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Is The Dietitians’ Trade Group in Bed with the Junk Food Industry?

The largest trade group of nutrition professionals—the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics—has a serious credibility problem.

The Academy represents 74,000 dietitians in the United States, and its mission is to promote optimal nutrition and well being for all people. But according to an explosive report released by Food Revolution Summit speaker Michele Simon and her organization, the industry watchdog Eat Drink Politics, the Academy is sponsored by folks like ConAgra, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, Kellogg’s, Mars, and the National Dairy Council.

AND

Some Academy sponsors can become an “Academy Partner,” which entitles them to “educate” nutrition professionals about the health benefits of their products, co-sponsor events, and conduct educational sessions at meetings.  They also can use the Academy’s logo in marketing campaigns.

The report from Eat Drink Politics details how registered dietitians can earn continuing education units from Coca-Cola, in which they learn that sugar is not a problem for children. In addition to Coca-Cola, companies on the Academy’s list of approved continuing education providers include Kraft Foods, Nestlé, and PepsiCo.

Despite its enormous clout, and its nutritional advocacy mission, the Academy has thus far refused to endorse some of the steps that many experts agree could improve public health and expand health freedom, including limits on soft drink sizes, taxes on sugary sodas, or the labeling of genetically engineered foods. Could there be any connection between the millions of dollars in sponsorship the Academy receives from junk food manufacturers, and a seeming lack of initiative on behalf of the public welfare?

Fortunately, not all dietitians pass on the propaganda of the Academy’s sponsors. There are many hard-working and dedicated dietitians who base the guidance they offer their clients on the latest learnings of nutritional science. One of the inspiring dietitians of our times is bestselling author, plant-strong nutrition expert, and 2013 Food Revolution Summit speaker Brenda Davis, R.D,.

Brenda notes that many dietitians feel uncomfortable having their trade association intertwined with the processed food industry, and references a survey which found that 80% of them feel that the Academy is endorsing corporate sponsors and their products when it allows their sponsorship.

She comments: “It’s time for us to base the nutritional guidance we offer, and the policies we support, on what we know is best for the health and wellness of a population that is riddled with obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer. The science is clear: a whole foods, plant-strong diet that is low in sugar and processed foods, and high in nutrients and fresh foods, can help you thrive, and can dramatically reduce your risk of diet and lifestyle-induced diseases.”

Inspired by Michele Simon’s report, and fed up with their association’s junk food ties, on February 12 a group of dietitians launched Dietitians for Professional Integrity. Their goal is to advocate for more ethical, socially responsible, and relevant corporate sponsorships within the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  More than 500 members joined in the first two days.

For more on Eat Drink Politics, or to sign up their informative newsletter, click here.

To join the Food Revolution, and get free tools, inspiration and support to help you take action for healthier food and food systems, click here.

Ocean Robbins

Ocean Robbins serves as adjunct professor at Chapman University and is co-host (with best-selling author John Robbins) and CEO of the 85,000 member Food Revolution Network.
Find out more and sign up for free here.

French fathers climb 40-meter-high cranes, demand right to see their children

By-standers watch Serge Charnay standing on a 43-meter crane on February 17, 2013.(AFP Photo / Frank Perry)

By-standers watch Serge Charnay standing on a 43-meter crane on February 17, 2013.(AFP Photo / Frank Perry)

Two fathers denied the right to see their children have climbed and occupied giant shipyard cranes in Nantes, France, and are demanding the review of their court decisions. One man has been camped out on the crane for two days.

Serge Charnay, 43, scaled one of the cranes on Friday morning. On the lower platform of the 40-meter-high structure Charnay unfurled a homemade banner with big block letters reading, “Benoît, two years without a dad.”

Charnay was not only denied custody of his son, but was also denied visiting rights two years ago after he was accused of kidnapping his child for taking him on a two-month vacation, instead of the one month allowed. Charnay also served a four-month prison term for the offense. He has demanded that the visitation prohibition be annulled. 

Crisis negotiators have been unable to get Charnay to come down from the crane. “I will stay here as long as it would take to obtain something significant. Review of the court decision… which destroyed my family and our lives!” Charnay said, according to Le Parisien.

The day after Charnay’s ascent, his friend in a similar situation followed suit and occupied another crane a few hundred meters away. 

“Father once = father forever” and “Fathers in trouble, fathers in solidarity” were written on banners put up by Nicolas Moreno, 34, who is in a legal battle for the right to see his two sons, Evan and Lucas. It’s not Moreno's first protest effort either: In November 2012, he went on a three-week-long hunger strike in front of the Valence court house.

“It’s an act of solidarity in support of the first father up on the crane, and in support of all fathers who want to take care of their children,” said Moreno’s mother, Brigitte, according to AFP.

Moreno spent several hours on the crane’s platform and climbed down Saturday evening. Charnay apparently remains determined to continue with his protest.

Charnay and Moreno’s protest will be supported by a demonstration for fathers’ rights scheduled to take place in Nantes on February 20.

Serge Charnay gives the thumbs up from a 43-meter crane on February 17, 2013.(AFP Photo / Frank Perry)
Serge Charnay gives the thumbs up from a 43-meter crane on February 17, 2013.(AFP Photo / Frank Perry)

Serge Charnay stands on a 43-meter crane on February 17, 2013.(AFP Photo / Frank Perry)
Serge Charnay stands on a 43-meter crane on February 17, 2013.(AFP Photo / Frank Perry)

Serge Charnay abseils down a 43-meter crane on February 17, 2013.(AFP Photo / Frank Perry)
Serge Charnay abseils down a 43-meter crane on February 17, 2013.(AFP Photo / Frank Perry)

Horsemeat Found In Schools, Pubs And Hotels

Lancashire County Council has confirmed that horsemeat has been found in cottage pies served at 47 schools.

The council said it has withdrawn the products from all of the schools' kitchens but refuses to say which schools served the contaminated meat.

Lancashire County Councillor Susie Charles said: "Relatively few schools in Lancashire use this particular product but our priority is to provide absolute assurance that meals contain what the label says - having discovered this one doesn't, we have no hesitation in removing it from menus.

"This does not appear to be a food safety issue but I've no doubt parents will agree we need to take a very firm line with suppliers and it is a credit to our officers that we have been able to quickly identify the problem and take the product off the menus."

It has also been revealed that catering company Compass and Whitbread, one of the UK's largest hospitality companies, detected horse DNA in their products.

Contaminated beef lasagne and burgers were sold at Whitbread companies Premier Inn, Brewers Fayre, Beefeater Grill and Table Table.

The firm said the products had been removed from their menus and will not be replaced until further testing has been carried out.

And Compass, which operates across the UK and Ireland, said that sites where it operates had been supplied with burgers from Rangeland - an Irish processor found to have had two consignments of meat with horse DNA.

"This is totally unacceptable. We have informed all of the affected sites of these developments, explained the actions we have taken and issued unreserved apologies," the company said.

Compass said 13 sites in the Republic and 27 in Northern Ireland, including two secondary schools, were supplied with burgers from Rangeland, the 4oz Rangeburgers which have been found to contain 5-30% horse DNA.

The company has catering operations at 7,000 sites and that most of the sites using Rangeland product were offices.

None of the sites where food was withdrawn were hospitals or sporting venues, Compass confirmed.

Compass said it had withdrawn Rangeland produce on February 5 which included 180 cases of suspect burgers.

Officials have also said that burgers containing horsemeat had been supplied to hospitals in Northern Ireland.

David Bingham from the health service's Business Services Organisation, which provides meat for the health trusts, said a range from a company in the Republic of Ireland had been withdrawn.

Meanwhile, pub and hotel group Whitbread said they had sent 30 products to be tested and the company received the results on Thursday afternoon.

A spokesman said: "We are shocked and disappointed at this failure of the processed meat supply chain.

"As an industry it is clear we need the supply chain to deliver products to the highest standards of food integrity and quality that we and our customers expect.

"As a responsible business we shall work with the FSA to implement a robust testing regime to avoid this happening in the future. We would like to sincerely apologise to our customers for any concerns or inconvenience that this may cause."

The news comes as the Food Standards Agency (FSA)  published the results of tests on all supermarket beef products, revealing that 29 of the 2,501 samples contained horsemeat.

There are around 900 more test results to be released, with the next batch to be revealed next Friday.

The agency's chief scientist, Andrew Wadge, told Sky News that he was reassured by the results so far, but retailers need to take responsibility.

"If you're in the business of selling food, you have to make sure you're clear to consumers that what you sell is what it says on label," he said.

Following the release of the FSA results, Environment Secretary Owen Paterson said the food industry has a lot of work to do in the wake of the scandal.

"It's wholly unacceptable that if people buy products marked beef, they turn out to be horsemeat," he said.

"That's why it was so important to undertake this intensive testing activity to gain a meaningful picture.

"My concern is for consumers. The news for them today is that the vast majority of products tested are completely clear of horse DNA.

"Food businesses now have a lot of work to do. They need to move quickly to complete these tests and they need to show their customers they've taken the right steps to make sure this doesn't happen again."

Tesco vows more openness on supplies after horsemeat scandal

LONDON (Reuters) - Tesco, Britain's biggest supermarket chain, has responded to the scandal of horsemeat being sold as beef with a pledge to offer customers insight into its global supply chain. Regulators and companies in the food industry have been ...

Oscar Pistorius Breaks Down In Tears In Court

Olympic star Oscar Pistorius has arrived at court where he is charged with the murder of his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp.

Lawyers for the athlete, who was being held at Boshkop police station in Pretoria, are expected to apply for bail at the hearing.

However, police have said that they will oppose the application.

The body of Miss Steenkamp, a top South African model, was discovered at the athlete's property in the Silver Woods gated community in eastern Pretoria on Thursday morning.

She had been shot four times. A 9mm pistol was found at the scene.

Local media has reported that she was shot through a bathroom door.

Pistorius, 26, spent the night in custody and was subject to blood-alcohol, DNA and other tests, as forensics experts continued to work at the crime scene at his home in an upmarket gated estate.

His lawyer Kenny Oldwage said his client was "very well, obviously emotional, but fine".

Police were called to Pistorius's home at around 4am on Thursday by neighbours who heard gunshots. He is the only suspect in the case.

More follows...

Horsemeat: Tesco Promises Open Approach

Tesco has released a video featuring its CEO promising the company will take a more open approach to food processing in the wake of the horsemeat scandal. Downing Street has attacked meat retailers for keeping customers in the dark over the extent of ...

Horsemeat: Test Results Expected On UK Meals

Test results for horsemeat in British processed meals are due today - as detectives continue questioning three men over the scandal.

The Food Standards Agency (FSA) will report on UK products after asking retailers and suppliers to provide "meaningful results" from tests to detect the presence of horsemeat in processed meals labelled as beef.

The FSA said it wanted the food industry to show that the food it sells and serves is what it says it is on the label.

The test results, for significant levels of horsemeat, will come from all beef products such as burgers, meatballs and lasagne.

Prime Minister David Cameron reportedly believes supermarkets have been too silent on the scandal.

"It is not acceptable for retailers to remain silent while their customers have been misled," a senior Downing Street source told The Daily Telegraph. "The supermarkets need to justify their action and reassure the public."

The eagerly-awaited test results will emerge as police in Wales question three men arrested on suspicion of offences under the Fraud Act.

The trio were taken into custody from two plants inspected and temporarily shut down by the FSA on Tuesday.

Sources said Dafydd Raw-Rees, 64, owner of Farmbox Meats near Aberystwyth, was arrested along with a 42-year-old man.

A 63-year-old man was also arrested on suspicion of the same offence at Peter Boddy Slaughterhouse in Todmorden, West Yorkshire.

On Wednesday, owner Mr Boddy, 63, said he had done nothing wrong and insisted the FSA inspection was merely to look at his records, but he was last night unavailable for comment.

His firm is also contracted to remove fatally injured horses from the Grand National.

It removes the carcasses of some horses which have been put down during the world famous meeting, at Aintree Racecourse, and said it was "confident" no unfit meat had entered the food chain.

The arrests were made by Dyfed-Powys Police in a joint operation with the FSA.

The two plants became the first UK suppliers suspected of passing off horsemeat for beef.

Production at both plants was suspended pending the outcome of investigations into claims that they supplied and used horse carcasses in meat products purporting to be beef for burgers and kebabs.

The FSA said on Tuesday it had "detained" all meat found at the premises and seized paperwork and customer lists from the two companies.

Last night's arrests were made as Asda withdrew its 500g beef bolognese sauce from shelves after tests revealed the presence of horse DNA, the supermarket chain said.

The company apologised to customers and said it was taking a "belt-and-braces approach" by removing a further three beef products made by the same supplier, the Greencore plant in Bristol, as a precaution.

On Thursday it emerged that a significant amount of horsemeat containing the painkiller phenylbutazone - or "bute" - could have been entering the food chain for some time.

Authorities in Britain and France are trying to trace the carcasses of six horses contaminated with bute - which were slaughtered in a UK abattoir and may have entered the human food chain across the Channel.

The drug, which is potentially harmful to human health, was detected in eight horses out of 206 tested by the FSA in the first week of this month.

Two were intercepted and destroyed before leaving the slaughterhouse but the other six were sent to France, where horsemeat is commonly eaten.

Announcing the results of the bute tests in the House of Commons, agriculture minister David Heath said the Government had instigated the "biggest investigation ever" into criminal activity in Europe over horsemeat contamination of beef products.

FSA chief executive Catherine Brown said the agency increased testing of horse carcasses over a three-month period last year after intelligence from abattoirs suggested bute was getting into the food chain.

Of 63 tested - amounting to 5% of all carcasses - four (6%) tested positive for the painkiller, prompting the FSA to start testing 100% of horsemeat in January, which revealed the eight contaminated carcasses.

Ms Brown said: "That would say there has been a significant amount of carcasses with bute going into the food chain for some time."

However, tests on Findus processed beef products withdrawn from sale in the UK after the discovery of traces of horsemeat found no evidence of the substance.

Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies played down the risk, saying: "If you ate 100% horse burgers of 250g, you would have to eat, in one day, more than 500 or 600 to get to a human dose."

The highest level of bute found in tests was 1.9 milligrammes per kilo of meat.

Ms Brown said both vets and horse owners have to sign horse passports if an animal is treated with bute, to ensure it is not subsequently sold on for human consumption.

"If both these people have done the right thing, horses with bute in don't make their way into the food chain," she said.

"Someone has always broken the rules."

‘Prisoner X linked to Hamas chief death’

The father of Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a Hamas commander, holds up a photograph of his murdered son. (File photo)

The Australian-Israeli ‘Mossad agent’ who has become known as ‘Prisoner X’ may have been linked to the assassination of a Hamas commander in Dubai in 2010, the same year he was found dead in a maximum security jail near Tel Aviv, a report says.

According to a report by the New York Times quoting the Kuwaiti daily Al Jarida on Thursday, Ben Zygier, identified as Prisoner X, was among the 26 suspects in a murder plot in which Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, a Hamas official, was tracked and killed in his hotel room hours after his arrival in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, in January 2010.

The assassins had reportedly used fake passports from Australia, Britain, Ireland, Germany and France, among other countries.

The report added that ‘Prisoner X’, who apparently spent a decade working for Mossad, had provided the officials in Dubai with “names and pictures and accurate details” in exchange for protection.

However, the Israeli regime kidnapped him from his hideout and jailed him over treason nearly a month after the operation over the speculation that he had been on the verge of exposing Tel Aviv’s secrets about the passports.


Australian media also quoted a security official familiar with the case as saying that Zygier “may well have been about to blow the whistle, but he never got the chance.”

On Thursday, Australian media also reported that Zygier had been under investigation by Australia’s intelligence services over passport fraud.

The murder plot in Dubai led to diplomatic sanctions against the Tel Aviv regime due to the use of forged passports from European countries and Australia in the operation.

On February 12, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) reported that Ben Zygier was “found hanged in a cell with state-of-the-art surveillance systems” near Tel Aviv in late 2010.

Originally born in Melbourne, the 34-year-old Zygier had worked for the Israeli spy agency, Mossad, the ABC said.

The Israeli regime was forced to admit on Wednesday that Zygier had been jailed under a false identity “for security reasons” after Australian media disclosed the secret despite Israel’s great efforts to keep a lid on the story.

When the story of Dubai plot emerged in 2010, Australian media quoted former Mossad case officer Victor Ostrovsky as saying that the spy agency regularly forges Australian passports for its agents.

‘They need passports because you can't go around with an Israeli passport, not even a forged one, and get away or get involved with people from the Arab world,” Ostrovsky said.

“So most of these (Mossad) operations are carried out on what's called false flag, which means you pretend to be of another country which is less belligerent to those countries that you're trying to recruit from,” he added.

According to Ostrovsky, Mossad has a “very, very expensive research department” dedicated to manufacturing the fake documents.

The Israeli regime, which never accepted responsibility for the Dubai operation, has not commented on the recent report so far.

MKA/HMV/MA

Mehdi’s Morning Memo: Mili’s Mansion Gamble

The five things you need to know on Friday 15 February 2013...

1) MILI'S MANSION GAMBLE

If you're Ed Miliband, trailing on the economy in the polls and attacked for being a policy-free zone, what do you do? How do manage, as the Labour leader did yesterday, to unite the Telegraph's Dan Hodges, the Independent's Owen Jones and ConHome's Tim Montgomerie behind you? Why, you give a major speech on the economy in which you, in the words of the Guardian, "undo one of Gordon Brown's greatest mistakes by announcing that Labour intends to reintroduce a 10p tax band funded by a new mansion tax on properties valued at more than £2m".

The paper's political editor Patrick Wintour writes:

"Brown abolished the 10p rate in 2007, prompting a revolt of Labour MPs and the low-paid. On Thursday Miliband described it as a mistake and the shadow chancellor, Ed Balls, said the abolition meant 'people understandably thought Labour was no longer on the side of the hard-working people we have always sought to help'."

And the paper's leader argues:

"Mr Miliband has begun to write something specific on what for too long has been Labour's fiscal blank page. For that alone, he deserves credit for a good day's work."

Lefty Lib Dems, such as the business secretary Vince Cable who first pitched the idea of a mansion tax in opposition, wil look with envy at Mili's mansion tax proposal.

Not everyone's happy - the Times calls the move a "sleight of hand". The Institute for Fiscal Studies calls it "a remarkable failure to learn from history".

Writing for the Huffington Post UK, Tory backbencher Robert Halfon MP, who has led the campaign for the restoration of the 10p tax rate, dismissed Miliband's proposal as "a PR wheeze written on the back of an envelope".

The Sun agrees with Halfon:

"[W]hy won't [Miliband] wholeheartedly commit his party to it — rather than describing it as an 'ambition?' Perhaps because it's a cynical stunt hurriedly thrown together to woo wavering voters at next week's Eastleigh by-election."

"Nevertheless," the paper adds, "The Sun welcomes Ed's idea of a 10p rate."

And, ultimately, you might say, from Labour's perspective, that's all that matters...

Note: For various technical reasons, today's Memo contains only five, not ten, things you need to know. Apologies.

2) DON'T YOU DARE COME HERE

'Compassionate' Cameron seems like a distant memory; now we have a populist PM who sounds like a Daily Mail leader writer.

From the Times splash:

"David Cameron was challenged by Brussels last night over his increasing efforts to impose tougher curbs on immigrants.

"The Prime Minister thrust the issue to the forefront of the Eastleigh byelection yesterday, saying that Britain must do more to deter immigrants by cutting their access to benefits and services.

"There's a lot more to do to make sure that we are not a soft touch," Mr Cameron told voters on his first campaign visit to the constituency in Hampshire.

"It was too easy for migrants from overseas 'to come here and take advantage of us', he added."

But the paper quotes EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding as saying: "There are one million British citizens living in other member states. Do you think those member states can discriminate against them because they are British citizens? You treat them the same as you treat national citizens."

Hear, hear!

3) DAVE VS THE SUPERMARKETS

It isn't just EU migrants who are in the PM's crosshairs - from the Telegraph splash:

"As Asda withdrew four beef products following the discovery of horse DNA in bolognese sauce, David Cameron was said to be increasingly angered at the way consumers had been 'misled' about what they were buying.

"The Prime Minister believes that senior executives of major stores should have given media interviews to explain why horse meat had got on to British plates and what checks were made with suppliers."

"A senior No 10 source said on Thursday: 'It is not acceptable for retailers to remain silent while their customers have been misled. The supermarkets need to justify their action and reassure the public.'

"The comments came as the food industry prepared to reveal the results of 1,000 tests carried out on products stocked by 13 retailers. They are expected to show that the horse meat scandal is more widespread than previously thought."

BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR...

Watch this video of a ginger cat attacking a large potato.

4) AUSTERITY WATCH, PART 413

From the Times:

"More than a fifth of local authorities are set to defy the Government’s policy to freeze council tax from April. George Osborne had hoped that town halls would accept subsidies to stave off any council tax rises for a third year. But at least 81 councils in England and Wales — nearly three times as many as last year — have announced that they intend to put up taxes from April."

Meanwhile, the BBC reports:

"Government attempts to stimulate the economy have been criticised as 'expensive experiments' by an influential group of MPs.

"The Public Accounts Committee said the Treasury could not say what the effect of the Bank of England's quantitative easing programme had been.

"A flagship lending scheme had also 'failed' the MPs said."

5) 'MOVING THE GOALPOSTS'

Shock! Horror! A lack of money is a central factor in child poverty, say a group of experts. Are you listening, IDS?

From the Guardian:

"The government's desire to alter the official definition of child poverty risks deliberately downplaying the importance of money just as a series of government policies will reduce the incomes of poor families, a group of senior academics warn in a letter to the Guardian today... The letter, signed by some of the country's leading academics in this field, agrees [with the government] that in addition to the current measures used to count the number of children living in poverty, it would be 'helpful to track what is happening to the factors that lead to poverty and the barriers to children's life chances'.

"But they warn: 'It does not make sense to combine all of these into a single measure. To do so would open up the government to the accusation that it aims to dilute the importance of income in monitoring the extent of 'poverty' at precisely the time that many of its policies will be reducing the real incomes of poor families.'

"Professor Jonathan Bradshaw, the lead consultant on the UK's contribution to Unicef's Child Well-Being report, said he believed that the government was 'trying to move the goalposts' at a time when child poverty was increasing rapidly."

** "WAS IT WORTH IT? IRAQ, TEN YEARS ON"

Today's the tenth anniversary of the march against the Iraq war - for all the Huffington Post UK's special coverage of the march and the conflict, click here. For my latest column, 'On Iraq, the Hawks Were Wrong About Everything', click here.

The Guardian, meanwhile, has a poll showing:

"A majority of voters, 55%, agree with suggestions that 'the London marchers were right', because 'a war sold on a false prospectus delivered little but bloodshed'. That is almost twice the 28% who believe the marchers were wrong, on the basis that the war's achievement in 'toppling the dictatorship of Saddam Hussein' eventually made the world a better place."

PUBLIC OPINION WATCH

From the latest Sun/YouGov poll:

Labour 42
Conservatives 31
Lib Dems 11
Ukip 10

That would give Labour a majority of 114.

From yesterday's Evening Standard/Ipsos MORI poll:

Labour 42
Conservatives 30
Ukip 9
Lib Dems 7

That would give Labour a majority of 112.

140 CHARACTERS OR LESS

@steverichards14 Ed M has signalled distance from Brown era while using a Brown ploy- a popular tax rise and tax cut to symbolise fairness. Clever politics.

@schofieldkevinWhen Gordon Brown scrapped the 10p tax rate in 2008, @Ed_Miliband said: "Overall these changes make the tax system fairer."

@mrjohnofarrell: Fear I have already turned into political robot. Valentines card to wife just said 'Vote Labour in #Eastleigh for a One Nation alternative'.'

900 WORDS OR MORE

Polly Toynbee, writing in the Guardian, says: "Ed Miliband is a man with the makings of a brave and visionary leader."

Fraser Nelson, writing in the Telegraph, says: "Slavery, not horse meat, is the real scandal on our doorstep."

Liz Truss, writing in the Independent, says: "The curriculum we are introducing captures British history in all it's multi-layered, omni-racial glory."


Got something you want to share? Please send any stories/tips/quotes/pix/plugs/gossip to Mehdi Hasan (mehdi.hasan@huffingtonpost.com) or Ned Simons (ned.simons@huffingtonpost.com). You can also follow us on Twitter: @mehdirhasan, @nedsimons and @huffpostukpol

British Jihadists In Syria Are ‘A Threat To The West’

Islamist extremists fighting the Assad regime in Syria could carry out terrorist attacks in the UK, William Hague has warned.

Syria has now become the "number one destination" for British jihadists seeking to hijack the Arab uprisings, according to the foreign secretary.

Speaking at the Royal United Services Institute, he said the longer the conflict went on, the greater the danger was that battle-hardened militants would pose a threat in the West.

hague

William Hague has warned that British jihadists fighting in Syria could pose a threat to the west

"This includes a number of individuals connected with the United Kingdom and other European countries," he said.

"They may not pose a threat to us when they first go to Syria, but if they survive some may return ideologically hardened and with experience of weapons and explosives."

A Dutch and British photojournalist who were kidnapped in Syria by Islamist militants said they heard British accents among those who were holding them captive after being freed by members of the Free Syrian Army last September.

Estimating that between 30 to 100 held them captive, Dutch photographer Jeroen Oerlemans said some of the gang that held them had "Birmingham accents".

At least one had a "heavy south London accent" reported the Sunday Telegraph, quoting a source close to the incident.

Oerlemans described the men as "foreign jihadists,” who captured the men "almost immediately" after they crossed the border from Turkey at Bab al-Hawa, on 19 July.

Hague also warned that a prolonged struggle in Syria increased the risk that the regime could resort to chemical or biological weapons, urging Russia and China to drop their opposition over UN negotiations for a transition to a new government.

He set out plans for an ambitious programme to build support for human rights in key allies in the fight against international terrorism.

He said the "justice and human rights partnerships" initiative was intended to enable the UK to share intelligence relating to terrorist activity in countries with suspect human rights records without it leading to the torture or abuse of suspects.

mokhtar belmokhtar

The kidnappers of the recent Algeria hostage crisis are linked to a terrorist splinter group led by jihadist Mokhtar Belmokhtar

They will include assistance to overseas investigators, enabling them to build cases based on evidence rather than confession and to improve their compliance with the law and human rights.

"In many cases, we are able to obtain credible assurances from our foreign partners such as detainee treatment and legal processes that give us the safeguards we need and the confidence that we can share information in this way.

"Where this is not the case, we face a stark choice.

"We could disengage or we can choose to share our intelligence in a carefully controlled way while developing a more comprehensive approach to human rights adherence.

"This approach brings risk, but I am clear that the risks of the first option, of stepping back are greater still, placing our citizens at greater risk of terrorist attack."

free syrian army

Hague has pledged to protect human rights in relationships with Britain's key allies

The initiative - which comes after six British nationals were killed last month when Islamist militants overran a BP-run gas plant in Algeria - was immediately criticised by civil rights activists.

Cori Crider, the legal director of Reprieve, said: "We've been here before - from Afghanistan to Libya, the UK has handed over detainees or colluded in renditions, knowing that the result will be that people face torture.

"The government has sought to spare its blushes by obtaining 'assurances', but these have not been worth the paper they were printed on.

"William Hague is trying to find a way to join hands with the torturer while keeping his own hands clean - it just won't work."

The government has previously had to pay out millions of pounds in compensation to suspects such as Binyam Mohamed over claims that the British intelligence and security services colluded in their torture while they were detained in countries like Pakistan and Morocco.

Ministers have also so far failed in their long-running battle to deport the radical cleric Abu Qatada to stand trial in Jordan on terrorist charges, despite assurances from the Jordanian authorities that they would not use evidence obtained by torture.

Mr Hague stressed that every aspect of the work would require ministerial approval, and would be halted immediately if there was "any credible evidence" that UK support was being misused.

"This is a framework of accountability and human rights to ensure that our counter-terrorism work supports justice and the rule of law as well as our security, with the goal of creating the long-term conditions for better observance of human rights in countries that have a poor record and where the threat from terrorism is strong." he said.

Israeli forces abduct 10 Palestinians

File photo shows a Palestinian youth being arrested by Israeli soldiers during a protest in a village north of the occupied West Bank.

Israeli forces have abducted ten Palestinians during an invasion of a village in East al-Quds (Jerusalem).

Local sources said the Israeli soldiers broke into several homes across Beit Doqqo village, northwest of East al-Quds, kidnapping ten Palestinians late on Wednesday.

The kidnapped Palestinians were reportedly transferred to an unknown location. Some of the abducted have been previously detained by the Tel Aviv regime.


Over the recent months, several Palestinian prisoners on hunger strike have drawn global attention to the tough conditions in Israeli jails.

On February 12, acting Palestinian Authority chief Mahmoud Abbas appealed to the international community to intervene in support of Palestinian prisoners who are on an open-ended hunger strike to protest their detention conditions in Israeli prisons.

“These prisoners are on hunger strike in response to the policy of administrative detention and ill-treatment by the occupying authorities,” Abbas said in reference to the Israeli regime.

The administrative detention, often implemented by the Israeli regime against the Palestinian population, is a sort of imprisonment without trial or charge, allowing regime forces to make arrests without formal charges for up to six months. However, the detention order can be renewed for indefinite periods of time.

Palestinian prisoners have been subject to human rights violations such as the use of torture during interrogations by Israeli prison authorities.

MKA/HSN

Smartphones To Collect Biometric Data

The U.S. Department of Defense has awarded a $3 million research contract to technology firm AOptix to turn smartphones into devices that collect biometric data.

Horsemeat: Contamination Is ‘Breathtaking’

Consumers have been "cynically and systematically duped" for profit over the horsemeat scandal, a report by influential MPs says.

The scathing finding comes as a YouGov poll for Sky News reveals that one in five people have changed the way they shop as a result of the widening meat contamination problem.

The Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee condemned the Government's "flat-footed" handling of the horsemeat scandal, saying its ability to respond had been weakened by cuts to the Food Standards Agency (FSA).

The committee says evidence of widespread unscrupulous behaviour by elements of the food industry raises wider concerns about the safety of the contaminated products.

"It seems improbable that individuals prepared to pass horsemeat off as beef illegally are applying the high hygiene standards rightly required in the food production industry," it said.

"We recommend that the Government and FSA undertake a broader spectrum of testing for products found to have the highest levels of contamination ... to provide assurances that there is no other non-bovine DNA or any other substances that could be harmful to human health present."

The warning came as EU ministers agreed last night to the random testing of meat products for the horse anti-inflammatory drug bute as well as for horse DNA.

The committee was also highly critical of the way the Government had dealt with the scandal since the discovery last month of horsemeat in a series of beef products sold by some of the country's biggest supermarket chains.

"Whilst ministers are properly responsible for policy, the FSA's diminished role has led to a lack of clarity about where responsibility lies, and this has weakened the UK's ability to identify and respond to food standards concerns," it said.

"Furthermore the current contamination crisis has caught the FSA and Government flat-footed and unable to respond effectively within structures designed primarily to respond to threats to human health."

It called for the FSA to be given statutory powers to require producers to undertake testing, and warned ministers that they should not "at this time" propose to reduce the labelling standards applied to British food.

Committee chairman Anne McIntosh described the scale of the contamination in the food chain as "breathtaking" and warned that restoring consumer confidence would take time and money.

"The Government has a role to secure the correct balance between affordable food prices and effective regulations that require transparency and quality," she said.

"The consumer cannot be left to face a Catch 22 where they can either pay for food that complies with the highest standards of traceability, labelling and  testing or accept that they cannot trust the provenance and composition of the foods they eat."

The YouGov/Sky News poll found that of the one in five people who are buying differently, 58% said they had completely abandoned processed meats.

A third of the nearly 2,000 people surveyed said they had stopped buying cheap ranges and now favour more expensive processed meat.

As for who they blamed most, nearly half - 49% - said meat processors were most at fault, while one in five said food manufacturers carried responsibility.

But supermarkets seem to be largely off the hook, with only 10% of people saying they are to blame and even fewer pointing the finger at the Food Standards Agency (FSA) or the Government.

One shopper told Sky's Tom Parmenter she now refuses to buy processed ready meals for her two children.

Sharon Cummins, from Slough, said: "It is affecting everybody because it is all just lies.

"The thought of eating something like a horse - it is there, that picture is in your head: What am I eating?

Meat Scandal: Call For EU Tests On Beef

One in five people have changed the way they shop as a result of the widening meat scandal, according to a poll carried out by YouGov for Sky News.

Of those who have changed what they buy, 58% said they had completely stopped buying processed meats.

A third of the nearly 2,000 people surveyed said they had stopped buying cheap or value ranges and are now buying more expensive processed meat.

As for who they blamed most, nearly half - 49% - said meat processors were most at fault, while one in five said food manufacturers carried responsibility.

But supermarkets seem to be largely off the hook, with only 10% of people saying they are to blame and even fewer pointing the finger at the Food Standards Agency (FSA) or the Government.

It comes as EU nations were urged to begin widespread DNA testing to check processed beef products for contamination with horsemeat.

There should also be tests for the presence of the veterinary painkiller known as "bute", which is causes cancer in humans and is banned from the food chain, European health commissioner Tonio Borg said.

The problem was being treated as a fraud issue rather than one of food safety, he said.

Earlier the UK's Environment Secretary Owen Paterson, who attended a summit in Brussels on the scandal, warned those guilty of passing off horsemeat as beef would face the "full force of the law".

Two British firms have been shut down following raids by the FSA and police. They swooped on Peter Boddy slaughterhouse in Todmorden, West Yorkshire, and meat processing plant Farmbox Meats in Llandre near Aberystwyth, West Wales as part of an audit.

The companies had records seized and have been temporarily closed. The firms' owners deny any wrongdoing.

At Farmbox Meats, Sky News saw large crates of meat - some covered by tarpaulin and others open - left in outdoor areas during the night, before they were removed.

The FSA, which is investigating claims the firms supplied and used horse carcasses in burgers and kebabs, says it has "detained" all meat found at both premises and seized paperwork.

Mr Paterson said: "It's totally unacceptable if any business in the UK is defrauding the public by passing off horsemeat as beef.

"I expect the full force of the law to be brought down on anyone involved in this kind of activity."

David Cameron, speaking at PMQs, described the situation as "appalling" and "completely unacceptable".

Until now, meat linked to the scandal had been thought to have come from suppliers in continental Europe, but for the first time it appears the contamination may also come from British premises.

Andrew Rhodes, FSA director of operations, said he was shocked to have found "a blatant misleading of consumers".

Meanwhile, Waitrose announced it has withdrawn its beef Essential British Frozen Meatballs after pork was found in two batches. The supermarket said they were made at the ABP Foods-owned Freshlink factory in Glasgow last summer.

Tesco has become the latest retailer to drop a major supplier after discovering a range of spaghetti bolognese ready meals contained more than 60% horsemeat.

Morrisons chief executive Dalton Philips has told Sky's Jeff Randall the chain could not be 100% sure about the content of all of its beef products either, but he said its checks are rigorous and it has "extremely high" confidence.

The meat scandal erupted last month after tests in Ireland showed products labelled as beef contained up to 100% horsemeat.

Alabama Hostage: Mum Offered To Trade Places

The mother of a six-year-old boy who was held captive in an underground bunker has said she asked if she could swap places with her son. In an interview that aired on Wednesday Jennifer Kirkland told US TV psychiatrist Dr Phil McGraw that she feared t...

EU ministers meet on horsemeat crisis

Agriculture ministers from European Union (EU) countries implicated in the recent horsemeat scandal have held emergency talks in EU headquarters to discuss the crisis. On Wednesday, agriculture ministers from the United Kingdom, France, Ireland, Luxem...

MPs Call For Improved Food Testing In Wake Of Horse Meat Scandal

MPs have called for more testing of food safety and composition, describing the scale of contamination in the meat supply chain as "breathtaking". The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee said current arrangements for testing and control acro...

Obama and the Vanishing Point of Democracy

Obama and the Vanishing Point of Democracy

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Posted on Feb 13, 2013
Jill Clardy (CC BY-SA 2.0)

By Henry A. Giroux, Truthout

This piece first appeared at Truthout.

We live at a time in the United States when the notion of political enemies has become a euphemism for dismantling prohibitions against targeted assassinations, torture, abductions and indefinite detention. Under the elastic notion of permanent war and the use of Orwellian labels like terrorists, enemy combatants, enemies of the state or the all-encompassing “evil-doers,” the United States has tortured prisoners in Iraq and Guantanamo for more than a decade. It also kidnapped suspected terrorists, held them in CIA “black sites,” and subjected them to extraordinary rendition - “the practice [of] taking detainees to and from US custody without a legal process ... and often ... handing [them] over to countries that practiced torture.”[1] As a new report from the Open Society Foundation, “Globalizing Torture,” points out, since 9/11 the CIA has illegally kidnaped and tortured more than 136 people and was aided in its abhorrent endeavors by 54 countries.[2] All of this was done in secrecy and when it was eventually exposed, the Obama administration refused to press criminal charges against those government officials who committed atrocious human rights abuses, signalling to the military and various intelligence agencies that they would not be held accountable for engaging in such egregious and illegal behavior. The notion that torture, kidnapping and the killing of Americans without due process is an illegitimate function of any state, including the United States, has overtly suffered the fate of the Geneva Conventions, apparently too quaint and antiquated to be operative.

Excessive torture, cruel and unusual punishment, secret detention and the violation of civil liberties are not only deeply ingrained in American history; they also have become normalized in both popular culture and in government policy. For example, popular representations of and support for torture extend from the infamous former television series 24 to the more recent highly acclaimed Hollywood film, Zero Dark Thirty.[3] Whereas popular representations of torture and other legal illegalities prior to 2001 were viewed largely as the acts of desperate and psychologically unbalanced individuals or rogue governments, the post- September 11, 2001 climate has accommodated such representations, as torture has become common fare in mainstream culture - from action films and TV dramas to comedies. As torture moves from state policy to screen culture it contains “an echo of the pornographic in maximizing the pleasure of violence.”[4] In this instance, the spectacle of violence mimics a new kind of mad violence that has engulfed American society. Torture is now a mainstay of what might be called the state-sanctioned carnival of cruelty, designed to delight and titillate while in real life torture has been shamelessly sanctioned as a military necessity and state policy. At the same time, torture, violence and the culture of cruelty have been removed from the discourse of ethics, jurisprudence, accountability and human rights.[5]

This retreat from moral responsibility reveals more than political failure, more than a perverse victory for those who argue for the acceptability of what was once considered unthinkable in a democracy. It signals the emergence of a kind of anti-politics, the dismantling of a politics in which matters of power, justice, governance and social responsibility are inextricably connected to democratic institutions, laws, values and education. This is an anti-politics in which the obligations of justice and responsibility to others has been overtaken by a rhetoric of fear, national security and war that has made Americans accomplices of a tyrannical and terrorist state apparatus. Under such circumstances, the critical project of democracy, if not politics itself, is replaced by the shared experience of fear, the instrumentalization of culture and society and a state of emergency that “eradicates political freedom, democratic processes and legality as such.”[6]

The move toward an authoritarian and dystopian state - one marked by its flight from moral and political responsibility - has been made more acceptable by the widespread popular willingness to overlook, if not legitimate, the ongoing violation of civil liberties as a central theme of government policy, military conduct, mainstream news media and popular culture in general. Mainstream culture is flooded with endless representations of individuals, government officials, and the police operating outside of the law as a legitimate way to seek revenge, implement vigilante justice and rewrite the rationales for violating human rights and domestic law. TV programs like Dexter and Person of Interest, as well as a spate of Hollywood films like as Gangster Squad and Django Unchained have provided a spectacle of legal lawlessness and violence unchecked by ethical considerations and allegedly justified by the pursuit of noble ends.

The culture of violence, fear and sometimes manufactured terror takes a toll politically and ethically on any democratic society, especially when it becomes the most popular spectacle in town. Unfortunately, the line between fiction and material reality, along with the more hallowed spheres of politics and governance, has collapsed and it has become more difficult to determine one from the other. Forms of violence and violations of civil rights that should be unthinkable in a democracy are now lauded as necessary and effective tactics in the war on terrorism, and so rarely subject to critical interrogation. Some of the more notable transgressions are evident in former Vice-President Dick Cheney’s infamous statement to Tim Russert on NBC’s Meet the Press in which he stated that the Bush administration would have to “work ... the dark side” and the 2006 comment by John Brennan in which he claimed that we have “to take off the gloves” in some areas in order to wage a war against terrorism. And while torture has been denounced by President Obama, the administration has in actuality created a new foundation for violating civil rights and promoting human abuses.
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The Hubris of the Drones

Protesters march against drone warfare during President Obama's inauguration, January 21, 2013.Protesters march against drone warfare during President Obama's inauguration, January 21, 2013. (Photo: World Can't Wait)Last week, The New York Times published a chilling account of how indiscriminate killing in war remains bad policy even today. This time, it’s done not by young GIs in the field but by anonymous puppeteers guiding drones that hover and attack by remote control against targets thousands of miles away, often killing the innocent and driving their enraged and grieving families and friends straight into the arms of the very terrorists we’re trying to eradicate.

The Times told of a Muslim cleric in Yemen named Salem Ahmed bin Ali Jaber, standing in a village mosque denouncing al Qaeda. It was a brave thing to do — a respected tribal figure, arguing against terrorism. But two days later, when he and a police officer cousin agreed to meet with three al Qaeda members to continue the argument, all five men — friend and foe — were incinerated by an American drone attack. The killings infuriated the village and prompted rumors of an upwelling of support in the town for al Qaeda, because, the Times reported, “such a move is seen as the only way to retaliate against the United States.”

Our blind faith in technology combined with a false sense of infallible righteousness continues unabated. Reuters correspondent David Rohde recently wrote:

“The Obama administration’s covert drone program is on the wrong side of history. With each strike, Washington presents itself as an opponent of the rule of law, not a supporter. Not surprisingly, a foreign power killing people with no public discussion, or review of who died and why, promotes anger among Pakistanis, Yemenis and many others.”

Rohde has firsthand knowledge of what a drone strike can do. He was kidnapped by the Taliban in 2008 and held for seven months. During his captivity, a drone struck nearby. “It was so close that shrapnel and mud showered down into the courtyard,” he told the BBC last year. “Just the force and size of the explosion amazed me. It comes with no warning and tremendous force… There’s sense that your sovereignty is being violated… It’s a serious military action. It is not this light precise pinprick that many Americans believe.”

“It’s a serious military action… not this light precise pinprick that many Americans believe.”

A special report from the Council on Foreign Relations last month, “Reforming U.S. Drone Strike Policies,” quotes “a former senior military official” saying, “Drone strikes are just a signal of arrogance that will boomerang against America.” The report notes that, “The current trajectory of U.S. drone strike policies is unsustainable… without any meaningful checks — imposed by domestic or international political pressure — or sustained oversight from other branches of government, U.S. drone strikes create a moral hazard because of the negligible risks from such strikes and the unprecedented disconnect between American officials and personnel and the actual effects on the ground.”

Negligible? Such hubris brought us to grief in Vietnam and Iraq and may do so again with President Obama’s cold-blooded use of drones and his indifference to so-called “collateral damage,” grossly referred to by some in the military as “bug splat,” and otherwise known as innocent bystanders.

Yet the ease with which drones are employed and the lower risk to our own forces makes the unmanned aircraft increasingly appealing to the military and the CIA. We’re using drones more and more; some 350 strikes since President Obama took office, seven times the number that were authorized by George W. Bush. And there’s a whole new generation of the weapons on the way — deadlier and with greater endurance.

According to the CFR report, “Of the estimated three thousand people killed by drones… the vast majority were neither al-Qaeda nor Taliban leaders. Instead, most were low-level, anonymous suspected militants who were predominantly engaged in insurgent or terrorist operations against their governments, rather than in active international terrorist plots.”

By the standards of slaughter in Vietnam, the deaths caused by drones are hardly a bleep on the consciousness of official Washington. But we have to wonder if each innocent killed — a young boy gathering wood at dawn, unsuspecting of his imminent annihilation; a student who picked up the wrong hitchhikers; that tribal elder arguing against fanatics — doesn’t give rise to second thoughts by those judges who prematurely handed our president the Nobel Prize for Peace. Better they had kept it on the shelf in hopeful waiting, untarnished.

‘Cuz the Bible Tells Me So

We humans constantly are telling ourselves stories about moral and immoral behavior. Many of the most memorable -- if only because of repetition -- are from the Bible. From them we learn about moral courage and cowardice, about wisdom and folly, about when to obey and when to rebel.  And, of course, most Bible stories tell us to believe in God. But God -- He/She/It -- is so many things at once: God is Love, God is Nature, God is Truth. How can I believe in all these things at the same time? I’m more comfortable with each of those declarations about what God  IS when  the formula is reversed. For example, I prefer Nature is God. If that identifies me as a pagan, so be it. But the Bible stories still move me profoundly, especially when I try to apply them to the world around me.  

For instance, remember the story of King Herod and the Massacre of the Innocents? Herod, in an attempt to protect his crown from being supplanted by the rumored birth of the King of the Jews, ordered the execution of all male children in Nazareth under the age of two. He cannot identify which child might be Jesus, so he decides to kill them all. We are expected to think about this monstrous crime as the work of a paranoid maniac, which it is. And we may be expected to learn that totalitarian leadership can lead to this sort of barbarity. That is also correct.   

But couldn´t we also interpret Herod´s actions as the use of rational and necessary collateral damage to ensure the continued integrity of the state? If the sanctity of the state is the foremost good, then security has to trump justice and the right to life of any individual. In fact, security then becomes justice. It’s the same political and philosophical excuse used for drone warfare by our government today. If children are killed as a by-product of killing terrorists, then the killing is justified. Herod feared Jesus wanted to overthrow his state. Our government fears the terrorists do. Are all actions that advance the security of the state de facto ethical?  Should our drones be called Herod? (Image: Giotto's 'Massacre of the Innocents')

Take a look at Giotto’s masterful 14th Century fresco of the Massacre of the Innocents.  Above the town square, where his soldiers are lancing and decapitating children, Herod stands calmly giving his orders, pointing out the next victim as calmly as a US president ordering a drone strike. In neither case is any consideration given to law or to morality, or to what we might quaintly call “due process.” We witness the paranoid justice of security.  

What lesson is this behavior meant to teach our children? I am reminded of how Martin Luther King, Jr. struggled in the late 1960s to answer young black men in the ghetto when they asked him why they should not use violence to achieve their rights. They reminded Dr. King that the US government claimed the use of extreme violence in Vietnam as justified and necessary to promote democracy, so why shouldn’t they use the same method to achieve equality at home? King’s only answer was to condemn the war as immoral, a war that was racist, imperialist, and for the benefit of the military-industrial complex at the expense of the poor.  

Another instructive Bible story is the Wisdom of Solomon parable. King Solomon is approached by two women both claiming to be the mother of the same child. How can he know who is telling the truth? DNA tests were still a ways off. So, he suggests a compromise. Compromises are good. He raises his sharp sword intending to slice the baby in half.  

One woman objects and gives up her claim in order to protect the child. Solomon in his wisdom now knows who the mother is and hands her the intact child. 

But our Solomon today is CEO of Terrible Swift Sword, Inc. His “compromise” has a special interest. What an opportunity to demonstrate superior sword performance! This shareholder Solomon asks us to accept the damage done to our children by gun violence, by contamination, by poor education, by fast food, by climate change, by absurd drug laws, by continual war funding, by the necessities of Empire -- on & on -- as “compromises” so that profits may be enhanced and markets expanded. The wisdom of capitalism. The lives of our children are being sliced in half.  

When the rights of money become part of the process of ethical compromise, wisdom is lost. When we allow our justice to be derived from our fears for security, ethics are lost. We are not then wise kings with wise swords, but armed and frightened barbarians with bottom lines. Every would-be Solomon becomes a Herod. 

How do I know this? The Bible tells me so.

Robert Shetterly

Robert Shetterly [send him mail] is a writer and artist who lives in Brooksville, Maine. He is the author of Americans Who Tell the Truth. See his website.

135 National, State and Local Groups Tell Governor Cuomo to Stand Up for People,...

Des Moines, Iowa - February 12 - On the eve of what could be a major decision in New York’s battle over whether to allow the process of hydraulic fracturing to take place in the state, 135 environmental, public health, faith and labor organizations ran a full-page advertisement in the Des Moines Register today reminding Governor Andrew Cuomo that his presidential aspirations may be affected by his actions on the controversial process. The ad is running just one day before the New York Department of Environmental Conversation could issue its Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) on fracking, followed by its rules on the process by February 27.

“Iowa residents have long held the power to sway presidential elections, and now they may also have the ability to help protect communities across the Unites States from fracking,” said Food & Water Watch executive director Wenonah Hauter. “Governor Cuomo needs to learn that the road to the White House is not lined with drilling rigs. If he allows even one well in New York, voters in Iowa and elsewhere will remember that in 2016.”

Spearheaded by the national coalition Americans Against Fracking, the ad was endorsed by 350.org, Breast Cancer Action, the Center for Biological Diversity, CREDO Action, Earthworks, Democracy for America, Sierra Club, Food & Water Watch and Greenpeace, among others. It is intended to remind the rumored 2016 presidential contender that people across the United States, not just in New York, are watching his actions on fracking.

“Governor Cuomo may emerge as one of the nation’s most principled, powerful leaders, rooted in his achievements on ethics reform and if he follows through on his promises on campaign finance reform. But his biggest test, which would set him apart from most national leaders even of his own party, will be if he stands up to the big oil and gas interests that pollute our nation’s politics with campaign contributions and that are ready to ruin New Yorkers’ drinking water by fracking across the state. Today Iowans, and the nation, are watching,” said Phil Radford, executive director of Greenpeace.

Last month, over 200,000 comments, many of them opposed to fracking, were submitted to the New York Department of Environmental Conversation. Governor Cuomo is rumored to be considering allowing 10 to 40 demonstration fracking wells in New York, but opponents are concerned that this will set a dangerous precedence for future drilling.

“Hydrofracking is now understood to be the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the country. It’s unconscionable that in a post-Sandy world, we would even consider contributing to further climate change,” said Phil Aroneanu co-founder & U.S. campaigns director of 350.org.

Fracking is also of concern to residents of Iowa because the oil and gas industry mines sands used in fracking in the state, and the frac sand industry is raising fears about air pollution and water contamination.  

“The rush to quench America’s insatiable thirst for oil and gas through hydraulic fracturing is entrenched in the rush to mine the cheap sand necessary for the process from the pristine hills we call home here in northeast Iowa. The issue has become politically volatile, fueled by immense amounts of money spent by the industry to buy the regulations it wants. Governor Cuomo needs to remember that the rush to frack in New York will have lasting consequences for residents of his state—and ours. We urge him to do the right thing and not allow fracking in New York,” noted Jeff Abbas of Allamakee County Protectors.

“Here in Iowa, we have seen what big business allowed to run out of control can do to our environment,” said Adam Mason, state policy director of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement. “Just like corporate agriculture has fouled our waters here in Iowa, fracking and the giant energy companies that promote it have the potential to cause environmental disaster across the country. Iowans care about clean air and clean water, and as candidates look to Iowa for support in 2016, we will be looking at their record on the environment as a gauge for whom to vote.”

“Hydrofracking is a serious threat to the water quality of both rural and urban communities,” added Aaron Jorgensen-Briggs, an Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement member from Des Moines.  “We need to focus on clean energy that puts people first and stop kowtowing to corporate polluters.”

An increasingly controversial form of oil and gas extraction, fracking is the process of taking millions of gallons of water, mixing it with tens of thousands of gallons of chemicals–including known carcinogens–and pumping it all underground at extreme pressure to break up rock formations and release oil or natural gas. New techniques and technologies used in the process are more intensive and riskier than conventional drilling, making fracking more dangerous than ever. To date, more than 1,000 reported cases of water contamination have been associated with drilling and fracking.

“A fracking boom would strike a devastating blow to New York’s efforts to fight climate disruption,” said Kassie Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute. “The massive greenhouse gas pollution from this dangerous form of oil and gas extraction will fuel climate chaos and extreme weather. To reduce the risk of killer storms like Hurricane Sandy, New York needs to ban fracking.”
 
As for energy security, industry overstates the role of natural gas as a long-term source of domestic energy, misrepresenting its intentions. As of October 26, the Department of Energy had received 19 proposals to export potentially vast amounts of liquefied natural gas, up to over 40 percent of current U.S. natural gas consumption. Considering this push to export, along with other efforts to increase natural gas demand, Food & Water Watch finds that the United States may only have 50 years worth of natural gas, not the 100 years worth popularly claimed. And this assumes the industry wins completely unrestricted access to drill and frack and assumes that notoriously uncertain estimates of shale gas reserves will prove accurate.

Given these and other concerns, backlash against fracking and drilling is increasing. To date, over 325 municipalities in the United States, as well as Vermont, Bulgaria and France, have passed resolutions to stop fracking. In November, Longmont, Colorado made history as the first town in Colorado to ban fracking despite the fact that the oil and gas industry poured half a million dollars into opposing the successful ballot measure. In 2011, activists successfully blocked a plan to open the Delaware River to fracking.

View the ad here.

Food & Water Watch is a nonprofit consumer organization that works to ensure clean water and safe food. We challenge the corporate control and abuse of our food and water resources by empowering people to take action and by transforming the public consciousness about what we eat and drink.

135 National, State and Local Groups Tell Governor Cuomo to Stand Up for People,...

Des Moines, Iowa - February 12 - On the eve of what could be a major decision in New York’s battle over whether to allow the process of hydraulic fracturing to take place in the state, 135 environmental, public health, faith and labor organizations ran a full-page advertisement in the Des Moines Register today reminding Governor Andrew Cuomo that his presidential aspirations may be affected by his actions on the controversial process. The ad is running just one day before the New York Department of Environmental Conversation could issue its Supplemental Generic Environmental Impact Statement (SGEIS) on fracking, followed by its rules on the process by February 27.

“Iowa residents have long held the power to sway presidential elections, and now they may also have the ability to help protect communities across the Unites States from fracking,” said Food & Water Watch executive director Wenonah Hauter. “Governor Cuomo needs to learn that the road to the White House is not lined with drilling rigs. If he allows even one well in New York, voters in Iowa and elsewhere will remember that in 2016.”

Spearheaded by the national coalition Americans Against Fracking, the ad was endorsed by 350.org, Breast Cancer Action, the Center for Biological Diversity, CREDO Action, Earthworks, Democracy for America, Sierra Club, Food & Water Watch and Greenpeace, among others. It is intended to remind the rumored 2016 presidential contender that people across the United States, not just in New York, are watching his actions on fracking.

“Governor Cuomo may emerge as one of the nation’s most principled, powerful leaders, rooted in his achievements on ethics reform and if he follows through on his promises on campaign finance reform. But his biggest test, which would set him apart from most national leaders even of his own party, will be if he stands up to the big oil and gas interests that pollute our nation’s politics with campaign contributions and that are ready to ruin New Yorkers’ drinking water by fracking across the state. Today Iowans, and the nation, are watching,” said Phil Radford, executive director of Greenpeace.

Last month, over 200,000 comments, many of them opposed to fracking, were submitted to the New York Department of Environmental Conversation. Governor Cuomo is rumored to be considering allowing 10 to 40 demonstration fracking wells in New York, but opponents are concerned that this will set a dangerous precedence for future drilling.

“Hydrofracking is now understood to be the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the country. It’s unconscionable that in a post-Sandy world, we would even consider contributing to further climate change,” said Phil Aroneanu co-founder & U.S. campaigns director of 350.org.

Fracking is also of concern to residents of Iowa because the oil and gas industry mines sands used in fracking in the state, and the frac sand industry is raising fears about air pollution and water contamination.  

“The rush to quench America’s insatiable thirst for oil and gas through hydraulic fracturing is entrenched in the rush to mine the cheap sand necessary for the process from the pristine hills we call home here in northeast Iowa. The issue has become politically volatile, fueled by immense amounts of money spent by the industry to buy the regulations it wants. Governor Cuomo needs to remember that the rush to frack in New York will have lasting consequences for residents of his state—and ours. We urge him to do the right thing and not allow fracking in New York,” noted Jeff Abbas of Allamakee County Protectors.

“Here in Iowa, we have seen what big business allowed to run out of control can do to our environment,” said Adam Mason, state policy director of Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement. “Just like corporate agriculture has fouled our waters here in Iowa, fracking and the giant energy companies that promote it have the potential to cause environmental disaster across the country. Iowans care about clean air and clean water, and as candidates look to Iowa for support in 2016, we will be looking at their record on the environment as a gauge for whom to vote.”

“Hydrofracking is a serious threat to the water quality of both rural and urban communities,” added Aaron Jorgensen-Briggs, an Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement member from Des Moines.  “We need to focus on clean energy that puts people first and stop kowtowing to corporate polluters.”

An increasingly controversial form of oil and gas extraction, fracking is the process of taking millions of gallons of water, mixing it with tens of thousands of gallons of chemicals–including known carcinogens–and pumping it all underground at extreme pressure to break up rock formations and release oil or natural gas. New techniques and technologies used in the process are more intensive and riskier than conventional drilling, making fracking more dangerous than ever. To date, more than 1,000 reported cases of water contamination have been associated with drilling and fracking.

“A fracking boom would strike a devastating blow to New York’s efforts to fight climate disruption,” said Kassie Siegel, director of the Center for Biological Diversity’s Climate Law Institute. “The massive greenhouse gas pollution from this dangerous form of oil and gas extraction will fuel climate chaos and extreme weather. To reduce the risk of killer storms like Hurricane Sandy, New York needs to ban fracking.”
 
As for energy security, industry overstates the role of natural gas as a long-term source of domestic energy, misrepresenting its intentions. As of October 26, the Department of Energy had received 19 proposals to export potentially vast amounts of liquefied natural gas, up to over 40 percent of current U.S. natural gas consumption. Considering this push to export, along with other efforts to increase natural gas demand, Food & Water Watch finds that the United States may only have 50 years worth of natural gas, not the 100 years worth popularly claimed. And this assumes the industry wins completely unrestricted access to drill and frack and assumes that notoriously uncertain estimates of shale gas reserves will prove accurate.

Given these and other concerns, backlash against fracking and drilling is increasing. To date, over 325 municipalities in the United States, as well as Vermont, Bulgaria and France, have passed resolutions to stop fracking. In November, Longmont, Colorado made history as the first town in Colorado to ban fracking despite the fact that the oil and gas industry poured half a million dollars into opposing the successful ballot measure. In 2011, activists successfully blocked a plan to open the Delaware River to fracking.

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Food & Water Watch is a nonprofit consumer organization that works to ensure clean water and safe food. We challenge the corporate control and abuse of our food and water resources by empowering people to take action and by transforming the public consciousness about what we eat and drink.

The Hubris of the Drones

Last week, The New York Times published a chilling account of how indiscriminate killing in war remains bad policy even today. This time, it’s done not by young GIs in the field but by anonymous puppeteers guiding drones that hover and attack by remote control against targets thousands of miles away, often killing the innocent and driving their enraged and grieving families and friends straight into the arms of the very terrorists we’re trying to eradicate.Supporters of Pakistani religious party Jamat-i-Islami listen to their leaders during a rally to condemn U.S. drone attacks, April 24, 2009. (AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad)

The Times told of a Muslim cleric in Yemen named Salem Ahmed bin Ali Jaber, standing in a village mosque denouncing al Qaeda. It was a brave thing to do — a respected tribal figure, arguing against terrorism. But two days later, when he and a police officer cousin agreed to meet with three al Qaeda members to continue the argument, all five men — friend and foe — were incinerated by an American drone attack. The killings infuriated the village and prompted rumors of an upwelling of support in the town for al Qaeda, because, the Times reported, “such a move is seen as the only way to retaliate against the United States.”

Our blind faith in technology combined with a false sense of infallible righteousness continues unabated. Reuters correspondent David Rohde recently wrote:

“The Obama administration’s covert drone program is on the wrong side of history. With each strike, Washington presents itself as an opponent of the rule of law, not a supporter. Not surprisingly, a foreign power killing people with no public discussion, or review of who died and why, promotes anger among Pakistanis, Yemenis and many others.”

Rohde has firsthand knowledge of what a drone strike can do. He was kidnapped by the Taliban in 2008 and held for seven months. During his captivity, a drone struck nearby. “It was so close that shrapnel and mud showered down into the courtyard,” he told the BBC last year. “Just the force and size of the explosion amazed me. It comes with no warning and tremendous force… There’s sense that your sovereignty is being violated… It’s a serious military action. It is not this light precise pinprick that many Americans believe.”

“It’s a serious military action… not this light precise pinprick that many Americans believe.”

A special report from the Council on Foreign Relations last month, “Reforming U.S. Drone Strike Policies,” quotes “a former senior military official” saying, “Drone strikes are just a signal of arrogance that will boomerang against America.” The report notes that, “The current trajectory of U.S. drone strike policies is unsustainable… without any meaningful checks — imposed by domestic or international political pressure — or sustained oversight from other branches of government, U.S. drone strikes create a moral hazard because of the negligible risks from such strikes and the unprecedented disconnect between American officials and personnel and the actual effects on the ground.”

Negligible? Such hubris brought us to grief in Vietnam and Iraq and may do so again with President Obama’s cold-blooded use of drones and his indifference to so-called “collateral damage,” grossly referred to by some in the military as “bug splat,” and otherwise known as innocent bystanders.

Yet the ease with which drones are employed and the lower risk to our own forces makes the unmanned aircraft increasingly appealing to the military and the CIA. We’re using drones more and more; some 350 strikes since President Obama took office, seven times the number that were authorized by George W. Bush. And there’s a whole new generation of the weapons on the way — deadlier and with greater endurance.

According to the CFR report, “Of the estimated three thousand people killed by drones… the vast majority were neither al-Qaeda nor Taliban leaders. Instead, most were low-level, anonymous suspected militants who were predominantly engaged in insurgent or terrorist operations against their governments, rather than in active international terrorist plots.”

By the standards of slaughter in Vietnam, the deaths caused by drones are hardly a bleep on the consciousness of official Washington. But we have to wonder if each innocent killed — a young boy gathering wood at dawn, unsuspecting of his imminent annihilation; a student who picked up the wrong hitchhikers; that tribal elder arguing against fanatics — doesn’t give rise to second thoughts by those judges who prematurely handed our president the Nobel Prize for Peace. Better they had kept it on the shelf in hopeful waiting, untarnished.

Bill Moyers

Journalist Bill Moyers is the host of the new show Moyers & Company, a weekly series of smart talk and new ideas aimed at helping viewers make sense of our tumultuous times through the insight of America’s strongest thinkers.. His previous shows on PBS included NOW with Bill Moyers and Bill Moyers Journal. Over the past three decades he has become an icon of American journalism and is the author of many books, including Bill Moyers Journal: The Conversation Continues, Moyers on Democracy, and Bill Moyers: On Faith & Reason. He was one of the organizers of the Peace Corps, a special assistant for Lyndon B. Johnson, a publisher of Newsday, senior correspondent for CBS News and a producer of many groundbreaking series on public television. He is the winner of more than 30 Emmys, nine Peabodys, three George Polk awards and is the author of three best-selling books.

Michael Winship

Michael Winship, senior writing fellow at Demos and president of the Writers Guild of America-East, is senior writer for Bill Moyers' new weekend show Moyers & Company.

The Hubris of the Drones

Last week, The New York Times published a chilling account of how indiscriminate killing in war remains bad policy even today. This time, it’s done not by young GIs in the field but by anonymous puppeteers guiding drones that hover and attack by remote control against targets thousands of miles away, often killing the innocent and driving their enraged and grieving families and friends straight into the arms of the very terrorists we’re trying to eradicate.Supporters of Pakistani religious party Jamat-i-Islami listen to their leaders during a rally to condemn U.S. drone attacks, April 24, 2009. (AP Photo/Mohammad Sajjad)

The Times told of a Muslim cleric in Yemen named Salem Ahmed bin Ali Jaber, standing in a village mosque denouncing al Qaeda. It was a brave thing to do — a respected tribal figure, arguing against terrorism. But two days later, when he and a police officer cousin agreed to meet with three al Qaeda members to continue the argument, all five men — friend and foe — were incinerated by an American drone attack. The killings infuriated the village and prompted rumors of an upwelling of support in the town for al Qaeda, because, the Times reported, “such a move is seen as the only way to retaliate against the United States.”

Our blind faith in technology combined with a false sense of infallible righteousness continues unabated. Reuters correspondent David Rohde recently wrote:

“The Obama administration’s covert drone program is on the wrong side of history. With each strike, Washington presents itself as an opponent of the rule of law, not a supporter. Not surprisingly, a foreign power killing people with no public discussion, or review of who died and why, promotes anger among Pakistanis, Yemenis and many others.”

