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Guns in Schools: Gun Control Debate Heats Up in the States

January 31st, 2015 - by admin

Naureen Khan / Al Jazeera America – 2015-01-31 23:47:09

http://america.aljazeera.com/articles/2015/1/26/gun-control-debate-flounders-in-washington-picks-up-in-the-states.html

Guns in Schools: Gun Control Debate,
Stalled in DC, Picks Up in the States

Even as gun control slips from federal agenda, advocates say they have scored victories and support at the state level

Naureen Khan / Al Jazeera America

(January 26, 2015) — On January 16, only about 20 minutes apart, shootings marred what would have been otherwise normal Friday evening basketball games at high schools in Mobile, Alabama, and Ocala, Florida. A student was shot and injured in each case; both survived.

They were the 49th and 50th shootings at K–12 schools in the US — calculated by Al Jazeera as incidents in which a gun discharges on school property and a student or teacher is involved but not police — since the December 2012 massacre of 26 children and staffers at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut.

This is the first in a seven-part series examining the issues surrounding school shootings in the US. The second part looks at the psychological impact defense measures can have on kids.

WASHINGTON (January 26, 2015) — If there was a single sign that the federal push for legislation to tighten gun restrictions has entered the do-not-resuscitate phase of its political life, it may have been President Barack Obama’s conspicuous omission of the topic in his State of the Union address last week.

Even in an address replete with agenda items that most acknowledge have no chance of getting past the Republican-controlled Congress, guns warranted only a vague reference to the president’s grieving with the families of Newtown.

Close watchers of the gun debate in the United States said that gun control’s moment — at least in Washington — has passed.

“President Obama spent all of his chips or made his strongest effort in 2013 after the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, and with the failure of that effort when Congress failed to act — the Senate specifically — there was a sense that he had made his best effort and it wasn’t going to get anywhere,” said Robert Spitzer, a political science professor at the State University of New York at Cortland specializing in the politics of gun control. “He’s made a political calculation that it makes more sense to spend his resources on other issues.”

Spitzer said he does not expect guns to be foremost in Americans’ minds or at the top of the public policy agenda in the foreseeable future.

“I think 2015 is likely to be a lull year . . . compared to last year,” he said. “Much of the energy has been spent for the short term, and then we’ll see a gearing up by the gun groups for 2016, the next presidential and congressional races.”

Meanwhile, the drumbeat of gun deaths and mass shootings has continued.

A December report by two gun control advocacy groups, Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, counted 99 school shootings since the Sandy Hook massacre, including shootings at college campuses. In 23 of those incidents there was at least one fatality. According to the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C., that compiles data on gun violence, there were 12,569 gun deaths in the United States in 2014.

Despite the bleak statistics, advocates for stricter gun regulations see reason for optimism. With Congress paralyzed on the issue, a flurry of activity has taken place at the state level.

States have enacted 242 new firearm laws since Newtown: 99 that strengthened gun laws, 88 that weakened them and 55 that had minimal impact, according to the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, a national advocacy group for gun regulations that compiles data on state and federal legislation.

Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America, said she counts significant victories in the last two years that indicates that the grip of the gun lobby, particularly the powerful National Rifle Association, on state and national politics is slowly but surely waning.

In Michigan, Gov. Rick Snyder, a Republican, vetoed a National Rifle Association-backed bill that would have reversed a blanket restriction that prevents the subjects of any personal protection order from obtaining a concealed pistol license. In Washington state, voters overwhelmingly passed a ballot initiative in November that closed the background-check loophole for gun shows and Internet sales. And in September 2014, California became the first state in the country where family members can ask a judge to remove firearms from a relative who appears to pose a danger.

“We’ve been able to kill bad bills, and we’re supporting good,” Watts said. “This is a marathon. It’s not a sprint. It’s going to take months and years to undo the damage the NRA has done, both in our state legislatures and on a federal level.”

The NRA did not return requests for comment.

Sarah Trumble, a policy counsel for social policy and politics at Third Way, a think tank based in Washington, D.C., said that for the first time, equally powerful and well-financed groups have arisen to counter the clout of the NRA.

Former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has pledged to give at least $50 million to Everytown for Gun Safety, one of the major groups promoting stricter gun laws. Americans for Responsible Solutions, a super PAC started by former Rep. Gabby Giffords, who was critically injured in an Arizona shooting in 2010, raised $21 million in the 2014 cycle, spending $7 million in federal elections in support of candidates in favor of stricter gun laws, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

Still, the NRA remains an intimidating foe for gun control advocates. The group spent $27 million supporting and opposing federal candidates in the 2014 election cycle and $3 million on lobbying.

“This is a really interesting time in the movement. What we’re seeing is that the NRA is not the only loud and well-funded voice in the debate. We’re seeing the remnants of their power,” Trumble said. “The balance of power is not all with the NRA.”

Gun safety advocates said they are encouraged by the recent appointment of Surgeon General Vivek Murthy, whose confirmation was vehemently opposed by the NRA for his outspoken views about gun safety as a public health issue and was held up for more than a year by conservative senators. Although experts say he cannot substantially change gun regulations, his confirmation as surgeon general is a sign of changing attitudes in government and the populace on gun violence.

“It’s important on a sort of significance level,” Trumble said. “It means a lot that the highest doctor in the land is concerned about it and recognizes it as a public health issue.”


Timeline: School Shootings since Sandy Hook

This timeline includes school shootings at K-12 educational sites involving students or staff as perpetrators or victims since the December 2012 tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. Incidents in the timeline all involve a gun discharging live ammunition, but those fired by police are not shown. The data for the timeline was primarily drawn from gun control advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety, and crosschecked against news reports.

December 14, 2012
Mass shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School

Adam Lanza, 20, shoots and kills his mother before driving her car to nearby Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., with a rifle, a shotgun, two handguns and hundreds of rounds of ammunition. At the school, Lanza uses the rifle to kill 20 first-grade students and six faculty members, including principal Dawn Hochsprung and school psychologist Mary Sherlach, who tried to tackle him. Lanza then injures two more people before turning a handgun on himself as police arrive.

January 10, 2013
Taft Union High School shooting

At Taft Union High School in Taft, Calif., student Bryan Oliver, 16, walks into his classroom and shoots classmate Bowe Cleveland with a .12-gauge shotgun. He shoots at but misses Jacob Nickelst. Teacher Ryan Heber and security officer Kim Fields talk Oliver into surrendering. Cleveland survives, and Heber escapes with minor wounds. Oliver is charged as an adult with two counts of attempted murder and three counts of aggravated assault with a firearm.

January 29, 2013
Dale County school bus shooting

Jimmy Lee Dykes, 65, boards a school bus in Midland City, Ala., with a gun and orders the driver, Charles Poland Jr., to hand over two children. When Poland refuses, Dykes shoots him five times, killing him. Dykes then abducts 5-year-old Ethan Gilman and holds him hostage in an underground bunker. On Feb. 4, FBI agents raid the bunker, killing Dykes and rescuing Gilman, who is in good health. Authorities credit Poland’s actions with saving more children from being abducted.

January 31, 2013
Price Middle School shooting

After a fight in the school courtyard, an unidentified student at Price Middle School in Atlanta shoots 14-year-old Telvis Douglas in the back of the head with a handgun, giving him a flesh wound. Some witnesses reported that the suspect then fired at fleeing students. A teacher receives minor scuffs and bruises in the resulting chaos, but no one else is hurt. A school resource officer disarms the suspect before arresting him.

February 27, 2013
Grady High School shooting

Morgan Tukes, 17, accidentally shoots herself in the upper leg with a handgun outside Grady High School in Atlanta. After she leaves the hospital, officials charge her with carrying a weapon in a school safety zone, reckless conduct, possession of a pistol by a minor and disruption of a public school. Officials do not know why Tukes had the weapon.

April 29, 2013
La Salle High School shooting

During his first-period class at La Salle High School in Cincinnati, 17-year-old honor student Joe Poynter shoots himself in the head with a .45-caliber handgun stolen from his family’s gun safe. Officials say he did not threaten any of the 22 other students in the class. Officials later describe Poynter as “fighting for his life” at UC Medical Center.

May 22, 2013
Britton-Hecla High School shooting

While showing off what he reportedly thought was an unloaded .22-caliber handgun in the parking lot of Britton-Hecla High School in Britton, S.D., 18-year-old Dusty Groom accidentally shoots 17-year-old Brody Heitmann, who suffers a graze wound to his head. School officials expel Groom, and police charge him with reckless discharge of a firearm, possession of a firearm on school property and false reporting to authorities.

May 25, 2013
Redland Middle School shooting

A student at Redland Middle School in Homestead, Fla., outside Miami, suffers a graze wound to his leg when a gun accidentally goes off in another student’s backpack. A third student, 13-year-old Pablo Sanchez, takes off his shirt and holds it over the wound until paramedics arrive. Authorities reportedly interview the student who took the gun to school.

August 20, 2013
Ronald E. McNair DLA Elementary School shooting

Dressed in black, 20-year-old Michael Brandon Hill walks into the Ronald E. McNair Discover Learning Academy Elementary School in Decatur, Ga., carrying an AK-47 and a bag of ammunition. After Hill barricades himself in the front office and exchanges fire with police officers outside, school bookkeeper Antoinette Tuff talks him into surrendering. No one is injured, and Hill is later charged.

August 30, 2013
Carver High School shooting

After a fire drill at Carver High School in Winston-Salem, N.C., 18-year-old Christopher Lamont Richardson shoots 15-year-old classmate Antwain Deshaun Porter several times with a .38-caliber handgun. A school resource officer disarms Richardson and arrests him. Porter is hospitalized with non-life-threatening injuries. Authorities say the two had a long-running fight. Richardson is later charged on several counts.

October 4, 2013
Agape Christian Academy shooting

During a fight in the parking lot of Agape Christian Academy in Pine Hills, Fla., an unidentified person who is not a student at the school shoots a 16-year-old football player in the hip and wounds a 17-year-old bystander. The suspect is not caught, but both victims are expected to recover.

October 15, 2013
Lanier High School shooting

A 17-year-old student at Lanier High School in Austin, Texas, kills himself with a handgun while sitting alone in a courtyard next to the school cafeteria around 1:30 p.m., according to witnesses. Classmates report the student posted on Facebook a picture of himself holding a gun to his head.

October 21, 2013
Sparks Middle School shooting

An unnamed 12-year-old student opens fire with a .357-caliber handgun outside Sparks Middle School in Sparks, Nev. According to witnesses, teacher Michael Landsberry confronts the gunman, who fatally shoots Landsberry before turning the gun on himself. Two other students are injured.

November 13, 2013
Brashear High School shooting

Anjohnito Willet Jr., 16, shoots three classmates as they walk home from Brashear High School in Pittsburgh. One of the victims runs back to the school for help, prompting initial fears of a shooter inside the building. According to police, the shooting was retaliation for a drug-related assault and robbery of Willet on Oct. 18. Doctors expect all the victims to recover.

November 21, 2013
Sophie B. Wright Charter School shooting

Two students — 17-year-old Taykuan Walker and Derrick Noten — are arrested after accidentally firing a .38-caliber handgun inside the band room of Sophie B. Wright Charter School in New Orleans. Police find a gun magazine, two casings and a bag of marijuana on the teenagers. One of them apparently took the handgun home before police arrived.

December 1, 2013
Scott High School shooting

A 14-year-old student at Scott High School in Toledo, Ohio, tells a school resource officer he has a gun before flashing a realistic-looking pellet gun. The student surrenders after a standoff during which officers shoot him in the foot with a beanbag round. He suffers only minor injuries.

December 4, 2013
West Orange High School shooting

Jamorian Eddie Patrick Bell, 17, shoots 15-year-old Jerodrick Smith twice during an after-school fight outside West Orange High School in Winter Garden, Fla. A few hours later, police catch Bell about four miles from the school. Smith is last reported in stable condition.

December 13, 2013
Arapahoe High School shooting

Two people are wounded at Arapahoe High School in Centennial, Colo., after a student opens fire in the school. Students are dispersed to the athletic fields and a Molotov cocktail is found on the suspect, who died from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound. The school is about 8 miles east of Columbine High School in Littleton, where two teenage shooters killed 12 classmates and a teacher before killing themselves in 1999.

January 9, 2014
Liberty Technology Magnet High School shooting

At Liberty Technology Magnet High School in Jackson, Tenn., an unidentified 16-year-old student shoots a 17-year-old classmate in the leg. Police reportedly capture the suspect at his grandmother’s home shortly after he flees campus. The victim receives treatment at a local hospital for non-life-threatening injuries.

January 13, 2014
Hillhouse High School shooting

A 14-year-old student receives gunshot wounds to his hands and leg when shots ring out after a basketball game at Hillhouse High School in New Haven, Conn. Police arrest two adults in connection to the incident.

January 14, 2014
Berrendo Middle School shooting

A 12-year-old student at Berrendo Middle School in Roswell, N.M., walks into a gym and opens fire with a sawed-off 20-gauge shotgun as students gather before class. He critically injures two students — Kendal Sanders, 13, and Nathaniel Tavarez, 11 — before social studies teacher John Masterson and state police officer Lt. Gary Smith convince him to surrender. The shooter is sentenced to state custody until he turns 21.

January 15, 2014
King Elementary School shooting

Police shut down King Elementary School in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, after a woman reports seeing two men fire a handgun on the school playground and then flee the scene. Officers reportedly find a spent shell casing on the playground, but no students are outside during the incident, and no one is harmed.

January 17, 2014
Delaware Valley Charter High School shooting

Two 15-year-old students at Delaware Valley Charter High School in Philadelphia, Pa., are shot in the arm when a gun goes off in the school gymnasium. Police seek three students in connection with the incident but tell USA Today that they do not know whether the shooting was intentional.

January 27, 2014
Rebound High School shooting

Omari A. Tinsley, 18, allegedly shoots the father of a student at Rebound High School in Carbondale, Ill., during an argument in the school parking lot. Police report that the injuries are life-threatening. They also arrest another 17-year-old student.

