Tag Archive | "United States"

Exit Through the Bathroom: An Ineffective War on Drugs

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A Mexican soldier destroying opium poppies in Navalato, Sinaloa State. The New York Times. Fernando Brito.

On July 16, 2015, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, Mexican drug kingpin and leader of the Sinaloa cartel, escaped from federal prison in Mexico. He did so via a one-mile tunnel from beneath his private shower at the prison. The tunnel was equipped with a modified motorcycle that led to a half-built house overlooking both the prison and the nearby military base. Besides concerns about the effectiveness of one of Mexico’s most secure prisons, it leads me to wonder whether his capture in the first place was just an exercise in futility.

Guzman’s penchant for tunnels extends past his daring prison escape. For decades, Sinaloa has been using tunnels to move drugs, people, money, and guns into the United States from Mexico. In Chicago, for example, roughly 80% of the drugs come from the Sinaloa cartel and Guzman’s capture did not shut off that tap. Art Bilek, a former Chicago detective with six decades on the job, states it well: “At this point [drug trafficking is] so well-established, it’s part of the culture.” This is a problem.

Our current tactics are clearly not working. The war on drugs needs to be updated. The war is so outdated, that at a recent International Law and Drug Policy Reform session in Washington, D.C., the current drug conventions were called “Jurassic” in nature compared to other international treaty regimes. This framework will hopefully be handled and updated next year at a United Nations General Assembly Special Session on drugs.

In the United States there has been some move towards drug reform as marijuana is the talk of the town. Still listed by the Drug Enforcement Agency as a Schedule I narcotic under the Controlled Substances Act, marijuana is prohibited under federal law. Other members of the Schedule I family include heroin, lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD), and methylenedioxymethamphetamine (ecstasy). However, 23 states have legalized marijuana in a medical form and four of those have legalized it for recreational use. Why would any state condone the use by its citizens of a member of that dangerous Schedule I grouping? That leads us back to the severely outdated drug laws that the US and many other countries still have in use.

Steps are being taken on the federal level to resolve these outdated laws. For the most part, the Department of Justice looks the other way for patients in those 23 states who use medical marijuana. However, if U.S. Senators Rand Paul, Kirsten Gillibrand, and Cory Booker have their way, state medical marijuana programs would be legalized under federal law under the recently proposed “Compassionate Access, Research Expansion and Respect States Act”. Additionally, under the Act, marijuana would be reclassified as a Schedule II drug, grouping it with regulated drugs such as Vicodin, OxyContin, and Adderall. While this will not eliminate people like Guzman and the Sinaloa cartel, it may be a small step towards accomplishing the goals that the long ago proponents of the “War on Drugs” had in mind.

 

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Gender-Based Asylum Claims: Why the United States Approves So few

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Somali woman and child

Under current asylum law, gender is not a protected ground for asylum. The United States, as well as many other countries around the world, first committed to the international community to protect the rights of refugees when it signed the Refugee Convention in 1951, the controlling international convention in refugee law.  A refugee, according to the Refugee Convention Article 1(A)(2) is an individual “who is outside his or her country of nationality or habitual residence and is unable or unwilling to return due to a well-founded fear of persecution based on his or her race, religion, nationality, political opinion, or membership in a particular social group.”

Any individual bringing a claim for gender-based asylum must do so under “membership in a particular social group.”  However, merely stating that the individual’s “gender” constitutes as a social group is not enough. The social group cannot be based on the persecution the individual faced, and has to be specific, immutable, and socially visible. There is a fear that if an immigration judge allows a social group that is too broad, it will set precedent for a flood of women to come and claim asylum in the United States.  Women, therefore, have had to describe their social group in convoluted and intricate ways, in order to be as specific as possible to be acceptable to immigration judge.  As one scholar notes, “applicants often define groups in ‘overly complicated and unnecessarily detailed’ ways, including characteristics such as marital status, age, education level, the absence of male protection, opposition to abuse, transgression of social/cultural norms, and past experiences of harm.” These social group formulations are very narrow, sometimes illogical, and almost comical in length.