Rohde has firsthand knowledge of what a drone strike can do. He was kidnapped by the Taliban in 2008 and held for seven months. During his captivity, a drone struck nearby. “It was so close that shrapnel and mud showered down into the courtyard,” he told the BBC last year. “Just the force and size of the explosion amazed me. It comes with no warning and tremendous force… There’s sense that your sovereignty is being violated… It’s a serious military action. It is not this light precise pinprick that many Americans believe.”

“It’s a serious military action… not this light precise pinprick that many Americans believe.”

A special report from the Council on Foreign Relations last month, “Reforming U.S. Drone Strike Policies,” quotes “a former senior military official” saying, “Drone strikes are just a signal of arrogance that will boomerang against America.” The report notes that, “The current trajectory of U.S. drone strike policies is unsustainable… without any meaningful checks — imposed by domestic or international political pressure — or sustained oversight from other branches of government, U.S. drone strikes create a moral hazard because of the negligible risks from such strikes and the unprecedented disconnect between American officials and personnel and the actual effects on the ground.”

Negligible? Such hubris brought us to grief in Vietnam and Iraq and may do so again with President Obama’s cold-blooded use of drones and his indifference to so-called “collateral damage,” grossly referred to by some in the military as “bug splat,” and otherwise known as innocent bystanders.

Yet the ease with which drones are employed and the lower risk to our own forces makes the unmanned aircraft increasingly appealing to the military and the CIA. We’re using drones more and more; some 350 strikes since President Obama took office, seven times the number that were authorized by George W. Bush. And there’s a whole new generation of the weapons on the way — deadlier and with greater endurance.

According to the CFR report, “Of the estimated three thousand people killed by drones… the vast majority were neither al-Qaeda nor Taliban leaders. Instead, most were low-level, anonymous suspected militants who were predominantly engaged in insurgent or terrorist operations against their governments, rather than in active international terrorist plots.”

By the standards of slaughter in Vietnam, the deaths caused by drones are hardly a bleep on the consciousness of official Washington. But we have to wonder if each innocent killed — a young boy gathering wood at dawn, unsuspecting of his imminent annihilation; a student who picked up the wrong hitchhikers; that tribal elder arguing against fanatics — doesn’t give rise to second thoughts by those judges who prematurely handed our president the Nobel Prize for Peace. Better they had kept it on the shelf in hopeful waiting, untarnished.

Bill Moyers

Journalist Bill Moyers is the host of the new show Moyers & Company, a weekly series of smart talk and new ideas aimed at helping viewers make sense of our tumultuous times through the insight of America’s strongest thinkers.. His previous shows on PBS included NOW with Bill Moyers and Bill Moyers Journal. Over the past three decades he has become an icon of American journalism and is the author of many books, including Bill Moyers Journal: The Conversation Continues, Moyers on Democracy, and Bill Moyers: On Faith & Reason. He was one of the organizers of the Peace Corps, a special assistant for Lyndon B. Johnson, a publisher of Newsday, senior correspondent for CBS News and a producer of many groundbreaking series on public television. He is the winner of more than 30 Emmys, nine Peabodys, three George Polk awards and is the author of three best-selling books.

Michael Winship

Michael Winship, senior writing fellow at Demos and president of the Writers Guild of America-East, is senior writer for Bill Moyers' new weekend show Moyers & Company.

Did the Republicans Shoot Down the Keystone XL Pipeline?

Think of it as a prospective irony: in a spirit of pure, blind partisanship, the drill-baby-drill folks in the Republican Party may have done themselves in.  After all, their obsession with the Benghazi incident led them to launch a preemptive strike against the president's choice for secretary of state, Susan Rice, for her statements on what happened when the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were murdered there.  They sent her nomination down in flames.  In the process, it’s just possible that they took out something far dearer to them. Susan Rice, once Obama's top pick for Secretary of State, had large financial holdings in international pipeline companies but was forced to withdraw her consideration for the position following a vicious GOP crusade surrounding the assault in Benghazi, Libya that left four Americans dead. (File).

Though it didn’t get much attention during her disastrous nomination moment, we did learn that Rice and her husband had made significant investments in companies connected to the Canadian tar-sands industry and the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which is to bring the resulting crude (and carbon-dirty) oil 1,700 miles from Alberta, Canada, to the U.S. Gulf Coast.  They reportedly had $300,000-$600,000 in stock in TransCanada, the company building the pipeline. 

In addition, “about a third of Rice’s personal net worth is tied up in oil producers, pipeline operators, and related energy industries north of the 49th parallel,” including Enbridge, a company which hopes to build another tar-sands pipeline.  Had she been secretary of state, she might have had one of the great conflicts of interest of our time (or a major divestment problem).

Congress seems desperate to see that pipeline built.  More than half the Senate -- 44 Republicans, including key Rice opponent John McCain, and nine Democrats -- signed a letter to that effect, but it matters little.  Because of the international border Keystone XL crosses, only two people stand between us and its construction, the secretary of state and President Obama, who alone will make the final decision on whether the project should proceed. The president's second choice for secretary of state, who recently swept through the nomination process, is of course former Senator John Kerry, a “climate hawk” who has already said that he will be deeply involved in the State Department's review of the pipeline.  (It’s worth noting that TransCanada, trying to cover all its bases, hired one of Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign staffers as a lobbyist, along with “heavyweights” from past Obama and Hillary Clinton presidential runs, and that Kerry does have to divest himself of holdings in two Canadian energy companies which have supported the pipeline.)

No one, of course, can know what the new secretary of state and the president will decide.  They are, however, already being pushed hard by a growing coalition of environmentally oriented groups, fearful of what it would mean to get all those tar sands out of the ground and (as carbon dioxide) into the atmosphere.  In addition, this coming Sunday, February 17th, an enormous “forward on climate” rally is to take place in Washington.  Originally organized by 350.org and Bill McKibben but now involving dozens of groups, it is expected to draw worried protestors (including this writer) from all over to demonstrate on the National Mall.  The goal is, in part, to push President Obama to make the necessary decision on the Keystone pipeline.  It’s remarkable that one man has the power to shoot this project down.  As energy expert Michael Klare explains in his latest piece, “A Presidential Decision That Could Change the World,” should he do so, the tar-sands industry might never recover.  That would lend a genuine hand to our over-heating planet, which means there has seldom been a situation where demonstrations to pressure a president were more in order.

© 2013 TomDispatch.com

Tom Engelhardt

Did the Republicans Shoot Down the Keystone XL Pipeline?

Think of it as a prospective irony: in a spirit of pure, blind partisanship, the drill-baby-drill folks in the Republican Party may have done themselves in.  After all, their obsession with the Benghazi incident led them to launch a preemptive strike against the president's choice for secretary of state, Susan Rice, for her statements on what happened when the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans were murdered there.  They sent her nomination down in flames.  In the process, it’s just possible that they took out something far dearer to them. Susan Rice, once Obama's top pick for Secretary of State, had large financial holdings in international pipeline companies but was forced to withdraw her consideration for the position following a vicious GOP crusade surrounding the assault in Benghazi, Libya that left four Americans dead. (File).

Though it didn’t get much attention during her disastrous nomination moment, we did learn that Rice and her husband had made significant investments in companies connected to the Canadian tar-sands industry and the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which is to bring the resulting crude (and carbon-dirty) oil 1,700 miles from Alberta, Canada, to the U.S. Gulf Coast.  They reportedly had $300,000-$600,000 in stock in TransCanada, the company building the pipeline. 

In addition, “about a third of Rice’s personal net worth is tied up in oil producers, pipeline operators, and related energy industries north of the 49th parallel,” including Enbridge, a company which hopes to build another tar-sands pipeline.  Had she been secretary of state, she might have had one of the great conflicts of interest of our time (or a major divestment problem).

Congress seems desperate to see that pipeline built.  More than half the Senate -- 44 Republicans, including key Rice opponent John McCain, and nine Democrats -- signed a letter to that effect, but it matters little.  Because of the international border Keystone XL crosses, only two people stand between us and its construction, the secretary of state and President Obama, who alone will make the final decision on whether the project should proceed. The president's second choice for secretary of state, who recently swept through the nomination process, is of course former Senator John Kerry, a “climate hawk” who has already said that he will be deeply involved in the State Department's review of the pipeline.  (It’s worth noting that TransCanada, trying to cover all its bases, hired one of Kerry’s 2004 presidential campaign staffers as a lobbyist, along with “heavyweights” from past Obama and Hillary Clinton presidential runs, and that Kerry does have to divest himself of holdings in two Canadian energy companies which have supported the pipeline.)

No one, of course, can know what the new secretary of state and the president will decide.  They are, however, already being pushed hard by a growing coalition of environmentally oriented groups, fearful of what it would mean to get all those tar sands out of the ground and (as carbon dioxide) into the atmosphere.  In addition, this coming Sunday, February 17th, an enormous “forward on climate” rally is to take place in Washington.  Originally organized by 350.org and Bill McKibben but now involving dozens of groups, it is expected to draw worried protestors (including this writer) from all over to demonstrate on the National Mall.  The goal is, in part, to push President Obama to make the necessary decision on the Keystone pipeline.  It’s remarkable that one man has the power to shoot this project down.  As energy expert Michael Klare explains in his latest piece, “A Presidential Decision That Could Change the World,” should he do so, the tar-sands industry might never recover.  That would lend a genuine hand to our over-heating planet, which means there has seldom been a situation where demonstrations to pressure a president were more in order.

© 2013 TomDispatch.com

Tom Engelhardt

DIY justice: Russians pay to castrate paedophiles

Three Russians – a member of the Public Chamber, a lawyer and a businessman – have volunteered to sponsor chemical castration for paedophiles.

The activists put forward their proposal to the lower house of parliament and the government, which had earlier criticized a law on chemical castration as being too pricy, writes Izvestia daily.

In 2011, the then Healthcare Minister Tatyana Golikova said the problem had no easy solution and that the use of the suggested method against rapists would cost 8mln roubles ($265,000) per year.

We are ready to help the state with our own money,” Veniamin Rodnyansky from the Public Chamber told the newspaper.

Another person behind the idea businessman Andrey Ryabinsky is confident that there are quite a few people in Russia who are ready to donate money to protect children from violence.

A third proponent, advocate Shota Gorgadze said he was ready to provide not only financial, but also judicial help in fighting paedophiles.

According to official statistics, 401 children less than 14 years of age were raped in Russia between January and October last year, three more died as a result of sexual battery. However, experts say that the real number of sex abuse victims might be a lot higher as children often do not tell anyone what happened to them because of embarrassment or because they were threatened.

The idea of introducing chemical castration for paedophiles has been mulled over for a number of years before the then President Dmitry Medvedev signed a respective law in February 2012.

However, opponents of the method say that it is not efficient as a deterrent. Besides that, unlike surgical castration, it is reversible when the treatment is discontinued.

Chemical castration requires a systematic use of medication. There’s no mechanism that would help to monitor whether the criminal regularly takes it,” MP Irina Manuilova observed.

As lawmakers are racking their brains striving to find a solution to the problem and parents are living in fear for their children, the statistics regarding sexual crimes against children continues to rise.

This month, 8-year-old Vasilisa Galitsyna was kidnapped and allegedly raped and killed in Russia’s Tatarstan. In Chechnya, 10-year old Linda Vidryaeva was allegedly raped and strangled.

Police in Irkutsk region are searching for man who could be behind the alleged murder of 11-year-old Ulyana Alexeeva, whose body was found in a sandpit earlier last week.

Should An Armed Drone Be Dispatched to Kill Christopher Dorner?

Christopher Jordan Dorner has declared 'war' against former LAPD colleagues and their families in a manifesto posted online. (Photograph: Reuters)A major manhunt has been underway in the Los Angeles area for Chris Dorner, the former LAPD officer, Navy reservist, and trained marksman who is the prime suspect in the murder of three people, including the daughter of an LAPD captain (who previously represented him in a disciplinary proceeding) and her fiance. A lengthy Facebook message attributed to Dorner vows that he will continue to kill not only members of the LAPD but also their children and spouses until he receives a public apology for what he believes was his unfair firing:

"This will be a war of attrition . . . . I will utilize OSINT to discover your residences, spouses workplaces, and children's schools. IMINT to coordinate and plan attacks on your fixed locations. . . . HUMINT will be utilized to collect personal schedules of targets. I never had the opportunity to have a family of my own, I'm terminating yours. . . . I know your significant others routine, your children's best friends and recess. I know Your Sancha's gym hours and routine. I assure you that the casualty rate will be high."

Surveillance drones are now being used to try to locate him. LAPD are so apprehensive that they have already mistakenly shot at innocent people when they saw vehicles resembling the one they thought belonged to Dorner. Authorities suspect he's hiding in "the icy wilderness" of Big Bear east of Los Angeles which, reported AP, is "filled with thick forests and jagged peaks, that creates peril as much for Dorner as the officers hunting him."

Here's my question: if the surveillance drones detect his location, should the lives of law enforcement agents be risked, along with other civilians, in an attempt to apprehend this highly-trained warrior? Why shouldn't an armed drone instead be immediately dispatched once his location is ascertained and simply kill him?

For those of you who believe it's possible to know someone's guilt without a trial, there is very little doubt about his guilt. Nobody has contested the authenticity of the confession posted in his name, nor the threats of further killing. He admitted and justified the killings on his Facebook entry.

For those of you who believe there is a clear definition of "terrorism", Dorner meets it easily. LAPD chief Charlie Beck today said that Dorner was engaging in "domestic terrorism". That's because he has not only threatened to kill random LAPD officers but also their children and family members in order to terrorize the department into publicly apologizing to him. He vowed to wage what he called "unconventional and asymmetrical warfare" in pursuit of his goal. As intended, the entire community is in terror. If that's not "domestic terrorism" under the conventional defintion, then nothing is.

Now obviously, if attempts are made to apprehend Dorner and he uses lethal force to resist, then shooting or killing him would be justified, uncontroversially so. The FBI just killed a kidnapper in Alabama when he began shooting at the agents who tried to arrest him, and nobody objected. Law enforcement agents always have the right to defend themselves against people they're trying to arrest if lethal force is used to resist. That's an easy case, and not what I'm asking.

Instead, suppose the LAPD locates Dorner in a cabin in a remote area of the California wilderness, just sitting alone watching television. Why should they possibly risk the lives of police officers to apprehend him? Why would anyone care if this terrorist's rights are protected? What's the argument for not simply killing him the moment he's located? Given that everyone seems certain of his guilt, that he's threatened further killings of innocents, that he declared himself at "war", and that the risk from capturing him would be high, what danger is created by simply shooting a Hellfire missile wherever he's found?

Or suppose that, as feared, he makes his way into Mexico. What's the objection to sending an armed drone to killing him there?

The impetus for my asking is obviously the widespread support for killing US citizen Anwar Awlaki without a trial or charges based on suspicions of guilt: it's far from clear that apprehending Awlaki would have been infeasible, and Dorner poses at least as much risk to Americans as Awlaki did, almost certainly more so. But leave that aside: independent of comparisons to any other case, including Awlaki, what would be wrong or dangerous, if anything, about simply droning this domestic Terrorist to death even in the absence of lethal resistance? What would be the harm from doing that? What are the reasons not to, if any?

Question posed on CNN

As Cenk Uygur notes in the video clip below, this question - why not send an armed drone to kill Dorner? - was posed with obvious sincerity by CNN's Erin Burnett late last week. Given how trained the citizenry has become to think this way, this sort of approach is inevitable and therefore deserves serious discussion:

UPDATE

This doesn't pertain to any of the substantive points raised here, but while some media reports (including the one linked above) have stated that surveillance drones are being used in the hunt for Dorner, other accounts call that claim into question.

© 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited

Glenn Greenwald

Syrian refugees suffering in Lebanon

Makeshift tents for Syrian refugees are seen in the Lebanese Beqaa valley, December 12, 2012.

The Syrian refugees who have left their home country to take shelter in camps inside neighboring Lebanon are living in dire conditions, Press TV reports.

The refugees are suffering from the lack of basic needs in the refugee camps in Lebanon, including the lack of proper medical treatment and assistance.

“You can see how our living conditions are like. Rain goes through the tents. The children are sick. My son has difficulty with breathing and we can’t take them to hospitals, unless it is an emergency,” said a refugee.

Among all Syria’s neighboring countries, Lebanon hosts the largest number of refugees with at least 260,000 people, which is equal to 6.5 percent of Lebanon’s total population.

Meanwhile, the United Nations has warned of the influx of the refugees from Syria to Lebanon, saying the increase in the number of the refugees requires four more camps.


UN refugee officials have appealed for more assistance, saying they have also drawn up contingency plans, which may have to be implemented as the number of the refugees continues to rise.

“If there is a sudden influx then we have to be prepared and this is why the camp component is included in our contingency planning,” a UNHCR spokeswoman, Dana Suleiman, said.

Meanwhile, the Lebanese government says it will spare no efforts to fulfill the needs of the refugees, including coordination with UN officials and regional countries.

“Upon the request of Lebanon, an extra ordinary Arab League meeting was held to discuss the refugees’ crisis. That meeting was followed by the summit in Kuwait, whereby 1.5 billion dollars of assistance was pledged. This assistance is now in the process of being distributed through various channels to provide aid for refugees,” Lebanese Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour said.

Syria has been experiencing unrest since mid-March 2011. Many people, including large numbers of security personnel, have been killed in the violence.

Several international human rights organizations say the foreign-sponsored militants have committed war crimes.

AO/HN/HJL

Syrian refugees suffering in Lebanon

Makeshift tents for Syrian refugees are seen in the Lebanese Beqaa valley, December 12, 2012.

The Syrian refugees who have left their home country to take shelter in camps inside neighboring Lebanon are living in dire conditions, Press TV reports.

The refugees are suffering from the lack of basic needs in the refugee camps in Lebanon, including the lack of proper medical treatment and assistance.

“You can see how our living conditions are like. Rain goes through the tents. The children are sick. My son has difficulty with breathing and we can’t take them to hospitals, unless it is an emergency,” said a refugee.

Among all Syria’s neighboring countries, Lebanon hosts the largest number of refugees with at least 260,000 people, which is equal to 6.5 percent of Lebanon’s total population.

Meanwhile, the United Nations has warned of the influx of the refugees from Syria to Lebanon, saying the increase in the number of the refugees requires four more camps.


UN refugee officials have appealed for more assistance, saying they have also drawn up contingency plans, which may have to be implemented as the number of the refugees continues to rise.

“If there is a sudden influx then we have to be prepared and this is why the camp component is included in our contingency planning,” a UNHCR spokeswoman, Dana Suleiman, said.

Meanwhile, the Lebanese government says it will spare no efforts to fulfill the needs of the refugees, including coordination with UN officials and regional countries.

“Upon the request of Lebanon, an extra ordinary Arab League meeting was held to discuss the refugees’ crisis. That meeting was followed by the summit in Kuwait, whereby 1.5 billion dollars of assistance was pledged. This assistance is now in the process of being distributed through various channels to provide aid for refugees,” Lebanese Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour said.

Syria has been experiencing unrest since mid-March 2011. Many people, including large numbers of security personnel, have been killed in the violence.

Several international human rights organizations say the foreign-sponsored militants have committed war crimes.

AO/HN/HJL

Tesco axes supplier over horse meat

Supermarket giant Tesco has become the latest retailer to drop a major supplier after discovering a range of spaghetti bolognese ready meals contained more than 60% horse meat. Tests on its frozen Everyday Value Spaghetti Bolognese, which was withdraw...

NYPD officer who sexually assaulted teacher beats rape conviction

(AFP Photo / Spencer Platt)

(AFP Photo / Spencer Platt)

A New York police officer who brutally sodomized and inflicted oral sex upon a schoolteacher at gunpoint has not been convicted of rape, despite DNA evidence and witness testimonies about the violent attack.

New York’s state law excludes nonconsensual oral and anal sex from the definition of “rape”, calling them “sexual assault” instead, the New York Daily News reports.

“New York lags behind such liberal bastions as South Dakota and Tennessee in how we define rape,” said Assemblywoman Aravella Simolas, who last year introduced a bill that expanded the definition of “rape”, which failed to get passed. “New York should be at the forefront to protect crime victims.”

Lydia Cuomo, the 25-year-old schoolteacher who was victimized on the first day of her new job at a Bronx charter school, was sexually assaulted by off-duty police officer Michael Pena on Aug. 19, 2011. The cop asked her for directions to the subway at about 6:15 am, while she was waiting to be picked up by her principal.

But the NYPD officer suddenly pointed his 9-mm handgun at the woman’s face, threatening to kill her and violate her in every way imaginable. The officer let her live, but not without sexually assaulting her first.

And the evidence was there: doctors found Pena’s DNA on the victim’s undergarments, a witness testified to seeing the man penetrate the woman, and even NYPD officers admitted that Pena sexually assaulted Cuomo.

“I feel like essentially I had a silver platter of a rape case. I had witnesses, I had DNA, I had my own testimony, I had two cops,” Cuomo said, speaking publicly for the first time in an interview with the Daily News

Pena was found guilty of committing a criminal sex act and predatory sexual assault, but fell short of being convicted of rape in Cuomo’s case – even though he was convicted of rape in several other cases involving different women.

“Anal’s not rape?” Cuomo said. “On what planet do you live? It never occurred to us that that’s not rape.”

The young woman is now going public with her case to try to change the New York statute limiting the definition of rape. States like Tennessee and South Dakota define forced sodomy and oral sex as rape, while New York has repeatedly failed to change its statute.

“I applaud Lydia Cuomo for speaking out and lending her support for the ‘Rape is Rape’ bill. Her courage in coming forward to shed light on this important issue is truly inspiring,” Simolas said in a statement. Although the bill was rejected by the Assembly in 2012, Simotas and Cuoma both hope to eventually get it passed.

Meanwhile, Cuomo has returned to work at the Bronx elementary school, but continues to deal with the trauma from the attack.

“My life has been shattered – my sense of security, my sense of safety, any and all independence,” she said.

Even though Cuomo’s offender has been sentenced to 10 years to life in addition to 75 years to life for two other rape charges that he pled guilty to, she believes it is wrong for the court to refuse to acknowledge that she too was raped. While Pena will likely spend most or all of his life behind bars, Cuomo hopes to change the definition of rape to incorporate other types of sexual assault.

Horsemeat Found In Tesco Spaghetti Meals

Tesco has dropped a major supplier after finding horsemeat in a range of spaghetti bolognase ready meals, which were taken off shelves last week.

The supermarket giant found levels of horse DNA exceeded 60% in tests on its Everyday Value Spaghetti Bolognese, which was meant to contain only Irish beef.

Frozen food firm Findus and Aldi found the meat in products made by the same company, Comigel, and joined them in dropping the French company as a supplier.

The announcement came as Britain's shadow environment secretary Mary Creagh claimed tens of thousands of horses have disappeared in Northen Ireland and the Government demanded the immediate testing of all suspected products.

Tesco group technical director Tim Smith said the Everyday Value Spaghetti Bolognese was last withdrawn as a cautionary measure.

The retailer said that of the positive results, most are at a trace level of less than 1% but three showed significant levels of horse DNA, exceeding 60%.

"The source of the horsemeat is still under investigation by the relevant authorities," Mr Smith said.

"The level of contamination suggests that Comigel was not following the appropriate production process for our Tesco product and we will not take food from their facility again.

"We are very sorry that we have let customers down. We set ourselves high standards for the food we sell and we have had two cases in recent weeks where we have not met those standards.

"Our DNA testing programme is underway and will give us and our customers assurance that the product they buy is what it should be."

Last month, Irish food inspectors said they had found horsemeat in some burgers stocked by a number of UK supermarket chains, including Tesco, Iceland and Lidl.

And last week frozen foods firm Findus announced it had taken its beef lasagnes made by Comigel off shelves after some were found to have up to 100% horsemeat in them.

The scandal has spread all over the continent as details of the elaborate supply chain in the meat industry emerge. 

Environment Secretary Owen Paterson told the House of Commons that it appeared that "criminal activity" had been at the heart of the scandal.

He told MPs there would be immediate testing of products across the supply chain, including tests at schools, hospitals and prisons.

The Food Standards Agency had also reassured him that the products recalled did not present a risk to the public, but consumers who had bought the Findus beef lasagnes should return them to the shop they had bought them from as a "precaution".

He said the "ultimate source" of the problem was not yet known but agencies were investigating a supply network that stretched across Europe.

Mr Paterson said: "At the moment this appears to be an issue of fraud and mis-labelling, but if anything suggests the need for changes to surveillance and enforcement in the UK we will not hesitate to make those changes."

Shadow environment secretary Mary Creagh claimed there were 70,000 horses unaccounted for in Northern Ireland, with unwanted animals given false paperwork before being sold for 10 euros (£8) and then resold to dealers for meat for as much as 500 euro (£423).

Speaking in the Commons, Ms Creagh said: "The Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals have clear evidence of an illegal trade of unfit horses from Ireland to the UK for meat, with horses being re-passported to meet demands for horsemeat in mainland Europe.

"It is very convenient to blame the Poles and the Romanians but so far neither country have found any problems with their beef abattoirs."

Following earlier cases of contamination, supermarkets across Europe accused  Romanian suppliers of being the source of the contaminated meat.

But the country's ambassador to the UK, Dr Ion Jinga, told Sky News that they were not to blame, saying Romanians love horses as much as people in Britain do.

"It is totally unacceptable to manipulate public opinion using false data without prior check," he insisted.

"It is outrageous for British newspapers to say wild horses have been used as meat.

"In reality all horses are micro-chipped and under surveillance, all wild horse are protected.  

"I have a message: we love horses as much as Britons do."

Earlier Romanian Prime Minister Victor Ponta insisted any fraud committed in the scandal did not happen in his country.

"Romania cannot accept to be the usual suspect," he told reporters.

"I am very angry, to be very honest."

Britain's Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has said as he described the contamination of beef products as a case of fraud against the public.

Tesco axes supplier over horse meat

Tesco has became the latest firm to drop a major supplier after discovering a range of spaghetti ready meals contained more than 60% horse meat. The supermarket giant said that tests on its frozen Everyday Value Spaghetti Bolognese, withdrawn last wee...

Generalissima Clinton Expanding the Empire

hilary

Hillary Clinton has completed her four-year tenure as Secretary of State to the accolades of both Democratic and Republican Congressional champions of the budget-busting “military-industrial complex,” that President Eisenhower warned about in his farewell address. Behind the public relations sheen, the photo-opportunities with groups of poor people in the developing world, an ever more militarized State Department operated under Clinton’s leadership.

A militarized State Department is more than a repudiation of the Department’s basic charter of 1789, for the then-named Department of Foreign Affairs, which envisioned diplomacy as its mission. Secretary Clinton reveled in tough, belligerent talk and action on her many trips to more than a hundred countries. She would warn or threaten “consequences” on a regular basis. She supported soldiers in Afghanistan, the use of secret Special Forces in other places and “force projection” in East Asia to contain China. She aggressively supported or attacked resistance movements in dictatorships, depending on whether a regime played to Washington’s tune.

Because Defense Secretary Robert Gates was openly cool to the drum beats for war on Libya, Clinton took over and choreographed the NATO ouster of the dictator, Muammar al-Gaddafi, long after he had given up his mass destruction weaponry and was working to re-kindle relations with the U.S. government and global energy corporations. Libya is now in a disastrous warlord state-of-chaos. Many fleeing fighters have moved into Mali, making that vast country into another battlefield drawing U.S. involvement. Blowback!

Time and again, Hillary Clinton’s belligerence exceeded that of Obama’s Secretaries of Defense. From her seat on the Senate Armed Services Committee to her tenure at the State Department, Hillary Clinton sought to prove that she could be just as tough as the militaristic civilian men whose circle she entered. Throughout her four years it was Generalissima Clinton, expanding the American Empire at large.

Here is some of what the candid camera of history will show about her record:

1. A Yale Law School graduate, she shared with President Obama, a former Harvard Law Review President, a shocking disregard for the law and separation of powers be it the Constitution, federal statues or international treaties. Her legal advisor, former Yale Law Dean Harold Koh, provided cover for her and Obama’s “drone ranger” (to use Bill Moyer’s words), John Brennan, Obama’s counterterrorism advisor. Brennan gave the president weekly opportunities (White House aides called decision day “Terror Tuesdays”) to become secret prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner. Imagine thousands of push-button deaths and injuries of internal resisters and civilian bystanders in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and elsewhere who presented no threat to the U.S.

The war on Libya, which Clinton spearheaded for Obama, was conducted without a Congressional Declaration of War, without even a War Resolution or a Congressional authorization or appropriation. She and her boss outdid Cheney and Bush on that score.

2. Although touting “diplomacy” as a priority, Clinton made little attempt to bring the United States into the community of nations by signing or ratifying international treaties already having as signatories over a hundred nations. As a former senator with bi-partisan support, Clinton didn’t use much of her capital on climate change agreements.

Human Rights Watch reports that chief among the unratified treaties are “international conventions relating to children, women, persons with disabilities, torture, enforced disappearance, and the use of anti-personal landmines and cluster munitions.” The last two treaties are designed to save thousands of lives and limbs of the children and their parents who are major victims of these concealed, atrocious weapons. Clinton has not gone to bat against the advocates for those “blowback” explosives that the Pentagon still uses.

When the Senate recently failed to ratify the treaty on disabilities, Clinton, with former senator and injured veteran, Robert Dole on her side, still didn’t make the maximum effort of which she is capable.

3. Secretary Clinton had problems heralding accurate whistleblowers. A 24-year-Foreign Service Officer, Peter Van Buren spent a year in Iraq running two State Department Reconstruction Teams. He exposed State Department waste and mismanagement along with the Pentagon’s “reconstruction” efforts using corporate contractors. Unlistened to, Van Buren, true to his civil service oath of office, went public. Clinton fired him. (wemeantwell.com.)

4. Possibly the most revealing of Clinton’s character was ordering U.S. officials to spy on top UN diplomats, including those from our ally, the United Kingdom. Shockingly, she even ordered her emissaries to obtain DNA data, iris scans (known as biometric data) and fingerprints along with credit card and frequent flier numbers.

The disclosure of secret State Department cables proved this to be a clear violation of the 1946 UN convention. Clinton included in this crude boomeranging personal espionage, the Secretary General of the UN, Ban Ki-Moon and his top officials all around the world. As befits these lawless times, there were no Congressional hearings, no accountabilities, and no resignation by the self-styled civil libertarian Secretary of State, not even a public apology.

5. Clinton led a dangerous expansion of the Department’s mission in Iraq. As reported in the Wall Street Journal on December 10, 2011, “In place of the military, the State Department will assume a new role of unprecedented scale, overseeing a massive diplomatic mission through a network of fortified, self-sufficient installations.”

To call this a diplomatic mission is a stretch. The State Department has hired thousands of private security contractors for armed details and transportation of personnel. Simply guarding the huge U.S. embassy in Iraq and its personnel costs more than $650 million a year – larger than the entire budget of the Occupational Health and Safety Agency (OSHA), which is responsible for reducing the yearly loss of about 58,000 lives in workplace-related traumas and sickness.

Another State Department undertaking is to improve the training and capability of Iraq’s police and armed forces. Countless active and retired Foreign Service officers believe expanded militarization of the State Department both sidelines them, their experience and knowledge, in favor of contractors and military people, and endangers them overseas.

Blurring the distinction between the Pentagon and the State Department in words and deeds seriously compromises Americans engaged in development and diplomatic endeavors. When people in the developing countries see Americans working to advance public health or clean drinking water systems within their countries, they now wonder if these are front activities for spying or undercover penetrations. Violent actions, fueled by this suspicion, are already jeopardizing public health efforts on the border areas of Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Clinton’s successor, former Senator and war veteran, John Kerry, says he wants to emphasize peace, human rights, and anti-poverty endeavors. He doesn’t have to prove his machismo should he strive to de-militarize the State Department and promote peaceful, deliberative missions in the world, from which true security flows.

Barcoding Our Children

Thousands of children have been added to the British National DNA Database over the last two years, an investigation has found. DNA swabs were taken by the West Midlands Police from almost 6,000 children, aged as young as 10, over a two year period.

A Rush to Judgment in Bulgarian Blast?

Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov’s dramatic announcement last Tuesday on the Bulgarian investigation of the July 2012 terror bombing of an Israeli tourist bus was initially reported by Western news media as suggesting clear evidence of Hezbollah’s responsibility for the killings.

The airport in Burgas, Bulgaria, near the site of the 2012 bombing. (Photo: Christian Rasmussen)But more accurate reports on the minister’s statement and the only details he provided reveal that the alleged link between the bomb suspects and Hezbollah was merely an “assumption” rather than a conclusion based on specific evidence.

Tsvetanov was quoted by various Western news outlets as saying, “We have established that the two were members of the militant wing of Hezbollah.” The minister also said, “There is data showing the financing and connection between Hezbollah and the two suspects,” according to the BBC and Jerusalem Post.

Those statements implied that the Bulgarian investigators had uncovered direct evidence of Hezbollah’s involvement in the Burgas bombing.

But the New York Times on Wednesday quoted Tsvetanov as saying, in remarks to a session of Bulgaria’s Consultative Council on National Security Tuesday, “A reasonable assumption, I repeat a reasonable assumption, can be made that the two of them were members of the militant wing of Hezbollah.” That statement appeared to acknowledge that he was merely speculating on the basis of data that doesn’t necessarily support that conclusion.

In a report on Wednesday by Sofia News Agency, Bulgaria’s largest English-language news provider, Tsvetanov was quoted as saying that the investigation had led to a “well-founded assumption” that two of the perpetrators of the deadly attack belonged to what the Bulgarian government is calling the “militant wing of Hezbollah.”

In an interview with Bulgarian National Radio Wednesday, the Bulgarian chief prosecutor, Sotir Tsatsarov, emphasized that the investigation of the Burgas bus bombing had not been concluded and expressed concern about the term “well-founded assumption.”

The chief prosecutor implied that Tsvetanov’s conclusion about Hezbollah might have been swayed by political pressures. Tsatsarov said that the prosecutor’s office “could not be used to make political decisions or to justify them,” according to Sofia News Agency.

In a television interview for the morning broadcast of Bulgarian National Television, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov defended Tsvetanov’s use of the phrase “well-founded assumption.” Mladenov explained that it meant that Bulgaria had “good reason” to believe that the attack had been organized and inspired by members of the militant branch of Hezbollah at this stage of the investigation, Sofia News Agency reported. But Mladenov did not claim that any of those “good reasons” consisted of hard evidence.

In an interview with Associated Press on Tuesday, Europol Director Rob Wainright said, “The Bulgarian authorities are making quite a strong assumption that this is the work of Hezbollah.” But Wainright also cited only the most general arguments in support of Tsvetanov’s “assumption,” declaring, “From what I’ve seen of the case – from the very strong, obvious links to Lebanon, from the modus operandi of the terrorist attack and from other intelligence that we see – I think that is a reasonable assumption.”

Europol had sent several investigators to help the Bulgarian authorities on the Burgas bombing investigation, Wainwright told Associated Press.

None of the details provided by Tsvetanov, according to press reports, involved evidence showing that two of the alleged conspirators belonged to Hezbollah or to Hezbollah financing of the terror plot. The most important piece of evidence cited by Tsvetanov was the lengthy stays in Lebanon by two of the three alleged participants in the bombing and driver’s licenses that were forged in Lebanon.

Tsvetanov said the two alleged conspirators with Canadian and Australian passports who are believed to have helped the third member of the cell carry out the Burgas bombing lived in Lebanon between 2006 and 2010. He also indicated that two of driver’s licenses used by the conspirators were “forged in Lebanon,” and that Bulgaria was able to piece together the movements of two of the suspects from Lebanon to Europe.

Those connections between the alleged conspirators and the bombing by themselves could hardly support an assumption of Hezbollah responsibility for the bombing. Al-Qaeda terrorist cells have been operating in Lebanon for years, and have the technical capability for such a bombing plot.

Members of one Al-Qaeda network of 13 men organized in different cells arrested in 2006 and 2007 confessed to having planned and carried out the 2005 assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, although they retracted their confessions before trial.

Furthermore, Al-Qaeda has claimed responsibility for a series of terrorist bombings involving Israeli tourists in the past, whereas there is no known case of a Hezbollah bombing of Israeli tourists, as a Hezbollah spokesman pointed out Wednesday.

In November 2002, Al-Qaeda carried out a terrorist attack on Israeli tourists in Mombasa, Kenya in November 2002 that involved an attempted shoot-down of an Israeli passenger aircraft and a triple suicide car bombing of an Israeli-owned hotel.

Two years later, an Al-Qaeda affiliate took responsibility for bombings at three Red Sea resorts, killing 34 Israeli tourists. And in July 2005, the same Al-Qaeda-related organization took responsibility for suicide bomb attacks that killed at least 88 people at a shopping area and hotel packed with tourists, including Israelis, in the Egyptian Red Sea resort city of Sharm el Sheik.

Nevertheless, Tsvetanov offered no other specific evidence to support his conclusion about the assumed Hezbollah connection.

Another aspect of the Bulgarian investigation suggesting that information about the alleged participants is still very limited is the fact, reported by the Bulgarian daily newspaper Sega, that the investigators had found no direct communication and only “indirect indications” of ties between the Arab holding an Australian passport and the perpetrator of the attack.

The Bulgarian charge of Hezbollah responsibility for the bombing based on little more than assumption has raised the suspicion in Bulgaria that the government was under pressure from the United States and Israel to reach a conclusion that aligned with the Israeli-American position.

Foreign Minister Mladenov denied that Bulgaria was pressured into issuing a statement on the progress of the investigation. But both Israel and the United States have given evidence of wanting such a statement. Bulgaria is a member of NATO and has expanded military and intelligence ties with Israel since Israeli relations with Turkey soured in 2009.

Israel also played a key role in the Bulgarian investigation, as Interior Minister Tsvetanov acknowledged in his presentation Tuesday. He specifically thanked the Israeli government for its support in regard to the investigation and said Israel had provided “relevant expertise” in regard to one of the indicators implicitly cited as pointing to Hezbollah – the identification of the false driver’s licenses used by the alleged bomb cell.

Ha’aretz reported Tuesday that Israel and the United States had both feared that, “while the investigation’s finding would be clear, Bulgaria’s public statement would be ambiguous and would not name Hezbollah responsible.”

John Brennan, President Barack Obama’s primary adviser on homeland security and counter-terrorism, issued a statement that portrayed the Bulgarian investigation as having reached a definitive conclusion. Brennan praised the Bulgarian authorities for “their determination and commitment to ensuring that Hizballah is held to account for this act of terror on European soil.”

© 2013 Consortium News

Gareth Porter

Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist on U.S. national security policy who has been independent since a brief period of university teaching in the 1980s. Dr. Porter is the author of four books, the latest of which is Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam (University of California Press, 2005). He has written regularly for Inter Press Service on U.S. policy toward Iraq and Iran since 2005.

A Rush to Judgment in Bulgarian Blast?

Bulgarian Interior Minister Tsvetan Tsvetanov’s dramatic announcement last Tuesday on the Bulgarian investigation of the July 2012 terror bombing of an Israeli tourist bus was initially reported by Western news media as suggesting clear evidence of Hezbollah’s responsibility for the killings.

The airport in Burgas, Bulgaria, near the site of the 2012 bombing. (Photo: Christian Rasmussen)But more accurate reports on the minister’s statement and the only details he provided reveal that the alleged link between the bomb suspects and Hezbollah was merely an “assumption” rather than a conclusion based on specific evidence.

Tsvetanov was quoted by various Western news outlets as saying, “We have established that the two were members of the militant wing of Hezbollah.” The minister also said, “There is data showing the financing and connection between Hezbollah and the two suspects,” according to the BBC and Jerusalem Post.

Those statements implied that the Bulgarian investigators had uncovered direct evidence of Hezbollah’s involvement in the Burgas bombing.

But the New York Times on Wednesday quoted Tsvetanov as saying, in remarks to a session of Bulgaria’s Consultative Council on National Security Tuesday, “A reasonable assumption, I repeat a reasonable assumption, can be made that the two of them were members of the militant wing of Hezbollah.” That statement appeared to acknowledge that he was merely speculating on the basis of data that doesn’t necessarily support that conclusion.

In a report on Wednesday by Sofia News Agency, Bulgaria’s largest English-language news provider, Tsvetanov was quoted as saying that the investigation had led to a “well-founded assumption” that two of the perpetrators of the deadly attack belonged to what the Bulgarian government is calling the “militant wing of Hezbollah.”

In an interview with Bulgarian National Radio Wednesday, the Bulgarian chief prosecutor, Sotir Tsatsarov, emphasized that the investigation of the Burgas bus bombing had not been concluded and expressed concern about the term “well-founded assumption.”

The chief prosecutor implied that Tsvetanov’s conclusion about Hezbollah might have been swayed by political pressures. Tsatsarov said that the prosecutor’s office “could not be used to make political decisions or to justify them,” according to Sofia News Agency.

In a television interview for the morning broadcast of Bulgarian National Television, Bulgarian Foreign Minister Nikolay Mladenov defended Tsvetanov’s use of the phrase “well-founded assumption.” Mladenov explained that it meant that Bulgaria had “good reason” to believe that the attack had been organized and inspired by members of the militant branch of Hezbollah at this stage of the investigation, Sofia News Agency reported. But Mladenov did not claim that any of those “good reasons” consisted of hard evidence.

In an interview with Associated Press on Tuesday, Europol Director Rob Wainright said, “The Bulgarian authorities are making quite a strong assumption that this is the work of Hezbollah.” But Wainright also cited only the most general arguments in support of Tsvetanov’s “assumption,” declaring, “From what I’ve seen of the case – from the very strong, obvious links to Lebanon, from the modus operandi of the terrorist attack and from other intelligence that we see – I think that is a reasonable assumption.”

Europol had sent several investigators to help the Bulgarian authorities on the Burgas bombing investigation, Wainwright told Associated Press.

None of the details provided by Tsvetanov, according to press reports, involved evidence showing that two of the alleged conspirators belonged to Hezbollah or to Hezbollah financing of the terror plot. The most important piece of evidence cited by Tsvetanov was the lengthy stays in Lebanon by two of the three alleged participants in the bombing and driver’s licenses that were forged in Lebanon.

Tsvetanov said the two alleged conspirators with Canadian and Australian passports who are believed to have helped the third member of the cell carry out the Burgas bombing lived in Lebanon between 2006 and 2010. He also indicated that two of driver’s licenses used by the conspirators were “forged in Lebanon,” and that Bulgaria was able to piece together the movements of two of the suspects from Lebanon to Europe.

Those connections between the alleged conspirators and the bombing by themselves could hardly support an assumption of Hezbollah responsibility for the bombing. Al-Qaeda terrorist cells have been operating in Lebanon for years, and have the technical capability for such a bombing plot.

Members of one Al-Qaeda network of 13 men organized in different cells arrested in 2006 and 2007 confessed to having planned and carried out the 2005 assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri, although they retracted their confessions before trial.

Furthermore, Al-Qaeda has claimed responsibility for a series of terrorist bombings involving Israeli tourists in the past, whereas there is no known case of a Hezbollah bombing of Israeli tourists, as a Hezbollah spokesman pointed out Wednesday.

In November 2002, Al-Qaeda carried out a terrorist attack on Israeli tourists in Mombasa, Kenya in November 2002 that involved an attempted shoot-down of an Israeli passenger aircraft and a triple suicide car bombing of an Israeli-owned hotel.

Two years later, an Al-Qaeda affiliate took responsibility for bombings at three Red Sea resorts, killing 34 Israeli tourists. And in July 2005, the same Al-Qaeda-related organization took responsibility for suicide bomb attacks that killed at least 88 people at a shopping area and hotel packed with tourists, including Israelis, in the Egyptian Red Sea resort city of Sharm el Sheik.

Nevertheless, Tsvetanov offered no other specific evidence to support his conclusion about the assumed Hezbollah connection.

Another aspect of the Bulgarian investigation suggesting that information about the alleged participants is still very limited is the fact, reported by the Bulgarian daily newspaper Sega, that the investigators had found no direct communication and only “indirect indications” of ties between the Arab holding an Australian passport and the perpetrator of the attack.

The Bulgarian charge of Hezbollah responsibility for the bombing based on little more than assumption has raised the suspicion in Bulgaria that the government was under pressure from the United States and Israel to reach a conclusion that aligned with the Israeli-American position.

Foreign Minister Mladenov denied that Bulgaria was pressured into issuing a statement on the progress of the investigation. But both Israel and the United States have given evidence of wanting such a statement. Bulgaria is a member of NATO and has expanded military and intelligence ties with Israel since Israeli relations with Turkey soured in 2009.

Israel also played a key role in the Bulgarian investigation, as Interior Minister Tsvetanov acknowledged in his presentation Tuesday. He specifically thanked the Israeli government for its support in regard to the investigation and said Israel had provided “relevant expertise” in regard to one of the indicators implicitly cited as pointing to Hezbollah – the identification of the false driver’s licenses used by the alleged bomb cell.

Ha’aretz reported Tuesday that Israel and the United States had both feared that, “while the investigation’s finding would be clear, Bulgaria’s public statement would be ambiguous and would not name Hezbollah responsible.”

John Brennan, President Barack Obama’s primary adviser on homeland security and counter-terrorism, issued a statement that portrayed the Bulgarian investigation as having reached a definitive conclusion. Brennan praised the Bulgarian authorities for “their determination and commitment to ensuring that Hizballah is held to account for this act of terror on European soil.”

© 2013 Consortium News

Gareth Porter

Gareth Porter is an investigative historian and journalist on U.S. national security policy who has been independent since a brief period of university teaching in the 1980s. Dr. Porter is the author of four books, the latest of which is Perils of Dominance: Imbalance of Power and the Road to War in Vietnam (University of California Press, 2005). He has written regularly for Inter Press Service on U.S. policy toward Iraq and Iran since 2005.

Horsemeat Scandal An ‘International Conspiracy’

The Environment Secretary Owen Paterson has told Sky News an "international conspiracy" could be at the centre of the horsemeat scandal, and police might begin an investigation.

He made the comments following an emergency meeting with food producers, leading supermarkets and the Food Standards Agency (FSA) in central London.

He said it had been agreed that there would be "a very rapid analysis of current products", with results by the end of next week, to understand "the extent of this problem which is either caused by gross incompetence or what I suspect is actually an international criminal conspiracy".

"If there's a criminal act we will work with the authorities wherever they are to ensure the appropriate measures are taken," he added.

Scotland Yard met with representatives from the FSA last night.

Substituting horse for beef was "fraud on the British public" and "people should buy what is on the label," he said.

Mr Paterson also warned that the scandal "could go deeper than we thought, and there may be further bad news to come."

The Environment Secretary said that retailers held the "ultimate responsibility" for making sure that horsemeat was not in their products and that they would have to start doing their own testing. 

During the talks on Saturday morning the supermarkets had agreed to work with the FSA to report their test results on a quarterly basis.

Bosses from leading supermarkets including Tesco, Sainsbury's, Asda and Morrisons attended the meeting at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

The talks came as frozen food company Findus UK reiterated its apology after tests found up to 100% horse meat in some of its beef lasagnes

But the Swedish food giant came under fire from opposition leader Ed Miliband amid reports Findus knew some days before it withdrew its lasagnes from sale that they were likely to contain horsemeat.

He told Sky News: "The head of the company needs to come to Britain and explain himself and who knew what when.

"Many customers were innocently buying Findus products when it appears that the company may have known it was likely to be contaminated by horsemeat."

Findus has strongly denied other reports saying it knew about the problems as early as last August, saying that they first suspected an issue on January 22, when they ordered the initial tests.

The presence of equine DNA was confirmed on January 29 and a product recall was ordered on February 2 after further tests had been conducted.

Findus was not invited to the Government summit but the Food and Drink Federation, of which they are a member, attended.

Supermarket chain Aldi meanwhile has confirmed that two of its ready meal ranges produced by Comigel, the French supplier also used by Findus, were found to contain between 30% and 100% horse meat.

50,000 Tunisians Mourn Slayed Opposition Leader

Over 50,000 mourners lined the streets of the Tunisian capital on Friday for the funeral procession of opposition leader Chokri Belaid, who was shot outside of his home earlier this week.

Mourners carry the coffin of murdered opposition leader Chokri Belaid during his funeral procession in Tunis on Friday, February 8. (Photo: Fethi Belaid/AFP/Getty Images) Protests spilled over into the burial service in southern Tunis where, according to witnesses, police fired teargas at people outside the cemetery.

The day of unrest follows a nation-wide general strike on Friday. The strike was called by the country’s biggest labor union in protest of Belaid's killing, which "brought the capital Tunis to a near standstill" with banks, factories and shops shuttered in a number of cities, Democracy Now reports. Tunis Air also took part, cancelling all their flights for the day.

For the three days since the shooting, demonstrators have taken to the streets calling for the dissolution of the coalition government, headed by the Islamic Ennahda party.

Reporting on today's service, Al Jazeera writes:

As Belaid's body was lowered into the ground, thousands of people cried "Allahu akbar!" [God is greatest] before singing the national anthem and reciting the opening verse of the Quran.[...]

The interior ministry said 132 people were arrested and estimated the size of the funeral crowd at 40,000.

Belaid's widow Besma held two fingers in the air in a victory sign as a chant of "The people want a new revolution" rang out.[...]

Hamma Hammami, a leader of the Popular Front, the alliance of leftist parties to which Belaid belonged, gave a graveside oration, followed by a minute's silence.

"Rest in peace, Chokri, we will continue on your path," Hammami told the huge crowd of mourners thronging El-Jellaz cemetery.

Demonstrations of mourning and rebellion took place in other cities, as well. Reuters reports in the southern town of Gafsa, which was a stronghold of support for Belaid, "police fired teargas to disperse anti-government protesters throwing stones and petrol bombs." 

Also, in the town of Sidi Bouzid—where the 2011 self-immolation of street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi triggered a chain of popular revolts across the Arab World—about 10,000 marched to mourn Belaid and shout slogans against Ennahda and the government.

Though many are claiming Belaid's murder was politically motivated, the details are still unknown. In a news conference late Thursday night, presidential spokesman Adnan Mancer announced that police were questioning a possible suspect.

Human rights watchdog groups, including Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, are calling for a thorough examination into, what appears to be, the assassination of the outspoken opposition leader.

Proof MI6 and MI5 Aided Libyan Torture

Abdelhakim_Belhadj
New evidence has emerged that proves the UK was complicit in the kidnap and torture of a Libyan man. For over a decade British politicians including  Gordon Brown, Jack Straw and David Miliband have strongly denied that the UK had involvement with torture. Crucially, the files detail a meeting between senior heads of MI6,  MI5 and Gaddafi's external intelligence agency.

Radio Ambulante: Spanish-Language Radio Program Showcases the Untold Stories of the Americas

The new Spanish-language radio program "Radio Ambulante" gathers voices from around Latin America and the United States to showcase the untold human stories behind issues such as immigration and kidnappings. Using a network of journalists from around the Americas, the monthly program fills a gaping hole in the radio landscape for Spanish speakers. We’re joined by Radio Ambulante executive producer Daniel Alarcón, the acclaimed author of the novel "Lost City Radio," and by Annie Correal, a Radio Ambulante producer who tells her family’s story of using radio to convey messages to her kidnapped father in Colombia.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: While immigration reform is shaping up to be a top issue of President Obama’s second term, little attention has often been paid to the individuals at the center of that story: the millions of immigrants, many from Latin America, who come to the United States. Their stories often go untold. A new radio program is attempting to change that. It’s called Radio Ambulante. The new podcast gathers compelling stories told in Spanish from around Latin America and the United States, using a network of journalists from around the hemisphere. The monthly program fills a gaping hole in the radio landscape for Spanish speakers. The novelist Daniel Alarcón is the show’s executive producer.

DANIEL ALARCÓN: In 2007, I published a novel about radio, and the BBC asked me to do a documentary about Andean migration to Lima, the city where I was born. I was really excited to do this, and I got to travel all over the country and hear these amazing stories. When we did the final edit, a lot of the voices were translated into English, and I thought something was lost. Years later, my wife and I decided to do something about it.

AMY GOODMAN: We’ll be joined in a few minutes by Radio Ambulante's founder and executive producer, Daniel Alarcón, and by producer Annie Correal. But first I want to turn to one of the stories from their show. It was read live during a recent public performance. It takes place in Tijuana, the world's busiest border crossing. Producer Ruxandra Guidi tells the story, which begins with her search for a U.S. border guard named Angelica DeCima.

RUXANDRA GUIDI: When I find her, she’s straight-faced and a little nervous, wearing the official Navy blue of Customs and Border Protection. I’ve come to learn about what she does, what this border looks like to her. She must be baking beneath this unforgiving sun.

All right, so we’ll just head out. We’re going to follow you guys, probably be about 10 feet away from you as you do your job, just not going to interview you, anything like that.

Technically speaking, we’re still in Mexico, but there’s no question who’s in charge of this part of the border. Angelica and I are facing the U.S. Behind us, the endless rows of idling cars extend deep into Tijuana; to our right, the long orderly line of pedestrians heading the same direction. We walk a few steps behind another officer and his guard dog, zigzagging our way through the cars heading into San Diego. The smoke and the heat radiating from the engines is making me nauseous.

OK, let’s go.

BORDER AGENT: Go ahead.

RUXANDRA GUIDI: Go ahead, you guys. Run. We’ll just follow you.

BORDER AGENT: Nine-fifteen.

RUXANDRA GUIDI: Then I hear one of the agents calling out the number 915. And this, it turns out, is at least part of the reason for the traffic jam. Nine-fifteen, that’s code for human smuggling. A couple of other guards rush past us, the guard dog leading the way. Angelica and I race after them. And we come to an old Honda Accord being driven past a booth by a U.S. guard. The middle-aged man who was at the wheel is staring down at his feet while another guard leads him away from the car in handcuffs. My interview with Angelica had barely begun, and now this.

ANGELICA DECIMA: You see this every day, people trying to come into the country hidden in the trunks, and then even deeper concealment methods, like a special—specially built compartment. A lot of times we call them "coffin compartments." People cannot get out of them. And it is dangerous.

RUXANDRA GUIDI: To say that it’s dangerous is an understatement. It’s a rectangular box made up of pinewood planks and metal sheets, held by wires and rigged to the undercarriage of this old car. It’s so low to the ground, it must have been banged up so many times along the ride.

BORDER GUARD: They’ve been in there for a while.

RUXANDRA GUIDI: I’m with Angelica and about a dozen other guards, and we’re all gathered around the old cream-colored Honda. Everyone’s eyes are on that trunk. And one of the guards, a young Latino guy with a heavy build and jet black, intense eyes, reaches into it, and deeper still, into the makeshift compartment underneath it. I stop breathing for a moment and look around. We’re all staring, shamelessly, as if trying to predict who or what will come out.

The young guard grabs onto a hand, ever so carefully, and then pulls out the whole arm, then the shaking and sweaty body of a kid, probably 15 or 16. He has indigenous features and a skinny, long body. He looks terrified. And my heart sinks as we make quick eye contact. He’s not saying a word, but then again, what could he say?

The Honda’s engine is still running, spewing smoke right into our faces. Then the guard reaches in again, and again, and yet again. Three more people come out of this tiny space, an absolutely impossible number emerging from under this car—four people in all—a second young man and two girls probably in their teens. They have no shoes, no IDs or bags of any kind, just bodies, scarcely alive, from the looks of them. Who knows how long they’ve been stuck in traffic inside this wooden box? Angelica seems desensitized by the whole thing.

ANGELICA DECIMA: The first time I found somebody in the trunk, I think I was more nervous than the driver. I mean, you’re looking for it, but it’s shocking, the first time you actually find people in the trunk.

RUXANDRA GUIDI: I can imagine. This is my first time seeing someone in a trunk, and I feel nothing else but helplessness, shame and sadness. I mean, I know this happens every day at the border, for many years, but it’s different when you see it.

ANGELICA DECIMA: Oftentimes when people have been in the trunks of a vehicle, especially on a hot day in the summertime, especially, oftentimes they can be in that vehicle for hours at a time. And they come in kind of looking like these folks.

RUXANDRA GUIDI: These folks are looking tired, hot, sweaty, dehydrated. Sometimes, Angelica tells me, they’re pulled out unconscious. Though I try, of course, I’m not allowed to talk to the girls and boys who have just been taken from the coffin compartment. They’re lined up on the curb, still shoeless, and they won’t meet my gaze. Moments later, they’re taken away.

I’ve worked on the border, on and off, for years, long enough to know that as soon as they’re sent right back, they’ll pool all their energy and whatever little money they can get into crossing again. And because I’ve talked to so many people on this side, men and women who have made the same crossing, I know this, too: If they keep trying, they’re likely to make it.

AMY GOODMAN: That was producer Ruxandra Guidi of the new podcast, Radio Ambulante. While the show’s podcasts are in Spanish, they occasionally produce stories in English.

For more, we’re joined by its co-founder and executive producer, Daniel Alarcón, also an acclaimed author. His most recent novel is Lost City Radio. His next novel, due out this fall, At Night We Walk in Circles. He is a fellow in the Investigative Reporting Program at UC Berkeley School of Journalism.

We welcome you to Democracy Now!

DANIEL ALARCÓN: Thank you, Amy.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s great to have you with us. It is hard to put down Lost City Radio. And your—I attended your event here in New York as you unveiled Radio Ambulante. Explain, first, why "Ambulante."

DANIEL ALARCÓN: An ambulante is a kind of a street vendor. It’s one who pushes a cart, someone who’s out on the streets selling. There’s a lot of things about the ambulante that we feel is symbolic and representative of the Latino experience. One, you see them in every Latin American city and in every American city that has a sizable Latino population. For us, el ambulante is dynamic, is a go-getter, you know, is on the streets, hears the stories of his neighborhood and of his people. And so, when we were trying to think of a name, we went through maybe 300 names. That was one the really difficult parts of the process, just trying to—what you’re going to name your baby.

AMY GOODMAN: Which you’re about to have.

DANIEL ALARCÓN: Which I’m about to have.

AMY GOODMAN: Your first baby.

DANIEL ALARCÓN: Yeah, so my first baby would be Radio Ambulante, my second baby. And we—it was a terrible process. But when we hit on ambulante and the idea of this, you know, dynamic figure in the community who doesn’t take no for an answer—you know, you don’t find work, you make work—we really liked that. And we tried to translate it to like "Radio on the Move" also, you know, because he’s always out there.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And the—and the idea of just being able to tell the stories by radio, especially the—that particular medium, why you think it’s so important to get the stories out that way?

DANIEL ALARCÓN: Well, Latinos listen to so much radio. You know, radio is a part of Latin American life. It’s part of—you know, in every household, the radio is on all the time. And also, the new technologies have made radio—kind of given radio a new life. You know, used to be, if you didn’t hear it live, it was gone. And now radio is archivable and searchable. We can, you know, draw sounds from all over the world and then push them back out. So we’ve been listened to in 120 countries. You know, I can look on the analytics of my website and see that we’ve got downloads from all over the world. And that’s very exciting. And, you know, being a writer, coming from the world of literature, radio is what most closely approximates the experience of reading, the experience of having an author and a voice whispering in your year. So, the intimacy of radio is something that’s pretty unparalleled.

AMY GOODMAN: Tell us about your novel, Lost City Radio, how that fits in.

DANIEL ALARCÓN: Well, I see now that it fits in, you know? I think—you know, my family is a radio family. My father was a radio announcer in his youth, before he, you know, went on to do other things. I have uncles and cousins who have worked in radios all over Peru. And for me, you know, I sort of became obsessed with one program called Busca Personas, People Finders, in Peru, that was basically a way—it was like a public bulletin board, radio bulletin board, every Sunday night for people to find their missing loved ones. And it struck me as kind of a symptom of these growing Latin American cities—economic dislocation, political violence, you know, all these forces that are moving people into these giant urban centers where they might not be able to connect with their families and loved ones. And I just took that show and created a universe around it.

AMY GOODMAN: This woman who becomes the voice of a nation, and particularly around the disappeared.

DANIEL ALARCÓN: Particularly around the disappeared, yes, in one particular story. The novel opens when a boy named Victor, who’s around 11 years old, shows up at the radio station, and he has a list of all the people who have gone missing from his village. And there’s one particular name on that list that shocks her. And so, the story is really how did that name wind up on that list. And in the present tense, it’s maybe a day and a half, two days with the woman and the boy. But to tell the story of how the name wound up on that list, we have to go back and tell the history of the war itself.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: I’d like to ask you, in terms of the—your decision to get involved in this project and the emphasis on the—on the border itself, because—

AMY GOODMAN: But before we do that, if we could take a break, and then we will introduce our next guest, and perhaps we’ll do it through her story, through her story on radio. We’ll let you know her name when we come back. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. Back in a minute.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González, as we continue our look at Radio Ambulante. Let’s turn to a radio report by our next guest, Annie Correal, who will be joining Daniel Alarcón. In this piece, she talks about how her father was kidnapped in Colombia by members of the FARC in 1999. He was held in the jungle for nine months, later rescued in a military raid. There’s a radio show there called Voices of Kidnapping that broadcasts to people who go missing. Annie’s family used to go on the show every week to speak to their father. Ten years later, she and her father returned to Colombia to produce this piece about his story. This clip picks up the story at the point when they arrive at the spot on the road where he was kidnapped.

JAIME CORREAL: Right where I’m standing, the guy came from behind that post, and he came with a gun up, was screaming, "Police! Police!" I tried to get into the traffic, and I couldn’t get in because it was bumper to bumper. And that’s when they hit the window, and they pulled me out, and they threw me in the back seat with two guys with a weapon.

ANNIE CORREAL: Back then, Colombia was the kidnapping capital of the world. At the peak of the kidnapping craze, there were around 3,000 people kidnapped a year. That’s like eight people a day. Carjackings happen in Bogota all the time and in plain view, like my dad’s.

JAIME CORREAL: There it is. You know, I had in my mind that it was not so close to the road, but it’s right there.

ANNIE CORREAL: Is that the first time you’ve been back to that spot?

JAIME CORREAL: Uh-huh, yeah.

ANNIE CORREAL: As we sat at the spot where it happened, he said if he had taken a left, it would have taken him 20 minutes to get home.

JAIME CORREAL: Instead, it took me eight-and-a-half months, 265 days.

ANNIE CORREAL: While my dad was kidnapped, I was in the States, but my stepmom, Sammy, used to call into the radio show, Voices of Kidnapping, and try to get word out from our family. And some of our messages actually got through. When my dad was rescued eight-and-a-half months later, he told us he had had a radio and had listened for us obsessively.

JAIME CORREAL: It was a black machine. I don’t know. It was—it wasn’t a brand name that everybody knows. It was something like Cauliflower, OK? I mean, it was as valuable as my cigarettes, OK? It’s something I would wrap really well with my clothes, so it wouldn’t get hurt, it wouldn’t get damaged.

ANNIE CORREAL: Although it was the military that ultimately got my dad out of the jungle, I think it was that radio that actually saved his life. A guard gave it to him at the first camp, and he held onto it for most of his kidnapping. Radios aren’t officially allowed, but they’re passed around as contraband, and guards usually turn a blind eye. For the first six months he was held captive by the FARC, my dad was held alone. The radio was his only companion.

JAIME CORREAL: It’s really an exercise of patience to be awake for 12 hours, 13 hours and not being able to do anything.

ANNIE CORREAL: So, when he first heard my stepmom, Sammy, talking to him over the radio, it was like a miracle.

JAIME CORREAL: You know, it was like 6:20 in the morning. I was laying in bed with my radio. It said, "This is a message for Jaime Correal." I mean, my heart stopped. I said,
Wow!" She said, "Your kids are fine. Hold up. Pray." You know, all the encouraging words they can give you. So, from then on, that was my lifeline.

ANNIE CORREAL: My dad would stay up all night listening to the show. But it wasn’t easy.

JAIME CORREAL: A lot of times you lose the station because actually you’re always deep in the jungle and there’s a lot of clouds, and then you just go very softly trying to locate it again. And then you don’t want to move the radio, so you end up in these awkward positions and just listening. You know, when they call your name, when they mention your name, you just—your heart always pounds.

ANNIE CORREAL: This is a radio message from my family recorded 10 years ago when my dad was held captive. My stepmom made this tape to send to the radio station, hoping he would hear it, wherever he was. She calls him by his nickname, "Lumpy."

She chose one of her favorite love songs to mix with the radio message. She says every time she hears it, she thinks of him intensely. She asks if he can imagine how much they’re going to enjoy making up for lost time.

Then she introduces my little sister. My little sister says she hopes he comes back soon safe and sound and that he’ll be very, very, very hungry, because they’ll have his favorite, eggs and sausage, waiting for him.

Then my brother comes on. He says he’s the goalie on the school soccer team, and he’s blocked a lot of shots. Then he says he loves him and misses him.

My stepmom says that she’s waiting for him, that she’ll always wait for him and he’s the love of her life, and she can’t wait to pick up where they left off in November.

