Archive for October, 2011

All God’s promises are true…

Now would be a good time…

Revelation 21:6-8
Then He said to me, “It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son. But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

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Mercs in New Orleans 2005, Katrina…


Deuteronomy 27:25
‘ Cursed is he who accepts a bribe to strike down an innocent person.’ And all the people shall say, ‘Amen.’


Private Military Firms and a post 2011 Iraq


By MOTHAX    October 24th, 2011

As everyone has seen over the past week, President Obama plans to honor the agreement that will have all US military personnel out of Iraq by the end of the year, but what comes after that?  Although I don’t usually use “Truth-Out” as a source, their article (though heavily nuanced) has a pretty good encapsulation of what we might see:

Speaking from the White House, President Barack Obama announced today that all US troops in Iraq would be withdrawn by the end of the year. The final drawdown will leave behind thousands of private security contractors and State Department employees….

Between 4,500 and 5,000 private security contractors will remain in Iraq to protect two US consulates and the embassy in Baghdad, according to Denis McDonough, Obama’s deputy national security adviser.

The State Department will have 16,000 civilian employees on the ground in Iraq and is preparing for its largest overseas operation since the end of World War II, according to a Washington Post report.

The Washington Post article talks more about the role that the State Department will be playing in a post-Military Iraq, comparing it charitably with the Marshall Plan:

The State Department is racing against an end-of-year deadline to take over Iraq operations from the U.S. military, throwing together buildings and marshaling contractors in its biggest overseas operation since the effort to rebuild Europe after World War II.

Attention in Washington and Baghdad has centered on the number of U.S. troops that could remain in Iraq. But those forces will be dwarfed by an estimated 16,000 civilians under the American ambassador — the size of an Army division.

And what is the scope of what these folks will be doing?  Well, pretty diverse:

The list of responsibilities the State Department will pick up from the military is daunting. It will have to provide security for the roughly 1,750 traditional embassy personnel — diplomats, aid workers, Treasury employees and so on — in a country rocked by daily bombings and assassinations.

To do so, the department is contracting about 5,000 security personnel. They will protect the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad plus two consulates, a pair of support sites at Iraqi airports and three police-training facilities.

The department will also operate its own air service — the 46-aircraft Embassy Air Iraq — and its own hospitals, functions the U.S. military have been performing. About 4,600 contractors, mostly non-American, will provide cooking, cleaning, medical care and other services. Rounding out the civilian presence will be about 4,600 people scattered over 10 or 11 sites, where Iraqis will be instructed on how to use U.S. military equipment their country has purchased.

So, are we just taking out military folks, and just replacing them with ex-military folks that have gone on to work for the Private Military Firms?  Yeah, that’s about it.  Remember that the stumbling block for the Obama plan to keep between 3-5,000 folks in Iraq was the immunity issue with the Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA).  Baldly stated, this meant that US Troops who committed an illegal act in the country was immune from being charged by the host country, and would rather be charged by the United States, back here.

However, contractors come with their own set of problems.  For instance, how might a civilian contractor employed by the State Department be eligible for diplomatic immunity?   A great article at CNN lays out some of the intrinsic problems:

For years, thousands of civilian contractors have worked in Iraq operating in a variety of military and support functions. But they have always lacked the same criminal immunity from Iraqi laws that the U.S. military enjoys under existing agreements between the two countries. And for the most part, they operated under the purview of the Defense Department.

While contractors would be subject to the Iraqi criminal justice system as they always have, ambiguities will still exist as to how they would also be held accountable under U.S. law if a situation similar to the 2007 incident involving contractors working for Blackwater (now operating as Xe Services) were to occur.

The issues surrounding their presence in Iraq are likely to become only more complex when U.S. troops do pull out and leave the oversight of the entire contracting force to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

“What the State Department does is diplomacy, and you’re going to have the State Department managing contractors that are going to be flying helicopters, driving MRAP’s, medevac-ing wounded personnel,” Richard Fontaine, and expert on contracting issues with the Center for a New American Security, told CNN.

