Daily Archives: January 8, 2008

Snipers, checkpoints and robots deployed for Bush visit

Largest operation since the pope’s visit in 2000

Agence France-Presse | Jan 9, 2008

Residents will face checkpoints, streets closed to cars and pedestrian traffic and swarms of security personnel.

By Yana Dlugy

SNIPERS posted on rooftops, entire city blocks sealed off, thousands of police on duty – Israel and the Palestinian Authority are going on full alert for US President George W. Bush’s visit.

For weeks, Israeli and Palestinian officials have grappled with how to ensure the safety of the leader of the world’s biggest superpower in densely-populated urban centres in one of the most volatile regions on the planet.

Israeli police say 10,500 officers and border guards will be on duty and all intelligence services in the security-obsessed country placed on high alert for operation “Clear Sky” when Air Force One touches down on Wednesday.

On the Palestinian side, 4000 law enforcement officials will be deployed in Ramallah alone, with additional personnel in the city of Bethlehem.

“This is the largest operation since the pope’s visit in 2000,” Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

Streets and whole city blocks are to be closed in Jerusalem and the West Bank capital of Ramallah during the three-day visit, the first by an American president in more than nine years.

Underscoring security concerns, an American member of al-Qaida urged Islamist militants to target Mr Bush during his trip, saying he should be welcomed “not by flowers and applause, but with bombs and car bombs.”

“The visit will paralyse Jerusalem,” one Israeli official said. “It will be impossible to move around and get anywhere close to where he is staying and visiting.”

In Ramallah, the area around the muqata, the government compound where Mr Bush will meet Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas, “will be practically under curfew” with streets closed to vehicles and pedestrians.

Mr Bush, who visited Jordan in November 2006 and has made several trips to Iraq, is due to spend most of his time in Jerusalem and will also meet Mr Abbas in West Bank’s Ramallah and visit Bethlehem.

Outside Mr Abbas’s Ramallah headquarters, public workers have planted trees and flowers and prepared a landing pad for the helicopters due to whisk in the American president for his meetings.

Residents of Jerusalem, Ramallah and Bethlehem will face checkpoints, streets closed to cars and pedestrian traffic and swarms of security personnel.

Route One – the main highway leading into Jerusalem from the east – will be closed for an hour shortly after Mr Bush’s arrival to allow the unhindered passage of the convoy of his entourage.

The president is coming with his own plane, helicopters, transport planes and 20 armoured limousines, the Yediot Aharonot newspaper reported.

Some 400 American security personnel are due to arrive with him, as well as 200 White House staff, it said. In addition, 15 US canine teams trained in explosive detection will be on hand, it said.

In Jerusalem itself, blocks around the historic King David Hotel where the president is staying will be closed, with snipers due on rooftops and a balloon with cameras and night-vision hovering above, local media reported.

Robots were even sent into the sewers below the King David to check the subterranean area, the Jerusalem Post quoted a hotel official as saying.

Mr Bush’s entourage is expected to take over all of the King David’s 230-plus rooms, as well as nearly 800 others in the city.

People who live near the King David – scene of a deadly 1946 bombing by an underground Zionist group seeking to overthrow British rule in Palestine – are to receive special tags from the Shin Beth internal security service to access their homes, according to media.

Mr Bush is only the second US president to visit the Palestinian territories, although he will not be going to the Gaza Strip – now run by the Islamist militant group Hamas – unlike his predecessor Bill Clinton in December 1998.

Mr Bush is due to visit a string of allied Arab countries after his visit to the Holy Land, but details of security arrangements there were not available.

In Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, security officials said only that measures would be similar to those taken for other heads of state.

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China to send troops into North Korea “to restore order”

 

Kim Jong-il inspects troops

Telegraph | Jan 8, 2008

China would consider acting unilaterally, the report indicated

By Richard Spencer in Beijing

China is planning to send troops into North Korea to restore order and secure its nuclear arsenal in the event of the regime’s collapse.

According to a new report, Beijing would send in the People’s Liberation Army if it felt threatened by a rapid breakdown in Kim Jong-il’s rule over the country.

China would seek to win the backing of the United Nations first, but would be prepared to act unilaterally if necessary.