AMY GOODMAN: An excerpt from "Kidnap Radio," produced for Transom Radio and also featured on This American Life. It’s by our guest, Annie Correal. Her father was released after nine months, but thousands were never reunited with their families. In this piece, she goes on to talk more about their struggles. We are also joined by Daniel Alarcón, who is the founder and executive producer of Radio Ambulante. Welcome, both. Juan?

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Annie, in that piece, obviously, most Americans are not aware of the enormous impact of the continuing wars in Colombia, not only the civil war, but the drug wars of the ’80s and ’90s, and the impact on Colombian life, that so many Colombians who have come here to the United States were, in essence, fleeing what was going on in their own country.

ANNIE CORREAL: That’s right.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: Could you talk about the—your hope to get these stories out here in the United States?

ANNIE CORREAL: Well, what we just listened to was my first radio story. And it did have a much greater ripple effect than anything that I had done before. It was actually through that radio piece that I was connected with Daniel and his partner, Carolina, and they said, you know, "Let’s make a radio program that can reach this enormous population." But I think we also felt that it wasn’t just something that we wanted to make for the Spanish-speaking population, but also something that would represent these really fascinating, rich stories of, like you said, so many immigrants who have come here that often go untold, the reasons for why they are here, for why they’ve left their home countries, that it’s not always pull, sometimes it’s push, whether natural disaster or political violence. So, I think that there’s just no lack of stories to be told.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about discovering Annie and how that so remarkably resonated with Lost City Radio and your project, Daniel.

DANIEL ALARCÓN: Yeah, it’s uncanny. It’s uncanny. I was listening to the piece, and I was just—the echoes between my novel and Annie’s piece are really tremendous. And what happened was that so many people heard her story on This American Life, when it was featured there, and sent the link to me. And I think after they heard your piece, many people sent her my novel. And my wife, Carolina, who’s the executive producer of Ambulante, she heard Annie’s piece and had been in touch with Annie, because she’s Colombian, as well. And it was based on that. When Carolina and I finally said, "OK, we really want to make this happen," we—one of the first people we contacted was Annie.

AMY GOODMAN: Let’s play a part of a piece from Radio Ambulante called "The Ballad of Daniel D. Portado." It visits—it revisits the political debate in California in 1994 over Prop. 187, which would have blocked undocumented immigrants from access to healthcare or education. A cartoonist named Lalo Alcaraz decided to make up a name and a character to join the debate over his name. His name, again, Daniel D. Portado. Alcaraz told his story to Nancy López. This is a clip from her report.

LALO ALCARAZ: I remember the day. In the summer, I was driving my friend Esteban Zul to the airport, because he lived in the Bay Area. I could feel in the pit of my stomach, I was—we were talking about Prop. 187 and how awful it was and all the hate that it generated and legitimized to some people and—

NANCY LÓPEZ: He thought, it’s as if the writers of the proposition wanted to make California so unwelcoming for immigrants that they would leave the U.S. on their own. Lalo and his friend Esteban decided to roll with this idea. First they came up with a fake group called Hispanics for Wilson. The group was so militant, its members were willing to deport themselves.

LALO ALCARAZ: And that’s where self-deportation, the concept, was born.

NANCY LÓPEZ: That’s also how the fake leader of this organization was born.

LALO ALCARAZ: We had to come up with a name for the leader of this group. And I don’t know how it came to me, but this guy was—had to be so staunchly anti-himself, you know, a self-hating, right-wing Republican, you know, like Herman Cain or someone like that, that his very name had to say—state the obvious, that he was deported, Daniel D. Portado.

NANCY LÓPEZ: They wrote a fake press release calling for the most outrageous things they could think of—the creation of self-deportation centers, so that all Hispanics return to their country of origin; they denounced Mexican food as biological weapons.

LALO ALCARAZ: We had the 10K Border Fun Run into Mexico, where we’d give you a free pair of tennis shoes, but as long as you don’t come back.

NANCY LÓPEZ: The press release went on to pledge that the group, Hispanics for Wilson, would retrain white-collar workers in agricultural, restaurant and hotel maintenance arts, once all illegal immigrants were successfully removed from the country. They listed Dr. Daniel D. Portado, or Daniel D. Portado, as a contact person. And they sent this fake press release out to real news agencies all across the state. It was dated September 16, 1994, coincidentally or not, the anniversary of Mexico’s Independence Day.

AMY GOODMAN: Part of a Radio Ambulante podcast, the piece called "The Ballad of Daniel D. Portado," featuring the cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And that, of course, is where Mitt Romney got his idea about self-deportation.

DANIEL ALARCÓN: Absolutely, absolutely. And that’s the whole joke, like you start with an outrageous idea to make fun of some, you know, crazy, right-wing extremists, and then they make it part of their platform.

AMY GOODMAN: So, where are you headed with this, Daniel? You’re a great novelist. You’re now doing this radio podcast and radio show, hoping to do it monthly.

DANIEL ALARCÓN: Mm-hmm, yeah. We produced our first season, ended in December. We’ve done two live shows on the West Coast. We just did one in New York. We’ve trained journalists in six countries. And we’re starting our new season in March, going to do a story a month. We’ve got stories on human trafficking through Argentina. We’ve got stories on a community afflicted with blindness in Peru. We’ve got stories about a murder case in the Central Valley. We’ve got stories from New York, stories from Florida, from Mexico, from Central America.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, I have to cut you off here, but I’m happy that this is going to go on, and we’ll be reporting on what you’re doing. Thanks so much.

DANIEL ALARCÓN: Thank you.

AMY GOODMAN: Daniel Alarcón, executive producer of Radio Ambulante, and Annie Correal, a producer and consulting editor with the program.

Findus beef lasagne meals 100% horsemeat

Testing of Findus beef lasagne has revealed some of the ready meals were made entirely from horsemeat. Findus tested 18 of its beef lasagne products which found 11 meals containing 60% to 100% horsemeat, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) said. Consumers...

The Police State Is Real: It Has Happened Here

police_state
The Bush regime’s response to 9/11 and the Obama regime’s validation of this response have destroyed accountable democratic government in the United States. So much unaccountable power has been concentrated in the executive branch that the US Constitution is no longer an operable document.

Meet our ancestor: Earliest mammal identified

Humans may have descended from apes, but long before that there was a small, four-legged insect-eating critter, according to new research out Thursday in the US journal "Science." The international six-year study used a massive trove of data, includin...

Imagining a ‘Just Recovery’ from Superstorm Sandy

Three months have passed since Hurricane Sandy battered New York and trashed the New Jersey coastline, and she hasn’t left. She’s still stalking the landscape strafed with mold and broken homes, and local activists worry that the government’s promises of tens of billions of dollars in federal funding will flood the storm-battered regions with further political turmoil.Occupiers and other activists say city officials aren't doing enough to aid Hurricane Sandy survivors. Michael Fleshman / Flickr / Creative Commons

Beyond the initial trauma of power outages and waterlogged houses, longer-term struggles still loom over communities like the Rockaways and the Staten Island coast. With recovery funding finally trickling down from Capitol Hill after weeks of gridlock, activists hope the resources won’t be exploited by predatory businesses and politicians, but rather channeled toward creating more inclusive, healthy communities.

In some ways, the grassroots recovery advocates have gotten a head start. Many of the early relief efforts have been radically volunteer-driven, and the Occupy Wall Street offshoot Occupy Sandy has often proven more effective and efficient than the bumbling “official” response by FEMA and other authorities. But how will the Occupiers fare in the impending scramble for contracts, grants and loans while businesses, organizations and government agencies all try to impose corporate visions for reconstruction on the storm-ravaged landscape?

Last weekend, the People’s Recovery Summit brought together a group of organizers and community members to discuss their ideas for a just recovery at the Church of St. Luke & St. Matthew in Brooklynthe organizational hub of Occupy Sandy relief projects. Small committees drafted lists of concerns and goals: People wanted to see resources prioritized for poor communities, immigrants, people of color and other vulnerable populations. Wary of the lessons of Hurricane Katrina (which became notorious for corruption and wholesale displacement of poor and black residents), some called for maximum transparency in the planning and financing process. Some wanted assurances that contracts would go to local businesses, or perhaps promote grassroots worker-run cooperatives. Generally they wanted power to be distributed “horizontally”avoiding the top-down hierarchies controlled by large charities and corporations.

But one young Brooklynite and Occupy activist interjected with a mix of eagerness and frustration, “When are we really going to talk about things that are more concrete,” instead of just “vision?” He noted that the authorities have benefited indirectly from the labor donated by volunteers, but would the volunteerism lead to more local hiring as recovery projects get serious? “If you’re to make us work, at least pay us,” he said.

But what kind of jobs are we talking about? With the media’s attention already dissipating, can Sandy still spur a sea change in the dynamics of public investment and labor in an über-capitalist city?

One thing that's clear is that conventional disaster responses have been insufficient and sometimes even counter-productive, especially for residents struggling to clear the scourge of mold from their homes and businesses. Residents have reported inconsistencies in the city’s “Rapid Repairs” program, which is supposed to fast-track the rebuilding.

Cynthia Scarcella, an activist with Make the Road New York and resident of Oakwood Beach, Staten Island, said at a rally at City Hall:

I have not been able to return home to Oakwood Beach, Staten Island, since Hurricane Sandy because my house is infested with mold and completely uninhabitable... Contractors can be expensive. I’ve tried calling Rapid Repairs and have relied on the help of volunteers to help me clean, but the mold keeps coming back.

Deep-rooted inequities surface in the recovery work as well. According to Eli Kent, director of organizing for Laborers International Union of North America Local 78, which represents mold remediation workers, respect for basic labor standards might vary widely from worksite to worksite:

We've seen that in one building, our members are working and their safety is protected, and they're getting at least a living wage and they're getting health care for their families. And in the next building over, there are workers doing the same jobs, the same exact work, and are getting paid $10 an hour with no benefits at all, and often being paid off the books, which means that their employers are not paying payroll taxes, not paying into unemployment insurance or workers comp insurance, which cheats all New Yorkers.

Though Mayor Michael Bloomberg just rolled out a $15 million mold assistance program, community advocates say it’s far too little to help all the homes in need. This week, the mayor announced a general plan for the first $1.8 billion tranche of federal relief funds through Community Development Block Grants, but details on how the loans and grants will be allocated to homes and businesses are not yet clear.

A coalition of community-based groups has mapped out a model for a “just recovery” with the Back Home Back to Work program for mold remediation. Described as “a systematic and cost-effective way that goes block-by-block rather than one house or one business at a time,” the program would provide for assessment and remediation coordinated with “qualified contractors.” Unions would put professionals to work while also hiring and training non-union workers (such as immigrant day laborers) and “prioritizing the hiring and placement of local workers from Sandy-impacted communities and other vulnerable local groups.” Safety training would be systematized to help both residents and workers avoid environmental hazards related to mold contamination. 

Matt Ryan, executive director of Alliance for a Greater New York, says the initiative represents a holistic effort to envision ways “to chart long-term priorities around the rebuild, and also how we influence, hopefully, the state's commitment to dealing with long-term climate change issues, in a way that's equitable and fair for working people."

No one knows exactly what the right balance is. Economic interestsnamely rebuilding quickly and expansivelymay clash with environmental concerns about climate justice, or chafe against communities worried that they’ll be shut out of the promised job or housing opportunities, or that they won’t have a say in the planning. The need to address such tensions through dialogue, Ryan says, is “why having an alliance across community, labor and faith is so critical.”

For now, Occupy Sandy continues its mutual aid projects, delivering basic supplies and providing rebuilding assistance to stricken neighborhoods in Staten Island, the Rockaways and other struggling areas. But if the ethos of mutual aid is, as activist Damien Crisp recently blogged, to demonstrate that “horizontal organization is an alternative to top-down power structures,” the Occupiers now face the challenge of bringing that system to scale and absorbing the influx of recovery funds before they’re hijacked by the establishment. Sandy dealt a cruel blow to New York, but for already-embattled communities, the flood left in its wake a chance to correct the political course, on their own terms.

© 2012 In These Times

Michelle Chen

Michelle Chen is a contributing editor at In These Times. She is a regular contributor to the labor rights blog Working In These Times, Colorlines.com, and Pacifica's WBAI. Her work has also appeared in Common Dreams, Alternet, Ms. Magazine, Newsday, and her old zine, cain.

Gold Sentiment Poor Due To Range-Bound Trade and Banks’ Bearish Predictions

Gold is little changed today in pound, euro and dollar terms after the Bank of England and the ECB kept interest rates at record low levels. Ultra loose monetary policies continue.


Gold in Japanese Yen, 4 Day – (Bloomberg)

The ECB kept interest rates at 0.75% and the BOE kept interest rates at 0.5% the lowest level since 1694. The BOE pledged to maintain their ‘stimulus’ or money printing or debt monetisation programmes.

This morning the Japanese yen fell to new record lows against gold on the TOCOM at over 157 million yen per ounce.

Ultra loose monetary policies are set to continue which is bullish for the precious metals.

Mario Draghi’s news conference begins at 1330 GMT and the ECB President could set the course for the single currency. If Draghi’s speech warns about the recent rise in the euro then the euro may fall against the dollar and gold.

Gold's range bound trading between $1,650/oz and $1,700/oz since December continues.


Gold in USD, 2 Year – (Bloomberg)

Physical gold volumes have been quite low in recent days with very few new buyers coming into the market. More clients have been selling than buying in recent days. But the more aware and risk averse money continues to add to their allocations. 

The mix is quite unusual as normally there is a clear bias towards clients selling or buying. On recent years, during gold’s bull market the bias has been towards buying.

Recent technical action has been poor and the short term trend is down and this allied to perceptions that the global economic situation has improved slightly is leading to the preponderance of sellers.

Sellers have also be emboldened by recent bold pronouncements of the end of gold’s bull market – by many of the same banks who never predicted the bull market or advised their clients to own gold in the first place.

Many of the banks, now predicting gold’s bull market will end in 2013, never predicted gold’s bull market in the first place. Most were bearish on gold in the early to mid years of the bull market and most only became bullish quite recently.

Very few have been consistent and very few have been bullish on gold in the long term.

It is also worth noting that most of them do not understand gold and continue to see it as a trade. 

Many of these banks' primary focus is short term profit, often trading profits, and therefore they do not understand the long term, passive diversification benefits of gold in a portfolio or as financial insurance. 

It is also not profitable for them to advise a buy and hold diversification strategy as more prudent advisers have been advising in recent years.  

While sentiment towards gold remains poor after recent weakness, the smart money is focused on the fundamentals and is positioning itself for higher gold prices in the medium term. Soros, Gross, Faber, Rogers, Paulson and other respected investors who predicted the crisis have large allocations which they continue to hold.


Silver in USD, 3 Year – (Bloomberg)

Investors need to be patient, fade out the day to day noise from banks and hedge funds and focus on gold’s value rather than its price movements – particularly in the short term. 

It remains important to focus on the long term diversification benefits of having an allocation to gold, silver, platinum and palladium.

NEWS   
Gold edges up before ECB meets, PGMs near 17-mth highs - Reuters

Gold Rises in Asia, Near-Term Outlook Weak; Precious Metals Lower – The Wall Street Journal

China's 2012 gold output up 12% - Paper - Reuters

Gold vending machine in Florida may be first of many – The Palm Beach Post

COMMENTARY
'Europe's A Fragile Bubble', Citi's Buiter Warns Of Unrealistic Complacency – Zero Hedge

Does China Still Love Gold? – Market Oracle

Video: Horror Bankers Attack – Max Keiser

Video: Goldsmiths put the nation's coins through their paces – The Telegraph

For breaking news and commentary on financial markets and gold, follow us on Twitter.

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Frontrunning: February 7

  • Bersani's lead over Berlusconi continues to erode, now just 3.6 Pts, or inside error margin, in Tecne Poll
  • Spain gears up for U.S. debt investor meetings (Reuters)
  • PBOC Set for Record Weekly Liquidity Injection (WSJ)
  • RBS Trader Helped UBS’s Hayes With Libor Bribes, Regulators Say (BBG)
  • ECB, Ireland reach bank debt deal (Reuters)
  • AMR-US Airways Near Merger Agreement (WSJ)
  • Monte Paschi says no more derivatives losses (Reuters) ... remember this
  • Harvard’s Gopinath Helps France Beat Euro Straitjacket (BBG) - by sliding into recession?
  • Obama Relents on Secret Drone Memo (WSJ)
  • Brennan to face questions on interrogations, drones and leaks (Reuters)
  • Wall Street Success With Germans Boomerangs (BBG)
  • Khamenei rebuffs U.S. offer of direct talks (Reuters)
  • Boeing Preps Redesign to Get 787 Flying  (WSJ)
  • Jim Rogers Joins Bill Gross Warning on Treasuries (BBG)
  • Alcatel Chief Is Out as Turnaround Stalls (WSJ)

Overnight Media Digest

WSJ

* U.S. President Barack Obama agreed to let a small group of lawmakers look at a classified opinion explaining his administration's legal justification for targeting killings of American terror suspects in other countries.

* American Airlines parent AMR Corp and US Airways Group Inc are hashing out the last major details of a merger agreement that would create the world's largest airline and are racing to finalize a deal, said people close to the discussions.

* Standard & Poor's Ratings Services could face a much higher legal bill than the $5 billion sought by the federal government as more and more states join the battle against the credit-ratings firm.

* Royal Bank of Scotland agreed to pay more than $610 million in fines to settle interest-rate-rigging charges with U.S. and UK authorities, and the bank's Japanese unit will plead guilty to U.S. fraud charges.

* Boeing Co is proposing a series of battery design changes that it believes would minimize the risks of fire on its 787 Dreamliners and allow the grounded jets to fly again while it continues searching for a longer-term fix, say government and industry officials briefed on the matter.

* Monte dei Paschi di Siena, the Italian bank at the center of a burgeoning financial scandal, was so strapped for cash in late 2011 that it negotiated a covert loan of nearly 2 billion euros ($2.71 billion) from the Bank of Italy even as executives were describing the lender's funding position as comfortable, according to the Bank of Italy and people familiar with the deal.

* Google Inc said it will require current advertisers using its AdWords online-ad system to pay for ads on some mobile devices, like tablets, for the first time.

* News Corp's earnings more than doubled in the three months to December, helped by one-time gains related to acquisitions, but the media and entertainment company cut its profit outlook.

FT

A day before the Bank of England's monetary policy committee announces the outcome of its monthly meeting, Chancellor George Osborne has called on BoE for a looser monetary policy to boost economic recovery.

Buyout firms are racing to raise funds for a possible 10 billion pounds bid for EE - the United Kingdom's largest mobile-phone operator. A group formed by Apax and KKR and another led by Blackstone and CVC Capital Partners are working on competing bids.

A News Corp executive said the company would hold on to its 39.1 percent stake in BSkyB for now. Chief Operating Officer Chase Carey said the media conglomerate was still looking at the long-term case for either selling its stake or trying again to take full control to BSkyB, after scrapping plans in wake of the phone hacking scandal in the UK.

Cantor Fitzgerald was in advanced talks, that stretched into Wednesday night, to buy British brokerage firm Seymour Pierce.

Institutional Shareholder Services, ISS, the influential adviser on corporate governance matters, has recommended that Bumi's shareholders vote against Nat Rothschild's proposals to replace all the miner's independent directors.

Royal Bank of Scotland will pay $612 million to U.S. and British authorities to settle allegations it manipulated benchmark interest rates. Five traders at Deutsche Bank's Frankfurt-based money market desk have been suspended as part of an internal inquiry by the bank to find out whether its staff manipulated the Euro Interbank Offered Rate, Euribor.

Dell's $24.4 billion deal to go private was almost derailed by a debate over whether the company would continue paying its quarterly dividend over the next few months, according to several people involved in the transaction.

Property tycoon Vincent Tchenguiz is seeking 200 million pounds in damages from UK's Serious Fraud Office over the agency's mishandling of investigations linking him to the collapse of Iceland's banking system

NYT

* Emails and employee interviews filed as part of a lawsuit show that JPMorgan Chase & Co flouted quality controls as it bundled mortgages into complex financial instruments.

* The Royal Bank of Scotland on Wednesday reached a combined $612 million settlement with American and British authorities over accusations that it manipulated interest rates, the latest case to emerge from a broad international investigation.

* U.S. federal regulators approved one flight of a Boeing 787, with a crew but no passengers, as engineers study ways to reduce the risks of another battery fire.

* Revenue from advertisements and subscription fees from Time Warner Inc's cable properties helped overcome a challenging quarter for the media conglomerate's publishing and movie divisions.

* Monte dei Paschi di Siena, an ancient Tuscan bank whose troubles have shaken Italian politics and caused jitters around the euro zone, on Wednesday confirmed earlier estimates of losses from a series of secret transactions that were used to conceal the scope of the bank's problems.

* GlaxoSmithKline Plc plans to cut costs in its struggling European drugs division and promised investors a return to growth this year, after failing to deliver a hoped-for recovery in sales and profits in 2012.

* Cravath, Swaine & Moore has hired David Kappos, the departing director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, the second time the law firm has added a former senior Obama administration official to its partnership

Canada

THE GLOBE AND MAIL

* Stephen Harper's Conservative Party is fighting changes to federal ridings in Saskatchewan after an independent commission recommended new boundaries that should make it easier for Tom Mulcair's New Democratic Party to regain a foothold there.

* Ottawa's finances are taking a hit from discounted prices for Canadian oil, and Finance Minister Jim Flaherty says this will force him to hold a harder line on spending as he prepares the 2013 budget.

Reports in the business section:

* Canadian consumers are victims of higher prices driven by less competition than in the United States, the Senate says, as it formally urged the federal government to close that price gap by reducing tariffs and other barriers at the border.

* With demand among air travelers showing no signs of waning, WestJet Airlines Ltd posted strong fourth-quarter and year-end profits, beating most industry watchers' expectations.

NATIONAL POST

* Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan will be resigning his seat in the legislature next week.

A government source tells The Canadian Press that Duncan will make it official when he holds a news conference Thursday at Queen's Park.

* Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence has called a band council meeting for Thursday to discuss a blockade on a winter road leading to a De Beers diamond mine.

De Beers Canada says a group of residents of the remote northern Ontario reserve set up the blockade on Monday on a road the company uses to move in supplies like fuel, machine parts and equipment that would be too heavy to fly in.

FINANCIAL POST

* Consumers are asking for clear language in their cellphone contracts and want to be able to put a cap on extra fees, says a draft of a national wireless code.

Thousands of Canadians contributed their ideas to the first draft of the national wireless code, which was released Monday by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

China

CHINA SECURITIES JOURNAL

-- Some Chinese provinces and cities, including Zhejiang on the coast near Shanghai, could raise natural gas prices in the third quarter, sources said.

-- Top-tier cities could cut the amount of housing pre-sale certificates and reduce approvals for new houses in the first half of the year, sources said.

SHANGHAI SECURITIES NEWS

-- The ministry of finance said China would allocate 120 billion yuan ($19.26 billion) to support domestic traffic infrastructure construction.

CHINA DAILY (www.chinadaily.com.cn)

-- Inflation is fine at present and potential money supply risks can be effectively contained, said a central bank official who declined to be identified.

-- Yunnan province has suspended the approval of "laojiao" punishment, or re-education through labour, a system established in the 1950s that Chinese lawmakers expect to abolish this year.

PEOPLE'S DAILY

-- Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said at an executive meeting of the State Council that Chinese oil refining enterprises should speed up the upgrading of equipment and strengthen oil product quality supervision.

Fly On The Wall 7:00 Am Market Snapshot

ANALYST RESEARCH

Upgrades

BlackBerry (BBRY) upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at Wells Fargo
Con-way (CNW) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Citigroup
DeVry (DV) upgraded to Neutral from Underweight at JPMorgan
Fortune Brands (FBHS) upgraded to Buy from Hold at KeyBanc
Goodrich Petroleum (GDP) upgraded to Outperform from Sector Perform at RBC Capital
Molycorp (MCP) upgraded to Neutral from Underweight at JPMorgan
Owens Corning (OC) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at Longbow
Reliance Steel (RS) upgraded to Buy from Hold at Dahlman Rose
ViaSat (VSAT) upgraded to Buy from Hold at Needham
Vipshop (VIPS) upgraded to Buy from Hold at Deutsche Bank
Yandex (YNDX) upgraded to Overweight from Neutral at HSBC

Downgrades

Aaron's (AAN) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Canaccord
Akamai (AKAM) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Jefferies
Akamai (AKAM) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Janney Capital
Apollo Investment (AINV) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at Wells Fargo
Elan (ELN) downgraded to Sector Perform from Outperform at RBC Capital
Endo Health (ENDP) downgraded to Underperform from Sector Perform at RBC Capital
Ignite Restaurant (IRG) downgraded to Neutral from Outperform at RW Baird
PACCAR (PCAR) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at UBS
Peregrine (PSMI) downgraded to Perform from Outperform at Oppenheimer
Rexnord (RXN) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at BMO Capital
Stryker (SYK) downgraded to Neutral from Outperform at Credit Suisse
TriQuint (TQNT) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Longbow
United Microelectronics (UMC) downgraded to Neutral from Overweight at HSBC
Virgin Media (VMED) downgraded to Hold from Buy at Deutsche Bank
Visa (V) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at Wells Fargo

Initiations

Delta Apparel (DLA) initiated with a Buy at Roth Capital
Fly Leasing (FLY) initiated with a Buy at Deutsche Bank
Google (GOOG) initiated with a Neutral at Sterne Agee
Optimer (OPTR) initiated with an Outperform at RW Baird
Trulia (TRLA) initiated with a Neutral at Goldman
ValueClick (VCLK) initiated with a Buy at Goldman
Vertex (VRTX) initiated with an Outperform at RW Baird

HOT STOCKS

Dell (DELL): Silver Lake's equity contribution to deal is $1.4B
Yahoo! (YHOO) to run Google's (GOOG) AdSense, AdMob services on some sites
Landry's Restaurant (LNY) offered to acquire ARK Restaurants (ARKR) for $22.00 per share
BGI-Shenzhen extended tender offer for Complete Genomics (GNOM) to February 22 from February 6
O'Reilly Automotive (ORLY) sees 190 new store openings in FY13
Sees FY13 free cash flow $450M-$500M, gross profit margin 49.9%-50.3%
Spectrum Brands (SPB) sees improvements in financial results 2H weighted
Visa (V) authorized new $1.75B share repurchase program
Allstate (ALL) raised repurchase program by $1B to $2B
AT&T (T), Communications Workers of America reached tentative agreement
Green Mountain (GMCR) expects to build brewer inventory in 2H13
Vornado (VNO) received $124M in settlement of Stop & Shop (AHONY) litigation
Fujitsu (FJTSY) to cut approximately 5,000 employees

EARNINGS

Companies that beat consensus earnings expectations last night and today include:
Starwood Hotels (HOT), Cigna (CI), Prestige Brands (PBH), Towers Watson (TW), O'Reilly Automotive (ORLY),Visa (V), News Corp. (NWSA), Spectrum Brands (SPB), Green Mountain (GMCR)

Companies that missed consensus earnings expectations include:
Rand Logistics (RLOG), Albany International (AIN), Tesoro (TSO), Prudential (PRU), Yelp (YELP), Con-way (CNW), Plains All American (PAA)

Companies that matched consensus earnings expectations include:
FMC Corporation (FMC), Atmel (ATML)

NEWSPAPERS/WEBSITES

  • The $24.4B deal to take Dell (DELL) private shows what is possible in the leveraged-buyout market but doesn't necessarily portend a return of the mega deals popular before the financial crisis. The deal has components that are unusual and will make its size difficult to replicate, bankers, private-equity executives and analysts said, the Wall Street Journal reports
  • Standard & Poor's Ratings Services (MHP) could face a bigger bill than the $5B sought by the federal government as more states join the battle against the credit-ratings firm, the Wall Street Journal reports
  • Chrysler Group (FIATY) agreed to make Banco Santander's (SAN) U.S. arm its preferred lender for auto loans to broaden the financing it can offer its buyers and dealers, Reuters reports
  • Boeing (BA) said contract talks with India for military helicopters will be unaffected by planned budget cuts, after the country's defense minister said spending on arms would be tightened, Reuters reports
  • Sovereign wealth funds which pushed their real estate deal making to a record last year, are set to extend their buying spree as they seek alternatives to low-yielding bonds and volatile stocks. The funds made 38 property investments valued at almost $10B in 2012, Bloomberg reports
  • Japan’s major banks (MTU, MFG, SMFG) are following Goldman Sachs (GS) into domestic solar-power projects, anticipating an eightfold increase for investments in the industry. The banks expect the market to be worth as much as $19B over the next three years, Bloomberg reports

SYNDICATE

BreitBurn Energy (BBEP) files to sell 13M shares of common stock
Disney (DIS) registers 37.07M shares of common stock for Lucas Trust
ExOne (XONE) 5.3M share IPO priced at $18.00
Hudson Pacific (HPP) files to sell 7.5M shares of common stock
Nexstar (NXST) announces secondary offering of 3M shares by selling stockholders

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To Drone or Not To Drone? Justifying Extra-Judicial Killings


Scott Horton talks about the drone white paper with Sam Seder.

Can I say for the record that I hate the US reliance of drone strikes, especially on US citizens. The fact that we went in with Seal Team Six to get Bin Laden makes it clear that we don't have to rely on this technology to capture or if you will kill---very bad people. It will only fuel more hatred of Americans. Didn't we learn that with the coup of Iran and many of our other CIA led foreign invasions?

And it's very telling that only Democrats will question John Brennan over their use at all. Congress better not support the use of drones on US soil---ever!!!!


NY Times:

Still, it was disturbing to see the twisted logic of the administration’s lawyers laid out in black and white. It had the air of a legal justification written after the fact for a policy decision that had already been made, and it brought back unwelcome memories of memos written for President George W. Bush to justify illegal wiretapping, indefinite detention, kidnapping, abuse and torture.

The document, obtained and made public by NBC News, was written by the Justice Department and coyly describes another, classified document (which has been described in The Times) that actually provided the legal justification for ordering the killing of American citizens.

That document still has not been provided to Congress, despite repeated demands from lawmakers. The white paper was sent to Capitol Hill seven months after the military carried out President Obama’s orders to kill Anwar al-Awlaki, an American who moved to Yemen and became an advocate of jihad against the United States.
--

According to the white paper, the Constitution and the Congressional authorization for the use of force after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, gave Mr. Obama the right to kill any American citizen that an “informed, high-level official” decides is a “senior operational leader of Al Qaeda or an associated force” and presents an “imminent threat of violent attack.”

It never tries to define what an “informed, high-level official” might be, and the authors of the memo seem to have redefined the word “imminent” in a way that diverges sharply from its customary meaning. It talks about “due process” and the need to balance a person’s life “against the United States’ interest in forestalling the threat of violence and death to other Americans.”

But it takes the position that the only “oversight” needed for such a decision resides within the executive branch, and there is no need to explain the judgment to Congress, the courts or the public — or, indeed, to even acknowledge that the killing took place.

Scott Lemieux writes: License to Kill

Much of the coverage of the memo, including Isikoff's story, focuses on the justifications offered by the Obama administration for killing American citizens, including Anwar al-Awlaki and Samir Khan (two alleged Al Qaeda operatives killed by a 2011 airstrike in Yemen.) In some respects, this focus is misplaced. If military action is truly justified, then it can be exercised against American citizens (an American fighting for the Nazis on the battlefield would not have been entitled to due process.) Conversely, if military action is not justified, extrajudicial killings of non-Americans should hardly be less disturbing than the extrajudicial killing of an American citizen. The crucial question is whether the safeguards that determine when military action is justified are adequate.

On this crucial point, the framework laid out by the memo is very much inadequate. Several of the key terms laying out the conditions—what counts as an "informed" official? What levels of evidence are necessary?—are frustratingly vague. Particularly crucial is the question of what constitutes an "imminent threat." If a threat is genuinely "imminent," military action is more justifiable. If it isn't, however, it becomes less plausible to argue that capture is "infeasible," and treating a suspected terrorist as a police operation would be more important. It is damning, then, that the definition of what constitutes an "imminent threat" has very little bite.

Gunmen kill 9 police officers in Mexico

Mexican police investigate a crime scene in a drug-related shooting. (file photo)

Gunmen have killed nine police officers and wounded another in an ambush in the southwestern Mexican state of Guerrero, officials say.

The state prosecutor's office announced the deaths on Wednesday, saying that the policemen were killed while on duty, AFP reported.

The identity of the attackers was not immediately known.

The attack occurred in the town of Apaxtla de Castrejon, located in a region known as "Tierra Caliente".

Guerrero has long been plagued by drug gang violence. The Knights Templar and La Familia Michoacana are fighting each other for the control of criminal activity, including drug trafficking, kidnapping, and extortion in the state.


At least 70,000 people have been killed in drug-related violence in Mexico since former President Felipe Calderon launched an offensive against Mexico’s drug cartels in December 2006.

Current Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto has vowed to reduce the crime rate as he continues the campaign against drug cartels.

MN/MHB

Ready Meals Withdrawn Amid Meat ‘Alert’

Frozen spaghetti bolognese and lasagne meals have been pulled from the shelves of two supermarket chains as fears over contaminated meat products spread.

Tesco and Aldi revealed they have withdrawn a range of ready meals produced by French food supplier Comigel as "a precautionary measure".

The move follows concern over contamination of products with horsemeat.

Tesco has pulled its frozen Everyday Value Spaghetti Bolognese, while Aldi withdrew two products called Today's Special Frozen Spaghetti Bolognese and Today's Special Frozen Beef Lasagne.

A Tesco spokesman said it took the step after Findus beef lasagne was removed from sale.

"Following the withdrawal of Findus beef lasagne, which is produced by Comigel, we have decided to withdraw our frozen Everyday Value Spaghetti Bolognese, which is produced at the same site, as a precautionary measure," the spokesman said.

"There is no evidence that our product has been contaminated and the meat used in the Findus product is not used in our product.

"However, we have decided to withdraw the product pending the results of our own tests."

Findus UK said it withdrew its 320g, 360g and 500g lasagne meals as a precautionary measure after a labelling issue with its supplier was uncovered. The company insisted it was not a food safety issue.

"Deserving consumers' trust is a key priority for us," said a Findus UK spokesman. "As part of that commitment, we have been constantly reviewing our supply chain."

Aldi has withdrawn two frozen products but would not confirm if the dishes may have been contaminated or mislabelled.

"Following an alert from our French supplier, Comigel, Aldi immediately withdrew its Today's Special Frozen Beef Lasagne and Today's Special Frozen Spaghetti Bolognese from stores as a precautionary measure," it said.

"Comigel has flagged concerns that the products do not conform to specification. They have been withdrawn immediately so that Aldi can conduct its own investigations into the factory concerned.

"These investigations are continuing. We will continue to maintain active scrutiny across our supply lines and will always put the quality of our products and safety of our customers first."

The latest development comes a day after Asda withdrew products supplied by a Northern Ireland company that was storing meat found to contain a high proportion of horse DNA.

Newry-based Freeza Meats had been storing the consignment of meat, which was labelled as beef, on behalf of a supplier in the Irish Republic - Co Monaghan-based meat trader McAdam Foods. Two tested samples were found to contain 80% horsemeat.

McAdam Foods has insisted it had no knowledge that any of its meat contained horse DNA. It claimed the contaminated produce originated in Poland.

The meat had not entered the food chain and was not destined for Asda stores.

Last month, Tesco and a number of other supermarkets removed certain brands of beef burgers from its shelves after they were found to contain horsemeat.

Experts from Britain's Food Standards Agency (FSA) told the Commons Environment Committee they could not be sure if contaminated burgers were being sold for more than a year.

At least 10 million burgers were put into storage to be dumped following the debacle.

Drone Strikes’ Dangers to Get Rare Moment in Public Eye

Sana, Yemen - Late last August, a 40-year-old cleric named Salem Ahmed bin Ali Jaber stood up to deliver a speech denouncing Al Qaeda in a village mosque in far eastern Yemen.

It was a brave gesture by a father of seven who commanded great respect in the community, and it did not go unnoticed. Two days later, three members of Al Qaeda came to the mosque in the tiny village of Khashamir after 9 p.m., saying they merely wanted to talk. Mr. Jaber agreed to meet them, bringing his cousin Waleed Abdullah, a police officer, for protection.

As the five men stood arguing by a cluster of palm trees, a volley of remotely operated American missiles shot down from the night sky and incinerated them all, along with a camel that was tied up nearby.

The killing of Mr. Jaber, just the kind of leader most crucial to American efforts to eradicate Al Qaeda, was a reminder of the inherent hazards of the quasi-secret campaign of targeted killings that the United States is waging against suspected militants not just in Yemen but also in Pakistan and Somalia. Individual strikes by the Predator and Reaper drones are almost never discussed publicly by Obama administration officials. But the clandestine war will receive a rare moment of public scrutiny on Thursday, when its chief architect, John O. Brennan, the White House counterterrorism adviser, faces a Senate confirmation hearing as President Obama’s nominee for C.I.A. director.

From his basement office in the White House, Mr. Brennan has served as the principal coordinator of a “kill list” of Qaeda operatives marked for death, overseeing drone strikes by the military and the C.I.A., and advising Mr. Obama on which strikes he should approve.

“He’s probably had more power and influence than anyone in a comparable position in the last 20 years,” said Daniel Benjamin, who recently stepped down as the State Department’s top counterterrorism official and now teaches at Dartmouth. “He’s had enormous sway over the intelligence community. He’s had a profound impact on how the military does counterterrorism.”

Mr. Brennan, a former C.I.A. station chief in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, has taken a particular interest in Yemen, sounding early alarms within the administration about the threat developing there, working closely with neighboring Saudi Arabia to gain approval for a secret C.I.A. drone base there that is used for American strikes, and making the impoverished desert nation a test case for American counterterrorism strategy.

In recent years, both C.I.A. and Pentagon counterterrorism officials have pressed for greater freedom to attack suspected militants, and colleagues say Mr. Brennan has often been a restraining voice. The strikes have killed a number of operatives of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the terrorist network’s affiliate in Yemen, including Said Ali al-Shihri, a deputy leader of the group, and the American-born cleric Anwar al-Awlaki.

But they have also claimed civilians like Mr. Jaber and have raised troubling questions that apply to Pakistan and Somalia as well: Could the targeted killing campaign be creating more militants in Yemen than it is killing? And is it in America’s long-term interest to be waging war against a self-renewing insurgency inside a country about which Washington has at best a hazy understanding?

Several former top military and intelligence officials — including Stanley A. McChrystal, the retired general who led the Joint Special Operations Command, which has responsibility for the military’s drone strikes, and Michael V. Hayden, the former C.I.A. director — have raised concerns that the drone wars in Pakistan and Yemen are increasingly targeting low-level militants who do not pose a direct threat to the United States.

In an interview with Reuters, General McChrystal said that drones could be a useful tool but were “hated on a visceral level” in some of the places where they were used and contributed to a “perception of American arrogance.”

Mr. Brennan has aggressively defended the accuracy of the drone strikes, and the rate of civilian casualties has gone down considerably since the attacks began in Yemen in 2009. He has also largely dismissed criticism that the drone campaign has tarnished America’s image in Yemen and has been an effective recruiting tool for Al Qaeda.

“In fact, we see the opposite,” Mr. Brennan said during a speech last year. “Our Yemeni partners are more eager to work with us. Yemeni citizens who have been freed from the hellish grip of A.Q.A.P. are more eager, not less, to work with the Yemeni government.”

Christopher Swift, a researcher at Georgetown University who spent last summer in Yemen studying the reaction to the strikes, said he thought Mr. Brennan’s comments missed the broader impact.

“What Brennan said accurately reflected people in the security apparatus who he speaks to when he goes to Yemen,” Mr. Swift said. “It doesn’t reflect the views of the man in the street, of young human rights activists, of the political opposition.”

Though Mr. Swift said he thought that critics had exaggerated the role of the strikes in generating recruits for Al Qaeda, “in the political sphere, the perception is that the U.S. is colluding with the Yemeni government in a covert war against the Yemeni people.”

“Even if we’re winning in the military domain,” Mr. Swift said, “drones may be undermining our long-term interest in the goal of a stable Yemen with a functional political system and economy.”

A Parallel Campaign

American officials have never explained in public why the C.I.A. and the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command are carrying out parallel drone campaigns in Yemen. Privately, however, they describe an arrangement that has evolved since the frantic, ad hoc early days of America’s war there.

The first strike in Yemen ordered by the Obama administration, in December 2009, was by all accounts a disaster. American cruise missiles carrying cluster munitions killed dozens of civilians, including many women and children. Another strike, six months later, killed a popular deputy governor, inciting angry demonstrations and an attack that shut down a critical oil pipeline.

Not long afterward, the C.I.A. began quietly building a drone base in Saudi Arabia to carry out strikes in Yemen. American officials said that the first time the C.I.A. used the Saudi base was to kill Mr. Awlaki in September 2011.

Since then, officials said, the C.I.A. has been given the mission of hunting and killing “high-value targets” in Yemen — the leaders of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula who Obama administration lawyers have determined pose a direct threat to the United States. When the C.I.A. obtains specific intelligence on the whereabouts of someone on its kill list, an American drone can carry out a strike without the permission of Yemen’s government.

There is, however, a tighter leash on the Pentagon’s drones. According to American officials, the Joint Special Operations Command must get the Yemeni government’s approval before launching a drone strike. This restriction is in place, officials said, because the military’s drone campaign is closely tied to counterterrorism operations conducted by Yemeni special operations troops.

Yemen’s military is fighting its own counterinsurgency battle against Islamic militants, who gained and then lost control over large swaths of the country last year. Often, American military strikes in Yemen are masked as Yemeni government operations.

Moreover, Mr. Obama demanded early on that each American military strike in Yemen be approved by a committee in Washington representing the national security agencies. The C.I.A. strikes, by contrast, resulted from a far more closed process inside the agency. Mr. Brennan plays a role in overseeing all the strikes.

There have been at least five drone strikes in Yemen since the start of the year, killing at least 24 people. That continues a remarkable acceleration over the past two years in a program that has carried out at least 63 airstrikes since 2009, according to The Long War Journal, a Web site that collects public data on the strikes, with an estimated death toll in the hundreds. Many of the militants reported killed recently were very young and do not appear to have had any important role with Al Qaeda.

“Even with Al Qaeda, there are degrees — some of these young guys getting killed have just been recruited and barely known what terrorism means,” said Naji al Zaydi, a former governor of Marib Province, who has been a vocal opponent of Al Qaeda and a supporter of Yemen’s president, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

Mr. Zaydi, a prominent tribal figure from an area that has long been associated with members of Al Qaeda’s Yemeni affiliate, pointed out that the identity and background of these men were no mystery in Yemen’s interlinked tribal culture.

A Deadly Ride

In one recent case, on Jan. 23, a drone strike in a village east of Sana killed a 21-year-old university student named Saleem Hussein Jamal and his cousin, a 33-year-old teacher named Ali Ali Nasser Jamal, who happened to have been traveling with him. According to relatives and neighbors of the two men, they were driving home from a nearby town called Jahana when five strangers offered to pay them for a ride. The drone-fired missile hit the vehicle, a twin-cab Toyota Hilux, just outside the village of Masnaa at about 9 p.m. The strangers were later identified in Yemeni news reports as members of Al Qaeda, though apparently not high-ranking ones.

After the strike, villagers were left to identify their two dead relatives from identity cards, scraps of clothing and the license plate of Mr. Jamal’s Toyota; the seven bodies were shredded beyond recognition, as cellphone photos taken at the scene attest. “We found eyes, but there were no faces left,” said Abdullah Faqih, a student who knew both of the dead cousins.

Although most Yemenis are reluctant to admit it publicly, there does appear to be widespread support for the American drone strikes that hit substantial Qaeda figures like Mr. Shihri, a Saudi and the affiliate’s deputy leader, who died in January of wounds received in a drone strike late last year.

Al Qaeda has done far more damage in Yemen than it has in the United States, and one episode reinforced public disgust last May, when a suicide bomber struck a military parade rehearsal in the Yemeni capital, killing more than 100 people.

Moreover, many Yemenis reluctantly admit that there is a need for foreign help: Yemen’s own efforts to strike at the terrorist group have often been compromised by weak, divided military forces; widespread corruption; and even support for Al Qaeda within pockets of the intelligence and security agencies.

Yet even as both Mr. Brennan and Mr. Hadi, the Yemeni president, praise the drone technology for its accuracy, other Yemenis often point out that it can be very difficult to isolate members of Al Qaeda, thanks to the group’s complex ties and long history in Yemen.

This may account for a pattern in many of the drone strikes: a drone hovers over an area for weeks on end before a strike takes place, presumably waiting until identities are confirmed and the targets can be struck without anyone else present.

In the strike that killed Mr. Jaber, the cleric, that was not enough. At least one drone had been overhead every day for about a month, provoking high anxiety among local people, said Aref bin Ali Jaber, a tradesman who is related to the cleric. “After the drone hit, everyone was so frightened it would come back,” Mr. Jaber said. “Children especially were affected; my 15-year-old daughter refuses to be alone and has had to sleep with me and my wife after that.”  

Anger at America

In the days afterward, the people of the village vented their fury at the Americans with protests and briefly blocked a road. It is difficult to know what the long-term effects of the deaths will be, though some in the town — as in other areas where drones have killed civilians — say there was an upwelling of support for Al Qaeda, because such a move is seen as the only way to retaliate against the United States.

Innocents aside, even members of Al Qaeda invariably belong to a tribe, and when they are killed in drone strikes, their relatives — whatever their feelings about Al Qaeda — often swear to exact revenge on America.

“Al Qaeda always gives money to the family,” said Hussein Ahmed Othman al Arwali, a tribal sheik from an area south of the capital called Mudhia, where Qaeda militants fought pitched battles with Yemeni soldiers last year. “Al Qaeda’s leaders may be killed by drones, but the group still has its money, and people are still joining. For young men who are poor, the incentives are very strong: they offer you marriage, or money, and the ideological part works for some people.”

In some cases, drones have killed members of Al Qaeda when it seemed that they might easily have been arrested or captured, according to a number of Yemeni officials and tribal figures. One figure in particular has stood out: Adnan al Qadhi, who was killed, apparently in a drone strike, in early November in a town near the capital.

Mr. Qadhi was an avowed supporter of Al Qaeda, but he also had recently served as a mediator for the Yemeni government with other jihadists, and was drawing a government salary at the time of his death. He was not in hiding, and his house is within sight of large houses owned by a former president of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh, and other leading figures.  

Whatever the success of the drone strikes, some Yemenis wonder why there is not more reliance on their country’s elite counterterrorism unit, which was trained in the United States as part of the close cooperation between the two countries that Mr. Brennan has engineered. One member of the unit, speaking on the condition of anonymity, expressed great frustration that his unit had not been deployed on such missions, and had in fact been posted to traffic duty in the capital in recent weeks, even as the drone strikes intensified.

“For sure, we could be going after some of these guys,” the officer said. “That’s what we’re trained to do, and the Americans trained us. It doesn’t make sense.”

Robert F. Worth reported from Sana, and Mark Mazzetti and Scott Shane from Washington.

Over 50 Countries Complicit in US Worldwide Torture Campaign

A new report published Tuesday titled Globalizing Torture reveals the 136 people who were channeled through and the 54 countries that were complicit in the CIA's covert, worldwide kidnap, detention and torture operation.

A photo of the CIA secret prison where Khalid Sheikh Muhammad and other ghost detainees were tortured and interrogated; it's on a residential street in Bucharest. (Photo via Google Maps) Compiled by the human rights group Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI), the 231-page report details in excruciating detail the practice, known as “extraordinary rendition,” of taking detainees to and from U.S. custody without legal process and, as Danger Room's Spencer Ackerman writes, often "handing detainees over to countries that practiced torture."

"There is no doubt that high-ranking Bush administration officials bear responsibility for authorising human rights violations associated with secret detention and extraordinary rendition, and the impunity that they have enjoyed to date remains a matter of significant concern," said report author Amrit Singh. "But responsibility for these violations does not end with the United States. Secret detention and extraordinary rendition operations, designed to be conducted outside the United States under cover of secrecy, could not have been implemented without the active participation of foreign governments. These governments too must be held accountable."

The Guardian reports:

The states identified by the OSJI include those such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Egypt and Jordan where the existence of secret prisons and the use of torture has been well documented for many years. But the OSJI's rendition list also includes states such as Ireland, Iceland and Cyprus, which are accused of granting covert support for the programme by permitting the use of airspace and airports by aircraft involved in rendition flights.

Canada not only permitted the use of its airspace but provided information that led to one of its own nationals being taken to Syria where he was held for a year and tortured, the report says.

Iran and Syria are identified by the OSJI as having participated in the rendition programme. Syria is said to have been one of the "most common destinations for rendered suspects", while Iran is said to have participated in the CIA's programme by handing over 15 individuals to Kabul shortly after the US invasion of Afghanistan, in the full knowledge that they would fall under US control.

The report does not presume that these practices have completely subsided under the Obama Administration. In 2009, after taking office, President Obama rejected calls for a national commission to investigate such practices, saying he wanted to "look forward and not back."

And, as Ackerman adds, "while Obama issued an executive order in 2009 to get the CIA out of the detentions business, the order 'did not apply to facilities used for short term, transitory detention.'"

Much of the information revealed is likely to also reside in a 6,000-page study recently completed by the Senate Intelligence Committee of the C.I.A. detention and interrogation program; however, that report remains classified.

"Despite the efforts of the United States and its partner governments to withhold the truth about past and ongoing abuses, information relating to these abuses will continue to find its way into the public domain," the report promises.

Critics suspect that the publication of the report was meant to coincide with Thursday's confirmation hearing of John Brennan, Barack Obama's choice to head the CIA.

Richard III: King’s Face Is Revealed

The face of King Richard III has been unveiled to the world after a skeleton found under a council car park was confirmed as that of the 15th century king.

A facial reconstruction of the monarch has been released by the Richard III Society  after it was confirmed that a skeleton unearthed in Leicester was that of the king who died in the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.

The image is based on a CT scan taken by experts at the University of Leicester, who discovered the king's skeleton during an archaeological dig last September with the help of the society.

King Richard III's skeleton was found in the remains of the choir of the Greyfriars church, which now lies under a social services car park in the city.

The facial reconstruction was unveiled at The Society of Antiquaries at Burlington House in Piccadilly, London.

Researchers said they had concluded "beyond reasonable doubt" that the skeleton, which showed evidence of an abnormal lateral curvature of the spine, was the monarch.

DNA samples from Michael Ibsen - a Canadian-born furniture maker who is a direct descendant of Richard's sister, Anne of York - provided further certainty.

The skeleton, with severe trauma to the skull and an arrow in the back, was unearthed on the first day of a three-week dig at the site of what is believed to have been the choir of Greyfriars Church.

Historical records show the long-lost church was the burial site of the monarch, following his brutal death at the battle of Bosworth Field in 1485.

The remains were found in good condition - with feet missing - at a depth of 68cm. The hand were crossed over the front of the pelvis and there was no evidence of a coffin or shroud found.

The king's remains will now be reinterred at Leicester Cathedral, the nearest consecrated ground, in keeping with archaeological practice.

Shakespeare portrayed Richard III as a hunchbacked tyrant but modern historians argue that the king was the victim of Tudor propaganda.

His brief reign from 1483 saw liberal reforms, including the introduction of the right to bail and the lifting of restrictions on books and printing presses.

Richard III was the last Plantagenet monarch, a Yorkist defeated by Henry Tudor, who became Henry VII.

Nick Clegg’s Backbone Found Buried In Car Park

  • "hole in the head" - University of Leicester

    "hole in the head" - University of Leicester

  • "hole in the head" - University of Leicester

    "hole in the head" - University of Leicester

  • "rib" - University of Leicester

    "rib" - University of Leicester

  • "hip bone" - University of Leicester

    "hip bone" - University of Leicester

  • "The skeleton being excavated, showing the curve in the spine." - University of Leicester

  • "The complete skeleton showing the curve of the spine." - University of Leicester

  • "The complete spine" - University of Leicester

  • "We can now reveal a picture of the empty grave." - University of Leicester

  • "Here’s a world first; an image of the in situ remains discovered by University of Leicester archaeologists." - University of Leicester

  • "Archaeologists begin to carefully remove the remains of modern buildings to reach medieval archaeology beneath." - University of Leicester

  • University of Leicester undated handout photo of the skull of the skeleton found at the Grey Friars excavation in Leicester, potentially that of King Richard III. (Credit: PA/University of Leicester )

  • Undated handout photo issued by the University of Leicester of the earliest surviving portrait of Richard III in Leicester Cathedral, as archaeologists involved in the hunt for the remains of Richard III have released the first image of a battle-scarred skull which could be that of the 15th century ruler. (Credit: PA/University of Leicester)

  • Archaeologists in Richard III dig

    Jo Appleby, a lecturer in Human Bioarchaeology, at University of Leicester, School of Archaeology and Ancient History, who led the exhumation of the remains, during a dig at Leicester's Greyfriars car park, speaking at the university, as tests have established that a skeleton found under the car park, is that of King Richard III.

  • Archaeologists in Richard III dig

    Jo Appleby, a lecturer in Human Bioarchaeology, at University of Leicester, School of Archaeology and Ancient History, who led the exhumation of the remains, during a dig at Leicester's Greyfriars car park, speaking at the university, as tests have established that a skeleton found under the car park, is that of King Richard III.

  • Archaeologists in Richard III dig

    Jo Appleby, a lecturer in Human Bioarchaeology, at University of Leicester, School of Archaeology and Ancient History, who led the exhumation of the remains, during a dig at Leicester's Greyfriars car park, speaking at the university, as tests have established that a skeleton found under the car park, is that of King Richard III.

  • Archaeologists in Richard III dig

    University of Leicester lead archaeologist Richard Buckley, speaking at the University of Leicester Council Chamber building, as tests have established that a skeleton found under Greyfriars car park in Leicester is that of King Richard III.

  • Archaeologists in Richard III dig

    Jo Appleby, a lecturer in Human Bioarchaeology, at University of Leicester, School of Archaeology and Ancient History, who led the exhumation of the remains, during a dig at Leicester's Greyfriars car park, speaking at the university, as tests have established that a skeleton found under the car park, is that of King Richard III.

  • University Of Leicester Makes Announcement Following Discovery Of Human Remains Which Are Possibly King Richard III

    LEICESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 04: Dr Jo Appleby, Professor Lin Foxhall and Professor Kevin Schuerer attend a press conference at University Of Leicester as archaeologists announce whether the human remains found in Leicester are those of King Richard III on February 4, 2013 in Leicester, England. The University of Leicester has been carrying out scientific investigations on remains found in a car park to find out whether they are those of King Richard III since last September, when the skeleton was discovered in the foundations of Greyfriars Church, Leicester. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

  • University Of Leicester Makes Announcement Following Discovery Of Human Remains Which Are Possibly King Richard III

    LEICESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 04: Lead archaeologist Richard Buckley, speaks at a press conference at the University Of Leicester as archaeologists announce whether the human remains found in Leicester are those of King Richard III on February 4, 2013 in Leicester, England. The University of Leicester has been carrying out scientific investigations on remains found in a car park to find out whether they are those of King Richard III since last September, when the skeleton was discovered in the foundations of Greyfriars Church, Leicester. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

  • University Of Leicester Makes Announcement Following Discovery Of Human Remains Which Are Possibly King Richard III

    LEICESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 04: Lead archaeologist Richard Buckley, speaks at a press conference at the University Of Leicester as archaeologists announce whether the human remains found in Leicester are those of King Richard III on February 4, 2013 in Leicester, England. The University of Leicester has been carrying out scientific investigations on remains found in a car park to find out whether they are those of King Richard III since last September, when the skeleton was discovered in the foundations of Greyfriars Church, Leicester. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

  • University Of Leicester Makes Announcement Following Discovery Of Human Remains Which Are Possibly King Richard III

    LEICESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 04: A general view of the human remains displayed on a television screen during a press conference at the University Of Leicester as archaeologists announce whether the human remains found in Leicester are those of King Richard III on February 4, 2013 in Leicester, England. The University of Leicester has been carrying out scientific investigations on remains found in a car park to find out whether they are those of King Richard III since last September, when the skeleton was discovered in the foundations of Greyfriars Church, Leicester. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

  • University Of Leicester Makes Announcement Following Discovery Of Human Remains Which Are Possibly King Richard III

    LEICESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 04: Lead archaeologist Richard Buckley (L), Dr Jo Appleby, Professor Lin Foxhall and Professor Kevin Schuerer attend a press conference at University Of Leicester as archaeologists announce whether the human remains found in Leicester are those of King Richard III on February 4, 2013 in Leicester, England. The University of Leicester has been carrying out scientific investigations on remains found in a car park to find out whether they are those of King Richard III since last September, when the skeleton was discovered in the foundations of Greyfriars Church, Leicester. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

  • University Of Leicester Makes Announcement Following Discovery Of Human Remains Which Are Possibly King Richard III

    LEICESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 04: Lead archaeologist Richard Buckley, speaks at a press conference at the University Of Leicester as archaeologists announce whether the human remains found in Leicester are those of King Richard III on February 4, 2013 in Leicester, England. The University of Leicester has been carrying out scientific investigations on remains found in a car park to find out whether they are those of King Richard III since last September, when the skeleton was discovered in the foundations of Greyfriars Church, Leicester. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

  • Archaeologists in Richard III dig

    Dr Turi King from Leicester University gives Michael Ibsen, a 17th generation great nephew of Richard III, a DNA swab at Greyfriars car park in Leicester during an archaeological search for the lost grave of Richard III.

  • Archaeologists in Richard III dig

    Claire Graham uses ground penetration radar (GPR) at Greyfriars car park in Leicester watched by actors dressed as Knights from Historic Equitation Ltd during an archaeological search for the lost grave of Richard III.

  • Archaeologists in Richard III dig

    File photo dated 24/8/2012 of Claire Graham using ground penetration radar (GPR) at Greyfriars car park in Leicester during an archaeological search for the lost grave of Richard III. Archaeologists searching for the lost grave of the medieval king have discovered human remains.

  • Archaeologists in Richard III dig

    Claire Graham uses ground penetration radar (GPR) at Greyfriars car park in Leicester during an archaeological search for the lost grave of Richard III.

  • University Of Leicester Makes Announcement Following Discovery Of Human Remains Which Are Possibly King Richard III

    LEICESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 04: Members of the media attend a press conference at University Of Leicester as archaeologists announce whether the human remains found in Leicester are those of King Richard III on February 4, 2013 in Leicester, England. The University of Leicester has been carrying out scientific investigations on remains found in a car park to find out whether they are those of King Richard III since last September, when the skeleton was discovered in the foundations of Greyfriars Church, Leicester. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

  • Nick Clegg’s Backbone Found Buried In Car Park

  • "hole in the head" - University of Leicester

    "hole in the head" - University of Leicester

  • "hole in the head" - University of Leicester

    "hole in the head" - University of Leicester

  • "rib" - University of Leicester

    "rib" - University of Leicester

  • "hip bone" - University of Leicester

    "hip bone" - University of Leicester

  • "The skeleton being excavated, showing the curve in the spine." - University of Leicester

  • "The complete skeleton showing the curve of the spine." - University of Leicester

  • "The complete spine" - University of Leicester

  • "We can now reveal a picture of the empty grave." - University of Leicester

  • "Here’s a world first; an image of the in situ remains discovered by University of Leicester archaeologists." - University of Leicester

  • "Archaeologists begin to carefully remove the remains of modern buildings to reach medieval archaeology beneath." - University of Leicester

  • University of Leicester undated handout photo of the skull of the skeleton found at the Grey Friars excavation in Leicester, potentially that of King Richard III. (Credit: PA/University of Leicester )

  • Undated handout photo issued by the University of Leicester of the earliest surviving portrait of Richard III in Leicester Cathedral, as archaeologists involved in the hunt for the remains of Richard III have released the first image of a battle-scarred skull which could be that of the 15th century ruler. (Credit: PA/University of Leicester)

  • Archaeologists in Richard III dig

    Jo Appleby, a lecturer in Human Bioarchaeology, at University of Leicester, School of Archaeology and Ancient History, who led the exhumation of the remains, during a dig at Leicester's Greyfriars car park, speaking at the university, as tests have established that a skeleton found under the car park, is that of King Richard III.

  • Archaeologists in Richard III dig

    Jo Appleby, a lecturer in Human Bioarchaeology, at University of Leicester, School of Archaeology and Ancient History, who led the exhumation of the remains, during a dig at Leicester's Greyfriars car park, speaking at the university, as tests have established that a skeleton found under the car park, is that of King Richard III.

  • Archaeologists in Richard III dig

    Jo Appleby, a lecturer in Human Bioarchaeology, at University of Leicester, School of Archaeology and Ancient History, who led the exhumation of the remains, during a dig at Leicester's Greyfriars car park, speaking at the university, as tests have established that a skeleton found under the car park, is that of King Richard III.

  • Archaeologists in Richard III dig

    University of Leicester lead archaeologist Richard Buckley, speaking at the University of Leicester Council Chamber building, as tests have established that a skeleton found under Greyfriars car park in Leicester is that of King Richard III.

  • Archaeologists in Richard III dig

    Jo Appleby, a lecturer in Human Bioarchaeology, at University of Leicester, School of Archaeology and Ancient History, who led the exhumation of the remains, during a dig at Leicester's Greyfriars car park, speaking at the university, as tests have established that a skeleton found under the car park, is that of King Richard III.

  • University Of Leicester Makes Announcement Following Discovery Of Human Remains Which Are Possibly King Richard III

    LEICESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 04: Dr Jo Appleby, Professor Lin Foxhall and Professor Kevin Schuerer attend a press conference at University Of Leicester as archaeologists announce whether the human remains found in Leicester are those of King Richard III on February 4, 2013 in Leicester, England. The University of Leicester has been carrying out scientific investigations on remains found in a car park to find out whether they are those of King Richard III since last September, when the skeleton was discovered in the foundations of Greyfriars Church, Leicester. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

  • University Of Leicester Makes Announcement Following Discovery Of Human Remains Which Are Possibly King Richard III

    LEICESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 04: Lead archaeologist Richard Buckley, speaks at a press conference at the University Of Leicester as archaeologists announce whether the human remains found in Leicester are those of King Richard III on February 4, 2013 in Leicester, England. The University of Leicester has been carrying out scientific investigations on remains found in a car park to find out whether they are those of King Richard III since last September, when the skeleton was discovered in the foundations of Greyfriars Church, Leicester. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

  • University Of Leicester Makes Announcement Following Discovery Of Human Remains Which Are Possibly King Richard III

    LEICESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 04: Lead archaeologist Richard Buckley, speaks at a press conference at the University Of Leicester as archaeologists announce whether the human remains found in Leicester are those of King Richard III on February 4, 2013 in Leicester, England. The University of Leicester has been carrying out scientific investigations on remains found in a car park to find out whether they are those of King Richard III since last September, when the skeleton was discovered in the foundations of Greyfriars Church, Leicester. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

  • University Of Leicester Makes Announcement Following Discovery Of Human Remains Which Are Possibly King Richard III

    LEICESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 04: A general view of the human remains displayed on a television screen during a press conference at the University Of Leicester as archaeologists announce whether the human remains found in Leicester are those of King Richard III on February 4, 2013 in Leicester, England. The University of Leicester has been carrying out scientific investigations on remains found in a car park to find out whether they are those of King Richard III since last September, when the skeleton was discovered in the foundations of Greyfriars Church, Leicester. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

  • University Of Leicester Makes Announcement Following Discovery Of Human Remains Which Are Possibly King Richard III

    LEICESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 04: Lead archaeologist Richard Buckley (L), Dr Jo Appleby, Professor Lin Foxhall and Professor Kevin Schuerer attend a press conference at University Of Leicester as archaeologists announce whether the human remains found in Leicester are those of King Richard III on February 4, 2013 in Leicester, England. The University of Leicester has been carrying out scientific investigations on remains found in a car park to find out whether they are those of King Richard III since last September, when the skeleton was discovered in the foundations of Greyfriars Church, Leicester. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

  • University Of Leicester Makes Announcement Following Discovery Of Human Remains Which Are Possibly King Richard III

    LEICESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 04: Lead archaeologist Richard Buckley, speaks at a press conference at the University Of Leicester as archaeologists announce whether the human remains found in Leicester are those of King Richard III on February 4, 2013 in Leicester, England. The University of Leicester has been carrying out scientific investigations on remains found in a car park to find out whether they are those of King Richard III since last September, when the skeleton was discovered in the foundations of Greyfriars Church, Leicester. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

  • Archaeologists in Richard III dig

    Dr Turi King from Leicester University gives Michael Ibsen, a 17th generation great nephew of Richard III, a DNA swab at Greyfriars car park in Leicester during an archaeological search for the lost grave of Richard III.

  • Archaeologists in Richard III dig

    Claire Graham uses ground penetration radar (GPR) at Greyfriars car park in Leicester watched by actors dressed as Knights from Historic Equitation Ltd during an archaeological search for the lost grave of Richard III.

