December 19, 2014

The GNU project

FSF Events: Richard Stallman to speak in New Delhi, India

This speech by Richard Stallman will be nontechnical, admission is free of charge, and the public is encouraged to attend.

Speech topic to be determined.

Please fill out our contact form, so that we can contact you about future events in and around New Delhi.

This Cannot Be Happening!

US Recognition of Cuba after 54 Years of Hostility and War Does not Mean an End to US Subversion

Obama’s Trojan Horse

 

There is a lot of congratulating of President Obama going on among people on the left in the US over the announced agreement reached between the White House and Raul Castro to end America’s half-century isolation of the only Communist nation in the Americas.

But the congratulations are premature and naive.

Whatever the reasons for the announcement that the US and Cuba are swapping some long-held prisoners and are going to exchange embassies (The US closed its embassy in Havana in 1962), the reality is that this will not end Washington’s obsession with overthrowing the socialist government installed in 1959 by Fidel Castro’s successful anti-imperialist armed rebellion.

Not only does having an American embassy in your country not mean your country will be left alone by the imperialist Washington -- it means that in the heart of your national capital, you will have a diplomatically protected headquarters for agents working for the CIA, the Defense Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency and a host of other Washington three-letter spy outfits.

Look at Venezuela, where the US has an embassy out of which it has run operations ever since the initial election of the late Hugo Chavez seeking to topple the elected leadership of that oil-rich nation. Look at Honduras, where the US has long had an embassy which only recently played a key role in the overthrow and exile of that country’s progressive elected president. Look at Ukraine, where the US had an embassy that was the command center for a CIA-led program that ultimately orchestrated the overthrow of the elected government of President Viktor Yanukovich. And look at Pakistan, where a few years ago, with the arrest of a CIA contractor working undercover in the US consulate in Lahore for the brazen day-light cold-blooded murder of two young Pakistani intelligence agents, and the outing, over a short period, of three CIA station chiefs, all working under diplomatic cover, we learned that the US embassy was running a program of civilian bombings designed to foment fratricidal religious conflict in that country.
The US Embassy in Havana in 1961, when it was shut down by the Eisenhower administrationThe US Embassy in Havana in 1961, when it was shut down by the Eisenhower administration
 

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by lindorff

Belling Cat

Geolocating Tunisian Jihadists in Raqqa

This article is available in French here.

Earlier this week a video was posted online showing Tunisian Jihadists claiming responsibility for the murders of two Tunisian secular politicians in 2013. It was claimed that the video was filmed in territory controlled by the Islamic State, and using a variety of geolocation techniques it is possible to find the position the video was filmed.

The video is heavily edited, and includes the statements of the men filmed from multiple angles. 39 seconds into the video there’s a shot of a flag pole with buildings visible in the background

Tunis 1

One building was of particular interest, the large red roofed building just behind the flag pole. The same building is also visible at the opening of the video (around 28 seconds onwards), when the four men sit down, revealing more details about the building.

Tunis 2

Using simple picture editing software such as Paint.net it’s possible to create a composite image of that scene showing all the buildings in the background, providing a clearer view of the building.

Tunis 3

Based on this we can see we are looking for a large building with a red roof, with rectangular windows on the top floor, and at least two floors with arched windows below that.

We then began looking at satellite map imagery of the cities controlled by the Islamic State, starting with Raqqa. We quickly found one large red roofed building, the Faculty of Civil Engineering, and began to look for any images of the building. It was possible to find images of the building on Panoramio, and compare the photographs to the building visible in the video.

Tunis 4

300 meters west of this building is a public square with a large flagpole visible, with the shadow cast by it and the flag visible in the below satellite map imagery.

Tunis 6

Also from the start of the video is a short section where the men are shown entering the frame from the right, giving a different view from the filming location. It was possible to create another composite image of the buildings in the background using simple picture editing software.

Tunis 5

South of the public square satellite map imagery shows a building that matches to what’s visible in the above image. In the below image, the top satellite image shows the red paint around the edge of the roof. In the bottom satellite image, taken from 2011, the north side of the building is visible, and the pattern of windows visible in the video match to that visible in the satellite map image.

Tunis 7

To the south-west of the above building is another building visible in the composite image. A number of elements are a clear match, including the position of the windows on the front of the building, and the structure on the top of the building.

Tunis 8

Also visible are the trees behind that building, and all of these elements suggest this location is an extremely strong match to what’s visible in the video.

Tunis 9

It was also possible to estimate the position of the camera from the above image. As it’s possible to see the exact parts of the two buildings that line up with each other it’s also possible to draw a line between them which points towards the camera’s location. In the below image a line has been drawn between the areas on the building marked red and green, which corresponds with the position on the satellite map imagery.

Tunis 10

Following the line northwards along the same heading it points towards the same location west of the Faculty of Civil Engineering that we found earlier. It seems based on this information it’s very likely the video was filmed somewhere in that location.

Tunis 11

At this point it’s worth noting an object in the background in the video.

Tunis 12

This balcony belongs to the Raqqa Governorate building, is exactly in the same spot as the line we drew from the two buildings in the south, and is shown in the below image.

Tunis 13

Based on this information alone it seems very likely the video is filmed on the roof of this building. It’s also possible to find additional information pointing to this location. In the below image we can see the flagpole lines up between the windows 3rd and 4th from the right corner of the top floor of the Faculty of Civil Engineering building.

Tunis 14

As with the other buildings it’s possible to draw a line from that position, through the flagpole, pointing to the location of the camera.

Tunis 15

 

This again points to the same location as before, and confirms the video is being filmed from the roof of the Raqqa Governorate building, currently occupied by the Islamic State. It’s also possible to establish this video was filmed after a specific date. In one section of the video an antennae is visible, one of a pair that were just east of the Governorate building

screen_shot_2014-12-19_at_1.48.54_pm_1024

In late September one of the two antennae was destroyed in an air strike, so it’s possible to confirm that this video was filmed not online on the roof of the Raqqa Governorate building, but also after late September 2014.

 

 

by Eliot Higgins

Decentralized Citizen Engagement Technologies

Pilots in Iceland: Boosting bottom-up municipal democracy

The piloting in Iceland focuses on improving and upgrading the online democracy software Your Priorities and utilizing it for D-CENT. The idea is to bring in new functionalities pointed out by users of the Better Reykjavík and Better Iceland websites.

Since its launch in 2008, Your Priorities has had over 500.000 users. One of its success cases is Better Reykjavik. It is a website enabling citizens to voice, debate and prioritize ideas to improve their city, creating open discourse between community members and City Council and also giving the voters a direct influence on decision making. The website was launched in 2010 and it has attracted over 12,000 registered users with over 50.000 unique visitors the past 12 months in a city of 120.000 people.

In D-CENT, we plan to upgrade Your Priorities with new features. These features are collected bottom-up, from the extensive and in-depth interviews conducted among Your Priorities users at the beginning of 2014. To make our findings easily accessible and deployable, we plan to offer Your Priorities as a Docker application that can be installed in a D-CENT node for other governments, groups or citizens across Europe.

Screen Shot 2014-12-19 at 11.36.45

New features: Social rating, visuality, idea clustering

Top 12-15 proposals from the Better Reykjavik site are taken in and processed by the Town Hall at the end of each month. When discussing with user communities, one often repeated frustration was the inadequate argumentation received for why a given proposal was rejected. D-CENT has planned to include a social rating system for people to rate Town Hall’s responses. The hope is that these ratings will improve the quality of feedback from the Town Hall, increasing the communication and feedback to the citizens.

The users have also pointed out the need to include images into their posts to Better Reykjavik and Better Iceland. To further develop the idea, we plan to have Better Reykjavik to automatically suggest images to use when people are typing in their ideas. To improve the quality of ideas, we plan to pull in data from city databases while people are typing in their ideas, offering links to up-to-date information. Another planned new feature is to show people other similar proposals when they are entering their ideas into Better Reykjavik. The hope is that this clustering of ideas would reduce the number of very similar proposals – and produce more new ones.

Launching Your Priorities in 3D

Screen Shot 2014-12-19 at 11.37.22Your Priorities 3D was launched in November 2014. It brings people together in real time virtual environments offering 3D universes of ideas and a new way for people to participate and connect with other people with similar civic interest.

The first test of Your Priorities 3D involved all neighbourhoods of Reykjavik, over 300 citizens, with the Mayor of Reykjavik and another member of the capital’s City Council meeting together in a realtime 3D environment to discuss city related issues.

Currently the Citizens Foundation is working on a redesign of Better Reykjavik in cooperation with the city council and other users of Your Priorities. The new version will be launched Q2 2015. There is also a plan set to integrate it within the D-CENT platform (see our Deliverable 4.3).

Real-life testing: Participatory budgeting

Screen Shot 2014-12-19 at 11.44.13Since 2012 Better Reykjavik has held Better Neighbourhoods, a participatory budgeting event in Reykjavik. Each year, 1.9 million EUR is allocated for ideas from citizens on how to improve the city. Citizens submit their ideas, officials evaluate the costs and then finally citizens do a secure binding budget vote to decide how to spend it.

Better Neighborhoods uses Your Priorities for ideas collection and another D-CENT application, Open Active Voting, for the secure budget vote.

The next budget vote is scheduled for February 2-7 2015. Over ten thousand citizens around Reykjavik have already been participating in submitting, debating and prioritizing their ideas. In October and November this year with a record of 690 ideas submitted.

Supporting People’s Assembly in Estonia

Screen Shot 2014-12-19 at 11.48.20After political scandals in Estonia in 2012, president Toomas Hendrik Ilves asked grassroots organisations to come up with ideas to improve the democratic framework in the country. As a consequence, the online platform People’s Assembly (Rahvakogu) was launched for crowd-sourcing ideas and proposals to amend Estonia’s electoral laws, political party law, and other issues related to the future of democracy in Estonia.

The platform is built on Your Priorities.

During the 14 weeks of the campaign, over 3000 people participated. Already the first 3 weeks of January 2013 brought in over 2000 proposals. By now, seven of the ideas have been adopted as Estonian laws.

Discussing the National Health Services in England

The National Health Service (NHS) in the United Kingdom is using Your Priorities to engage with citizens and to help people identify and discuss the issues that the NHS should be talking about. Ideas that generate the most discussion and support or which have the biggest national significance, will be further discussed and elaborated within the NHS.

Screen Shot 2014-12-19 at 11.54.13

The first test was done this year where ideas about subjects were collected, subjects refined with specific ideas, then an citizen assembly met to discuss ideas further and finally those ideas were presented to the NHS England board. More experiments with the NHS are planned for 2015 with focusing on finding the most optimal way for representative participation giving citizens a direct voice at NHS board level.

by Robert Bjarnason

D-CENT piloting in Spain: Improving participatory democracy

Editors: Javier Toret, Pablo Aragón, Antonio Calleja-Lopez

In Spain, the purpose is to offer D-CENT tools for the use of citizen movements moving into the electoral arena. The piloting was launched with two new and influential political groups: Podemos at a national level and Guanyem Barcelona at the municipal level. More than 1000 people have been involved in the tests with D-CENT prototype (based on DemocracyOS) and Appgree software.

Podemos is a political party born in the wake of 15M, with strong citizen participation and that relies heavily on the Internet and online platforms. In the spring of 2014, it obtained five seats in the European Parliament Elections and got 8 percent of all votes. As of December 2014, polls reflect a huge growth in vote intention, to the point of being clear candidates to win the elections due in November 2015.

polls

15-day average trend line of poll results from November 2011 to the present day, with each line corresponding to a political party (Source: Wikimedia Commons).

 

Guanyem Barcelona (Catalan for Let’s win back Barcelona) is a citizen-led coalition attempting to build a new type of city management. It aims to win the 2015 Barcelona city elections. The cooperation with these groups grew with the evolution of the post-15M political scenario in 2014, as part of the ongoing D-CENT work for identifying relevant user communities and their needs.

“It’s been great to work with Podemos and Guanyem in Spain. We’ve tested out several features for D-CENT and we’ve been happy with the amount of interest and participation these pilots have received”, says Arnau Monterde, from Open University of Catalunya.

Guanyem Barcelona – making the city better

With Guanyem, our work began in September 2014. We wanted to ask from people living in Barcelona: “What Barcelona do we want?” and “Which are the most urgent actions that should be taken?”

Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 16.58.07

To find this out we took onboard Appgree software, which enables fast massive polls with mobile phones. Its most important feature is the combination of an ability to ask open questions and then filter open answers with a statistical algorithm called demoRank. After filtering, the answers are shared between participants, and the most approved answer will be selected.

The pilot was a success. In spite of its recent creation, Guanyem Barcelona´s channel in Appgree already has 2.500 followers. On September 16th, 1.332 users accessed, with 356 people making 434 proposals and with 732 voting, with a total of 9.872 votes casted for the options proposed by the users themselves.

To the first question launched, “What Barcelona do we want?”, 522 users accessed, with 216 responses and 460 voters for a total of 4.352 votes.

The response that won the voting was: “We want a Barcelona free from evictions, corruption and inequality. A city for the needs and desires of the people that inhabit it.”

Screen Shot 2014-12-18 at 16.59.44Proposals´ wordcloud

The second question, “What are the most urgent actions that should be taken?” was accessed by 599 users and received 218 proposals that were voted by 499 users, who casted a total of 5.520 votes.

The response that won the voting was: “Total transparency in the city budget: what is the money being spent into”. It was followed by others such as “Guarantee the basic needs of all citizens: food, housing, health, and education”, “To diversify the economy and to reduce touristic exploitation”, or “Public management of water supply”.

Drafting the ethical code together

A second large scale test was to get people involved to collectively construct Guanyem Barcelona’s ethical code. The code is a set of practices and actions that people who get elected in the May 2015 elections have to commit. For construction of this code, we offered a D-CENT prototype built on top of an existing vote and debate tool, DemocracyOS. DemocracyOS was upgraded and adapted in usability and to match in Guayem Barcelona’s processes.

Screen Shot 2014-12-19 at 13.33.18

The tool is available here: http://participa.confluenciacodietic.cat/

 

The process was divided in two: drafting a process and a votation of the results. The drafting was open for two weeks, and citizens were able to request changes and amendments by using annotations and commenting. This process included offline workshops with 400 people debating, with discussion among political forces and with input to online platforms coming from more than 400 people. All this input was integrated in the final document.

The online participation was extensive, especially given the type of document: 365 users, 321 comments, 957 ratings and 139 replies. In a second stage, Guanyem Barcelona´s #EthicalCodewas was publicly validated on Appgree, with more than 1000 votes in favor. This process has been very important for the citizen candidacy to #WinBarcelona.

By now Guanyem has already submitted the second version of its ethical code for further validation. Over 800 people have already validated it.

Here’s a guide how to use the tool (in Spanish):


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lEQ0D_BR6jA

All the DemocracyOS code released for this pilot is documented here: https://github.com/GuanyemBarcelona/democracyos/blob/development/History.md

 

Podemos – supporting internal decision-making processes

With Podemos, we continued to test out DemocracyOS and its improved features. The tool was tested for internal decision-making in one of Podemos’ virtual assemblies. The assembly was set up to decide the function and working methods of one of the circle groups. An interesting observation was that participation decreased with time: first proposals were voted and commented on more than later ones. Also, looking at the average figures, participation was much higher in voting than in discussion.

The next step with Podemos is to move on to larger scale pilots in collaboration with Laboratorio Democrático (LaboDemo). LaboDemo is a digital strategy Lab driving the participatory infrastructure of Podemos. It is developing innovative tools for networked democracy and has launched the debate platform Plaza Podemos with 220,000 registered people.

The challenges reside now in developing new prototypes and tools that prove useful for the communities involved in these processes, to set up an experiment of massive scale within these emerging social processes: Podemos and Guanyem.

by Antonio Calleja-Lopez

ETYMO FOR MORPH OLOGIE

Something Left When I Turned Right

kidwitboat

Big boat came and left.
I am beginning to look strange
Vein on my forehead getting bigger
and a grin that impresses madness.
I never saw the boat in the evening with its lights.
I will wake up in the morning.

Fatima Lasay, San Roque
Thursday, December 18, 2014

by fatima

December 18, 2014

The GNU project

FSF Blogs: New article by RMS, "What does it mean for a computer to be loyal?"

We say that running free software on your computer means that its operation is under your control. Implicitly this presupposes that your computer will do what your programs tell it to do, and no more. In other words, that your computer will be loyal to you.

In 1990 we took that for granted; nowadays, many computers are designed to be disloyal to their users. It has become necessary to spell out what it means for your computer to be a loyal platform that obeys your decisions, which you express by telling it to run certain programs.

Richard Stallman's latest article offers a "tentative definition" of a computer that is "loyal to you," the user.

German Arias: FisicaLab update

Well, I just want to share the progress in the development of FisicaLab. As you know I want a module for thermodynamics in version 0.4.0. This means that FisicaLab needs the ability to handle data from steam tables. However, find the data in an easy format (an spreadsheet for example) was not possible. I found PDF format, which is not easy to translate to a spreadsheet, or Excel programs only for Windows and payed. Anyway after some hard work, I have the steam tables for water into FisicaLab. The new class “TablesManager” is the responsible to get the data from these tables. To test this class I added a “Properties” window that lets calculate the properties after enter some data. For the moment only the saturation data are available. But I will add the ability to get “compressed/superheated” data at next days. Of course, not only water will be available. Here an screenshot of this new window, that will be available under the new item menu “Tools”:

fisicalabProperties

Remember FisicaLab is free software and that you can support its development with a donation in PayPal, Flattr or Gratipay.