Claims are especially difficult to bring when the persecution occurs within the private sphere—this means, the government of the country did not conduct the persecution, but instead, the members of the government refused to protect the individual from the violence.  When the persecution occurs within the private sphere, the persecution must be on account of that social group; the persecutor either has or will inflict harm or suffering “in order to punish him [or her] for possessing a belief or characteristic [the] persecutor[seeks] to overcome.”  The asylum seeker must show that the persecutor wanted to persecute her on account of her social group by providing evidence that the persecution occurred, which is often difficult within the private sphere, because there is often no witnesses or evidence.  Women around the world suffer violence, such as female genital mutilation, honor killings,  or domestic violence,  at the hands of their fellow community members because it is “culturally acceptable;” however, when they flee to the United States to avoid this violence, they face many obstacles in getting their asylum applications approved.

Kitty Robinson is a 3L at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and a Staff Editor on the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

 

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Identifying Torture: A conspicuous ambiguity

In any endeavor requiring the employment of language, ambiguity is an inescapable
complication.

That is not to say however, that all attempts at specificity ought to be abandoned. The need for special care in language increases with the gravity of the subject of consideration. Discourse concerning topics such as torture requires the utmost care, and is deserving of maximal precision. It is for this reason that the language of the Convention Against Torture (“CAT”) is so unsatisfactory. The mere creation of the convention itself is inadequate without language sufficient to bind its signatories in the way intended.

There are two terms that are particularly problematic in Article I of CAT. The relevant sections state that torture is defined as “any act by which severe pain or suffering…is intentionally inflicted on a person.” Both “severe” and “intentionally” represent troublesome gaps in the convention’s injunction. This lack of fastidiousness has led to problematic rulings by the U.S. Justice Department and the U.S. courts, which have taken advantage of the open-ended nature of the terms contained within the convention. One example of this abuse of ambiguity is a memorandum handed down by the U.S. Justice Department in 2002, which provided an incredibly narrow interpretation of the term “severe.” In the memorandum, severe was interpreted as meaning “intense pain or suffering of the kind that is equivalent to the pain that would be associated with serious physical injury so severe that death, organ failure, or permanent damage resulting in loss of significant body function will likely result.” While this memorandum was ultimately repudiated, it is a somber example of the vast discretion that can be applied to the language of CAT.

The second example is the 2008 case Villegas v. Mukasey, which represents a troubling interpretation of the term “intentionally.” One of the explicitly enumerated elements of torture is the underlying motivation. This motivation can consist of “obtaining…information or a confession, punishing…or intimidating or coercing.” In this case, the applicant, a citizen of Mexico who had been lawfully admitted to the United States, was found guilty of second degree robbery. The applicant, suffering from bipolar disorder, argued that removal to Mexico would result in his being confined to a Mexican mental institution, “where conditions are deplorable.” In Article III, CAT specifically prohibits extradition to countries where torture is likely. On this basis, the applicant argued that removing him to Mexico would be sending him to a torture chamber masquerading as a mental institution. However, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit affirmed the earlier rulings, and found against the applicant. The court, operating under the Foreign Affairs Reform and Restructuring Act of 1998, and its construal of the term intentionally, held that intentionally refers to “specific intent,” or an intent to bring about the consequences of the action, not merely to “general intent,” or an intent to bring about the action itself. The court held that the awful conditions prevalent in the Mexican medical institutions were not a product of specific intent, and thus the applicant was removed to Mexico, to face the horrors of Mexican institutionalization, as punishment for his crime.

It is not necessarily the case that there are readily available terms simply waiting to replace the existing language of CAT. However, taking the time to unpack what is meant by this vague terminology is what is required for CAT to be effective in its mission. It has been said that those things which “[violate] the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, [and] physical and mental torture…are a disgrace, and so long as they infect human civilization they contaminate those who inflict them more than those who suffer [the] injustice.” Of the many quandaries that plague modern society, the question of torture is of pivotal importance. It is therefore deserving of exceptional care in the declarations made which pertain to its tolerability.

