Friday, September 28, 2007

Nine killed as Myanmar soldiers fire at protesters

Nine people have reportedly been killed after Myanmar's security forces opened fired with machine guns on protesters gathering on the streets of Yangon... A Japanese video journalist was among those found dead after protests... Soldiers told residents they had 10 minutes to clear the city centre streets or risk getting shot.... International condemnation of the government crackdown also grew, with the US demanding the military rulers "stop this violence against peaceful protesters now."... Late on Thursday, Myanmar agreed that Nyan Win, the country's foreign minister, would meet Ibrahim Gambari, the special envoy that the UN secretary-general has dispatched to the country....

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Shots fired on Myanmar protest

Reports from Myanmar say government troops have opened fire on a crowd of about 1,000 protesters in the city of Yangon... The move has led to speculation that the government may be trying to isolate Buddhist monks who have led the recent wave of protests while it focuses on hunting down other dissidents.... activists on the ground in Myanmar...are reporting a death toll of nearly 200 since the government crackdown began on Wednesday, with several hundred more wounded...."Some people have been trying to provoke the army, but older protesters have been trying to calm them down and not provoke soldiers."...The correspondent also says that the authorities have been photgraphing and filming protesters. This has "raised speculation that the authorities wanted the protests to go on for four to five days, let all the protesters come out, be identified and then move in to round them up."... Among those confirmed killed on Thursday was Kenji Nagai, a Japanese news photographer who some witnesses say was shot at point-blank range as he raised his camera.... One monk, Uppekha, speaking to Al Jazeera from a monastery in the northern city of Mandalay, said he planned to join fresh demonstrations on Friday afternoon. "We will ask the entire people and monks to join our demonstration," he said, adding that several protests had been planned around the city....

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Myanmar soldiers fire weapons, tear gas into crowds of protesters

Soldiers fired automatic weapons into a crowd of anti-government protesters Thursday as tens of thousands defied the ruling military junta's crackdown with a 10th straight day of demonstrations....Some reports said the dead included monks, who are widely revered in Myanmar, and the emergence of such martyr figures could stoke public anger against the regime and escalate the violence....Shots were fired after several thousand protesters on the west side of the river ignored orders to disband.... A monk at Ngwe Kyar Yan monastery pointed to bloodstains on the concrete floor and said a number of monks were beaten and at least 100 of its 150 monks taken away in vehicles. Shots were fired in the air during the chaotic raid, he said on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals. "Soldiers slammed the monastery gate with the car, breaking the lock and forcing it into the monastery," the monk said. "They smashed the doors down, broke windows and furniture. When monks resisted, they shot at the monks and used tear gas and beat up the monks and dragged into trucks."

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Burmese Junta Warns Monks of Crackdown as Protests Widen

...Speaking on state television, the junta’s minister of religious affairs told senior Buddhist clerics to rein in the tens of thousands of monks who have marched through several cities in recent days....the monks who have led the protests for the past week were outnumbered by civilians, including prominent political dissidents and well-known cultural figures....Setting out in the morning from the gold-spired Shwedagon Pagoda, a crowd estimated by The Associated Press to be as large as 100,000 marched unopposed in separate columns through the city.... Until now, the government remained silent and mostly out of sight, giving over the streets to the protesters with virtually no uniformed security presence in evidence....

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Police Clash With Monks in Myanmar

The government of Myanmar began a violent crackdown today after tolerating more than a month of ever-larger protests in cities around the country, clubbing and tear-gassing protesters, firing shots into the air and arresting hundreds of the monks who are at the heart of the demonstrations....But it appeared that an attempt by the military to halt the protests through warnings, troop deployments and initial bursts of violence had not succeeded. Analysts said that the next steps in the crackdown might be yet more aggressive and widespread.... Yangon, police officers with riot shields dispersed up to 100 monks who were trying to enter the temple, firing tear gas and warning shots and knocking some monks to the ground. As many as 200 monks were reported to have been arrested at the pagoda.... That earlier peaceful uprising [in 1988] was crushed by the military, which shot into crowds, killing an estimated 3,000 people. It was during the turmoil a decade ago that the current military junta took power in Myanmar, and it has maintained its grip by arresting dissidents, quashing political opposition and using force and intimidation to control the population....

