Friday, 24 February 2012

Situation deteriorates in Syria

A practical call by the ICRC for a daily 2-hour ceasefire. Report summary below.
The human rights situation in the Syrian Arab Republic has deteriorated significantly since November 2011, causing further suffering to the Syrian people. Widespread violence and increasingly aggravated socio-economic conditions have left many communities in a perilous state. Meeting basic needs to sustain everyday life has become increasingly difficult.
The present situation risks further radicalizing the population, deepening inter-communal tensions and eroding the fabric of society. Divisions among the international community complicate the prospects for ending the violence.  
The Government has manifestly failed in its responsibility to protect its people. Since November 2011, its forces have committed more widespread, systematic and gross human rights violations. Anti-Government groups have also committed abuses, although not comparable in scale and organization to those carried out by the State. 
The commission calls for an end to gross violations and related impunity, and recommends that the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Syrian Arab Republic continue to monitor gross human rights violations with a view to ensuring that perpetrators are held accountable. In cooperation with the Special Rapporteur, OHCHR should maintain and update the confidential database established by the commission. 
The commission also recommends the initiation of an inclusive political dialogue, bringing together the Government, the opposition and other anti-Government actors to negotiate an end to the violence, to ensure respect for human rights and to address the legitimate demands of the Syrian people. A contact group composed of States with diverse positions on the situation should be established to initiate a process leading to such a dialogue. 
Reconciliation and accountability will be achieved only if there are credible consultations with the population, including women and minorities, as well as with victims. Profound political, justice and security sector reforms must also be undertaken.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

Three Iranian suspects arrested over Thai blasts

BBC News
It's still early days to confirm if indeed the attacks were officially sanctioned by Iran, but this tit-for-tat exchange with Israel is a dangerous situation that may escalate at any time.

Really hope someone knocks some sense into the both of them, as there will be collateral damage in other countries, as there has been already, in the 3 cases in Georgia, India, and Thailand.

p.s. This report does show the amateur antics of Iranian secret agents, if indeed they are state-sponsored staff.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Exercise Sandfisher

Videos from Exercise Sandfisher, a bilateral exercise between the SAF Naval Diving Unit and the 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, US Marine Corps.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Visit to aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis

The US Embassy recently sent an invite to visit the USS John C. Stennis. I quickly responded with a "Yes", and looked forward to my second visit to a aircraft carrier. (1st visit to USS George Washington in October 2011)

I reached Changi Naval Base (CNB) before the designated time of 1pm. Chatted with the US sailors on duty while waiting for the rest of the visitors to arrive. A quick security check, then onto the shuttle bus. Spotted a South Korean destroyer, ROKS Munmu the Great, docked in CNB also.

First highlight was seeing a submarine. A check later revealed that it was the USS Connecticut, a Seawolf-class submarine. Pity it wasn't available for a visit.

Once onboard the Stennis, we were given a quick intro by the Public Affairs Officer (PAO) Lt. Cmdr. Zachary Harrell (I hope I got his name correctly).

We were then allowed to roam around the hangar to take photos and mingle with the sailors.

Lt. Cmdr. Michael Morley, PAO for Logistics Group Western Pacific (COMLOG WESTPAC), provided an interesting comparison between the Seahawk helicopters and submarines. He felt that the choppers were more useful because of their versatility.

Next, we took the elevator to the flight deck. We were introduced to a EA-6B Prowler pilot (from VAQ-133), who explained the main feature of the Prowler, which is to jam enemy radars.

She also highlighted that the squadron will be transitioning to the EA-18G Growler soon.

Yours truly then took a tumble, courtesy of one of the arrestor cables; super malu :)

I was rushing to the stern of the carrier, where a E-2C Hawkeye airborne early warning aircraft (from VAW-112) was open for viewing. It was eye-opening to be able to view the interior of the Hawkeye. Space was cosy, but not too cramped.

Last but not least, it was great to be able to see the famous "Ouija board", which provides a "live" view of the position of the planes on deck. There is also a corresponding board for the hangar deck. We were introduced to the different objects used to represent the status, e.g. a purple nut indicates the plane needs to be refuelled. (the refuelling crew on board wear purple vests)

A new touchscreen system will eventually replace the Ouija board. The officer joked that he hoped to play "Angry Birds" on the touchscreen.

Photos of the visit at the link below.

p.s. I found myself using the 18-55mm kit lens exclusively. Lighting conditions were good, and most shots were shot at 18mm (around 27mm in 35mm format).

p.p.s. For a glimpse of life on a carrier, do view this 2008 PBS documentary "Carrier". Episode 1 here.