It’s battle for oil in Libya

It’s battle for oil in Libya

ATUL ANEJA

The Libyan air force has attacked the oil town of Brega for a second day in succession, signalling the beginnings of a desperate campaign by the Qadhafi-regime to recover the country’s oil heartland, which the opposition now controls.

On Thursday, a regime warplane bombed the airport of Brega, only 200 km from Benghazi, the stronghold of the anti-Qadafi uprising.

The nearby opposition–held town of Ajdabiyah was also attacked from the air. However, unlike the previous day, a ground offensive, necessary to take-over Brega, known for its oil terminal has not materialised so far. Around 300-400 personnel riding on pick-up trucks, from a militia loyal to Libyan strongman Muammar Qadhafi, had on Wednesday, made an attempt to hold prominent landmarks of the town, such as the university and the airport. However, an anti-Qadhafi citizens’ militia, mainly drawn from local “liberated” areas including Ajdabiyah repulsed the attack, forcing a retreat of the pro-regime fighters to their temporary home base of Ras Lunaf, known for its giant refinery.

Observers say the new pattern of attacks over the past two days is a reflection of anxiety of the Qadhafi-regime to quickly recover Libya’s oil-bearing areas located mainly in the opposition-held east.

Nearly 75 per cent of Libyan oil lies in the east, along with the country’s major oil export terminals. Without access to the hefty oil revenues generated by the eastern oil fields, it was unlikely that Mr. Qadhafi would be in a position for long to keep his loyalists together, who benefit from a regime-generated cycle of tribal patronage. Unsurprisingly, in his meandering address on Wednesday, Mr. Qadhafi had bluntly warned that the opposition takeover of oil facilities was unacceptable.

Despite successfully repulsing the regime attacks, the nascent anti-Qadhafi leadership in Benghazi, is expressing alarm. At a press conference in the eastern city on Wednesday, Abdel-Hafidh Ghoga, the spokesman of the Transitional National Council urged the United Nations to “take necessary steps to stop the massacre by mercenaries”.

He also invited the “international community” to undertake “pin-pointed air strikes on the mercenaries”.

Notwithstanding the appeal for aerial support, the United States has signalled that at least for now, it was not ready to comply. The U.S. Defence Secretary, Robert Gates has told law makers in Washington that a single aircraft carrier in the Mediterranean is not in a position to impose a “no-fly zone begins with an attack on Libya to destroy the air defences.”

Military analysts are of the view that a sampling of air strikes being undertaken by the Qadhafi-regime and sporadic raids on the ground by loyalists is unlikely to prove decisive. However, the conflict can expand dramatically if adversarial tribal militias are drawn into the fighting. The Brega area sits atop Libya’s east-west ethnic faultline, with pro-Qadhafi tribes, especially in the area of Surt residing in strength further to the west. With the adversaries locked in a stalemate, President of Venezuela Hugo Chavez has offered mediation to resolve the crisis after speaking to Mr. Qadhafi on Wednesday. According to Al Jazeera, Nicolas Maduro, Venezuelan Foreign Minister, has also spoken with Arab League chief Amr Moussa on the initiative. Clovis Maksoud, former Arab League Ambassador to the United Nations, has told the channel that the Arab League should try and establish a no-fly zone

over Libya. Meanwhile, the unending strife in Libya continues to aggravate a humanitarian crisis, visible especially along the Libya-Tunisia border. Sybella Wilkes, a spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was quoted as saying “acres of people” are waiting to cross into Tunisia.

Army charges WikiLeaks suspect with ‘aiding enemy’

Army charges WikiLeaks suspect with ‘aiding enemy’

Wednesday – 3/2/2011, 11:45pm  ET

FILE – This undated file photo obtained by The Associated Press shows Bradley Manning, the U.S. Army private suspected of being the source of some of the unauthorized classified information disclosed on the WikiLeaks website. Manning’s civilian attorney David Coombs said Wednesday, March 2, 2011, that the new charges announced by the military are not unexpected. The 22 new charges include “aiding the enemy,” which is a capital offense although prosecutors say they won’t seek the death penalty. (AP Photo, File)

By ROBERT BURNS
AP National Security WriterWASHINGTON (AP) – An Army private suspected of leaking hundreds of thousands of sensitive and classified documents to the WikiLeaks anti-secrecy group was charged Wednesday with aiding the enemy, a crime that can bring the death penalty or life in prison.

