US Firm’s Teargas Used at Tahrir Square

November 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

Egypt’s military junta fired CS gas cartridges made by Combined Systems Inc of Pennsylvania, say demonstrators

By Jack Shenker in Cairo and Luke Harding

The teargas used by interior ministry troops in Cairo’s Tahrir Square is supplied by a US company. Demonstrators say cartridges retrieved from the scene are branded with the name and address of Combined Systems Inc (CSI).

The firm is located in Jamestown, Pennsylvania. It specialises in supplying what it calls “crowd control devices” to armies and “homeland security agencies” around the world. It also manufactures lethal military equipment.

Protesters say the CS gas seems more powerful than that used by Egyptian police during the country’s last popular uprising in February. “It’s stronger, it burns your face, it makes you feel like your whole body is seizing up,” one witness said. He added: “It doesn’t seem to be combated by Coke or vinegar.”

Experts told the Guardian the gas was likely to be standard CS gas, but the effects could be exacerbated by physical exertion.

As well as the effects of the teargas, protesters have suffered grave injuries to their heads and faces from rubber bullets. There are also reports of live ammunition being used. Dozens of people have been taken to makeshift hospitals after inhaling the choking gas fired by the Central Security Forces.

The export of teargas to foreign law enforcement agencies is not prohibited. CSI has also sold teargas to the Israeli police, where it has been deployed against Palestinian demonstrators, as well as, reportedly, to the regime of Tunisia’s ousted dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. Nevertheless, the revelation that people are being gassed and hurt by US-manufactured projectiles is embarrassing for the Obama administration.

“We have seen the illegitimate and indiscriminate use of teargas,” Heba Morayef, a researcher with Human Rights Watch in Cairo, said, of Egypt’s most recent street protests, as well as the original revolution in February. “There are a few cartridges from Italy but the vast majority are from the USA.”

She said teargas did not constitute direct military aid, since it was sold to the interior ministry rather than the army. But she added: “Ideally governments should be verifying who they are selling teargas to.”

Morayef said the gas was having a devastating effect on its victims, with everyone left choking, and hundreds forced to seek medical treatment. Protesters have also retrieved 12mm rubber bullet cartridges made in Italy. “One person I know ended up coughing up blood,” she said. Human Rights Watch intended to examine the canisters to discover exactly what kind of gas was being used, she added.

Alastair Hay, professor of environmental toxicology at Leeds University, said police in Cairo were almost certainly using conventional CS gas. “It’s a standard riot control agent which has been around for a very long time,” he said.

Hay said its effects were extremely unpleasant. “It’s an eye and respiratory tract irritant, largely. It will also cause skin irritation.”

The chemical compound used in CS gas – 2-chlorobenzalmalononitrile – was “perfectly legitimate”, with many commercial companies involved in selling it, and domestic governments willing to make use of it in riot situations, he added.

US army trials showed CS gas had a far more serious effect on people taking part in physical activity than those sitting passively, sometimes leaving its victims needing intensive care afterwards. The way to get rid of it was “constant irrigation” to wash away the affected areas, Hay said.

There was no immediate comment from CSI.

The company’s website says it was founded in 1981. It adds: “Combined Systems Inc (CSI) is a US-based firm that supports military forces and law enforcement agencies around the world. CSI is a premier engineering, manufacturing and supply company of tactical munitions and crowd control devices globally to armed forces, law enforcement, corrections and homeland security agencies.

“[…] In addition to its military products, CSI markets its innovative line of less lethal munitions, tactical munitions and crowd-control products to domestic law enforcement agencies under its law enforcement brand name, CTS. CSI also supports its wide base of international military and law enforcement customers with its line of non-lethal munitions.”

guardian.co.uk

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30 Years of Unleashed Greed

November 3, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Robert Scheer

It is class warfare. But it was begun not by the tear-gassed, rain-soaked protesters asserting their constitutionally guaranteed right of peaceful assembly but rather the financial overlords who control all of the major levers of power in what passes for our democracy. It is they who subverted the American ideal of a nation of stakeholders in control of their economic and political destiny.

