sábado, junio 28, 2008
Talk by independent journalist Dahr Jamail author of “Beyond the Green Zone: Dispatches from an Unembedded Journalist in Occupied Iraq” given June 7, 2008 in Seattle.
It’s March 19 and Blogswarm Day! Posts on Iraq War by Lo (list of Winter Soldier posts)
jueves, junio 26, 2008
European Parliament (Strasbourg) 16-18 June 2008.
Reactions to the Irish No to the Lisbon Treaty.
In order of appearance:
- Hans-Gert Pöttering MEP, EPP-ED, President of the European Parliament (16.06.2008)
- José Manuel Barroso, EU Commission President (13.06.2008; 18.06.2008; 10.07.2007)
- Nigel Farage MEP, Co-President, Independence/Democracy Group (IND/DEM) (17-18.06.2008)
- Martin Schulz MEP, President, PES Group (18.06.2008)
- Margot Wallström, Commission Vice-President (18.06.2008)
- Daniel Hannan MEP, non-attached (formerly EPP-ED) (18.06.2008)
- Hanne Dahl MEP, IND/DEM Group (18.06.2008)
- Kathy Sinnott MEP, Co-President, IND/DEM Group (18.06.2008)
- Philip Bushill-Matthews MEP, EPP-ED (18.06.2008)
- Poul Nyrup Rasmussen MEP, President of the Party of European - Socialists (PES)(18.06.2008)
- Tobias Pflüger MEP, European Left - GUE/NGL (18.06.2008)
NOTE - The MEPs wearing the "Respect the Irish Vote" shirts are from various countries and from different groups.
Note on the rejected EU Constitution and Lisbon Treaty:
The people of France and the Netherlands rejected the proposed EU constitution in the 2005 referendums. After this, other countries cancelled a promised referendum and the EU Constitution was re-written as an "amending treaty" or a "reform treaty" and named "Treaty of Lisbon".
On the basis of this deceit, they claimed that no referendums are necessary on the Lisbon Treaty. Ireland was constitutionally required to hold a referendum and on the 12 June 2008 the people of Ireland gave a resounding No to Lisbon. Yet this vote is not being respected and the rule of law is being ignored. The EU leaders agreed at the June 19-20 EU Summit that ratifications must go on. Moreover, no other government is asking the people.
The Lisbon Treaty establishes a new "European Union" with joint citizenship - an EU "federal" State that is technically and politically empowered to centralize more power in Brussels. The treaty also stipulates the militarisation of the Union in order to 'police the world' just like the US does today.
- Hemicycle scenes: Audio Visual, European Parliament
- Barroso excerpt (10.07.2007) from EUX.TV (http://www.eux.tv ): "Barroso: European Union is 'empire' (short version)". Watch video here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c2Ralo...
- Music: Cornerstone Cues: Requiem For A Tower Mvt. II; Reprogram. From "El Morro": Drum Train, Burning Touch, Undefeated. From "Air Lyndhurt": Dark Rise, Velvet Choker.
martes, junio 24, 2008
Then running far behind Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton in name recognition and in the polls, Mr. Obama was in the midst of a campaign swing through the state where he would eventually register his first caucus victory. And as befits a senator from Illinois, the country’s second largest corn-producing state, he delivered a ringing endorsement of ethanol as an alternative fuel.
Mr. Obama is running as a reformer who is seeking to reduce the influence of special interests. But like any other politician, he has powerful constituencies that help shape his views. And when it comes to domestic ethanol, almost all of which is made from corn, he also has advisers and prominent supporters with close ties to the industry at a time when energy policy is a point of sharp contrast between the parties and their presidential candidates.
In the heart of the Corn Belt that August day, Mr. Obama argued that embracing ethanol “ultimately helps our national security, because right now we’re sending billions of dollars to some of the most hostile nations on earth.” America’s oil dependence, he added, “makes it more difficult for us to shape a foreign policy that is intelligent and is creating security for the long term.”Nowadays, when Mr. Obama travels in farm country, he is sometimes accompanied by his friend Tom Daschle, the former Senate majority leader from South Dakota. Mr. Daschle now serves on the boards of three ethanol companies and works at a Washington law firm where, according to his online job description, “he spends a substantial amount of time providing strategic and policy advice to clients in renewable energy.”
Mr. Obama’s lead advisor on energy and environmental issues, Jason Grumet, came to the campaign from the National Commission on Energy Policy, a bipartisan initiative associated with Mr. Daschle and Bob Dole, the Kansas Republican who is also a former Senate majority leader and a big ethanol backer who had close ties to the agribusiness giant Archer Daniels Midland.
Not long after arriving in the Senate, Mr. Obama himself briefly provoked a controversy by flying at subsidized rates on corporate airplanes, including twice on jets owned by Archer Daniels Midland, which is the nation’s largest ethanol producer and is based in his home state.
Jason Furman, the Obama campaign’s economic policy director, said Mr. Obama’s stance on ethanol was based on its merits. “That is what has always motivated him on this issue, and will continue to determine his policy going forward,” Mr. Furman said.
Asked if Mr. Obama brought any predisposition or bias to the ethanol debate because he represents a corn-growing state that stands to benefit from a boom, Mr. Furman said, “He wants to represent the United States of America, and his policies are based on what’s best for the country.”
Mr. Daschle, a national co-chairman of the Obama campaign, said in a telephone interview on Friday that his role advising the Obama campaign on energy matters was limited. He said he was not a lobbyist for ethanol companies, but did speak publicly about renewable energy options and worked “with a number of associations and groups to orchestrate and coordinate their activities,” including the Governors’ Ethanol Coalition.
Of Mr. Obama, Mr. Daschle said, “He has a terrific policy staff and relies primarily on those key people to advise him on key issues, whether energy or climate change or other things.”