The Army filed 22 new charges against Pvt. 1st Class Bradley E. Manning, including causing intelligence information to be published on the Internet. The charges don’t specify which documents, but the charges involve the suspected distribution by the military analyst of more than 250,000 confidential State Department cables as well as a raft of Iraq and Afghanistan war logs. Thousands of the documents have been published on the WikiLeaks website.

Although aiding the enemy is a capital offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, Army prosecutors have notified the Manning defense team that it will not recommend the death penalty to the two-star general who is in charge of proceeding with legal action.

The Army has not ruled out charging others in the case, pending the results of an ongoing review. Army leaders have suggested that there may have been supervisory lapses that allowed the breach to occur.

The release of the State Department cables was denounced by U.S. officials, saying it put countless lives as risk, revealing the identities of people working secretly with the U.S. It also sent shudders through the diplomatic community, as the cables revealed often embarrassing descriptions and assessments of foreign leaders, potentially jeopardizing U.S. relations with its allies.

While thousands of the cables have been released, the bulk of those downloaded have not been made public.

Manning was charged in July with mishandling and leaking classified data and putting national security at risk in connection with the release of a military video of an attack on unarmed men in Iraq.

Army officials said the new charges accuse Manning of using unauthorized software on government computers to extract classified information, illegally download it and transmit the data for public release by what the Army termed “the enemy.”

The charges follow seven months of Army investigation.

“The new charges more accurately reflect the broad scope of the crimes that Pvt. 1st Class Manning is accused of committing,” said Capt. John Haberland, a legal spokesman for the Military District of Washington.

In a written statement detailing the new charges, the Army said that if Manning were convicted of all charges he would face life in prison, plus reduction in rank to the lowest enlisted pay grade, a dishonorable discharge and loss of all pay and allowances.

Manning’s civilian attorney, David Coombs, said any charges that Manning may face at trial will be determined by an Article 32 investigation, the military equivalent of a preliminary hearing or grand jury proceeding, possibly beginning in late May or early June.

Manning’s supporters were outraged.

“It’s beyond ironic that leaked U.S. State Department cables have contributed to revolution and revolt in dictatorships across the Middle East and North Africa, yet an American may be executed, or at best face life in prison, for being the primary whistleblower,” said Jeff Paterson of Courage to Resist, an Oakland, Calif.-based group that is raising funds for Manning’s defense.

Trial proceedings against Manning have been on hold since July, pending the results of a medical inquiry into Manning’s mental capacity and responsibility.

The 23-year-old Crescent, Okla., native is being held in maximum custody and prevention-of-injury watch at the Marine Corps base in Quantico, Va.

___

Associated Press writers Lolita C. Baldor in Washington and David Dishneau in Hagerstown, Md., contributed to this report.
(Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Major Setback for US in Davis Raymond Case, But Not According To NY Times

[Court denial of diplomatic is a real set-back for the CIA, but you would not even know that the courts had decided the issue yet, if you relied o the NY Times for your news.  In the first report below, from the Indian press, tells it like it is, court decision, major set-back.  The Times report, released within minutes of the India Today report, ignores the fact that a judge in Pakistan has already decided the issue of immunity, claiming that it will be taken-up by the courts on March 14.
Another stinking whitewash by the New York Times.]

The US has suffered a major setback in its efforts to seek an early release of Raymond Davis . A Pakistani court has rejected the American’s claim of diplomatic immunity, and ruled that he will be tried for double murder.

Thirty-seven-year-old Davis is charged with shooting down two men on the streets of Lahore in January.

The man, who is believed to be a CIA contractor, had filed an application in which he insisted that he had diplomatic immunity .

After hearing arguments of both sides, the judge ruled that no authentic document had been presented by Davis or the Pakistan government to show that the American indeed had diplomatic immunity. The proceedings were held in the heavily guarded Kot Lakhpat Jail for security reasons.