December 17, 2014

The GNU project

FSF Blogs: Friday Free Software Directory IRC meetup: December 19

Join the FSF and friends on Friday, December 19, from 2pm to 5pm EST (19:00 to 22:00 UTC) to help improve the Free Software Directory by adding new entries and updating existing ones. We will be on IRC in the #fsf channel on freenode.


Tens of thousands of people visit directory.fsf.org each month to discover free software. Each entry in the Directory contains a wealth of useful information, from basic category and descriptions, to providing detailed info about version control, IRC channels, documentation, and licensing info that has been carefully checked by FSF staff and trained volunteers.


While the Free Software Directory has been and continues to be a great resource to the world over the past decade, it has the potential of being a resource of even greater value. But it needs your help!


If you are eager to help and you can't wait or are simply unable to make it onto IRC on Friday, our participation guide will provide you with all the information you need to get started on helping the Directory today!

Belling Cat

Mexico’s Guerra al Narco: A Disaster Rooted in Misinterpretations

Activists of the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity during a protestation against Calderón in Mexico City (February 24, 2011). Via Flickr Creative Commons

Activists of the Movement for Peace with Justice and Dignity during a protestation against Calderón in Mexico City (February 24, 2011). Via Flickr Creative Commons

With the recent disappearance of 43 students in the Mexican city of Iguala, that highlighted once more the country’s profound issues with corruption and drug cartels, three questions require answers: Why did Mexico’s Guerra al Narco fail? What are the reasons? What is the extent of this failure?

Shortly after taking office on the 1st of December 2006, Felipe Calderón declared the War on Drugs. His words were soon met with direct actions as the army and federal forces moved into Nuevo León, Guerrero, Michoacán, and Tijuana. Even though it was not the “first time Mexico has brought out the military to quell drug-related violence” (O’Neil 2009: 69), Calderón’s stance certainly exceeded previous militarized operations in both rhetoric and scale. In regards to the former, words like war, fight or security were constantly used by Calderón’s administration. The latter is exemplified by the deployment of more than 50,000 soldiers and federal troops in the streets of Mexico by 2012 (Watt and Zepeda 2012).

Whilst most analysis places this surge of armed forces as an end of Calderón’s strategy rather than a mean, it is essential to recognize that “the goal of this military intensive approach […] is to use the military to directly combat and dismantle drug trafficking organizations so that the government has time to establish an array of institutional reforms” (Weeks 2011: 17). As such, Calderón’s approach had a tripartite structure: re-establish security in the areas most affected by drug cartels, fight corruption in municipal and federal polices, and reform the judicial system.

Eight years after his election, most scholars agree that “Calderón took the wrong approach to the war on drugs” (Flannery 2013: 1). Rather than providing security to Mexican people, Calderón’s Guerra al narco led to a sharp increase in violence: the number of homicides nearly tripled over Calderón’s term from 10, 452 in 2006 to 27, 213 in 2011 (Flannery 2013). The picture gets even worst when one acknowledges the fact that crime reached places like Aguascalientes which were previously “immune to the violence that was raging in cities along the U.S.-Mexico border and elsewhere in the country” (Kellner and Pipitone 2010: 29). When such facts are put against the words (see BBC documentary below, 27:59-28:15) of the Secretary for Public Security under Calderón, Genaro García Luna, to BBC reporter Katya Adler, one can safely conclude that Calderón’s War on Drugs failed to reduce violence and provide security to the Mexican people.

This however represents only one side of Calderón’s failure. As outlined earlier, Calderón’s War aimed also at fighting corruption and strengthening the judiciary. These two components of Calderón’s strategy have been much less discussed and the first part of this article will illustrate the government’s failure in these areas. Within this section, the negative side effects that resulted directly from Calderón’s approach will be also assessed: psychological effects on Mexican people, militarization of the state and regional strengthening of drug-trafficking organizations. The first segment of this article argues that Calderón’s War on Drugs was not just a failure, it was a total disaster. Not only did the government failed to achieve its top priorities, but Mexico’s Drug War had spillover effects which now threaten the future of Mexico’s youth and democracy as well as Latin America overall.

The second part of this article looks at the reasons behind this disaster: the Calderón administration’s misinterpretations of the problem. Its understandings of cartel’s organization and of the Mexican security apparatus were far from the realities. Constructed around misconceptions, Calderón’s War was doomed to worsen the situation. Such arguments thus advocate for more research on drug-trafficking organizations, and Mexican’s judicial and security structures. With a better understanding of the situation, the Mexican government will be able to articulate strategies which will target the roots of the problem.

 

 Mexicos Failed War on Drugs: The Story of a Tragedy

According to Figure 1, the number of homicides related to narcotrafficking increased fivefold between 2006 and 2010. Even though all scholars have confirmed the surge in violence in the aftermath of Calderón’s election, it remains essential to provide an assessment of his failure to achieve its first priority: lower violence. This failure is outlined not only by the increase in violence in the states where the federal police and the army moved in, but also in the spreading of crime to initially peaceful areas. Jose Merino provides a good account of both trends when he states that “homicides in those states [where federal police and army engaged with local forces in joint operations] increased by 12,000 between 2007 and 2010” (Poiré 2011: 26) and that “the number of Mexicans living in a municipality with homicide rates above 50 per 100,000 people moved from 850,000 in 2007 to 9.1 million in 2009” (Poiré 2011: 26). These alarming numbers clearly indicate that Calderón’s military response did not achieve the desired outcome.

Figure 1: Number of homicides related to narcotrafficking in Mexico, 2006-2011

Source: Watt and Zepeda 2012, 181. Prepared by the authors with the database of Reforma newspaper

Source: Watt and Zepeda 2012, 181. Prepared by the authors with the database of Reforma newspaper

Furthermore, the increase in violence also finds its root in the performance of the security forces. As a 2011 Human Rights Watch report indicates, the public security policy “has resulted in a dramatic increase in grave human right violations” (Human Rights Watch 2011: 5). In the five states analyzed by Human Rights Watch (Baja California, Chihuahua, Guerrero, Nuevo León, and Tabasco), 170 cases of torture, 39 “disappearances” involving security forces and 24 extrajudicial killings were reported (Human Rights Watch 2011). Rather than isolated acts of violence, the report states that “they are examples of abusive practices endemic to the current public security strategy” (Human Rights Watch 2011: 5). Hence, there is strong evidence that attests to the failure of Calderón’s militarized answer in increasing public security. Rather, it exacerbated a climate of violence in which the drug-trafficking organizations and the security forces were the main actors. Most scholars have denounced the failure of Calderón’s approach solely on the ground of the increase in crime. It is however necessary to assess the results of the two other components of his strategy: reducing corruption and strengthening the rule of law.

The heart of Calderón’s strategy was the military. Perceived as the less corrupted element of the security forces, sending the army was a way to buy time in order to reorganize Mexico’s federal and municipal police forces. The simple line of this policy was to replace corrupted police officers by professional and reliable agents as well as to reinforce the 2,200 municipal police departments (Longmire 2011). However, Mexican Intelligence’s estimation indicates that by 2008 62 percent of the police forces were either linked or took part in narcotrafficking activities and 57 percent of the police’s weaponry was used in illegal activities (Castillo García 2008). This unofficial source was backed up by a 2008 United Nations report which stated that between 50 to 60 percent of municipal security offices were incorporated into the drug cartel’s feudal scheme (Watt and Zepeda 2012). This occurred despite Calderón’s attempts to fight corruption through both an increase in the basic security officer’s salary by 46 percent (Watt and Zepeda 2012) and the dismissal of 10 percent of the federal police force by August 2010 (Longmire 2011). This video, from June 2012, shows a joint Mexican police-drug cartel kidnapping: the police officers leave the building with three handcuffed men (in white and wearing underwear) who according to CBS News were found dead hours later.

Despite its apparent immunity to corruption based on “the loyalty of the military to the nation and troops’ disciplined obedience to a higher chain of command” (Weeks 2011: 34), the military faced a greater level of corruption among its ranks as its involvement in counter-drug operations increased. And indeed, “reports of cooperation and mutual support between the military and narcotrafficking organisations have become more common, with the army at times opting not to destroy plantations of poppies and marijuana, or working actively for narcotraffickers by protecting these crops” (Watt and Zepeda 2012: 203). Finally, the most accurate indicator that points out to Calderón’s failure to rollback corruption in the security apparatus is people’s perception. Using the Delphi panel’s score on the Defense Sector Assessment Rating Tool (DSART), a study (Paul, Schaefer, and Clarke 2011) shows that the security forces’ capability to control corruption was perceived as very weak by the participants. It scored only 1.27 (the average score across all capabilities being 2.10) and a participant believed that “corruption in the forces of order is the single biggest barrier to effectively opposing the DTOs [Drug-Trafficking Organizations]” (Paul, Schaefer, and Clarke 2011: 73). Hence, Calderón’s tough policy did not manage either to reduce corruption in the police forces or to prevent the infiltration of the army by drug cartels.

In the years following his election, president Calderón outlined several proposals for judicial and legal reforms to the Congress. Two major improvements were the approval of both a single national system of police development in the General Law of the National System of Public Security until the end of 2008 and the confiscation of goods used in a criminal activity in the Federal Law of Forfeiture in 2009, as well as a judicial reform approved in March 2008 which replaced secret written trials by oral ones (Chabat 2010). Moreover, “Calderón’s reforms also modernized and strengthened the judiciary by altering investigation approaches and creating new criminal codes for organized crime” (Weeks 2011: 44).

Behind these apparent successes lies in fact a great failure. Firstly, approval by Congress does not entail direct implementation. By 2011, the judicial reform for oral trial accepted by the Congress in 2008 was not in place (Poiré 2011). Secondly, despite the changes in both the judiciary and legal systems, “fewer than 25 percent of all crimes are reported in Mexico, and of those, fewer than 2 percent are successfully prosecuted, due to system’s inefficiency and lack of transparency” (Longmire 2011: 120). Thirdly, even the security forces do not abide to the rule of law. Most of the human right violations are sent to the military justice where impunity is a widespread practice. In the five states analyzed by the Human Rights Watch report, less than one half of one percent of the 3, 671 military investigations have been prosecuted between 2007 and 2011 (Human Rights Watch 2011). Thus, despite the apparent changes in legal and judicial systems, both drug-trafficking crimes and human right violations committed by security officers remain unpunished.

At the end of Calderón’s presidency, all indicators support the failure of his administration to achieve its top priorities: reducing violence linked to drug-trafficking activities, ending corruption rooted in security forces, and reforming the judiciary and the legal frameworks. However, the story of Mexico’s Drug War’s tragedy does not end there. Indeed, this strategy led to three negative by-products. The first one relates to the militarization of the Mexican state. Jose Merino is right when he states that “the battle against narcotic traffickers has undermined exactly what is needed to win this war: the rule of law” (Poiré 2001: 25). And indeed, since the start of the War on Drugs in 2006 and the deployment of 45,000 troops in the streets of Mexico, the army has replaced the federal and municipal police forces in the delivering of public security. Furthermore, there was an increasing trend in the number of military personnel appointed to government leadership positions during Calderón’s presidency. Since 2000, “the number of active-duty military commanders holding civilian leadership positions has nearly doubled from 4, 504 military officers to 8, 274 in 2008” (Weeks 2011: 30). What do these two trends entail for Mexican’s democratization? The growing participation of the military in the War on Drugs presents a direct threat to the consolidation of Mexican democracy. Indeed, “military-based counter-narcotics policy has the formidable potential to undermine civilian control over the armed forces, weaken democratic institutions, and subvert democratic practices in Mexico” (Weeks 2011: 40).

Another side effect of Calderón’s militarized solution is the psychological impacts of violence on the Mexican population. A recent study analyses the effects of the War on Drugs on forty students attending the Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez. It concludes “that exposure to traumatic events in Ciudad Juárez has produced, and continues to cause, significant negative mental health outcomes in young people” (O’Connor, Vizcaino, and Benavides 2013: 7). The data gathered from the forty participants present high levels of symptoms of posttraumatic stress disorder (32.5%), depression (35%), and anxiety (37.5%); all of which were the outcomes of facing events related to the War on Drugs like being in an armed conflict or witnessing a killing or dead body (O’Connor, Vizcaino, and Benavides 2013). Such findings are also present in the 2011 Human Rights Watch report which looks at the psychological effects of human rights violations committed by security forces. The stories of a victim of waterboarding and of the brother of a man who was executed by Navy officers both point out to the trauma caused by these events. Whilst the former could not take a shower as the water reminded him of his torture, the latter was grasped by fear each time he saw a military convoy (Human Rights Watch 2011). The War on Drugs thus leads to traumatic disorders that could have negative impacts on the psychological well-being of a large portion of the Mexican population and of the Mexican youth over the long-term.

A final by-product of the Guerra al narco is the diffusion of drug-trafficking activities to the south of the Mexican state. As Figure 2 shows, the proportion of cocaine seized in Central America is increasing in comparison to the quantity apprehended in Mexico since 2005. Whereas total cocaine seizures were split equally between Mexico and Central America in 2005, the share of cocaine seized in Central America represented about 95% of the total cocaine seized in both regions in 2011. This is direct outcome of Calderón’s strategy. According to the 2012 United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime report, “after 2006, the year the Mexican government implemented its new national security strategy, it became more hazardous for traffickers to ship the drug directly to Mexico, and so an increasing share of the flow began to transit the landmass of Central America” (UNODC 2012: 11). Edward Fox presents this phenomenon as the “cockroach effect”: when criminals are under the spotlights, they simply change locations (Fox 2012). Two large Mexican drug-trafficking organizations, the Zetas and the Sinaloa Cartel, had a strong presence in Guatemala by 2012 and reports have indicated their movements to Honduras (Fox 2012). Hence, Calderón’s war has opened new market channels for the Mexican cartels which could in turn undermine the stability of Central American countries.

Figure 2: Cocaine seizures in Central America and Mexico, 2000-2011

Source: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime report, 2012

Source: United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime report, 2012

Presenting Calderón’s failure simply by looking at the sharp increase in violence grasps only one side of the disastrous effects of his approach. Not only did his militarized response failed to ensure public security, but it also did not manage either to revert corruption or reform Mexican’s judicial and legal systems. On top of that, the Guerra al narco had three negative side effects. Whereas the militarization of the Mexican state is a direct threat to its democratization, the psychological effects of the War on Drugs on the Mexican population could lead to a “lost generation”. Last but not least, the crackdown on drug-trafficking organizations forced them to seek new channels south of the Mexican border. Their activities in Central America could further undermine the stability of countries like Guatemala and Honduras. Hence, what appeared to be at first a failed strategy has now turned into a total disaster for both Mexico and the region as a whole. Why was Calderón’s approach doomed to aggravate an already somber situation?

 

A Policy Based on Misinterpretations

After declaring war to the drug-trafficking organizations, Calderón sent the army and the federal force to the areas where the drug cartels were well established. He decided to confront them at the heart of their networks, targeting both the leaders and the products (i.e. crops), in order to destabilize their organizations and their trade patterns. Alejandro Poiré, Mexican government’s spokesman for security affairs in 2011, outlines the successes of this policy: since 2006, 21 of the 37 most-wanted leaders of major drug-trafficking organizations have been killed and Mexican security forces have seized more than 9,500 tons of drugs and over 122,000 weapons (Poiré 2011). This does not match the arguments outlined in the previous section, which point out to the disaster of this strategy. The confidence of government officials in the achievements of the War on Drugs is a clear indicator of their total misunderstanding of the problem. Calderón’s approach was rooted in the misinterpretations of both the drug-trafficking system and the security forces’ capabilities.

In regards to the former, Calderón’s policy assumed that disturbing the trade system and the leadership of drug cartels would reduce violence by limiting the cartels’ access to funds and disrupting their hierarchies. This however illustrates a total misreading of drug-trafficking organizations’ structure. In his recent TED talk, Rodrigo Canales argues that Mexican drug cartels present the same organizational patterns as any other formal businesses (TED talk The deadly genius of drug cartels 2013, see below). In other words, attacking the trade routes of these organizations entails a direct threat to their main economic activities. Whereas formal corporations would use the legal tools available to them to maintain their competiveness, the criminal organizations resort to violence as it cannot pretend to legal means. “He [El Chapo, leader of the Sinaloa Cartel] wants the bridge to send goods to the Gringos. That is the fight in case you don’t know,” stated a former hit man for the Juárez Cartel to BBC reporter Katya Adler (see BBC documentary, 49:07-49:20). To secure trade routes, Mexican drug cartels enter into full-armed confrontations with the state. Hence, Calderón’s strategy of targeting trade networks was doomed to increase violence.

