[[This is content summary only. Visit bitcoinscientist.com for full info, other content and more.]]
Read more of this story at Slashdot.
Chief of Department James O’Neill told the New York Daily News that the new counter-terror unit “will not be involved in handling protests and demonstrations. They’ll have no role in protests. Their response is single-fold. They’ll be doing counter-terror work. They’ll be assigned to different posts throughout the city.”
The reversal comes shortly after New York Police Department Commissioner William Bratton announced the new 350-strong unit – dubbed the Strategic Response Group – during a press conference at a Police Foundation event. The unit would be dedicated to “disorder control and counterterrorism protection capabilities,” with police citing attacks like the hostage situation in Sydney as examples where it would be deployed.
Ah yes, add in machine guns and police officers so they can fight against those peaceful protesters! http://t.co/GxUw93fyqf
— Ms. Donaldson (@OddGhost) January 29, 2015
Bratton originally said the new squad will be used to investigate and combat terrorist plots, lone wolf terrorists, and even civilian protests.
"It is designed for dealing with events like our recent protests, or incidents like Mumbai or what just happened in Paris," Bratton said, according to CBS News.
"They’ll be equipped and trained in ways that our normal patrol officers are not," Bratton added. "They’ll be equipped with all the extra heavy protective gear, with the long rifles and machine guns – unfortunately sometimes necessary in these instances."
Wow. Did I just see that NYPD will have a special unit that will carry machine guns to kill protesters? #servingoligarchs
— RebelCapitalist (@RebelCapitalist) January 30, 2015
The pilot program is to start at two precincts in Manhattan and two others in Queens, though when it will be launched hasn't been shared with reporters.
However, the suggestion of having an NYPD unit armed with machine guns “dealing with events like our recent protests” sparked an avalanche of criticism and condemnation.
— Justice League NYC (@NYjusticeleague) January 30, 2015
How can NYPD talk about terrorists and protesters in the same sentence? Protesters are New Yorkers exercising their protected rights. Smh.
— Linda Sarsour (@lsarsour) January 30, 2015
“Initial reports of Commissioner Bratton's plans suggest the opposite of progress. His demands for less oversight of the NYPD and a more militarized police force that would use counter-terrorism tactics against protestors are deeply misguided and frankly offensive,” Priscilla Gonzalez, organizing director of Communities United for Police Reform, said in a statement.
“We need an NYPD that is more accountable to New Yorkers and that stops criminalizing our communities, especially when people are taking to the streets to voice legitimate concerns about discriminatory and abusive policing. Despite growing evidence that discriminatory ‘broken windows’ is a failed and harmful policing strategy, Commissioner Bratton stubbornly continues to defend and expand it.”
On Friday, Israel announced tenders to build new settlements on the Palestinian territories in a move that has been deemed illegal under international law.
In particular, the announced projects include 156 units in Elkana, 114 homes in Geva Binyamin, 102 in Kiryat Araba, and 78 in Alfei Menashe, according to Jerusalem Post. Some of those tenders are being reissued, however, since contractors refused to take many of the projects in the past.
If Israel proceeds with construction, it will become “an obstacle to peace,” the European Union said in a statement. In addition, it will further “undermine the viability of the two-state solution.”
“Israel should reverse these decisions, thereby putting an end to settlement expansion,” the Europeans warned. By refusing to do so, Israel faces the risk of “inflaming the very tense situation on the ground.”
Meanwhile, Washington – Israel’s closest ally – has also voiced concern, warning that it would undermine security. The move will not improve Israel’s security, but will have the opposite effect, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said.
“I can tell you that issuing tenders like this does nothing to bolster Israel’s security, does not increase its prosperity, and it does not further the cause for peace. In fact it does precisely the opposite,” Earnest said.
The US believes Israeli settlement activity is “illegitimate and counterproductive” to achieving a two-state solution, Earnest told reporters.
The construction of new homes, the spokesman warned, will have “detrimental impacts on the ground,” inflaming tensions with the Palestinians, and will “further isolate the Israelis internationally.”
Israel claimed the West Bank and East Jerusalem – which Palestinians see as part of their future state – during the 1967 Six-Day War, with annexation never being recognized internationally. Since then, Israel has built numerous settlements which are now under military regulation, with different laws applied arbitrarily to certain areas.
Some 500,000 Israelis have settled in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, among 2.4 million Palestinians. The Israeli occupied territories have been seeking full Palestinian statehood and independence from Israel for decades. However, despite international criticism, the Israeli government encourages the Jewish population in the West Bank to build new settlements.
In the lawsuit, LA Times journalist David Willman claims the Pentagon has blocked his Freedom of Information Act request on the “large sums” it paid to companies that worked in the Ground-Based Midcourse Defense System (GMD) between 2001 and 2014. The lawsuit says the GMD system is designed to protect Americans against threats from rogue nations such as North Korea and Iran, but it has a spotty performance record – it has only intercepted targets nine times on 17 occasions, and three of the misses were on four of its recent flights.
“Given the important national defense issues, the performance problems, and the staggering sums spent to date, the public has significant interest in the GMD system, including the bonuses or incentive fees paid to its developers,” argued the lawsuit.
Willman sought agency records from the Department of Defense (DoD), which refused to comply. The records requested in the lawsuit are not confidential or privileged commercial or financial records, but instead “originate from the DoD as part of its decision to pay, and payment of hundreds of millions of incentive and/or bonus fees to contracts who have delivered a product beset with reliability problems.”
