brad brace contemporary culture scrapbook

April 8, 2014

Rodrigues Solitaire

Filed under: conservation,culture,rodrigues,wildlife — admin @ 6:42 am

The Rodrigues Solitaire (Pezophaps solitaria) is an extinct, flightless bird that was endemic to the island of Rodrigues, east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean. Genetically within the family of pigeons and doves, it was most closely related to the also extinct Dodo of Mauritius (the two forming the subfamily Raphinae). The Nicobar Pigeon is their closest living genetic relative.

The size of a swan, the Rodrigues Solitaire demonstrated pronounced sexual dimorphism. Males were much larger than females and measured up to 90 centimetres (35 inches) in length and 28 kilograms (62 pounds) in weight, contrasting with 70 centimetres (28 inches) and 17 kilograms (37 pounds) for females. Its plumage was grey and brown; the female was paler than the male. It had a black band at the base of its slightly hooked beak, and its neck and legs were long. Both sexes were highly territorial, with large bony knobs on their wings that were used in combat. The Rodrigues Solitaire laid a single egg, that was incubated in turn by both sexes. Gizzard stones helped digest its food, which included fruit and seeds.

First mentioned during the 17th century, the Rodrigues Solitaire was described in detail by François Leguat (leader of a group of French Huguenot refugees who were marooned on Rodrigues in 1691–1693). It was hunted by humans and introduced animals, and was extinct by the late 1700s. Apart from Leguat’s account and drawing, and a few other contemporary descriptions, nothing was known about the bird until a few subfossil bones were found in a cave in 1789. Thousands of bones have subsequently been excavated. It is the only extinct bird with a former star constellation named after it, Turdus Solitarius.
rodrigues solitairesolitaireThis flighty and ultimately doomed constellation was introduced in 1776 by the French astronomer Pierre-Charles Le Monnier in a paper titled “Constellation du Solitaire” in the Mémoires of the French Royal Academy of Sciences. He listed 22 constituent stars and described it as a “bird of the Indies and the Philippines”.

The bird shown on Le Monnier’s diagram of the constellation resembles a female blue rock thrush (Monticola solitarius, family Turdidae). Le Monnier said he introduced the constellation in memory of the voyage to the island of Rodrigues in the Indian Ocean by another Frenchman, Alexandre-Guy Pingré, who observed the transit of Venus from there in 1761. Quite why this particular bird was chosen remains unexplained, though.

The historian R. H. Allen said in his book Star Names that the constellation represented the Rodrigues Solitaire, an extinct flightless bird similar to the Dodo, but this seems to be a misunderstanding. Bode changed its name to Turdus Solitarius in his Uranographia atlas of 1801.

April 7, 2014

Malaria drugs

Filed under: disease/health,military,rampage,usa — admin @ 6:59 am

Lariam (mefloquine) is one of the most widely used malaria drugs in America. Yet it has been linked to grisly crimes, like Army Staff Sgt. Robert Bales’ 2012 murder of 16 Afghan civilians, the murders of four wives of Fort Bragg soldiers in 2002 and other extreme violence.

While the FDA beefed up warnings for Lariam last summer, especially about the drug’s neurotoxic effects, and users are now given a medication guide and wallet card, Lariam and its generic versions are still the third most prescribed malaria medication. Last year there were 119,000 prescriptions between January and June. Though Lariam is banned among Air Force pilots, until 2011, Lariam was on the increase in the Navy and Marine Corps.

The negative neurotoxic side effects of Lariam can last for “weeks, months, and even years,” after someone stops using it, warns the VA. Medical and military authorities say the drug “should not be given to anyone with symptoms of a brain injury, depression or anxiety disorder,” reported Army Times–which is, of course, the demographic that encompasses “many troops who have deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan.” In addition to Lariam’s wide us in the military, the civilian population taking malaria drugs includes Peace Corps and aid workers, business travelers, news media, students, NGO workers, industrial contractors, missionaries and families visiting relatives, often bringing children.

What makes Lariam so deadly? It has the same features that made the street drug PCP/angel dust such an urban legend in the 1970s and 1980s. It can produce extreme panic, paranoia and rage in the user along with out-of-body “disassociative” and dream-like sensations so that a person performing a criminal act often believes someone else is doing it. An example of such disassociative effects was seen in Staff Sgt. Robert Bales’ rampage; according to prosecutors at his trial, Bales slipped away from his remote Afghanistan post, Camp Belambay, in a T-shirt, cape and night-vision goggles and no body armor to attack his first victims. He then returned to the base and “woke a fellow soldier, reported what he’d done, and said he was headed out to kill more.”

In addition to Bales’ 2012 attacks and the 2002 Fort Bragg attacks, Lariam was linked in news reports to extreme side effects in an army staff sergeant in Iraq in 2005 and to the suicide of an Army Reservist in 2008.

Former Army psychiatrist Elspeth Cameron Ritchie, former U.S. Army Major and Preventive Medicine Officer Remington Nevin and Jerald Block with the Portland Veterans Affairs Medical Center agree in a recent paper that Lariam may be behind “seemingly spectacular and impulsive suicides.” It can produce “derealization and depersonalization, compulsions toward dangerous objects, and morbid curiosity about death,” they write, describing frequent hallucinations “involving religious or morbid themes” and “a sense of the presence of a nearby nondescript figure.” The researchers refer to two reports of people jumping out of windows on Lariam under the false belief that their rooms were on fire.

Lariam is one of five malaria drugs listed by the CDC for people who will be exposed to malaria. Other drugs include Malarone, a combination of the drugs atovaquone and Proguanil, Aralen (chloroquine,) primaquine and the antibiotic doxycycline marketed as Vibramycin. None of the drugs are ideal–Malarone can have renal effects and Aralen can have liver, blood and skin effects. Some do not work right away or are ineffective against resistant malaria strains. But the main reason for Lariam’s historic popularity is that it is taken weekly, unlike all the other drugs (except chloroquine) which are taken daily. Some travelers also report that Lariam is cheaper than other malaria drugs and say they only experience symptoms like memory loss and vivid nightmares. Still, since awareness of Lariam’s dangers, many users are now required to read and sign an informed consent form.

Early Example of Public Funding of Pharma Profits

Lariam was an early example of “technology-transfer” between publicly funded and academic research and Big Pharma, driven by the Bayh-Dole Act of 1980. The Bayh-Dole Act dangled the riches of “industry” before medical institutions just as the former were floundering and the latter was booming, observes Marcia Angell, former editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine. Turning universities into think tanks for Big Pharma has been so profitable, Northwestern University made $700 million when it sold Lyrica, discovered by one of its chemists, to Pfizer enabling it to build a new research building.

Lariam was developed by the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research (WRAIR) in the 1960s and ’70s after a drug-resistant strain of malaria did not respond to medications and sickened troops during the Vietnam War. Though Lariam was developed with our tax dollars, all phase I and phase II clinical trial data were given to Hoffman LaRoche and Smith Kline free of charge in what was the first private public partnership between the U.S. Department of Defense and Big Pharma . You’re welcome! It was approved by the FDA in 1989.

Roche, which retained the patent, did well with the government largesse. In 2009, it spent $46.8 billion to buy Genentech (for comparison the entire yearly budget of the National Institutes of Health is $60 billion a year) and its cancer drug, Avastin, makes up to $100,000 per patient per year, despite reports of its limited effectiveness for some cancers for which it is used. Nor was the testing of Lariam kosher. It was first tested on prisoners and soldiers who are not necessarily able or willing to refuse participation in clinical trials and it was also widely given to Guantanamo detainees. Phase III trials, supposed to be conducted on larger patient groups of up to 3,000 people, were not conducted at all, wrote the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine in 2007 and “there was no serious attempt prior to licensing to explore the potential drug-drug interactions.” In fact, all users “have been involved in a natural experiment to determine the true safety margin,” says the journal, because “Consumers have been unwitting recruits to this longitudinal study, rather than informed partners.” No wonder Lariam causes adverse effects in as many as 67 percent of users.

As seen with other drugs that have neuropsychiatric effects, like the antidepressant Cymbalta and seizure drug Neurontin, the military, government and Big Pharma blamed the effects on the patients not the drugs. When the wives of four Fort Bragg soldiers were murdered during the summer of 2002–one was stabbed 50 times and set on fire–military investigators blamed “existing marital problems and the stress of separation while soldiers are away on duty,” instead of Lariam. Right. Three of the four soldiers also took their own lives.

The military, government and Big Pharma similarly blame the current suicide epidemic among military personnel on factors others than the ubiquitous psychiatric drugs in use–even though 30 percent of the victims never deployed and 60 percent never saw combat. A recent five-year study by Pharma-funded academic, government and military researchers about military suicides does not even consider the drugs given to an estimated fourth of soldiers–almost all of which carry warnings about suicide.

It is also worth noting that the alarming side-effects linked to Lariam which patients, doctors and public health officials reported for at least a decade, were not acknowledged until profits ran out and Lariam became a generic, as has happened with other risky drugs. When sentiment turned against Lariam in 2008, its manufacturer, Hoffmann-La Roche ceased marketing it in the US and now the words “Lariam” and “malaria” draw no search results on its US website. Who, us?

One group that has tried to raise awareness of the dangers of Lariam is Mefloquine (Lariam) Action, created in 1996 when founder, Susan Rose, noticed Peace Corps workers given Lariam were falling ill. Rose soon enlarged the scope of Mefloquine (Lariam) Action to include travelers and military personnel.

“This black box [the strongest FDA warning on drug packaging] officially establishes that mefloquine can cause permanent, brain damage and more. It validates what we have been saying since the beginning,” Jeanne Lese, director of Mefloquine (Lariam) Action told me. The problem is far from solved by the black box, says Lese. “The drug continues to be given out at travel clinics all over the U.S. and elsewhere every single day. What’s more, it is often prescribed with no hint to the patient about the black box, and no screening for contraindications such as history of previous depression or other neuropsych problems.” Lariam’s Checkered Past

The case of the four Fort Bragg soldiers charged with killing their wives during the summer of 2002 is not the only time Lariam has been in the news. There was also the case of Staff Sergeant Andrew Pogany who volunteered to serve in Iraq in 2003 and experienced such panic and PTSD symptoms in the war theater, he was sent back to Fort Carson and charged with “cowardly conduct as a result of fear.” Pogany and his attorney were able to prove that his reaction probably stemmed from Lariam and he received an honorable discharge. But Pogany, understandably, became a vehement advocate for the rights of soldiers with PTSD, especially those who have been given psychoactive drugs that make them worse.

The wife of a 17-year marine veteran I interviewed in 2011 reported a similar story. After being deployed twice to Iraq and once to Afghanistan, her husband developed extreme PTSD. “He went from being loving on the phone, to saying he never wanted to see me and our daughter again,” the wife said. “He said not to even bother coming to the airport to meet him, because he would walk right past us.” When the couple did reunite, the husband was frail and thin, and “the whites of his eyes were brown,” says the wife. The formerly competent drill instructor became increasingly and inexplicably unpredictable, suicidal and violent and was incarcerated in the brig at Camp Lejeune for assault in 2011. I asked the wife to ask him during her visits if he had been given Lariam and she said he said yes.

In the nonfiction book, Murder in Baker Company: How Four American Soldiers Killed One of Their Own, Lariam is also raised as a possible factor in the brutal death of Army Specialist Richard Davis. When asked about Lariam in the crime in an interview, the author Cilla McCain said, “Although it was never mentioned in court, I think if this same case were to happen today, it would definitely be considered as a defense. These soldiers were overdosing on Lariam in massive amounts because there wasn’t proper oversight. In reality, proper oversight is impossible in a war zone but steps could have been taken to make sure that overdosing didn’t occur. Even without over-dosage the Lariam issue is a volatile one at best and I’m positive we will be hearing more about the damage it has caused for years to come. Some scientists are linking Lariam directly to the historical rise of suicides in the United States.”

