US going from Police State, To Military State

Every America needs to know this.

Make sure you give a copy to all your friends out there.

The NDAA and the Death of the Democratic State

February 11, 2013 

On Wednesday a few hundred activists crowded into the courtroom of the Second Circuit, the spillover room with its faulty audio feed and dearth of chairs, and Foley Square outside the Thurgood Marshall U.S. Courthouse in Manhattan where many huddled in the cold. The fate of the nation, we understood, could be decided by the three judges who will rule on our lawsuit against President Barack Obama for signing into law Section 1021(b)(2) of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).

The section permits the military to detain anyone, including U.S. citizens, who “substantially support”—an undefined legal term—al-Qaida, the Taliban or “associated forces,” again a term that is legally undefined. Those detained can be imprisoned indefinitely by the military and denied due process until “the end of hostilities.” In an age of permanent war this is probably a lifetime. Anyone detained under the NDAA can be sent, according to Section (c)(4), to any “foreign country or entity.” This is, in essence, extraordinary rendition of U.S. citizens. It empowers the government to ship detainees to the jails of some of the most repressive regimes on earth.

Section 1021(b)(2) was declared invalid in September after our first trial, in the Southern District Court of New York. The Obama administration appealed the Southern District Court ruling. The appeal was heard Wednesday in the Second Circuit Court with Judges Raymond J. Lohier, Lewis A. Kaplan and Amalya L. Kearse presiding. The judges might not make a decision until the spring when the Supreme Court rules in Clapper v. Amnesty International USA, another case in which I am a plaintiff. The Supreme Court case challenges the government’s use of electronic surveillance. If we are successful in the Clapper case, it will strengthen all the plaintiffs’ standing in Hedges v. Obama. The Supreme Court, if it rules against the government, will affirm that we as plaintiffs have a reasonable fear of being detained.

If we lose in Hedges v. Obama—and it seems certain that no matter the outcome of the appeal this case will reach the Supreme Court—electoral politics and our rights as citizens will be as empty as those of Nero’s Rome. If we lose, the power of the military to detain citizens, strip them of due process and hold them indefinitely in military prisons will become a terrifying reality. Democrat or Republican. Occupy activist or libertarian. Socialist or tea party stalwart. It does not matter. This is not a partisan fight. Once the state seizes this unchecked power, it will inevitably create a secret, lawless world of indiscriminate violence, terror and gulags. I lived under several military dictatorships during the two decades I was a foreign correspondent. I know the beast.

“The stakes are very high,” said attorney Carl Mayer, who with attorney Bruce Afran brought our case to trial, in addressing a Culture Project audience in Manhattan on Wednesday after the hearing. “What our case comes down to is: Are we going to have a civil justice system in the United States or a military justice system? The civil justice system is something that is ingrained in the Constitution. It was always very important in combating tyranny and building a democratic society. What the NDAA is trying to impose is a system of military justice that allows the military to police the streets of America to detain U.S. citizens, to detain residents in the United States in military prisons. Probably the most frightening aspect of the NDAA is that it allows for detention until ‘the end of hostilities.’

Five thousand years of human civilization has left behind innumerable ruins to remind us that the grand structures and complex societies we build, and foolishly venerate as immortal, crumble into dust. It is the descent that matters now. If the corporate state is handed the tools, as under Section 1021(b)(2) of the NDAA, to use deadly force and military power to criminalize dissent, then our decline will be one of repression, blood and suffering. No one, not least our corporate overlords, believes that our material conditions will improve with the impending collapse of globalization, the steady deterioration of the global economy, the decline of natural resources and the looming catastrophes of climate change.

But the global corporatists—who have created a new species of totalitarianism—demand, during our decay, total power to extract the last vestiges of profit from a degraded ecosystem and disempowered citizenry. The looming dystopia is visible in the skies of blighted postindustrial cities such as Flint, Mich., where drones circle like mechanical vultures. And in an era where the executive branch can draw up secret kill lists that include U.S. citizens, it would be naive to believe these domestic drones will remain unarmed.

Robert M. Loeb, the lead attorney for the government in Wednesday’s proceedings, took a tack very different from that of the government in the Southern District Court of New York before Judge Katherine B. Forrest. Forrest repeatedly asked the government attorneys if they could guarantee that the other plaintiffs and I would not be subject to detention under Section 1021(b)(2). The government attorneys in the first trial granted no such immunity. The government also claimed in the first trial that under the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force Act (AUMF), it already had the power to detain U.S. citizens. Section 1021(b)(2), the attorneys said, did not constitute a significant change in government power. Judge Forrest in September rejected the government’s arguments and ruled Section 1021(b)(2) invalid.

The government, however, argued Wednesday that as “independent journalists” we were exempt from the law and had no cause for concern. Loeb stated that if journalists used journalism as a cover to aid the enemy, they would be seized and treated as enemy combatants. But he assured the court that I would be untouched by the new law as long as “Mr. Hedges did not start driving black vans for people we don’t like.”

Loeb did not explain to the court who defines an “independent journalist.” I have interviewed members of al-Qaida as well as 16 other individuals or members of groups on the State Department’s terrorism list. When I convey these viewpoints, deeply hostile to the United States, am I considered by the government to be “independent”? Could I be seen by the security and surveillance state, because I challenge the official narrative, as a collaborator with the enemy? And although I do not drive black vans for people Loeb does not like, I have spent days, part of the time in vehicles, with armed units that are hostile to the United States. These include Hamas in Gaza and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in southeastern Turkey.

I traveled frequently with armed members of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front in El Salvador and the Sandinista army in Nicaragua during the five years I spent in Central America. Senior officials in the Reagan administration regularly denounced many of us in the press as fifth columnists and collaborators with terrorists. These officials did not view us as “independent.” They viewed us as propagandists for the enemy. Section 1021(b)(2) turns this linguistic condemnation into legal condemnation.

Alexa O’Brien, another plaintiff and a co-founder of the US Day of Rage, learned after WikiLeaks released 5 million emails from Stratfor, a private security firm that does work for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Marine Corps and the Defense Intelligence Agency, that Stratfor operatives were trying to link her and her organization to Islamic radicals, including al-Qaida, and sympathetic websites as well as jihadist ideology. If that link were made, she and those in her organization would not be immune from detention.

Afran said at the Culture Project discussion that he once gave a donation at a fundraising dinner to the Ancient Order of Hibernians, an Irish Catholic organization. A few months later, to his surprise, he received a note of thanks from Sinn Féin. “I didn’t expect to be giving money to a group that maintains a paramilitary terrorist organization, as some people say,” Afran said. “This is the danger. You can easily find yourself in a setting that the government deems worthy of incarceration. This is why people cease to speak out.”

The government attempted in court last week to smear Sami Al-Hajj, a journalist for the Al-Jazeera news network who was picked up by the U.S. military and imprisoned for nearly seven years in Guantanamo. This, for me, was one of the most chilling moments in the hearing.

“Just calling yourself a journalist doesn’t make you a journalist, like Al-Hajj,” Loeb told the court. “He used journalism as a cover. He was a member of al-Qaida and provided Stinger missiles to al-Qaida.”

Al-Hajj, despite Loeb’s assertions, was never charged with any crimes. And the slander by Loeb only highlighted the potential for misuse of this provision of the NDAA if it is not struck down.

The second central argument by the government was even more specious. Loeb claimed that Subsection 1021(e) of the NDAA exempts citizens from detention. Section 1021(e) states: “Nothing in this section shall be construed to affect existing law or authorities relating to the detention of United States citizens, lawful resident aliens of the United States, or any other persons who are captured or arrested in the United States.”

Afran countered Loeb by saying that Subsection 1021(e) illustrated that the NDAA assumed that U.S. citizens would be detained by the military, overturning two centuries of domestic law that forbids the military to carry out domestic policing. And military detention of citizens, Afran noted, is not permitted under the Constitution.

Afran quoted the NDAA bill’s primary sponsor, Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who said on the floor of the Senate: “In the case where somebody is worried about being picked up by a rogue executive branch because they went to the wrong political rally, they don’t have to worry very long, because our federal courts have the right and the obligation to make sure the government proves their case that you are a member of al-Qaida and didn’t [just] go to a political rally.”

Afran told the court that Graham’s statement implicitly acknowledged that U.S. citizens could be detained by the military under 1021(b)(2). “There is no reason for the sponsor to make that statement if he does not realize that the statute causes that chilling fear,” Afran told the judges.

After the hearing Afran explained: “If the senator who sponsored and managed the bill believed people would be afraid of the law, then the plaintiffs obviously have a reasonably objective basis to fear the statute.”

In speaking to the court Afran said of 1021(e): “It says it is applied to people in the United States. It presumes that they are going to be detained under some law. The only law we know of is this law. What other laws, before this one, allowed the military to detain people in this country?”

This was a question Judge Lohier, at Afran’s urging, asked Loeb during the argument. Loeb concurred that the NDAA was the only law he knew of that permitted the military to detain and hold U.S. citizens.

Via Truth-Dig Source

Chris Hedges: NDAA Lawsuit Update

Bad enough Americans already have people being Entrapped.

Inside the FBI’s ‘Terror factory’

You could be sent to anyone of these Countries.

CIA used 54 countries for detaining prisoners for toture

The 54 governments identified in this report span the continents of Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe, and North America, and include: Afghanistan, Albania, Algeria, Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Djibouti, Egypt, Ethiopia, Finland, Gambia, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hong Kong, Iceland, Indonesia, Iran, Ireland, Italy, Jordan, Kenya, Libya, Lithuania, Macedonia, Malawi, Malaysia, Mauritania, Morocco, Pakistan, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Africa, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Syria, Thailand, Turkey, United Arab Emirates, United Kingdom, Uzbekistan, Yemen,

and Zimbabwe. Must not forget Cuba. Cuba did not help, but did have the US prison there. Guantánamo Bay. Source

Now the Military can help with all of this.

You can bet many of those countries still help the CIA.

Like many who were sent to prison from Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan and other countries of course.

The Counter-Terrorism Rewards Program, administered by the United States Department of State offers monetary compensation for individuals who volunteer information that leads to the location, capture, and trial of suspected terrorists. The program also seeks information relevant to finances, assets, and plans of terrorist organizations. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) work closely with the Department of State to investigate all information garnered through the Counter-Terrorism Rewards Program. In 1998, after the bombing of United States embassies in East Africa, the Department of State raised the maximum reward for information to $5 million.

