Friday, December 19, 2008
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Polish immigrant Robert Dziekanski is secured by airport police on the floor of the Vancouver airport in this video footage from Oct. 14, 2007.
Jolts not direct cause of death, review finds
Dec 13, 2008 04:30 AM
WESTERN CANADA BUREAU CHIEF
VANCOUVER–The mother of a Polish immigrant who died after being hit with a Taser by the RCMP at the Vancouver airport said yesterday she is angry that officials seem to be blaming her son for the tragedy.
Yesterday, prosecutors announced there would be no charges against any of the four RCMP officers who confronted and used a Taser to stun Robert Dziekanski before he died in October 2007.
A review by prosecutors said Dziekanski, 40, was a panicked alcoholic possibly in a state of delirium at the time. The review also concluded his death was not directly caused by the Taser jolts but they were one of several contributing factors, along with heart disease, alcohol withdrawal, the stress of being restrained and a decreased ability to breathe due to an officer kneeling on him, said Stan Lowe, a spokesperson for the B.C. Criminal Justice Branch.
Pathology reports show that Dziekanski, who did not have any alcohol or drugs in his system at the time of the shooting, died of a cardiac arrest.
"I'm so angry and so disappointed," said Zofia Cisowski, Dziekanski's mother, in an interview from her home in Kamloops, B.C. "There is nothing now for me. Nothing. They blamed him and said he died of a heart attack and he was an alcoholic. What does that have to do with him being shot?"
Cisowski, 71, waited for hours for her son at the Vancouver International Airport on Oct. 14, 2007, but was told that he never arrived on his flight from Poland. The two failed to connect with each other because of miscommunication and security barriers at the airport.
A frustrated Dziekanski, who could not speak English and was petrified of flying, was left wandering at the airport for hours. Around midnight, RCMP officers were called to the international arrivals area after a 911 call of a disturbance.
They confronted Dziekanski, and within 24 seconds of their encounter, one officer, identified yesterday for the first time as Const. Millington, took out his Taser gun and used the weapon on the unarmed man.
The province's attorney general, Wally Oppal, said in an interview that after a thorough and independent review of the evidence provided by the RCMP, which had conducted its own investigation, the conclusion was unanimous.
"There was not a substantial likelihood of conviction," said Oppal.
The three possible charges against the four officers were assault, assault with a deadly weapon and manslaughter.
Poland's consul general in Vancouver said it's up to the Braidwood Inquiry, a provincially appointed commission, to find the answers that are still missing.
"My government expresses great disappointment that there are no charges," said Tomasz Lis.
The Braidwood Inquiry is scheduled to begin again in mid-January after being delayed twice this fall after the RCMP refused to testify at the public inquiry because of the criminal investigation.
RCMP assistant commissioner Al MacIntyre said yesterday the four officers involved in the Tasering incident will be testifying when the inquiry resumes.
Two of the officers involved have been transferred to detachments in the east, while two remain in British Columbia. One officer, Corp. Monty Robinson, is under suspension for an unrelated incident after a Jeep he was allegedly driving while off-duty struck and killed a young man in the suburb of Tsawwassen two months ago. Robinson is scheduled to appear in court in January to face charges. Police recommended he be charged with impaired driving causing death.
Supt. Wayne Rideout, who was in charge of the Dziekanski investigation, said despite initial reports that the weapon was deployed twice, investigators subsequently learned it had been fired five times.
Rideout said RCMP could not correct that misinformation until now because of the ongoing criminal investigation
The one little detail that makes little sense to me is this: how come Canada approves the immigration of a man who speaks neither of the official languages?
'I Had A Funny Feeling In My Gut'; Soviet Officer Faced Nuclear Armageddon
The Washington Post
February 10, 1999, Wednesday, Final Edition
It was just past midnight as Stanislav Petrov settled into the commander's chair inside the secret bunker at Serpukhov-15, the installation where the Soviet Union monitored its early-warning satellites over the United States.
Then the alarms went off. On the panel in front him was a red pulsating button. One word flashed: "Start."
It was Sept. 26, 1983, and Petrov was playing a principal role in one of the most harrowing incidents of the nuclear age, a false alarm signaling a U.S. missile attack.
