Friday, July 16, 2010

Achieving Intelligence Dominance

The US needs to adjust its defense capabilities to 21st century, population centric conflicts, according to a new think tank report, Peter A Buxbaum writes for ISN Security Watch.

In the 2009 Academy Award-winning movie The Hurt Locker, a Baghdad butcher holds a cell phone as he stands near the site of an improvised explosive device (IED). A squad of US soldiers shouts at the Iraqi to put the phone down. He smiles and waves, reassuring the soldiers he is not a threat. Then he presses a button on the cell phone and detonates a bomb, killing one of the soldiers.

Such an incident would be rare, according to the authors of a new report from the National Strategy Information Center, a Washington-based think tank, if their recommendations were to be implemented by the US military.

The report, titled Adapting America's Security Paradigm and Security Agenda, posits that the population-centric warfare being pursued in Afghanistan and Iraq is here to stay for decades to come, and that the US needs to adapt its military thinking and its capabilities to meet that challenge.

The risk of an incident portrayed in The Hurt Locker could have been mitigated, according to the report, by achieving intelligence dominance, a technique originally developed by the British during World War II, and since also practiced by Israelis, Australians and others.

Information dominance involves developing deep local knowledge by assigning agents or operatives to relatively small geographical areas of responsibility. The report argues that the US needs to develop this kind of capability together with its host nation partners in current and future population-centric conflicts.

The Legacy

Intelligence dominance is not unknown to the US. A secretive Department of Defense program called Legacy recently received enhanced funding by the House of Representatives in its fiscal year 2011 defense authorization act. "Legacy assisted with the development of an indigenous capacity to infiltrate and disrupt local terrorist networks," noted a report on the legislation, released in May by the US House of Representatives Armed Services Committee.

But the committee also commented, "many innovative programs for mapping complex and social landscapes, understanding relationships among key actors in insurgencies, identifying the key goals of marginalized groups that could lead them to be recruited by terrorists, and integrating approaches to reduce the appeal of terrorist groups have failed in the past for lack of institutionalized support."

It is just such institutionalized support that the National Strategy Information Center is advocating in its report. "The US did much of this in a very effective but ad hoc fashion in Iraq, before and during the surge in 2006 and 2007," said the NSIC report.

The persistence of population-centric warfare is related to the proliferation of weak, failing and failed states, Roy Godson, president of the National Strategy Information Center and professor emeritus at Georgetown University, told ISN Security Watch. States in that category comprise around half of all states worldwide, he said.

~ more... ~

Greece: Letter from the Revolutionary Struggle Three

From Liberación Total (June 17, 2010):

On April 10, 2010, the Anti-terrorist Department of the Greek Police arrested six people in Athens: Nikos Maziotis, Panagiota “Pola” Roupa, Kostas Gournas, Vaggelis Stathopoulos, Sarandos Nikitopoulos, and Christoforos Kortesis. All were known for their long presence in the anarchist/anti-authoritarian movement. Two weeks later, Maziotis, Roupa, and Gournas admitted to participating in the organization known as Revolutionary Struggle (Epanastatikos Agonas). Stathopoulos, Nikitopoulos, and Kortesis denied the charges and stated that they were being persecuted for their years of anarchist activity and their comradely political relationships with the others.

The following is the complete declaration of the Revolutionary Struggle Three:

A POLITICAL LETTER TO SOCIETY

We are taking responsibility for our participation in Revolutionary Struggle. We declare that comrade Lambros Foundas, who died in Dafni on March 10, 2010 after a battle with the police, also participated in Revolutionary Struggle. The battle was part of the subversive project decided on collectively by Revolutionary Struggle. It was a battle for revolution and freedom.

We also declare that we are very proud of our Revolutionary Struggle organization. We are proud of our history and of each moment of our political activity. We are proud of our comrade, whom we honor and will always honor.

And if the mechanisms of repression believe that imprisoning us will finish us off politically, they are wrong. Whether inside or outside prison, for us the struggle is and will continue to be a question of honor and dignity.

