Category Archives: Military

Calls to end a dangerous new GMO technology


What if scientists devised to introduce new genetic alternations in a way that ensured the altered genes spread rapidly through a species in the wild?

The scientists who have done just that contend their inventions would ensure the rapid diffusion of genetic traits that would benefit humanity.

But that assertion implies a godlike omniscience, and if we know anything of the fathomless human capacity for hubris, just sucj thinking invariably leads to catastrophe.

The technology is called the gene drive, and its so scary that the even Pentagon has grown wary of a technology they have supported, as Scientific American reported last month:

Over the next four years a new program in the Pentagon’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) plans to cultivate, among other things, a kind of cleanup crew for engineered genes deemed harmful to or undesirable in an ecosystem. The initiative, called Safe Genes, comes at a time when so-called “gene drive” systems, which override the standard rules of gene inheritance and natural selection, are raising hopes among some scientists that the technology could alter or suppress populations of disease-carrying insects or other pests in as few as 20 generations.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation sees so much promise in gene drive technology that it plans to double spending on its Target Malaria initiative, which aims to create systems for driving genes in two species of malaria mosquitoes, to $70 million. Yet without careful precautions, a gene drive released into the wild could spread or change in unexpected ways. Kevin Esvelt, head of the Sculpting Evolution lab at MIT Media Lab, which is applying for Safe Genes funding in collaboration with eight other research groups, predicts that eventually, perhaps around 15 years from now, an accident will allow a drive with potential to spread globally to escape laboratory controls. “It’s not going to be bioterror,” he says, “it’s going to be ‘bioerror.’”

DARPA itself has been one of the largest public funders of synthetic biology research in the U.S. in recent years, upping its spending on synthetic biology projects to more than $100 million in 2014 from nothing in 2010, according to one analysis. The agency announced its Safe Genes program in September 2016 and plans to award funding to multiple research teams by the first half of 2017. “If we’re going to be really bullish about genome engineering,” says DARPA program manager Renee Wegrzyn, “we need to be just as aggressive with tools to reverse those changes.”

The fact that t’s the Pentagon which has backed the technology should be frightening enough, given that the building they’re in was built by the same fellow who headed the American nuclear weapons program for what was then called [more honestly than today] the Department of War.

Civil groups call for a stop to gene drives

And now a coalition of global environmental , labor, and other civil groups is calling for a halt to the new technology.

From Via Campesina News:

At the 2016 UN Convention on Biodiversity held in Cancun Mexico this month, international conservation and environmental leaders called upon governments to establish a moratorium on the controversial genetic extinction technology called gene drives.

Gene drives, developed through new gene-editing techniques- are designed to force a particular genetically engineered trait to spread through an entire wild population – potentially changing entire species or even causing deliberate extinctions. The statement urges governments to put in place an urgent, global moratorium on the development and release of the new technology, which poses serious and potentially irreversible threats to biodiversity, as well as national sovereignty, peace and food security.

Over 170 civil society organisations from six continents have joined the call. Among them were environmental organizations including Friends of the Earth International; trade unions such as the International Union of Food Workers representing over 10 million workers in 127 countries; the largest global organization  of small-scale famers La Via Campesina International, and organics movements like the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements; the international indigenous peoples’ organization Tebtebba; scientist coalitions including European Network of Scientists for Social and Environmental Responsibility and Unión de Científicos Comprometidos con la Sociedad (Mexico); as well as ETC Group and Third World Network.

We can be certain that corporations seeking to release the new technology into the world will lie about it, just as Monsanto conducted a massive smear campaign to destroy the reputations and careers of scientists like Ignacio Chapela of the University of California at Berkeley [previously] when he reported that genes from Monsanto’s patented corn strains had escaped into the wild, infecting root race varieties of maize in Mexico.

The Law of Unintended Consequences speaks to the inevitability that  actions on complex system designed to create a similar response will inevitably lead to other consequences unanticipated by those who initiate the actions.

And when those actions could impact the whole biosphere, we should tremble in our boots.