Between 1979 and 2007, as the Congressional Budget Office reported this week, the average real income of the top 1 percent grew by an astounding 275 percent. And that is after payment of the taxes that the superrich and their Republican apologists find so onerous.

Those three decades of rampant upper-crust greed unleashed by the Reagan Revolution of the 1980s will be well marked by future historians recording the death of the American dream. In that decisive historical period the middle class began to evaporate and the nation’s income gap increased to alarming proportions. “As a result of that uneven growth,” the CBO explained, “the distribution of after-tax household income in the United States was substantially more unequal in 2007 than in 1979:

The share of income accruing to higher-income households increased, whereas the share accruing to other households declined. … The share of after-tax household income for the 1 percent of the population with the highest income more than doubled. …”

That was before the 2008 meltdown that ushered in the massive increase in unemployment and housing foreclosures that further eroded the standard of living of the vast majority of Americans while the superrich rewarded themselves with immense bonuses. To stress the role of the financial industry in this march to greater income inequality as the Occupy Wall Street movement has done is not a matter of ideology or rhetoric, but, as the CBO report details, a matter of discernible fact.

The CBO noted that in comparing top earners, “The [income] share of financial professionals almost doubled from 1979 to 2005” and that “employees in the financial and legal professions made up a larger share of the highest earners than people in those other groups.”

No wonder, since it was the bankers and the lawyers serving them who managed to end the sensible government regulations that contained their greed. The undermining of those regulations began during the Reagan presidency, and so it is not surprising that, as the CBO reports, “the compensation differential between the financial sector and the rest of the economy appears inexplicably large from 1990 onward.” Citing a major study on the subject, the CBO added, “The authors believe that deregulation and corporate finance activities linked to initial public offerings and credit risks are the primary causes of the higher compensation differential.”

So much for the claim that excessive government regulation has discouraged business activity. The CBO report also denies the charge that taxes on the wealthy have placed an undue burden on the economy, documenting that federal revenue sources have become more regressive and that the tax burden on the wealthy has declined since 1979.

In the face of the evidence that class inequality had been rising sharply in the United States even before the banking-induced recession, it would seem that the Occupy Wall Street protests are a quite measured and even timid response to the crisis.

Actually, the rallying cry of that movement was originally enunciated not by the protesters in the streets, but by one of the nation’s most respected economists. Last April, Nobel Laureate Joseph Stiglitz wrote an article in Vanity Fair titled “Of the 1%, by the 1%, for the 1%” that should be required reading for those well-paid pundits who question the logic and motives of the Wall Street protesters.

“Americans have been watching protests [abroad] against repressive regimes that concentrate massive wealth in the hands of an elite few,” Stiglitz wrote. “Yet, in our democracy, 1% of the people take nearly a quarter of the nation’s income—an inequality even the wealthy will come to regret.”

Maybe justice will prevail despite the suffering that the 1 percent has inflicted on the foreclosed and the jobless. But to date those who have seized 40 percent of the nation’s wealth still control the big guns in this war of classes.

This article was published at NationofChange at:

All rights are reserved.

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Crescent Moon, Waning West

November 3, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

The decline of Western power in the Arab world

ShowImage.ashxAFTER a slow summer, the Arab spring has turned into a turbulent autumn. The past few days have seen the gruesome end of Muammar Qaddafi, the more edifying spectacle of an orderly and open election in Tunisia (see article) and the death of Saudi Arabia’s ancient crown prince Sultan amid demands for the kingdom to modernise faster. Egypt, by far the most populous Arab country, is poised to hold its first proper election next month. Revolts and civil strife continue across the region, from Syria to Yemen and Bahrain.

For the West, whose ties to Arab dictators once gave it great clout in the Middle East, events in the region have spun way out of control.

That fact was underlined this week by the Iraqis’ insistence that all American forces must quit the country by the end of the year. Yet the West should not regret this turn of events. The power that it has lost in the short term should, in the long run, be replaced by influence born of good relations with decent governments.