It will be interesting to see how all that shakes out.  Essentially it is accepted that War in Iraq is over, but if you simply switch out contractors for the military, it begs the question if anything has changed.  Despite the obvious up-front cost of contractors, in the long run, the costs are mitigated by the fact that a cook or trigger-puller for a private military firm doesn’t have the extensive train-up costs and retirement benefits that their military brethren have.  Of course, when you pay a guy $200,000 a year (like the DynCorps guys on Karzai’s protective detail were getting) you don’t as much have to look forward to your retirement as you do when you are only making 50k.

Update… Blackwater goes through another name change…

Once called Blackwater, firm changes name


AFP    December 13, 2011

The US security firm formerly known as Blackwater, which was barred from Iraq over a deadly 2007 shooting, has renamed itself a second time.

USTC Holdings, the investor consortium that acquired ex-Blackwater firm Xe Services in December 2010, announced ACADEMI as the new name and brand for Xe Services.

The rebranding came as President Barack Obama met with Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Monday, marking America’s exit from a war launched to oust Saddam Hussein.
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“We have had a year of extraordinary changes that have resulted in a new, better company,” ACADEMI president and chief executive Ted Wright said in a statement.

“I know that everyone at ACADEMI shares in this commitment to promote the highest standards of ethical conduct, compliance and integrity in all of our activities.

“We are already the best operationally. We are going to become the best at governance,” Wright said, adding “we still have much work to do.”

ACADEMI said it had trained more than 50,000 personnel and had conducted more than 60,000 protective security missions around the globe during the last seven years.

“Not a single protectee has been lost or critically injured, a record of excellence that no other company in the industry can match,” said the company, based in a Virginia suburb of Washington.

Obama held talks with Maliki at the White House as the last US troops in Iraq prepared to leave this month, ending a nearly nine-year presence following the US invasion.

Several hundred civilian contractors will remain in Iraq to help train Iraqi forces under the authority of the US embassy in Baghdad.

Part of the troubled legacy of the war was a deadly 2007 incident involving the US security firm then known as Blackwater.

Blackwater renamed itself Xe after Iraq announced in January 2009 that it would not renew its operating licence due to a September 16, 2007 incident in which guards protecting a US diplomatic convoy opened fire in Baghdad’s busy Nisur Square, killing at least 14 civilians.

After that announcement, the US State Department did not renew its contract with Blackwater for security services in Iraq.

Ezekiel 22:12
In you they have taken bribes to shed blood; you have taken interest and profits, and you have injured your neighbors for gain by oppression, and you have forgotten Me,” declares the Lord GOD.

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I Timothy 4:1-2
But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron…



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(“they” would not use these techniques for genocide, would they??? nah…)


II Corinthians 2:11
… so that no advantage would be taken of us by satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes…


Concerns Are Raised About Genetically Engineered Mosquitoes


By ANDREW POLLACK    Published: October 30, 2011

These mosquitoes are genetically engineered to kill — their own children.

Researchers on Sunday reported initial signs of success from the first release into the environment of mosquitoes engineered to pass a lethal gene to their offspring, killing them before they reach adulthood.

The results, and other work elsewhere, could herald an age in which genetically modified insects will be used to help control agricultural pests and insect-borne diseases like dengue fever and malaria.

But the research is arousing concern about possible unintended effects on public health and the environment, because once genetically modified insects are released, they cannot be recalled.

Authorities in the Florida Keys, which in 2009 experienced its first cases of dengue fever in decades, hope to conduct an open-air test of the modified mosquitoes as early as December, pending approval from the Agriculture Department.

“It’s a more ecologically friendly way to control mosquitoes than spraying insecticides,” said Coleen Fitzsimmons, a spokeswoman for the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District.