January 31, 2014
Cesar Chavez High School shooting

Off-duty police officers working a large basketball game at Cesar Chavez High School in Phoenix, Ariz., hear 10 to 15 shots in the school courtyard midgame, sparking chaos. Police later tell a local ABC affiliate that the lack of property damage from the shooting leads them to believe that someone was firing into the air.

January 31, 2014
North High School shooting

After a basketball game at North High School in Des Moines, Iowa, six men in a black Jeep fire several shots into the school parking lot, grazing a 15-year-old girl. According to news reports, the men argued with the girl earlier that night. No one else is injured in the shooting.

February 7, 2014
Bend High School shooting

A student commits suicide with a gun in a modular classroom at Bend High School in Bend, Ore., while other students are present, prompting a two-hour school lockdown. Authorities do not release the student’s name, age or gender, and no additional details are available.

February 10, 2014
Salisbury High School shooting

Dajuan Russel, 17, allegedly shoots classmate Shaleek Williams in the stomach outside the gym at Salisbury High School in Salisbury, N.C., as Williams tries to break up a fight. Police reportedly arrest at least two individuals in connection with the shooting.

February 11, 2014
Brush High School shooting

Several shots are fired in the parking lot of Brush High School in Lyndhurst, Ohio, during a basketball game. After the incident, police take into custody two 17-year-old boys who do not attend the school. No one is injured.

March 7, 2014
Madison Parish High School shooting

During a fight at a fundraising dance at Madison Parish High School in Tallulah, La., Levecion Williams, 17, allegedly shoots a 16-year-old classmate, grazing him in the arm. Police charge Williams with attempted second-degree murder.

March 25, 2014
Banneker High School shooting

An unidentified student fires multiple shots into the air during an argument in the parking lot of Banneker High School in Union City, Ga. Police arrest at least four people in connection with the shooting.

April 11, 2014
East English Village Preparatory Academy shooting

A drive-by shooting into a crowd of about 100 people in the parking lot of East English Village Preparatory Academy in Detroit kills 19-year-old Darryl Smith, who was at the school for an event. Police seek two suspects in connection with the shooting.

April 21, 2014
Provo High School shooting

A 14-year-old boy sustains minor mouth injuries while attempting suicide with a .22-caliber handgun behind a secondary building at Provo High School in Provo, Utah. The boy, who was alone during the incident, then calls 911 for medical attention.

May 3, 2014
Horizon Elementary School shooting

An argument between two groups of teenagers on the basketball court at Horizon Elementary School in Everett, Wash., leaves one of the teenagers shot. The rest quickly scatter, with police reportedly using a helicopter and a K-9 unit to track them down.

June 10, 2014
Reynolds High School shooting

After riding the bus to Reynolds High School in Troutdale, Ore., carrying an AR-15-type rifle, a semiautomatic handgun, nine magazines of ammunition, a knife and tactical gear, 15-year-old Jared Padgett allegedly kills classmate Emilio Hoffman, 15, and wounds teacher Todd Rispler before exchanging fire with police then taking his own life.

June 23, 2014
Kelly High School shooting

Kaden Robert, 15, dies in a friend’s pickup truck in the parking lot of Kelly High School in Benton, Mo., after a handgun in the truck accidentally discharges, according to police and witnesses. The friends had just finished a basketball game and were reportedly on their way to Robert’s house.

August 14, 2014
Saunders Elementary School shooting

David Hosley, 17, allegedly shoots teenagers Bryant Wilder Jr. and John Nieves Jr. with a 12-gauge shotgun, killing both. The attack takes place in the parking lot of Saunders Elementary School in Newport News, Va., in the early hours of the morning. Hosley wounds an unidentified third victim, who then phones police.

September 9, 2014
Stellar Leadership Academy shooting

A shooting during a fight in the parking lot of Stellar Leadership Academy in Miami-Dade County, Fla., leaves five students in custody and one in the hospital with non-life-threatening injuries.

September 10, 2014
Greenwood Lakes Middle School shooting

Lamar Jazz Hawkins III shoots and kills himself in a restroom at Greenwood Lakes Middle School in Lake Mary, Fla.

September 11, 2014
Westbrook Elementary School shooting

A concealed handgun carried by sixth-grade teacher Michelle Ferguson-Montgomery accidentally discharges while she is using the restroom before the start of the school day, hitting her in the leg. The teacher, a 14-year veteran of Westbrook Elementary School in Taylorsville, Utah, has a concealed-carry permit and is allowed to have the gun on school property under state law.

September 24, 2014
Joel C. Harris Academy shooting

A .22-caliber handgun hidden in a 12-year-old boy’s backpack accidentally discharges when the boy sets the bag down, prompting Joel C. Harris Academy in San Antonio, Texas, to go on lockdown. According to police, another student, 14, asked the 12-year-old to keep the gun for him. Police later determine that the gun is loaded with blanks, not live rounds, and no one is injured.

September 30, 2014
Albemarle High School shooting

Jalen Russell, 15, turns himself in to the principal after allegedly shooting 17-year-old classmate Bernard Miller twice in the leg during an argument before class at Albemarle High School in Albemarle, N.C.

September 30, 2014
Fern Creek High School shooting

Fern Creek High School in Louisville, Ky., goes on lockdown after an unidentified 16-year-old student shoots a 15-year-old classmate twice, sending the victim to surgery. Police arrest the suspect three hours later at a nearby apartment complex.

October 3, 2014
Langston Hughes High School shooting

Eric Dana Johnson Jr., 18, allegedly shoots and kills 17-year-old Kristofer Hunter after a football game at Langston Hughes High School in Fairburn, Ga. Police later issue a warrant for Johnson, who attends another high school.

October 21, 2014
A. Maceo Walker Middle School shooting

While showing friends a handgun in his backpack between classes, a 13-year-old student at A. Maceo Walker Middle School in Memphis, Tenn., accidentally drops his bag, discharging the gun and shooting himself in the leg. No one else is injured.

October 24, 2014
Marysville Pilchuck High School shooting

Jaylen Fryberg, 15, sends text messages to several friends asking them to meet him for lunch in the school cafeteria, where he allegedly opens fire on them with a .40-caliber Beretta handgun before taking his own life. Four of the victims die as a result of their wounds. A fifth recovers after time in intensive care.

December 17, 2014
Lee High School shooting

A 10th-grade boy at Lee High School in Wyoming, Mich., is shot in the leg leaving the school gymnasium after basketball practice. Police do not have any immediate suspects.

January 8, 2015
Beaver High School shooting

School officials and police find an unidentified teenage girl lying dead next to a gun in a bathroom at Beaver High School in Beaver, Utah. According to media reports, officials suspect suicide.

January 15, 2015
Wisconsin Lutheran High School shooting

During a basketball game at Wisconsin Lutheran High School in Milwaukee, Wis., a teacher and a 15-year-old boy who is visiting from another school are injured when shots are fired.

January 16, 2015
Williamson High School shooting

One person is injured when a shot is fired during a fight after a basketball game at Williamson High School in Mobile, Ala

January 16, 2015
Vanguard High School shooting

Shots are fired during an argument around 9:35 p.m. in the parking lot of Vanguard High School in Ocala, Fla., after a basketball game. A 14-year-old student and a 19-year-old woman sustain non-life-threatening injuries.

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

US Navy Plans to Deploy a “Death Ray” Weapon in the Persian Gulf

January 31st, 2015 - by admin

Gar Smith / Environmentalists Against War – 2015-01-31 16:00:38

Special to Environmentalists Against War

Escalation Nation: The US Navy Plans to Deploy a “Death Ray” Weapon in the Persian Gulf
Gar Smith / Environmentalists Against War

Sometime this year — with turmoil in the Middle East already at a fever pitch — the US Navy plans to deploy a new laser weapon aboard the >USS Ponce, a naval vessel that has been assigned to engage in “war exercises” off the coast of Iran.

In videos released by the Pentagon, an invisible, yet powerful, beam of energy sets fire to an unmanned drone aircraft flying overhead at some distance. The flaming aircraft tumbles into the ocean. This is the Laser Weapons System (LaWS) at work. The current weapon is a low-power (15-50 kilowatt) prototype of a planned 100 kW “death ray” that could someday fry guided missiles in mid-trajectory.

According to Pentagon officials, the current low-power LaWS could prove useful against (1) slow-flying drones and (2) small boats. The current design is not effective against any target traveling at advanced speeds because the heat-effect builds up slowly — i.e., “it needs time to work.”

The distinction is important: This means the laser has no use as a “defensive” weapon. It is an “offensive” weapon, plain and simple.

The Pentagon frequently stages US military exercises off the shores of distant nations as a way of “showing the flag” and “sending a message.” The countries targeted for such unsolicited displays of naval might understandably view these intrusions as provocations. Conducting US “war games” in the Persian Gulf region is a dangerous stunt that is fraught with peril. Especially since it runs the risk of a face-off between the US and Iran.

Iran in known to monitor US warships in the waters near its borders and Tehran uses both pilotless drones and speedboats for this purpose. Were the US to use this new laser weapon against Iran’s ships or aerial surveillance craft, it could be seen as an act of aggression — risking injury and death to Iranian sailors. If US “field tests” of the new LaWS system happened to bring down and Iranian drone or sink an Iranian patrol boat, that could trigger retaliation from Tehran, leading to further escalations.

Torching Speedboats and Drones
In a test off the California coast in April 2011, the Navy’s experimental Maritime Laser Demonstrator (MLD), a solid-state 15-kilowatt solid-state laser, was able to ignite the engines on a small targeted boat. In a matter of seconds, the vessel was set on fire.

In less than three years after Northrop Grumman won a $98 million Navy contract to design the MLD, the prototype — in its very first at-sea trial — demonstrated its ability to cause “catastrophic failure” on a moving vessel in the open sea.

In an interview with Spencer Ackerman, then the host of Wired magazine’s Danger Room blog, Rear Adm. Nevin Carr beamed, “I never thought we’d see this kind of progress this quickly, where we’re approaching a decision of when we can put laser weapons on ships.”

Solid-state lasers operating in the tens of kilowatts have shown they can be both accurate and deadly — as long as the targets are slow-moving or stationary. Before laser weapons are able to take down a supersonic jet or an incoming missile, it will be necessary to ramp up the weapon’s power significantly — to at least 100 kilowatts.

While buoyed by the success of the MLD, Adm. Carr wasn’t satisfied. While the MLD’s destruction of a small speedboat was “an important data point,” he noted, “I still want the Megawatt Death Ray.”

The Megawatt Class Death Ray
In 2011, scientists at a weapons lab in Newport News, Virginia, were able to produce a 500kV blast from an electron gun. This success promised to accelerate the development and deployment of a “megawatt-class” laser capable of taking down a missile or slicing holes in an enemy vessel.

The Navy’s goal is to perfect a Free Electron Laser (FEL), an energy-beam weapon with adjustable wavelengths that could bore through dust and sea spray to deliver a knockout blow — burning through enemy vehicles and vessels at the rate of 2,000-feet-of-steel-per-second. (By comparison, the world’s most powerful free-electron laser currently is capable of cutting through 20-feet-of-steel-per-second.)

With work on the FEL’s electron injectors reportedly ahead of schedule, the Office of Naval Research expects to see it’s first death ray device deployed sometime in the 2020s.

According to Admiral Carr, the arrival of the FEL and the Navy’s Mach-8 electromagnetic rail gun will enable the US to begin “fighting at the speed of light and hypersonics.”

But for the moment, the Navy must make do with the solid-state MLD.

Death Rays in the Gulf
The timing of a joint US-South Korea “war game” in the waters near North Korea recently lead that country’s leader to threaten to rain nuclear-tipped missiles on US holdings from Guam to Nebraska.

Despite the rising tensions in the Gulf Region (where Israel’s cross-border airstrikes into Syria raise the risks of a spreading regional war), the Pentagon scheduled a major military exercise in the Persian Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. The International Mine Countermeasures Exercise (IMCMEX) ran from May 6-30 and involved vessels and personnel from 30 countries.

Commodore Simon Ancona, the deputy commander of the Combined Maritime Forces, described the military show-of-force as a “multidisciplinary defense exercise” designed to protect oil tankers, oil terminals and oil and gas exporters in the region. In addition to placing a first-generation “death ray” on board a ship plowing through the waters near Iran, the Pentagon plans to launch drones to provide surveillance information to US-military forces in the region.

Drones are part of the tension equation in the Persian Gulf. On March 14, 2013, Iran scrambled a jet fighter to chase down a US Predator drone that strayed too close to Iranian airspace. The US had two military aircraft shadowing the drone in international waters and, according to CNN, the Iranian jet retreated after “a verbal warning.” In November 2012, Iran shot down a US drone over the Persian Gulf.

In April 2013, the New York Times reflected that bolting a death ray to the deck of a US naval vessel “seemed meant as a warning to Iran not to step up activity in the Gulf.” As if to drive the message home, the Navy released a video of a LaWS system being tested in the waters off San Diego. A laser beam was trained on a slow-flying drone. In less than five seconds, the aircraft burst into flame and plummeted into the sea.

The 14-kilovolt solid-state LaWS the Navy has installed on the USS Ponce is capable of burning holes in small boats and propeller-driven aircraft. The Navy notes the LaWS will allow US sailors in the Persian Gulf “to easily defeat small boat threats and aerial targets without using bullets.” The term “aerial targets” refers to drones.

The Pentagon is well aware of the fact that Iran’s favored response to US military activities in Persian Gulf waters is to dispatch small fleets of “fast boats” and swarms of aerial drones.

In the sanitized language of Washington, the depiction of “defeating small boat threats” intentionally ignores the fact that any boats (and aircraft) targeted for destruction will be manned by human beings who will not simply be “defeated,” they will also be burned, scarred and incinerated by a new kind of weapon the likes of which the world has never known.