  • Archaeologists in Richard III dig

    File photo dated 24/8/2012 of Claire Graham using ground penetration radar (GPR) at Greyfriars car park in Leicester during an archaeological search for the lost grave of Richard III. Archaeologists searching for the lost grave of the medieval king have discovered human remains.

  • Archaeologists in Richard III dig

    Claire Graham uses ground penetration radar (GPR) at Greyfriars car park in Leicester during an archaeological search for the lost grave of Richard III.

  • University Of Leicester Makes Announcement Following Discovery Of Human Remains Which Are Possibly King Richard III

    LEICESTER, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 04: Members of the media attend a press conference at University Of Leicester as archaeologists announce whether the human remains found in Leicester are those of King Richard III on February 4, 2013 in Leicester, England. The University of Leicester has been carrying out scientific investigations on remains found in a car park to find out whether they are those of King Richard III since last September, when the skeleton was discovered in the foundations of Greyfriars Church, Leicester. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

  • Access Of Evil?

    As US President George W Bush made his famous speech about the "axis of evil", and his administration named countries including Iran, Iraq, Syria and Libya as enemies of the US, his security forces were co-operating, directly and indirectly, with those same countries to kidnap, imprison and torture citizens.

    A groundbreaking report published on Tuesday shows that more than 50 countries, a quarter of the world's nations, cooperated with the CIA's extraordinary rendition programme - many of them nations publicly hostile to the US.

    Canadian citizen Maher Arar, who was tortured in Syria after his rendition, told HuffPost UK the report, by the Open Society Foundation, was further proof that the US government "cooperated with dictatorial regimes that they condemned publicly but cooperated with clandestinely."

    iran

    An Iranian cleric walks past a mural on the wall of the former US embassy


    The Open Society Foundation found that Iran, Syria and Libya all directly or indirectly transferred individuals into American hands.

    In March 2002, in his State of the Union address, Bush accused three governments of supporting terrorism and seeking weapons of mass destruction, the so-called Axis of Evil: Iran, Iraq and North Korea, which "threaten the peace of the world".

    In May of that year, the list was expanded by Undersecretary of State John Bolton, who named Syria, Libya and Cuba as "beyond the Axis of Evil", an expansion of Bush's original claims.

    But the report found that in the same month Bush named Iran as one-third of the Axis of Evil, Tehran, then under President Mohammad Khatami, was involved in capturing 15 individuals and transferring them to the Afghan government, 10 of which were later handed over the Americans.

    At least six were later held in secret CIA detention.

    The report's author Amrit Singh said: "Because the hand-over happened soon after the US invasion of Afghanistan, Iran was aware that the United States would have effective control over any detainees handed over to Afghan authorities."

    Extraordinary Rendition Report Finds More Than 50 Nations Involved In Global Torture Scheme

    Labour MP Yasmin Qureshi, a member of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Extraordinary Rendition, told The Huffington Post UK it was indicative of a "two-pronged approach" to fighting terror.

    "Beneath the surface, the countries are all carrying out their own agendas.

    "Iran may have been happy to help hand over members of the Taliban or al-Qaeda to the US, behind the scenes or indirectly. Iran is predominantly Shia and they are Sunnis.

    "The attitude is 'my enemy's enemy is my friend.' If it's in the country's interest, they will deal with their enemies in private, while decrying them in public."

    Reprieve investigator Dr Crofton Black told HuffPost UK: "We don't understand nearly enough about the collaboration of all of the countries surrounding Afghanistan, with what went on in the early days.

    "The power politics in the region is something we do not talk about enough."

    Syria, named as part of the axis of evil in May 2002 by Bolton, was one of the “most common destinations for rendered suspects," according to the report.

    But the CIA extraordinarily rendered at least nine individuals to Syria, whose government was headed by the current beleaguered leader Bashar al-Assad, between December 2001 and October 2002.

    maher arar

    Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian who was tortured in Syria


    One of the most well-known cases is Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian who was transferred to Damascus from New York by the CIA in 2002.

    He received £7.3m in compensation from Canada, who issued an apology “inaccurate and unfairly prejudicial” intelligence provided by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to the US.

    Arar told HuffPost UK: "The US government has for long had double standards in matters related to foreign policy.

    "There is no better example than that of the practice of extraordinary rendition where the current and previous administrations cooperated with dictatorial regimes that they condemned publicly but cooperated with clandestinely.

    "The OSF report is not a surprise to me, as I have experienced the fruits of this cooperation first hand, but this revelation may be a surprise to people who still believe the US government still adheres to the rule of law in matters related to national security."

    george bush

    Many of the extraordinary renditions coincided with George Bush's Axis Of Evil speech


    Arar was detained for more than 10 months in a tiny grave-like cell seven feet high, six feet long, and three feet wide, beaten with cables, and threatened with electric shocks, among other forms of torture.

    Libya, which was also named as part of the axis of evil by Bolton, "detained, interrogated, and tortured extraordinarily rendered individuals, and also permitted use of its airspace and airports for the CIA’s extraordinary rendition operations."

    Human Rights Watch found in 2012, after the fall of Colonel Gaddafi, that Western governments cooperated with a "forcible return and subsequent interrogation of Gaddafi opponents in Libya.”

    Several of the cases appear to have intimately involved the UK government.

    A leading Libyan opponent of Colonel Gaddafi, Sami al Saadi, was forcibly returned to the north African country in a joint operation with the UK and US, where he was tortured. In December 2012, he won a £2.23m settlement with the UK government.

    Saadi was forced on board a plane in Hong Kong – having sought for years to avoid the agents of the Libyan dictator –with his wife and four young children, in an alleged joint UK-US-Libyan operation.

    THE 54 COUNTRIES WHICH PARTICIPATED IN EXTRAORDINARY RENDITION

    1. Afghanistan
    2. Albania
    3. Algeria,
    4. Australia,
    5. Austria,
    6. Azerbaijan,
    7. Belgium,
    8. Bosnia-Herzegovina,
    9. Canada,
    10. Croatia,
    11. Cyprus,
    12. Czech Republic,
    13. Denmark,
    14. Djibouti,
    15. Egypt,
    16. Ethiopia,
    17. Finland,
    18. Gambia,
    19. Georgia,
    20. Germany,
    21. Greece,
    22. Hong Kong,
    23. Iceland,
    24. Indonesia,
    25. Iran,
    26. Ireland,
    27. Italy,
    28. Jordan,
    29. Kenya,
    30. Libya,
    31. Lithuania,
    32. Macedonia,
    33. Malawi,
    34. Malaysia,
    35. Mauritania,
    36. Morocco,
    37. Pakistan,
    38. Poland,
    39. Portugal,
    40. Romania,
    41. Saudi Arabia,
    42. Somalia,
    43. South Africa,
    44. Spain,
    45. Sri Lanka,
    46. Sweden,
    47. Syria,
    48. Thailand,
    49. Turkey,
    50. United Arab Emirates,
    51. United Kingdom,
    52. Uzbekistan,
    53. Yemen,
    54. Zimbabwe

    Access Of Evil?

    As US President George W Bush made his famous speech about the "axis of evil", and his administration named countries including Iran, Iraq, Syria and Libya as enemies of the US, his security forces were co-operating, directly and indirectly, with those same countries to kidnap, imprison and torture citizens.

    A groundbreaking report published on Tuesday shows that more than 50 countries, a quarter of the world's nations, cooperated with the CIA's extraordinary rendition programme - many of them nations publicly hostile to the US.

    Canadian citizen Maher Arar, who was tortured in Syria after his rendition, told HuffPost UK the report, by the Open Society Foundation, was further proof that the US government "cooperated with dictatorial regimes that they condemned publicly but cooperated with clandestinely."

    iran

    An Iranian cleric walks past a mural on the wall of the former US embassy


    The Open Society Foundation found that Iran, Syria and Libya all directly or indirectly transferred individuals into American hands.

    In March 2002, in his State of the Union address, Bush accused three governments of supporting terrorism and seeking weapons of mass destruction, the so-called Axis of Evil: Iran, Iraq and North Korea, which "threaten the peace of the world".

    In May of that year, the list was expanded by Undersecretary of State John Bolton, who named Syria, Libya and Cuba as "beyond the Axis of Evil", an expansion of Bush's original claims.

    But the report found that in the same month Bush named Iran as one-third of the Axis of Evil, Tehran, then under President Mohammad Khatami, was involved in capturing 15 individuals and transferring them to the Afghan government, 10 of which were later handed over the Americans.

    At least six were later held in secret CIA detention.

    The report's author Amrit Singh said: "Because the hand-over happened soon after the US invasion of Afghanistan, Iran was aware that the United States would have effective control over any detainees handed over to Afghan authorities."

    Extraordinary Rendition Report Finds More Than 50 Nations Involved In Global Torture Scheme

    Labour MP Yasmin Qureshi, a member of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Extraordinary Rendition, told The Huffington Post UK it was indicative of a "two-pronged approach" to fighting terror.

    "Beneath the surface, the countries are all carrying out their own agendas.

    "Iran may have been happy to help hand over members of the Taliban or al-Qaeda to the US, behind the scenes or indirectly. Iran is predominantly Shia and they are Sunnis.

    "The attitude is 'my enemy's enemy is my friend.' If it's in the country's interest, they will deal with their enemies in private, while decrying them in public."

    Reprieve investigator Dr Crofton Black told HuffPost UK: "We don't understand nearly enough about the collaboration of all of the countries surrounding Afghanistan, with what went on in the early days.

    "The power politics in the region is something we do not talk about enough."

    Syria, named as part of the axis of evil in May 2002 by Bolton, was one of the “most common destinations for rendered suspects," according to the report.

    But the CIA extraordinarily rendered at least nine individuals to Syria, whose government was headed by the current beleaguered leader Bashar al-Assad, between December 2001 and October 2002.

    maher arar

    Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian who was tortured in Syria


    One of the most well-known cases is Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian who was transferred to Damascus from New York by the CIA in 2002.

    He received £7.3m in compensation from Canada, who issued an apology “inaccurate and unfairly prejudicial” intelligence provided by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to the US.

    Arar told HuffPost UK: "The US government has for long had double standards in matters related to foreign policy.

    "There is no better example than that of the practice of extraordinary rendition where the current and previous administrations cooperated with dictatorial regimes that they condemned publicly but cooperated with clandestinely.

    "The OSF report is not a surprise to me, as I have experienced the fruits of this cooperation first hand, but this revelation may be a surprise to people who still believe the US government still adheres to the rule of law in matters related to national security."

    george bush

    Many of the extraordinary renditions coincided with George Bush's Axis Of Evil speech


    Arar was detained for more than 10 months in a tiny grave-like cell seven feet high, six feet long, and three feet wide, beaten with cables, and threatened with electric shocks, among other forms of torture.

    Libya, which was also named as part of the axis of evil by Bolton, "detained, interrogated, and tortured extraordinarily rendered individuals, and also permitted use of its airspace and airports for the CIA’s extraordinary rendition operations."

    Human Rights Watch found in 2012, after the fall of Colonel Gaddafi, that Western governments cooperated with a "forcible return and subsequent interrogation of Gaddafi opponents in Libya.”

    Several of the cases appear to have intimately involved the UK government.

    A leading Libyan opponent of Colonel Gaddafi, Sami al Saadi, was forcibly returned to the north African country in a joint operation with the UK and US, where he was tortured. In December 2012, he won a £2.23m settlement with the UK government.

    Saadi was forced on board a plane in Hong Kong – having sought for years to avoid the agents of the Libyan dictator –with his wife and four young children, in an alleged joint UK-US-Libyan operation.

    THE 54 COUNTRIES WHICH PARTICIPATED IN EXTRAORDINARY RENDITION

    1. Afghanistan
    2. Albania
    3. Algeria,
    4. Australia,
    5. Austria,
    6. Azerbaijan,
    7. Belgium,
    8. Bosnia-Herzegovina,
    9. Canada,
    10. Croatia,
    11. Cyprus,
    12. Czech Republic,
    13. Denmark,
    14. Djibouti,
    15. Egypt,
    16. Ethiopia,
    17. Finland,
    18. Gambia,
    19. Georgia,
    20. Germany,
    21. Greece,
    22. Hong Kong,
    23. Iceland,
    24. Indonesia,
    25. Iran,
    26. Ireland,
    27. Italy,
    28. Jordan,
    29. Kenya,
    30. Libya,
    31. Lithuania,
    32. Macedonia,
    33. Malawi,
    34. Malaysia,
    35. Mauritania,
    36. Morocco,
    37. Pakistan,
    38. Poland,
    39. Portugal,
    40. Romania,
    41. Saudi Arabia,
    42. Somalia,
    43. South Africa,
    44. Spain,
    45. Sri Lanka,
    46. Sweden,
    47. Syria,
    48. Thailand,
    49. Turkey,
    50. United Arab Emirates,
    51. United Kingdom,
    52. Uzbekistan,
    53. Yemen,
    54. Zimbabwe

    Mehdi’s Morning Memo: Gay Wedding Day

    The ten things you need to know on Tuesday 5 February 2013...

    1) WEDDING DAY

    Tory MPs opposed to gay marriage, speak now or forever hold your peace. Although what is more likely to happen is: Speak later on today, probably lose the vote, and then carry on chatting about how awful it is for a bit longer.

    MPs will vote on gay marriage later today. The coalition will get its Bill passed second reading given it has the support of Labour. But David Cameron will be keen to convince at least half of his 303 MPs to follow him through the ‘aye’ lobby. Winning a vote despite, rather than because, of your own party is never a good look for a prime minister.

    Maria Miller sat down with HuffPost UK yesterday ahead of today’s vote and denied reports pressure was being put on MPs to vote in favour of her Bill. The culture secretary also insisted she would not be backing down in the face of fierce opposition from within her own party. Miller, who pointed to the abolition of the slave trade as proof of her party’s progressive tradition, said it was not good enough to deny people the right to marry simply because they are gay. "Marriage is an important part of our society, it’s a vital way that people can publically state their relationships and I don’t think it’s for the state to stand in the way of that happening simply based on someone’s sexuality,” she said.

    The Daily Mail reports this morning that Iain Duncan Smith, who famously backed Section 28 while Tory leader in 2003, will vote with Cameron in favour of gay marriage.

    And William Hague, Theresa May and George Osborne have written a joint letter to the Daily Telegraph urging their colleagues to support same-sex marriage. The “big guns”, as the paper describes them, argue, “attitudes to gay people have changed”.

    During the vote eyes will be on their cabinet colleagues, including environment secretary Owen Paterson and Welsh secretary David Jones, who are known to have concerns about gay marriage.

    Speaking of Paterson. He does appear to have a habit of appointing ministerial aides who then shortly afterwards resign the post after rebelling against the government. His current PPS, David Burrowes, has told the Spectator that he intends to vote against the timetable of the bill, which is whipped, as well as the substantive intent of the legislation, which is not. This could lead to the leading anti-gay marriage MP losing his job.

    Today’s Memo is edited by Ned Simons as Mehdi Hasan can’t be dragged away from YouTube clips of Beyonce’s Sunday night Super Bowel performance.

    2) ‘GO FOR THE KILL’

    A failed marriage is at the centre of today’s other big story. Yesterday former Lib Dem cabinet minister Chris Huhne shocked Westminster by pleading guilty to perverting the course of justice after asking his wife to accept speeding points on his behalf.

    Tragically the evidence revealed as series of text messages between Huhne and his son, revealing the teenager’s anger at his father: "We all know that you were driving and you put pressure on mum. Accept it or face the consequences. You've told me that was the case. Or will this be another lie?"

    Huhne will resign his seat in the Commons, trigging a by-election in his Eastleigh seat. The south coast constituency is a Lib Dem-Tory marginal and will be the first proper electoral fight between the coalition partners since 2010. The Daily Mail reports Cameron has told Tory campaign headquarters to “go for the kill” in the battle for the seat.

    3) SUING THE SUN

    If Huhne’s son is annoyed at him, then the former energy secretary’s one time cabinet colleague, Andrew Mitchell, is equally angry with The Sun.

    In an interview with Channel 4’s Despatches last night, Mitchell revealed he intended to sue the paper for libel over its report that claimed he called police officers outside No.10 “plebs” during the now infamous argument at the gates.

    Mitchell is also clearly a bit miffed at the prime minster for wanting to make the scandal go away. "I think Downing Street wanted this to go away. They really wanted me to lie low and let them get on with running the country but I couldn't do that - I couldn't wake up every morning for the rest of my life knowing that I had been stitched up," he Mitchell.

    4) BIDEN BACK IN TOWN

    Joe Biden is in town today to meet Cameron and Nick Clegg. He flew into Stanstead, lucky him, last night and will attend a meeting of the National Security Council later today. He is also likely to raise the issue of the European Union and Britain's place in it.

    BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR: Here is a gallery of photos showing Biden looking cool in aviators and fist bumping people.

    5) DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER'S LIAISON

    At 4pm the Liaison committee will grill, or rather gently warm, Nick Clegg on various areas of government policy. Usually the committee, made up of the select committee chairs, only convenes to question the prime minister. So parliamentary geeks, including your editor, are super excited and naturally assume this will be carried live on BBC and Sky. Although it does clash on TV with Antique’s Road Show – so you watch that, we’ll watch Clegg for you.

    6) PLANE CRAZY

    Let’s have jump jets. Wait, no lets have carrier jets. OK. No let’s have jump jets.

    The Ministry of Defence was strongly criticised by MPs today over the "flawed" decision to switch fighter aircraft for the Royal Navy's new carriers - costing an extra £100m.

    It was announced in the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review that the Government would adopt the carrier variant of the US-built F35 Joint Strike Fighter rather than the "jump jet" version chosen by the previous Labour government.

    Ministers argued that the carrier variant was a more capable aircraft and that it would increase "interoperability" with other navies - even though it meant mothballing one of the two carriers on grounds of affordability.

    However last May, defence secretary Philip Hammond announced the MoD was reverting to the jump jet version amid fears the costs of fitting the necessary catapults and arrestor gear - "cats and traps" - were spiralling out of control.

    7) INDEPENDENCE DAY

    From the BBC: The Scottish government has drawn up a detailed paper outlining the possible transition to independence.

    Under the plans, based on a "yes" vote in a 2014 referendum, independence day for Scotland would be in March 2016. The first elections to an independent parliament would follow in May.

    8) ‘GLOBAL KIDNAP’

    The U.S. counterterrorism practice known as extraordinary rendition, in which suspects were quietly moved to secret prisons abroad and often tortured, involved the participation of more than 50 nations, according to a new report to be released Tuesday by the Open Society Foundations.

    The OSF report, which offers the first wholesale public accounting of the top-secret program, puts the number of governments that either hosted CIA "black sites," interrogated or tortured prisoners sent by the U.S., or otherwise collaborated in the program at 54. The report also identifies by name 136 prisoners who were at some point subjected to extraordinary rendition.

    The number of nations and the names of those detained provide a stark tally of a program that was expanded widely -- critics say recklessly -- by the George W. Bush administration after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and has been heavily condemned in the years since.

    9) DRONE WARS

    A report Monday night on the nature of the administration's drone program has the potential to dramatically revamp the debate over President Barack Obama's foreign policy and the confirmation process for his incoming cabinet.

    The report, by Michael Isikoff of NBC News, reveals that the Obama administration believes that high-level administration officials -- not just the president -- may order the killing of “senior operational leaders” of al-Qaida or an associated force even without evidence they are actively plotting against the U.S.

    “A lawful killing in self-defense is not an assassination,” states the Justice Department white paper quoted by Isikoff.

    10) YES MINISTER

    Cabinet ministers should be given the power formally to appoint their most senior civil servants to help end a culture of amateurism in Whitehall, according to an independent think tank.

    Insiders, including ministers and key officials, have painted a bleak picture of the inner workings of government telling of a system that lacks expertise and deals with "appalling" members of staff by promoting them out.

    They told Reform that the two biggest issues hampering success were the "relentless" rotation of officials and an unwillingness to challenge bad performance or reward the good.

    140 CHARACTERS OR LESS

    @ChrisBryantMP Changing the law changes attitudes. Even MPs who voted against civil partnerships will vote for Same Sex Marriage today.

    @janemerrick23 Today is a very good day to bury bad views #gaymarriage #equalmarriage

    @jameschappers Angela Eagle just owned Charles Moore. Good courteous debate, though - don't expect it'll be same in Commons later #today

    900 WORDS OR MORE

    Rachel Sylvester in The Times: "Chris Huhne’s fall was personal, not political. But in today’s Westminster pressure cooker that counts for nothing."

    Peter Oborne in the Daily Telegraph: "Could Chris Huhne take Nick Clegg or David Cameron with him?"

    Steve Richards in the Independent: "Gay marriage: no one can stop this social revolution now."

    Got something you want to share? Please send any stories/tips/quotes/pix/plugs/gossip to Mehdi Hasan (mehdi.hasan@huffingtonpost.com) or Ned Simons (ned.simons@huffingtonpost.com). You can also follow us on Twitter: @mehdirhasan, @nedsimons and @huffpostukpol

    Mehdi’s Morning Memo: Gay Wedding Day

    The ten things you need to know on Tuesday 5 February 2013...

    1) WEDDING DAY

    Tory MPs opposed to gay marriage, speak now or forever hold your peace. Although what is more likely to happen is: Speak later on today, probably lose the vote, and then carry on chatting about how awful it is for a bit longer.

    MPs will vote on gay marriage later today. The coalition will get its Bill passed second reading given it has the support of Labour. But David Cameron will be keen to convince at least half of his 303 MPs to follow him through the ‘aye’ lobby. Winning a vote despite, rather than because, of your own party is never a good look for a prime minister.

    Maria Miller sat down with HuffPost UK yesterday ahead of today’s vote and denied reports pressure was being put on MPs to vote in favour of her Bill. The culture secretary also insisted she would not be backing down in the face of fierce opposition from within her own party. Miller, who pointed to the abolition of the slave trade as proof of her party’s progressive tradition, said it was not good enough to deny people the right to marry simply because they are gay. "Marriage is an important part of our society, it’s a vital way that people can publically state their relationships and I don’t think it’s for the state to stand in the way of that happening simply based on someone’s sexuality,” she said.

    The Daily Mail reports this morning that Iain Duncan Smith, who famously backed Section 28 while Tory leader in 2003, will vote with Cameron in favour of gay marriage.

    And William Hague, Theresa May and George Osborne have written a joint letter to the Daily Telegraph urging their colleagues to support same-sex marriage. The “big guns”, as the paper describes them, argue, “attitudes to gay people have changed”.

    During the vote eyes will be on their cabinet colleagues, including environment secretary Owen Paterson and Welsh secretary David Jones, who are known to have concerns about gay marriage.

    Speaking of Paterson. He does appear to have a habit of appointing ministerial aides who then shortly afterwards resign the post after rebelling against the government. His current PPS, David Burrowes, has told the Spectator that he intends to vote against the timetable of the bill, which is whipped, as well as the substantive intent of the legislation, which is not. This could lead to the leading anti-gay marriage MP losing his job.

    Today’s Memo is edited by Ned Simons as Mehdi Hasan can’t be dragged away from YouTube clips of Beyonce’s Sunday night Super Bowel performance.

    2) ‘GO FOR THE KILL’

    A failed marriage is at the centre of today’s other big story. Yesterday former Lib Dem cabinet minister Chris Huhne shocked Westminster by pleading guilty to perverting the course of justice after asking his wife to accept speeding points on his behalf.

    Tragically the evidence revealed as series of text messages between Huhne and his son, revealing the teenager’s anger at his father: "We all know that you were driving and you put pressure on mum. Accept it or face the consequences. You've told me that was the case. Or will this be another lie?"

    Huhne will resign his seat in the Commons, trigging a by-election in his Eastleigh seat. The south coast constituency is a Lib Dem-Tory marginal and will be the first proper electoral fight between the coalition partners since 2010. The Daily Mail reports Cameron has told Tory campaign headquarters to “go for the kill” in the battle for the seat.

    3) SUING THE SUN

    If Huhne’s son is annoyed at him, then the former energy secretary’s one time cabinet colleague, Andrew Mitchell, is equally angry with The Sun.

    In an interview with Channel 4’s Despatches last night, Mitchell revealed he intended to sue the paper for libel over its report that claimed he called police officers outside No.10 “plebs” during the now infamous argument at the gates.

    Mitchell is also clearly a bit miffed at the prime minster for wanting to make the scandal go away. "I think Downing Street wanted this to go away. They really wanted me to lie low and let them get on with running the country but I couldn't do that - I couldn't wake up every morning for the rest of my life knowing that I had been stitched up," he Mitchell.

    4) BIDEN BACK IN TOWN

    Joe Biden is in town today to meet Cameron and Nick Clegg. He flew into Stanstead, lucky him, last night and will attend a meeting of the National Security Council later today. He is also likely to raise the issue of the European Union and Britain's place in it.

    BECAUSE YOU'VE READ THIS FAR: Here is a gallery of photos showing Biden looking cool in aviators and fist bumping people.

    5) DEPUTY PRIME MINISTER'S LIAISON

    At 4pm the Liaison committee will grill, or rather gently warm, Nick Clegg on various areas of government policy. Usually the committee, made up of the select committee chairs, only convenes to question the prime minister. So parliamentary geeks, including your editor, are super excited and naturally assume this will be carried live on BBC and Sky. Although it does clash on TV with Antique’s Road Show – so you watch that, we’ll watch Clegg for you.

    6) PLANE CRAZY

    Let’s have jump jets. Wait, no lets have carrier jets. OK. No let’s have jump jets.

    The Ministry of Defence was strongly criticised by MPs today over the "flawed" decision to switch fighter aircraft for the Royal Navy's new carriers - costing an extra £100m.

    It was announced in the 2010 Strategic Defence and Security Review that the Government would adopt the carrier variant of the US-built F35 Joint Strike Fighter rather than the "jump jet" version chosen by the previous Labour government.

    Ministers argued that the carrier variant was a more capable aircraft and that it would increase "interoperability" with other navies - even though it meant mothballing one of the two carriers on grounds of affordability.

    However last May, defence secretary Philip Hammond announced the MoD was reverting to the jump jet version amid fears the costs of fitting the necessary catapults and arrestor gear - "cats and traps" - were spiralling out of control.

    7) INDEPENDENCE DAY

    From the BBC: The Scottish government has drawn up a detailed paper outlining the possible transition to independence.

    Under the plans, based on a "yes" vote in a 2014 referendum, independence day for Scotland would be in March 2016. The first elections to an independent parliament would follow in May.

    8) ‘GLOBAL KIDNAP’

    The U.S. counterterrorism practice known as extraordinary rendition, in which suspects were quietly moved to secret prisons abroad and often tortured, involved the participation of more than 50 nations, according to a new report to be released Tuesday by the Open Society Foundations.

    The OSF report, which offers the first wholesale public accounting of the top-secret program, puts the number of governments that either hosted CIA "black sites," interrogated or tortured prisoners sent by the U.S., or otherwise collaborated in the program at 54. The report also identifies by name 136 prisoners who were at some point subjected to extraordinary rendition.

    The number of nations and the names of those detained provide a stark tally of a program that was expanded widely -- critics say recklessly -- by the George W. Bush administration after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and has been heavily condemned in the years since.

    9) DRONE WARS

    A report Monday night on the nature of the administration's drone program has the potential to dramatically revamp the debate over President Barack Obama's foreign policy and the confirmation process for his incoming cabinet.

    The report, by Michael Isikoff of NBC News, reveals that the Obama administration believes that high-level administration officials -- not just the president -- may order the killing of “senior operational leaders” of al-Qaida or an associated force even without evidence they are actively plotting against the U.S.

    “A lawful killing in self-defense is not an assassination,” states the Justice Department white paper quoted by Isikoff.

    10) YES MINISTER

    Cabinet ministers should be given the power formally to appoint their most senior civil servants to help end a culture of amateurism in Whitehall, according to an independent think tank.

    Insiders, including ministers and key officials, have painted a bleak picture of the inner workings of government telling of a system that lacks expertise and deals with "appalling" members of staff by promoting them out.

    They told Reform that the two biggest issues hampering success were the "relentless" rotation of officials and an unwillingness to challenge bad performance or reward the good.

    140 CHARACTERS OR LESS

    @ChrisBryantMP Changing the law changes attitudes. Even MPs who voted against civil partnerships will vote for Same Sex Marriage today.

    @janemerrick23 Today is a very good day to bury bad views #gaymarriage #equalmarriage

    @jameschappers Angela Eagle just owned Charles Moore. Good courteous debate, though - don't expect it'll be same in Commons later #today

    900 WORDS OR MORE

    Rachel Sylvester in The Times: "Chris Huhne’s fall was personal, not political. But in today’s Westminster pressure cooker that counts for nothing."

    Peter Oborne in the Daily Telegraph: "Could Chris Huhne take Nick Clegg or David Cameron with him?"

    Steve Richards in the Independent: "Gay marriage: no one can stop this social revolution now."

    Got something you want to share? Please send any stories/tips/quotes/pix/plugs/gossip to Mehdi Hasan (mehdi.hasan@huffingtonpost.com) or Ned Simons (ned.simons@huffingtonpost.com). You can also follow us on Twitter: @mehdirhasan, @nedsimons and @huffpostukpol

    Richard III’s Remains Found Six Feet Under British Parking Lot

    Richard III’s Remains Found Six Feet Under British Parking Lot

    Email this item Email    Print this item Print    Share this item... Share
    Posted on Feb 4, 2013
    Wikimedia Commons

    It’s hardly the kind of vaunted resting place various other British royals have enjoyed after serving their earthly tenures, but the earth beneath a municipal parking lot in Leicester, England, is where the remains of Britain’s legendary King Richard III were recently discovered.

    The bones of the contentious 15th century figure, whom William Shakespeare described as a physically “deformed, unfinish’d” and generally nasty piece of work, were discovered in September by a team from the University of Leicester and subsequently identified.

    Meanwhile, a mock-up of what the maligned monarch might have looked like has been made since the archeological breakthrough—check it out here.

    The New York Times:

    The geneticist Turi King told a news conference held by the University of Leicester research team that DNA samples taken from two modern-day descendants of Richard III’s family matched those from the bones found at the site. One of the descendants, Michael Ibsen, is the son of a 16th-generation niece of King Richard’s. The second wished to remain anonymous, the researchers said.

    The skeleton, moreover, had a gaping hole in the skull consistent with contemporary accounts of the battlefield blow that killed the monarch more than 500 years ago.

    Before the DNA findings came in, Mr. Taylor and other team members said, the university team had assembled a mounting catalog of evidence that pointed conclusively at the remains being those of the king. These included confirmation that the body was that of a man in his late 20s or early 30s, and that his high-protein diet had been rich in meat and fish, characteristic of a privileged life in the 15th century.

    Read more

    —Posted by Kasia Anderson.

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    Alabama hostage standoff ends, boy safe

    The seven-day hostage standoff in Midland City, Alabama has been ended by a police action in which law enforcement officers stormed an underground bunker to save a five-year-old child, and it has been reported that the kidnapper has been killed. GVN/HGL

    Marc Dutroux: Child Killer Wants Early Release

    Serial paedophile child killer Marc Dutroux, who is one of Belgium's most notorious criminals, has asked a court to release him early from prison.

    Dutroux, now aged 56, is serving a life term for kidnapping, torturing and abusing six young girls in 1995 and 1996, and murdering four of them, including two eight-year-olds.

    Two other girls, aged 12 and 14, were rescued from the cellar of a property belonging to the former electrician near the southern Belgian town of Charleroi.

    The killer - dubbed the "monster of Charleroi" by the press - has been in jail for 16 years and wants to be released and then be monitored with an electronic ankle bracelet.

    Under Belgian law, criminals can be freed after serving a third of their sentences, or after 15 years in the case of those who have received life, a perpetual sentence in Belgium.

    Dutroux's former wife, Michelle Martin - who let two girls starve to death in the cellar while her husband was in jail for theft - was approved for early release in July.

    She now lives in a convent.

    Dutroux was taken from a high-security prison to the central Brussels courthouse as a helicopter hovered overhead and 125 officers stood guard over the building.

    He was then slipped into the court unseen through a back door.

    A handful of protesters outside demanded the killer be hanged, saying "the rope for paedophiles".

    Dutroux's request to be released has horrified Belgians and revived demands for a re-write of the country's legislation on parole.

    The court is not expected to rule on Dutroux's request for freedom until February 18, and prison officials and prosecutors have recommended he should not be let out.

    At the end of the hearing, his lawyer Pierre Deutsch said he would not make any statement until the court decision later this month.

    Mr Deutsch had said his client would ask for early release on the grounds he could find "a job, or at least an income, accommodation, and show why the risk of recidivism should as far as possible be discounted".

    Public shock in 1996 about the case turned to fury when it emerged police had missed a string of clues that could have led to Dutroux being apprehended earlier.

    Officers had visited one of his houses while two victims, both eight years old, were being held there without finding them. The pair later starved to death in a makeshift dungeon.

    There was also anger that he had been released from prison in 1992 after serving just three years of a 13-year sentence for the abduction and rape of five girls.

    Alabama hostage crisis enters second week of standstill

    A Dale County Alabama helicopter flies over the scene of a shooting and hostage taking near Midland City, Alabama February 1, 2013. (Reuters / Philip Sears)

    A Dale County Alabama helicopter flies over the scene of a shooting and hostage taking near Midland City, Alabama February 1, 2013. (Reuters / Philip Sears)

    As the Alabama hostage crisis continues into its seventh day, police say they have discovered more details about the captor holding a 5-year-old boy in an underground bunker after taking him off a school bus.

    Jimmy Lee Dykes, a 65-year-old Vietnam veteran, fatally shot an Alabama school bus driver and took the 5-year-old boy from the bus, taking him to the bunker underneath his home. Holding the boy hostage, Dykes promised not to hurt him and kept an open line of communication with authorities.

    Authorities delivered items including medicine, a Hot Wheels toy car, and food, including Cheez-Its, to the 5-year-old using a ventilation pipe. The boy suffers from a mild form of autism, but the captor has done his best “to make the environment as comfortable as possible for the child,” the FBI said.

    The FBI has not discussed a motive for the kidnapping, but neighbors described the assailant as a loner with no children of his own. Dykes lives along a dirt road outside of Dothan, a small town in southeast Alabama. The 65-year-old is estranged from his family and told some of his family member “to go to hell”, said Mel Adams, a Midland City Council member who has known Dykes since they were ages 3 and 4, in an AP interview. The man has an adult daughter, but lost touch with her two years ago. He also has a brother and a sister that he has lost contact with.

    The kidnapper’s neighbors told AP that Dykes once beat a dog to death with a lead pipe, threatened to shoot children for stepping onto his property, and guarded his property at night with a gun and a flashlight.

    Jimmy Lee Dykes is shown in this undated handout photo. The man is suspected of shooting a school bus driver to death and taking a five-year-old boy hostage in an underground bunker as the standoff with police continues in Midland City, Alabama. (Reuters)
    Jimmy Lee Dykes is shown in this undated handout photo. The man is suspected of shooting a school bus driver to death and taking a five-year-old boy hostage in an underground bunker as the standoff with police continues in Midland City, Alabama. (Reuters)

    The descriptions of the violent loner are contradicted by his leadership and success while in the Navy, for which he served from 1964 to 1969. While serving, Dykes won several awards, including the Vietnam Service Medal and the Good Conduct Medal.

    But his conduct deteriorated thereafter. Dykes was arrested in 1995 for improper exhibition of a weapon and in 2000 for marijuana possession. Last week he killed 66-year-old Charles Albert Poland Jr., a bus driver who was buried Sunday, and is still keeping the 5-year-old boy in the 8 by 6 ft. bunker.

    Neighbor Michael Creel said that Dykes originally built the underground bunker in his yard to provide protection from hurricanes. It contains a steel shipping container that stores tools and supplies.

    “He said he lived in Florida and had hurricanes hit. He wanted someplace he could go down in and be safe,” the younger Creel said. Dykes’ neighbor also described the captor as a man who was very interested in politics and was an avid critic of the Obama administration.

    “He was very into what’s going on with the nation and the politics and all the laws being made. The things he didn’t agree with, he would ventilate,” he said. “He’s against the government, starting with Obama on down."

    Asked whether Dykes was trying to copy 20-year-old Adam Lanza, who shot 26 people at an Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., Creel said he doubts that and that his neighbor most likely is just letting out his anger against the government and his neighbors by shooting the bus driver and kidnapping the boy.

    “He had a whole bus load full of kids, and he could have walked up there and shot the whole crowd of them,” Creel said. “I think he’s just a really angry and bitter guy with some anger management issues. He is just against everything – the government and his neighbors.”

    Dale County Sheriff Wally Olson thanked the captor for taking care of the child, but neighbors and psychologists continue to worry about the boy's mental well-being.

    Jeffrey Gardere, a child psychologist, told NBC that the boy “is most likely terrified.”

    “The overriding thought in his head is that he wants his mother, that he just wants to be out of that situation,” he said.

    “I wish that I could just hug him and hid him and tell him it was going to be all right,” said neighbor Sherri Johnson Parker.

    Authorities are continuing their negotiations with Dykes, using the ventilation pipe that they have also been using to send down supplies.

    Richard III: Council Car Park Skeleton Is King

    Remains found beneath a council car park in Leicester have solved the 500-year-old mystery about the final resting place of King Richard III, archaeologists say. Researchers said they had concluded "beyond reasonable doubt" that the skeleton, which sh...

    Bank Of Italy Caught Lying About Imploding Monte Paschi, Counters With Even More Ridiculous...

    One half of the reason why the "market" has finally been reacquainted with gravity is its realization that the previously reported Spanish kickback scandal, which incidentally has been known for over two weeks to most if not the algos that push stocks higher, is refusing to go away. As El Pais summarized below, the graft revealed in this ongoing political fiasco threatens to take down everyone in the Spanish ruling PP, from PM Rajoy, who received more than €300,000 over the years, and on to the lowest rungs of political corruption.

    The other half of the reason for today's Italian stock market collapse is the well-known to our readers scandal involving Italian bank Monte Paschi, which also refuses to go away due to its massive political implications three weeks ahead of the Italian elections. Yet the reason why little if anything has been mentioned about what may soon be a nationalization of the third largest (and just as insolvent) Italian bank in the mainstream US press is the resulting humiliation for the current ECB head, ex-Goldmanite Mario Draghi, who has been aggressively pushing to become a bank supervisor of all European banks as ECB head, yet with every day new revelations emerge about how epically he failed to supervise a major Italian bank right under his nose as head of the Bank of Italy.

    The latest in this developing scnadal which not even the market can ignore any more comes once more from the Bank of Italy, which has once more changed its story. Recall that as recently as January 23 Mario Monti vowed in Davos that "nobody knew nuthin":

    • BANK OF ITALY SAYS MONTE PASCHI HID DOCUMENTS ON TRANSACTIONS

    This was a sentiment that was vouched by the Bank of Italy itself, which pled complete ignorance and accused then-BMPS management of everything.

    Turns out Monti and the Bank of Italy both lied.

    And now that it has to change its story once more, it is instead blaming the fact that it had no authority to act over what has emerged its own inspectors discovered were derivative irregularities as early as mid-2010. As Reuters summarizes, what we first said two weeks ago: "The roots of the corruption and derivatives scandal at Monte dei Paschi all stem back to when Draghi, now president of the European Central Bank, was chief of Italy's central bank from 2006 to 2011."

    So now that the Bank of Italy can no longer plead ignorance, what is the defense? Why inability to actually do anything.

    From Reuters:

    The Bank of Italy (BoI) says it did everything in its powers to oversee Monte Paschi, including forcing it to raise new capital and applying behind the scenes pressure to force out its executives, who left last year.

    Last month, the BoI approved 3.9 billion euros ($5.3 billion) of state loans needed by the ailing Siena bank to shore up its capital.

    But the BoI, under Draghi's leadership, is under fire for not acting faster to sanction those managers and make its doubts public even though its inspectors had spotted the derivatives contracts at the center of the scandal back in mid-2010.

    However, the senior BoI source stressed that the decision on launching a sanctions procedure, involving publicly blaming and fining bank officials, does not depend on the BoI governor and its five member executive board, but on the bank's inspectors and then a series of lower committees.

    "The inspectors are the only people responsible for initiating a sanctions procedure so if they don't find anything in the course of their inspection then it's not possible for the top management to start the process," said the source, who asked not to be named.

    "We instruct the staff to be absolutely free from any influence from us, to present exactly the case, so if a sanction is decided then they present a proposal to the board and the board decides on the actual implementation of the sanctions."

    In the summer of 2010 BoI inspectors uncovered two opaque derivatives contracts that could cost Monte Paschi 720 million euros and are now at the center of fraud investigations, yet did not propose that sanctions be launched.

    That decision "had nothing to do with the board," the official said, though he added that Draghi was shown the inspectors report.

    He declined to say whether he thought it was a good decision not to propose sanctions at that time.

    Why was the BoI caught lying? Same as every other time: a media leak.

    That 2010 inspectors' report was leaked to the press and sparked much of the current criticism of the BoI because the sharp criticisms of Monte Paschi's accounts and operations made by the inspectors were not followed by pressing action.

    The BoI did not summon Monte Paschi's executives, now under criminal investigation, until November 2011, after Draghi had left to head the ECB. It did not launch a sanctions procedure - which is still not completed - until the following year, after the officials had left the bank.

    And the piece de resistance:

    "We may perhaps appear to be slow, but I think we are deliberate," the official said. He also stressed that although Monte Paschi failed to comply with the BoI's requests, the wrongdoing was already done at the time of the 2010 inspection. "What took place afterwards was to try to disguise the losses but it wasn't a recurrent or growing pattern of misbehaving," he said.

    Deliberate indeed: very deliberate in covering up fraud, and pretending the situation is fixed when in reality anyone with half a brain now realizes that despite the endless pumping of liquidity by the same ECB that Mario Draghi is now in charge of, things on Italian bank balance sheets are uglier than ever, and just getting worse by the day.

    This comes from the people who continue lying every single day, telling any idiot who still believes them that "Europe is fixed."

    And the worst is that nobody knows just which other Italian (at first, at least) will blow up next, certainly not Italian shareholders which just dumped local stocks with a vigor not seen since the July near-bankruptcy of Spain, resulting in the Italian stock market plunging 4% or the most in six months.

    More on this scandal here, here and here.

    Your rating: None Average: 5 (4 votes)

    Bank Of Italy Caught Lying About Imploding Monte Paschi, Counters With Even More Ridiculous...

    One half of the reason why the "market" has finally been reacquainted with gravity is its realization that the previously reported Spanish kickback scandal, which incidentally has been known for over two weeks to most if not the algos that push stocks higher, is refusing to go away. As El Pais summarized below, the graft revealed in this ongoing political fiasco threatens to take down everyone in the Spanish ruling PP, from PM Rajoy, who received more than €300,000 over the years, and on to the lowest rungs of political corruption.

    The other half of the reason for today's Italian stock market collapse is the well-known to our readers scandal involving Italian bank Monte Paschi, which also refuses to go away due to its massive political implications three weeks ahead of the Italian elections. Yet the reason why little if anything has been mentioned about what may soon be a nationalization of the third largest (and just as insolvent) Italian bank in the mainstream US press is the resulting humiliation for the current ECB head, ex-Goldmanite Mario Draghi, who has been aggressively pushing to become a bank supervisor of all European banks as ECB head, yet with every day new revelations emerge about how epically he failed to supervise a major Italian bank right under his nose as head of the Bank of Italy.

    The latest in this developing scnadal which not even the market can ignore any more comes once more from the Bank of Italy, which has once more changed its story. Recall that as recently as January 23 Mario Monti vowed in Davos that "nobody knew nuthin":

    • BANK OF ITALY SAYS MONTE PASCHI HID DOCUMENTS ON TRANSACTIONS

    This was a sentiment that was vouched by the Bank of Italy itself, which pled complete ignorance and accused then-BMPS management of everything.

    Turns out Monti and the Bank of Italy both lied.

    And now that it has to change its story once more, it is instead blaming the fact that it had no authority to act over what has emerged its own inspectors discovered were derivative irregularities as early as mid-2010. As Reuters summarizes, what we first said two weeks ago: "The roots of the corruption and derivatives scandal at Monte dei Paschi all stem back to when Draghi, now president of the European Central Bank, was chief of Italy's central bank from 2006 to 2011."

    So now that the Bank of Italy can no longer plead ignorance, what is the defense? Why inability to actually do anything.

    From Reuters:

    The Bank of Italy (BoI) says it did everything in its powers to oversee Monte Paschi, including forcing it to raise new capital and applying behind the scenes pressure to force out its executives, who left last year.

    Last month, the BoI approved 3.9 billion euros ($5.3 billion) of state loans needed by the ailing Siena bank to shore up its capital.

    But the BoI, under Draghi's leadership, is under fire for not acting faster to sanction those managers and make its doubts public even though its inspectors had spotted the derivatives contracts at the center of the scandal back in mid-2010.

    However, the senior BoI source stressed that the decision on launching a sanctions procedure, involving publicly blaming and fining bank officials, does not depend on the BoI governor and its five member executive board, but on the bank's inspectors and then a series of lower committees.

    "The inspectors are the only people responsible for initiating a sanctions procedure so if they don't find anything in the course of their inspection then it's not possible for the top management to start the process," said the source, who asked not to be named.

    "We instruct the staff to be absolutely free from any influence from us, to present exactly the case, so if a sanction is decided then they present a proposal to the board and the board decides on the actual implementation of the sanctions."

    In the summer of 2010 BoI inspectors uncovered two opaque derivatives contracts that could cost Monte Paschi 720 million euros and are now at the center of fraud investigations, yet did not propose that sanctions be launched.

    That decision "had nothing to do with the board," the official said, though he added that Draghi was shown the inspectors report.

    He declined to say whether he thought it was a good decision not to propose sanctions at that time.

    Why was the BoI caught lying? Same as every other time: a media leak.

    That 2010 inspectors' report was leaked to the press and sparked much of the current criticism of the BoI because the sharp criticisms of Monte Paschi's accounts and operations made by the inspectors were not followed by pressing action.

    The BoI did not summon Monte Paschi's executives, now under criminal investigation, until November 2011, after Draghi had left to head the ECB. It did not launch a sanctions procedure - which is still not completed - until the following year, after the officials had left the bank.

    And the piece de resistance:

    "We may perhaps appear to be slow, but I think we are deliberate," the official said. He also stressed that although Monte Paschi failed to comply with the BoI's requests, the wrongdoing was already done at the time of the 2010 inspection. "What took place afterwards was to try to disguise the losses but it wasn't a recurrent or growing pattern of misbehaving," he said.

    Deliberate indeed: very deliberate in covering up fraud, and pretending the situation is fixed when in reality anyone with half a brain now realizes that despite the endless pumping of liquidity by the same ECB that Mario Draghi is now in charge of, things on Italian bank balance sheets are uglier than ever, and just getting worse by the day.

    This comes from the people who continue lying every single day, telling any idiot who still believes them that "Europe is fixed."

    And the worst is that nobody knows just which other Italian (at first, at least) will blow up next, certainly not Italian shareholders which just dumped local stocks with a vigor not seen since the July near-bankruptcy of Spain, resulting in the Italian stock market plunging 4% or the most in six months.

    More on this scandal here, here and here.

    Your rating: None Average: 5 (4 votes)

    Bin Laden-land? Pakistan launches amusement park in town where Osama died

    A general view shows Abbottabad, Pakistan (AFP Photo / Adnan Qureshi)

    A general view shows Abbottabad, Pakistan (AFP Photo / Adnan Qureshi)

    A wildlife zoo, an adventure club, paragliding, restaurants and waterfalls – it's all part of a $30 million project the Pakistani government is undertaking to improve the image of Abbottabad after Osama bin Laden was killed in the town in 2011.

    ­A brand-new amusement park in the small town will reportedly be finished in eight years. Once fully complete, the 50-acre riverside entertainment park will include restaurants, a heritage center, artificial waterfalls, a wildlife zoo and running tracks.

    The Pakistani government has announced a public-private partnership project in a bid to revive tourism and sports activities in Abbottabad, which lies about 120 kilometers from the Islamabad airport.

    Though not much evidence remains of the assassination raid, and bin Laden’s compound is a pile of rubble, the once-popular landmark still does not attract as many people as it did before the US operation.

    Pakistani officials have denied the Osama bin Laden raid has anything to do with the project, which they claim is solely intended to improve the town’s image after the killing of the world’s most-wanted terrorist.

    "We are working to promote tourism and amusement facilities in the whole province and this project is one of those facilities," Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Sports and Tourism Minister Syed Aqil Shah was quoted as saying by AFP.

    On Sunday, the first phase of the five-stage project began on three major tourism projects in Hazara, including water sports in Khanpur-Haripur, eco-tourism in Naran-Kaghan, and the amusement park project at Harno in Abbottabad, Pakistani newspaper Dawn reported.

    Twenty percent of the income earned through each project will be spent on the development of the respective area, and residents will be given priority for jobs, Dawn said.

    It has been almost two years since Abbottabad, a quiet town of 500,000, awoke to the news that Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden had been killed by US Navy SEALS in his compound on May 2, 2011.

    While instability has wracked most of Pakistan in recent decades, Abbottabad has remained free of violence and suicide bombings. A favored summer destination for rest and relaxation, wealthy Pakistanis often visited the area for weekend retreats.

    The incident soured relations between the US and Pakistan, whose leaders said that America had left them in the dark about the raid.

    This combination of two photographs show, at top, ongoing demolition works at the compound where Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was slain last year in the northwestern town of Abbottabad on February 26, 2012, and at bottom, the same compound with the main building no longer standing following the completion of demolition works on February 27, 2012 (AFP Photo / Aamir Qureshi)
    This combination of two photographs show, at top, ongoing demolition works at the compound where Al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden was slain last year in the northwestern town of Abbottabad on February 26, 2012, and at bottom, the same compound with the main building no longer standing following the completion of demolition works on February 27, 2012 (AFP Photo / Aamir Qureshi)

    Frontrunning: February 4

    • Euro Tremors Risk Market Respite on Spain-Italy, Banks (Bloomberg)
    • Obama Says U.S. Needs Revenue Along With Spending Cuts (Bloomberg
    • China Regulators Moved to Restrain Lending (WSJ)
    • Low Rates Force Companies to Pour Cash Into Pensions (WSJ)
    • JAL wants to discuss 787 grounding compensation with Boeing (Reuters)
    • Abe Shortens List for BOJ Chief as Japan Faces Monetary Overhaul (Bloomberg)
    • Monte Paschi probe to widen as Italian election nears (Reuters)
    • Hedge funds up bets against Italy's Monte Paschi (Reuters)
    • Spain's opposition Socialists tell Rajoy to resign (Reuters)
    • Electric cars head toward another dead end (Reuters)
    • BlackRock Sued by Funds Over Securities Lending Fees (Bloomberg)
    • Amplats plunges to an annual loss (FT)
    • Youngest American Woman Billionaire Found With In-N-Out (Bloomberg)

    Overnight Media Digest

    WSJ

    * The Baltimore Ravens survived a 35-minute blackout and a fierce comeback from San Francisco to win the Super Bowl.

    * The U.S. is fighting Anheuser-Busch InBev's acquisition proposal for Grupo Modelo with a game plan developed in earlier antitrust cases, casting the Budweiser brewer as a dominant player that wants to eliminate a scrappy rival.

    * U.K. Treasury chief George Osborne on Monday will announce new powers for regulators to split up banks that flout rules designed to ring-fence retail banking from riskier investment-banking activity.

    * Two top Barclays Plc executives announced their resignations Sunday, as the giant British bank swept out some of the last vestiges of its scandal-plagued prior management team.

    * U.S. regulators on Monday will mandate enhanced inspections and repairs where necessary to cables that control tail surfaces on about 30,000 Piper aircraft, some of the most popular general-aviation planes sold in the United States.

    * The European Union has asked national bank regulators in the 27-nation bloc to explain policies that may be preventing free flows of funds across national borders, the first public step in a campaign by EU authorities to combat fragmentation of the region's financial markets.

    * Boeing Co is expected to begin piecing together the next version of its Dreamliner jet in the coming weeks, even without a fix for what has bedeviled the plane's electrical system or a timetable for resuming flights.

    FT

    EUROPEAN BANK BONUSES FACE 20 PCT CUT - European investment banks are set to cut their bonus pools in the coming weeks by 20 percent in a move that will exacerbate the pay gap with their US rivals.

    BLACKSTONE SECURES UNDERWRITING LICENCE - Blackstone, one of the world's largest alternative asset managers, has quietly secured a securities underwriting licence as its expanding capital markets operation strays into investment banking territory.

    BARCLAYS FINANCE CHIEF TO STEP DOWN - Chris Lucas, Barclays' finance director since 2007, and Mark Harding, general counsel, are to step down, in the latest sign of the pressure piling on the British bank's top management following a string of scandals and a probe into the lender's capital raising efforts during the financial crisis. AB INBEV TO FIGHT DOJ MOVE OVER MODELO - Anheuser-Busch InBev has signalled it intends to fight a Department of Justice lawsuit seeking to block its $20 billion deal to take full control of Modelo, the Mexican brewer.

    CITIGROUP STARTS SENIOR HIRING AMID CUTS - Citigroup has hired one of Europe's best-known dealmakers as the US group seeks to add a string of top investment bankers even as it is sharply reducing junior staff. Luigi de Vecchi, a former Credit Suisse and Goldman Sachs banker, has been appointed as chairman for corporate and investment banking in continental Europe, the US bank will announce on Monday. APPLE REVERSES STANCE ON VOTING REFORM - Apple has sought the help of one of the sharpest critics of its corporate governance policies to push through reforms on shareholder voting rights at its annual meeting this month. The technology giant has enlisted the aid of Calpers, the largest US pension fund, to lobby other big shareholders on the vote.

    TRAFIGURA BETS $800M ON AUSTRALIA ENERGY - Trafigura, one of the world's largest commodities trading houses, has bet roughly $800 million on the transformation of the Australian energy market with the acquisition of two petrol station and oil import terminal companies. BUYOUT GROUPS EXPLORE PROSIEBEN EXIT - KKR and Primera, the private equity owners of ProsiebenSat.1, are exploring a sale of their controlling stake in Germany's largest private broadcaster to a trade buyer, as they look to cash out from a multi-billion euro leveraged buyout done before the financial crisis.

    SIR STUART TO BECOME FAT FACE CHAIRMAN - Sir Stuart Rose, the high profile former Marks and Spencer boss who last month took on the chairmanship of online grocery company Ocado , is adding UK clothing retailer Fat Face to his jobs portfolio.

    CENTRICA SET FOR 'NEW NUCLEAR' EXIT - Centrica, owner of British Gas, is believed to be ready to pull out of plans to build nuclear power stations in Britain, clearing the way for Chinese investors to step in.

    NYT

    * About 90 seconds into the second half of Sunday's Super Bowl, the lights on one half of the Superdome's roof suddenly went out, internet connections in the press box were cut, and the scoreboards went dark. The power failure was one of the oddest moments in Super Bowl history, and officials said they were still investigating its cause.

    * U.S. President Obama said on Sunday that he could foresee a budget deal in Congress that did not include further increases in tax rates but instead focused on eliminating loopholes and deductions.

    * Barclays Plc said its chief financial officer and its general counsel would resign, the latest departures after the British bank's involvement in a series of scandals, including an investigation into the manipulation of global interest rates.

    * Bank of America Corp continued dubious mortgage modification practices even after its acquisition of Countrywide, court documents show.

    * New details raise questions on whether the U.S. government will be able to build its insider trading case against Steven Cohen, the billionaire owner of hedge fund SAC Capital Advisors.

    * The Medicines Co is licensing the rights to a powerful type of cholesterol-lowering drug from Alnylam Pharmaceuticals Inc, entering one of the hottest races in the industry.

    Canada

    THE GLOBE AND MAIL

    * Prime Minister Stephen Harper has categorically rejected Quebec's demands for changes to tough new employment insurance rules that Premier Pauline Marois says will have "dramatic consequences" on seasonal workers in her province.

    * As Canada prepares to take the helm of the eight-nation Arctic Council, a proposed treaty dealing with blowouts and oil spills is being criticized as so pro-development that it will delight drillers but leave the fragile Arctic environment exposed to catastrophic damage, according to Greenpeace Canada.

    Reports in the business section:

    * Canada's most ubiquitous coin will play a dwindling part in everyday business beginning Sunday, as Ottawa phases it out to cut costs. The passing of the penny will affect the full spectrum of the nation's economy, from big banks to the corner store - forcing businesses and consumers to change some of their habits.

    NATIONAL POST

    * A winter storm is dumping heavy snow on Eastern Canada, with more than 30 centimeters expected in parts of Nova Scotia by Monday afternoon. Environment Canada has issued snowfall warnings for the Halifax area and along the southwestern coast of the province.

    * Police say a mob-linked multi-million dollar illegal gambling ring was dismantled Sunday night when heavily armed tactical teams raided a massive Super Bowl party in Markham, Ontario.

    FINANCIAL POST

    * The Supreme Court of Canada on Friday struck a blow to workers and retirees who want pension plans to rank first in line for payouts to creditors in corporate bankruptcies or restructurings.

    In the landmark case, Sun Indalex Finance LLC vs United Steelworkers et al., the court found that pension funds do not rank ahead of "debtor-in-possession" (DIP) lenders in bankruptcy protection proceedings.

    China

    PEOPLE'S DAILY

    -- A commentary urges government departments to stop using public money during the Chinese lunar new year, which falls on Feb. 10 this year, as part of a government campaign to fight official corruption.

    SHANGHAI SECURITIES NEWS

    -- The recent lingering pollution in Beijing and some other northern cities is expected to force Chinese refineries to upgrade the quality of fuel and gasoline.

    -- The government campaign to fight official corruption has caused share prices of alcohol producers to drop in recent weeks. Alcohol is widely used in public entertainment in China, and investors believe the campaign will reduce consumption of alcohol and thus weaken earnings of producers.

    CHINA SECURITIES JOURNAL

    -- As China's stock market has staged a strong rally since early December, the ratio of stock holdings by domestic mutual funds has now reached a high level of 89.53 percent among all their securities holdings.

    -- A commentary says China needs to expand overseas investment to make better use of its big foreign trade surplus.

    CHINA DAILY (www.chinadaily.com.cn)

    -- An increasing number of Chinese people are realising the value of Internet domain names. Those who manage to buy good names can make a lot of money. By the end of 2012, China had 13.4 million domain names registered in the country, a 73.1 percent increase from a year earlier.

    Fly On The Wall 7:00 AM Market Snapshot

    ANALYST RESEARCH

    Upgrades

    BlackBerry (BBRY) upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at Bernstein
    Franklin Resources (BEN) upgraded to Outperform from Market Perform at Keefe Bruyette
    Maxwell (MXWL) upgraded to Overweight from Neutral at Piper Jaffray
    Mead Johnson (MJN) upgraded to Conviction Buy from Neutral at Goldman
    St. Jude Medical (STJ)  upgraded to Outperform from Neutral at Credit Suisse
    Timken (TKR) upgraded to Buy from Neutral at BofA/Merrill
    Ultra Clean (UCTT) upgraded to Buy from Hold at Needham
    Western Union (WU) upgraded to Buy from Hold at Deutsche Bank

    Downgrades

    AkzoNobel (AKZOY) downgraded to Reduce from Neutral at Nomura
    Cash America (CSH) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Janney Capital
    Charles Schwab (SCHW) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at UBS
    Chevron (CVX) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at UBS
    Columbia Sportswear (COLM) downgraded to Sell from Neutral at Citigroup
    Comfort Systems USA (FIX) downgraded to Hold from Buy at BB&T
    Copart (CPRT) downgraded to Neutral from Outperform at RW Baird
    Google (GOOG) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at BMO Capital
    Hershey (HSY) downgraded to Neutral from Conviction Buy at Goldman
    LeapFrog (LF) downgraded to Buy from Strong Buy at Ascendiant Capital
    Merck (MRK) downgraded to Underweight from Equal Weight at Morgan Stanley
    Michael Baker (BKR) downgraded to Hold from Buy at KeyBanc
    PennyMac (PMT) downgraded to Market Perform from Outperform at Keefe Bruyette
    Vodafone (VOD) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Citigroup
    WESCO (WCC) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at UBS
    WSFS Financial (WSFS) downgraded to Neutral from Buy at Janney Capital
    Wal-Mart (WMT) downgraded to Neutral from Overweight at JPMorgan

    Initiations

    CEMEX (CX) coverage reinstated with a Neutral at Citigroup
    Dover (DOV) initiated with a Buy at Ascendiant Capital
    Fusion-io (FIO) initiated with a Neutral at UBS

    HOT STOCKS

    Aegon (AEG) ended joint venture with Unnim Banc, sells stake for EUR 353M
    US Airways' (LCC) Piedmont Airlines and ALPA reached tentative agreement
    American Safety Insurance (ASI) rating revised to negative from stable at A.M. Best
    Third Point sold a portion of holdings in Yahoo (YHOO)
    Commerzbank (CRZBY) sees employee cuts of 4,000 to 6,000 through 2016
    Blackstone (BX) acquired stake in two Maldives-based seaplane operators
    Cowen Group (COWN) to acquire Dahlman Rose, terms not disclosed

    EARNINGS

    Companies that beat consensus earnings expectations last night and today include:
    HomeStreet (HMST), Humana (HUM), Sohu.com (SOHU), Changyou.com (CYOU), Brown & Brown (BRO)

    Companies that missed consensus earnings expectations include:
    Eloqua (ELOQ), Cape Bancorp (CBNJ), First Bancorp (FBNC)

    NEWSPAPERS/WEBSITES

    • Ford (F) expects to spend $5B this year shoring up its pension funds. The automaker is one of a who's who of U.S. companies pouring cash into pension plans now being battered by record low interest rates, the Wall Street Journal reports
    • Google (GOOG), Microsoft (MSFT) and Amazon.com (AMZN) have battled each other for dominance in mobile gadgets and Web searches. The latest front in their war is invisible: computing horsepower, the Wall Street Journal reports
    • Japan Airlines Co. said it will talk to Boeing (BA) about compensation for the grounding of the 787 Dreamliner, adding that the idling of its jets would cost it about $8M from its earnings through to the end of March, Reuters reports
    • Recent moves by Japan's two largest automakers, Toyota (TM) and Nissan (NSANY), suggest that the electric car, after more than 100 years of development and several brief revivals, still is not ready for prime time, and may never be, Reuters reports
    • Investment returns earned by “mega” public pensions, with assets of more than $5B, topped those of the smaller plans by almost 1% last year. Big government-employee pensions reported median returns of 13.43% for the year. Funds with less than $1B in assets had median returns of 12.47%, according to Wilshire Associates, Bloomberg reports
    • Stocks in the world’s developed nations posted the best start to a year in two decades, a sign the global economy is poised to accelerate after contractions in Japan, the U.S. and Europe, if history is a guide. The MSCI World Index of stocks in 24 markets gained 5% in January, the most since 1994, Bloomberg reports

    BARRON’S

    Tata Motors (TTM) could offer a 25% upside within the next 18 months
    SanDisk (SNDK) could rise 20% due to increased use of flash memory
    GulfMark Offshore (GLF) stock could rise 30% or higher this year
    BlackBerry's (RIMM, BBRY) 10 provides hope to Research in Motion
    An increase in buyers and sellers will drive Amazon's (AMZN) stock

    SYNDICATE

    NXP Semiconductors (NXPI) files to sell 30M shares of common stock for holders
    PURE Bioscience (PURE) files to sell $15M of common stock
    Qualstar (QBAK) files to sell 530K shares of common stock for holders
    U.S. Silica (SLCA) files to sell 41.17M shares of common stock for holders

    Your rating: None

    Lebanese FM calls for boycott of Israel

    Lebanese Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour has censured the recent Israeli airstrike on a military research center near the Syrian capital of Damascus, saying Israel ‘deserves a tough response’ for the attack.

    On Sunday, Mansour said that aggression against Syria "is aggression against Lebanon." He added, "Israel deserves harsh responses and a tough boycott on the economic, political and diplomatic levels."

    "Israeli jets continue to invade Lebanon's airspace every day. We must stand up against the Israeli attacks but not just with calls, statements and condemnation." Mansour stated.

    On January 31, Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah also condemned the Israeli attack and said it was “barbaric aggression.”

    The Syrian army said in a statement on January 30 that two people were killed and five others injured in an Israeli airstrike on the research center in Jamraya, located 25 kilometers (15 miles) northwest of Damascus.

    Syria has been experiencing unrest since March 2011. Many people, including large numbers of security forces, have been killed in the turmoil.

    The Syrian government says the chaos is being orchestrated from outside the country, and there are reports that a very large number of the militants are foreign nationals.

    MP/HJL

    Car park skull ‘was that of King Richard III’ say experts

    Scientists today revealed that a skeleton discovered under a car park in Leicester is that of King Richard III.

