Archive for the ‘Government’ Tag

Happy 235th Birthday, U.S. Marine Corps – TIME NewsFeed   Leave a comment

Five Marines with fixed bayonets, and their NC...

Image via Wikipedia 1864

Happy 235th Birthday, U.S. Marine Corps – TIME NewsFeed.

via Happy 235th Birthday, U.S. Marine Corps – TIME NewsFeed.

via Happy 235th Birthday, U.S. Marine Corps – TIME NewsFeed.

Before America established its footing as an independent nation, the unit defined as “The Few, The Proud” had already launched its quest to defend freedom.

Wednesday marks the 235th Birthday of the United States Marine Corps. The Marines’ history division reveals that the Nov. 10 date was formally commemorated in 1921 — 151 years after the Second Continental Congress raised two battalions of Continental Marines in 1775. That makes the Marine Corps nearly eight months older than America itself.

Read more:

25-Year Cleanup Effort Fails to Restore Americas Largest Estuary | Special Reports | English   Leave a comment

Chesapeake Bay Bridges

Image via Wikipedia

25-Year Cleanup Effort Fails to Restore Americas Largest Estuary | Special Reports | English.

via 25-Year Cleanup Effort Fails to Restore Americas Largest Estuary | Special Reports | English.

The Chesapeake Bay is a national, natural American treasure. It was formed 15,000 years ago when an immense glacier melted and flooded an ancient river valley.  Today, the estuary marks where the Potomac and 150 other rivers, streams and creeks merge on their way to the Atlantic Ocean. The sprawling 166,000 square-kilometer watershed stretches through six states and the nation’s capital, nourishing a multitude of land and marine species.  It’s also the source of fresh drinking water, food and recreation for 17 million people.

Pollution is a longstanding problem

Pollution has long been a problem.  Since the early 1980s, a regional partnership under the federally-funded Chesapeake Bay Program has been charged with cleanup. While some progress has been made, goals have been routinely missed.  Jeffrey Lape, program director, says that failure was underscored in the 2009 Chesapeake Bay Program annual report that looked at such indicators as water quality, wildlife habitat and fish population. “We have rolled them up into a single index, which on a scale of 100, using 100 as a restored Bay; the Bay health is about a scale of 38,” Lape says.

Industry and agriculture are leading Bay polluters

This did not happen overnight.  Industrial growth, a population boom and fertilizer runoff from farms and lawns are to blame. Beth McGee, a water quality expert with the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, says the nutrient overload from nitrogen and phosphorus promotes algae blooms that suck life from Bay waters.  “When the algae die they settle to the bottom of the Chesapeake Bay and some of the deeper rivers and when they are decomposed, oxygen is used up. And like us, the animals that live in the Bay – the fish, crabs and oysters – need oxygen to survive,” McGee says.  She adds that the result is, “a dead zone in the summertime when a huge amount of the Bay is off limits to aquatic life.”

Blue point crabs, once plentiful, are nearly gone

VOA – Z. Palacio

Chesapeake Bay waterman John Freeman from Hampton, Virginia, has seen a dramatic decline in blue crabs compared to when he started crabbing 66 years ago. Today half of the 10,000 watermen are part timers.


John Freeman, 80, has watched these changes over a lifetime.  A waterman by trade, he’s trapped crabs near his home in Newport News, Virginia, for 66 years, just like his father before him.  “Right now it’s awful,” he says from the cabin of his boat. “We’re not making any money. Just surviving,” he adds.  Blue crabs, native to these waters, have declined by 70 percent over the last 15 years. Despite new restrictions on the fishery, crabs have not rebounded and watermen are turning to other jobs. Freeman says he raised six children as a crabber, a career it’s likely his 22 year old grandson Evan won’t follow.

Pollution keeps children on dry land

Howard Ernst

Charlie, Simon and Emily Ernst enjoy the beach at the end of their block in Annapolis, Maryland, yet often can’t swim there because of polluted water.


Elsewhere in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, near the Maryland state capital in Annapolis, Howard Ernst, a U.S. Naval Academy political scientist, walks out on the pier at Chase Creek, a tributary of the Severn River. He lives just up the street and doesn’t allow his young children to play much in the water because of the pollution.  “You can fish, but you’d have to follow state fish advisories for mercury and there are plenty of those. You can crab there, but the primary concern is swimming in the water after rain events. For the entire Severn River the County has a warning that after a one inch [2.5cm] rain event, they advise not going in any of these waters for 48 hours,” he says.

In his new book Fight for the Bay, Ernst writes that failed policies have allowed, “pollution to go on unabated in a way that the Bay can’t handle, whether it’s agriculture, whether it’s steel mills, whether it’s air pollution. It’s in their economic best interests to dispose of their waste in public spaces like the Bay.”

White House orders new clean up for Chesapeake

Earlier this year President Barack Obama issued an executive order to protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay. Ernst says a strong federal initiative could be a game-changer. “If the administration gets serious about agricultural regulations, finds funding for storm water upgrades, for sewage upgrades and addresses air pollution, which also pollutes the Chesapeake Bay, then we will be in a different situation,” Ernst says.