The rewards program not only offers monetary rewards for information aiding anti-terrorism operations, but also promises confidentiality and anonymity for the informant. The United States government further promises to aid and relocate informants whose disclosure of information places themselves, and their family, in jeopardy.

The Counter-Terrorism Rewards Program is now a part of a larger anti-terrorism operation, the Rewards for Justice Program. The program pays for information relevant to the arrest and capture of wanted terrorists, both domestic and foreign. As part of the Patriot Act of 2001, the secretary of state can pay rewards greater than $5 million for information leading to the arrest of suspected terrorists. To date, the program has paid $9.75 million to 24 individuals who aided government antiterror investigations.

The Counter-Terrorism Rewards Program, as part of Rewards for Justice, has had several key successes. Information received through the program led to the arrest and eventual conviction of the 1993 World Trade Center bomber, Ramzi Yousef. The highest current priority of the rewards program is information leading to the capture of al-Qaeda front man, Usama bin Laden, and others with suspected involvement in the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Source

Have a beef with one of your neighbours.
Turn them in and get a reward. They will of course be tortured until they confess, not to worry.
By the way how do your neighbours feel about you?  You could be sent to a black hole never to return.
If the NDAA is accepted you will have  no rights at all.
This is what a witch hunt looks like.
Rather reminds me of what is done to Palestinians in Gaza and especially the West Bank. They live under the same rules as the NDAA.
Here is a must read Article.

Max Blumenthal: How Israeli Occupation Forces, Bahraini Monarchy Guards Trained U.S. Police For Coordinated Crackdown On “Occupy” Protests

New York – In October, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department turned parts of the campus of the University of California in Berkeley into an urban battlefield. The occasion was Urban Shield 2011, an annual SWAT team exposition organized to promote “mutual response,” collaboration and competition between heavily militarized police strike forces representing law enforcement departments across the United States and foreign nations.

At the time, the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department was preparing for an imminent confrontation with the nascent “Occupy” movement that had set up camp in downtown Oakland, and would demonstrate the brunt of its repressive capacity against the demonstrators a month later when it attacked the encampment with teargas and rubber bullet rounds, leaving an Iraq war veteran in critical condition and dozens injured. According to Police Magazine, a law enforcement trade publication, “Law enforcement agencies responding to…Occupy protesters in northern California credit Urban Shield for their effective teamwork.”

Training alongside the American police departments at Urban Shield was the Yamam, an Israeli Border Police unit that claims to specialize in “counter-terror” operations but is better known for its extra-judicial assassinations of Palestinian militant leaders and long record of repression and abuses in the occupied West Bank and Gaza Strip. Urban Shield also featured a unit from the military of Bahrain, which had just crushed a largely non-violent democratic uprising by opening fire on protest camps and arresting wounded demonstrators when they attempted to enter hospitals. While the involvement of Bahraini soldiers in the drills was a novel phenomenon, the presence of quasi-military Israeli police – whose participation in Urban Shield was not reported anywhere in US media – reflected a disturbing but all-too-common feature of the post-9/11 American security landscape.

The Israelification of America’s security apparatus, recently unleashed in full force against the Occupy Wall Street Movement, has taken place at every level of law enforcement, and in areas that have yet to be exposed. The phenomenon has been documented in bits and pieces, through occasional news reports that typically highlight Israel’s national security prowess without examining the problematic nature of working with a country accused of grave human rights abuses. But it has never been the subject of a national discussion. And collaboration between American and Israeli cops is just the tip of the iceberg.

Having been schooled in Israeli tactics perfected during a 63 year experience of controlling, dispossessing, and occupying an indigenous population, local police forces have adapted them to monitor Muslim and immigrant neighborhoods in US cities. Meanwhile, former Israeli military officers have been hired to spearhead security operations at American airports and suburban shopping malls, leading to a wave of disturbing incidents of racial profiling, intimidation, and FBI interrogations of innocent, unsuspecting people. The New York Police Department’s disclosure that it deployed “counter-terror” measures against Occupy protesters encamped in downtown Manhattan’s Zuccotti Park is just the latest example of the so-called War on Terror creeping into every day life. Revelations like these have raised serious questions about the extent to which Israeli-inspired tactics are being used to suppress the Occupy movement.

The process of Israelification began in the immediate wake of 9/11, when national panic led federal and municipal law enforcement officials to beseech Israeli security honchos for advice and training. America’s Israel lobby exploited the climate of hysteria, providing thousands of top cops with all-expenses paid trips to Israel and stateside training sessions with Israeli military and intelligence officials. By now, police chiefs of major American cities who have not been on junkets to Israel are the exception.

“Israel is the Harvard of antiterrorism,” said former US Capitol Police Chief Terrance W. Gainer, who now serves as the US Senate Sergeant-at-Arms. Cathy Lanier, the Chief of the Washington DC Metropolitan Police, remarked, “No experience in my life has had more of an impact on doing my job than going to Israel.” “One would say it is the front line,” Barnett Jones, the police chief of Ann Arbor, Michigan, said of Israel. “We’re in a global war.”

Karen Greenberg, the director of Fordham School of Law’s Center on National Security and a leading expert on terror and civil liberties, said the Israeli influence on American law enforcement is so extensive it has bled into street-level police conduct. “After 9/11 we reached out to the Israelis on many fronts and one of those fronts was torture,” Greenberg told me. “The training in Iraq and Afghanistan on torture was Israeli training. There’s been a huge downside to taking our cue from the Israelis and now we’re going to spread that into the fabric of everyday American life? It’s counter-terrorism creep. And it’s exactly what you could have predicted would have happened.”

Changing the way we do business

The Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs (JINSA) is at the heart of American-Israeli law enforcement collaboration. JINSA is a Jerusalem and Washington DC-based think tank known for stridently neoconservative policy positions on Israel’s policy towards the Palestinians and its brinkmanship with Iran. The group’s board of directors boasts a Who’s Who of neocon ideologues. Two former JINSA advisors who have also consulted for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Douglas Feith and Richard Perle, went on to serve in the Department of Defense under President George W. Bush, playing influential roles in the push to invade and occupy Iraq.

Through its Law Enforcement Education Program (LEEP), JINSA claims to have arranged Israeli-led training sessions for over 9000 American law enforcement officials at the federal, state and municipal level. “The Israelis changed the way we do business regarding homeland security in New Jersey,” Richard Fuentes, the NJ State Police Superintendent, said after attending a 2004 JINSA-sponsored Israel trip and a subsequent JINSA conference alongside 435 other law enforcement officers.

During a 2004 LEEP trip, JINSA brought 14 senior American law enforcement officials to Israel to receive instruction from their counterparts. The Americans were trained in “how to secure large venues, such as shopping malls, sporting events and concerts,” JINSA’s website reported. Escorted by Brigadier General Simon Perry, an Israeli police attaché and former Mossad official, the group toured the Israeli separation wall, now a mandatory stop for American cops on junkets to Israel. “American officials learned about the mindset of a suicide bomber and how to spot trouble signs,” according to JINSA. And they were schooled in Israeli killing methods. “Although the police are typically told to aim for the chest when shooting because it is the largest target, the Israelis are teaching [American] officers to aim for a suspect’s head so as not to detonate any explosives that might be strapped to his torso,” the New York Times reported.

Cathy Lanier, now the Chief of Washington DC’s Metropolitan Police Department, was among the law enforcement officials junketed to Israel by JINSA. “I was with the bomb units and the SWAT team and all of those high profile specialized [Israeli] units and I learned a tremendous amount,” Lanier reflected. “I took 82 pages of notes while I was there which I later brought back and used to formulate a lot of what I later used to create and formulate the Homeland Security terrorism bureau in the DC Metropolitan Police department.”

Some of the police chiefs who have taken part in JINSA’s LEEP program have done so under the auspices of the Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), a private non-governmental group with close ties to the Department of Homeland Security. Chuck Wexler, the executive director of PERF, was so enthusiastic about the program that by 2005 he had begun organizing trips to Israel sponsored by PERF, bringing numerous high-level American police officials to receive instruction from their Israeli counterparts.

PERF gained notoriety when Wexler confirmed that his group coordinated police raids in 16 cities across America against “Occupy” protest encampments. As many as 40 cities have sought PERF advice on suppressing the “Occupy” movement and other mass protest activities. Wexler did not respond to my requests for an interview.

Lessons from Israel to Auschwitz

Besides JINSA, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) has positioned itself as an important liaison between American police forces and the Israeli security-intelligence apparatus. Though the ADL promotes itself as a Jewish civil rights group, it has provoked controversy by publishing a blacklist of organizations supporting Palestinian rights, and for condemning a proposal to construct an Islamic community center in downtown New York, several blocks from Ground Zero, on the basis that some opponents of the project were entitled to “positions that others would characterize as irrational or bigoted.”

Through the ADL’s Advanced Training School course on Extremist and Terrorist Threats, over 700 law enforcement personnel from 220 federal and local agencies including the FBI and CIA have been trained by Israeli police and intelligence commanders. This year, the ADL brought 15 high-level American police officials to Israel for instruction from the country’s security apparatus. According to the ADL, over 115 federal, state and local law enforcement executives have undergone ADL-organized training sessions in Israel since the program began in 2003. “I can honestly say that the training offered by ADL is by far the most useful and current training course I have ever attended,” Deputy Commissioner Thomas Wright of the Philadelphia Police Department commented after completing an ADL program this year. The ADL’s relationship with the Washington DC Police Department is so cozy its members are invited to accompany DC cops on “ride along” patrols.

The ADL claims to have trained over 45,000 American law enforcement officials through its Law Enforcement and Society program, which “draws on the history of the Holocaust to provide law enforcement professionals with an increased understanding of…their role as protectors of the Constitution,” the group’s website stated. All new FBI agents and intelligence analysts are required to attend the ADL program, which is incorporated into three FBI training programs. According to officialFBI recruitment material, “all new special agents must visit the US Holocaust Memorial Museum to see firsthand what can happen when law enforcement fails to protect individuals.”

Fighting “crimiterror”

Among the most prominent Israeli government figure to have influenced the practices of American law enforcement officials is Avi Dichter, a former head of Israel’s Shin Bet internal security service and current member of Knesset who recently introduced legislation widely criticized as anti-democratic. During the Second Intifada, Dichter ordered several bombings on densely populated Palestinian civilian areas, including one on the al-Daraj neighborhood of Gaza that resulted in the death of 15 innocent people, including 8 children, and 150 injuries. “After each success, the only thought is, ‘Okay, who’s next?’” Dichter said of the “targeted” assassinations he has ordered.