The system itself consists of ground-based interceptor missiles and radar which would intercept incoming warheads in space. Interceptor sites are at Fort Greely, Alaska, and Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. The companies involved in its manufacture are Boeing, defense contractor Raytheon, security company Northrop Grumman, and space technology company Orbital Sciences.
What Willman ultimately discovered is that the missile shield cannot be relied on, even in carefully scripted tests that are much less challenging than an actual attack.
In his story in June 2014, Willman quoted Dean A. Wilkening, a physicist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in Livermore, California, who said GMD remains a "prototype system" that "has performed less well than people had hoped."
“If you're going to rely on that as an operational system, one shouldn't be too surprised that it does tend to fail more than you'd like," said Wilkening at a policy conference in Washington, DC at the time.
At a separate conference that same month, Wilkening called the system's test record "abysmal."
LA Times has sued DoD to get info as it suspects contractors were paid bonuses despite failures in GMD programs http://t.co/GuWo3BRUXd
— Giovanni de Briganti (@JoedeBrig) January 19, 2015
The defense contracts involve thousands of jobs in five states, mostly in Alabama and Arizona, which depend directly or indirectly on the program.
Speaking to retired Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer of the London Center for Policy Research, RT’s Ameera David asked whether the Pentagon had a rational justification for not handing over the documents. Shaffer said it was clear the DoD is trying to hide something.
“Any time you have taxpayer money being used, it is the obligation of that company and DoD as to how the money is spent. Anything sensitive can be redacted but the numbers of what it was used to fund should be completely transparent,” said Shaffer.
The Missile Defense Agency is worthless. It's Ground-Based Midcourse Defense system can't protect USA from ICBMs. http://t.co/HB0HqHPjSy
— DallasConspiracy (@DFWconspiracy) May 10, 2014
David also asked if there is a way for the public to know how money is being spent without relying on the LA Times to sue the government.
“This my problem with how the Pentagon does business. They all too often hide behind the security narrative or [say] ‘it’s protected data,’” he said. “There are businesses in the defense industry out there who see the Pentagon as its primary source of income, and they will do everything they can to preserve that income. Therefore when something starts going a lot of these companies want it to keep going indefinitely.”
Ukraine’s most infamous volunteer squad, the Aidar battalion – condemned by Amnesty International for its unmatched brutality in eastern Ukraine – allegedly came under Grad and Smerch rocket fire by the regular military near the town of Schastya in Lugansk region.
“[Ukrainian] artillery is working against Aidar battalion’s positions,” said Aidar commander and MP representing Ukraine’s Radical Party, Sergey Melnichuk, during a protest outside the Defense Ministry’s building in Kiev. Citing his own fighter, Melnichuk claimed that Kiev’s artillery targeted the battalion’s positions “15-20 times.”
Melnichuk and his fighters called the rally outside the country’s military headquarters on Friday, after the volunteer battalion was disbanded – or "rebranded" – according to the Defense Ministry.
“The battalion was disbanded three days ago. It does not exist according to documents. The Minister of Defense and the Head of the General Staff say that they have not signed such an order. However, documents confirming that such a unit does not exist as well as the seal of a new unit have already been delivered to the frontline,” Melnichuk told Apostrophe publication.
According to the battalion’s press secretary, Yuliya Evdokimova, the voluntary units are being disbanded “because it is detrimental to have voluntary battalions at the frontline.” All voluntary battalions will be “re-formatted into other organizations, merged with other brigades or other units, and thoroughly purged,” she told Ukrainian Pravda.
However, the next day, the Facebook page of the battalion refuted the disbandment of the fighting force, claiming that Evdokimova does not represent the volunteer fighters.
— Ruptly (@Ruptly) January 30, 2015
The confusion on the status of the battalion continued on Friday, as some 50 Aidar fighters rallied to show their “under-appreciation” by their own command. Formally, all volunteer territorial battalions are detachments of Ukraine’s Ministry of Defense.
Melnichuk said that his squad “will not leave the frontline, no one will leave positions even if our own will storm us, and we have such instances,” as quoted by NTV channel.
— Revista Amor y Rabia (@Amor_y_Rabia) January 30, 2015
The commander told the Russian outlet that the decision to get rid of the nationalistically committed contingent arises from the unwillingness of Kiev authorities to pay for Aidar's services.
“Now they have to pay our salaries, but if you disband us, no one has to pay anyone,” Melnichuk said.
“Let them show, who out of Aidar they have paid, who did they help? We will continue to fight no matter what.”
— Sunset (@_darkhours) January 30, 2015
Melnichuk also claimed in an interview with Ukraine’s 112 channel that the central military command might have “got ahold of big funds” in exchange for surrendering Schastya to the rebel forces. Melnichuk claimed that when a similar deal was offered to him – $20 million in exchange for Aidar leaving Schastya – he turned it down.
The Defense Ministry in fact claimed the opposite, saying that the volunteer force will be “strengthened” under a new brand. The “rebranding” is allegedly required to “prevent abuse of the seal and documents that were previously lost and can become an instrument of fraud...”
— Hromadske.TV (@HromadskeTV) January 30, 2015
“To perform essential tasks, Aidar battalion will be strengthened further, and its soldiers equipped with everything they need,” the statement read, adding that changes were only made to the official seal of the unit, as its number designation has changed.
Meanwhile, Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov has called the actions of Aidar fighters “treason.”
“Blocking the Defense Ministry of a country at war, during the active battles at the frontline – is treason,” he said.
Our bearskin hats are off to you, random Russian dudes.