Cameron Hunter is a 2L law student and first year master’s student at the University of Denver and is the incoming Survey Editor for the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy

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Mistaken as Terrorists: How innocent Syrian refugees are prevented from resettling in the US

The Syrian refugee crisis is one of the most horrific this generation has ever seen.

Syrian refugees living in a camp Credits: © Nikolay Doychinov/AFP/Getty Images

Syrian refugees living in a camp Credits: © Nikolay Doychinov/AFP/Getty Images

The United States, which has a long history of welcoming refugees into its borders and giving protection to those fleeing from persecution, has yet to put a significant resettlement initiative for Syrian refugees into motion. The United States has resettled 546 Syrian refugees since the crisis began.  UNHCR, on the other hand, hopes to resettle 50,000 Syrian refugees in 2015, and another 50,000 Syrian refugees in 2016 in permanent resettlement placements around the world.  The lack of action on the part of the United States is due, in part, to its strict immigration laws in regards to terrorism.  The Terrorism Related Inadmissibility Grounds (“TRIG”) sweep broadly over many individuals who are not dangerous in any way.  The TRIG statutory language, codified in the Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”) prevents many innocent Syrians from finding a stable and safe living situation.

There are two areas of the INA that stand as a significant obstacle for many Syrian refugees wanting to resettle in the United States. First is the definition of “terrorist activity,” defined in INA §212(a)(3)(B)(iii) as “any activity that is unlawful under the laws of the place where it is committed.” Because the law defines any military action against a regime as “terrorist activity,” individuals who were once seen as friends of the Untied States are now labeled as terrorists. For Syrians, opposition fighters are labeled as terrorists and are excluded from entering the United States, even though the United States government supports them. In contrast, those who were in Assad’s army, which the United States opposes for its violations of international law, would still be admissible, because the statute only applies to non-state actors.

Second, many Syrians may be found inadmissible due to their insignificant material support to a Tier I or Tier II terrorist organization (designated terrorist organizations by the Secretary of State and Attorney General, respectively). In INA §212(a)(3)(B)(iv)(VI), the giving of material support to a terrorist organization labeled as “terrorist activity.”  DHS, in past oral arguments before the BIA, has stated that they would consider even the most minimal support given to a terrorist organization, like a glass of water or five cents, as material support.  Syrians deemed inadmissible due to their material support of a terrorist organization include a family that sheltered an opposition fighter in their home when their town was being bombed, a young boy who joined the opposition fighters for a short time when his father was killed, eventually leaving the war to join his mother and siblings, and even the man who sold falafel sandwiches to opposition fighters in a war-zone.

In order for the United States to continue its longstanding tradition of welcoming people fleeing from persecution, the TRIG laws need to be changed.  DHS needs to use its discretionary authority and expand the available TRIG waivers. Civilians living in Syria were subject to innocent contact with Tier I and Tier II terrorist organizations on a regular basis; this is the nature of living in a conflict zone.  The armed group that took control over the territory they lived in became their customers in their stores—innocent, insignificant material support is unavoidable.  Additionally, exceptions should be given on a case-by-case basis to former combatants who pass a security background check and are not barred for any other statutory reason, including those who were children at the time they were combatants, or to individuals who did not participate in targeting civilians.

Kitty Robinson is a 2L at the University of Denver and is the incoming Candidacy Editor for the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy  

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The College Conundrum: How US student loan repayment policy created $1 trillion in outstanding debt

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Credit to: https://farm1.staticflickr.com/44/148486190_9e1daed403_o.jpg

On average, a US student will spend approximately $21,000 per year pursuing a college degree, approximately 22% of which will be paid through borrowed funds. Considering the increasing costs of college tuition coupled with the need for students to borrow almost ¼ of their tuition, it no surprise that the outstanding federal student loan debt has crossed the $1 trillion mark. With continuously increasing tuition threatening to put higher education just out of reach for many Americans, it’s intriguing to consider that many countries around the world take a surprisingly different approach to higher education tuition and funding.