The Pentagon estimates it would take a laser with a power-punch in the 100-kilovolt range to offer any practical defense against an attack from an incoming artillery shell, fighter jet or missile. This underscores the fact that the LaWS can only be used as an offensive weapon, trained on non-threatening or low-threat “targets of opportunity.”

Peter A. Morrison, an ONR program officer with the LaWS program, has praised these new laser weapons that the Pentagon is rushing to the battlefield. “The solid-state laser is a big step forward to revolutionizing modern warfare with directed energy, just as gunpowder did in the era of knives and swords,” Morrison observes.

But is it reasonable to characterize each new Pentagon weapon as an “advancement”? Especially since every military innovation — from flame-throwers to nuclear bombs — has eventually been duplicated and adopted by “enemy” nations. Instead of securing the threat of unique capacities of devastation in the hands of a single, unchallengeable Superpower, each new military breakthrough has led to new round of proliferation allowing new, ever-deadlier weapons of war to spread around the planet.

Electronic “death rays” pose such a unique danger that a growing chorus of voices are calling for a moratorium on deployment. Ultimately, critics insist, such weapons should be outlawed and banned from the battlefield — like chemical gases and anti-personal weapons.

Gar Smith is co-founder of Environmentalists Against War and author of Nuclear Roulette.

Plot for a US-Style Fracking Revolution Threatens British Homes, Environment

January 31st, 2015 - by admin

Naomi Klein / This Changes Everything – 2015-01-31 00:59:03

http://thischangeseverything.org/message-to-the-uk-the-fracking-bridge-is-already-burning/

Message to the UK:
The Fracking Bridge is Already Burning

Naomi Klein / This Changes Everything

(January 22, 2015) — On a week-long trip to the UK last fall, I was struck by how quickly the push to open up the country to fracking has been escalating. Thankfully, activists are mounting a vigorous and creative response, and are more than up to the task of galvanizing the public to put a stop to this mad dash to extract.

That is not to say it will be easy. In rushing to exploit the UK’s shale gas reserves, the industry has spent millions on public relations and brazenly overridden the democratic will of British citizens by overturning laws that had prevented drilling under homes. The coalition government, meanwhile, has done the sector’s bidding at every turn.

We’ve seen all of this before. Indeed what is happening in the UK is modeled so closely on the US experience that an October 2014 opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal spoke of “Plotting an American-Style Fracking Revolution in Britain.”

So it’s worth playing close attention to how that earlier plot played out, both in the United States and in my own country, Canada. The US is not only where the gas companies honed various technologies used in fracking, but also where they honed their branding — like their pitch, originating in the early 1980s, that natural gas was a “bridge” to a clean energy future.

As opposition has grown, they have cleverly funded studies stamped by big green organizations that understate fracking’s huge greenhouse gas impact; touted over-optimistic production forecasts; and in true shock doctrine style, tried to take advantage of geo-political crisis, like the gas cut-offs in Ukraine, to push through massive export plans that in any other circumstance could never gain legislative or public approval.

And when all else fails, government and industry have turned to criminalizing peaceful activism. They’ve dispatched heavily armed police against Indigenous communities blockading shale gas exploration in New Brunswick, Canada; gagged families impacted by drilling from criticizing the industry for an entire lifetime; and tried to charge as “terrorists” protesters in Oklahoma who unfurled a banner and dropped glitter at an oil and gas company’s office.

Yet even with such tactics, communities across North America are in full revolt. Last month came the huge news that New York State would ban fracking, following a steady stream of bans and moratoria passed in local communities, as well as years of sustained pressure from the activists and scientists — like biologist and author Sandra Steingraber, co-founder of New Yorkers Against Fracking — who have tirelessly documented and spread the word about the health and climate impacts.

(The New York uprising continues in the Finger Lakes region of the state, where one Texas-based company hopes to create a massive “gas storage and transportation hub,” and where 200 blockaders have been arrested resisting its plans to fill abandoned salt caverns along Seneca Lake with enormous amounts of fracked gas.)

A ban has also been passed in Vermont and there are moratoria in parts of California, as well as in the Canadian provinces of Quebec, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland.

And a month before the New York victory, the Texas town of Denton — the birthplace of the fracking boom and perhaps the most drilled area in the country — voted decisively to ban hydraulic fracturing. The victory was achieved in a Republican town, in the face of an industry that poured hundreds of thousands into the battle — which was, in the words of a resident, “more like David and Godzilla than David and Goliath.”

The story of Denton has much to teach the growing anti-fracking movement in Britain. What it demonstrates is that, left to their own devices, the fossil fuel companies will come after your homes, your churches, your schools, your parks, your university campuses, and your sports stadiums — all of which have had wells drilled on or near them in Denton.

But despite all of the David Cameron government’s fanfare about “going all out for shale,” widespread resistance has already put the UK’s pro-fracking forces on the defensive.

A recent Guardian analysis found that only 11 new exploration wells are planned for 2015, with the industry bemoaning the “glacially slow” pace of the shale expansion — to say nothing of possible impacts from the global oil price shock now threatening extreme fossil fuels around the world.

Just yesterday, ahead of a key Parliament vote on fracking legislation, green groups sent Cameron a petition with 267,000 signatures rejecting the dash for gas.

It may seem that frackers in the UK and elsewhere will stop at nothing to have their way. But thanks to the rising global climate movement, this so-called bridge is already burning. And it’s long past time to choose a different path.

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

Reports: US Soldiers, Mercenaries Fighting Inside Ukraine

January 31st, 2015 - by admin

RT News & Ian Collier / Sky News & Tyler Durden / ZeroHedge & Roman Nesterenko / FortRuss – 2015-01-31 00:52:06

http://rt.com/news/226079-ukraine-foreign-military-mariupol/

Military-clad English-Speakers Caught on Camera in Mariupol Shelling Aftermath
RT News

(January 26, 2015) — Armed people in uniform speaking fluent English with no accent have been spotted in Mariupol in the aftermath of the rocket hit, fuelling allegations that foreign private military contractors are serving among Ukrainian troops.

The port city in eastern Ukraine, under Kiev’s control, saw a surge of violence on Saturday, when several rockets hit a residential area in the east of the city, reportedly killing 30 civilians. Numerous videos from the scene showed destruction in the aftermath of the attack, for which local militia and Ukrainian troops blamed each other. But among footage shot in Mariupol, there are some videos showing armed men in military uniform, who speak English fluently.

One video uploaded on YouTube is apparently raw footage of a local news channel MSN (Mariupol News Service). One episode shows a man passing resolutely by the camera. The man holds a carbine in his hand and is wearing a tactical vest. As the correspondent points her microphone with a request to comment, the man covers his face with the other hand and says in an American or Canadian accent, “Outta my face, outta my face!”

The other piece is longer and apparently shows another armed man in uniform sweeping the area for unexploded munitions. The man behind the camera is apparently a guide, as he speaks in English with a clear accent. But the person he films speaks as if he were a native speaker, perhaps a South African.

“May be exploded, may be not, so blow up in situ,” he instructs the videographer at a crater left by an artillery hit.

The footage then shows a building with shattered windows signposted as the No 42 kindergarten in Mariupol. The building is in Kievskaya Street where the barrage hit. The video description claims the person is an American member of the Azov voluntary battalion, but offers no proof of this. The uniforms features a round blue-and-yellow patch on shoulder, but its details are indistinguishable as is the man’s face.

The presence of foreign volunteers among Ukrainian voluntary battalions is no secret. Earlier media reports said many of them have right-wing leanings or even Nazi sympathies.

However, so far claims of private military contractors (PMCs) like the infamous Blackwater working in Ukraine remain unproven. Such a presence would indicate a more substantial military support for the Ukrainian government by its foreign backers, since governments usually keep an eye on PMCs working in politically challenging environments.

If a Western government didn’t want a PMC to sign a contract with Ukraine, it would find a way to put leverage on it. Finding such specialists complimenting Ukrainian troops would suggest the actual support for Kiev is a tad higher than the purely non-lethal assistance officially offered to Kiev by the West.


Putin: Ukraine Army Is
NATO Legion Aimed at Restraining Russia

RT News

(January 26, 2015) — The Ukrainian army is essentially a ‘NATO legion’ which doesn’t pursue the national interests of Ukraine, but persists to restrict Russia, President Vladimir Putin says.

“We often say: Ukrainian Army, Ukrainian Army. But who is really fighting there? There are, indeed, partially official units of armed forces, but largely there are the so-called ‘volunteer nationalist battalions’,” said Putin. He added that the intention of Ukrainian troops is connected with “achieving the geopolitical goals of restraining Russia.” Putin was addressing students in the city of St. Petersburg.

According to Putin, the Ukrainian army “is not an army, but a foreign legion, in this case a foreign NATO legion, which, of course, doesn’t pursue the national interests of Ukraine.”

Kiev has been reluctant to find political solutions to the crisis in eastern Ukraine and only used the ceasefire to regroup its forces, the president stressed. “Unfortunately official Kiev authorities refuse to follow the path of a peaceful solution. They don’t want to resolve [the crisis] using political tools,” Putin said, adding that first Kiev authorities had first used law enforcement, then security services and then the army in the region.

“It is essentially a civil war [in Ukraine]. In my view, many in Ukraine already understand this,” Putin added. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has reacted to President Putin’s words, calling his statement “nonsense.”

“The statement that there is a NATO legion in Ukraine is nonsense. There is no NATO legion,” Stoltenberg told reporters.

Already tense situation in eastern Ukraine gone downhill in past 2 weeks. The escalation of violence came after a controversial incident at a Kiev-controlled checkpoint near the town of Volnovakha, where 12 passengers were killed on January 13. Kiev and the militia blamed each other for the incident.

Following escalation, Kiev ordered “massive fire” on militia-held regions on January 18. The self-proclaimed Donetsk republic’s leader accused Kiev of trying to restart the war.

Violent confrontation between Ukrainian army troops and rebels reached its climax last week, when Mariupol in the Donetsk Region was shelled. At least 30 people were killed and over 100 wounded. Kiev and militia troops traded blame, with rebels insisting they didn’t’ have weapons close enough to the city to carry out such a deadly attack.

Western countries reiterated accusations of Russia backing the rebel forces, and so being partly responsible for violations of the Minsk agreement. They called for more sanctions against Moscow.

On Monday, US President Barack Obama promised the United States would examine options to “ratchet up the pressure on Russia” on the Ukraine issue. At the same time, US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said Washington has “more tools” available to increase pressure on Russia.

“I think we have seen that the sanctions work to create real stress in the economy. We have more tools. I am not today going to enumerate what the tools are but we have more tools,” Lew told a news conference in Brussels.

Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski also called on the EU to consider imposing tougher sanctions on Moscow, saying: “The response of the Western world should be very firm.”

Germany’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier also hinted at further restrictions, adding that “an attack or a broad offensive on Mariupol would be a qualitative change in the situation to which we would have to react.”

Vladimir Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov called fresh threats of anti-Russian sanctions “an absolutely destructive and unjustified course that would eventually prove to be shortsighted.”

“Instead of stepping up the pressure on those who refuse to start a dialogue and to solve the conflict in a peaceful way, we hear they want to resume this economic blackmail against Russia,” Peskov noted in his statement.


The Rise of the Right
Ian Collier / Sky News

Ukraine’s bloody conflict against pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country has led to thousands of deaths — but it faces a new fight against the rapid rise of far right groups.

BAFTA-winning filmmaker Ross Kemp saw first-hand how militias, made up of football hooligans and current and former soldiers, are now fighting on the front line. Just a few years ago they were on the fringes of society — shunned for their violent behaviour and xenophobic beliefs, but since the 2014 Maidan revolution — and the subsequent fighting against pro-Russian groups — their popularity has grown.

During filming for series four of Extreme World, Kemp met a group of Dynamo Kiev “ultras” who took part in last year’s uprising, and now fight on the front line in the east of Ukraine.

“Before the Maidan, people’s attitudes to the ultras was mixed,” one senior member of the “Terror Family” says. “Everyone thought us to be just hooligans who have fights with others and cause disturbances. But after the Maidan people opened their eyes; they understood that the ultras are actually patriotic young people who are ready to fight — not only on the Maidan, but also at the war for our land.”

But the ideology of these groups goes beyond fighting pro-Russian separatists. These men — seen now by many as heroes — are fighting for the Azov Battalion in Mariupol, Maryinka and Iloviask. The unit was set up in May 2014 to take on the growing threat from Russia and has since become a magnet for nationalists and far right activists.

“To become an Azov fighter you have to be a proper white man.”

Azov Battalion Fighter
Senior members of the battalion have now been given influential positions within Petro Poroshenko’s government. Its commander, Andriy Biletsky, is believed to be in charge of two neo-Nazi political groups, and has been elected to serve in Ukraine’s parliament while the battalion itself has been integrated into the country’s National Guard.

Differences between Ukraine’s far right groups have been put aside as the fighting continues, though one fighter — a teacher and psychologist — told Kemp that to become an Azov fighter you had to be “a proper white man. You can be nationalist, you can be fascist or national socialist. It’s not the main thing.”

“Our future is a war — a war with Russia.”

A ceasefire has been agreed between Ukraine and the pro-Russian separatists since September. Despite this, the fighting — described by NATO as the biggest threat to European security since the Second World War — continues, and more than a dozen people a day are killed on Ukraine’s front line. On Tuesday 13 January, at least 12 people were killed in a rocket attack as a bus passed through a checkpoint near the town of Volnovakha.

With sporadic fighting continuing during the fragile ceasefire, those who live in eastern Ukraine have no choice but to support the far right militias — many groups are being begged to stay and offer their protection, as an attack is believed to be imminent.

For the new series of Extreme World, Kemp met members of the Azov Battalion near Mariupol — which just months before had been seized by pro-Russian separatists. The country’s second largest sea port, the city is 10 miles from the front line, and its industry is vital to Ukraine’s economy.

The commander of the civil defence for Mariupol is responsible for coordinating the protection of the city from the separatist forces who are based just 15km outside of the city limits.