The Agriculture Department, meanwhile, is looking at using genetic engineering to help control farm pests like the Mediterranean fruit fly, or medfly, and the cotton-munching pink bollworm, according to an environmental impact statement it published in 2008. Millions of genetically engineered bollworms have been released over cotton fields in Yuma County, Ariz.

Yet even supporters of the research worry it could provoke a public reaction similar to the one that has limited the acceptance of genetically modified crops. In particular, critics say that Oxitec, the British biotechnology company that developed the dengue-fighting mosquito, has rushed into field testing without sufficient review and public consultation, sometimes in countries with weak regulations.

“Even if the harms don’t materialize, this will undermine the credibility and legitimacy of the research enterprise,” said Lawrence O. Gostin, professor of international health law at Georgetown University.

The first release, which was discussed in a scientific paper published online on Sunday by the journal Nature Biotechnology, took place in the Cayman Islands in the Caribbean in 2009 and caught the international scientific community by surprise. Oxitec has subsequently released the modified mosquitoes in Malaysia and Brazil.

Luke Alphey, the chief scientist at Oxitec, said the company had left the review and community outreach to authorities in the host countries.

“They know much better how to communicate with people in those communities than we do coming in from the U.K.” he said.

Dr. Alphey was a zoology researcher at Oxford before co-founding Oxitec in 2002. The company has raised about $24 million from investors, including Oxford, he said. A major backer is East Hill Advisors, which is run by the New England businessman Landon T. Clay, former chief executive of Eaton Vance, an investment management firm.

Oxitec says its approach is an extension of a technique used successfully for decades to suppress or even eradicate pests, which involves the release of millions of sterile insects that mate with wild ones, producing no offspring.

But the technique has not been successfully used for mosquitoes, in part because the radiation usually used to sterilize the insects also injures them, making it difficult for them to compete for mates against wild counterparts.

Oxitec has created Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, the species that is the main transmitter of the dengue and yellow fever viruses, containing a gene that will kill them unless they are given tetracycline, a common antibiotic.

In the lab, with tetracycline provided, the mosquitoes can be bred for generations and multiplied. Males are then released into the wild, where tetracycline is not available. They live long enough to mate but their progeny will die before adulthood.

The study published on Sunday looked at how successfully the lab-reared, genetically modified insects could mate. About 19,000 engineered mosquitoes were released over four weeks in 2009 in a 25-acre area on Grand Cayman island.

Based on data from traps, the genetically engineered males accounted for 16 percent of the overall male population in the test zone, and the lethal gene was found in almost 10 percent of larvae. Those figures suggest the genetically engineered males were about half as successful in mating as wild ones, a rate sufficient to suppress the population.

Oxitec has already said a larger trial on Grand Cayman island in 2010 reduced the population of the targeted mosquito by 80 percent for three months. That work has not yet been published.

Dr. Alphey said the technique was safe because only males were released, while only females bite people and spread the disease, adding that it should have little environmental impact. “It’s exquisitely targeted to the specific organism you are trying to take out,” he said.

The company is focusing on dengue fever rather than malaria because a single mosquito species is responsible for most of its spread, while many species carry malaria. Also, unlike for malaria, there are no drugs to treat dengue, and bed nets do not help prevent the disease because the mosquito bites during the day.

There are 50 million to 100 million cases of dengue each year, with an estimated 25,000 deaths. The disease causes severe flulike symptoms and occasionally, hemorrhagic fever.

The Oxitec technique, however, is not foolproof.

Alfred M. Handler, a geneticist at the Agriculture Department in Gainesville, Fla., said the mosquitoes, while being bred for generations in the lab, can evolve resistance to the lethal gene and might then be released inadvertently.

Todd Shelly, an entomologist for the Agriculture Department in Hawaii, said in a commentary published on Sunday by Nature Biotechnology that 3.5 percent of the insects in a lab test survived to adulthood despite presumably carrying the lethal gene.