Davis was arrested in Lahore on January 27 after he shot and killed two armed men who, he claimed, were trying to rob him.

Pakistani Court Delays Murder Charges Against American

By JANE PERLEZ
Published: March 3, 2011

LAHORE, Pakistan — A criminal court agreed on Thursday to delay pressing murder charges against the C.I.A. operative, Raymond L. Davis, ruling that that lawyers for Mr. Davis should have more time to prepare for the case.

A Pakistani lawyer appeared on behalf of Mr. Davis for the first time in pretrial proceedings held in the Lahore central jail where he has been held since killing two Pakistani motorcyclists in late January. The lawyer, Zahid Bokhari, said after the hearing before Judge Yousaf Ojla that he had asked for more time to present arguments on whether Mr. Davis enjoys diplomatic immunity. Judge Ojla agreed to postpone the hearing until March 8.

In a separate proceeding, the Lahore High Court is scheduled to hear a decision by the Pakistani Foreign Ministry on March 14 on the question of diplomatic immunity. The Obama administration has insisted that Mr. Davis, a former Special Forces soldier who worked as a contractor for the Central Intelligence Agency in Pakistan is a diplomat, and as such is protected by the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations of 1961 that grants blanket immunity from prosecution to diplomats.

The United States has filed a four-page diplomatic memo with the Foreign Ministry laying out the legal case for diplomatic immunity, Mr. Bokhari said. After Mr. Davis was arrested in Lahore, Foreign Ministry officials said that he was not a diplomat, and was not protected by the conventions.

Mr. Davis, 36, shot and killed two motorcyclists with a Glock pistol at a busy intersection in Lahore during what the United States describes as an attempted robbery while his car was stopped at the intersection. A third Pakistani was killed when a vehicle of the American Consulate in Lahore drove the wrong way down a one-way street in an attempt to rescue Mr. Davis from the Lahore police.

Lahore police officers confiscated equipment commonly used in espionage from Mr. Davis’s car, including a pocket telescope and ammunition. After hitting a motorcyclist, the rescue vehicle, carrying two Americans, sped back to the consulate but left a trail of equipment, including a black cloth mask and gloves, a small American flag, and weapons, police officials said.



New DARPA Drone Resembles Gigantic Hummingbird

Tiny spy planes could mimic birds, insects

JULIE WATSON

A life-size Hummingbird-like unmanned aircraft, named Nano Hummingbird, developed by AeroVironment Inc., for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). http://rebelangel.homestead.com/Hummingbird_1.jpg

AP
LIKE A BIRD: A life-size Hummingbird-like unmanned aircraft, named Nano Hummingbird, developed by AeroVironment Inc., for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

You’ll never look at hummingbirds the same again. The Pentagon is pouring millions of dollars into the development of tiny drones inspired by biology, each equipped with video and audio equipment that can record sights and sounds.

They could be used to spy, but also to locate people inside earthquake-crumpled buildings and detect hazardous chemical leaks.

The smaller, the better.

Besides the hummingbird, engineers in the growing unmanned aircraft industry are working on drones that look like insects and the helicopter-like maple leaf seed.

Researchers are even exploring ways to implant surveillance and other equipment into an insect as it is undergoing metamorphosis. They want to be able to control the creature.

The devices could end up being used by police officers and firefighters.

Their potential use outside of battle zones, however, is raising questions about privacy and the dangers of the winged creatures buzzing around in the same skies as aircraft.

For now, most of these devices are just inspiring awe.

With a 16.5-centimetre wing span, the remote-controlled bird weighs less than a AA battery and can fly at speeds of up to 17 kmh, propelled only by the flapping of its two wings. A tiny video camera sits in its belly.

The bird can climb and descend vertically, fly sideways, forward and backward. It can rotate clockwise and counterclockwise.

Most of all it can hover and perch on a window ledge while it gathers intelligence, unbeknownst to the enemy.

“We were almost laughing out of being scared because we had signed up to do this,” said Matt Keennon, senior project engineer of California’s AeroVironment, which built the hummingbird.

The Pentagon asked them to develop a pocket-sized aircraft for surveillance and reconnaissance that mimicked biology. It could be anything, they said, from a dragonfly to a hummingbird.

