War on drugs goes literal: biowarfare on poppies

US and British forces in Afghanistan have been accused of waging biological warfare on poppy fields to stymie opium crop production.

Last week, the UK’s Daily Telegraph reported:

Poppy plants have been suffering from a mysterious disease which leaves them yellow and withered and slashes the yield of opium resin which is sold on and processed into heroin.

According to the Telegraph, yields have dropped by up to 90 per cent in some fields. Some Afghan farmers are blaming British and American soldiers for spraying the crops with the disease. Officials have denied involvement.

Jean-Luc Lemahieu, head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime in Afghanistan (UNODC), said that plant samples were currently being tested to confirm whether the origins of the disease are natural or human-induced.

Considering that spraying has been forbidden by the president of Afghanistan, “we start with the belief that this is a natural phenomenon,” says Lemanhieu. It could be due to insects such as aphids, or fungi, he says.

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223,190 Kids Legally Beaten in US Schools

For the first time in over 18 years, Congress has held hearings on the use of Corporal Punishment in U.S. Schools. In the coming weeks, Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (NY) will introduce a bill to institute a federal ban of corporal punishment in all US Schools.

Every 20 seconds of the school day, a child is beaten by an educator. Every 4 minutes, an educator beats a child so severely that she seeks medical attention. According to conservative reporting to the U.S. Department of Education 223,190 students were the victims of institutionalized violence at least once in the 2006-2007 school year, of which over 20,000 sought medical attention.

Pre-school age through high school, students are being beaten with boards, belts, paddles, and whips… in public schools… in the United States… and while corporal punishment has been repeatedly shown to be ineffective and has deleterious effects on students, the practice continues and is legal in 20 states.

The iron age practice of “corporal punishment” is still legal in 20 states and there are no federal laws prohibiting it. The National Association of School Nurses defines corporal punishment as “the intentional infliction of physical pain as a method of changing behavior. It may include methods such as hitting, slapping, punching, kicking, pinching, shaking, use of various objects (paddles, belts, sticks, or others), or painful body postures.”

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Christian ‘doctrine’ fueled dehumanization: UNPFII report

A groundbreaking report examining the roots of Christian domination over indigenous peoples and their lands was released this week at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues.

North American Representative to the Permanent Forum Tonya Gonnella Frichner, an attorney and founder of the American Indian Law Alliance, presented a preliminary study on the “Doctrine of Discovery” and its historical impacts on indigenous peoples, with a focus on how it became part of United States laws.

“The first thing indigenous peoples share is the experience of having been invaded by those who treated us without compassion because they considered us to be less than human,” said Frichner, a citizen of the Onondaga Nation serving her first term on the 16-member UNPFII.

Dehumanization leads to the second thing indigenous peoples share in common: Being treated on the basis of the belief that those who invaded our territories have a right of lordship or dominance over our existence and, therefore, have the right to take, grant, and dispose of our lands, territories, and resources without our permission or consent.”
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US school for disabled forces students to wear packs that deliver massive electric shocks

Mental Disability Rights International (MDRI)  has filed a report and urgent appeal with the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture alleging that the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center for the disabled, located in Massachusetts, violates the UN Convention against Torture.

The rights group submitted their report this week, titled “Torture not Treatment: Electric Shock and Long-Term Restraint in the United States on Children and Adults with Disabilities at the Judge Rotenberg Center,” after an in-depth investigation revealed use of restraint boards, isolation, food deprivation and electric shocks in efforts to control the behaviors of its disabled and emotionally troubled students.

Findings in the MDRI report include the center’s practice of subjecting children to electric shocks on the legs, arms, soles of feet and torso — in many cases for years — as well as some for more than a decade. Electronic shocks are administered by remote-controlled packs attached to a child’s back called a Graduated Electronic Decelerators (GEI).

The disabilities group notes that stun guns typically deliver three to four milliamps per shock. GEI packs, meanwhile, shock students with 45 milliamps — more than ten times the amperage of a typical stun gun.

A former employee of  the center told an investigator, “When you start working there, they show you this video which says the shock is ‘like a bee sting’ and that it does not really hurt the kids. One kid, you could smell the flesh burning, he had so many shocks. These kids are under constant fear, 24/7. They sleep with them on, eat with them on. It made me sick and I could not sleep. I prayed to God someone would help these kids.”

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U.S. says it has 5,113 nuclear warheads

WASHINGTON — The United States has 5,113 nuclear warheads in its stockpile and “several thousand” more retired warheads awaiting the junk pile, the Pentagon said Monday in an unprecedented accounting of a secretive arsenal born in the Cold War and now shrinking rapidly.

The Obama administration disclosed the size of its atomic stockpile going back to 1962 as part of a campaign to get other nuclear nations to be more forthcoming, and to improve its bargaining position against the prospect of a nuclear Iran.

“We think it is in our national security interest to be as transparent as we can be about the nuclear program of the United States,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told reporters at the United Nations, where she addressed a conference on containing the spread of nuclear weapons.

