and were taken on a short drive to a 135-foot long rocket launch rail that resembled a grey steel bridge jutting out over the sand.

The captain described how the launch was designed to fire the Space-borne Payload Assist Rocket, also called Super Strypi — a collaborative project of Sandia National Laboratories, Aerojet Rocketdyne Corp., the University of Hawai’i and PMRF.

The main function of its first mission will be to demonstrate how to inexpensively deliver a 300-kilogram payload into low-earth orbit. For the project’s partners, Super Strypi represents not only a technical achievement but an educational opportunity as private and public sectors push to advance Hawai’i’s position in the world of the aerospace and defense industries.

Launching a rocket — any kind of a rocket — at PMRF is for Hay “pretty neat.” Over the course of the two and a half hour tour, he repeatedly expressed his enthusiasm for involving children in launches (as observers), whenever possible. It’s all part of PMRF’s — and more broadly, the aerospace and military defense industry’s — enthusiasm for supporting STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education.

Not Just Kaua’i
Contrary to popular belief, PMRF is not limited to Kaua’i’s Mānā Plain. The range also includes “small installation” sites at Koke’e State Park, Mākaha Ridge, Kamokala Ridge, Port Allen, Mauna Kapu on O’ahu, Pōhakuloa Training Area on Hawai’i Island and the privately-owned island Ni’ihau which is home to a “perch site” comprised of a helicopter pad, electronic warfare equipment and surveillance radar.

Less than two dozen miles south of Ni’ihau is Ka’ula, a steep offshore islet inhabited by bird colonies. Like Kaho’olawe island and Pagan island in the Northern Marianas, part of Ka’ula is being used for “intert air-to-surface weapons” testing. Unlike Kaho’olawe and Pagan, however, there is effectively no protest or even knowledge that this island is being used.

As we drove from one site to the next, Hay pointed out that Ka’ula’s ownership is in question. “Is it the Federal Government? Is it the Department of Defense? Is it the State of Hawai’i? I don’t know. I’m not a lawyer — thank God,” he quipped.

“We expect use to go up as all the forces that were in the desert for the last 20 years are starting to flow back to bases in the United States. Marines, Air Force and Army are all coming back,” he said then, without missing a beat, pointed out a playing field visited by pro football players last year.

One of PMRF’s greatest assets Hay has said previously, is the fact that it has a whole lot of nothing. That “nothing” is, in fact, over 2.1 million square miles of “extended range” roughly the size of the continental United States west of the Mississippi including Baja, Mexico. This is in addition to 1,100 square miles of “instrumented sea range” and 42,000 square miles of “controlled airspace.”

From Hay’s perspective, conducting testing and training west of Kaua’i means the military is not impacting shipping lanes or civilian air traffic. Critics, however, are increasingly challenging environmental impacts, particularly the use of high-frequency sonar and its alleged impact on marine life from deep water corals to large marine mammals.

Out in that vast watery “nothingness” PMRF operates MATSS (Mobile-At-Sea-Sensor system) — a barge loaded with antennae, telemetry tracking dishes and equipment used to support BMD testing. Hay noted that when the crew is waiting to support training exercises, there’s plenty of time to cast rods and “have some beautiful ahi sashimi.”

Base Living
PMRF touts itself as an important economic driver on Kaua’i, proudly describing its role in employing local people. According to Hay, the base employs around one thousand (770 contractors, tenants and other service providers, 140 civilian and 87 military officers/enlisted). Currently about 150 people live on base in some 50 modest housing units.

Although PMRF has many of the amenities you’d find in a small town (gas station, car wash, barber shop, post office, an outdoor theater, Subway sandwich outlet, parks and recreational sports facilities), it doesn’t feel like your average civilian town. Maybe it was the Regulus cruise missile mounted on display, but the place just feels like a military base which, of course, it is.

Driving along PMRF’s almost carless roads, we slowed down to look at roadside tanks. Hay said the dummy tanks — called “composites” — are used for pilot training. The tanks aren’t fired at with live ammunition but they can provide a realistic training object particularly when equipped with heat generators that simulate a real “live” target.

“You know, we do all kinds of cool testing and training on base,” the captain said, “but I get more questions about these than anything else.” He was referring to the 26 seaside guest cabins (for retired and active duty military personnel) just two minutes walk from the longest continuous beach in the Hawaiian islands. If you know someone on base, he explained, “they can hook you up.”

‘The Roc’
Next we stopped at an unremarkable beige building which Hay identified as his primary working headquarters — the Range Operations Complex or “the Roc.” Hay led us to a Standard Missile Three (SM-3) displayed on a mount behind a plaque that reads “Ad Astra Per Aspera” (“To the stars through adversity”).

The SM-3 (manufactured by Raytheon which describes it as “the world’s only ballistic missile killer deployable on land or at sea”), Hay explained, is designed to “engage non-air-breathing ballistic missile targets.” In other words, the SM-3 is intended to be fired at an incoming enemy missile and destroyed mid-air by sheer kinetic force. It’s the “kill vehicle,” Hay explained, gesturing to the rocket’s 21-inch tip, that matters most.