“If the international community did not react in a timely manner as the internal order in North Korea deteriorated rapidly, China would seek to take the initiative in restoring stability,” said the report by two Washington think-tanks.

Based on extensive interviews conducted in China, including with PLA academics, the report’s findings back up previous indications of China’s major change in attitude to Kim Jong-il after the North Korean nuclear test of October 2006, and also demonstrate its willingness to assert itself in international affairs.

Separately, Beijing today announced its ambitions in space for the coming year, including the launch of 15 rockets and 17 satellites as well as its first space walk.

According to PLA academics quoted by the report, which was written by the Centre for Strategic and International Studies and the US Institute of Peace, the army has three “missions” in a failing North Korea.

One would be humanitarian — to deal with refugees or the consequences of natural disaster.

The second is peacekeeping and maintaining order, and the third requires it to deal with contamination from a military strike on North Korea’s nuclear facilities, and to secure nuclear weapons and materials to prevent them getting into the “wrong hands”.

The report said that there were disagreements among its sources as to whether China still wished to preserve its “special relationship” with North Korea, the only country with which it has a formal, mutual defence alliance.

But they agreed that Beijing would neither intervene to replace Kim Jong-il, nor to prevent him being replaced by others.

The Chinese government’s prime concern was stability, though there was thought to be no immediate danger of a breakdown.

China’s foreign ministry spokesman said she had “no knowledge” of the plan, but did not deny its existence.

Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at Beijing’s People’s University, said the plan might have been drawn up when the North Korean regime was under greater pressure than now.

It was still unclear how it would react in future, though. “China, as with other powers, is a little confused about this,” he said.

Global cooling soon to replace global warming

“It would seem that men and women need a common motivation, namely a common adversary, to organize and act together in the vacuum such as motivation seemed to have ceased to exist or have yet to be found. The need for enemies seems to be a common historical factor…Bring the divided nation together to face an outside enemy, either a real one or else one INVENTED for the purpose…

Democracy will be made to seem responsible for the lagging economy, the scarcity and uncertainties. The very concept of democracy could then be brought into question and allow for the seizure of power.

In searching for a new enemy to unite us, we came up with the idea that pollution, the threat of global warming, water shortages, famine and the like would fit the bill. The real enemy [of the elites and their minions] then is humanity itself.”

– “The First Global Revolution” (1991) published by the Club of Rome. Members of the Club of Rome include: Al Gore, Jimmy Carter, Bill Gates, George Soros, Power Corp’s drafter of UN Earth Charter and author of the Kyoto Protocols Maurice Strong, David Rockefeller (behind 9/11 and other crimes of treason), Communist Party leader Mikhail Gorbachev (proclaimed the Earth Charter housed in the “Ark of Hope” as the “new Ten Commandments”), Prince Philippe of Belgium, former President of Germany Richard von Weizsäcker, Ernesto Zedillo Director of The Yale Center for the Study of Globalization, former President of Georgia Eduard Shevardnadze, Queen Beatrix of The Netherlands, H.M. Juan Carlos I King of Spain, founder of the Soka Gakkai cult Daisaku Ikeda, Coordinator of the Global Marshall Plan Initiative Frithjof Finkbeiner, and President of The Club of Rome Prince El Hassan bin Talal of Jordan.

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31,000 scientists reject ‘global warming’ agenda

Earth has passed the peak of its warmer period, and a fairly cold spell will set in quite soon, by 2012. Real cold will come when solar activity reaches its minimum, by 2041, and will last for 50-60 years or even longer.

RIA Novosti | Jan 3, 2008

by Dr. Oleg Sorokhtin, of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences

MOSCOW. (Oleg Sorokhtin for RIA Novosti) – Stock up on fur coats and felt boots! This is my paradoxical advice to the warm world.

Earth is now at the peak of one of its passing warm spells. It started in the 17th century when there was no industrial influence on the climate to speak of and no such thing as the hothouse effect. The current warming is evidently a natural process and utterly independent of hothouse gases.