    Researchers sensationally discovered a skull under the social services car park in September while hunting for the former king's final resting place.

    They had previously said there was 'strong circumstantial evidence' to suggest the bones are those of the 15th-century monarch, but experts were finally able to disclose the results of much-anticipated tests on the remains today.

    The skeleton had a metal arrowhead lodged in its spine, along with other injuries matching those which Richard III sustained when he was killed at the Battle of Bosworth in 1485.

    The remains also had signs of 'battle trauma' and scoliosis - the spinal condition which gave the medieval monarch his infamous hunched back.

    Richard III was the last English monarch to die in battle, after being defeated by an army led by Henry Tudor.

    Historical records state that his body was taken 15 miles to Leicester, where it was displayed as proof of his death before then being buried in the Franciscan friary.

    Remains: The skeleton as it was found last year in Leicester (University of Leicester/Twitter)


    The skeleton had a curved spine and 'battle trauma' similar that which Richard II suffered when he died (University …


    Experts today said that in making the 'momentous' find, they had 'unlocked a 500-year-old mystery'.

    They revealed their findings this morning in front of almost 150 journalists from around the world.

    Initial examinations showed the bones to be those of an adult male and the remains were said to be in a good condition.

    A team led by bioarchaeology lecturer Dr Jo Appleby carried out months of skeletal analysis on the bones - including CT scans.

    Dr Appleby said: "The skull was in good condition, although fragile, and was able to give us detailed information about this individual.

    Archaeologists and passers-by in fancy dress observe the excavation site in Leicester last year (Reuters)

    Find: The car park in Leicester where excavations took place (PA)


    "It has been CT scanned at high resolution in order to allow us to investigate interesting features in as much detail as possible.

    "In order to determine whether this individual is Richard III we have built up a biological profile of its characteristics.

    "We have also carefully examined the skeleton for traces of a violent death."

    DNA taken from the skeleton has been analysed and compared with that of Michael Ibsen, a descendant of Richard III's family.

    Radiocarbon tests and genealogical studies have also taken place.

    University of Leicester researchers reveal their findings to the world's media today (Reuters)


    Richard III's demise was dramatised by Shakespeare, who had the king calling out "a horse, a horse, my kingdom for a horse" before he was killed on the battlefield.

    The remains were also subjected to DNA tests and compared against the genetic profile of one of Richard III's living relatives.

    Furniture maker Michael Ibsen, from London, is a direct descendent of the king's sister, Anne of York and provided a sample to be used in testing.

    The dig which unearthed the remains centred around a car park in Leicester City Centre which was used by social workers.

    Historical documents said that it was the site of the Grey Friars church, and that Richard's body was taken there following his death.

    The Vietnam War Memorial in Vietnam Would Be 20 to 50 Times Larger Than...

     When I was on active duty in the Air Force, I visited the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.  I was moved to tears as I encountered the names of more than 58,000 of my fellow Americans etched in stone.  What a waste, I thought, but at least they died for their country, and at least we didn’t forget their sacrifice.

    To be honest, I don’t recall thinking about the Vietnamese dead.  The memorial, famously designed by Maya Lin, captures an American tragedy, not a Vietnamese one.  But imagine, for a moment, if we could bridge the empathy gap that separates us from the Vietnamese and our war with them and against them.  How might their suffering compare to ours?

    Photo Credit: Shutterstock.com/Christian Carollo

    America first sent ground combat units to Vietnam in March of 1965.  If we count the Linebacker II air offensive against North Vietnam in December of 1972 (the infamous Christmas bombing) as the end of major combat operations, the U.S. military waged war in Vietnam for roughly 93 months.  Now, let’s consider the number of Vietnamese killed, to include soldiers and civilians, regardless of their political allegiance or lack thereof.  No one knows for sure how many Vietnamese died over this period; the “low” estimate is roughly one million Vietnamese, while the “high” estimate is in the vicinity of three million.  Even using the low estimate, that’s more than ten thousand dead per month, for 93 months.

    How can we bring meaning to such mind-numbing statistics?  To imagine the impact of this war on the Vietnamese people, Americans have to think not of one tragic wall containing 58,000 names, but of twenty (or perhaps even fifty) tragic walls, adding up to millions of names, a high percentage of them being noncombatants, innocent men, women and children.

    Difficult as that is to imagine, we must also recognize that the impact of the American war in Vietnam was not limited to killing.  The U.S. military bombed and blasted and napalmed and defoliated the landscape as well.  So along with twenty or more Maya Lin-type memorials to list all of the Vietnamese war dead, we’d have to imagine scores of “Super Fund” sites in Vietnam, land poisoned by Agent Orange and similar powerful chemicals, tortured terrain that is still occasionally deadly to the Vietnamese who live there.

    How did so many Vietnamese come to die?  How did Vietnam itself become a blasted and poisoned landscape?  And how did the United States come largely to forget its complicity in the killing and blasting?  The reasons are not easy to contemplate, but Nick Turse’s harrowing new study, Kill Anything that Moves, forces us to confront what he terms “the real American war in Vietnam.”

    In A Rumor of War (1977), a classic memoir of the Vietnam War, U.S. Marine Lieutenant Philip Caputo recounts how the U.S. strategy of “search and destroy” and the obsession with enemy body count led to “orgiastic violence” in which the goal, in his words, was

    “to kill Communists and to kill as many of them as possible.  Stack ’em like cordwood.  Victory was a high body-count … war a matter of arithmetic.  The pressure [from the top] on unit commanders to produce enemy corpses was intense, and they in turn communicated it to their troops.  This led to such practices as counting civilians as Viet Cong.  ‘If it’s dead and Vietnamese, it’s VC,’ was a rule of thumb in the bush.  It is not surprising, therefore, that some men acquired a contempt for human life and a predilection for taking it.”

    The horrific reality that Caputo wrote of more than 35 years ago is now fully fleshed out in Turse’s new study.  The obsession with body count—starting with General William Westmoreland, the commanding general in Vietnam—led to, in Turse’s words, “the indiscriminate killing of South Vietnamese noncombatants—the endless slaughter that wiped out civilians day after day, month after month, year after year.”  The enormity of the crime was “neither accidental nor unforeseeable,” but rather “the inevitable outcome of deliberate policies, dictated at the highest levels of the military,” Turse concludes.

    The evidence he amasses – of “murder, torture, rape, abuse, forced displacement, home burnings, specious arrests, imprisonment without due process”—is irrefutable.  Indeed, much of the evidence he relies upon was gathered secretly by the U.S. military at the time, only to be suppressed, consigned to archives, and forgotten.  It’s hardly surprising that senior U.S. military officials sought to suppress evidence of atrocities on a mass-scale, since they themselves were both complicit and culpable.

    A line that has always stayed with me from Caputo’s memoir came from one of his NCOs, a Sergeant Colby, who in 1965 told then-Lieutenant Caputo that, “Before you leave here, sir, you’re going to learn that one of the most brutal things in the world is your average nineteen-year-old American boy.”  Turse’s study plumbs the depths of such brutality, to include a racist subculture (dehumanizing the Vietnamese as “gooks” and “slopes”) within the U.S. military that facilitated it.  Draft an American teenager, teach him to kill, send him to an utterly foreign land in which he can’t distinguish friend from foe, give him power over life and death against a dehumanized enemy, and reward him for generating a high body count in which “If it’s dead and Vietnamese, it’s VC,” and you have an ineluctable recipe for murderous violence.

    Contrast the brutal honesty of Sergeant Colby with the patent dishonesty of an American political scene that to this day fosters a very different interpretation of the Vietnam War.  For many Americans, the true victims of the war are not the millions of Vietnamese who died, or the millions who continue to suffer to this day.  No—the true victims are the American veterans who were allegedly spat upon by unwashed anti-war protesters, or a U.S. military that was allegedly betrayed by back-stabbers at the home front, denying the troops the victory they had so justly earned.  In this narrative, even the infamous slaughter at My Lai becomes the exception that proves the rule, the rule being that with few exceptions the American military fought honorably and cleanly.

    For these Americans, the war remains a combination of the Rambo myth mixed with the “noble cause” rhetoric of Ronald Reagan—history as Hollywood fairy tale—a concerted rewriting of the historical record and a rewiring of American culture consistent with feel-good militarism and confectionary war.

    To confront the truth, we must abandon the confection.  The truth is that, rather than confronting our nation’s inner heart of darkness during and after Vietnam, the military and our government collectively whitewashed the past.

    America’s true “Vietnam Syndrome” was not an allergy to using military power after Vietnam but an allergy to facing the destruction our nation caused there.  And that allergy has only exacerbated our national predilection for military adventurism, warrior glorification, and endless war.

    It’s time our nation found the courage to face those twenty (or fifty) walls of Vietnamese dead.  It’s time we faced them with the same sorrow and same regret we reserve for our own wall of dead.  Only after we do so can our nation stop glorifying war.  Only after we do so can our nation fully heal.

    William J. Astore, a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF), now teaches at the Pennsylvania College of Technology. His books and articles focus primarily on military history and include Hindenburg: Icon of German Militarism (Potomac Press, 2005). He may be reached at wastore@pct.edu.

    How Washington helped Foster the Islamist Uprising in Mali

    mali

    by Jeremy Keenan

    As the French-led military operation begins, Jeremy Keenan reveals how the US and Algeria have been sponsoring terror in the Sahara.

    On 12 October 2012, the UN Security Council voted unanimously in favour of a French-drafted resolution asking Mali’s government to draw up plans for a military mission to re-establish control over the northern part of Mali, an area of the Sahara bigger than France. Known as Azawad by local Tuareg people, northern Mali has been under the control of Islamist extremists following a Tuareg rebellion at the beginning of the year. For several months, the international media have been referring to northern Mali as ‘Africa’s Afghanistan’, with calls for international military intervention becoming inexorable.

    Alfred de Montesquiou

    Calling the shots: a US Special Forces soldier training Malian troops in Kita, May 2010. Alfred de Montesquiou (right)

    While the media have provided abundant descriptive coverage of the course of events and atrocities committed in Azawad since the outbreak in January of what was ostensibly just another Tuareg rebellion, some pretty basic questions have not been addressed. No journalist has asked, or at least answered satisfactorily, how this latest Tuareg rebellion was hijacked, almost as soon as it started, by a few hundred Islamist extremists.

    In short, the world’s media have failed to explain the situation in Azawad. That is because the real story of what has been going on there borders on the incredible, taking us deep into the murky reaches of Western intelligence and its hook-up with Algeria’s secret service.

    The real story of what has been going on borders on the incredible, taking us deep into the murky reaches of Western intelligence

    Azawad’s current nightmare is generally explained as the unintended outcome of the overthrow of Libya’s Muammar al-Qadafi. That is true in so far as his downfall precipitated the return to the Sahel (Niger and Mali) of thousands of angry, disillusioned and well-armed Tuareg fighters who had gone to seek their metaphorical fortunes by serving the Qadafi regime. But this was merely the last straw in a decade of increasing exploitation, repression and marginalization that has underpinned an ongoing cycle of Tuareg protest, unrest and rebellion. In that respect, Libya was the catalyst for the Azawad rebellion, not its underlying cause. Rather, the catastrophe now being played out in Mali is the inevitable outcome of the way in which the Global War On Terror has been inserted into the Sahara-Sahel by the US, in concert with Algerian intelligence operatives, since 2002.

    Why Algeria and the US needed terrorism

    When Abdelaziz Bouteflika took over as Algeria’s President in 1999, the country was faced with two major problems. One was its standing in the world. The role of the army and the DRS (the Algerian intelligence service, see box Algeria’s ‘state terrorism’) in the ‘Dirty War’ had made Algeria a pariah state. The other was that the army, the core institution of the state, was lacking modern high-tech weaponry as a result of international sanctions and arms embargoes.

    The solution to both these problems lay in Washington. During the Clinton era, relations between the US and Algeria had fallen to a particularly low level. However, with a Republican victory in the November 2000 election, Algeria’s President Bouteflika, an experienced former Foreign Minister, quickly made his sentiments known to the new US administration and was invited in July 2001 to a summit meeting in Washington with President Bush. Bush listened sympathetically to Bouteflika’s account of how his country had dealt with the fight against terrorists and to his request for specific military equipment that would enable his army to maintain peace, security and stability in Algeria.

    At that moment, Algeria had a greater need for US support than vice-versa. But that was soon to change. The 9/11 terrorist attacks precipitated a whole new era in US-Algerian relations. Over the next four years, Bush and Bouteflika met six more times to develop a largely covert and highly duplicitous alliance.

    Algeria’s ‘state terrorism’

    In January 1992, legislative elections in Algeria were on the point of being won by the Front Islamique du Salut, which would have resulted in the world’s first democratically elected Islamist government. With a ‘green light’ from the US and France, Algeria’s generals annulled the elections in what was effectively a military coup d’état. It led almost immediately to a ‘civil war’ (known as the ‘Dirty War’) that continued through the 1990s, allegedly between the Islamists and the army, in which an estimated 200,000 people were killed.

    By 1994, the Algerian regime’s secret intelligence service, the Département du Renseignement et de la Sécurité (DRS), had succeeded in infiltrating the main armed Islamist groups, the Groupes Islamiques Armées (GIA), to the extent that even the GIA leader, Djamel Zitouni, was a DRS agent. Indeed, many of the killings and civilian massacres were either undertaken by the DRS masquerading as Islamists or by GIA elements tipped off and protected by the DRS.

    John Schindler, a former high-ranking US intelligence officer and member of the National Security Council and now the Professor of National Security Affairs at the US Naval War College, recently ‘blew the whistle’ on Algeria’s creation of terrorists and use of ‘state terrorism’. Writing about the 1990s, he said:

    ‘The GIA was the creation of the DRS. Using proven Soviet methods of penetration and provocation, the agency assembled it to discredit the extremists. Much of [the] GIA’s leadership consisted of DRS agents, who drove the group into the dead end of mass murder, a ruthless tactic that thoroughly discredited GIA Islamists among nearly all Algerians. Most of its major operations were the handiwork of the DRS, including the 1995 wave of bombings in France. Some of the most notorious massacres of civilians were perpetrated by military special units masquerading as Mujahedin, or by GIA squads under DRS control.’ 1

    By 1998, the killing had become so bad that many Islamists abandoned the GIA to form the Groupe Salafiste pour le Prédication et le combat (GSPC) but it soon became evident that it too had been infiltrated by the DRS.

    Although the ‘Dirty War’ began winding down after 1998, it has never really ended. The GSPC, which changed its name to Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb in 2006, is still operative both in northern Algeria and the Sahara-Sahel.

    In many respects, little has changed since the 1990s in that the DRS is still creating terrorists and using ‘false flag’ incidents and ‘state terrorism’ as fundamental means of control. The DRS has certainly not changed: its head, General Mohamed Mediène, who was trained by the KGB and once referred to himself as ‘The God of Algeria’,2 was appointed in 1990 and is still in post. He is regarded as the most powerful man in Algeria.

    As for Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, its leaders in the Sahara and Sahel regions, namely Abdelhamid Abou Zaid, Mokhtar ben Mokhtar and Yahia Djouadi (all have many aliases) are either agents of the DRS or closely connected to it.

    1. John Schindler, ‘The ugly truth about Algeria, The National Interest, 10 Jul 2012.
    2. Jeremy Keenan, ‘General Toufik: “God of Algeria”’, Al Jazeera, 29 Sep 2010.

    My first book on the Global War On Terror in the Sahara, The Dark Sahara (Pluto 2009), described and explained the development of this extraordinary relationship. It revealed why it was that the Bush administration and the regime in Algiers both needed a ‘little more terrorism’ in the region. The Algerians wanted more terrorism to legitimize their need for more high-tech and up-to-date weaponry. The Bush administration, meanwhile, saw the development of such terrorism as providing the justification for launching a new Saharan front in the Global War On Terror. Such a ‘second front’ would legitimize America’s increased militarization of Africa so as better to secure the continent’s natural resources, notably oil. This, in turn, was soon to lead to the creation in 2008 of a new US combat command for Africa – AFRICOM.

    The first US-Algerian ‘false flag’ terrorist operation in the Sahara-Sahel was undertaken in 2003 when a group led by an ‘infiltrated’ DRS agent, Amari Saifi (aka Abderrazak Lamari and ‘El Para’), took 32 European tourists hostage in the Algerian Sahara. The Bush administration immediately branded El Para as ‘Osama bin Laden’s man in the Sahara’.

    Rumsfeld’s Cuban blueprint

    The US government has a long history of using false flag incidents to justify military intervention. The thinking behind the El Para operation in 2003 can actually be traced directly to a similar plan conceived by the US Joint Chiefs of Staff 40 years earlier.

    In the wake of the 1961 Bay of Pigs disaster – when a CIA-trained force of Cuban exiles, supported by US armed forces, attempted unsuccessfully to invade Cuba and overthrow the government of Fidel Castro – the US Department of Defense and the Joint Chiefs of Staff drew up plans, codenamed Operation Northwoods, to justify a US military invasion of Cuba. The plan was presented to President John F Kennedy’s Defense Secretary, Robert McNamara, on 13 March 1962. Entitled ‘Justification for US Military Intervention in Cuba (Top Secret),’ the Northwoods Operation proposed launching a secret and bloody war of terrorism against their own country in order to trick the American public into supporting an ill-conceived war that the Joint Chiefs of Staff intended to launch against Cuba. It called on the CIA and other operatives to undertake a range of atrocities. As US investigative journalist James Bamford described it: ‘Innocent civilians were to be shot on American streets; boats carrying refugees fleeing Cuba were to be sunk on the high seas; a wave of violent terrorism was to be launched in Washington DC, Miami and elsewhere. People would be framed for bombings they did not commit; planes would be hijacked. Using phony evidence, all of it would be blamed on Castro, thus giving Lemnitzer [Chair of US Joint Chiefs of Staff] and his cabal the excuse, as well as the public and international backing, they needed to launch their war against Fidel Castro’s Cuba.’

    The first US-Algerian ‘false flag’ terrorist operation in the Sahara-Sahel was undertaken in 2003

    The plan was ultimately rejected by President Kennedy. Operation Northwoods remained ‘classified’ and unknown to the American public until declassified by the National Security Archive and revealed by Bamford in April 2001. In 2002, a not dissimilar plan was presented to US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld by his Defense Science Board. Excerpts from its ‘Summer Study on Special Operations and Joint Forces in Support of Countering Terrorism’ were revealed on 16 August 2002, with Pamela Hess, William Arkin and David Isenberg, amongst others, publishing further details and analysis of the plan. The plan recommended the creation of a ‘Proactive, Preemptive Operations Group’ (P20G as it became known), a covert organization that would carry out secret missions to ‘stimulate reactions’ among terrorist groups by provoking them into undertaking violent acts that would expose them to ‘counter-attack’ by US forces.

    Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb

    My new book on the Global War On Terror in the Sahara (The Dying Sahara, Pluto 2013) will present strong evidence that the El Para operation was the first ‘test run’ of Rumsfeld’s decision, made in 2002, to operationalize the P20G plan. In his recent investigation of false flag operations, Nafeez Ahmed states that the US investigative journalist Seymour Hersh was told by a Pentagon advisor that the Algerian [El Para] operation was a pilot for the new Pentagon covert P20G programme.

    Win McNamee / Reuters

    So happy together: Algeria’s then president Abdelaziz Bouteflika with George W Bush in 2001. Win McNamee / Reuters

    The Sahara-Sahel front is not the only case of such fabricated incidents in the Global War On Terror. In May 2008, President George W Bush requested some $400 million in covert funding for terrorist groups across much of the Middle East-Afghanistan region in a covert offensive directed ultimately against the Iranian regime. An initial outlay of $300 million was approved by Congress.

    Since the El Para operation, Algeria’s DRS, with the complicity of the US and the knowledge of other Western intelligence agencies, has used Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, through the almost complete infiltration of its leadership, to create a terrorist scenario. Much of the terrorist landscape that Algeria and its Western allies have painted in the Sahara-Sahel region is completely false.

    The Dying Sahara analyzes every supposed ‘terrorism’ incident in the region over this last, terrible decade. It shows that a few are genuine, but that the vast majority were fabricated or orchestrated by the DRS. Some incidents, such as the widely reported Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb attack on Algeria’s Djanet airport in 2007, simply didn’t happen. What actually transpired was that a demonstration against the Algerian administration over unemployment by local Tuareg youths ended with the youths firing shots at the airport. It was nothing to do with Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.

    Much of the terrorist landscape that Algeria and its Western allies have painted in the Sahara-Sahel region is completely false

    In order to justify or increase what I have called their ‘terrorism rents’ from Washington, the governments of Mali, Niger and Algeria have been responsible on at least five occasions since 2004 for provoking Tuareg into taking up arms, as in 2004 (Niger), 2005 (Tamanrasset, Algeria), 2006 (Mali), 2007-09 (Niger and Mali). In July 2005, for example, Tuareg youths rioted in the southern Algerian city of Tamanrasset, setting ablaze some 40 government and commercial buildings. It was finally proven in court that the riots and arson attacks had been led by Algeria’s police as agents provocateurs. The matter was hushed up and some 80 youths freed and compensated. But the object of the exercise had been achieved: the DRS’s allies in Washington were able to talk of ‘putative terrorism’ among the Tuareg of Tamanrasset, thus lending more justification to George Bush’s Trans-Saharan Counter-Terrorism Initiative and the Pentagon’s almost concurrent ‘Operation Flintlock’ military exercise across the Sahara.

    Around the time of the El Para operation, the Pentagon produced a series of maps of Africa, depicting most of the Sahara-Sahel region as a ‘Terror Zone’ or ‘Terror Corridor’. That has now become a self-fulfilled prophecy. In addition, the region has also become one of the world’s main drug conduits. In the last few years, cocaine trafficking from South America through Azawad to Europe, under the protection of the region’s political and military élites, notably Mali’s former president and security forces and Algeria’s DRS, has burgeoned. The UN Office of Drugs Control recently estimated that 60 per cent of Europe’s cocaine passed through the region. It put its value, at Paris street prices, at some $11 billion, with an estimated $2 billion remaining in the region.

    Reuters / Stringer

    Halos of power: Malian coup leader Captain Amadou Sanogo (right) with interim president Dioncounda Traoré in April 2012. Reuters / Stringer

    The impact of Washington’s machinations on the peoples of the Sahara-Sahel has been devastating, not least for the regional economy. More than 60 kidnappings of Westerners have led to the collapse of the tourism industry through which Tuareg communities in Mali, Niger and Algeria previously acquired much of their cash income. For example, the killing of four French tourists in Mauritania, in addition to subsequent kidnappings, resulted in only 173 tourists visiting Mauritania in 2011, compared with 72,500 in 2007. The loss of tourism has deprived the region of tens of millions of dollars and forced more and more Tuareg (and others), especially young men, into the ‘criminality’ of banditry and drug trafficking.

    Mali’s current mess

    While it will be clear from all this that Mali’s latest Tuareg rebellion had a complex background, the rebellion that began in January 2012 was different from all previous Tuareg rebellions in that there was a very real likelihood that it would succeed, at least in taking control of the whole of northern Mali. The creation of the rebel MNLA in October 2011 (see box below) was therefore not only a potentially serious threat to Algeria, but one which appears to have taken the Algerian regime by surprise. Algeria has always been a little fearful of the Tuareg, both domestically and in the neighbouring Sahel countries. The distinct possibility of a militarily successful Tuareg nationalist movement in northern Mali, which Algeria has always regarded as its own backyard, could not be countenanced.

    The impact of Washington’s machinations on the peoples of the Sahara-Sahel has been devastating

    The Algerian intelligence agency’s strategy to remove this threat was to use its control of Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb to weaken and then destroy the credibility and political effectiveness of the MNLA. This is precisely what we have seen happening in northern Mali over the last nine months.

    Although the Algerian government has denied doing so, it sent some 200 Special Forces into Azawad on 20 December 2011. Their purpose appears to have been to:

    • protect Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, which had moved from its training base(s) in southern Algeria into northern Mali around 2008
    • assess the strengths and intentions of the MNLA, and
    • help establish two ‘new’ salafist-jihadist terrorist groups in the region – Ansar al-Din and MUJAO.

    The leaders of these new groups – Ansar al-Din’s Iyad ag Ghaly, and MUJAO’s Sultan Ould Badi – are both closely associated with the Algerian intelligence agency, the DRS. Although Ansar al-Din and MUJAO both started out as few in number, they were immediately supported with personpower in the form of seasoned, well-trained killers from the DRS’s Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb brigades. This explains why the Islamists were able to expand so quickly and dominate the MNLA both politically and militarily.

    Although Algeria’s strategy has been effective, at least so far, in achieving its object of weakening and discrediting the MNLA, it has already turned the region into a human catastrophe. Foreign military intervention now looks increasingly likely. That is something to which Algeria has always been strongly opposed in that it regards itself, not France, as the hegemonic power in the Sahel. The UN Security Council’s 12 October Resolution effectively gave Algeria a last window of opportunity to ‘rein in its dogs’ and engineer a peaceful political solution. But, as anger against the Islamists mounts and the desire for revenge from Mali’s civil society grows ever stronger, a peaceful solution is looking increasingly unlikely.

    Mali’s Tuareg rebellions

    The Tuareg people number approximately 2-3 million and are the indigenous population of much of the Central Sahara and Sahel. Their largest number, estimated at 800,000, live in Mali, followed by Niger, with smaller populations in Algeria, Burkina Faso and Libya.

    There have been five Tuareg rebellions in Mali since Independence, in addition to three in Niger and sporadic unrest in Algeria. The latest Tuareg rebellion in Mali, by the Mouvement National de Libération de l’Azawad (MNLA), began in January 2012. The MNLA comprised Tuareg who had returned from Libya around October 2011, rebels who had not laid down arms after the 2007-09 uprising and others who had defected from the Malian army. Their number was estimated at around 3,000. By mid-March, they had driven Mali’s ill-equipped and ill-led forces out of most of northern Mali (Azawad), meeting little resistance.

    Following this humiliation of Mali’s army, soldiers in the Kati barracks near Bamako mutinied on 22 March, an incident that led to a junta of junior officers taking power in the country. Within a week, the three northern provincial capitals of Kidal, Gao and Timbuktu were in rebel hands, and on 5 April the MNLA declared Azawad an independent state.

    The declaration of Azawad’s independence received no international support. One reason for this was because of the alliance between the MNLA and Ansar al-Din, a newly created jihadist movement led by a Tuareg notable, Iyad ag Ghaly, and another jihadist group, Jamat Tawhid Wal Jihad Fi Garbi Afriqqiya (Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa – MUJAO). Both Ansar al-Din and MUJAO were connected to and supported by Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM). By May, it was these Islamist groups, not the MNLA, who were calling the political and military shots in Azawad.

    By the end of June, tension between the MNLA and the Islamists broke into open fighting, resulting in the MNLA being driven out of Gao and becoming increasingly marginalized politically. Since then, the Islamists have imposed strict sharia law in Azawad, especially in Gao, Timbuktu and Kidal. Summary executions, amputations, stonings and other such atrocities, as well as the destruction of holy shrines in Timbuktu – UNESCO world heritage sites – are currently being investigated by the International Criminal Court. By August, nearly half a million people had fled or been displaced.

    I have warned on numerous occasions in the past decade that the way in which terrorism was being fabricated and orchestrated in the Sahara-Sahel by the Algerian DRS, with the knowledge of the US and other Western powers, would inevitably result in a catastrophic outcome, quite possibly in the form of region-wide conflagration. Unless something fairly miraculous can be achieved by around the turn of the year, northern Mali looks like becoming the site for the start of just such a conflagration.

    Having said that, there is the prospect of one appalling scenario that is being raised by some of the local, mostly Tuareg, militia commanders. They are postulating as to whether Algeria’s DRS and its Western allies have been using the Azawad situation to encourage the concentration of ‘salafist-jihadists’ into the region – in the form of the long-talked about ‘Saharan emirate’ – before ‘eradicating’ them. In that instance, Algeria’s DRS would pluck out its ‘agents’ and leave the foot-soldiers – the Islamist fanatics – to face the bombardment.

    But whatever dire scenario develops in Mali, when you hear the news stories related to it, do not by any means think: ‘oh, just another war in Africa’. Remember this murky, squalid background and how Washington’s Global War On Terror has come home to roost for the peoples of the Sahara.

    Notes

    Kenya airstrike kills dozens of al-Shabab

    The Kenya Defense Forces (KDF) say they have killed dozens of al-Shabab militants in an airstrike on the militia’s logistical base in southern Somalia.

    According to the KDF, two vehicles and three trucks loaded with ammunition were also destroyed on Thursday during an airstrike that targeted the militants' base in the Garbaharey area.

    “Among the dead include the al-Shabaab Buurdub Region Commander Sheikh Nuur Dhere. It is believed that Nuur Dhere had been behind most of the IED [improvised explosive device] attacks in the region," KDF spokesman Colonel Cyrus Oguna said on Friday.

    The KDF, which has supplied troops to the UN-backed AU peacekeeping mission in Somalia (AMISOM) assisting the Somali National Army (SNA), regularly carries out airstrikes in the northern, central, and southern regions.


    "Several members of the militia groups perished with many others injured," Oguna added.

    Kenya has beefed up security along its border with Somalia since it dispatched soldiers into the country in October 2012 to chase al-Shabab militants, who it accuses of being behind the kidnapping of several foreigners in Kenyan territory. However, al-Shabab has denied involvement in the kidnappings.

    Somalia has not had an effective central government since 1991, when warlords overthrew former dictator Mohamed Siad Barre.

    The weak Western-backed transitional government in Mogadishu has been battling al-Shabab for the past five years and is propped up by a 10,000-strong African Union force from Uganda, Burundi, Kenya, and Djibouti.

    PG/HGL

    Mystery As Irish Tycoon Missing Months Turns Up

    An Irish property developer has been found wandering along a country road in a confused state eight months after he went missing - apparently with an insult scrawled across his head.

    Multimillionaire Kevin McGeever, 68, was injured, had a long beard, long fingernails and had lost a lot of weight when he was picked up near Ballinamore, on the border of County Leitrim and County Cavan.

    He had been reported missing in June last year from County Galway in the west of Ireland, about 100 miles from where he was found.

    Catherine Vallely - who claims to have found Mr McGeever - told Irish newspapers that she initially thought he was a traffic cone when she and her husband came across him in the dark because he was wearing red trousers.

    She described him as "very well educated, well-spoken and polite".

    Mrs Vallely told the Irish Examiner: "I was surprised. I thought he might have Alzheimer's or something like that. The man said his name was Kevin and he didn't realise he was in Co Leitrim. He didn't even know the month, the day or the time."

    As well as his dishevelled clothing, he was wearing no shoes.

    They say they took him to a local police station where he was given tea and biscuits.

    Mr McGeever has been interviewed and given a statement to officers, claiming that he was kidnapped at gunpoint. His attackers also reportedly wrote insults on his face.

    Irish police have said there is no question that Mr McGeever was held for an extended period of months based on his appearance.

    He was treated for dehydration and malnutrition at hospital, where he is still recovering.

    Before the economic downturn, Mr McGeever sold luxury homes to expats in Dubai.

    He made a fortune building houses, first in his native county and then further afield, before making big investments abroad. He fronted a company called KMM Commercial Properties.

    The developer lives in a gated mansion outside the village of Craughwell near Galway city, built on the back of his fortune.

    Martin Kenny, a Sinn Fein councillor who knows the couple who claim to have found Mr McGeever, told Sky News: "He was quite a high flying businessman, in international business and it's quite unusual that he would go missing but there didn't seem to be a huge scale search for him or anything like that.

    "The only thing he did tell them was that a number of men had dropped him off there along the road and that he had been taken quite a long way."

    Police have confirmed they are investigating whether he had been abducted, but refused to comment further about his condition.

    A Garda spokesman said: "We are investigating reports that an injured man, in his late 60s, was found at the side of the road at 9.45pm on January 29.

    "He was taken to Mullingar Hospital for treatment. We are investigating allegations that he was abducted from Craughwell."

    “Smart Cards” in a Surveillance Society: The Implanted Radio-Frequency Identification Chip

    The Implanted Radio-Frequency Identification Chip: "Smart Cards" in a Surveillance Society

    If incorporating personal details into an RFID (radio-frequency identification) chip implanted into a passport or driver’s license may sound like a “smart” alternative to endless lines at the airport and intrusive questioning by securocrats, think again.

    Since the late 1990s, corporate grifters have touted the “benefits” of the devilish transmitters as a “convenient” and “cheap” way to tag individual commodities, one that would “revolutionize” inventory management and theft prevention. Indeed, everything from paper towels to shoes, pets to underwear have been “tagged” with the chips. “Savings” would be “passed on” to the consumer. Call it the Wal-Martization of everyday life.

    RFID tags are small computer chips connected to miniature antennae that can be fixed to or implanted within physical objects, including human beings. The RFID chip itself contains an Electronic Product Code that can be “read” when a RFID reader emits a radio signal. The chips are divided into two categories, passive or active. A “passive” tag doesn’t contain a battery and its “read” range is variable, from less than an inch to twenty or thirty feet. An “active” tag on the other hand, is self-powered and has a much longer range. The data from an “active” tag can be sent directly to a computer system involved in inventory control–or surveillance.

    But as Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering (CASPIAN), the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) state in a joint position paper, “RFID has the potential to jeopardize consumer privacy, reduce or eliminate purchasing anonymity, and threaten civil liberties.” As these organizations noted:

    While there are beneficial uses of RFID, some attributes of the technology could be deployed in ways that threaten privacy and civil liberties:

    * Hidden placement of tags. RFID tags can be embedded into/onto objects and documents without the knowledge of the individual who obtains those items. As radio waves travel easily and silently through fabric, plastic, and other materials, it is possible to read RFID tags sewn into clothing or affixed to objects contained in purses, shopping bags, suitcases, and more.

    * Unique identifiers for all objects worldwide. The Electronic Product Code potentially enables every object on earth to have its own unique ID. The use of unique ID numbers could lead to the creation of a global item registration system in which every physical object is identified and linked to its purchaser or owner at the point of sale or transfer.

    * Massive data aggregation. RFID deployment requires the creation of massive databases containing unique tag data. These records could be linked with personal identifying data, especially as computer memory and processing capacities expand.

    * Hidden readers. Tags can be read from a distance, not restricted to line of sight, by readers that can be incorporated invisibly into nearly any environment where human beings or items congregate. RFID readers have already been experimentally embedded into floor tiles, woven into carpeting and floor mats, hidden in doorways, and seamlessly incorporated into retail shelving and counters, making it virtually impossible for a consumer to know when or if he or she was being “scanned.”

    * Individual tracking and profiling. If personal identity were linked with unique RFID tag numbers, individuals could be profiled and tracked without their knowledge or consent. For example, a tag embedded in a shoe could serve as a de facto identifier for the person wearing it. Even if item-level information remains generic, identifying items people wear or carry could associate them with, for example, particular events like political rallies. (“Position Statement on the Use of RFID on Consumer Products,” Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, November 14, 2003)

    RFID under the skin

    As the corporatist police state unfurls its murderous tentacles here in the United States, it should come as no surprise that securocrats breathlessly tout the “benefits” of RFID in the area of “homeland security.” When linked to massive commercial databases as well as those compiled by the 16 separate agencies of the “intelligence community,” such as the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment (TIDE) that feeds the federal government’s surveillance Leviathan with the names of suspected “terrorists,” it doesn’t take a genius to conclude that the architecture for a vast totalitarian enterprise is off the drawing board and onto the streets.

    As last week’s mass repression of peaceful protest at the Republican National Convention in St. Paul amply demonstrated, the Bush regime’s “preemptive war” strategy has been rolled out in the heimat. As the World Socialist Web Site reports,

    On Wednesday eight members of the anarchist protest group the Republican National Convention Welcoming Committee (RNCWC) were charged under provisions of the Minnesota state version of the Patriot Act with “Conspiracy to Riot in Furtherance of Terrorism.”

    The eight charged are all young, and could face up to seven-and-a-half years in prison under a provision that allows the enhancement of charges related to terrorism by 50 percent. …

    Among other things, the youth, who were arrested last weekend even prior to the start of the convention, are charged with plotting to kidnap delegates to the RNC, assault police officers and attack airports. Almost all of the charges listed are based upon the testimony of police infiltrators, one an officer, the other a paid informant. (Tom Eley, “RNC in Twin Cities: Eight protesters charged with terrorism under Patriot Act,” World Socialist Web Site, 6 September 2008)

    As the ACLU pointed out, “These charges are an effort to equate publicly stated plans to blockade traffic and disrupt the RNC as being the same as acts of terrorism. This both trivializes real violence and attempts to place the stated political views of the defendants on trial,” said Bruce Nestor, president of the Minnesota Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. “The charges represent an abuse of the criminal justice system and seek to intimidate any person organizing large scale public demonstrations potentially involving civil disobedience,” he said.

    An affidavit filed by the cops in order to allow the preemptive police raid and subsequent arrests declared that the RNCWC is a “criminal enterprise” strongly implying that the group of anarchist youth were members of a “terrorist organization.”

    Which, as we have learned over these last seven and a half years of darkness, is precisely the point: keep ‘em scared and passive. And when they’re neither scared nor passive, resort to police state tactics of mass repression. While the cops beat and arrested demonstrators and journalists outside the Xcel Energy Center, neanderthal-like Republican mobs chanted “USA! USA!” while the execrable theocratic fascist, Sarah Palin, basked in the limelight. But I digress…

    Likened to barcodes that scan items at the grocery store check-out line, what industry flacks such as the Association for Automatic Identification and Mobility (AIM) fail to mention in their propaganda about RFID is that the information stored on a passport or driver’s license is readily stolen by anyone with a reader device–marketers, security agents, criminals or stalkers–without the card holder even being remotely aware that they are being tracked and their allegedly “secure” information plundered. According to a blurb on the AIM website,

    Automatic Identification and Mobility (AIM) technologies are a diverse family of technologies that share the common purpose of identifying, tracking, recording, storing and communicating essential business, personal, or product data. In most cases, AIM technologies serve as the front end of enterprise software systems, providing fast and accurate collection and entry of data. (“Technologies,” Association for Automatic Identification and Mobility, no date)

    Among the “diverse family of technologies” touted by AIM, many are rife with “dual-use” potential, that is, the same technology that can keep track of a pallet of soft drinks can also keep track of human beings.

    Indeed, the Association touts biometric identification as “an automated method of recognizing a person based on a physiological or behavioral characteristic.” This is especially important since “the need” for biometrics “can be found in federal, state and local governments, in the military, and in commercial applications.” When used as a stand-alone or in conjunction with RFID-chipped “smart cards” biometrics, according to the industry “are set to pervade nearly all aspects of the economy and our daily lives.”

    Some “revolution.”

    The industry received a powerful incentive from the state when the Government Services Administration (GSA), a Bushist satrapy, issued a 2004 memo that urged the heads of all federal agencies “to consider action that can be taken to advance the [RFID] industry.”

    An example of capitalist “ingenuity” or another insidious invasion of our right to privacy? In 2006, IBM obtained a patent that will be used for tracking and profiling consumers as they move around a store, even if access to commercial databases are strictly limited.

    And when it comes tracking and profiling human beings, say for mass extermination at the behest of crazed Nazi ideologues, IBM stands alone. In his groundbreaking 2001 exploration of the enabling technologies for the mass murder of Jews, communists, Roma and gays and lesbians, investigative journalist Edwin Black described in IBM and the Holocaust how, beginning in 1933, IBM and their subsidiaries created technological “solutions” that streamlined the identification of “undesirables” for quick and efficient asset confiscation, deportation, slave labor and eventual annihilation.

    In an eerie echo of polices being enacted today against Muslims and left-wing “extremists” by the corrupt Bush regime in their quixotic quest to “keep America safe” in furtherance of capitalist and imperialist goals of global domination, Black writes:

    In the upside-down world of the Holocaust, dignified professionals were Hitler’s advance troops. Police officials disregarded their duty in favor of protecting villains and persecuting victims. Lawyers perverted concepts of justice to create anti-Jewish laws. Doctors defiled the art of medicine to perpetrate ghastly experiments and even choose who was healthy enough to be worked to death–and who could be cost-effectively sent to the gas chamber. Scientists and engineers debased their higher calling to devise the instruments and rationales of destruction. And statisticians used their little known but powerful discipline to identify the victims, project and rationalize the benefits of their destruction, organize their persecution, and even audit the efficiency of genocide. Enter IBM and its overseas subsidiaries. (IBM and the Holocaust: The Strategic Alliance Between Nazi Germany and America’s Most Powerful Corporation, New York: Crown Publishers, 2001, pp. 7-8)

    As security and privacy analyst Katherine Albrecht writes describing IBM’s patented “Identification and Tracking of Persons Using RFID-Tagged Items in Store Environments,”

    …chillingly details RFID’s potential for surveillance in a world where networked RFID readers called “person tracking units” would be incorporated virtually everywhere people go–in “shopping malls, airports, train stations, bus stations, elevators, trains, airplanes, restrooms, sports arenas, libraries, theaters, [and] museums”–to closely monitor people’s movements. (“How RFID Tags Could Be Used to Track Unsuspecting People,” Scientific American, August 21, 2008)

    According to the patent cited by Albrecht, as an individual moves around a store, or a city center, an “RFID tag scanner located [in the desired tracking location]… scans the RFID tags on [a] person…. As that person moves around the store, different RFID tag scanners located throughout the store can pick up radio signals from the RFID tags carried on that person and the movement of that person is tracked based on these detections…. The person tracking unit may keep records of different locations where the person has visited, as well as the visitation times.”

    Even if no personal data are stored in the RFID tag, this doesn’t present a problem IBM explains, because “the personal information will be obtained when the person uses his or her credit card, bank card, shopper card or the like.” As Albrecht avers, the link between the unique RFID number and a person’s identity “needs to be made only once for the card to serve as a proxy for the person thereafter.” With the wholesale introduction of RFID chipped passports and driver’s licenses, the capitalist panoptic state is quickly–and quietly–falling into place.

    If America’s main trading partner and sometime geopolitical rival in the looting of world resources, China, is any indication of the direction near future surveillance technologies are being driven by the “miracle of the market,” the curtain on privacy and individual rights is rapidly drawing to a close. Albrecht writes,

    China’s national ID cards, for instance, are encoded with what most people would consider a shocking amount of personal information, including health and reproductive history, employment status, religion, ethnicity and even the name and phone number of each cardholder’s landlord. More ominous still, the cards are part of a larger project to blanket Chinese cities with state-of-the-art surveillance technologies. Michael Lin, a vice president for China Public Security Technology, a private company providing the RFID cards for the program, unflinchingly described them to the New York Times as “a way for the government to control the population in the future.” And even if other governments do not take advantage of the surveillance potential inherent in the new ID cards, ample evidence suggests that data-hungry corporations will.

    I would disagree with Albrecht on one salient point: governments, particularly the crazed, corporate-controlled grifters holding down the fort in Washington, most certainly will take advantage of RFID’s surveillance potential.

    In 2005 for example, the Senate Republican High Tech Task force praised RFID applications as “exciting new technologies” with “tremendous promise for our economy.” In this spirit, they vowed to “protect” RFID from regulation and legislation. Needless to say, the track record of timid Democrats is hardly any better when it comes to defending privacy rights or something as “quaint” as the Constitution.

    Under conditions of a looming economic meltdown, rising unemployment, staggering debt, the collapse of financial markets and continuing wars and occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. imperialism, in order to shore up its crumbling empire, will continue to import totalitarian methods of rule employed in its “global war on terror” onto the home front.

    The introduction of RFID-chipped passports and driver’s licenses for the mass surveillance and political repression of the American people arises within this context.

    Tom Burghardt is a researcher and activist based in the San Francisco Bay Area. In addition to publishing in Covert Action Quarterly, Love & Rage and Antifa Forum, he is the editor of Police State America: U.S. Military “Civil Disturbance” Planning, distributed by AK Press.

    Lebanon slams Israeli attack in Syria

    File photo shows smoke billowing over Damascus after a bomb ripped through the city.

    Lebanese President Michel Sleiman has denounced the Israeli attack on a research center in Syria, accusing the Tel Aviv regime of using the turmoil in the Arab country to carry out its ‘aggressive policies.’

    “Israel is exploiting the current situation in Syria to implement its aggressive policies, flouting international treaties and humanitarian rights and norms,” said the Lebanese president in a Thursday statement released by his office.

    On January 30, the Syrian army said two people were killed and five others injured in an Israeli airstrike on a research center in Jamraya, near the capital. The Israeli regime declined to comment on the issue.

    Lebanese Foreign Minister Adnan Mansour also called for a firm stance by Arab countries to confront the Israeli assault.


    Mansour said the aggression again confirms the reality of the Israeli regime’s conduct by which it has been characterized since 1948.

    On Thursday, Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah strongly condemned the Israeli attack and said it was “barbaric aggression.”

    Russia also said if the information on the Israeli attack was confirmed, “Then we are dealing with unprovoked strikes against targets located on the territory of a sovereign state, which brazenly infringes on the UN Charter and is unacceptable, no matter the motive used for its justification.”

    MKA/HSN

    Mark Duggan: Man guilty of supplying gun

    A man has been found guilty of supplying a gun to Mark Duggan, whose fatal shooting by police sparked the London riots.

    Kevin Hutchinson-Foster, 30, was convicted at the Old Bailey of passing the firearm to Mr Duggan after a retrial.

    The court heard Mr Duggan collected the BBM Bruni Model 92 handgun just 15 minutes before he was shot dead on August 4, 2011.

    The 29-year-old's death in Tottenham, north London, led to riots that swept across London and other English towns and cities.

    Hutchinson-Foster had denied a charge of "selling or transferring a prohibited firearm" to Mr Duggan between July 28 and August 5, 2011.

    A jury at Snaresbrook Crown Court failed to reach a verdict after a trial last year. But at the retrial, a jury of seven women and five men convicted him by majority verdict.

    Sky's crime correspondent Martin Brunt said Mr Duggan was under surveillance by police who "believed he was intent on exacting revenge on another man for the earlier murder of his cousin".

    During both trials armed officers, who gave evidence anonymously, described how they opened fire on Mr Duggan because they saw him get out of a taxi holding a loaded gun.

    The officer who shot Mr Duggan twice - once in the chest and once in the arm - said he fired because he thought he was going to shoot him and his colleagues.

    Mr Duggan had gone in the minicab to Leyton, east London, where he allegedly collected the gun in a shoebox from Hutchinson-Foster, before continuing to Tottenham.

    The taxi was pulled over by armed police in four unmarked cars in a "hard stop", and as Mr Duggan got out apparently clutching the firearm, he was shot.

    The gun was found five metres from Mr Duggan's body, on a grass verge behind railings.

    The shoebox, found in the minicab, allegedly had both Mr Duggan's and the defendant's fingerprints on it, while mobile phone evidence showed they were in contact with each other in the run up to the shooting.

    But Hutchinson-Foster, a cannabis user with convictions for possession of cocaine and heroin with intent to supply, claimed Mr Duggan had wanted his help to sell some cannabis.

    The defendant had admitted using the same gun to beat barber Peter Osadebay at a barber's shop in Dalston, east London, just six days before Mr Duggan's death.

    Hutchinson-Foster claimed this was why his DNA was found on the gun when it was retrieved from Ferry Lane on August 4, along with traces of Mr Osadebay's blood.

    The defendant said he collected the firearm from someone else so he could beat Mr Osadebay on July 29, but had returned it on the same day.

    Chief Superintendent Dean Haydon said: "There is an ongoing IPCC investigation into the death of Mark Duggan and the circumstances of his death will be a matter for the coroner at a later date.

    "The Kevin Hutchinson-Foster trial has primarily been about the supply of an illegal firearm and I welcome the verdict of the jury in this case today."

    The Duggan family, who did not attend Hutchinson-Foster's trial or retrial, have said the question of whether Mr Duggan was holding a gun is something that should only be addressed at his inquest, expected to begin in September.

    Nonprofit Spends Big on Politics Despite IRS Limitation: American Future Fund Has Conservative Roots

    Last fall, a cadre of wealthy business executives and conservative groups tried to sell California voters on new campaign finance reforms.

    Couched in lofty rhetoric about the importance of cutting off money from special interests to politicians and other regulations favored by reformers, their proposal sought to ban the practice of using payroll deductions for political expenditures — a popular method of union fundraising.

    Once alerted to the true nature of Proposition 32, the unions and political left rose up against it.

    An innocuously named nonprofit, the Iowa-based American Future Fund, proved to be one of the biggest backers of the initiative, sinking more than $4 million into the ballot measure that voters ultimately rejected.

    As a “social welfare” organization, the American Future Fund is not required to publicly disclose its donors. But to maintain its tax-exempt status under Sec. 501(c)(4) of the U.S. tax code, influencing elections cannot be its primary purpose.

    The American Future Fund’s investment in California was part of a nationwide, political advertising spree in 2012 that exceeded $29 million, according to a Center for Public Integrity analysis of state and federal records.

    That amount included more than $19 million on efforts designed to oust President Barack Obama, as well as millions more to oppose Democratic candidates for Congress and even two state attorneys general. Now the group is funding adsopposing Obama’s nomination of former Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel of Nebraska for defense secretary.

    Since the U.S. Supreme Court’s controversial Citizens Uniteddecision in 2010, nonprofits such as the American Future Fund have played a more prominent role in electoral contests — all while giving their supporters the ability to keep their identities hidden. During the 2010 midterm elections, politically active nonprofits outspent super PACs, which exist to fund political advertisements, by a 3-to-2 margin.

    The American Future Fund ranked third among “social welfare” nonprofits in spending in the 2012 federal election,according to the Center for Responsive Politics, trailing only the Karl Rove-affiliated Crossroads GPS and Americans for Prosperity, which is backed by conservative billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch.

    There are also Democratic-aligned nonprofits, but their spending was well below that of their conservative counterparts. The top left-leaning nonprofit was the League of Conservation Voters, which reported spending about $11 million in the 2012 election opposing or supporting candidates.

    The American Future Fund’s spending “raises some serious questions” and “evades any form of meaningful disclosure,” said Adam Rappaport, senior counsel with watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).

    Numerous officials with the American Future Fund did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

    Advocating for ‘free-market ideas’

    The American Future Fund’s mission is to “educate and advocate for conservative and free-market ideas,” according to its annual filing with the Internal Revenue Service.

    Despite asserting that it isn’t primarily focused on elections, the nonprofit’s DNA is decidedly political.

    Conservative political operative Nick Ryan, a longtime adviser to former GOP Rep. Jim Nussle of Iowa, founded it in 2007. Over the years, the group has paid Ryan’s firm, Concordia Enterprises, hundreds of thousands of dollars annually for consulting services.

    In 2010, the New York Times reported that Iowa businessman Bruce Rastetter provided an unspecified amount of “seed money” for the organization. Ryan once represented four of Rastetter’s companies as a lobbyist, including Hawkeye Energy Holdings, one of the country’s largest ethanol producers.

    The nonprofit’s first president was Nicole Schlinger, the former finance director of Iowa’s Republican Party. Its current president is veteran Republican state Sen. Sandra Greiner, who served for 14 years as the Iowa chairwoman of the pro-business American Legislative Exchange Council.

    Ryan and Greiner did not respond to requests for comment.

    In 2008, when the American Future Fund was seeking — and ultimately garnered — tax-exempt status from the IRS, it pledged to abstain from electoral politics, saying it would spend 70 percent of its time doing work to “educate the public on policy issues” and 30 percent engaging in efforts to “influence legislation through grassroots advocacy.”

    When asked on its application if the group had any plans to spend money to “influence the selection, nomination, election or appointment” of anyone seeking public office, it answered “no.” It also vowed to stay out of the presidential race.

    When the IRS subsequently inquired why the group’s advertisements “appear to be more partisan than nonpartisan,” the group’s attorney, Karen Blackistone, wrote that the efforts were “strictly issued-based and nonpartisan.”

    The group takes a position on issues and encourages the public to contact their representative, she wrote in a 2008 response to the IRS.

    “AFF’s advertisements have never commented on a candidate’s character, qualifications or fitness for office,” she stated.

    Big money tied to post office box

    The American Future Fund has raised more than $60 million, with spikes in contributions coming in election years.

    Much of that money has come from another conservative “social welfare” nonprofit that doesn’t disclose its donors by name — the Arizona-based Center to Protect Patient Rights.

    The nonprofit has no website and lists its address as a post office box in Phoenix. It was launched in 2009 by Republican operative Sean Noble, who has extensive ties to the vast political network underwritten by the Koch brothers.

    Noble, a former chief of staff for former Rep. John Shadegg, R-Ariz., did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

    For three years running, Noble’s organization has reported making substantial grants to the American Future Fund for “general support,” according to IRS filings. The nonprofit contributed more than $14 million to the American Future Fund between 2009 and 2011, or 51 percent of funds the group raised over the three-year period.

    The Center to Protect Patient Rights has also given millions of dollars to a network of conservative groups, including the Koch-backed nonprofit Americans for Prosperity, as was first reported by the Center for Responsive Politics.

    In addition to Noble, there is another Koch connection.

    In 2008, Trent Sebits, the former manager of public and government affairs for the Kochs’ Wichita-based refining giant, Koch Industries, registered with the state of Kansas to lobby on behalf of the American Future Fund and Americans for Prosperity. Sebits did not respond to a request for comment.

    The American Justice Partnership, another “social welfare” nonprofit, gave $50,000 to the American Future Fund in 2011 and $2.4 million in 2010, according to IRS filings. The group supports free enterprise and is often at odds with trial lawyers.

    Dan Pero, its president, said in an emailed statement that the organization supported the American Future Fund to help “promote free enterprise and improve the fairness and predictability of the legal environment.”

    Like super PACs, “social welfare” nonprofits are allowed to accept unlimited donations from individuals, corporations, unions and other organizations. The only funders whose names they are required to publicly disclose are those that make contributions earmarked for political purposes.

    That’s as it should be, according to attorney Dan Backer, who is not affiliated the American Future Fund but does work with other conservative groups.

    “A nonprofit makes its decisions by a board or other management structure, which is distinct from its donors,” Backer said.

    Increasingly political

    In 2010, the American Future Fund became far more politically active, reporting $8.6 million in political expenditures as well as millions more for “media services,” “telecommunications” and “mail service/production.” It told the Federal Election Commission that it spent $9.1 million on political advertisements.

    Marcus Owens, former chief of the IRS’s nonprofits division, said it is “difficult to conjure up a situation where a particular expenditure would be reportable to the FEC but would not constitute political campaign intervention under tax law.”

    Nevertheless, Owens said the organization could make a “straight-faced argument” that its orientation had simply changed over time to become more overtly political.

    Of the $25 million that the American Future Fund reported spending to the FEC last year, more than 90 percent fueled ads that urged voters to support or reject candidates.

    The group also sought the FEC’s advice on whether mentioning the White House or “the administration” in negative ads ahead of Election Day would be seen as referring to a “clearly identified candidate for federal office.”

    Such a designation would have required the group to disclose information about its donors. (The commission deadlocked, 3-3, in a vote along party lines.)

    In addition to the presidential race, the American Future Fund spent money in 20 congressional elections in 2012, including California’s 26th Congressional District, where it spent $500,000 attacking Democrat Julia Brownley, who, as a state legislator, had authored legislation to bolster disclosure for political advertisements.

    She won anyway, but told the Center for Public Integrity that she is “deeply concerned” about the activities of non-disclosing groups in the wake of Citizens United and hopes to “take immediate action” to strengthen federal disclosure laws.

    The American Future Fund also spent more than $542,000 to aid West Virginia Republican Patrick Morrisey in his successful quest to win the race for attorney general, records indicate, and more than $620,000 in a failed effort to sink Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster, a Democrat.

    Complaints about the American Future Fund’s political activities have followed it since its creation.

    In 2008, the Democratic Party in Minnesota contended that the group needed to register as a political committee after paying for ads that praised then-U.S. Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn. The FEC disagreed.

    Two years later, in October 2010, consumer group Public Citizen and two other organizations alleged that the American Future Fund’s “huge expenditures” to aid candidates in the midterm election should have triggered requirements that the group register as a political committee and disclose its donors. That complaint is still being considered by the FEC, which often takes years to fully resolve such matters.

    CREW, the watchdog organization, filed a complaint against the American Future Fund with the IRS in February 2011 that challenged whether its primary purpose was something other than influencing elections. The group has dismissed the complaint as “baseless” and contends that CREW “only targets government officials and organizations who have a differing or conservative point of view.

    U.S. Secret Prisons and the Guantanamo Trials, Systematic Torture

    WAR CRIMES AND TORTURE: Guantánamo and back: an interview with Moazzam Begg

    According to UN investigations in 2010 there are more than 27,000 prisoners held by the U.S. in more than 100 secret prisons around the world and on 17 ships as floating prisons. These are almost entirely Muslim prisoners.

    According to Center for Constitutional Rights 92% of the prisoners held just at Guantanamo are not “Al-Qaeda fighters” by the U.S. government’s own records and 22 were under 18 years of age when captured.

    Khalid Sheikh Mohammed one of the 5 now on trial at Guantanamo was subjected to water board torture 183 times. He wore a camouflaged vest to court to make the point that he was once part of the U.S. armed and paid mujahideen force in Afghanistan in 1980s and U.S. proxy army in Bosnia in 1990s.  The U.S. can be expected to treat its proxy army in Syria and Libya in the same way.

    U.S. government targeted kidnappings and assassinations are today continued through daily drone attacks with Hellfire missiles in Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen, Somalia, Sudan, Mali and as far as the Philippines. Again thousands of civilians, including youth and women are among the victims.

    President Obama had promised to close Guantanamo Prison as one of his first acts as president in 2009. Yesterday it was decided instead to close the office and eliminate the special envoy Daniel Fried whose role was to close the prison at Guantanamo. Daniel Fried’s role will now be to intensify the sanctions on Iran and Syria.

    Close Guantanamo and ALL U.S. secret prisons! End the drone wars! End the Sanctions!

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    Copyright © Sara Flounders, RT, 2013

    Would African-Americans Have Been Better Off If Hillary Were Elected?

    It might have been easier to press her for change than it has been with Obama, say some observers.

    January 30, 2013  |  

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    The same day that President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made headlines for their first joint interview, on  60 Minutes, NAACP President Ben Jealous delighted conservatives with his headline-making interview on another Sunday news program. Appearing on  Meet the Press, Jealous said, "Right now when you look at joblessness in this country -- the country is pretty much back to where it was when this president started. White people are doing a bit better.  Black folks are doing a full point worse."

    Also on  Meet the Press, onetime vice presidential candidate, and current member of the House,  Paul Ryan offered this theory regarding the current economic battles facing our country: "Look, if we had a [Hillary] Clinton presidency, if we had Erskine Bowles as chief of staff of the White House or president of the United States, I think we would have fixed this fiscal mess by now," Ryan said. "[But] that's not the kind of presidency we're dealing with right now."

    Both pronouncements raise questions that have been pondered by some political watchers since the conclusion of the 2008 presidential election: Would African Americans have fared better under a Hillary Clinton presidency than under Obama (and will they if she runs and wins in 2016)?

    Does President Obama Get a Pass?

    Jealous' remarks illustrate a reality that has disappointed some African Americans, who were hopeful that a black presidency would lead to an improvement in conditions for black America. However, addressing that disappointment has been tricky, particularly for black lawmakers.

    In a  previous interview with The Root, the former chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.), said, "Well, I'm supposed to say he doesn't get a pass, but I'm not going to say that. Look, as the chair of the Black Caucus, I've got to tell you, we are always hesitant to criticize the president. With  14 percent [black] unemployment [pdf], if we had a white president, we'd be marching around the White House."

    Cleaver added, "The president knows we are going to act in deference to him in a way we wouldn't to someone white." Cleaver's point, that African Americans would be tougher on a white president regarding the dismal unemployment numbers that have plagued the black community, lends credence to the notion that black Americans might actually have fared better under Clinton -- if you accept the premise that a politician will address the needs of a constituency that holds him or her accountable.

    In an interview with  The Root, African-American radio host Mark Thompson, the host of Sirius Radio's  Make It Plain, described the difference between a Hillary Clinton presidency and Barack Obama's this way: "If she had won, I think that the African-American community would have held her to a higher level of accountability and would have even demanded more and probably would have been more willing to agitate ... for its needs. "

    He continued: "The current scenario is politically, the first African-American president doesn't want to appear to show favoritism towards African Americans, and African Americans in turn don't want to harm and confront the first African-American president -- so we've pretty much neutralized each other."

    African-American Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) once  made a similar argument, saying that many black members of Congress were worried that their constituents would be displeased if they were perceived as being too tough on the first black president. Adding to the complexity Thompson speaks of, Obama has faced endless, unfounded criticism for allegedly being biased toward African Americans since taking office. One poll found that  31 percent of Republicans believe the president is "a racist who hates white people." Former Fox News host  Glenn Beck famously called the president a racist "who has a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture."

    The Politics of Debt in America: From Debtor’s Prison to Debtor Nation

    Those who view debt with a smiley face as the royal road to wealth accumulation and tend to be forgiven if their default is large enough almost invariably come from the top rungs of the economic hierarchy.  Then there are the rest of us, who get scolded for our impecunious ways, foreclosed upon and dispossessed, leaving behind scars that never fade away and wounds that disable our futures.

    Think of this upstairs-downstairs class calculus as the politics of debt.  British economist John Maynard Keynes put it like this: “If I owe you a pound, I have a problem; but if I owe you a million, the problem is yours.”

    After months of an impending “debtpocalypse,” the dreaded “debt ceiling,” and the “fiscal cliff,” Americans remain preoccupied with debt, public and private.  Austerity is what we’re promised for our sins. Millions are drowning, or have already drowned, in a sea of debt — mortgages gone badstudent loans that may never be paid off, spiraling credit card bills, car loans, payday loans, and a menagerie of new-fangled financial mechanisms cooked up by the country’s “financial engineers” to milk what’s left of the American standard of living.  

    The world economy almost came apart in 2007-2008, and still may do so under the whale-sized carcass of debt left behind by financial plunderers who found in debt the leverage to get ever richer.  Most of them still live in their mansions and McMansions, while other debtors live outdoors, or in cars or shelters, or doubled-up with relatives and friends — or even in debtor’s prison. Believe it or not, a version of debtor’s prison, that relic of early American commercial barbarism, is back.

    In 2013, you can’t actually be jailed for not paying your bills, but ingenious corporations, collection agencies, cops, courts, and lawyers have devised ways to insure that debt “delinquents” will end up in jail anyway.  With one-third of the states now allowing the jailing of debtors (without necessarily calling it that), it looks ever more like a trend in the making.

    Will Americans tolerate this, or might there emerge a politics of resistance to debt, as has happened more than once in a past that shouldn’t be forgotten?

    The World of Debtor’s Prisons

    Imprisonment for debt was a commonplace in colonial America and the early republic, and wasn’t abolished in most states until the 1830s or 1840s, in some cases not until after the Civil War.  Today, we think of it as a peculiar and heartless way of punishing the poor — and it was.  But it was more than that.

    Some of the richest, most esteemed members of society also ended up there, men like Robert Morris, who helped finance the American Revolution and ran the Treasury under the Articles of Confederation; John Pintard, a stock-broker, state legislator, and founder of the New York Historical Society; William Duer, graduate of Eton, powerful merchant and speculator, assistant secretary in the Treasury Department of the new federal government, and master of a Hudson River manse; a Pennsylvania Supreme Court judge; army generals; and other notables.

    Whether rich or poor, you were there for a long stretch, even for life, unless you could figure out some way of discharging your debts.  That, however, is where the similarity between wealthy and impoverished debtors ended.

    Whether in the famous Marshalsea in London where Charles Dickens had Little Dorritt’s father incarcerated (and where Dickens’s father had actually languished when the author was 12), or in the New Gaol in New York City, where men like Duer and Morris did their time, debtors prisons were segregated by class.  If your debts were large enough and your social connections weighty enough (the two tended to go together) you lived comfortably.  You were supplied with good food and well-appointed living quarters, as well as books and other pleasures, including on occasion manicurists and prostitutes.

    Robert Morris entertained George Washington for dinner in his “cell.” Once released, he resumed his career as the new nation’s richest man.  Before John Pintard moved to New Gaol, he redecorated his cell, had it repainted and upholstered, and shipped in two mahogany writing desks.

    Meanwhile, the mass of petty debtors housed in the same institution survived, if at all, amid squalor, filth, and disease.  They were often shackled, and lacked heat, clean water, adequate food, or often food of any kind.  (You usually had to have the money to buy your own food, clothing, and fuel.)  Debtors in these prisons frequently found themselves quite literally dying of debt.  And you could end up in such circumstances for trivial sums.  Of the 1,162 jailed debtors in New York City in 1787, 716 owed less than twenty shillings or one pound.  A third of Philadelphia’s inmates in 1817 were there for owing less than $5, and debtors in the city’s prisons outnumbered violent criminals by 5:1.  In Boston, 15% of them were women.  Shaming was more the point of punishment than anything else.