Furthermore, the Mexican government failed to acknowledge the deep connections that Mexican drug-trafficking organizations had built with local population and regional criminals. Canales gives a striking example of this: it relates to the events that occurred in the city of Apatzingán (Michoacán state) in December 2010 (TED talk The deadly genius of drug cartels 2013). Following a two days confrontation between federal forces and a local criminal organization, the Michoacán family, the mayor of this city decided to set up a march for peace. The day of the procession, half of the participants were holding banners and signs in support of the criminal organization. This behavior highlights the simple fact that the Michoacán family had engaged local civil societies well before the federal and police forces. For Canales, this example “is a perfect metaphor for what’s happening in Mexico today, where we see that our current understanding of drug violence and what leads to it is probably at the very least incomplete” (TED talk The deadly genius of drug cartels 2013).

On another level, the government’s strategy of targeting the leadership of drug-trafficking organizations was a catalyst for the surge in inter-cartels violence. Rather than decreasing the number of Mexican cartels, the killing of cartel’s leaders disrupted the equilibrium patterns to which drug-trafficking organizations had previously agreed and opened space for the creation of new criminal organizations. “According to a study presented by Mexican security analyst Eduardo Guerrero (Nexos, June 2011) the number of cartels in Mexico climbed from six to 12 between 2007 and 2010, while the number of smaller local organizations increased from five to 62 in the same period” (Poiré 2011: 27). With this trend, competition to secure trade routes skyrocketed between the old drug cartels and the newcomers. Violence being the mean by which the drug-trafficking organizations secure their markets, it is not surprising that the increased in competition following the entering of new groups led to a surge in inter-cartel violence.

Whilst disrupting the trade patterns boosts the ferocity of drug cartels, it fails to target the roots of their financial profits: money laundering. And indeed, “the government crackdown on organised crime would be more effective in combating the power of Mexican drug traffickers were it to target the banks responsible for housing their profits” (Watt and Zepeda 2012: 210). Large financial groups like Banco Santander, Wachovia, Bank of America, Citigroup, American Express, Western Union and HSBC were all presumed to take parts in laundering activities on behalf of the Mexican drug cartels and were being investigated by the US Drug Enforcement Agency in 2010 (Watt and Zepeda 2012).

Calderón also overestimated the capabilities of the Mexican security forces to fight the drug cartels. Looking at the structure of the Mexican army, “the purpose of which is not to be a fighting army, but to participate in rescue efforts when some natural disaster strikes the country” (Castañeda 2010: 2), Jorge Castañeda (former foreign minister of Mexico during Vicente’s term) argues that the Mexican army is “totally unprepared to fight a war against drug cartels” (Castañeda 2012: 2). As shown previously, the apparent immunity of the Mexican military to corruption has been shattered as the increasing involvement of the army in drug-trafficking operations led to greater corruption within its ranks.

Calderón’s strategy also aimed at strengthening both the municipal and the federal police forces. His reforms however failed to recognize the penetration of the drug-trafficking organizations in these two security structures on one hand and their deplorable conditions on the other hand. In regards to the former, by December 2010 less than 50 percent of state police officers had took a Trust test in 29 of Mexico’s 32 states and as many as 65 percent of the ones who were subjected to it did not succeed (Poiré 2011). Furthermore, both the low wage earned by the police officers and the high risks that non-cooperation with drug cartels entail are incentives that force many “clean” municipal and federal police members to embrace corruption. One ex-sicario (assassin working for a Mexican drug cartel) “claims that, at the end of his training in the police academy, at least fifty of his 200 companions joined criminal organisations after graduation” (Watt and Zepeda 2012: 203).

Moreover, the lack of education, poor equipment and poor physical conditions among municipal and federal police forces make them inefficient against drug-trafficking organizations, which are equipped with modern lethal weapons. The magazine Wired provides examples of the cartels’ weaponry. Recent reports indicate that “forty-three percent of local cops are too old to effectively perform their basic duties, and 70 percent are considered overweight to obese – which translates into an inability to chase a suspect for more than 300 feet. Many officers still use old .38-caliber revolvers – obsolete for over a decade and seriously outmatched by AK-47s and .50-caliber rifles used by narcos” (Longmire 2011: 118). Hence, whilst the military is not tasked to wage a war on drug-trafficking organizations, the federal and municipal police forces do not have the power to ensure public security and chase drug criminals. Reforms should thus target these structural issues and focus on training rather than simply focusing on the purge of the old system and its replacement with new, undertrained, and unskilled police officers.

The judicial system’s aim is to prosecute the drug criminals once they are captured by the police forces or the military. If Calderón overestimated the capabilities of the security forces to kill or arrest members of drug-trafficking organizations, he also misjudged the judiciary’s abilities to pursue cases in courts. Despite the multiple reforms he implemented to modernize investigation techniques and facilitate trials, the average impunity index in Mexico was around 98 percent in 2009 (Weeks 2011). Moreover, the reforms have also increased the stages in the judicial structure that drug cartels can corrupt or intimidate. “This is because changes, such as greater dependence on evidence, greater involvement of judges, the creation of new justice positions, increased participation of defense attorneys, and expanded procedural measures in Mexico’s 2008 reforms create greater bureaucracy and regulation in the judicial system” (Weeks 2011: 50). Finally, the time lag between capture and prosecution can take months or years: accused drug criminals waiting for the final judicial decision represent currently nearly 40 percent of the people held in the Mexican prisons (Weeks 2011). To add on these deficiencies, the Mexican judicial system is not even capable of dealing with human right violations committed by security forces. “Justice officials fail to take basic steps such as conducting ballistic tests or questioning the soldiers and police involved” (Human Rights Watch 2011: 9) when investigating extrajudicial killings.

In other words, Calderón’s War on Drugs was based on a total miscomprehension of the capabilities and the structures of the two main actors involved in this security issue: the drug-trafficking organizations and the Mexican security apparatus. It thus seems natural that his strategy was not only doomed to fail, but was also fated to worsen a problem which has haunted Mexico for decades. Rather, Calderón should have followed a more bottom-up tactic: emphasize the structural and operational reforms of both the security forces and the judicial system. The top-down line he undertook, with the deployment of military and federal police forces in the streets of Mexico, did not target the roots of the problem: corruption in all governmental and security branches, the financial source of drug cartels and the drug market itself.

 

Conclusion

As of today, it appears that the Mexican drug cartels have the upper hand in Mexico’s Drug War. Rather than solving the security problems related to drug-trafficking activities, Calderón’s strategy exacerbated them. The War on Drugs he undertook at the beginning of his term was a total disaster. Firstly, Calderón’s approach failed to accomplish the three top priorities on his agenda: ensure public security, reinforce Mexican security structures, and reform both the legal and judicial systems. Secondly, it actually aggravated the situation. Violence skyrocketed over his term. Corruption became endemic in the army and the police forces. All of this occurred despite his attempts to root out drug cartels’ penetration of the security forces, reform the judiciary, and disturb the drug-trafficking organizations’ structure and trade patterns. Finally, Calderón’s War led to three unexpected by-products whose potential negative effects could worsen even further the initial disaster. The militarization of the Mexican state, the psychological impacts of Mexico’s Drug War on the Mexican population, and the movement of drug cartels into Central America could respectively endangers Mexican democratization, produces a “lost generation”, and threatens the stability of the region as a whole. Why did Calderón’s approach failed?

His policies were based on a deep misunderstanding of both actors involved in the drug issue: the drug-trafficking organizations and the Mexican security forces. In regards to the former, Calderón’s strategy perceived drug cartels as criminal organizations. It thus failed to see that they in fact behave like any other formal business with only one difference: as drug cartels cannot pretend to legal means to ensure their competiveness, they resort to violence. By opening channels for new comers and threatening drug cartels’ trade routes, Calderón’s response led to a surge in both inter-cartel violence and cartel-state confrontations. Focusing on the products, his approach did not target the source of cartel’s revenue: money laundering. Finally, Calderón overemphasized the Mexican security and judiciary’s capabilities to fight drug-trafficking organizations. Corruption is deeply rooted in both the military and the police structures. Furthermore, whereas the former is not tasked to fight drug cartels, the latter is ill-equipped and poorly trained. Despite reforms, the Mexican judiciary still fails to prosecute both drug cartel criminals and human rights violation committed by security forces. Within this body, corruption is also well established but the main handicap is the simple fact that most justice officials fail to perform the most basic stages in investigation procedures, such as questioning witnesses.

Thus, this article advocates the need to increase in-depth research on the security structures and the cartel organizational behaviours. With this in mind, the Mexican government will have a much more accurate picture of the situation and will be equipped to target the roots of the drug-related issues. As Calderón’s approach illustrate, misinterpretations can be fatal. Sadly, the Iguala case indicates that his successor, Enrique Peña Nieto, did not learn the lessons. The political momentum and the public visibility that this affair gained in Mexico are nonetheless signs of hope: the Mexican people are tired of their government failures and the continuing violences. They are not afraid anymore to manifest in the streets to ensure greater accountability from the part of the Mexican state as well as ask for more positive results. This is one small step towards change…

 

REFERENCES

  • Adler, Katya (2010) Mexico’s Drug War, BBC World Service.
  • Canales, Rodrigo (2013) The deadly genius of drug cartels, TED Talk, New York: TEDSalon 2013.
  • Casteñada, Jorge (2010) “Mexico’s Failed Drug War,” Cato Institute Economic Development Bulletin, No. 13.
  • Castillo García, (2008) “El narco ha feudalizado 60% de los municipios, alerta ONU,” La Jordana, 26 June.
  • Chabat, Jorge (2010) “Combatting Drugs in Mexico under Calderon: The Inevitable War,” Centro de Investigación y Docencia Económicas, No. 205.
  • Flannery, Nathaniel Parish (2013) “The Rise of Latin America: Calderón’s War,” Journal of International Affairs, Vol. 66, No. 2, 181.
  • Fox, Edward (2012) “UN Report Highlights Regional Consequences of Mexico’s Drug War,” InSight Crime: Organized Crime in the Americas. Accessed on November 29th Available at URL: < http://www.insightcrime.org/news-analysis/un-report-regional-consequences-mexicos-drug-war>.
  • Human Rights Watch (2011) Neither Rights Nor Security: Killings, Tortures, and Disappearances in Mexico’s “War on Drugs, New York: Human Rights Watch.
  • Kellner, Tomas and Pipitone, Francesco (2010) “Inside Mexico’s Drug War,” World Policy Journal, Vol. 27, No. 1, 29-37.
  • Longmire, Sylvia (2011) Cartel: The Coming Invasion of Mexico’s Drug Wars, New York: Palgrave Macmillan.
  • O’Connor, Kathleen and Vizcaino, Maricarmen and Benavides, A. Nora (2013), “Mental Health Outcomes of Mexico’s Drug War in Ciudad Juárez: A Pilot Study Among University Students,” Traumatology, 1-9.
  • O’Neil, Shannon (2009) “The Real War in Mexico: How Democracy Can Defeat the Drug Cartels,” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 88, No.4, 63-77.
  • Paul, Christopher and Schaefer, Agnes Gereben and Colin, P. Clarke (2011) The Challenge of Violent Drug-Trafficking Organizations: An Assessment of Mexican Security Based on Existing RAND Research on Urban Unrest, Insurgency, and Defense-Sector Reform, Pittsburgh: Rand National Defense Research Institute.
  • Poiré, Alejandro (2011) “Can Mexico win the war against drugs?,” Americas Quqrterly, Vol. 5, Issue 4, 24-27.
  • United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (2012), Transnational Organized Crime in Central America and the Caribbean: A Threat Assessment.
  • Watt, Peter and Zepeda, Roberto (2012) Drug War Mexico: Politics, Neoliberalism and Violence in the New Narcoeconomy, New York: Zed Books.
  • Weeks, Katrina M. (2011) “The Drug War in Mexico: Consequences for Mexico’s Nascent Democracy,” CMC Senior Theses. Paper 143.

 

by Aliaume Leroy

The GNU project

Nick Clifton: December 2014 GNU Toolchain Update

Hi Guys,

  There are only a few things to report for this month:

* GDB now supports the compilation and injection of source code into the inferior.  GDB will use GCC 5.0 or higher built with libcc1.so to compile the source code to object code, and if successful, inject and execute that code within the current context of the inferior.  Currently the C language is supported.  The commands used to interface with this new feature are:

    compile code [-raw|-r] [--] [source code]
     compile file [-raw|-r] filename


 * The binutils now supports Controls and Data Services VISIUMcore processor.

 * GCC's LTO optimizer can now perform aggressive devirtualizations, finding more places where virtual functions can be replaced with real ones.  Controlled by the new command line option: -fdevirtualize-at-ltrans, this feature is disabled by default because it significantly increases the size of object files.
 
  * The PowerPC port supports three new options to control the use of the vector/scalar floating point register set that was add in version 2.06 and 2.07 of the PowerPC ISA.

    -mupper-regs-df

        Generates code that uses the scalar double precision instructions.

    -mupper-regs-sf

        Generates code that uses the scalar single precision instructions.

    -mno-upper-regs

        Do not generate code that uses any of the registers.

Cheers
  Nick

This Cannot Be Happening!

Ending Torture One Dick At a Time

A Hollywood Hack Holiday

 

CAUTION! To paraphrase Bill O’Reilly, you are now entering a no-censor zone that discusses obscene activity.
 

The Christmas movie from Sony Pictures I want to see is Seth Rogan and James Franco rectally feeding Dick Cheney at the climax of a movie sequel called The Enhanced Interview: Saving the Homeland One Dick At a Time.

Rogan and Franco have a good track record at getting money for movies that break taboos. Both are actor/directors not queasy about biological functions. Rogan co-directed the movie The Interview that caused an international incident by having an actor play the real Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un and, among all the dick jokes, exploding his head into biological goo; and Franco just directed an excellent film called Child Of God based on a Cormac McCarthy novel in which a mentally ill, homeless redneck is shown from behind cleaning his dirty ass crack with a stick and, later, having sex with a female corpse for whom he has purchased a red dress. Rectal feeding and/or re-hydration of an actor playing Dick Cheney would not be much of a hurdle for these brave cineastes.

While the North Korea movie may be an adolescent and politically irresponsible comedy, Child of God is a dark, small-budget gem. The kind of biological/psychological frankness the film engages in would have never been shown in theaters or on TV before the cell phone images of torture from Abu Ghraib in Iraq seeped into the American consciousness. Scenes of red-blooded American men and women torturing naked male Iraqi prisoners in one of Saddam Hussein’s hideous dungeons shocked the American aesthetic. Sadistic behavior bordering on sodomy as US military policy? Hey, that doesn’t comport with American values!

But, then again, I’m afraid it does.

Scott Haze in Child of God; Dick Cheney; James Franco, left, and Seth Rogan up the creek in North KoreaScott Haze in Child of God; Dick Cheney; James Franco, left, and Seth Rogan up the creek in North Korea
 

For this advancement (or degradation) in cultural aesthetics -- at its worse, there's the film series brand Saw -- we have to thank the advent of cell phone cameras and government torture facilitators like Dick Cheney, who as a young man was soft, delicate and privileged enough to willfully avoid service in Vietnam, but as an old man with a bum ticker became powerful and ruthless enough to advocate torturing human beings in dungeons with hooks in the ceiling and drains in the floor to whoosh away all the hosed off blood, piss and shit from the previous eight-hour work shift. Cheney is even cold-blooded enough to say on Meet The Press that he doesn’t care that innocent people were tortured under his program: “I have no problem as long as we achieve our objective.” This is a man comfortable in a secure and luxurious mansion who has never gotten any torturous biological matter on him.

read more

by grant

December 16, 2014

Defective by Design

Print this guide

We've just released a printable version of our online Giving Guide, which helps gift-givers choose tech gifts that are DRM-free and respect recipients' rights as computer users. The Guide is hosted on the Web site of the Free Software Foundation, which runs Defective by Design. The printable version, which is available in color as well as black and white, makes sharing and translating easy so the Giving Guide can spread far and wide.

The guide is an easy-to-use resource that can make a difference in what people buy. We just need to get it in front of them. Can you help us spread the word by organizing a Giving Guide Giveaway this winter? Giveaways are public meet-ups where activists gather to hand out the print Giving Guide to shoppers considering electronics gifts. By having face-to-face interactions with people in your area, you'll be getting your message across way more effectively than we can by talking about it online.

To make planning Giveaways easy, we've created a primer with tips and a planning timeline. Get a few friends together for a small Giveaway, or make a splash with a big one -- it's about spreading the message in whatever way is best for you. Check out the primer now, and organize your Giveaway! If you need to do your Giveaway in January or February, don't worry; shopping doesn't stop with the holidays!

This paper version is in English for letter sized paper, but we don't want to be limited to it! If you have the skills, please translate the printable version of this guide into any language you can and adapt it to other paper sizes, like A4. Send translated and resized versions as attachments to campaigns@fsf.org, with matching directory structure and file types to the original archive. Feel free to credit yourself on the translation.

If you're in the Boston-area, you are invited to the Giveaway the Free Software Foundation is organizing on Thursday, December 18th, meeting at 6:30 PM in the Harvard Square Station. Please RSVP to campaigns@fsf.org if you're coming.

Happy holidays!

Defective by Design needs your support to maintain our resources for DRM-free living and keep publicly calling out digital restrictions for what they are -- oppressive. Can you pitch in to help us fight DRM this holiday season?

by Zak Rogoff

This Cannot Be Happening!