“They are nationalists, that’s what they call themselves, but they are patriots first and foremost,” she says of the militias. “So we ask them ‘please don’t leave the city. We will help you. We need you, because we want to live in Ukraine.’ Having them here is crucial for us.”

An Azov commander agrees, saying the militias are here to stay. “When the Ukranian army was destroyed near Iloviask, Azov were the ones who held Mariupol. Now we are part of Mariupol. You can’t imagine one without the other.”

And there is no shortage of new recruits — applications from members of far right groups around the country are piling up. “Ukranians love Azov,” he adds. “They are proud of Azov. People step aside and look up to you as a hero.”

Azov are hoping to turn this rising tide of political sympathy into real political power — and this has already started to happen. And while discontent with the current government grows — the influence of the far right only increases.

In October 2014 members of Azov and other similar organisations marched in their thousands through the streets of the capital Kiev. The Azov brigade marched with heavy metal music blaring out, shouting slogans, urging people to follow them.

“The shorthand for this demonstration is ‘we are here’,” says Kemp. “They really are now a force to be reckoned with.”

There seems to be little effort from the government to put a stop to the rise of the far right. As the march gathered momentum — estimates put the crowd numbers at around 10,000, and as Kemp said, there were very few police on the streets. “What I’ve been told is this — they are simply too scared to stop this march.”

Kemp visited Maidan Square where he witnessed a makeshift memorial to more than 100 civilians who were killed during the uprising.

“Any organisation that offers hope, a sense of patriotism and national pride — and also has members that are prepared to lay down their lives for this country — will have people rallying to its cause. But I can’t help thinking the majority of people who laid down their lives in this square didn’t do it to help the rise of the far right.”

What is becoming more worrying is the increasing number of marches across the continent against what some see as the Islamisation of Europe. The controversial anti-Islamic Pegida movement in Germany is proof that anti-immigrant xenophobia is on the rise; the movement has used slogans such as “Lugenpresse” that were regularly used by Hitler’s Nazi Party.

Following the Paris terror attacks, a fresh wave of far right sentiment has been spreading across Europe including Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden.

Ukraine is not alone.

Related News:
American instructors to train Ukrainian troops this spring — US general

Hagel ‘not aware’ of secret deal to supply Kiev with lethal weapons


Ukraine: Why Are US Soldiers In Mariupol?
Tyler Durden / Zero Hedge & Global Research

(January 25, 2015) — Amid the devastation of yesterday’s [January 24] Mariupol artillery strikes, which killed or wounded dozens, which was promptly blamed by both sides on the “adversary” — and has been proclaimed by both ‘sides’ (more on that later) as more violent than before the truce — an ‘odd’ clip has emerged that appears to provide all the ‘proof’ a US intelligence officer would need to surmise that US military boots are on the ground in Ukraine.

As the following clip shows, a Ukrainian journalist approaches what she thinks is a Ukrainian soldier (since he is wearing a Ukrainian military uniform and is carrying an AK) and asked him as they run through the battlezone, “Tell me, what happened here?” His response, which requires no translation, speaks for itself.

Forward to 2:36 for the ‘Ukrainian’ soldier’s response:

Here is a clip which focuses just on the exchange in question:

With daily reportage of the ‘invasion’ of Russian military forces into Ukraine territory (admittedly unconfirmed by NATO), this clip raises many questions about American involvement in the ongoing conflict — most of all, was the US involved in the “staging” the Mariupol massacre, and if so it is clear who should be blamed (and isolated).

Of course, US troops, or at least mercs, on the ground, should not be a total surprise, since just 2 months ago, we discussed the hacked US documents that revealed the extent of undisclosed US “lethal aid” being given to the Ukraine army. [See below — EAW.] What was apparently left unleaked was the part of the US aid also includes US-speaking soldiers. The only question is whether US taxpayers are paying their wages.


Hacked US Documents Said To Reveal
Extent Of Undisclosed US “Lethal Aid” For Ukraine Army

Tyler Durden / ZeroHedge

(November 25, 2014) – It has been half a year since it was first revealed that the US has been sending non-lethal aid to the Ukraine: recall that it was in early June when Obama announced he had approved $5 million in body armor, night-vision goggles and additional communications equipment for the Ukrainian military.

Since then the topic of whether or not to arm the Ukraine army in its civil war against the separatist eastern region has been a hot topic as recently as today, when VOA reported that “US Vice President Joe Biden has condemned what he calls Russia’s “aggression” in Ukraine, but stopped short of saying the United States will provide Ukraine with lethal aid . . . the White House nominee to fill the number two position at the State Department has said the United States should consider giving Ukraine lethal military equipment.”

However, as lately has been a recurrent theme, the Obama administration may not have been exactly forthright with the public or the facts. At least that is the conclusion based on hacked documents released earlier today by the Ukrainian hackers group CyberBerkut, which reveal that despite assurances to the contrary, the US has in fact been providing substantial lethal aid to Ukraine’s armed forces.

As Sputniknews reports, “according to the hackers, the information was obtained during the visit of US Vice President Joe Biden to Ukraine last week, when they were able to access confidential State Department documents via a mobile device of a US delegation member.”

“After examination of just a several files there is the impression that the Ukrainian army is the branch of US Armed Forces. The volume of US financial assistance amazes with its scale. They also show the highest level of degradation of the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Besides, thousands of dollars go on personal accounts of military personnel and used by certain officers in personal needs. What will the American taxpayers say?” the statement published on the official CyberBerkut web page said.

Sorry, but the American taxpayers are too busy with other more pressing matters, than policing how their government spends their money.

Other documents published by the hackers indicate that Washington is ready to supply Ukraine with “400 units of sniper rifles, 2,000 units of assault rifles, 720 hand grenade launchers, nearly 200 mortars and more than 70,000 shells for them, 150 stingers and 420 anti-tank missiles.”The Naval Command asks US to sponsor Ukrainian officers during military exercises headed by the Pentagon on the Ukraine territory
[Documents available at link.]

The leaked documents presented below have not been verified so take them with a grain of salt, although it is worth recalling that it was a hacked leak of Victoria Nulan’s conversation in February 2014 that revealed that extent of behind the scenes meddling by the US State Dept in Ukraine’s internal affairs just ahead of the presidential coup.
[Documents available at link.]

The Army Academy Named After Hetman Petro Sagaydachnyi asks to cover exercise expenditures for meals and incidentals of eleven officers and one civilian.
[Documents available at link.]

These documents below show the signatures of Barak Obama and John Kerry. The United States will provide Ukrainian Armed Forces with counter-mortar radars.
[Documents available at link.]

400 sniper-rifles, 2,000 assault-rifles, 720 hand-held grenade launchers, 200 mortars with more than 70,000 mines, 150 stingers, 420 antitank missiles and so on.
[Documents available at link.]

Ukraine’s Naval Forces receive equipment for 150 combat divers
* * *
The following pdf is said to contain the full list of US military aid to Ukraine (link)
[Documents available at link.]


Is America Taking over the Military Operation in Ukraine
And Why Did Poroshenko Leave Davos Early

Roman Nesterenko / JPGazeta.ru
Translated from Russian by Kristina Rus / FortRuss

(January 23, 2015) — Our source close to the General staff of the Armed Forces of Ukraine, who previously quite accurately forecasted for us the catastrophic defeat on the southern flank of the advancing parts of the UAF — on July 6th (when no one else mentioned the strategic value of Saur-Grave), reports about a chaos in Kiev and the turmoil in the country’s administration and the army.

According to the source, the defeat at the airport, and the loss of the new terminal was a complete surprise to the leaders of ATO [anti-terrorist operation] — as prepared since the beginning of October and started on January 15th operation of “aligning the front” consisted of the acquisition of the greater part of Donetsk and Gorlovka in response to “the terrorist violence against civilians”.

Next, after the recognition by the Council of Europe of DPR and LPR as terrorist organizations, as well as after the elimination of the “Bezler’s gang” in Gorlovka, a general offensive of AFU through Debaltsevo ledge in the direction of Krasny Lyman and Snezhnoe was to begin.

For these operations surplus ammunition supplies, fifteen hundred armored vehicles, more than 50 aircraft and helicopters of various types were prepared at the front over the course of three months. Also different types of equipment for communication and control of combat, and artillery (anti-mortar) radars were received from overseas friends.

An excuse for UAF offensive is now known — the blown up bus near Volnovakha. However, the SBU [Security Service of Ukraine] took the sin upon its soul in vain, because the offensive choked at the stage of the three-day artillery preparation. Efficiency and density of counter-battery fire from NAF has been so detrimental to the Ukrainian artillery that Kiev began to look for scapegoats in another “betrayal”.

In addition, in response to an absolutely monstrous shelling of Donetsk on January 17-18, parts of NAF knocked the “cyborgs” out of the new terminal and attacked Peski and Avdeevka.

After that all operational plans have been disrupted, because the job came under the authority of a “certified dimwit” — Colonel-General Muzhenko. Muzhenko, currently the chief of the General Staff, inside the General Staff is not respected, because he doesn’t care about the opinion of military experts, totally dependent on the whims and views of the head of the SBU, Nalyvaychenko and his closest cronies, many of whom got shoulder straps because of Maidan and have no experience or education.

Muzhenko arrived personally at the positions of the UAF near Donetsk airport, and ordered an immediate counterattack. Unprepared tank attack without infantry support, without co-operation with artillery led to heavy losses in personnel and equipment.

During a few hours of the battle in the suburbs of Donetsk, UAF has lost more than 40 armored vehicles, mostly — tanks. Muzhenko, realizing that as a result of his voluntarist management it is turning into a second Ilovaisk, which the “dimwit” also was involved in, left for Kiev, spreading a rumor about his severe wound.

By January 20th Kiev was in a full-fledged panic, and (in the absence of Poroshenko) was considering declaring war against Russia with the aim to involve NATO in the conflict and to receive urgent military assistance.

People of Nalyvaychenko and Yatsenyuk tried to receive guarantees from the officers of the General Staff that missile defense and Ukrainian air force in the case of this scenario will be able at least for two weeks to counter the Russian air force. Of course, no one gave them such guarantees.

Because at this point NAF is advancing simultaneously in a dozen directions, and the control of many parts of the UAF is already lost, and volunteer battalions and the national guard is not under anyone’s control, a military disaster is in the making. The question is not whether or not the front will collapse, the question is, where it will happen first.

Also, since approximately January 20th, Kiev knows nothing about where at least 6 tank battalions of NAF are located, which had left their permanent location. Under these conditions, the emissaries of Nalyvaychenko are accusing the officers of the General Staff of incompetence and nepotism. These same people are saying that the American military mission to Kiev is preparing to take strategic control of UAF divisions upon themselves.

Well, as they say in Russian, may the earth be like glass fiber to you, dear guests!

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

Doomsday Clock Set at 3 Minutes to Midnight

January 30th, 2015 - by admin

Megan Gannon / LiveScience & Centre Delas & ICAN – 2015-01-30 23:42:58

http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/doomsday-clock-set-at-3-minutes-to-midnight/

(January 24, 2015) — The world is “3 minutes” from doomsday.

That’s the grim outlook from board members of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Frustrated with a lack of international action to address climate change and shrink nuclear arsenals, they decided today (Jan. 22) to push the minute hand of their iconic “Doomsday Clock” to 11:57 p.m.

It’s the first time the clock hands have moved in three years; since 2012, the clock had been fixed at 5 minutes to symbolic doom, midnight. [End of the World? Top Doomsday Fears]

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists doesn’t use the clock to make any real doomsday predictions. Rather, the clock is a visual metaphor to warn the public about how close the world is to a potentially civilization-ending catastrophe. Each year, the magazine’s board analyzes threats to humanity’s survival to decide where the Doomsday Clock’s hands should be set.

Experts on the board said they felt a sense of urgency this year because of the world’s ongoing addiction to fossil fuels, procrastination with enacting laws to cut greenhouse gas emissions and slow efforts to get rid of nuclear weapons.

“We are not saying it is too late to take action but the window for action is closing rapidly,” Kennette Benedict, executive director of The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, said in a news conference this morning in Washington, D.C. “We move the clock hand today to inspire action.”

For instance, if nothing is done to reduce the amount of heat-trapping gasses, such as carbon dioxide, in the atmosphere, Earth could be 5 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit (3 to 8 degrees Celsius) warmer by the end of century, said Sivan Kartha, a senior scientist at the Stockholm Environment Institute.

Some people might not feel alarmed when they see those numbers; they might normally experience that kind of temperature swing in the course of a single day, Kartha said. But, he said a temperature increase of that magnitude was enough to bring the world out of the last ice age, and it will be enough to “radically transform” the Earth’s surface in the future.

Sharon Squassoni, another board member and director of the Proliferation Prevention Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said nuclear disarmament efforts have “ground to a halt” and many nations are expanding, not scaling back, their nuclear capabilities.

Russia is upgrading its nuclear program, India plans to expand its nuclear submarine fleet, and Pakistan has reportedly started operating a third plutonium reactor, Squassoni said.

She said the United States has good rhetoric on nuclear nonproliferation, but at the same time is in the midst of a $335 billion overhaul of its nuclear program. (That figure seems to come from a Congressional Budget Office report from December 2013.)

“The risk from nuclear weapons is not that someone is going to press the button, but the existence of these weapons costs a lot of time, effort and money to keep them secure,” Squassoni said, adding that there have been troubling safety discrepancies reported in recent years at power plants.

The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists was founded in 1945 by scientists who created the atomic bomb as part of the Manhattan Project and wanted to raise awareness about the dangers of nuclear technology. The Doomsday Clock first appeared on a cover of the magazine in 1947, with its hands set at 11:53 p.m.

The clock’s hands shifted quite a bit over the following seven decades. They were closest to midnight in 1953, set at 11:58 p.m., after both the United States and the Soviet Union conducted their first tests of the hydrogen bomb.

The clock’s hands were pushed all the way back to 11:43 p.m., 17 minutes to midnight, in December 1991, after the world’s superpowers signed the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which at the time, seemed like a promising move toward nuclear disarmament.