On balance, the Arab world is in far better shape than it was less than a year ago. For sure, the economies of all the countries affected by the democratic upheavals have slumped. That is true even of Tunisia, which has the best education and skills in the region. But dictatorship and state control suffocated the Arab economies—even those awash with oil. Once Arab countries’ borders open up and their governments become accountable to their citizens, they are likely to grow faster. And that will not happen until they have put in place a system of government that gives a far wider degree of participation than before.

It is beginning to happen. Tunisia has led the way. Egypt promises to follow, though the generals in charge of its transition have been horribly inept of late, raising fears that the country may slip backwards to disorder or military control. But a parliament is due for election next month. It is to choose an assembly that may take a year or so to write a constitution providing for the election of a new Egyptian president. Libya, too, should have elections within a year.

Everywhere risks lapsing into bouts of chaos and strife. But this trio of north African states looks set to give a democratic fillip to other Arab countries, including those such as Syria that seem destined for a time to be soaked in blood while they strive for liberation.

The rise of political Islam is not necessarily cause for alarm among democrats in the West and the Arab world. In Tunisia an Islamist party, Nahda (“Renaissance”), that was brutally banned for decades has won a stunning victory at the polls. Egypt’s Muslim Brothers are likely to do well too. In Libya the Islamists may also be gaining ground. This rattles secular-minded Arab liberals and many well-wishing Westerners.

But a more open and tolerant brand of political Islam better suited to the modern world seems to be emerging, especially now that its proponents must compete for the favours of voters who admire the Islamists’ hostility to corruption, but dislike the sectarian and conservative attitudes that many of them expressed when they were underground.

No one can be certain that if Islamists gain power they will give it up at the ballot box, but secular rulers sometimes fail that test. And, on the whole, the threat of religious extremism with which strongmen used to justify repression has not materialised. Barring a few ungoverned pockets in Yemen and on the fringes of the Sahara, al-Qaeda has failed to benefit from the democratic wind.

It’s a local show these days

The strength of these revolutions is that they have been almost entirely home-grown. Those in Egypt and Tunisia had no outside help.

Syria’s brave protesters are on their own and may, in time, triumph.

Libya’s new rulers could not have succeeded without NATO’s bombers, but the absence of Western ground troops and of proconsuls telling the locals what to do has been in salutary contrast to what happened in Iraq eight years ago, where democracy was crudely imposed on an unprepared people (see Lexington).

After the deaths of some 150,000-plus locals and around 5,000 Americans and other foreigners, Iraq has a freely elected government. But it has not developed the habits of tolerance between communities and the independent institutions that underlie all truly successful democracies. A decade of American hard power has been less effective than a few months of peaceful protest in setting countries on the road towards representative government.

Partly because of the Iraqi adventure, America—at least its foreign policy—remains heartily disliked by Arabs across the region. That is only slightly less true under Barack Obama than it was under George Bush. America’s unpopularity stems partly from its backing of Israel and the continuing humiliation of the Palestinians, partly from its willingness to use force to get its way and partly from its history of supporting useful Arab dictators. Prince Sultan’s death may make this last point particularly salient. If the reactionary Prince Nayef becomes the crown prince and de facto regent, America may struggle to maintain an alliance with him alongside friendships with the Arab world’s nascent democracies.

Yet in the decline of Western power lie the seeds of hope for healthier relations in the future. Although the Arab world’s revolutionaries in general, and the Islamists in particular, are unlikely to hail the West as a model, they seem to be moving towards open political and economic systems. Nobody in Egypt, Tunisia or Libya is arguing for a Saudi Arabian, Iranian or even Chinese model. Arab students, businessmen and tourists in their thousands still choose to go to the West for their studies, their deals and their fun.

The prospects for Western influence in the Arab world are good. But in the future it will be won through education, investment and, when requested, advice on building up institutions. Such levers do not work as quickly as those that were forged from deals with unpopular and unstable dictators. But, in the end, they are likely to prove more reliable.

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Linksys WRT54G Firmware: OpenWRT, DDWRT, Tomato

September 15, 2011 by · 2 Comments 

Note:  it is inherently risky to install firmware on your router.  It is possible to make your router unfixable.  So please try this at your own risk.  Learn from what happened to me.