Despite his dubious human rights record and apparently dim view of democratic values, or perhaps because of them, Dichter has been a key figure in fostering cooperation between Israeli security forces and American law enforcement. In 2006, while Dichter was serving at the time as Israel’s Minister of Public Security, he spoke in Boston, Massachusetts before the annual convention of the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Seated beside FBI Director Robert Mueller and then-Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez, Dichter told the 10,000 police officers in the crowd that there was an “intimate connection between fighting criminals and fighting terrorists.” Dichter declared that American cops were actually “fighting crimiterrorists.” The Jerusalem Post reported that Dichter was “greeted by a hail of applause, as he was hugged by Mueller, who described Dichter as his mentor in anti-terror tactics.”

A year after Dichter’s speech, he and then-Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff signed a joint memorandum pledging security collaboration between America and Israel on issues ranging from airport security to emergency planning. In 2010, Homeland Security Secretary Napolitano authorized a new joint memorandum with Israeli Transport and Road Safety Minister Israel Katz shoring up cooperation between the US Transportation Security Agency – the agency in charge of day-to-day airport security – and Israel’s Security Department. The recent joint memorandum also consolidated the presence of US Homeland Security law enforcement personnel on Israeli soil. “The bond between the United States and Israel has never been stronger,” Napolitano remarked at a recent summit of AIPAC, the leading outfit of America’s Israel lobby, in Scottsdale, Arizona.

The Demographic Unit

For the New York Police Department, collaboration with Israel’s security and intelligence apparatus became a top priority after 9/11. Just months after the attacks on New York City, the NYPD assigned a permanent, taxpayer-funded liaison officerto Tel Aviv. Under the leadership of Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, ties between the NYPD and Israel have deepened by the day. Kelly embarked on his first trip to Israel in early 2009 to demonstrate his support for Israel’s ongoing assault on the Gaza Strip, a one-sided attack that left over 1400 Gaza residents dead in three weeks and led a United Nations fact-finding mission to conclude that Israeli military and government officials had committed war crimes.

Kelly returned to Israel the following year to speak at the Herziliya Conference, an annual gathering of neoconservative security and government officials who obsess over supposed “demographic threats.” After Kelly appeared on stage, the Herziliya crowd was addressed by the pro-Israel academic Martin Kramer, who claimed that Israel’s blockade of Gaza was helping to reduce the numbers of “superfluous young men of fighting age.” Kramer added, “If a state can’t control these young men, then someone else will.”

Back in New York, the NYPD set up a secret “Demographics Unit” designed to spy on and monitor Muslim communities around the city. The unit was developed with input and intensive involvement by the CIA, which still refuses to name the former Middle East station chief it has posted in the senior ranks of the NYPD’s intelligence division. Since 2002, the NYPD has dispatched undercover agents known as “rakers” and “mosque crawlers” into Pakistani-American bookstores and restaurants to gauge community anger over US drone strikes inside Pakistan, and into Palestinian hookah bars and mosques to search out signs of terror recruitment and clandestine funding. “If a raker noticed a customer looking at radical literature, he might chat up the store owner and see what he could learn,” the Associated Press reported. “The bookstore, or even the customer, might get further scrutiny.”

The Israeli imprimatur on the NYPD’s Demographics Unit is unmistakable. As a former police official told the Associated Press, the Demographics Unit has attempted to “map the city’s human terrain” through a program “modeled in part on how Israeli authorities operate in the West Bank.”

Shop ‘til you’re stopped

At Israel’s Ben Gurion International Airport, security personnel target non-Jewish and non-white passengers, especially Arabs, as a matter of policy. The most routinely harassed passengers are Palestinian citizens of Israel, who must brace themselvesfor five-hour interrogation sessions and strip searches before flying. Those singled out for extra screening by Shin Bet officers are sent to what many Palestinians from Israel call the “Arab room,” where they are subjected to humiliating questioning sessions (former White House Health and Human Services Secretary Donna Shalala encountered such mistreatment during a visit to Israel last year). Some Palestinians are forbidden from speaking to anyone until takeoff, and may be menaced by Israeli flight attendants during the flight. In one documented case, a six-month-old was awoken for a strip search by Israeli Shin Bet personnel. Instances of discrimination against Arabs at Ben Gurion International are too numerous to detail – several incidents occur each day – but a few of the more egregious instances were outlined in a 2007 petition the Association for Civil Rights in Israel filed with the country’s Supreme Court.

Though the Israeli system of airline security contains dubious benefits and clearly deleterious implications for civil liberties, it is quietly and rapidly migrating into major American airports. Security personnel at Boston’s Logan International Airport have undergone extensive training from Israeli intelligence personnel, learning to apply profiling and behavioral assessment techniques against American citizens that were initially tested on Palestinians. The new procedures began in August, when so-called Behavior Detection Officers were placed in security queues at Logan’s heavily trafficked Terminal A. Though the procedures have added to traveler stress while netting exactly zero terrorists, they are likely to spread to other cities. “I would like to see a lot more profiling” in American airports, said Yossi Sheffi, an Israeli-born risk analyst at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Center for Transportation and Logistics.

Israeli techniques now dictate security procedures at the Mall of America, a gargantuan shopping mall in Bloomington, Minnesota that has become a major tourist attraction. The new methods took hold in 2005 when the mall hired a former Israeli army sergeant named Mike Rozin to lead a special new security unit. Rozin, who once worked with a canine unit at Ben Gurion Airport in Israel, instructed his employees at the Mall of America to visually profile every shopper, examining their expressions for suspicious signs. His security team accosts and interrogates an average of 1200 shoppers a year, according to the Center for Investigative Reporting.

One of the thousands who fell into Rozin’s dragnet was Najam Qureshi, a Pakistani-American mall vendor whose father accidentally left his cell phone on a table in the mall food court. A day after the incident, FBI agents appeared at Qureshi’s doorstep to ask if he knew anyone seeking to harm the United States. An army veteran interrogated for two hours by Rozin’s men for taking video inside the mall sobbed openly about his experience to reporters. Meanwhile, another man, Emile Khalil, was visited by FBI agents after mall security stopped him for taking photographs of the dazzling consumer haven.

“I think that the threat of terrorism in the United States is going to become an unfortunate part of American life,” Rozin remarked to American Jewish World. And as long as the threat persists in the public’s mind, Israeli securitocrats like Rozin will never have to worry about the next paycheck.

“Occupy” meets the Occupation

When a riot squad from the New York Police Department destroyed and evicted the “Occupy Wall Street” protest encampment at Zuccotti Park in downtown Manhattan, department leadership drew on the anti-terror tactics they had refined since the 9/11 attacks. According to the New York Times, the NYPD deployed “counterterrorism measures” to mobilize large numbers of cops for the lightning raid on Zuccotti. The use of anti-terror techniques to suppress a civilian protest complemented harsh police measures demonstrated across the country against the nationwide “Occupy” movement, from firing tear gas canisters and rubber bullets into unarmed crowds to blasting demonstrators with the LRAD sound cannon.

Given the amount of training the NYPD and so many other police forces have received from Israel’s military-intelligence apparatus, and the profuse levels of gratitude American police chiefs have expressed to their Israeli mentors, it is worth asking how much Israeli instruction has influenced the way the police have attempted to suppress the Occupy movement, and how much it will inform police repression of future upsurges of street protest. But already, the Israelification of American law enforcement appears to have intensified police hostility towards the civilian population, blurring the lines between protesters, common criminals, and terrorists. As Dichter said, they are all just “crimiterrorists.”

“After 9/11 we had to react very quickly,” Greenberg remarked, “but now we’re in 2011 and we’re not talking about people who want to fly planes into buildings. We’re talking about young American citizens who feel that their birthright has been sold. If we’re using Israeli style tactics on them and this stuff bleeds into the way we do business at large, were in big trouble.”

This article is cross-posted from Al-Akhbar.com with permission from the author Max Blumenthal.

You can read more of Max Blumenthal at MaxBlumenthal.com. He is the author of Republican Gomorrah, published by Nation Books.

Source

 

Interrogator says Khadr was told he’d likely be raped in U.S.

By CAROL ROSENBERG
May 6 2010

GUANTANAMO BAY, Cuba — To get teen terror suspect Omar Khadr to cooperate, a former U.S. Army interrogator testified Thursday, he told the wounded Canadian a “fictitious” tale of an Afghan youth who was gang-raped in an American prison and died.

“We’d tell him about this Afghan gets sent to an American prison and there’s a bunch of big black guys and big Nazis,” said the former interrogator who was since convicted of detainee abuse and was identified in court only as Interrogator No. 1.

Under Pentagon ground rules, reporters covering the hearing are not allowed to include the interrogator’s real name in their dispatches from Guantanamo. Canadian newspapers have published the name, however, and his testimony in other cases is available at the McClatchyDC.com website and elsewhere.

Interrogator No. 1 also gave an on-the-record interview with The Toronto Star in 2008 and his name was widely published in accounts of his court martial in September 2005.

The interrogators told Khadr that the Afghan – “a poor little kid … away from home, kind of isolated” – had been sent to the U.S. prison away because the interrogators were disappointed with his truthfulness, Interrogator No. 1 said. When patriotic American prisoners discovered the Afghan was a Muslim, praying five times a day, they raped him in their rage over the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, Interrogator No. 1 said Khadr, who was 15 and badly wounded at the time, was told.

Khadr’s attorneys called Interrogator No. 1 to bolster Khadr’s claim that he was abused while in U.S. custody and their motion before a military judge that any confessions he made during his captivity should be considered coerced and not admissible.

Khadr, now 23, had specifically claimed in an affidavit outlining abuse that he was threatened with rape. On Tuesday, a medic identified as Mr. M testified that he once found Khadr chained by his arms to the door of his cage-like cell, hooded and in tears. That too tracked allegations included in Khadr’s affadavit.

According to court testimony, Interrogator No. 1 was attached to the 519 MP Battalion, which guarded prisoners at Bagram air base in Afghanistan in 2002. Three years later, Interrogator No. 1 pleaded guilty to three acts of detainee abuse on another captive at Bagram in December 2002.

Interrogator No. 1 said he questioned Khadr as many as 25 times over 100 hours before the teen was sent to Guantanamo for more interrogations.

