Soros writes a check to buy commercial satellite time to see what the Myanmar Junta has been hiding from the world in the jungle
e-mail to a high school student who e-mailed me a few months ago with questions for a school homework report. Her teacher had assigned her to research George Soros, and when she started Googling, she found 157,662 websites that believe George Soros is the Evil Incarnate Antichrist and want to assassinate him.
And me. George's Biggest Fan. I want to buy the guy lunch. Just because he has U$22,000,000,000 , why should he always pick up the tab? Food is cheap. I want to buy George Soros lunch. So she e-mailed Elmer Elevator, President of the George Soros Fan Club of Earth, and wanted to know what up with that, and I told her.
The sooner schoolchildren learn that George Soros will not cook and eat them, but rather is one of their Very Best Friends working to make a better and more decent Earth for their future, the better.
As with almost every Vleep-post, there's an image, and a quite interesting image at that, but for a change you have to dive for it. But I guess when you get to it, click on it to make it bigger and clearer.
Ecclesiastes to the contrary: There IS something new under the sun!
Yo hello and greetings L****, also Ramadan Kareem, Happy Yom Kippur --
I thought about you when I read these stories today. Read deep and you'll find Soros' Open Society Institute writing the checks to buy the commercial satellite time for this very novel and ambitious project.
Myanmar / Burma is one of the "darkest" countries in the world. The military dictatorship is a lot like North Korea and tries to keep its repressive and violent activities secret from the rest of the world.
But now it seems you can't keep these kinds of things secret anymore. Satellite cameras look down on every corner of the planet and find evidence of serious human rights abuses.
One of the things that's always impressed me about our friend George Soros is how wide and how deep his passion for human rights and human freedom is. It's easy for people in the West to concentrate on our own "neighborhood" troubles, and ignore faraway troubles in places like Asia, Africa and Latin America. Naturally our first instincts are to care most about people who look and dress like us, and we have natural difficulties opening our hearts and concerns to the people who live in very different societies.
Soros seems to have devoted his life to growing beyond these natural human instincts. No place on Earth needs the concern and help of people of goodwill more than Myanmar/Burma, but for decades the terrible things the junta has done have been almost completely ignored in the Western media.
A few weeks ago, before Buddhist monks began public protests against the junta, Jim Carrey made a surprising YouTube video about Myanmar and its imprisoned Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi. It's interesting not just for itself, but because he's turned YouTube into a serious communications tool that's not just a carnival of silly stunts. That really surprised me (pleasantly).
and a later message to the United Nations Secretary General:
(If you want to find the Earth's most serious people, check out the comedians and the clowns. Strange, but often true.)
For your next George Soros assignment: Why do so many people hate a guy who's so passionate about human rights and freedom?
Have a great school year! I still don't understand why you're not in college yet.
Reuters (newswire UK)
Saturday 29 September 2007
Satellites confirm reports of Myanmar violence
by Maggie Fox, Health and Science Editor
WASHINGTON, Sept 28 (Reuters) -- Satellite images confirm reports earlier this year of burned villages, forced relocations and other human rights abuses in Myanmar, scientists said on Friday.
The American Association for the Advancement of Science said the high-resolution photographs taken by commercial satellites document a growing military presence at 25 sites across eastern Myanmar, matching eyewitness reports.
"We found evidence of 18 villages that essentially disappeared," AAAS researcher Lars Bromley said in an interview.
"We got reporting in late April that a set of villages in Karen state had been burned. We were actually able to identify burn scars on the ground -- square-shaped burn scars the size of houses."
Myanmar, formerly Burma, is suffering its worst unrest since a 1988 rebellion by students and monks.
The military government in the poor and isolated Southeast Asian country has long been accused of repression.
Aung Din, policy director for the U.S. Campaign for Burma activist group, said his organization will use the evidence to pressure Myanmar's government, which this week begun a violent crackdown to quell protests led by Buddhist monks.
"We are trying to send a message to the military junta that we are watching from the sky," he told reporters in a conference call.
He said the images also will be used pressure the Chinese government to support U.N. sanctions against the junta.
Din said the satellite images corroborate reports by refugees and human rights activists, who say abuses have been going on in many parts of the country for years.
The researchers are now gathering satellite images of major cities inside Myanmar.
"As most communication links from these cities are cut, these images -- if they come through -- will be one of the few ways to understand the level of deployment of the military regime," Bromley told reporters.
BEFORE AND AFTER
Bromley's group got funding from the Open Society Institute and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation to book satellite time over Myanmar and to buy archived images.
"If an attack was reported in a certain area and that attack was said to have destroyed a village or certain villages, we looked for satellite images before and after the date of attack," Bromley said.
"We literally scroll through them inch by inch and look for villages that essentially disappeared."
They also found evidence of "forced relocation -- where a lot of people are taken from more remote areas and forced to build homes in areas under control of the military government," Bromley said.
"In one area around a military camp that we spotted, there were about 31 villages that popped up in a space of about 5 1/2 years," he said.
"That is either an incredible baby boom or some sort of targeted development program or, because we have no information on either of those, the forced relocation would be a logical candidate."