The United States previously has regarded such details as top secret.

The figure includes both “strategic,” or long-range weapons, and those intended for use at shorter range.

The Pentagon said the stockpile of 5,113 as of September 2009 represents a 75 percent reduction since 1989.

A rough count of deployed and reserve warheads has been known for years, so the Pentagon figures do not tell nuclear experts much they did not already know.

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Let Dr. Aafia go home, Mr. President

Reading all those legal thrillers by John Grisham and watching Hollywood blockbusters that portray innocent individuals framed and ensnared by a powerful system, one always thought: Of course, these things do not happen in real life.

I am not so sure anymore though. The abduction, persecution and now conviction of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui, a Massachusetts Institute of Technology-educated neuroscientist, by the U.S. authorities reads like a regulation Grisham thriller written for Hollywood.

Aafia disappeared with her three children on her way to Jinnah International Airport airport for Islamabad way back in 2003. Five years later, she was presented in a New York court in March 2008 as “a top al-Qaeda terrorist” and the “most dangerous woman on earth,” as United States Attorney General John Ashcroft put it.

The U.S. authorities claimed then that Aafia was captured near Ghazni governor’s office in Afghanistan with a bag that carried instructions on making explosives and a list of U.S. landmarks.

But more damningly, the U.S. authorities claimed that the frail mother of three attacked a team of eight U.S. soldiers, Federal Bureau of Investigation and Afghan officials in Ghazni with a highly sophisticated, heavy M-4 gun in Ghazni when they went to question her. Surprisingly though, it’s Aafia who ended up with two gunshot wounds, inflicted point blank. None of the officials she allegedly attacked sustained any injuries or wounds.

Last week, after months of courtroom drama and charade of a trial, Aafia was convicted of attempted murder and attacking U.S. soldiers and FBI officials with a deadly weapon.

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Justice Lawyers Try to Define Cyber War

Run for the hills! The Department of Justice‘s lawyers are trying to figure out just what would constitute an act of war during a cyber attack. OK, it may not be that bad, but the specter of a room full of government lawyers trying to decide what constitutes an act of war when it occurs via the Internet is not terribly reassuring.

To be fair, no one has come up with a decent answer to what turns out to be a very thorny question. The hardest question to answer in cyber war is the one that used to be pretty simple: who attacked us. But the structural anonymity of the web allows attackers to mask their origins.

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U.S. Senators Seek Changes to Plan Colombia

WASHINGTON – Three influential Democratic senators have urged Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to review the U.S. contribution to the counter-narcotics initiative known as Plan Colombia in light of Bogota’s scant progress in reducing cocaine production or curbing human rights abuses.

“Given U.S. record budget deficits, we cannot afford to continue assistance that is not achieving sufficient results,” Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, Vermont’s Patrick Leahy and Christopher Dodd of Connecticut said.

Feingold sits on the Senate Foreign Relations, Budget and Intelligence Committees, Leahy chairs the Judiciary Committee and Dodd is chairman of the Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Peace Corps, and Narcotics Affairs.

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David Kelly post mortem to be kept secret for 70 years as doctors accuse Lord Hutton of concealing vital information

Vital evidence which could solve the mystery of the death of Government weapons inspector Dr David Christopher Kelly will be kept under wraps for up to 70 years.

In a draconian – and highly unusual – order, Lord Hutton, the peer who chaired the controversial inquiry into the Dr Kelly scandal, has secretly barred the release of all medical records, including the results of the post mortem, and unpublished evidence.

The move, which will stoke fresh speculation about the true circumstances of Dr Kelly’s death, comes just days before Tony Blair appears before the Chilcot Inquiry into the Iraq War.

It is also bound to revive claims of an establishment cover-up and fresh questions about the verdict that Dr Kelly killed himself.

Tonight, Dr Michael Powers QC, a doctor campaigning to overturn the Hutton findings, said: ‘What is it about David Kelly’s death which is so secret as to justify these reports being kept out of the public domain for 70 years?’

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UN removes Taliban officials from blacklist

The United Nations has removed five former Taliban officials from its blacklist as part of reconciliation efforts in war-weary Afghanistan.

The de-listing, which came on Wednesday, was approved by a special Security Council committee.

The UN said in a statement that the five Afghan nationals would no longer be subject to a freeze on their assets and a travel ban.

The move comes after Afghan President Hamid Karzai called for the lifting of the 2001 UN sanctions against some Taliban leaders.

Karzai had said he would propose the idea at the international conference on Afghanistan which is scheduled to be held in London on Thursday.

The Afghan president says the United States and Britain will show their support for his plan at the conference.
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United Nations report blasts US over human rights abuses

A United Nations report says the US has been violating basic human rights by kidnapping and holding terrorism suspects in secret detention centers during the past nine years.

The US is among dozens of countries that have kidnapped suspects, four independent UN rights investigators said in a year-long study based on flight data and interviews with 30 former detainees.