Five years and US$4 million later, the company has developed what it calls the world’s first hummingbird spy plane.

“It was very daunting up front and remained that way for quite some time into the project,” he said, after the drone blew by his head and landed on his hand during a media demonstration.

The toughest challenges were building a tiny vehicle that can fly for a prolonged period and be controlled or control itself.

AeroVironment has a history of developing such aircraft.

Over the decades, the Monrovia, Calif.-based company has developed everything from a flying mechanical reptile to a hydrogen-powered plane capable of flying in the stratosphere and surveying an area larger than Afghanistan at one glance.

It has become a leader in the hand-launched drone industry.

Troops fling a four-pound plane, called the Raven, into the air. They have come to rely on the real-time video it sends back, using it to locate roadside bombs or get a glimpse of what is happening over the next hill or around a corner.

The success of the hummingbird drone, however, “paves the way for a new generation of aircraft with the agility and appearance of small birds,” said Todd Hylton of the Pentagon’s research arm, Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

These drones are not just birds.

Lockheed Martin has developed a fake maple leaf seed, or so-called whirly bird, loaded with navigation equipment and imaging sensors. The spy plane weighs 1.98 grams.

On the far end of the research spectrum, DARPA is also exploring the possibility of implanting live insects during metamorphosis with video cameras or sensors and controlling them by applying electrical stimulation to their wings.

The idea is for the military to be able to send in a swarm of bugs loaded with spy gear.

The military is also eyeing other uses.

The drones could be sent in to search buildings in urban combat zones. Police are interested in using them, among other things, to detect a hazardous chemical leak. Firefighters could fling them out over a disaster to get better data, quickly.

It is hard to tell what, if anything, will make it out of the lab, but their emergence presents challenges and not just with physics.

What are the legal implications, especially with interest among police in using tiny drones for surveillance, and their potential to invade people’s privacy, asks Peter W. Singer, author of the book, “Wired for War” about robotic warfare.

Singer said these questions will be increasingly discussed as robotics become a greater part of everyday life.

“It’s the equivalent to the advent of the printing press, the computer, gun powder,” he said. “It’s that scale of change.”

- AP

Ohio Bill says no abortion if there’s a heartbeat

Bill says no abortion if there’s a heartbeat

House considers bill that would outlaw abortions after just six or seven weeks

Thursday, March 3, 2011  02:54 AM

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

A pregnant Erin Glockner of Pataskala is given an ultrasound by Julie Aber of Ashland Care Center during a House Health Committee hearing at the Statehouse. Yesterday, Glockner said she supports House Bill 125, which would outlaw abortion when a fetal heartbeat can be detected.

FRED SQUILLANTE | DISPATCH
A pregnant Erin Glockner of Pataskala is given an ultrasound by Julie Aber of Ashland Care Center during a House Health Committee hearing at the Statehouse. Yesterday, Glockner said she supports House Bill 125, which would outlaw abortion when a fetal heartbeat can be detected.

Ohio would have the most-restrictive abortion limits in the country if a bill before state legislators becomes law.

Members of the House Health Committee watched silently in a packed hearing room yesterday as ultrasounds were given to two pregnant women. The fetal heartbeats were played through speakers while any movement was shown on a large projector screen.

“I think it kind of hits you in the forehead about what is going on in the woman’s womb,” said Rep. Lynn R. Wachtmann, a Napoleon Republican and the sponsor of House Bill 125.

“It’s an eye-opener,” he said.

Ohio is the first state in which legislation has been introduced to outlaw abortions after the first heartbeat can be medically detected.

The bill – among five anti-abortion bills introduced since Republicans took control of the General Assembly and governor’s office this year – would require doctors to perform an ultrasound and, if a heartbeat can be heard, an abortion would be prohibited unless the health or life of the mother is at risk.

“The bill would essentially outlaw abortions in Ohio because they would be banned before a woman even knows she is pregnant,” said Kellie Copeland, executive director of NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio.

But she and others say that such a law would be ruled unconstitutional because it would create an undue burden on the mother.