Chart of the day: Adding fuel to MENA flames


From Conventional Arms Transfers to Developing Nations, 2008-2015, a report by the Congressional Research Service, a look at who’s selling arms to nations in the inflamed Middle East/North Africa region [click on the image to enlarge]:

blog-mena-arms

Report: Mexican army aided in Ayotzinapa kidnaps


Soon after the 26 September 2014 abduction and disappearance of 43 students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College in Ayotzinapa in the state of Guerrero [previously], reports began to emerge indicating that the Mexican army may have taken part in crime.

The Mexican government, needless to say, has denied any involvement.

But now comes a report from one of Mexico’s leading investigative journalists confirms the army’s involvement and lays more blame of the government for the Attorney General’s role in the coverup..

From teleSUR English:

On Friday, famed Mexican investigative journalist Anabel Hernandez reported that she read a secret report written by former head of internal affairs for the Mexican Attorney General, Cesar Alejandro Chavez Flores, which says officials from Mexico’s military, federal police, and the attorney general’s office itself “were present for all of the criminal events against” the students from the Ayotzinapa Normal School.

According to Hernandez, the “most important conclusion” of the report, written by Chavez Flores and reportedly signed off on by the former Attorney General, Arely Gomez, before her own October resignation, is that the captain of the 27th Battalion of the Mexican army was directly involved in the disappearances.

On the night of Sept. 26, 2014, a busload of students from the Ayotzinapa Normal School, an Indigenous teacher training school renowned for its activism, was pulled over in the southwestern state of Guerrero on its way to a demonstration in support of striking teachers. During a confrontation 6 people were killed, 25 injured, and 43 of the students were disappeared.

While the Mexican government continues to claim that the 43 students were killed by drug lords with the complicity of local police, several independent investigations have raised serious doubts about the story, suggesting national police and military involvement.

Hernandez also said that the yet to be released internal affairs report confirms an earlier leaked report by the Attorney General’s office that the former director of criminal investigations, Tomas Zeron de Lucio, had planted evidence and used brutal torture to help fabricate the government’s version of the events.

The report Hernandez read appears to be the fruits of an investigation into the allegations against Zeron de Lucio which the government ordered after his resignation.

Hernandez also said President Enrique Peña Nieto personally ordered the suppression of the two damning reports.

Trump, the most dangerous man in the world


And the reason isn’t the obvious one.

No, it’s not his vanity, and it’s only partly related to his arrogance.

No, what makes Donald Trump the most dangerous man in the world is that he is utterly untrustworthy, a man whose word means nothing and who will say anything to get his way.

In other words, he’s a unprincipled liar.

And that’s what makes him dangerous.

To Trump, the art of the deal is say whatever works toward his end, and when the deal is done he will brag about the lies he told to get there.

From the Daily Show:

Trump Lets the Truth Come Out Post-Election

Program notes:

While out on his “Thank You Tour,” President-elect Trump smugly admits to lying about his campaign promises to lock up Hillary Clinton and “drain the swamp.”

No foreign leader will be able to trust anything Donald Trump says, and for that reason they will always assume the worst.

And when the stakes are high and the folks on the other side of the table are armed with nuclear weapons, we can only expect the worst.

Scary, ain’t it?

Troikarchs put pressure on Greece, bailout halted


Following Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tspras’s announcement of holiday bonus for Greece’s poorest pensioners, hard hit by the Great Recession, the Troika has called a temporary halt to the nation’s bailout loan.

The Troika of the International Monetary Fund, European Central Bank, and European Commission had attached stringent austerity measures to the latest round of bailout loans, but Tsipras’s decision to help some of the nation’s neediest angered the Troika and the German government.

German arms dealers want the cash, even though their arms sales to the previous conservative Greek government helped fuel the crisis, a financial mess made worse by the greed of those Wall Street banksters who ignited the Great Recession.

From Kathimerini:

Eurozone finance ministers on Wednesday suspended debt relief measures for bailed out Greece in response to extra spending on pensions announced by Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras.

