U.S. drones over Mexico

Mexican officials have acknowledged a report in the New York Times today that U.S. unmanned drones have operated in Mexico: 

The country's National Security Council said in a statement that the unmanned aircraft have flown over Mexico on specific occasions, mainly along the border with the U.S., to gather information at the request of the Mexican government.

The flights expand the U.S. role in the drug war, in which Americans already have been training Mexican soldiers and police as well as cooperating on other intelligence.

"When these operations are carried out, they are always done with the authorization, oversight and supervision of national agencies, including the Mexican Air Force," the council said.

It said Mexico always defines the objectives, the information to be gathered and the specific tasks in which the drones will be used and insisted that the operations respected Mexican law, civil and human rights.

Drones are already used to patrol the U.S.-Mexican border, but today's story was the first acknowedlgement that they have been operating deep within Mexican territory as well. President Felipe Calderon is sure to face heat on this issue from nationalists within his own government who will point out that Mexico's constitution prohibits foreign militaries from operating on Mexican soil. Also get ready for a new round of questions on the legality of drone operations.  

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was criticized in Mexico in September for describing the country's drug violence as "morphing into, or making common cause with, what we would consider an insurgency." Now it appears U.S. forces are using some of the very tools employed against insurgents in Central Asia against the cartels. (See Robert Haddick on the question of Mexican counterinsurgency here and here. )

Gary Williams/Getty Images


Text message hoax spreads radiation fears across Asia

The apparently fake "God Is So Good" YouTube video celebrating the Japanese earthquake was tasteless enough. But it's nothing compared to the hoax text messages spreading panic accross Asia: 

The hoax text messages and emails, warning people to shelter from dangerous radioactive material, were reported to have spread as far afield as India.

Thought to have originated in the Philippines and purporting to be a BBC newsflash, the messages urge people to stay inside and swab their thyroid glands with iodine solution to guard against radiation sickness.[...]

South Korean authorities urged calm after bogus alerts swept the country's social media networks and vowed to track down and punish those responsible under social unrest laws allowing a maximum one-year prison sentence.

Manila also threatened tough action over the hoax texts, which prompted some panicked schools to shut their doors, despite being about 2,800 kilometres (1,700 miles) away from the Fukushima plant.

Seems like a pretty horrific way to get your lulz. 

In a move that seems guaranteed to increase, rather than decrease, public alarm, the Chinese government has also added "nuclear leak" to the list of search terms banned on the popular Sina microblogging site.