February 28, 2008
Canada and the U.S. have signed an agreement that paves the way for the militaries from either nation to send troops across each other's borders during an emergency, but some are questioning why the Harper government has kept silent on the deal.
Neither the Canadian government nor the Canadian Forces announced the new agreement, which was signed Feb. 14 in Texas.
The U.S. military's Northern Command, however, publicized the agreement with a statement outlining how its top officer, Gen. Gene Renuart, and Canadian Lt.-Gen. Marc Dumais, head of Canada Command, signed the plan, which allows the military from one nation to support the armed forces of the other nation during a civil emergency.
The new agreement has been greeted with suspicion by the left wing in Canada and the right wing in the U.S.
The left-leaning Council of Canadians, which is campaigning against what it calls the increasing integration of the U.S. and Canadian militaries, is raising concerns about the deal.
"It's kind of a trend when it comes to issues of Canada-U.S. relations and contentious issues like military integration. We see that this government is reluctant to disclose information to Canadians that is readily available on American and Mexican websites," said Stuart Trew, a researcher with the Council of Canadians.
Trew said there is potential for the agreement to militarize civilian responses to emergency incidents. He noted that work is also underway for the two nations to put in place a joint plan to protect common infrastructure such as roadways and oil pipelines.
"Are we going to see (U.S.) troops on our soil for minor potential threats to a pipeline or a road?" he asked.
Trew also noted the U.S. military does not allow its soldiers to operate under foreign command so there are questions about who controls American forces if they are requested for service in Canada. "We don't know the answers because the government doesn't want to even announce the plan," he said.
But Canada Command spokesman Commander David Scanlon said it will be up to civilian authorities in both countries on whether military assistance is requested or even used.
He said the agreement is "benign" and simply sets the stage for military-to-military co-operation if the governments approve.
"But there's no agreement to allow troops to come in," he said. "It facilitates planning and co-ordination between the two militaries. The 'allow' piece is entirely up to the two governments."
If U.S. forces were to come into Canada they would be under tactical control of the Canadian Forces but still under the command of the U.S. military, Scanlon added.
News of the deal, and the allegation it was kept secret in Canada, is already making the rounds on left-wing blogs and Internet sites as an example of the dangers of the growing integration between the two militaries.
On right-wing blogs in the U.S. it is being used as evidence of a plan for a "North American union" where foreign troops, not bound by U.S. laws, could be used by the American federal government to override local authorities.
"Co-operative militaries on Home Soil!" notes one website. "The next time your town has a 'national emergency,' don't be surprised if Canadian soldiers respond. And remember - Canadian military aren't bound by posse comitatus."
Posse comitatus is a U.S. law that prohibits the use of federal troops from conducting law enforcement duties on domestic soil unless approved by Congress.
Scanlon said there was no intent to keep the agreement secret on the Canadian side of the border. He noted it will be reported on in the Canadian Forces newspaper next week and that publication will be put on the Internet.
Scanlon said the actual agreement hasn't been released to the public as that requires approval from both nations. That decision has not yet been taken, he added.
at 10:48 AM
CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginians planning on air travel this year could find things more complicated than they remember if a Senate bill becomes law.
The state would be barred from participating in the federal REAL ID Act, which would set national standards for driver's licenses, by a bill approved Monday by the Senate Judiciary Committee.
The federal Department of Homeland Security has warned that states which don't file paperwork saying they need extra time to comply with the law will face consequences starting in May. The most significant would be that driver's licenses from non-complying states would not be valid identification for boarding an airplane anywhere in the U.S.
Instead, other forms of identification, like birth certificates or passports, would have to be used.
The bill, which now comes before the full Senate, calls the act "inimical to the security and well-being of the people of West Virginia," with supporters saying Monday the federal guidelines amount to an invasion of privacy.
"That's how a lot of people here see it," said Senate Finance Committee Chairman Walt Helmick.
"It's a matter of trust, and we have some mistrust in federal programs when it comes to gathering all this information about us," the Pocahontas County Democrat said.
Under the federal legislation, driver's licenses will have three layers of security measures but will not contain microchips as some had expected. States will be able to choose from a menu which security measures they will put in their cards.
Additionally, state motor vehicles agencies would be required to verify birth certificates; check with other states to ensure an applicant doesn't have more than one license; and check with the State Department to verify applicants who use passports to get a driver's license.
The proposal has drawn criticism from civil liberties groups worried about securing personal data, and from state governments worried about the expense of implementing the new measures.
The original federal proposal would have cost West Virginia between $40 million and $60 million, according to Steve Dale, deputy commissioner of the Division of Motor Vehicles.
To help sell the plan, Homeland Security scaled back its initial plans, so that implementing the program will now cost much less. Dale said West Virginia would likely spend about $5 million putting it in place.
"The problem in the original proposal for REAL ID is that it was absolutely cost-prohibitive," said Lara Ramsburg, spokeswoman for Gov. Joe Manchin.