According to earlier testimony, Interrogator 1 questioned Khadr the first time on a stretcher while he was still under sedation on July 29, 2002, hours after the 15-year-old was released from an U.S. Army combat hospital and life-saving surgery. He denied under questioning from defense counsel Barry Coburn that he ever threatened Khadr directly with rape.

Instead, he said, a group of U.S. interrogators dreamed up the “fictitious” Afghan rape story to utilize authorized “Love of Freedom” and “Fear Up” techniques designed to break particularly uncooperative prisoners. “It’s never about the detainee,” Interrogator No. 1 said, explaining how he used it. “It’s to make the individual … afraid of American prisons.”

U.S. troops captured Khadr two weeks before his first formal interrogation, near dead and shot twice through the back during a Special Forces raid on a suspected al Qaida stronghold near Khost, Afghanistan.

Another former interrogator, who was acquitted by a court martial of detainee abuse charges, testified Wednesday that Khadr was first questioned just two days after he was wounded at the field hospital at Bagram. That interrogator, Damien Corsetti, said Khadr was tethered to a heart monitor. Soldiers held a tin of chewing tobacco to his gaping chest wound and saw that it could fit inside.

Defense attorneys argue that the military mistreated Khadr and created a coercive environment that should disqualify the truthfulness and reliability of his later confessions that he threw a hand grenade that killed U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer, 28.

Prosecutors defend the youth’s treatment and say he subsequently boasted voluntarily, and truthfully, to FBI agents conducting a criminal terror trial investigation that he threw the grenade and also planted land mines in Afghanistan meant to kill American soldiers and earn him $1,500 a head.

Veteran prosecutor Jeff Groharing, now a Justice Department attorney who got the case as a Marine major, sought on follow-up questioning to make clear that Interrogator No 1 was gleaning information from the Canadian for “actionable intelligence” in the Afghanistan combat zone – not for a future criminal prosecution.

Interrogator No. 1 said he wanted to know about the location of weapons and mines to assist the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan. His intelligence reports at the time noted that Khadr had thrown a grenade that killed a fellow U.S. soldier but Interrogator 1 said he wasn’t seeking a confession.

He also said that he didn’t think the rape tale made Khadr any more cooperative or truthful and that he only started spilling al-Qaida secrets after U.S. troops went back to the scene of his capture in Khost, Afghanistan, and recovered a video of showing a young Khadr being taught how to assemble Soviet anti-tank mines.

Khadr, wearing the white uniform of a cooperative captive, watched the proceedings intently. Interrogator No. 1, in blue jeans and sporting a pony tail, testified by video hookup from Arizona. on a video monitor. Source

Khadr legal team turns down plea offer from U.S

Khadr Routinely Trussed Up In Cage, Hearing Told

Prosecuting A Tortured Child: Obama’s Guantánamo Legacy

Reporters banned from Trial

TORONTO

— Three Canadian journalists are being barred from Guantanamo Bay, where they have been covering pre-trial war-crimes hearings for Omar Khadr, the Pentagon said Thursday.

The reporters for the Toronto Star, Globe and Mail, and Canwest News Service breached a ban on identifying a witness, according to the Pentagon.

“Your reporters published the name of a witness whose identity was protected in court,” a letter handed to the journalists stated.

“As a result of these violations, these individual reporters are barred from returning to cover future military commissions proceedings.”

For the past eight days, Khadr’s defence lawyers have been trying to establish the Canadian was tortured into making incriminating statements.

Among the witnesses was a former interrogator at Bagram prison in Afghanistan, where Khadr was taken after his capture in July, 2002.

The man testified Thursday to scaring Khadr by telling the badly wounded 15-year-old a “fictitious” story of an Afghan boy in U.S. custody who was gang-raped and died.

The Pentagon wanted him identified only as Interrogator No. 1 and forbade reporting his name, which has been widely available through his previous prosecution and conviction for detainee abuse.

He has also previously given an interview to the Star.

Toronto Star reporter Michelle Shephard, who has written a book on Khadr and his family, called the decision “ridiculous.”

The paper’s editor, Michael Cooke, denounced the ban.

“This is grossly unfair,” Cooke said. “The Star will object to this decision.”

Also barred were the Globe and Mail’s Washington correspondent, Paul Koring, and Canwest’s Steven Edwards.

Canwest vice-president Scott Anderson said from Ottawa he had not yet had a chance to talk about the issue with Edwards.

“It’s critical that we find out what happened here,” Anderson said.

“Obviously there was some misunderstanding on one side or another.”

Globe foreign editor, Stephen Northfield, said the paper “would appeal this decision.”

The New York-based American Civil Liberties Union condemned the Pentagon’s ruling as “absurd” and “nonsensical,” saying it would discourage reporting on the internationally condemned military commissions.

“No legitimate government interest is served by suppressing information that is already well known,” said Jameel Jaffer, the union’s deputy legal director.

“We strongly urge the Defence Department to reconsider its rash, draconian and unconstitutional decision to bar these four reporters from future tribunals.”

Carol Rosenberg, a reporter from the American newspaper, the Miami Herald, who has extensive experience covering the commissions, was also told she may not return.

Rosenberg declined to discuss the situation, referring calls to the Herald’s managing editor, who did not immediately return a call for comment.

The ban does not extend to the media outlets, only to the reporters involved.

However, media organizations themselves could be barred should there be “future violations,” the letter warns.

The letter also states the reporters can appeal the decision to the deputy assistant secretary of defence for media operations.

The hearings have wrapped up — it was not immediately clear when they will resume — and the media on the U.S. naval base were all expected to leave Friday.

Khadr’s trial — he is accused of throwing a grenade that killed an American soldier and blinded another — had been due to start in July.

Source

UN official calls for release of former child combatant from Guantanamo

5 May 2010 – A United Nations envoy today reiterated her call for the immediate release of the last child soldier still being held in Guantanamo Bay, voicing concern that his case has been brought to trial under a United States military commission and that he has been charged with war crimes.

Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen, was arrested in Afghanistan in 2002 when he was 15 years old. He has been in US custody for the last seven years, having spent much of his time in solitary confinement.

Radhika Coomaraswamy, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, called on the Governments of Canada and the US to respect the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child and release Mr. Khadr into Canadian custody.

The Optional Protocol aims to increase the protection of children during armed conflicts. It requires that all States parties “take all feasible measures” to ensure that members of their armed forces under the age of 18 do not take a direct part in hostilities, and reminds nations that children under 18 are entitled to special protection and so any voluntary recruitment under the age of 18 must include sufficient safeguards.

Ms. Coomaraswamy today urged Canada and the US to treat Mr. Khadr as a child soldier and undertake efforts to rehabilitate him.

“Like other children abused by armed groups around the world who are repatriated to their home communities and undergo re-education for their reintegration, Omar should be given the same protections afforded these children,” she emphasized.

“Trying young people for war crimes with regard to acts committed when they are minors could create a dangerous international precedent,” the official warned. Source

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May Day protests draw millions worldwide

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May Day protests draw millions worldwide

May Day Protests around the World
May 1 2010
Trade union members march in May Day celebrations in downtown Kiev  on Saturday. About 4,000 people rallied in Ukraine's capital.Trade union members march in May Day celebrations in downtown Kiev on Saturday. About 4,000 people rallied in Ukraine’s capital. (Sergei Chuzavkov/Associated Press)

Demonstrators poured into the streets from Hong Kong to Moscow to Santiago, Chile, waving flags, beating drums and dancing to music.

About 140,000 jubilant workers gathered in Istanbul’s Taksim Square in the first celebrations at the site since dozens of people died there in a May 1 gathering more than three decades ago.

The Istanbul demonstrations marked a special victory for Turkish unions, which had been denied access to Taksim Square since 1977, when 34 people died after a shooting triggered a stampede. The culprits were never found and workers on Saturday demanded an inquiry into the demonstrators’ deaths.

'I reject the five per cent increase,' says a La Paz  demonstrator's sign denouncing the size of Bolivia's proposed  minimum-wage increase.

‘I reject the five per cent increase,’ says a La Paz demonstrator’s sign denouncing the size of Bolivia’s proposed minimum-wage increase. (Juan Karita/Associated Press)

Thousands joined peaceful May Day marches in Stockholm, where opposition leader Mona Sahlin blamed the centre-right government for failing to stem rising unemployment and eroding the nation’s cherished welfare system. Sahlin is hoping to become Sweden’s first female prime minister after national elections in September.

In Manila, Philippine President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo announced she had ordered the labour secretary to speed up negotiations between unions and employers on a $1.70 increase in the daily minimum wage.

In Toronto, a few thousand demonstrators pressed for reforms to make it easier for refugees to seek haven in Canada and for immigrants to come to the country.

In Indonesia’s capital, Jakarta, thousands of workers marched on the presidential palace, shouting: “Workers unite! No more layoffs!” Rally organizer Bayu Ajie said a free-trade agreement with China had cost jobs, decreased wages and encouraged corruption. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono promised to create safer working conditions and improve job prospects if the workers maintained political and economic stability.

Kasparov leads rally

France saw rallies that drew hundreds of thousands of people to the streets of Paris, Marseille, Lille and other cities, but the turnout nevertheless disappointed labour unions that had been hoping for crowds in the millions to provide a show of force against a planned pension overhaul.

A rare opposition march took place in Moscow, where former world chess champion Garry Kasparov, now an opposition politician, led activists calling for the ouster of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, whom they accuse of stifling democracy.

In La Paz, the Bolivian capital, marchers carried signs denouncing the government’s proposed five per cent hike in the minimum wage as too paltry.

About 1,000 protesters — among them bus drivers and janitors — took to the streets in Hong Kong to demand that the government enact a minimum wage of the equivalent of $4.35 an hour. Though the Chinese territory has some of the richest residents in the world, its wealth is too unevenly distributed, advocates say.

People participate in a May Day protest in San Salvador, El  Salvador.

People participate in a May Day protest in San Salvador, El Salvador. (Edgar Romero/Associated Press)

Most of the annual May Day marches were peaceful, but in Santiago, clashes broke out with police, who launched tear gas and deployed a water cannon against demonstrators.

Athens also witnessed riots, with police using tear gas to disperse demonstrators who threw firebombs and stones in a large rally against austerity measures imposed to secure loans for near-bankrupt Greece.

In Switzerland, Zurich police used water cannons in an attempt to disperse dozens of stone-throwing protesters as unions and politicians protested against “excessive” Swiss banking bonuses.