Recently, Germany reverted back to a free tuition model for public universities, after an eight year period in which the universities were allowed to charge up to €1,000 per year (approx. equivalent to $1,300). Denmark takes a similar approach but goes a step further by providing higher education completely free, not only to its own citizens but also to those of any country in the European Union, while also providing monthly stipends for cost-of-living expenses. While not tuition free, Australia nonetheless has a similar student-centric policy that bases tuition on major, with higher rates for those areas in which the student can expect a higher future income. As an incentive to lessen the amount of debt taken on by students in financing their education, students who pay as much of their tuition upfront as possible receive a 10% discount on their tuition rate.

When compared with countries like Australia and New Zealand, the United States’ debt forgiveness and repayment policy seems rather harsh. As previously mentioned, Australian students who are able to pay some of their tuition upfront receive a discounted rate. Anything that is not paid up front is paid back based on income but only once the student has graduated, become employed, and their income has reached a certain minimum level. In the event that their income drops below the minimum level, they are not required to make further payments until their income again meets the minimum standard.

While the US does offer a somewhat comparable systems in theory, in practice the differences are significant. For example, American students do have the option of applying for an income-based repayment plan, but rather than automatically being enrolled in the plan or allowing anyone to opt-in, only students demonstrating partial financial hardship can take advantage of this option. Similarly, American students have the option to apply for deferment or forbearance if they are unable to continue making payments on their loans, however, these options are limited in time, up to three years for deferment and twelve months for forbearance. Most significantly, interest continues to accumulate during the deferment/forbearance period whereas no interest accumulates during the Australian no-payment period.

So is a US college degree worth the increasing price tag? The answer depends on your perspective.

In the US, college graduates in general have a much lower unemployment rate than those without a college degree. As you might expect, when comparing unemployment rates of all college graduates with recent college graduates, the unemployment rate for recent college graduates is higher but maintains fairly steady (peaking at 5% for all graduates in 2010 compared with 7% for recent college graduates in the same year). Somewhat troubling however, is the fact approximately 44% of graduates are underemployed, meaning those graduates who report having a job are employed in a job that does not require their degree. Thus the question of whether or not to pursue a college education depends on balancing the likelihood of landing a “dream job” (or even finding a job after graduation), with the encumbrance of a large amount of unforgivable debt. Given the staggering and still increasing amount of federal student loan debt, this, apparently, is a gamble that many hopeful young Americans, myself included, are willing to take.

 

Demi Arenas is a 2L and Staff Editor on the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy.

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Critical Analysis: The U.S. Should Suspend Adoptions from China

China, like the U.S., has a website that is dedicated to finding missing and exploited children called, “Baby Come Home.” Unlike the U.S., a large percentage of those children have probably been kidnapped for adoption by unsuspecting American parents. Since China opened its doors to international adoption in 1991, over 83,000 Chinese children have received American parents, the largest number worldwide.[1]

In 2006, the Chinese police uncovered six Hunan orphanages that had paid kidnappers anywhere from $400 to $538 for each child acquired. The operation had been going on for four years, so at least a thousand children had been stolen from their birth families and sent to the orphanages for international adoption. The children were usually taken from another province in China and moved to Hunan to avoid detection. It would be naïve to assume that these problems are all in the past. In June of 2012, the Chinese police arrested 76 suspects for infant abductions acquired for resale in the Yunnan province. The infants went for as high as $1,582.

Parents hold on to hope of finding their missing children. Image Source: AP

Parents hold on to hope of finding their missing children. Image Source: AP

In 2010, parents of missing children protested in Beijing about the lack of investigation by the Chinese police. China claims that only 10,000 of its children are abducted each year; however, the State Department has conceded that the numbers may be as high as 20,000 annually. Every year, approximately 30,000 to 60,000 missing children are reported to Chinese police. A child is usually taken from migrant workers because of the parents’ lack of clout with police.