The real reasons for climate changes are uneven solar radiation, terrestrial precession (that is, axis gyration), instability of oceanic currents, regular salinity fluctuations of the Arctic Ocean surface waters, etc. There is another, principal reason—solar activity and luminosity. The greater they are the warmer is our climate.

Astrophysics knows two solar activity cycles, of 11 and 200 years. Both are caused by changes in the radius and area of the irradiating solar surface. The latest data, obtained by Habibullah Abdusamatov, head of the Pulkovo Observatory space research laboratory, say that Earth has passed the peak of its warmer period, and a fairly cold spell will set in quite soon, by 2012. Real cold will come when solar activity reaches its minimum, by 2041, and will last for 50-60 years or even longer.

This is my point, which environmentalists hotly dispute as they cling to the hothouse theory. As we know, hothouse gases, in particular, nitrogen peroxide, warm up the atmosphere by keeping heat close to the ground. Advanced in the late 19th century by Svante A. Arrhenius, a Swedish physical chemist and Nobel Prize winner, this theory is taken for granted to this day and has not undergone any serious check.

It determines decisions and instruments of major international organizations—in particular, the Kyoto Protocol to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Signed by 150 countries, it exemplifies the impact of scientific delusion on big politics and economics. The authors and enthusiasts of the Kyoto Protocol based their assumptions on an erroneous idea. As a result, developed countries waste huge amounts of money to fight industrial pollution of the atmosphere. What if it is a Don Quixote’s duel with the windmill?

Hothouse gases may not be to blame for global warming. At any rate, there is no scientific evidence to their guilt. The classic hothouse effect scenario is too simple to be true. As things really are, much more sophisticated processes are on in the atmosphere, especially in its dense layer. For instance, heat is not so much radiated in space as carried by air currents—an entirely different mechanism, which cannot cause global warming.

The temperature of the troposphere, the lowest and densest portion of the atmosphere, does not depend on the concentration of greenhouse gas emissions—a point proved theoretically and empirically. True, probes of Antarctic ice shield, taken with bore specimens in the vicinity of the Russian research station Vostok, show that there are close links between atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide and temperature changes. Here, however, we cannot be quite sure which is the cause and which the effect.

Temperature fluctuations always run somewhat ahead of carbon dioxide concentration changes. This means that warming is primary. The ocean is the greatest carbon dioxide depository, with concentrations 60-90 times larger than in the atmosphere. When the ocean’s surface warms up, it produces the “champagne effect.” Compare a foamy spurt out of a warm bottle with wine pouring smoothly when served properly cold.

Likewise, warm ocean water exudes greater amounts of carbonic acid, which evaporates to add to industrial pollution—a factor we cannot deny. However, man-caused pollution is negligible here. If industrial pollution with carbon dioxide keeps at its present-day 5-7 billion metric tons a year, it will not change global temperatures up to the year 2100. The change will be too small for humans to feel even if the concentration of greenhouse gas emissions doubles.

Carbon dioxide cannot be bad for the climate. On the contrary, it is food for plants, and so is beneficial to life on Earth. Bearing out this point was the Green Revolution—the phenomenal global increase in farm yields in the mid-20th century. Numerous experiments also prove a direct proportion between harvest and carbon dioxide concentration in the air.

Carbon dioxide has quite a different pernicious influence—not on the climate but on synoptic activity. It absorbs infrared radiation. When tropospheric air is warm enough for complete absorption, radiation energy passes into gas fluctuations. Gas expands and dissolves to send warm air up to the stratosphere, where it clashes with cold currents coming down. With no noticeable temperature changes, synoptic activity skyrockets to whip up cyclones and anticyclones. Hence we get hurricanes, storms, tornados and other natural disasters, whose intensity largely depends on carbon dioxide concentration. In this sense, reducing its concentration in the air will have a positive effect.

Carbon dioxide is not to blame for global climate change. Solar activity is many times more powerful than the energy produced by the whole of humankind. Man’s influence on nature is a drop in the ocean.

Earth is unlikely to ever face a temperature disaster. Of all the planets in the solar system, only Earth has an atmosphere beneficial to life. There are many factors that account for development of life on Earth: Sun is a calm star, Earth is located an optimum distance from it, it has the Moon as a massive satellite, and many others. Earth owes its friendly climate also to dynamic feedback between biotic and atmospheric evolution.