In fact, Ohio Right to Life is not supporting the bill because the state’s leading anti-abortion advocacy group says the proposal will do more harm than good.

“The heartbeat bill will not save any babies’ lives because it will not be upheld in court,” said Michael Gonidakis, executive director of Ohio Right to Life. “The court has said there can be no bans on pre-viability abortions.”

In the landmark Roe v. Wade decision, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that a woman has the right to an abortion until the fetus is viable, usually 22 to 24 weeks.

Bill supporters say that once a heartbeat is detected – usually around six or seven weeks – the fetus should be protected.

“This is an active, growing baby. This is not a blob sitting there,” Ducia Hamm, executive director of the Ashland Care Center, told lawmakers as they watched an ultrasound image of a 9-week-old fetus.

Afterward, Erin Glockner, a 25-year-old Pataskala woman pregnant with her second child, said she agreed to undergo the ultrasound because she opposes abortion rights and hoped the images might persuade some lawmakers to support the bill.

“A lot of people don’t think it’s a baby until it reaches a certain point,” she said.

Wachtmann said the bill has 50 sponsors, enough to win passage in the 99-member House.

“The fetal heartbeat can serve as a medical predictor that the unborn baby will reach viability and live birth,” he said.

Faith2Action, an anti-abortion group, chose Ohio to introduce the legislation.

Other anti-abortion legislation being considered by lawmakers includes proposals to tighten standards for minors seeking judicial bypass to avoid parental consent requirements; to ban health plans from covering certain abortions; and to prohibit abortions of a viable fetus.

ccandisky@dispatch.com

Three Dutch Commandos Captured By Libya

Gadhafi Troops Capture 3 Dutch Marines

Lauren Frayer

Lauren FrayerContributor

Forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi have captured three Dutch marines who swooped into Libya by helicopter to evacuate stranded civilians, in the first known case of foreigners being kidnapped by the dictator’s regime in the nearly three-week-long popular rebellion that’s split the country.

The Dutch government said the men were captured after their helicopter touched down Sunday on the Mediterranean coast near Gadhafi’s hometown of Sirte. They were trying to rescue two people, a Dutch national and another European citizen, but Libyan fighters seized the whole group. The two would-be evacuees were handed over to the Dutch Embassy and have since been allowed to leave the country.

The helicopter was “surrounded by armed Libyan forces late on Sunday afternoon,” a Dutch defense ministry spokesman told The New York Times. “Intensive negotiations” are under way for their release, he said.

But the Dutch marines are still in Libyan custody. “We have also been in contact with the crewmen involved,” a defense spokesman told The Associated Press. He declined to label them hostages.

Their capture was kept quiet for four days for security reasons, Radio Netherlands reported.

The fear is that the Dutch troops could be used as a bargaining chip by Gadhafi’s increasingly isolated regime, or for propaganda purposes. In 2007, a group of British marines were captured by Iranian forces in the Persian Gulf and paraded in front of state TV cameras before being released in what Iran described as a benevolent gesture.

This is the first known case of Gadhafi’s fighters capturing and holding foreigners during the recent unrest in Libya. On Feb. 22, after the start of fighting between pro-Gadhafi forces and pro-democracy rebels, the U.S. State Department warned foreign journalists that the Libyan government might consider them “terrorist collaborators” if caught in the country. Hundreds of journalists have since flooded into Libya, mostly in the rebel-held east where Gadhafi is no longer in power. There have been no known cases of kidnappings.

The Libyan leader has lashed out at any suggestion of foreign military forces entering the country to help stabilize it. In a rambling, nearly three-hour speech in Tripoli Wednesday, Gadhafi warned that “thousands of Libyans will die” if the U.S. or NATO intervene in his country’s affairs. “They will set foot in hell — worse than Afghanistan,” he said.

U.S. warships and aircraft passed through the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean on Wednesday, moving closer to within striking distance from Libya. But Washington has expressed hesitation about whether direct military intervention is appropriate. Western powers have also debated the possibility of imposing a no-fly zone over Libya, to stop Gadhafi from launching airstrikes on his own people, as well as shipping in more African mercenaries to boost his forces’ ranks.