Summary:  I bought a WRT54G router with DDWRT installed, which has since made a one-way trip to a landfill.  I was able to find another WRT54G V2 at a local pawnshop and I put Tomato on it.  Most of this article has to do with my use of that first router.

I played with the original WRT54G with DDWRT for a maximum of 15 minutes, then flashed Tomato to the drive, then imposed access controls.  Everything was fine.  It was faster than the WRT54G Tomato router I have at home.  Then I flashed to OpenWRT because I wanted to turn on Asterisk.  Then I discovered OpenWRT doesn’t do access control as well as Tomato.  Then I tried to flash back to Tomato and…. guess what… OpenWRT does not allow you to use the GUI to flash other firmware.  Making the most of the situation, despite my panic, I played with OpenWRT for a while, trying to install first dansguardian, then uninstalling dansguardian and trying to install Asterisk completely unsuccessfully—router was unable to see repositories of download sites.  At this point I realized that even if I was able to install Asterisk I would have to administer it using the command line, not a gui, and overall the setup would be prone to break even if I got it working.  My previous experience with Linux command line is that I have learned some BASH script but troubleshooting from the command line is like driving a car by issuing instructions in a foreign language to a blindfolded driver who is volatile and unpredictable.  Therefore I decided at this point that Asterisk on the WRT54G was not a good idea due to the router’s limited capacity—Asterisk should be installed on a piece of more serious hardware, or should be installed by someone who is more of an expert than I am. I tried using telnet and the command line to install Tomato, and bricked my router (it became unresponsive to SSH and Telnet and unavailable via the router webpage).  I tried using tftp to install Tomato.  Apparently I did that wrong, and I more deeply bricked my router; I became unable to ping my router, and the power light was flashing (indicating a more serious bricking problem).  I cracked open the router and tried to bridge pins 15 and 16 on the flash chip (according to instructions I found online) but guess what… I bridged pins on the wrong chip and accidentally bent pins on the wrong chip so they stayed in contact.  Unfortunately after this the secret wisp of smoke that had previously magically made my router do its electronic work escaped and the router became garbage fodder—a $35 experiment gone wrong.  And now with some conviction I advise you not to try to use OpenWRT.

The lesson that I learned from this exercise is… do not install OpenWRT.  Or if you do, and you brick your router, (1) spend an hour or so reading about updating your flash firmware before you issue any commands to your router, seeing a couple of alternative methods and choosing the best one before you act; (2) use a small (not big and heavy) screwdriver to do the hardware debrick method, and make sure you are on the correct chip before you make any contact with metal parts while the router is on.  Preferably use a huge worktable magnifying glass and a good light source to see what you are doing on the router board as you are debricking it.  One tip I can give you is that instead of counting by sight, you can run the screwdriver along the pins next to the silicone, and as it passes over each ridge you can count one… two… three… up to fifteen.  When you pass fifteen you are now making contact between the fifteenth and sixteenth pins.  So now, if you are following the debricking instructions and have the ping –t command running—now is the time that you would plug in your router according to the online hardware debricking instructions (this should enable a response to your pings).  **I do not accept any responsibility if you are trying to debrick your router according to the online instructions and thereby let your own wisp of smoke escape—that is your responsibility NOT MINE**

Tomato, OpenWRT, and DDWRT

None of these software packages is perfect.  Tomato is strong for access control and internet monitoring.  OpenWRT is strong for added features (especially Asterisk).  DDWRT as far as I can tell is a very interesting software package but not as good as Tomato for access control, and not as good as OpenWRT for additional software.  However it is good for making your router a multi-wan router.  This is a useful application if for example you want to have two potential internet sources just in case—for business this might be a good idea. 

Considering how affordable these routers are compared with the dedicated components you can buy, it would be reasonable to have a collection of WRT54G routers, running with different firmware and for different purposes.

