Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Russia stepping up military expansion

The Guardian reports:

"Vladimir Putin announced ambitious plans to revive Russia's military power and restore its role as the world's leading producer of military aircraft yesterday...
The remarks follow his decision last week to resume long-range missions by strategic bomber aircraft capable of hitting the US with nuclear weapons. Patrols over the Atlantic, Pacific and Arctic began last week for the first time since 1992.
Presidential aides hinted yesterday that Russia could shortly resume the production of Tu-160 and Tu-95 strategic nuclear bombers, now that the aircraft are again flying 'combat missions'. The bombers would be used as a 'means of strategic deterrence', a presidential aide, Alexander Burutin, told Interfax."

Full story here.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Putin's youth movement

The New York Times reported July 8 on a trend of youth indoctrination taking place in Putin's warped (largely) non-democratic Russia.

Steven Lee Myers writes:

"Nashi, which translates as “ours,” has since its creation two years ago become a disciplined and lavishly funded instrument of Mr. Putin’s campaign for political control before parliamentary elections in December and a presidential election next March.

It has organized mass marches in support of Mr. Putin — most recently gathering tens of thousands of young people in Moscow to send the president text messages — and staged rowdy demonstrations over foreign policy issues that resulted in the physical harassment of the British and Estonian ambassadors here.

Its main role, though, is the ideological cultivation — some say indoctrination — of today’s youth, the first generation to come of age in post-Soviet Russia...

Nashi emerged in the wake of youth-led protests that toppled sclerotic governments in other post-Soviet republics, especially in Ukraine in 2004. It was joined by similar groups, like the Youth Guard, which belongs to the pro-Putin party United Russia; Locals, a group created by the Moscow region government that recently launched an anti-immigrant campaign; and the Grigorevtsy, affiliated with the Russian Orthodox Church.

The groups, organizers and critics say, are part of an effort to build a following of loyal, patriotic young people and to defuse any youthful resistance that could emerge during the careful orchestration of Mr. Putin’s successor in next year’s election. Nashi, the largest and most prominent of the groups, now claims 10,000 active members and as many as 200,000 participants in its events.

“The Kremlin decided that youth organizations can be exploited,” said Nikolai V. Petrov, a scholar at the Carnegie Moscow Center. He compared the youth activists to “Landsknechts,” medieval foot soldiers hired to carry out military campaigns.,,

Although Kremlin officials have tried to portray the groups as independent players, Nashi and the others owe their financing and political support to their status as creations of Mr. Putin’s administration. They are allowed to hold marches, while demonstrations by the opposition are prohibited or curtailed. Their activities are covered favorably on state television, while the opposition’s are disparaged or ignored."

Full story can be found here.

Monday, September 05, 2005

It was forewarned

"No one thought the levees would break"-George W. Bush

"The administration of President George W. Bush cut the 27.1 million-dollar budget requested by the Corps of Engineers for improving the levees in 2005 by more than 80 percent to 3.9 million, although Congress finally raised the grant to 5.7 million, compare to 10 million in 2001."-AFP news report

In 2002, the New Orleans newspaper reported (in eery detail) exactly what could happen if the levees broke:
Washing Away (five-part series published June 23-27 2002)

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Bosnian army sends mult-ethnic unit to Iraq

Came across an interesting story today from AFP, the French wire service:

"In a mess tent in a corner of a sprawling US military base near the central Iraqi town of Fallujah, deep wounds caused by a traumatic chapter in Europe's history are slowly being healed over a game of cards.

A platoon of Bosnian soldiers -- Muslims, Croats and Serbs, who were bitter enemies in a vicious sectarian war which ended 10 years ago -- play poker with each other after a hard day's work...

This multi-ethnic unit of ordnance experts from Bosnia's two ethnically-divided armies -- probably among the most war-hardened coalition contingents in the whole of Iraq -- is making history for Bosnia-Herzegovina...

It is the first time since the end of the 1992-95 war that soldiers from the country's two entities -- the Serbs' Republika Srpska and the Muslim-Croat Federation -- have been merged into one unit.

Full story here.

Hurricane Relief

Detailed information about how to assist (donate/volunteer/etc.) victims of Hurrican Katrina can be found on Craig's List.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

Meanwhile: Genocide in Sudan

"As John Heffernan, a senior communications associate for Physicians for Human Rights, detailed for the Prospect in June, since early 2003 Sudanese government forces and a government-supported Arab militia, the Janjaweed, have conducted a slash-and-burn campaign against the African Darfurians, destroying their villages, murdering their families, raping women, and displacing millions. In Heffernan’s dispatch, a 35-year-old woman told how the Sudanese military circled her village, set her house on fire, and brutally murdered her sister and niece.

It’s precisely these heart-wrenching stories that the TV cameras ought to be capturing in an effort to stir the American consciousness. But while the images and voices are powerful when reported, Americans do not see them enough.

Consider the number of reports on the subject from the three major TV network news programs, which are watched collectively by nearly 26 million Americans each week. Over the past year there have been an abysmal 15 stories total, many of them aired in the past several weeks. ABC leads the pack with eleven, NBC is second with four, and CBS trails with a single report...

With limited access to the region, and a government complicit in the atrocities, news organizations have depended on the conservative estimates of aid groups. But often months would pass without updated numbers; TV reports would relay the numbers without noting they were dated. On June 2, FOX News first reported that 'at least 30,000' people had been killed in Darfur. More than three months later on September 9, FOX News reporter Teri Schultz relied on the same number, as if the Janjaweed had taken a summer vacation."

-Thomas Lang, "The Genocide Will Not Be Televised"

Sunday, October 03, 2004

Surviving Darfur

Since the 1970's, photojournalist James Nachtwey has provided witness of man's cruelty to man. Nachtwey has covered events in Northern Ireland, South Africa, Rwanda, Bosnia, Indonesia, Iraq, and elsewhere. In this week's Time Magazine, Nachtwey chronicles refugee camps in Sudan.

Click here to view "Surviving Darfur."

Sunday, September 26, 2004

Google abets Chinese censorship

Google's recently launched news service in China doesn't display results from government-banned websites, according to a study by Dynamic Internet Technology. The study was reported yesterday in the Associated Press.

Google has acknowledged this self-censorship, but contends it is necessary to make the search engine "efficient"–if users clicked on dead links, they would grow irritated.

"Google has decided that in order to create the best possible search experience for our mainland China users we will not include sites whose content is not accessible," said company spokeswoman Debbie Frost.