Tag Archives: Human Rights

How to See Behind a Brick Wall: DARPA REVEALs

photon as wave packet. image from wikipedia

From the DARPA website on project  Revolutionary Enhancement of Visibility by Exploiting Active Light-fields (REVEAL) program  

Imagine, for example, squad members patrolling a street in a deployed urban environment, and an armed assailant crouching behind a car or a concrete barrier. Without the benefit of different vantage points (from the air, for example), the squad could be blind to the hidden threat. If by chance a glass storefront window were behind the assailant, the squad might spot the assailant’s reflection in the window. But if the backdrop were a brick wall, there would be no visible reflection. By exploiting currently untapped aspects of light and the varied paths of photons bouncing off the brick wall, troops using hardware based on the theoretical foundations provided by REVEAL might someday be able to detect the otherwise hidden assailant [or see clearly what people are doing inside their homes].

Another potential application could be determining an unknown material’s composition and other properties from a safe distance, avoiding the potential danger associated with close proximity and physical examination. Based on information carried by the photons interacting with the material, it may be possible for troops in the future to identify radioactive, biological or chemical threats and camouflaged targets from much farther away than currently possible.

See also FBO

Canada Nuclear Waste: the politics of secret meetings

The Darlington Nuclear Generating Station, on the shores of Lake Ontario.  Image from wikipedia

Ontario Power Generation is proposing to build a massive underground nuclear waste site at the Bruce nuclear power plant near Kincardine, Ontario (Canada) near lake Huron ,a plan that has drawn opposition from environmentalists, aboriginal groups and legislators in Michigan.  At issue were numerous meetings of the “community consultation” advisory group, comprising the mayors who sit on county council and representatives of the Nuclear Waste Management Organization and Ontario Power Generation, that began in 2005.

The citizen groups alleged the discussions were kept secret because the politicians feared damaging their electoral fortunes and pointed to informal notes from one meeting in February 2010 that showed a mayor fretting about “a negative backlash at the polls.”The probe by Amberley Gavel — a company based in London, Ont., that helps municipalities with closed-meeting procedure investigations — concluded the public never knew about any of the meetings.

It also found the discussions had a marked influence on the mayors’ decisions regarding the radioactive waste project despite their contention the meetings were simply information sessions at which they passed no motions.  The citizen groups said the province should be reviewing the conduct of Ontario Power Generation.  They also said the county response — to ask staff to provide annual reminders about the law requiring open meetings — was “appallingly weak.”  Council members have “thus far show defiance with no hint of remorse,” the statement said.

Save our Saugeen Shores and the Southampton Residents Association  called on Ontario’s ombudsman to review the circumstances that led to a report critical of Bruce County council for meeting nuclear waste representatives without telling anyone or documenting the discussions.  “This was a major error of provincewide importance in light of the evidence of an 8.5-year egregious disregard of the law and the public’s right to open and transparent government,” Rod McLeod, the group’s lawyer, said in a statement.

Colin Perkel,  Nuclear waste opponents call for penalties against ‘secret meetings’, The Canadian Press, Sept. 18, 2014

The Global Arms Trade Treaty and the $70 billion Weapons Market

image from wikipedia

[T] global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) … was overwhelmingly approved by 154 countries on April 2nd, 2013 by the General Assembly of the United Nations.  The next stage is for those countries which voted for the treaty to begin formally signing up to it in early June. Each signatory country will then have to ratify it at home. The treaty will come into legal force 90 days after the 50th country has ratified it—perhaps as soon as the end of this year. For some, ratification will be a simple process; for others it could prove harder.

The Obama administration is a strong supporter and likely to sign up soon. But getting the two-thirds majority in the Senate needed for ratification will be a struggle, even though the American Bar Association has confirmed the treaty does not infringe any constitutional right to bear arms (as the NRA claims). America’s defence industry also supports it, hoping to bring other countries’ arms

Whatever difficulties may lie ahead, supporters of the treaty to regulate the $70-billion-a-year trade in arms are jubilant. It is the climax of a campaign that began a decade ago. It had especially strong support from African and Caribbean countries where society has been torn apart by civil war or transnational crime, both stoked by the illicit trade in small arms. The deal involved compromises: for example, a weaker section on munitions. But what a senior diplomat close to the negotiations describes as “the heart” of the treaty—the prohibitions section—is alive and beating.

The ATT requires states to establish regulations for arms imports and exports in eight main categories: battle tanks, armoured combat vehicles, large-calibre artillery, combat aircraft, attack helicopters, warships, missiles and missile launchers, and small arms and light weapons. They must assess whether their transfer could lead to serious violations of international humanitarian law, terrorism or organised crime. They must take into account the risk of serious acts of violence against civilians, particularly women and children. An overriding risk of any of these consequences means states must block the deal.