Overall I would recommend Tomato as the best of these for access control and general versatile use, DDWRT for multi-wan setup, and OpenWRT for Asterisk (if you are working with a WRT54G router).  Tomato is also good and easy to configure as a wifi bridge or client.  You can for example use a pair of these Tomato routers to inexpensively create a secure 54Mbs wifi bridge between two buildings or two spots in your house, if you don’t want to wire your house with ethernet cable.  The implications of that bridging capacity alone are really mind-boggling.

You will probably need some BASH scripting experience to use OpenWRT (although I guess it’s called ASH and is more limited than BASH), but not necessarily with Tomato.

Tomato

I’ve been using Tomato for a couple of years.  (here’s a good guide to the Tomato menu) It provides detailed information about your usage of the internet.  It is probably the best software for access control—you can easily block all internet access at certain times of day without trying to write iptables instructions.  You can block keywords—if you block about 10 obviously knowable bad words you’ll immediately have blocked a LOT of the bad stuff on the internet.  Also it’s user-friendly and easy to work with.  Maybe that’s just from my familiarity with it, but based on what I’ve seen it’s just the best.  DDWRT was not as easy to block bad stuff with as Tomato, although I believe it was easier to use than OpenWRT.  (Not to complain about any of this software, it’s just I have a preference for Tomato).

You can also do more complicated things with Tomato, including iptables scripts.  However I have found that unnecessary.

Tomato is nice for benchmarking your internet use because it shows you nice and precise almost-real-time graphs of your internet use.

See some screenshots of Tomato:

ScreenShot009ScreenShot008ScreenShot006ScreenShot005ScreenShot004ScreenShot002ScreenShot001

 

I tried desperately to install Asterisk VOIP control software on the Tomato Linksys WRT54G, but that did not work.  Some instructions advise that you can install Asterisk to a Tomato router (http://www.consumedconsumer.org/2010/02/voip-from-scratch-ii-hardware.html, http://www.toao.net/425-asterisk-on-a-router), but those instructions are for routers with USB ports (which the WRT54G does not have).  I believe that the file system in Tomato is less developed than the one in OpenWRT, which is why OpenWRT is able to install an additional component like Asterisk.  To make a long story short I tried to activate the JFFS2 file system in Tomato and then tried to install Asterisk to JFFS2—but it was only one megabyte and that was not enough space to hold Asterisk.

OpenWRT

ScreenShot011

ScreenShot012

OpenWRT has more of a Linux culture than Tomato.  The instructions to download and install the software exist but take some doing to figure out.  Unlike Tomato which is laid out in a way that shows that the developers put some thought into your navigation of their website.  OpenWRT is more of the wild untamed Linux world, where “anything is possible” but you sometimes have to spin your wheels to move from step one to step two.  Once you get moving I guess the world is your oyster.

I didn’t see any good directions to install OpenWRT, so I am going to lay it out for you.  To install OpenWRT:

1) Select your device and find the correct firmware based on your device:  http://wiki.openwrt.org/toh/start

2) Download an image, the correct one for your device by these means:  http://wiki.openwrt.org/doc/howto/obtain.firmware 

You have to know which package you are looking for before you visit this area:  http://downloads.openwrt.org/backfire/10.03)

3) Flash the firmware to your router using the “firmware upgrade”

 

OpenWRT is good because it can have Asterisk installed on it. (http://lestblood.imagodirt.net/archives/106-Asterisk-on-OpenWRT-part-2.html)

OpenWRT is more like a full-on Linux distro because it is designed with additional packages that can be incorporated.  In theory you can incorporate dansguardian which is an excellent (if touchy) internet access control software. (https://forum.openwrt.org/viewtopic.php?id=8448).  I personally had trouble with it in the five minutes I devoted to it, and anyway the reason I’m here doing this is for Asterisk, so…

One strange thing about OpenWRT is that once you install it it is difficult to uninstall it and reflash back to Tomato.  I know this because after I flashed it and realized it had extremely limited internet controls on it I immediately tried to reflash back to Tomato but the software wouldn’t let me! Probably there is a way that I haven’t found.  (See Gary’s comment below)

Tomato is a control panel, OpenWRT is a maze of controls—not necessarily all the controls you want.  But it does Asterisk, so…

Update:  OpenWRT is dangerous.  Once you install it it’s difficult to get rid of, unlike the other softwares which are not designed to entrap you.