The principal among those diverse links is Earth’s reflective power, which regulates its temperature. A warm period, as the present, increases oceanic evaporation to produce a great amount of clouds, which filter solar radiation and so bring heat down. Things take the contrary turn in a cold period.

What can’t be cured must be endured. It is wise to accept the natural course of things. We have no reason to panic about allegations that ice in the Arctic Ocean is thawing rapidly and will soon vanish altogether. As it really is, scientists say the Arctic and Antarctic ice shields are growing. Physical and mathematical calculations predict a new Ice Age. It will come in 100,000 years, at the earliest, and will be much worse than the previous. Europe will be ice-bound, with glaciers reaching south of Moscow.

Meanwhile, Europeans can rest assured. The Gulf Stream will change its course only if some evil magic robs it of power to reach the north—but Mother Nature is unlikely to do that.

Dr. Oleg Sorokhtin, Merited Scientist of Russia and fellow of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences, is staff researcher of the Oceanology Institute.

. . .

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Natural causes may account for much of Arctic warming

ACLU rips plan to tag and track students with RFID and GPS

Associated Press | Jan 7, 2008

By MICHELLE R. SMITH

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – A tech company with ties to a school district plans to test a tracking system by putting computer chips on grade-schoolers’ backpacks, an experiment the ACLU ripped Monday as invasive and unnecessary.

The pilot program set to start next week in the Middletown school district would have about 80 children put tags containing radio frequency identification chips, or RFID chips, on their schoolbags. It would also equip two buses with global positioning systems, or GPS devices.

The school and parents will be able to track students on the bus, and the district hopes the program will improve busing efficiency, Superintendent Rosemarie Kraeger said. The devices are intended to record only when students enter and exit the bus, and the GPS would show where the bus was on it’s route.

Parents could opt out of the program, Kraeger said.

The pilot program, made by MAP Information Technology Corp., is to run for several months at the Aquidneck School, she said. The district, which serves about 2,500 students, is the company’s only client, said Deborah Rapp, the company’s director of marketing and communications.

Steven Brown, executive director of the Rhode Island chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, sent a letter to Kraeger and members of the school committee calling the plan “a solution in search of a problem” and saying the school district should already have procedures in place to track where its students are.

On Monday, he said the program raises enormous privacy and safety concerns.

“There’s absolutely no need to be tagging children,” he said. “We are not questioning the school district’s ability to use GPS to monitor school buses. But it’s a quantitative leap to monitor children themselves.”

Rapp described the system as limited in scope.

“The program is solely designed to provide accountability when the children are in transit, from the moment they enter the bus to the moment they exit,” she said. “It is limited to when they are on the bus. We in no way take it beyond that.”

Brown also raised concerns that unauthorized people, perhaps using RFID readers that are easily bought online, could exploit information contained on the tags.

Ed Collins, the district’s facilities manager, said that would not be possible. Collins and Rapp said the RFID tag would only contain an ID number, not a name, address or other personal information. Only the school administration would be able to match the ID number with the child, Rapp said.

Collins is the brother of Chris Collins, who founded MAP Information Technology last year. The district did not need clearance from the state ethics commission to set up the testing, however, because the program is free during the pilot, Kraeger said.

Officials with the district, which neighbors a naval station and the famed yachting community of Newport, said they didn’t have an estimate on what it would cost to put the tracking system in place district-wide.

Kraeger said she was unaware of the controversy ignited three years ago when a Northern California school system planned to put in place an RFID system to track students at school. The proposal died after protests by parents and privacy and civil liberties advocates, including the ACLU.

The Middletown school board approved the pilot program in November. In a recent letter to parents, the company and the district explained the program and invited parents to get in touch with the school system if they had any questions, Rapp said. No one called.

The district was interested in trying out the program in the hopes that it would improve communication with parents, who will be able to check a Web site to see whether the buses are on time and their children are on them, Kraeger said.

Tracking students’ movements will be no different from an existing system that allows parents to see what their child had for lunch or check their attendance record, Kraeger said.