I Can't Breathe

New poem:

 

I’m white.
But I can’t breathe.
I’m suffocating.
Maybe I’m dying.

 

I tried to run
But I got caught
Thinking terrible thoughts about my twisted country.
Dangerous and dark thoughts,
Like a German might have thought
When the Nazis were beating up Jews.
And the zeitgeist was shouting at me to stop.
Don’t shoot! I shouted,
Peeing my pants,
I’m white!
I’m the same color as Jesus!
But the zeitgeist
Wasn’t a Christian.
Wasn’t even a white cop.
He was a friggin’ octopus!
And he wasn’t interested in anything I had to say.
I only had enough air to get out one more lie:
I gasped,
America is awesome!
But I was falling
And my sight was obscured by a red curtain
As the zeitgeist pulled me down.

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by glindorff

The GNU project

FSF Blogs: Print this guide

We've just released a printable version of our online Giving Guide, which helps gift-givers choose tech gifts that respect recipients' rights as computer users and avoid those that don't. The printable version (available in color as well as black and white) makes sharing and translating easy so the Giving Guide can spread far and wide.

The guide is an easy-to-use resource that can make a difference in what people buy. We just need to get it in front of them. Can you help us spread the word by organizing a Giving Guide Giveaway this winter? Giveaways are public meet-ups where free software users gather to hand out the print Giving Guide to shoppers considering electronics gifts. By having face-to-face interactions with people in your area, you'll be getting your message across way more effectively than we can by talking about it online.

To make planning Giveaways easy, we've created a primer with tips and a planning timeline. Get a few friends together for a small Giveaway, or make a splash with a big one -- it's about spreading the message in whatever way is best for you. Check out the primer now, and organize your Giveaway! If you need to do your Giveaway in January or February, don't worry; shopping doesn't stop with the holidays!

This paper version is in English for letter sized paper, but we don't want to be limited to it! If you have the skills, please translate the printable version of this guide into any language you can and adapt it to other paper sizes, like A4. Send translated and resized versions as attachments to campaigns@fsf.org, with matching directory structure and file types to the original archive. Feel free to credit yourself on the translation.

If you're in the Boston-area, you are invited to the Giveaway the Free Software Foundation is organizing on Thursday, December 18th, meeting at 6:30 PM in the Harvard Square Station. Please RSVP to campaigns@fsf.org if you're coming.

Happy holidays!

Thanks to your support, 2015 marks 30 years of the FSF! In the next 30 years, we want to do even more to defend computer user rights. To kick off in that direction, we're setting our highest-ever fundraising goal of $525,000 by January 31st. Donate, join as a member, or read more about our work.

December 15, 2014

Vlax

#Metadata lasts forever

#Metadata lasts forever

-> Cover your face and hair • think before yoU text • encrypt your shit • wear gloves • don’t use Facebook, period • watch out for Google too • use public computers or encrypted networks • don’t speculate about who did what • watch out for RFID tags • don’t put your picture online • don’t brag • leave your phone at home • remember that the nsa reads your email • Be careful, not paranoid • Never snitch, Ever

LastsForever

#security #surveillance #riot #society #protest #encrypt #information #freedom #culture #pdf #activism #uprising #image

This Cannot Be Happening!

Africa's Forgotten (And Festering) Freedom Struggle in Western Africa

US sides with a colonizer

 

Algiers -- The Western Sahara is not just a section of the famous desert that dominates North Africa.

The Western Sahara is a country on the Atlantic Ocean coast of North Africa with the dubious distinction of being the “Last Colony” on the vast continent of Africa. The current colonizer of this mineral-rich nation is the neighboring country of Morocco, which for decades has been conducting a viciously brutal occupation. A long history of human rights violations by Morocco in the Western Sahara have drawn wide condemnation from diverse entities including Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the United States, ironically an ally of Morocco.

The plight of the Saharawi people, the indigenous population of the Western Sahara, was the focus of a conference in Algiers last weekend that attracted participants from across Africa , Europe and the Americas. That conference featured Saharawians who have been tortured and imprisoned by Moroccan authorities as well as experts who detailed various facets of Morocco's illegal occupation, including that country's failures to comply with United Nations mandates to conduct a voter referendum for determining the future of Western Sahara.

"Morocco confiscated our land. Built a wall dividing our country. It violates human rights while plundering our natural resources," Mohammed Abdelaziz, the President of the Western Sahara, said during his address at the opening ceremony of the 5th International Conference of Algiers. Called “The Right of Peoples to Resistance: the case of the Saharawi People," the conference was held at Algeria's Palace of Culture in the nation’s capital.

"We need a free, fair and just referendum to exercise the right of self- determination to create an independent state" President Abdelaziz said.
Mohammed Abdelaziz, president of the Western Sahara, and head of movement engaged in Africa&#039;s last anti-colonial struggleMohammed Abdelaziz, president of the Western Sahara, and head of movement engaged in Africa's last anti-colonial struggle (photo by Linn Washington)
 

read more

by lindorff

Belling Cat

Evidence of Jabhat al-Nusra Using TOW Anti-Tank Guided Missiles Captured from Vetted Rebel Groups

At the start of November it was reported that Jabhat al-Nusra had captured TOW anti-tank guided missiles (ATGM) from the Syrian opposition groups Harakat Hazm and the Syrian Revolutionary Front. Both were US vetted “moderate” groups who were part of a programme to receive arms and munitions to support their activities in Syria.

Today the following Tweet was posted by a Jabhat al-Nusra linked Twitter account, showing a TOW ATGM being used in fighting in Idlib, Syria.

A Dutch Jabhat al-Nusra fighting claimed the following about the origins of the missiles

If this claim is true, it’s the first evidence of TOW ATGMs provided by the US and its allies reaching the hands of the Al-Qaeda aligned Jabhat al-Nusra, although two alternative scenarios are possible:

1 – The photograph is a fighter from another group in the area using TOW ATGMs. The vetted 13th Brigade is also known to be operating TOW ATGMs in the same region. However, having reviewed footage of the 13th Brigade firing TOW ATGMs it appears that only a handful of men are operators of the 13th Brigade’s TOW ATGMs, none of whom are the individual in the photograph.

2 – The TOW pictured is from Lebanon, having been captured by Jabhat al-Nusra in October 2014. The markings on the Lebanese TOWs that would confirm whether or not they were from Lebanon are not visible in the Jabhat al-Nusra photograph.

While the evidence is not definite, it does seem there is good reason to believe that at the very least Jabhat al-Nusra are using TOW ATGMs, and it seems likely that it will be possible to establish their origin as more evidence of their use is shared by Jabhat al-Nusra

Update Jabhat al-Nusra have now posted a video of the fighting showing them setting up the same TOW ATGM featured in the photograph

It’s notable that the markings on the rear of the missile tube indicate it’s the 71E-1B model, the same type as provided to vetted opposition groups, and the thee stripes on the legs of the launcher are black, not yellow as seen in the photographs of the TOW ATGMs captured by Jabhat al-Nusra from Lebanon, pictured here.

TOW ATGM

 

Based on this information it seems likely this is a TOW ATGM captured from a vetted opposition group.

by Eliot Higgins

Vlax

"Agua de río mezclada con mar": la #historia de un #jugador de #fútbol nacido en el #mar, sin nacionalidad nativa, pero francés por adopción.

"Agua de río mezclada con mar": la #historia de un #jugador de #fútbol nacido en el #mar, sin nacionalidad nativa, pero francés por adopción.

Fuente: http://la-redo.net/agua-de-rio-mezclada-con-mar-90701-/

"Lo que sucedió con #Rio-Antonio-Mavuba es bastante particular. Rio nació en el mar. Sí, así como se lee. Y en aguas internacionales, además. No tiene patria (...). Rio es francés ahora, (...). Pero en el pasaporte dice que nació en el mar.

Mavuba juega en el #Lille, tiene 30 años. Surgió en el #Girondins de #Bordeaux junto a #Marouane-Chamakh y #Julien-Faubert. En 2007 pasa al #Villarreal por 7 millón euro, no rindió, fue a préstamo al Lille en 2008 y allí se quedó. Ha jugado el último mundial, un partido, en la victoria de #Francia ante #Honduras por 3-0. Su padre también ha sido futbolista, #Ricky-Mavuba, participó también de un #mundial, #Alemania-74 y es nada menos que uno de los míticos (?) jugadores de #Zaire, que dejaron su bizarro recuerdo para la posteridad. El papá de Antonio Rio (?) no era el histórico Mwepu, aquel zaireño que mientras Rivelino y Jairzinho decidían quien le pegaba fue y le dio un patadón a la pelota pensando que tiro libre quería decir “el que primero llega le pega” (?).

En realidad los padres de Mavuba la pasaron bastante mal. La madre, angoleña, sufría mucho en ese país una coyuntura política siempre muy efervescente, plagada de conflictividad social. En un buque cargado de inmigrantes, decidieron escapar de la #guerra-civil, en marzo de 1984. Teresa, embarazada, esperaba llegar a #Marsella para tener a la criatura. Pero arrancó con trabajo de parto en medio del mar, en aguas internacionales. Y el pequeño nació allí. Vivió como refugiado político en Francia desde que nació hasta que consiguió la nacionalidad, recién en 2005. Pero la pasó mal.

No solo no tenía patria Rio, si no que al poco tiempo ya no tenía padres. Su madre murió cuando tenía dos años y unos pocos años más tarde fallecería su padre. Así, huerfanito, se crió con la mujer de su padre, que tenía once pibes más. Qué destino, cuantos pibes habrán habido con situaciones similares, cuántos más habrá. Pero a la vez, cuántos casos hay que conocemos donde aparece el fútbol para darle giros de 180 grados a situaciones casi irreversibles. Y con Rio apareció. Fue al Burdeos a probarse, quedó y su vida cambiaría para siempre.

Solo había jugado un puñadito de partidos en eliminatorias con #Les-Bleus y #Didier-Deschamps decidió llevarlo a #Brasil-2014. En su momento la #República-Democrática-del-Congo se lo quiso incorporar a sus filas, pero Francia lo primereó y se lo quedó por las dudas, Domenech lo metió en un amistoso contra #Bosnia y listo, bidón, adentro. Y las buenas actuaciones en #Le-Championnat le valieron la convocatoria. Y tocó el cielo con las manos cuando sustituyó a Cabaye en el segundo tiempo del match ante Honduras y logró lo mismo que su viejo, disputar un campeonato del mundo.

Hoy Rio vive bien. Tiene dinero, familia, patria, religión y sexo (?). Pero jamás se olvidó de dónde vino. Del agua (?). Y ha puesto un #orfanato, #Huérfanos-de-Makala, que está ubicado en el lugar donde vivía su padre. Rio compró el edificio y puso esta asociación para chiquitos sin padres. Esta es la historia de un huérfano, de un apátrida que sin que nadie le regale nada, solo por su #talento y su #voluntad llegó al fútbol de elite y a participar de un mundial con un país campeón del mundo. Mirá si no valía la pena destacarlo."

December 14, 2014

Belling Cat

Syria’s Steel Beasts: The T-72

T_72_M1_TURMS_T_Comparison_T_72_M1_Syria_July2014_1

The T-72, after the T-55 the most prolific tank series of the post-World War II era with an estimated production run of up to 30.000 vehicles. In Syria, the tank largely owes its fame due the participation in the Battle of Darayya, which was extensively covered on camera, and the large amount of videos showing the turret fly off due to an internal explosion after getting hit by a RPG. As a result, both the highest flying T-72 turret and the most destroyed T-72 were recorded inside Syria.

Nonetheless, it remains at the forefront in the Syrian Civil War and undoubtedly is Syria’s most popular tank, so much even that a captured T-72 is considered as a sort of treasure by the rebels. Around 300 are still believed to be operated by mainly the Republican Guard and the Syrian Arab Army’s elite 4th armoured division.

Although it’s commonly believed Syria operated around 1500 T-72s, Syria actually acquired just over 700 T-72s in three (or technically four) batches. The first batch consisted of around 150 T-72 ‘Urals’ ordered from the Soviet Union and delivered in the late seventies, a total of 300 T-72As delivered in 1982 make up the second batch and an order for 252 T-72M1s placed in Czechoslovakia was only partially completed when the country was separated into two. While 194 examples were already delivered by Czechoslovakia in 1992, the order was continued by Slovakia and the remaining 58 T-72M1s were delivered in 1993.[1]

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The T-72 ‘Ural’, seen in the image below, was released for export in the late seventies, and apart from Syria, nations like Algeria, Iraq and Libya also received the type. Especially Syria was keen to field the T-72 after the poor performance of the T-62 during the 1967 and 1973 war. The combat history of the T-72 in the 1982 Lebanon war remains subject to debate, with sources claiming everything from the T-72s destroying M60s to Merkavas and yes, even the U.S. M1 Abrams.[2]

The most widely accepted theory involves the majority of the T-72s being held back in Syria as a strategic reserve, and that only a few T-72s did clash with M60s and Israeli Magach derivatives near Rashaya. Most sources agree the T-72s performed well, and one officer was subsequently decorated for his achievements with the type.[3]

Hafez al-Assad is even said to have made the famous quote of calling the T-72 ‘Ural’ ”the best tank in the world”. As a token of appreciation, Hafez donated (or more conviently traded) a captured Magach-5 to the Soviet Union, which was extensively tested here. Especially the Blazer explosive reactive armour (ERA) found on the Magach-5 was of great interest to the Soviet Union.

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Syria greatly benefitted from this arrangement, as it subsequently received the first of a total of 300 much improved T-72As in 1982. What makes Syria receiving this tank so special is that the T-72A was never cleared for export by the Soviet Union, with even the most trusted Warsaw Pact countries receiving the downgraded T-72M1 instead. The first country outside the former Soviet Union to receive T-72As was Hungary in 1996, which acquired them from Belarus fourteen years after Syria received theirs!

Syria’s T-72As, produced only one year before they were delivered, came directly from Soviet Army stocks. In Syria, these tanks became known as T-82s, with 82 referring to the year of delivery. The use of this designation continues even today, and neither T-72A or T-72AV was ever used to refer to this tank in Syria. To avoid confusion, only the foreign designations are used in this article.

The T-72A can be discerned from the T-72M1 by the presence of anti-radiation lining over its turret, as witnessed by the T-72AV without ERA seen below.

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The 300 T-72As were split between the Republican Guard and the 4th armoured division. The T-72s operated by the Republican Guard were always seen in a desert livery, while the T-72s of the 4th armoured division were usually plain green, which operated alongside a limited amount of ‘desert’ T-72s.

Numerous BREM-1 armoured recovery vehicles were also acquired mainly for the Republican Guard, and all remain in widespread use today. In fact, the BREM-1s is the only type of ARV that is actually used as an ARV in Syria, with other ARVs either stored or used as gun-platforms.

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Apart from acquiring T-72As, Syria also received the more modern 3BM-44 anti-tank round for the T-72’s 125mm cannon. Believed to have never been exported to any other country under Soviet influence, it remains in use alongside the older 3BM-23 anti-tank round. The complete ammunition loadout of a standard Syrian T-72 in Syrian service can be seen below.

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All of Syria’s T-72As were later upgraded to AV standard, aimed at increasing the T-72A’s protection against RPGs by the installment of Kontakt-1 explosive reactive armour blocks (ERA). Opposed to the T-55MV upgrade, which happened in the Ukraine, the upgrading of the T-72As took place in Syria. The Kontakt-1 ERA was bought from one of the former Soviet Republics (believed to have been Ukraine) and was supposedly installed by Armenian contractors. The upgrade to AV standard didn’t change anything to the designation of the T-82 however.

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Although almost all of the tanks got their Kontakt-1 ERA installed the way it was intended, at least some of the ‘T-72AVs’ can be seen with a different installment of the ERA blocks on the turret, a contraption likely originating from one of the Armenian contractors responsible for installing the ERA.

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The 252 T-72M1s were the latest additon to the Syrian tank fleet, and although inferior to the T-72AVs, they are Syria’s most newest tanks, having rolled out of the factory over ten years later than Syria’s T-72AVs. As most were delivered in 1992, they are sometimes referred to as T-92s by Syrians. Yet the original designation of T-72M1 also remains in use in Syria, resulting in some confusion around the Syrian designation system. To add to all the confusion, the T-72 ‘Ural’ is also believed to have acquired an indigenous name, which would likely be T-79.

Although all were believed to have been distributed to units within the Syrian Arab Army, most can now be found under the command of the Republican Guard in an effort to replace the battered T-72AVs it lost over the recent years.

A large part of the T-72M1 fleet was originally slated to be upgraded to what was believed to be T-72M1M standard by Russia at the start at this decade. However, this plan was abandoned after the start of the Civil War alongside several other ambitious modernisation programmes for the Syrian military.

The T-72M1’s hull seen below provides a good comparison between the different roadwheels of the T-72M1 and T-72 ‘Ural’. The green camouflaged roadwheel was taken from a T-72 ‘Ural’ after this particular T-72M1 got damaged in battle. This T-72M1 also features improvised armour additions.