 

DDWRT

DDWRT I am sure is good but I don’t know how you do access control or Asterisk on it.

A major advantage with DDWRT is that you can make your router a dual wan router.  You can buy cheap dual wan routers on ebay for about $80.  Or you can make your hacked router (which you can get for $54 brand new at Newegg) do it using DDWRT.  Here is a google search on that issue.  Tomato is not really set up for that yet.  It is possible to do it with OpenWRT but based on my experience with OpenWRT, and also based on the number of people complaining online that they have a bug in their multi-wan configuration through OpenWRT I would think it’s easier to accomplish multi-wan with DDWRT.

I was going to switch to OpenWRT but I need access control so I am sticking to Tomato for now.  Later if I invest in more of these WRT54Gs I will likely continue to experiment with both DDWRT and OpenWRT.

I tried to install Asterisk with OpenWRT and ran into a lot of problems.  I decided at the time it wasn’t worth it—the router became slow and apparently was unable to see the repositories it needed to download the necessary files? 

The Linksys router is cheap, but my feeling at the time was that if you really want Asterisk it’s worth upgrading to something more powerful to run it on.

 

Here’s another article saying Tomato is better than the others.  http://www.decimation.com/markw/2007/10/02/dd-wrt-vs-tomato-winner-is-tomato/

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Ladybird Deeds

September 8, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Adil Daudi, Esq. 

house_deedAvoiding probate is (or should be) a main objective of all estate plans.  By avoiding probate (a systematic distribution of assets, which is beyond our clients’ control) our clients have the power to determine how their assets will be distributed upon their death.  There are many tools available to accomplish this aim; one such tool is the ladybird deed.  It should be noted that ladybird deeds by themselves are insufficient to avoid probate; however, if used in conjunction with other probate avoiding tools, such as trusts and pour-over wills, our clients can successfully avoid probate.

What is a ladybird deed? 

To understand what a ladybird deed is, it is essential to know what a deed is.  A deed is a legal instrument that transfers an interest in real estate.  The most common type of deed is a “fee simple” deed.  A fee simple deed conveys property from Person A to Person B.  Once signed and delivered, Person B immediately becomes the owner of the real estate.  Unlike a fee simple deed, a ladybird deed does not immediately convey the property.  A ladybird deed conveys the property to another person but reserves ownership to the grantor (the person who conveys the property) for so long as the grantor is living.  For example, if Person A executed a ladybird deed to Person B, Person A would still own the property until Person A dies; at which point, Person B becomes the owner of the property. 

In addition to remaining the owner of the property until death, the grantor of a ladybird deed reserves the right to sell, mortgage, or transfer the property during their life.  So if Person A executed a ladybird deed to Person B, Person A could still sell the property or give it to someone else.  Ladybird deeds thus avoid probate by designating the person to whom the property will be distributed upon the grantor’s death.  If a ladybird deed (or other deed) is not in place, the property would be subject to probate. 

Ladybird deeds are not always the appropriate solution to avoid probate.  Choosing the wrong deed or using it at an inappropriate time may have significant negative consequences.  Moreover, there are many tax, Medicaid, and other implications associated with deeds; as such, qualified attorneys create each estate plan on a case-by-case basis based on the specific facts and situations of each client. 

Adil Daudi is an Attorney at Joseph, Kroll & Yagalla, P.C., focusing primarily on Asset Protection for Physicians, Physician Contracts, Estate Planning, Business Litigation, Corporate Formations, and Family Law. He can be contacted for any questions related to this article or other areas of law at adil@josephlaw.net or (517) 381-2663.

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Wireless

August 25, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

tufailWireless telecommunications, is the transfer of information between two or more points that are physically not connected. Distances can be short, as a few meters as in television remote control; or long ranging from thousands to millions of kilometers for deep-space radio communications. It encompasses various types of fixed, mobile, and portable two-way radios, cellular telephones, personal digital assistants (PDAs), and wireless networking. Other examples of wireless technology include GPS units, Garage door openers or garage doors, wireless computer mice, keyboards and Headset (telephone/computer), headphones, satellite television, broadcast television and cordless telephones.