“It’s pretty neat to think we are hitting a bullet with a bullet,” Hay said, referring to the 21-foot 6-inch long white priapic missile behind him.

Hay described ballistic missile defense as “very successful, in the low nineties” but a recent Los Angeles Times investigation found that the Boeing-manufactured $40 billion Ground-based Midcourse Defense system, tested at PMRF-partnering facility Vandenberg Air Force Base in California was “unreliable, even in scripted tests.” One physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory called the system’s test record “abysmal,” the Times reported.

Speaking about BMD testing at PMRF Hay said, “When we do a live engagement, we’re going to shoot towards Kaua’i, not at Kaua’i. That’s an important distinction.”

Aegis Ashore
Meanwhile, other ballistic missile defense systems are tested at PMRF, most notably Aegis Ashore.

PMRF has a long history of supporting missile defense testing. One of the most high-profile systems being tested today is Aegis Ashore. Essentially identical to the BMD system deployed on Aegis naval destroyers, Aegis Ashore is designed for use on land.

A product of Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, the US Navy and the Missile Defense Agency, Aegis Ashore, was championed by the late Senator Daniel Inouye and is slated for deployment in Romania in 2015 and Poland in 2018.

As Capt. Hay pulled up in front of a dull, white building topped with radar antenna equipment behind a high black fence topped with barbed wire he said, “If you’re familiar with ships, it looks a lot like a Ticonderoga Class (guided missile) cruiser.” He explained that Aegis on a ship requires 300-400 people to operate. “Take a stab at how many sailors run this facility,” he said.

“Fifteen?” I guessed.

“Less, but not much. Twelve sailors and a few contractors,” he replied. According to Hay, Aegis Ashore is cheaper but still expensive. The building alone (Aegis Ashore Missile Defense Test Complex) cost $60 million. Once fitted with all radar and other equipment, that cost soared to $700 million. On a ship, Hay said, that would be around $2 billion even before crew salaries and fuel.

Aegis Ashore, he said, “gives you an opportunity to do that at much less cost.”

The first Aegis Ashore test took place at PMRF just three days before my visit and made news for the mysterious vapor trails it left behind, but the real news no one seems to talk about in Hawai’i is how Kaua’i is at the center of a BMD system which the Obama administration insists is to protect Europe from Iran but whose deployment has been repeatedly and angrily criticized by Russia.

Now, with the backdrop of increased tensions between the US, NATO and Russia resulting from Moscow’s annexation of Crimea and fighting in Ukraine, far-off Kaua’i’s own role in global military conflicts is underscored.

When I asked Capt. Hay who Aegis Ashore is intended to defend against he declined to name names, instead saying, “Think of all the antagonists all throughout Europe and the Middle East.”

Asked how the schedule deployment was being received Hay said, “The former Soviet Union wasn’t too crazy about it, for obvious reasons. But by and large it’s been a non-issue.” I did not ask how the US would respond to a Russian BMD deployment in Mexico, Canada, or Cuba.

Big Things for Important People
Kaua’i’s Garden Island newspaper recently reported that PMRF is pushing forward a proposal to be renamed as the Inouye Pacific Range Facility in honor of the Senator Daniel Inouye who served in Congress for over 53 years. Over his career Inouye funneled billions in defense contracts to Hawai’i, making it the defense, military and aerospace juggernaut it is today. Hay said, “[Inouye] was a great advocate and champion for the range.”

While the name change may be a show of respect for Inouye, it’s also an example of shrewd branding. Inouye is revered in Hawai’i and will remain so for years. To replace the word “missile” with “Inouye” is, in a sense, to put the facility beyond reproach. After all, PMRF could change its name to the Inouye Pacific Missile Range and drop the superfluous word “facility.”

PMRF is “not just ballistic missile testing,” Hay pointed out in an interview with the Garden Island newspaper last year, “. . . We’re doing big things for very important people all across the globe.”

“Big things” presumably include supporting UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) or drone testing and training for systems like the MQ-9 Reaper, MQ-1 Predator, the high-altitude capable ALTUS II as well as NASA research aircraft and other UAV systems like the Coyote and the Cutlass V. PMRF has also seen visiting F-16s, F-18s, C-17s, P-3s, E-2s and the V-22 Osprey, a hybrid aircraft with a checkered safety record and the object of ongoing protests in Okinawa where it is deployed.

Doing “big things for very important people” also means hosting the Kaua’i Test Facility (KTF), operated by Sandia National Laboratories. Sandia, a wholly owned subsidiary of Lockheed Martin, is one of the United States’ three primary nuclear weapons laboratories. KTF was established on Kaua’i as a tenant inside the PMRF in 1962 to support the Atomic Energy Commission’s Operation Dominic which included a series of 36 high-altitude nuclear weapons tests in the Pacific.

In November 2011, KTF was the launch site of the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon (AHW), a missile that is intended to fulfill the goal of a “Prompt Global Strike,” a directive that would enable the US to bomb anywhere on earth in under 60 minutes. In the November 2011 test, the AHW was fired from Kaua’i, arriving at the Reagan Test Site on Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands, about 2,500 miles away, in 30 minutes. The Army has reported another test is scheduled for August.