Also, the sorting of male and female mosquitoes, which is done by hand, can result in up to 0.5 percent of the released insects being female, the commentary said. If millions of mosquitoes were released, even that small percentage of females could lead to a temporary increase in disease spread.

Oxitec and a molecular biologist, Anthony A. James of the University of California, Irvine, say they have developed a solution — a genetic modification that makes female mosquitoes, but not males, unable to fly. The grounded females cannot mate or bite people, and separating males from females before release would be easier.

In a test in large cages in Mexico, however, male mosquitoes carrying this gene did not mate very successfully, said Stephanie James, director of science at the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health, which oversaw the project.

In Arizona, pink bollworms sterilized by radiation have already helped suppress the population of that pest. To monitor how well the program is working, the sterile bugs are fed a red dye. That way, researchers can tell if a trapped insect is sterile or wild.

But the dye does not always show up, leading to false alarms that wild bollworms are on the loose. Giving the sterilized bugs a coral gene that makes them glow with red fluorescence is a better way to identify them, said Bruce Tabashnik, an entomologist at the University of Arizona. He is an author of a report on the field trial published in the journal PLoS One in September.

Experts assembled by the World Health Organization are preparing guidelines on how field tests of genetically modified insects should be conducted. Proponents hope the field will not face the same opposition as biotechnology crops.

“You don’t eat insects,” said Dr. James of the Foundation for the National Institutes of Health. “This is being done for a good cause.”

A version of this article appeared in print on October 31, 2011, on page B1 of the New York edition with the headline: Mosquito Bred to Fight Dengue Fever Shows Promise in a Field Test.

Psalm 37:7
Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him; do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who carries out wicked schemes…

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Proverbs 15:3
The eyes of the LORD are in every place, watching the evil and the good…

Met police using surveillance system to monitor mobile phones

Civil liberties group raises concerns over Met police purchase of technology to track public handsets over a targeted area




By Ryan Gallagher and Rajeev Syal    Sunday 30 October 2011 14.36 EDT

Britain’s largest police force is operating covert surveillance technology that can masquerade as a mobile phone network, transmitting a signal that allows authorities to shut off phones remotely, intercept communications and gather data about thousands of users in a targeted area.

The surveillance system has been procured by the Metropolitan police from Leeds-based company Datong plc, which counts the US Secret Service, the Ministry of Defence and regimes in the Middle East among its customers. Strictly classified under government protocol as “Listed X”, it can emit a signal over an area of up to an estimated 10 sq km, forcing hundreds of mobile phones per minute to release their unique IMSI and IMEI identity codes, which can be used to track a person’s movements in real time.

The disclosure has caused concern among lawyers and privacy groups that large numbers of innocent people could be unwittingly implicated in covert intelligence gathering. The Met has refused to confirm whether the system is used in public order situations, such as during large protests or demonstrations.

Nick Pickles, director of privacy and civil liberties campaign group Big Brother Watch, warned the technology could give police the ability to conduct “blanket and indiscriminate” monitoring: “It raises a number of serious civil liberties concerns and clarification is urgently needed on when and where this technology has been deployed, and what data has been gathered,” he said. “Such invasive surveillance must be tightly regulated, authorised at the highest level and only used in the most serious of investigations. It should be absolutely clear that only data directly relating to targets of investigations is monitored or stored,” he said.

Datong’s website says its products are designed to provide law enforcement, military, security agencies and special forces with the means to “gather early intelligence in order to identify and anticipate threat and illegal activity before it can be deployed”.

The company’s systems, showcased at the DSEi arms fair in east London last month, allow authorities to intercept SMS messages and phone calls by secretly duping mobile phones within range into operating on a false network, where they can be subjected to “intelligent denial of service”. This function is designed to cut off a phone used as a trigger for an explosive device.