Once an orphanage decides to put a child up for international adoption, it must publish an ad in the local newspaper to notify potential claimants about the lost child. Since most of the kidnapped children are routed from their homes to other provinces, it is unlikely that the local paper of the orphanage would inform searching parents of their children’s whereabouts. Sixty days after the post, the child is available for adoption to the US.

The media has often portrayed China as a land full of abandoned, healthy baby girls, but the current lack of supply and the subsequent need to refill that supply has been glossed over. In 2007, China admitted that it “lacked available babies to meet the spike in demand.” In 1991, the one-child policy (“policy”) may have contributed to the surplus of female infants in Chinese orphanages but oversupply is no longer a problem. Abortions and other forms of birth control are readily available in China. The policy has been effective at reducing China’s population from 5.81 children per family in 1970 to an average of 2.31 in 1990.[2] At 2.31, the population will no longer grow but simply replace the current generation. Moreover, with China’s increasing economic wealth, families are able to pay the penalties for having more than one child if the province strictly enforces the policy.

In an informal survey conducted by Stuy, 227 out of 259 Chinese orphanages claimed that they did not have any healthy infants available for domestic adoption even though the children were conveniently available for Americans. American parents must pay the orphanage a fee of $3,000 to $5,000 for each child adopted. Assuming the minimum fee of $3,000, almost $252 million has been transferred from the U.S. to China in exchange for children since 1991.

In the U.S., the birth parents’ rights to a child tend to supercede the adoptive parents’, even if the child has been with the adoptive parents for years. However, when it comes to international adoptions, the U.S. does not give the same amount of deference to Chinese parents’ rights to their children. As a ratifying country to the Hague Convention, the U.S. should attempt to uphold the principles of the Convention even if the treaty is not self-executing. The U.S. should suspend adoptions from China because the practice is feeding into the kidnapping of children and corruption within the country. The “best interests of the children” are not being taken into account when encouraging adoptions from China. China is more than capable of absorbing any healthy, abandoned children within the country. U.S. suspension of adoptions from China would force the country to take kidnappings more seriously, especially with the amount of Chinese parents that have lost children.

Helen Lee is a 3L at the University of Denver and a staff editor on the Denver Journal of International Law and Policy



[1] See, Elizabeth Bartholet, Int’l Adoption: Thoughts on the Human Rights Issues, 13 Buff. Hum. Rts. L. Rev. 151, app. B (2007). See also, Significant Source Countries of International Adoptions (Totals of IR-3, IR-4, IH-3, and IH-4 Immigrant Visas Issued): Fiscal Years 2003-2012, U.S. Department of State, http://travel.state.gov/visa/statistics/ivstats/ivstats_4581.html

[2] Sharon K. Hom, Female Infanticide in China: The Human Rights Specter & Thoughts Towards (An) Other Vision, 23 Colum. Hum. Rts. L. Rev. 249, 266 n.59 (1992).

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Will the United States Play a Role in Prosecuting Pirate “Kingpins?”

Somalia has no trouble producing pirates. Between a central government that controls little beyond the capitol city of Mogadishu, an utter lack of economic opportunity for young men, and a 3,025 mile long coastline with access to the world’s busiest shipping corridors, for every Somali pirate captured at sea, there are many more waiting to take his place. Accordingly, one of the most promising means to put an end to this global menace is the prosecution and detention of the financiers of pirate action groups – those benefitting most from lawlessness in the Indian Ocean but never actually setting foot on a boat.

Mohammad Saaili Shibin (AP Image)

The Eastern District of Virginia and the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals are in the process of hearing two separate cases that, taken together, could decide whether or not the United States of America will have any role in the prosecution of these so-called “kingpins” of piracy.