Since its inception in 1962, KTF has supported 437 rocket launches (as of May 2014), making it — and its host PMRF — major players in a militarized Pacific.

When asked directly if nuclear weapons or components of nuclear weapons have ever been stored or passed through PMRF, a spokesman replied, “Per Department of Defense policy, all US military installations can neither confirm nor deny the presence of nuclear weapons.”

Rim of the Pacific
This summer (June 26 through August 1) 23 nations are converging on Hawai’i for the RIMPAC (Rim of the Pacific) 2014 biennial maritime exercise. While the war games include countries as diverse as India, China, Singapore, Norway and Tonga and Japan, the participants page of RIMPAC’s website shows the US military is overwhelmingly represented.

Speaking on Kaua’i’s KKCR radio recently, Capt. Hay pointed out that RIMPAC includes things “as benign as sports competitions . . . receptions, dialogues,” saying that RIMPAC helps ensure “we can all enjoy the giant Pacific Ocean.”

RIMPAC also provides a chance to show off the latest military technology, gadgetry and test systems like drones (during RIMPAC 2012 a submarine launched drone was tested) and practice live fire sinkings on decommissioned ships in an exercise called SINKEX (Sinking Exercises, planned between July 12-18 during RIMPAC 2014).

Besides this, RIMPAC provides a realistic setting for urban combat training, amphibious landings, underwater sonar training and a host of other military exercises. A spokesman confirmed that PMRF will provide “subsurface, surface and air training capabilities. Ships, submarines and aircraft [will] train on an instrumented range . . . off the northwest shores of Kaua’i.”

Not the Base, Our Base
Kaua’i may be only 35 square miles larger than the city of Phoenix with less than five percent of its population, but thanks to PMRF, it plays an outsized role in America’s ability to wage wars, control the seas, skies and space and ensure that the US military juggernaut can continue in its quest to maintain Full-spectrum Dominance. Like RTS in the Marshall Islands and Vandenberg Air Force Base (California), PMRF is a key spoke in the military missile testing arsenal.

At the end of the tour, Captain Hay drove us to the gate, thanked us and said that he hoped when people on Kaua’i spoke about PMRF they wouldn’t talk about “the base” but rather “our base.”

As I drove away, passing the surrounding fields, a hard rain began to fall and I reflected. If PMRF is our base, then it is also our kuleana (responsibility) to understand what goes on inside and to make the connections between it and events around the world.

Militarism and war do not take place in a vacuum. What happens here affects people around the world. It is incumbent on us to closely follow what our base is doing beyond the occasional headline rocket launch or star-spangled hoopla of Fourth of July fireworks.

We need to understand that our base impacts lives in far away places, from the dun-colored hills of Afghanistan and the war-torn cities of Syria and Iraq to the shallow blue lagoons of Micronesia’s coral atolls and the gritty urban landscapes across the US where many veterans end up after war.

Each of us must ask ourselves if our base is pursuing our values, and on a course that is in our best long-term interests.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

War Zone on Main Street: How the Defense Lobby Profits by Arming America’s Cops

June 28th, 2014 - by admin

Sadhbh Walshe / The Guardian – 2014-06-28 23:07:45

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jun/26/pentagon-war-zone-main-street-america-militarized-police-forces

The Pentagon’s Slush Fund Is Arming a War Zone on Main Street
Let’s end the local-cop addiction to backyard battle

Sadhbh Walshe / The Guardian

NEW HAMPSHIRE (June 26, 2014) — A few years ago, the police chief in Keene, New Hampshire (population: 23,000) announced plans to patrol the hamlet’s “Pumpkin Festival and other dangerous situations” with a 19,000-pound armored vehicle called the BearCat (price tag: $285,933, courtesy of a federal Homeland Security grant).

The cops in nearby Nashua had already purchased one of the so-called “rescue vehicles” — typically reserved for Swat missions and, you know, IEDs — with hundreds of thousands in drug forfeiture money, but given that the town of Keene has had just three homicides in the last 11 years, some locals thought the gun ports, rotating hatch, battering ram and tear-gas deployment nozzle all might just be a little much.

“The police are already pretty brutal,” said one resident. “The last thing they need is this big piece of military equipment to make them think they’re soldiers.”

What many other communities across America have learned since is that we’re living in what the writer Radley Balko calls the age of the “warrior cop”. And when warrior cops want a straight-outta-Baghdad toy, it’s increasingly and unnecessarily simple for them to use a federally enabled slush-fund to wreak havoc — particularly against minorities, and even at a pumpkin festival.

It’s also pretty simple to start accounting for all the high-tech violence.

“Before another small town’s police force gets a $700,000 gift from the Defense Department that it can’t maintain or manage,” Rep Hank Johnson of Georgia told me this week, “we need to press pause and revisit the merits of a militarized America.”

But when a heavily armed Swat team enters through a suburban backyard with military might — battering rams, explosive devices designed to temporarily blind suspects or other weapons designed for heavy combat zones — it’s hard to see how that merits issuing a warrants to a potential drug offender. It’s a wonder there are any merits at all.