Although virtually unknown to the West at the time, the false alarm at the closed military facility south of Moscow came during one of the most tense periods of the Cold War. And the episode resonates today because Russia's early-warning system has fewer than half the satellites it did back then, raising the specter of more such dangerous incidents.
As Petrov described it in an interview, one of the Soviet satellites sent a signal to the bunker that a nuclear missile attack was underway. The warning system's computer, weighing the signal against static, concluded that a missile had been launched from a base in the United States.
The responsibility fell to Petrov, then a 44-year-old lieutenant colonel, to make a decision: Was it for real?
Petrov was situated at a critical point in the chain of command, overseeing a staff that monitored incoming signals from the satellites. He reported to superiors at warning-system headquarters; they, in turn, reported to the general staff, which would consult with Soviet leader Yuri Andropov on the possibility of launching a retaliatory attack.
Petrov's role was to evaluate the incoming data. At first, the satellite reported that one missile had been launched -- then another, and another. Soon, the system was "roaring," he recalled -- five Minuteman intercontinental ballistic missiles had been launched, it reported.
Despite the electronic evidence, Petrov decided -- and advised the others -- that the satellite alert was a false alarm, a call that may have averted a nuclear holocaust. But he was relentlessly interrogated afterward, was never rewarded for his decision and today is a long-forgotten pensioner living in a town outside Moscow. He spoke openly about the incident, although the official account is still considered secret by authorities here.
On the night of the crisis, Petrov had little time to think. When the alarms went off, he recalled, "for 15 seconds, we were in a state of shock. We needed to understand, what's next?"
Usually, Petrov said, one report of a lone rocket launch did not immediately go up the chain to the general staff and the electronic command system there, known as Krokus. But in this case, the reports of a missile salvo were coming so quickly that an alert had already gone to general staff headquarters automatically, even before he could judge if they were genuine. A determination by the general staff was critical because, at the time, the nuclear "suitcase" that gives a Soviet leader a remote-control role in such decisions was still under development.
In the end, less than five minutes after the alert began, Petrov decided the launch reports must be false. He recalled making the tense decision under enormous stress -- electronic maps and consoles were flashing as he held a phone in one hand and juggled an intercom in the other, trying to take in all the information at once. Another officer at the early-warning facility was shouting into the phone to him to remain calm and do his job.
"I had a funny feeling in my gut," Petrov said. "I didn't want to make a mistake. I made a decision, and that was it."
Petrov's decision was based partly on a guess, he recalled. He had been told many times that a nuclear attack would be massive -- an onslaught designed to overwhelm Soviet defenses at a single stroke. But the monitors showed only five missiles. "When people start a war, they don't start it with only five missiles," he remembered thinking at the time. "You can do little damage with just five missiles."
Another factor, he said, was that Soviet ground-based radar installations -- which search for missiles rising above the horizon -- showed no evidence of an attack. The ground radar units were controlled from a different command center, and because they cannot see beyond the horizon, they would not spot incoming missiles until some minutes after the satellites had.
Following the false alarm, Petrov went through a second ordeal. At first, he was praised for his actions. But then came an investigation, and his questioners pressed him hard. Why had he not written everything down that night? "Because I had a phone in one hand and the intercom in the other, and I don't have a third hand," he replied.
Petrov, who was assigned to the satellite early-warning system at its inception in the 1970s, said in the interview that he knew the system had flaws. It had been rushed into service, he said, and was "raw."
Petrov said the investigators tried to make him a scapegoat for the false alarm. In the end, he was neither punished nor rewarded. According to Petrov and other sources, the false alarm was eventually traced to the satellite, which picked up the sun's reflection off the tops of clouds and mistook it for a missile launch. The computer program that was supposed to filter out such information was rewritten.
It is not known what happened at the highest levels of the Kremlin on the night of the alarm, but it came at a climactic stage in U.S.-Soviet relations that is now regarded as a Soviet "war scare." According to former CIA analyst Peter Pry, and a separate study by the agency, Andropov was obsessed with the possibility of a surprise nuclear attack by the West and sent instructions to Soviet spies around the world to look for evidence of preparations.