A transceiver around the size of a suitcase can be placed in a vehicle or at another static location and operated remotely by officers wirelessly. Datong also offers clandestine portable transceivers with “covered antennae options available”. Datong sells its products to nearly 40 countries around the world, including in Eastern Europe, South America, the Middle East and Asia Pacific. In 2009 it was refused an export licence to ship technology worth £0.8m to an unnamed Asia Pacific country, after the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills judged it could be used to commit human rights abuses.

A document seen by the Guardian shows the Metropolitan police paid £143,455 to Datong for “ICT hardware” in 2008/09. In 2010 the 37-year-old company, which has been publicly listed since October 2005, reported its pro forma revenue in the UK was £3.9m, and noted that “a good position is being established with new law enforcement customer groups”. In February 2011 it was paid £8,373 by Hertfordshire Constabulary according to a transaction report released under freedom of information.

Between 2004 and 2009 Datong won over $1.6 (£1.03m) in contracts with US government agencies, including the Secret Service, Special Operations Command and the Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. In February 2010 the company won a £750,000 order to supply tracking and location technology to the US defence sector. Official records also show Datong entered into contracts worth more than £500,000 with the Ministry of Defence in 2009.

All covert surveillance is currently regulated under the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa), which states that to intercept communications a warrant must be personally authorised by the home secretary and be both necessary and proportionate. The terms of Ripa allow phone calls and SMS messages to be intercepted in the interests of national security, to prevent and detect serious crime, or to safeguard the UK’s economic wellbeing.

Latest figures produced by the government-appointed interception of communications commissioner, Sir Paul Kennedy, show there were 1,682 interception warrants approved by the home secretary in 2010. Public authorities can request other communications data – such as the date, time and location a phone call was made – without the authority of the home secretary. In 2010, 552,550 such requests were made, averaging around 1,500 per day.

Barrister Jonathan Lennon, who specialises in cases involving covert intelligence and Ripa, said the Met’s use of the Datong surveillance system raised significant legislative questions about proportionality and intrusion into privacy.

“How can a device which invades any number of people’s privacy be proportionate?” he said. “There needs to be clarification on whether interception of multiple people’s communications – when you can’t even necessarily identify who the people are – is complaint with the act. It may be another case of the technology racing ahead of the legislation. Because if this technology now allows multiple tracking and intercept to take place at the same time, I would have thought that was not what parliament had in mind when it drafted Ripa.”

Former detective superintendent Bob Helm, who had the authority to sign off Ripa requests for covert surveillance during 31 years of service with Lancashire Constabulary, said: “It’s all very well placed in terms of legislation … when you can and can’t do it. It’s got to be legal and obviously proportionate and justified. If you can’t do that, and the collateral implications far outweigh the evidence you’re going to get, well then you just don’t contemplate it.”

In May the Guardian revealed the Met had purchased software used to map suspects’ digital movements using data gathered from social networking sites, satnav equipment, mobile phones, financial transactions and IP network logs. The force said the software was being tested using “dummy data” to explore how it could be used to examine “police vehicle movements, crime patterns and telephone investigations.”

The Met would not comment on its use of Datong technology or give details of where or when it had been used.

A spokesman said: “The MPS [Metropolitan police service] may employ surveillance technology as part of our continuing efforts to ensure the safety of Londoners and detect criminality. It can be a vital and highly effective investigative tool.

“Although we do not discuss specific technology or tactics, we can re-assure those who live and work in London that any activity we undertake is in compliance with legislation and codes of practice.”

A spokesman for the Home Office said covert surveillance was kept under “constant review” by the chief surveillance commissioner, Sir Christopher Rose, who monitors the conduct of authorities and ensures they are complying with the appropriate legislation.

He added: “Law enforcement agencies are required to act in accordance with the law and with the appropriate levels of authorisation for their activity.”

Datong declined to comment.