And if the terrorists Papandreou and Chrysohoidis are laughing (in vain) about our arrests; if they believe they have thus guaranteed the necessary security for their social-fascist party to easily continue imposing their criminal projects on society, wagging their tails to please their American masters; if they are hoping they have eliminated a serious threat to their regime, we assure them that it will not be so easy to do away with us.

While we live and breathe, we will do everything possible to cause trouble for their antisocial, criminal projects.

And if our persecutors and this country's political establishment believe they have all of society on their side, if they believe most people see us as a “social threat,” then they are wrong. To the majority, the social threat is represented by the government, which passes one package of antisocial measures after another according to the recommendations of the “vultures” of Capital, who “grease” the State machinery so it functions smoothly. Terrorism is the neoliberal policy imposed for years by the parties in power and supported or tolerated by the smaller parties. Terrorism is the application of the “stability program.” Significant parts of the population—until now paralyzed by fear—are watching an unprecedented attack being launched against them, an attack still in its development phase.

Terrorism is not having the basics for survival. It's having your wages and your pension cut. It's having your house seized by some bank. It's being surrounded by deadly pollution. Terrorism is living under a regime of daily fear for your survival.

To most of society, the terrorists and criminals are those who govern: the regime's politicians, the rich, and the privileged castes, who exploit the workers and prosper by simply participating in the economic and political establishment. The enemies of society are those who—after years of stealing, getting rich, and taking advantage of a barbaric and grossly unjust system—are asking us to donate our blood in order to save the life of the regime's putrid corpse now that the system is going through the biggest crisis in its history.

When the social-fascists in power claim to have the popular mandate to apply these policies, they provoke even more social indignation. In addition, they have already lost their legitimacy because no one has forgotten how PASOK extensively cheated broad strata of society during its election campaign. This is the same PASOK that took power by pure deception during the last election; lied about the so-called “redistribution policy” it supposedly wanted to apply, which was to benefit the poor; and lied when it promised salary and pension increases and a way out of the crisis, quickly and without undue aggravation.

They lied without knowing the country's real financial situation, they lied about the state of the economy and its potential, and they lied in order to supposedly obtain the needed funds from privileged people. They stole power like liars, like vermin, like frauds. If they had revealed even the smallest part of their project before the election, they would now not only be out of the government but also out of parliament. The social consensus they are calling for is a monstrous lie provoking fierce social rage.

~ more... ~

The Problem with Design: Imperialism or Thinking Too Small?

By Alex Steffen

Bruce Nussbaum has stirred up a fierce debate with his new article Is Humanitarian Design the New Imperialism?. Nussbaum criticizes groups like Project H, Acumen Fund and Architecture for Humanity for being perhaps naive about the post-colonial landscape they face in Asia and Africa:

Is the new humanitarian design coming out of the U.S. and Europe being perceived through post-colonial eyes as colonialism? Are the American and European designers presuming too much in their attempt to do good?

What's more, Nussbaum says, we ought to be focusing our efforts closer to home: "And finally, one last question: why are we only doing humanitarian design in Asia and Africa and not Native American reservations or rural areas, where standards of education, water and health match the very worst overseas?"

Of course, Emily Pilloton of Project H has shot right back, saying it is Nussbaum himself who is out of touch with the younger generation of humanitarian designers, designers who are well-aware of the cultural and political landscapes in which they're working, and are in fact increasingly focused on problems closer to home:

It is only through this local engagement and shared investment that the humanitarian design process shines. It is through this personal connection to place and people that the human qualities of design rise to the top of the priority list, through which our clients are no longer beneficiaries, but experts and co-designers right there with us. In his infamous address titled “To Hell With Good Intentions,” Ivan Illich puts this beautifully: 'If you have any sense of responsibility at all, stay with your riots here at home...You will know what you are doing, why you are doing it, and how to communicate with those to whom you speak. And you will know when you fail. If you insist on working with the poor, if this is your vocation, then at least work among the poor who can tell you to go to hell.' We all have to learn how to be citizens again: citizens first, and designers second. Citizenship is inherently local, defined by our connection and commitment to the places we best know and most love.