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Burmese Junta Sets Curfew to Combat Protests

The government in Myanmar imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew in the two major cities of Yangon and Mandalay...and said they would be placed under the control of local military commanders, after tens of thousands of Buddhist monks and supporters defied a warning by the authorities and held an eighth day of peaceful antigovernment protests.... The protests have swelled into a huge outpouring that has filled the streets of several cities... Official vehicles were on patrol calling on monks to return to their temples... “People are not to follow, encourage or take part in these marches,” the announcements said. “Action will be taken against those who violate this order.”... “The government has ordered the 22nd Division troops to pull out of Karen state and return to Yangon,”... The 22nd division has been fighting a decades-long guerilla war in the remote province of Karen, and... “We believe the troops will be used as in 1988.”

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The Burma Campaign UK

Description: 

We campaign for human rights and democracy in Burma. We work for the freedom of all the peoples of Burma regardless of race, ethnicity, gender or age. We provide analysis to the media and government, and we lobby and campaign to improve government and commercial policy on Burma.

The Burma Campaign UK is the only national organisation in the UK dedicated to campaigning for human rights and democracy in Burma.

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U.N. urges calm amid Myanmar clashes

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is to send a special envoy to Myanmar...Unconfirmed opposition reports put the death toll at five..."[U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon] calls on the senior leadership of the country to cooperate fully with this mission in order to take advantage of the willingness of the United Nations to assist in the process of a national reconciliation through dialogue," said a U.N. statement....any violence used against monks could draw more of the population into the protests...

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Myanmar abbots tread fine line

Buddhist monks have been at the forefront of the recent anti-government protests in Myanmar...some commentators believe the presence of the abbots, or Sayadaw, on the streets could provide the tipping point for the overthrow of the military government.... In just a few days, as the monks took up the vanguard of protests, their silent marches turned into chanting and eventually to three key political demands: that the government lower commodity prices, free political prisoners and open dialogue with the opposition.... Zawana, a Myanmar monk who has been in Malaysia for two years, said senior monks cannot join the protests because they are kept under tight surveillance. "It is impossible for the senior monks to join demonstrations," Zawana said. ...The military government meanwhile has been quick to seize on the fact that many of the country's 600,000 monks have not joined in the protests, with state media painting a picture of disunity among the monkhood....But the abbots appear to be treading a fine line between detachment from temporal affairs and compassion for people - both core tenets of Buddhist teachings....

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Myanmar forces swoop on protests in two cities, Internet cut

Security forces moved to crush protests in Myanmar's two biggest cities...Up to 10,000 demonstrators surged onto the streets of the main city of Yangon... In ...Mandalay... young people on motorbikes rode down a major thoroughfare towards a blockade set up by security forces who unleashed a volley that witnesses believed could have been rubber bullets....Monks... helped transform what began as a scattershot series of protests over a hike in fuel prices into the stiffest challenge to the junta's military rule since 1988....at least three monks have been killed and hundreds arrested...about 100 Buddhist monks were arrested and eight people shot dead after protesting the action...."We heard that some soldiers have refused to obey orders and that others were even willing to stand alongside the demonstrators,"...

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Junta Shuts Down A Saffron Revolution

The military leaders of Myanmar have shut protesting monks in their monasteries and tried to seal the country's information frontiers by cutting public Internet access...Participation of the saffron-robed monks has lent some immunity... Buddhism is the dominant religion in Burma (Myanmar) and the mililtary leadership has in the past given deference to the Buddhists. However by separating the Buddhist Monks from the protesters, this frees the military to take tough action. ...soldiers occupied some of the key monasteries and blocked surrounding intersections with barbed wire, and there seemed to be no sign of the monks on the streets...five of the monasteries had been declared no-go zones... soldiers and riot police quickly dispersed one gathering of 300... several multiples" of the 10 fatalities acknowledged by the authorities may have been killed by troops in Yangon...

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What's in a Country's Name?

