Daily Archives: August 18, 2008

German Politicians Attack Schroeder for Siding With Russia

Gerhard Schroeder sits before a Gazprom logo. Schroeder heads Nord Stream project, which is heavily connected to Gazprom

Former chancellor Schroeder’s comments have met with strong resistance


Deutche Welle | Aug 18, 2008

Former German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder was the recipient of condemnatory remarks by several public figures after he placed the blame for the recent Caucasus war on the Georgian side.

Schroeder has been adamant in his insistence that Georgia was at fault and the chief protagonist in its recent conflict with Russia.

In light of these comments, however, Schroeder, who developed close ties with Moscow during his seven years in office, has come under fire himself, with observers insisting he has a vested interest in EU-Russia relations.

“More and more the sentiment is that the former chancellor has an imbalanced relationship from his previous position,” Christian Social Union foreign policy spokesman Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg told the Passauer Neuen Presse on Monday, Aug. 18. “Each of his declarations is an affront to Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.”

Gazprom connection

Schroeder’s critics have said such derision may have also been catalyzed by the fact that the former chancellor has firm connections with Russian energy giant Gazprom.

Schroeder currently chairs the Nord Stream consortium, an energy concern overseeing a planned natural gas pipeline from Russia to Germany under the Baltic Sea. The pipeline would bypass countries such as Poland and Lithuania, thus depriving them of tax revenue.

Gazprom is a major player in Nord Stream, of which Schroeder was a major proponent while still in office. He initialed the go-ahead for the Baltic project, along with then Russian President Vladimir Putin, in September 2005, only weeks before the end of his tenure as chancellor.

Eckart von Klaeden, foreign policy spokesman for the Christian Democratic Union parliamentary party faction, touched on this in his criticism of the former chancellor.

“The recriminations were predictable,” he told 24-hour news channel n-tv on Monday. “Schroeder is the prominent voice of Moscow in Germany.”

The free-market liberal FPD party secretary general Dirk Niebel told the station he thought Schroeder was willing to do anything his employer asked.

“[Schroeder’s] one-sided attribution of blame is in line with the motto: He who pays the piper calls the tune,” Niebel said.

Reoccurring controversy

Tracking back to 2005, a mere two weeks after he left office, whispers of corruption surfaced after it became apparent Schroeder may sign on with Gazprom.

Editorialists at several German newspapers as well as politicians of Germany’s political parties were highly critical of his planned involvement with Nord Stream.

Schroeder, however, continues to insist the EU press ahead with forming a “strategic partnership” with Russia, saying Europe risked losing influence and pushing Moscow towards China if it did not work with the Kremlin.

Other European politicians, particularly in capitals of former Soviet satellite nations, have called for a re-evaluation of European-Russian ties.

Future wars to be fought with mind-altering drugs

“Drugs can be utilized to achieve abnormal, diseased, or disordered psychology…”

Future wars could see opponents attacking each other’s minds, according to a report for the US military.

By Jon Swaine

Telegraph | Aug 15, 2008

Landmines releasing brain-altering chemicals, scanners reading soldiers’ minds and devices boosting eyesight and hearing could all one figure in arsenals, suggests the study.

Sophisticated drugs, designed for dementia patients but also allowing troops to stay awake and alert for several days are expected to be developed, according to the report. It is thought that some US soldiers are already taking drugs prescribed for narcolepsy in an attempt to combat fatigue.

As well as those physically and mentally boosting one’s own troops, substances could also be developed to deplete an opponents’ forces, it says.

“How can we disrupt the enemy’s motivation to fight?” It asks. “Is there a way to make the enemy obey our commands?” Research shows that “drugs can be utilized to achieve abnormal, diseased, or disordered psychology” among one’s enemy, it concludes.

Research is particularly encouraging in the area of functional neuroimaging, or understanding the relationships between brain activity and actions, the report says, raising hopes that scanners able to read the intentions or memories of soldiers could soon be developed.

Some military chiefs and law enforcement officials hope that a new generation of polygraphs, or lie detectors, which spot lie-telling by observing changes in brain activity, can be built.

“Pharmacological landmines,” which release drugs to incapacitate soldiers upon their contact with them, could also be developed, according to the report’s authors.

The report, which was commissioned by the Defense Intelligence Agency, contained the work of scientists asked to examine how better understanding of how the human mind works was likely to affect the development of technology.