German police detained 250 neo-Nazis who attempted to attack them in downtown Berlin.

The turnout in Cuba was massive, as expected, and authorities asserted the march by hundreds of thousands of Cubans amounted to approval of the island’s Communist system amid mounting international criticism over human rights. A smiling President Raul Castro watched the rally go past from a high podium.  Source

May Day turns violent in Berlin

May 2 2010

Riot police made targeted arrests during clashes on May Day demonstrations in Berlin.

May Day demonstrations have turned violent after police battle rioters in two German cities, using water cannons to drive back crowds of protestors.

In the capital Berlin, police tried to disperse hundreds of left-wing protesters in the west of the German capital late Saturday, as they set cars on fire and demolished police vehicles.

The eastern side of the city also saw clashes between anti-Nazi demonstrators and right-wingers.

In the port city of Hamburg, some 1,500 leftist radicals held a parade that continued into the early hours of Sunday. Police said the protestors vandalized banks, overturned parked cars and set them on fire.

It has become a ritual for leftists and rightists to engage in violent clashes with police and storm banks and shops on the May Day for more than a decade in Berlin and Hamburg.

Some 7,000 riot police were deployed to keep the two groups apart. Nearly 20 people were injured in those clashes. Police said they have made more than 250 arrests.

Last year’s May Day in Berlin was the most violent in a decade with hundreds of arrests and dozens of police officers injured. More than 400 cars were set ablaze in Berlin and Hamburg.

May Days have traditionally been an opportunity for workers and the left in general, to let off steam.

In many countries, it is synonymous with International Workers’ Day or Labor Day, a day of political demonstrations and celebrations organized by unions and other groups. Source


May Day marked with global protests

Turks mark first May Day in Istanbul’s Taksim Square in 33 years  [AFP]

Tens of thousands of people have marched in cities from Hong Kong to Istanbul to mark International Worker’s Day, demanding more jobs, better work conditions and higher wages.

In Turkey, about 140,000 workers gathered in Istanbul’s Taksim Square in the first celebrations at the site since 34 people died there in a May 1 gathering more than three decades ago.

The demonstration was a special victory for Turkish labour unions, which had been denied access to the site since 1977, after a shooting triggered a stampede.

Aydin Demir, a 44-year-old kiosk owner, said labourers had won a 33-year-long struggle for their right to rally at the square.

“We paid a heavy price to be here today. Thousands of comrades have been arrested, but now we get the result of our struggle,” he said.

‘Rights crushed’

Al Jazeera’s Anita McNaught, reporting from Taksim Square, said that in the past, trade unions who tried to hold rallies there in defiance of the ban met with a heavy police crackdown which left dozens injured and hundreds in detention.

“Then human rights and especially workers rights were crushed for years in Turkey,” McNaught said.

“Over a series of years, particularly the last three, the unions have steadily pushed and pushed to be reallowed access to back to this square.

“They have said there is no good reason not to allow them back and this year, the government agreed.”

More than 22,000 police officers were deployed for the rally and demonstrators went through security checks before entering the square.

Zafer Yoruk, a professor of political science at Izmir University, said the number of workers organised in Turkish unions has fallen dramatically since the 1970s.

“Regarding unionisation and economic rights, I think we’re far behind the 1970s,” he told Al Jazeera.

“The right to strike, for rights, or solidarity strikes, are totally gone.”

Rowdy protesters

Most of the annual May Day marches were peaceful, but in the Chinese territory of Macau police used water cannon and pepper spray against rowdy protesters, injuring at least eight people, including a photographer.

Clashes broke out in a number of countries as workers staged rallies [AFP]

Hundreds of thousands of people joined rallies in Europe, many protesting against government austerity policies in the wake of the global financial crisis.

Athens, the Greek capital, witnessed riots, with police using tear gas to disperse demonstrators who threw firebombs and stones in a large May Day rally against austerity measures needed to secure loans for near-bankrupt Greece.

In Switzerland, Zurich police used water cannon in an attempt to disperse dozens of stone-throwing protesters as unions and politicians protested against “excessive” Swiss banking bonuses.

In Germany, police said 17 officers had been injured when they clashed with 150 demonstrators who threw paving stones and set garbage cans ablaze in the northern port city of Hamburg.

At least nine demonstrators were detained after the confrontations with police on the eve of Saturday’s May Day holiday, the German news agency DDP reported.

Several hundred officers were deployed in the capital, Berlin, ahead of a planned neo-Nazi march and other demonstrations.

‘Workers unite’

The turnout in Cuba was massive, as expected, and authorities claimed the march by hundreds of thousands of Cubans amounted to approval of the island’s communist system amid mounting international criticism over human rights.

In Jakarta, the Indonesian capital, thousands of workers marched on the presidential palace, shouting: “Workers unite! No more layoffs!”

Workers took to the streets to protest labour conditions and demand better pay [Reuters]

Bayu Ajie, a rally organiser, said a free-trade agreement with China had cost jobs, decreased wages and encouraged corruption.

In Russia almost two million people turned out to mark international worker’s day.

Demonstrators carrying red balloons, red Soviet flags and portraits of Soviet leaders Vladimir Lenin and Josef Stalin, called for the Russian government’s resignation over rising prices and unemployment in Moscow.

Thousands of Cambodian workers marked May Day by marching through the capital to demand better work conditions and the establishment of a labour court.

Thousands of workers in the Philippines also took to the streets to reiterate their call to the government to protect jobs and to safeguard the interests of workers.

In the South Korean capital, Seoul, about 20,000 people gathered to demand better working conditions for labourers and farmers.

In Tokyo and Taiwan, thousands marched for better working conditions and permanent jobs.

In Kuala Lumpur, the Malaysian capital, several hundred workers protested a proposed four per cent goods and services tax. While, in Hong Kong, about 1,000 protesters, including janitors, construction workers and bus drivers, demanded the government introduce a minimum wage of $4.30.

“A lunch box at a fast-food restaurant costs about $4. It’s an insult if you can’t afford a lunch box after working for an hour,” Leung Yiu-chung, a pro-democracy legislator, said on the sidelines of Saturday’s protests. Source

Workers demand better jobs, pay on May Day

Indonesian workers shout slogans  during a May Day rally in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Saturday (AP photo by  Dita Alangkara)Indonesian workers shout slogans during a May Day rally in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Saturday (AP photo by Dita Alangkara)

I

STANBUL (AP) – Tens of thousands of workers marched in cities from Hong Kong to Istanbul Saturday to mark international worker’s day, demanding more jobs, better work conditions and higher wages.

About 140,000 jubilant workers gathered in Istanbul’s Taksim Square in the first celebrations at the site since dozens of people died there in a May 1 gathering more than three decades ago.

The demonstrations in Istanbul, which sits on both European and Asian continents, marked a special victory for the Turkish unions, which had been denied access to the Taksim Square since 1977, when 34 people died after shooting triggered a stampede. The culprits were never found and workers demanded Saturday an inquiry into the deaths of the demonstrators.

Most of the annual May Day marches were peaceful, but in the Chinese territory of Macau police used water cannons and pepper spray against rowdy protesters who tried to break away from the approved route. Hong Kong radio RTHK reported at least eight people injured, including a photographer.

Athens also witnessed riots, with police using tear gas to disperse demonstrators who threw firebombs and stones in a large May Day rally against austerity measures needed to secure loans for near-bankrupt Greece. In Switzerland, Zurich police used water cannons in an attempt to disperse dozens of stone-throwing protesters as unions and politicians protested against “excessive” Swiss banking bonuses.

German police detained 250 neo-Nazis who attempted to attack them in downtown Berlin, while they braced for further clashes after sundown.

Nadine Pusch, a spokeswoman for Berlin police, said 7,000 officers were scattered throughout the city in an effort to ensure peaceful demonstrations.

Overnight in Hamburg, 17 officers were injured in clashes on the eve of May 1 and at least nine demonstrators were detained, the German news agency ddp reported Saturday.

The turnout in Cuba was massive, as expected, and authorities claimed the march by hundreds of thousands of Cubans amounted to approval of the island’s communist system amid mounting international criticism over human rights.

Thousands joined peaceful May Day marches in Stockholm, where opposition leader Mona Sahlin blamed the centre-right government for failing to stem rising unemployment and eroding the nation’s cherished welfare system. Sahlin is hoping to become Sweden’s first female prime minister after national elections in September.

Several thousand demonstrators in Paris also took to the streets amid concerns about conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy’s plans to overhaul the pension system.

In Manila, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo announced she had ordered the labour secretary to speed up negotiations between unions and employers on a 75-peso ($1.67) increase in daily minimum wage.

In Indonesia’s capital, thousands of workers marched on the presidential palace, shouting: “Workers unite! No more layoffs!”. Rally organiser Bayu Ajie said a free trade agreement with China had cost jobs, decreased wages and encouraged corruption. President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono promised to create safer working conditions and improve job prospects if the workers maintained political and economic stability.

Thousands of Communist demonstrators, carrying red balloons, red Soviet flags and portraits of Soviet leaders Vladimir Lenin and Josef Stalin, called for the Russian government’s resignation over rising prices and unemployment in Moscow. Former world chess champion Garry Kasparov led hundreds of opposition activists in a separate rally. They also called for the ouster of Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, whom they accuse of stamping out democracy. A few thousands also rallied in Ukraine’s capital.

In Seoul, South Korea, Tokyo and Taiwan, thousands marched for better working conditions and permanent jobs. Jeong Ho-hee, spokesman of the Korean Confederation of Trade Union, vowed to fight against long working hours and high death rate related to industrial accidents.

In the Malaysian capital, Kuala Lumpur, several hundred workers protested a proposed 4 per cent goods and services tax while about 1,000 protesters, including janitors, construction workers and bus drivers, demanded the government in Hong Kong to introduce a minimum wage of 33 Hong Kong dollars ($4.30).

This freewheeling capitalist Chinese enclave is one of the world’s wealthiest cities, but critics say its wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few.

“A lunch box at a fast-food restaurant costs about HK$30 ($4). It’s an insult if you can’t afford a lunch box after working for an hour,” pro-democracy legislator Leung Yiu-chung said on the sidelines of Saturday’s protests.  Source

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Obama free to chart new course with Cuba

Fidel Castro -- 'El Commandante'

December 13 2008
By Tom Bevan, RealClearPolitics.com

New polling in Florida shows that for the first time a majority of Cuban-Americans favour lifting the trade embargo against Cuba that the United States has had in place since 1962. Fifty-five percent of those surveyed favored discontinuing the embargo, and 65 per cent said they were in favor of reestablishing diplomatic relations with the neighboring Communist regime.