Those airstrikes continued today, with bombs raining down on the towns of Ajdabiya and Brega, CNN reported. Both are in eastern Libya, where rebels are in control, and both also saw intense fighting Wednesday, as pro-Gadhafi forces launched their biggest-ever push to retake positions lost to opposition fighters over the past three weeks.

So far, opposition forces appear to have repelled recent offensives by pro-Gadhafi forces, but fighting is still under way in some eastern areas.

NATO.-led forces kill 9 Afghan boys

A U.S. Black Hawk helicopter door gunner scans the ground during a mission over southern Afghanistan's Kandahar province.
A U.S. Black Hawk helicopter door gunner scans the ground during a mission over southern Afghanistan’s Kandahar province. (Finbarr O’Reilly/Reuters)
  • Nine Afghan boys were killed while collecting firewood on Tuesday in what has been described as one of the worst cases of mistaken identity by the International Security Assistance Force.

NATO issued a statement Wednesday apologizing for the killings in Darah-Ye Pech district in Afghanistan’s Kunar province. The victims were aged nine to 15 and included two sets of brothers. A tenth boy was injured but survived the aerial attack by helicopter gunners.

The boys had apparently been collecting wood to heat their mountain homes, the New York Times reported.

An anti-American demonstration was held Wednedsay by enraged Afghans in the village where the boys lived, the paper said.

“We were almost done collecting the wood when suddenly we saw [two] helicopters come,” the boy who survived told the Times. After hovering over the boys, the helicopter gunners shot his friends one by one, he said.

“We are deeply sorry for this tragedy and apologize to the members of the Afghan government, the people of Afghanistan and most importantly, the surviving family members of those killed by our actions,” Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of ISAF, said in a statement.

“These deaths should have never happened and I will personally apologize to President [Hamid] Karzai when he returns from his trip to London this week.”

Civilian casualties have long been a source of tension between the U.S.-led international force and Karzai.

The Afghan president condemned the deaths, and said in a statement, “Is this the way to fight terrorism and maintain stability in Afghanistan?”

An investigation is being carried out to determine how the boys were mistaken for insurgents and to try to prevent similar incidents in the future, Petraeus said. If warranted, he said disciplinary action could be taken.

“I have ordered all ISAF leaders and members of ISAF attack helicopter crews to be re-briefed on the tactical directive, reinforcing the need to be sure we protect the lives of innocent Afghans as we pursue a ruthless enemy,” Petraeus said.

 

Republican-Dominated Senate Panel Votes To Take Away Union Rights To Strike

[It makes sense that America's fight to save itself from the anti-worker ultra-right would begin here in the Midwest, where it has always seemed that the Great Depression of the twenties never really ended.  It is here, where the quest for some kind of security has always had the workers "by the balls," as we were all always willing to take the abuse in silence, hoping to not upset whatever economic chance for survival ("bread crumbs") they would throw our way.  In our eagerness to give the business class all the benefit of the doubt, we even voted in Republican state governments, despite their track records, hoping against blind hope that they might reignite our local industries.  Well, the Republicans are making a come-back--only it is the Reagan Republicans, the meanest, stingiest, sneakiest breed of Republican badgers known to man.  It's "stand together, or lose everything" time, folks.  Get out into the streets and onto your Capitol steps.]

Ohio panel votes to end union right to strike

Main Image

Main Image
Main Image

A large group of union supporters gather on the steps of the Ohio Statehouse to rally against Senate Bill 5 in Columbus, Ohio, March 1, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Matt Sullivan

By Mary Wisniewski

COLUMBUS, Ohio | Wed Mar 2, 2011 6:09pm EST

(Reuters) – An Ohio state Senate panel voted on Wednesday to strip public sector unions of some collective bargaining rights and end their right to strike, in the latest swipe at the power of unions by a state.

The Senate Labor Committee vote was 7-5, with one Republican and four Democrats voting against. The measure now moves to the Republican-controlled state Senate, which could approve it as early as Wednesday.

If endorsed by the state legislature and signed by Republican Governor John Kasich, Ohio would become the biggest state so far to enact sweeping restrictions on public sector unions.

