News Highlights – 2 Dec 11

  • Afghanistan  Canadian flag coming down from over Kandahar Airfield – more here (photos from the CF Info-Machine), here and here.
  • One blogger’s view of “Libya vs. Afghanistan” ceremonies:  “…. After decades of Liberal governments treating the military like high-grade bathroom attendants, the Harper Tories have moved in the opposite direction. Now even a light bombing campaign is worthy of celebration. Oddly the Afghan mission has not yet rated such a grand ceremony. The cynical might suggest this has something to do with our efforts in Afghanistan being unpopular ….” (h/t to Mark for pointing to this one)
  • The Canadian Forces is slowing its pace of recruitment after the Afghanistan mission, because of a lower turnover and a troubled economy. Vice-Admiral Bruce Donaldson said the military’s regular force strength is now in “very healthy” shape at about 68,000 members. Attrition is also down — with economic uncertainty and excitement for the job likely factors — which can make matching desired targets tricky. “That’s a very tough machine to manage,” Donaldson told the national defence committee Thursday. “But we have not stopped recruiting. In fact, we continue to recruit, because you need to keep the machine oiled and to keep new blood coming through, but fewer than before.” The Canadian Forces is now focused on finding people with specialties and technical trades, and providing spots for reservists who served in Afghanistan and want to switch to regular forces ….”
  • The CF’s Top Doc Commodore Hans Jung on waiting times for troops to get psychological counseling “…. The timing for an initial specialist mental-health-care appointment depends on whether a case is emergent, urgent or routine. In emergency situations, patients are accommodated the same day through the base clinic or civilian emergency care. If a case is urgent, the patient is seen within two weeks. And if the case is routine, the target is for the patient to see a specialist within 30 days ….”
  • Remember the Minister needing a helicopter ride from a lodge to another engagement?  Well, some e-mails seem to suggest the chopper ride may have been more…. requested by the Minister than offered by the CF (well done to the Toronto Star for sharing the e-mails in question (PDF), obtained via an Access to Information Act request).  One officer’s e-mail is intriguingly prescient:  “…. The request from MacKay’s office went out to senior air force officials on Tuesday July 6 at 8:49 a.m. It took just a few hours for then-Col. Bruce Ploughman, director of the Combined Aerospace Operations Centre in Winnipeg, to raise a red flag. “So, when the guy who’s fishing at the fishing hole next to the minister sees the big yellow helicopter arrive and decides to use his cellphone to video the minister getting on board and post it on Youtube (sic), who will be answering the mail on that one,” he wrote to colleagues in Ottawa and Winnipeg. “If we are tasked to do this we of course will comply,” Ploughman continued. “Given the potential for negative press though, I would likely recommend against it.” ….”  More from, the Globe & Mail and Postmedia News (they haven’t shared their obtained documents yet).  Here’s the back-and-forth during yesterday’s Question Period in the House of Commons.
  • If you believe this historian and this web page, Canada may be working with other NATO and Middle Eastern countries to at least discuss “humanitarian corridors” in strife-filled Syria.  “…. Monday, Nov. 28, debkafile reported a group of military officers from NATO and Persian Gulf nations had quietly established a mixed operational command at Iskenderun in the Turkish Hatay province on the border of North Syria: Hailing from the United States, France, Canada, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, with Turkish officers providing liaison, they do not represent NATO but are self-designated “monitors.” Their mission is to set up “humanitarian corridors” inside Syria to serve the victims of Bashar Assad’s crackdown. Commanded by ground, naval, air force and engineering officers, the task force aims to move into most of northern Syria. Laying the groundwork for the legitimacy of the combined NATO-Arab intervention in Syria, the UN Independent International Commission set up to assess the situation in Syria published a horrendous report Monday, Nov. 28 on the Assad regime’s brutalities. It documented “gross violations of human rights” and “patterns of summary execution, arbitrary arrest, enforced disappearance, torture including sexual violence, as well as violations of children’s rights.” ….”  Caveat lector.
  • F-35 Tug o’ War:  More on the pricetag“The federal government is under attack again over the true costs of buying stealth fighter jets for the air force. “Apparently the Norwegians are getting 52 F-35s for $10 billion while we’re getting 65 for $9 billion,” said Liberal MP Frank Valeriote in a Thursday defence committee meeting, citing comments from Norway’s defence minister in November. Asking Associate Defence Minister Julian Fantino to explain the discrepancy, Valeriote raised anew the possibility that the government has lowballed the estimated purchase price. “I too spoke with the secretary of defence of Norway and they’re into a different kind of a world in Europe, requiring different armaments and so forth to what we are, in fact, looking at,” said Fantino. “It’s very difficult to compare dollar for dollar, but at some point in time we’ll be able to speak all these issues more fully.” ….”  More here, here and a bit more (from the archives) from Mark Collins.
  • What’s Canada Buying?  You might call it good blood money. Defence departments in Canada and the U.S. are jointly funding a scientific study to examine the optimal ratio for plasma and platelet to red blood cells. Work will be carried out by the Resuscitation Outcomes Consortium, which includes health research organizations from both sides of the border that conduct clinical research in areas of cardiopulmonary resuscitation and traumatic injury. Canada will contribute $220,000 to the study, which Vice-Admiral Bruce Donaldson believes is critical to the troops Canada sends into harm’s way. “We’re funding it to keep people alive,” he said Thursday during an appearance at the defence committee. “Loss of blood is the greatest risk of death to the wounded soldiers on the battlefield, so it’s very much in our interests to tend to our people, to fund research in different ways of replacing blood, and stopping bleeding.” ….”
  • A Korean War veteran living in Regina is disappointed after someone spray painted obscene graffiti on the east side of the cenotaph in Victoria Park. Ken Garbutt says the people who did it are “idiots” and the act is sacrilegious. The City of Regina has since cleaned it up, but Garbutt is not impressed. “Our cemetery, the U.N. cemetery, is in Busan (City, South Korea) and you never hear of anything of this nature. They are kept in the best shape possible,” said Garbutt. Garbutt maintains there should be stiffer penalties for people who deface war memorials ….”  Veterans Affairs Minister agrees this is not goodTory MP from Saskatchewan says he’s glad to see federal government supporting new law to impose harsher penalties against those who do this sort of thing.
  • A bit of mainstream media coverage of the proposed “opt out of paying for the military” Private Members Bill (now including proposed text (PDF) of the bill) making its way through the Parliamentary sausage machine.  A fair bit of wide-ranging discussion and option consideration, as well, over at Army.caCaveat:  These bills have VERY little chance of passing without government party support.
  • That time of year again:  NORAD’s Santa Tracking web page – – is good to go.