One reason for Soviet jitters at the time was that the West had unleashed a series of psychological warfare exercises aimed at Moscow, including naval maneuvers into forward areas near Soviet strategic bastions, such as the submarine bases in the Barents Sea.
The 1983 alarm also came just weeks after Soviet pilots had shot down Korean Air Lines Flight 007 and just before the start of a NATO military exercise, known as Able Archer, that involved raising alert levels of U.S. nuclear forces in Europe to simulate preparations for an attack. Pry has described this exercise as "probably the single most dangerous incident of the early 1980s."
A Crumbling Warning System
The Soviet-era antimissile early warning system has deteriorated and some experts say it is disintegrating. Because of malfunctioning satellites, Russia now is blind to any hostile missile launches for several hours in each 24-hour period, and the ground-based radar warning system shows at least two gaps, one expert says.
Satellites in high elliptical orbits around Earth scan Earth's edge against black background of space for hostile missile launches.
Problem: Only three such satellites are active; the last was launched in May 1998. This leaves serious gaps in the Russian early-warning system and increases the risk of miscalculation on whether a satellite signals a real missile launch or a false alarm.
Satellites in geostationary orbit are synchronized with Earth's rotation and monitor a fixed location.
Problem: Only two such satellites are active; last launch, in April 1998, apparently was unsuccessful.
Radar warning system
A ground-based radar system watches for missiles rising above the horizon and is supposed to spot the missile several minutes after the satellites have spotted it.
Problems: The ground-based warning system also has problems. One radar in Latvia was closed last August, apparently leaving a large gap in radar coverage. Another gap exists to the east, from the Pacific, where U.S. Trident submarines patrol.
Sunday, December 7, 2008
Saturday, November 29, 2008
According to media reports, the couple bought the boy in July from a Belgian couple in Ghent. One TV report said between 5,000 and 10,000 euros ($6,450 to $12,900) was paid. The Dutch couple denies buying the baby, saying on Dutch TV that they only paid the pregnancy costs incurred by the parents. The court in the Dutch city of Zwolle said the couple had broken the laws for adopting foreign children, and had to hand the baby over to child welfare authorities. The Council for the Protection of Children, part of the Netherlands' Justice Ministry, had asked the court to place the baby boy into temporary custody until a decision was made by the Belgian authorities on what to do with him. "Clarity over your family history is of fundamental importance for a child growing up. Obscuring your true identity is harmful," the council said in a statement. The public prosecution office in the Netherlands has started an investigation into the case, while Belgian authorities are also making inquiries, Dutch news agency ANP reported. (Reporting by Catherine Hornby and Aaron Gray-Block)
What really annoys me about this story (and the comments by readers below it), is this: why shouldn't the couple who 'bought' the baybe be allowed to keep it? To argue that they didn't follow proper procedures and broke the law begs the question: why are the laws there to begin with?
Adoption laws create two classes of children: those whose parents need a license, and those whose parents do not need a lincense. If a person who by all objective standards is unfit to take care of a child wants to have children, all s/he has to do is have sex, wait nine months, and be done with it. S/he couldn't get a child through the adoption process, but it's no problem doing it the natural way.
If this is really about child welfare, wouldn't it be more logical to have laws that require the same high standards of birth parents as of adoptive parents? The penalty for not meeting these standards and acquiring a child through illegal birthnonetheless would be the same as for acquiring a child through illegal adoption: the state takes the child away and gives it to people better fitted to have children.
Of course, in my opinion there is no question about the solution to this conundrum: there should be no adoption laws in the first place. If somebody wants to take care of a child, s/he can either do so by having sex and hope for the best, or acquire a child from somebody who has one but does not want to take care of it.
In either case, the chances that the child is going to end up with good parents is pretty much the same. Arguably, the chances are better in the case of acquisition through non-sexual means. After all, it takes a bit more effort this way, and is probably more costly, too.
One way or the other, the child would not be the property of the parents - natural or adopted. All a parent has is the righ/obligation to take care of the child s/he has acquired. In other words, one could not 'buy' a child, one could only buy the privilege of taking care of a human being.
Anybody who believes there is a difference between acquiring a child through sexual means and non-sexual means is simply the victim of a primitive prejudice that assigns special legal status to biological accident.