States must also report annually on all their arms transfers to a UN-run “implementation support unit”. The aim is to shine a light on a previously murky business and make governments accountable under the terms of the treaty. The main sanction is embarrassment. That may seem feeble, but previous treaties on landmines and cluster bombs have set a new global norm which makes it shameful to use such weapons indiscriminately.

The abstainers include big arms exporters (China and Russia) and importers (India, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Indonesia). But they may sign up later. Russia says it needs more time, while China (surprising some) played a constructive role, apparently influenced by the African countries with which it has forged close commercial ties. Both may find they pay an economic price if their arms industries are increasingly excluded from global supply chains. It will take time for new standards of behaviour to establish themselves, but the push has begun and the treaty can be further strengthened over time. For the moment, says a diplomat involved with the treaty over many years, what has been achieved is “pretty damn good”.

Regulating the weapons trade: A Killer Deal, Economist, April 6, 2013, at 69

Regulating the Weapons Markets

Orchid Island Needs Nuclear Waste for Survival: Taiwan

Most people on the windswept outpost, 62 kilometres east of Taiwan’s mainland, would love to see the 100,277 barrels of nuclear waste gone. But many admit they are concerned about their livelihoods if that day comes.  Orchid Island has been a flashpoint for Taiwan’s environmental movement since nuclear waste was first shipped there in 1982. Local residents, mostly members of the Tao aboriginal group, say the waste was put on the island without their consent. Periodic protests have claimed negative health and environmental effects.

In response, Taiwan Power Co has showered the community with cash handouts, subsidies, and other benefits.  Orchid Island received subsidies worth 110 million Taiwan dollars in 2011, according to company data. That doubled local government spending, according to township secretary Huang Cheng-de.  “The current situation, basically, is that Taipower gives us quite a bit of money, and our people are becoming pretty reliant,” Huang said.  Most of the funds are divided into government-managed accounts for each of the island’s 4,700 residents, who can apply for it if they have a business or career-oriented need. Residents also receive free electricity, health-related emergency evacuations, scholarships for higher education and a 50-per-cent discount on all transportation costs to Taiwan’s mainland.  Statistics indicate local residents are taking advantage of the benefits. In 2011, they used nearly twice as much electricity per household as the national average, according to company data.

Protests have weakened and for many residents, including Chou the restaurant owner, the existence of nuclear waste has become more acceptable.  “Most people here are against the nuclear waste, but since its already here, they should pay us for using our land,” Chou said. “For now, I’m okay with it as long as they don’t add any more barrels.”  The utility plans to move the waste off the island by 2021, but only if another township in Taiwan agrees by referendum to take it, according to Huang Tian-Huang, a company deputy director.  If it goes to plan, “so goes the compensation,” Huang said, although he acknowledged that gaining consent from another community will be difficult.  Questions remain on what would support Orchid Island’s economy if those subsidies end.  Much of the island is little developed, with most residents depending on subsistence farming and fishing. Tourism is starting to grow, but transportation is underdeveloped.  The island is served by one 19-passenger propeller aeroplane and one daily ferry. Both are often cancelled due to bad weather, or insufficient passenger numbers.  Some residents insist that the notion of relying on nuclear waste for economic development is perverse.  “Taipower is really good at advertising how generous they are, and it makes locals think the community will lose if the subsidies stop,” anti-nuclear activist Sinan Mavivo said. “But if you think about it, how sick is the logic that we need nuclear waste to survive?”  Mavivo helps run the Tao Foundation, which serves to educate the community to stand on its own, and encourage young people who have left the island to come back and start businesses.  She concedes that the community is isolated and needs government support, but believes residents must find some way to utilize local resources rather than nuclear waste to improve their quality of life.  “Orchid Island has its own advantages in a rich culture, a mild climate, natural beauty, and biodiversity,” she said. “My goal is to get people use our positive assets, rather than default to something that could be so bad for us.”

For Taiwan aborigines, nuclear waste is blessing and curse, http://www.timeslive.co.za, Sept. 16, 2012

Protecting the Himalayas:cooperation Bhutan, India, Nepal

The International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) issued a press release regarding the conservation of the-

Nuclear Weapons; the Occupy Vandenberg protests

Fifteen people protesting nuclear weapons were arrested for trespassing early Saturday (Feb. 25, 2012) at Vandenberg Air Force Base (United States), where a Minuteman 3 missile that blasted out its silo became the West Coast’s first launch of 2012.  The unarmed intercontinental ballistic missile launched at 2:46 a.m. from an underground silo on North Base. Liftoff occurred about 45 minutes later than planned due to unfavorable weather at Vandenberg, Air Force officials said.

