Thursday, September 29, 2005

Canary in a Coalmine...

"Sometimes I scare people,
Without being scary!
I feel like a black guy,
I'm a brown canary!

I'm in a mine-shaft,
And we all getting shafted,
The military's comin',
And we all gettin' drafted..."

"First to fall over when the atmosphere is less than perfect
Your sensibilities are shaken by the slightest defect
You live you life like a canary in a coalmine
You get so dizzy even walking in a straight line

You say you want to spend the winter in Firenza
You're so afraid to catch a dose of influenza
You live your life like a canary in a coalmine
You get so dizzy even walking in a straight line

Canary in a coalmine
Canary in a coalmine
Canary in a coalmine

Now if I tell you that you suffer from delusions
You pay your analyst to reach the same conclusions
You live your life like a canary in a coalmine
You get so dizzy even walking in a straight line

Canary in a coalmine
Canary in a coalmine
Canary in a coalmine

First to fall over when the atmosphere is less than perfect
Your sensibilities are shaken by the slightest defect
You live your life like a canary in a coalmine
You get so dizzy even walking in a straight line

Canary in a coalmine..."

- The Police, "Canary In A Coalmine"


BBC News

1986: Coal mine canaries made redundant

More than 200 canary birds are being phased out of Britain's mining pits, according to new plans by the government.

Modern technology is being favoured over the long-serving yellow feathered friend of the miner in detecting harmful gases which may be present underground.

New electronic detectors will replace the bird because they are said to be cheaper in the long run and more effective in indicating the presence of pollutants in the air otherwise unnoticed by miners.

The gas detectors will be hand-held and carry a digital reading which appears on a screen alerting miners to the extent of the gases.

The birds' replacement will be introduced gradually next year.

Miners are said to be saddened by the latest set of redundancies in their industry but do not intend to dispute the decision.

The removal of the canaries will end a mining tradition in Britain dating back to 1911, since when two canaries have been employed by each pit.

Signs of distress

They are so ingrained in the culture miners report whistling to the birds and coaxing them as they worked, treating them as pets.

The canary is particularly sensitive to toxic gases such as carbon monoxide which is colourless, odourless and tasteless.

This gas could easily form underground during a mine fire or after an explosion.

Following a mine fire or explosion, mine rescuers would descend into the mine, carrying a canary in a small wooden or metal cage.

Any sign of distress from the canary was a clear signal the conditions underground were unsafe and miners should be evacuated from the pit and the mineshafts made safer.



BONUS: Old enemies Die Hard, and if they die as enemies and live on as friends, then the poor bad guys have no one to frighten us with and fight...

[Ed note: Oh, but don't worry, the "experts" who get paid billions to both diagnose and solve the problem will give us a thousand words of ammo to justify the fight, and we can all look forward to arguing about all the wonderful new IRA/MI-6 bombings and shootings and jackbootings and lootings soon! :-)

Yahoo! News

Experts Say IRA Has Criminal Empire

By SHAWN POGATCHNIK, Associated Press Writer 1 hour, 2 minutes ago

BELFAST, Northern Ireland - The Irish Republican Army may no longer want to fight the British, but detectives say it's still in business — as owners of pubs and clubs, smugglers of fuel and cigarettes, bank robbers by night and property investors by day.

Throughout the past 35 years of conflict over this British territory, the IRA has built a sophisticated criminal empire throughout Ireland and beyond, laundering profits through legitimately owned businesses and properties worth more than $400 million, anti-racketeering experts say.

Now that weapons inspectors have announced the IRA's disarmament, the political focus has turned to whether the underground group will renounce crime, too.

The British and Irish governments say political progress depends on reports being published in October and January from the Independent Monitoring Commission. Both governments formed the four-man panel — which includes a former top CIA official — chiefly to publicize IRA activities.

If these experts rule that the IRA is withdrawing from criminal activity, Britain and Ireland say negotiations should resume to revive the cornerstone of Northern Ireland's 1998 peace accord: power-sharing between the British Protestant majority and Sinn Fein, the IRA-linked party.