“On a global scale, secret detention in connection with counter-terrorist policies remains a serious problem,” they wrote in the 226-page report which is expected to be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in March.

“Secret detention as such may constitute torture or ill-treatment for the direct victims as well as their families,” the report said.

Victims and their families deserve compensation and those responsible should be prosecuted, said the four independent investigators.

The UN report explained that the purpose of the secret detentions was to cover up torture and inhuman treatment of the detainees in an effort to obtain information or silent the subjects.

The rights investigators said running facilities such as those used by the Nazis, the Soviet gulag system and Latin American dictatorships in the 1970s and ’80s, was banned under the internationally recognized laws laid out in the Geneva Conventions.

They also said establishment of secret detention could not be justified under any circumstances, including during states of emergency or armed conflict.
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Government posting wealth of data to Internet

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration on Friday is posting to the Internet a wealth of government data from all Cabinet-level departments, on topics ranging from child car seats to Medicare services.

The mountain of newly available information comes a year and a day after President Barack Obama promised on his first full day on the job an open, transparent government.

Under a Dec. 8 White House directive, each department must post online at least three collections of “high-value” government data that never have been previously disclosed.

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Dutch probe declares Iraq war ‘illegal’

An independent probe investigating the Netherlands‘ support for the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq says the US and Britain rushed to war without sufficient legal backing under international law.

The commission’s 551-page report says United Nations resolutions prior to the outbreak of the war did not provide the mandate for the attack.

“There was insufficient legitimacy” for the invasion, commission chairman Willibrord (Brord) Jacob Maria Davids told journalists in The Hague on Tuesday.

The report further concludes that there was no legal basis for the Iraq war, while accusing the Dutch government of spicing up allegation that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction — the main mantra on which arguments for war were erected.
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America’s Secret ICE Castles

“If you don’t have enough evidence to charge someone criminally but you think he’s illegal, we can make him disappear.” Those chilling words were spoken by James Pendergraph, then executive director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement‘s (ICE) Office of State and Local Coordination, at a conference of police and sheriffs in August 2008. Also present was Amnesty International‘s Sarnata Reynolds, who wrote about the incident in the 2009 report “Jailed Without Justice” and said in an interview, “It was almost surreal being there, particularly being someone from an organization that has worked on disappearances for decades in other countries. I couldn’t believe he would say it so boldly, as though it weren’t anything wrong.”

ICE agents regularly impersonate civilians–Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspectors, insurance agents, religious workers–in order to arrest longtime US residents who have no criminal history. Jacqueline Stevens has reported a web-exclusive companion piece on ICE agents’ ruse operations.

Pendergraph knew that ICE could disappear people, because he knew that in addition to the publicly listed field offices and detention sites, ICE is also confining people in 186 unlisted and unmarked subfield offices, many in suburban office parks or commercial spaces revealing no information about their ICE tenants–nary a sign, a marked car or even a US flag. (Presumably there is a flag at the Department of Veterans Affairs Complex in Castle Point, New York, but no one would associate it with the Criminal Alien Program ICE is running out of Building 7.) Designed for confining individuals in transit, with no beds or showers, subfield offices are not subject to ICE Detention Standards. The subfield office network was mentioned in an October report by Dora Schriro, then special adviser to Janet Ann Napolitano, secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, but no locations were provided.

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Russia surprised by U.S., EU stance on UN anti-Nazi resolution

Russia is concerned over the stance of the United States and the European Union on a United Nations resolution condemning the glorification of Nazism and the desecration of World War II monuments, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia said on Sunday.

The United Nations General Assembly adopted on December 18, 2009 a draft resolution proposed by Russia on combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance.

The resolution is aimed at condemning attempts to heroize the Nazi movement and former Waffen-SS members and desecrate monuments to the fighters against Nazism.

“It is highly bewildering and regrettable that the United States voted against the resolution, supported by an overwhelming majority of UN member states, and a number of states, including all European Union members, abstained in the vote on the draft,” the ministry said in a statement.

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Serbia will submit EU candidacy bid

The Serbian government on Saturday decided formally to submit a membership bid to join the European Union.

A decision on when that bid is formally submitted will depend upon Sweden, which currently holds the rotating EU presidency, Serbian Prime Minister Mirko Cvetković, told RTS television in Belgrade.

Serbia has been under pressure to increase its cooperation with the United Nations war crimes tribunal in The Hague before its bid is likely to be successful.

The Netherlands, in particular, has been blocking Serbia’s hope of membership, due to a lack of arrests of fugitives, in particular Ratko Mladić.

Mladić was an army chief of the Army of the Republika Srpska (Bosnian Serb Army), and is wanted in relation to the killing of around 8,000 Muslims in Srebrenica in 1995 – an area for which Dutch UN peacekeeping forces were responsible.

The announcement of the bid came on the day that the EU allowed visa-free travel for citizens of Serbia, Macedonia and Montenegro.