As a dark cloud grows over Lariam, there is both good and bad news. The good news is in 2013, the Surgeon General’s Office of the Army Special Operations Command told commanders and medical workers that soldiers thought to be suffering from PTSD or other psychological problems or even faking mental impairment may actually be Lariam victims. The bad news is a new malaria drug developed at Reed during the same time period as Lariam called tafenoquine is now fast-tracking toward FDA approval. Jeanne Lese and Remington Nevin worry that the new drug has not been adequately tested for the same types of neurotoxic effects seen with Lariam and that it will become Lariam 2.0.

All Native Now

It was Good Friday, 50 years ago on March 27, 1964, that according to seismologists, the snow peaks of Prince William Sound jumped 33 feet into the air and fell back down. Emergency warnings about an earthquake-spurred tsunami went out to towns from Valdez, Alaska, to Malibu, Calif., but no one thought to send a message to the Chugach Natives in Chenega, Alaska.

Chenega chief Nikolas Kompkoff watched the mountains leap and the waters around his island disappear over the horizon.

Knowing the water would return with a vengeance, he ran his four daughters up a hill toward high ground. But the nine-story-tall tsunami was moving too fast for their little legs. Kompkoff made a decision: He grabbed the two girls closest to him, tucked them under his arms and ran up the slope, leaving the other two to be seized by the wave.

Days later, a postal pilot on his weekly mail drop could not find Chenega because every single house and a third of the residents had been washed out to sea.

When he circled back to the site he saw the village’s church on the hill with survivors waving.

Kompkoff found the body of his youngest daughter stuck in the high branches of a pine tree. He buried her, then left to join the survivors, all refugees scattered throughout Alaska. The government told the village of seal hunters they could never return. No longer able to hunt, Kompkoff became an Orthodox priest and a notorious drunk.

On Good Friday each year, Father Nikolas would return to his island with the remainder of his flock to place a cross among the broken sticks of the old village. Each year he swore they would rebuild.

The years passed, and the oath to rebuild seemed increasingly ludicrous. After a decade of helplessness, Father Nikolas put a gun under his chin and pulled the trigger. The bullet passed through his jaw. Embarrassed church bishops defrocked him in response. On Good Friday, 1989, the 25th anniversary of the earthquake, Kompkoff led his congregation (they still considered him “Father” Nick) in a commemoration of the tsunami’s dead at the church they built at New Chenega. The village had been resurrected stick by stick by Kompkoff’s nephew Larry Evanoff after Evanoff returned wounded from Vietnam.

What the celebrants did not know was that that very night another tsunami would head toward them, a wave of oil from the Exxon Valdez.

As the oil slick spread from the grounded tanker through Chugach waters, Exxon made the Old Chenega area what the industry calls a “sacrifice zone.” The company’s executives allowed it to be slathered by tons of crude.

Weeks after the spill, the president of Exxon stopped by New Chenega for a “we care” television photo-op. Village patriarch Paul Kompkoff, Nikolas’ brother, asked him, “Are my parents’ bones covered with oil?”

The official answer was that the bones were undisturbed. In fact, as I reported in my book, Vultures’ Picnic ( , both the oil and bones were being scooped up by Exxon bulldozers at that very moment.

The Chugach hired me to investigate the spill’s true cause and the true culprits. Paul Kompkoff asked me to arrange a secret meeting with Exxon in hopes of getting a few dollars so the new village could survive. In particular, the Chenegans wanted Exxon to hire them to clean up the beaches and fishing grounds still contaminated with Exxon’s gunk.

With Chenega leader Gail With Chenega leader Gail Evanoff, Kompkoff and I flew from Alaska to San Diego to corner Exxon USA General Manager Otto Harrison. It was now three years after the spill and still no money had been forthcoming. The Exxon honcho, an enormous Texan, took us to a corporate meeting room, and from across the giant conference table looked down at the diminutive Evanoff and said, “Now, Gail, ah cayn’t be payin’ a bunch o’ Natives to go ’round picking up oil that ain’t there, can I?”

In 2010, I returned to Prince William Sound for British television. On the Chugach’s islands, I picked up gobs of the “oil that ain’t there” in my (carefully gloved) hand. It was more than two decades after the Exxon Valdez spill.

Then I flew down to the Gulf of Mexico where I collected giant hunks of Deepwater Horizon oil nearly a year after the spill, more “oil that ain’t there” at least according to our government and BP television ads.

* In 2011, 22 years after the Alaska spill, Exxon paid for the damages but only after the Supreme Court cut the payout by 90 percent. Part of Chenega’s money was meant for a new fishing boat for Paul Kompkoff. But he was long dead by then, as were a third of my Native clients.

* I was in Chenega on the second anniversary of the Exxon spill. Paul Kompkoff and I snacked on dried salmon while we watched the first Gulf War on CNN. The U.S. Air Force was bombing the bejesus out of Baghdad.

The old man watched a long while in silence. Then said, in his slow, quiet voice, “I guess we’re all some kind of Native now.”

Agrarian Reform

Filed under: agriculture,brazil — admin @ 6:52 am

Brazilian farmer Isabel Michi’s day starts before dawn, when she goes out to the organic garden on her small five-hectare farm that she runs with help from her husband and occasionally their children. Starting at 5 AM, the 42-year-old farmer of Japanese descent plows the soil, plants seeds and seedlings, fertilises, harvests, and carefully tends the plants in her greenhouse.

She acquired the farm in 2002 thanks to a swap in a settlement that emerged 10 years earlier as part of the government’s agrarian reform programme.

The settlement, Mutir„o Eldorado, is in the rural municipality of SeropÈdica, an area with 80,000 inhabitants located 70 km from Rio de Janeiro, a city that is home to agricultural research institutions and organisations that provide support to small farmers.

Six years ago, Michi took a radical step and decided to go 100 percent organic, abandoning all chemical products.

On average, chemical fertilisers and pesticides absorb 70 percent of the income of small farmers in Brazil, according to experts.

Michi is a cofounder of the group Serorg‚nico, made up of 15 small farmers, which has become a local leader in supplies of chemical-free seeds and seedlings.

The farmer, who is a Nisei – the term used for second-generation Japanese immigrants – said she was deeply affected by the death of one of her brothers at the age of 37. He died of lung cancer, even though he had never smoked. Michi blames his death on the intensive use of agrochemicals on the farm of their parents, who came to Brazil in the 1960s.

“In my family we worked the land with many pesticides. We were young and the damages they caused were not well-known then,” Michi said during a visit to her farm. She was one of the youngest of eight siblings, from a family who settled in another part of the state of Rio de Janeiro. “We were very poor; we managed to harvest a truckload of food, but we didn’t have money,” she said.

“It was a really hard life,” said Michi, who has worked in the countryside since the age of 13.

Michi stopped using agrochemicals on her crops when she married Augusto Batista Xavier, 51, who she met in 1992, the first time she visited an organic farm in a neighbouring state.

“When we moved to this land, I was already thinking about agroecology, because for me, it’s the future,” she said.

The land in SeropÈdica is good for growing mandioc, okra, maize, pumpkin, sweet potato and banana.

Besides these vegetables and fruits, Michi is also growing 25,600 organic seedlings in her new greenhouse, to supply Serorg‚nico.

Her husband’s job managing a cattle farm ensures them a steady income. But he helps her with the heaviest tasks in his free time. Their three children, between the ages of 14 and 16, also lend a hand when school is out.

On average, Serorg‚nico produces three tonnes of food a month, most of which is sold in the circuit of organic farmers markets in wealthy neighbourhoods in the city of Rio de Janeiro.

For Michi, chemical-free farming is part of a holistic philosophy, which also takes into account the social and economic welfare of farmers and of consumers of fresh farm products.

But many organic farmers find it hard to survive in the face of competition from those who use more conventional farming methods at a much lower cost.

Although ecological products in Brazil cost between 30 and 50 percent more than food produced with agrochemicals, demand has grown approximately 30 percent in recent years.

JosÈ AntÙnio Azevedo EspÌndola, a researcher with the Brazilian government’s agricultural research agency, EMBRAPA, pointed out to IPS that the number of organic farmers is still limited.

“There is potential for growth, but there is also a long road ahead,” he said. “In the last few years, society’s concern about food quality has grown, from the point of view of the environment and of more sustainable, healthy production.”

EspÌndola is a researcher in EMBRAPA’s agrobiological unit, which is dedicated to developing ecological farming techniques and methods.

Organic farmers represent a mere one percent of agricultural producers in Brazil. In 2006, when the last agricultural census was carried out, there were 5,000 certified ecological farmers, most of them small-scale family producers.

EspÌndola estimates that there are now around 12,000 organic producers, who farm a combined total of 1.75 million hectares. But threats loom on all sides.

Michi’s small farm is one illustration of the problems organic farmers face. It scrapes along, surrounded by quarries, cattle ranches, a sanitary landfill and a projected orbital motorway to be built just two km away.

In other words, the neighbourhood endangers her ecological production.

Trucks hauling rocks and gravel rumble up and down the dirt road in front of her farm, trailing clouds of dust, while the dump gives off a terrible stench and brings swarms of flies. Chemicals used at the dump are also in the air, causing skin ailments among her family.

Given these difficulties, Michi’s family constantly debates whether to move away.

“Besides the bad smell, there is the danger of water pollution,” Michi says. “There are days when I can’t stand working in the garden because of the odours and the flies. We’re an organic community directly affected by developments that arrived here after us.”

Family famers in SeropÈdica are worried about being hemmed in by industrial endeavours, while they put up with pressure from companies interested in setting up shop in the area. “They made me an offer to buy my land, but I turned it down,” Michi said. “I’ll only leave here if I can buy the same thing elsewhere, where I can farm. I don’t know how to do anything else.”

Besides the challenges of using green-friendly farming methods, small-scale organic farmers have to overcome other obstacles, Michi said, like difficulties in access to credit and technical assistance from institutions dedicated to agricultural research and development.

The solution, according to EspÌndola, is for the different parties involved to be brought together by a public policy specifically providing support for the organic farming sector.

“If that doesn’t happen, there will always be a bottleneck limiting production levels,” he said.

Another EMBRAPA technician, Nilton Cesar Silva dos Santos, said that organic farming was undergoing a major restructuring.

“The conditions still don’t exist in Brazil for a 100 percent organic chain of food production,” said Santos, who is earning a graduate degree in sustainable development in rural settlements that emerge from the government’s land reform programme.

Not only the ecological farming sector but family agriculture as a whole is suffering from a scarcity of resources, said Santos, who is behind the first project to set up greenhouses on family farms in the state, with support from EMBRAPA.

Michi’s farm was one of the first four to have a greenhouse installed. Santos said it is possible to improve working conditions for organic farmers while at the same time getting the city “to look to the countryside once again.”

Flash Floods Worst Ever

Head of the National Disaster Management Council says today’s heavy rains and flash floods are the worst he’s ever witnessed for Honiara.

Loti Yates made the statement on national radio today when announcing the NDMO’s evacuation program for people worst hit by today’s heavy torrential rains and its consequential flash floods.

Reports reaching SIBC state communities in White River, Rove, Mataniko, Koa Hill and other areas located near rivers and streams are among the worst hit areas.

Other unconfirmed reports state that the flooding Mataniko River swept away homes, livestock and a number of people – with some of the people being found in seas outside of Point Cruz.

Heavy flooding also swept away the old Mataniko Bridge in Chinatown, and most businesses and offices were forced to close early today.

One shop owner in Chinatown reportedly opened his shop and invited people to take goods for free after the behind of the building was swept away by the flooding Mataniko River.

Director of National Disaster Management Office, Loti Yates told SIBC News this current bad weather is the worst he’s seen since he took up his job as head of the NDMO.

“This event is the worst I’ve ever seen since taking up the job, that there are so much heavy rain around this area that creates this massive flash foods. Not only that, it won’t help when our drainage systems in the city are not working properly, contributing to the floods. Driving around to assess the situation myself today I was sad to notice the fact that there were children and women carrying little kids in the rain trying to evacuate themselves from the flooded areas and in some places it seems people’s belongings have been washed away by the Mataniko floods.”

Meanwhile, the National Disaster Management Office has urged road users to drive back to their homes and garage their vehicles.

NDMO Head Loti Yates told national radio today the road needs to be cleared for police and emergency response workers.