It finds that “great progress has been made” in neuroscience over the last decade, and that continuing advances offered the prospect of a dramatic impact on military equipment and the way in which wars are fought.

It also explains that the concept of torture could be transformed in the future. “It is possible that some day there could be a technique developed to extract information from a prisoner that does not have any lasting side effects,” it states. One technique being developed involves the delivery of electrical pulses into a suspect’s brain and delay their ability to lie by interfering with its neurons.

Research into “distributed human-machine systems”, including robots and military hardware controlled by an operator’s mind, is another particular area for optimism among researchers, according to the report. It says significant progress has already been made and that prospects for use of the field are “limited only by the creative imagination.”

Jonathan Moreno, a bioethicist and the author of ‘Mind Wars: Brain Research and National Defense’, said “It’s too early to know which, if any, of these technologies is going to be practical. But it’s important for us to get ahead of the curve. Soldiers are always on the cutting edge of new technologies.”

Related

Pentagon “Calmatives” Biochemical Substances as Incapacitating Weapons of War and Social Control
During periods of extreme crisis, ruling class elites and the technocratic “wizards of armageddon” who serve them–bankrupt authoritarians without authority–harbor a not-so-secret longing for “magic bullets” that will put things right.

Deliriant
The deliriants (or anticholinergics) are a special class of acetylcholine-inhibitor dissociatives. The name comes from their primary effect of inducing a medical state of frank delirium, characterized by stupor, utter confusion, confabulation, and regression to “phantom” behaviors such as disrobing and plucking. Other commonly reported behaviors include holding full and lifelike conversations with imagined people, finishing a complex, multi-stage action (such as getting dressed) and then suddenly discovering you had not even begun yet, and being unable to recognize one’s own reflection in a mirror (and thus becoming angry with the “stranger’s” acts of mimicry). The effects have been likened to sleepwalking, a fugue state or a psychotic episode (particularly in that the subject has minimal control over their actions and little to no recall of the experience). This is a notable departure from typical hallucinogens.

3-Quinuclidinyl benzilate
3-quinuclidinyl benzilate (QNB, BZ, EA-2277), full chemical name 1-azabicyclo[2.2.2]Oct-3-yl α-hydroxy-α-phenylbenzeneacetate, is an odorless military incapacitating agent. Its NATO code is BZ. The Iraqi incapacitating agent Agent 15 is believed either to be the same as or similar to BZ.

Teachers fear hidden Big Brother cameras in schools

Almost a quarter of teachers are worried about “hidden” surveillance cameras in their schools, according to research published by a teachers union, the Association of Teachers and Lecturers.

Telegraph | Aug 17, 2008

By Urmee Khan

The survey of nearly 250 primary and secondary school teachers found that 84.6 per cent have closed-circuit television (CCTV) in their school and although more than half said it made them feel safer, 23.4 per cent were concerned about cameras hidden in school buildings.

The teachers’ are worried that the cameras amount to an invasion of privacy and can also be a distraction to education.

Nearly all those questioned , 97.6 per cent, said CCTV was primarily used for security purposes, and half said it was used for monitoring pupil behaviour and 72 per cent said it was used to monitor and control vandalism.

However, nearly two thirds said they did not know what security measures their school had for CCTV cameras – in terms of storing the data and restricting its use and half of teachers admitted would behave differently if they knew that CCTV was operating in classroom they were teaching in.

Only 27 per cent of teachers said they thought pupils’ behaviour changed in the presence of cameras.

The findings revealed the general attitude was that while CCTV has its benefits, classroom surveillance was an invasion of privacy and disrupted education.

Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of ATL, said: “No one really knows enough about the use of CCTV in schools – it’s a very new issue. We have set up a working group to look into the use of CCTV and produce ATL guidelines on best practice for schools and colleges throughout the UK.

“Certainly we would want staff to be involved in decisions about the use of CCTV in schools, and strict safeguards for its use. Although surveillance in schools can have some positive outcomes, such as discouraging vandalism and violence, we think there are some instances where it should be strictly controlled.”

Tonia Matthews, a teacher at Trinity secondary school in West Berkshire, said: “Students feel secure to know if there has been an incident, such as bullying. We can then go back and look what happened.”

The survey questioned 249 ATL members working in primary and secondary schools across the UK during June 2008.