On November 30, the EU decided to scrap the strict visa regime for states within the Schengen Area. The move comes 17 years after they were imposed amid the break-up of the former Yugoslavia that featured bloody wars.

EU officials said the decision to scrap visas for the three former Yugoslav republics was a signal affirming their European future.

All three are aspiring EU members, but only Macedonia has formally attained the status of a candidate. Of the former Yugoslav republics, Slovenia joined the EU in 2004 and Croatia is next in line.

The visa-free regime applies to 25 out of 27 EU countries, as well as Norway, Switzerland and Iceland. Visas are however needed for Britain and Ireland, countries that are not members of the so-called Schengen Zone.

Copenhagen Accord

Three page draft Copehagen Accord, from around Friday 7pm, Dec 18, 2009; includes pen-markings.

The Copenhagen Accord is the document that delegates at the United Nations Climate Change Conference agreed to “take note of” at the final plenary session of the Conference on 18 December 2009.

The Accord is not legally binding, and does not commit countries ever to agree a binding successor to the Kyoto Protocol, whose present round ends in 2012.  The BBC immediately reported that the status and legal implications of the Copenhagen Accord were unclear.

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Obama ordered deadly blitz on Yemen: US media

US Nobel Peace Prize Laureate President Barack Obama has signed the order for a recent military strike on Yemen in which scores of civilians, including children, have been killed, a report says.

Upon the orders of Obama, the military warplanes on Thursday blanketed two camps in the North of the Yemeni capital, Sana’a, claiming there were “an imminent attack against a US asset was being planned,” ABC News quoted anonymous administration officials as saying on Friday.

The US air raids were then followed by a Yemeni ground forces incursion.

The attacks led to the death of around 120 people of whom many were civilians including children, the report quoted Yemeni opposition as saying.

Obama also contacted Yemen’s President, Ali Abdullah Saleh, after the blitz in order to “congratulate” him on his efforts against ‘al-Qaeda,’ the US news outlet quoted White House officials as telling reporters earlier.
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UN ombudsman to review list of terrorist suspects

An ombudsman is now to consider the delisting of terrorist suspects from the United Nations list of Al Qaeda and Taliban members as the Security Council adopted a resolution intended to bring ‘fairness and transparency’ to its anti-terrorism efforts.

The decision, driven by repeated criticism that non-suspects might be included in the 500-member list, was taken unanimously by the 15-nation council on Thursday.

Those listed will now have an opportunity to file a request to be removed from the sanctions list.

In line with the resolution 1904, a post of ombudsperson, who will have to review requests “in an independent and impartial manner”, is to be established for an initial period of 18 months.

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Spy agencies closely monitoring climate change talks

I have written before about the increasing involvement of intelligence agencies in ongoing climate change negotiations between the world’s governments.

In October, the Central Intelligence Agency announced the establishment of its Center on Climate Change and National Security, despite fierce opposition by Republican lawmakers.

Earlier this month, it was alleged that the hackers who stole and leaked onto the Internet hundreds of University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit emails were operating via a Russian military and security network, a claim that has been disputed by the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB – Federal’naya sluzhba bezopasnosti Rossiyskoy Federatsii).

However, a recent article in Australian daily The Canberra Times provides the first mainstream indication that a Western intelligence agency is “giving top priority” to the 2009 United Nations Climate Change Conference currently taking place in Denmark. The paper cites “intelligence and diplomatic sources” in claiming that the government of Australian Prime Minister Kevin Michael Rudd is relying on the country’s intelligence apparatus to gain “a critical negotiating advantage” over other countries participating in the talks.

Spearheading the Australian effort appears to be the Defence Signals Directorate (DSD), the Australian military’s communications interception organization, guided by directives from the country’s federal National Intelligence Collection Committee, a coordinating body founded in 2008. It is worth noting that much of the intelligence collection on climate change is not from open sources, but rather from “secret intelligence, especially signals intelligence”, which provides Australian decision-makers with “insights into what foreign governments are really thinking”, according to the article.

Drug money saved banks from collapse

While banks were enduring a severe financial downturn, they absorbed billions of dollars in drugs money, says Antonio Maria Costa, head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

Costa told the Observer that drugs money “saved banks from collapse” at the height of the global financial crisis, the Daily Mail reported on Sunday.

The head of the UNODC said there were signs that some banks were rescued by billions of dollars that “originated from the drugs trade and other illegal activities”.

Speaking from his office in Vienna, Costa referred to the problem faced by many banks in the second half of 2008, as they were no longer able to lend each other.

“The system was basically paralyzed because of the unwillingness of banks to lend money to one another,” he told the newspaper.

Analysts maintain that following the collapse of US lender Lehman Brothers in September 2008, the inter-bank market system was also paralyzed and no longer could keep the constant flow of liquidity to the banks.

This, they claim, paved the way for banks to absorb drugs money that came to the salvage of some of the banks.

