Monday, August 27, 2012
In the home of Big Brother: Drones to watch over UK streets
Orwell knew his own country well
Unmanned police drones, comparable to those used in war zones such as Afghanistan, could soon be secretly watching over the streets of UK cities, according to a National Police Air Service director.
The unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are being considered to monitor crowded events in Britain, such as concerts and festivals, as soon as the aerial units become cost-effective.
“I see unmanned systems as part of the future. There is an aircraft over London all the time — every day, giving images back. Why does it need to be a very expensive helicopter? If somebody gave me an unmanned system that I could use as I use a helicopter at half the cost, within the regulations, I would buy it tomorrow.” Superintendent Richard Watson said in a presentation to the defense industry, reports The Times.
Some police precincts have tried using the remote-controlled system to curb crime. Now the idea is to implement the drone policy nationwide.
Watson said that one manufacturer had proposed an 81-million-pound (around US$127 million) system in a deal that far exceeds the annual National Police Air Service budget of a little over 60 million pounds ($95 million), reports The Telegraph.
The UK already has a drone manufacturing industry and infrastructure. In August 2005, a contract was awarded to Thales UK, worth around 700 million pounds ($1.1 billion), to create the Watchkeeper Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Program, to support the UK’s war effort in Afghanistan, reports Defense Industry Daily. The program was also designed to create around 2000 high-quality manufacturing jobs in the country.
Ultramodern drones will also be deployed for the first time in Northern Ireland on Friday in a missing person search, reports the Belfast Telegraph.
Earlier this month, The Mail reported that UAVs will be used to scoop out terrorists, smugglers and illegal immigrants along Britain's shores as part of the EU wide project.
The European Commission has allocated 260 million pounds ($412 million) for the “Eurosur” project, which also includes a surveillance plan to patrol the Mediterranean coast.
Simultaneously, several schemes are underway in UK, aiming to develop civilian roles for systems based on the drones used to locate and destroy militants in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
British defense companies are testing the high-tech military-grade cameras on UAVs over the Irish Sea.
At the same time, The Mail has discovered that Kent Police are involved in a 3-million-pound ($5 millions) venture with partners in the UK, France and the Netherlands to study the use of drones to guard the English Channel.
Radical Islam revives an ancient hatred
Is a new and shocking wave of anti-Semitism engulfing the Middle East and the developing world? Consider the following:
More than half the Jews in Iraq have been driven out of the country; those that remain are forced to pay a fine or leave their homes. Some are forced to marry Muslims.
In Syria, towns and villages where Jews have lived for centuries are now almost entirely Muslim; these communities have fled to safer parts of the country, where they hope to escape an anti-Semitic massacre.
In Egypt, the new regime is surreptitiously encouraging attacks on synagogues; the Jews, despised for their supposed wealth, fear that the “Arab spring” is about to release centuries of pent-up anti-Semitic hatred.
In Nigeria, Jews have been attacked and killed while studying scripture. In Bangladesh, Jewish children are being forced into madrassas. In Pakistan, the body of an 11-year-old Jewish boy was discovered this week; he’d been tortured to death and his lips sliced off.
You won’t have heard about this atrocious persecution. That’s because – forgive me – I’ve played one of the oldest tricks in the journalist’s book. For Jews, read Christians. For anti-Semitic, read anti-Christian. For synagogues read churches.
I hope Jewish readers won’t take offence: I’m not denying that actual anti-Semitism is spreading like a virus throughout Arab societies. It’s just that, if these attacks against Christians were being directed against Jews, the precedent of the Holocaust would shock the world into action.
This new persecution is the result of the simultaneous revival of militant Islam in many countries. We can say that with confidence. What we can’t say, however, is that there is a co-ordinated Islamic plot to exterminate Christianity as a stepping stone to a universal caliphate.
Conspiracy theorists may derive emotional satisfaction from this idea, but it doesn’t correspond to the messy politics of the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia. Also, it lets the “Christian” West off the hook.
We have to confront the awkward fact that, for decades, some of the world’s most despicable dictators have protected indigenous Christians from Islamic mobs. When the West withdraws its support from these rulers, Christian minorities are exposed as never before.