Manchin supports the scaled-back proposal, though, and Ramsburg said the governor hopes the state measure doesn't pass out of the Legislature.
"We don't agree with taking West Virginia out of this equation," she said.
So far, 17 states have passed legislation or resolutions objecting to the REAL ID Act's provisions, many due to concerns it will cost them too much to comply, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, which has been vocal in its opposition to the federal law. The 17 are Arkansas, Colorado, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Maine, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Tennessee and Washington.
States agreeing to the program would have until Jan. 1, 2010 to begin issuing driver's licenses made under the new rules, with a final date of May 2017 to issue the new licenses to all their drivers.
at 10:43 AM
February 21, 2008
The Pentagon released this video showing the SM-3 tactical missile striking the crippled satellite. The fireball and vapor cloud that appear shortly after the strike suggest the missile successfully struck the satellite and its 1,000-pound hydrazine tank, the military said.
Provided By: Nancy Youssef, McClatchy Washington Bureau
This is a supposed video from a neighboring satellite that recorded the shootdown of the crippled military spy satellite.
Your government reasoned that the hydrazine fuel on board would harm humans if the fuel tank remained intact upon re-entry, so they had no option but to destroy the satellite.
I have 3 problems with this;
1) It is laughable at best to suggest that the US Government concerns itself with preserving human life on Earth.
2) The obvious reasoning behind the shootdown is to keep sensitive technical data/hardware from falling into the hands of Governments hostile towards the USA.
3) This is an obvious attempt to 'prove' to the Chinese and the entire world that the US also has the capability to shoot down orbiting space objects.
at 10:58 PM
February 15, 2008
A recently-unearthed U.S. Navy research project calls for creating mad-made floods and droughts to "disrupt [the] economy" of an enemy state.
"Weather modification was used successfully in Viet Nam to (among other things) hinder and impede the movement of personnel and material from North Viet Nam to South Viet Nam," notes a Naval Air Warfare Weapons Division - China Lake research proposal, released last month through the Freedom of Information Act. But "since that time military research on Weather Modification has dwindled in the United States."
The proposal suggests a study of the latest weather manipulation techniques, to "give the U.S. military a viable, state-of-the-art weather modification capability again." With that in hand, American forces would be able...
To impede or deny the movement of personnel and material because of rains-floods, snow-blizzards, etc.
(2) To disrupt economy due to the effect of floods, droughts, etc.
The proposal is undated. But it's pretty clearly from the Cold War. Not only is "the Soviet Union (Russia)" mentioned. The money is also relatively small, by today's standards -- less than a half-million dollars, over two years.
A military in-house newspaper calls "weather modification" an "area of China Lake preeminence. Between 1949 and 1978, China Lake developed concepts, techniques, and hardware that were successfully used in hurricane abatement, fog control, and drought relief. Military application of this technology was demonstrated in 1966 when Project Popeye was conducted to enhance rainfall to help interdict traffic on the Ho Chi Minh Trail." (Here's a picture of China Lake's "Cold Cloud Modification System."
In 1980, the United States ratified a treaty banning military weather manipulation. But every once in a while, someone in the armed forces floats the idea of doing it again. "Our vision is that by 2025 the military could influence the weather on a mesoscale [theater-wide] or microscale [immediate local area] to achieve operational capabilities," a 1996 Air Force-commissioned study reads.
Today, Chinese officials are trying to figure out ways to keep it from raining over Beiing, during this summer's Olympics.
at 11:02 AM
February 10, 2008
The health care mess in the United States is a top concern of voters. Too many Americans find that, despite their best efforts, they are unable to provide quality health care for their families. Too many Americans live in fear that an illness might leave them destitute. Too many Americans spend years sacrificing to pay skyrocketing premiums only to discover that, when the need arises, their policies offer protections that are next to worthless.
Most of us agree that it’s simply not right that so many Americans, sincerely trying their best to provide for their families, are at the mercy of a phalanx of greedy insurance companies, medical malpractice lawyers, health care corporations, and other profiteers that have used decades of influence in Washington to institutionalize their chomp hold on the public jugular.
What would Americans think, then, of a member of Congress who introduced legislation, not to improve health care in the United States, but to improve health care in Mexico?
Insane? Drunk? Unworthy of public office?
What would Americans think, then, of a bill introduced in Congress that required federal agencies to come up with a plan, not to expand health coverage in the United States, but to expand health coverage in Mexico?
Impossible? Unthinkable? Wildly irresponsible?
What would Americans think, then, of the motives of a senator, who not only introduced a bill to improve Mexico’s health care system and extend coverage to a growing population of 120 million people, but gave health insurance companies the right to help devise the plan?
Blatantly corrupt? Grossly indifferent to the well-being of the American people? Downright treasonous?
Unbelievable as it may seem, the Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act of 2005 contained a provision giving insurance companies the right to help devise a plan for extending US health care to Mexico (Sec. 1004. BINATIONAL PUBLIC HEALTH INFRASTRUCTURE AND HEALTH INSURANCE).
at 11:45 PM