Costa noted there were evidence supporting the idea that the proceeds of organized crime were the “only liquid investment capital” available to some banks on the verge of collapse last year.

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UN Equipped Congolese Army That Carried Out Atrocities

United Nations peacekeeping officials were explicitly warned months ago by their legal advisers not to participate in combat operations with the Congolese Army if there were a risk that Congolese soldiers might abuse human rights, internal documents show. But the mission went forward — and the abuses took place as feared.

According to United Nations documents provided to The New York Times, the United Nations Office of Legal Affairs wrote to the head of the peacekeeping department in April and said that peacekeepers “cannot participate in any form of joint operation” with the Congolese Army, “if there are substantial grounds for believing there to be a real risk of them violating international humanitarian law.”

The warnings proved prescient. A few months later, Congolese government soldiers, who had been supplied with ammunition and food by United Nations peacekeepers, killed hundreds of civilians, gang-raped girls and even cut the heads off some young men, according to human rights groups.

Many United Nations officials seemed to fear this could happen and the documents from the legal affairs office reveal the level of internal debate — and discomfort — about working hand in hand with the Congolese Army, which over the years has been widely blamed for looting, raping and killing the very population it is responsible for protecting.

“We knew this was a risky operation,” said Alain Le Roy, under secretary general for peacekeeping operations, in an interview Wednesday. But, he added, “We have no other option.”

Ex-British diplomat: Iraq war was illegitimate

The former UK ambassador to the UN, Sir Jeremy Greenstock says that the 2003 invasion of Iraq was “of questionable legitimacy”.

Greenstock was speaking on day four of public hearings at a wide-ranging inquiry into the US-led, British-backed Iraq War covering the period from 2001 to 2009.

Jeremy Greenstock said the United States seemed to be “preparing for conflict” despite British efforts to secure consensus following a United Nations resolution in November 2002 giving Saddam Hussein a last warning to disarm, AFP reported.

United Nations Security Council Resolution 1441 in late 2002 gave Iraq a “final opportunity to comply with its disarmament obligations” but the council did not ultimately agree to a second resolution clearly authorizing the March 2003 invasion.

This meant the invasion was “legal but of questionable legitimacy, in that it didn’t have the democratically observable backing of the great majority of member states,” Greenstock said in spoken evidence to the Chilcot inquiry.

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Let’s Eliminate Welfare for Terrorists

Of all the factors on the table in the current Afghan strategic review, the War on Drugs and its unintended consequences should be front and center. Our 95-year effort to create a Drug Free America by enforcing world-wide prohibition has twisted our foreign policy out of shape all over the globe and the nightmare in Afghanistan is just the latest manifestation.

It seems to be an open secret that President Hamid Karzai‘s brother is a player in the heroin trade, and the whole administration in Kabul is said to be riddled with corruption. Unfortunately, the replacement of Karzai, even if that proved possible, would not change the fundamental dynamic. Nearly a tenth of the population relies on the illegal opium industry for their daily bread. Corruption will be the norm as long as the American people are willing to invest limitless resources manning an arbitrary barricade between the sellers and buyers.

Unfortunately narco-corruption, like narcotics themselves, can penetrate any border and there is growing evidence that this cancer has metastasized into every nook and cranny of the known world. Consider, for example, this headline from London: “Corrupt officers exist throughout the UK police service.”

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Poll: US views Israel exempted from law

The US apparently views Israel as being exempted from abiding by international law, the results of a recent online opinion poll indicate.

Press TV asked in an online poll about the respondents’ opinion on a recent motion by the US congressmen against the Goldstone report (United Nations Fact Finding Mission on the Gaza Conflict), which accused Israel of war crimes during its December onslaught on Gaza which killed 1,387 Palestinians.

The report was published on September 25 by Richard Goldstone, the head of the United Nations Fact-Finding Mission on Gaza Conflict.

More than 56 percent of respondents said Israel was viewed by the US as exempted from abiding by international law.

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15-fold rise in birth defects in Fallujah

There has been a 15-fold rise in birth defects and early childhood cancers in the war-ravaged enclave of Fallujah, the site of two major battles after the Iraq invasion, doctors say.

Dr. Ayman Qais said that before the war began in 2003, there were sporadic numbers of deformities in babies, but now the frequency of deformities “is increasing dramatically.”

“We are seeing a very significant increase in central nervous system anomalies,” Dr. Qais added.

Doctors of Fallujah’s over-stretched health system say they are unsure of what is behind the spike in birth defects, but suggest it may be linked to the toxic materials left over from the fighting.

The city was the site of some of the worst fighting of the war, including a battle in which the United States admitted to using white phosphorus in 2004.

There have also been unconfirmed reports that US troops used depleted uranium munitions in Fallujah.
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UN: West Africa on verge of producing drugs

West Africa is on the verge of becoming a source for drugs as well as a transit point, the United Nations drug chief warned Thursday.