The ACLU released a devastating report this week examining more than 800 incidents of Swat team deployments conducted by 20 law enforcement agencies between 2010 and 2013. It’s a small sample of the estimated 45,000 deployments that occur in the US each year (up from 1,400% from the ’80s), but the report reveals a picture of law enforcement as flash-bang assault unit, with hardly an actual suspect in harm’s way:
• pandemonium in a baby’s crib;
• a grandfather of 12 killed by a discharged gun;
• Swat officers gunning down a mother as she died, child in her arms.

According to the ACLU study, 79% of the incidents surveyed involved a Swat team searching a person’s home, and more than 62% of the cases involved searches for drugs. That’s not what Swat teams were made for.

America is winding down wars abroad — depending on what the hell happens in Iraq, of course — but we are fueling an addiction to armed conflict here at home.

As Balko notes in his book, The Rise of the Warrior Cop, “America’s cops have increasingly come to resemble ground troops.” . . .

But the federal government has been enabling even more localized branches of law enforcement to get its hands on heavy-duty artillery for the last 20 years, when the Reagan administration formalized the Pentagon’s so-called 1033 Program.

It sends “excess” military equipment to local police departments, and combined with the Homeland Security operation that provides grants to purchase such equipment, we’ve got a veritable firearms sale funnelling from Washington on down to the local station house. And when local law enforcement is making hundreds of thousands of dollars off seized drug money — sometimes illegally — you’ve got the makings of a War Zone on Main Street.

Rep Johnson has plans to introduce a bill that would reform the 1033 Program, which donated at least $500 billion per year in military gear to virtually every police department in the country.

“We not only lack serious oversight and accountability,” Johnson wrote me in an email on Tuesday, “but we need some parameters put in place for what is appropriate.” His legislation would put limitations on the transfer of certain kinds of military-grade equipment, and require the Pentagon to account for transfers of all such equipment in an annual report to Congress.

Because for every BearCat in a backyard, there might be an assault rifle gone missing. And Congress shouldn’t be allowing any federal funds to purchase those through Homeland’s gun fund either.

The ACLU also made several recommendations in its report — state laws to restrain Swat teams, plus transparency and strict oversight — that all make sense, as do training sessions for more of our trigger-happy “rescue” officers. But this was perhaps the most endemic part of that report:

Overall, 42% of people impacted by a Swat deployment to execute a search warrant were black and 12% were Latino. This means that of the people impacted by deployments for warrants, at least 54% were minorities.

Whether this is by accident or design, the racial reality of America’s militarized law enforcement offers yet another compelling reason why the dangerous trend of warrior-style policing needs to be re-examined — and then reversed.

When the first Swat team was deployed in the late ’60s, its target was a single remaining cell of the Black Panthers. Nearly half a century later, all the nation’s a theater, and we are merely the pumpkin eaters — with half a million bucks worth of smashing, exploding, high-artillery gear for the taking.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

US Takes a Small Step to Reduce Outlawed Land Mines

June 28th, 2014 - by admin

Hayes Brown / ThinkProgress & Rick Gladstone / The New York Times – 2014-06-28 22:56:24

US Pledges To Stop Producing New Landmines
Hayes Brown / ThinkProgress

(June 27, 2014) — The United States announced on Friday that it will no longer produce new anti-personnel landmines (APL), letting its current stockpile dwindle and moving towards finally implementing a treaty banning the use of the weapons that have killed an estimated 20,000 people annually.

The pronouncement came at a conference being held in Mozambique reviewing the progress of the Ottawa Treaty, also known as the the Anti-Personnel Mine Ban Convention or just the Landmine Ban Treaty, fifteen years after its passage. Because the US has never acceded to the terms of the treaty, Washington was only present as an observer. While there, however, US ambassador to Mozambique Douglas Griffiths declared that the US will not produce or otherwise acquire any anti-personnel landmines in the future, including to replace existing stockpiles as they expire.

Since its completion in 1997, 161 countries have signed onto the Landmine Ban Treaty, with a few notable exceptions such as India, Pakistan, Russia, and China — and the United States. When President Obama first took office in 2009, activists hoped that the new administration would reverse the decision to hold back from the treaty. Instead, however, the State Department decided to hold its course. “This administration undertook a policy review and we decided that our landmine policy remains in effect,” spokesman Ian Kelly said at the time.

Now, however, the US has softened that stance some, though not saying that it would be joining the Landmine Ban Treaty anytime in the immediate future. “Our delegation in [Maputo, Mozambique] made clear that we are diligently pursuing solutions that would be compliant with and ultimately allow the United States to accede to the Ottawa Convention,” National Security Council spokesperson Caitlin Hayden said in a statement announcing the shift. “They also noted we are conducting a high fidelity modeling and simulation effort to ascertain how to mitigate the risks associated with the loss of APL. Other aspects of our landmine policy remain under consideration and we will share outcomes from that process as we are in a position to do so.”