“It would be good if people just head straight to their homes rather than creating extra hurdles for emergency response workers. The police will need space to run their vehicles if we are to engage them to evacuate people from the high risk areas, we will all need space and it won’t help when everyone else wants to witness the events, creating extra traffic on our roads. I think for safety purposes please drive back to your homes, pack your vehicles and remain in the safety of your homes. That will be the biggest message I want to tell people because now the emergency response workers, like police and others working to help those affected will need space on the roads to carry out their duty.”

First contact

Filed under: brazil,colonialism,culture — admin @ 6:42 am

It was disastrous when Europeans first arrived in what would become Brazil — 95 percent of its population, the majority of its tribes, and essentially all of its urban and agricultural infrastructure vanished. The experiences of Brazil’s indigenous societies mirror those of other indigenous peoples following “first contact.”

A new study of Brazil’s indigenous societies led by SFI researcher Marcus Hamilton paints a grim picture of their experiences, but also offers a glimmer of hope to those seeking ways to preserve indigenous societies.

Even among the indigenous societies contacted in just the last 50 years, says Hamilton, “all of them went through a collapse, and for the majority of them it was disastrous,” with disease and violence responsible in most cases, and with lasting detrimental effects. “That’s going on today — right now.”

Brazil is “a tragic natural experiment,” Hamilton says: several hundred native tribes contacted by outsiders remain, according to Instituto Socioambiental, a non-governmental organization that reports census data on 238 of those societies going back a half-century or more. That volume of data makes possible a detailed analysis of the health and prospects of the surviving contacted — and uncontacted — societies, an analysis that wouldn’t be possible any where else in the world.

Using a method called population viability analysis, the researchers found that contact by outsiders is typically catastrophic, yet survivable. While first contacts in Brazil led to population declines of 43 percent on average, that decline bottomed out an average of eight or nine years after contact, following which population numbers grew as much as four percent a year — about as much as possible. Projecting those results into the future suggests that contacted and as-yet uncontacted populations could recover from a low of just 100 individuals.

Hamilton and co-authors Robert Walker and Dylan Kesler of the University of Missouri describe their analysis in a paper published this week in Scientific Reports.

While their analysis paints a hopeful picture, Hamilton notes that deforestation, the breakdown of interactions between tribes, and assimilation with the outside world pose ongoing threats to indigenous societies.

“Demographically they’re healthy,” Hamilton says, but as for their long-term survival, “it’s very up in the air.” Lowland South America has long been a battle-ground between European colonization and indigenous survival. Initial waves of European colonization brought disease epidemics, slavery, and violence that had catastrophic impacts on indigenous cultures. In this paper we focus on the demography of 238 surviving populations in Brazil. We use longitudinal censuses from all known indigenous Brazilian societies to quantify three demographic metrics: 1) effects of European contact on indigenous populations; 2) empirical estimates of minimum viable population sizes; and 3) estimates of post-contact population growth rates. We use this information to conduct population viability analysis (PVA). Our results show that all surviving populations suffered extensive mortality during, and shortly after, contact. However, most surviving populations exhibit positive growth rates within the first decade post-contact. Our findings paint a positive demographic outlook for these indigenous populations, though long-term survival remains subject to powerful externalities, including politics, economics, and the pervasive illegal exploitation of indigenous lands.

State news agency aligns covert ZunZuneo program with other ‘anti-Cuban’ plots including failed Bay of Pigs invasion

Filed under: capitalism,cuba,culture,government,ideology,intra-national,media,usa — admin @ 6:38 am

Revelations of a secret US government programme to set up a cellphone-based social network in Cuba are being trumpeted in the island’s official media as proof of Havana’s repeated allegations that Washington is waging a “cyber-war” to try to stir up unrest.

“ZunZuneo joins an extensive list of secret anti-Cuban operations” including the failed Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961 and plots to assassinate Fidel Castro, state news agency Prensa Latina said.

The findings of an Associated Press investigation, published on Thursday, featured prominently on multiple Cuban state TV newscasts and occupied a full page in the Communist Party newspaper Granma on Friday. They also were to be the focus of the nightly two-hour news analysis show “Mesa Redonda”, or “Roundtable”.

Prensa Latina recalled a 1 January speech in which President Ra??l Castro warned of “attempts to subtly introduce platforms for neoliberal thought and for the restoration of neocolonial capitalism‚^¿^›.

“Castro’s denunciations of the US government’s destabilising attempts against Cuba were corroborated by today’s revelation of a plan to push Cuban youth toward the counterrevolution, with the participation of a US agency,” Prensa Latina said.

US officials defended the program as being in line with the mission of the US Agency for International Development (USAID), which oversaw it. They said it did not amount to a “covert” operation, although they said the government takes steps to maintain discretion when working in “non-permissive environments” such as Cuba.

Documents obtained by the AP showed that the network, dubbed ZunZuneo after the Cuban word for hummingbird, operated from 2009 until it vanished in 2012. Some Documents obtained by the AP showed that the network, dubbed ZunZuneo after the Cuban word for hummingbird, operated from 2009 until it vanished in 2012. Some 40,000 island cellphone users signed up and used ZunZuneo to receive and send text messages, mostly innocuous jokes or snippets of international, sports and entertainment news.

However the AP revealed that the network, which was built using secret shell companies and financed through a foreign bank, sought to first build an audience of mostly young people and then nudge them toward dissent.

In a statement late Thursday, Josefina Vidal, director of US affairs at Cuba’s foreign ministry, demanded that Washington halt “its illegal and clandestine actions against Cuba”. She said the ZunZuneo case “shows once again that the United States government has not renounced its plans of subversion against Cuba”.

Cuba has one of the lowest internet penetration rates in the world, though the country has taken small steps to expand access. Last year it opened about 200 cyber-cafes around the country, though at $4.50 an hour many Cubans are effectively priced out. The government also controls nearly all traditional media.

Cellphone use is increasingly common among the island’s population of 11 million. Official statistics say there were about 1.8 million active Cuban mobile accounts in 2012, compared with 400,000 in 2007.

On the streets of Havana, some echoed their government’s complaints about US interference and ZunZuneo.

“Coming from them [the United States], nothing can surprise us anymore,” said 25-year-old Claudia Garcia.

The No-Fly List

Filed under: airlines,government,human rights,usa — admin @ 6:34 am

On September 10, 2001, there was no formal no-fly list. Among the many changes pressed on a scared population starting that September 12th were the creation of two such lists: the no-fly list and the selectee list for travelers who were to undergo additional scrutiny when they sought to fly. If you were on the no-fly list itself, as its name indicated, you could not board a flight within the U.S. or one heading out of or into the country. As a flight-ban plan, it would come to extend far beyond America’s borders, since the list was shared with 22 other countries. No one knows how many names are on it. According to one source, 21,000 people, including some 500 Americans, are blacklisted; another puts the figure at 44,000. The actual number is classified.

On January 2, 2005, unaware of her status as a threat to the United States, Ibrahim left Stanford for San Francisco International Airport to board a flight to Malaysia for an academic conference. A ticket agent saw her name flagged in the database and called the police.

Despite being wheelchair-bound due to complications from a medical procedure, Ibrahim was handcuffed, taken to a detention cell, and denied access to medication she had in hand. Without explanation, after extensive interrogation, she was allowed to board her flight. When she tried to return to America to resume her studies, however, she found herself banned as a terrorist.

Suing the United States

Stuck in Malaysia, though still in possession of a valid student visa, Ibrahim filed a lawsuit against the U.S. government, asking to be removed from the no-fly list and allowed back into the country to continue her architectural studies.

Over almost nine years, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) employed an arsenal of dodges and post-9/11 tricks to impede her lawsuit, including invoking the “state secrets doctrine” to ensure that she would never have access to the records she needed. “State secrets” is not a law in the U.S., as it is, for example, in Great Britain, where the monarch also retains ” Crown Privilege,” the absolute right to refuse to share information with Parliament or the courts. Here, it is instead a kind of assumed privilege and the courts accept it as such. Based on it, the president can refuse to produce evidence in a court case on the grounds that its public disclosure might harm national security. The government has, in the past, successfully employed this “privilege” to withhold information and dead-end legal challenges. Once “state secrets” is in play, there is literally nothing left to talk about in court.

A related DOJ dodge was also brought to bear in an attempt to derail Ibrahim’s case: the use of made-up classification categories that dispatch even routine information into the black world of national security. Much of the information concerning her placement on the no-fly list, for instance, was labeled Security Sensitive Information (SSI) and so was unavailable to her. SSI is among hundreds of post-9/11 security categories created via memo by various federal agencies. These categories, too, have no true legal basis. Congress never passed a law establishing anything called SSI, nor is there any law prohibiting the disclosure of SSI information. The abuse of such pseudo-classifications has been common enough in the post-9/11 years and figured significantly in the ongoing case of Transportation Security Administration (TSA) whistleblower Robert MacLean.

Next in its end-run around Ibrahim’s lawsuit, the DOJ pulled “standing” out of its bag of tricks. Standing is a legal term that means a person filing a lawsuit has a right to do so. For example, in some states you must be a resident to sue. Seeking to have a case thrown out because the plaintiff does not have standing was a tactic used successfully by the government in other national security cases. The ACLU, for instance, sued the National Security Agency for Fourth Amendment violations in 2008. The Supreme Court rejected the case in 2013 for lack of standing, claiming that unless the ACLU could conclusively prove it had been spied upon, it could not sue. In the wake of the Edward Snowden revelations showing that the NSA indeed spied widely on American citizens, the ACLU has revived the suit. It claims that the new documents provide clear evidence of broad-based surveillance and so now give it standing.

Standing was also used by the DOJ in the case of American citizen and purported al-Qaeda member Anwar al-Awlaki, whom the U.S. murdered by drone in Yemen. Prior to his son’s death, attorneys for al-Awlaki’s father tried to persuade a U.S. District Court to issue an injunction preventing the government from killing him. A judge dismissed the case, ruling that the father did not have standing to sue. In Ibrahim’s no-fly case, the government argued that since she was not an American citizen, she had no standing to sue the government for its actions against her in the U.S. When all of those non-meritorious challenges failed to stop the case, the government invoked the very no-fly designation Ibrahim was challenging, and refused to allow her to travel to the United States to testify at her own trial.

Next, Ibrahim’s daughter, an American citizen traveling on a U.S. passport, was not allowed to board a flight from Malaysia to serve as a witness at her mother’s trial. She, too, was told she was on the no-fly list. After some legal tussling, however, she was finally allowed to fly to “the Homeland.” Why the American government changed its mind is classified and almost all of the trial transcript concerning the attempt to stop her from testifying was redacted from public disclosure.

In addition, by regularly claiming that classified information was going to be presented, the government effectively hid the ludicrous nature of the Ibrahim case from much public scrutiny. The trial was interrupted at least 10 times and the public, including journalists, were asked to leave the courtroom so that “classified evidence” could be presented.

A message of intimidation had been repeatedly delivered. It failed, however, and Ibrahim’s case went to trial, albeit without her present.

Ibrahim Wins

Despite years of effort by the DOJ, Ibrahim won her lawsuit. The U.S. District Court for Northern California ordered the removal of her name from the no-fly list. However, in our evolving post-Constitutional era, what that “victory” revealed should unnerve those who claim that if they are innocent, they have nothing to fear. Innocence is no longer a defense.

During the lawsuit, it was made clear that the FBI had never intended Ibrahim to be placed on the no-fly list. The FBI agent involved in the initial post-9/11 investigation of Ibrahim simply checked the wrong box on a paper form used to send people into travel limbo. It was a mistake, a slip up, the equivalent of a typo. There was no evidence that the agent intended harm or malice, nor it seems were there any checks, balances, or safeguards against such errors. One agent could, quite literally at the stroke of a pen, end someone’s education, job, and family visits, and there was essentially no recourse.

Throughout the nine years Ibrahim fought to return to the U.S., it appears that the government either knew all along that she was no threat and tried to cover up its mistake anyway, or fought her bitterly at great taxpayer expense without at any time checking whether the no-fly designation was ever valid. You pick which theory is most likely to disturb your sleep tonight.