Antonio Maria Costa told the United Nations Security Council that since July his office and Interpol have been investigating numerous West African sites where they found large amounts of chemicals used to produce high grade cocaine and manufacture Ecstasy.

Costa, who directs the Vienna-based United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, reminded the council that five years ago his office rang “the alarm bells” to warn the world about the destabilizing impact of cocaine trafficking from Latin America to Europe via West Africa, especially through Guinea-Bissau.

In the past 18 months, Costa said, his office has noted “a significant drop” in drug seizures in West Africa and a similarly “strong decline in European drug seizures with West Africa as the suspected source.”

“Since, generally, trends in seizures are a good proxy to determine what’s happening to actual drug flows, we conclude that drug trafficking through the region has declined.” he said.

Costa warned, however, that “this trend must be interpreted cautiously” because Europe’s craving for cocaine persists and trafficking routes may have moved further south or inland.

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British nuclear expert’s 17th floor UN death plunge ‘was not suicide’

A British nuclear expert who fell from the 17th floor of a United Nations building did not commit suicide and may have been hurled to his death, says a doctor who carried out a second post-mortem examination.

Timothy Hampton, 47, a scientist involved in monitoring nuclear activity, was found dead last week at the bottom of a stairwell in Vienna.

An initial autopsy concluded that there were ‘no suspicious circumstances’. But it is understood that Mr Hampton’s widow Olena Gryshcuk and her family were deeply unhappy with that verdict.

Now a doctor who undertook a second post-mortem examination on behalf of the family believes she has found evidence that Mr Hampton did not die by his own hands.

Professor Kathrin Yen, of the Ludwig Boltzmann Institut in Graz, Austria, which specializes in traumatology research, said she had more tests to complete on Mr Hampton, who had a three-year-old son with Ms Gryshcuk.

But she said one possible theory was that Mr Hampton was carried to the 17th floor from his workplace on the sixth floor and thrown to his death.

Professor Yen used new forensic techniques to detect internal bruising caused by strangulation which would not be visible to the eye.

She said: ‘In my opinion, it does not look like suicide. My example is that somebody took him up to the top floor and took him down.

‘At the moment I don’t have the police reports. We did a CT scan. From the external exam, I saw injuries on the neck but these were not due to strangulation.’

It is expected to take three weeks for blood test results to come back. Austrian police said they believe Mr Hampton committed suicide.

He had been working for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) at the UN building.

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Occupiers involved in drug trade: Afghan minister

The Afghan minister of counter narcotics says foreign troops are earning money from drug production in Afghanistan.

General Khodaidad Khodaidad said the majority of drugs are stockpiled in two provinces controlled by troops from the US, the UK, and Canada, Islamic Republic News Agency reported on Saturday.

He went on to say that North Atlantic Treaty Organizaton forces are taxing the production of opium in the regions under their control.

Afghanistan is the world’s biggest supplier of opium.

Drug production in the Central Asian country has increased dramatically since the US-led invasion eight years ago.

A recent report by the United Nations states that Afghan opium is having a devastating impact on the world, killing thousands in consumer countries.

Meanwhile, The New York Times reported on Wednesday that Ahmed Wali Karzai, a brother of the Afghan president, is involved in the opium trade, meets with Taliban leaders, and is also a Central Intelligence Agency operative.

The opium trade is the major source of Taliban financing.

UN says US drone strikes may violate international law

US unmanned aerial vehicle (drone) strikes against suspected terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan could be breaking international laws against summary executions, the United Nations top investigator of such crimes said.

“The problem with the United States is that it is making an increased use of drones/Predators (which are) particularly prominently used now in relation to Pakistan and Afghanistan,” UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions Philip Alston told a press conference.

“My concern is that drones/Predators are being operated in a framework which may well violate international humanitarian law and international human rights law,” he said.

US strikes with remote-controlled aircraft against Al-Qaeda and Taliban targets in Afghanistan and northwestern Pakistan have often resulted in civilian deaths and drawn bitter criticism from local populations.

“The onus is really on the United States government to reveal more about the ways in which it makes sure that arbitrary extrajudicial executions aren’t in fact being carried out through the use of these weapons,” he added.

Alston said he presented a report on the matter to the UN General Assembly.

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Individual Rights Must Come Before Protecting Religious Institutions

The Obama Administration has changed the way the United States relates to the world.  I tend to think this is good on many levels, but change can be nerve-racking.  An example of this is the recent United Nations Human Rights Council resolution regarding freedom of opinion and expression co-authored by the U.S. and Egypt.  (You read that right.  Egypt, who has demonstrated little interest or understanding of freedom of speech, was our co-author.)  The diplomatic importance of reaching out and demonstrating goodwill to our neighbors in the world is obvious, but this resolution makes even some strident Obama supporters a little nervous.

If this resolution, Promotion and Protection of All Human Rights, Civil, Political, Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights, Including the Right to Development, is anything, it is another humdrum example of why diplomatic documents accomplish so little.  Wait, don’t leave.  Before all three of my readers bolt due to a fear of another boring, wonky policy talk; I will step this up.