Follow Megan Gannon on Twitter. Follow us @livescience, Facebook & Google+. Original article on Live Science.

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


New Book Released:
“Risks and threats of nuclear arsenal.
Reasons for prohibition and elimination”

Centre Delas & ICAN

BARCELONA (January 27, 2015) — The Delas Center for Peace studies and the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), have jointly published a new Spanish-language book by Xavier Bohigas and Teresa de Fortuny. The book is titled: “Risks and Threats of Nuclear Arsenal. Reasons for Prohibition and Elimination.”

On February 29, 2015, Jordi Foix, an expert on nuclear weapons, will join authors Xavier Bohigas and Teresa de Fortuny for an open debate on the need to continue to address the prohibition and elimination of nuclear arsenal.

This new publication claims that the current global nuclear arsenal is estimated at 17,000 bombs. Despite the danger that nuclear bombs continue to represent the population perceived as a real threat for which, fortunately, after the end of the Cold War, the threat of nuclear war has diminished.

But instead, the mere existence of nuclear weapons continues the possibility that, through an accident or by a human or technical error, a nuclear conflict could be triggered. The book also documents several near-nuclear conflicts that have occurred on several occasions but have remained hidden.

Copies of the book, in Spanish, can be purchased online by clicking HERE.

Delas Center for Peace Studies.
Roger de Llúria, 3er 1a
08037 Barcelona, Spain
Tel: 34 933176177
email: info@centredelas.org

Reports: US, Western Mercenaries Fighting Inside Ukraine

January 30th, 2015 - by admin

RT News & Ian Collier / Sky News – 2015-01-30 23:24:01

http://rt.com/news/226079-ukraine-foreign-military-mariupol/

Military-clad English-Speakers Caught on Camera in Mariupol Shelling Aftermath
RT News

(January 26, 2015) — Armed people in uniform speaking fluent English with no accent have been spotted in Mariupol in the aftermath of the rocket hit, fuelling allegations that foreign private military contractors are serving among Ukrainian troops.

The port city in eastern Ukraine, under Kiev’s control, saw a surge of violence on Saturday, when several rockets hit a residential area in the east of the city, reportedly killing 30 civilians. Numerous videos from the scene showed destruction in the aftermath of the attack, for which local militia and Ukrainian troops blamed each other. But among footage shot in Mariupol, there are some videos showing armed men in military uniform, who speak English fluently.

One video uploaded on YouTube is apparently raw footage of a local news channel MSN (Mariupol News Service). One episode shows a man passing resolutely by the camera. The man holds a carbine in his hand and is wearing a tactical vest. As the correspondent points her microphone with a request to comment, the man covers his face with the other hand and says in an American or Canadian accent, “Outta my face, outta my face!”

The other piece is longer and apparently shows another armed man in uniform sweeping the area for unexploded munitions. The man behind the camera is apparently a guide, as he speaks in English with a clear accent. But the person he films speaks as if he were a native speaker, perhaps a South African.

“May be exploded, may be not, so blow up in situ,” he instructs the videographer at a crater left by an artillery hit.

The footage then shows a building with shattered windows signposted as the No 42 kindergarten in Mariupol. The building is in Kievskaya Street where the barrage hit. The video description claims the person is an American member of the Azov voluntary battalion, but offers no proof of this. The uniforms features a round blue-and-yellow patch on shoulder, but its details are indistinguishable as is the man’s face.

The presence of foreign volunteers among Ukrainian voluntary battalions is no secret. Earlier media reports said many of them have right-wing leanings or even Nazi sympathies.

However, so far claims of private military contractors (PMCs) like the infamous Blackwater working in Ukraine remain unproven. Such a presence would indicate a more substantial military support for the Ukrainian government by its foreign backers, since governments usually keep an eye on PMCs working in politically challenging environments.

If a Western government didn’t want a PMC to sign a contract with Ukraine, it would find a way to put leverage on it. Finding such specialists complimenting Ukrainian troops would suggest the actual support for Kiev is a tad higher than the purely non-lethal assistance officially offered to Kiev by the West.


Putin: Ukraine Army Is
NATO Legion Aimed at Restraining Russia

RT News

(January 26, 2015) — The Ukrainian army is essentially a ‘NATO legion’ which doesn’t pursue the national interests of Ukraine, but persists to restrict Russia, President Vladimir Putin says.

“We often say: Ukrainian Army, Ukrainian Army. But who is really fighting there? There are, indeed, partially official units of armed forces, but largely there are the so-called ‘volunteer nationalist battalions’,” said Putin. He added that the intention of Ukrainian troops is connected with “achieving the geopolitical goals of restraining Russia.” Putin was addressing students in the city of St. Petersburg.

According to Putin, the Ukrainian army “is not an army, but a foreign legion, in this case a foreign NATO legion, which, of course, doesn’t pursue the national interests of Ukraine.”

Kiev has been reluctant to find political solutions to the crisis in eastern Ukraine and only used the ceasefire to regroup its forces, the president stressed. “Unfortunately official Kiev authorities refuse to follow the path of a peaceful solution. They don’t want to resolve [the crisis] using political tools,” Putin said, adding that first Kiev authorities had first used law enforcement, then security services and then the army in the region.

“It is essentially a civil war [in Ukraine]. In my view, many in Ukraine already understand this,” Putin added. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has reacted to President Putin’s words, calling his statement “nonsense.”

“The statement that there is a NATO legion in Ukraine is nonsense. There is no NATO legion,” Stoltenberg told reporters.

Already tense situation in eastern Ukraine gone downhill in past 2 weeks. The escalation of violence came after a controversial incident at a Kiev-controlled checkpoint near the town of Volnovakha, where 12 passengers were killed on January 13. Kiev and the militia blamed each other for the incident.

Following escalation, Kiev ordered “massive fire” on militia-held regions on January 18. The self-proclaimed Donetsk republic’s leader accused Kiev of trying to restart the war.

Violent confrontation between Ukrainian army troops and rebels reached its climax last week, when Mariupol in the Donetsk Region was shelled. At least 30 people were killed and over 100 wounded. Kiev and militia troops traded blame, with rebels insisting they didn’t’ have weapons close enough to the city to carry out such a deadly attack.

Western countries reiterated accusations of Russia backing the rebel forces, and so being partly responsible for violations of the Minsk agreement. They called for more sanctions against Moscow.

On Monday, US President Barack Obama promised the United States would examine options to “ratchet up the pressure on Russia” on the Ukraine issue. At the same time, US Treasury Secretary Jack Lew said Washington has “more tools” available to increase pressure on Russia.

“I think we have seen that the sanctions work to create real stress in the economy. We have more tools. I am not today going to enumerate what the tools are but we have more tools,” Lew told a news conference in Brussels.

Polish President Bronislaw Komorowski also called on the EU to consider imposing tougher sanctions on Moscow, saying: “The response of the Western world should be very firm.”

Germany’s Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier also hinted at further restrictions, adding that “an attack or a broad offensive on Mariupol would be a qualitative change in the situation to which we would have to react.”

Vladimir Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov called fresh threats of anti-Russian sanctions “an absolutely destructive and unjustified course that would eventually prove to be shortsighted.”

“Instead of stepping up the pressure on those who refuse to start a dialogue and to solve the conflict in a peaceful way, we hear they want to resume this economic blackmail against Russia,” Peskov noted in his statement.


The Rise of the Right
Ian Collier / Sky News

Ukraine’s bloody conflict against pro-Russian separatists in the east of the country has led to thousands of deaths — but it faces a new fight against the rapid rise of far right groups.

BAFTA-winning filmmaker Ross Kemp saw first-hand how militias, made up of football hooligans and current and former soldiers, are now fighting on the front line. Just a few years ago they were on the fringes of society — shunned for their violent behaviour and xenophobic beliefs, but since the 2014 Maidan revolution — and the subsequent fighting against pro-Russian groups — their popularity has grown.

During filming for series four of Extreme World, Kemp met a group of Dynamo Kiev “ultras” who took part in last year’s uprising, and now fight on the front line in the east of Ukraine.

“Before the Maidan, people’s attitudes to the ultras was mixed,” one senior member of the “Terror Family” says. “Everyone thought us to be just hooligans who have fights with others and cause disturbances. But after the Maidan people opened their eyes; they understood that the ultras are actually patriotic young people who are ready to fight — not only on the Maidan, but also at the war for our land.”

But the ideology of these groups goes beyond fighting pro-Russian separatists. These men — seen now by many as heroes — are fighting for the Azov Battalion in Mariupol, Maryinka and Iloviask. The unit was set up in May 2014 to take on the growing threat from Russia and has since become a magnet for nationalists and far right activists.

“To become an Azov fighter you have to be a proper white man.”

Azov Battalion Fighter
Senior members of the battalion have now been given influential positions within Petro Poroshenko’s government. Its commander, Andriy Biletsky, is believed to be in charge of two neo-Nazi political groups, and has been elected to serve in Ukraine’s parliament while the battalion itself has been integrated into the country’s National Guard.

Differences between Ukraine’s far right groups have been put aside as the fighting continues, though one fighter — a teacher and psychologist — told Kemp that to become an Azov fighter you had to be “a proper white man. You can be nationalist, you can be fascist or national socialist. It’s not the main thing.”

“Our future is a war — a war with Russia.”

A ceasefire has been agreed between Ukraine and the pro-Russian separatists since September. Despite this, the fighting — described by NATO as the biggest threat to European security since the Second World War — continues, and more than a dozen people a day are killed on Ukraine’s front line. On Tuesday 13 January, at least 12 people were killed in a rocket attack as a bus passed through a checkpoint near the town of Volnovakha.

With sporadic fighting continuing during the fragile ceasefire, those who live in eastern Ukraine have no choice but to support the far right militias — many groups are being begged to stay and offer their protection, as an attack is believed to be imminent.

For the new series of Extreme World, Kemp met members of the Azov Battalion near Mariupol — which just months before had been seized by pro-Russian separatists. The country’s second largest sea port, the city is 10 miles from the front line, and its industry is vital to Ukraine’s economy.

The commander of the civil defence for Mariupol is responsible for coordinating the protection of the city from the separatist forces who are based just 15km outside of the city limits.

“They are nationalists, that’s what they call themselves, but they are patriots first and foremost,” she says of the militias. “So we ask them ‘please don’t leave the city. We will help you. We need you, because we want to live in Ukraine.’ Having them here is crucial for us.”

An Azov commander agrees, saying the militias are here to stay. “When the Ukranian army was destroyed near Iloviask, Azov were the ones who held Mariupol. Now we are part of Mariupol. You can’t imagine one without the other.”

And there is no shortage of new recruits — applications from members of far right groups around the country are piling up. “Ukranians love Azov,” he adds. “They are proud of Azov. People step aside and look up to you as a hero.”

Azov are hoping to turn this rising tide of political sympathy into real political power — and this has already started to happen. And while discontent with the current government grows — the influence of the far right only increases.

In October 2014 members of Azov and other similar organisations marched in their thousands through the streets of the capital Kiev. The Azov brigade marched with heavy metal music blaring out, shouting slogans, urging people to follow them.

“The shorthand for this demonstration is ‘we are here’,” says Kemp. “They really are now a force to be reckoned with.”

There seems to be little effort from the government to put a stop to the rise of the far right. As the march gathered momentum — estimates put the crowd numbers at around 10,000, and as Kemp said, there were very few police on the streets. “What I’ve been told is this — they are simply too scared to stop this march.”

Kemp visited Maidan Square where he witnessed a makeshift memorial to more than 100 civilians who were killed during the uprising.

“Any organisation that offers hope, a sense of patriotism and national pride — and also has members that are prepared to lay down their lives for this country — will have people rallying to its cause. But I can’t help thinking the majority of people who laid down their lives in this square didn’t do it to help the rise of the far right.”

What is becoming more worrying is the increasing number of marches across the continent against what some see as the Islamisation of Europe. The controversial anti-Islamic Pegida movement in Germany is proof that anti-immigrant xenophobia is on the rise; the movement has used slogans such as “Lugenpresse” that were regularly used by Hitler’s Nazi Party.

Following the Paris terror attacks, a fresh wave of far right sentiment has been spreading across Europe including Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden.

Ukraine is not alone.

Related News:
American instructors to train Ukrainian troops this spring — US general

Hagel ‘not aware’ of secret deal to supply Kiev with lethal weapons

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

The Marshall Islands Versus the World’s Nuclear Weapons States

January 30th, 2015 - by admin

Peter Weiss / The Nation – 2015-01-30 23:06:08

http://www.thenation.com/article/196033/marshall-islands-versus-worlds-nuclear-weapons-states

(January 26, 2015) — Before “Bikini” became the name of a piece of female attire, it was the name of an atoll, part of the 1,156 islands and islets making up what is now the Republic of the Marshall Islands (RMI).

In 2010, at RMI’s request, Bikini was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage List because of its historic importance as the site of twenty-three nuclear tests conducted by the United States between 1946 and 1958. There were sixty-seven US tests in the Marshall Islands altogether.

Now RMI has invoked the aid of another UN agency: the International Court of Justice in The Hague (not to be confused with the International Criminal Court). Last April, in an extraordinary and commendable act of chutzpah, RMI sued all nine states currently possessing nuclear weapons — the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, China, France, India, Pakistan, Israel and North Korea — accusing them of violating their duty to negotiate in good faith for the elimination of those horrific weapons.

The theory of the case is based on three distinct but overlapping principles. Under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) of 1968, each party “undertakes to pursue negotiations in good faith on effective measures relating to cessation of the nuclear arms race at an early date and to nuclear disarmament.”

The 1996 advisory opinion of the ICJ in the nuclear weapons case asserted that “there exists an obligation to pursue in good faith and bring to a conclusion negotiations leading to nuclear disarmament.”

The addition of the words “and bring to a conclusion” was important and made clear that just negotiating, without reaching a specific objective, was not enough. Customary international law also supports the legal obligation to eliminate nuclear weapons.