Ibrahim Loses

Having won her case, Ibrahim went to the airport in Kuala Lumpur to fly back to Stanford and resume her studies. As she attempted to board the plane, however, she was pulled aside and informed that the U.S. embassy in Malaysia had without notice revoked her student visa. No visa meant, despite her court victory, she once again could not return to the United States.

At the U.S. embassy in Kuala Lumpur, Ibrahim was handed a preprinted “explanation” for the visa revocation with the word “terrorist” hand-written next to the boilerplate text. Ibrahim was never informed of her right under U.S. law to apply for a waiver of the visa revocation.

Though it refused to re-issue the visa, the State Department finally had to admit in court that it had revoked the document based solely on a computer “hit” in its name-checking database, the Consular Lookout and Support System (CLASS.) That hit, in turn, appeared to be a straggler from the now defunct no-fly list entry made erroneously by the FBI.

The State Department and CLASS

As is well known, the State Department issued legal visas to all of the 9/11 terrorists. In part, this was because the CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies failed to tell State what they knew about the hijackers, as all were suspected to be bad guys. Then and now, such information is passed on when intelligence and law enforcement agencies make electronic entries in State’s computerized lookout system. CLASS is part of the Consular Consolidated Database, one of the largestknown data warehouses in the world. As of December 2009, it contained over 100 million cases and 75 million photographs, and has a current growth rate of approximately 35,000 records per day. CLASS also collects the fingerprints of all foreigners issued visas.

Pre-9/11, various agencies in Washington were reluctant to share information. Now, they regularly dump enormous amounts of it into CLASS. The database has grown 400% since September 11, 2001.

The problem is that CLASS is a one-way street. Intelligence agencies can put data in, but can’t remove it because State keeps the database isolated from interactive data maintenance. In addition, the basic database it uses to screen out bad guys typically only has a subject’s name, nationality, and the most modest of identifying information, plus a numerical code indicating why a name was entered. One code, 3B, stands for “terrorist”; another, 2A, means “criminal”; and so forth through the long list of reasons the U.S. would not want to issue a visa. Some CLASS listings have just a partial name, and State Department visa-issuing officers regularly wallow through screen after screen of hits like: Muhammad, no last name, no date of birth, Egypt — all marked as “critical, Category One” but with no additional information.

Nor, when the information exists but was supplied by another agency, do U.S. embassies abroad have direct access to the files. Instead, when a State Department official gets a name “hit” overseas, she must send a “Security Advisory Opinion,” orSAO, back to Washington asking for more information. The recipient of that cable at Foggy Bottom must then sort out which intelligence agency entered the data in the first place and appeal to it for an explanation.

At that point, intelligence agencies commonly to refuse to share more, claiming that no one at State has the proper clearances and that department should just trust their decision to label someone a bad guy and refuse to issue, or pro-actively revoke, a visa. If, on the other hand, information is shared, it is often done on paper by courier. In other words, a guy shows up at State with a bundle of documents, waits while someone reviews them, and then spirits them back to the CIA, the FBI, or elsewhere. That way, the intelligence agencies, always distrustful of State, are assured that nothing will be leaked or inadvertently disclosed.

In cases where no more information is available, or what is available is inconclusive, the State Department might allow the visa application to pend indefinitely under the heading “administrative processing,” or simply “prudentially” revoke or not issue the visa. No one wants to risk approving a visa for the next 9/11 terrorist, even if it’s pretty obvious that the applicant is nothing of the sort.

This undoubtedly is what happened to Ibrahim. Though the details remain classified, State certainly didn’t possess super secret information on her unavailable to other law enforcement or intelligence outfits. Some official surely decided to take no chances and revoked her visa “prudentially” based on the outdated information still lodged in CLASS.

Not CLASS Alone

Ibrahim’s case also reveals just how many secret databases of various sorts exist in Washington. Here’s how a name (your name?) gets added to one of those databases, and how it then populates other lists around the world.

A name is nominated for the no-fly list by one of hundreds of thousands of government officials: an FBI agent, a CIA analyst, a State Department visa officer. Each nominating agency has its own criteria, standards, and approval processes, some — as with the FBI in Ibrahim’s case — apparently pretty sloppy.

The nominated name is then sent to the Terrorist Screening Center (TSC) at a classified location in suburban Northern Virginia. TSC is a multi-agency outfit administered by the FBI and staffed by officials from the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of State, and all of the Intelligence Community.

Once a name is approved by the TSC (the process is classified), it will automatically be entered into a number of databases, possibly including but not necessarily limited to:

*the Department of Homeland Security’s no-fly list;

*that same department’s selectee list that ensures chosen individuals will be subject to additional airport screening;

*the State Department’s Consular Lookout and Support System (CLASS, including CLASS-Visa for foreigners and CLASS-Passport for U.S. Citizens);

*the Department of Homeland Security’s TECS (a successor to the Treasury Enforcement Communications System), which is used in part by customs officials, as well as its Interagency Border Inspection System (IBIS), used by immigration officials;

*the Known and Suspected Terrorist File (KSTF, previously known as the Violent Gang and Terrorist Organizations File);

*TUSCAN, a database maintained by Canada;

*TACTICS, a database maintained by Australia;

*and finally, an unknown number of other law enforcement and intelligence agency databases, as well as those of other foreign intelligence services with which information may be shared.

As Ibrahim discovered, once a name is selected, it travels deep and far into both U.S. and foreign databases. If one clears one’s name from one database, there are many others out there waiting. Even a comprehensive victory in one nation’s courts may not affect the records of a third country. And absent frequent travel, a person may never even know which countries have him or her on their lists, thanks to the United States.

Once she learned that her student visa had been revoked in Malaysia, Ibrahim sued again, asking that the State Department reissue it. The government successfully blocked this suit, citing a long-established precedent that visa matters are essentially an administrative function and so not subject to judicial review.

A court did scold State for failing to notify Ibrahim of her right to seek a waiver, as it was required to do by law. To the extent that Ibrahim’s case has any life left in it, her next step would be to return to the Department of Justice’s bailiwick and apply for a waiver of the revocation the State Department made based on data given to it by the DOJ that both outfits know was struck down by a court. It’s that “simple.” Meanwhile, she cannot return to the U.S.

Nothing to Hide?

A common trope for those considering the way the National Security Agency spies on almost everyone everywhere all the time is that if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear. If your cell phone conversations are chit-chats with mom and your emails tend toward forwards of cute cat videos, why should you care if the NSA or anyone else is snooping?

Ask Rahinah Ibrahim about that. She did nothing wrong and so should have had nothing to fear. She even has a court decision declaring that she never was nor is a threat to the United States, yet she remains outside America’s borders. Her mistaken placement on the no-fly list plunged her head first into a nightmarish world that would have been all too recognizable to Franz Kafka. It is a world run by people willing to ignore reality to service their bureaucratic imperatives and whose multiplying lists are largely beyond the reach of the law.

Sad as it may be, the Ibrahim case is a fairly benign example of ordinary Washington practices in the post-9/11 era. Ibrahim is going about her life at peace in Malaysia. Her tangle with the United States seems to have been more a matter of bureaucratic screw-ups than anything else. No one sought to actively destroy her. She was not tortured in a CIA black site, nor left for years in a cage at Guantanamo. Her case is generally seen as, at worst, another ugly stain on the white wall we imagine we are as a nation.

But the watch lists are there. The tools are in place. And one thing is clear: no one is guarding the guards. You never know whose name just went on a list. Maybe yours?

Cry Freedom Rodrigues Island: Case for Self-Determination

Filed under: colonialism,global islands,rodrigues — admin @ 6:29 am

Cry Freedom Rodrigues Island: Case for Self-Determination

Author(s): Alain L’…vÍque

Three hundred years ago, men and women in flesh and bone, were kidnapped from their villages in Guinea; trapped and captured like animals in Senegal; ripped from their families in Mozambique; herded aboard slave ships in Madagascar, and shipped across the Indian Ocean to this part of the World. Those who survived ended their days labouring like beasts of burden for foreign masters. They would never see Africa again. To the rest of the world, these unfortunate individuals lend a human face to the dark-end of a fading history; to us Rodriguans, they were much more – they were our great great grand fathers and mothers. To get to the inmost heart of our liberation struggle from Mauritius, it is sufficiently important to briefly revisit Rodrigues’ timeline. There are differing versions of history. We have the slave-driver’s version according to the slave-driver; we have the slave’s version according to the slave; we have the versions of those who see world conquest as Jus ad bellum (just cause for war) and the versions of those who do not. From this hazy distance, when we search for a truth buried somewhere in a dead past, among so many other diluted, distorted and deformed half-truths – we can only take a leap of faith.

The name Rodrigues was eponymously plucked from Diego Rodriguez, a Portuguese sailor whose brief visit in 1528 heralded the coming of the Europeans. There is some evidence that Chinese Mariners, Arab and Malay traders, and Pirates may have stumbled on the island as far back as the tenth century. No record of any indigenous population exists. By 1638, a council on nearby Reunion Island was already administering Rodrigues as a French possession. It remained a French colony until British troops stormed the island in 1809. It was then governed as a separate British territory until May 30, 1814, when its administration was transferred to Mauritius.

During the Second World War, 300 of our compatriots, my father among them, from our tiny active population, supported the British in Tobruk and El Alamein. Yet, in March 1968, we were bound to Mauritius against our will, and marooned in the colonially imposed `forced marriage’ of unitary rule. Having offloaded Mauritius, the British in Rodrigues simply packed their bags, shot their dogs, and took off.

In effect, we became the whipping boy, left behind at the mercy of new masters, to foot the bill for the transgressions of others.

Our history has been one long painful struggle against non-consensual governments: from French possession, French colony, English possession, dependency of the colony of Mauritius, `district’ of Mauritius, to Island region of Mauritius today. Neo-colonial labels replaced colonial tags; alien masters took over from foreign rulers, but for our people – the dysphoric cycle grinds on: Adieu l’esclavage – Bonjour l’esclavage (farewell slavery – good morning slavery.) Political Domination

By 1960, the decolonization of Mauritius and Rodrigues islands had already been decided. When subsequent negotiations and constitutional conferences were held in London and Mauritius in 1961, `65 and `67, Rodriguans were deliberately excluded. The pretext was that we did not have any political parties or organizations.

During that epoch, the ultraconservative Mauritian party, PMSD (Parti Mauritian `Social Democrat’), had been running a campaign of scaremongering, along ethnic lines in Rodrigues. Besides promises of freedom, its leader, Duval, had managed to convince our people that the Devil and his Dam would descend on Rodrigues after the British pulled out. Not surprisingly, in their first contact with the ballot box in 1967, an overwhelming ninety-eight percent of Rodriguans voted against being attached to Mauritius. Sadly, the express views of our people did not take precedence over the urgent conspiracy to annex our homeland.

Of note, in 1967, Rodriguans were not offered a choice between freedom and colonialism; we had to face the horns of this dilemma: British colonization or Mauritian occupation … a foreign ruler or an alien master. Not too dissimilar to Indochina’s quandary: Japanese occupation or French colonization.

Rodriguans did not wish to continue living under a British heel, anymore than we craved the prospect of living under a Mauritian one. And we certainly did not fancy the idea of uprooting our families, leaving the bones of ten generations of our ancestors buried in Rodrigues, to sail into exile in foreign lands. Nonetheless, in those blood-curdling days in Mauritius, people were dying in the streets; we feared being carved up next. The chilling reality of the times saw many discard their possessions, homes and lands, to escape to Canada, Australia, France, England, South Africa and other parts of the World. For some, this still cuts close to the bone. In 1968, before the ink was dry on a unilaterally drafted Independence constitution; baton-wielding police hoisted the Mauritian flag atop Port Mathurin under a cloud of tear-gas. Rodriguans became unwilling Mauritian citizens overnight. On occasions when our stout-hearted brothers and sisters resisted, British troops were summoned to put down our protest.