During the Democratic primary, then candidate Barack Obama spelled out his willingness to ease the embargo with Cuba in an op-ed in the Miami Herald in August 2007, writing that he would “use aggressive and principled diplomacy to send an important message: If a post-Fidel government begins opening Cuba to democratic change, the United States (the president working with Congress) is prepared to take steps to normalize relations and ease the embargo that has governed relations between our countries for the last five decades.”

The following May, Obama gave a speech in Little Havana saying that his policy toward Cuba would be “guided by one word: libertad.” In the speech Obama again advocated easing restrictions on remittances and travel to Cuba.

Obama lost the meaningless Florida primary to Clinton in January by 17 points, which included a 33-point thumping among the state’s Hispanics.

But Obama won the Sunshine State 51-49 over McCain in November, including a majority of the Hispanic vote. Obama lost the Cuban vote to McCain by thirty points, 65-35, though there was a stark discrepancy among age group. The oldest demographic of Cuban-Americans (aged 65+) voted overwhelmingly for McCain, 84-16, but those Cuban-Americans under 30 backed Obama by a 55-45 margin.

As a result, the Associated Press declares that Obama will be the first president in 50 years to have “a relatively free hand” in forging a shift in America’s policy toward Cuba:

Cuban-Americans have had a mixed reaction to Obama’s campaign promises — most voted against him, but Obama carried Florida and didn’t even need the state’s votes to win the presidency, confounding the notion that the support of anti-Castro Cuban exiles is essential in presidential elections.

“Obama already has a much freer hand than Bush did,” said Daniel Erickson of the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington, D.C. think tank. “He does not owe any of his political success to Cuban-Americans in South Florida.”

Obama is therefore free to chart a new course. He can reverse some policies of President George W. Bush with a pen stroke, and while undoing the embargo would take a majority in Congress, that’s easier than ever with Democrats holding sizable majorities.

No doubt leading the charge in Congress will be one of President-elect Obama’s former rivals, Senator Chris Dodd, who’s been pushing for taking a softer line against Cuba for years.

Source

Maybe Barack could learn about Cuba’s Health Care system, apparently it is pretty good.

Fidel Castro has offered to speak with Barack Obama

Published in: on December 14, 2008 at 1:35 pm  Comments Off on Obama free to chart new course with Cuba  
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Fidel Castro has offered to speak with Barack Obama

Cuban President Fidel Castro

(Enrique Marcarian/Reuters)

December 5 2008

Fidel Castro, the former President of Cuba, has offered to talk to Barack Obama, in Havana’s latest overture to the US President elect. ”With Obama, talks could happen anywhere he wants,” the former head of the Communist regime wrote in the latest of a series of columns he has published in state-run media since falling ill in 2006.

His remarks follow an offer from his brother, President Raul Castro, to meet Mr Obama “on neutral ground” to try to end the 40 year long conflict between the two countries.

If taken up it would be the first meeting in half a century between the leaders of Cuba and the US. The head of the Communist regime and a US president have not come face to face since the island’s revolution in 1959.

Fidel Castro’s offer to meet came with a warning for Mr Obama.

“He should remember the carrot-and-stick approach will not work with our country,” he wrote. “The sovereign rights of the Cuban people are not negotiable.”

Mr Obama has said he is open to talks with the Cuban government, and will consider easing Us sanctions. After taking office in January, he plans immediately to lift all restrictions on family travel and financial remittances to the island.

However he said he would not support lifting the four decade old trade embargo until Cuba releases all political prisoners. An independent human rights group has said that there are 219 prisoners of conscience on the island.

Before the US elections last month, Fidel Castro praised Mr Obama as intelligent and humanitarian.

Raul, who replaced his ailing brother in 2006, has said several times he was willing to talk to the US.

In his most recent interview, with left wing actor Sean Penn in the US magazine The Nation, he suggested they meet in Guantanamo Bay, the site of the prison camp and where the US maintains a naval base considered by Cuba as a violation of its sovereignty

Source

Published in: on December 5, 2008 at 12:52 pm  Comments Off on Fidel Castro has offered to speak with Barack Obama  
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141 states support Depleted Uranium Ban

Campaign Against Depleted Uranium

Sign Petition to Ban DU

What is DU?

  • Depleted Uranium is a waste product of the nuclear enrichment process.
  • After natural uranium has been ‘enriched’ to concentrate the isotope U235 for use in nuclear fuel or nuclear weapons, what remains is DU.
  • The process produces about 7 times more DU than enriched uranium.

Despite claims that DU is much less radioactive than natural uranium, it actually emits about 75% as much radioactivity. It is very dense and when it strikes armour it burns (it is ‘pyrophoric’). As a waste product, it is stockpiled by nuclear states, which then have an interest in finding uses for it.

DU is used as the ‘penetrator’ – a long dart at the core of the weapon – in armour piercing tank rounds and bullets. It is usually alloyed with another metal. When DU munitions strike a hard target the penetrator sheds around 20% of its mass, creating a fine dust of DU, burning at extremely high temperatures.

This dust can spread 400 metres from the site immediately after an impact. It can be resuspended by human activity, or by the wind, and has been reported to have travelled twenty-five miles on air currents. The heat of the DU impact and secondary fires means that much of the dust produced is ceramic, and can remain in the lungs for years if inhaled.

Who uses it?
At least 18 countries are known to have DU in their arsenals:

  • UK
  • US
  • France
  • Russia
  • China
  • Greece
  • Turkey
  • Thailand
  • Taiwan
  • Israel
  • Bahrain
  • Egypt
  • Kuwait
  • Saudi Arabia
  • India
  • Belarus
  • Pakistan
  • Oman

Most of these countries were sold DU by the US, although the UK, France and Pakistan developed it independently.

Only the US and the UK are known to have fired it in warfare. It was used in the 1991 Gulf War, in the 2003 Iraq War, and also in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the 1990s and during the NATO war with Serbia in 1999. While its use has been claimed in a number of other conflicts, this has not been confirmed.

Health Problems

  • DU is both chemically toxic and radioactive. In laboratory tests it damages human cells, causing DNA mutations and other carcinogenic effects.
  • Reports of increased rates of cancer and birth defects have consistently followed DU usage.
  • Representatives from both the Serbian and Iraqi governments have linked its use with health problems amongst civilians.
  • Many veterans remain convinced DU is responsible for health problems they have experienced since combat

Information from animal studies suggests DU may cause several different kinds of cancer. In rats, DU in the blood-stream builds up in the kidneys, bone, muscles, liver, spleen, and brain. In other studies it has been shown to cross both the blood-brain barrier and the placenta, with obvious implications for the health of the foetus. In general, the effects of DU will be more severe for women and children than for healthy men.

In 2008 a study by the Institute of Medicine in the US listed medical conditions that were a high priority to study for possible links with DU exposure: cancers of the lung, testes and kidney; lung disease; nervous system disorders; and reproductive and developmental problems.


Epidemiology

What is missing from the picture is large-scale epidemiological studies on the effects of DU – where negative health effects match individuals with exposure to DU. None of the studies done on the effects on soldiers have been large enough to make meaningful conclusions. No large scale studies have been done on civilian populations.

In the case of Iraq, where the largest volume of DU has been fired, the UK and US governments are largely responsible for the conditions which have made studies of the type required impossible. Despite this, these same governments use the scientific uncertainties to maintain that it is safe, and that concerns about it are misplaced.

However, in cases where human health is in jeopardy, a precautionary approach should prevail. Scientific scepticism should prevent a hazardous course of action from being taken until safety is assured. To allow it to continue until the danger has been proved beyond dispute is an abuse of the principle of scientific caution.

Environmental Impacts
The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has studied some of the sites contaminated by DU in the Balkans, but it has only been able to produce a desk study on Iraq. Bullets and penetrators made of DU that do not hit armour become embedded in the ground and corrode away, releasing material into the environment.

It is not known what will happen to DU in the long term in such circumstances. The UNEP mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina found DU in drinking water, and could still detect it in the air after seven years – the longest period of time a study has been done after the end of a conflict.

Uranium has a half life of 4.5 billion years, so DU released into the environment will be a hazard for unimaginable timescales.

Decontaminating sites where DU has been used requires detailed scrutiny and monitoring, followed by the removal and reburial of large amounts of soil and other materials. Monitoring of groundwater for contamination is also advised by UNEP. CADU calls for the cost of cleaning up and decontaminating DU affected sites to be met by the countries responsible for the contamination.

The Campaign
CADU is a founder member of the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons (ICBUW) – now comprising over 102 member organisations in 27 countries.

CADU and ICBUW campaign for a precautionary approach: there is significant evidence that DU is dangerous, and faced with scientific uncertainty the responsible course of action is for it not to be used. To this end CADU and ICBUW are working towards an international treaty that bans the use of uranium in weapons akin to those banning cluster bombs and landmines.

Through the efforts of campaigners worldwide the use of DU has been condemned by four resolutions in the European Parliament, been the subject of an outright ban in Belgium, and brought onto the agenda of the United Nations General Assembly.

Source

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International Campaign to Ban Uranium Weapons

141 states support second uranium weapons resolution in UN General Assembly vote

The United Nations General Assembly has passed, by a huge majority, a resolution requesting its agencies to update their positions on the health and environmental effects of uranium weapons.
December 2 2008

The resolution, which had passed the First Committee stage on October 31st by 127 states to four, calls on three UN agencies – the World Health Organisation (WHO), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to update their positions on uranium weapons. The overwhelming support for the text reflects increasing international concern over the long-term impact of uranium contamination in post-conflict environments and military ranges.

In the 17 years since uranium weapons were first used on a large scale in the 1991 Gulf War, a huge volume of peer-reviewed research has highlighted previously unknown pathways through which exposure to uranium’s heavy metal toxicity and radioactivity may damage human health.
Throughout the world, parliamentarians have responded by supporting calls for a moratorium and ban, urging governments and the military to take a precautionary approach. However the WHO and IAEA have been slow to react to this wealth of new evidence and it is hoped that this resolution will go some way to resolving this situation.

In a welcome move, the text requests that all three agencies work closely with countries affected by the use of uranium weapons in compiling their research. Until now, most research by UN member states has focused on exposure in veterans and not on the civilian populations living in contaminated areas. Furthermore, recent investigations into US veteran studies have found them to be wholly incapable of producing useful data.