In some ways the NPT obligation, being treaty based, is the strongest arrow in RMI’s bow. But there is a small problem: four of the accused states (India, Israel, Pakistan and North Korea) are not members of the NPT. The obligation proclaimed by the ICJ and that flowing from customary international law are applicable to every country in the world. But there is another problem: of the nine accused states, only three — India, Pakistan and the UK — are subject to the compulsory jurisdiction of the ICJ.

(The United States, which was a great promoter of the ICJ in its early years, renounced compulsory jurisdiction in 1985 while the case involving military and paramilitary operations against Nicaragua was pending).

RMI has asked the other six states to submit voluntarily to the court’s jurisdiction, but it remains to be seen whether any of them will do so. In the three cases actually pending, India and Pakistan have advised the court that they intend to file objections, and the UK is expected to follow suit.

At this point it is not known exactly what the objections are or will be, but it stands to reason that the court will have to be satisfied that there is a genuine legal dispute between the plaintiff state and the defendants in order to proceed.

In this respect, RMI can argue that, as a member of the international community, it has the right and duty to enforce an obligation of fundamental and universal importance. It can also argue that, given the planetary consequences of a nuclear war, it can be adversely affected by such a war, no matter where it takes place.

The latter argument is not as farfetched as it may seem. Last December, the government of Austria sponsored the third of three conferences in two years on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons. Each was attended by about 125 to 150 governments and was largely ignored by the mainstream media. The Summary of Findings of the Vienna Conference included the following paragraph:

The impact of a nuclear weapon detonation, irrespective of the cause, would not be constrained by national borders and could have regional and even global consequences, causing destruction, death and displacement as well as profound and long-term damage to the environment, climate, human health and well-being, socioeconomic development, social order and could even threaten the survival of humankind.

RMI is represented at the ICJ by Tony deBrum, the country’s foreign minister, and Phon van den Biesen, a Dutch lawyer experienced in ICJ litigation. They are backed by a team of international law experts who are taking the cases very seriously. A substantial number of civil society organizations are supporting the cases, including the Lawyers Committee on Nuclear Policy in New York and the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation in Santa Barbara.

One effect of the RMI initiative is to throw a spotlight on the policies of the nuclear weapons states, which claim to be committed to a nuclear weapons–free world while showing not the slightest willingness to reach that goal. Reduction, which can go on forever, is fundamentally different from elimination, which reaches an end point.

The legal obligation to conclude negotiations for complete nuclear disarmament is not met by shrinking a nation’s nuclear arsenal from 600 to 300 weapons, as France has done, nor by the agreement between the United States and Russia to reduce the stockpile of deployed long-range nuclear warheads each to 1,550 by 2018, as was done in the New START Treaty negotiated in 2010.

One might add that the deterioration of relations between these two countries has made further reductions unlikely for the foreseeable future — not to mention the fact that, according to a projection by the Monterey Institute, the United States plans to spend about $1 trillion over the next three decades to modernize its nuclear weapons and their delivery vehicles.

The Marshall Islands initiative may be a long shot, but it is not a fool’s errand. It is a cri de Coeur by a people who, like the hibakusha of Japan, have experienced the barbarism of nuclear weapons on their own bodies and their own lands.

It comes at a time when the members of the NPT, at the upcoming quinquennial review conference, may at long last decide to take concrete measures toward nuclear disarmament, or face the possibility of seeing the treaty disintegrate.

Many civil society organizations will do their utmost to bring about the former. It also comes at a time when too many policy-makers, having lived so long with nuclear weapons, are beginning to regard them as just another kind of weapon, instead of the uniquely atrocious one that it is.

To them, the Marshall Islanders are saying what the nuclear scientist Joseph Rotblat said to whoever was willing to listen when he accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995: “Remember your humanity.”

Obama’s Prague vision of a nuclear weapons-free world has faded. It’s time to endorse Tony deBrum’s.

Information about civil society events before and during the NPT Review Conference in April and May is available at peaceandplanet.org.

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

Jeffrey Sterling’s Conviction: A Warning to All Whistleblowers

January 30th, 2015 - by admin

Norman Solomon / Consortium News – 2015-01-30 14:05:18

Convicting the ‘Invisible’ Jeffrey Sterling

Convicting the ‘Invisible’ Jeffrey Sterling
Norman Solomon / Consortium News

(January 27, 2015) — The mass media have suddenly discovered Jeffrey Sterling — after his conviction Monday afternoon as a CIA whistleblower. Sterling’s indictment four years ago received fleeting news coverage that recited the government’s charges. From the outset, the Justice Department portrayed him as bitter and vengeful — with the classic trash-the-whistleblower word “disgruntled” thrown in — all of which the mainline media dutifully recounted without any other perspective.

Year after year, Sterling’s case dragged through appellate courts, tangled up with the honorable refusal of journalist James Risen to in any way identify sources for his 2006 book State of War.

While news stories or pundits occasionally turned their lens on Risen, they scarcely mentioned Sterling, whose life had been turned upside down — fired by the CIA early in the Bush administration after filing a racial discrimination lawsuit, and much later by the 10-count indictment that included seven counts under the Espionage Act.

Sterling was one of the very few African American case officers in the CIA. He became a whistleblower by virtue of going through channels to the Senate Intelligence Committee in 2003 to inform staffers about the CIA’s ill-conceived, poorly executed and dangerous Operation Merlin, which had given a flawed design for a nuclear weapons component to Iran back in 2000.

Long story short, by the start of 2011, Sterling was up against the legal wall. While press-freedom groups and some others gradually rallied around Risen’s right to source confidentiality, Sterling remained the Invisible Man.

Like almost everyone, for a long time I knew close to nothing about Sterling or his legal battle. But as I began to realize how much was at stake in the government’s ongoing threat to jail Risen for refusing to betray any source, Sterling started to come into my peripheral vision.

Last spring, I worked with colleagues at RootsAction.org to launch a petition drive titled We Support James Risen Because We Support a Free Press. As petitions go, it was a big success, for reasons well beyond the fact that it gained more than 100,000 signers with plenty of help from other initiating groups (The Nation, FAIR, the Freedom of the Press Foundation, The Progressive and Center for Media and Democracy).

The Justice Department, which had been aggressively pursuing Risen for a half-dozen years at that point, was set back on its heels by the major favorable publicity that came out of our mid-August presentation of the Risen petition in tandem with a news conference at the National Press Club.

Quick media ripple effects included a strong column by Maureen Dowd in support of fellow New York Times journalist Risen (though she didn’t mention the petition or the news conference, which she attended).

In the fall, I teamed up with a colleague at ExposeFacts.org, the incisive investigative journalist Marcy Wheeler, to write what turned out to be a cover story in The Nation, “The Government War Against Reporter James Risen,” providing the first in-depth account of the intertwined cases of Risen and Sterling.

But throughout the fall, for the mass media as well as all but a few progressive media outlets, Jeffrey Sterling remained the Invisible Man. The principle of supporting whistleblowers as strongly as journalists is crucial. Yet support for the principle is hit-and-miss among individuals and organizations that should be clear and forthright. This need is especially great when the government is invoking “national security” claims.

As the whistleblower advocate Jesselyn Radack of the Government Accountability Project has said: “When journalists become targets, they have a community and a lobby of powerful advocates to go to for support. Whistleblowers are in the wilderness. . . . They’re indicted under the most serious charge you can level against an American: being an enemy of the state.”

We encountered this terrain when the same initiating groups launched a new petition — this one in support of Jeffrey Sterling — Blowing the Whistle on Government Recklessness Is a Public Service, Not a Crime.

Some groups that had been wonderfully supportive of the Risen petition — notably the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press and the Committee to Protect Journalists — opted not to have anything to do with the Sterling petition. In sharp contrast, quick endorsement of the Sterling petition came from Reporters Without Borders and the Government Accountability Project.

Two weeks ago, Jeffrey Sterling went to trial at last. He was at the defense table during seven days of proceedings that included very dubious testimony from 23 present and former CIA employees as well as the likes of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

When a court clerk read out the terrible verdict Monday afternoon, Sterling continued to stand with the dignity that he had maintained throughout the trial. At age 47, Jeffrey Sterling is facing a very long prison sentence. As a whistleblower, he has done a lot for us. He should be invisible no more.

Norman Solomon is the executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and the author of War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. He is a co-founder of RootsAction.org. This article originally appeared at ExposeFacts.org.


The Revenge of the CIA:
Scapegoating Whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling

Norman Solomon / ExposeFacts.org

(January 15, 2015) — This week, in a federal courtroom, I’ve heard a series of government witnesses testify behind a screen while expounding on a central precept of the national security state: The CIA can do no wrong.

Those CIA employees and consultants are more than mere loyalists for an agency that soaks up $15 billion a year and continues to loosen the bonds of accountability. The docket says “United States of America v. Jeffrey Alexander Sterling,” but a more discerning title would be “National Security State v. The Public’s Right to Know.”

For the first time in 30 years, a case has gone to trial in a civilian court under the Espionage Act with charges that the defendant gave classified information to news media. Not far from the CIA headquarters in Northern Virginia, legal jargon is flying around the courtroom, but the law has very little to do with this case.

Top officials in the U.S. government leak classified information all the time, without punishment. But Jeffrey Sterling was not a top official. He’s a former CIA officer, charged with giving classified information to journalist James Risen about a CIA operation that provided Iran with flawed nuclear weapon blueprints — information that appeared in Risen’s 2006 book State of War.

Hearing the testimony from CIA operatives, it’s clear that the agency is extremely eager to make an example of Sterling. Despite all the legalisms, the overarching reality is that the case against Sterling is scarcely legal — it is cravenly political.

If it were otherwise, the last two CIA directors to leave their posts — General David Petraeus and Leon Panetta — would be going through the same kind of ordeal that Sterling has been enduring. There’s hefty evidence that both Petraeus and Panetta leaked classified information while running the agency. But these days they’re busy getting rich, not in danger of imprisonment for the rest of their lives.

On Wednesday, the jury heard vague and emphatic claims that Sterling jeopardized the safety of a “human asset” and his family by revealing information about a CIA operation. But the first page of Chapter Nine in State of War reveals a self-inflicted CIA catastrophe in Iran that Sterling had nothing to do with.

Sterling no longer worked for the CIA when the disaster occurred in 2004. An officer at the agency’s Langley headquarters made the mistake of sending data to an agent that “could be used to identify virtually every spy the CIA had inside Iran,” Risen reported. And the recipient of the data was actually a double agent. Risen wrote: “The agent quickly turned the data over to Iranian security officials, and it enabled them to ‘roll up’ the CIA’s agent network throughout Iran.”

That information hardly fits with the agency’s profuse efforts to scapegoat Jeffrey Sterling for its operational woes in Iran. There was no public accountability for the huge screw-up that led to the rollup of agents inside Iran.

Vastly more important, there was no public accountability for top CIA officials who cravenly helped to lie the United States into invading Iraq a dozen years ago with the pretext of (nonexistent) Iraqi WMD.

In sharp contrast, it has been quite convenient for the CIA to try to crush whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling, who — whether or not he was a source for Risen’s State of War book — by all accounts went through channels to let the Senate Intelligence Committee know about Operation Merlin, the reckless CIA maneuver that gave nuclear weapon blueprints to Iran in 2000.

In an opening statement earlier this week, Sterling attorney Edward MacMahon hit a key point when he said: “A criminal case is not a place where the CIA goes to get its reputation back.” He noted that “the same CIA was telling us all that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.”

The CIA hierarchy continues to have no interest in accepting responsibility for its deceptions, no matter how horrific the results. But the agency has been hell-bent on making a scapegoat out of Sterling, a mid-level employee who was one of the agency’s very few African American case officers.

From the lofty heights of CIA officialdom, Sterling’s sins were unforgivable. Based on his experiences inside the CIA, he had the temerity to pursue a racial discrimination lawsuit against the agency. And he later told Senate oversight committee staffers about a highly dubious CIA operation that risked adding to proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Those actions were quite proper. But a decade ago they surely antagonized high CIA officials, including John Brennan — now the CIA’s director, and a powerful adviser to President Obama.

The CIA’s offending whistleblower is now a defendant in legal proceedings that are poisoned fruits of a political vendetta. While doing whatever damage control it can for itself, the CIA is doing all it can to damage the life of Jeffrey Sterling.

Norman Solomon is the executive director of the Institute for Public Accuracy and the author of War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death. He is a co-founder of RootsAction.org.

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

ACTION ALERT: The President’s Asking for MORE Money for War?

January 30th, 2015 - by admin

Friends Committee on National Legislation & Pentagon Choices.com – 2015-01-30 13:56:56

Friends Committee on National Legislation

The President’s Asking for MORE Money for War?
Friends Committee on National Legislation

(January 28, 1205) — In negotiations, the most important offer is often the first; it’s the baseline for every other proposal. The president’s budget request, released every year at the beginning of February, is that opening offer. It won’t become law — legislation has to come from Congress — but it sets the tone for budget negotiations this year.

We already know a lot about what the president will propose: Beyond the approximately $500 billion for the Pentagon, President Obama will ask Congress next Monday for a war slush fund (Overseas Contingency Operations) to pay for the expanding war in Iraq and Syria and other expenditures that can’t squeeze into that huge figure.

As Della Anderson wrote late last year, “To increase transparency, wars should be funded using money that is already in the Pentagon’s base budget, that way the government can take an honest look at the state of our budget.”

War funding has long been the squeaky wheel that gets the grease. It seems far more urgent to lawmakers to protect so-called national security (despite evidence that strikes aren’t making us safer) than to improve education, develop the economy and help people living in poverty. But those are the programs that are “integral to the health and prosperity of the US public.”

Because the president’s budget request covers the entire budget, all of our lobbyists are paying attention. Here’s more of what they’d like to see in the budget proposal:

Protect or increase funding: Environmental Protection Agency funding; the Green Climate Fund; funding for nuclear weapons reductions under the New START Treaty; nuclear nonproliferation funding; funding for the Palestinian Authority; Complex Crises Fund at US Agency for International Development; Conflict Stabilization Operations at the State Department.