Admittedly, after the British left in 1968, our hands were not cut off. All the same, Rodrigues was reduced to a Mauritian fiefdom, where marginalization soon became institutionalized. We found ourselves with higher unemployment, higher cost of living, higher infant mortality, higher primary education drop-out rate and lower literacy and living standard than Mauritius. Discrimination, domination and exclusion became the norm. Today, force majeure continues to buttress the status quo.

In 1976, a separate ministry was set up to deal with Rodrigues’ specificities. So far, only a handful of `moderate’ Rodriguans, with their wings clipped, have ever been co-opted to this portfolio. What’s more, no Rodriguan has filled this post in the past ten years, and the likelihood of it ever being different, seems remote. Mauritian politicians arbitrarily choose the minister for Rodrigues and politically-appointed Mauritian bureaucrats govern Rodrigues by proxy – irrespective of our votes.

In 1991, when Rodriguans, had the temerity to demand more control over their own affairs, a token island Council was put in place to placate them. Fellow travellers and party hacks were handpicked and allowed to make recommendations on local matters. But, when the Council, though toothless, began to fuel nationalist pride among those with `ideas above their station’ – it was unceremoniously disbanded in 1996.

In 2001, following a long sustained struggle, the idea of Autonomy for the ethnically diverse people of Rodrigues, was first mooted. Finally, 170 years after the abolition of slavery, far reaching devolution from the centralized rigidities of Mauritian control came into sight … albeit briefly. In 2002, after much fanfare, after the spin-doctors had recited their precision-tooled sound bites, after the pig-headed and the big-headed had had their photo opportunities – `Autonomy’ arrived. The names were changed from Island Council to Regional Assembly and from Councillors to Commissioners. A few buildings were erected here and there, a few factotums got to fly to Mauritius, there to sit, silent and still, on government back-benches and a plague of introduced Chameleons overran Rodrigues. That was roughly the extent of it.

Mauritian ministers continued to micro-manage our affairs and we got to elect the lackeys who run their errands. The central government retained all legislative and executive powers and practically everything else. Eventually, even its rusted-on supporters had to concede that our promised `Autonomy’ was a dud.

When we peek one inch beyond the chic sophistry, we see one people still ruling another, not only without that other’s consent – but against its will. Loie sans partage (absolute rule) is alive and well in Rodrigues; it can be seen any day of the year, flexing its muscle and beating its chest in Port Mathurin.

At the risk of belabouring the obvious, one cannot consider limited administrative discretion to be Autonomy, anymore, than one can seriously consider a piglet to be an elephant.

The colonial legacy of authoritarian bureaucratic dictatorship was never dismantled in Rodrigues – it was reinforced. External bureaucratic-warlords command and our people obey without question. The chief of police, the judge, the minister for Rodrigues, all the principal heads of department, all the lawyers, all the policy makers, all those who actually govern Rodrigues – all come from Mauritius.

When our Creole language, in which is stored the experiences and struggles of our people, is spurned in our Assembly – when seventy percent of our people are disqualified from political office, because they do not speak a foreign language – when half-nourished, half-educated and half-free schoolchildren are forced to learn three languages – when there is a dearth of educational material on our African culture in a curriculum designed for us, by others – when our children mimic cultures, beliefs, languages and traditions dissimilar to their own, in order to validate their sense of self-worth – when our civil service which represents ninety percent of our educated, is effectively gagged from political discourse – when our people speak of Independence in tentative muffled whispers, for fear of government spies – when everything is controlled by external forces, there is no freedom … only domination. Constitutional guarantees of no ruling caste, of no second class citizens, of consent of the governed to govern, seem to apply to all, except in respect to Rodriguans.

The Rodriguan citizen is like a beleaguered character, hopelessly trapped inside an eternal nightmare of suppressed resentment, being forced to watch helplessly, as his culture crumbles into dust.

Mauritius speaks of human rights at the United Nations, pledges solidarity with SADC (Southern African Development Committee) and the African Union – yet retains its own Colonial Dominion. The double-edged morality is staggering.


Much water and much blood have flowed into the Indian Ocean, since our brothers and sisters in Madagascar, India, Sri Lanka, Comoros, Africa, Maldives, Seychelles and Mauritius were freed (at least in theory) from the wretched web of Colonialism. But for us Rodriguans, the on-going ignominy of Mauritian Occupation still haunts our daily lives.

In the 21st century, the island of Rodrigues, one of this regions’ last remaining manifestations of Colonialism has become the `sick man’ of the Indian Ocean, forever bonded to an artificial welfare drip, and still begging a foreign kleptocrat to let us go.

It is argued that because on May 30th 1814, Britain dubbed Rodrigues a dependency of the colony of Mauritius, and administered it as part of the island of Mauritius, it automatically became an integral and indivisible territory of Mauritius. Therefore, any dismemberment of territory before independence would have been illegal under international law.

If we follow this line of reasoning, then we also recognise that all colonially-imposed arrangements are forever binding on all future generations. And when this thinking is extended retrospectively, then, Mussolini’s 1936 laws could still be cited today, as justification to go on bedevilling the lives of Ethiopians, forever.

During Mad-Dog-Morgan’s governorship of Jamaica, looting and rape were the arrangements of the day. As one would reasonably expect, when Morgan the pirate left, his arrangements left with him. The British themselves snatched Rodrigues from the French at the point of a bayonet hooked-up to a gun; likewise, any arrangements they made during their rule became null and void – the very minute they left.

There was never any 11th Commandment, which accorded Britain divine-right to bequeath our lives, our lands and our country to Mauritius, for time without end. Our people were not Mauritius’ or anyone else’s private property. We were not cattle to be handed over from one master to another to another.

Unitary rule was part and parcel of British colonial policy. As a result, despite underlying divisions among different geographical ethnic groups, territories were artificially forced into a unitary state. For example, New Zealand was administered as a dependency of the colony of New South Wales; islands of the Caribbean were grouped together willy-nilly; Seychelles was administered as part of Mauritius; There were plans afoot to group all British East-African colonies under a federation. And it was only the selfless vetoes of India’s leaders that saved Burma from being administered as part of India. Unfortunately, Rodrigues did not have a Ghandi, or a Jinnah or a Nehru; we had Duval, demagoguery and double-cross a go-go.

The simple truth, however unpalatable, is when colonial rule ended in 1968, the island of Rodrigues had a population, and that island belonged to that population, and was not up for grabs.

On March 12th 1968, there should have been two proud islands, side by side, in free association, both celebrating their freedom. Alas, there was pride on one side of the Indian Ocean and humiliation on the other. On the gloomy anniversary of that miserable day, some Rodriguans still hold a minute’s silence … and remember.

The flaw in the dismemberment argument is that it is predicated on the false premise that Rodrigues was a legitimate territory of Mauritius prior to Independence. This was never the case. Mauritius never discovered a terra nullius Rodrigues; it never captured Rodrigues by conquest; the British never wrested Rodrigues from the French in 1814 simply to give it to Mauritius; Rodriguans never surrendered their individual sovereignty and their territorial integrity to a `Pax Mauritiana’ – Moreover, the Rodriguan nation never consented to be part of, or governed by Mauritius.

State sponsored propaganda, unremittingly repeated and embedded in school children as fact, is extremely difficult to unlearn. The untainted truth is Rodrigues was part of the British Empire until 1968; today, it is an annexed country under Occupation.

It is no more a territory of Mauritius, than Hercules is a son of Zeus.

Whether Britain gifted Rodrigues to Mauritius in 1968, as it gave Eritrea to Ethiopia or whether Mauritius opportunistically annexed it, is neither here nor there. Whatever deal, whatever collusion took place between Britain and its Mauritian colonial minister, without our consent was illegal and immoral. It was akin to a departing pirate rewarding his faithful slave, with a slave of his own.

It was the shameless advancement of one country’s territorial ambition at the expense of its neighbour. Mauritius added 130,000 miles of our EEZ (exclusive economic zone) to its territory, and our people lost their homeland and their dignity. The United Kingdom, Mauritius and the International community clearly understand this, as I do, as you do, as we all do … It was wrong then – It is wrong now!

In 1968, our economic or political unpreparedness should never have been used as an excuse to deny us our independence. Mauritius should have been granted its own independence separately, as Northern Rhodesia was. Rodrigues should have been placed under the guardianship of the Trusteeship Council of the United Nations, as a non-self-governing territory. A pan-African commission or UN special committee for self-determination could then have put together a long term plan for Independence.

Under a mutually agreed-upon constitution, with suitable opt-out clauses, we could even have remained in free association with Mauritius, rather than being perpetually entrapped in the existing abomination, euphemistically known as `Autonomy’.

If historical debts, legal or at least moral responsibilities, abrogated in 1968, are made good to some extent, past injustices can be belatedly rectified. We remain hopeful.

It is not our lot in life, to be perpetually governed by other people. We did not accept non-consensual rule from France; we did not accept it from Britain – we will never accept it from Mauritius.

Ethnic Dilution The majority of Mauritius’ 1.3 million population are descendants of Indian indentured labourers, mainly from Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, brought by the British to meet labour shortages on Sugar cane plantations; whereas, ninety-five percent of Rodrigues’ forty thousand strong population are direct descendants of African slaves.

We are as distinct, as say Mexicans and Kenyans. This ethnic heterogeneity differentiates the one island from the other.

Rodriguans are not an indigenous group or an ethno-national minority seeking piecemeal internal self-rule; we are a separate people with a fervent aspiration to self-determine our future. Our case for full sovereignty is an exceptionally strong one. More to the point, we can never give up our homeland – our forefathers paid too dear a price for it!

Until recently, Rodrigues’ small maximum carrying capacity (approx.50,000) and its geographical isolation, have managed to preserve its cultural identity to some extent. However, the past few years have seen Mauritians, in ever-increasing numbers, being fast-tracked onto crown land in Rodrigues. If this trend (or government policy) continues, it is a mathematical certainty that it will dilute our ranks to a moribund minority. Much like mixing thirty bottles of beer with one bottle of lemonade – the lemonade disappears.

Once our culture, traditions, language, and way of life are gone; once we have lost our identity as a people; once our claim for sovereignty has been forever extinguished – we would have become a nation of semi-Slaves and half-repressed Serfs, stuck at the bottom-end of a Mauritian vertical class structure.

The once proud people of Rodrigues would have been reduced to a motley mob of untouchables, straw hats under the arm, bowing and scraping in the demimonde of Mauritian ghettos or eking out a living on the mountain ridges in Rodrigues. We could never again aspire to be anything more than just half a people; we would be forever playing catch-up to other cultures. As a people, we would be dead. For Rodriguans, this is an existential challenge. If we do not meet it, if we wait for the time that must come, we will surely follow the Dodo. This, I do not believe – I know.


The common Portuguese name Rodrigues (son of Rodrigo) was poorly chosen for us, by old masters, in evil times. Faced with being branded with it forever, even the brotherhood of Goblins, Gnomes and Gremlins would be reaching for the AK47. Seriously though, `Rodrigues’ is an old relic, fossilized in another era, clearly disconnected from and incompatible with the essence of our people. And not to mention, the blood-spattered images of Portugal’s brutal savagery in this region, which the name evokes – It is time for our generation to give it (Rodrigues) back to history.

We have lost a country – our body politic is being trampled underfoot; the stench of humiliation is everywhere; cultural oblivion looms large, and yet, we are still blighted by a small clique of bloated puppets and `well-assimilated’ latter-day Uncle Toms, wanting us to accept foreign domination.

Strangers overseas, who we do not vote for and cannot remove, design our electoral systems and electoral boundaries, decide our laws, taxation, tariffs, decide our health, education, foreign and economic policies. Strangers, decide our children’s future – Strangers decide – Strangers have been deciding for the best part of 300 years.

It is time – we decided! For, we too, have a brain and a backbone. Yes, it is true! We too, have dreams and hopes of our own. It is time to cut the neo-colonial umbilical cord sharply adrift, to take active steps to decrease dependence on others, to believe that if we reduce our wants and work hard, that self-reliance is possible and indeed desirable.

It is time to stop depending on built-in assumptions, on ideas and systems that have been partly responsible for our ongoing subordination. It is time to try other ideas, other approaches, perhaps invent new ones which better adapt to our circumstances. It is time to stop imitating others and trust in ourselves – for who we are, has worth.