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In agreement with Galileo Avionica of Italy, 122 T-72s were upgraded with the TURMS-T (Tank Universal Reconfiguration Modular System T-series) fire-control system (FCS) between 2003 and 2006.[4]

Strangely enough, instead of upgrading 122 of its most modern tanks, the T-72AV and T-72M1, Syria opted for dividing the TURMS-T systems between its T-72 ‘Urals’, T-72M1s and T-72AVs instead. The exact reason for this remains unclear even today. It might have something to do with the units that were slated to be equipped with T-72 TURMS-Ts, that could haveaccidentally brought their T-72 ‘Urals’ forward to be upgraded instead of their more modern incarnations. The quality of the TURMS-T installment varies on every tank, but seems to be of lesser quality on the T-72 ‘Urals’.

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The TPD-2-49 optical rangefinder found on the T-72 ‘Ural’ was closed up as opposed to removing it altogether, which would have left a hard to fill gap in the armour, not to mention the amount of needless work it would have cost.

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Surprisingly, T-72 ‘Urals’ and T-72M1s were also the only ones sighted with the panoramic sight also belonging to the TURMS-T system. As upgrading all of its 122 T-72s with the panoramic sight was deemed too expensive, only a limited amount of T-72s received the system. A special mount ensured the T-72s remained capable of carrying the 12.7mm NSV. The gunner’s sight originally used on these tanks was removed as it became redundant and was now blocking the TURMS-T system.

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Interestingly, all the TURMS-T equipped tanks in Syria got the ‘S’ added to their designation, resulting in T-79S/T-72S, T-82S/T-72AVS and T-92S/T-72M1S. While this may seem confusing at first hand, the ‘S’ stands for Saroukh (صاروخ) meaning missile, indicating all are capable of launching the 9M119(M) guided anti-tank missile through their barrel. 1500 of such missiles were believed to have been acquired in 2005. None have been seen in captured T-72 TURMS-Ts however, likely because the need for 9M119(M)s in the Syrian Civil War is minimal and all remain stored in depots.[5]

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Of the once 122 strong TURMS-T fleet, some one hundred still remain in service. As these tanks are by far the most modern examples found in Syria, most are held back on Mount Qasioun near Damascus, the Republican Guard’s base. Some of the T-72M1s equipped with the panoramic sight were tasked to monitor rebel activity in the villages around Mount Qasioun, as seen with the T-72 here, facing the village of Moadamiya.

Some TURMS-T equipped T-72s also saw heavy action in and around Damascus in the early days of the Syrian Civil War, during which a number were lost. Some were still seen in and around Damascus in 2013, but their usage in Damascus appears to be minimal. A few TURMS-T equipped T-72s belonging to the 4th armoured division were deployed to checkpoints throughout the country, and at least two were destroyed at the Jassim National Hospital near Nawa.

43f

Out of around 700 acquired T-72s, some 300 are still believed to be operational. Rumours of more T-72 deliveries in the past years continue until this day, and although larger numbers of green camouflaged T-72AVs continue to appear, this can’t be verified. With sufficient numbers of T-55 and T-62s at hand, and tanks being superseded by truck based anti-aircraft guns used for fire-support, there’s no real need to acquire new batches of T-72s for use in the war yet. With Syria’s limited budget for the acquisition of new weaponry, UR-77s and BM-30s have absolute priority.

Lots of T-72s were destroyed while used as battering rams charging through cities in the early days of the war. The usage of advanced RPGs such as the RPG-29 and M79 Osa by opposing forces didn’t work to the T-72’s advantage either. Subsequently, the T-72 fleet suffered the largest relative losses compared to the T-55 and T-62 fleet.

While the use in Darayya looked great on camera, it resulted in unnecessary losses with questionable results. The insurgency here was only suppressed after infantry was deployed into the now destroyed neighbourhood.

GAE4E_02

The tank was also used in situations where a simple T-55 or T-62 would also have sufficed, again leading to unnecessary losses. The sighting of T-72 ‘Urals’ is now especially getting rare. The T-72M1 is now the most numerous T-72 in Syrian service, followed by the T-72AV.

Nonetheless, new personnel is still training on the T-72s. The high attrition of tank crews and the need for skilled mechanics to quickly repair battle-damaged T-72s is now higher than ever.

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The T-72 has meanwhile seen use on every front. Deir ez-Zor, previously only home to T-55s, saw numerous T-72s operating here because of the arrival of the Republican Guard’s 104th brigade. Some TURMS-T equipped T-72AVs are now also attached to Suqur al-Sahara (Desert Falcons), and saw use against the Islamic State near the Shaer gas field.

A limited number of T-72s also operate around Aleppo. All of these belong to the 4th armoured division and operate alongside BREM-1 ARVs. They mainly operated around the neigbourhood of Al-Layramoun in late 2013.

Due to their heavy usage, many T-72AVs were soon left without their Kontakt-1 covered side skirts. Indeed, this was one of the complaints of tankers of the Republican Guard. An interview with one of them can be seen here. One hit by an RPG often results in the whole side skirt falling off, leaving the tank with almost no protection on this side. Some T-72AVs were subsequently used as a source for Kontakt-1 blocks, but Syria might still receive limited quantities of such blocks from one of the former Soviet Republics even today.

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Various other groups also continue to operate the T-72, of which the Islamic State is by far the largest operator with thirteen T-72 ‘Urals’ and six T-72AVs in operation. Six T-72 Urals and three T-72AVs joined the ranks of the Islamic State after Liwa Dawood, the largest operator of tanks of all the rebels at the time, defected to the Islamic State.

At least one T-72 was later modernized by the addition of new mud guards, side skirts and different ERA layout, allowing for a wider coverage on the tank’s side skirts. This particular T-72 participated in the assault on Brigade 93, in Northern Syria.

image 96hd

Another notable operator is Jaish al-Islam, which bought two T-72s from a corrupt officer within the Army’s elite 4th Armoured Division and captured at least another six, of which one T-72M1 TURMS-T. Jaish al-Islam’s usage of its T-72s can be seen as quite revolutionary compared to other rebel groups in the Syrian Civil War, being the only group in Syria which operates various types of armour and infantry in a mechanized force, fully exploiting their potential. At least one ‘T-72AV’ was upgraded with additional armour on its glacis plate and rear by Jaish al-Islam.

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Liwa Dawood, which later defected to the Islamic State, is claimed to have the dubious honour of participating in Syria’s second tank duel, footage of which can be seen here. The duel resulted in the complete destruction of a T-72AV (the remains of which can be seen below) by a T-72 ‘Ural’ from Liwa Dawood. Although the presence of numerous ATGMs in the area could soften the tank duel claim, the T-72AV seems in a great hurry to leave the area, possibly because it became aware of the T-72 Ural.

The poor protection of the ammunition almost always results in a fire and explosion inside the turret followed by the turret being detached from the hull. As the crew is sitting right on top of the 125mm shells, it almost always results in their death.

Damaged tanks belonging to forces loyal to Syria's President Assad are seen at al-Shabiba military camp near the town of Nayrab

Most Syrian T-72s lost their 12.7mm NSV heavy machine gun in the course of the Civil War. As these guns require the commander to leave the safety of the turret, thus leaving him greatly exposed to gunfire, they rarely saw use and were often dismounted to be mounted on pickup trucks instead.S ome of the NSVs were subsequently used to cover T-72s from RPG teams after being handed over to soldiers operating in the same theatre as the T-72s. This tactic is mostly seen in Jobar.

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A limited amount of T-72s were also upgraded by a protective shield for the commander to aid when operating the NSV heavy machine gun. These shields likely came with the Kontakt-1 ERA blocks also purchased. One of such shields can be seen below.

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To address some of the armour weaknesses, several programs have been initiated to improve the T-72’s protection against RPGs and ATGMs. These programs were first witnessed on the Republican Guard’s T-72AVs, most of which received slat armour filled with bricks. Simple bricks were sometimes also used to replace lost Kontakt-1 blocks, the actual combat value of which is highly questionable.

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While these early upgrades were very rudimentary and varied between each tank, Syria has now implemented a nation-wide upgrade program for its precious T-72s. At least three major variants are known, which can be further divided into numerous subvariants.

The first upgrade consists of several pieces of metal alligned around the turret and one large plate of metal on each side of the tank strenthened by shell casings from the T-72’s 125mm gun. In some cases, sandbags are also seen around the turret.

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The second upgrade includes the installment of slat armour on the glacis plate, turret, hull and the back, providing a 360 degree coverage. This type of armour is only seen on TURMS-T equipped T-72 ‘Urals’ operating in and near Aleppo.

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The third upgrade, by far the most rigorous and effective, was first seen in late August, 2014. The consisted of the installment of additional armour on the T-72M1’s side skirts, glacis plate and around the turret, further reinforced by slat armour and metal chaines, also providing a 360 degree coverage.

Some examples were immediately rushed into combat in Jobar, where at least two were destroyed.[6] [7] Other examples see service in Aleppo. However, the actual combat performance of the armour package remain unknown. It is expected more T-72s will receive this armour package.

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At least one TURMS-T equipped T-72M1 also received such armour additions, albeit in a slightly different configuration than seen otherwise.

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The T-72: Its combat successes are open to debate, its legacy is indisputable. It remains both loved and feared by friend and foe alike. Whatever the outcome of the Civil War, this tank has left its imprints on both the Syrian battlefield and battlefields across the world, and will continue to do so long after it has ended.

by Oryx

December 13, 2014

This Cannot Be Happening!

Justice Antonin Scalia is a Publicity-Seeking Intellectual Midget

Making a joke of the Supreme Court

 

Sometimes you really don't need to write much to do an article on something. Writing about the inanity of Justice Antonin Scalia, the ethics-challenged, lard-bottomed, right-wing anchor of the Supreme Court, is one of those times.

Scalia just weighed in on the CIA torture issue in an interview for a Swiss broadcast network, saying that he didn't think there was anything in the US Constitution that would prohibit torture under all circumstances, and positing a situation -- a suspect with knowledge about a hidden nuke to be detonated in Los Angeles -- that he suggested would make torture an acceptable tactic.

First of all, if Scalia can say "I don't know what article of the Constitution" would "contravene" harsh treatment of suspected terrorists, he is either terminally ignorant, or has figured out some talmudic-like gymnastic reasoning to allow him to argue that the Eighth Amendment's ban on "cruel and unusual" punishment doesn't apply to torture. Perhaps he thinks that punishment can only refer to what is meted out to a person after conviction, but as he surely knows, for literally centuries the court has been clear that the treatment of suspects is also covered by that ban. Furthermore, the Founders Scalia claims to have such respect for, clearly had in mind the abuses British colonial forces visited upon arrested and detained colonists when they wrote that ban into the Bill of Rights.

But beyond that, the argument about a suspect who knew about a hidden nuke, or an Anthrax or Small Pox bomb, which is hardly an original idea of Scalia's, has always been silly. Establishing that torture is always illegal, and that its perpetrators are committing a heinous crime, would never stop some cop or FBI agent or CIA agent from torturing such a suspect if he or she thought it could produce the information needed to find and prevent such a bomb. Who would think about future punishment in such a crisis?

Nobody. And if such a situation came to pass, and the bomb was found and disarmed, no one would ever prosecute whoever came up with the information that saved the day. So it's not a valid argument against an absolute ban on torture at all.

What should be banned is idiots, jerks and self-aggrandizing ideologues like Scalia on the High Court -- especially ones who are happy to accept gifts from people who have cases pending before the court.

Justice Antonin Scalia, the intellectual light-weight who anchors the right-wing of the Supreme CourtJustice Antonin Scalia, the intellectual light-weight who anchors the right-wing of the Supreme Court

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by lindorff

December 12, 2014

The GNU project

GNUnet News: Introductory tasks for new GNUnet hackers (updated)

We sometimes get requests for easy tasks to get started and join the GNUnet hacker community. However, it is often difficult for potential new contributors which areas they might be able to contribute to, especially as not all tasks are suitable for people that are just starting to work with GNUnet.

December 11, 2014

The GNU project

FSF Blogs: How many LibrePlanet scholarships will we give?

Karen Sandler speaking at LibrePlanet 2014

Sandler at LibrePlanet 2014

We're excited to announce our first keynote speaker for LibrePlanet 2015: Karen Sandler, executive director of the Software Freedom Conservancy and co-host of the “Free as in Freedom” podcast. Ms. Sandler's closing keynotes have been a highlight at LibrePlanet, and we're so excited to have her back. In other words, LibrePlanet 2015 is shaping up to be a really great event.

We hope you'll join us, and that you'll give a little extra so that a fellow free software enthusiast will be able to attend with a travel scholarship.

Each year, free software enthusiasts from around the world get together for the LibrePlanet conference, co-produced by the FSF and Student Information Processing Board at MIT (SIPB). At LibrePlanet, the movement has key conversations about how to keep free software strong and growing, and how to make sure that it is accessible to everyone, no matter what their needs or skills. In order to make the conference as rich and dynamic as possible, the Free Software Foundation works hard to offer travel scholarships to people who might be otherwise unable to attend. This year, we will also be offering funding for childcare.

Will you help us bring important voices to LibrePlanet 2015 by making a contribution to our scholarship fund?

A donation of $50 will provide a night in a shared hotel room. A donation of $300 will fund a domestic flight. A donation of $1,000 will fund an international flight.

In 2014, the Free Software Foundation spent $6,000 to bring fourteen people to LibrePlanet. This year, we've received a record number of scholarship applications: sixty three people from thirty countries who would like to attend LibrePlanet but need financial assistance. How many of them will we be able to offer scholarships? It depends, in part, on the donation you make between now and December 15th. Will you help us?

You can make a donation here, or donate when you register for the conference yourself. Remember, every donation you make also helps us meet our goal of raising $525,000 by January 31st.

This Cannot Be Happening!

The US Must Prosecute Torturers and their Enablers or Forever be Labeled a Rogue Nation

A White House infested with torturers and their abettors

 

In all the media debate about the Senate Intelligence Committee’s release, finally, of a heavily redacted report on officially sanctioned torture by the CIA and the US military during the Bush/Cheney administration and the so-called War on Terror, there has been little said about the reality that torture, as clearly defined in the Geneva Convention against Torture which went into effect in 1987, is flat-out illegal in the US as a signatory of that Convention.

During the Bush/Cheney years, administration lawyers like the reprehensible John Yoo (now, incredibly, a law professor at UC Berkeley), tried through shameless legal gymnastics, to provide legal cover for, and to legally authorize “enhanced interrogation” techniques. But the Geneva Convention is clear on this point: It says torture means:
 

...”any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity.”
 

All of the tortures cited in the Senate report, from rectal “rehydrating” to telling a captive he would later be killed if he didn’t talk, are unarguably torture under this broad definition, and call for severe punishment, not only of the perpetrators, but also of those who authorized their actions, or those who covered them up or failed to bring them to justice. And let me add that under the Geneva Conventions, torture during wartime has no statute of limitations.
US officially sanctioned and encouraged  torture at Abu Ghraib, while horrific, is only the tip of a very large and ugly icebergUS officially sanctioned and encouraged torture at Abu Ghraib, while horrific, is only the tip of a very large and ugly iceberg
 

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by lindorff

Belling Cat

Mazher Mahmood: Just Like Phone Hacking, the Met Narrows the Investigation

Metropolitan police’s Operation Silverhawk, an investigation into Sun on Sunday’s Fake Sheikh Mazher Mahmood is being led by Commander Martin Hewitt – who was one of the senior investigators in Operation Varec which was part of John Yates’s discredited investigation into phone hacking at Mahmood’s News of the World in 2010. Minutes from ‘Gold’ Group meeting which was chaired by Yates shows Commander Hewitt present as one the more senior members within the team at a meeting in September that year.

Operation Varec was criticised for interviewing whistleblower ex-News of the World showbiz reporter Sean Hoare under caution – effectively meaning that his statements could be used against him for prosecution. Hoare a former friend of Andy Coulson had given an interview to The New York Times weeks earlier claiming Coulson had “actively encouraged” him to hack phones but was left with no choice but to give No Comment answers in his police interview. This was at the time Andy Coulson was Director of Communications for the government at 10 Downing Street.

DAC Sue Akers in her witness statement to the Leveson inquiry said:

Operation Varec was commenced in order to review claims made in the New York Times newspaper on 1 September 2010 that Andy Coulson had in fact known more about phone hacking than than he had admitted publicly. This investigation led to a number of persons being interviewed under caution but no prosecutions were forthcoming

This is despite Hoare offering himself as a whistleblower and bin liners full of evidence at Scotland Yard from 2006’s Operation Caryatid that would later be used to prosecute then convict Coulson.

Currently, Commander Hewitt answers directly to Assistant Commissioner Mark Rowley who heads the Met’s Specialist Crime & Operations Unit. He was Chief Superintendent at Surrey police in 2002,the year Milly Dowler was hacked by News of the World.

Even though AC Rowley wasn’t directly involved, the case was one of the largest in Surrey police’s history in which News of the World informed the force on three seperate occasions of Milly’s hacked messages.

First, it was NotW managing editor Stuart Kuttner ( who phoned and emailed), then NotW news reporter Neville Thurlbeck (who instructed PI Glenn Mucaire), before finally NotW crime reporter Ricky Sutton who (even) played hacked recordings down the phone.