Eliminate or decrease funding: Overall military budget; Pentagon’s “slush fund,” known as Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO); New nuclear weapons, including the B61 nuclear bomb and a new nuclear cruise missile; F-35 fighter jet; prison bed quota for deportations.


OCO & Sequester: At What Cost
Does the Squeaky Wheel Get the Grease?

Della Anderson / Friends Committee on National Legislation

(November 24/2014) — The White House’s announcement that the Obama Administration would seek an increase of $5.6 million dollars in Overseas Contingency Operations account funding to pay for its campaign against ISIS may have a few people wondering where this magical money is coming from at a time when the Pentagon seems to be so hard up for cash.

For months now, hawkish headlines have played upon the fear of the American public — calling for more funding for military operations in Iraq and Syria and cautioning against the perils of an underfunded Pentagon. These headlines, depicting an emaciated sequester-stricken military budget, obscure an even scarier truth; they hide the fact that the Pentagon has largely side-stepped the effects of sequestration through the OCO account, unchecked by Congress.

The decision to use OCO funding to pay for the campaign against ISIS reinforces a bad budgetary strategy and calls into question the priorities of the nation. The already OCO-subsidized Pentagon has taken to heart the old adage “the squeaky wheel gets the grease” and is greasing itself up to drown out the pleas for funding of essential programs in the non-defense discretionary budget that are struggling without a slush fund to use as a life-saver.

The programs in the non-defense discretionary fund are essential to the wellbeing of our nation. They include education, health care and programs that support economic development. These types of programs are integral to the health and prosperity of the American public.

To increase transparency, wars should be funded using money that is already in the Pentagon’s base budget, that way the government can take an honest look at the state of our budget. Let’s redefine our national priorities, recognizing that war is not the answer– especially not at the stake of the programs that promote the economic and social wellbeing of the American people.


Case in Point:
We’re Paying $1.5 Trillion for a Military Jet That Doesn’t Work

Pentagon Choices.com

(January 7, 2015) — A recent article by James Fallows of The Atlantic delves into the disconnect between the military and the general public, which allows the United States to be drawn in to wars we shouldn’t be fighting and spend “too much money” on the Pentagon and “spend it stupidly.”

The example Mr. Fallows points to that exemplifies the stupidity of our military spending is the $1.5 trillion F-35 Joint Strike Fighter — the most expensive weapon in history.

By most accounts the F-35 program has been a complete and abject failure. It was supposed to be the plane that could do everything, and yet can barely do anything. The F-35 “has trouble flying at night, its engines have exploded during takeoff, and early models suffered structural cracks.”

It is years behind schedule, suffers from serious design flaws, and its cost overruns alone have wasted 100 times what was spent on Solyndra. When (if?) the F-35 ever achieves “operational” status, its capabilities will be 10 years behind those of our current jets, and will be flying without the use of its guns.

Yet there seems to be no stopping the F-35 (this map shows why).

As the American Friends Service Committee points out, the cost of just one year of this program could fund the $8 billion cut from food assistance programs for low-income families.

Take Action:
With Republicans vowing to increase military spending (likely at the expense of vital social programs and those who rely on them), Americans need to become more involved in how Congress and the Pentagon spend (and waste) our tax dollars. Letting your representatives know how you feel about the F-35 is a great place to start.

The F-35 is a Bad Deal for America!
Win Without War and CREDO

The F-35 is the poster child for what’s wrong in Washington. At an outrageous cost of $1.5 trillion, it is the most expensive weapon program the world has ever seen. Even worse, it doesn’t work as intended and funnels money away from other priorities needed to fight 21st century threats and strengthen America. Yet Lockheed Martin — maker of the F-35 — is determined to protect its cash cow by pressuring Congress to keep the F-35 alive. Already, our voices are being heard in the halls of Congress.

Over 105,000 activists have signed our petition on CREDO asking Congress to withdraw funding for the F-35 boondoggle. And, on March 26, the House Armed Services Committee held a budget hearing to question, in part, why the F-35 isn’t living up to its grand promises. You can bet that Lockheed Martin has its army of lobbyists on the Hill fighting to keep its record profits, so it’s critical that Congress hears from you.

ACTION: Tell Congress: Don’t throw good money after bad. The F-35 is a bad deal for America and needs to be cut.

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

A Survey of Global Human Rights — and Wrongs — for 2014

January 30th, 2015 - by admin

Kenneth Roth / Human Rights Watch 2015 World Report – 2015-01-30 13:49:33

http://www.hrw.org/world-report/2015/essays/tyranny-false-comfort

Tyranny’s False Comfort
Why Rights Aren’t Wrong in Tough Times

Kenneth Roth / Excerpt: Human Rights Watch 2015 World Report

(January 29, 2015) — The world has not seen this much tumult for a generation. The once-heralded Arab Spring has given way almost everywhere to conflict and repression. Islamist extremists commit mass atrocities and threaten civilians throughout the Middle East and parts of Asia and Africa. Cold War-type tensions have revived over Ukraine, with even a civilian jetliner shot out of the sky. Sometimes it can seem as if the world is unraveling.

Many governments have responded to the turmoil by downplaying or abandoning human rights. Governments directly affected by the ferment are often eager for an excuse to suppress popular pressure for democratic change. Other influential governments are frequently more comfortable falling back on familiar relationships with autocrats than contending with the uncertainty of popular rule.

Some of these governments continue to raise human rights concerns, but many appear to have concluded that today’s serious security threats must take precedence over human rights. In this difficult moment, they seem to argue, human rights must be put on the back burner, a luxury for less trying times.

That subordination of human rights is not only wrong, but also shortsighted and counterproductive. Human rights violations played a major role in spawning or aggravating most of today’s crises. Protecting human rights and enabling people to have a say in how their governments address the crises will be key to their resolution. Particularly in periods of challenges and difficult choices, human rights are an essential compass for political action.

The Rise of ISIS
No challenge in the past year has exploded more dramatically than the emergence of the self-proclaimed Islamic State, the extremist group also known as ISIS. One can only be appalled at ISIS’s mass execution of captured combatants and disfavored civilians.

This Sunni armed group has singled out Yazidis, Turkmen, Kurds, Shia, and even other Sunnis who contest its extreme interpretation of Islamic law. Its militants have enslaved, forcibly married, and raped Yazidi women and girls, and beheaded journalists and aid workers in gruesome videotaped spectacles. Rarely has an armed force engendered such widespread revulsion and opposition.

Yet ISIS did not emerge in a vacuum. In part it is a product of the United States-led war and military occupation of Iraq that began in 2003, which produced, among other things, a security vacuum and the abuses of detainees in Abu Ghraib prison and other US-run detention centers.

Funding of extremist groups by Gulf states and their citizens also played a role. More recently, the sectarian policies of the Iraqi and Syrian governments, and international indifference to those governments’ serious rights abuses, have been important factors. If the conditions that led to ISIS are left to fester, the group could deepen its hold on the two countries and expand into Lebanon, Jordan, Libya, and beyond.

Iraq
In Iraq, ISIS owes much of its emergence to the abusive sectarian rule of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and the resulting radicalization of the Sunni community. With Iranian backing, Maliki took personal control of Iraqi security forces and supported the formation of Shia militia, many of which brutally persecuted the minority Sunni population. Sunnis were excluded from select government jobs, rounded up and arbitrarily detained under new overbroad laws, summarily executed, and indiscriminately bombed.

The severity of the persecution can be measured by its effects. ISIS’s predecessor, Al-Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), was defeated with the help of a military coalition of Sunni tribes in western Iraq known as the Awakening Councils. But many of the tribes that nearly single-handedly defeated AQI became so fearful of slaughter and persecution by pro-government security forces that when conflict broke out in 2014, they felt safer fighting those forces than ISIS.

Human rights groups persistently called attention to Maliki’s abusive rule, but the US, the United Kingdom, and other countries, eager to put their own military involvement in Iraq behind them, largely shut their eyes to this sectarian reign — and even plied it with arms.

Today, there is wider recognition that this indifference to atrocities under Maliki was a mistake. Eventually he was forced from office and replaced by Haider al-Abadi, who has pledged a more inclusive form of governance. But as Western military aid still flows into Iraq, abusive sectarianism has not ended. Maliki continues to serve as one of Iraq’s three vice presidents, and the weak government has vastly increased its reliance on Shia militia, allowing the mobilization of almost one million Shia fighters without government oversight or regulation.

Indeed, because of the Iraqi army’s disarray, the militias are the lead ground forces fighting ISIS, despite their ongoing killing and cleansing of Sunnis as ostensible ISIS sympathizers. Until these atrocities end, the Shia militias are likely to do more to aid ISIS recruitment than to defeat ISIS on the battlefield.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi government has not ended indiscriminate military attacks in civilian areas or released a significant number of detainees held without a warrant or after completion of their sentences. The corrupt and abusive judiciary remains unreformed, and Abadi’s calls for an end to abusive, exclusionary rule remain unimplemented. Over the long term, completing these reforms will be at least as important as military action to protect civilians from ISIS atrocities.

Syria
In Syria, ISIS owes its rise to various factors, including porous borders with Turkey that have enabled fighters armed and funded by foreign governments to flow in. Many then joined the extremist group. ISIS has also generated funds through exorbitant ransom demands and “taxes” on people in territory it controls, as well as selling Syrian oil and antiquities.

With these building blocks, ISIS came to portray itself as the force most capable of standing up to the extraordinary brutality of President Bashar al-Assad and his troops. In vicious fashion, Assad’s forces have been deliberately attacking civilians who happen to live in opposition-held areas, aiming to depopulate these areas and punish presumed rebel sympathizers.

Since the Syrian government turned over its chemical weapons, its most notorious tool has been the barrel bomb, an oil drum or similar container filled with high explosives and metal fragments. Also used by the Iraqi air force, it has gained notoriety in Syria, where the air force typically drops it from a helicopter hovering at high altitudes to avoid anti-aircraft fire.

From that height, the barrel bomb is impossible to target with any precision. It simply tumbles to earth, making its dreaded swishing sound as its contents shift back and forth, until it hits the ground and detonates.

Barrel bombs are so inaccurate that the Syrian military does not dare use them near the front lines for fear of hitting its own troops. Rather, it drops them well into territory held by rebel groups, knowing that they will destroy apartment buildings, hospitals, schools, and other institutions of civilian life.

These indiscriminate weapons have made life so miserable for many civilians that some who do not flee the country choose to move their families near the front line, preferring to brave snipers and artillery rather than the horror of the barrel bombs.

When the Syrian government attacked civilians with chemical weapons, the United Nations Security Council pressured Assad to stop and to surrender his weapons. But as the Syrian government killed countless more civilians by indiscriminate attacks with conventional weapons such as barrel bombs, as well as cluster munitions, incendiary weapons, and unguided rockets, the Security Council has largely stood on the sidelines. A number of states have condemned the slaughter, but they have done little more to generate pressure to end it.

Russia has used its Security Council veto power to stop unified efforts to end the carnage. Russia, as well as Iran, has also refused to use their enormous influence in Damascus to press for an end to the indiscriminate attacks, despite demands from the Security Council, including Russia, for such attacks to cease. Referring Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC) to address serious international crimes by all sides, a step endorsed by more than 65 countries, remains anathema to Moscow.

The US-led coalition has taken on ISIS, but no nation — whether adversaries like the US, or backers like Russia and Iran — have increased pressure on Assad to stop the slaughter of civilians. The two cannot, and should not, be so easily separated

This selective concern has been a gift to ISIS recruiters, who portray themselves as the only ones willing and able to stand up to Assad’s atrocities. Simply attacking ISIS is clearly not going to end its appeal. A broader concern with protecting Syrian civilians is required.

Intensified Repression in Egypt
In Egypt, the brutal reign of the general-turned-president, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, has sought to crush the democratic aspirations of Tahrir Square. The uprising that overthrew President Hosni Mubarak’s authoritarian government gave Egypt its first free and fair presidential election, which was won by the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohamed Morsy.

The Morsy government ruled in a way that left many Egyptians fearing (whether legitimately or not) the gradual emergence of a strict Islamic regime, but its abuses never came close to those now being visited upon the Egyptian people by the military-dominated government that overthrew Morsy on June 30, 2013.

The military coup led by Sisi devastated the Brotherhood and its supporters. In just 12 hours on August 14, 2013, security forces overseen by Sisi and Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim systematically shot dead at least 817 mostly peaceful protesters in Cairo’s Rab’a Square, where they had conducted a weeks-long mass sit-in to protest Morsy’s removal.

The security forces claimed self-defense, but their handful of casualties paled in comparison to the number of protesters shot by snipers and other gunmen, many as they sought medical aid. Egyptian authorities had planned the violent dispersal of the sit-in weeks in advance, and fully anticipated a massive death toll. It was the largest massacre of protesters in recent history — the most deadly since at least China’s repression of the Tiananmen Square democracy movement in 1989.

Since the coup, Sisi’s security forces have imprisoned tens of thousands of suspected Muslim Brotherhood members, often without charge or trial, as well as many secular activists. Egyptian courts have handed down death sentences by the hundreds after mass trials that make no pretense of individualizing proof or providing a meaningful opportunity for a defense.

The international community’s response to this unprecedented repression has been shamefully inadequate. At the UN Human Rights Council, 27 countries pressed Egypt to investigate the Rab’a Square massacre but did not achieve a majority within the council.

There is little appetite among the US, the UK, and other key European governments to look into the military government’s abuses. Indeed, while Washington will apply selective sanctions on Venezuelan officials (a move we support) for their security forces’ brutal response to protests — which took the lives of no more than a few dozen protesters (though victimized many more) — it has fought sanctions for Egypt, despite the government’s murder of close to 1,000 protesters at Rab’a Square.

Congress cut off some military aid even though the Obama administration resisted calling the takeover a “coup” for fear of further ramifications under US law. Secretary of State John Kerry repeatedly spoke of a transition to democracy that was supposedly under way in Egypt despite the lack of supporting evidence.