Some get to Section 4 and begin to hyperventilate.  In it, the Council expresses concern “that incidents of racial and religious intolerance, discrimination and related violence, as well as of negative racial and religious stereotyping continue to rise around the world, and condemns, in this context, any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence, and urges States to take effective measures, consistent with their obligations under international human rights law, to address and combat such incidents.”

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Waco Siege “Enforcer” To Rule Over Global Police Force

Waco Siege Enforcer To Rule Over Global Police Force 121009top2

Paul Joseph Watson
Prison Planet.com
Monday, October 12, 2009

United Nations and Interpol officials will meet today to discuss the formation of a “global police force” that would enjoy access to a worldwide database of DNA, biometric and fingerprint records. The effort will be spearheaded by a man known as “The Enforcer” who helped federal authorities both conduct and cover up the murderous Waco Siege which killed 76 people in 1993.

“Interpol and the United Nations are poised to become partners in fighting crime by jointly grooming a global police force that would be deployed as peacekeepers among rogue nations riven by war and organized crime, officials from both organizations say,” reports the New York Times.

The emergence of a global police force is of course something that people like Alex Jones have been warning about for well over a decade. The global police force, just like the world army, is a key centerpiece of the march towards a dictatorial global government.

Those who were once called paranoid conspiracy theorists for claiming that the plan all along has been to centralize law enforcement into a global body run by the world government under the auspices of the UN and Interpol have been proven right once again.

For a taste of what Americans who aren’t so favorable to taking orders from foreigners on home soil can expect, consider the fact that the secretary general of Interpol, and one of the men at the forefront of setting up the global police force, is none other than Ronald K. Noble.

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New York police comes down on Russia Today correspondent

As the United Nations session continued, Russia Today (RT) correspondent Marina Portnaya was verbally abused and harassed by overzealous New York City Police Department officers.

She was prevented from broadcasting and denied the use of her phone, but was later told she had done nothing wrong.

However, a live broadcast associate was told that our correspondent still could not broadcast live from outside the UN. Eurovision New York – the company managing the site – put out the following statement through its senior producer, Ian Johnson:

“Your correspondent got into a confrontation with the New York Police Department and they have denied her access to our stand-up position outside the United Nations as a result. She has attempted to go back, and the police have again denied her access.”

“We have been warned by the NYPD that our operation will be shut down if they see her involved in a live shot from our position,” the statement says.

United Nations Backs Drug Decriminalization In World Drug Report

In an about face, the United Nations on Wednesday lavishly praised drug decriminalization in its annual report on the state of global drug policy. In previous years, the UN drug czar had expressed skepticism about Portugal’s decriminalization, which removed criminal penalties in 2001 for personal drug possession and emphasized treatment over incarceration. The UN had suggested the policy was in violation of international drug treaties and would encourage “drug tourism.”

But in its 2009 World Drug Report, the UN had little but kind words for Portugal’s radical (by U.S. standards) approach. “These conditions keep drugs out of the hands of those who would avoid them under a system of full prohibition, while encouraging treatment, rather than incarceration, for users. Among those who would not welcome a summons from a police officer are tourists, and, as a result, Portugal’s policy has reportedly not led to an increase in drug tourism,” reads the report. “It also appears that a number of drug-related problems have decreased.”

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Comment: Get real, drug czars

ELEVEN years ago, the United Nations pledged to win the war on drugs within a decade. It has failed.

At this year’s meeting of the UN Commission on Narcotic Drugs, held in Vienna in March, there was a two-day session to evaluate the progress since 1998. In his opening remarks, the head of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Antonio Maria Costa, claimed “measurable progress”. The drug problem has been “contained”, he said, and drug use has “stabilized”.

Costa’s position flies in the face of the evidence, and by the end of the meeting he was on the defensive. But he said the goal remains the same, and he reiterated the UN’s position: that the choice for the world’s nations is either to apply strict prohibition or concede to total legalization.

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EU nations eye prosecution of Bush officials

European officials and lawyers seek to criminalize former US officials over torture charges amid the reluctance of President Barack Obama.

A number of European authorities and human rights groups have expressed dissatisfaction with Obama’s failure to press charges against ex-CIA authorities who sanctioned or administered the so-called ‘enhanced interrogation methods’ to terror suspects, saying that they will make an effort to delve into the torture case under a “universal jurisdiction” code.

Civil rights campaigners say the legal code adopted by some EU countries, authorizes lawyers across the globe to file lawsuits against war criminals, perpetrators of genocides and other human rights offenses, regardless of their country of residence.

In Spain and Germany, lawyers and social liberties activists have brought charges in domestic courts against former US authorities including the ex-defense secretary, Donald Rumsfeld.

The European pursuit of charges against previous US administration officials for deliberately undermining the United Nations Convention Against Torture has sparked concerns in the US.