    Scenes of public pathos were commonplace.  Inmates at the New Gaol, if housed on its upper floors, would lower shoes out the window on strings to collect alms for their release.  Other prisons installed “beggar gates” through which those jailed in cellar dungeons could stretch out their palms for the odd coins from passersby.

    Poor and rich alike wanted out.  Pamphleteering against the institution of debtor’s prison began in the 1750s.  An Anglican minister in South Carolina denounced the jails, noting that “a person would be in a better situation in the French King’s Gallies, or the Prisons of Turkey or Barbary than in this dismal place.”  Discontent grew.  A mass escape from New Gaol of 40 prisoners armed with pistols and clubs was prompted by extreme hunger.

    In the 1820s and 1830s, as artisans, journeymen, sailors, longshoremen, and other workers organized the early trade union movement as well as workingmen’s political parties, one principal demand was for the abolition of imprisonment for debt.  Inheritors of a radical political culture, their complaints echoed that Biblical tradition of Jubilee mentioned in Leviticus, which called for a cancellation of debts, the restoration of lost houses and land, and the freeing of slaves and bond servants every 50 years.

    Falling into debt was a particularly ruinous affliction for those who aspired to modest independence as shopkeepers, handicraftsmen, or farmers.  As markets for their goods expanded but became ever less predictable, they found themselves taking out credit to survive and sometimes going into arrears, often followed by a stint in debtor’s prison that ended their dreams forever.

    However much the poor organized and protested, it was the rich who got debt relief first.  Today, we assume that debts can be discharged through bankruptcy (although even now that option is either severely restricted or denied to certain classes of less favored debt delinquents like college students).  Although the newly adopted U.S. Constitution opened the door to a national bankruptcy law, Congress didn’t walk through it until 1800, even though many, including the well-off, had been lobbying for it.

    Enough of the old moral faith that frowned on debt as sinful lingered.  The United States has always been an uncharitable place when it comes to debt, a curious attitude for a society largely settled by absconding debtors and indentured servants (a form of time-bound debt peonage).  Indeed, the state of Georgia was founded as a debtor’s haven at a time when England’s jails were overflowing with debtors.

    When Congress finally passed the Bankruptcy Act, those in the privileged quarters at New Gaol threw a party.  Down below, however, life continued in its squalid way, since the new law only applied to people who had sizable debts.  If you owed too little, you stayed in jail.

    Debt and the Birth of a Nation

    Nowadays, the conservative media inundate us with warnings about debt from the Founding Fathers, and it’s true that some of them like Jefferson — himself an inveterate, often near-bankrupt debtor — did moralize on the subject.  However, Alexander Hamilton, an idol of the conservative movement, was the architect of the country’s first national debt, insisting that “if it is not excessive, [it] will be to us a national blessing.”

    As the first Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton’s goal was to transform the former 13 colonies, which today we would call an underdeveloped land, into a country that someday would rival Great Britain.  This, he knew, required liquid capital (resources not tied up in land or other less mobile forms of wealth), which could then be invested in sometimes highly speculative and risky enterprises.  Floating a national debt, he felt sure, would attract capital from well-positioned merchants at home and abroad, especially in England.

    However, for most ordinary people living under the new government, debt aroused anger.  To begin with, there were all those veterans of the Revolutionary War and all the farmers who had supplied the revolutionary army with food and been paid in notoriously worthless “continentals” — the currency issued by the Continental Congress — or equally valueless state currencies.

    As rumors of the formation of a new national government spread, speculators roamed the countryside buying up this paper money at a penny on the dollar, on the assumption that the debts they represented would be redeemed at face value.  In fact, that is just what Hamilton’s national debt would do, making these “sunshine patriots” quite rich, while leaving the yeomanry impoverished.

    Outrage echoed across the country even before Hamilton’s plan got adopted.  Jefferson denounced the currency speculators as loathsome creatures and had this to say about debt in general: “The modern theory of the perpetuation of debt has drenched the earth with blood and crushed its inhabitants under burdens ever accumulating.”  He and others denounced the speculators as squadrons of counter-revolutionary “moneycrats” who would use their power and wealth to undo the democratic accomplishments of the revolution.

    In contrast, Hamilton saw them as a disinterested monied elite upon whom the country’s economic well-being depended, while dismissing the criticisms of the Jeffersonians as the ravings of Jacobin levelers.  Soon enough, political warfare over the debt turned founding fathers into fratricidal brothers.

    Hamilton’s plan worked — sometimes too well.  Wealthy speculators in land like Robert Morris, or in the building of docks, wharves, and other projects tied to trade, or in the national debt itself — something William Duer and grandees like him specialized in — seized the moment.  Often enough, however, they over-reached and found themselves, like the yeomen farmers and soldiers, in default to their creditors.

    Duer’s attempts to corner the market in the bonds issued by the new federal government and in the stock of the country’s first National Bank represented one of the earliest instances of insider trading.  They also proved a lurid example of how speculation could go disastrously wrong.  When the scheme collapsed, it caused the country’s first Wall Street panic and a local depression that spread through New England, ruining “shopkeepers, widows, orphans, butchers… gardeners, market women, and even the noted Bawd Mrs. McCarty.”

    A mob chased Duer through the streets of New York and might have hanged or disemboweled him had he not been rescued by the city sheriff, who sent him to the safety of debtor’s prison.  John Pintard, part of the same scheme, fled to Newark, New Jersey, before being caught and jailed as well.

    Sending the Duers and Pintards of the new republic off to debtors’ prison was not, however, quite what Hamilton had in mind.  And leaving them rotting there was hardly going to foster the “enterprising spirit” that would, in the treasury secretary’s estimation, turn the country into the Great Britain of the next century.  Bankruptcy, on the other hand, ensured that the overextended could start again and keep the machinery of commercial transactions lubricated.  Hence, the Bankruptcy Act of 1800.

    If, however, you were not a major player, debt functioned differently. Shouldered by the hoi polloi, it functioned as a mechanism for funneling wealth into the mercantile-financial hothouses where American capitalism was being incubated.

    No wonder debt excited such violent political emotions.  Even before the Constitution was adopted, farmers in western Massachusetts, indebted to Boston bankers and merchants and in danger of losing their ancestral homes in the economic hard times of the 1780s, rose in armed rebellion.  In those years, the number of lawsuits for unpaid debt doubled and tripled, farms were seized, and their owners sent off to jail.  Incensed, farmers led by a former revolutionary soldier, Daniel Shays, closed local courts by force and liberated debtors from prisons.  Similar but smaller uprisings erupted in Maine, Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania, while in New Hampshire and Vermont irate farmers surrounded government offices.

    Shays’ Rebellion of 1786 alarmed the country’s elites.  They depicted the unruly yeomen as “brutes” and their houses as “sties.”  They were frightened as well by state governments like Rhode Island’s that were more open to popular influence, declared debt moratoria, and issued paper currencies to help farmers and others pay off their debts.  These developments signaled the need for a stronger central government fully capable of suppressing future debtor insurgencies.

    Federal authority established at the Constitutional Convention allowed for that, but the unrest continued.  Shays’ Rebellion was but part one of a trilogy of uprisings that continued into the 1790s.  The Whiskey Rebellion of 1794 was the most serious.  An excise tax (“whiskey tax”) meant to generate revenue to back up the national debt threatened the livelihoods of farmers in western Pennsylvania who used whiskey as a “currency” in a barter economy.  President Washington sent in troops, many of them Revolutionary War veterans, with Hamilton at their head to put down the rebels.

    Debt Servitude and Primitive Accumulation

    Debt would continue to play a vital role in national and local political affairs throughout the nineteenth century, functioning as a form of capital accumulation in the financial sector, and often sinking pre-capitalist forms of life in the process.

    Before and during the time that capitalists were fully assuming the prerogatives of running the production process in field and factory, finance was building up its own resources from the outside.  Meanwhile, the mechanisms of public and private debt made the lives of farmers, craftsmen, shopkeepers, and others increasingly insupportable.

    This parasitic economic metabolism helped account for the riotous nature of Gilded Age politics. Much of the high drama of late nineteenth-century political life circled around “greenbacks,” “free silver,” and “the gold standard.”  These issues may strike us as arcane today, but they were incendiary then, threatening what some called a “second Civil War.”  In one way or another, they were centrally about debt, especially a system of indebtedness that was driving the independent farmer to extinction.

    All the highways of global capitalism found their way into the trackless vastness of rural America.  Farmers there were not in dire straits because of their backwoods isolation.  On the contrary, it was because they turned out to be living at Ground Zero, where the explosive energies of financial and commercial modernity detonated.  A toxic combination of railroads, grain-elevator operators, farm-machinery manufacturers, commodity-exchange speculators, local merchants, and above all the banking establishment had the farmer at their mercy.  His helplessness was only aggravated when the nineteenth-century version of globalization left his crops in desperate competition with those from the steppes of Canada and Russia, as well as the outbacks of Australia and South America.

    To survive this mercantile onslaught, farmers hooked themselves up to long lines of credit that stretched back to the financial centers of the East.  These lifelines allowed them to buy the seed, fertilizer, and machines needed to farm, pay the storage and freight charges that went with selling their crops, and keep house and home together while the plants ripened and the hogs fattened.  When market day finally arrived, the farmer found out just what all his backbreaking work was really worth.  If the news was bad, then those credit lines were shut off and he found himself dispossessed.

    The family farm and the network of small town life that went with it were being washed into the rivers of capital heading for metropolitan America.  On the “sod house” frontier, poverty was a “badge of honor which decorated all.”  In hisDevil’s Dictionary, the acid-tongued humorist Ambrose Bierce defined the dilemma this way: “Debt. n. An ingenious substitute for the chain and whip of the slave-driver.”

    Across the Great Plains and the cotton South, discontented farmers spread the blame for their predicament far and wide.  Anger, however, tended to pool around the strangulating system of currency and credit run out of the banking centers of the northeast. Beginning in the 1870s with the emergence of the Greenback Party and Greenback-Labor Party and culminating in the 1890s with the People’s or Populist Party, independent farmers, tenant farmers, sharecroppers, small businessmen, and skilled workers directed ever more intense hostility at “the money power.”

    That “power” might appear locally in the homeliest of disguises.  At coal mines and other industrial sites, among “coolies” working to build the railroads or imported immigrant gang laborers and convicts leased to private concerns, workers were typically compelled to buy what they needed in company scrip at company stores at prices that left them perpetually in debt.  Proletarians were so precariously positioned that going into debt — whether to pawnshops or employers, landlords or loan sharks — was unavoidable.  Often they were paid in kind: wood chips, thread, hemp, scraps of canvas, cordage: nothing, that is, that was of any use in paying off accumulated debts.  In effect, they were, as they called themselves, “debt slaves.”

    In the South, hard-pressed growers found themselves embroiled in a crop-lien system, dependent on the local “furnishing agent” to supply everything needed, from seed to clothing to machinery, to get through the growing season.  In such situations, no money changed hands, just a note scribbled in the merchant’s ledger, with payment due at “settling up” time.  This granted the lender a lien, or title, to the crop, a lien that never went away.

    In this fashion, the South became “a great pawn shop,” with farmers perpetually in debt at interest rates exceeding 100% per year.  In Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi, 90% of farmers lived on credit.  The first lien you signed was essentially a life sentence.  Either that or you became a tenant farmer, or you simply left your land, something so commonplace that everyone knew what the letters “G.T.T.” on an abandoned farmhouse meant: “Gone to Texas.”  (One hundred thousand people a year were doing that in the 1870s.)

    The merchant’s exaction was so steep that African-Americans and immigrants in particular were regularly reduced to peonage — forced, that is, to work to pay off their debt, an illegal but not uncommon practice.  And that neighborhood furnishing agent was often tied to the banks up north for his own lines of credit.  In this way, the sucking sound of money leaving for the great metropolises reverberated from region to region.

    Facing dispossession, farmers formed alliances to set up cooperatives to extend credit to one another and market crops themselves.  As one Populist editorialist remarked, this was the way “mortgage-burdened farmers can assert their freedom from the tyranny of organized capital.”  But when they found that these groupings couldn’t survive the competitive pressure of the banking establishment, politics beckoned.

    From one presidential election to the next and in state contests throughout the South and West, irate grain and cotton growers demanded that the government expand the paper currency supply, those “greenbacks,” also known as “the people’s money,” or that it monetize silver, again to enlarge the money supply, or that it set up public institutions to finance farmers during the growing season.  With a passion hard for us to imagine, they railed against the “gold standard” which, in Democratic Party presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan’s famous cry, should no longer be allowed to “crucify mankind on a cross of gold.”

    Should that cross of gold stay fixed in place, one Alabama physician prophesied, it would “reduce the American yeomanry to menials and paupers, to be driven by monopolies like cattle and swine.”  As Election Day approached, populist editors and speakers warned of an approaching war with “the money power,” and they meant it.  “The fight will come and let it come!”

    The idea was to force the government to deliberately inflate the currency and so raise farm prices.  And the reason for doing that?  To get out from under the sea of debt in which they were submerged.  It was a cry from the heart and it echoed and re-echoed across the heartland, coming nearer to upsetting the established order than any American political upheaval before or since.

    The passion of those populist farmers and laborers was matched by that of their enemies, men at the top of the economy and government for whom debt had long been a road to riches rather than destitution.  They dismissed their foes as “cranks” and “calamity howlers.”  And in the election of 1896, they won.  Bryan went down to defeat, gold continued its pitiless process of crucifixion, and a whole human ecology was set on a path to extinction.

    The Return of Debt Servitude

    When populism died, debt — as a spark for national political confrontation — died, too.  The great reform eras that followed — Progessivism, the New Deal, and the Great Society — were preoccupied with inequality, economic collapse, exploitation in the workplace, and the outsized nature of corporate power in a consolidated industrial capitalist system.

    Rumblings about debt servitude could certainly still be heard.  Foreclosed farmers during the Great Depression mobilized, held “penny auctions” to restore farms to families, hanged judges in effigy, and forced Prudential Insurance Company, the largest land creditor in Iowa, to suspend foreclosures on 37,000 farms (which persuaded Metropolitan Life Insurance Company to do likewise).  A Kansas City realtor was shot in the act of foreclosing on a family farm, a country sheriff kidnapped while trying to evict a farm widow and dumped 10 miles out of town, and so on.

    Urban renters and homeowners facing eviction formed neighborhood groups to stop the local sheriff or police from throwing families out of their houses or apartments. Furniture tossed into the street in eviction proceedings would be restored by neighbors, who would also turn the gas and electricity back on.  New Deal farm and housing finance legislation bailed out banks and homeowners alike.  Right-wing populists like the Catholic priest Father Charles Coughlin carried on the war against the gold standard in tirades tinged with anti-Semitism.  Signs like one in Nebraska — “The Jew System of Banking” (illustrated with a giant rattlesnake) — showed up too often.

    But the age of primitive accumulation in which debt and the financial sector had played such a strategic role was drawing to a close.

    Today, we have entered a new phase.  What might be called capitalist underdevelopment and once again debt has emerged as both the central mode of capital accumulation and a principal mechanism of servitude.  Warren Buffett (of all people) has predicted that, in the coming decades, the United States is more likely to turn into a “sharecropper society” than an “ownership society.”

    In our time, the financial sector has enriched itself by devouring the productive wherewithal of industrial America through debt, starving the public sector of resources, and saddling ordinary working people with every conceivable form of consumer debt.

    Household debt, which in 1952 was at 36% of total personal income, had by 2006 hit 127%.  Even financing poverty became a lucrative enterprise.  Taking advantage of the low credit ratings of poor people and their need for cash to pay monthly bills or simply feed themselves, some check-cashing outlets, payday lenders, tax preparers, and others levy interest of 200% to 300% and more.  As recently as the 1970s, a good part of this would have been considered illegal under usury laws that no longer exist.  And these poverty creditors are often tied to the largest financiers, including Citibank, Bank of America, and American Express.

    Credit has come to function as a “plastic safety net” in a world of job insecurity, declining state support, and slow-motion economic growth, especially among the elderly, young adults, and low-income families.  More than half the pre-tax income of these three groups goes to servicing debt.  Nowadays, however, the “company store” is headquartered on Wall Street.

    Debt is driving this system of auto-cannibalism which, by every measure of social wellbeing, is relentlessly turning a developed country into an underdeveloped one.

    Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are back.  Is a political resistance to debt servitude once again imaginable?

    Steve Fraser is a historian, writer, and editor-at-large for New Labor Forum, co-founder of the American Empire Project, and TomDispatch regular. He is, most recently, the author of Wall Street: America’s Dream Palace. He teaches at Columbia University. This essay will appear in the next issue of Jacobinmagazine.

    Libertarian Developer’s Ayn Rand Fantasy Is Detroit’s Latest Nightmare

    Libertarian real estate developer wants to buy 982-acre Detroit park and start an independent nation, selling citizenships at $300,000.

    January 30, 2013  |  

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    Check out what the loopy Ayn Randroids are up to now. In long-suffering Detroit, a libertarian real estate developer wants to buy a civic crown jewel, Belle Isle, the 982-acre park designed by Frederick Law Olmstead—think the  Motor City’s Central Park—and turn it into an independent nation, selling citizenships at $300,000 per. Not, mind you, out of any mercenary motives, says would-be founder Rodney Lockwood—but just “to provide an economic and social laboratory for a society which effectively addresses some of the most important problems of American, and the western world.” (Sic.)

    Address how? Well, let’s say I’ve never seen a  document that better reveals the extent to which, for libertarians, “liberty” means the opposite of liberty—at least since Rick Santorum held up the company town in which his grandpa was entombed as a beacon of freedom.

    An aspiring Ayn Rand himself, Lockwood has set out his vision in a “novel,” poetically titled Belle Isle: Detroit’s Game Changer. Although he’s actually done the master one better, by imagining he can get his utopia built. Last week he presented the plan, alongside a retired Chrysler executive, a charter school entrepreneur (who apparently enjoys a cameo in the novel running one of the island’s two K-12 schools) and a senior economist at the Mackinac Center for Public Policy, to what  The Detroit News called “a select group of movers and shakers at the tony Detroit Athletic Club,” who included the president and CEO of the Detroit Regional Chamber of Commerce.

    Never let it be said Rod Lockwood (perfect pornstar name? You be the judge) hasn’t thought this thing through. The plan is foolproof: “Belle Isle is sold by the City of Detroit to a group of investors for $1 billion. The island is then developed into a city-state of 35,000 people, with its own laws, customs and currency, under United States supervision as a Commonwealth.” Relations with neighboring, impoverished Detroit will be naught but copacetic, and not exploitative at all: “Plants will be built across the Detroit River…. with the engineering and management functions on Belle Isle. Companies from all over the world will locate on Belle Isle, bringing in massive amounts of capital and GDP.” (Because, you know, tax-dodging international financiers of the sort a scheme like this attracts are just desperate to open and operate factories.) Government will be limited to ten percent or less of GDP, “by constitutional dictate. The social safety net is operated charities, which are highly encouraged and supported by the government.”

    Although, on Belle Isle, “the word ‘Government’ is discouraged and replaced with the word ‘Service’ in the name of buildings.” Note the verb-tense slippage between present and future throughout. Lockwood is a realist.

    He says what he imagines is a “Midwest Tiger”—helpfully explaining that his self-bestowed nickname is “a play on the label given Singapore as the ‘Asian Tiger.’ Singapore, in recent decades, has transformed itself into the most dynamic economy in the world, through low regulation, low taxes and business-friendly practices.”

    Singapore. You know: that libertarian paradise where  chewing gum is banned; thousands of people each year are  sentenced to whippings with rattan canes for such offenses as overstaying visas and spray-painting buildings; the punishment for littering can be $1,000, a term of forced labor and being required to wear a sign reading “I am a litter lout”; and where pornography, criticizing religion, connecting to an unsecured Wi-Fi hotspot and (yes!) over-exuberant hugging are  all banned. Freedom!

    What are the Commonwealth’s other inspirations, you ask? “The country of Liechtenstein, which, although a monarchy, has a very effective government.”

    Don’t Put a Fork in It: On the Perils of Genetically Engineered Salmon

    While most Americans were enjoying the holiday season or stressing out over the nation’s imminent leap off the so-called fiscal cliff, the Food and Drug Administration delivered some big news as quietly as possible.Fishy Genes. (OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib)

    On December 21, the agency announced that AquaBounty’s genetically engineered salmon had cleared the final hurdle before clinching FDA approval.

    Despite insufficient testing and widespread consumer opposition, AquaBounty’s food experiment is dangerously close to becoming the first genetically engineered animal produced for human consumption. Yes, a newfangled fish may soon land on a dinner plate near you.

    For those who have been following this news for the past several years, the timing of the FDA’s release of its draft environmental assessment — the Friday before Christmas — was no surprise. But the news was still frightening: The FDA may give this transgenic animal the green light under a new approval process that treats the fish as an “animal drug.”

    Prefer your salmon without those eel genes spliced into its DNA? Pay close attention because this frankenfish may hit the market without any sort of label.

    It seems that AquaBounty and the FDA don’t believe consumers deserve the right to know whether the fish we eat is genetically engineered. Those who have demanded labeling for genetically engineered food will be unable to identify this transgenic salmon from standard farm-raised varieties.

    Not only does this ignore our fundamental right to know what we are putting on our plates, it’s also a bad business decision. It’s entirely possible that many Americans will avoid purchasing any salmon for fear it is genetically engineered.

    AquaBounty, the biotech company responsible for bringing us this fishy salmon, used its own data to convince the FDA that it is safe to eat. But AquaBounty’s profits are inextricably linked to approval of this salmon. It’s outrageous that the FDA would take AquaBounty’s word over that of dozens of lawmakers and scientists, including experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Fish and Wildlife Service, not to mention thousands of concerned consumers.

    The FDA has the difficult task of protecting consumer safety, but it’s hard to take it seriously when it comes to genetically engineered salmon. So far, they’ve failed to conduct the appropriate studies to determine if the fish is safe to eat. Independent scientists have skewered the FDA’s process, noting that serious environmental concerns have not been examined while food safety issues related to hormone levels and allergies have been glossed over.

    Even AquaBounty’s claim of faster growth rates is suspect. The company hasn’t yet demonstrated that its transgenic salmon can grow faster than salmon without its new traits. And that’s the whole reason they say it should be approved. SalmoBreed AS, a Norwegian company specializing in the selective breeding of Atlantic salmon, has directly challenged AquaBounty on this point.

    By releasing an environmental assessment instead of a more thorough environmental impact statement, the FDA has failed to fully consider the threat this controversial new fish could pose to wild fish populations.

    While the FDA is close to approving genetically engineered salmon for consumers, Congress can still keep them from unleashing this dangerous experiment. Consumers don’t have million-dollar accounts with K Street lobbyists, but we do have a powerful voice of opposition, one that has effectively put the brakes on this untested laboratory experiment for more than two years. Members of Congress are speaking out against this controversial fish. Let your elected officials know you don’t want this frankenfish on your plate. Visit Foodandwaterwatch.org to find out how.

    This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License

    Wenonah Hauter

    Wenonah Hauter is the executive director of the consumer advocacy group Food & Water Watch. She has worked extensively on energy, food, water and environmental issues at the national, state and local level. Experienced in developing policy positions and legislative strategies, she is also a skilled and accomplished organizer, having lobbied and developed grassroots field strategy and action plans.

    Horsemeat May Have Been On Sale For A Year

    The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has revealed that burgers contaminated with horsemeat may have been on sale for up to a year.

    Earlier this month, Tesco and a number of other supermarkets removed certain brands of frozen beef burgers from their shelves after a study revealed they contained the horsemeat.

    The contaminated meat was processed at the Silvercrest plant in County Monaghan, but it is believed the the horsemeat came from a plant in Poland.

    In questioning by the Commons Environment Committee, FSA chief executive Catherine Brown said the agency is investigating how long the contaminated meat might been in use but the estimate was about 12 months.

    "The probable limit of possibility ... is a year because it's been a year that this supplier has been supplying," she said.

    Ms Brown also said that  Irish authorities believed that "filler product" found in the contaminated burgers came from Poland and was a mixture of beef and horse offcuts.

    Asked if the burgers posed a health risk, Ms Brown said: "There is no evidence at the moment that there has been any unsafe food produced."

    Earlier, Tesco said it had dropped Silvercrest as a supplier following an investigation into why the horsemeat was used in its products.

    The supermarket giant's technical director, Tim Smith, said that new DNA testing would be introduced for all of its meat products to avoid similar mistakes happening again.

    "The evidence tells us that our frozen burger supplier, Silvercrest, used meat in our products that did not come from the list of approved suppliers we gave them," he said.

    "Nor was the meat from the UK or Ireland, despite our instruction that only beef from the UK and Ireland should be used in our frozen beef burgers.

    "Consequently we have decided not to take products from that supplier in future. We took that decision with regret but the breach of trust is simply too great."

    Mr Smith added: "Ultimately Tesco is responsible for the food we sell, so it is not enough just to stop using the supplier.

    "To underpin the strong measures already in place, we will now introduce a comprehensive system of DNA testing across our meat products. This will identify any deviation from our high standards."

    Silvercrest said that it "never knowingly bought or processed horsemeat", and insisted that all of its purchases were from approved and licensed EU plants.

    Health Minister Anna Soubry also faced repeated questioning from the MPs regarding where responsibility for where the contamination lay.

    "We don't know whether or not the Irish, the people that made the burgers, didn't themselves know that the meat coming in was in some way contaminated. We don't know that yet," she said.

    "So therefore it could be that there is a genuine fault in Poland with the particular supplier of this meat, either deliberately or not deliberately because they haven't been doing the right checks.

    "And until we can establish all those facts we can't roll it back in order to find out where the responsibility lies."

    The study examining the authenticity of a number of beef burgers, beef meals and salami products available from retail outlets in Ireland found horsemeat accounted for approximately 29% of the content in one sample of Tesco Everyday Value Beef Burgers.

    The findings sparked a public outcry and 10 million burgers were taken off shelves.

    Alabama hostage crisis enters second day, 6-year-old held in bunker

    Screenshot from YouTube user InsaneMrBrain

    Screenshot from YouTube user InsaneMrBrain

    A 6-year-old boy has been held hostage for nearly 24 hours after a gunman shot and killed a bus driver and took the child to a bunker in the south eastern town of Midland City, Alabama. Witnesses say the assailant wanted to take two children hostage.

    The hostage situation has been developing since Tuesday afternoon. Authorities have been communicating with the suspect via a PCP pipe connected to his bunker. The captor reportedly told police that he will not hurt the child.

    FBI agents, a swat team, State troopers and neighboring police departments have all descended on the scene to aid the local sheriff’s office to aid in the hostage crisis. The FBI took charge of the case early Wednesday morning.

    A bomb squad was also deployed as a “precautionary measure” although there is no evidence that any type of explosive device is at the scene.

    The Dale County Sherriff's told the local WBMA-TV that the suspect, identified by a report on DothanEagle.com as 67-year-old Jimmy Lee Dykes, shot the driver after he refused to allow the six-year-old child off of the bus.

    The driver, who was later identified as 66-year-old Charles Albert Poland, Jr, died from multiple gunshot wounds.

    ­

    ‘Hostage taker wanted two children’

    Neighbors said the assailant did not appear to know the child he snatched from the bus and reportedly has no children of his own.

    Witnesses and neighbors said the assailant then fled into a homemade bunker located on his property.

    A local resident, Michael Creel, told local NBC affiliate WSFA 12 News that he and his sister went outside after hearing gunshots.

    “Me and her started running down the road,” Creel said. “That’s when I realized the bus had its siren going off. Kids were filing out, running down the hill toward the church.”

    Creel then attempted to chase the suspect down before he reached the bunker.

    “He’s 67 years old, so I figured I could catch him,” Creel said. “Apparently he didn’t go through the field like I thought. He’s got a four-foot-wide, about six-foot-long, eight-foot-deep homemade bomb shelter. It’s got about three to four feet of sand on top of it. If you didn’t know it was there, you wouldn’t (notice it).”

    Creel said he spoke with some of the students who were on the bus and was told that Dykes had actually attempted to take two children before fleeing.

    One girl reportedly told Creel that the suspect had told the driver he needed two children "between the ages of 6 and 8."

    "He was only able to get a hold of one," Creel said, adding that the kidnapped child had fainted before he was snatched up.

    Michael Senn, a local minister, said the children took shelter behind his church after the shooting and many appeared to be in shock.

    "I spoke to a young guy, 13-years-old, that was really traumatized," Senn said. The boy, who is "really good friends" with the hostage, witnessed the entire incident transpire.

    One girl on board told Senn the driver had been shot four times.

    Dykes was arrested in December 2012 in a gun-related incident and charged with menacing. He was scheduled to be in court Wednesday for a bench trial regarding the matter.

    The office of Alabama Governor Robert Bentley says they are closely monitoring the situation.

    Obama’s Non-Closing of Gitmo

    The New York Times' Charlie Savage reported yesterday that the State Department "reassigned Daniel Fried, the special envoy for closing the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and will not replace him". That move obviously confirms what has long been assumed: that the camp will remain open indefinitely and Obama's flamboyant first-day-in-office vow will go unfulfilled. Dozens of the current camp detainees have long been cleared by Pentagon reviews for release - including Adnan Farhan Abdul Latif, a 36-year-old Yemeni who died at the camp in September after almost 11 years in a cage despite never having been charged with a crime. Like so many of his fellow detainees, his efforts to secure his release were vigorously (and successfully) thwarted by the Obama administration.An image of President Barack Obama is put up in the lobby of the headquarters of the US naval station at Guantánamo Bay. (Photograph: Brennan Linsley/AP)

    Perfectly symbolizing the trajectory of the Obama presidency, this close-Guantánamo envoy will now "become the department's coordinator for sanctions policy". Marcy Wheeler summarizes the shift this way: "Rather than Close Gitmo, We'll Just Intercept More Medical Goods for Iran". She notes that this reflects "how we've changed our human rights priorities". Several days ago, Savage described how the Obama DOJ is ignoring its own military prosecutors' views in order to charge GITMO detainees in its military commissions with crimes that were not even recognized as violations of the laws of war.

    Whenever the subject is raised of Obama's failure to close Gitmo, the same excuse is instantly offered on his behalf: he tried to do so but Congress (including liberals like Russ Feingold and Bernie Sanders) thwarted him by refusing to fund the closing. As I documented at length last July, this excuse is wildly incomplete and misleading. When it comes to the failure to close Gitmo, this "Congress-prevented-Obama" claim has now taken on zombie status - it will never die no matter how clearly and often it is debunked - but it's still worth emphasizing the reality.

    I won't repeat all of the details, citations and supporting evidence - see here - but there are two indisputable facts that should always be included in this narrative. The first is that what made Guantánamo such a travesty of justice was not its geographic locale in the Caribbean Sea, but rather its system of indefinite detention: that people were put in cages, often for life, without any charges or due process. Long before Congress ever acted, Obama's plan was to preserve and continue that core injustice - indefinite detention - but simply moved onto US soil.

    Put simply, Obama's plan was never to close Gitmo as much as it was to re-locate it to Illinois: to what the ACLU dubbed "Gitmo North". That's why ACLU Executive Director Anthony Romero said of Obama's 2009 "close-Gitmo" plan that it "is hardly a meaningful step forward" and that "while the Obama administration inherited the Guantánamo debacle, this current move is its own affirmative adoption of those policies." That's because, he said, "the administration plans to continue its predecessor's policy of indefinite detention without charge or trial for some detainees, with only a change of location."

    And the reason Democratic Senators such as Feingold voted against funding Gitmo's closing wasn't because they were afraid to support its closing. It was because they refused to fund the closing until they saw Obama's specific plan, because they did not want to support the importation of Gitmo's indefinite detention system onto US soil, as Obama expressly intended.

    In sum, Obama's "closing Gitmo" plan was vintage Obama: a pretty symbolic gesture designed to enable Democrats to feel good while retaining the core powers that constituted the injustice in the first place. As the ACLU's Romero said: "shutting down Guantánamo will be nothing more than a symbolic gesture if we continue its lawless policies onshore." Again, had Obama had his way - had Congress immediately approved his plan in full - the system of indefinite detention that makes Gitmo such a disgrace would have continued in full, just in a different locale.

    Reading the full article with updates at The Guardian

    © 2012 Guardian News and Media Limited

    Glenn Greenwald

    Towards a World War III Scenario? The Role of Israel in Triggering an Attack...

    Towards a World War III Scenario? The Role of Israel in Triggering an Attack on Iran

    This article was first published in August 2010.

    For further details consult Michel Chossudovsky’s book, 

    Towards a World War III Scenario: The Dangers of Nuclear War 

    available in hardcover or pdf from Global Research.

    The stockpiling and deployment of advanced weapons systems directed against Iran started in the immediate wake of the 2003 bombing and invasion of Iraq. From the outset, these war plans were led by the US, in liaison with NATO and Israel.

    Following the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the Bush administration identified Iran and Syria as the next stage of “the road map to war”. US military sources intimated that an aerial attack on Iran could involve a large scale deployment comparable to the US “shock and awe” bombing raids on Iraq in March 2003:

    “American air strikes on Iran would vastly exceed the scope of the 1981 Israeli attack on the Osiraq nuclear center in Iraq, and would more resemble the opening days of the 2003 air campaign against Iraq.(See Globalsecurity )

    “Theater Iran Near Term”

    Code named by US military planners as TIRANNT, “Theater Iran Near Term”, simulations of an attack on Iran were initiated in May 2003 “when modelers and intelligence specialists pulled together the data needed for theater-level (meaning large-scale) scenario analysis for Iran.” ( (William Arkin, Washington Post, 16 April 2006).

    The scenarios identified several thousand targets inside Iran as part of a “Shock and Awe” Blitzkrieg:

    “The analysis, called TIRANNT, for “Theater Iran Near Term,” was coupled with a mock scenario for a Marine Corps invasion and a simulation of the Iranian missile force. U.S. and British planners conducted a Caspian Sea war game around the same time. And Bush directed the U.S. Strategic Command to draw up a global strike war plan for an attack against Iranian weapons of mass destruction. All of this will ultimately feed into a new war plan for “major combat operations” against Iran that military sources confirm now [April 2006] exists in draft form.

    … Under TIRANNT, Army and U.S. Central Command planners have been examining both near-term and out-year scenarios for war with Iran, including all aspects of a major combat operation, from mobilization and deployment of forces through postwar stability operations after regime change.” (William Arkin, Washington Post, 16 April 2006)

    Different “theater scenarios” for an all out attack on Iran had been contemplated:  “The US army, navy, air force and marines have all prepared battle plans and spent four years building bases and training for “Operation Iranian Freedom”. Admiral Fallon, the new head of US Central Command, has inherited computerized plans under the name TIRANNT (Theatre Iran Near Term).” (New Statesman, February 19, 2007)

    In 2004, drawing upon the initial war scenarios under TIRANNT,  Vice President Dick Cheney instructed USSTRATCOM to draw up a “contingency plan” of a large scale military operation directed against Iran “to be employed in response to another 9/11-type terrorist attack on the United States” on the presumption that the government in Tehran would be behind the terrorist plot. The plan included the pre-emptive use of nuclear weapons against a non-nuclear state:

    “The plan includes a large-scale air assault on Iran employing both conventional and tactical nuclear weapons. Within Iran there are more than 450 major strategic targets, including numerous suspected nuclear-weapons-program development sites. Many of the targets are hardened or are deep underground and could not be taken out by conventional weapons, hence the nuclear option. As in the case of Iraq, the response is not conditional on Iran actually being involved in the act of terrorism directed against the United States. Several senior Air Force officers involved in the planning are reportedly appalled at the implications of what they are doing—that Iran is being set up for an unprovoked nuclear attack—but no one is prepared to damage his career by posing any objections.” (Philip Giraldi, Deep Background,The American Conservative  August 2005)

    The Military Road Map: “First Iraq, then Iran”

    The decision to target Iran under TIRANNT was part of the broader process of military planning and sequencing of military operations. Already under the Clinton administration, US Central Command (USCENTCOM) had formulated  “in war theater plans” to invade first Iraq and then Iran. Access to Middle East oil was the stated strategic objective:

    “The broad national security interests and objectives expressed in the President’s National Security Strategy (NSS) and the Chairman’s National Military Strategy (NMS) form the foundation of the United States Central Command’s theater strategy. The NSS directs implementation of a strategy of dual containment of the rogue states of Iraq and Iran as long as those states pose a threat to U.S. interests, to other states in the region, and to their own citizens. Dual containment is designed to maintain the balance of power in the region without depending on either Iraq or Iran. USCENTCOM’s theater strategy is interest-based and threat-focused. The purpose of U.S. engagement, as espoused in the NSS, is to protect the United States’ vital interest in the region – uninterrupted, secure U.S./Allied access to Gulf oil.” (USCENTCOM, http://www.milnet.com/milnet/pentagon/centcom/chap1/stratgic.htm#USPolicy, link no longer active, archived at http://tinyurl.com/37gafu9)

    The war on Iran was viewed as part of a succession of military operations.  According to (former) NATO Commander General Wesley Clark, the Pentagon’s military road-map consisted of a sequence of countries: “[The] Five-year campaign plan [includes]… a total of seven countries, beginning with Iraq, then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Iran, Somalia and Sudan.”  In “Winning Modern Wars” (page 130) General Clark states the following:

    “As I went back through the Pentagon in November 2001, one of the senior military staff officers had time for a chat. Yes, we were still on track for going against Iraq, he said. But there was more. This was being discussed as part of a five-year campaign plan, he said, and there were a total of seven countries, beginning with Iraq, then Syria, Lebanon, Libya, Iran, Somalia and Sudan. (See Secret 2001 Pentagon Plan to Attack Lebanon, Global Research, July 23, 2006)

    The Role of Israel

    There has been much debate regarding the role of Israel in initiating an attack against Iran.

    Israel is part of a military alliance. Tel Aviv is not a prime mover. It does not have a separate and distinct military agenda.

    Israel is integrated into the “war plan for major combat operations” against Iran formulated in 2006 by US Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM). In the context of large scale military operations, an uncoordinated unilateral military action by one coalition partner, namely Israel, is from a military and strategic point almost an impossibility. Israel is a de facto member of NATO. Any action by Israel would require a “green light” from Washington.

    An attack by Israel could, however, be used as “the trigger mechanism” which would unleash an all out war against Iran, as well retaliation by Iran directed against Israel.

    In this regard, there are indications that Washington might envisage the option of an initial (US backed) attack by Israel  rather than an outright US-led military operation directed against Iran. The Israeli attack –although led in close liaison with the Pentagon and NATO– would be presented to public opinion as a unilateral decision by Tel Aviv. It would then be used by Washington to justify, in the eyes of World opinion, a military intervention of the US and NATO with a view to “defending Israel”, rather than attacking Iran. Under existing military cooperation agreements, both the US and NATO would be “obligated” to “defend Israel” against Iran and Syria.

    It is worth noting, in this regard, that at the outset of Bush’s second term, (former) Vice President Dick Cheney hinted, in no uncertain terms, that Iran was “right at the top of the list” of the “rogue enemies” of America, and that Israel would, so to speak, “be doing the bombing for us”, without US military involvement and without us putting pressure on them “to do it” (See Michel Chossudovsky, Planned US-Israeli Attack on Iran, Global Research, May 1, 2005): According to Cheney:

    “One of the concerns people have is that Israel might do it without being asked… Given the fact that Iran has a stated policy that their objective is the destruction of Israel, the Israelis might well decide to act first, and let the rest of the world worry about cleaning up the diplomatic mess afterwards,” (Dick Cheney, quoted from an MSNBC Interview, January 2005)

    Commenting the Vice President’s assertion, former National Security adviser Zbigniew Brzezinski in an interview on PBS, confirmed with some apprehension, yes: Cheney wants Prime Minister Ariel Sharon to act on America’s behalf and “do it” for us:

    “Iran I think is more ambiguous. And there the issue is certainly not tyranny; it’s nuclear weapons. And the vice president today in a kind of a strange parallel statement to this declaration of freedom hinted that the Israelis may do it and in fact used language which sounds like a justification or even an encouragement for the Israelis to do it.”

    What we are dealing with is a joint US-NATO-Israel  military operation to bomb Iran, which has been in the active planning stage since 2004. Officials in the Defense Department, under Bush and Obama, have been working assiduously with their Israeli military and intelligence counterparts, carefully identifying targets inside Iran. In practical military terms, any action by Israel would have to be planned and coordinated at the highest levels of the US led coalition.

    An attack by Israel would also require coordinated US-NATO logistical support, particularly with regard to Israel’s air defense system, which since January 2009 is fully integrated into that of the US and NATO. (See Michel Chossudovsky,  Unusually Large U.S. Weapons Shipment to Israel: Are the US and Israel Planning a Broader Middle East War?  Global Research, January 11,2009)

    Israel’s X band radar system established in early 2009 with US technical support has “integrate[d] Israel’s missile defenses with the U.S. global missile [Space-based] detection network, which includes satellites, Aegis ships on the Mediterranean, Persian Gulf and Red Sea, and land-based Patriot radars and interceptors.” (Defense Talk.com, January 6, 2009,)

    What this means is that Washington ultimately calls the shots. The US rather than Israel controls the air defense system: ”’This is and will remain a U.S. radar system,’ Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said. ‘So this is not something we are giving or selling to the Israelis and it is something that will likely require U.S. personnel on-site to operate.’” (Quoted in Israel National News, January 9, 2009).

    The US military oversees Israel’s Air Defense system, which is integrated into the Pentagon’s global system. In other words, Israel cannot launch a war against Iran without Washington’s consent. Hence the importance of the so-called “Green Light” legislation in the US Congress sponsored by the Republican party under House Resolution 1553, which explicitly supports an Israeli attakc on Iran:

    “The measure, introduced by Texas Republican Louie Gohmert and 46 of his colleagues, endorses Israel’s use of “all means necessary” against Iran “including the use of military force.” … “We’ve got to get this done. We need to show our support for Israel. We need to quit playing games with this critical ally in such a difficult area.”’ (See Webster Tarpley, Fidel Castro Warns of Imminent Nuclear War; Admiral Mullen Threatens Iran; US-Israel Vs. Iran-Hezbollah Confrontation Builds On, Global Research, August 10, 2010)

    In practice, the proposed legislation is a “Green Light” to the White House and the Pentagon rather than to Israel. It constitutes a rubber stamp to a US sponsored war on Iran which uses Israel as a convenient military launch pad. It also serves as a justification to wage war with a view to defending Israel.

    In this context, Israel could indeed provide the pretext to wage war, in response to alleged Hamas or Hezbollah attacks and/or the triggering of hostilities on the border of Israel with Lebanon. What is crucial to understand is that a minor ”incident” could be used as a pretext to spark off a major military operation against Iran.

    Known to US military planners, Israel (rather than the USA) would be the first target of military retaliation by Iran. Broadly speaking, Israelis would be the victims of the machinations of both Washington and their own government. It is, in this regard, absolutely crucial that Israelis forcefully oppose any action by the Netanyahu government to attack Iran.

    Global Warfare: The Role of US Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM)

    Global military operations are coordinated out of US Strategic Command Headquarters (USSTRATCOM) at the Offutt Air Force base in Nebraska, in liaison with the regional commands of the unified combatant commands (e.g.. US Central Command  in Florida, which is responsible for the Middle East-Central Asian region, See map below)  as well as coalition command units in Israel, Turkey, the Persian Gulf and the Diego Garcia military base in the Indian Ocean.  Military planning and decision making at a country level by individual allies of US-NATO as well as “partner nations” is integrated into a global military design including the weaponization of space.

    Under its new mandate, USSTRATCOM has a responsibility for “overseeing a global strike plan” consisting of both conventional and nuclear weapons. In military jargon, it is slated to play the role of “a global integrator charged with the missions of Space Operations; Information Operations; Integrated Missile Defense; Global Command & Control; Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance; Global Strike; and Strategic Deterrence…. ”

    USSTRATCOM’s responsibilities include: “leading, planning, & executing strategic deterrence operations” at a global level, “synchronizing global missile defense plans and operations”, “synchronizing regional combat plans”, etc. USSTRATCOM is the lead agency in the coordination of modern warfare.

    In January 2005, at the outset of the military deployment and build-up directed against Iran, USSTRATCOM was identified as “the lead Combatant Command for integration and synchronization of DoD-wide efforts in combating weapons of mass destruction.” (Michel Chossudovsky, Nuclear War against Iran, Global Research, January 3, 2006).

    What this means is that the coordination of a large scale attack on Iran, including the various scenarios of escalation in and beyond the broader Middle East Central Asian region would be coordinated by USSTRATCOM.

    Map: US Central Command’s Area of Jurisdiction

    Tactical Nuclear Weapons directed against Iran

    Confirmed by military documents as well as official statements, both the US and Israel contemplate the use of nuclear weapons directed against Iran. In 2006, U.S. Strategic Command (USSTRATCOM) announced it had achieved an operational capability for rapidly striking targets around the globe using nuclear or conventional weapons. This announcement was made after the conduct of military simulations pertaining to a US led nuclear attack against a fictional country. (David Ruppe, Preemptive Nuclear War in a State of Readiness: U.S. Command Declares Global Strike Capability, Global Security Newswire, December 2, 2005)

    Continuity in relation to the Bush-Cheney era:  President Obama has largely endorsed the doctrine of pre-emptive use of nuclear weapons formulated by the previous administration. Under the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review, the Obama administration confirmed  “that it is reserving the right to use nuclear weapons against Iran” for its non-compliance with US demands regarding its alleged (nonexistent) nuclear weapons program. (U.S. Nuclear Option on Iran Linked to Israeli Attack Threat – IPS ipsnews.net, April 23, 2010). The Obama administration has also intimated that it would use nukes in the case of an Iranian response to an Israeli attack on Iran. (Ibid). Israel  has also drawn up its own “secret plans” to bomb Iran with tactical nuclear weapons:

    “Israeli military commanders believe conventional strikes may no longer be enough to annihilate increasingly well-defended enrichment facilities. Several have been built beneath at least 70ft of concrete and rock. However, the nuclear-tipped bunker-busters would be used only if a conventional attack was ruled out and if the United States declined to intervene, senior sources said.”(Revealed: Israel plans nuclear strike on Iran – Times Online, January 7, 2007)

    Obama’s statements on the use of nuclear weapons against Iran and North Korea are consistent with post 9/11 US nuclear weapons doctrine, which allows for the use of tactical nuclear weapons in the conventional war theater.

    Through a propaganda campaign which has enlisted the support of “authoritative” nuclear scientists, mini-nukes are upheld as an instrument of peace, namely a means to combating “Islamic terrorism” and instating Western style “democracy” in Iran. The low-yield nukes have been cleared for “battlefield use”. They are slated to be used against Iran and Syria in the next stage of America’s “war on Terrorism” alongside conventional weapons.

    “Administration officials argue that low-yield nuclear weapons are needed as a credible deterrent against rogue states. [Iran, Syria, North Korea] Their logic is that existing nuclear weapons are too destructive to be used except in a full-scale nuclear war. Potential enemies realize this, thus they do not consider the threat of nuclear retaliation to be credible. However, low-yield nuclear weapons are less destructive, thus might conceivably be used. That would make them more effective as a deterrent.” (Opponents Surprised By Elimination of Nuke Research Funds Defense News November 29, 2004)

    The preferred nuclear weapon to be used against Iran are tactical nuclear weapons (Made in America), namely bunker buster bombs with nuclear warheads (e.g. B61.11), with an explosive capacity between one third to six times a Hiroshima bomb. The B61-11 is the “nuclear version” of the “conventional”  BLU 113. or Guided Bomb Unit GBU-28. It can be delivered in much same way as the conventional bunker buster bomb. (See Michel Chossudovsky, http://www.globalresearch.ca/articles/CHO112C.html, see also http://www.thebulletin.org/article_nn.php?art_ofn=jf03norris) . While the US does not contemplate the use of strategic thermonuclear weapons against Iran, Israel’s nuclear arsenal is largely composed of thermonuclear bombs which are deployed and could be used in a war with Iran. Under Israel’s Jericho‐III missile system with a range between 4,800 km to 6,500 km, all Iran would be within reach.


    Conventional bunker buster Guided Bomb Unit GBU-27


    B61 bunker buster bomb

    Radiactive Fallout

    The issue of radioactive fallout and contamination, while casually dismissed  by US-NATO military analysts, would be devastating, potentially affecting a large area of  the broader Middle East (including Israel) and Central Asian region.

    In an utterly twisted logic, nuclear weapons are presented as a means to building peace and preventing “collateral damage”.  Iran’s nonexistent nuclear weapons are a threat to global security, whereas those of the US  and Israel are instruments of peace” harmless to the surrounding civilian population“.

    “The Mother of All Bombs” (MOAB) Slated to be Used against Iran

    Of military significance within the US conventional weapons arsenal is the 21,500-pound “monster weapon” nicknamed the “mother of all bombs” The GBU-43/B or Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb (MOAB) was categorized “as the most powerful non-nuclear weapon ever designed” with the the largest yield in the US conventional arsenal. The MOAB was tested in early March 2003 before being deployed to the Iraq war theater. According to US military sources, The Joint Chiefs of Staff  had advised the government of  Saddam Hussein prior to launching the 2003 that the “mother of all bombs” was to be used against Iraq. (There were unconfirmed reports that it had been used in Iraq).

    The US Department of Defence has confirmed in October 2009 that it intends to use the “Mother of All Bombs” (MOAB) against Iran. The MOAB is said to be  ”ideally suited to hit deeply buried nuclear facilities such as Natanz or Qom in Iran” (Jonathan Karl, Is the U.S. Preparing to Bomb Iran? ABC News, October 9, 2009). The truth of the matter is that the MOAB, given its explosive capacity, would result in extremely large civilian casualties. It is a conventional “killing machine” with a nuclear type mushroom cloud.

    The procurement of four MOABs was commissioned in October 2009 at the hefty cost of $58.4 million, ($14.6 million for each bomb). This amount  includes the costs of development and testing as well as integration of the MOAB bombs onto B-2 stealth bombers.(Ibid). This procurement is directly linked to war preparations in relation to Iran. The notification was contained in a 93-page “reprogramming memo” which included the following instructions:

    “The Department has an Urgent Operational Need (UON) for the capability to strike hard and deeply buried targets in high threat environments. The MOP [Mother of All Bombs] is the weapon of choice to meet the requirements of the UON [Urgent Operational Need].” It further states that the request is endorsed by Pacific Command (which has responsibility over North Korea) and Central Command (which has responsibility over Iran).” (ABC News,  op cit, emphasis added). To consult the reprogramming request (pdf) click here

    The Pentagon is planning on a process of extensive destruction of Iran’s infrastructure and mass civilian casualties through the combined use of tactical nukes and monster conventional mushroom cloud bombs, including the MOAB and the larger GBU-57A/B or Massive Ordnance Penetrator (MOP), which surpasses the MOAB in terms of explosive capacity.

    The MOP is described as “a powerful new bomb aimed squarely at the underground nuclear facilities of Iran and North Korea. The gargantuan bomb—longer than 11 persons standing shoulder-to-shoulder [see image below] or more than 20 feet base to nose” (See Edwin Black, “Super Bunker-Buster Bombs Fast-Tracked for Possible Use Against Iran and North Korea Nuclear Programs”, Cutting Edge, September 21 2009)

    These are WMDs in the true sense of the word. The not so hidden objective of the MOAB and MOP, including the American nickname used to casually describe the MOAB (“mother of all bombs’), is “mass destruction” and mass civilian casualties with a view to instilling fear and despair.


    “Mother of All Bombs” (MOAB)

    GBU-57A/B Mass Ordnance Penetrator (MOP)


    MOAB: screen shots of test: explosion and mushroom cloud

    State of the Art Weaponry: “War Made Possible Through New Technologies”

    The process of US military decision making in relation to Iran is supported by Star Wars, the militarization of outer space and the revolution in communications and information systems. Given the advances in military technology and the development of new weapons systems, an attack on Iran could be significantly different in terms of the mix of weapons systems, when compared to the March 2003 Blitzkrieg launched against Iraq. The Iran operation is slated to use the most advanced weapons systems in support of its aerial attacks. In all likelihood, new weapons systems will be tested.

    The 2000 Project of the New American Century (PNAC) document entitled Rebuilding American Defenses, outlined the mandate of the US military in terms of large scale theater wars, to be waged simultaneously in different regions of the World:

    “Fight and decisively win multiple, simultaneous major theater wars”. 

    This formulation is tantamount to a global war of conquest by a single imperial superpower. The PNAC document also called for the transformation of  U.S. forces to exploit the “revolution in military affairs”, namely the implementation of  “war made possible through new technologies”. (See Project for a New American Century, Rebuilding Americas Defenses  Washington DC, September 2000, pdf).  The latter consists in developing and perfecting a state of the art global killing machine based on an arsenal of sophisticated new weaponry, which would eventually replace the existing paradigms.

    “Thus, it can be foreseen that the process of transformation will in fact be a two-stage process: first of transition, then of more thoroughgoing transformation. The breakpoint will come when a preponderance of new weapons systems begins to enter service, perhaps when, for example, unmanned aerial vehicles begin to be as numerous as manned aircraft. In this regard, the Pentagon should be very wary of making large investments in new programs – tanks, planes, aircraft carriers, for example – that would commit U.S. forces to current paradigms of warfare for many decades to come. (Ibid, emphasis added)

    The war on Iran could indeed mark this crucial breakpoint, with new space-based weapons systems being applied with a view to disabling an enemy which has significant conventional military capabilities including more than half a million ground forces.

    Electromagnetic Weapons

    Electromagnetic weapons could be used to destabilize Iran’s communications systems, disable electric power generation, undermine and destabilize command and control, government infrastructure, transportation, energy, etc.  Within the same family of weapons, environmental modifications techniques (ENMOD) (weather warfare) developed under the HAARP programme could also be applied. (See Michel Chossudovsky, “Owning the Weather” for Military Use, Global Research, September 27, 2004). These weapons systems are fully operational. In this context, te US Air Force document AF 2025 explicitly acknowledgedthe military applications of weather modification technologies:

    “Weather modification will become a part of domestic and international security and could be done unilaterally… It could have offensive and defensive applications and even be used for deterrence purposes. The ability to generate precipitation, fog, and storms on earth or to modify space weather, improve communications through ionospheric modification (the use of ionospheric mirrors), and the production of artificial weather all are a part of an integrated set of technologies which can provide substantial increase in US, or degraded capability in an adversary, to achieve global awareness, reach, and power.” (Air Force 2025 Final Report, See also US Air Force: Weather as a Force Multiplier: Owning the Weather in 2025, AF2025 v3c15-1 | Weather as a Force Multiplier: Owning… | (Ch 1) at www.fas.org).

    Electromagnetic radiation enabling “remote health impairment” might also be envisaged in the war theater. (See Mojmir Babacek, Electromagnetic and Informational Weapons:, Global Research, August 6, 2004). In turn, new uses of biological weapons by the US military might also be envisaged as suggested by the PNAC: “[A]dvanced forms of biological warfare that can “target” specific genotypes may transform biological warfare from the realm of terror to a politically useful tool.” (PNAC, op cit., p. 60).

    Iran’s Military Capabilities: Medium and Long Range Missiles

    Iran has advanced military capabilities, including medium and long range missiles capable of reaching targets in Israel and the Gulf States. Hence the emphasis by the US-NATO Israel alliance on the use of nuclear weapons, which are slated to be used either pr-emptively or in response to an Iranian retaliatory missile attack.


    Range of Iran’s Shahab Missiles. Copyright Washington Post

    In November 2006, Iran tests of surface missiles 2 were marked by precise planning in a carefully staged operation. According to a senior American missile expert (quoted by Debka),  “the Iranians demonstrated up-to-date missile-launching technology which the West had not known them to possess.” (See Michel Chossudovsky, Iran’s “Power of Deterrence”  Global Research, November 5, 2006) Israel acknowledged that “the Shehab-3, whose 2,000-km range brings Israel, the Middle East and Europe within reach” (Debka, November 5, 2006)

    According to Uzi Rubin, former head of Israel’s anti-ballistic missile program, “the intensity of the military exercise was unprecedented… It was meant to make an impression — and it made an impression.” (www.cnsnews.com 3 November 2006)

    The 2006 exercises, while  creating a political stir in the US and Israel, did not in any way modify US-NATO-Israeli resolve to wage on Iran.

    Tehran has confirmed in several statements that it will respond if it is attacked. Israel would be the immediate object of Iranian missile attacks as confirmed by the Iranian government. The issue of Israel’s air defense system is therefore crucial. US and allied military facilities in the Gulf states, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan and Iraq could also be targeted by Iran.

    Iran’s Ground Forces

    While Iran is encircled by US and allied military bases, the Islamic Republic has significant military capabilities. (See maps below) What is important to acknowledge is the sheer size of Iranian forces in terms of personnel (army, navy, air force) when compared to US and NATO forces serving in Afghanistan and Iraq.

    Confronted with a well organized insurgency, coalition forces are already overstretched in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Would these forces be able to cope if Iranian ground forces were to enter the existing battlefield in Iraq and Afghanistan? The potential of the Resistance movement to US and allied occupation would inevitably be affected.

    Iranian ground forces are of the order of 700,000 of which 130,000 are professional soldiers, 220,000 are conscripts and 350,000 are reservists. (See  Islamic Republic of Iran Army – Wikipedia). There are 18,000 personnel in Iran’s Navy and 52,000 in the air force. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, “the Revolutionary Guards has an estimated 125,000 personnel in five branches: Its own Navy, Air Force, and Ground Forces; and the Quds Force (Special Forces).” According to the CISS, Iran’s Basij paramilitary volunteer force controlled by the Revolutionary Guards “has an estimated 90,000 active-duty full-time uniformed members, 300,000 reservists, and a total of 11 million men that can be mobilized if need be” (Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran – Wikipedia), In other words, Iran can mobilize up to half a million regular troops and several million militia. Its Quds special forces are already operating inside Iraq.


    US Military and Allied Facilties Surrounding Iran

    For several years now Iran has been conducting its own war drills and exercises. While its Air force has weaknesses, its intermediate and long-range missiles are fully operational. Iran’s military is in a state of readiness. Iranian troop concentrations are currently within a few kilometers of the Iraqi and Afghan borders, and within proximity of Kuwait. The Iranian Navy is deployed in the Persian Gulf within proximity of US and allied military facilities in the United Arab Emirates.

    It is worth noting that in response to Iran’s military build-up, the US has been transferring large amounts of weapons to its non-NATO allies in the Persian Gulf including Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.

    While Iran’s advanced weapons do not measure up to those of the US and NATO, Iranian forces would be in a position to inflict substantial losses to coalition forces in  a conventional war theater, on the ground in Iraq or Afghanistan. Iranian ground troops and tanks in December 2009 crossed the border into Iraq without being confronted or challenged by allied forces and occupied a disputed territory in the East Maysan oil field.

    Even in the event of an effective Blitzkrieg, which targets Iran’s military facilities, its communications systems, etc. through massive aerial bombing, using cruise missiles, conventional bunker buster bombs and tactical nuclear weapons, a war with Iran, once initiated, could eventually lead into a ground war. This is something which US military planners have no doubt contemplated in their simulated war scenarios.

    An operation of this nature would result in significant military and civilian casualties, particularly if nuclear weapons are used.

    The expanded budget for the war in Afghanistan currently debated in the US Congress is also intended to be used in the eventuality of an attack on Iran.

    Within a scenario of escalation, Iranian troops could cross the border into Iraq and Afghanistan.

    In turn, military escalation using nuclear weapons could lead us into a World War III scenario, extending beyond the Middle East Central Asian region.

    In a very real sense, this military project, which has been on the Pentagon’s drawing board for more than five years, threatens the future of humanity.

    Our focus in this essay has been on war preparations. The fact that war preparations are in an advanced state of readiness does not imply that these war plans will be carried out.

    original

    The US-NATO-Israel alliance realizes that the enemy has significant capabilities to respond and retaliate. This factor in itself has been crucial over the last five years in the decision by the US and its allies to postpone an attack on Iran.

    Another crucial factor is the structure of military alliances. Whereas NATO has become a formidable force, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), which constitutes an alliance between Russia and China and a number of former Soviet republics has been significantly weakened.

    The ongoing US military threats directed  against China and Russia are intended to weaken the SCO and discourage any form of military action on the part of Iran’s allies in the case of a US NATO Israeli attack.

    What are the countervailing forces which might prevent this war from occurring? There are numerous ongoing forces at work within the US State apparatus, the US Congress, the Pentagon and NATO.

    The central force in preventing a war from occurring ultimately comes from the base of society, requiring forceful antiwar action by hundred of millions of people across the land, nationally and internationally.

    People must mobilize not only against this diabolical military agenda, the authority of the State and its officials must be also be challenged.

    This war can be prevented if people forcefully confront their governments, pressure their elected representatives, organize at the local level in towns, villages and municipalities, spread the word, inform their fellow citizens as to the implications of a nuclear war, initiate debate and discussion within the armed forces. 

    The holding of mass demonstrations and antiwar protests is not enough. What is required is the development of a broad and well organized grassroots antiwar network which challenges the structures of power and authority. 

    What is required is a mass movement of people which forcefully challenges the legitimacy of war, a global people’s movement which criminalizes war.

    Michel Chossudovsky is an award-winning author, Professor of Economics (Emeritus) at the University of Ottawa and Director of the Centre for Research on Globalization (CRG), Montreal. He is the author of The Globalization of Poverty and The New World Order (2003) and America’s “War on Terrorism” (2005). He is also a contributor to the Encyclopaedia Britannica. His writings have been published in more than twenty languages. he can be reached at the globalresearch.ca website


    Author’s note:
    Dear Global Research Readers, kindly forward this text far and wide to friends and family, on internet forums, within the workplace, in your neighborhood, nationally and internationally, with a view to reversing the tide of war.  Spread the Word!  

    To consult Part I of this essay click below

    Preparing for World War III, Targeting Iran
    Part I: Global Warfare 

    - by Michel Chossudovsky – 2010-08-01


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    The Politics of Debt in America: From Debtor’s Prison to Debtor Nation

    [This essay will appear in the next issue of Jacobin.  It is posted at TomDispatch.com with the kind permission of that magazine, and re-posted at Common Dreams with subsequent permission.]

    Shakespeare’s Polonius offered this classic advice to his son: “neither a borrower nor a lender be.”  Many of our nation’s Founding Fathers emphatically saw it otherwise.  They often lived by the maxim: always a borrower, never a lender be.  As tobacco and rice planters, slave traders, and merchants, as well as land and currency speculators, they depended upon long lines of credit to finance their livelihoods and splendid ways of life.  So, too, in those days, did shopkeepers, tradesmen, artisans, and farmers, as well as casual laborers and sailors.  Without debt, the seedlings of a commercial economy could never have grown to maturity.

    Ben Franklin, however, was wary on the subject. “Rather go to bed supperless than rise in debt” was his warning, and even now his cautionary words carry great moral weight.  We worry about debt, yet we can’t live without it.

    Debt remains, as it long has been, the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of capitalism.  For a small minority, it’s a blessing; for others a curse.  For some the moral burden of carrying debt is a heavy one, and no one lets them forget it.  For privileged others, debt bears no moral baggage at all, presents itself as an opportunity to prosper, and if things go wrong can be dumped without a qualm.

    Those who view debt with a smiley face as the royal road to wealth accumulation and tend to be forgiven if their default is large enough almost invariably come from the top rungs of the economic hierarchy.  Then there are the rest of us, who get scolded for our impecunious ways, foreclosed upon and dispossessed, leaving behind scars that never fade away and wounds that disable our futures. 

    Think of this upstairs-downstairs class calculus as the politics of debt.  British economist John Maynard Keynes put it like this: “If I owe you a pound, I have a problem; but if I owe you a million, the problem is yours.”

    After months of an impending “debtpocalypse,” the dreaded “debt ceiling,” and the “fiscal cliff,” Americans remain preoccupied with debt, public and private.  Austerity is what we’re promised for our sins. Millions are drowning, or have already drowned, in a sea of debt -- mortgages gone bad, student loans that may never be paid off, spiraling credit card bills, car loans, payday loans, and a menagerie of new-fangled financial mechanisms cooked up by the country’s “financial engineers” to milk what’s left of the American standard of living. 

    The world economy almost came apart in 2007-2008, and still may do so under the whale-sized carcass of debt left behind by financial plunderers who found in debt the leverage to get ever richer.  Most of them still live in their mansions and McMansions, while other debtors live outdoors, or in cars or shelters, or doubled-up with relatives and friends -- or even in debtor’s prison. Believe it or not, a version of debtor’s prison, that relic of early American commercial barbarism, is back. 

    In 2013, you can’t actually be jailed for not paying your bills, but ingenious corporations, collection agencies, cops, courts, and lawyers have devised ways to insure that debt “delinquents” will end up in jail anyway.  With one-third of the states now allowing the jailing of debtors (without necessarily calling it that), it looks ever more like a trend in the making.