British drivers to be tracked and heavily taxed by spy satellites

A prototype road-pricing device: the scheme involves a satellite tracking a vehicle’s movements. Motorists will then receive a hefty bill for their time on the road Photo: PAUL GROVER


Motorists are being warned they may face “pay as you drive” road taxes as ministers launch the first ever trials of a scheme that could see them charged for every mile they drive. Motorists face paying up to £1.30 ($2.42) a mile during peak periods on the busiest roads.
Eight areas of the country have been selected by ministers for secret pay-per-mile trials.

Telegraph | Aug 16, 2008

‘Spy-in-the-sky’ paves way for road pricing

By David Millward, Transport Editor

The Telegraph can disclose that the Government is pushing ahead with plans for a national road-pricing scheme, including testing “spy in the sky” technology.

Eight areas of the country have been selected by ministers for secret pay-per-mile trials which will begin in 2010 and are expected to pave the way for tolls on motorways.

Motorists face paying up to £1.30 a mile during peak periods on the busiest roads.

Gordon Brown was thought to be against national road pricing, a flagship policy of the Blair administration.

But the detailed level of planning now underway indicates the issue it set to become a key battleground in the next general election – which is likely to coincide with the trials beginning.

It will leave Ruth Kelly, the Transport Secretary, particularly vulnerable as she defends her marginal Bolton West constituency.

The Daily Telegraph has learnt that eight areas – Leeds, North Yorkshire, Milton Keynes and Buckinghamshire, south west London, Suffolk and Essex – have been selected for the trials.

Initially, in January 2010, one hundred cars in each area will trial the new technology – in many cases entailing placing black boxes to allow their movements to be tracked – but members of the public will be invited to join the pilots in June 2010.

The Government is close to signing contracts with four companies who will run the national trials, testing not only the technology which will be fitted to the cars, but also the bureaucracy needed to run a system including sending out bills.

In most cases, the trials will involve a satellite tracking a vehicle’s movements. Motorists will then receive a monthly or weekly bill which will vary depending on when and where they drove.

Three more companies will be paid to double check the system, ensuring that the charging machinery is legal and that the trials are properly monitored.

Last night, the Conservatives condemned the Government plans and called on Ruth Kelly, the Transport Secretary, to abandon the scheme.

Theresa Villiers, the shadow Transport Secretary, said: “It seems that Labour’s unpopular plans for a national road pricing scheme are alive and well.

“They are determined to press ahead with their untried and untested spy-in-the-sky national project even though it looks like an IT disaster waiting to happen. Ruth Kelly should start listening to drivers and scrap these pilots for a national road pricing scheme that is unnecessary and unwanted.”

The Treasury earmarked millions of pounds for the pilots in the budget and Chancellor Alistair Darling believes the scheme could be crucial in cutting congestion in the long-term.

However, the disclosure of the trials will raise fears that motorists are set to be hit with another increase in driving taxes, despite earlier assurances from the Government that

The Daily Telegraph has been campaigning for the Government to drop plans to increase vehicle excise duty for millions of drivers and to freeze fuel duty.

British motorists already pay some of the highest taxes in the world and with Government finances under severe pressure the pay-as-you-drive scheme could prove a valuable source of extra revenue for the Treasury.

It is understood that there is greater enthusiasm in the Treasury than the Department for Transport for road pricing.

However it is not known if the scheme would entirely replace existing motoring taxes or be introduced on top of them. Ministers have previously pledged cuts in other duties if the scheme is introduced.

The Department for Transport insists that the pilots are designed “to inform thinking about motorway capacity”.

Tony Blair was keen on road pricing and believed that the scheme was crucial to cut congestion by charging lower amounts for those driving outside rush hour. Environmentalists have also supported the scheme as those driving less pay lower taxes.

When the scheme was first floated by the Blair administration 1.8 million people signed a petition on the Downing Street website calling on the Government to abandon the scheme.

Last night, Peter Roberts, who led the initial protests, said: “If the Government was true to its word and was kicking road pricing into the long grass, why is it running trials?

“Ministers have said that national road pricing is no longer on the agenda. So either they are wasting millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money or they are not being honest with voters.”

The effectiveness of the charging schemes in cutting congestion has been undermined by the London congestion charge. The £8 a day charge has done little to cut congestion in the capital and other cities are now more sceptical about following London’s scheme.

Greater Manchester’s congestion scheme will shortly be put to a referendum of voters in the 10 participating council areas. Unless it is backed by a majority of those polled in at least seven local authorities, the scheme will be dropped.