Even the most ardent advocates of power-sharing say the IRA's criminal power has become the new deal-breaker. But IRA experts warn that the group is not about to cede control to common criminals.

"The IRA's criminal activity will be hard to hide but easy to deny," said Ed Moloney, author of "A Secret History of the IRA," who forecast that IRA racketeering "may even intensify."

Sinn Fein leader Gerry Adams, a veteran IRA commander who denies ever being a member, has repeatedly said IRA activity cannot be described as crime. At his most recent party conference in March, Adams said Sinn Fein would "refuse to criminalize those who break the law in pursuit of legitimate political objectives."

Irish Justice Minister Michael McDowell, who is regularly briefed on IRA activity by the anti-terrorist and anti-racketeering branches of the Garda Siochana, Ireland's national police force, called Sinn Fein's line on IRA crime "a massive lie of Orwellian proportions."

Other politicians fear that Sinn Fein, growing rapidly in both parts of Ireland, derives an undemocratic advantage from deep IRA pockets. They note the party's ability to produce exceptional volumes of literature, posters and campaign workers at election time.

Sinn Fein says it negotiates better deals on printing, has an army of unpaid volunteers and publishes financial statements showing party coffers in the red.

Some analysts do not buy this.

"Using the proceeds of that IRA empire, Sinn Fein has a plan to buy its way into power in Ireland," said Kevin Toolis, author of "Rebel Hearts: A Journey Into the IRA's Soul."

Ireland's Criminal Assets Bureau, the United Kingdom Assets Recovery Agency and the Police Service of Northern Ireland estimate that IRA rackets generate more than $20 million annually.

Those assessments exclude four massive Belfast robberies last year that police chiefs, the British and Irish governments and the Independent Monitoring Commission blamed on the IRA.

In December, a hostage-taking gang stole the equivalent of $50 million from the Northern Bank — a theft so colossal, at a moment of such relative peace, that IRA crime became a dominant political issue for the first time.

Police in February arrested more than a dozen IRA suspects, lawyers, accountants and loan sharks during raids across the Irish Republic. They seized more than $6 million worth of British bank notes.

Two detectives in the investigation, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press, said they suspect the IRA tried to plow Northern Bank loot into property in Britain and Bulgaria with guidance from Phil Flynn, a former Sinn Fein vice president and labor-union boss who most recently was chairman of the Irish division of the Bank of Scotland.

Flynn openly admits pursuing investments in Bulgaria on behalf of the man caught with most of February's money. Although Flynn resigned from several prominent business and government advisory posts, he denies any wrongdoing.

The difficulty of bringing the IRA to justice is personified by IRA chief of staff Thomas "Slab" Murphy, who has never been convicted of any crime. Prosecutors offered police surveillance and forensic evidence in several trials they said showed that Murphy's South Armagh unit constructed and delivered most of the IRA's biggest vehicle bombs.

For two decades, Murphy has run a fuel-smuggling business from his farm straddling the Irish border. A 1999 best-seller, "Bandit Country" by Toby Harnden, described Murphy's smuggling techniques, which include fuel tanks on both sides of the border connected by pipelines.

When an Associated Press reporter drove past Murphy's farm last week, one oil tanker had just driven to the gate, while a second was parked beside his home.

Customs officials' probes have repeatedly fizzled out, partly because Murphy has repeatedly founded and folded companies — and partly because nobody dares testify against him.

Murphy in 1998 lost a libel lawsuit against a British newspaper, The Sunday Times, that reported on his IRA and smuggling exploits. Eight months later, the pivotal witness against Murphy, former IRA member Eamon Collins, was clubbed and stabbed to death, his face butchered beyond recognition.

Murphy, who has never given an interview, could not be reached for comment.

Police say while the IRA has cleared out its major weapons dumps, it has retained at least 100 handguns shipped from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to Ireland in 1999.

Anthony McIntyre, a disillusioned ex-IRA member, says his IRA neighbors in Catholic west Belfast have no intention of disbanding, and will use their small arms to fend off unwelcome competition from criminal rivals.

"The IRA will continue to function," McIntyre said. "Not militarily against the British state, but as a militia to give muscle to Sinn Fein and as an organ of intimidation."

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