Daily Archives: February 14, 2009

Female FBI officer ‘tortured Mumbai terror attacks suspect with sex’

A female FBI officer tortured a suspect in the Mumbai terrorist attacks by performing a sex act on him during interrogation, it has been claimed.

Telegraph | Feb 13, 2009

By Ben Leach

Fahim Ansari is accused of helping to plan the attacks in which 173 people were killed in November.

His lawyer, Ejaz Naqvi, has filed legal papers with Mumbai magistrate’s court, claiming the “white woman” removed all his clothes and showed him pornographic films.

In the papers, he claims that three foreigners, including the woman, sexually abused him, causing him “severe itching and wounds” on his body, including his genitals.

Mr Ansari, a devout Muslim, claims this amounts to torture because it is against his religion, The Sun newspaper has reported.

A court in the Indian city ordered medical checks on “wounds on his private parts and all over his body.”

Mr Ansari was arrested with five other suspects last year.

Police have said that he is a trained member of Lashkar-e-Taiba, the terrorist organisation responsible for the Mumbai attacks.

He was detained in February last year in connection with an attack on a police camp in Rampur that left seven paramilitaries and one civilian dead.

Police have said Mr Ansari had hand-drawn maps of key Mumbai landmarks, some of which were hit in the attacks that started on 26 November.

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Scandal-Ridden Blackwater Changes Name to ‘Xe’

The scandal-ridden security firm Blackwater USA is officially changing its name effective immediately as the company moves to rebrand itself after being fired last month by the State Department from its job protecting diplomats in Iraq.

Controversial Security Firm Attempts to Rebrand Itself

ABC | Feb 13, 2009

By MADDY SAUER and MEGAN CHUCHMACH

blackwater_070919_mn1The company will now be known as Xe and hopes to be a “one-stop shopping source for world class services in the fields of security, stability, aviation, training and logistics”, according to a memo sent by company president Gary Jackson to employees today.

The division that handles the diplomatic protection services will now be known as U.S. Training Center, Inc., but now its primary focus will be operating training facilities, including the flagship campus in North Carolina, according to Jackson. It was that very division that handled Blackwater’s overseas operations, which also faced the most criticism.

“Blackwater’s latest attempt at re-branding itself would be hilarious if the company’s record wasn’t so deadly,” said Jeremy Scahill, author of “Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army”

“Blackwater’s deadly record has clearly made the company an international symbol of the out of control violence of the Bush era in Iraq and the rise of modern-day mercenaries, so it is understandable why the company would try to change its name at this moment in history,” said Scahill.

Blackwater has been the target of at least four grand jury investigations and accusations of tax fraud, improper use of force, arms trafficking and overbilling. The firm has denied any wrongdoing.

The firm is best known for its automatic weapon-brandishing diplomatic protection force in Iraq. Officials there recently refused to license Blackwater to operate in Iraq citing lingering outrage over the September 2007 shooting deaths of 17 civilians by Blackwater guards.

Five former Blackwater guards have pleaded not guilty to federal charges that include 14 counts of manslaughter and 20 counts of attempted manslaughter. No charges were brought against the corporation.

While Jackson made no mention of the scandals in his memo, he did say that an independent panel of outside experts had been advising the company since last fall “to help build our company compliance structures.”

U.S. Now Hiring for Blackwater Replacements

The State Department is now advertising for the latest round of security posts overseas. The description warns that the job involves “harsh climates” and “health hazards”. There’s also the caveat that despite “unique rewards and opportunities,” the job “may result in bodily injury and death.”

The department is hiring as many as 700 Security Protective Specialists to end its reliance on contracting firms, like Blackwater. The position pays about $52,000 a year, with additional danger pay and post differential that add up to about 70 percent of the base salary, according to a job posting on a government website.

Meals and housing are provided overseas – the new hires will be deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan and Israel – but they’ll also encounter some fairly rigorous working conditions. The job “may require jumping, dodging, lying prone, as well as wrestling, restraining and subduing attackers, or detainees,” the posting says. And after the initial tour is completed, the specialists could very well be transferred to “other high threat posts overseas.”