Furthermore, there were TWO MEETINGS between News of the World and Surrey police officers held at Surrey police station that have never been well publicised, reportedonly in the Independent in October 2011:

The Independent has established that, in April 2002 as police followed multiple leads, the NOTW approached the Surrey force and arranged two meetings during which it was made clear that the paper had obtained information that could only have come from messages on Milly’s phone.
The meetings, which took place at a Surrey police station, were attended by at least two journalists from the Rupert Murdoch-owned paper and two of the force’s most senior detectives, Mr Denholm and Detective Chief Inspector Stuart Gibson, who had day-to-day control of the inquiry. A third Surrey officer also attended.
Mr Denholm declined to comment on the meetings when approached by The Independent. Mr Gibson, who has retired from the police, could not be reached for comment despite repeated requests made to Surrey Police.
One former Surrey officer said: “The meetings were clearly significant. It was obvious that the newspaper had got hold of details from Milly’s phone messages.

The Guardian’s Hugh Muir reported in November 2011:

If you looked at his (Rowley’s) official biog in July (2011), it revealed that as a detective superintendent at the National Criminal Intelligence Service, he “led on the national deployment of covert techniques to combat organised crime such as telephone interception”. Appraised of the facts, he would have realised that what the News of the World was doing wasn’t legal. By the time of his move to the Met last month, his Surrey biog had been redrafted. By then, there was no reference to his telephony expertise at all.

AC Rowley who himself took over the Milly Dowler case in 2006 was left to confirm to MPs in 2011 that Surrey police did indeed have knowledge of the hacking of Milly’s phone nine years earlier. In a letter to Keith Vaz MP the Guardian reported of AC Rowley:

He said the police did not pursue the paper or its publisher News Group Newspapers, part of Rupert Murdoch’s News International, because it was “focused on retrieving any evidence the NoW had that could assist in the investigation into Milly Dowler’s disappearance”.

Rowley added Surrey police had “neither arrested nor charged anyone” in connection with the phone hacking.

In a letter to the Commons home affairs select committee, he said an inquiry is under way into why no criminal investigation was launched over the Milly Dowler hacking information.

He added the force had also failed to pass this information to the Metropolitan police’s original phone-hacking investigation in 2006. That investigation led to the imprisonment of Clive Goodman, the paper’s former royal editor, and Glenn Mulcaire, the private investigator who worked for the paper.

Keith Vaz, the Labour MP for Leicester East, who chairs the home affairs committee, described the failure to notify the 2006 Met inquiry as “a serious omission”.

Vaz said: “Had Surrey police acted in 2002, it may have prevented the culture of hacking becoming endemic at News of the World.”

In June 2012 IPCC received only two referrals – from Surrey Police Authority in regards to the hacking of Milly’s phone. A junior officer at the time of the hacking Temporary Detective Superintendent Maria Woodall who had admitted knowing about the hacking when a investigation held within Surrey police and Deputy Chief Constable Craig Denholm who denied knowledge despite Independent’s report of his two meetings with journalists from News of the World. In April 2013 The IPCC published a six page severely critical report:

A number of junior officers in 2002, including Ms Woodall, were frank about their knowledge of the phone hacking. However, witnesses became much less specific in relation and actions of senior officers, particularly Mr Denholm.

MARIA WOODALL:

“In 2002 Ms Woodall was a Detective Sergeant; her role in Operation Ruby (Surrey investigation into abduction and murder of Milly Dowler) was Action Team Manager. The case against her rested on her actions and knowledge in 2007, when the first phone hacking convictions took place. It is clear at that point she accessed the HOLMES system to view documents from 2002 associated with phone hacking. However, the relevance or importance of this to her and others is unclear, and we could find no conclusive evidence that she discussed this with anyone else, including Mr Denholm. Given her admission to Operation Baronet team (Surrey police Dowler hacking investigation 2011) about her knowledge in 2002, and her junior rank at the time, the investigation concluded that there was no case to answer for misconduct.”

CRAIG DENHOLM:

“Mr Denholm was a Detective Chief Superintendent and Head of Crime for Surrey police in 2002. His initial role in Operation Ruby was Overall Command. The case against him rested on his claim to have had no knowledge about the alleged hacking of Milly Dowler’s phone before this was revealed in 2011. Given the extent of the knowledge within the investigation team, AND SURREY POLICE AS A WHOLE, and the fact this was referred to in documents which he is known to have received, the investigation found it hard how he, the officer in charge, could not have been aware of the alleged hacking. But despite detailed examination of all extant documents and interviews with all relevant witnesses, the investigation was unable to find any witness or documentary evidence that contradicted Mr Denholm’s own repeated assertions to the IPCC that he did not know, and had not made the relevant connections. In the view of that, and the passage of time that has since elapsed, during which what might have been crucial evidence lost or misplaced, our investigation concluded that there was insufficient evidence to support a finding of a case to answer of gross misconduct.”

CONCLUSION:

“There is no doubt, from our investigation and the evidence gathered by Operation Baronet, that Surrey police knew in 2002 of the allegation that Milly Dowler’s phone had been hacked by News of the World. It is apparent from the evidence that there was knowledge of this at all levels within the investigation team. There is equally no doubt that Surrey police did nothing to investigate; nobody was arrested or charged in relation to the allegation interception either in 2002 or subsequently, until the Operation Weeting arrests in 2011. Phone hacking was a crime in 2002 and it should have been investigated. Our investigation has heard from officers and former officers at Surrey police who have expressed surprise and dismay that this was not done. We have not been able to uncover any evidence, in documentation or witness statements, of why and by whom that decision was made: former senior officers in particular appear to be afflicted by a form of COLLECTIVE AMNESIA about this. This is perhaps not surprising, given the events of 2011 and the public outcry that the hacking of Milly Dowler phone produced.”

It is not known if the author of the report, IPCC Deputy Chair Deborah Glass ever contacted the Independent regarding their exclusive of the two meetings between Surrey police and News of the World before concluding her investigation but that same week it was announced  Denholm will move to a new job from Surrey police to Hampshire Constabulary doing the same role to the dismay of Labour MP Chris Bryant who has been a prominent  phone hacking campaigner, described the Hampshire appointment as “extraordinary”.

Detective Chief Constable Denholm retires at the end of this year with the search for his replacement being advertised online with a salary of £128,520.

Sir Paul Stephenson provided more fascinating information at the Leveson Inquiry about a dinner set up especially for Andy Coulson and Operation Varec,which took place during the period he was Metropolitan Police Commissioner:

The MPS occasionally hosted a reception at New Scotland Yard (NSY) for the press. I recall, for example, we hosted a dinner at NSY after Andy Coulson had been appointed Head of Communications at No 10 (in July 2010). Neil Wallis also attended this function. The purpose of this function was to enable us to get to know Mr Coulson and his assistant Ed Llewellyn, both of whom were important figures in the heart of government, to tell them what we regarded as important and to get a sense of how they saw policing in London.

Meanwhile on commander Hewitt’s Operation Varec, Sir Stephenson told the Leveson:

On 1 September 2010 an article was published in the New York Times, in which apparently fresh allegations were made about phone hacking. I understood that AC (John) Yates undertook a scoping exercise at this time and put a new team in place to complete this task. This was known as Operation Varec. In December 2010 I was aware that the results of this work were referred to the CPS. I am told that they concluded there was insufficient evidence to mount a prosecution. Again, there was no reason for me to think the issue had not been satisfactorily dealt with. However, it was in December 2010 that I took a leave of absence due to ill-health.  The investigation team, AC Yates or Tim Godwin, who was Acting Commissioner, would have had any further knowledge of the outcome of Operation Varec from this point onwards.

He goes on to say:

Although I was aware from these discussions and AC Yates’ public comments that a strategy for dealing with people who may have been exposed to the practice of phone hacking had been developed by the original investigating team and service providers, I was unaware that this strategy had not been implemented as expected. I was also unaware that there was substantial material that had not been satisfactorily dealt with by that original investigation. Indeed my belief, based upon discussions with, and assurances from, AC Yates, was that the original investigation and prosecution strategy had successfully tested relatively new legislation covering a somewhat technical and now illegal practice…it was only after the reopening of the investigation through the establishment of Operation Weeting during my absence from office on sick leave that I became aware that there were issues of substance for further investigation. Up until this point I had no reason to suspect that the initial investigation was other than entirely successful. do not recall having any substantive or detailed discussions about phone hacking with anyone else during this period. Indeed, it is fair to say that set against the other issues facing the MPS (including counterterrorism issues, the investigation into the “night-stalker”, the reinvestigation of the murder of Stephen Lawrence, very real budgetary challenges, the Olympic security preparations, Government proposals for significant changes to the governance arrangements for the police and national structures for dealing with serious and organised crime) phone hacking was not a matter which I prioritised. I was satisfied that it was being overseen by a highly experienced and very senior officer. I was reassured by the fact that to my knowledge the case had been reviewed by the CPS and by counsel.

Keir Starmer QC also appeared at the Leveson Inquiry and submitted extensive evidence relating to Operation Varec. First of all it reveals that Operation Varec covered more than just the New York Times article:

In addition to the “fact-finding exercise” in relation to matters raised in the article, there was a further case involving Kelly Hoppen, who claimed that her phone had been hacked by a NOTW reporter named Dan Evans.

Starmer then mentions Sean Hoare’s evidence:

Amongst other things, D/Supt Haydon told Simon Clements that Sean Hoare had been interviewed under caution and had said nothing.

Later in his evidence in a section dedicated to Operation Varec he goes on to describe what happened next:

The next development was the formal request from the police for advice as to the prospects of prosecuting anyone as a result of the “fact-finding” exercise conducted by them following the NYT Article. This was received on 12th November 2010. I attach a copy of the request prepared by D/Supt Haydon at annex 72. In it D/Supt Haydon makes clear: “I must stress that my task was not to re-open or re-investigate the R v Goodman and Mulcaire case but clearly there were links and crossovers or both.

Starmer statement continues:

I am unclear whether I was actually shown this document at the time or merely told of its content.

The request for advice from Detective Haydon to CPS concludes:

I accept that the evidential position does not meet the threshold for a referral to the CPS but in view of the vast media, public and political scrutiny in this case and due to both the MPS and CPS involvement to date, i consider a referral is appropriate in order to agree a joint current and future position in this case…

Starmer then explains what followed:

On 10th December 2010, Simon Clements delivered his advice on Operation Varec to the police. He concluded that as no one had been prepared to provide evidence, the case did not pass the evidential stage of the test contained in the Code for Crown Prosecutors, namely that there must be sufficient evidence to establish that there is a realistic prospect of conviction. I attach a copy of Simon Clements’ advice as annex 74. On 22nd December 2010 Simon Clements completed his second advice, this time in relation to Dan Evans. I attach a copy of that advice at annex 76. In it he states that officers have asked for clarification in relation to the law, and Mr Clements set out the advice detailed in my letter to the Home Affairs Committee. As far as further investigation of this allegation was concerned, he concluded that the evidence in this case fell far short of the threshold for prosecution, but the police should keep a watching brief on this and the other civil cases in case any further evidence should emerge.

That concluded Operation Varec – the much forgotten Metropolitan police investigation into phone hacking. The next month in January 2011, just as a third new investigation was starting in Operation Weeting, Andy Coulson resigned from government.

Press Gang who reported Operation Silverhawk’s narrow investigation into Mahmood – only the Tulisa Constavlos case – unlike CPS who have agreed to investigate 25 cases, provided evidence to Leveson of Mahmood’s convictions from 1991 to 2001. But just like the early days of phone hacking, Metropolitan police seem to avoid investigating evidence that they already possess.

APPENDIX: The Successful Criminal Proesecutions of Mazher Mahmood – Source: Press Gang

The names of 52 individuals reported to have been convicted (including one where the name was with-held to protect a victim) are listed.

18 convictions where the names are not given are identified separately.

The date of the article where the conviction is reported, if available, is given.

In all cases, the article refers to the conviction and not the original exposé.

1991 No convictions reported.

1992 No convictions reported.

1993 6 convictions reported:
4 July: Terry Valvona & Rosemary Iredale
5 Sept: Norman Wardell
12 Dec: Syed Rizvi, Parghat Heer, Fahim Iqbal

1994 No convictions reported.

1995 9 convictions reported (including 5 unnamed):
17 Sept: Shafique & Salim Mumtaz, Iqbal Raja, Ghulam Murtaza and 5 other unnamed individuals

1996 4 convictions reported:
17 March: Gordon Brown, Paul Garlick
24 March: Stephen Harvey
8 September: Kim Lisles

1997 7 convictions reported (including 3 unnamed):
10 Aug: Mohinder Singh
17 Aug: Bruce Allen, Jonathan Pickering and three others, unnamed
21 Dec: Brenda Tonnesson

1998 2 convictions reported:
14 June: Iqbal Master
20 Dec: Clifford Davies

1999 4 convictions reported:
9 May: John Alford 26 Sept: Earl Hardwicke, Stefan Thwaites
17 Oct: disc jockey Johnnie Walker

2000 7 convictions were reported:
20 Feb: Dr Manohar Rangwani
28 May: Mohammed Khan
13 Aug: Mohammed Yousif
1 Oct: Gary Harris, David Weir, Barry Dickenson Undated: Ishmail Pirbhai [not reported in 2000 but cited in final News of the World issue in July 2011]

2001 No convictions reported.

2002 3 convictions reported (including I unnamed):
2 June: Shaheen Begolli
29 Sept: Antonio Russo + 1 unnamed)

2003 5 convictions reported:
6 July: Joseph Rivas, Luzum Balliu
14 Sept: Neil Montgomery
28 Sept: David Cheney, Sultan Merchant

2004 2 convictions reported:
15 Feb: San Keung Yau, Keith Blasdale

2005 3 convictions reported:
30 Jan: Niki Dimitrov
10 April: Agha Mohammed, Besnik Qema

2006 11 convictions reported (including 9 unnamed):
23 July: Paul Singh, Adeola Magbagebeola and 9 others, unnamed.

2007 3 convictions reported:
8 April: Rani & Joginder Kashyap
22 April: Name withheld to protect daughter [but counted as named for the purposes of this survey].

2008 2 convictions reported:
26 Oct: Mohammed Kutubuddin
Undated: Gary Pennant [not reported in 2008 but cited in final News of the World edition in July 2011]

2009 No convictions reported.

2010 2 convictions reported:
24 Jan: Suresh Kumar, Baldev Sidhu

2011 No convictions reported.

The News of the World closed in July 2011

by Bellingcat

December 10, 2014

Annamaria Monteverdi

Il videomapping Transiency di Marko Bolkovic/Visualia group. Il racconto della tecnicadi creazione

Marko Bolkovic con il gruppo croato Visualia (Marko Bolković, Jean Sambolec e Ania Ladavaccon) il quale condivide l’organizzazione dell’omonimo Festival a Pula dedicato al videomapping,  ha vinto il “subgrants” di IAM per realizzare il 1, 2 e 3 ottobre il videomapping sulla facciata di Casa Pastors a Girona in Spagna. 3D Mapping “Transiency” by Visualia Group […]

by annamaria monteverdi

Belling Cat

Investigathon – Follow the Money with David Clinch, Executive Editor of Storyful

On  November 12th 2014 Google Ideas, Google For Media, and the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) ran the Investigathon New York, a day long event looking investigation tools and techniques that included a number of presentation on the subject filmed by Google Ideas.

Follow the Money – Investigations and the Storyful Video Archive. David Clinch, Executive Editor of Storyful, explains the Storyful model and the public-service potential of its archives.

by Bellingcat

Investigathon – A Fresh Look at Libel Insurance

On  November 12th 2014 Google Ideas, Google For Media, and the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) ran the Investigathon New York, a day long event looking investigation tools and techniques that included a number of presentation on the subject filmed by Google Ideas.

A Fresh Look at Libel Insurance. Stuart Karle, General Counsel of North Base Media, explains the past, present, and possible future of libel and media insurance.

by Bellingcat

Vlax

This is so vile. ...

This is so vile. I'm so saddened and repulsed I don't even have the words. Government's main selling point is that it will respect and uphold a citizen and their property. Forget eminent domain; if they're willing to just scrub whole peoples off of the map slowly and behind the scenes... why do you think they think more of you and I?

Congress Raids Ancestral Native American Lands With Defense Bill

WASHINGTON -- When Terry Rambler, the chairman of the San Carlos Apache Tribe, woke up Wednesday in Washington, D.C., it was to learn that Congress was deciding to give away a large part of his ancestral homeland to a foreign mining company.

Rambler came to the nation’s capital for the White House Tribal Nations Conference, an event described in a press announcement as an opportunity to engage the president, cabinet officials and the White House Council on Native American Affairs “on key issues facing tribes including respecting tribal sovereignty and upholding treaty and trust responsibilities,” among other things.

Rambler felt things got off to an unfortunate, if familiar, start when he learned that the House and Senate Armed Services Committee had decided to use the lame-duck session of Congress and the National Defense Authorization Act to give 2,400 acres of the Tonto National Forest in Arizona to a subsidiary of the Australian-English mining giant Rio Tinto.

“Of all people, Apaches and Indians should understand, because we’ve gone though this so many times in our history,” Rambler said.