The removal of Saddam has eviscerated Iraqi Christian churches so ancient that they still worship in Aramaic, the language of Jesus. The fall of Mubarak means that it’s open season on Copts. Those who can afford to do so may follow the example of Palestinian and Lebanese Christians and emigrate. A key statistic: 100 years ago, the Levant was 20 per cent Christian; now the figure is 5 per cent.
The British government, despite prodding by the heroic Lord Alton, is doing a good imitation of not giving a stuff about any of this. Maybe it’s guilt: Anglo-American policies helped liberate Islamism.
As for Western Christianity, some evangelical and Catholic campaigners are drawing attention to the persecution – but they’re undermined by colleagues. For many evangelicals, Iraqi or Syrian worshippers are not “real” Christians because they venerate icons. Lefty Catholics are too obsessed with climate change and benefit cuts to spare a thought for their martyred co-religionists.
Keep an eye on Syria after Assad goes. First they’ll come for the Alawites, then the Christians. There’s a real chance that all traces of Christianity will disappear from the very place where St Paul was knocked off his horse and blinded by a vision of the risen Christ. What a horrible piece of symmetry.
Religion Has Two Faces: Benevolent and Malevolent
Militant atheists believe that religion is entirely negative, stupid, and harmful to human beings. Religious historians believe that without religion, a civilization has no moral guidance and no sense of community. Some of today's extremist religious sects are growing because modernization has produced such existential pain for them. A key sticking point for many, of course, is the emancipation of women. With freedom for women, they ask, what will happen to families?
We have always been both "homo sapiens" (wise men) and "homo religiosus," (religious men). Religion stems from two sources: fear and awe. Our ancestors feared wild beasts, natural disasters, and, of course, death. Fear brings with it belief in evil spirits and gods who must be placated with sometimes human sacrifices.
Our other religious instinct is awe: awe at the beauty of the moon, sun, stars, fire, seeds that sprout into plants, and the birth process of animals and humans. From this instinct comes reverent rituals, music, drama, and dance.
Human beings ask: Who am I? Where do I come from? How should my community behave and where do I belong in it? Why do we suffer and die? And where do we go after death? Religions that attempt to answer these questions give adherents a modicum of comfort.
Almost all religions have a benevolent side. Ritual provides a comforting rhythm in our lives. Marking the calendar year through special rituals has given shape to the year from ancient Stonehenge, which marked the summer and winter solstices, through Medieval Catholicism, with its cycle of holidays marking the agricultural year.
Almost every temperate-zone civilization celebrates harvests and planting festivals, even today (wine grape harvests, Thanksgiving). The benevolence of religion is found in these community activities, the rituals performed in common.
All human religions have some aspect of malevolence as well. Executing or murdering those who do not believe "correctly" has been with us for a long time. Most egregious in this regard are the monotheistic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. With only one god, worshippers of many gods and goddesses had to be crushed. Both Medieval Catholicism and Islam held inquisitions to enforce orthodoxy. Polytheism, for all its ills, was more tolerant.
Christianity began as a pacifist sect spun off from Judaism. For its first several centuries, priests and monks had a horror of violence and bloodshed. This changed with the unification of Christianity under Roman Emperor Constantine. He wanted one empire with one religion, and Jews, Pagans, and Zoroastrians were persecuted in the hope of conversion. The violence of Christianity continued in its conflict with Islam in the 10th century, itself a very violent new religion that was bent upon conversion at any cost. The Crusades of the 10th-through 13th centuries brought out the worst in both Christianity and Islam.
The last official religious violence in Christianity occurred in the Catholic-Protestant religious wars of the 17th century. The destruction was so ugly that it spurred a temporary distaste for religion altogether in a movement called "the Enlightenment," which happily gave rise to the United States, a country with no established religion. This permits people to believe or not, change religions or not, without compulsion.