In the last few days, there have been different takes on this debate from leading thinkers like Cameron Sinclair, Susan Szenasy and Robert Fabricant. Now, I have conflicts of interest all over the place here -- Emily and Cameron are friends, I've sat on a panel and shared ideas with Susan, and Worldchanging's discussing a project with Frog Design -- so I'm not going to take sides, but I find the conversation extremely encouraging.

That said, some things are missing here, I think. In particular, the whole discussion has glanced over two critical realities: the scope, scale and speed of the planetary crisis we face, and the profoundly unequal distribution of access that exists to tools of innovation globally. I don't have time to write a proper essay today, but I'd like to share a few thoughts.

Most of us in the Global North are out of touch with the scope, scale and speed of the problems we face. We live in a global civilization that can measure its life expectancy in decades if it continues to operate as it does today. We know that we're straying beyond a series of non-negotiable ecological boundaries (the most obvious being the concentration of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere). The predicted consequences are profound in a way that's difficult to fully grasp, but could well involve the complete collapse of large portions of human society and almost unimaginable suffering and destruction.

~ more... ~

Positive social attitude inhibits cancer growth--study

A new study claims that a friendly environment and socially active lifestyle could be the key to inhibiting cancer [abnormal cells that divide without control, which can invade nearby tissues or spread through the bloodstream and lymphatic system to other parts of the body]  growth.

According to researchers, ongoing tensions can have a detrimental effect on the treatment process, with tumors taking longer to shrink when one is a social recluse or too stressed out.

Experts theorize that isolation depresses the immune system [complex network of specialized cells and organs that work together to defend the body against attacks by ] and prolongs the recovery of a patient.

In contrast, keeping a positive mental attitude and a socially active life could be conducive in battling the lethal disease.

Neuroscientist, Matthew During of the Ohio State University College of Medicine, who led the study stated, "The goal isn't to minimize stress, but to live a richer life, socially and physically. You want to be challenged.

"Traditionally working on the area of lifestyle and the brain has been a 'soft area'. This paper really suggests if we look at people more in terms of their perceptions of disease, their social interactions and environment, we could realize a profound influence on cancer [abnormal cells that divide without control, which can invade nearby tissues or spread through the bloodstream and lymphatic system to other parts of the body. ] .”

~ more... ~

North Korean soldiers defect to China fuelling fears of imminent military clash

Previously considered to be among the regime's most important assets, the North Korean People's Army has always been well provisioned in order to ensure the troops remain loyal.

But a poor harvest and the disastrous revaluation of the North Korean currency in November of last year has worsened the nation's already dire economic straits.

Defectors have claimed that they were required to survive on noodles made of ground corn and that meat or fish were a luxury, a journalist for Japan's Asahi Shimbun reported from the Chinese  city of Shenyang.

On one stretch of the border, Chinese troops apprehended five North Korean soldiers in May alone. Prior to the sinking of the South Korean corvette Cheonan in March, allegedly by a torpedo fired from a North Korean submarine, it was rare for troops to be taken into custody on the Chinese side of the Yalu River.

The defectors have claimed that senior members of the party and the armed forces were stockpiling provisions, another indication that the regime is steeling itself for a military confrontation.

~ more... ~

Membership for Russia a step too far for NATO?

There are growing signs that Russia's relations with NATO are on the mend. Senior Russian thinkers, some close to the government, have been cautiously talking up the possibility of Russia joining the alliance, as have several western officials and think-tanks (including the CER.) While some powerful forces in Russia continue to view NATO as a hostile force, the latest signs from Moscow are encouraging. But even assuming that the more pro-western forces within Russia prevail, membership of NATO will remain at best a long-term goal. In the short and medium term, Russia and NATO need to put considerable effort into reducing mistrust.