One case, United States v. Shibin, is just beginning the trial phase and is the United States first attempt to prosecute a high level facilitator of piracy. The case concerns Mohammad Saaili Shibin’s role in the hijackings of the M/V Marida Marguerite and the S/V Quest. In both attacks, Shibin’s role was that of translator and hostage negotiator. Shibin was paid between $30,000 and $50,000 for his role in the M/V Marida Marguerite attack but was paid nothing in for his role in the S/V Quest, as all hostages were killed before a ransom could be negotiated. Shibin confessed to his role in both hijackings to American authorities.

At issue is, inter alia, whether Shibin can be charged with Piracy under 18 U.S.C. § 1651, which outlaws “piracy as defined by the law of nations” and carries with it a mandatory life sentence.

Because Judge Robert G. Doumar denied the defendant’s motion to suppress his confessions, it will be difficult for Mr. Shibin to argue that he did not participate in the hijackings in the manner alleged. Instead, his case will rise and fall on the way the Fourth Circuit settles a split on the legal question of whether “piracy as defined by the law of nations” is an evolving or a static concept.

This legal question comes to the Fourth Circuit in the context of a split within the Eastern District of Virginia on two cases with essentially the same set of facts. In both United States v. Said and United States v. Hasan, the defendants set out to plunder a merchant vessel and fired upon what they believed to be such a vessel. In both cases, the would-be pirates were actually firing upon a United States Naval vessel.

In Said, the trial court held that § 1651 should be interpreted in light of the nineteenth century definition of piracy, which included only “robbery at sea.” Because the defendants in Said only fired upon a ship and never actually stole anything, their acts did not rise to the level of piracy.

The Hasan trial court, on the other hand, found that “the ‘law of nations’ connotes a changing body of law,” and that Congress meant to keep pace with those changes as they relate to maritime piracy when they drafted § 1651. The court went on to find that the contemporary definition of general piracy under customary international law is embodied in the High Seas Convention and UNCLOS,1 both of which define piracy as:

(A) (1) any illegal act of violence or detention, or any act of depredation; (2) committed for private ends; (3) on the high seas or a place outside the jurisdiction of any state; (4) by the crew or the passengers of a private ship or a private aircraft; (5) and directed against another ship or aircraft, or against persons or property on board such ship or aircraft; or

(B) (1) any act of voluntary participation in the operation of a ship or an aircraft; (2) with knowledge of the facts making it a pirate ship; or

(C) (1) any act of inciting or of intentionally facilitating (2) an act described in subparagraph (A) or (B).

The cases of United States v. Shibin and United States v. Hasan are therefore inexorably tied to one another. If the Fourth Circuit overrules the Hasan trial court and holds that, for the purposes of § 1651, piracy only includes armed robbery at sea, none of the defendants in Hasan, Said, and Shibin are guilty of a crime under that statute. If it affirms the Hasan trial court’s holding that that the definition of piracy under the law of nations has expanded to include the definition embodied in UNCLOS and the High Seas Convention the result will almost certainly be the opposite. The defendants in Hasan and Said would be guilty of piracy resulting from acts of violence on the high seas, and Mohammad Saaili Shibin would be guilty of intentionally facilitating piracy. Though Shibin, as a translator and hostage negotiator, would be considered a mid-level pirate at best, the same legal reasoning that applies to him will apply to higher level facilitators who “incit[e] or . . . intentionally facilitat[e]” piracy but do not themselves commit robbery at sea.

An interpretation of § 1651 as embodying an evolving definition of piracy would make the United States an excellent venue to prosecute the financiers and facilitators of piracy, as the level of due process afforded to the defendants would be unassailable and the mandatory life sentence imposed by § 1651 would be a strong deterrent. Prosecuting these “kingpins” is, apart from solving Somalia’s broader governance problems, the surest way to put an end to maritime piracy in the Indian Ocean and Arabian Seas. Hopefully the American judicial system can adapt to this modern realities of maritime piracy.