Wi-Fi is a wireless local area network that enables portable computing devices to connect easily to the Internet. Standardized as IEEE 802.11 a,b,g,n, Wi-Fi approaches speeds of some types of wired Ethernet. Wi-Fi hot spots have been popular over the past few years. Some businesses charge customers a monthly fee for service, while others have begun offering it for free in an effort to increase the sales of their goods.

Perhaps the best known example of wireless technology is the mobile phone, also known as a cellular phone. These wireless phones use radio waves to enable their users to make phone calls from many locations worldwide. They can be used within range of the mobile telephone site used to house the equipment required to transmit and receive the radio signals from these instruments.

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Hundreds of Yemeni Troops Defect to Rebels

June 30, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Mohammed Mokhashaf and Mohamed Sudam

2011-06-28T165143Z_1312527772_GM1E76T02HG01_RTRMADP_3_YEMEN

An anti-government protester with his face painted in the colours of Yemen’s flag shouts as others chew qat during a rally to demand the ouster of Yemen’s President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sanaa June 28, 2011. The words painted on the protester’s chest read as “Uncover chests”.

REUTERS/Suhaib Salem

ADEN/SANAA (Reuters) – At least 26 Yemeni government soldiers and 17 militants linked to al Qaeda were killed on Wednesday in heavy fighting for control of a stadium near the southern city of Zinjibar, officials said.

The military setback, following reports that 300 of his soldiers had defected to the opposition, was another blow to President Ali Abdullah Saleh as recovers in Saudi Arabia from injuries sustained in an attack on his palace in early June.

Yemen, the poorest Arab state and a neighbor of the world’s largest oil exporter, Saudi Arabia, has been shaken by months of protests against Saleh’s three-decade rule, a resurgent wing of al Qaeda and a separatist rebellion in the south.

The United States and Saudi Arabia fear that al Qaeda may use the chaos to launch attacks in the region and beyond.

Yemeni officials said the militants seized control of the stadium from government forces, who have been using the facility — built recently to host a regional football tournament — to support troops fighting to dislodge the militants from Zinjibar.

An official said losing the stadium, located near a military base from which government forces had been launching attacks on Zinjibar, exposed a military base that had been used to launch attacks on the militants in Zinjibar. A counter offensive to retake the position was in progress, he said.

“The militant control of the field will leave the back of the camp from the east exposed,” the official said.

Yemeni officials had been reporting successes against the estimated 300 militants who seized control of Zinjibar in May in the midst of a groundswell of popular protests against the nearly 33-year autocratic rule of Saleh.

His opponents say his forces handed over the city to the militants to bolster his argument that his departure would lead to an Islamist takeover of the Arabian Peninsula state.

Yemeni air force planes had killed at least 10 gunmen in attacks on Zinjibar earlier on Wednesday, a local Yemeni official said. One strike mistakenly hit a bus traveling from Zinjibar to Aden, the official added, killing five passengers and wounding 12 other people.

Defection

Earlier in the day, opposition officials reported that more than 300 members of Yemeni security forces, including 150 from the Republican Guards led by Saleh’s son Ahmed, had defected to rebels.

“From the podium of the Square of Change in Sanaa, an announcement has been issued that 150 soldiers from the Republican Guards, 130 Central Security soldiers and 60 policemen have joined the revolt,” an opposition message said.

No government officials were immediately available to comment on the report.

If confirmed, the mutinies would be a serious reverse for Saleh, who has spent the past three weeks receiving medical treatment in Riyadh for wounds suffered in the June 3 attack.

The defections are the latest in a series by security forces since the anti-Saleh uprising began in February. Most prominent was the defection in March of Brigadier General Ali Mohsen, who has since sent in his troops to guard protesters in Sanaa.

The protests have culminated in battles between Saleh loyalists and gunmen from the powerful Hashed tribal federation in Sanaa that brought the country to the verge of civil war.