Earlier this year Ruth Kelly insisted that charging schemes would be limited to areas where congestion was greatest.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Transport said the trials had been announced last year and did not mean road pricing was going ahead.

She said: “We have been absolutely clear that any proposal for national road pricing would need to address the legitimate concerns people have.

“We’re a very long way from that which is why our priority now and over the next decade is on tackling congestion where it is experienced most – in our cities and on our motorways.”

India, US, EU, Japan congratulate Nepal’s new Communist leader

Maoist guerilla chieftain Prachanda at a party meeting

India Times | Aug 16, 2008

KATHMANDU: India, United States, the European Union (EU) and Japan have congratulated Pushpa Kamal Dahal alias ‘Prachanda’ on being elected as the first Prime Minister of the Federal Democratic Republic of Nepal.

A press statement issued by the Indian Embassy in Kathmandu quoted Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh as saying, “I look forward to working with you to further develop the bonds of good neighborliness that unite our peoples and nations, and to deepen the friendly relations that so happily exist between the two countries.”

The statement said India will continue to stand by the people and Nepal in consolidating peaceful democratic transition and developmental efforts.

A press statement issued by the Embassy of the United States in Nepal said, “We hope that election of the Prime Minister removes the last barrier to speedy formation of a government, constructive action on key issues facing Nepal, and a start on the difficult but necessary task of drafting Nepal’s new constitution.”

The US also said it will continue its strong support for peace, democracy, human rights and development in Nepal.

Similarly, European Union Heads of Missions in Kathmandu said the election of Prime Minister brings to an end a period of uncertainty and paves the way for government formation.

“We look forward to the new government delivering to the people to meet their expectations for a prosperous future and taking forward the peace process, including through creating the environment for the drafting of a Constitution that secures peace, stability and democracy,” statement added.

A press statement issued by Embassy of Japan in Kathmandu said, “It wishes that the peace process will continue through the concerted efforts of all political parties so that the happiness and prosperity of Nepalis will materialize at the earliest.

Japan also expressed commitment to assist Nepal’s efforts toward the goal of drafting a new Constitution. It also expressed confidence that friendly and cooperative relations will be consolidated in the days ahead.

Prachanda, 53, trounced his Nepali Congress rival and three-time premier Sher Bahadur Deuba by bagging 464 votes out of the 577 cast in the 601-strong Constituent Assembly, receiving the backing of another major Left party the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist Leninist) and the Terai-based Madhesi Rights People’s Forum, Kantipur reported.

Related

Maoist guerrilla chieftain takes power in Nepal

Human rights crackdown in China even worse during Olympics – activists disappear

The Games are detrimental to China’s overall human rights situation

Prominent human rights activist Hu Jia went missing the day before the start of the Olympics

AFP | Aug 18, 2008

China cracking down on dissent during Olympics

BEIJING (AFP) — China has cracked down on dissent for the Olympic Games and failed to honour public pledges to allow broader freedoms during the event, human rights groups and dissidents said.

China promised to improve the human rights situation in the country when it was awarded the Games in 2001 and said it would grant broad freedoms for foreign media to cover the event unhindered.

But 10 days into the event, the foreign media continues to complain about restrictions, would-be protesters have been detained, activists who disappeared before the Games have not resurfaced and dissidents have been harassed.

Nicholas Bequelin, China researcher for Human Rights Watch, said it was clear the Games had been detrimental to China’s overall human rights situation.

“The Games have not helped, they have actually slowed down work that was progressing and increased abuses,” he said.

“The approach that Beijing chose for the preparation of the Games was to suppress any critical voices and to prevent these voices from finding an echo in the international media.”

The government, which routinely bans demonstrations, set up three official protest zones in Beijing parks in a bid to display openness for the Games.

However the protests zones have been largely empty and several people who tried to demonstrate have found themselves in trouble.

Zhang Wei, a Beijing resident who has been trying to get compensation for the demolition of her house, is now serving 30 days in custody for ‘disturbing public order’ after applying for permission to protest, her son Mi Yu said.

“They made that annoucement for the outside world, but within the country, they repress people,” Mi, 23, told AFP by phone.

The 75-year-old mother of Hai Mingyu, an entrepreneur who managed to briefly unfurl a banner in Ritan Park, one of the protest zones, was detained for six hours in Beijing on Wednesday and questioned about her son’s protest.