  1. Actually, this conceptualization of piracy was first announced in a 1932 study on the international law of piracy conducted by Harvard University and later incorporated into the Law of the Sea Treaty in 1958 and reproduced in UNCLOS in 1982.

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You want to shoot our drones down now, Iran?

Occasionally alarming drones stories cross my desk. Up until this morning, this one ranked as #1 most alarming: “‘Flesh-eating robot’ is actually a vegetarian, say inventors.”

In an attempt to reassure the reader, the inventors add this gem of a quote: “The … Energetically Autonomous Tactical Robot – known as Eatr for short – does indeed power its “biomass engine” by digesting organic material, but that it is not intended to chomp its way through battlefields of fallen soldiers.” That is just great.  Eatr is not intended to devour humans, but as it gobbles up a hedgerow to sate its appetite it obviously may unintentionally scoop up a human or two in the process.

Energetically Autonomous Tactical Robot

So the Eatr article sat comfortably at number 1 for many weeks until this morning: “US draws up plans for nuclear drones.”  The Guardian article states that “American scientists have drawn up plans for a new generation of nuclear-powered drones capable of flying over remote regions of the world for months on end without re-fuelling.”  Remote regions? What, are we going to start flying drones over Western Sahara?

Most of our drones are deployed in Iraq, Pakistan and Yemen.  By my count a fair number of folks live there. And these drones crash “a lot” says Chris Coles of Drone Wars UK.  Do we really want to further infuriate inhabitants of these countries by flying nuclear materials over them?

The stated appeal of nuclearizing drones is to enhance their ability to fly for long periods of time without refueling.  But one wonders whether a second motivation is to create a huge disincentive for countries like Iran in shooting down a drone like they did last December.

 

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News Post: Int’l Spat in the Airline Industry

At the end of 2011 the largest airline interest group in the United States, Airlines for America (A4A), formerly known as the Air Transport Association (ATA), sued the U.S. Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im) over an agreement to guarantee $3.4 billion in loans for Air India.  The loan guarantee supports the sale of 30 Boeing Aircraft to Air India, including 27 new Boeing 787 Dreamliners.  While the A4A premised the lawsuit on the grounds that in granting the guarantee Ex-Im violated administrative procedure, some experts believe the move is merely political posturing.  The A4A is trying to take advantage of the current unpopularity of government policies and can be perceived as “corporate welfare” in hopes of tax dollars being kept at home and spent to support the airline industry.

The A4A claims that by acting as guarantor on these loans U.S. government is subsidizing foreign airlines, putting U.S.-based carriers at a competitive disadvantage.  Specifically, the A4A members contend that they are unable to access comparable financing terms, and thus pay more when purchasing the same airplanes.  The A4A further argues that these loan guarantees have caused U.S.-based carriers to lose significant market-share to foreign competitors.  The A4A continues to assert that the involvement of the Ex-Im Bank in aircraft financing shows that the U.S. is more concerned with the success of their largest aircraft manufacturer, Boeing, than they are of the health of the airline industry.

This lawsuit is the newest move by the A4A in their quest to dismantle the use Ex-Im financing for the export of airplanes.  The A4A advanced the same arguments during the negotiation among members of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) of the 2010 Aircraft Sector Understanding regarding export credits.  The OECD members implemented a number of changes to appease the A4A, including doubling the interest rates of export credit -backed loans.  Yet, apparently, these changes were not sufficient in the eyes of the A4A.

While it is certainly true that U.S.-based carriers have been suffering in recent years, it is difficult to calculate how much of their woes are traceable to the U.S. government providing ECA support to foreign airlines.  It is important to understand that U.S. is not the only government providing export credit support for its domestic aircraft manufacturers.  Boeing’s competitors – Airbus of the EU, Embraer of Brazil, and Bombardier of Canada – all receive similar support from their governments.  In fact, these foreign governments provide a much greater volume of export credit support for their exports than the U.S. government.  In reality, the complaints of the A4A are more traceable to the fact that U.S.-based carriers are not eligible to receive export credit support due to limitations imposed by the Aircraft Sector Understanding agreement.