    Will Americans tolerate this, or might there emerge a politics of resistance to debt, as has happened more than once in a past that shouldn’t be forgotten?  

    The World of Debtor’s Prisons

    Imprisonment for debt was a commonplace in colonial America and the early republic, and wasn’t abolished in most states until the 1830s or 1840s, in some cases not until after the Civil War.  Today, we think of it as a peculiar and heartless way of punishing the poor -- and it was.  But it was more than that.

    Some of the richest, most esteemed members of society also ended up there, men like Robert Morris, who helped finance the American Revolution and ran the Treasury under the Articles of Confederation; John Pintard, a stock-broker, state legislator, and founder of the New York Historical Society; William Duer, graduate of Eton, powerful merchant and speculator, assistant secretary in the Treasury Department of the new federal government, and master of a Hudson River manse; a Pennsylvania Supreme Court judge; army generals; and other notables.

    Whether rich or poor, you were there for a long stretch, even for life, unless you could figure out some way of discharging your debts.  That, however, is where the similarity between wealthy and impoverished debtors ended.

    Whether in the famous Marshalsea in London where Charles Dickens had Little Dorritt’s father incarcerated (and where Dickens’s father had actually languished when the author was 12), or in the New Gaol in New York City, where men like Duer and Morris did their time, debtors prisons were segregated by class.  If your debts were large enough and your social connections weighty enough (the two tended to go together) you lived comfortably.  You were supplied with good food and well-appointed living quarters, as well as books and other pleasures, including on occasion manicurists and prostitutes. 

    Robert Morris entertained George Washington for dinner in his “cell.” Once released, he resumed his career as the new nation’s richest man.  Before John Pintard moved to New Gaol, he redecorated his cell, had it repainted and upholstered, and shipped in two mahogany writing desks.

    Meanwhile, the mass of petty debtors housed in the same institution survived, if at all, amid squalor, filth, and disease.  They were often shackled, and lacked heat, clean water, adequate food, or often food of any kind.  (You usually had to have the money to buy your own food, clothing, and fuel.)  Debtors in these prisons frequently found themselves quite literally dying of debt.  And you could end up in such circumstances for trivial sums.  Of the 1,162 jailed debtors in New York City in 1787, 716 owed less than twenty shillings or one pound.  A third of Philadelphia’s inmates in 1817 were there for owing less than $5, and debtors in the city’s prisons outnumbered violent criminals by 5:1.  In Boston, 15% of them were women.  Shaming was more the point of punishment than anything else.

    Scenes of public pathos were commonplace.  Inmates at the New Gaol, if housed on its upper floors, would lower shoes out the window on strings to collect alms for their release.  Other prisons installed “beggar gates” through which those jailed in cellar dungeons could stretch out their palms for the odd coins from passersby.

    Poor and rich alike wanted out.  Pamphleteering against the institution of debtor’s prison began in the 1750s.  An Anglican minister in South Carolina denounced the jails, noting that “a person would be in a better situation in the French King’s Gallies, or the Prisons of Turkey or Barbary than in this dismal place.”  Discontent grew.  A mass escape from New Gaol of 40 prisoners armed with pistols and clubs was prompted by extreme hunger. 

    In the 1820s and 1830s, as artisans, journeymen, sailors, longshoremen, and other workers organized the early trade union movement as well as workingmen’s political parties, one principal demand was for the abolition of imprisonment for debt.  Inheritors of a radical political culture, their complaints echoed that Biblical tradition of Jubilee mentioned in Leviticus, which called for a cancellation of debts, the restoration of lost houses and land, and the freeing of slaves and bond servants every 50 years.

    Falling into debt was a particularly ruinous affliction for those who aspired to modest independence as shopkeepers, handicraftsmen, or farmers.  As markets for their goods expanded but became ever less predictable, they found themselves taking out credit to survive and sometimes going into arrears, often followed by a stint in debtor’s prison that ended their dreams forever. 

    However much the poor organized and protested, it was the rich who got debt relief first.  Today, we assume that debts can be discharged through bankruptcy (although even now that option is either severely restricted or denied to certain classes of less favored debt delinquents like college students).  Although the newly adopted U.S. Constitution opened the door to a national bankruptcy law, Congress didn’t walk through it until 1800, even though many, including the well-off, had been lobbying for it.

    Enough of the old moral faith that frowned on debt as sinful lingered.  The United States has always been an uncharitable place when it comes to debt, a curious attitude for a society largely settled by absconding debtors and indentured servants (a form of time-bound debt peonage).  Indeed, the state of Georgia was founded as a debtor’s haven at a time when England’s jails were overflowing with debtors.

    When Congress finally passed the Bankruptcy Act, those in the privileged quarters at New Gaol threw a party.  Down below, however, life continued in its squalid way, since the new law only applied to people who had sizable debts.  If you owed too little, you stayed in jail. 

    Debt and the Birth of a Nation

    Nowadays, the conservative media inundate us with warnings about debt from the Founding Fathers, and it’s true that some of them like Jefferson -- himself an inveterate, often near-bankrupt debtor -- did moralize on the subject.  However, Alexander Hamilton, an idol of the conservative movement, was the architect of the country’s first national debt, insisting that “if it is not excessive, [it] will be to us a national blessing.”

    As the first Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton’s goal was to transform the former 13 colonies, which today we would call an underdeveloped land, into a country that someday would rival Great Britain.  This, he knew, required liquid capital (resources not tied up in land or other less mobile forms of wealth), which could then be invested in sometimes highly speculative and risky enterprises.  Floating a national debt, he felt sure, would attract capital from well-positioned merchants at home and abroad, especially in England.

    However, for most ordinary people living under the new government, debt aroused anger.  To begin with, there were all those veterans of the Revolutionary War and all the farmers who had supplied the revolutionary army with food and been paid in notoriously worthless “continentals” -- the currency issued by the Continental Congress -- or equally valueless state currencies.

    As rumors of the formation of a new national government spread, speculators roamed the countryside buying up this paper money at a penny on the dollar, on the assumption that the debts they represented would be redeemed at face value.  In fact, that is just what Hamilton’s national debt would do, making these “sunshine patriots” quite rich, while leaving the yeomanry impoverished.

    Outrage echoed across the country even before Hamilton’s plan got adopted.  Jefferson denounced the currency speculators as loathsome creatures and had this to say about debt in general: “The modern theory of the perpetuation of debt has drenched the earth with blood and crushed its inhabitants under burdens ever accumulating.”  He and others denounced the speculators as squadrons of counter-revolutionary “moneycrats” who would use their power and wealth to undo the democratic accomplishments of the revolution.

    In contrast, Hamilton saw them as a disinterested monied elite upon whom the country’s economic well-being depended, while dismissing the criticisms of the Jeffersonians as the ravings of Jacobin levelers.  Soon enough, political warfare over the debt turned founding fathers into fratricidal brothers.  

    Hamilton’s plan worked -- sometimes too well.  Wealthy speculators in land like Robert Morris, or in the building of docks, wharves, and other projects tied to trade, or in the national debt itself -- something William Duer and grandees like him specialized in -- seized the moment.  Often enough, however, they over-reached and found themselves, like the yeomen farmers and soldiers, in default to their creditors. 

    Duer’s attempts to corner the market in the bonds issued by the new federal government and in the stock of the country’s first National Bank represented one of the earliest instances of insider trading.  They also proved a lurid example of how speculation could go disastrously wrong.  When the scheme collapsed, it caused the country’s first Wall Street panic and a local depression that spread through New England, ruining “shopkeepers, widows, orphans, butchers... gardeners, market women, and even the noted Bawd Mrs. McCarty.”   

    A mob chased Duer through the streets of New York and might have hanged or disemboweled him had he not been rescued by the city sheriff, who sent him to the safety of debtor’s prison.  John Pintard, part of the same scheme, fled to Newark, New Jersey, before being caught and jailed as well.

    Sending the Duers and Pintards of the new republic off to debtors’ prison was not, however, quite what Hamilton had in mind.  And leaving them rotting there was hardly going to foster the “enterprising spirit” that would, in the treasury secretary’s estimation, turn the country into the Great Britain of the next century.  Bankruptcy, on the other hand, ensured that the overextended could start again and keep the machinery of commercial transactions lubricated.  Hence, the Bankruptcy Act of 1800.

    If, however, you were not a major player, debt functioned differently. Shouldered by the hoi polloi, it functioned as a mechanism for funneling wealth into the mercantile-financial hothouses where American capitalism was being incubated.

    No wonder debt excited such violent political emotions.  Even before the Constitution was adopted, farmers in western Massachusetts, indebted to Boston bankers and merchants and in danger of losing their ancestral homes in the economic hard times of the 1780s, rose in armed rebellion.  In those years, the number of lawsuits for unpaid debt doubled and tripled, farms were seized, and their owners sent off to jail.  Incensed, farmers led by a former revolutionary soldier, Daniel Shays, closed local courts by force and liberated debtors from prisons.  Similar but smaller uprisings erupted in Maine, Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania, while in New Hampshire and Vermont irate farmers surrounded government offices. 

    Shays' Rebellion of 1786 alarmed the country’s elites.  They depicted the unruly yeomen as “brutes” and their houses as “sties.”  They were frightened as well by state governments like Rhode Island’s that were more open to popular influence, declared debt moratoria, and issued paper currencies to help farmers and others pay off their debts.  These developments signaled the need for a stronger central government fully capable of suppressing future debtor insurgencies.

    Federal authority established at the Constitutional Convention allowed for that, but the unrest continued.  Shays' Rebellion was but part one of a trilogy of uprisings that continued into the 1790s.  The Whiskey Rebellion of 1794 was the most serious.  An excise tax (“whiskey tax”) meant to generate revenue to back up the national debt threatened the livelihoods of farmers in western Pennsylvania who used whiskey as a “currency” in a barter economy.  President Washington sent in troops, many of them Revolutionary War veterans, with Hamilton at their head to put down the rebels. 

    Debt Servitude and Primitive Accumulation

    Debt would continue to play a vital role in national and local political affairs throughout the nineteenth century, functioning as a form of capital accumulation in the financial sector, and often sinking pre-capitalist forms of life in the process. 

    Before and during the time that capitalists were fully assuming the prerogatives of running the production process in field and factory, finance was building up its own resources from the outside.  Meanwhile, the mechanisms of public and private debt made the lives of farmers, craftsmen, shopkeepers, and others increasingly insupportable.

    This parasitic economic metabolism helped account for the riotous nature of Gilded Age politics. Much of the high drama of late nineteenth-century political life circled around “greenbacks,” “free silver,” and "the gold standard."  These issues may strike us as arcane today, but they were incendiary then, threatening what some called a “second Civil War.”  In one way or another, they were centrally about debt, especially a system of indebtedness that was driving the independent farmer to extinction.

    All the highways of global capitalism found their way into the trackless vastness of rural America.  Farmers there were not in dire straits because of their backwoods isolation.  On the contrary, it was because they turned out to be living at Ground Zero, where the explosive energies of financial and commercial modernity detonated.  A toxic combination of railroads, grain-elevator operators, farm-machinery manufacturers, commodity-exchange speculators, local merchants, and above all the banking establishment had the farmer at their mercy.  His helplessness was only aggravated when the nineteenth-century version of globalization left his crops in desperate competition with those from the steppes of Canada and Russia, as well as the outbacks of Australia and South America.

    To survive this mercantile onslaught, farmers hooked themselves up to long lines of credit that stretched back to the financial centers of the East.  These lifelines allowed them to buy the seed, fertilizer, and machines needed to farm, pay the storage and freight charges that went with selling their crops, and keep house and home together while the plants ripened and the hogs fattened.  When market day finally arrived, the farmer found out just what all his backbreaking work was really worth.  If the news was bad, then those credit lines were shut off and he found himself dispossessed.

    The family farm and the network of small town life that went with it were being washed into the rivers of capital heading for metropolitan America.  On the “sod house” frontier, poverty was a “badge of honor which decorated all.”  In his Devil’s Dictionary, the acid-tongued humorist Ambrose Bierce defined the dilemma this way: “Debt. n. An ingenious substitute for the chain and whip of the slave-driver.”

    Across the Great Plains and the cotton South, discontented farmers spread the blame for their predicament far and wide.  Anger, however, tended to pool around the strangulating system of currency and credit run out of the banking centers of the northeast. Beginning in the 1870s with the emergence of the Greenback Party and Greenback-Labor Party and culminating in the 1890s with the People’s or Populist Party, independent farmers, tenant farmers, sharecroppers, small businessmen, and skilled workers directed ever more intense hostility at “the money power.”

    That “power” might appear locally in the homeliest of disguises.  At coal mines and other industrial sites, among “coolies” working to build the railroads or imported immigrant gang laborers and convicts leased to private concerns, workers were typically compelled to buy what they needed in company scrip at company stores at prices that left them perpetually in debt.  Proletarians were so precariously positioned that going into debt -- whether to pawnshops or employers, landlords or loan sharks -- was unavoidable.  Often they were paid in kind: wood chips, thread, hemp, scraps of canvas, cordage: nothing, that is, that was of any use in paying off accumulated debts.  In effect, they were, as they called themselves, “debt slaves.” 

    In the South, hard-pressed growers found themselves embroiled in a crop-lien system, dependent on the local “furnishing agent” to supply everything needed, from seed to clothing to machinery, to get through the growing season.  In such situations, no money changed hands, just a note scribbled in the merchant’s ledger, with payment due at “settling up” time.  This granted the lender a lien, or title, to the crop, a lien that never went away.

    In this fashion, the South became “a great pawn shop,” with farmers perpetually in debt at interest rates exceeding 100% per year.  In Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi, 90% of farmers lived on credit.  The first lien you signed was essentially a life sentence.  Either that or you became a tenant farmer, or you simply left your land, something so commonplace that everyone knew what the letters “G.T.T.” on an abandoned farmhouse meant: “Gone to Texas.”  (One hundred thousand people a year were doing that in the 1870s.) 

    The merchant’s exaction was so steep that African-Americans and immigrants in particular were regularly reduced to peonage -- forced, that is, to work to pay off their debt, an illegal but not uncommon practice.  And that neighborhood furnishing agent was often tied to the banks up north for his own lines of credit.  In this way, the sucking sound of money leaving for the great metropolises reverberated from region to region.

    Facing dispossession, farmers formed alliances to set up cooperatives to extend credit to one another and market crops themselves.  As one Populist editorialist remarked, this was the way “mortgage-burdened farmers can assert their freedom from the tyranny of organized capital.”  But when they found that these groupings couldn’t survive the competitive pressure of the banking establishment, politics beckoned.

    From one presidential election to the next and in state contests throughout the South and West, irate grain and cotton growers demanded that the government expand the paper currency supply, those “greenbacks,” also known as “the people’s money,” or that it monetize silver, again to enlarge the money supply, or that it set up public institutions to finance farmers during the growing season.  With a passion hard for us to imagine, they railed against the “gold standard” which, in Democratic Party presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan’s famous cry, should no longer be allowed to “crucify mankind on a cross of gold.”

    Should that cross of gold stay fixed in place, one Alabama physician prophesied, it would “reduce the American yeomanry to menials and paupers, to be driven by monopolies like cattle and swine.”  As Election Day approached, populist editors and speakers warned of an approaching war with “the money power,” and they meant it.  “The fight will come and let it come!”

    The idea was to force the government to deliberately inflate the currency and so raise farm prices.  And the reason for doing that?  To get out from under the sea of debt in which they were submerged.  It was a cry from the heart and it echoed and re-echoed across the heartland, coming nearer to upsetting the established order than any American political upheaval before or since. 

    The passion of those populist farmers and laborers was matched by that of their enemies, men at the top of the economy and government for whom debt had long been a road to riches rather than destitution.  They dismissed their foes as “cranks” and “calamity howlers.”  And in the election of 1896, they won.  Bryan went down to defeat, gold continued its pitiless process of crucifixion, and a whole human ecology was set on a path to extinction.

    The Return of Debt Servitude

    When populism died, debt -- as a spark for national political confrontation -- died, too.  The great reform eras that followed -- Progessivism, the New Deal, and the Great Society -- were preoccupied with inequality, economic collapse, exploitation in the workplace, and the outsized nature of corporate power in a consolidated industrial capitalist system.

    Rumblings about debt servitude could certainly still be heard.  Foreclosed farmers during the Great Depression mobilized, held “penny auctions” to restore farms to families, hanged judges in effigy, and forced Prudential Insurance Company, the largest land creditor in Iowa, to suspend foreclosures on 37,000 farms (which persuaded Metropolitan Life Insurance Company to do likewise).  A Kansas City realtor was shot in the act of foreclosing on a family farm, a country sheriff kidnapped while trying to evict a farm widow and dumped 10 miles out of town, and so on.

    Urban renters and homeowners facing eviction formed neighborhood groups to stop the local sheriff or police from throwing families out of their houses or apartments. Furniture tossed into the street in eviction proceedings would be restored by neighbors, who would also turn the gas and electricity back on.  New Deal farm and housing finance legislation bailed out banks and homeowners alike.  Right-wing populists like the Catholic priest Father Charles Coughlin carried on the war against the gold standard in tirades tinged with anti-Semitism.  Signs like one in Nebraska -- “The Jew System of Banking” (illustrated with a giant rattlesnake) -- showed up too often.

    But the age of primitive accumulation in which debt and the financial sector had played such a strategic role was drawing to a close. 

    Today, we have entered a new phase.  What might be called capitalist underdevelopment and once again debt has emerged as both the central mode of capital accumulation and a principal mechanism of servitude.  Warren Buffett (of all people) has predicted that, in the coming decades, the United States is more likely to turn into a “sharecropper society” than an “ownership society.”

    In our time, the financial sector has enriched itself by devouring the productive wherewithal of industrial America through debt, starving the public sector of resources, and saddling ordinary working people with every conceivable form of consumer debt.

    Household debt, which in 1952 was at 36% of total personal income, had by 2006 hit 127%.  Even financing poverty became a lucrative enterprise.  Taking advantage of the low credit ratings of poor people and their need for cash to pay monthly bills or simply feed themselves, some check-cashing outlets, payday lenders, tax preparers, and others levy interest of 200% to 300% and more.  As recently as the 1970s, a good part of this would have been considered illegal under usury laws that no longer exist.  And these poverty creditors are often tied to the largest financiers, including Citibank, Bank of America, and American Express.

    Credit has come to function as a “plastic safety net” in a world of job insecurity, declining state support, and slow-motion economic growth, especially among the elderly, young adults, and low-income families.  More than half the pre-tax income of these three groups goes to servicing debt.  Nowadays, however, the “company store” is headquartered on Wall Street.

    Debt is driving this system of auto-cannibalism which, by every measure of social wellbeing, is relentlessly turning a developed country into an underdeveloped one.  

    Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are back.  Is a political resistance to debt servitude once again imaginable?

    © 2013 Steve Fraser

    Steve Fraser

    Steve Fraser is Editor-at-Large of New Labor Forum and co-founder of the American Empire Project (Metropolitan Books). He is, most recently, the author of Wall Street: America’s Dream Palace. He teaches history at Columbia University.

    Scores of Syrians killed execution style

    File photo shows a group of militants in Bustan al-Basha district in Syria’s northern city of Aleppo.

    Syrian security personnel in the northern city of Aleppo have discovered the bodies of more than 80 people, saying the victims were killed execution style.

    The bodies of young men and boys were found in the Quweiq River, which separates Bustan al-Qasr district from Ansari, in Aleppo’s southwest.

    The area is under the control of the foreign-backed militants who are seeking to overthrow the government of President Bashar al-Assad.

    Some of the bodies had their hands tied behind them and the others appear to had been shot in the head.


    A senior security source said many of the victims had previously been reported kidnapped.

    He blamed the terrorists of carrying out the executions. But the armed groups accuse the government of being behind the massacre.

    The Syria crisis began in March 2011, and many people, including large numbers of army and security personnel, have been killed ever since.

    The Syrian government says the chaos is being orchestrated from outside the country, and there are reports that a very large number of the militants are foreign nationals.

    Damascus blames the West and its regional allies Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey for supporting the armed groups.

    In addition, several international human rights organizations have accused the militants fighting the Syrian government of committing war crimes.

    MRS/PKH/SS

    From the Algerian Terror to Al Qaeda Meets Mali: The West’s Hidden Agenda

    mali

    When it comes to unfamiliar, far-off places, we trust our mainstream media to tell us what is going on with interminable conflicts raging through much of the world, and why—and most media trust Western governments’ explanations.

    Thus, we learn that France (with the United States in the wings) intervened in the bloody upheavals besetting the West African country of Mali in order to help the government battle a threat as ubiquitous and expected as the old Red Menace: Al Qaeda.

    But, as is usually true, things are not so simple. In fact, coming to grips with the searing civil war and foreign crisis du jour requires wading through multiple layers of tangled relationships—which threaten to turn the conflict into a yet another protracted, foreign-assisted internecine conflict.

    A French soldier explains to Vietnamese (er, Malian) children why he thinks he is in their country

    Amid cinematic gun battles claiming the lives of dozens of Western hostages at a gas field in neighboring Algeria, the world may be finally waking up to the complexity of the Malian crisis. Yet many of those who have studied the region in depth saw it coming. “This has for a very long time been an accident waiting to happen,” says Professor David Anderson, an expert of African politics at St Cross College, the University of Oxford.

    And no wonder. Because, as always seems to be the case, these benighted and barren provinces sit atop some rather spectacular wealth.

    But we are getting ahead of ourselves.

    West Side Story

    The current conflict long predates (and ultimately will transcend) the recent-vintage Al Qaeda and all of its amorphous and poorly-defined franchise operations.

    For decades now, the Tuaregs—a native Berber tribe whose members are spread across the vast expanse of the Sahara desert—have launched periodic rebellions to gain independence from Mali, Niger, Algeria and other countries in the region, whose territories incorporate lands the Tuaregs claim as their own.

    The current crisis may be said to have its roots in another Western intervention, when France, the United States and allies—notably including Islamists with Al Qaeda ties—invaded Mali’s northern neighbor, Libya, under pretenses of protecting a domestic uprising and vanquished the quasi-socialist leader there, Muammar Qaddafi, who had, among other things angered Western financial and business interests. (For more on that poorly understood story, see WhoWhatWhy’s reports, here and here.)

    Malian Tuaregs, reinforced by a large contingent of their well-trained and heavily armed non-AlQaedite brethren—who had escaped from Libya after their benefactor, Qaddafi, was routed in 2011–captured the entire northern part of the country early last year.

    On April 6, 2012, the Tuaregs in the north declared independence for their territory—which is larger than the state of Texas. By early June, however, clashes had broken out between the secular Tuareg movement (its main representative being the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawa, or MNLA) and Islamists, some of whom are allied with an AQ variant that calls itself Al Qaeda in the Maghreb. The MNLA was pushed out of the main cities, and the Islamists took over the fight against the government.

    But wait: things are still more complicated.

    Each side consists of many different factions, and many splinter groups add to the complexity. According to some reports, for example, the attack on the Algerian gas field, which ostensibly took place in revenge for the French intervention in Mali, was in fact part of a power struggle between two large Islamist factions, led by Mokhtar Belmokhtar and Abelmalek Droukdel. The Islamist banner is considered by some nothing more than a “legitimate” overlay on a sprawling criminal network that ran kidnap, protection and tobacco smuggling rackets. This mano-a-mano spills over both sides of the border.

    More Arcana, Then the Proverbial Pot ‘o Gold

    In any case, the president of Mali, Amadou Toumani Toure, was deposed in March 2012 by the Malian military—ostensibly as a result of his incompetent response to the Tuareg rebellion—an act that seems to have rent a dense web of local and regional relationships. To add a hint of tantalizing but obscure spice, several independent sources suggest that it was actually Toure, with regional and Western acquiescence, who had invited the radical Islamists to use the north as a base.

    Consider, for example, the following report from the ground by May Ying Welsh, al-Jazeera’s correspondent:

    Al-Qaeda has based itself in northern Mali for 10 years, as part of an alleged secret agreement with Amadou Toumani Toure (ATT), the president of Mali who was deposed in a military coup in March 2012 as northern cities were falling to Tuareg rebels…. While ATT relied increasingly on ethnic militias and special units to crush Tuareg insurgency, the Malian army was starved and demoralised, its hungry soldiers forced to sell their weapons to eat, to watch AQIM parade before their barracks, and planes filled with cocaine landing near their bases. The system was rotten. Could they be blamed for overthrowing it?

    Here’s the good news: the explanation for this behavior is simple.

    If the Tuaregs in Mali’s north were to achieve independence, this would destabilize all neighboring countries that harbor significant Berber populations. The desert areas inhabited by the nomadic tribes, moreover, contain some of the largest concentrations of valuable natural resources in the world—including gold, uranium, oil, gas, and various industrial metals. Mali alone is the third largest producer of gold in Africa—despite being also one of the poorest countries in the world. According to the United Nations Human Development Index, it ranks 175th of 187 countries, and the standard of living there is considerably below the average for sub-Saharan Africa.

    Unlike the Tuaregs, most of the radical Islamists have little interest in independence—they fight largely for the establishment of sharia (Islamic law). For the most part, they are also ruthless against their rivals but avid trading partners—whether in the trade of hostages and cocaine (as has been the case in the region for the last several years) or in natural resources. Despite being a target of the post-9/11 War on Terror, they are often quietly preferred by members of the international community to the more secular local nomads.

    It is a delicate balance. Neither the regional countries nor France can allow the Islamists to become too powerful, for fear that they would turn into a destabilizing factor themselves. Their push to take over southern Mali proved to be the last straw, leading to the current intervention.

    According to Professor Anderson,

    French concerns about wider regional stability are genuine, as are the worries of the Algerian government – who are a major target of some within Al Qaeda. France is the Western power with the strongest geo-political interests and financial investment here. The French have bases in Chad, to give but one example, and fear that instability in Algeria brings it too close to home. [Also they have] 6000 French citizens in Bamako [Mali] alone, [as well as significant] mining interests.

    A “French Afghanistan”?

    However, the situation could easily spin out of control and become a West African quagmire for France and the neighboring countries which are participating in the UN-sanctioned intervention. The Islamists have threatened to turn Mali into a “French Afghanistan,” and this appears to be more than an empty threat. Mali is almost twice the size of Afghanistan, and with its desert and mountainous terrain in the north, somewhat resembles its Asian counterpart. Central authority was never very well established in that part of the country, if at all.

    Robert D. Kaplan, the noted foreign affairs analyst and correspondent, described in a recent Stratfor article his experiences in the region some years ago:

    Here the Malian state did not exist. …These aren’t countries so much as city-states—Nouakchott, Bamako, Niamey, Ndjamena—with armies that try to keep some order in the far-flung, far less populated reaches. State armies never have ruled this desert; rather, they have maintained for much of the time a stable cease-fire with the Tuaregs there (often through integration of key Tuareg fighters into local military bases).

    The mixture of rugged terrain, a vast expanse populated sparsely with nomadic tribes, and the presence of numerous militias with diverging agendas suggests that the war will be long, brutal and asymmetric.

    Thus, when at the start of the operation the French government said that the military was going into Mali merely for several weeks, a colleague who specializes in Russia giggled. “This is exactly what the Russians said before they invaded Afghanistan,” he said. Mere days later, French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian announced that his country would continue to be involved in the conflict for “as long as necessary.”

    And it all is redolent of foreign adventures past. According to a new report from a French-based human rights group, the “good guys,” i.e. the Malian army, may be carrying out summary executions and brutal abuses of civilians accused—often with no basis—of helping the rebels.

    More recently, the MNLA—arguably the only indigenous force capable of taking on the Islamists—suggested through one of its leaders that it was willing to cooperate with the Western intervention forces.

    It remains to be seen if a deal can be reached. It seems highly unlikely that the Malian government—or any of the international actors involved—would concede the MNLA’s demand for independence. On the other hand, the secular Tuaregs are reportedly afraid that, as has happened in the past, they will be the main victims of a war against Islamist terror. Given that both sides are under pressure, some sort of a compromise involving an increased autonomy in northern Mali may be possible.

    By most accounts, a purely military solution imposed by foreign forces cannot hold. If the intervention forces hope to achieve their goal of stabilizing the country, they would need to negotiate with the Tuaregs and to address the deeper underlying issues. Unfortunately, so far there are few signs of that happening. And the deeper underlying issues do not play well with short-attentioned international audiences.

    Oh, wait. Did we mention that there’s gold—and all kinds of amazing stuff, under the ground? Actually, when it comes to that subject, even a dauntingly complex stew like Afghanistan can seem very simple indeed.

    The Politics of Debt in America From Debtor’s Prison to Debtor Nation

    Shakespeare’s Polonius offered this classic advice to his son: “neither a borrower nor a lender be.”  Many of our nation’s Founding Fathers emphatically saw it otherwise.  They often lived by the maxim: always a borrower, never a lender be.  As tobacco and rice planters, slave traders, and merchants, as well as land and currency speculators, they depended upon long lines of credit to finance their livelihoods and splendid ways of life.  So, too, in those days, did shopkeepers, tradesmen, artisans, and farmers, as well as casual laborers and sailors.  Without debt, the seedlings of a commercial economy could never have grown to maturity.

    Ben Franklin, however, was wary on the subject. “Rather go to bed supperless than rise in debt” was his warning, and even now his cautionary words carry great moral weight.  We worry about debt, yet we can’t live without it.

    Debt remains, as it long has been, the Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of capitalism.  For a small minority, it’s a blessing; for others a curse.  For some the moral burden of carrying debt is a heavy one, and no one lets them forget it.  For privileged others, debt bears no moral baggage at all, presents itself as an opportunity to prosper, and if things go wrong can be dumped without a qualm.

    Those who view debt with a smiley face as the royal road to wealth accumulation and tend to be forgiven if their default is large enough almost invariably come from the top rungs of the economic hierarchy.  Then there are the rest of us, who get scolded for our impecunious ways, foreclosed upon and dispossessed, leaving behind scars that never fade away and wounds that disable our futures. 

    Think of this upstairs-downstairs class calculus as the politics of debt.  British economist John Maynard Keynes put it like this: “If I owe you a pound, I have a problem; but if I owe you a million, the problem is yours.”

    After months of an impending “debtpocalypse,” the dreaded “debt ceiling,” and the “fiscal cliff,” Americans remain preoccupied with debt, public and private.  Austerity is what we’re promised for our sins. Millions are drowning, or have already drowned, in a sea of debt -- mortgages gone bad, student loans that may never be paid off, spiraling credit card bills, car loans, payday loans, and a menagerie of new-fangled financial mechanisms cooked up by the country’s “financial engineers” to milk what’s left of the American standard of living.   

    The world economy almost came apart in 2007-2008, and still may do so under the whale-sized carcass of debt left behind by financial plunderers who found in debt the leverage to get ever richer.  Most of them still live in their mansions and McMansions, while other debtors live outdoors, or in cars or shelters, or doubled-up with relatives and friends -- or even in debtor’s prison. Believe it or not, a version of debtor’s prison, that relic of early American commercial barbarism, is back. 

    In 2013, you can’t actually be jailed for not paying your bills, but ingenious corporations, collection agencies, cops, courts, and lawyers have devised ways to insure that debt “delinquents” will end up in jail anyway.  With one-third of the states now allowing the jailing of debtors (without necessarily calling it that), it looks ever more like a trend in the making.

    Will Americans tolerate this, or might there emerge a politics of resistance to debt, as has happened more than once in a past that shouldn’t be forgotten?  

    The World of Debtor’s Prisons

    Imprisonment for debt was a commonplace in colonial America and the early republic, and wasn’t abolished in most states until the 1830s or 1840s, in some cases not until after the Civil War.  Today, we think of it as a peculiar and heartless way of punishing the poor -- and it was.  But it was more than that.

    Some of the richest, most esteemed members of society also ended up there, men like Robert Morris, who helped finance the American Revolution and ran the Treasury under the Articles of Confederation; John Pintard, a stock-broker, state legislator, and founder of the New York Historical Society; William Duer, graduate of Eton, powerful merchant and speculator, assistant secretary in the Treasury Department of the new federal government, and master of a Hudson River manse; a Pennsylvania Supreme Court judge; army generals; and other notables.

    Whether rich or poor, you were there for a long stretch, even for life, unless you could figure out some way of discharging your debts.  That, however, is where the similarity between wealthy and impoverished debtors ended.

    Whether in the famous Marshalsea in London where Charles Dickens had Little Dorritt’s father incarcerated (and where Dickens’s father had actually languished when the author was 12), or in the New Gaol in New York City, where men like Duer and Morris did their time, debtors prisons were segregated by class.  If your debts were large enough and your social connections weighty enough (the two tended to go together) you lived comfortably.  You were supplied with good food and well-appointed living quarters, as well as books and other pleasures, including on occasion manicurists and prostitutes. 

    Robert Morris entertained George Washington for dinner in his “cell.” Once released, he resumed his career as the new nation’s richest man.  Before John Pintard moved to New Gaol, he redecorated his cell, had it repainted and upholstered, and shipped in two mahogany writing desks.

    Meanwhile, the mass of petty debtors housed in the same institution survived, if at all, amid squalor, filth, and disease.  They were often shackled, and lacked heat, clean water, adequate food, or often food of any kind.  (You usually had to have the money to buy your own food, clothing, and fuel.)  Debtors in these prisons frequently found themselves quite literally dying of debt.  And you could end up in such circumstances for trivial sums.  Of the 1,162 jailed debtors in New York City in 1787, 716 owed less than twenty shillings or one pound.  A third of Philadelphia’s inmates in 1817 were there for owing less than $5, and debtors in the city’s prisons outnumbered violent criminals by 5:1.  In Boston, 15% of them were women.  Shaming was more the point of punishment than anything else.

    Scenes of public pathos were commonplace.  Inmates at the New Gaol, if housed on its upper floors, would lower shoes out the window on strings to collect alms for their release.  Other prisons installed “beggar gates” through which those jailed in cellar dungeons could stretch out their palms for the odd coins from passersby.


    Poor and rich alike wanted out.  Pamphleteering against the institution of debtor’s prison began in the 1750s.  An Anglican minister in South Carolina denounced the jails, noting that “a person would be in a better situation in the French King’s Gallies, or the Prisons of Turkey or Barbary than in this dismal place.”  Discontent grew.  A mass escape from New Gaol of 40 prisoners armed with pistols and clubs was prompted by extreme hunger. 

    In the 1820s and 1830s, as artisans, journeymen, sailors, longshoremen, and other workers organized the early trade union movement as well as workingmen’s political parties, one principal demand was for the abolition of imprisonment for debt.  Inheritors of a radical political culture, their complaints echoed that Biblical tradition of Jubilee mentioned in Leviticus, which called for a cancellation of debts, the restoration of lost houses and land, and the freeing of slaves and bond servants every 50 years.

    Falling into debt was a particularly ruinous affliction for those who aspired to modest independence as shopkeepers, handicraftsmen, or farmers.  As markets for their goods expanded but became ever less predictable, they found themselves taking out credit to survive and sometimes going into arrears, often followed by a stint in debtor’s prison that ended their dreams forever. 

    However much the poor organized and protested, it was the rich who got debt relief first.  Today, we assume that debts can be discharged through bankruptcy (although even now that option is either severely restricted or denied to certain classes of less favored debt delinquents like college students).  Although the newly adopted U.S. Constitution opened the door to a national bankruptcy law, Congress didn’t walk through it until 1800, even though many, including the well-off, had been lobbying for it.

    Enough of the old moral faith that frowned on debt as sinful lingered.  The United States has always been an uncharitable place when it comes to debt, a curious attitude for a society largely settled by absconding debtors and indentured servants (a form of time-bound debt peonage).  Indeed, the state of Georgia was founded as a debtor’s haven at a time when England’s jails were overflowing with debtors.

    When Congress finally passed the Bankruptcy Act, those in the privileged quarters at New Gaol threw a party.  Down below, however, life continued in its squalid way, since the new law only applied to people who had sizable debts.  If you owed too little, you stayed in jail. 

    Debt and the Birth of a Nation

    Nowadays, the conservative media inundate us with warnings about debt from the Founding Fathers, and it’s true that some of them like Jefferson -- himself an inveterate, often near-bankrupt debtor -- did moralize on the subject.  However, Alexander Hamilton, an idol of the conservative movement, was the architect of the country’s first national debt, insisting that “if it is not excessive, [it] will be to us a national blessing.”

    As the first Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton’s goal was to transform the former 13 colonies, which today we would call an underdeveloped land, into a country that someday would rival Great Britain.  This, he knew, required liquid capital (resources not tied up in land or other less mobile forms of wealth), which could then be invested in sometimes highly speculative and risky enterprises.  Floating a national debt, he felt sure, would attract capital from well-positioned merchants at home and abroad, especially in England.

    However, for most ordinary people living under the new government, debt aroused anger.  To begin with, there were all those veterans of the Revolutionary War and all the farmers who had supplied the revolutionary army with food and been paid in notoriously worthless “continentals” -- the currency issued by the Continental Congress -- or equally valueless state currencies.

    As rumors of the formation of a new national government spread, speculators roamed the countryside buying up this paper money at a penny on the dollar, on the assumption that the debts they represented would be redeemed at face value.  In fact, that is just what Hamilton’s national debt would do, making these “sunshine patriots” quite rich, while leaving the yeomanry impoverished.

    Outrage echoed across the country even before Hamilton’s plan got adopted.  Jefferson denounced the currency speculators as loathsome creatures and had this to say about debt in general: “The modern theory of the perpetuation of debt has drenched the earth with blood and crushed its inhabitants under burdens ever accumulating.”  He and others denounced the speculators as squadrons of counter-revolutionary “moneycrats” who would use their power and wealth to undo the democratic accomplishments of the revolution.

    In contrast, Hamilton saw them as a disinterested monied elite upon whom the country’s economic well-being depended, while dismissing the criticisms of the Jeffersonians as the ravings of Jacobin levelers.  Soon enough, political warfare over the debt turned founding fathers into fratricidal brothers.  

    Hamilton’s plan worked -- sometimes too well.  Wealthy speculators in land like Robert Morris, or in the building of docks, wharves, and other projects tied to trade, or in the national debt itself -- something William Duer and grandees like him specialized in -- seized the moment.  Often enough, however, they over-reached and found themselves, like the yeomen farmers and soldiers, in default to their creditors. 

    Duer’s attempts to corner the market in the bonds issued by the new federal government and in the stock of the country’s first National Bank represented one of the earliest instances of insider trading.  They also proved a lurid example of how speculation could go disastrously wrong.  When the scheme collapsed, it caused the country’s first Wall Street panic and a local depression that spread through New England, ruining “shopkeepers, widows, orphans, butchers... gardeners, market women, and even the noted Bawd Mrs. McCarty.”   

    A mob chased Duer through the streets of New York and might have hanged or disemboweled him had he not been rescued by the city sheriff, who sent him to the safety of debtor’s prison.  John Pintard, part of the same scheme, fled to Newark, New Jersey, before being caught and jailed as well.

    Sending the Duers and Pintards of the new republic off to debtors’ prison was not, however, quite what Hamilton had in mind.  And leaving them rotting there was hardly going to foster the “enterprising spirit” that would, in the treasury secretary’s estimation, turn the country into the Great Britain of the next century.  Bankruptcy, on the other hand, ensured that the overextended could start again and keep the machinery of commercial transactions lubricated.  Hence, the Bankruptcy Act of 1800.

    If, however, you were not a major player, debt functioned differently. Shouldered by the hoi polloi, it functioned as a mechanism for funneling wealth into the mercantile-financial hothouses where American capitalism was being incubated.

    No wonder debt excited such violent political emotions.  Even before the Constitution was adopted, farmers in western Massachusetts, indebted to Boston bankers and merchants and in danger of losing their ancestral homes in the economic hard times of the 1780s, rose in armed rebellion.  In those years, the number of lawsuits for unpaid debt doubled and tripled, farms were seized, and their owners sent off to jail.  Incensed, farmers led by a former revolutionary soldier, Daniel Shays, closed local courts by force and liberated debtors from prisons.  Similar but smaller uprisings erupted in Maine, Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania, while in New Hampshire and Vermont irate farmers surrounded government offices. 

    Shays' Rebellion of 1786 alarmed the country’s elites.  They depicted the unruly yeomen as “brutes” and their houses as “sties.”  They were frightened as well by state governments like Rhode Island’s that were more open to popular influence, declared debt moratoria, and issued paper currencies to help farmers and others pay off their debts.  These developments signaled the need for a stronger central government fully capable of suppressing future debtor insurgencies.

    Federal authority established at the Constitutional Convention allowed for that, but the unrest continued.  Shays' Rebellion was but part one of a trilogy of uprisings that continued into the 1790s.  The Whiskey Rebellion of 1794 was the most serious.  An excise tax (“whiskey tax”) meant to generate revenue to back up the national debt threatened the livelihoods of farmers in western Pennsylvania who used whiskey as a “currency” in a barter economy.  President Washington sent in troops, many of them Revolutionary War veterans, with Hamilton at their head to put down the rebels. 

    Debt Servitude and Primitive Accumulation

    Debt would continue to play a vital role in national and local political affairs throughout the nineteenth century, functioning as a form of capital accumulation in the financial sector, and often sinking pre-capitalist forms of life in the process. 

    Before and during the time that capitalists were fully assuming the prerogatives of running the production process in field and factory, finance was building up its own resources from the outside.  Meanwhile, the mechanisms of public and private debt made the lives of farmers, craftsmen, shopkeepers, and others increasingly insupportable.

    This parasitic economic metabolism helped account for the riotous nature of Gilded Age politics. Much of the high drama of late nineteenth-century political life circled around “greenbacks,” “free silver,” and "the gold standard."  These issues may strike us as arcane today, but they were incendiary then, threatening what some called a “second Civil War.”  In one way or another, they were centrally about debt, especially a system of indebtedness that was driving the independent farmer to extinction.

    All the highways of global capitalism found their way into the trackless vastness of rural America.  Farmers there were not in dire straits because of their backwoods isolation.  On the contrary, it was because they turned out to be living at Ground Zero, where the explosive energies of financial and commercial modernity detonated.  A toxic combination of railroads, grain-elevator operators, farm-machinery manufacturers, commodity-exchange speculators, local merchants, and above all the banking establishment had the farmer at their mercy.  His helplessness was only aggravated when the nineteenth-century version of globalization left his crops in desperate competition with those from the steppes of Canada and Russia, as well as the outbacks of Australia and South America.

    To survive this mercantile onslaught, farmers hooked themselves up to long lines of credit that stretched back to the financial centers of the East.  These lifelines allowed them to buy the seed, fertilizer, and machines needed to farm, pay the storage and freight charges that went with selling their crops, and keep house and home together while the plants ripened and the hogs fattened.  When market day finally arrived, the farmer found out just what all his backbreaking work was really worth.  If the news was bad, then those credit lines were shut off and he found himself dispossessed.

    The family farm and the network of small town life that went with it were being washed into the rivers of capital heading for metropolitan America.  On the “sod house” frontier, poverty was a “badge of honor which decorated all.”  In hisDevil’s Dictionary, the acid-tongued humorist Ambrose Bierce defined the dilemma this way: “Debt. n. An ingenious substitute for the chain and whip of the slave-driver.”

    Across the Great Plains and the cotton South, discontented farmers spread the blame for their predicament far and wide.  Anger, however, tended to pool around the strangulating system of currency and credit run out of the banking centers of the northeast. Beginning in the 1870s with the emergence of the Greenback Party and Greenback-Labor Party and culminating in the 1890s with the People’s or Populist Party, independent farmers, tenant farmers, sharecroppers, small businessmen, and skilled workers directed ever more intense hostility at “the money power.”

    That “power” might appear locally in the homeliest of disguises.  At coal mines and other industrial sites, among “coolies” working to build the railroads or imported immigrant gang laborers and convicts leased to private concerns, workers were typically compelled to buy what they needed in company scrip at company stores at prices that left them perpetually in debt.  Proletarians were so precariously positioned that going into debt -- whether to pawnshops or employers, landlords or loan sharks -- was unavoidable.  Often they were paid in kind: wood chips, thread, hemp, scraps of canvas, cordage: nothing, that is, that was of any use in paying off accumulated debts.  In effect, they were, as they called themselves, “debt slaves.” 

    In the South, hard-pressed growers found themselves embroiled in a crop-lien system, dependent on the local “furnishing agent” to supply everything needed, from seed to clothing to machinery, to get through the growing season.  In such situations, no money changed hands, just a note scribbled in the merchant’s ledger, with payment due at “settling up” time.  This granted the lender a lien, or title, to the crop, a lien that never went away.

    In this fashion, the South became “a great pawn shop,” with farmers perpetually in debt at interest rates exceeding 100% per year.  In Alabama, Georgia, and Mississippi, 90% of farmers lived on credit.  The first lien you signed was essentially a life sentence.  Either that or you became a tenant farmer, or you simply left your land, something so commonplace that everyone knew what the letters “G.T.T.” on an abandoned farmhouse meant: “Gone to Texas.”  (One hundred thousand people a year were doing that in the 1870s.) 

    The merchant’s exaction was so steep that African-Americans and immigrants in particular were regularly reduced to peonage -- forced, that is, to work to pay off their debt, an illegal but not uncommon practice.  And that neighborhood furnishing agent was often tied to the banks up north for his own lines of credit.  In this way, the sucking sound of money leaving for the great metropolises reverberated from region to region.

    Facing dispossession, farmers formed alliances to set up cooperatives to extend credit to one another and market crops themselves.  As one Populist editorialist remarked, this was the way “mortgage-burdened farmers can assert their freedom from the tyranny of organized capital.”  But when they found that these groupings couldn’t survive the competitive pressure of the banking establishment, politics beckoned.

    From one presidential election to the next and in state contests throughout the South and West, irate grain and cotton growers demanded that the government expand the paper currency supply, those “greenbacks,” also known as “the people’s money,” or that it monetize silver, again to enlarge the money supply, or that it set up public institutions to finance farmers during the growing season.  With a passion hard for us to imagine, they railed against the “gold standard” which, in Democratic Party presidential candidate William Jennings Bryan’s famous cry, should no longer be allowed to “crucify mankind on a cross of gold.”

    Should that cross of gold stay fixed in place, one Alabama physician prophesied, it would “reduce the American yeomanry to menials and paupers, to be driven by monopolies like cattle and swine.”  As Election Day approached, populist editors and speakers warned of an approaching war with “the money power,” and they meant it.  “The fight will come and let it come!”

    The idea was to force the government to deliberately inflate the currency and so raise farm prices.  And the reason for doing that?  To get out from under the sea of debt in which they were submerged.  It was a cry from the heart and it echoed and re-echoed across the heartland, coming nearer to upsetting the established order than any American political upheaval before or since. 

    The passion of those populist farmers and laborers was matched by that of their enemies, men at the top of the economy and government for whom debt had long been a road to riches rather than destitution.  They dismissed their foes as “cranks” and “calamity howlers.”  And in the election of 1896, they won.  Bryan went down to defeat, gold continued its pitiless process of crucifixion, and a whole human ecology was set on a path to extinction.

    The Return of Debt Servitude

    When populism died, debt -- as a spark for national political confrontation -- died, too.  The great reform eras that followed -- Progessivism, the New Deal, and the Great Society -- were preoccupied with inequality, economic collapse, exploitation in the workplace, and the outsized nature of corporate power in a consolidated industrial capitalist system.

    Rumblings about debt servitude could certainly still be heard.  Foreclosed farmers during the Great Depression mobilized, held “penny auctions” to restore farms to families, hanged judges in effigy, and forced Prudential Insurance Company, the largest land creditor in Iowa, to suspend foreclosures on 37,000 farms (which persuaded Metropolitan Life Insurance Company to do likewise).  A Kansas City realtor was shot in the act of foreclosing on a family farm, a country sheriff kidnapped while trying to evict a farm widow and dumped 10 miles out of town, and so on.

    Urban renters and homeowners facing eviction formed neighborhood groups to stop the local sheriff or police from throwing families out of their houses or apartments. Furniture tossed into the street in eviction proceedings would be restored by neighbors, who would also turn the gas and electricity back on.  New Deal farm and housing finance legislation bailed out banks and homeowners alike.  Right-wing populists like the Catholic priest Father Charles Coughlin carried on the war against the gold standard in tirades tinged with anti-Semitism.  Signs like one in Nebraska -- “The Jew System of Banking” (illustrated with a giant rattlesnake) -- showed up too often.

    But the age of primitive accumulation in which debt and the financial sector had played such a strategic role was drawing to a close. 

    Today, we have entered a new phase.  What might be called capitalist underdevelopment and once again debt has emerged as both the central mode of capital accumulation and a principal mechanism of servitude.  Warren Buffett (of all people) has predicted that, in the coming decades, the United States is more likely to turn into a “sharecropper society” than an “ownership society.”

    In our time, the financial sector has enriched itself by devouring the productive wherewithal of industrial America through debt, starving the public sector of resources, and saddling ordinary working people with every conceivable form of consumer debt.

    Household debt, which in 1952 was at 36% of total personal income, had by 2006 hit 127%.  Even financing poverty became a lucrative enterprise.  Taking advantage of the low credit ratings of poor people and their need for cash to pay monthly bills or simply feed themselves, some check-cashing outlets, payday lenders, tax preparers, and others levy interest of 200% to 300% and more.  As recently as the 1970s, a good part of this would have been considered illegal under usury laws that no longer exist.  And these poverty creditors are often tied to the largest financiers, including Citibank, Bank of America, and American Express.

    Credit has come to function as a “plastic safety net” in a world of job insecurity, declining state support, and slow-motion economic growth, especially among the elderly, young adults, and low-income families.  More than half the pre-tax income of these three groups goes to servicing debt.  Nowadays, however, the “company store” is headquartered on Wall Street.

    Debt is driving this system of auto-cannibalism which, by every measure of social wellbeing, is relentlessly turning a developed country into an underdeveloped one.  

    Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde are back.  Is a political resistance to debt servitude once again imaginable?

    The Benghazi Affair: Uncovering the Mystery of the Benghazi CIA Annex

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    “The U.S. effort in Benghazi was at its heart a CIA operation, according to the officials who briefed on intelligence.” WSJ, Nov 1, 2012

    Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State, finally appeared before the US Senate and House Foreign Relations Committees on Wednesday, January 23, after a long delay. She was asked many questions by the Congress about what had happened in Benghazi on September 11 and how this could happen. The problem with the responses she gave to these questions was that she focused on the narrative presented in the State Department Report that had been released a month earlier, and which is deeply flawed.

    In order to understand the nature of what happened on September 11, 2012 in Benghazi, and how the State Department under Hillary Clinton has been an important part of the cover up of what this second September 11 is actually a part of, it is important to understand the problem with the State Department Report being used to carry out the US government cover up of what I call the Benghazi Affair.

    On December 18, the US State Department released its report on the September 11, 2012 attacks on two US facilities in Benghazi, Libya. These attacks had resulted in the deaths of the US Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens, and three other Americans working for the US government in Libya. The US government had claimed that its report would shed light on what had become a contentious Congressional and media debate over the cause and details of the attack on these two US government compounds in Benghazi.

    Soon, however, it became clear that the State Department Report issued by the Accountability Review Board (hereafter ARB Report), offered the public little information to add to what had already been made available by the State Department or the media. Instead, the public version of the ARB Report, referred to as the “unclassified” version, actually functions as part of the cover-up of what happened on September 11, 2012 in Benghazi. Most of this public document carefully refrains from any discussion of the role or activities of the CIA and what bearing this had on the events of September 11-12 2012 in Benghazi. But the role of the CIA in Benghazi and its bearing on what happened there on September 11 is the crucial question that any legitimate investigation into the situation must explore.

    The trick of the Accountability Review Board (ARB) was that it issued two different versions of its Report. One version was an “unclassified” report that was available to the press, the public and the US Congress to discuss in public.(1) The other version was a “classified” report that was to be hidden from public or press scrutiny and was only to be available to Congress in a closed Congressional process. The unclassified version of the ARB Report could not mention the CIA activities. It could only discuss the role of the State Department in what happened.

    The problem with such a restriction is that one of the US government sites in Benghazi that was attacked was a CIA facility referred to as the ‘Annex’ (hereafter CIA annex compound). The other site was allegedly a State Department administered facility referred to as the ‘Special Mission Benghazi Compound’ (hereafter special mission compound). This second compound, according to the WSJ, was actually created to provide diplomatic cover for the CIA facility.(2)

    While some US Congressional Committees have been conducting investigations into what happened in Benghazi, they have agreed to discuss only the activities of the State Department in their open, public sessions, and to reserve any consideration or questions about the activities of the CIA for closed sessions of their committees, away from public view.(3)

    Not only is the US Congress restricted from discussing the role of the CIA in Benghazi in open session, some of the mainstream US media have agreed to a request by the US government to withhold details about the CIA operations in Benghazi. The New York Times (NYT) is one such publication. (4) In an article briefly referring to the CIA annex compound, which the NYT says “encompassed four buildings inside a low-walled compound….” The NYT acknowledges that, “From among these buildings, the C.I.A. personnel carried out their secret missions.” But then the article explains that, “The New York Times agreed to withhold locations and details of these operations at the request of Obama administration officials….”

    To declare an investigation into or discussion of the activities regarding the role of the CIA and its Annex compound as a forbidden subject during an open committee meeting of Congress, is to prevent the US Congress from fulfilling its oversight obligations over the US Executive branch of government. For the US government to require the US media to restrict coverage is to shroud the needed public discussion and investigation in darkness.

    The effort to cover up the role of the CIA in the events resulting in the attack on the two US government facilities in Benghazi, however, demonstrates that something important is at stake and worth investigating.

    Despite the US government effort to impose such restrictions, there are media accounts and some Congressional documents that provide a glimpse into the details of hidden CIA activity that the attacks on the US facilities in Benghazi help to reveal.

    To understand the nature of this hidden activity, requires a willingness not only to critique the official explanations, but also to examine the events that can help to uncover the actual forces at work in Benghazi and the role they played in CIA activities in Libya.

    One Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article is particularly helpful. The article, is titled “CIA Takes Heat for Role in Libya.” It provides a rare window into details of the murky world of the CIA operation in Benghazi and how it came about.(5)

    The article notes that former CIA Director David Petraeus did not greet the bodies of the four Americans killed in Benghazi when they were returned to the US, even though two of those killed are acknowledged to have worked for the CIA. “Officials close to Mr. Petraeus,” the WSJ explains, “say he stayed away in an effort to conceal the agency’s role in collecting intelligence and providing security in Benghazi.”

    Of the 30 or more American officials evacuated from Benghazi, only seven worked for the State Department. According to the WSJ, “Nearly all the rest worked for the CIA, under diplomatic cover, which was a principle purpose” of the special mission compound.

    Soon after the struggle against the government of Libya began in February 2011, the CIA set up a compound in Benghazi for its spy operations. Eventually, the CIA gave its compound a State Department office name, the Annex, to disguise its purpose, the WSJ reveals. According to the US government, the role of the CIA in Benghazi was “focused on countering proliferation and terrorist threats….A main concern was the spread of weapons….”

    “At the annex,” the WSJ explains, “many of the analysts and officers had what is referred to in intelligence circles as ‘light cover’ carrying U.S. diplomatic passports.”

    Providing a cover for the secret operation of the CIA, however, created problems for State Department officials who felt the CIA was not “forthcoming with information,” even in the midst of the attack on the US facilities. As the WSJ notes, on September 11, 2012, “At 5:41 p.m. Eastern time, Mrs. Clinton called Mr. Petraeus. She wanted to make sure the two agencies were on the same page.”

    Even after the attack was over and the analysts and officers had been evacuated, the accounts in the WSJ and McClatchy Newspapers, describe how quickly the CIA acted to clean out documents and equipment from the Annex. By contrast, the US government left the premises of the special mission compound unguarded and open to looters for weeks after the attack.

    “The significance of the annex was a well-kept secret in Benghazi,” the WSJ reporters conclude. A McClatchy article documents how a well guarded secret was even the location of the CIA Annex compound. (6)

    The implication is that the attackers at the special mission compound intended to flush out the covert location and presence of the CIA Annex compound so as to end its ability to continue its secret activities.(7)

    An opinion piece, “The Fog of Benghazi”, appeared in the WSJ on November 3. It discusses what was at stake for the US government as a result of the September 11 attack in Benghazi(8): “America has since closed the Libya diplomatic outpost and pulled a critical intelligence unit out of a hotbed of Islamism, conceding a defeat. U.S. standing in the region and the ability to fight terrorist groups were undermined, with worrying repercussions for a turbulent Middle East and America’s security. This is why it’s so important to learn what happened in Benghazi.”

    The effort to learn what happened in the Benghazi Affair, is similarly the subject of a 10 page letter dated October 19 sent by two US Congressmen to President Obama. (9) One of the Congressmen, Darrell Issa, is Chairman of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. The other, Jason Chaffetz, is Chairman of the House Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations.

    Their letter raises ten questions for President Obama, the answers to which they explain are needed for the US Congressional investigation to determine the significance of the Benghazi affair. Also in their letter they include an attachment of 160 pages of data and photos which document the lawless environment in Libya, and particularly in Benghazi in the months before the Benghazi attack. This data was obtained by the US Congress from the State Department. (10) Though the data is labeled as sensitive, it is not classified material.

    This data documents in a way that is now public, the perilous environment existing in Libya, providing a graphic description of the armed militias who carry out bombings, murders and kidnappings of government officials and others who try to challenge the lawlessness.

    The data demonstrates the details of what the ARB Report acknowledges as “a general backdrop of political violence, assassinations, targeting former regime officials, lawlessness, and an overarching absence of central government authority in eastern Libya.” (11)

    The Internet has made possible the publication of a number of investigative accounts of various aspects of the Benghazi Affair. Several of these propose that the CIA and even Chris Stevens were part of a gun running operation, gathering up weapons from Libya and facilitating their shipment to the insurgents fighting against the government in Syria. Some of the articles also propose that the CIA operation in Benghazi helped to send mercenaries from other countries to fight against the government of Syria. (12)

    Fox News and a number of associated websites have featured articles which offer such accounts. Often, however, the articles rely on anonymous sources to support their claims.

    Rarely are media offering accounts that portray this reality able to present direct evidence to support the narratives they develop.

    An important exception is an article that appeared in the Times of London on September 14, 2012. This was three days after Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed.

    The article documents that a ship, the Al Entisar (also written as Intisaar or The Victory in English), sailing under a Libyan flag with a 400 ton cargo, which included SAM-7 surface-to-air anti-aircraft missiles and rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) and some humanitarian supplies, is said to have arrived September 6 at the Turkish Port of Iskenderun.(13)

    The captain of the ship, Omar Mousaeeb, a Libyan from Benghazi, was accompanied by 26 Libyans who were on board to help smuggle the shipment from the Turkish Port across the border into Syria. The plan was then to distribute the weapons to insurgents in Syria who were allied with the Muslim Brotherhood.

    This account by the Times of London provides specific details about the mechanisms and problems of this Libyan weapons pipeline to the insurgency in Syria. The article describes the conflict between the Muslim Brotherhood and other groups of the Free Syrian Army (FSA) over who would get the weapons from the Al Entisar shipment.

    “The scale of the shipment and how it should be disbursed, has sparked a row between the FSA and the Muslim Brotherhood, who took control of the shipment when it arrived in Turkey,” writes Sheera Frenkel, the author of the Times of London article.

    Though the ship arrived at the port in Turkey on September 6, not all of the cargo had been transported into Syria by September 14, the article notes, though this is over a week after the ship arrived at the port in Turkey. While “more than 80 percent of the ship’s cargo,” the Times of London explains, “had been moved into Syria, Mr. Mousaeeb and a group of Libyans who had arrived with the ship said they were preparing to travel with the final load into Syria to ensure it was being distributed.” Actually their concern appeared to be to whom it was distributed, not how.

    The Times of London refers to two Syrian activists with the FSA who complained that infighting within the insurgent ranks had delayed the arrival of the weapons in Syria, “There was widespread talk of Syrian groups who allied themselves with the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood movement being given a larger share of the ship’s cargo.” One activist quoted objects that, “The Muslim Brotherhood, through its ties with Turkey, was seizing control of this ship and its cargo.”

    While the Times of London does not directly link Chris Stevens or the CIA annex compound to the Al Entisar arms shipment to Turkey, the article does provide an important context for how the conflict over which insurgent group would get weapons from the shipment created a source of significant tension at the very time the attack on the two US compounds in Benghazi took place.

    Given the question, “Why Chris Stevens would have traveled to Benghazi to be in this perilous environment on September 11,” an answer which points to some urgent matter which needed his attention, would help to provide the rationale for him to ignore the security considerations against his making such a trip.

    Keeping in mind the importance of this shipment of weapons from Benghazi to Turkey, the need to work out the details of the weapons distribution process could very well have provided the motive for Stevens to plan a visit in Benghazi during such a perilous period as the 11th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attack on the US.

    By September 11, infighting among the Muslim Brotherhood and other insurgent groups, over who would be given the weapons from the Al Entisar shipment, suggests the likelihood that Turkey’s Consul General in Benghazi and the US Ambassador needed to discuss the conflict over the weapons and the problem of how they should be moved into Syria and distributed among the insurgent groups.

    In line with this reasoning, it is not surprising that Chris Stevens had a meeting with Turkey’s Consul General to Benghazi, Ali Sait Akin on September 11 at the Benghazi special mission compound.

    The description of the infighting over the Al Entisar shipment to a port in Turkey of weapons for the Syrian insurgency, raises the possibility that the Turkish Consul General to Benghazi and Stevens discussed the conflict over the weapons. As of September 11, there were weapons that had yet to be distributed and smuggled into Syria from the Al Entisar shipment.

    On September 10, when Stevens arrived in Benghazi, the shipment of arms had only recently been received at the Turkish port of Iskenderun, and the conflict among the insurgent groups who were to receive the weapons was not yet resolved.

    According to documents that Congress received from the State Department, soon after Stevens arrived in Benghazi on September 10, he visited the CIA annex compound for a briefing.

    On September 11 he stayed at the special mission compound but had meetings scheduled with someone from the Arabian Gulf Oil Co. (AGOCO), and later in the afternoon with someone from the Al Marfa Shipping and Maritime Services Co. (The names of the individuals were blacked out.) Then he had dinner and discussion with Ali Sait Akin, Turkey’s Consul General to Benghazi.(14)

    While there has been no specific information made available by the State Department about the content of the meetings Stevens had on September 10 and 11, Turkey’s role in the shipping of weapons and foreign fighters into Syria to assist the fight against the Syrian government is the subject of numerous articles. The Times of London article describes previous difficulty experienced in trying to ship a cargo of weapons to where they could be safely unloaded and moved to insurgents in Syria. Given this previous experience it is not surprising that it was necessary to have the Turkish government intervene to settle problems that arose with the Al Entisar weapons shipment. It had taken several weeks “to arrange the paperwork for the Turkish port authorities to release the cargo.”(15) The Times of London quoted Suleiman Haari, who worked with Captain Mousaeeb. Haari explained that “Everyone wanted a piece of the ship. Certain groups wanted to get involved and claim the cargo for themselves. It took a long time to work through the logistics.”

    This could account for the surprise visit by the then head of the CIA, David Petraeus on September 2 to Ankara. (16) Petraeus arrived in Ankara for what appeared to be talks with the President of Turkey and other Turkish government officials. Were Petraeus’s meetings with Turkish government officials needed to help make the arrangements for the Libyan ship to dock at the port in Turkey and unload the weapons that were to be smuggled across the border into Syria? This is a question Petraeus could answer if he were to testify at a US Congressional hearing again.

    In light of the WSJ claim that the special mission compound had been set up to provide diplomatic cover for the CIA operation run out of the Annex, the question is raised as to whether the special mission compound was actually a State Department facility or a CIA facility acting under cover as a State Department operation.

    According to the unclassified version of the ARB Report, Chris Stevens had arrived in Benghazi on April 5, 2011, “via a Greek cargo ship at the rebel-held city of Benghazi to re-establish a U.S. presence in Libya.” He had been appointed the US government’s “Special Envoy to the Libyan Transitional National Council” (TNC), acting as an official contact between the insurgents fighting to overthrow the government of Libya and the US government that was aiding them to bring about regime change in Libya. (17) Such an activity is contrary to international law and provisions of the UN charter (Article 2 Sections 1, 4, 7) which prohibit interference in the internal affairs of sovereign states. (18)

    Stevens’ mission, the Report states, “was to serve as the liaison with the TNC” for a post-Qaddafi government in Libya. The US embassy had been closed in February 2011, and was only reopened on September 22, 2011 with Gene Cretz as the Ambassador.

    The ARB Report notes, however, that the CIA had set up the CIA compound in Benghazi in February 2011 soon after the insurgency arose against the Libyan government. This is a confirmation that the US government had put intelligence operatives on the ground in Benghazi just as the insurgency against the Libyan government was getting underway. This is also at least one month before Chris Stevens arrived in Benghazi.

