Daily Archives: January 18, 2010

Haiti Government, U.N. Peacekeepers in Charge as U.S. Military Offers Relief

U.S. Special Operations Command are running the airport in Port-au-Prince coordinating distribution of relief and U.S. teams have pulled out about half of the survivors from under the rubble, but U.S. officials on Sunday insisted the Haitian government is in charge of the country after a devastating earthquake flattened the capital last week.

FOXNews.com | Jan 17, 2010

WASHINGTON — U.S. Special Operations Command are running the airport in Port-au-Prince coordinating distribution of relief and U.S. teams have pulled out about half of the survivors from under the rubble, but U.S. officials on Sunday insisted the Haitian government is in charge of the country after a devastating earthquake flattened the capital last week.

Repeating the mantra that the earthquake is a “disaster of epic proportions,” Lt. Gen. P.K. Keen, the deputy commander of U.S. Southern Command, told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that the U.S. military is “here in support of the government of Haiti working alongside the United Nations.”

“We’re not going to be running the country,” Keen said.

“We’re here at the invitation of the Haitian government,” Denis McDonough, Deputy National Security Adviser to President Obama, told reporters later in the day.

Rajiv Shah, President Obama’s point man on Haiti as head of U.S. Agency for International Development, said the U.S. is working to assist Haitian President Rene Preval, whom President Obama could not reach for several days after the quake struck Tuesday afternoon.

“He asked us to be coordinated with him and to work with him — and in response to his request to help provide services to the people of Haiti and to help rebuild Haiti in a specific way,” Shah said.

But much of the relief and rescue operations are being led by U.S. and U.N. officials. Minustah, the U.N. Special Mission to Haiti, has 9,000 peacekeepers who are being redirected to humanitarian service. Keen said 1,000 U.S. forces are helping the mission on the ground and another 3,600 are working from naval vessels. By Monday, as many as 10,000 U.S. forces could be helping with relief efforts in Haiti.

French Secretary of State for Cooperation Alain Joyandet reportedly filed a complaint with the U.S. State Department over the weekend saying that two French aid planes were turned away from the runway.

Tim Callaghan, senior regional adviser, Latin America and Caribbean from USAID’s Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance, did not confirm receipt of the complaint, but said, “It’s absolutely understandable that tempers would flare and that frustrations would come forth here and that’s all being directed at improving the process to make sure things run smoothly.”

Callaghan said U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice was headed up to the United Nations on Monday for a meeting of the U.N. Security Council to make sure “we’re doing everything in close consultation with the Haitian government, and drawing on the established networks, nongovernmental organizations and others who’ve been working here really for years.”

Keen noted that the U.N. and international community is working jointly from a “humanitarian coordination center” that is operational 24/7, and said nations like Brazil are working closely with the U.S. and U.N. on rescue and relief.

But Shah acknowledged that only a fraction of the food and water supplies are reaching Haiti at this point.

“We’ve sent down 600,000 humanitarian daily rations. I think 130,000 of those were delivered by helicopter yesterday,” he said, adding that 8 million daily rations will be needed in the “initial period.”

“That’s what the distribution system can handle. So we’re really trying to address it in a comprehensive way and trying to get as many commodities, whether it’s food or water, medical supplies, tents and tarps,” Shah said.

So far the Pan American Health Organization has put the number of deaths caused by the earthquake at 50,000 to 100,000 people. Keen was hesitant to give an estimate on the human toll.

“I think it’s too early to tell, but it’s clear it is significant, and I do know that the United Nations forces are doing everything they can to support the government of Haiti” as it figures out how to dispose of mass fatalities, Keen said.

Col. Buck Elton, Commander, SOC South Haiti.said the Haitian police force was helping out “tremendously” with traffic control around the airport, and the airport has had no security incidents.

As the mission moves away from rescue and toward resettlement of survivors, shelter experts will make recommendations to the Haitian government on the best way to house the tens of thousands who’ve lost their homes, Callaghan added.

But as the situation grows more desperate, officials are keeping an eye on the ability of Minutsah and Haitian forces to keep order.