On sharing ATIP’ed documents: The Canadian Press

Here’s a Twitter exchange I recently had with a Canadian Press reporter about being able to share documents CP obtains via Access to Information Act/Privacy Act (ATIP) requests.

No response re:  posting docs to or other document sharing sites.

My read:  individual reporters may be amenable to sharing documents obtained via ATIP requests, but some outlets don’t have (or don’t want to set up) the infrastructure to share them.

Then again, what about the outlets with infrastructure already in place to share such documents?

More as we find it out…. News Highlights – 17 Dec 10

  • As Christmas gets closer, the Canadian NORAD Region has put the finishing touches on plans to track and escort Santa Claus when he visits Canada, and has selected four CF-18 fighter pilots who will act as Santa’s official escorts. 425 Tactical Fighter Squadron Commander, Lieutenant-Colonel Sylvain Ménard, and Major Eric Haas, an exchange officer from the United States Air Force, will launch from 3 Wing Bagotville, Que., to welcome Santa as the sleigh approaches Canadian airspace. 409 Squadron Commander, Lt.-Col. Eric Kenny, and Captain Chad Ireland of 4 Wing Cold Lake, Alta., will take over the escort duties as Santa makes his way into Western Canada. Special NORAD SantaCams, positioned around the world, will take photos and video of Santa and his sleigh as he journeys around the world. The SantaCams instantly download the photo and video imagery so that it may be viewed by children worldwide on the NORAD Tracks Santa website,, on December 24. All of this information will be available in English, French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish, and Chinese ….” Let’s hope these pilots are nicer than the ones we see here (YouTube video).
  • In related news, Air Canada jumps aboard the “NORAD Tracking Santa” bandwagon, too“…. The NORAD Tracks Santa program has grown immensely since it was first brought onto the Internet in 1998 and Air Canada is NORAD Tracks Santa’s newest partner. Air Canada has been playing the NORAD Tracks Santa promotional video on all of their flights since the beginning of December, as well as displaying a NORAD racks Santa promotional page in all of their in-flight magazines ….” One hopes Santa gets better service than some we hear flying with Air Canada.
  • If you believe Angus Reid’s latest poll, a lot of Canadians don’t seem happy with Canada’s new task in Afghanistan. “While just over a third of Canadians support the country’s military mission in Afghanistan, the decision to keep 950 soldiers in a strictly non-combat role after 2011 has split views across the country, a new Angus Reid Public Opinion poll has found.  In the online survey of a representative national sample of 2,023 Canadian adults, more than half of respondents (56%, +1) oppose the military operation involving Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan, while just over a third (36%, +1) support the mission. Strong opposition to the war remains highest in Quebec (48%) while Albertans (19%) and Atlantic Canadians (18%) are more likely to strongly support the mission …. Methodology: From December 3 to December 6, 2010, Angus Reid Public Opinion conducted an online survey among 2,023 randomly selected Canadian adults who are Angus Reid Forum panelists. The margin of error—which measures sampling variability—is +/- 2.2%, 19 times out of 20. The results have been statistically weighted according to the most current education, age, gender and region Census data to ensure a sample representative of the entire adult population of Canada. Discrepancies in or between totals are due to rounding.” More details here (13 pg. PDF).  Then again, depending on how you read it, a slim majority of Canadians are OK with the mission, too – more from the Globe & Mail.