Months of unrest have cost Yemen $4 billion, a senior Yemeni official said on Wednesday, adding the Arab state was in talks with potential donors to help plug a gap of $1.5 billion in government commitments for projects funded by Sanaa.

“We are talking with the IMF, the World Bank and donor countries, whether Gulf Arab states or others. There may be some discussions next week with the IMF,” Abdulla al-Shater, deputy planning and international cooperation minister, told reporters on the sidelines of a financial conference in Saudi Arabia.

Yemen has been largely quiet with a ceasefire in place since Saleh was injured in the attack, which investigators say was caused by explosives planted in the palace mosque where he and several senior government officials were praying

Saleh, 69, who has not been seen in public since the attack, has resisted pressure from the United States and Saudi Arabia to hand over power to his deputy, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, under a Gulf nations’ initiative to end the crisis.

Hadi has been running the country in Saleh’s absence, but the opposition wants the president to officially hand over power to him to pave the way for new elections.

Officials have said the president will soon make his first public appearance since the attack with a recorded message to be broadcast on Yemeni state television.

Officer Killed

In further violence, a bomb killed a colonel when it exploded in his car on Tuesday night in the port city of Aden, a security source said on Wednesday.

The source said that Colonel Khaled al-Yafi’i was the commander of a military outpost guarding the Aden Free Zone business park’s entrance.

The outpost was targeted by a car bomb on Friday that killed four soldiers and a civilian and injured 16 other people.

No one has claimed responsibility for the colonel’s killing, but Islamist militants affiliated with al Qaeda are active in southern Yemen.

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Australia Suspends Cattle Exports to Indonesia

June 23, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

CANBERRA (Reuters) – Australia said on Wednesday it was suspending cattle exports to Indonesia after an outcry over the inhumane treatment of cattle in its neighbor, as animal rights groups called for an outright ban on trade to other countries.

The minority Labor government has been under fierce pressure to suspend the A$320 million ($342 million) Indonesia live cattle business after television footage showed cattle being beaten, whipped and maimed prior to slaughter in some abattoirs.

Canberra would impose a six month initial suspension on Indonesia shipments, and the government would also review the live export trade to all overseas markets, including the Middle East, Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig said.

“Trade will not be able to be resumed until the government, community and industry are confident that we have safeguards in place to ensure appropriate animal welfare,” he told ABC radio.

“The Australian government is committed to reaching the best possible outcomes for our livestock, the industry and our important relationship with Indonesia,” Ludwig said.

Lyn White, who shot the graphic footage and is the campaign director for Animals Australia, welcomed the news of the suspension but said it should have come sooner.

“There has been an extraordinary outpouring of rage that our cattle have been treated like this and have been supplied for such treatment. So this is a first step,” White told Australian television.

Australia exports about 500,000 head of cattle a year to Indonesia, representing 60 percent of its live cattle trade.

The live trade to all countries is valued at A$730 million, with sheep exported to Kuwait, Jordan, Bahrain, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Israel, and cattle shipped to Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Jordan, Japan and Brunei.

“This industry over a period of time has shown that it can’t be trusted. We have no control over what happens to our animals in importing countries, and the only way to safeguard their welfare is to not supply them,” White said.

Australia’s cattle industry on Monday put forward a plan aimed at reducing the suffering of animals sent to Indonesia.

Industry group, Meat & Livestock Australia (MLA), said under its plan cattle would only be supplied to 25 accredited Indonesian slaughter houses currently meeting World Organization for Animal Health standards.

The conservative opposition, which has strong support from farmers, said the suspension was a blunt instrument that would hit all Indonesian abattoir workers, as well as risk trade and security retaliation from Australia’s fellow G20 member.

“We’ve made a statement also about our nearest neighbor Indonesia, who we are totally reliant on for other things like border control. I don’t think we have thought through the ramifications,” Nationals party Senate Leader Barnaby Joyce said.

The previous conservative government banned live cattle and sheep exports to Saudi Arabia between 1991 and 2000 after hundreds of animals died from heat stress en route to the Persian Gulf.

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