Specialists will be trained in the use of firearms, personal defensive tactics, driving skills, emergency medical procedures, and protective security techniques at a 13-week training session before being deployed. Applicants can apply on the State Department’s website through Feb. 17.

Scientists debate a robot war in new book ‘Wired for War’

Canadian Press | Feb 11, 2009

wired_for_warIn the 1921 play that invented the word “robot” – Czech writer Karel Capek’s “Rossum’s Universal Robots” – mechanical, highly intelligent slaves mount a revolt and kill all humans but one.

Ever since, science fiction has explored the idea of robots outsmarting, dominating and destroying the human race. Author P. W. Singer, at 33 a Senior Fellow at the highly serious Brookings Institution, can’t resist the fascination of the topic, but he isn’t writing fiction. He treats the possibility with appropriate seriousness in “Wired for War,” a meticulous account of the latest military robots.

Two earlier books by him have explored two of the hottest issues in 21st century military developments. One was “Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry,” the reinvigorated ancient profession of mercenaries. The other deals with something relatively new: “Children at War” – the recruitment and enslavement of boys and girls in their teens and even younger.

Singer says some 40 countries are making military robots. The motive: reduced casualties. “When a robot dies, you don’t have to write a letter to its mother,” Singer quotes one unit commander as saying.

Military robots are already being built with greater endurance, firepower, precision and – for the moment, submissiveness – than human soldiers. The trend is to make them more autonomous, able to take decisions according to built-in commands, unmoved by fear, pity, revenge or other human emotion.

Whether they can or should be endowed with a system of ethics is controversial. How to tell a ragged soldier from a ragged civilian?

Scientists foresee the day when robots will develop what is called “strong AI” – high level artificial intelligence – and use it reproduce themselves without human intervention. Singer quotes Vernon Vinge, mathematician, computer scientist and science fiction writer, as predicting more than 15 years ago: “Within the next 30 years, we will have the technological means to create superhuman intelligence. Shortly thereafter, the human era will be ended.”

Rodney Brooks, chief technical officer at iRobot, is more optimistic. The firm takes its name from Isaac Asimov’s “I, Robot,” which posits “laws” that robots must never harm humans. The firm also makes the first mass-produced robotic vacuum cleaner. Brooks says there’ll never be a robot takeover because by then, people will be part computer, part human.

Singer’s exhaustively researched book, enlivened by examples from popular culture, ends with a hint that he’s worried, too.

“We are creating something exciting and new, a technology that might just transform humans’ role in their world, perhaps even create a new species,” he concludes. “But this revolution is mainly driven by our inability to move beyond the conflicts that have shaped human history from the very start. Sadly, our machines may not be the only thing wired for war.”

Maoist People’s Liberation Army to become part of Nepal’s new military

prachanda_communist_fist

Prachanda had been the supreme commander of the PLA

Nepal’s UCPN-M army to become national army soon

Xinhua | Feb 12, 2009

by Bi Mingxin

KATHMANDU, Feb. 13 (Xinhua) — Prime Minister and Chairman of Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) Prachanda has said that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) would not remain under the party from now onwards, The Rising Nepal reported on Friday.

Addressing a function organized at the 4th division of the PLA cantonment at Hattikhor, some 160 km west of Kathmandu, to mark the 14th anniversary of “the People’s War” and 8th anniversary of the formation of the PLA on Thursday, Prachanda stated the Army Integration Special Committee (AISC) had already taken up the responsibility to look after the PLA.

He said that all the PLA commanders and soldiers had to abide without any grudges by the decision of the AISC.

He said that the Integration of the PLA would be as stated in the interim constitution.

Prachanda, who had been the supreme commander of the PLA before he was elected to the premiership, said that he was present in the function as the first Prime Minister of federal democratic republic of Nepal and urged the PLA to act responsibly for peace and progress.

Edinburgh shivers through one of the coldest Februarys on record

Scotsman | Feb 13, 2009

By GARETH EDWARDS

IT’S official – Edinburgh is in the midst of one of the coldest Februarys on record, and the icy conditions are set to stay with us for up to a month.