Rodriguans are a resilient people. I say this, because contrary to popular belief, it is our people who have worked the land and fished the seas and kept farm animals and kept this small economy afloat – generation after generation. We have done it before, we are doing it now – we can do it better. Let’s not hesitate to continue drinking from the old well (the land and the sea), until the ghost of globalization arrives with the magic potion.

It is time to dump the usual too-poor, too-small, and not-yet-ready arguments. They are like bad records that have been played over and over again. They are intended to shackle rather than liberate. Fortunately, oppressed people the world over have ignored them, otherwise most islands in the Caribbean, Indian, Atlantic and Pacific, much of Africa and Asia, and possibly half the planet would still be under some form of colonial rule today. In any case, how large and how rich would a country need to be, for its people to qualify for their freedom? Moreover, who would decide? Our leaders must re-connect with the poor and dispossessed in this country, re-establish links with our ethnic kin in Africa, re-organize our people at the grassroots and demand that which was stolen from us in 1968 … our Country.

Let us not be discouraged by the indifference of a dog-eat-dog McWorld, let us not dither, let us steel our resolve and demand our Independence. Let us speak of it proudly in every home, in every church, in every bazaar, in every fishing-post, on every farm, on every street-corner, on every bus and wherever or whenever our people meet. Our task will not be without sacrifice, but if we turn our back on Independence now, we condemn our children to another 300 years of foreign domination. The alternative is simple: struggle or eternal subservience.

Our people have been the human Guinea pigs for some of the world’s most cold-blooded social experimentations. We have been at the painful-end of the whole monstrous gamut of Slavery, Colonialism, neo-Colonialism and `civilising missions’ of Missionaries. Despite the inhumanity, the degradation, the indignity; despite the loss of our grand African names, our sense of self, our traditional African clothing, our beliefs and our relationships with our kinfolk in Africa – we have already forgiven and moved on.

Perpetual domination is not a destination to where we want to lead our children, or as the late Pope John Paul II used to say to occupied people everywhere “you are not what they say you are; let me remind you who you really are …”

Our people have undergone a long-enough apprenticeship to be free. The time has come for us to climb out of the abyss of serfdom and view the world through our own eyes. As children of this flying planet, it is our incontrovertible right to self-determine our own future; let us exercise that right and reclaim our heritage in the human family. With this firm wish warming our hearts, with our heads held high – let us brace ourselves to face a hopeful future with fortitude.

Vive Rodrigues … Libre!

Malaysia Airlines MH370

Filed under: airlines,disaster,malaysia — admin @ 5:53 am

Military radar-tracking evidence suggests the Malaysia Airlines jetliner missing for nearly a week was deliberately flown across the Malay peninsula towards the Andaman Islands, sources familiar with the investigation told Reuters on Friday. Malaysia’s Department of Civil Aviation’s Director General Azharuddin Abdul Rahman briefs reporters on search and recovery efforts within existing and new areas for missing Malaysia Airlines plane. Two sources said an unidentified aircraft that investigators believe was Flight MH370 was following a route between navigational waypoints – indicating it was being flown by someone with aviation training – when it was last plotted on military radar off the country’s northwest coast. The last plot on the military radar’s tracking suggested the plane was flying toward India’s Andaman Islands, a chain of isles between the Andaman Sea and the Bay of Bengal, they said. Waypoints are geographic locations, worked out by calculating longitude and latitude, that help pilots navigate along established air corridors. A third source familiar with the investigation said inquiries were focusing increasingly on the theory that someone who knew how to fly a plane deliberately diverted the flight, with 239 people on board, hundreds of miles off its intended course from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. “What we can say is we are looking at sabotage, with hijack still on the cards,” said that source, a senior Malaysian police official. All three sources declined to be identified because they were not authorised to speak to the media and due to the sensitivity of the investigation.

Kuala Lumpur/Beijing: Multinational search operations for the Malaysian airliner that went missing March 8 continued Monday in the Indian Ocean but there is no trace of the aircraft.

Australian Defence Minister David Johnston said his country would do what it could to assist Malaysia to locate flight MH370 in whatever state it was in, Xinhua reported.

“We are now changing our focus to the central eastern Indian Ocean to try to solve this mystery,” he said.

Australia has provided two RAAF P-3C Orion aircraft to assist the Malaysian government in its search since March 9.

Malaysia Airlines MH370 with 239 passengers and crew on board vanished mysteriously about an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur early March 8.

The Boeing 777-200ER was initially presumed to have crashed off the Vietnamese coast in the South China Sea.

The plane was due to land in Beijing at 6.30 a.m. the same day. The 227 passengers included five Indians, 154 Chinese and 38 Malaysians.

Contact with the plane was lost along with its radar signal at 1.40 a.m. March 8 when it was flying over the air traffic control area of Ho Chi Minh City.

Johnston confirmed Australian aircraft were being directed by the Royal Malaysian Air Force commander for the western region search area and information on the search would be directed to the Malaysian authorities.

One RAAF P-3C Orion started searching in the Indian Ocean to the north and west of the Cocos Islands and the other would continue to search west of Malaysia.

France, which experienced its own search for a missing plane when an Air France flight disappeared off the coast of Brazil in 2009, has also confirmed its assistance, with the assignment of four experts.

India has supported search operations in the Andaman Sea and Bay of Bengal but this was suspended Sunday at the request of Kuala Lumpur.

The Indian defence ministry said the search would remain suspended until notice by Malaysia on which areas to search.

Malaysian authorities confirmed the pilot of the aircraft spoke to air traffic control after a signaling system was disabled on the jet, without referring to any trouble.

This comes as speculation grows about possible pilot complicity and a possible hijacking.

Malaysian Prime Minister Razak Sunday hinted at foul play, saying someone probably deliberately diverted the plane from its flight path from Kuala Lampur to Beijing.

“ALL right, good night,” were the last words heard by air-traffic controllers from Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 on March 8th. That makes them a rarity in the baffling story of the disappearance of a Boeing 777 carrying 239 passengers and crew from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing: an undisputed fact. In the days following, the Malaysian government provided information only in dribs and drabs, much of it confusing, even contradictory.

It seemed possible that the agonising wait for the passengers’ families might be nearing an end. On March 20th Australia’s prime minister, Tony Abbott, told parliament that satellite pictures showed debris in the southern Indian Ocean, some 2,500km southwest of Perth, in an area where the 777 might plausibly have crashed. At 20 metres or so, one object seemed the size of a wing or tail fin. Aircraft and ships were headed to the area to investigate further. If the plane’s wreckage is found, and especially if its “black box” flight recorder can be recovered, what happened to flight 370 should become clearer. What is already beyond doubt is that air-traffic communication protocols need to be updated to ensure that, however rare, such a disappearance cannot be repeated. The distressed relatives of the mostly Chinese passengers are not alone in their bewilderment that, in a world of pervasive electronic surveillance, a 200-tonne passenger plane can vanish. With little concrete information, speculation has run wild. Commentators of varying degrees of authority have attempted to fill the blank canvas with theories ranging from an accident to suicidal tendencies on the flight deck, and conspiracies of a complexity that would seem farfetched in a disaster film.

Hijacking seems unlikely: flight-deck doors are locked and sturdy. And investigations into the backgrounds of the crew and passengers have so far turned up no plausible motive. The first credible theory was that the plane had suffered a catastrophic mechanical failure and crashed, probably at sea. But a search along its flight path failed to turn up any sign of wreckage.

Then news emerged that Malaysian military radar had tracked the plane apparently turning west off its route shortly after the final radio message. Malaysian authorities added that its ACARS, an on-board system which transmits intermittent data about the performance of engines and other parts, appeared to have stopped functioning just before that, and that the transponder, another device that communicates a plane’s position to air-traffic control radars, appeared to have been switched off around the time of the turn. The fact that the pilots had not reported the switch-off led the authorities to infer foul play. On March 15th the Malaysian prime minister blamed “deliberate action”, with suspicion falling on the pilot or co-pilot. That the plane vanished between signing off with Malaysian air-traffic controllers and establishing contact with Vietnamese ones, and apparently continued flying for several hours under the control of a skilled aviator, lent credence to the assertion.

But this version of events was later revised by the Malaysian authorities. The ACARS, which sends messages intermittently, might have ceased functioning at exactly the same time as the transponder, it turned out. This makes the notion of an emergency more likely, perhaps a fire that incapacitated crew and passengers, leaving the plane to fly on ungoverned. The risk of an electrical fire is one reason why pilots are able to switch off on-board equipment, including that responsible for communications. But many are now calling for an automatic alert to be sent in such circumstances, so that ground authorities know that they should start tracking the plane with conventional radar.

The ACARS has at least provided information about the jet’s continued path, albeit wildly imprecise. Though it stopped transmitting data it continued to “ping” (send out a signal with no information other than that it was still operating) for six hours. That is about how long the plane’s fuel tanks would have taken to empty. But the pings were only picked up by one satellite, making triangulation to establish the plane’s path during that time impossible.

Malaysian military radar apparently lost contact with the plane as it flew over the Indian Ocean. (According to reports on March 19th, Thai military radar may also have tracked it turning off course.) That suggests it is somewhere on an arc hundreds of miles wide running from Kazakhstan almost to Antarctica (see map). Planes and ships from 26 countries have now joined the hunt. The northern part seems less plausible: it approaches land and passes through several countries with military radar primed to look for unidentified aircraft. But to the south, where the search is now focused, there is little coverage.

The information age is taking to the skies only slowly. Planes far out at sea keep in touch using VHF radio, and the newer ones send ACARS data continuously via satellite. Many are also equipped with ADS-B, another system that uses satellites and GPS to pinpoint their location when they are out of radar range. But flight 370’s ADS-B seems to have stopped transmitting about the time its transponder went off.

Clearer skies

Aircraft-tracking websites use several of these newer sources of data. They will eventually replace radar when their safety and reliability are beyond dispute, a long process in the plodding world of aviation regulation. And the next generation of communications technology, due in around a decade, will relay all flight information at once, acting like a real-time version of the black box that all planes now carry. Adding internet connectivity, as many airlines are doing, will provide another way to get a message to the ground.

Until parts of the plane are examined, how it came to grief will remain unknown. In the meantime, for the grieving relatives, there is little comfort to be taken from the fact that such mysteries should soon be a thing of the past.

While searching for missing Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 in the southern Indian Ocean, an Australian airplane crew says they have spotted two objects. The aviators reportedly saw an “orange rectangular object” and a “gray or green circular object.” Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott also told the Malaysian government that a ship, the HMAS Success, is nearby and will be attempting to retrieve the objects either tonight or tomorrow morning. The objects are around 1,550 miles southwest of Perth, Australia.

An Australian plane has spotted an “orange rectangular object” and a “gray or green circular object” while searching for missing Flight 370 in the southern Indian Ocean, officials said.

Hishamuddin Hussein, Malaysia’s acting transport minister, said that Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott had told his counterpart in Kuala Lumpur that the objects could be retrieved as soon as later Monday by a ship hunting the Boeing 777. It has come to our attention that the browser you are using is either not running javascript or out of date. Please enable javascript and/or update your browser if possible.

Britain’s Inmarsat used a wave phenomenon discovered in the 19th century to analyse the seven pings its satellite picked up from Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 to determine its final destination.

The new findings led Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak to conclude on Monday that the Boeing 777, which disappeared more than two weeks ago, crashed thousands of miles away in the southern Indian Ocean, killing all 239 people on board.

The pings, automatically transmitted every hour from the aircraft after the rest of its communications systems had stopped, indicated it continued flying for hours after it disappeared from its flight path from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.

From the time the signals took to reach the satellite and the angle of elevation, Inmarsat was able to provide two arcs, one north and one south that the aircraft could have taken.

Inmarsat’s scientists then interrogated the faint pings using a technique based on the Doppler effect, which describes how a wave changes frequency relative to the movement of an observer, in this case the satellite, a spokesman said.

The Doppler effect is why the sound of a police car siren changes as it approaches and then overtakes an observer.