“If a bus were delayed, they could look for their own student ID and see where the bus was,” she said.

Mexican farmers protest NAFTA

LA Times | Jan 4, 2008.

MEXICO CITY — Farmers in this country organized scattered protests Tuesday and Wednesday as the final trade barriers on U.S. corn, beans, sugar and milk fell with the full implementation of the North American Free Trade Agreement on New Year’s Day.

Corn and beans are staples of the Mexican diet and subsistence crops for millions of farmers. Opponents of NAFTA said the free entry of relatively cheap U.S. corn would devastate rural Mexico and help spur more immigration.

But the government of President Felipe Calderon celebrated the end of the trade barriers, whose gradual elimination began in 1994 when the treaty among the U.S., Mexican and Canadian governments took effect.

Agriculture Secretary Alberto Cardenas said that 90% of the imports affected by the final barriers already entered the country free of tariffs in 2006, and that the effect on local producers would be minimal.

Still, about 100 Mexican farmers partially blocked the border crossing between El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juarez, carrying signs that read “Without Corn There Is No Country.”

Protesters blocked several of the traffic lanes entering Mexico for much of Tuesday and part of Wednesday, according to news reports.

Miguel Colunga Martinez, leader of a local peasant group, told the El Paso newspaper El Diario that protesters would “inspect” all trucks crossing the border and stop any carrying farm goods. “Up to now, not a single trailer has passed,” he said.

Mexico’s tortilla producer association said the final implementation of the treaty would reduce the number of Mexican corn producers and could lead to a 20% to 30% increase in the price of tortillas. It gave no details.

“We will not have the weapons to compete with the growers of the United States and Canada, who will sell corn cheaper than it’s produced here,” said Lorenzo Mejia Morales, president of the National Union of Mills and Tortilla Producers.

Mexican agricultural officials say NAFTA benefits their country by allowing Mexican farm products into the United States.

“We have become the principal supplier of fruits and vegetables into the United States,” Cardenas said in a news release, citing onions, avocados, mangoes and watermelons as examples of successful Mexican exports.

At the same time, Mexican imports of U.S. corn have risen from less than 1 million metric tons in 1993 to 9.9 million metric tons in the 2006-07 marketing year that ended in July, according to statistics from the U.S. Agriculture Department.

The majority of the imports are of yellow corn, which is used to feed livestock and to make corn syrup. There are about 1.5 million corn farmers in Mexico and most grow white corn, which is used to make tortillas.

NAFTA critics say Mexican farmers cannot compete with their American counterparts because the government subsidies they receive are paltry compared with those given to U.S. farmers.

Italian army called in to fight war on garbage

 

Piles of rubbish in Naples are growning at a rate of 800 tons a day

Telegraph | Jan 8, 2008

By Malcolm Moore in Rome

The Italian army moved into Naples as tensions over the city’s mounting rubbish crisis erupted in violence.

Entire districts of the city are lying submerged under more than 5,000 tons of waste. The pile is growing at the rate of 800 tons a day.

No rubbish has been collected in Naples since Dec 21, when the city’s dumps reached their capacity.

While the residents are furious at the stink, and the risk of disease, there have also been protests at plans to create new dumps or reopen old ones.

Riots broke out at Pianura, the site of an enormous open-air dump that the locals say pollutes the area with deadly dioxins.

Four buses were set alight during the night and police were struck with a hail of stones as they tried to dismantle temporary roadblocks.

More than a thousand protesters laid metal railings, chunks of concrete and old tyres across the road to prevent workers and trucks from entering the dump. One group used a bulldozer to wreck the surface of the road and to bring down trees in front of the gate.

Anti-riot officers charged the crowd with batons, and at least three people were taken to hospital. One unnamed teenager was injured after his scooter skidded on a pile of rubbish. However, officials temporarily conceded defeat in reopening the dump.

Other protesters blocked the main A1 motorway at Caserta, the spine of Italy’s road network that connects Naples to Rome, Florence and Milan. In response, Romano Prodi, the Italian prime minister, sent in the army to restore calm and to start shifting the rubbish from the city.