EPA administrator Lisa P. Jackson announces a presidential order to protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay, creating “a tougher era in federal leadership.”

Lisa P. Jackson, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator calls the effort, “a new era in federal leadership.” She says a preliminary report in response to the President’s Executive Order outlines a tougher stand against Bay polluters. “We do understand that if we are going to prove that we are serious about the Bay, we absolutely must step up our oversight and if necessary our enforcement of the regulations that are there to protect the Bay, to protect human health and to protect the extraordinary ecosystem,” Jackson says.

A strategy for Bay cleanup is expected to be finalized by May 2010.


Arms trafficking in Thailand not a new phenomenon   Leave a comment

Royal Thai Army Infantry Soldiers practice bre...

Image via Wikipedia

Robert Karniol
The Straits Times
Publication Date : 18-10-2010

A decade ago, I wrote a conference paper on arms trafficking in the Golden Triangle region. Recent events in Bangkok bring to mind some of its salient points.

The Golden Triangle is that loose area where Burma, Laos and Thailand meet. A portion of Yunnan province in south-west China may be included as well.

The paper saw this ethnically diverse region as a single geographic, social and cultural entity that transcends these formal borders. Historically, national governments that putatively have sovereignty over portions of the Golden Triangle had little influence there.

The semi-autonomy contributed to lawlessness and this, in turn, produced a profusion of arms and private armies – partly for self protection and partly connected to trade activity, the latter including substantial quantities of opium and other illicit material. The arms trade supporting this dynamic had Thailand as its hub, though sourcing from China has become more apparent in recent years.

Arms trafficking from Thailand fell under two categories: covert and criminal, with the two often overlapping. Covert activity involved supplies and support from the Thai security apparatus under a strategic policy in place until the early 1990s, to maintain buffer zones along border areas. Criminal activity was, of course, commercially driven.

The weaponry and ammunition originated domestically or simply transited through Thai territory. Materials in transit were sourced from Cambodia ( reduced in recent years); from Viet Nam or the former Soviet bloc. There were also reports of involvement by middlemen based in Singapore.

Most of this war material went overland to insurgents in Burma and Laos, but some was destined for further afield, including to the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka and secessionist fighters in India’s north-east. But it is the domestic sourcing that is likely most relevant to the unsettled atmosphere now prevalent in Thailand.

Weaponry obtained in Thailand and destined for the black market trade originated mainly from local military stocks or from unscrupulous arms dealers. At least one incident involved theft from an American stockpile maintained in the country for training use.

“According to a Bangkok-based intelligence source,” I wrote in 2000, “one method of siphoning from Thai army stocks involves over-reporting the amount of ammunition consumed during training exercises.”

The paper further notes: “Locally- sourced military equipment is largely purloined from Royal Thai Army stocks. This includes material simply stolen from storage areas and material obtained with the collusion of corrupt military personnel who over-report usage and siphon off the excess.

“Some licensed arms dealers also support the trade, under-declaring the volume of legally imported material and selling the surplus stock so obtained to illicit arms traffickers. Published reports also suggest that some contraband war material confiscated during police raids has reappeared on the market.”

However, conditions inevitably fluctuate. “One Bangkok-based intelligence source says that a single round of ammunition for the M-16 assault rifle is now selling in the Golden Triangle for 15 baht as compared with the previous price of five baht,” the paper states. “This indicates tight supply.”

And how does all this relate to events currently unfolding?

Bangkok has been rocked by over 70 bombings since violent confrontations between the military and red-shirt protesters in April and May, and another 43 explosive devices have been defused by police. Thailand’s special investigations department, meanwhile, alleged on October 11 that a number of red-shirt militants have received weapons training in Siem Reap, Cambodia, which Phnom Penh denies.

“Some 32 rocket-propelled grenades, 8,000 bullets for United States-supplied M-16 assault rifles and other weaponry disappeared from an army arsenal during September. A similar mysterious theft of 69 hand grenades and 3,100 bullets for assault rifles occurred at a different army depot in March,” Bangkok-based journalist Richard Ehrlich further noted in a recent article.

The intention behind such activity is unclear. Some suggest the bombings are rooted in radical red-shirt efforts to destabilise the administration, while others suspect a government hand. Commenting on the latter view, Ehrlich stated that “the red shirts and their supporters portray Bangkok’s bombings as a shameless conspiracy by the government to entrench the military, justify the government’s ongoing state of emergency decree and smear innocent (red shirts).”

Neither position has as yet been substantiated, with no hard evidence uncovered. Or at least made public.

But one thing is nevertheless clear: the siphoning of small arms and ammunition from Thai military arsenals has been prevalent for years and is not a new phenomenon. Neither has the local availability of this material posed a significant problem.

Where this trade has traditionally fed the illicit export market, it can just as easily fulfil domestic purposes. If circumstances require.

Posted October 18, 2010 by dmacc502 in global, violence

Tagged with , , , , ,