Britain’s Air Accidents Investigation Branch was also involved in the analysis.

“We then took the data we had from the aircraft and plotted it against the two tracks, and it came out as following the southern track,” Jonathan Sinnatt, head of corporate communications at Inmarsat, said.

The company then compared its theoretical flight path with data received from Boeing 777s it knew had flown the same route, he said, and it matched exactly.

The findings were passed to another satellite company to check, he said, before being released to investigators on Monday.

The paucity of data – only faint pings received by a single satellite every hour or so – meant techniques like triangulation using a number of satellites or GPS (Global Positioning System) could not be used to determine the aircraft’s flight path.

Keeping track

Stephen Wood, CEO of All Source Analysis, a satellite analytic firm, said it seemed that the investigators had narrowed down the area substantially. “But it’s still a big area that they have to search,” he said.

The incident is likely to spur a review of aviation rules, especially related to communications equipment and the ability to turn off a plane’s transponder.

But it is too early to say what that would entail because it remains unknown what made the plane divert from its original course.

“This type of incident will cause everyone who flies airplanes commercially with passengers to be really pressed for a whole new line of ways to keep track of their precious cargo,” said Wood, a former U.S. intelligence officer who headed the analysis unit of DigitalGlobe Inc, a satellite imagery firm, until July 2013.

DigitalGlobe last week provided images that Malaysia’s government called a “credible lead” for the massive trans-national effort to locate the plane.

Shortly after the plane went missing on March 8, Inmarsat used the ping data to plot two broad areas where the plane likely flew after it vanished from radar. One path took it north over central Asia, the other south to the Indian Ocean.

As days passed, more images and data became available, helping focus the search. But piecing that information together is time consuming and requires synchronizing the clocks of the various data systems, sometimes to a fraction of a second, said John Goglia, a former member of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board.

“Every time they get additional information from an additional site, they’ve got to go back and revisit what they’ve already done,” Goglia said.

But the efforts are rewarded, he said, when all the sources of the data point to one spot at the same time.

The complexity of the work can take weeks, he added. “As difficult as this one was, I’m amazed that we’ve got some of what we’ve got so quickly,” he said.

Inmarsat said for a relatively low cost its satellites could keep tabs on flights and provide data exchanged between the air and the ground to help organise routes to save time and fuel.

Its systems, which are widely used in shipping, have been embedded into surveillance and communications technologies that allow air traffic controllers to build up a picture of where aircraft are, and to better manage routes.

“If you have that (…) capability you get a preferred routing at the right altitude that makes your aircraft more fuel efficient, but if you don’t have it you have to fly lower and get less priority in air-traffic control,” said David Coiley, Inmarsat’s vice-president for aeronautics.

The system is used in planes in the North Atlantic, Coiley told Reuters earlier this month, but it is not commonly used in all parts of the world.

Sinnatt said on Monday that such a facility would cost about $10 per flight. “It is something we have been pushing the industry to do because it significantly adds to safety,” he said. Other satellite providers are also developing tracking systems.

Authorities consider the doomed Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, missing for more than two weeks, to be lost “beyond any reasonable doubt” somewhere in the Indian Ocean, with all passengers and crew assumed to have perished.

The fate of the missing plane has captivated the world since March 8, when the Beijing-bound Boeing 777-200 vanished mysteriously from civilian radar screens, less than an hour after departing Kuala Lumpur.

Families of the 239 missing passengers received a text message from the airline with the information, according to a CNBC producer who saw a copy of the message.”We deeply regret that we have to assume beyond any reasonable doubt that the MH370 has been lost and that none of those on board have survived,” the message read.

(The airline, facing a backlash over the use of text messaging, later clarified that families had also been contacted in person and by phone, and that texts had only been used to supplement that).

At a press conference on Monday in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak delivered a terse statement. According to new information, the flight was most likely at the bottom of the sea, though the circumstances behind its disappearance were still unclear.

“It is therefore with deep sadness and regret that I must inform you that according to this new data, MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean,” said Razak, delivering the news that grief stricken friends and relatives had been dreading for days. He said a new analysis of satellite data indicates the missing plane was lost in a remote area of the world’s third largest water body, which spans more than 28 million square miles. Play Video Sad ending for Malaysia MH 370 CNBC’s Eunice Yoon reports the family members of Malaysia MH 370 are grieving after the Malaysia Prime Minister says the flight ended in the Southern Indian Ocean.

No confirmed sighting of the plane has been made since its disappearance, though unconfirmed reports have claimed to have spotted debris.

Malaysia Airlines said in a statement to the families that “our prayers go out to all the loved ones of the 226 passengers and of our 13 friends and colleagues at this enormously painful time.”

“We know there are no words that we or anyone else can say which can ease your pain,” the airline said. “The ongoing multinational search operation will continue, as we seek answers to the questions which remain.”

Malaysian flight MH370 tragedy abused by Chinese hackers for Espionage attacks The Mysterious Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, a Boeing 777-200 aircraft that has gone missing by the time it flew from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. The Malaysian Prime Minister had also confirmed that the Malaysia Airlines plane had crashed in a remote part of the southern Indian Ocean. Cyber Criminals are known to take advantage of major news stories or events where there is a high level of public interest and now Scammers are also targeting tragedy of MH370 to trap innocent Internet users. Just a few days before we warned you about a Facebook malware campaign claimed that the missing Malaysian Airlines ‘MH370 has been spotted in the Bermuda Triangle’ with its passengers still alive and invites users to click a link to view breaking news video footage. This week, Security researchers at FireEye have revealed about various ongoing spear phishing and malware attacks by some advanced persistent threat (APT) attackers. According to the researchers, the Chinese hacking group called ‘admin@338’, specialized in cyber espionage attacks had sent multiple MH370-themed spear phishing emails to the government officials in Asia-Pacific, with an attachment referring to the missing Malaysian flight MH370. Malaysian flight MH370 tragedy abused by Chinese hackers for Espionage attacks The attachment file was actually merged with Poison Ivy RAT (remote access tool) and WinHTTPHelper malware to hijack the computer systems of government officials. The Chinese Hacking Group also initiated another attack against the US based think tank on 14th March. A malicious attachment was dropped via spear phishing mails, contains “Malaysian Airlines MH370 5m Video.exe”. The malicious attachment pretended to be a Flash video related to the missing plane and attached a ‘Flash’ icon to the executable file. “In addition to the above activity attributed to the Admin@338 group, a number of other malicious documents abusing the missing Flight 370 story were also seen in the wild.” researchers said.

As the search for any wreckage for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight continues, insurance experts have warned of “divergent” compensation claims, with the families of U.S. passengers potentially receiving millions more than their Asian counterparts.

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said on Monday that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 – missing for more than two weeks – was lost “beyond any reasonable doubt.” New satellite data indicated the plane was probably at the bottom of the southern Indian Ocean, Razak added.

All 239 of the people on the plane – 227 passengers and 12 crew – are assumed to have died.

The airline must pay the families of those on board around $176,000 under a multilateral treaty known as the Montreal Convention, and said it had already given relatives $5,000 per passenger in compensation.

But relatives can also sue for further damages – and it is these further pay-outs that experts warn could vary widely.

“Compensation for loss of life is vastly different between U.S. passengers and non-U.S. passengers,” Terry Rolfe, leader of the aviation practice at Integro Insurance Brokers, told CNBC.

“If the claim is brought in the U.S. courts, it’s of significantly more value than if it’s brought into any other court. And for U.S. citizens there is no problem getting into the U.S. courts.” Ahmad Jauhari Yahya, CEO of Malaysia Airlines, says the airline’s top priority remains taking care of families and relatives from the missing MH370 jet.

Numerous nationalities

There were passengers of 14 different nationalities on board the flight, Malaysia Airlines said, with the majority – 152 – Chinese. There were also 38 passengers from Malaysia, seven were Indonesian, six were from Australian and three Americans were on board, among other nationalities.

Rolfe estimated that an American court could pay out between $8-10 million on a per-passenger basis, but compensation would be a fraction of this outside of the U.S. In China, she estimated relatives would receive less than $1 million per passenger.

Allianz, the main reinsurer for the missing Malaysia Airlines yet, has already started pay out on claims relating to its disappearance, according to Reuters.

The German insurance giant would not comment on financial details, but The Telegraph reported that some $110 million had been placed in an escrow account and Allianz had agreed to make hardship payments to the relatives of those on the fight.

Where claims can be brought

The Montreal Convention dictates that a claim has to be brought in one of five places: where the carrier is domiciled; its main place of business; where the ticket was bought; the destination of the flight or the primary residence of the plaintiff.

“So for the majority of passengers on this flight, this is either China or Malaysia and these countries have very limited views of damages as opposed to America,” Illinois-based aviation crash attorney Floyd Wisner told CNBC.

“They could evaluate these cases and say a Chinese life is (of) less value than an American life. That’s unfair and that’s going to cause problems.”

Indeed, Wisner said disparate pay-outs could lead to international backlash – especially if the plights of the families continued to be highly publicized.

“I would be raising holy hell if I was a family member of a passenger from one country getting less than someone who happened to be sitting next to me from another country,” he said.

Another option open to the families is a class-action lawsuit, which would allow multiple relatives to sue over the same legal grounds.

In theory, a class action would give the families more clout – because they’re acting together rather than just as one person.

“But where there’s more clients, there’s more money to be made – so a class action lawsuit is of massive financial benefit to the lawyers.”

The airline and insurer will want to avoid this by being pro-active, he added, reassuring relatives that their individual claims will be managed swiftly and sensitively. The theory of someone in the crew taking over the airplane is the most likely explanation for why the Malaysia Airlines flight 370 was diverted from its flight path.

One reason for the high compensation pay-outs in the U.S., according to New York-based Rolfe, was the sheer number of attorneys and litigators here willing to take on the cases.

“There are a significant numbers of lawyers here who take on these airline cases and they know how to use to court system. They’re used to doing it,” she said. “And there isn’t the same level of attorney or litigation or precedence in the rest of the world.”

Same amount per passenger?

Wisner said the airline could pay out between $500-750 million in total compensation to the families, and was likely to have liability insurance to value of around $1 billion.

But he added that the total amount paid out could be reduced by offering one amount per passenger – whatever their nationality.

“They could aim for one standard for all, ” he said. “It would be worth trying to avoid this disparate treatment and pay a flat-sum per passenger.”

Integro Insurance Brokers’ Terry Rolfe, however, said this was unlikely. “The families won’t sign off on it if they know they can get a higher pay-out in the U.S. courts,” she added.

Malaysian flight MH370 tragedy abused by Chinese hackers for Espionage attacks The Mysterious Malaysian Airlines flight MH370, a Boeing 777-200 aircraft that has gone missing by the time it flew from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. The Malaysian Prime Minister had also confirmed that the Malaysia Airlines plane had crashed in a remote part of the southern Indian Ocean. Cyber Criminals are known to take advantage of major news stories or events where there is a high level of public interest and now Scammers are also targeting tragedy of MH370 to trap innocent Internet users. Just a few days before we warned you about a Facebook malware campaign claimed that the missing Malaysian Airlines ‘MH370 has been spotted in the Bermuda Triangle’ with its passengers still alive and invites users to click a link to view breaking news video footage. This week, Security researchers at FireEye have revealed about various ongoing spear phishing and malware attacks by some advanced persistent threat (APT) attackers. According to the researchers, the Chinese hacking group called ‘admin@338’, specialized in cyber espionage attacks had sent multiple MH370-themed spear phishing emails to the government officials in Asia-Pacific, with an attachment referring to the missing Malaysian flight MH370. Malaysian flight MH370 tragedy abused by Chinese hackers for Espionage attacks The attachment file was actually merged with Poison Ivy RAT (remote access tool) and WinHTTPHelper malware to hijack the computer systems of government officials. The Chinese Hacking Group also initiated another attack against the US based think tank on 14th March. A malicious attachment was dropped via spear phishing mails, contains “Malaysian Airlines MH370 5m Video.exe”. The malicious attachment pretended to be a Flash video related to the missing plane and attached a ‘Flash’ icon to the executable file. “In addition to the above activity attributed to the Admin@338 group, a number of other malicious documents abusing the missing Flight 370 story were also seen in the wild.” researchers said.