This new announcement builds on previous commitments, the White House said in a fact sheet accompanying the announcement, “to end the use of all non-detectable mines and all persistent mines, which can remain active for years after the end of a conflict.” In layman’s terms, in the past administrations have chosen to draw the line between so-called “dumb mines,” which last indefinitely, and “smart mines” that deactivate on their own.

While the Clinton administration refused to sign onto the Ottawa Convention, it did decide to ban its use of “dumb mines” everywhere but on the border between North and South Korea, already destroying 3.3 million AP mines back in 1999. At present, the US is estimated to have approximately 9 million self-destructing anti-personnel mines in its stockpile.

As recently as two days ago, the US was being criticized for not taking more action on banning its own use of landmines. Now, Stephen Goose, executive director of the arms division at Human Rights Watch, told the New York Times after the announcement that his organization is “very pleased with the US announcement that it intends to accede to the Mine Ban Treaty, and that it has instituted a new policy banning future production of antipersonnel mines.”

But, he added, it makes “little sense to acknowledge that the weapons must be banned due to the humanitarian harm they cause, and yet insist on being able to use them,” he said. “The US should set a target date for joining the Mine Ban Treaty, should commit to no use of antipersonnel mines until it accedes, and should begin destruction of its stocks.”

Every year, according to the United Nations, landmines kill between 15,000 to 20,000 people — mostly women, children, and the elderly — and maim an untold number more. The United States is the world’s single largest financial supporter of de-mining efforts, Hayden noted in her statement, “providing more than $2.3 billion in aid since 1993 in more than 90 countries for conventional weapons destruction programs.” Despite that, landmines still continue to make headlines, as in the case of the recent flooding in Bosnia, where torrential rain uncovered and shifted the location of hundreds of mines left over from the Balkan wars of the 1990s.


US Lays Groundwork to Reduce Land Mines and Join Global Treaty
Rick Gladstone / The New York Times

(June 27, 2014) — After five years of study, the Obama administration put the United States on a course Friday to eventually sign the global treaty that bans antipersonnel land mines, announcing steps that will gradually reduce the American stockpile and find ways to adjust for any military disadvantage in purging the weapons.

The announcement, made on the final day of a conference in Maputo, Mozambique, assessing the progress of the 15-year-old treaty, was a modest surprise to disarmament advocates. They had grown frustrated with what they viewed as the administration’s ambivalence on the treaty, known as the Ottawa Convention, which 161 nations have signed.

Many disarmament advocates had hoped that President Obama would move quickly to sign the treaty in his first term. The agreement had been negotiated with American encouragement during President Bill Clinton’s tenure in the 1990s, then renounced during the eight years that President George W. Bush was in office. But the Obama administration repeatedly declined to commit to signing the treaty, saying it was under review.

On Friday, the American ambassador to Mozambique, Douglas M. Griffiths, speaking on behalf of an American observer delegation at the conference, announced that the United States would no longer produce or acquire antipersonnel land mines or replace old ones that expire, which will have the practical effect of reducing the estimated 10 million mines in the American stockpile. Mr. Griffiths also said the United States was “diligently pursuing solutions that would be compliant with the convention and that would ultimately allow us to accede to the convention.”

While he gave no date, the language was still the first explicit commitment that the United States intended to sign the treaty.

“With this announcement, the US has changed its mine ban stance and has laid the foundation for accession to the treaty,” said Stephen Goose, the executive director of the arms division at Human Rights Watch who led the conference delegation from the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, the Nobel laureate group that helped clear the way for the Ottawa Convention in 1999. At the same time, Mr. Goose expressed disappointment, saying the American change had not gone nearly far enough.

“No target date has been set for accession by the US, and no final decision has been made on whether to join the treaty,” he said. “The US is reserving the right to use its 10 million antipersonnel mines anywhere in the world until the mines expire.”

Physicians for Human Rights, a founding member of the International Campaign to Ban Landmines, also issued a qualified endorsement of the American statement, coupled with a rejoinder that it was insufficient.

“We remain concerned about anything less than a full commitment to sign the mine ban treaty as soon as possible,” said Widney Brown, the group’s director of programs.

Other disarmament advocates were equally pointed in their criticism. Daryl G. Kimball, the executive director of the Arms Control Association in Washington, expressed concern about the absence of a timetable to destroy the stockpile. Without that, he said, the announcement would have little practical effect “for many, many years to come.”

Mr. Griffiths, in an indication that the United States is researching ways to replicate the strategic value of antipersonnel land mines without their collateral damage, also said in the announcement that the American policy included experimental work “to ascertain how to mitigate the risks associated with the loss of antipersonnel land mines.”

American defense officials have argued that these weapons have an important purpose — in deterring ground invasions, for example — and that the United States would put itself at a disadvantage by renouncing them. A number of potential American adversaries — notably Russia, China and Iran — have not signed the treaty.

Disarmament advocates have argued that the American reluctance to sign might be dissuading the other recalcitrant nations from joining.

The treaty is regarded as a triumph of the disarmament movement and has sharply reduced the use and destructive effects of antipersonnel land mines, which were killing or maiming 26,000 people a year when it first took effect. That figure has fallen to about 4,000 a year as a growing number of countries have destroyed old buried mines.