The AAAS has used the same technology to document destruction in Sudan's Darfur region and Zimbabwe.
The AAAS worked with three human rights groups to follow up on descriptions of more than 70 instances of rights violations from mid-2006 through early 2007 in eastern Myanmar's Karen state and surrounding regions.
It was not easy -- the satellites are only rarely over Myanmar, there is often cloud cover and the lush forest grows quickly to mask evidence of damage. But they got images of the locations of 31 reported events and were able to corroborate reports of human rights violations at 25 of them. (Additional reporting by Julie Steenhuysen in Chicago)
- 30 -
© Reuters 2007. All rights reserved.
Copyright 2007 Associated Press
In images provided by the American Association for the Advancement of Science, before-and-after satellite images show the site of an apparent military encampment in Burma on Nov. 11, 2000, (top), and again on Dec. 13, 2006, (bottom), when new bamboo fencing can be seen. The human rights group, Free Burma Rangers, reported a major expansion of this camp in 2006, corroborated by the AAAS analysis of images. Satellite photos showing the disappearance of villages and a buildup of army camps offer what researchers say is potential evidence of human rights abuses in Myanmar, the scene of bloody anti-government protests that have drawn tens of thousands of demonstrators. (AP Photo/Top image: GeoEye Satellite Image. Bottom image: DigitalGlobe)
The Associated Press (newswire US)
Friday 28 September 2007
Satellite Images May Show Myanmar Abuses
by RANDOLPH E. SCHMID
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON -- While the government's bloody crackdown on street demonstrations in Myanmar has drawn the world's attention, newly released satellite photos provide evidence that the military there has destroyed villages and forcibly relocated people in the countryside.
Images collected over the last year focused on sites in eastern Myanmar, helping document reports of villages being burned or eliminated, new villages where people had been relocated and rapidly expanding military camps, Lars Bromley of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, said Friday.
Meanwhile Myanmar soldiers clubbed and dragged away activists while firing tear gas and warning shots to break up demonstrations and the government cut Internet access, raising fears that a deadly crackdown would intensify.
Troops also occupied Buddhist monasteries in a bid to clear the streets of Myanmar's revered monks, who have spearheaded the demonstrations, and estimates of the death toll ranged from 10 to 200 or more.
Myanmar, also known as Burma, has become the focus of international pressure to curtail the violent repression of its citizens.
"We are trying to send a message to the military junta that we are watching from the sky," Aung Din, policy director for the U.S. Campaign for Burma, said Friday at a briefing on the photos.
The American Association for the Advancement of Science said it compiled the satellite images from organizations operating in the country. Bromley, director of the association's Geospatial Technologies and Human Rights project, said they were obtained from commercial firms, using low-orbit satellites that pass over Myanmar every day or so.
"Physical evidence of reported attacks on civilians sometimes can be subtle compared to the slash-and-burn types of destruction that we saw in Darfur or Zimbabwe. It's also a lush ecosystem where plants can quickly grow to cover burn marks and clouds and terrain often block satellite observation," he said.
Nonetheless, he said he was able to map the locations of many reported human rights violations.
"Eighteen of the locations showed evidence consistent with destroyed or damaged villages," he said. "We found evidence of expanded military camps in four other locations as well as multiple possibly relocated villages, and we documented growth in one refugee camp on the Thai border."
"These things are happening over quite a range, it's not just an isolated incident," Bromley said.
"We're not necessarily drawing conclusions about what happened to these villages, that comes form organizations we work with," he explained.
But, for example, there were reports of attacks on villages in April and satellite images later showed the blackened remains of burned villages.
In addition, the photos showed several new villages near military camps, indicating forced relocations.
Bromley said that since the demonstrations began in recent days satellites have been turned toward the major cities, but he noted that this is the cloudy season.
"We are hoping for a gap in the clouds," he said.
Satellite images showed multiple burn scars in otherwise thick green forest in the Papun district and before-and-after images showed the removal of structures, consistent with eyewitness reports of village destruction.
Signs of an expanded military presence, such as the buildup of bamboo fencing around a camp, and construction of a satellite camp, also were identified, Bromley said.
Buildup of military camps and disappearance of villages and buildings were also documented in the Toungoo and Dooplaya districts.
The military took control of Myanmar in 1962 and since then had regularly clashed with pro-democracy groups. Nobel Peace Prize winner Aung San Suu Kyi, a democracy advocate, has been detained by the military for years.
The current crisis began August 19 with rallies against a fuel price hike. It escalated when monks began joining the protests.
President Bush announced economic sanctions against Myanmar on Thursday, and other countries have also condemned the actions.
First lady Laura Bush and Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-California, have previously condemned human rights violations in Myanmar.
In a plea to Myanmar's ruling military regime, Mrs. Bush said earlier this week, "I want to say to the armed guards and to the soldiers: Don't fire on your people. Don't fire on your neighbors." Her remarks were in a Voice of America interview.
AAAS, a nonprofit general scientific society, previously used satellite technology to seek evidence of destruction in Darfur and Zimbabwe. The latest research was supported by the Open Society Institute and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.
- 30 -
Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All rights reserved.