A group of prominent Russian thinkers recently invited their western counterparts to talk about the possibility of Russia joining NATO. What prompted this initiative is not obvious, but the atmospherics have clearly changed. Russia is being nicer to its neighbours, while a number of European countries – including those in Central and Eastern Europe – are being nicer to Moscow. NATO has effectively put enlargement on hold. Barack Obama's 'reset' seems to be changing attitudes on all sides. The challenge before Russia and NATO is to try to turn this opportunity into a lasting improvement in relations.

The allies are not of one mind on the subject of Russian membership of the alliance. But conversations with NATO officials and diplomats suggest that NATO could be ready by its November summit to offer Moscow the possibility of joining, if and when the latter meets accession criteria. With additional persuasion – though this is more questionable – NATO may even create a special accession track for Russia, different from the one NATO used for previous candidates, so that Moscow feels that it is being treated like a great power. But the allies' bottom line is that, one way or another, Moscow will need to adopt many of NATO's norms, including those on democracy and transparency, before it can become a member.

Those Russians who want to explore the possibility of accession seem to have a different approach in mind. They are looking for a bargain of sorts with NATO. The alliance would promise not to enlarge eastward or arm regimes deemed unfriendly by Russia. Moscow would gain a veto over alliance decisions on matters which may affect Russia. In exchange, NATO would get better co-operation from Russia on things like missile defence or Afghanistan. NATO's rules or norms do not seem to be a part of the bargain. Tellingly, few Russians use the term 'membership' with regard to NATO. They talk either of 'integration' or 'organisational unity'. The former implies that both sides adopt some of the other side's rules; the latter implies that neither side compromises internally. Either model is distant from what NATO has in mind.

~ more... ~

Classified documents reveal UK's role in abuse of its own citizens

Previously secret papers show true extent of involvement in abduction and torture following al-Qaida attacks of 2001

The true extent of the Labour government's involvement in the illegal abduction and torture of its own citizens after the al-Qaida attacks of September 2001 has been spelled out in stark detail with the disclosure during high court proceedings of a mass of highly classified documents.

Previously secret papers that have been disclosed include a number implicating Tony Blair's office in many of the events that are to be the subject of the judicial inquiry that David Cameron announced last week.

Among the most damning documents are a series of interrogation reports from MI5 officers that betray their disregard for the suffering of a British resident whom they were questioning at a US airbase in Afghanistan. The documents also show that the officers were content to see the mistreatment continue.

One of the most startling documents is chapter 32 of MI6's general procedural manual, entitled "Detainees and Detention Operations", which advises officers that among the "particular sensitivities" they need to consider before becoming directly involved in an operation to detain a terrorism suspect is the question of whether "detention, rather than killing, is the objective of the operation".

Other disclosed documents show how:

• The Foreign Office decided in January 2002 that the transfer of British citizens from Afghanistan to Guantánamo was its "preferred option".

• Jack Straw asked for that rendition to be delayed until MI5 had been able to interrogate those citizens.

• Downing Street was said to have overruled FO attempts to provide a British citizen detained in Zambia with consular support in an attempt to prevent his return to the UK, with the result that he too was "rendered" to Guantánamo.

The papers have been disclosed as a result of civil proceedings brought by six former Guantánamo inmates against MI5 and MI6, the Home Office, the Foreign Office, and the Attorney General's Office, which they allege were complicit in their illegal detention and torture.

The government has been responding to disclosure requests by maintaining that it has identified up to 500,000 documents that may be relevant, and says it has deployed 60 lawyers to scrutinise them, a process that it suggests could take until the end of the decade. It has failed to hand over many of the documents that the men's lawyers have asked for, and on Friday failed to meet a deadline imposed by the high court for the disclosure of the secret interrogation policy that governed MI5 and MI6 officers between 2004 and earlier this year.

~ more... ~

I don't know how, but homeopathy really does work

I was a dedicated scientist about to begin a PhD in neuroscience when, out of the blue, homeopathy bit me on the proverbial bottom.

Science had been my passion since I began studying biology with Mr Hopkinson at the age of 11, and by the age of 21, when I attended the dinner party that altered the course of my life, I had still barely heard of it. The idea that I would one day become a homeopath would have seemed ludicrous.