Antipersonnel land mines, once common but now almost universally regarded as insidious and indiscriminate, are designed to detonate when people step on or near them. They can lie dormant for decades. Half the victims have been children.

Although it has not joined the treaty, the United States remains the largest single donor to the cause of land mine decontamination and medical care for victims, providing more than $2.3 billion since 1993 for conventional weapons destruction programs in other countries, according to a White House statement.

The United States has also taken steps over the years to purge from its stockpile the most dangerous types of antipersonnel land mines, so-called dumb mines that cannot be disarmed, as well as nonmetallic mines that made detection difficult.

Several members of the Obama administration, including the national security adviser, Susan E. Rice, have argued strongly that the United States cannot be in the position of refusing to sign the treaty. Mr. Obama’s decision essentially moves toward approval, but makes it unlikely that the United States will become a signer — a decision subject to Senate approval — during his presidency.

The Pentagon’s main objection to the treaty focuses on American difficulties defending South Korea from North Korea. The Demilitarized Zone between them is filled with land mines — periodically they detonate, as animals step on them — and they are considered a central element of South Korea’s first-line defense against a North Korean invasion.

But to destroy Seoul, the South Korean capital, the North does not need a land invasion: Its artillery could wreak great damage. So advocates of signing the treaty have argued that the mines along the zone are an outdated Cold War relic.

David E. Sanger contributed reporting from Washington.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

Blast from the Past: US Ship Sunk in WWII Still Poses Explosion Threat in Britain

June 28th, 2014 - by admin

Alan McGuinness / Kent Online & Peter Mitchell / Submerged – 2014-06-28 02:06:53

http://www.kentonline.co.uk/medway/news/airport-disarming-the-ss-richar-a55502/

Themes TV

Blast from the Past: Disarming the SS Richard Montgomery in Thames Estuary Could Cost £30 Million, Expert Reveals
Alan McGuinness / Kent Online

(February 26, 2013) — The bill for making the sunken warship SS Richard Montgomery safe could be as high as 30million pounds, a bomb disposal expert has revealed. Michael Fellows said dealing with the thousands of tonnes of explosives onboard the US vessel was perfectly feasible, but it would come at a cost.

The Montgomery sunk in the estuary off Sheerness in 1944 and has lain dormant on the seabed ever since. Because of its explosive cargo, many fear it is an accident waiting to happen, and warn of dire consequences if the munitions were to blow up.

The doomsday claims include predictions the blast would be one of the biggest non-nuclear explosions ever, cause shockwaves that would blow out windows as far away as east London and cause Britain’s first tsunami. Not surprisingly, it is seen as one of the major obstacles to the construction of a Thames Estuary airport.

It is Mr. Fellows’ job to remove such obstacles, and he said dealing with the Montgomery was perfectly realistic. The 73-year-old, who has been involved in munitions disposal for more than 50 years, said: “It’s not something new, it has been done. There are people that specialize in it.”

Several designers want to build an airport near the wreck, including this plan by Lord Foster for the Isle of Grain. The former Royal Navy diver set up Fellows International in the 1990s and since then the company has worked across the world, from Northern Ireland to Iraq.

During his time in the Navy he led the teams that de-ammunitioned three ships — HMS Drake, Natal and Vanguard. He said the technology is there to tackle the Montgomery, but a “proper” survey needs to be carried out, one that examined whether the munitions were still a threat.

The Maritime Coastguard Agency checks the condition of the wreck each year, but Mr. Fellows said this was meaningless without information on the potency of the bombs.

The “proper” survey advocated by Mr. Fellows would take a couple of months and involve taking samples from the water and analyzing the content using a remote operated vehicle the size of a shoe box.

This could cost a few million pounds, Mr. Fellows said. As for the operation to make the ship safe, a remote operated vehicle could cut down into the ship, remove the weapons and take them to an ammunition dumping ground, Mr. Fellows said.

A blast protection wall four or five metres above the high water mark would be built on the shore, “just in case.” In all, the operation could take around 18 months.


The Richard Montgomery
Peter Mitchell / Submerged

PLYMOUTH (January 12, 2014) — Tucked away in the south east corner of England is the seaside town of Sheerness. On the surface you would think that Sheerness was just another pleasant holiday town, and you would be right, because you would have to go underneath the surface to a spot some three thousand yards off the seafront to find the dangerous secret that Sheerness has harbored for over 40 years.

A secret that — although buried in sand and silt 60 feet down within the rusting hull of a World War 2 Liberty ship — is so potentially hazardous that nothing is allowed nearer than five hundred feet.

When that Liberty ship, the Richard Montgomery, sank all those years ago it contained over seven thousand tons of explosives, enough to blow Sheerness and all its neighbours sky high, and In credibly its still all there like some giant time bomb ticking relentlessly away. The trouble is that nobody can seem to agree whether the clock has stopped, or is just about ready to strike.

With today’s attitudes on all things ‘green’ it seems absurd that the Montgomery’s cargo was not made safe years ago, but absurdity and incompetence often go hand in hand, and incompetence certainly seems to have been the hallmark of this story right from the start.

