Showing posts with label Military issues. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Military issues. Show all posts

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

Wikileaks: the new Amnesty

The USA hierarchy is steaming about the Afghan papers put up on the web by Wikileaks. Where Amnesty International trod by raising publicity about whistleblowers and democrats held in prison and/or being tortured, Wikileaks has posted classified information from the aggressor's mouth.

This is The Bourne Identity for real. What price for the US secret services persuing the Wikileaks board and information moles with every thing they have got. Welcome to spying in the 21st century.

Search for Wikileaks

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Bloody Sunday, blooming Tuesday

The Saville Report on the 1972 Bloody Sunday massacre has been published.

Previously mocked as wasting time (12 years) and money (£190m), the report has exonerated the Irish people killed by British soldiers. Now who can judge the balance of cost between peace and justice.

David Cameron offered a fulsome apology in Parliament. Hopefully, the people of Northern Ireland will see the verdict as a cathartic exercise rather than an new opportunity for dissident groups to seek revenge.

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Monday, 5 April 2010

How publicists earn their crust

Picture the scenario. Hot on the heels of a terrorist attack on Togo's national football team at the African Cup of Nations, black farm workers murder their South African boss: the white supremacist, Eugene Terre'Blanche.

Conundrum: how to convince the world's media and football stars that the forthcoming World Cup will run like clockwork without a backcloth of bullets and bombs?

This is where the publicists and the politicians earn their corn. If any other 'event' happens in the next few weeks, the clamour for boycott on the World Cup may get louder, irrespective of the loss of money involved.

On the other hand, a cancellation of the World Cup may bankrupt the sport.

I hope the organisers are well insured.

Search for south african politics

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Sanus et lumen

The emperor Hadrian's ashes may be spinning in his mausoleum. His wall to mark out the edge of the Roman Empire in Britain was lit up with beacons to promote British tourism.

The organisers speculated as to whether or not the wall had ever been lit up this way across its whole length before, given that Britain was never invaded successfully from the North.

Who knows?

The event shows how ancient monuments can be used to promote modern events.
What Hadrian himself would have made of the razzmatazz is anyone's guess. Perhaps he would have shipped the organisers off to Rome to be taught a lesson? Improper and insolent use of state fortifications may not have gone down well at all with the great man.

Search for hadrian's wall

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

And the Oscar goes to ... The Wounded Cabinet

The Hurt Locker may have won oodles of Oscars, but the title makes no sense across this side of the pond.

What exactly is a 'hurt locker'? An injured key? An incapacitated canal-worker? An emotional gaoler?

Apparently it is an American-English phrase meaning a place of pain, which I guess sums up being a bomb-disposal expert on any front line, not just Afghanistan and Iraq.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

Tony's Journey: a road to nowhere?

Tony Blair, the former prime minister, may have a rhinoceros skin, but we'll soon see if he has a glass chin.

With so much capital spent in the Chilcot Inquiry, will Mr Blair have anything new to say about his time in office ... and, if he goes on a walkabout publicity tour, will people allow him to say it?

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

War on tiny terrors

The old Constable Savage sketch on Not the Nine O'Clock News needs updating.

Two children's television presenters, Anna Williamson and Jamie Rickers on the GMTV cartoon vehicle Toonattik, got stopped by police on London's South Bank on the grounds they were 'Dork hunting' in flak jackets and sunglasses while being followed by a film crew. They were armed with spangly hairdryers and kids walkie-talkies.

Police issued the pair with a warning under the Counter-Terrorism Act 2008.

Despite the predictable furore, the twist is that this might have given real terrorists some ideas. What better ruse to disguise yourself as a comedy superhero when in reality you're up to no good in the name of whatever Al-Qaeda cause is their latest rallying point.

Unfortunately, given the level of security Britain now faces, seemingly facile stories like this will continue to emerge. But, even so, you still couldn't make it up.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Schama's America: one year on

Simon Schama has filmed a couple of documentaries for the 'Obama: how's the kid doin' series on BBC Two. One on war, comparing Afghanistan to Korea; and the other on financial meltdown, contrasting J P Morgan's 1907 bailout of Wall Street and William Jennings Bryant's advocacy of the Federal Reserve with the Obama injection of Uncle Sam's cash into the recent banking fiasco.

Is it possible that today's Simon Schama, arguing that Obama needs to enjoy being hated by the bankers (like Franklin D Roosevelt) and that he needs a 'shoe up his ass' to keep him focused, is the same Schama waxing so lyrical about the prospects of the Obama presidency on election night in November 2008?

Actually, yes. Schama is, I'm guessing, a Democrat-supporter, and simply wants his man to be the best he can be.

And a week is a long time in politics. Suddenly, with his response to the Haiti earthquake catastrophe, Obama looks serenely presidential, with the master stroke of setting up a private disaster fund to be run by former Presidents Bill Clinton and George W Bush.

Monday, 28 December 2009

Database lessons from Flight 253

Homeland security is just another area where database information is difficult to track. We all have an irrational hope that computers are magic devices that tell us all the answers, but information is only as good as the people who enter it on to the system, and databases are not good at reflecting nuance or individual workers' meanings.

The scuppered terrorist attack on Northwest Airlines Flight 253 to Detroit was not foiled because of computer efficiency, as Umar Faroukh Abdulmutallab managed to get close to morbid success having passed through customs in Nigeria and Amsterdam. He featured on lists of suspected activists, was denied a Visa to the UK, and was shopped by his own father to the US Authorities.

Intelligence is only as good as the foresight of the people receiving it. Even the 1941 Pearl Harbor attack that brought the USA into World War II might have been averted if intelligence officers had picked up the correct message in among the white noise.

Databases do not predict, they only hold information about what has passed. The security services need to work out new forecasting strategies for second-guessing enemy groups next moves without killing off the general public's ability to use planes, boats and trains with too many counter-terrorism moves.

Databases are useful, however, for finding out the 'current situation'. When databases go wrong, where staff shortages force time-poor workers to rush updating records, any time savings are a false economy as information decreases in accuracy and value. In any organisation, database work is a frontline service.
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