Today, Islam is in internal conflict. Extremists have reverted to Islam's original state of violence, warfare against "unbelievers," and the most benighted vision of what a divine power demands of them. They too will either have a reformation and enlightenment, or the religion will self-destruct. Many mainstream Muslims are already living by a secular standard.
However, when religious sects are no longer distinguishable from secular clubs and with decreasing connection to history, they lose members and are on the road to collapse. The sects enjoying growth are those with ritual and family-supporting values, the idea of community, which has always been the bedrock of religion. But they are also more intolerant of diversity, as monotheism has always been.
Human societies have never thrived without religion, but we appear to be in need of something better than is out there today.
Culture Challenge of the Week: Politically Correct Speech
As our children head back to school, parents need to teach them this truth: Words matter.
Many public schools, whether purposely or not, promote the liberal agenda through curriculum choices, print and video materials, and guest speakers. As we head into election season, parents can expect to see the same thing happening on a magnified scale, as teachers and schools insist that students use only politically correct speech. The NEA and the leftist non-profits swarming around public schools will see to that.
The words chosen by teachers and administrators to describe sensitive cultural issues shape students' perceptions of those issues. Teachers know that. They have tremendous power to influence the children-your children-who are under their care.
Teachers who buy into the liberal agenda eagerly foist the liberal world view on their students by modeling politically correct language. When necessary, they will correct a student's choice of non-politically correct words, all in the name of sensitivity and tolerance. Even good teachers, who believe in Biblical morality or perhaps lean conservative, may fall into the politically palatable word trap. They've been persuaded that using certain words-and avoiding others-is the right thing to do. Deviation from the approved script might offend someone or appear culturally insensitive.
Free speech becomes "favored speech." Some words are preferable to others. And the use of "unfavored" spells social death.
Once the favored speech and word choices of liberal activists creep into a school and become part of the official lexicon, students feel enormous social pressures to conform. As a result, students from religious or conservative backgrounds will find themselves using the language of the left, whether purposely (to fit in and avoid ridicule) or unthinkingly.
How to Save Your Family: Take a Vocabulary Test!
Encourage your children to use charitable, respectful language in all circumstances. But urge them to be strong and clear about the truth. Use the language of reality-God's reality-to describe culturally sensitive issues. Provide a strong example yourself, too!
Ask your children to explain their understanding of politically correct words and phrases. Correct their perceptions as necessary. Consider the two examples below, but be alert for other phrases that demand explanations!
"Hate speech." For the liberal left, hate speech means language that suggests disapproval and non-acceptance of homosexuality, abortion, or other immoral behavior. Does your child understand that supporting traditional marriage is NOT hate speech? Neither is public disapproval of homosexual behavior. Speaking the truth about homosexual behavior-that it's a disordered inclination and a sin in God's eyes-is not hate speech. It is the truth, and must be spoken in love, as Scripture tells us, with compassion and sensitivity. Speech doesn't become "hateful" just because it makes others feel uncomfortable, sad, or troubled. However, sensitivity and prudence require us to consider when to speak the truth and to whom.
"Marriage Equality." This fall Maryland voters will face a referendum on whether to approve the legislature's attempts to create "marriage equality" for homosexuals. How teachers frame the issue matters greatly. Will they describe the referendum as a vote on whether to support "marriage equality" or to deny LGBTQ people equal rights? To impressionable students, the issue becomes simple: "equality" is a red, white, and blue American value. So gays should have it too. But "marriage equality" is not only misleading, it puts students who support marriage as traditionally defined (between one man and one woman) in the uncomfortable position of being against that great American value: "equality."
Does your child understand that attempts to re-define marriage to include homosexual relationships do not pivot on the question of "equality"? All of us are equal in dignity before God. All Americans possess equal human and civil rights. Marriage, however, has a history (and a meaning) that is ancient from the first days of creation. And the practical reality is that only men and women create babies together through sexual intercourse. (Homosexual sexual activity is inherently sterile-it cannot create babies.) Marriage is designed to create families that bond mothers to fathers, creating the optimal home for rearing the child they created together.
Politically correct language can't change reality, no matter how hard liberals try. Help your child distinguish "truth" from liberal talking points.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
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