The Richard Montgomery started life as the seventh ship in a production line of 82 Liberty ships built by the St John’s River Shipbuilding Company in Jacksonville, Florida, and was launched in July 1943. She was named after an Irish soldier, who after getting himself elected to the American Congress fought in the war against the British in Canada and was killed in the final assault on Quebec In 1775.

Only a year after her launch in August 1944, the Richard Montgomery, on what was to be her final voyage loaded up with over seven thousand tons of bombs and munitions at Hog Island, Philadelphia and slipped quietly from the Delaware River and crossed the Atlantic to the Thames Estuary where she was to await a convoy for Cherbourg.

At Southend, she came under the orders of the Thames Naval Control and the Kings Harbour Master ordered her to anchor in a berth just off the north edge of the Sheerness Middle Sand.

Considering the fact at low water there was only about thirty foot of water at this anchorage and the Richard Montgomery drew just over 31 feet, it was fairly obvious that the Kings Harbour Master had made a grave error of judgement. So obvious was this that the Assistant Harbour Master refused to carry out the order unless it was put in writing.

A noisy argument ensued which attracted their superior officer who sided with the Kings Harbour Master and told him to confirm the order. The Assistant stormed out and was posted to another position two days later. Significantly his evidence was not heard at the resulting board of enquiry, which did not even mention the difference of opinion.

Early on Sunday morning, August 20, lookouts on the ships anchored near the Richard Montgomery saw her swinging towards the shoal as the tide flowed in and frantically sounded their sirens in warning.

The Chief Officer who was on watch did nothing to save his ship, not even bothering to wake his Captain who was peacefully asleep in his cabin. Soon the tide pushed the Liberty ship right onto the top of the Sheerness Middle Sand where she became completely I stranded.

As the tide ebbed the ship settled down more firmly on her silty bed and buckled some of her plates, causing them to emit cracking noises that sounded like loud gunshots. The crew, not unnaturally apprehensive about their cargo, suddenly decided that they all wanted to be landlubbers and deserted the ship in a flurry of lifeboats and rafts. Since the Montgomery had stranded on a neap tide she could not be refloated for about two weeks, and even then only if most of her cargo was removed.

So what are the risks? Well most people agree that If the Richard Montgomery blew up, it would be the largest non-nuclear explosion in history. Would Sheerness and the nearby oil refinery on the Isle of Grain be swamped by a huge tidal wave, or engulfed by an awesome fireball as some experts have predicted?

Would terrorists use the terrifying potential of the ship to hold the Government to ransom by threatening to eradicate the population of a small town as some journalists have suggested? Or has the vessel’s cargo now decayed to a point where it has become a minimal risk as various Government surveys have suggested? Curiously the answer lies in a mix of all these. Of the three and a half thousand tons of explosives left, most contain TNT and are impervious to seawater.

It is highly probable that their fuses have long since deteriorated and would therefore need something else to set them off. Unfortunately on the deck above these are approximately one hundred and seventy five tons of fragmentation cluster bombs fully armed and ready to go. These are considered to be the main danger, because if the decking collapses these bombs could fall on top of the others and set the whole thing off.

This is not as far fetched as It might seem, Already the ship is broken into three pieces and In 1980, after an underwater survey Norman Tebbitt, then Minister of State for Trade said that the ” risks of removing bombs from the stricken wreck were unacceptable.”

This statement supports the view taken way back in 1948, and later in 1967 when the American Government, still nominally the owners of the vessel, offered to make the Montgomery’s cargo safe, The Government of the day refused point blank on the grounds that it was too dangerous and that the bombs would get ‘safer’ the longer they were left alone.

In August 1981 a thorough underwater survey was carried out by Navy divers, including going right into the holds containing the bombs After nearly a month their verdict was that although the bombs were still potentially dangerous, it would be safe to remove them from the ship.

Said Des Bloy, Moorings and Salvage Officer at Chatham, “it would take one hell of a detonation to make that ship blow up.” Apart from malicious or terrorist action, one of the most likely causes of detonation are the huge amount of ships that pass daily close to the wreck.

Over the years, 24 near misses have been recorded, and once a cargo vessel actually hit the wreck knocking down one of her guns and demolishing a ventilator. What the consequences of a large passenger ferry hitting the wreck would be God only knows, but repeated appeals to the Authorities for a solution have come up against a stone wall of indifference and worries about the cost of a safety operation.

So there the Richard Montgomery lies, gently rusting away, probably safe, but still a huge potential threat to the communities that surround her. As one Sheerness councillor bitterly said, “If this boat had gone down outside the Houses of Parliament, something would have been done long ago. How far down the river do you have to go before a dangerous wreck becomes acceptable?”

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

The ACLU Knocks Militarized Police

June 28th, 2014 - by admin

Lucy Steigerwald / AntiWar.com – 2014-06-28 01:27:00

The ACLU Knocks Militarized Police

(June 25, 2014) — This week, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) published their study of 20 different law enforcement agencies’ use of SWAT teams on 800 occasions between 2011 and 2013. Their conclusions may not surprise people who have been following the militarization and the normalization of that in police departments across the US, but it should shock us all none the less.