Weather experts say that with temperatures as low as -7C, and daily averages fluctuating between 2C and -3C, the city is in line to record its first sub-zero average February in more than a decade.

Yet while forecasters predict the mercury will struggle to climb above freezing for weeks to come, it is nowhere near Edinburgh’s worst winter.

Records show that back in 1947, the average temperature for the area over February was a frosty -3C.

The closest the Capital has come to a February that severe since then was back in 1986, when the temperatures dropped to an average -1.9C for the month.

In recent years the trend has been for milder winters, making the current cold snap all the more unexpected.

Edinburgh was again covered with a blanket of snow yesterday, with forecasters predicting the wintry weather and snow showers would continue for the rest of the month.

A spokesman for the Met Office said: “Certainly in recent years we have seen the average temperature of January and February rise, so we are getting used to milder months at the start of the year.

“As a result, there has been almost no lying snow around this time of year, which is why this is a bit unusual, and more of a shock.

“The last two years have been especially mild. There is no sign of the cold weather front moving on anywhere for at least a few weeks, so it looks like the low temperatures could continue, which means the average temperature could be even lower.”

As the UK is gripped by one of the coldest months in recent memory, on the other side of the world Australia is recording temperatures of up to 46C, something which has not been seen there in almost a century.

In addition, the more tropical parts of the continent are suffering major floods as a result of relentless downpours.

This kind of extreme weather, with colder winters and hotter summers seen around the world, is, the Met Office says, in line with some climate change predictions.

Dr Chris Merchant, a senior lecturer in meteorology at the University of Edinburgh, said that while recent cold weather in the UK may seem severe, it was not , on the far broader scale of the world climate, an extreme.

“We are not having ‘extreme’ weather here in the UK, although it would be fair to say that it is a little unusual, as the winters in Scotland have been getting steadily milder over the past three decades,” he said.

“There are so many different factors that can affect the weather though. For example, a lot can depend on the ocean being colder or warmer than usual in different places.

“The weather over a month really is just weather though – climate is something that is measured over a 30-year period – so we can’t read too much into this.”

China to introduce journalist “black list”

Reuters | Feb 13, 2009

BEIJING (Reuters) – China’s news censors will create a new “black list” to force out reporters found breaking rules, an official news agency said on Friday, adding to the wary government’s tools for media control.

Li Dongdong, a deputy chief of the General Administration of Press and Publication, told officials that proposed strengthened regulations for Chinese journalists would include a “full database of people who engage in unhealthy professional conduct”, the China News Service reported.

“People entered into the transgressor list will be excluded from engaging in news reporting and editing work,” the report said, citing Li.

She said stricter controls being drafted by the agency were needed to “resolutely halt fake news”.

But a critic said the ruling Communist Party’s real target was probably combative reporters and editors who buck its propaganda controls.

“A database for this kind of thing would be a new thing,” said Li Datong, a former editor at the official China Youth Daily who was shunted out of his job for criticising censorship.

“This fighting fake news is a cloak. You can call all sorts of news fake,” he said. “There really is a problem with fake reporting and reporters, but there are already plenty of ways to deal with that.”

Chinese media are state-controlled. But many of the nation’s thousands of newspapers and magazines are seeking to survive in a brutally competitive market, and some seek to attract readers with exposes of corruption and official misdeeds.

There have also been many reports of journalists, real and bogus, seeking bribes from companies not to report bad news, such as coal mine disasters.

China already has plenty of rules and officials controlling the flow of news and the Communist Party’s Propaganda Department minutely manages what newspapers and other media do and do not report.

But officials believe these controls are not enough. The government is worried about unrest amid the economic slowdown and a series of politically sensitive anniversaries, especially the 20th year since troops crushed pro-democracy protests in 1989.

“This year, the General Administration of Press and Publication will introduce a series of rules and regulations to strengthen oversight and administration of news professionals and reporting activities,” the report said, citing an announcement from an official meeting.

The agency will tighten up approvals for Chinese reporters’ credentials, it said. Such rules would not apply to foreign reporters in China, who are regulated by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.