Now that Congress has added a new national security exception to the military aid conditions in place, the US government seems likely to restore most, if not all, of its military support for Cairo without any letup in its repression. This rush to turn the aid spigot back on is driven by a prioritization of enlisting the Egyptian military to curtail an insurgency in the Sinai, back Israel’s fight against Hamas in Gaza, and support the anti-ISIS war in Syria and Iraq over supporting the rights of the Egyptian people. The UK, France, and other European governments have also done little to reverse Sisi’s unprecedented crackdown.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) have eagerly helped Egypt to crush the Muslim Brotherhood. As monarchies that invoke Islam for their own legitimacy, they appear terrified of a religious movement that rules in the name of Islam yet embraces democratic elections. They have thrown billions of dollars at Sisi’s project of suppression and have labeled the Brotherhood a terrorist organization. The UAE has hunted down those at home deemed to represent Brotherhood views.

International support for the repressive Sisi government is not only a disaster for Egyptian hopes of a democratic future; it sends an appalling message to the region. ISIS can now credibly argue that violence is the only path to power for Islamists because when they sought power through fair elections and won, they were ousted with little international protest. Again, the short-term convenience of some influential powers — suppressing the Muslim Brotherhood — threatens a long-term debacle for the region’s political future.

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
The past year saw more settlement construction by Israel, more tit-for-tat violence in the West Bank, and another round of bloody armed conflict in Gaza. Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups in Gaza fired thousands of indiscriminate rockets and mortars toward Israeli population centers. In some cases, Hamas and its allies unnecessarily endangered Palestinian civilians by fighting from populated areas, and summarily executed alleged Palestinian traitors.

Tens of thousands of Israeli rockets, bombs, and artillery attacks, as well as an expansive definition of legitimate military targets, attacks without any evident military target, and lax concern for civilian casualties, left an estimated 1,500 civilians dead in Gaza and wreaked unprecedented destruction on civilian homes and infrastructure.

In the occupied West Bank, beyond the settlement expansion, Israel continued its discriminatory and punitive demolitions of Palestinian homes, and unnecessary use of lethal force against Palestinians, killing dozens, including children.

Israel has a poor record of holding its own forces to account for serious laws-of-war violations; Hamas has not even claimed to investigate violations by Palestinian fighters. The involvement of the ICC could help to deter both sides from committing war crimes, while potentially offering victims a modicum of justice.

With its UN observer-state status, Palestine is eligible to join the ICC, and it marked the New Year by finally doing so. The ICC will have jurisdiction over war crimes committed in or from Palestinian territory; that is, its mandate would apply to both sides in the conflict.

However, the US and leading EU countries have tried to prevent this development by placing misguided pressure on Palestine not to join the Hague-based court. They have offered the rationale that ICC involvement would be unhelpful to the largely moribund peace process.

But they take the opposite position in virtually every other situation of large-scale war crimes, where they recognize that curbing these crimes is often a prerequisite to building the trust needed for productive peace talks. No one has credibly explained why the Israeli-Palestinian conflict should be an exception to this rule.

The real motive of Western governments is to protect Israelis from possible prosecution. That kind of selective embrace undermines the power and legitimacy of international justice around the world. It emboldens critics who argue that international justice is reserved for weak nations that are not close allies of the powerful.

Boko Haram Atrocities in Nigeria
The problem of turmoil trumping rights is not confined to the Middle East. Human rights concerns are central to the conflict in Nigeria, where the militant Islamist group Boko Haram attacks civilians as well as Nigeria’s security forces. The armed group has become notorious for cruelly planting bombs in markets, mosques, and schools, killing thousands of civilians.

This past year, Boko Haram abducted hundreds of schoolgirls and young women in the northeast. Some were forced to marry militants and were subjected to sexual violence. One mass abduction in April provoked a worldwide social media campaign, “#BringBackOurGirls,” but those victims and many others remain in captivity.

Oil-rich Nigeria should be able to field a professional, rights-respecting army capable of protecting Nigerians from this abusive group. However, the country’s leadership has left its military ill-equipped and poorly motivated to defend against Boko Haram attacks.

When the army has acted it has often done so in an abusive manner, rounding up hundreds of men and boys suspected of supporting Boko Haram, detaining them in inhuman conditions, and physically abusing or even killing them. Many other community members have been forcibly disappeared, allegedly by security forces. When Boko Haram suspects escaped in March from a famously abusive detention center, Giwa Barracks, Nigerian security forces reportedly recaptured and summarily executed hundreds of them.

The persistent lack of accountability for these atrocities has made it difficult for Nigeria’s allies to provide security assistance for fear of themselves becoming complicit in abuses. The failure of Nigeria’s leadership to rein in security forces has also alienated local communities that might otherwise have willingly provided intelligence to the authorities. Winning the “hearts and minds” of the civilian population will require that the government transparently investigate alleged army abuses and punish offenders.

Kenya’s Abusive Response to Al-Shabaab
Like Nigeria, Kenya has experienced a major increase in extremist attacks on civilians at least partly fueled by an abusive security force response. Al-Shabaab, the Somali Islamist insurgent group, carried out its highest-profile attacks at a Nairobi shopping mall, in Mpeketoni and nearby villages along Kenya’s coast, and in northeastern Mandera.

Kenya’s response has been riddled with abuses. Instead of building public confidence in the ability of the security forces to combat such attacks, the security-force operations have generated public anger and mistrust. In April, after a spate of bombing and grenade attacks in Nairobi, the military and police carried out Operation Usalama Watch in the city’s Eastleigh neighborhood — a sweeping campaign that entailed rights violations of registered asylum seekers and refugees, undocumented Somalis and other foreign nationals, and ethnic Somali Kenyans. As in previous similar operations, Kenyan police arbitrarily detained several thousand people and used excessive force, raiding homes, extorting residents, and physically abusing ethnic Somalis.

Meanwhile, evidence mounted that Kenyan anti-terrorism units were forcibly disappearing and extrajudicially executing terrorism suspects rather than bringing them to court. Rather than respond to the public outcry, the government has tried to gag the messenger by further empowering security forces and strengthening legislative controls over media, civil society, and other sources of independent criticism. Donor countries, particularly the US and UK, that provide significant counter-terrorism support to the Kenyan security services have been slow to respond to the growing body of evidence of this abusive behavior.

Russia and the Crisis in Ukraine
Russia’s occupation of Ukraine’s Crimea and its military assistance to rebels in eastern Ukraine have been major political and security challenges for Western governments. The core of the dispute involves issues of sovereignty on which Human Rights Watch takes no position. However, the relatively narrow Western reaction to intensifying human rights violations that had been brewing in Russia during the two preceding years may well have aggravated the Ukrainian crisis.

Western governments imposed intense political pressure on Russia, including targeted sanctions, to encourage it to withdraw from Crimea and stop supporting the rebels. However, these governments for the most part either underestimated growing authoritarian rule in Russia since Putin’s return to the Kremlin, or struggled to respond to it.

Fearing a possible “color revolution,” the Kremlin in 2012 began what has become the most intense crackdown on dissent since the Soviet era. By targeting human rights groups, dissidents, independent journalists, peaceful protesters, and Internet critics, the Russian government radically reduced the possibility that critical voices would reach large numbers of people.

The resulting closed information system enabled the Kremlin to suppress most public criticism of its actions in Ukraine. The health of political rights in Russia should be a central part of any effort to resolve the Ukrainian conflict, but has not been.

By the same token, caught in what at times seems like a new Cold War with Russia over Ukraine, the West also has tended to fall back on a good-versus-bad mentality. The desire to present Ukraine as the innocent victim of Russian aggression has made the West reluctant to challenge troubling aspects of Ukraine’s behavior, whether the use of “voluntary battalions” that routinely abuse detainees, or the indiscriminate firing of weapons into populated areas.

Meanwhile, pro-Russian forces in eastern Ukraine themselves have seriously abused detainees and have endangered the civilian population by launching rockets from their midst. The Western reluctance to address Ukrainian abuses has politicized what should be a principled appeal to both sides to respect international humanitarian law — an appeal that, if successful, would lower temperatures and increase the possibility of a broader political solution.

China’s Crackdown on Uighurs in Xinjiang
The Chinese government’s approach to Xinjiang, the northwestern province that is home to the Muslim Uighur minority, is to respond to complaints about human rights abuses with more human rights abuses and restrictions. Beijing claims that its crackdown is necessary to fight separatism and terrorism, but its tactic is to impose some of the most draconian and discriminatory policies against Uighurs, including prohibitions on wearing beards and veils, restrictions on fasting, and overt discrimination with respect to religious education.

The escalating deadly attacks against civilians and security forces in Xinjiang are a grave concern for the government. But the haste with which the government attributes violence to “Uighur terrorists” — while rarely producing evidence and routinely denying suspects the right to a fair trial — creates a vicious cycle in which already-repressed Uighurs feel under constant siege from the state.

From the little information made publicly available, it is impossible to assess with any confidence whether those convicted and often sentenced to death are responsible for violence and whether the government’s severe counterterrorism measures are aimed at the right people.

As illustrated by the extraordinarily harsh life sentence handed down in September to Ilham Tohti, a moderate Uighur economist, the state remains unwilling to distinguish between peaceful criticism and those who engage in violence.

Viciously prosecuting peaceful criticism, leaving virtually no room for religious or cultural freedom, and expanding an economic strategy in which Uighurs cannot compete equally with Han Chinese migrants is a recipe for increased violence.

Mexico’s Abuse-Riddled War on Drugs
Beginning in 2007, the government of then-President Felipe Calderón opened a “war on drugs” in Mexico, deploying security forces en masse to fight the country’s violent drug cartels. The result was an epidemic of summary executions, enforced disappearances, and torture by the military and police, spiraling violence among competing criminal organizations, and a public security catastrophe that has taken the lives of more than 90,000 Mexicans.

In his two years in office, Mexico’s current president, Enrique Peña Nieto, has dialed down the rhetoric but has not made significant inroads in curtailing the corruption and impunity that allow these atrocities to flourish.

Washington has supported Mexico’s “drug war” policies, providing assistance to the country’s security forces, while repeatedly praising their efforts to confront the cartels. What it has not done is speak out about the terrible abuses that these forces commit, or enforce the human rights conditions that the US Congress placed on a portion of the assistance it gives them.

Rather than embarrass an important ally and risk bilateral cooperation on counter-narcotics and other policy priorities, the Obama administration has preferred to remain silent, facilitating Mexico’s efforts to downplay its serious human rights problems.

Some US states have done more by legalizing marijuana, undermining the illicit market for this drug. The Obama administration has acquiesced in these initiatives but has hardly embraced them. It should. They are not only the right thing to do from the perspective of the right to privacy, but also an important step for undercutting the profits on which drug traffickers thrive.

United States: CIA Torture with Impunity
The year concluded with the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence publishing a redacted summary of its report on the Central Intelligence Agency’s use of torture against terrorist suspects under the administration of former President George W. Bush.

President Obama has taken a firm stand against torture during his tenure, using his second day in office to ban the Bush administration’s “enhanced interrogation techniques” — a euphemism for torture — and to close the secret CIA detention facilities where much of the torture was carried out. Nonetheless, Obama has steadfastly refused to investigate, let alone prosecute, the Bush CIA’s torture, even though that is required by the Convention against Torture, which the US ratified in 1994.

There are various possible reasons for Obama’s refusal to allow prosecutions. He may have feared that they would be politically divisive, undermining the support of Bush backers in the US Congress for his legislative agenda, even though there has been little such cooperation.

He may have felt it unfair to prosecute after the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel had ruled that the “enhanced interrogation techniques” were legal, even though the Senate report shows that the CIA knew these amounted to torture and went shopping for politicized government counsel who would justify the unjustifiable.

He may have felt that the serious security threat faced after the September 11, 2001 attacks made resorting to extreme forms of interrogation understandable, even though the Senate report shows that they produced little if any actionable intelligence while undermining America’s standing in the world and impeding counterterrorism efforts.

Obama’s refusal to allow prosecutions means the basic criminal prohibition of torture remains unenforced in the United States. That enables future US presidents, who inevitably will face serious security threats, to treat torture as a policy option. It also greatly weakens the US government’s ability to press other countries to prosecute their own torturers, weakening an important voice for human rights at a moment when principled support is urgently needed.

The revelations in the Senate report also require action in Europe, particularly in countries that hosted CIA detention sites or were complicit in renditions and resulting torture. To date, Italy is the only European country that has prosecuted people for involvement in CIA abuses. Poland has finally admitted it hosted a black site but a criminal investigation is stalled. Romania and Lithuania are both in denial.

Criminal investigations are ongoing in the UK, but its government has reneged on its promise to conduct a genuinely independent judicial inquiry into Britain’s involvement in rendition and torture. Meaningful accountability for Europe’s role in these abuses is vital to hold those responsible to account and to prevent them from being repeated in the future.

Conclusion: The Central Role of Human Rights
In all of these cases, policymakers inevitably can cite seemingly good reasons for downplaying human rights. Human rights require restraint that can feel antithetical to a “do what it takes” attitude that often prevails in the face of serious security challenges. But the last year shows how short-sighted that reflex can be. Violations of human rights often sparked these security challenges, and their continued violation frequently aggravates them.

Human rights are not just arbitrary restraints on governments. They reflect fundamental values, widely shared and deeply held, imposing limits on the power of governments and essential safeguards for human dignity and autonomy. Betraying those values rarely turns out well. Meeting security challenges demands not only containing certain dangerous individuals but also rebuilding a moral fabric that underpins the social and political order.

The short-term gains of undermining those core values and the fundamental wisdom that they reflect are rarely worth the long-term price that must inevitably be paid. Rather than treating human rights as a chafing restraint on their latitude for action, policymakers would do better to recognize them as moral guides as well as legal obligations. The results are likely to be both the right, and the most effective, thing to do.

Kenneth Roth (@kenroth), is the Executive Director of Human Rights Watch.

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

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