The last week a protests have risen to world attention in Burma / Myanmar. Until 1989 the southeast Asian country of more than 47 million people was known as Burma. Since then, however, the ruling military junta has called the country Myanmar. It even renamed the capital from Rangoon to Yangon....That year the military regime...lost landslide elections to the main opposition party. It refused to hand over power and instead jailed many opposition leaders....

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

PushmePullyouism with Iran

There's a lot of will-he-or-won't-he going on in terms of whether or not the U.S. and/or the world is being prepared to attack Iran. Here's two extremes ...

Why Bush won't attack Iran describes some of the inner dance going around the Administration -- and describes that Condoleeza Rice's job is to develop a third alternative between the bomb-or-do-not-bomb-Iran pair of options. Rather, that's what she has been doing, but the time has run out.

The article references a report by Joe Klein of a December 2006 meeting where they deeply discussed the possibility of successfully attacking Iran. The results showed it being very unsuccessful and that led them to begin covert actions to attempt destabilization Iran. Given the U.S. track record of destablizing countries I suppose we could expect a coup or revolt in Iran sooner or later.

On the other hand Bush setting America up for war with Iran describes how the Pentagon has drawn up lists of 2000+ targets in Iran and is making war plans.

Hmm... who to believe???

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

Description: 

The IAEA is the world´s center of cooperation in the nuclear field. It was set up as the world´s "Atoms for Peace" organization in 1957 within the United Nations family. The Agency works with its Member States and multiple partners worldwide to promote safe, secure and peaceful nuclear technologies.

The IAEA´s mission is guided by the interests and needs of Member States, strategic plans and the vision embodied in the IAEA Statute. Three main pillars - or areas of work - underpin the IAEA´s mission: Safety and Security; Science and Technology; and Safeguards and Verification.

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Rushing into war with Iran?

The threat of war in Iran is looming even larger than ever. For example, France warning of war with Iran is very interesting considering France's opposition role leading up to the Iraq invasion.

Bush setting America up for war with Iran ... in a way this is "DUH" because for well over a year the same script used on Iraq has been used on Iran. And don't forget that the Neocon plan cooked up in the 1990's was to take over the world starting by toppling the government in Iraq and then to move on to either Iran or Syria depending on the way things go.

...Pentagon and CIA officers say they believe that the White House has begun a carefully calibrated programme of escalation that could lead to a military showdown with Iran....In a chilling scenario of how war might come, a senior intelligence officer warned that public denunciation of Iranian meddling in Iraq - arming and training militants - would lead to cross border raids on Iranian training camps and bomb factories....Under the theory - which is gaining credence in Washington security circles - US action would provoke a major Iranian response, perhaps in the form of moves to cut off Gulf oil supplies, providing a trigger for air strikes against Iran's nuclear facilities and even its armed forces....Senior officials believe Mr Bush's inner circle has decided he does not want to leave office without first ensuring that Iran is not capable of developing a nuclear weapon....The vice president is said to advocate the use of bunker-busting tactical nuclear weapons against Iran's nuclear sites...

Nukes?? And just what were they complaining about Iraq's possession of "Weapons of Mass Destruction" for if these jerks want to use nukes?? And also, nowhere in the article does it mention as justification the war on terrorism. Um, wait a minute, the war we're fighting is supposed to be about smashing the terrorist threat, right? So shouldn't that be what this is about? Or has the administration given up on hiding their true motives behind propping up the terrorism threat?

Rogue regulator or smooth operator? .. Drift into war with Iran out of control, says UN .. An Indispensable Irritant to Iran and Its Foes .. French-kissing the war on Iran .. Mohammed elBaradei, the chief of the UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) recently reminded "the world" that it's the United Nations who authorizes the use of force: "There are rules on how to use force, and I would hope that everybody would have gotten the lesson after the Iraq situation, where 700,000 innocent civilians have lost their lives on the suspicion that a country has nuclear weapons," ElBaradei said.

His statements a couple days ago raised strange ire among Washington officialdom. But he is playing the same role he played leading to the invasion of Iraq. In both Iraq and Iran the powers that be are stretching the truth, or perhaps lying, and acting in violation of International Law.