    The ARB Report also reveals that Chris Stevens stayed at the CIA Annex from the beginning of June, 2011 until June 21, 2011. Not until June 21 did “he and his security contingent move into what would become the Special Mission Benghazi compound….” According to the ARB Report the special mission compound in Benghazi was set up a few months after the CIA compound. (19)

    This puts in perspective why the WSJ article on November 1 says that the special mission compound was established to provide diplomatic cover for the CIA facility, subsequently referred to as “the Annex”. Stevens remained as Special Envoy to the TNC and stayed in Benghazi until November 17, 2011. On May 26, 2012 Stevens arrived in Tripoli to replace Cretz as US Ambassador to Libya.

    What was the State Department responsibility for the special mission compound? If its purpose was to provide diplomatic cover for the CIA, then what was the CIA responsibility? These are significant questions. But it is unlikely that such questions will be asked at the public Congressional oversight investigations because questions about the role of the CIA Annex in Benghazi have been declared to be a classified matter.

    Though the NYT article, ”U.S. Approved Weapons for Libya Rebels Fell into Jihadis’ Hands,” about the Benghazi affair doesn’t go into detail about what the CIA was doing in Benghazi, it raises a significant issue that is likely to be at the root of why there was an attack on both the special mission compound and the CIA Annex compound.(20) The NYT refers to the concern US government officials involved in the program raise about the problems created by the US government helping to provide weapons to insurgents fighting in Libya and Syria. According to the NYT, what these Islamic militants will do with these weapons worries high level US government national security officials.

    While officially, the US government claims it is not providing weapons, the Times of London article about the shipment of weapons from Benghazi to Turkey, provides a striking example of how the US and Turkish governments, both overtly, and covertly, appear to be involved in collecting weapons in Libya and helping to ship them to be used against the Syrian government and people.(21)

    The NYT claims that the US government has little control over where these weapons go and the harm they do when used in Libya, Syria, or other conflicts in the region. The NYT reports, “Concerns in Washington soon rose about the groups Qatar was supporting, officials said. A debate over what to do about the weapons shipments dominated at least one meeting of the so-called Deputies Committee, the interagency panel consisting of the second-ranking officials in major agencies involved in national security. ‘There was a lot of concern that Qatar weapons were going to Islamist groups,’ one official recalled.” (22)

    These supposed ‘Qatar’ weapons, however, did not originate with Qatar alone. By way of an example, the NYT quotes one US weapons dealer who wanted to sell weapons to the insurgency in Libya during the war against Libya. The NYT describes how he applied to the State Department for a license. “He also sent an e-mail to J. Christopher Stevens, then the special representative to the Libyan rebel Alliance, ” reports the NYT. According to e-mails provided to the NYT by the arms dealer, Marc Turi, Stevens wrote back to Turi that he would “share Mr. Turi’s proposal with colleagues in Washington.” Eventually the weapons dealer was encouraged to communicate with contacts in Qatar.(23)

    Such examples help to demonstrate both that there is concern among US government officials in Washington about the US government arming militant Islamists, the very people the US government condemns as “terrorists” in other situations. Also though the weapons pipeline may have on the surface been made to appear unconnected to the US actually supplying the arms that are being distributed by Qatar or Saudi Arabia, in the case of Marc Turi, as one example, the weapons pipeline was arranged for by a license provided by the US government to ship the weapons to Qatar.

    Such examples provide the context for how the US government has covertly and overtly been helping to provide the weapons that are then used by those hostile to the US to inflict harm on the Libyan and Syrian people and even on Americans, as those killed in Benghazi on September 11, 2012. This situation, several commentators have noted, is reminiscent to the Iran Contra Affair where the US government entities covertly acted in a way that jeopardized the interests and even the physical well being of US officials and civilians. And it is likely that the actions being taken by US government officials to arm and provide other forms of support for the Libyan and Syrian insurgencies, are contrary to US laws and constitutional obligations.(24)

    Such considerations reflect some of the salient concerns raised by a number of online commentators about the Benghazi Affair. One example of many that have been published online in the last few months is the article “Benghazigate: The Cover-up continues” by Bill Shanefeld published at the American Thinker website. The article raises two important questions (25): “(1) The pre-”event” purpose of the compound and its Annex (since these operations probably motivated the perpetrators of the “event”); and (2) Team Obama’s failed policies in North Africa, the Middle East, and Afghanistan.”

    The article also refers to some of the many contributions made by other online commentators. These various commentaries help to clarify that the Benghazi affair offers a relatively rare window into the on the ground actions of the US government’s clandestine operations. These actions are the partner to the role the US government is playing in the UN Security Council and the UN in general in its efforts to turn the UN into a partner in its CIA and NATO activities. The Benghazi Affair is an important situation and the question remains as to whether the illegal activities of the US government acting contrary to the obligations of the UN Charter in Libya and more recently Syria will come to light.
    Notes

    1. U.S. State Department Public Accountability Board Report

    http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/202446.pdf

    2.Margaret Coker, Adam Entous, Siobhan Gorman, Margaret Coker, ”CIA
    Takes Heat for Role in Libya,” WSJ, November 1, 2012.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204712904578092853621061838.html

    3. Dana Milbanks, “Letting Us in on a Secret,” Washington Post,
    October 10, 2012,

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/dana-milbank-letting-us-in-on-a-secret/2012/10/10/ba3136ca-132b-11e2-ba83-a7a396e6b2a7_print.html

    4.Helene and Eric Schmidt, Michael S Schmidt, “Deadly Attack In Libya
    was Major Blow to CIA Efforts,” New York Times, September 23, 2012.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/24/world/africa/attack-in-libya-was-major-blow-to-cia-efforts.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

    5. Margaret Coker, Adam Entous, Siobhan Gorman, Margaret Coker, ”CIA
    Takes Heat for Role in Libya,” WSJ, November 1, 2012.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204712904578092853621061838.html

    6.Nancy A. Youssef, “Libyans, diplomats: CIA’s Benghazi station a
    secret – and quickly repaired,” McClatchy Newspapers, November 12,
    2012.

    http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2012/11/12/174455/libyans-diplomats-cias-benghazi.html

    7. Catherine Herridge, “CIA moved swiftly to scrub, abandon Libya
    facility after attack, source says,” Fox News, December 5, 2012.

    http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2012/12/05/cia-moved-swiftly-scrub-abandon-libya-facility-after-attack-source-says/#ixzz2IE8icKIQ

    8. “The Fog of Benghazi,” Opinion Piece, WSJ, Nov. 3, 2012

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204712904578090612465153472.html

    9. Letter from Representative Issa and Representative Chaffetz to
    President Obama, October 19, 2012

    http://oversight.house.gov/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/10.19.12-Issa-and-Chaffetz-to-President.pdf

    10. The Oversight Committee’s letter was accompanied by 166 pages of
    documents and photos.

    http://oversight.house.gov/release/oversight-committee-asks-president-about-white-house-role-in-misguided-libya-normalization-effort/

    documents

    http://1.usa.gov/S89qG7

    11. U.S. State Department Public Accountability Board Report

    http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/202446.pdf

    12. See for example, ”Interview with Clare M. Lopez”

    http://goldandguns.wordpress.com/2012/10/31/former-cia-clare-lopez-on-the-benghazi-gun-running/

    13. Sheera Frenkel, “Syrian rebels squabble over weapons as biggest
    shipload arrives from Libya; Turkey,” Times (London), September 14,
    2012, p. 23

    14. Schedule of Chris Stevens activities on September 10 and September 14.

    Included in data sent to President Obama by Issa and Chaffetz

    15. Sheeran Frenkel, “Syrian rebels squabble over weapons as biggest
    shipload arrives from Libya; Turkey,” Times (London), September 14,
    2012, p. 23

    16. “CIA chief Petraeus pays surprise visit to Turkey,” Hurriyet Daily
    News, September 2, 2012

    http://www.hurriyetdailynews.com/cia-chief-petraeus-pays-surprise-visit-to-turkey.aspx?pageID=238&nid=29175

    J. Millard Burr, “The Benghazi Attack: Some Thoughts,” Economic
    Warfare Institute Blog, Oct 24, 2012.

    http://econwarfare.org/viewarticle.cfm?id=5109

    17. U.S. State Department Public Accountability Board Report

    http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/202446.pdf

    18. Dr. Curtis Doebbler, “It is illegal to support rebels fighting a
    legitimate government,” Note from Sibialiria.org,
    http://syria360.wordpress.com/2012/11/20/supporting-the-doha-coalition-violates-international-law/

    19. U.S. State Department Public Accountability Board Report

    http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/202446.pdf

    Margaret Coker, Adam Entous, Siobhan Gorman, Margaret Coker, ”CIA
    Takes Heat for Role in Libya,” WSJ, November 1, 2012.

    http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204712904578092853621061838.html

    20. Mark Mazzetti, James Risen, Michael S Schmidt, ”U.S. Approved Arms
    for Libya Rebels Fell into Jihadis’ Hands,” NYT, December 5, 2012.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/06/world/africa/weapons-sent-to-libyan-rebels-with-us-approval-fell-into-islamist-hands.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

    21. Sheera Frenkel, “Syrian rebels squabble over weapons as biggest
    shipload arrives from Libya; Turkey,” Times ( London), September 14,
    2012, p. 23

    Also see other relevant articles such as:

    Christina Lamb, “Covert US Plan to Arm Rebels,” The Sunday Times
    (London), December 9, 2012, p. 1,2

    Franklin Lamb, “Flooding Syria with Foreign Arms: A View from
    Damascus”, Foreign Policy Journal, Nov. 5, 2012.

    http://www.foreignpolicyjournal.com/2012/11/05/flooding-syria-with-foreign-arms-a-view-from-damascus/

    J. Millard Burr, “You Can Kiss Petraeus Goodbye,” End Time News, Nov. 5, 2012

    http://endtimesnews.wordpress.com/2012/11/07/benghazi-attack-reveals-split-in-gun-running-factions/

    22. Mark Mazzetti, James Risen, Michael S Schmidt, ”U.S. Approved Arms
    for Libya Rebels Fell into Jihadis’ Hands,” NYT, December 5, 2012.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/06/world/africa/weapons-sent-to-libyan-rebels-with-us-approval-fell-into-islamist-hands.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

    23. Mark Mazzetti, James Risen, Michael S Schmidt, ”U.S. Approved Arms
    for Libya Rebels Fell into Jihadis’ Hands,” NYT, December 5, 2012.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/12/06/world/africa/weapons-sent-to-libyan-rebels-with-us-approval-fell-into-islamist-hands.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

    24. Michael Kelley, “The CIA’s Benghazi Operation May Have Violated
    International Law,” Nov. 5, 2012

    http://endtimesnews.wordpress.com/2012/11/07/benghazi-attack-reveals-split-in-gun-running-factions/

    Oona A. Hathaway, Elizabeth Nielsen, Chelsea Purvis, Saurabh Sanghvi,
    and Sara Solow, “ARMS TRAFFICKING: THE INTERNATIONAL AND DOMESTIC
    LEGAL FRAMEWORK.,” Yale Law School Report. Posted Nov. 15, 2011.

    http://www.law.yale.edu/documents/pdf/cglc/YLSreport_armsTrafficking.pdf

    25. Bill Shanefeld, “Benghazigate the cover-up continues.” American
    Thinker, January 9, 2013.

    http://www.americanthinker.com/2013/01/benghazigate_the_cover-up_continues.html

    A version of this article appears on my netizenblog at
    http://blogs.taz.de/netizenblog/2013/01/24/benghazi-affair-cia-annex/

    Hate Crimes in America (and Elsewhere): A Rape a Minute, a Thousand Corpses a...

    us ripped flag

    Here in the United States, where there is a reported rape every 6.2 minutes, and one in five women will be raped in her lifetime, the rape and gruesome murder of a young woman on a bus in New Delhi on December 16th was treated as an exceptional incident. The story of the alleged rape of an unconscious teenager by members of the Steubenville High School football team was still unfolding, and gang rapes aren’t that unusual here either. Take your pick: some of the 20 men who gang-raped an 11-year-old in Cleveland, Texas, were sentenced in November, while the instigator of the gang rape of a 16-year-old in Richmond, California, was sentenced in October, and four men who gang-raped a 15-year-old near New Orleans were sentenced in April, though the six men who gang-raped a 14-year-old in Chicago last fall are still at large.  Not that I actually went out looking for incidents: they’re everywhere in the news, though no one adds them up and indicates that there might actually be a pattern.

    There is, however, a pattern of violence against women that’s broad and deep and horrific and incessantly overlooked. Occasionally, a case involving a celebrity or lurid details in a particular case get a lot of attention in the media, but such cases are treated as anomalies, while the abundance of incidental news items about violence against women in this country, in other countries, on every continent including Antarctica, constitute a kind of background wallpaper for the news.

    If you’d rather talk about bus rapes than gang rapes, there’s the rape of a developmentally disabled woman on a Los Angeles bus in November and the kidnapping of an autistic 16-year-old on the regional transit train system in Oakland, California — she was raped repeatedly by her abductor over two days this winter — and there was a gang rape of multiple women on a bus in Mexico City recently, too.  While I was writing this, I read that another female bus-rider was kidnapped in India and gang-raped all night by the bus driver and five of his friends who must have thought what happened in New Delhi was awesome.

    We have an abundance of rape and violence against women in this country and on this Earth, though it’s almost never treated as a civil rights or human rights issue, or a crisis, or even a pattern. Violence doesn’t have a race, a class, a religion, or a nationality, but it does have a gender.

    Here I want to say one thing: though virtually all the perpetrators of such crimes are men, that doesn’t mean all men are violent. Most are not. In addition, men obviously also suffer violence, largely at the hands of other men, and every violent death, every assault is terrible.  But the subject here is the pandemic of violence by men against women, both intimate violence and stranger violence.
    What We Don’t Talk About When We Don’t Talk About Gender

    There’s so much of it. We could talk about the assault and rape of a 73-year-old in Manhattan’s Central Park last September, or the recent rape of a four-year-oldand an 83-year-old in Louisiana, or the New York City policeman who wasarrested in October for what appeared to be serious plans to kidnap, rape, cook, and eat a woman, any woman, because the hate wasn’t personal (though maybe it was for the San Diego man who actually killed and cooked his wife in November and the man from New Orleans who killed, dismembered, and cooked his girlfriend in 2005).

    Those are all exceptional crimes, but we could also talk about quotidian assaults, because though a rape is reported only every 6.2 minutes in this country, the estimated total is perhaps five times as high. Which means that there may be very nearly a rape a minute in the U.S.  It all adds up to tens of millions of rape victims.

    We could talk about high-school- and college-athlete rapes, or campus rapes, to which university authorities have been appallingly uninterested in responding in many cases, including that high school in Steubenville, Notre Dame University,Amherst College, and many others. We could talk about the escalating pandemicof rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment in the U.S. military, where Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta estimated that there were 19,000 sexual assaults on fellow soldiers in 2010 alone and that the great majority of assailants got away with it, though four-star general Jeffrey Sinclair was indicted in September for “a slew of sex crimes against women.”

    Never mind workplace violence, let’s go home.  So many men murder their partners and former partners that we have well over 1,000 homicides of that kind a year — meaning that every three years the death toll tops 9/11’s casualties, though no one declares a war on this particular terror. (Another way to put it: the more than 11,766 corpses from domestic-violence homicides since 9/11 exceed the number of deaths of victims on that day and all American soldiers killed in the “war on terror.”) If we talked about crimes like these and why they are so common, we’d have to talk about what kinds of profound change this society, or this nation, or nearly every nation needs. If we talked about it, we’d be talking about masculinity, or male roles, or maybe patriarchy, and we don’t talk much about that.

    Instead, we hear that American men commit murder-suicides — at the rate of about 12 a week — because the economy is bad, though they also do it when the economy is good; or that those men in India murdered the bus-rider because the poor resent the rich, while other rapes in India are explained by how the rich exploit the poor; and then there are those ever-popular explanations: mental problems and intoxicants — and for jocks,head injuries. The latest spin is that lead exposurewas responsible for a lot of our violence, except that both genders are exposed and one commits most of the violence. The pandemic of violence always gets explained as anything but gender, anything but what would seem to be the broadest explanatory pattern of all.

    Someone wrote a piece about how white men seem to be the ones who commit mass murders in the U.S. and the (mostly hostile) commenters only seemed to notice the white part. It’s rare that anyone says what this medical study does, even if in the driest way possible: “Being male has been identified as a risk factor for violent criminal behavior in several studies, as have exposure to tobacco smoke before birth, having antisocial parents, and belonging to a poor family.”

    Still, the pattern is plain as day. We could talk about this as a global problem, looking at the epidemic of assaultharassment, and rape of women in Cairo’s Tahrir Square that has taken away the freedom they celebrated during the Arab Spring — and led some men there to form defense teams to help counter it — or the persecution of women in public and private in India from “Eve-teasing” to bride-burning, or “honor killings” in South Asia and the Middle East, or the way that South Africa has become a global rape capital, with an estimated 600,000 rapeslast year, or how rape has been used as a tactic and “weapon” of war in Mali, Sudan, and the Congo, as it was in the former Yugoslavia, or the pervasiveness of rape and harassment in Mexico and the femicide in Juarez, or the denial of basic rights for women in Saudi Arabia and the myriad sexual assaults on immigrant domestic workers there, or the way that the Dominique Strauss-Kahn case in the United States revealed what impunity he and others had in France, and it’s only for lack of space I’m leaving out Britain and Canada and Italy (with its ex-prime minister known for his orgies with the underaged), Argentina and Australia and so many other countries.

    Who Has the Right to Kill You?

    But maybe you’re tired of statistics, so let’s just talk about a single incident that happened in my city a couple of weeks ago, one of many local incidents in which men assaulted women that made the local papers this month:

    “A woman was stabbed after she rebuffed a man’s sexual advances while she walked in San Francisco’s Tenderloin neighborhood late Monday night, a police spokesman said today. The 33-year-old victim was walking down the street when a stranger approached her and propositioned her, police spokesman Officer Albie Esparza said. When she rejected him, the man became very upset and slashed the victim in the face and stabbed her in the arm, Esparza said.”

    The man, in other words, framed the situation as one in which his chosen victim had no rights and liberties, while he had the right to control and punish her.  This should remind us that violence is first of all authoritarian. It begins with this premise: I have the right to control you.

    Murder is the extreme version of that authoritarianism, where the murderer asserts he has the right to decide whether you live or die, the ultimate means of controlling someone.  This may be true even if you are “obedient,” because the desire to control comes out of a rage that obedience can’t assuage. Whatever fears, whatever sense of vulnerability may underlie such behavior, it also comes out of entitlement, the entitlement to inflict suffering and even death on other people. It breeds misery in the perpetrator and the victims.

    As for that incident in my city, similar things happen all the time.  Many versions of it happened to me when I was younger, sometimes involving death threats and often involving torrents of obscenities: a man approaches a woman with both desire and the furious expectation that the desire will likely be rebuffed.  The fury and desire come in a package, all twisted together into something that always threatens to turn eros into thanatos, love into death, sometimes literally.

    It’s a system of control. It’s why so many intimate-partner murders are of women who dared to break up with those partners.  As a result, it imprisons a lot of women, and though you could say that the attacker on January 7th, or a brutal would-be-rapist near my own neighborhood on January 5th, or another rapist here on January 12th, or the San Franciscan who on January 6th set his girlfriend on firefor refusing to do his laundry, or the guy who was just sentenced to 370 years for some particularly violent rapes in San Francisco in late 2011, were marginal characters, rich, famous, and privileged guys do it, too.

    The Japanese vice-consul in San Francisco was charged with 12 felony counts of spousal abuse and assault with a deadly weapon last September, the same month that, in the same town, the ex-girlfriend of Mason Mayer (brother of Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer) testified in court: “He ripped out my earrings, tore my eyelashes off, while spitting in my face and telling me how unlovable I am… I was on the ground in the fetal position, and when I tried to move, he squeezed both knees tighter into my sides to restrain me and slapped me.” According to the newspaper, she also testified that “Mayer slammed her head onto the floor repeatedly and pulled out clumps of her hair, telling her that the only way she was leaving the apartment alive was if he drove her to the Golden Gate Bridge ‘where you can jump off or I will push you off.’” Mason Mayer got probation.

    This summer, an estranged husband violated his wife’s restraining order against him, shooting her – and six other women — at her spa job in suburban Milwaukee, but since there were only four corpses the crime was largely overlooked in the media in a year with so many more spectacular mass murders in this country (and we still haven’t really talked about the fact that, of 62 mass shootings in the U.S. in three decades, only one was by a woman, because when you say lone gunman, everyone talks about loners and guns but not about men — and by the way, nearly two thirds of all women killed by guns are killed by their partner or ex-partner).

    What’s love got to do with it, asked Tina Turner, whose ex-husband Ike once said, “Yeah I hit her, but I didn’t hit her more than the average guy beats his wife.” A woman is beaten every nine seconds in this country. Just to be clear: not nine minutes, but nine seconds. It’s the number-one cause of injury to American women; of the two million injured annually, more than half a million of those injuries require medical attention while about 145,000 require overnight hospitalizations, according to the Center for Disease Control, and you don’t want to know about the dentistry needed afterwards. Spouses are also the leading cause of death for pregnant women in the U.S.

    “Women worldwide ages 15 through 44 are more likely to die or be maimed because of male violence than because of cancer, malaria, war and traffic accidents combined,” writes Nicholas D. Kristof, one of the few prominent figures to address the issue regularly.

    The Chasm Between Our Worlds

    Rape and other acts of violence, up to and including murder, as well as threats of violence, constitute the barrage some men lay down as they attempt to control some women, and fear of that violence limits most women in ways they’ve gotten so used to they hardly notice — and we hardly address. There are exceptions: last summer someone wrote to me to describe a college class in which the students were asked what they do to stay safe from rape. The young women described the intricate ways they stayed alert, limited their access to the world, took precautions, and essentially thought about rape all the time (while the young men in the class, he added, gaped in astonishment). The chasm between their worlds had briefly and suddenly become visible.

    Mostly, however, we don’t talk about it — though a graphic has been circulating on the Internet called Ten Top Tips to End Rape, the kind of thing young women get often enough, but this one had a subversive twist.  It offered advice like this: “Carry a whistle! If you are worried you might assault someone ‘by accident’ you can hand it to the person you are with, so they can call for help.” While funny, the piece points out something terrible: the usual guidelines in such situations put the full burden of prevention on potential victims, treating the violence as a given. You explain to me why colleges spend more time telling women how to survive predators than telling the other half of their students not to be predators.

    Threats of sexual assault now seem to take place online regularly. In late 2011, British columnist Laurie Penny wrote, “An opinion, it seems, is the short skirt of the Internet. Having one and flaunting it is somehow asking an amorphous mass of almost-entirely male keyboard-bashers to tell you how they’d like to rape, kill, and urinate on you. This week, after a particularly ugly slew of threats, I decided to make just a few of those messages public on Twitter, and the response I received was overwhelming. Many could not believe the hate I received, and many more began to share their own stories of harassment, intimidation, and abuse.”

    Women in the online gaming community have been harassed, threatened, and driven out. Anita Sarkeesian, a feminist media critic who documented such incidents, received support for her work, but also, in the words of a journalist, “another wave of really aggressive, you know, violent personal threats, her accounts attempted to be hacked. And one man in Ontario took the step of making an online video game where you could punch Anita’s image on the screen. And if you punched it multiple times, bruises and cuts would appear on her image.” The difference between these online gamers and the Taliban men who, last October, tried to murder 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai for speaking out about the right of Pakistani women to education is one of degree. Both are trying to silence and punish women for claiming voice, power, and the right to participate. Welcome to Manistan.

    The Party for the Protection of the Rights of Rapists

    It’s not just public, or private, or online either.  It’s also embedded in our political system, and our legal system, which before feminists fought for us didn’t recognize most domestic violence, or sexual harassment and stalking, or date rape, or acquaintance rape, or marital rape, and in cases of rape still often tries the victim rather than the rapist, as though only perfect maidens could be assaulted — or believed.

    As we learned in the 2012 election campaign, it’s also embedded in the minds and mouths of our politicians.  Remember that spate of crazy pro-rape thingsRepublican men said last summer and fall, starting with Todd Akin’s notorious claim that a woman has ways of preventing pregnancy in cases of rape, a statement he made in order to deny women control over their own bodies. After that, of course, Senate candidate Richard Mourdock claimed that rape pregnancies were “a gift from God,” and just this month, another Republican politician piped up to defendAkin’s comment.

    Happily the five publicly pro-rape Republicans in the 2012 campaign all lost their election bids. (Stephen Colbert tried to warn them that women had gotten the vote in 1920.)  But it’s not just a matter of the garbage they say (and the price they now pay).  Earlier this month, congressional Republicans refused to reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act, because they objected to the protection it gave immigrants, transgendered women, and Native American women.  (Speaking of epidemics, one of three Native American women will be raped, and on the reservations 88% of those rapes are by non-Native men who know tribal governments can’t prosecute them.)

    And they’re out to gut reproductive rights — birth control as well as abortion, as they’ve pretty effectively done in many states over the last dozen years. What’s meant by “reproductive rights,” of course, is the right of women to control their own bodies. Didn’t I mention earlier that violence against women is a control issue?

    And though rapes are often investigated lackadaisically – there is a backlog of about 400,000 untested rape kits in this country– rapists who impregnate their victims have parental rights in 31 states. Oh, and former vice-presidential candidate and current congressman Paul Ryan (R-Manistan) is reintroducing a bill that would give states the right to ban abortions and might even conceivably allow a rapist to sue his victim for having one.

    All the Things That Aren’t to Blame

    Of course, women are capable of all sorts of major unpleasantness, and there are violent crimes by women, but the so-called war of the sexes is extraordinarily lopsided when it comes to actual violence.  Unlike the last (male) head of the International Monetary Fund, the current (female) head is not going to assault an employee at a luxury hotel; top-ranking female officers in the U.S. military, unlike their male counterparts, are not accused of any sexual assaults; and young female athletes, unlike those male football players in Steubenville, aren’t likely to urinate on unconscious boys, let alone violate them and boast about it in YouTube videos and Twitter feeds.

    No female bus riders in India have ganged up to sexually assault a man so badly he dies of his injuries, nor are marauding packs of women terrorizing men in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, and there’s just no maternal equivalent to the 11% of rapes that are by fathers or stepfathers. Of the people in prison in the U.S., 93.5% are not women, and though quite a lot of them should not be there in the first place, maybe some of them should because of violence, until we think of a better way to deal with it, and them.

    No major female pop star has blown the head off a young man she took home with her, as did Phil Spector.  (He is now part of that 93.5% for the shotgun slaying of Lana Clarkson, apparently for refusing his advances.)  No female action-movie star has been charged with domestic violence, because Angelina Jolie just isn’t doing what Mel Gibson and Steve McQueen did, and there aren’t any celebrated female movie directors who gave a 13-year-old drugs before sexually assaulting that child, while she kept saying “no,” as did Roman Polanski.

    In Memory of Jyoti Singh

    What’s the matter with manhood? There’s something about how masculinity is imagined, about what’s praised and encouraged, about the way violence is passed on to boys that needs to be addressed. There are lovely and wonderful men out there, and one of the things that’s encouraging in this round of the war against women is how many men I’ve seen who get it, who think it’s their issue too, who stand up for us and with us in everyday life, online and in the marches from New Delhi to San Francisco this winter.

    Increasingly men are becoming good allies – and there always have been some.  Kindness and gentleness never had a gender, and neither did empathy. Domestic violence statistics are down significantly from earlier decades (even though they’re still shockingly high), and a lot of men are at work crafting new ideas and ideals about masculinity and power.

    Gay men have been good allies of mine for almost four decades. (Apparently same-sex marriage horrifies conservatives because it’s marriage between equals with no inevitable roles.) Women’s liberation has often been portrayed as a movement intent on encroaching upon or taking power and privilege away from men, as though in some dismal zero-sum game, only one gender at a time could be free and powerful. But we are free together or slaves together.

    There are other things I’d rather write about, but this affects everything else. The lives of half of humanity are still dogged by, drained by, and sometimes ended by this pervasive variety of violence.  Think of how much more time and energy we would have to focus on other things that matter if we weren’t so busy surviving. Look at it this way: one of the best journalists I know is afraid to walk home at night in our neighborhood.  Should she stop working late? How many women have had to stop doing their work, or been stopped from doing it, for similar reasons?

    One of the most exciting new political movements on Earth is the Native Canadian indigenous rights movement, with feminist and environmental overtones, called Idle No More. On December 27th, shortly after the movement took off, a Native woman was kidnapped, raped, beaten, and left for dead in Thunder Bay, Ontario, by men whose remarks framed the crime as retaliation against Idle No More. Afterward, she walked four hours through the bitter cold and survived to tell her tale. Her assailants, who have threatened to do it again, are still at large.

    The New Delhi rape and murder of Jyoti Singh, the 23-year-old who was studying physiotherapy so that she could better herself while helping others, and the assault on her male companion (who survived) seem to have triggered the reaction that we have needed for 100, or 1,000, or 5,000 years. May she be to women — and men — worldwide what Emmett Till, murdered by white supremacists in 1955, was to African-Americans and the then-nascent U.S. civil rights movement.

    We have far more than 87,000 rapes in this country every year, but each of them is invariably portrayed as an isolated incident.  We have dots so close they’re splatters melting into a stain, but hardly anyone connects them, or names that stain. In India they did. They said that this is a civil rights issue, it’s a human rights issue, it’s everyone’s problem, it’s not isolated, and it’s never going to be acceptable again. It has to change. It’s your job to change it, and mine, and ours.

    Rebecca Solnit has written a version of this essay three times so far, once in the 1980s for the punk magazine Maximum Rock’n’Roll, once as the chapter on women and walking in her 2000 book Wanderlust: A History of Walking, and here. She would love the topic to become out of date and irrelevant and never to have write it again.

    Explosion at Fordow: Israeli propaganda or Iran’s biggest secret?

    Contradictory reports of an explosion at Iran’s uranium enrichment site have been emerging. Iran denies it ever happened, calling it “Western propaganda” while Israel confirms it, putting tensions around upcoming nuclear talks.

    Reports of the explosion at the underground Fordow plant, near the city of Qom, central-northern Iran, originally surfaced on Friday after a former Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Reza Kahlili, published his report on the WND.com website.

    Iran has denied the reports, while Israel and some of US media reported that the explosion occurred and caused significant damage.

    The West has maintained that the Fordow plant (which was discovered in 2009) has been producing uranium enriched to 20 per cent fissile purity since late 2011, compared to the 3.5 per cent level required for nuclear energy plants, and has been operating 700 centrifuges there since the start of the year.

    ‘Sabotage’ and ‘propaganda’

    Iran has accused Israel and the US of trying to influence upcoming nuclear negotiations due to happen in coming weeks.

    "The false news of an explosion at Fordow is Western propaganda ahead of nuclear negotiations to influence their process and outcome," Reuters quoted the deputy head of Iran's Atomic Energy Organization, Saeed Shamseddin Bar Broudi, as saying.

    While Israeli intelligence has confirmed that the explosion occurred and caused serious damage, but the area had not been evacuated, The Sunday Times reported.

    Israel is still in the "preliminary stages of understanding what happened and how significant it is," the UK newspaper quoted one official as saying. It is still unclear whether the explosion was “sabotage or an accident”.

    Another source within Israeli intelligence has confirmed the same to The Times of London.

    “Israel believes the Iranians have not evacuated the surrounding area. It is unclear whether that is because no harmful substances have been released, or because Tehran is trying to avoid sparking panic among residents,” the source said.

    Initial report

    The first to report about the explosion was Reza Kahlili for WND.com. The explosion “destroyed much of the installation and trapped about 240 personnel deep underground” including scientists and workers, many of whom are foreign nationals, Kahlili wrote.

    The report cites a “source in the security forces protecting Fordow,” who states that the explosion occurred last Monday and that the plant itself is located inside a mountain to protect it from aerial attacks.

    “The blast shook facilities within a radius of three miles. Security forces have enforced a no-traffic radius of 15 miles, and the Tehran-Qom highway was shut down for several hours after the blast,” the report said.

    The emergency exits have collapsed at the site and regime fears more loss of life due to possible radiation.

    On Monday, Kahlili, speaking to the Jerusalem Post, confirmed that the explosion could have been very damaging in terms of radiation leaks.

    "This is the center of the Iranian nuclear program. It's essential for the regime, its activities, and its nuclear program. If such a blow was given to Fordow, it definitely harms [Iran] drastically. They were reaching for 20 per cent uranium enrichment, and were increasing output," he added.

    Kahlili believes that the alleged explosion will be “receiving more coverage in the US” and that "more information" will become available to verify the incident.

    But the credibility of the report has not been confirmed by most of the international media.

    And the main problem with it remains that there are no supporting evidence to confirm it, according to Haaretz.

    Credibility questioned

    The objectivity of the report’s author has been called into question. Kahlili worked for CIA in the 1980s while living in Iran, collecting information, then in a few years he was moved to the US with his family.

    “Kahlili himself is a frequent speaker at events in US organized by right-wing organizations and those that support the right in Israel … He also compared the regime in Tehran to that of the Nazis, and called upon Israel to bomb Iran's nuclear installations”, Haaretz journalist Anshel Pfeffer reported.

    Right now he makes his living writing books and giving lectures on Iran. Kahlili claims “to still have an impressive network of sources in various government agencies.”

    He has never revealed his face, citing fear of retribution as the reason, appearing always in a baseball cap, dark glasses and a surgical mask.

    “His employment by the CIA has been confirmed by agency sources and an approving review of his book [A Time to Betray] even appeared on the CIA website,” added Pfeffer.

    It has also been pointed out by the media that if the explosion did indeed occur, why were there no satellite photos of emergency vehicles and rescue operations afterwards and no affected relatives speaking out.

    Israel involved?

    There had been reports of sightings of Israeli aircraft near the facility at the time of the explosion, which Israel has denied, the Sunday Times reported.

    Israel’s acting defense minister on Sunday said the news of the explosion is “welcomed” and that any deterrence to Iran’s nuclear program is good news.

    However, it has been argued that Israel lacks the capability to penetrate the Fordow site and could not be involved, while the US on the other hand possesses the necessary military technology.

    “There have been many references to the fact that Israel doesn’t have strong enough bombs to penetrate [Fordow] from the air, but the US MOP [massive ordnance penetrator] is reported to be able to penetrate it,” Emily Landau, director of the Arms Control and Regional Security Project at the Tel Aviv-based Institute for National Security Studies, told the Jerusalem Post, adding that America’s MOP is operational.

    The complete shutdown of the Fordow plant was one of the three demands made by the P5+1 Nations (the United States, Britain, France, Russia, China and Germany) on Iran during nuclear talks, which ended last year after officials from the Islamic Republic refused to negotiate.

    The West has been concerned that Iran is working towards developing a nuclear weapon. While Iran has maintained its program is peaceful and that it needs to produce highly-enriched uranium for medical use.

    The Poison We Never Talk About in School

    The most dangerous substance in the world is barely mentioned in the school curriculum. Coal.

    According to the International Energy Agency, burning coal creates more greenhouse gases than any other source—including oil. James Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and arguably the world’s foremost climatologist, has called coal “the single greatest threat to civilization and all life on the planet.”

    banksy_globalwarming_romanyWGAnd, as 350.org founder Bill McKibben pointed out recently in a remarkable article in Rolling Stone magazine, “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math,” from a mathematical standpoint, it is demonstrably impossible to prevent the climate from spinning out of control with unimaginably horrible consequences, if we burn the fossil fuels that energy corporations are in the process of exploiting and selling. And the worst fossil fuel from a climate standpoint is coal—responsible for 45 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, a third more polluting in terms of carbon dioxide than oil, and twice as polluting as natural gas.

    So when you think about Superstorm Sandy, melting ice caps, wildfires in Australia, drought in the Southwest, floods in Pakistan, climate refugees from Bangladesh, dying polar bears and species you’ve never heard of, increased rates of asthma, and farmland that can no longer be farmed—think coal.

    Given coal’s enormous role in the most significant challenge facing humanity—the climate crisis—you’d imagine that coal would occupy a similarly central place in our textbooks. You’d be wrong.

    No, what textbooks do instead is to leave students with the impression that coal is something we should regard as a 19th-century phenomenon. Take the widely used Modern World History, published by McDougal Littell, owned by giant Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. The text devotes three sentences to coal mining in the 1840s, telling students: “The most dangerous conditions of all were to be found in coal mines.” And: “Many women and children were employed in the mining industry because they were the cheapest source of labor.” Three hundred pages later, a single brief mention of coal in one sentence on nonrenewable sources of energy underscores the book’s subtext: Coal was a problem in the 19th century, but today it’s no big deal.

    In environmentally conscious Portland, where I live, the sole adopted high school U.S. history textbook, History Alive!, similarly dumps coal in a distant and polluted past. History Alive! manages simultaneously to ignore the contemporary role of coal as well as to adhere to the Great Man Makes History script: “[President Theodore] Roosevelt helped improve working conditions for coal miners. In 1902, he pressured coal mine owners and the striking United Mine Workers to submit to arbitration, a legal process in which a neutral outside party helps to resolve a dispute.” One would think that the union and activists like Mother Jones might earn some credit for organizing workers to challenge the rich and ruthless mine owners, but instead Teddy Roosevelt appears in this passage as the angel of progress. According to History Alive!, the union was as big an obstacle to improved working conditions as were the mine owners.

    The silence about coal does not just enforce kids’ ignorance about the world, it fails to equip them to think critically about crucial issues in their lives.

    The more significant point is that yet another textbook fails to alert students to “the single greatest threat to civilization and all life on the planet.” And in too many schools these days, the textbooks shape curriculum.

    The silence about coal does not just enforce kids’ ignorance about the world, it fails to equip them to think critically about crucial issues in their lives. Here in the Northwest, for example, coal and rail corporations hope to transport tens of millions of tons of coal through the Columbia River Gorge every year. Single-commodity trains lugged by poison-spewing diesel engines and barges would turn the Gorge into a virtual coal chute, shipping 150 million tons of coal to Asia every year. Indeed, in only three years, between 2009 and 2011, coal exports from the United States to Asia, via British Columbia, tripled—to more than 21 million tons in 2011. NASA’s James Hansen calls coal trains “death trains.”

    And electricity throughout much of the eastern United States still comes from burning coal mined through mountaintop removal in Appalachia—a process that scrapes away entire mountains to access the thin coal seams below. The coal companies’ exploitative worldview is reflected in the language they use to describe this attack on nature and communities; anything that is not coal is lumped into the this-is-garbage term: “overburden.” The trees, the boulders, the streams, the bushes and herbs, the critters that depend on the land: an annoyance, a burden, to be blasted away and dumped into the valleys. To say nothing of the land’s beauty and the memories that once adhered to those mountains.

    What’s needed is a curriculum not chained to tests and textbooks—a curriculum that fires students to life by addressing the most pressing issues facing humanity—like our sources of energy and climate change—all the while teaching students to question, to imagine, to read critically, to explore the interconnections between math and science and music and social studies, to speak their minds, to make a difference.

    The good news is that the challenge to the curriculum’s pro-coal bias is gaining momentum. Last year, a coalition of education and environmental groups, spearheaded by Rethinking Schools and the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, exposed the cozy relationship between the coal industry and Scholastic, the world’s largest publisher of materials for children. After publication of an exposé of Scholastic’s propagandistic “The United States of Energy” in Rethinking Schools magazine, a campaign to pressure Scholastic to break its ties with the coal industry led to a New York Times editorial, “Scholastic’s Big Coal Mistake,” and then quickly to Scholastic pulling the curriculum off its website and promising not to shill for the coal industry any longer.

    No thanks to the giant curriculum corporations, teachers around the country are beginning to piece together school events and lessons that deal honestly with the climate crisis, and the role of coal in filling the atmosphere with unprecedented amounts of carbon dioxide. As I write, teachers at the public Sunnyside Environmental School, in Portland, Ore., serving students from kindergarten to 8th grade, are holding a weeklong energy teach-in and bringing in experts and educators from around the region to help students think through the consequences of the world’s energy choices. Every student in the upper grades is participating in a role play on the Indigenous Peoples’ Global Summit on Climate Change, watching the poignant mountaintop removal film The Last Mountain, and engaging in a “mixer” activity in which they take on the personas of individuals—from Northern Cheyenne activists in Montana to longshore workers in Columbia River ports to riverkeepers in China to ranchers in parched southeast Australia—affected by the current proposals to export coal from the Powder River Basin to Asia. This is not a woe-is-me curriculum of despair. The teach-in concludes with groups of students working on making-a-difference action plans; students are invited to celebrate hope and to imagine themselves as changemakers.

    Slowly but surely it seems that teachers are finding the confidence they will need to defy a corporate-dominated curriculum that is bulked up with facts and dates and accomplishments of famous people—but is silent about almost everything that matters.

    Those corporate textbooks have made coal seem so old-fashioned, so last-century. Coal is an antique, a relic, and besides, it’s dirty, it’s ugly, it’s far away. But as more and more teachers begin to challenge the corporate curriculum, they will also come to recognize coal’s starring role as the worst planetary poison. The sooner the better.

    © 2013 Zinn Education Project

    Bill Bigelow

    Bill Bigelow taught high school social studies in Portland, Ore. for almost 30 years. He is the curriculum editor of Rethinking Schools and the co-director of the Zinn Education Project. This project offers free materials to teach people’s history and an “If We Knew Our History” article series. Bigelow is author or co-editor of numerous books, including A People’s History for the Classroom and The Line Between Us: Teaching About the Border and Mexican Immigration.

    The Poison We Never Talk About in School

    The most dangerous substance in the world is barely mentioned in the school curriculum. Coal.

    According to the International Energy Agency, burning coal creates more greenhouse gases than any other source—including oil. James Hansen, director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies and arguably the world’s foremost climatologist, has called coal “the single greatest threat to civilization and all life on the planet.”

    banksy_globalwarming_romanyWGAnd, as 350.org founder Bill McKibben pointed out recently in a remarkable article in Rolling Stone magazine, “Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math,” from a mathematical standpoint, it is demonstrably impossible to prevent the climate from spinning out of control with unimaginably horrible consequences, if we burn the fossil fuels that energy corporations are in the process of exploiting and selling. And the worst fossil fuel from a climate standpoint is coal—responsible for 45 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, a third more polluting in terms of carbon dioxide than oil, and twice as polluting as natural gas.

    So when you think about Superstorm Sandy, melting ice caps, wildfires in Australia, drought in the Southwest, floods in Pakistan, climate refugees from Bangladesh, dying polar bears and species you’ve never heard of, increased rates of asthma, and farmland that can no longer be farmed—think coal.

    Given coal’s enormous role in the most significant challenge facing humanity—the climate crisis—you’d imagine that coal would occupy a similarly central place in our textbooks. You’d be wrong.

    No, what textbooks do instead is to leave students with the impression that coal is something we should regard as a 19th-century phenomenon. Take the widely used Modern World History, published by McDougal Littell, owned by giant Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. The text devotes three sentences to coal mining in the 1840s, telling students: “The most dangerous conditions of all were to be found in coal mines.” And: “Many women and children were employed in the mining industry because they were the cheapest source of labor.” Three hundred pages later, a single brief mention of coal in one sentence on nonrenewable sources of energy underscores the book’s subtext: Coal was a problem in the 19th century, but today it’s no big deal.

    In environmentally conscious Portland, where I live, the sole adopted high school U.S. history textbook, History Alive!, similarly dumps coal in a distant and polluted past. History Alive! manages simultaneously to ignore the contemporary role of coal as well as to adhere to the Great Man Makes History script: “[President Theodore] Roosevelt helped improve working conditions for coal miners. In 1902, he pressured coal mine owners and the striking United Mine Workers to submit to arbitration, a legal process in which a neutral outside party helps to resolve a dispute.” One would think that the union and activists like Mother Jones might earn some credit for organizing workers to challenge the rich and ruthless mine owners, but instead Teddy Roosevelt appears in this passage as the angel of progress. According to History Alive!, the union was as big an obstacle to improved working conditions as were the mine owners.

    The silence about coal does not just enforce kids’ ignorance about the world, it fails to equip them to think critically about crucial issues in their lives.

    The more significant point is that yet another textbook fails to alert students to “the single greatest threat to civilization and all life on the planet.” And in too many schools these days, the textbooks shape curriculum.

    The silence about coal does not just enforce kids’ ignorance about the world, it fails to equip them to think critically about crucial issues in their lives. Here in the Northwest, for example, coal and rail corporations hope to transport tens of millions of tons of coal through the Columbia River Gorge every year. Single-commodity trains lugged by poison-spewing diesel engines and barges would turn the Gorge into a virtual coal chute, shipping 150 million tons of coal to Asia every year. Indeed, in only three years, between 2009 and 2011, coal exports from the United States to Asia, via British Columbia, tripled—to more than 21 million tons in 2011. NASA’s James Hansen calls coal trains “death trains.”

    And electricity throughout much of the eastern United States still comes from burning coal mined through mountaintop removal in Appalachia—a process that scrapes away entire mountains to access the thin coal seams below. The coal companies’ exploitative worldview is reflected in the language they use to describe this attack on nature and communities; anything that is not coal is lumped into the this-is-garbage term: “overburden.” The trees, the boulders, the streams, the bushes and herbs, the critters that depend on the land: an annoyance, a burden, to be blasted away and dumped into the valleys. To say nothing of the land’s beauty and the memories that once adhered to those mountains.

    What’s needed is a curriculum not chained to tests and textbooks—a curriculum that fires students to life by addressing the most pressing issues facing humanity—like our sources of energy and climate change—all the while teaching students to question, to imagine, to read critically, to explore the interconnections between math and science and music and social studies, to speak their minds, to make a difference.

    The good news is that the challenge to the curriculum’s pro-coal bias is gaining momentum. Last year, a coalition of education and environmental groups, spearheaded by Rethinking Schools and the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, exposed the cozy relationship between the coal industry and Scholastic, the world’s largest publisher of materials for children. After publication of an exposé of Scholastic’s propagandistic “The United States of Energy” in Rethinking Schools magazine, a campaign to pressure Scholastic to break its ties with the coal industry led to a New York Times editorial, “Scholastic’s Big Coal Mistake,” and then quickly to Scholastic pulling the curriculum off its website and promising not to shill for the coal industry any longer.

    No thanks to the giant curriculum corporations, teachers around the country are beginning to piece together school events and lessons that deal honestly with the climate crisis, and the role of coal in filling the atmosphere with unprecedented amounts of carbon dioxide. As I write, teachers at the public Sunnyside Environmental School, in Portland, Ore., serving students from kindergarten to 8th grade, are holding a weeklong energy teach-in and bringing in experts and educators from around the region to help students think through the consequences of the world’s energy choices. Every student in the upper grades is participating in a role play on the Indigenous Peoples’ Global Summit on Climate Change, watching the poignant mountaintop removal film The Last Mountain, and engaging in a “mixer” activity in which they take on the personas of individuals—from Northern Cheyenne activists in Montana to longshore workers in Columbia River ports to riverkeepers in China to ranchers in parched southeast Australia—affected by the current proposals to export coal from the Powder River Basin to Asia. This is not a woe-is-me curriculum of despair. The teach-in concludes with groups of students working on making-a-difference action plans; students are invited to celebrate hope and to imagine themselves as changemakers.

    Slowly but surely it seems that teachers are finding the confidence they will need to defy a corporate-dominated curriculum that is bulked up with facts and dates and accomplishments of famous people—but is silent about almost everything that matters.

    Those corporate textbooks have made coal seem so old-fashioned, so last-century. Coal is an antique, a relic, and besides, it’s dirty, it’s ugly, it’s far away. But as more and more teachers begin to challenge the corporate curriculum, they will also come to recognize coal’s starring role as the worst planetary poison. The sooner the better.

    © 2013 Zinn Education Project

    Bill Bigelow

    Bill Bigelow taught high school social studies in Portland, Ore. for almost 30 years. He is the curriculum editor of Rethinking Schools and the co-director of the Zinn Education Project. This project offers free materials to teach people’s history and an “If We Knew Our History” article series. Bigelow is author or co-editor of numerous books, including A People’s History for the Classroom and The Line Between Us: Teaching About the Border and Mexican Immigration.

    Israeli Spy was Central Cog in Nuclear Weapons Proliferation Alliance

    israelflag

    It is clear that during the middle of December of last year that the Obama White House had settled on former Nebraska Republican Senator Chuck Hagel to be the Secretary of Defense. The U.S. Intelligence Community and defense establishment was told to come up with a strategy to combat the expected strong opposition to the nomination of the critical of Israel Hagel by that nation’s lobby in the United States.

    The pro-Hagel circles needed a secret weapon to counteract the Israel supporters who would stress that Hagel was not supportive of the «special relationship» between the United States and Israel. There was no better way to demonstrate that Israel was no special ally of the United States but a longtime hostile intelligence threat to America by declassifying a large part of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Damage Report arising from the intense espionage carried out by one-time U.S. Naval Intelligence spy Jonathan Jay Pollard on behalf of Israel…

    The declassification of the long-classified Pollard report was made on December 16, 2012. However, the first substantial media reports on the report began around December 26. The Jewish media, including Yeshiva World, Tablet Magazine, and Jewish Week, contended the report only showed that Pollard disclosed classified information on Arab and Soviet military capabilities, ignoring the fact that Pollard’s disclosures revealed the nature of U.S. intelligence sources and methods in obtaining such information, thereby putting U.S. civilian and military assets in extreme jeopardy.

    The one major explosive revelation in the declassified report is Pollard’s involvement in a highly-classified Israeli-South African program to test a nuclear weapon in the South Atlantic/South Indian Ocean region in September 1979.

    The Pollard Damage Assessment was prepared by the Director of Central Intelligence’s Foreign Denial and Deception Analysis Committee and issued on October 30, 1987. The report reveals for the first time that Pollard began working as a U.S. naval intelligence watch officer the same month that Israel and South Africa, possibly with the financial support of Taiwan, detonated a nuclear device in the South Atlantic/South Indian Ocean near South Africa’s Prince Edward Islands. The un-redacted damage assessment report also provides details of Pollard’s espionage work for South Africa before or at the same time he was spying for Israel.

    Pollard’s espionage for Israel and South Africa provide evidence of his a key role in providing faulty intelligence to higher U.S. intelligence echelons concerning the nuclear test. Pollard’s mission was clear: his Israeli handlers wanted the details of the nuclear test kept secret. If it were proven that Israel was violating South African sanctions, the Symington Amendment would have required the United States to cut off all military and economic assistance to Israel. Even the powerful Jewish Lobby could not get around what was U.S. law.

    The report describes Pollard’s work in September 1979 in the Navy Field Operational Intelligence Office (NFOIO) in Suitland, Maryland, outside of Washington, DC. The report states: “He began work as an Intelligence Research Specialist assigned to the Naval Ocean Surveillance Information Center (NOSIC} of the Navy Field Operational Intelligence Office in September 1979.” The report also states that during the same month of the South African-Israeli nuclear test Pollard “admitted that he had attended a clandestine meeting with the South African Defense Attaché.”

    In July 1980 Pollard admitted to his superiors that he lied about his contacts with South African intelligence. However, this «admission» was to cover up what Pollard knew about the successful nuclear test the previous year and after Pollard and, presumably other Israeli moles, tainted U.S. intelligence into believing that the double flash normally associated with a nuclear detonation spotted on September 22, 1979 by the bhangmeter photo sensors on U.S. VELA 6911 nuclear detection satellite, orbiting over the South Atlantic at one-third the distance to the moon, was nothing more than a meteor entering the atmosphere or some other natural event.

    Pollard failed to highlight several key indicators from his ocean surveillance duties that would have prompted U.S. intelligence assets to turn their attention toward South African extended waters on September 22, 1979. The entire South African Navy was placed on alert for the entire week surrounding September 22 and the Simonstown and Saldanha naval bases were placed under tight security that same week, But Pollard sat on the information and likely deep sixed analysis reports from co-workers on South Atlantic/South Indian Ocean operations during the fateful week.

    It is clear that certain intelligence quarters in the U.S. Navy began feeding false intelligence on the double nuclear flash to the CIA. The CIA decided to hire the contractor firm MITRE to analyze recorded acoustic data gathered by the Navy’s Sound Surveillance System (SOSUS) and the Air Force Technical Applications Center (AFTAC) less than one-hertz acoustic monitoring systems that piggybacked off the Navy’s SOSUS acoustic hydrophone arrays extending from Bermuda, Wales, and Iceland. The tests revealed that there was a 2-4 kiloton nuclear bomb test in the South Atlantic with acoustic intelligence confirming concussive blast low-level harmonics from Navy and Air Force sonar arrays.

    An auroral flash normally associated with nuclear blasts was detected by meteorological stations on Norway’s Bouvet Island, France’s île de la Possession in the nearby Crozet Islands, and at the Japanese Showa station in Antarctica. Further intelligence supporting the nuclear blast event was compiled by the Defense Intelligence Agency, the Naval Research Laboratory, and Los Alamos National Laboratory including increased radiation found in sheep downwind of the blast site in Western Australia, Tasmania, and Victoria and in ionospheric disturbances detected by the Arecibo radio telescope in Puerto Rico.

    Someone within the ranks of Navy intelligence was preparing incorrect intelligence reports and covering for Israel’s and South Africa’s involvement in a nuclear test. One of those suspected is Pollard, whose job was to monitor naval operations around the world the day the nuclear test was conducted in the South Atlantic.

    The report’s description of Pollard’s early association with South Africa, which some authors of the damage report attempted to debunk, at the same time Israel and the apartheid regime were cooperating on nuclear weapons development is as follows:

    “The following factors that have come to light about his employment with the Navy indicate that Pollard was unsuited for access to sensitive national security information:

    - False claims concerning professional qualifications. Pollard falsely stated on his naval employment application that he had a ‘provisional’ M.A. degree from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy. Moreover, in February 1980 during an interview with Task Force 168, the intelligence element charged with HUMINT collection, Pollard falsely claimed to have an M.A. degree, to be proficient in Afrikaans, and to have applied for a commission in the naval reserve. Pollard made another, more farfetched statement to his immediate supervisor in NOSIC: he said he had key South African contacts who could provide him with valuable information, and that he had known South African citizens for many years because his father bad been the CIA Station Chief in South Africa.”

    The report also states: “Pollard claimed in a post-arrest debriefing that he had come very close to volunteering to commit espionage while holding a conversation in Hebrew with the Israeli Naval Attaché during a U.S.-Israeli intelligence exchange in 1983. Although it is not clear exactly when Pollard first began to consider espionage, we believe it was at least as early as 1980-81.”

    The damage report’s Executive Summary is surprisingly soft on Israel’s use of Pollard as a spy. The summary states that Pollard’s “short but intensive espionage career on behalf of Israel lasted from June 1984 until his arrest on 21 November 1985.” However, other sections of the report state that Pollard considered spying for Israel at least as early as 1980-81. Other parts of the report indicate that Pollard’s espionage for both Israel and South Africa began much earlier and that even as a teen Pollard was a committed Zionist who placed loyalty to Israel above the United States.

    Of course, it is this sort of hard intelligence that can be used to show that Israel has long been an adversary of the United States and a dangerous espionage center for anti-U.S. operations. At the time of the South African-Israeli nuclear test, the administration of President Jimmy Carter was actively enforcing military sanctions against South Africa imposed by UN Security Council resolution 418 of 1977.

    Two years before Pollard was arrested by the FBI after trying to seek political asylum in the Israeli embassy in Washington, the FBI arrested in New York South African Navy Commodore Dieter Gerhardt and his East German spy wife, Ruth, based on a tip from a Soviet defector code named «Farewell.» Gerhardt was the commander of the South African Navy’s Simonstown naval base and had access to signals intelligence intercepts from South Africa’s secret Silvermine listening post near Cape Town. South Africa and the U.S.U.K. signals intelligence alliance shared some intelligence at a low level during this time frame.

    Gerhardt’s role as a possible liaison to Pollard and Israeli intelligence in the United States becomes apparent when Gerhardt’s own admission: that he was an important liaison in South African – Israeli military cooperation. Gerhardt later revealed that he was aware of the South African-Israeli nuclear test in the South Atlantic, which he said was code named Operation Phoenix. Gerhardt’s later admission also revealed that the nuclear test was a «clean» blast, an indication that South Africa and Israel had tested a neutron bomb. Israel’s possession of neutron bombs is one of the Jewish state’s most closely-guarded secrets. The Israeli Lobby’s unofficial conspiracy debunking journal, Popular Mechanics, which ruled out any official U.S. or Israeli government involvement in the 9/11 attack, stated that there was no nuclear explosion and that Gerhardt lacked credibility. The Pollard Damage Report and other revelations have substantiated Gerhardt’s claims. Pollard also was dealing with both the South Africans and Soviets. Moreover, it was later determined that Israel later swapped some of Pollard’s classified information with the Soviets in return for an increase in exit visas for Soviet Jews to Israel.

    After Gerhardt was sentenced to life imprisonment in South Africa, and Gerhardt’s wife received a ten year sentence, South African President P. W. Botha offered amnesty to some prisoners in 1988, including Nelson Mandela. Ruth Gerhardt applied for the amnesty. The request was turned down by none other than Justice Richard Goldstone, the self-proclaimed Zionist who has run hot and cold on Israeli atrocities in Gaza. Goldstone in 1988 was obviously acting under orders from Israel to keep Ruth Gerhardt under lock and key. In 1985, Israeli nuclear scientist Mordechai Vanunu began passing secrets on Israel’s nuclear weapons program to the media, including the fact that South African uclear scientists were frequent guests at the top secret Israeli nuclear facility at Dimona in the Negev Desert.

    In 1986, Vanunu was forcibly kidnapped by Israeli agents in Rome after he was lured into a Mossad «honey trap» and imprisoned in Israel. Efforts by some in U.S. intelligence to trade Vanunu for Pollard were met with stony silence from Israeli officials. In 1988, Israel was trying to get Pollard released from the life prison sentence handed down in 1987 and Goldstone was under pressure to ensure that the Gerhardts remained silent, especially after Vanunu’s embarrassing disclosures about Israeli nuclear weapons and South Africa. Ruth was released in 1990 and her husband was released in 1992. In 1999, Gerhardt received amnesty and his rank of Rear Admiral was restored. Vanunu was eventually released but his «freedom» has largely consisted of virtual house arrest in Israel.

    Later, Deputy South African Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad and former CIA Pretoria station officer Tyler Drumheller confirmed that Israel and South Africa jointly tested the South Atlantic nuclear weapon.

    The Pollard deception continues to haunt the world today. One of the key players in the Israel-South African nuclear weapons research was Israeli arms smuggler Shaul Eisenberg, the head of the Israel Corporation and a provider of military hardware to China, North Korea, and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. Eisenberg, whose Wikipedia entry has been re-written by Israeli propagandists, controlled Israel Aircraft Industries and Zim Israel Navigation Shipping Company. Eisenberg was able to provide needed nuclear weapons components from Operation Phoenix to China and two of its major allies, North Korea and Pakistan.

    It is with this knowledge of Israel’s destructive actions against America that Hagel and his supporters prepare to do battle with the nefarious Israel Lobby during the expected heated Senate confirmation hearings.

    Britain’s Moral Standing ‘At Risk’ Over Plans For Secret Court Hearings

    Britain's moral standing in the world is at risk unless major changes are made to a controversial piece of legislation that will see a rise in secret court hearings, a joint report from a senior Tory and a human rights barrister has warned. The Justic...

    When the Law Won’t Call it “Rape”

    If there's confusion among the public (and politicians) about rape, baffling, conflicting state laws make it worse.

    January 27, 2013  |  

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    The night of August 18, 2011, 25-year-old Lydia Cuomo could barely sleep. The next day was her first day of work teaching second grade at an elementary school in the South Bronx. She’d just landed the job a few days before, and she was pumped. In the morning, she planned to get a ride with her new principal, who also lived in upper Manhattan’s Inwood neighborhood. While waiting outside of the principal’s home, off-duty police officer Michael Pena approached her. He asked for directions to the subway, then showed her his gun, and pushed her into an alleyway, where he forcibly penetrated her with his penis — orally, anally and vaginally. (It’s usual practice to conceal the name of a rape victim in news reports, but in this case, Cuomo preferred to be identified. “I want to take the most negative thing that ever happened to me in my life and turn it into something positive,” she said. “At the end of the day this is my story and attaching my name to it allows me to own it and take back what happened to me.”)

    It seems fair to call all three of those acts “rape.” But the legal definition is more complicated than that. Under New York state law, rape is defined as forcible vaginal penetration. Forced oral and anal contact both go under the term “criminal sexual act.” If the same crimes had occurred elsewhere, they might not legally be considered rape at all. Twenty-five states and the District of Columbia have stopped using the word “rape” in their criminal codes entirely and instead use terms such as “sexual abuse,” “sexual assault” and “criminal sexual conduct.” This variety of language exists in a country in which the word “rape” is becoming increasingly politicized and where politicians qualify rape as “forcible” or “legitimate,” intimating that other times it’s not. Because the laws — and many lawmakers — differ so wildly on the meaning of rape, it can be hard for us as a society to develop a shared understanding of what it actually is.

    In New York, Michael Pena’s case went to trial in March. The charges included rape, criminal sexual act and — because he threatened Cuomo with a gun during the attack — predatory sexual assault. Cuomo testified that she knew she had been penetrated because it hurt. Accounts of the trial say an eyewitness reported seeing Pena push into a woman in the alleyway. Another witness testified to seeing “joyless sex.” Physical evidence is not required for proof of rape, though reports of the trial say Pena’s DNA was found on Cuomo’s underwear. Pena’s attorney, Ephraim Savitt, maintained that while Pena had attacked Cuomo, he hadn’t vaginally penetrated her.

    Pena was found guilty of the criminal sexual act and predatory sexual assault charges. But the jury deadlocked on the rape charge. In other words, the jury believed that Pena’s penis had made oral and anal contact with Cuomo, but the jurors couldn’t agree on whether he’d vaginally penetrated her. It’s not clear why. One juror told the New York Times that one of the three holdout jurors questioned Cuomo’s memory because she hadn’t remembered a car in the driveway near where she’d been attacked.

    When the verdict was announced, Cuomo said she just lost it. “It was like, oh my god. I’ve sat through this. I’ve waited for this. And this jury just told me ‘you were sexually assaulted, but you weren’t raped because you couldn’t remember the color of a car.’ Apparently there was a car in the alleyway. I honestly don’t remember a car at all. I was in shock. There was a gun pressed to the side of my head. I don’t need to justify it. It’s just insulting. It was offensive. And it was just devastating to think ‘I might have to relive this again.’”

    Plans for Redrawing the Middle East: The Project for a “New Middle East”

    The term “New Middle East” was introduced to the world in June 2006 in Tel Aviv by U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice (who was credited by the Western media for coining the term) in replacement of the older and more imposing term, the “Greater Middle East.”

    The Children Killed by America’s Drones. “Crimes Against Humanity” committed by Barack H. Obama.

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    This is a list of names of children killed by America’s drones.

    But behind each name there is the face of child with a family history in a village in a far away country, with a mom and a dad, with brothers and sisters and friends.

    Among the list, are infants of 1, 2, 3 and 4 years old.

    In some cases brothers and sisters of an entire family are killed.

    Four sisters of the Ali Mohammed Nasser family in Yemen were killed. Afrah was 9 years old when she and her three younger sisters Zayda (7 years old) , Hoda (5 years old) and Sheika (4 years old) were struck by an American drone.

    Ibrahim, a 13 year old boy of the Abdullah Mokbel Salem Louqye family in Yemen was  struck by a US drone, together with his younger brother Asmaa (9 years old) and two younger sisters, Salma (4 years old) and Fatima (3 years old) 

    These children are innocent.  They are not different from our own children.

    Their lives were taken away at a very young age as part of a military agenda, which claims to be combating  “international terrorism”

     These drone attacks are extremely precise.  We are not dealing with “collateral damage”.

    Drone operators have the ability of viewing from a computer screen their targets well in advance of a strike.

    A family home is referred to as a “structure” or a “building” rather than a house. When they target a home with family members, they kill children. And they know that in advance of the drone strike.

    These children were killed on the orders of the US President and Commander in Chief  Barack H. Obama.

    The commander in chief sets the military agenda and authorizes these killings to proceed.

    The killings were quite deliberate. They are categorized as “crimes against humanity” under international law.

    Those who ordered these drone killings, including  the president of the United States, are war criminals under international law and must be indicted and prosecute.

    It should be noted that the drone attacks on civilians have increased dramatically during the Obama presidency (see below).

    Michel Chossudovsky, January 26, 2012

    Pakistan strikes


    The List of Names was compiled by The Bureau of Investigative Journalism

    CIA Drone Strikes in Pakistan 2004–2013

    Total US strikes: 362
    Obama strikes: 310
    Total reported killed: 2,629-3,461
    Civilians reported killed: 475-891