Read more -- http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/03/ndaa-land-deals_n_6264362.html

#statism #government #criminal #war #poor #NativeAmerican #lands #congress #liars #BadFaith #renege #disgusting

December 09, 2014

This Cannot Be Happening!

Eleven Reasons I'm Ashamed to Be an American

I've had it!

 

I’m going to say it: I am ashamed to be a US citizen. This doesn’t come easily, because having lived abroad and seen some pretty nasty places in my time, I know there are a lot of great things about this country, and a lot of great people who live here, but lately, I’ve reached the conclusion that the US is a sick and twisted country, in which the bad far outweighs the good.

I can remember first feeling revolted about my country several times. The first was when I realized, at the tender age of 17, what an atrocity the US was committing against the people of Vietnam in my name -- the rape and murderous destruction of peasant villages and the napalming of children in the South, and the carpet bombing of North Vietnam (including dikes, schools and hospitals). Later, I was shocked and revolted when I belatedly learned how my country had rounded up native born and naturalized Japanese-Americans and Japanese legal residents into concentration camps during WWII, and how the national government had been complicit in the taking of those vilely incarcerated people’s farms, homes and businesses by conniving white fascists in California.

Old Glory? America, with five percent of the world&#039;s population, holds 25% of the world&#039;s prisoners.Old Glory? America, with five percent of the world's population, holds 25% of the world's prisoners.
 

But those crimes, horrific as they were, pale in the face of what I see this country doing now.

Let me count some of the ways that this country makes me sick:

read more

by lindorff

Ten Reason's I'm Ashamed to Be an American

I've had it!

 

I’m going to say it: I am ashamed to be a US citizen. This doesn’t come easily, because having lived abroad and seen some pretty nasty places in my time, I know there are a lot of great things about this country, and a lot of great people who live here, but lately, I’ve reached the conclusion that the US is a sick and twisted country, in which the bad far outweighs the good.

I can remember first feeling revolted about my country several times. The first was when I realized, at the tender age of 17, what an atrocity the US was committing against the people of Vietnam in my name -- the rape and murderous destruction of peasant villages and the napalming of children in the South, and the carpet bombing of North Vietnam (including dikes, schools and hospitals). Later, I was shocked and revolted when I belatedly learned how my country had rounded up native born and naturalized Japanese-Americans and Japanese legal residents into concentration camps during WWII, and how the national government had been complicit in the taking of those vilely incarcerated people’s farms, homes and businesses by conniving white fascists in California.

Old Glory? America, with five percent of the world&#039;s population, holds 25% of the world&#039;s prisoners.Old Glory? America, with five percent of the world's population, holds 25% of the world's prisoners.

But those crimes, horrific as they were, pale in the face of what I see this country doing now.

Let me count some of the ways that this country makes me sick:

read more

by lindorff

Decentralized Citizen Engagement Technologies

D-CENT piloting in Finland: Introducing online democracy into decision making

The Finnish pilot of the D-CENT project offers a kit of online tools for active citizens. New kinds of online democracy tools are tested to open up the decision-making of the City of Helsinki and in drafting crowdsourced citizens’ initiatives.

The EU-funded D-CENT project, now in pilot stage, develops next generation tools for online democracy in Helsinki, Barcelona and Reykjavik. The pilot in Helsinki tests a toolkit enabling active citizens to organize into groups and promote their agenda in the context of local decision-making.

“Citizens’ movements are quick and easy to launch online. D-CENT provides tools to make these movements more sustainable and organized”, says Joonas Pekkanen, the project’s democracy expert at Forum Virium Helsinki.

In Finland, Facebook has functioned as a communications and discussion channel of many NGOs. D-CENT tools make getting organized easier.

“We do not intend to replace Facebook, but it has its limitations. Current social media channels are not suited to the decision-making of dispersed groups nor do they respect the privacy of the users”, Pekkanen notes.

dcent_logo_pohja_03

The D-CENT project offers a complete kit of tools for document management, project management, communications and voting; everything needed for making a citizens’ initiatives and campaigns.

 

Open ministry and City of Helsinki as forerunners

One of the NGOs in need of tools for project management and voting is the volunteer-driven Open Ministry, which has assisted citizens in drafting laws for a couple of years already. The citizens’ initiative amendment to the Constitution in 2012 ensures each Finnish citizen the right to have his or her bill presented to the parliament. The prerequisite is that a minimum of 50,000 persons of voting age back the bill.

Joonas Pekkanen, who is the founder of the Open Ministry, has been involved in drafting the bills aimed at changing the copyright laws and establishing the equal marriage law. Crowd-drafting of a bill and collecting more than 50,000 supporters has brought valuable experience about online tools.

“For document management we have used Google documents, for communication Twitter, Facebook and the campaign website”, Pekkanen says.

However, implementing individual tools is time-consuming and requires manual work, for example transferring data from one system to another. The D-CENT project tests how to produce a functional kit for establishing an online democracy community using open source tools.

Another focus is to create and test a feed monitoring the decision making of the City of Helsinki.

“We will provide an alert which will give you a heads up when the city council or committee handle issues that interest you, for example plan changes in your residential area or favourite dog park.”

When a topic you are interested in comes up, you can act.

“You can form a group that aims to influence decision-making. The group can figure out the most efficient way to promote – or oppose – a project.”

D-CENT tools help dispersed online groups to co-write an information request to civil servant, a letter to the councillors or a press release, or start collecting names for a municipal initiative.

Agile software project

D-CENT is a fairly challenging Open Source software project. Never before has anyone tried to form such a compilation of free online tools to serve NGOs.

“We are doing this by applying the methods of agile service development, stage by stage: first we have something small implemented, and then we test how it works.”

On the 8th of December 2014 the results of coding were accessible in Finland for the first time. With theneighbourhood organisation HELKA, an open workshop was organised to test
the first D-CENT prototype with basic functionalities of collaborative annotations, commenting, new users profiles and activity stream – and to plan future development.

The results of the Helsinki pilot are utilised and further developed in Spain. In the spring of 2014 Spain saw a demonstration of the power of online democracy. Podemos, a Spanish political party, achieved five seats in the European Parliament Elections and got 8 percent of all votes. The party was only 100 days old and was organized through the internet.

“In Spain, the purpose is to offer D-CENT tools for the use of Podemos and other NGOs”, Joonas Pekkanen says.

Pekkanen has great expectations for the new kind of democracy. He hopes that D-CENT will be involved in changing the decision-making processes and makes it easier for citizens to participate.

“This could restore people’s trust in politics.”

ESamorzady027_Pekkanen

 

 

Even the public administration needs easy-to-use online tools developed in the D-CENT project, Joonas Pekkanen thinks. The documents of projects coordinated by ministries are stored in the hard drives of civil servants and communication creates email chains including hundreds of messages.

 

Text: Petja Partanen
Original story published here.

 

Read more about the Finnish pilot:
The Finnish lean inception workshop: The Networked Citizen Activism in Helsinki

****************************************************

Supporting online democracy
D-CENT is a co-operative platform in the web. It offers digital tools for direct democracy and economic empowerment. It’s an open, decentralised and non-commercial platform developed together with its users. D-CENT is an abbreviation of Decentralised Citizens ENgagement Technologies.

website: www.decentproject.eu
Twitter: @dcentproject

 

by Joonas Pekkanen

December 08, 2014

Belling Cat

Depleted Uranium: The New Agent Orange

Between 1990 and 1991, the US and UK troops fired over 290 metric tons [1] of Depleted Uranium (DU) projectiles in Iraq and Kuwait. It was the first time that this type of ammunitions was used on the battlefield. The US military employed it in Afghanistan in 2001 and again in Iraq in 2003. It was however in the aftermath of the 1991 Persian Gulf War that the controversy surrounding DU today developed. In the years following the war, the rate of cancers and malformations rose sharply in certain parts of Iraq. Furthermore, some American and British veterans started to experience a chronic multi-symptom disorder known as the Gulf War Syndrome.

On one hand, “misinformation disseminated by both the Iraqi government and the US Department of Defense has made analysis of DU’s impact difficult.”[2] On the other hand, the medias had the tendency to over-sensationalize the issue. Even worst was the fact that scientists themselves were caught in the midst of this politicization. On top of that, Iraq does not have the laboratory capacity to establish the existence of a direct link between DU and the health issues it is facing at the moment.[3]

Source: Jiang, George C.-T. and Aschner, Michael. “Neurotoxicity of Depleted Uranium: Reasons for Increased Concern.” Biological Trace Element Research. Vol. 110, 2006

Source: Jiang, George C.-T. and Aschner, Michael. “Neurotoxicity of Depleted Uranium: Reasons for Increased Concern.” Biological Trace Element Research. Vol. 110, 2006

As Figure 1 shows, DU is a direct byproduct of the enrichment of Natural Uranium (NU). NU is a radioactive and ubiquitous heavy metal that occurs naturally and is found in various chemical forms in soils, rocks, air, water, and food.[4] NU contains three radioactive isotopes, which are defined by the mass numbers: 238U (99.27% by mass), 235U (0.72%), and 234U (0.0054%).[5] The enrichment process aims at enriching the 235U isotope from 0.72% to 3%, which is the mass number required by most nuclear reactors.[6] The product that is left by enrichment is DU. It contains 99.8% 238U, 0.2% 235U and 0.0006% 234U by mass. DU also emits 40% less alpha radiation and 15% less gamma radiation than natural U.[7] Even though DU is a low-level radioactive waste (LLRW), it does not prevent it from presenting a radioactive danger. Like NU, DU is a heavy metal. Its main short-term health risk thus comes from its chemical toxicity.

Source: Jiang, George C.-T. and Aschner, Michael. “Neurotoxicity of Depleted Uranium: Reasons for Increased Concern.” Biological Trace Element Research. Vol. 110, 2006

Source: Jiang, George C.-T. and Aschner, Michael. “Neurotoxicity of Depleted Uranium: Reasons for Increased Concern.” Biological Trace Element Research. Vol. 110, 2006

DU has been used in various civilian and commercial fields: medicine, aviation, space and petroleum industry. Since it is 1.7 times denser that lead, it is used as ballast for commercial aircraft, ships, as well as satellites.[8] Another example of the civilian use of DU is in the medical industry where DU is employed in radiotherapy units as part of radiation shields.[9] However, the most fervent customers of DU have been the military-industrial complexes. “The United States began exploring, developing, and testing ways to employ depleted uranium in the early 1970’s in what were termed ‘kinetic energy penetrators’ and tank armor.”[10] As DU is extremely dense and pyrophoric, DU projectiles melt when they hit a hard target, sharpen and thus pierce the heavy armor.[11] Furthermore, the DU contained in shells ignites and aerosolizes upon impact, “forming tiny particles suspended in the air and dispersing them over an area.”[12] DU also becomes a very resistant material when it is mixed with other metals, like titanium, thus creating a shield for tank that no conventional weapon can penetrate.

However, the efficiency of DU weaponry has been overemphasized by the US military and the Department of Defense (DoD). Bernard Rostker, Special Assistant of Gulf War Illnesses for the DoD, stated the following: “DU rounds ripped through [Iraqi] tanks like a hot knife through butter, and their guns were totally […] ineffective in penetrating American armor protected with DU shielding. DU did have an effect on the battlefield. It undoubtedly saved thousands of American lives.”[13] Rather than DU, the analyst Dan Fahey indicates that American and British fire control systems played a critical role in keeping Coalition Forces’ tanks out of Iraqi fire range while the Maverick missile was the “real ‘tank killer’ ” of the Gulf War.[14]

Interestingly, the US military’s true reason behind its choice of DU stems from an economic stance. DU is available in large stocks in the US. Currently, the Department of Energy (DoE) keeps “over 700, 000 metric tons of depleted uranium tails in about 63, 000 metal cylinders in storage yards at its Paducah, Kentucky, and Portsmouth, Ohio, enrichment plants.”[15] Furthermore, DU is free of charge since it is under the control of the DoE. This means that the US military does not have to spend money importing or producing other materials. DU is thus absolutely cost-effective: the military spends nothing and retrieves all the benefits. This practical mindset explains why the American government has so far refused to remove DU from its military arsenal. In light of the economic reason, the DU effectiveness argument appears to be nothing more than a justifying smoke screen. This view is reinforced by the words of Lieutenant Colonel M.V. Ziehmn of the Los Alamos Laboratory: “If no one makes the case for the effectiveness for DU on the battlefield, DU rounds may become politically unacceptable and thus, be deleted from the arsenal… I believe we should keep this sensitive issue in mind when after-action reports are being written.”[16]

The human body intakes DU in three ways: inhalation, ingestion, and dermal contact. With DU ammunitions, the inhalation route is the most common. As stated earlier, DU projectiles aerosolize when they hit a target, projecting small particles all over an area, which then remain suspended in the air by wind or settle down on the soil for later resuspension.[17] Dermal contact is less important. DU does not penetrate the skin unless a fragment enters the organism. American and British veterans were exposed to DU through these two pathways: inhaling the particles or being wounded by DU shrapnel. However, the ingestion route should not be underestimated. Iraqi children playing in conflict zone are more likely to ingest DU because of hand-to-mouth activity. Furthermore, it is known that children are “10 to 20 times more susceptible to the carcinogenic effects than adults.”[18] This statement leads us to the following question: Does DU present health risks?

To this question, the political and scientific communities have not reached a consensus yet. Governmental bodies have tended to underestimate the health risks associated with DU. In 1996, the Final Report: Presidential Advisory Committee of Gulf War Veterans Illnesses concluded: “It is unlikely that health effects reports by Gulf War Veterans today are the result of exposure from depleted uranium in the Gulf War.”[19] The problem with governmental researches is that they focused solely on a small sample of war veterans. It never reached more than 230 soldiers.[20] On the other hand, the limitations of multiple scientific studies and the fact that thorough ones have found discordant conclusions pushed the US Institute of Medicine of the National Academies to assert that “there is inadequate/insufficient evidence to determine whether an association between exposure to uranium and cardiovascular, genotoxic, hemotologic, immunologic, and skeletal effects exists.”[21] Yet, the literature review of the Nuclear Policy Research Institute (NPRI) Report of July 2003 sheds light on the possible dangers of DU. It concludes that low levels of alpha radiation can provoke unusual levels of cellular and chromosome damages. It also asserts that animal studies have clearly shown that DU exposure is likely to enhance the formation of tumors and affect negatively the reproductive organs.[22] The facts on the ground corroborate the NPRI’s findings.

When assessing the studies conducted in Iraq, one must be aware of three elements. First, the Iraqis did not have the necessary infrastructures and equipment to perform thorough researches on DU and its impact on the health and the environment. The studies are the outcomes of observations and surveys made by doctors in various hospitals or “ecological” analyses of the environment where DU was suspected to be present. Second, the Iraqi population has suffered over the past decades both under the oppressive Hussein regime and the Gulf Wars. The stress and hardships accumulated over that time could have very well increased the sensibility of the Iraqis to health problems. Third, most of the conflict zones struck by DU projectiles will remain unknown as long as transparency over the use of DU weaponry is not enforced. In 2010, the US, France, the UK and Israel voted against a UN General Assembly resolution calling for DU user transparency.[23] Iraqi studies nonetheless present a key strength. They were conducted over seven to ten years in the aftermath of the Persian Gulf War. They can thus outline the long-term effects of DU.[24]

Compiling various Iraqi scientific researches, Al-Hani and Baker conclude that “there has been a sharp rise in incidence of malignancies and congenital abnormalities in the decade that followed the use of DU shells in the attack of 1991.”[25] Reviewing the results of Dr. Alim Yacoub, an epidemiologist at the Basra Medical College, and Dr. Jenan Hasan, a neonatologist at the Women and Children’s Hospital in Basra, Dr. Thomas Fasy certified that the incidence rate of malignant diseases among children in Basra has quadrupled between 1993 and 2000.[26] The number of leukemia cases affecting children under five and congenital malformations (per 1000 births) also rose over this period: respectively from 2 to 41 and 3.04 to 17.6. [27] These figures outline the scope and depth of the health crisis faced by Iraq in the aftermath of the Persian Gulf War. It was not limited to Basra. Fallujah faced similar patterns. This crisis was certainly caused by a variety of factors: ranging from the UN sanctions to the trauma caused by years of conflict. However, no one can deny today that DU did play a key role in aggravating the Iraqi health crisis.

DU ammunitions appear to be correlated with increased health risks. The various discordant claims and the politicization of the issue however impede the formulation of a conclusive and definitive statement. As Doug Rokke, a former Pentagon DU expert, eloquently puts it: “[DU] is the Agent Orange of the 1990s.”[28] More research is certainly needed to understand clearly DU’s impacts on health. Yet, the US army is still using DU despite the controversy that surrounds it and the fact that its efficiency has remained unaccounted for. Why? Too much is at stake. If DU was found to be highly dangerous for the health and the environment, governments – mainly the US, UK, France, China and Russia – will be forced to remove this effective weaponry from their respective military arsenals and stop short nuclear plants (that uses enriched uranium): An unwanted scenario for those countries as well as for the defence and nuclear industries.

[1] UNEP, Desk Study on the Environment in Iraq (2003), 68.