External Media

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Big Brother is watching us all

The governments want to watch everything we are doing, and this isn't frenzied crackpot conspiracy theories, it is the truth. Big Brother is watching us all is a BBC report going over some plans which is more than remniscient of: DARPA's Information Awareness Office, The Total Information Awareness System; Or, Big Brother in-carnate

Gait DNA, for example, is creating an individual code for the way I walk. Their goal is to invent a system whereby a facial image can be matched to your gait, your height, your weight and other elements, so a computer will be able to identify instantly who you are. In the Total Information Awareness project these elements were covered by the Human ID at a Distance (HumanID) sub-project. The idea is to recognize people even in a crowded place, and to: "As you walk through a crowd, we'll be able to track you," said Professor Challapa. "These are all things that don't need the cooperation of the individual." And there was, a couple years ago, an attempt to use this sort of technology at a pro football game in Florida, ostensibly there was a "terrorist threat" which gave them a reason to deploy this technology to test how well it recognizes people.

The issue may be that facial recognition may not be enough to robustly identify someone. It seems likely they could estimate height and weight through image analysis, and by analyzing enough corroborating factors you should be able to make a good identification.

"Unless we're going to train every American citizen and soldier in 16 different languages we have to develop a technology that allows them to understand - whatever country they are in - what's going on around them. I hope in the future we'll be able to have conversations, if say you're speaking in French and I'm speaking in English, and it will be natural." .. "And the computer will do the translation?" In the Total Information Awareness project this was covered by the Babylon, Communicator, and Effective, Affordable, Reusable Speech-to-Text (EARS) subprojects. Many of the TIA subprojects involved language translation no doubt due to the plethora of human languages.

"And this idea about a total surveillance society," I asked. "Is that science fiction?"..."No, that's not science fiction. We're developing an unmanned airplane - a UAV - which may be able to stay up five years with cameras on it, constantly being cued to look here and there. This is done today to a limited amount in Baghdad. But it's the way to go." This wasn't covered by a TIA project however there has been increasing use of these unmanned aircraft, especially in the Iraq war. As I have covered before: UAV's coming to the U.S. for more spying on U.S. Citizens it is planned that UAV's will be used inside the United States.

The last item mentioned does border on science fiction, but is actual science. Oceanit has developed Sense Through The Wall (STTW) which detects minute radio signals emitted by human beings. It is able to detect these signals through walls, and they believe in the future that the technology will determine heart rate, breathing, etc. In other words, they'll have the makings of a tricorder, literally.
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Tuesday, September 11, 2007

F.B.I. Data Mining Reached Beyond Initial Targets

"The F.B.I. cast a much wider net in its terrorism investigations than it has previously acknowledged by relying on telecommunications companies to analyze phone-call patterns of the associates of Americans who had come under suspicion, according to newly obtained bureau records... The documents indicate that the Federal Bureau of Investigation used secret demands for records to obtain data not only on individuals it saw as targets but also details on their “community of interest” — the network of people that the target was in contact with.... central to a data-mining technique intelligence officials call link analysis." etc..

I've written on this before: Massive privacy violation by U.S. government and Spy Agency Mined Vast Data Trove, Officials Report - New York Times

The idea is that government spy agencies are applying data-mining techniques which is now possible with new computer technologies. In a way they're being smart and simply applying techniques already used by businesses allowing business activity to be more accurately targeted.

But with any increase in government surveillance it raises fears of intrusive government surveillance such as described by George Orwell in his book 1984. Certainly there is an example of what computer technology can do in the hands of an overzealous government. The extremely primitive not-quite-computer technology of the 1930's and 1940's, developed by IBM, was used by Nazi Germany to enact the Jewish Holocaust.

The exact issue in todays article is tracking the "envelope" information of telephone calls, and to draw a web of connections between people. When you call someone a record is made somewhere of the phone call, the number called from, the target phone number, the time of the call, and its length. This is the "envelope" and is similar to the paper envelope used to send mail through the post office. If you track enough of these phone calls you can see patterns of who is calling whom.