Lawyers and activists working with dissidents have also reported increased harassment leading up to the Games in what they see as a deliberate attempt to muzzle them.

Zeng Jinyan, the wife of prominent human rights activist Hu Jia, who was jailed for more than three years in April for ‘inciting subversion against the state,’ went missing the day before the start of the Olympics.

“It’s clear that it’s because of the Olympic Games, because we lost contact just before the beginning of the Games,” Hu’s lawyer Li Fangping told AFP.

Li himself, a prominent human rights lawyer, said he had decided to leave Beijing at the end of July as the pressure was getting too heavy.

“I was being followed and watched, and the situation was very tense, so I decided to leave,” he said.

“Before the Olympics, the police authorities visited us and talked to the dissidents, and they were prepared for their freedoms to be restricted during the Olympics. And from what we have seen so far, many people have been followed or monitored.”

Since the Games opened last week, the Beijing Foreign Correspondent Club said it had recorded at least five separate incidents in which journalists had been harassed and prevented from working by police.

The authorities have also come under fire from media groups for blocking access to sensitive websites.

The International Olympic Committee has faced growing pressure over the issue of the empty protest parks and broader human rights issues as the Games have progressed.

IOC spokeswoman Giselle Davies conceded the protest parks were not functioning properly.

“To date, what had been announced publicly doesn’t appear, in reality, to be happening, and a number of questions are being asked,” she said.

“The IOC is keen to see those questions answered by the relevant authorities.”

But in response to hostile questioning from journalists, Davies has repeatedly insisted the IOC is happy with the overall handling of the Beijing Olympic Games.

China confiscates Bibles from American Christians

AP | Aug 18, 2008

By GILLIAN WONG

BEIJING (AP) — Chinese customs officials confiscated more than 300 Bibles on Sunday from four American Christians who arrived in a southwestern city with plans to distribute them, the group’s leader said.

The Bibles were taken from the group’s checked luggage after they landed at the airport in the city of Kunming, said Pat Klein, head of Vision Beyond Borders. The group, based in Sheridan, Wyoming, distributes Bibles and Christian teaching materials around the world to “strengthen the persecuted church,” according to its Web site.

The group arrived in China on Sunday and had intended to distribute the Bibles to people in the city, Klein told the AP in a telephone interview while still at the airport.

“I heard that there’s freedom of religion in China, so why is there a problem for us to bring Bibles?” Klein said. “We had over 300 copies and customs took all of them from us.”

The move comes as China hosts the Olympics in Beijing, where false media reports last year claimed Bibles would be banned from the games. The state-run China Daily reported last month that 10,000 bilingual copies of the Bible would be distributed in the Olympic Village, which houses athletes and media.

Bibles are printed under the supervision of the Communist government. The officially atheistic country only allows them to be used in government-sanctioned churches and in some big hotels catering to foreigners.

A woman who was on duty at Kunming airport’s customs office confirmed over the telephone that 315 Bibles were found in the passengers’ checked baggage.

The officer, who would only give her last name, Xiao, denied confiscating the Bibles. She said authorities were just “taking care” of them and provided no further details. She later said she was not authorized to speak to the media and referred questions to the national customs headquarters in Beijing, which did not answer phones on Sunday.

“We’re not selling them; we give them free to the people,” Klein said. “We didn’t come to cause trouble, we just came to bring Bibles to help out the Chinese Christians.”

The Bibles were printed in Chinese, he said.

Klein said the customs officers had told him that they could each have one Bible for personal use and not more than that. He said the officers had videotaped them and were insisting that they leave the airport.

“We don’t want to go without taking those books. It cost us a lot of money to bring them here,” Klein said. “They’re saying that it’s illegal to bring the Bibles in and that if we wanted to, we had to apply ahead of time for permission.”

China faces routine criticism for its human rights violations and its repression of religious freedom. Religious practice is heavily regulated by the Communist Party, with worship allowed only in party-controlled churches, temples and mosques, while those gathering outside face harassment, arrest and terms in labor camps or prison.

A Chinese Christian activist was detained Aug. 10, the opening weekend of the Olympics, on his way to a church service attended by President Bush in Beijing. A rights group said later that the activist, Hua Huiqi, a leader of the unofficial Protestant church in Beijing, had escaped from police and was in hiding.

Police have denied any involvement in Hua’s disappearance.