The whole report is exhausting, upsetting, and unsettling to read, and therefore every informed person should turn a few of its pages. There are numerous takeaways, but some of the basic problems with this brave, new normal in which we live are as follows.

For one, the ACLU found that 62 percent of SWAT raids were over drugs, and 65 percent of those raids involved a forced entry. This confirms previous research, but there remains no justification for ever using violent, aggressive tactics like this over drugs — much less the majority of the time. These raids are dangerous for law enforcement and citizens alike.

The reason for dynamic, no-knock (or equivalent) entry is often reports that a suspect is armed. (Though in cases when a firearm was reportedly present, one was found only 35 percent of the time, according to the ACLU!) That makes this common police tactic even more absurd. In a country with more than 300 million guns, who is being made safer when cops break into homes at odd hours during which homeowners are likely to be asleep?

Journalist Radley Balko previously pointed out in an interview with Antiwar that there is another problem with this dearth of SWAT raids motivated by narcotics. Drug “crime” (withering quotes intended) is much more common than the violent kind.

So common, in fact, that police departments don’t have the resources to use any kind of clever measures to go after everyday users or dealers. When they’re going after, say, a long-wanted Massachusetts mobster, they actually get clever and surprise them in an outside location.

Another worrisome finding in the ACLU’s report is that 80 percent of the SWAT deployments were for serving a search warrant. The worst case, we-really-must-have-SWAT-on-backup scenario is an armed bank robbery, or a gunman in a clock tower, or a loose terrorist (though SWAT during that had its own problems).

And in many ways, that’s a fair point. We want hostages rescued. If we have police, it would do no good to have them impotent when lives really are in danger. But the ACLU found that only seven percent of SWAT happenings were over a hostage situation or otherwise legitimate use of that level of force.

Like most other public endeavors, SWAT has never stuck to its ostensible purpose. One could call this mission creep, but the explosion of SWAT during the past three decades was mostly due to the militarized drug war. At the end of the day, SWAT is common because of these kinds of bad policies.

After all, what are police departments supposed to do with the billions of dollars in war tech they have received from the Pentagon and the Department of Homeland Security — not use them? Why offer grants to 500 police departments for no-cost Mine-Resistant Ambush-Protected (MRAP) vehicles if they are not to be used on the next drug raid?

Plus, police departments often demonstrate a cheerfully mule-like refusal to accept that this kind of military-excess alienates the people they are tasked to protect. They don’t seem to understand that the new warrior cop is supposed to intimidate hardened criminals, but it scares the rest of us, too.

A final point to consider is the data holes in this report. There are 17,000 law enforcement departments in the United States. The ACLU’s findings come from twenty SWAT teams. The report note that “One hundred and fourteen of the agencies denied the ACLU’s request, either in full or in part” after they sent requests to more than 250 departments. It is more difficult to advocate for reform when it’s such a slog to even develop a clear picture of what is happening.

There is no federal oversight of SWAT team use — hell, the feds have their own teams now. Every year, the FBI releases crime reports, and also releases an annual report on police officer deaths. There is no national reporting on police use of force on citizens. This makes quantitative national data impossible. (The ACLU did note that the phenomenon of police militarization is undoubtedly a nationwide one.) Police departments are not brimming with a desire to become transparent.

Worse than being reluctant to turn over documents, however, is that that the paper may not exist at all. Reporting on weapon discharges are mandatory, but beyond that, with rare exceptions, police departments don’t seem to be looking at their own histories and trying to learn from them. SWAT is already everyday for too many of them.

Occasionally, there are nervous moves to change policy after a big tragedy such as the botched raid on the Utah home of Matthew David Stewart in January 2012. But plenty of similar instances have provoked only sorrow over dead police officers, without any admittance that they died in vain, or that departments should stop repeating the same idiotic, dangerous raids.

For real, better police you might need every chief to be like Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank — and he seems unique in his vocal opposition to drug raids, the warrior cop mindset, and heavy-handed tactics in dealing with protesters.

With all the power that police now possess, and the long leash they are given, it would be foolish to assume that most of them will act as sensibly, and with as much restraint as Burbank has generally done, however.

Police have been handed the keys to the MRAP vehicles, the financial incentives to prioritize drug crimes, and the mentality that they are soldiers, with the same dangerous, thrilling job that demands belly-crawling respect from the rest of us (not, say, stern oversight, and high standards).

After all this, is there any good news about police reform, or do we just have a slightly clearer picture of the depth of the problem? Well, the Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that a warrant is required for a cellphone search. That’s fantastic news, and a sign that the highest court may be catching up to the fact that changing technology mandates new rules for legal searches. It will tie the hands of police in a small, but very significant way. But there’s so much more to fix. In their report, the ACLU did a commendable job in summing up the mess we’re in, but it’s just the beginning.

Lucy Steigerwald is a contributing editor for Antiwar.com and a columnist for VICE.com. She previously worked as an Associate Editor for Reason magazine. She is most angry about police, prisons, and wars. Steigerwald blogs at www.thestagblog.com.

Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.

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