Boeing 787 Dreamliner

Winning this lawsuit will not provide any direct benefit to the U.S. airlines – they will not become privy to improved financing terms through export credit support.  At most, a victory will deprive some of the U.S. airline’s competitors from accessing export credit support.  It will also prevent airlines in nations with questionable credit ratings from securing export credit support and hamper the ability of Boeing to compete in the international marketplace. This lawsuit will not stop Airbus, Embraer, and Bombardier from receiving export credit support from their governments.  If Boeing is prevented from making this sale, Air India would likely turn to Airbus to fulfill its needs taking advantage of export credit support from the EU.  Air India would not be flying Boeing airplanes, but the U.S. carriers would be no better off.

Recent developments indicate that the A4A’s attempt to gain political and popular support may be in trouble.  Recently, President Obama met with the President and CEO of Boeing, Mr. James McNerney, and the CEO of Commercial Airplanes, Mr. Jim Albaugh, and pledged his support for the continued use of Ex-Im guarantees to support the export of Boeing aircraft.  Moreover, many major U.S. airlines and A4A members have declined to become party to the lawsuit, including United Air Lines Inc., Continental Airlines Inc., American Airlines Inc., Atlas Air Inc., Federal Express Corp. and United Parcel Service Inc.  While the specific reasons for the absence of these major airlines has not yet been released publicly, it may be that these airlines believe weakening Boeing will have a negative impact on the U.S. aviation industry and the U.S. economy as a whole.

 

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News Post: Hackers intercept US-UK hacking call

Anonymous Mask

On Friday, the hacking group Anonymous posted on YouTube a recording of a confidential conversation between the FBI and London’s Metropolitan Police. Anonymous also released a copy of an email sent to the invited participant of the conference call. The email, sent January 13, contained a single code to be used by participants to gain access to the call. Along with the FBI and Metropolitan Police, members of agencies in Ireland, France, the Netherlands, Germany, and Sweden also received the email invitation.

An official from the FBI informed the press that Anonymous had not hacked any bureau system, but had probably accessed the email account of one of the call invitees. The FBI is currently carrying out a criminal investigation of the matter.

During the 16-minute-long call, which is said to have occurred on January 17 of this year, investigators from the FBI and Metropolitan Police discussed the cases of Ryan Clear and Jake Davis, two British teens who have been arrested and are charged with hacking. Both teens are wanted in the U.S.. The detectives also discussed several suspected hackers, whose names were bleeped from the recording by Anonymous. One British official referred to a hacking suspect as “a 15 year-old kid who’s basically just doing this all for attention and is a bit of an idiot.”

Since 2010 there has been an ongoing international criminal investigation into the group Anonymous. That year the group attacked Master Card, PayPal, and other websites that stopped collecting money for the organization WikiLeaks. Investigations are also underway into Lutzec, Antisec, and other hacking groups suspected of hacking the Central Intelligence Agency, Britain’s Serious Organized Crime Agency, Japan’s Sony Corporation, and Mexican government sites.

Anonymous, whose members don white Guy Fawkes masks for public demonstrations and leave the image on websites they hack, accuse the organizations they attack as having abandoned justice, freedom, and democracy. The group includes members from the US, UK, Ireland, and Germany. Many of the suspected hackers are young people and teenagers.

The group has also been linked to attacks on the Justice department; the Church of Scientology; the music industry; and Neal Puckett and Haytham Faraj, the lawyers who represented Sergeant Wutench in the Haditha case.

Following Friday’s posting of the FBI-Metropolitan police phone conversation, Anonymous attacked a Boston police website and took over a site belonging to Greece’s justice ministry.

Posted in 1TVFA Posts, 2Featured Articles, DJILP Staff, Laura WoodComments (0)

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