Anticipation has repeatedly turned into frustration in the search for signs of Flight 370 as objects spotted from planes in a new search area west of Australia have turned out to be garbage. It’s a time-wasting distraction for air and sea crews searching for debris from the Malaysia Airlines flight that vanished March 8.

It also points to wider problems in the world’s oceans.

“The ocean is like a plastic soup, bulked up with the croutons of these larger items,” said Los Angeles captain Charles Moore, an environmental advocate credited with bringing attention to an ocean gyre between Hawaii and California known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which by some accounts is about the size of Texas.

The world’s oceans have four more of these flotsam-collecting vortexes, Moore said, and the searchers, in an area about 1,150 miles west of Perth, have stumbled onto the eastern edge of a gyre in the Indian Ocean.

“It’s like a toilet bowl that swirls but doesn’t flush,” said Moore.

The garbage patches are nothing like a typical city dump. In fact, most of the trash can’t even be seen: it’s composed of tiny bits of plastic bobbing just below the surface.

The larger items also tend to be plastic and are often fishing-related, Moore said, although he has come across light bulbs, a toilet seat, and, bobbing off the California coast, a refrigerator, complete with defrosted orange juice.

Seattle oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer has been studying the phenomena of ocean debris for years. He said there are smaller collections of garbage within the gyres.

“If you go into a house you’ll find dust bunnies,” he said. “The ocean has a mass of dust bunnies, each moving about 10 miles a day.”

Ebbesmeyer said he’s fascinated by what happens to the trash that spews from the hundreds of shipping containers lost overboard from cargo ships each year. He said there’s one that keeps belching out Lego pieces onto the beaches of Cornwall, England. Another spilled 2,000 computer monitors. Another released thousands of pairs of Nike sneakers.

Sometimes, he said, the containers themselves can become hazards as they bob about for months, buoyed by plastic objects inside or the air trapped behind watertight doors.

Trash also gets into the ocean after being washed down rivers or swept up in tsunamis, Ebbesmeyer said.

Scientists are particularly worried about small and seemingly ubiquitous pieces of plastic that can be from shopping bags, plastic water bottles or other household items. Waves break the items up into smaller pieces. Wing Cmdr. Andy Scott, of New Zealand’s defense force, said the crew in a P-3 Orion scouring the ocean for Flight 370 on Saturday spotted about 70 objects in four hours.

Three were deemed worthy of further investigation, he said, but none turned out to be from the missing plane. One was probably a fishing line, he said, another was a suspected icebox lid and a third was some unidentified brown and orange material.

A cluster of orange-colored items spotted on Sunday from an Australian search plane and thought to be a promising lead also turned out to be fishing equipment.

With garbage complicating an already fraught effort to find flight wreckage, Australia’s Prime Minister Tony Abbott — elected late last year — said on Monday that the search is nowhere near over.

“I’m certainly not putting a time limit on it,” Abbott told the press at RAAF Pearce, the Perth military base coordinating the operation, “We can keep searching for quite some time to come.”

MH370 Apparently Flown to Diego Garcia: Navy Intelligence’s Part in the Exposed False Flag Operation

Despite weak, questionable, and conflicting evidence, the general consensus in the MSM is that MH370 appears to have followed a primarily southerly route and crashed somewhere in the southern Indian Ocean (over 1000 km SW of Perth, Australia) after running out of fuel. This theory is primarily based on the alleged satellite data of a British satellite telecommunications company named Inmarsat. There are significant questions about the reliability of Inmarsat’s findings, not the least of which is that no other satellite data has confirmed them and that the company has extensive military contracts. No evidence from any source has been found to confirm Inmarsat’s findings.

The investigation into MH370’s disappearance has been filled with incompetence, cover-ups, and disinformation. The scope of this paper is not to rebut the loads of questionable and conflicting evidence, but to show that the evidence suggests that the plane was probably flown to a strategic US naval and satellite communication facility in the central Indian Ocean. On a small island named Diego Garcia, 450 miles from the Maldives, there is a US naval base with a runway that can accommodate jumbo jets. There is nothing else on Diego Garcia except for the US Navy base and its satellite communications facility.

Around sunrise at 6:15 AM on March 8, 2014 (9:15 AM Malaysia time), several residents on the Maldives island of Huvadhoo reported seeing a very low-flying jumbo jet. The residents provided good detail and described the aircraft as white with red stripes, which is very similar to the colors of MH370. According to some residents, the plane was flying so low they could see the doors on the plane. The residents stated that they sometimes see small seaplanes around the island, but this was the first time they ever saw a jumbo jet. People were coming out of their houses to see what was causing the tremendous noise. The eyewitnesses say that the airplane was traveling in a southeast direction toward Addu, the last and most southern island in the Maldives.[24]

There are several important facts and observations that need to be made at this point: * Huvadhoo residents would have been the first (the sighting happened around sunrise) and last to see the plane before it reached Diego Garcia, which is mainly south of Huvadhoo. Although there was one more Maldives island (Addu Island, about 50 miles straight south of Huvadhoo) before Diego Garcia, the plane was reportedly traveling in a southeast direction apparently in order to miss Addu Island. * If the plane was flying so low that some people could see the plane’s doors and it was very loud, then it was probably flying no more than 500 feet above sea level. At this flying height, the plane was flying low enough to avoid conventional radar. * The time the plane was spotted was about 8.5 hours from take-off and it had flown roughly 2,200 miles, averaging approximately 250 miles per hour. (From Kuala Lumpur to the original destination of Beijing was 2,700 miles.) Although the plane had more drag at the lower altitude and would have gotten worse fuel mileage, the much slower than normal speed would have compensated for the greater air resistance.[25] * From the point where the plane was spotted, there was another 500 miles to Diego Garcia, or approximately two hours at its then current speed.

The day after the sightings were reported in the Maldives media, the acting Malaysian transport minister stated that the Maldives reports were “not true,” based on a conversation between the heads of Malaysia’s and Maldives’ Defense Forces. Maldives National Defence Force stated there was no trace that MH370 had been picked up on their radar.[26] Of course not, the plane was apparently flying at around 500 feet and all other tracking devices have been intentionally turned off. The finding of the sightings being “not true” implies that the residents deliberately lied and no evidence or support was provided for this fact. Indeed, if the residents who spotted the plane were found to be intentionally lying in one of the most high profile international investigations in years, then it would likely be a crime and there’s no evidence they were charged with one. What would be the eyewitnesses motivation to tell such an alleged blatant lie?

As reported in the MSM, the head pilot of MH370, Capt. Zaharie Ahmed Shah, had a “sophisticated” self-built flight simulator in his house. Despite the FBI lying that they found nothing unusual on the simulator, several MSM organizations reported that Shah had Diego Garcia programmed into his simulator which suggests that he practiced flights to that remote island.[27] As a glance at Google Maps reveals, the closest easily-sighted amount of land to a direct path between the last-known location of MH370 and Diego Garcia is the Maldives, so it would make sense (especially if fuel was tight and navigation was uncertain) to aim for the Maldives en route to Diego Garcia.

A major Malaysian news organization reported that investigators found that Diego Garcia and its runway was among the top-five locations programmed in Shah’s simulator, along with Male, Maldives.[28] The only thing on Diego Garcia is the US Navy and commercial flights do not go to Diego Garcia. Given that Shah appears to have flown the plane at about 500 feet above sea level, practicing on a simulator would have been very helpful.

Diego Garcia is owned by the British government and is leased to the US government. US navy operations on the island include a large ship and submarine base, an air base, a communications and “space tracking” facility, and a logistics anchorage for regional operations, including for the Middle East. Diego Garcia was used as the launching pad for US bombers in both the Afghanistan and Iraq wars and as a logistics supply hub.

Diego Garcia also happens to be the place where the US has several hundred “bunker-buster” bombs stored in event of a possible attack on Iran. The Scotland Herald reported in 2010 that a Florida-based shipping company (Superior Maritime Services) entered into a contract with the US government to ship 387 “Blu” bombs used for blasting hardened or underground structures.[29] Thus, Diego Garcia might well be a logical staging area for a false flag operation against Iran. Coincidentally, Superior Maritime Services does lots of military work and is located in the same Florida County (Broward) as GA Telesis.

With the bunker buster bombs stored at Diego Garcia, it’s probable that there is an Israeli presence there that is involved in the planning and preparation of a possible attack on Iran. It’s likely that there has been military coordination between the US and Israel and it would make sense that Diego Garcia would be used given its state of the art satellite systems (to identify Iran’s potential nuclear sites) and its probable use as a launch pad for possible bombing strikes against Iran.

Another significant unanswered question is why didn’t Diego Garcia’s sophisticated satellite systems pick up any data on MH370 given it allegedly flew within about one thousand miles of the base and allegedly crashed about 2,000 miles from Diego Garcia. There’s speculation that US military and intelligence did have the means to monitor MH370’s flight. Diego Garcia’s satellite systems would almost certainly have had the capability to pick up the same “pings” that Inmarsat’s satellite allegedly picked up.

The Feeble Framing of Iran and the Exposed “Plan A” of the Attempted False Flag Operation

For about the last decade, Israel and US neocon hawks have been trying to convince the world that Iran is six months away from producing a nuclear bomb, and the dire consequences if they’re not stopped. Israel’s cited source for this evidence is their vaunted intelligence services which have been proven wrong time and time again. Realizing that President Obama and the rest of the world is sick and tired of their “crying wolf,” Israel and certain neocon related elements within the US military and intelligence apparatus are clearly getting desperate for action which now appears to be in the form of a joint false flag operation to implicate Iran.

The Iranian connection to MH370 was established quickly when two Iranian men were found to have boarded the flight using stolen passports. Although many American MSM organizations have floated the theory that the Iranian men could have been party to a terrorism plot, most MSM organizations have not promoted it as likely theory. However, Fox News and its owner Rupert Murdoch have been aggressively promoting this theory along with the Israeli mainstream media. These false flag actors are clearly trying to set the stage that Iran is most likely behind MH370’s disappearance and that they are probably going to use the plane in some sort of terrorism attack.

One of the first signs that the fix was in on Iran, is when the UK Daily Mail noticed the obviously photoshopped picture of the two Iranian passengers on Flight MH370. The March 24, 2014, Daily Mail pointed out that both Iranian men had the exact same green pants, brown shoes, and leg positions in their photos.[30] In a very strange excuse, the Malaysian police said the image of one man had been accidently placed on top of the other when they were photocopied. MH370’s pilot’s apparent complicity in the diversion of the plane to Diego Garcia and the flagrant errors and cover-ups attempted by the Malaysian government may indicate certain individuals in Malaysia may have been recruited into the likely US/Israeli covert operation.

There are several different ways that a false flag attack involving two identical Malaysian Airlines 777’s could have been undertaken, but now that the plan has been exposed we will probably never know what was actually being planned. However, one possible scenario is that GAT’s Malaysian 777 in Tel Aviv was undergoing retrofitting for the operation that probably included such things as automated flight systems, Iranian/Russian parts, explosives, etc. The Malaysian Airlines name would be painted back on the plane and it would be used in another 9/11-type attack. MH370 would be disassembled at Diego Garcia and identifying parts would be placed at the crash site of the substitute plane suggesting that it was indeed MH370 and that the Iranians had retrofitted it for the operation.

Naval intelligence’s fingerprints are all over MH370’s disappearance, from it’s likely flight path to Diego Garcia to Abdol Moabery’s possible involvement in the Navy Intelligence. The fact that GAT had an identical Malaysian Airlines 777 sitting in a hangar in Tel Aviv is another long shot coincidence that is too hard to ignore. US and Israeli intelligence do not think inside the box and they were apparently up to some of their old tricks in the case of MH370. With hundreds of one-ton bunker buster bombs sitting in Diego Garcia dying to be used, the temptation of using them and attacking the second most significant oil rich country in the world was apparently too much for the US military and Israel to resist. Now that Plan A has been foiled, we’ll now have to wait awhile to see what Plan B has in store.

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