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Study finds left-wing brain, right-wing brain

"In a simple experiment reported today in the journal Nature Neuroscience, scientists at New York University and UCLA show that political orientation is related to differences in how the brain processes information... Previous psychological studies have found that conservatives tend to be more structured and persistent in their judgments whereas liberals are more open to new experiences. The latest study found those traits are not confined to political situations but also influence everyday decisions.... Liberals had more brain activity and made fewer mistakes than conservatives... the results 'provided an elegant demonstration that individual differences on a conservative-liberal dimension are strongly related to brain activity.'... Sulloway said the results could explain why President Bush demonstrated a single-minded commitment to the Iraq war and why some people perceived Sen. John F. Kerry, the liberal Massachusetts Democrat who opposed Bush in the 2004 presidential race, as a 'flip-flopper' for changing his mind about the conflict."

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September 11

Today is an anniversary.. actually every day is an anniversary. If you think of the bloodshed humankind has visited upon each other there is no date which is not an anniversary of bloodshed. It seems, though, that September 11 has a peculiar history.

Of course everybody remembers this September 11: 1973: President overthrown in Chile coup right? President Salvador Allende of Chile, the world's first democratically-elected Marxist head of state, has died in a revolt led by army leaders. Except the BBC report does not say that the revolt was instigated by the U.S. Salvador Allende @ Wikipedia, Augusto Pinochet @ Wikipedia, 1973 Chilean coup d'├ętat @ Wikipedia, Project FUBELT @ Wikipedia

Or how about the U.S. Invasion of Honduras to support domination of that country by the United Fruit Company?

And, the British Mandate of Palestine began on this date in 1922. This was part of the general occupation of the Middle East by Europe, especially Great Britain, following World War I. The Middle East had been ruled by the Ottoman Empire which crumbled in the wake of that war. The British had administrative control of Palestine and several other areas in the Middle East. I suspect it was the period of British control which led to a portion of the problems we're experiencing today stemming from the Middle East.

For instance I noticed in the Wikipedia that on September 11, 1921 (one year before the mandate began) Nahalal, the first moshav in Israel, is settled. A moshav is a similar concept to the Kibbutzim, but instead of being socialistic in nature (in a kibbutz nobody owns anything, the kibbutz owns it all) the moshav relies on shared ownership. The establishment of Nahalal was part of the early settlement of Palestine by the Jewish from Eastern Europe. The, uh, annexation of Palestine by the Jews leading to the establishment of Israel started much earlier than the mid 1940's.

And in a curious coincidence of history: 1941 - Ground broken for the construction of The Pentagon.

1978 - U.S. President Jimmy Carter, President Sadat of Egypt, and Prime Minister Begin of Israel met at Camp David and agreed on a framework for peace between Israel and Egypt and a comprehensive peace in the Middle East.

1982 - The international forces, which were guaranteeing the safety of Palestinian refugees following Israel's 1982 Invasion of Lebanon, left Beirut. Five days later, several thousand refugees were massacred in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps.

1987 - Twelve people die in a shoot-out in Jean-Bertrand Aristide's church in Haiti

1990 - U.S. President George H. W. Bush delivers a nationally televised speech in which he threatens the use of force to remove Iraqi soldiers from Kuwait, which Iraq had recently invaded. He mentions the term "New World Order" in this speech for the first time, which is also named "Towards a New World Order".

1998 - Independent counsel Kenneth Starr sends a report to the U.S. Congress accusing President Bill Clinton of 11 possible impeachable offenses.

References: September 11 @ Wikipedia

Friday, September 7, 2007

Iraq Veterans Against the War

Description: 

Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) was founded by Iraq war veterans in July 2004 at the annual convention of Veterans for Peace (VFP) in Boston to give a voice to the large number of active duty service people and veterans who are against this war, but are under various pressures to remain silent.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

The Alternative Fuels Data Center

Description: 

A vast collection of information on alternative fuels and the vehicles that use them. Alternative fuels described here are those defined by the Energy Policy Act of 1992, including biodiesel, electricity, ethanol, hydrogen, natural gas, and propane. This site has more than 3,000 documents in its database, an interactive fuel station mapping system, current listings of available alternative fuel vehicles, and lots of alternative fuels information and related links.