Despite the early hour of the launch, about 70 activists gathered in front of Vandenberg’s main gate to protest nuclear weapons and testing of intercontinental ballistic missiles. Assembling just before midnight, protesters used songs, drums, speeches, banners and poems to demonstrate their objections to nuclear weapons and testing of ICBMs from Vandenberg.  Just before 1 a.m., more than a dozen protesters left the grassy area in front of the large Vandenberg sign and began walking in the street toward the main gate, where they were met by security personnel.  As activists waited to be handcuffed some of them sang “Stop the missile launching, we shall not be moved.”…

Those arrested included Daniel Ellsberg, former nuclear strategist for the government and the man responsible for leaking the Pentagon Papers to the press in 1971; Cindy Sheehan, who became an anti-war activist after her son was killed serving with the Army in Iraq; and Father Louis Vitale, who has been arrested multiple times in earlier protests at Vandenberg…..

Ellsberg contends that the ICBM arsenal compels the United States to be on high-alert status and risks false alarms that could lead to devastating consequences.“It’s outrageous and inexcusable that these weapons continue to exist,” Ellsberg told the crowd before being arrested.  He referred to something he had said during a 1983 protest at Vandenberg, when he also was arrested.  “What I said is, ‘This protest is a success even if the test goes off because it shows that you can’t any longer test first-strike weapons in this country without having to arrest Americans to do it,’” he said, bringing cheers and applause of support.

Sheehan, a Vacaville resident, stressed that every single life on the planet is valuable and must be kept safe from the effects of war.  “We need to occupy everything, but the most important thing we need to occupy is this idea that war is a viable tool to be in the … arsenal of U.S. foreign policy. It doesn’t matter if Bush or Obama or McCain or whoever is president, the military industrial complex rules this country. We need to occupy sanity. We need to occupy peace. We need to occupy the military industrial complex.”

Those arrested were issued citations for trespassing and later released in Vandenberg Village, base officials said.

The Air Force routinely conducts test launches of ICBMs from Vandenberg to gather data about the weapon system’s accuracy and reliability. And just as regularly, activists gather to lodge objections to nuclear weapons and the militarization of space…..

In all, five Minuteman 3 tests are planned in 2012 from the base.The first space launch of 2012 from Vandenberg is scheduled for March 29 when a Delta 4 rocket will carry a top-secret payload to orbit from Space Launch Complex-6.  And protesters plan to gather again at noon March 12 in front of the base for Occupy Vandenberg, an action to culminate the Pacific Life Community’s annual gathering.

Excerpts,-

Eviction of Indigenous Peoples from National Parks

On the second anniversary of a landmark ruling by the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR), Minority Rights Group International (MRG) condemns the Kenyan government’s lack of commitment to ensuring justice for the Endorois people and urges the authorities to immediately restore ownership to the community of their ancestral lands around the Lake Bogoria National Reserve.

Although the Commission recognised, for the first time in the continent, indigenous peoples’ rights over traditionally occupied land and their right to be involved in, and benefit from, any development affecting their land, the Endorois still have no land title, have received no compensation for the loss they suffered during almost 40 years, nor a significant share in tourism revenue from their land.  Kenya adopted a new Constitution in August 2010, which, together with a new National Land Policy, supported the Commission’s decision in recognising indigenous peoples’ ancestral lands.

‘Two years on from the African Commission’s ruling the Endorois are still waiting for justice to be brought home. The government’s lack of engagement with the community is of extreme concern and, inevitably, it raises questions about their commitment to the high ideals to be found in Kenya’s new Constitution,’ says Carla Clarke, MRG’s Head of Law….  ‘In view of Kenya’s new Constitution, which provides for the establishment of a National Land Commission to review past abuses and recommend appropriate redress, it is particularly important that the government implements the Commission’s decision without further delay,’ added Carla Clarke.

Endorois land was originally appropriated by the Kenyan government in the 1970s to create the Lake Bogoria National Reserve. On 2 February 2010, the African Union adopted a decision of the ACHPR which declared firstly that the expulsion of Endorois from their lands was illegal, and secondly that the Kenyan government had violated certain fundamental rights of the community protected under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and other international instruments.

The Endorois are a semi-nomadic indigenous community of approximately 60,000 people, who for centuries have earned their livelihoods from herding cattle and goats in the Lake Bogoria area of Kenya’s Rift Valley.  When tourists flock to Lake Bogoria, famous for its flamingos and geysers, they have little idea of the high cost the Endorois paid for their eviction. The vast majority of the community still live in severe poverty, have little or no electricity, walk miles to collect water in an area stricken by drought, and are often dependent on relief food.

Since the creation of the wildlife reserve, the Endorois have been unable to gather the plants they once relied on for medicinal purposes, conduct religious ceremonies at their sacred sites or visit the graves of their ancestors.

 

Two years on from African Commission’s ruling, Kenya continues to drag its feet in recognising indigenous peoples’ ownership of wildlife park, MRG urges government to act, Reuters, Feb. 3, 2012