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US military admits killing mother, children

A US soldier, stands guard in the Inzeri
village of Tagab Valley, Afghanistan.

The US military in Afghanistan has admitted that four of its troops killed non-combatants in a raid that included a mother and her children.

Afghan officials and witnesses had earlier accused US forces of killing civilians in an overnight raid in the eastern province of Khost. However, the US military had initially claimed that those who had been killed were ‘four combatants’.

“Further inquiries into the coalition and ANSF (Afghan National Security Force) operation in Khost earlier Thursday suggest that the people killed and wounded were not enemy combatants as previously reported,” the military US said.

Civilian casualties caused by western forces in Afghanistan have sparked frequent anger and resentment, leading President Hamid Karzai to accuse them of not taking enough care.

Karzai has told the foreign forces in Afghanistan to work in close consultation with Afghan authorities to avoid harming civilians.

The United Nations said in February that a record 2,118 civilians were killed in the Afghan conflict in 2008, with nearly 40 percent of the deaths caused by pro-government forces, including US-led NATO troops.

In Defense of Pirates

Hazardous waste
on Somalian shore
(scidev.net)

If I’m to believe the mainstream press and pundits (most disappointingly, Rachel Maddow,) there are bands of inexplicably evil men sailing around the Horn of Africa, pillaging ships and terrorizing sailors simply because they are pirates. And pirates are evil. End of story.

Except, that’s a rather shallow interpretation of what’s happening in the Somalian waters. Acts of piracy are acts of desperation, and not the acts of evil men. Of course, terrorizing civilians is never acceptable, though I would like to point out my own government is guilty of crimes against humanity that far exceed any acts of Somalian piracy.

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Wikileaks cracks NATO’s Master Narrative for Afghanistan

Wikileaks has cracked the encryption to a key document relating to the war in Afghanistan. The document, titled “NATO in Afghanistan: Master Narrative”, details the “story” NATO representatives are to give to, and to avoid giving to, journalists.

The encrypted document, which is dated October 6, and believed to be current, can be found on the Pentagon Central Command (CENTCOM) website oneteam.centcom.mil.

[UPDATE: Fri Feb 27 15:18:38 GMT 2009, the entire Pentagon site is now down--probably in response to this editorial, parts of the site can still be seen in google's cache ]

The encryption password is progress, which perhaps reflects the Pentagon’s desire to stay on-message, even to itself.

Among the revelations, which we encourage the press to review in detail, is Jordan‘s presence as secret member of the US lead occupation force, the ISAF.

Jordan is a middle eastern monarchy, backed by the US, and historically the CIA‘s closest partner in its extraordinary rendition program. “the practice of torture is routine” in the country, according to a January 2007 report by UN special investigator for torture, Manfred Nowak.[1]

The document states NATO spokespersons are to keep Jordan’s involvement secret. Publicly, Jordan withdrew in 2001 and the country does not appear on this month’s public list of ISAF member states.[2]

Some other notes on matters to treat delicately are:

  • Any decision on the end date/end state will be taken by the respective national and/or Alliance political committee. Under no circumstances should the mission end-date be a topic for speculation in public by any NATO/ISAF spokespeople.
  • The term “compensation” is inappropriate and should not be used because it brings with it legal implications that do not apply.
  • Any talk of stationing or deploying Russian military assets in Afghanistan is out of the question and has never been the subject of any considerations.
  • Only if pressed: ISAF forces are frequently fired at from inside Pakistan, very close to the border. In some cases defensive fire is required, against specific threats. Wherever possible, such fire is pre-coordinated with the Pakistani military.

Altogether four classified or restricted NATO documents on the Pentagon Central Command (CENTCOM) site were discovered to share the ‘progress’ password. Wikileaks has decrypted the documents and released them in full:

Now that’s progress.

Notes

  1. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/11/30/AR2007113002484_pf.html
  2. http://www.nato.int/isaf/docu/epub/pdf/isaf_placemat.pdf

U. N. Crime Chief Says Drug Money Used To Keep Banks Afloat

VIENNA: The United Nations‘ crime and drug watchdog has indications that money made in illicit drug trade has been used to keep banks afloat in the global financial crisis, its head was quoted as saying on Sunday.

Vienna-based UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa said in an interview released by Austrian weekly Profil that drug money often became the only available capital when the crisis spiraled out of control last year.

“In many instances, drug money is currently the only liquid investment capital,” Costa was quoted as saying by Profil. “In the second half of 2008, liquidity was the banking system’s main problem and hence liquid capital became an important factor.”

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US veto blocks UN anti-Israel resolution

The UN Security Council has been unable to force an end to Israeli attacks against Gaza due to the intervention of the United States.

Washington once again used its veto powers on Sunday to block a resolution calling for an end to the massive ongoing Israeli attacks against the Gaza Strip.

See also:

Israeli blockade forces Palestinians to search rubbish dumps for food

1000 Palestinian kids in Israeli jails

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