The text also repeats the request for states to submit reports and opinions on uranium weapons to the UN Secretary General in the process that was started by last year’s resolution. Thus far, 19 states have submitted reports to the Secretary General; many of them call for action on uranium weapons and back a precautionary approach. It also places the issue on the agenda of the General Assembly’s 65th Session; this will begin in September 2010.

The First Committee vote saw significant voting changes in comparison to the previous year’s resolution, with key EU and NATO members such as the Netherlands, Finland, Norway and Iceland changing position to support calls for further action on the issue. These changes were echoed at the General Assembly vote. Once again Japan, which has been under considerable pressure from campaigners, supported the resolution.

Of the permanent five Security Council members, the US, UK and France voted against. They were joined by Israel. Russia abstained and China refused to vote.

The list of states abstaining from the vote, while shorter than in 2007, still contains Belgium, the only state to have implemented a domestic ban on uranium weapons, a fact that continues to anger Belgian campaigners. It is suspected that the Belgian government is wary of becoming isolated on the issue internationally. Two Nordic states, Denmark and Sweden continue to blow cold, elsewhere in Europe Poland, the Czech Republic, Portugal and Spain are also dragging their feet, in spite of a call for a moratorium and ban by 94% of MEPs earlier this year. Many of the abstainers are recent EU/NATO accession states or ex-Soviet republics such as Kazakhstan.

Australia and Canada, both of whom have extensive uranium mining interests and close ties to US foreign policy also abstained.

The resolution was submitted by Cuba and Indonesia on behalf of the League of Non-Aligned States.

Voting results in full

In favour:

Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Chile, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Cyprus, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Finland, Germany, Ghana, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nauru, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Rwanda, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Switzerland, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.

Against:

France, Israel, United Kingdom, United States.

Abstain:

Albania, Andorra, Australia, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Micronesia (Federated States of), Palau, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkey, Ukraine.

Absent: Central African Republic, Chad, China, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Fiji, Gabon, Gambia, Kiribati, Monaco, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia.

Source

Honor Vets by Learning About Depleted Uranium

November 11, 2008

by Barbara Bellows

As Europe mourns in Verdun today for those lost in “The War to End All Wars”, World War I, we could look to another moment in European history to shed light on the most aggressively silenced story of the Bush administration.

In late 2000 and January 2001, reports were exploding across Europe about the rise in cancer amongst NATO soldiers who had served in the “peacekeeping missions” in Bosnia and Kosovo. The effects of the depleted uranium in the U.S. and U.K. weapons could not be ignored.

But history shows that the United Nations and the World Health Organization could be intimidated. The report from the WHO – that detailed how the DU vaporized upon impact into tiny particles that were breathed in, or consumed through the mouth or entered through open wounds, where the irradiating bits attacked cells all the way through the body, causing mutations along the way – was shelved under pressure from the U.S.

Even now, the major U.S. news organizations do not touch the subject, though the international press cannot ignore it. Even last month, a Middle Eastern Reuters reporter discussed the health damages because of the contaminated environment with Iraqi En Iraqi Environment Minister Nermeen Othman,

“When we talk about it, people may think we are overreacting. But in fact the environmental catastrophe that we inherited in Iraq is even worse than it sounds.”

And The Tehran Times further endangers their country by continuing to report on the problem, calling it a war crime.

And across the internet, retired Air Force Lt. Col. Roger Helbig seeks to intimidate anyone who dares to bring up the subject.

But we evolve, and the United Nations First Committee has overwhelmingly passed a resolution, on October 31st, calling for “relevant UN agencies, in this case the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA), World Health Organisation (WHO) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to update and complete their research into the possible health and environmental impact of the use of uranium weapons by 2010.” The only countries that voted against it were the United States, the United Kingdom, Israel and France.

Meanwhile, to help the reader get to the point, I’ve put together the following.  Although the facts, for the most part, do not contain links, there is a list of the references at the end.

Ten Essential Facts:

1. Depleted uranium, the nuclear waste of uranium enrichment, is not actually “depleted” of radiation; 99.3% of it is Uranium238, which still emits radioactive alpha particles at the rate 12,400/second, with an estimated half life of 4.5 billion years.

2. Depleted uranium is plentiful – there are 7 pounds remaining for every pound of enriched uranium – and requires expensive and often politically-contentious hazardous waste storage.

3. Depleted uranium is less of a problem for the nuclear industry when it is cheaply passed on to U.S. weapons manufacturers for warheads, penetrators, bunker-busters, missiles, armor and other ammunition used by the U.S. military in the Middle East and elsewhere, and sold to other countries and political factions.

4. Depleted uranium is “pyrophoric”, which makes it uniquely effective at piercing hard targets, because upon impact, it immediately burns, vaporizing the majority of its bulk and leaving a hard, thin, sharpened tip – and large amounts of radioactive particles suspended in the atmosphere.

5. Depleted uranium weaponry was first used in the U.S. bombing of Iraq in 1991, under President George H. W. Bush and Defense Secretary Dick Cheney.

6. Depleted uranium weaponry was later used by President Bill Clinton in the NATO “peace-keeping” bombing missions in Bosnia, Kosovo and Serbia. By January 2001, as the 2nd President Bush and Dick Cheney were moving in to the White House, there was a furor in Europe over the news of an alarming increase in leukemia and other cancers amongst the NATO troops who’d served in the Balkans.

7. The World Health Organization suppressed a November 2001 report on the health hazards of depleted uranium by Dr. Keith Baverstock, Head of the WHO’s Radiation Protection Division and his team, commissioned by the United Nations. Baverstock’s report, “Radiological Toxicity of Depleted Uranium”, detailed the significant danger of airborne vaporized depleted uranium particles, already considerably more prevalent in Iraq than the Balkans due to the difference in military tactics, because they are taken into the body by inhaling and ingesting, and then their size and solubility determines how quickly they move through the respiratory, circulatory and gastrointestinal systems, attacking and poisoning from within as they travel, and where the damages occur. In addition, the report warns that the particles tend to settle in the soft tissue of the testes, and may cause mutations in sperm. In 2004 Dr. Baverstock, no longer at the WHO, released the report through Rob Edwards at Scotland’s Sunday Herald.

8. The George W. Bush/Dick Cheney administration twisted the meaning of the failure of the World Health Organization to produce evidence of depleted uranium’s health hazards, turning it into evidence that there was no link between exposure to depleted uranium and the increases in cancer in Europe and Iraq; instead, as presented in the January 20, 2003 report by the new Office of Global Communications, ironically titled Apparatus of Lies: Saddam’s Disinformation and Propaganda 1990 – 2003, the depleted uranium uproar was only an exploitation of fear and suffering. Two months later, Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz-Rice began to “Shock and Awe” Baghdad by again dropping tons of depleted uranium bombs on densely populated areas.

9. On March 27, 2003, significant increases in depleted uranium particles in the atmosphere were detected by the air sampler filter systems of the Atomic Weapons Establishment at 8 different sites near Aldermaston Berkshire, Great Britain, and continued at 4-5 times the previous norm until the end of April 2003, after the Coalition forces declared the war over. This information only came to light in a report on January 6, 2006 by Dr. Chris Busby, due to his diligent fight for access to the data through Britain’s Freedom of Information law.

10. We have a new, intelligent President, who is willing to listen.  It is up to us to bring this to his attention.  THIS IS HOW WE CAN HONOR VETERANS.

VALUABLE REFERENCES:

Department of Defense description of self-sharpening depleted uranium: click here

Dr. Keith Baverstock’s November 2001 report, suppressed by the World Health Organization:
Rob Edwards article on Baverstock:

Karen Parker, a Human Rights and Humanitarian Law Lawyer:  Scroll down on the page and you’ll find her documents on DU.

January 2003 White House Report – Apparatus of Lies:

January 2006 Chris Busby report: click here

Source

Depleated Uranium Information

Or Google it there is tons of information out there.

Be sure to encourage those who are still not supporting the ban,  that it  is something that needs to be banned.

This is an extremely dangerous form of Pollution.

We, the people, need to let governments and the United Nations know that these weapons can have no part in a humane and caring world. Every signature counts!

  1. An immediate end to the use of uranium weapons.
  2. Disclosure of all locations where uranium weapons have been used and immediate removal of the remnants and contaminated materials from the sites under strict control.
  3. Health surveys of the ‘depleted’ uranium victims and environmental investigations at the affected sites.
  4. Medical treatment and compensation for the ‘depleted’ uranium victims.
  5. An end to the development, production, stockpiling, testing, trade of uranium weapons.
  6. A Convention for a Total Ban on Uranium Weapons.

The life you save may be your own.

Sign Petition to Ban DU

Published in: on December 4, 2008 at 1:10 pm  Comments Off on 141 states support Depleted Uranium Ban  
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Judge right about Guantanamo Bay, we’ve had ‘enough’

November 21 2008

“Seven years … is enough.” With those words Thursday, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon ordered the release of five Algerians held at the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, since January 2002. A conservative appointed by President George W. Bush, Leon also delivered a forceful indictment of the administration’s detention decisions and provided indisputable proof of the importance of allowing federal judges to evaluate the secret evidence the government used to justify detentions.

The case, known as Boumediene v. Bush, yielded the first ruling in a habeas corpus proceeding involving Guantanamo detainees. It first came before Leon in 2004, and, at that time, he read the law as not allowing detainees federal court review.

The Algerians appealed and ultimately prevailed this summer when the Supreme Court issued a landmark ruling empowering federal judges to review the government’s basis for detaining people on the naval base.

In Boumediene, the government relied on a single classified document from an unnamed source. Justice Department lawyers were unable to convince Leon of the validity of the detentions, even though they were held to a low standard of proof. Leon concluded the document did not prove that the men, captured in Bosnia in 2002, were planning to travel to Afghanistan to fight U.S. forces. The fact that there was no corroborating evidence and that there was little information to help the judge assess the reliability of that source doomed the government’s case.

“To allow enemy combatantcy to rest on so thin a reed would be inconsistent with this Court’s obligation … to protect petitioners from the risk of erroneous detention,” he wrote. He ordered the five Algerians freed “forthwith,” but left the details to the government and did not specify where the men should be sent. He declined to order the release of a sixth man, concluding that the government had provided corroborating evidence that he was an al-Qaida operative.