While Wisconsin has gained far more national attention, the Ohio measure is tougher in areas such as eliminating the right to strike. Ohio also is far more important to the union movement than Wisconsin, with the sixth largest number of public sector union members among states, twice the number in Wisconsin.

What began three weeks ago as a dispute between a newly-elected Republican governor and labor unions in Wisconsin, has blown up into what could be the biggest challenge to labor union power since then President Ronald Reagan fired striking air traffic controllers in 1981.

The Ohio proposal also eliminates binding arbitration of contract disputes by a neutral third party — instead leaving the final decision to the legislative body.

“I believe public employees should be evaluated solely on their performance,” said Republican State Senator Shannon Jones, the bill’s sponsor.

Democrats said this is unfair, since it gives the ultimate decision to the employer. The bill also establishes merit as the only basis for pay increases, not length of service.

Republicans in Ohio said the limits to public workers’ ability to bargain are necessary to give local governments flexibility and help reduce the state’s two-year budget deficit of about $8 billion.

More than 8,000 protesters converged on Ohio’s state capital on Tuesday to demonstrate against the proposed legislation, which would affect workers including public school teachers, firefighters and police.

At a news conference with Democrats Wednesday afternoon, representatives of fire and police unions complained that the bill would take away their ability to bargain for safety equipment, such as bullet-proof vests.

“This bill provides for our safety to be contracted out to the lowest bidder,” said Jay McDonald of the Ohio Fraternal Order of Police.

The proposal approved by the committee on Wednesday was watered down from the original Republican plan. That proposal would have eliminated collective bargaining for 42,000 state workers, plus 19,500 workers in the state’s university and college system. It also would have removed health care and some other benefits from the negotiating process for teachers, firefighters and police.

What emerged from the committee on Wednesday would offer only limited collective bargaining rights for wages based on performance and some benefits, but take away the right to strike for all public workers. Firefighters and police already are banned from striking. Collective bargaining would not be allowed on numerous issues, including transfers, hours and working conditions.

The limits on collective bargaining are similar to a proposal stalled in the Wisconsin state legislature but Wisconsin would not eliminate the right to strike.

 

Russian plan to deploy missiles on disputed islands ‘regrettable’ – Japan

Russian plan to deploy missiles on disputed islands ‘regrettable’ – Japan

 

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano

Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano

 

Japan is concerned over Russia’s plans to deploy missiles on a group of disputed islands, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said on Wednesday.

Russian media quoted on Tuesday a high-ranking representative of Russia’s General Staff as saying that Russia was planning to deploy Bastion missile systems with Yakhont anti-ship cruise missiles on the disputed South Kuril Islands, known as the Northern Territories in Japan.

“This is very regrettable,” Edano told journalists in Tokyo. He added that Japan was following closely the “trends of Russia’s military activities in the Far East.”

Russia’s move comes as part of government plans to modernize armed forces in the country’s Far East. The decision was taken after the long-standing territorial dispute between the countries escalated in November last year following a visit by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to one of the four South Kuril Islands.

Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan criticized Medvedev’s trip as “inexcusable rudeness,” sparking an angry reaction from the Kremlin.

Earlier on Wednesday, Edano called for a more active political dialogue with Russia and warned against any arms race in the Asia-Pacific region.

Japan’s continued claim over the four Kuril Islands has prevented Moscow and Tokyo from signing a formal peace treaty to end World War II hostilities. Iturup, Kunashir, Shikotan and Habomai lie at the end of a chain stretching from Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula to the Japanese island of Hokkaido.

 

TOKYO, March 2 (RIA Novosti)

 

Indian Police, Death By Torture Is Always Murder

Custodial torture leads to death of an “innocent”