That turning point is etched in my mind. A woman I'd known my entire life told me that a homeopath had successfully treated her when many months of conventional treatment had failed. As a sceptic, I scoffed, but was nonetheless a little intrigued.

She confessed that despite thinking homeopathy was a load of rubbish, she'd finally agreed to an appointment, to stop her daughter nagging. But she was genuinely shocked to find that, after one little pill, within days she felt significantly better. A second tablet, she said, "saw it off completely".

I admit I ruined that dinner party. I interrogated her about every detail of her diagnosis, previous treatment, time scales, the lot. I thought it through logically – she was intelligent, she wasn't lying, she had no previous inclination towards alternative medicine, and her reluctance would have diminished any placebo effect.

Scientists are supposed to make unprejudiced observations, then draw conclusions. As I thought about this, I was left with the highly uncomfortable conclusion that homeopathy appeared to have worked. I had to find out more.

So, I started reading about homeopathy, and what I discovered shifted my world for ever. I became convinced enough to hand my coveted PhD studentship over to my best friend and sign on for a three-year, full-time homeopathy training course.

Now, as an experienced homeopath, it is "science" that is biting me on the bottom. I know homeopathy works, not only because I've seen it with my own eyes countless times, but because scientific research confirms it. And yet I keep reading reports in the media saying that homeopathy doesn't work and that this scientific evidence doesn't exist.

The facts, it seems, are being ignored. By the end of 2009, 142 randomised control trials (the gold standard in medical research) comparing homeopathy with placebo or conventional treatment had been published in peer-reviewed journals – 74 were able to draw firm conclusions: 63 were positive for homeopathy and 11 were negative. Five major systematic reviews have also been carried out to analyse the balance of evidence from RCTs of homeopathy – four were positive (Kleijnen, J, et al; Linde, K, et al; Linde, K, et al; Cucherat, M, et al) and one was negative (Shang, A et al). It's usual to get mixed results when you look at a wide range of research results on one subject, and if these results were from trials measuring the efficacy of "normal" conventional drugs, ratios of 63:11 and 4:1 in favour of a treatment working would be considered pretty persuasive.

~ more... ~

John Marco Allegro's The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross - 40th anniversar...



The concerted and biased attempts to destroy Allegros discoveries have failed. The confirmatory evidence is mounting in his favor. The critics can now raise their voices again. Let us hope that they do, since the matter is not settled, but they should be advised to do so with more careful consideration. This book that many have prized in secret is now available again. It demands the serious consideration of theologians, mythologists, and students of religion. No account of the history of the Church, both West and East, can afford to leave the poor despicable fungus unconsidered, nor the role that entheogens in general have played in the evolution of European civilization.
~ Professor Carl A. P. Ruck, Boston University.

The Sacred Mushroom and The Cross 40th Anniversary Edition: http://www.gnosticmedia.com/

New international site to offer free journalism training

By Rachel McAthy

An free online learning centre has been launched by the International Center for Journalists to to give students around the world access to journalism training.

ICFJ Anywhere will offer a range of courses, looking at topics such as digital journalism, how to cover social issues, and international coverage of religion and investigative reporting, with specific geographical needs taken into account.

Topics will either be self-taught, or led by instructors, who will teach the classes in local languages, with daily translations from foreign participants.

In a release, the ICFJ say the move will "encourage discussions and debate."

"ICFJ Anywhere allows us to train in countries where it's difficult to send instructors," ICFJ president Joyce Barnathan says in a release. "Now there are no limits to where we can work."

The website is funded by the United States Institute of Peace, along with sponsorship from the Aljazeera Media Training and Development Center, Carnegie Corporation of New York, McCormick Foundation, the McGraw-Hill Companies, and the National Endowment for Democracy.

The ICFJ say since offering their first online course in 2008, more than 1,500 people have taken 55 courses in seven languages.

Courses are available in a variety of languages including English, Arabic, Persian, Spanish, Portuguese, Turkish and French.

~ Journalism.co.uk ~

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