Psalm 64:2-5
Hide me from the secret counsel of evildoers, from the tumult of those who do iniquity, who have sharpened their tongue like a sword. They aimed bitter speech as their arrow, to shoot from concealment at the blameless; suddenly they shoot at him, and do not fear. They hold fast to themselves an evil purpose; they talk of laying snares secretly; they say, “Who can see them?”

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I am the resurrection and the life…



John 11:25-27
Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life; he who believes in Me will live even if he dies, and everyone who lives and believes in Me will never die. Do you believe this?” She said to Him, “Yes, Lord; I have believed that You are the Christ, the Son of God, even He who comes into the world.”

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(worcester, massachusetts oct. 2011)

Matthew 24:8
But all these things are merely the beginning of birth pangs…


UPDATE 3-Rare, deadly October snowstorm batters Northeast

Sun Oct 30, 2011 5:28pm EDT

* Snow expected to move through Maine on Sunday

* Connecticut has most power outages in history

* Storm strands train, plane travelers

(Updates death toll, other details)




Thunder in snow storm…

www.weather .com

By Barbara Goldberg

NEW YORK, Oct 30 (Reuters) – More than 3 million households in the U.S. Northeast lacked power on Sunday as a rare October snowstorm bedeviled transportation and killed at least eight people.

The record-breaking snow was heaviest in Jaffrey, New Hampshire, where 31.4 inches (79.7 cm) fell according to the National Weather Service. Northwest of New York City, in West Milford, New Jersey, 19 inches (48 cm) of snow fell.

“It’s too scary — the windows are rattling too loud,” a terrified Sophia Band, 6, said, her father recalled, during the crushing storm in Conway, Massachusetts overnight.

The snowy, windy weather that began on Saturday was expected to exit Maine later on Sunday, but not before dumping up to a foot (30.5 cm) of snow on northern New England, particularly southern Vermont, the National Weather Service said.

Howling winds and heavy, wet snow snapped enormous trees like twigs, downing power lines from West Virginia to Maine. By Sunday evening, there were about 3 million households without electricity across the Mid-Atlantic and New England, according to Weather.com.

Connecticut Governor Dannel Malloy said the state experienced the largest number of power outages in its history. Most cities in the state opened centers where chilled residents could stay warm. Maine, Massachusetts and New Jersey all said they did not expect service to return to normal for several days, while in Connecticut it could be more than a week. Public school closures were announced for Monday in Connecticut and New Jersey.


Transit nightmares were reported on planes and trains throughout the storm-struck region.

Some 48 passengers on an Amtrak train bound for Boston were stranded for 13 hours overnight when a rockslide blocked the tracks in central Massachusetts, Amtrak said. They were bussed to their destinations before noon on Sunday.

Other Amtrak service was suspended between Providence, Rhode Island and Boston; New Haven, Connecticut and Springfield, Massachusetts; and Philadelphia and Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.

New Jersey Transit and Metro-North Railroad suspended service on several lines into New York City on Sunday.

Airports slowly returned to normal service on Sunday, although there were some residual delays due to wind at Newark International Airport, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

JetBlue Airways was investigating reports 126 passengers were stuck for more than seven hours Saturday on the tarmac at Bradley International Airport near Hartford, Connecticut, without food, water or working lavatories. They were aboard Flight 504 from Florida, diverted to Bradley from Newark due to the storm.


Icy roads throughout the Northeast proved deadly, and six people were killed in car accidents.

Two other deaths were blamed on the storm. In Temple, Pennsylvania, an 84-year-old man was killed as he napped in his recliner when a snow-laden tree fell through his home, said a Muhlenberg Township Police Department dispatcher.

In Springfield, Massachusetts, a 20-year-old man was electrocuted when he stepped out of his vehicle and touched an electrified guard rail, a Springfield police spokesman said.

Weather emergencies because of the storm were declared in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Massachusetts. (Additional reporting by Lauren Keiper in Boston; Tim Sohn in eastern Pennsylvania, Zach Howard in Western Massachusetts; Editing by Jerry Norton and Cynthia Osterman)

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