IMPHAL, FEBRUARY 28 (NNN) : In a blatant violation of human rights endemic to the State of Manipur, a civilian has succumbed today to his “custodial torture” injury inflicted by the police.
Condemning the inhuman act of the police, the local MLA N Mangi said that anti social minded police who have tarnished the image of the men in uniform must be rooted out of the society in order that people may live in peace and security. The convulsive incident happened in Kumbi Napat Mayai Leikai under Bishnupur district of Manipur on the fateful February 27 evening.  According to sources, at about 5 pm yesterday a team of Manipur police commandos had come from Laphupat Tera Daballo Khong outpost to inquire about Athokpam Angousana, 52, s/o (L) A Yaima of Kumbi Napat Mayai Leikai. After having identified, Angousana was picked up from his residence in Kumbi by the police without having to produce arrest memo and on verbal charges of running guns for outlawed rebels.
At about 9:30 today, the badly bruised body of Angousana was handed over to his family members. The body bored multiple injury marks revealing evidence of brutal torture in custody. His thigh and back were particularly revealing with the black and blue marks of vicious infliction.
The family immediately rushed the unconscious body of Angousana to Regional Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) in Imphal where he succumbed to his injury at 11:30 am. The note by the doctor said that he succumbed to the injury caused by “high degree custody torture of the police”. The family members alleged that they were made to sign on doted lines by the police without explaining what it was for.
The family members have claimed that the victim is “innocent” and has never been involved in any case of arm smuggling.
This revolting atrocity and human rights violation have come despite several awe-inspiring revelations of the men in uniform in the recent past. For instance, in 2003, Thangjam Manorama Devi was raped and brutally murdered by personnel of 17 Assam Rifles following which there was a severe social unrest lasting for several months in the state capital. In November 2000, Assam Rifles personnel sprayed bullets indiscriminately on the waiting civilians in a suburbia locality of Malom in Imphal. The incident fired Irom Sharmila Chanu to challenge and demand from the mighty Indian state and its military agency to repeal its strapping law AFSPA from the soil of Manipur.
The local MLA, N Mangi said of today’s episode which is perpetrated by the law enforcer themselves as threatening the peace and security of general public in the State. He has sent a memorandum to the chief minister asking for prompt action in penalizing the culprits of such heinous act by summarily dismissing the guilty police personnel.
The unfortunate issue will not be simply shelved away, he iterated, adding that the matter will be raised in the 10th Manipur legislative assembly session set to commence from March 8 next.
The law enforcer themselves have don the garb of law breakers in Manipur today, he said, therefore the State assembly must deliberate on the ways to uproot such atrocious conduct by some section of the police which has brought bad image to the entire department.

Frankfurt Airport shooting: Two US servicemen dead

Frankfurt Airport shooting: Two US servicemen dead

The BBC’s Stephen Evans says details of the incident are “confused”

Two US servicemen have died after a gunman opened fire on a bus carrying American military personnel at Frankfurt Airport, police say.

The US Air Force said two of its airmen died and two were wounded. One of the dead is said to have been the driver.

A 21-year-old man from Kosovo was held after the shooting in front of Terminal 2 at Europe’s second-biggest airport.

The airport is near the large US military base at Ramstein, a hub for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The BBC’s Stephen Evans in Berlin says that after the shooting, which took place in the middle of the afternoon, the gunman fled into the terminal building, where he was arrested by German police.

‘Terrible’

Police spokesman Jurgen Linker told AFP news agency: “Everything happened on board the bus. The suspected gunman has been arrested. There are two dead and two seriously injured.”

German police and US soldiers talk after a gunman fired shots at US soldiers on a bus outside Frankfurt Airport on 2 March 2011 The gunman’s motive for the attack is not yet clear

Kosovo Interior Minister Bajram Rexhepi said in an interview that German police had identified the suspect as a Kosovan citizen from the northern town of Mitrovica.

“This is a devastating and a tragic event,” Mr Rexhepi said, reports the Associated Press news agency.

“We are trying to find out was this something that was organised or what was the nature of the attack.”

The interior minister for the German state of Hesse, Boris Rhein, confirmed the gunman was from Kosovo.

“Whether the incident was linked to terrorism I cannot say at this stage,” he told journalists.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned the “terrible incident”.

“I would like to say how saddened I am by this incident and I would like to assure you that the German government will do our utmost to investigate what happened,” she told journalists in Berlin.

Four Islamists were convicted in March last year in Germany for plotting to bomb targets including Ramstein Air Base.

Last month the German parliament extended by one year the military mission in Afghanistan.

Germany has 4,860 troops there, despite domestic polls suggesting the mission’s unpopularity.