“We don’t discuss rules of engagement but we’re here on a humanitarian effort and our military leadership as you heard on all the shows feel that they have all they need to ensure that this is done in the most secure fashion,” McDonough said.

Chinese censors take aim at text messages

CHINA has started scanning text messages in the latest move to step up censorship.

SMH | Jan 18, 2010

by Malcolm Moore and Peter Foster

Customers of China’s two largest mobile phone networks, China Mobile and China Unicom, have had their texting service blocked after sending risque messages, state media says.

The disclosure comes as China is embroiled in a dispute with Google. On Tuesday the internet giant said it might leave China because of concerns over censorship.

The United States Government will protest to the Chinese over the cyber attack on Google.

”We will be issuing a formal demarche [diplomatic protest] in Beijing,” a US State Department spokesman, Philip Crowley, said.

Last year, the Chinese Government pledged to suppress pornography on the internet and appears to have extended its campaign to mobile phones.

China Mobile, the world’s biggest mobile phone company, said it was complying with demands from the police to report ”illegal” text messages that included pornography, violence, fraud, suggestions of terrorism, instigations to crime and gambling. It said a mobile phone would be blocked if a message breached any of its filters. It has more than 508 million customers and its network handles 1.7 billion text messages a day.

The Global Times, a governent-run newspaper, said: ”Everyone seems to be under watch.”

Even public servants have expressed reservations about communications censorship. ”We have a lot of private things in our mobile phones,” one, named only as Mr Cao, told the Global Times. ”If they monitor the messages, a lot of private things would be leaked.”

The Southern Metropolis said a man from the southern city of Dongguan recently had his phone blocked. China Mobile told him their computers had detected lewd words in his messages and that he would have to take his identity card to the police to reactivate the phone. He also had to furnish a letter guaranteeing that he would no longer spread inappropriate messages.

Microsoft said yesterday it had no plans to pull out of China.

‘Bin Laden’ is alive and well and living in Spain

Photo shock … the FBI said it used ‘‘cutting edge’’ technology to update its composite image of Osama bin Laden, left. But it turned out to be little more than cutting and pasting features of a Spanish politician, Gaspar Llamazares, right.

”It’s almost like out of a comedy…”

SMH | Jan 18, 2010

by FIONA GOVAN

MADRID: The FBI has admitted it used a photograph of a bearded Spanish politician as the basis for a mocked photofit of Osama bin Laden, to show how the terrorist leader might look now.

The US State Department was forced to withdraw the image, which was circulated around the world last week, after the discovery that it was not quite as technically sophisticated as the FBI had claimed.

The image of an older and greying bin Laden was meant to show how he might look without his turban and long beard. It appeared on a State Department website, rewardsforjustice.net, where a reward of up to $US25 million ($26.85 million) is offered for bin Laden, wanted over the September 11, 2001, attacks and the 1998 US embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya. The FBI said the photo of bin Laden would be removed from the website.

It created a stir in Madrid when a Spanish MP recognised strong elements of himself in the image and complained to the US.

Gaspar Llamazares, a member of Spain’s Communist Party, said his forehead, hair and jawline had been ”cut and pasted” from an old campaign photograph.

The FBI claimed to have used ”cutting edge” technology to reproduce new images of 18 of the most wanted terrorist suspects. But on Saturday a spokesman for the FBI, Ken Hoffman, admitted that a technician ”was not satisfied” with the hair features offered by the FBI’s software and instead used part of a photo of Mr Llamazares that he found on the internet.

Mr Llamazares said the mistake showed the ”low level” of US intelligence services. It could cause problems for people mistakenly seen to resemble the terrorist. ”Bin Laden’s safety is not threatened by this but mine certainly is,” he said.

”I was surprised and angered because it’s the most shameless use of a real person to make up the image of a terrorist,” Mr Llamazares said at a news conference. ”It’s almost like out of a comedy if it didn’t deal with matters as serious as bin Laden and citizens’ security.”

The 52-year-old politician said he would not feel safe travelling in the US now because many airports use biometrics technology that compares the physical characteristics of travellers to passport or other photographs. ”I have no similarity, physically or ideologically, to the terrorist bin Laden,” he said.