Tidbits from Both Sides of the Fight News Highlights – November 27, 2012

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  • Afghanistan (1)  Senator selling the mission (glad SOMEONE is)  It doesn’t always get the headlines.  It’s not the image most people see when they think of soldiers.  But Canada’s brave men and women in the military are not only protecting Canadian freedoms around the world, they are also providing hope to the downtrodden where freedom has long been only envisioned in dreams.  The Canadian military has built more than 50 schools in Afghanistan since war broke out following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the United States, Senator Pamela Wallin told more than 100 local dignitaries and veterans at the Scotiabank Convention Centre Monday.  “(When the mission started) no girls were going to school. Now the girls are going to school, millions of them. They are taking the veil from their faces and they are feeling what freedom feels like.”  She told the crowd the Canadian military has helped countless Afghan’s go from nothing to Grade 3 literacy skills in nine weeks.  “It makes me a little bit optimistic what might happen in that country,” she said, adding there remains a lot of work to do ….” – more here.
  • Afghanistan (2)  Columnist’s glass-is-half-empty assessment of the Defence Minister’s view of the situation  “….  MacKay’s message was that Canada’s sacrifice — 158 soldiers killed and another 2,000 injured — was offset by the progress the international community has made in developing that war-torn country.  The yardstick MacKay used to determine this progress was the same well-worn platitudes about girls attending schools and the crowded market places in Kabul.  However at the Halifax forum, MacKay went one step further when he said that on his most recent trip to Afghanistan, he had flown on a commercial passenger plane, which according to MacKay was “once impossible.”  This was offered by MacKay to the assembled brain trust as further proof that NATO is making headway.  MacKay’s claim is entirely baseless ….”
  • Media are invited to the Canadian Military and Veteran Health Research Forum 2012 at the Ambassador Conference Resort in Kingston, Ont., from November 26th through 28th.  The forum will bring more than 450 Canadian researchers and international delegates to the forum to share key research and studies into the critical field of military and veteran’s health. Keynote speakers include the Honourable Peter MacKay, Minister of National Defence, and Lieutenant-General the Honourable (Ret) Roméo Dallaire, Senator and Chair of the Senate Subcommittee on Veterans Affairs.  Also on hand to present her research will be Dr. Stéphanie Bélanger of the Royal Military College of Canada who is the Associate Director of the Canadian Institute for Military and Veteran’s Health Research ….” – more on the forum here, and more on the Minister being there from the Info-machine here.
  • More federal politicians and senior military officials could find themselves flying commercial in the years ahead as the Harper government plans to retire and not replace most of its VIP Challenger jets.  Defence sources say most of the fleet, which has often been in the news for being air taxis for senior officials, will reach the end of its service life by 2014, at which time the jets will be taken out of service.  CTV News reported Monday that four-of-the-six remaining aircraft will be cut, something defence insiders say is a function of their age and the fact the Harper government doesn’t intend to invest in a service life extension.  The Conservatives, for over a decade, have made a political lightning rod out of the jets, pointing to their use as a sign of Liberal excess.  Once in office, they drastically curtailed the use of the executive jets to the point where one military official, who would not be identified, said the pilots have been reduced to flying training missions as a way to keep up their qualifications.  Jay Paxton, a spokesman for Defence Minister Peter MacKay, would not confirm the cutbacks, but said the government is always looking for efficiencies in order to sustain a combat capable military ….” – more on this here and here.
  • The Canadian army’s east coast branch has hired a civilian to tweet and Facebook for the troops.  Major Mark Gough is the media contact for Land Force Atlantic Area, but said he needed outside help for using social media.  “None of us are experts in social media. We all have our own Facebook pages, individually, personally. Some of us engage in Twitter, but none of us have used this in an organizational sense,” he said.  He said it’s not a tool for recruiting new members, but a way to better inform the public about what their army does every day.  The 7,000 personnel in the region include regular forces and reserve members in all four Atlantic provinces.  Gough said Land Force Western and Land Force Central, the other two branches, do not use civilians for social media, but he felt an outside perspective would help the army connect with civilians.  “We are opening ourselves up to conversations that traditionally, you might not want to engage in. But those conversations are happening whether you want them to or not,” said Gough.  “By having our own social media sites, we can be part of that conversation.” ….” – more on the civvies with the new gig here.      
  • Last week, The Link received an email—subject “Concordia’s Military Complex”—containing information about the university’s ostensible ties to the Department of National Defence and military industries.  The email was sent by a student activist from the newly formed Anti-War Efforts Group.  “It’s an attempt to show that the military is deeply involved in Concordia’s administration, deeply involved in the funding of Concordia and deeply involved in the research at Concordia,” said Gabriel Velasco, one of the original members of the AWEG.  The group sprang up in September as an offshoot of the Mob Squad, a campus-based activist organization that supported the student strike and stands against the privatization of universities.  So far, the Anti-War group has roughly a dozen active members and a mailing list of about two hundred people.  The group’s research was partly based on a five-year-old pamphlet entitled “Military Research in Our Universities” by another local activist group and summarized in a flowchart scribbled on the back of a concert poster—hardly what one would call compelling evidence.  Indeed, it would have been easy to disregard their allegations, had they not found a few real—albeit ambiguous—links between Concordia, the defence department and large corporations involved in different aspects of military production ….” – more on the Montreal university group at its Facebook page here.
  • Way Up North (1)  Norwegian troops on major exercise  “As the Norwegian Armed Forces are changing the training model to focus more on cooperation between different branches, “Flotex Silver Rein II” is a foretaste of how military exercises will be organized in the years to come. In 2013 there will be four so-called joint operational exercises, the Armed Forces’ web site reads.  The exercise “Flotex Silver Rein II” used to be three separate exercises: “Flotex” – a navy exercise, “Falcon Silver” – an air force exercise and “Rein” – an exercise for ground forces.  The aim of the exercise is to practice procedures, interaction and a common understanding of the situation between the different land, naval and air units. Systems for network based defense (NBF) will be tested and all branches will be conducting live firing ….”
  • Way Up North (2)  The Walter and Duncan Gordon Foundation, in partnership with the Canada Centre for Global Security Studies at the Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto, The Inuit Knowledge Centre, St. Jerome’s University and the Trinity-Munk Centre for Contemporary International History, is pleased to host the third annual Munk-Gordon Arctic Security Conference, entitled:  Arctic Peoples and Security  The goal of this conference is to explore different ways of conceptualizing and understanding security in the Arctic in order to develop and implement sounder, more productive, and more inclusive public policies in the North ….”

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27 November 12 at 7:45

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