“We are taking charge,” he said, “because the world is watching and I do not want them to have this negative image of Italy”.

Army engineers used bulldozers to clear waste from schools in the Caserta region.

The government called for the schools to be opened, but no students arrived.

Clemente Mastella, the justice minister, said the dead hand of the Camorra, or Neapolitan mafia, was behind the crisis.

“People who set fire to buses are not citizens, but usually people sent by the mafia,” he said.

It is in the Camorra’s interests for rubbish to build up in the city, since the clans own most of the rubbish recycling companies that would eventually win contracts to dispose of the waste.

In the past, corrupt firms have been found to be shipping waste to China, where it is buried, instead of recycling it.

Mafia families also profit from buying properties in the troubled areas, where prices have become depressed by the continuing rubbish crisis.

In addition, the Camorra is said by the police to bring lorry-loads of waste to Naples from factories in northern Italy for fees that undercut legal competitors, adding to the rubbish piles.

Sandro De Franciscis, the head of the council of Caserta, said: “We are on our knees, we are desperate and we do not have the power to do anything about it.”

US narrowly avoids another Gulf of Tonkin incident in naval skirmish with Iran


The Persian Gulf is the scene of tensions between Iran and the US

US tells Iran to back down after Gulf skirmish

Telegraph | Jan 8, 2008

By Damien McElroy

The White House has told Iran that it risked provoking “a dangerous incident” after a weekend skirmish brought the two nations to the brink of conflict.

US naval commanders were about to fire on a group of Iranian attack boats after being challenged at the mouth of the Gulf on Sunday, the Pentagon has disclosed.

Three US navy ships were targeted by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Navy as they entered the strait just after dawn.

Five Iranian patrol boats came within 200 yards of the US vessels, issued threats over the radio and dropped mysterious objects into the water.

A transcript of the radio traffic revealed that the Iranians had warned the US commanders that an attack was underway: “I am coming at you. You will explode in a couple of minutes.”

A “swarm” attack by small Iranian boats in the busy shipping lane is one of the prime security threats to the US navy presence.

Its commanders were handing down an order to open fire when Iran navy patrol boats pulled back from international waters.

A Pentagon spokesman said the Iranians were “moments” away from coming under fire.

A statement issued by the US Navy Fifth Fleet said that the incident occurred at about 8am local time as the cruiser Port Royal, the destroyer Hopper and the frigate Ingraham were on their way into the Gulf and passing through the Strait of Hormuz.

Tensions in the Strait, a narrow waterway responsible for 40 per cent of the global trade in oil shipments, have escalated as Washington and Teheran swap accusations over Iran’s nuclear ambitions. The White House demanded that Iran refrain from further provocation but Teheran played down the incident as an “ordinary occurrence”.

The Pentagon said the skirmishes constituted a “significant” act of aggression at the chokepoint of global oil supplies.

An official said: “Five small boats were acting in a very aggressive way, charging the ships, dropping boxes in the water in front of the ships and causing our ships to take evasive manoeuvres. There were no injuries but there very well could have been.”

Iran’s suspected pursuit of nuclear weapons has seen the US-led naval coalition, based at the home of the Fifth Fleet in Bahrain, dramatically increase its presence in the Gulf.

The Iranian response has been a series of dangerous exercises that have forced the coalition on to high alert.

Operating procedures were overhauled last year after the Iranian navy seized 15 Royal Navy sailors and Royal Marines, who were protecting Iraqi oil facilities at the head in the Gulf.

The British patrol was accused of trespassing in Iranian territory and surrendered without a shot, in part because air cover was withdrawn before the Iranians pounced.

The 15 crew of the frigate Cornwall were taken to Teheran where President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad presided over a humiliating ceremony announcing their release as an Easter “gift” to the British people.

Steps taken to ensure the superiority of allied naval firepower along the international boundaries of the congested shipping lanes include deployment of modern attack helicopters plus rapid reaction US coastguard boats and additional marine guards.

Task Force 152, the US-led naval coalition, officially acts in support of the oil-rich but militarily-weak states. With President George W Bush due to visit the region this week, Iran’s threat to world oil supplies will loom large on the agenda.

. . .

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