  • The only Wikileaks story I’m going to share is right here.  What a shock!  Canadian officials met to talk about possible harm caused by Wikileaks revelations! Concerns over a cache of WikiLeaks documents on the war in Afghanistan prompted Canadian military and intelligence officials to hold two secret summer damage assessments. The concerted effort to sift through and analyze the 91,000 classified U.S. military logs reveals how seriously the Harper government took the unprecedented late July leak about coalition operations in the bloody, long-running war. The Privy Council Office’s Afghan Task Force met July 29 to “review and assess the impact of the leaked documents” on Canadian government programs related to Afghanistan, newly declassified memos say. Officials from the PCO, the government’s bureaucratic nerve centre, Foreign Affairs, National Defence, Public Safety and the Canadian Security Intelligence Service gathered in an Ottawa boardroom to discuss what each “has been doing, intends to do and their assessment to date” regarding the leaked documents. The Canadian Press obtained CSIS minutes of the meetings, originally classified secret, under the Access to Information Act. Portions of the memos were withheld from release ….” Dear Canadian Press:  Any chance of being able to share these memos with the public?
  • So, the U.S. President has released some details of the administration’s latest assessment of the fight in Afghanistan.  Is it good news Mixed news Bad news? Hell, even the Taliban’s commented on it already (links to  You be the judge – here’s the summary released yesterday.
  • Taliban Propaganda Watch: Attacks alleged in Kandahar, Uruzgan & Zabul.
  • What’s Canada Buying? Research into better decision making, another try at armoured vehicle pre-bids and (misspelled) swords.

(Half) a “Well Done” to the National Post…

…and reporter Stewart Bell for a story about how terrorist tips are shared via the internet, based on a report obtained via an Access to Information Act request.

The good news:  if you want to read the entire released report, the National Post team has shared it online here (PDF).

The bad news:  there’s no obvious link on the same page as the story – it took me some Googling about to find it.

Good start, though – let’s hope more media outlets start doing more of this sharing.

Why Don’t Media Share (A Bit More of) What They Find?

You know I’m one to complain about lack of context in media coverage, but a several recent articles raise a very specific question for me:

  • Ottawa Citizen:  “Did Afghan child abuse probe close too quickly? … military records obtained by the Ottawa Citizen are raising questions about the extent of the NIS investigation.”
  •  “Rail security at border has major gaps: report …. “The amount and level of targeting has decreased due to a lack of resources,” concludes the August 2009 review, obtained by The Canadian Press under the Access to Information Act.”
  • The Canadian Press:  “The records, obtained under Access to Information legislation, show that what reporters are asking about, what they are writing about and what they have been told are the subject of regular briefing notes shared with everyone from officers in Kandahar to commanders in Ottawa to civilian officials reporting to the prime minister.”
  • The Canadian Press:  “The public supports the deployment of troops when it is “an observation and monitoring role over a more aggressive one for the military,” said the survey, conducted in early March and released on a federal government website.”

My question is:  why do I only very RARELY see media outlets offer the material they’ve obtained/found to viewers/readers?

If the records have hundreds or thousands of pages, I can understand not posting the ENTIRE package – how about sharing the individual report, e-mail or briefing being referred to?

Also, based on my own experience with seeking material under the Access to Information Act, I’m guessing most requests lead to the release of packages with closer to dozens of pages.  Something that size could easily be shared.

This can’t be impossible, ESPECIALLY in the case of sharing a link.  For example, the latest assessment from General McChrystal on Afghanistan, for example, has been made available by the Washington Post here (huge PDF).

A more self-serving example:  when I mention or discuss things the Taliban have to say, I’m more than comfortable sharing source material, both directly to terrorist sites, or via links to less controversial pages (recent examples here and here).

When the media does a good job, they can do a great job of distilling what’s critical about an issue in an easy-to-absorb format.  On the other hand, when dealing with complicated issues, or issues affecting different people in different ways, perhaps outside the ken of a general assignment reporter, wouldn’t it be fair to let readers reach their own conclusions based on reading of the raw material the articles are based on?

C’mon media folks, share a little, will ya?