In another extraordinary move, Leon urged the Justice Department not to appeal his order that the five be freed, saying: “Seven years of waiting for our legal system to give them an answer to their legal question is enough.”

The government needs the legal flexibility to hold those it believes are terrorism threats but against whom there is not enough evidence to bring traditional criminal charges. But what Leon revealed in his ruling is the utter travesty that is holding people with virtually no evidence – and certainly no evidence that can reasonably be considered reliable.

The Justice Department should heed the judge’s call and refrain from an appeal. It should work with the departments of State and Defense to find a suitable third country for these detainees. And it should not wait for another judicial rebuke before releasing others who are being held on the basis of feeble or questionable evidence.

Source

A new chapter in China-Latin America relations

November 17 2008

President Hu will leave for state visit to Latin American countries of Costa Rica, Cuba as well as Peru and attend the 16th Informal APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting right after the G-20 Summit on Financial Market and the World Economy just concluded in Washington on Oct. 16.

Hu’s tour will definitely open a new chapter in China’s relations with Latin American countries in consideration to the changing international situations.

Though geographically wide apart, China and Latin American countries developed friendship from early time. The ties maintain a good momentum of rapid development in the new millennium. Politically, leaders from China and Latin American countries conducted frequent high-level exchanges and close communications, which boosted political mutual trust; in economy and trade, the volume broke the benchmark of 100 billion US dollars in 2007, and the growth rate in first nine months stood at 51.7 percent, making China the third largest trading partner of Latin America. Up to the present, relations with Latin America, being rapidly growing, wide and deep, have reached its historical new high.

President Hu’s three-nation tour is considered to be a crucial diplomatic measure China has taken to develop ties with Latin American countries from a strategic perspective. It is the first time for the Chinese president to visit Costa Rica since the two countries established diplomatic relations in June 2007. The Caribbean country hopes to win China’s support in joining APEC, and wishes to start negotiation on free trade agreement in the earliest possible time. Costa Rica is the first Central American country to establish diplomatic tie with China in recent years. President Hu’s visit will undoubtedly expand China’s influence in the region.

Cuba is the first country in Latin America that established relations with China, and it successfully finished its power handover in February this year. Hu’s visit will be deemed as support to Raul’s new administration.

China also witnessed rapid development of bilateral relations with Peru. Now the Central American country now has become one of the key destinations for investment from China. Two countries started free trade negotiation in September 2007, and will hopefully sign an official agreement after six rounds of talks.

Hu’s visit will convincingly push forward the bilateral and multilateral cooperation within APEC framework. Mexico. Peru and Chile are full members of APEC, and Costa Rica, Columbia, Panama and Ecuador are making efforts to join the organization. China and Latin American countries launched cooperation of mutual benefit under APEC framework, and vowed to make progress in the fields of trade and investment, energy, cooperation among SMEs, environmental protection, natural disaster relief and so on.

President Hu’s visit will enhance exchange and communication on major issues among China and Latin American countries. China and Latin America share common ground and interest appeal. On issues such as reform of international financial system, supervision on international financial market and Doha round negotiations, the emerging economies need to boost communication and take a firm stand so as to maintain the interests of developing countries.

Under the circumstance of global economic recession, whether China could maintain a stable economic growth is vital to Latin American countries. Hu’s visit will help Latin American better understand China’s economic development and importance of expanding domestic demand, which will deepen cooperation among China and Latin American countries.

China released its first policy paper on Latin America and the Caribbean ahead of President Hu’s Latin American tour, eyeing closer ties with the region. The paper illustrated the issues of policy goals, cooperation fields, as well as China’s investment and debt reduction to Latin America. Hu’s three-nation Latin America tour will thoroughly interpret the paper, and push forward the healthy, stable and comprehensive development of China-Lain America relations.

Source

Published in: on November 18, 2008 at 9:40 am  Comments Off on A new chapter in China-Latin America relations  
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Guantanamo Bay: Obama’s options

November 12 2008

Guantanamo Bay has been widely condemned by international rights groups [GALLO/GETTY]

Barack Obama, the US president-elect, has said repeatedly that he will shut down the prison camp at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba and is now faced with decisions about how to proceed.

Rights groups have urged Obama to move swiftly once he begins his White House term in January.

The detention and treatment of prisoners held at the US facility has been widely condemned by international rights groups and the UN and EU.

It has held more than 750 captives from around the world since opening in 2002, including many who were captured during the US “war on terror” that followed the attacks on the US of September 11, 2001.

Around 250 prisoners remain in the camp – most held without charge or trial – including 50 or so that have been cleared for release but cannot be returned to their home countries, the US government says, for fear of torture and persecution.Two, including Osama bin Laden’s former driver, have already faced full military tribunals, set up by the Bush administration to try the detainees, but widely condemned as unfair by rights groups.

Aides to Obama say he remains committed to closing Guantanamo and trying the remaining detainees.

“President-Elect Obama said throughout his campaign that the legal framework at Guantanamo has failed to successfully and swiftly prosecute terrorists, and he shares the broad bipartisan belief that Guantanamo should be closed,” Denis McDonough, an advisor to Obama on foreign policy, said in a statement on Monday.

There are several options now on the table for the new administration.

1. Trying detainees using a new US legal system

Obama has considered proposing a new court system to try the Guantanamo detainees and has appointed a committee to decide how such a court would operate, recent media reports have said.

The US has faced widespread criticism over
its treatement of detainees [GALLO/GETTY]

How specifically that system would operate remains unclear.”There is no process in place to make that decision until his [Obama’s] national security and legal teams are assembled,” McDonough said.

But the idea of setting up a separate legal system for the detainees has already drawn some criticism, and invited comparisons to the military tribunals set up by the Bush administration.

“There would be concern about establishing a completely new system,” Adam Schiff, a Democratic member of the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee and former federal prosecutor, said.

“And in the sense that establishing a regimen of detention that includes American citizens and foreign nationals that takes place on US soil and departs from the criminal justice system – trying to establish that would be very difficult.”

2. Criminal trials in the US

Obama aides have also said Guantanamo’s remaining detainees could be prosecuted in federal criminal courts.

Doing so in the US would grant the detainees legal rights equivalent to those of citizens, thus creating a host of problems for prosecutors.

More than 750 prisoners have been held at the detention centre since 2002 [GALLO/GETTY]

Evidence gathered through military interrogation or from intelligence sources could be thrown out.Defendents would also have the right to confront witnesses, which means undercover CIA officers or informants might have to take the stand, jeopardising their identities and revealing classified intelligence tactics.

The idea of bringing alleged terrorists onto US soil has also proved controversial.

Last year, the US senate overwhelmingly passed a non-binding bill opposing bringing detainees to the United States.

John Cornyn, a Republican senate judiciary committee member, says it would be a “colossal mistake to treat terrorism as a mere crime”.

“It would be a stunning disappointment if one of the new administration’s first priorities is to give foreign terror suspects captured on the battlefield the same legal rights and protections as American citizens accused of crimes,” he said.

3. Trials in the US military court-martial system

Use of the US military’s court-martial system is another possible option to try Guantanamo detainees.

Could the US use its own military justice system
to try detainees? [GALLO/GETTY]

“The court martial system could be adapted very easily by congress – I think that’s by far the better option,” Scott Silliman, a law professor at Duke University and director of the Center on Law, Ethics and National Security, told Al Jazeera.A US federal trial, like the case brought against Zacarias Moussaoui, who was convicted of conspiring to kill US citizens in the September 11 attacks, could be drawn out over several years.

However, courts-martial, which unlike federal trials can take place outside the US, but maintain a higher standard of evidence than that of the current military tribunals used by the Bush administration.

But critics have also said that the higher standard of evidence could create problems for the prosecuting teams similar to that in criminal trials.

Silliman, however, says the US has much to gain from the system, in terms of credibility, for holding detainees to the same standards as its own military forces.

4. Repatriation

For the detainees which the government maintains no evidence of criminality, Obama advisers told the Associated Press news agency on Monday that they would probably be returned to the countries where they were captured for continued detention or rehabilitation.

The outgoing administration contends this is easier said than done.

“We’ve tried very hard to explain to people how complicated it is,” Dana Perino, a spokeswoman for the White House, says. “When you pick up people off the battlefield that have a terrorist background, it’s not just so easy to let them go.”

Some governments have denied that the Guantanamo prisoners are in fact their citizens, while others have been reluctant to agree to US requests to imprison or monitor former Guantanamo detainees.

The Bush administration says talks with Yemen for the release of around 90 Yemeni detainees into a rehabilitation programme have so far been fruitless.

5. Resettlement in other countries

At least 50 of Guantanamo’s inmates have already been cleared for release but the US government says they cannot be returned to their home countries for fear of torture and persecution.

Human Rights groups have called for a swift closure of Guantanamo Bay [AFP]

The US state department and international human rights groups have urged third-party countries to accept these Guantanamo prisoners.In Berlin on Monday, five rights groups issued a joint call to European governments to grant humanitarian resettlement and protection to detainees from China, Libya, Russia, Tunisia, and Uzbekistan, among others.

“This would have a double effect: helping to end the ordeal of an individual unlawfully held in violation of his human rights, and helping end the international human rights scandal that is Guantanamo,” Daniel Gorevan, who manages Amnesty International’s “Counter Terror with Justice” campaign, said.

Analysts have said international governments might be more willing to negotiate on this issue with an Obama administration because the president-elect has spoken out against unilateral US action, and is less likely to have as strict requirements.

6. Keeping Guantanamo open

The likelihood of keeping the Guantanamo Bay detention facility open is an apparently a slim one in part, because of the negative publicity the Obama administration would receive.

The facility has been condemned by the UN, the EU, and numerous human rights groups, and many in the US argue that the camp is also a liability.

Even George Bush acknowledged in 2006 he would “like to close” it.

“Guantanamo Bay, for most people is a lightning rod for everything that’s wrong with the United States,” Silliman says. “I’m not sure Obama would be able to back away from his campaign pledge.”

Were it to remain open, the US congress would be likely to have to pass a new law to keep the detainees there, and push through humanitarian and legal changes.

Another alternative is for the US to work with other countries to create jointly-operated detention facilities.

Whatever the plan the new administration pursues, Silliman says Obama isn’t likely to push through changes on January 21 – his first day in office.

“We should not expect it to take place in the first couple of weeks of his administration, or even in the first couple months,” he says.

“All of this is going to take time.”

Source