[2] Scott Peterson, “The Gulf War Battlefield: Still ‘Hot’ with Depleted Uranium,” Middle East Research and Information Project, MER 211 (1999). Accessed at URL: < http://www.merip.org/mer/mer211/gulf-war-battlefield-still-%E2%80%9Chot%E2%80%9D-depleted-uranium>.

[3] Ibid.

[4] George C.-T. Jiang and Michael Aschner, “Neurotoxicity of Depleted Uranium: Reasons for Increased Concern,” Biological Trace Element Research, Vol. 110 (2006), 1.

[5] WHO, “Executive Summary” in Depleted Uranium: Sources, Exposure and Health Effects (2001), iii. Accessed at URL: < http://www.who.int/ionizing_radiation/pub_meet/Depluraniumintro.pdf>.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Dan Fahey, Science or Science Fiction: Facts, Myths and Propaganda In the Debate Over Depleted Uranium Weapons (2003), 11.

[8] Nuclear Policy Research Institute (NPRI), Depleted Uranium: Scientific Basic for Assessing Risk (2003), 5.

[9] Ibid., 6.

[10] Vladimir S. Zajic, Review of Radioactivity, Military Use, and Health Effects of Depleted Uranium (1999), 2.

[11] NPRI report, 6.

[12] Ibid., 6.

[13] Remarks by Dr. Bernard Rotsker at the American Legion Washington Conference (March 23 1998), Washington D.C.

[14] Dan Fahey, Science or Science Fiction, 3 and 26.

[15] Statement of Robert A. Robinson, Managing Director Natural Resources and Environment, “Nuclear Material: Several Potential Options for Dealing with DoE’s Depleted Uranium Tails Could Benefit the Government,” Testimony Before the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, Committee on Energy and Commerce, House of Representatives (April 2008), 5.

[16] Lt. Col. M.V. Ziehmn, The Effectiveness of Depleted Uranium Penetrators, Los Alamos National Laboratory memorandum (1991).

[17] George C.-T. Jiang and Michael Aschner, “Neurotoxicity of Depleted Uranium,” 6.

[18] Environmental News Service, Children Most At Risk from Depleted Uranium (April 26 2001).

[19] Final Report: Presidential Advisory Committee of Gulf War Veterans Illnesses (December 1996).

[20] George C.-T. Jiang and Michael Aschner, “Neurotoxicity of Depleted Uranium,” 7.

[21] US Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, Gulf War and Health: Updated Literature Review of Depleted Uranium (The National Academies Press: Washington, 2008), 214.

[22] NPRI report, 21.

[23] NGO Coordination Committee for Iraq, Environmental Contaminants from War Remnants in Iraq (June 2011), 11.

[24] Abdul-Haq Al-Ani and Joanne Baker, Uranium in Iraq: The Poisonous Legacy of the Iraq Wars (Vandeplas Publishing: 2009), 152.

[25] Ibid., 190.

[26] Dr. Thomas Fasy, The Recent Epidemic of Pediatric Malignancies and Congenital Malformations in Southern Iraq; the Biological Plausibility of Depleted Uranium as a Carcinogen and Teratogen. Presented in June 14, 2003 for the NPRI symposia “The Health Effects of Depleted Uranium.”

[27] Ibid.

[28] Scott Peterson, “The Gulf War Battlefield.”

by Aliaume Leroy

December 07, 2014

December 06, 2014

Belling Cat

Smuggled Antiquities Fund ISIL’s Campaigns

It is no secret that the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) makes about $1 million per day selling petrol from the oilfields it had captured during its striking advances in Iraq and Syria over the past three years. Much less discussed in the mainstream media is ISIL’s other source of income: looted antiquities.

The scope and depth of this business should not be underestimated. Currently, ISIL controls more than 4, 500 archeological sites solely in Iraq, some of them classified under the UNESCO World Heritage label. Satellite images of the ancient city of Apamea, located in Syria and founded by one of Alexander the Great’s generals, reveal the intensity of the looting activities. The business is so thriving that it actually became the second source of ISIL’s funding. According to files retrieved by the Iraqi intelligence services last June, the group made as much as $36 million from the sales of antiquities found in al-Nabuk alone, an area located in the Qalamoun mountains. How does ISIL cash on this activity? What is the trade pattern? Who buys the looted artifacts?

Before answering these questions, it is key to understand that relying on smuggled antiquities for cash inflows is not new. The lawlessness created by the 2003 American invasion turned Iraq into a paradise for arts traffickers. As soon as US forces entered Baghdad, looters rushed into the National Museum of Iraq and plundered its treasures. Furthermore, Thomas Livoti, PhD student at the University of Montana, indicates that Al Qaeda and the Taliban have always looted artifacts in order to fund their campaigns. Interestingly, this information reveals that networks of arts looters and smugglers have been thriving in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan over the past decades. ISIL simply had to capitalize on these well-established organizations. Finally, it must also be clear that ISIL is not the only entity tapping in this business. A youtube video records Syrian government forces placing statues from the ancient Roman Palmyra city (looters’ holes on this site can be seen in the featured picture of this article) into the back of a pick-up truck.

ISIL cashes in on looted antiquities in two ways. First, the group provides authorization to local inhabitants to loot archaeological sites it controls in exchange for a levy – a percentage of the monetary value of the objects found – based on the Islamic khums tax system. The khums specify that Muslims must pay to the state a predefined percentage of the value of the goods they retrieve from the soil. This percentage varies across ISIL’s territories. It reaches as high as 50% in the Raqqa region while it remains at 20% in the ISIL-held areas of the Aleppo province. Up to now, ISIL’s involvement in the trade of smuggled antiquities was thus financial. However, Sam Hardy, an archaeologist at the University College of London, wars that ISIL might very well be running the trafficking operations itself.

How does the trafficking network function? Once in the hands of ISIL or semiprofessional looters taxed by ISIL, the artefacts are either driven overland to Syria with the final destination behind Turkey or Lebanon or are sent to the Gulf States. Since Iraq and Syria are war-torn regions, border checks are practically inexistant. When they arrive in Beirut or Ankara, the antiquities remain underground for a couple of months. Acquired by a middleman, they “reemerge” accompanied by fake export papers. These documents often contain vague information on the origin of the plundered object such as “Near East.” The intermediary then either sells the looted antiquities to a private arts collector or send them to auction houses in Europe and the US. Germany, and more precisely Munich, has become one of the hotspots for the trade of smuggled antiquities. Why? Germany has a Cultural Property Restitution Act which states that countries wanting to retrieve an object they believe to be part of their historical collections must prove that it indeed belong to them. However, lists detailing Syrian and Iraqi cultural and historical objects are practically inexistant. To fill the void, the International Council of Museums (ICOM) recently published an Emergency Red List of Syrian Cultural Objects At Risk.

At the end of the day, the existence of a looted artifacts trade is fuelled by the Western demand for Mesopotamian, Greek and Roman arts. As Michel Van Rijin, a famous antique artifacts smuggler, eloquently put it: “Many antique collectors unwillingly support terrorists like the Islamic State.” Between 2012 and 2013, US imports of Syrian and Iraqi cultural objects respectively surged by 134% and 492%. Even though most of the artifacts are copies, many originals make their way through the American and European Customs agencies under the label “handicrafts.” The number of plundered artifacts entering the US and European legal arts market is also likely to witness a sharp increase in the future years. As stated earlier, it takes months and sometimes even years to launder antiques.

What line of actions should be taken by governments, international organizations, and law enforcement agencies to limit the extent of this business? Targeting the supply side is for the moment impossible. Most Syrian and Iraqi archaeological sites are firmly in the hands of ISIL, the Syrian government forces, or other armed groups. As the 2003 Iraq War demonstrated, sending troops on the ground can actually make matters worse. It thus appears very unlikely that there will be a Middle East version of the “Monuments Men” in the near future. Rather, the line of actions is limited to the demand side. Local and international organizations like The Syrian Campaign are pushing for the UN Security Council to adopt a ban on the trade of undocumented Syrian and Iraqi artifacts. This is would be a strong forward, raising awareness and sending a strong message to the international antique markets. The only problem is that looted antiquities usually have fake papers, enabling them to legally enter the US and European arts networks. For the moment, the key response is to draw lists, like the one published by the ICOM, of looted artifacts in order to facilitate their identification by Customs and law enforcement agencies. Another important change must occur at the national level. European countries such as Germany and the US must implement tougher regulations to pinpoint smuggled antiques and return them to their true owners: the Syrian and Iraqi states. One way would be to seize objects that do not have proper and precise reference of origin on their documents.

No one should fall for the argument stating that buying artifacts is a way to protect them from the ravages of the conflicts in Syrian and Iraq. Despite being true, it overlooks the central role played by the demand side in funnelling looting activities for profits. As long as the demand will be high, ISIL will grow richer thanks to its smuggling operations and tax system. Breaking it is thus essential to ensure the preservation of one of the Humanity birthplaces.

 KEY UPDATE: The $36 million figure mentioned in the article has been denied by various experts and archaeologists.  TheNational states: “So how much money is ISIL making from looted antiquities? Several media reports over the past two months put it at millions of dollars. One said ISIL had made $36m (Dh132m) alone from looting at one site in Syria. A spokesperson for Unesco’s Emergency Safeguarding of the Syrian Heritage Project also called the high figures being quoted grossly inaccurate. Desmarais agrees: ‘If someone gives you a number today, they are lying to you.’ ” Credit goes to Peter Tompa for bringing this to the attention of the author  (see comments below).

by Aliaume Leroy

Inside The World of Arms Trafficking: The 2001 Otterloo Incident

In the paper termed “The Mechanics and Beauties of Gunrunning: The Otterloo Incident,” I analyze the 2001 Otterloo Incident, an illegal gunrunning case, in order to provide a clear picture of the global small weapons market and its mechanics. Between 1999 and 2002 two Israeli arms dealers (Shimon Yelinek and Ori Zoller along with their partners) operating companies (GIR S.A. and DIGAL S.A.) respectively in Panama and Guatemala fooled the Nicaraguan government into selling thousands of AK-47s and millions of ammunitions to the Panamanian National Police. The equipment, aboard the Otterloo ship, obviously never reached Panama and was illegally delivered to the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia. The key elements of this paper are:

  • The essential conditions for the thriving of the illegal arms deal business: supply and demand sides
  • The logistics and patterns of arms trafficking: means of transportation, subterfuges to keep the weapons underground, etc…
  • The key actors: from the brokers to the side players
  • The conscious involvement of governments and law enforcement agencies in this business
  • The implications for arms regulations
  • The importance of analyzing gunrunning through rational and analytical lenses rather than a moralistic framework

Here is the link to download the paper: The Mechanics and Beauties of Gunrunning: The Otterloo Incident

PDF link (if Word does not work): The Mechanics and Beauties of Gunrunning: Otterloo Incident

Link to the Appendices and sources: Appendices and Sources

 

by Aliaume Leroy

Vlax

El derecho a la #privacidad : Tomb 2.0 - El sepulturero criptográfico

El derecho a la #privacidad : Tomb 2.0 - El sepulturero criptográfico

-> Tomb es un instrumento para la gestión simple de directorios cifrados bajo GNU/Linux. Es una herramienta enfocada a la portabilidad y respaldo de archivos personales.

https://lab.dyne.org/TombEs

Calaca cumbianchera

#tomb #cifrado #seguridad #comunicación #información #gnulinux #softwarelibre #dyne


https://www.dyne.org/software/tomb

This Cannot Be Happening!

Is the Police Reform Movement Getting Legs?

Three Rotten Cases and Counting

 
How and why certain events in politics and culture coalesce into a critical mass is always an interesting thing to ponder. Sometimes it can happen when all hope has been lost.

In chaos theory, there’s the enigmatic image of the butterfly in the Amazon whose wing fluttering cascades into a hurricane in the northern hemisphere. How to explain the instantaneous shifting swings and swoops of swarming birds and schools of minnows? In politics, some like to cite the downfall of the Soviet empire: seemingly eternal and invulnerable one day, gone the next. I’m wondering: Are we seeing an example of such mysterious critical mass now in the sudden focus on excessive police behavior in America?

Some tools of the police and prosecutorial tradeSome tools of the police and prosecutorial trade

Police and prosecutorial misconduct is hardly a new phenomenon. But it seems to be getting worse as the crime rate goes down. I can’t recall anything like the wide-spread and continuing citizen and media reaction following the events in Ferguson, Missouri; Staten Island, New York; and Cleveland, Ohio. (We humans seem to like to arrange things in threes, which may be aesthetically and politically the most satisfying clumping of events.)

Ferguson set things off due to the excessive number of gunshots used by an inexperienced cop to kill an unarmed 18-year-old Black male. The town is an example of white leadership over a predominantly Black population, a condition following a demographic shift. Right-wing, knee-jerk defenders of police fell in line and put the cop on a pedestal and defended the prosecutor whose slick grand jury manipulation deflected any accountability for police misconduct.

Soon, as if written in a script to accentuate the police misconduct in Ferguson, a Staten Island prosecutor guided a grand jury to let off without even a shaming finger shake a pack of cops who strangled a 43-year-old, unarmed Black male for selling “loosies” or untaxed, individual cigarettes to feed his family. It was like Jean Valjean and that famous loaf of bread. And it was all on videotape, precluding the officers from making a waistband plea to the court -- as in, “He seemed to be reaching into his waistband.” Once the obese man was subdued and dying, incredibly, police officers -- first responders! -- are seen standing over the body like they were waiting for the donut truck.

The video was so damning the right-wing police defense league broke apart. Bill O’Reilly, Charles Krauthammer, Rand Paul and others went soft. Something was terribly wrong here. The big family man was an American entrepreneur and the cops were working for The Taxman! How could this happen in America?

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by grant

December 05, 2014

Vlax

[Narcotraficantes vejan a luchadores sociales en Guerrero](http://www.voltairenet.org/article186125.html)

Narcotraficantes vejan a luchadores sociales en Guerrero

Ayotzinapa, Tixtla, Guerrero. Para ninguna organización social en Guerrero es desconocido el vínculo que existe entre gobernantes locales e integrantes de la delincuencia organizada: el llamado narcogobierno. Mucho menos, las labores de contrainsurgencia orquestadas por esta mancuerna, según sus testimonios.

#TodosSomosAyotzinapa #represión #secuestro #asesinato #narcogobierno #activismo #protesta #violencia #FueElEstado #autodefensa #crimen

December 04, 2014

This Cannot Be Happening!

Coercive 13th Century Relics, They Serve the Political Interests of DAs, not Justice

No more grand juries

 

In case people didn’t get it earlier, it’s time to recognize that the ancient institution of the grand jury has outlived its usefulness, and should be eliminated, as its only real purpose today is to give prosecutors political cover and an added cudgel with which to undermine Constitutional protections and intimidate witnesses.

Established back 1215 as part of the Magna Carta in England, the original intent of the grand jury was to put some constraint on the ability of the king to prosecute opponents. In modern times, its use has been reduced, and in fact, throughout the world in countries where justice systems are based upon or descended from British Common Law, it has been eliminated -- with the notable exception of the United States.

One might well ask why the US, where justice and the rule of law have been so exceptionally corrupted, perverted and and subverted in recent decades, with the virtual elimination of trial by jury in criminal cases, the undermining of habeas corpus, and the ubiquity of excessive bail, not to mention wide-spread racism in all phases of the legal process, from arrest and arraignment to jury selection and sentencing, might the US the be the lone major country still holding on to grand juries. (Hint: It can’t be for anything good.)

What we have seen in Ferguson, MO in the case of the grand jury “investigation” there of white Ferguson Police Office Darren Wilson and his six-shot slaying of the unarmed black teenager Michael Brown, and in New York City, in the case of the grand jury “investigation” of NY Police Officer Daniel Pantaleo and his killing, by illegal choke hold, of Eric Garner, the unarmed black father of six, are two examples of grand juries being used to provide the state, and specifically two elected district attorneys, with an excuse and political cover not to prosecute killer cops.

In Ferguson, an unarmed youth who was simply walking down the middle of a largely empty street, was gunned down by a police officer while he was on the ground pleading for mercy. In New York, a 43-year-old man, trying to support his family by selling cigarettes on the sidewalk was piled on by four police officers, one of whom, while the victim was being held prone on the sidewalk, his face pressed into the concrete, choked him to death with an arm hold that had long been specifically banned by the NYPD because of the number of deaths it had caused.

The prosecutor in the first case, Robert McCulloch, hails from a family of police officers -- his father and brothers were all cops, and his father had reportedly been slain while responding to a call by a black man with a sniper rifle. On that basis alone, the DA should have stepped aside in this particular case because of an unseemly appearance of and potential for bias. But it gets worse. After the grand jury reached its controversial “decision” not to indict Wilson for any violation at all in the slaying of Brown, it was reported that Democrat McCulloch, in addition to being St. Louis County’s top prosecutor, is also president of an organization called The Backstoppers, Inc., a charity that raises money to support cops in Missouri and Illinois, and to compound the felony, that had been been selling T-shirts emblazoned with the phrase: “I support Officer Wilson.”

Two innocent men, Michael Brown and Eric Garner, and the two cops, Darren Wilson and Daniel Pantaleo, who killed them with impunity.Two innocent men, Michael Brown and Eric Garner, and the two cops, Darren Wilson and Daniel Pantaleo, who killed them with impunity.
 

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by lindorff