“The institutions have concluded that the actions of the Greek government appear to not be in line with our agreements,” said a spokesman for Eurogroup chief Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the head of the Eurogroup that oversees Greece’s massive 86-billion euro bailout.

There is “no unanimity now for implementing short-term debt measures,” he added.

More from BBC News:

The Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras has refused to back down over his plans to give poor Greek pensioners a pre-Christmas bonus.

A government official said Mr Tsipras would ask parliament on Thursday to approve the payment, worth €617m (£517m) in total.

>snip<

The arrangement of 5 December included extending the maturity on certain loans to the Greek government, and locking in the interest rate on some of its debts in order to reduce the country’s repayment burden, but they did not alter the total amount owed.

Trump talk sparks threat of arms race with China


Donald Trump’s increasingly belligerent attitude towards China has sparked a state media call for the Asian nation to ramp up its nuclear arsenal, rasining the specter of Cold War II.

From United Press International:

China’s state tabloid is calling for the expansion of defense spending on nuclear weaponry in response to U.S. President-elect Donald Trump’s critical stance toward Beijing.

The editorial published Wednesday in the Global Times comes at a time when China is imposing a penalty on an unnamed U.S. automaker for monopolistic behavior. The state newspaper suggested Beijing should not be pushed out by a militarily powerful United States.

“China’s defense spending and defense capabilities cannot threaten the United States at all, and Trump’s declaration in relation to the ‘one-China’ policy has amply demonstrated U.S. arrogance,” the Global Times stated. “This kind of arrogant position originates from the military superiority of the United States.”

China spends less than the United States on the military. According to IHS Janes, the United States is the No. 1 acquirer of military goods and services, having spent $622 billion, while China spent $192 billion.

Mexican general: Stop using army in drug war


In Mexico, the war of drugs has become more than a metaphor, as military troops have been ordered into the field, engaging in armed conflict with troops from the cartels, a policy which has lead to growing body counts on both sides.

In a short, fierce fight Monday, Mexican marines killed at least 14 cartel soldiers who had ambushed a patrol,  and in June 2014, soldiers killed at least 22 people, 12 of them innocent civilians, when they engaged in a killing spree ordered by superiors.

And then there was the involvement of soldiers in the events leading up to the 26 September 2014 abduction of the still missing 23 students from the Raúl Isidro Burgos Rural Teachers’ College of Ayotzinapa.

The drug war, in short, has tarnished the military’s reputation.

And now, says the country’s top general and defense secretary, it’s time to pull the troops out.

From teleSUR English:

Mexico’s defense secretary has called for all troops fighting the drug cartels across the violence-ravaged country to return to their military headquarters and quit fighting a battle that should be handled by law enforcement.

“We did not ask to be here, we do not feel comfortable here, we did not train to pursue criminals, our role is another and it has been distorted,” said General Salvador Cienfuegos. “We would love the police forces to do their job. . .but they don’t.”

The Mexican army has been fighting a war with drug traffickers since December 2006 when then President Felipe Calderon declared a “war on drugs.” This period accounts for some of the bloodiest years that has left close to 200,000 people dead, at least 28,000 disappeared, and at least 8,000 cases of torture documented since 2007.

This militarized drug war policy has been continued by current President Enrique Peña Nieto.

“Ten years ago it was decided that the police should be rebuilt, and we still haven’t seen that reconstruction,” Cienfuegos said. “To sum it up, there are a large number of deaths that shouldn’t be happening. . .This isn’t something that can be solved with bullets; it takes other measures and there hasn’t been decisive action on budgets to make that happen.”

Within the framework of international law, human rights organizations have accused the Mexican government of committing crimes against humanity due to the number of documented cases of extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances and torture. These crimes have been committed repeatedly since the Mexican government began its war with drug cartels.

The general is right.

Using the military against a country’s own citizens, even citizens who are criminals, is a really bad idea.

Using the military is like using a hammer to perform brain surgery when a scalpel is called for, and soldiers are trained to annihilate an enemy, not arrest them.