Ethanol is one area in which Mr. Obama strongly disagrees with his Republican opponent, Senator John McCain of Arizona. While both presidential candidates emphasize the need for the United States to achieve “energy security” while also slowing down the carbon emissions that are believed to contribute to global warming, they offer sharply different visions of the role that ethanol, which can be made from a variety of organic materials, should play in those efforts.
Mr. McCain advocates eliminating the multibillion-dollar annual government subsidies that domestic ethanol has long enjoyed. As a free trade advocate, he also opposes the 54-cent-a-gallon tariff that the United States slaps on imports of ethanol made from sugar cane, which packs more of an energy punch than corn-based ethanol and is cheaper to produce.
“We made a series of mistakes by not adopting a sustainable energy policy, one of which is the subsidies for corn ethanol, which I warned in Iowa were going to destroy the market” and contribute to inflation, Mr. McCain said this month in an interview with a Brazilian newspaper, O Estado de São Paulo. “Besides, it is wrong,” he added, to tax Brazilian-made sugar cane ethanol, “which is much more efficient than corn ethanol.”
Mr. Obama, in contrast, favors the subsidies, some of which end up in the hands of the same oil companies he says should be subjected to a windfall profits tax. In the name of helping the United States build “energy independence,” he also supports the tariff, which some economists say may well be illegal under the World Trade Organization’s rules but which his advisers say is not.Many economists, consumer advocates, environmental experts and tax groups have been critical of corn ethanol programs as a boondoggle that benefits agribusiness conglomerates more than small farmers. Those complaints have intensified recently as corn prices have risen sharply in tandem with oil prices and corn normally used for food stock has been diverted to ethanol production.
“If you want to take some of the pressure off this market, the obvious thing to do is lower that tariff and let some Brazilian ethanol come in,” said C. Ford Runge, an economist specializing in commodities and trade policy at the Center for International Food and Agricultural Policy at the University of Minnesota. “But one of the fundamental reasons biofuels policy is so out of whack with markets and reality is that interest group politics have been so dominant in the construction of the subsidies that support it.”
Corn ethanol generates less than two units of energy for every unit of energy used to produce it, while the energy ratio for sugar cane is more than 8 to 1. With lower production costs and cheaper land prices in the tropical countries where it is grown, sugar cane is a more efficient source.
Mr. Furman said the campaign continued to examine the issue. “We want to evaluate all our energy subsidies to make sure that taxpayers are getting their money’s worth,” he said.
He added that Mr. Obama favored “a range of initiatives” that were aimed at “diversification across countries and sources of energy,” including cellulosic ethanol, and which, unlike Mr. McCain’s proposals, were specifically meant to “reduce overall demand through conservation, new technology and improved efficiency.”
On the campaign trail, Mr. Obama has not explained his opposition to imported sugar cane ethanol. But in remarks last year, made as President Bush was about to sign an ethanol cooperation agreement with his Brazilian counterpart, Mr. Obama argued that “our country’s drive toward energy independence” could suffer if Mr. Bush relaxed restrictions, as Mr. McCain now proposes.
“It does not serve our national and economic security to replace imported oil with Brazilian ethanol,” he argued.
Mr. Obama does talk regularly about developing switchgrass, which flourishes in the Midwest and Great Plains, as a source for ethanol. While the energy ratio for switchgrass and other types of cellulosic ethanol is much greater than corn, economists say that time-consuming investments in infrastructure would be required to make it viable, and with corn nearing $8 a bushel, farmers have little incentive to shift.
Ethanol industry executives and advocates have not made large donations to either candidate for president, an examination of campaign contribution records shows. But they have noted the difference between Mr. Obama and Mr. McCain.
Brian Jennings, a vice president of the American Coalition for Ethanol, said he hoped that Mr. McCain, as a presidential candidate, “would take a broader view of energy security and recognize the important role that ethanol plays.”
The candidates’ views were tested recently in the Farm Bill approved by Congress that extended the subsidies for corn ethanol, though reducing them slightly, and the tariffs on imported sugar cane ethanol. Because Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama were campaigning, neither voted. But Mr. McCain said that as president he would veto the bill, while Mr. Obama praised it.Published: June 23, 2008
viernes, junio 20, 2008
Friday June 20, 2008 16:55 by Abedallah Abu Rahma - Bil'in - IMEMC News
On Friday, villagers from Bilin, located near the central West Bank city of Ramallah, along with their international and Israeli supporters marched in their weekly nonviolent protest against the illegal Israeli wall built on the village's land.
Protesters carried banners demanding the removal of the Israeli wall and settlements and calling upon the international community to help Palestinians retain Jerusalem. Protestors also carried photos of Ibrahim Burnat who was injured during last week's protest by three live bullets fired by an Israeli soldier at a close range. Burnat He is still receiving treatment in the hospital.
The protests started after the mid-day Friday prayers were finished in the mosque, participants marched towards the separation Wall which separates the village from its land.
Immediately after the protest reached the gate of the Wall, soldiers showered the protestors with tear gas and rubber-coated steel bullets. Scores of protesters were treated for gas canisters. Israeli troops used a new tear gas launcher which fires thirty canisters in one barrage. They also used a high pitched ‘scream’ device in an attempt to disorientate demonstrators. Two people were injured as a result of the rubber-coated steel bullets; Muheeb Albarghutee a journalist from Al Hayyat Al Jadeedah newspaper and Ranny Burnat a local activist.
In addition tear gas canisters started several fires in the olive orchards burning many of the old trees. The fields belonged Rashid Muhammed Abu Rahma and Muhammed Ali Yasin, local sources reported.
Last night Israeli occupation forces forcibly removed Palestinians inside an outpost built to monitor attempts to seize more land from the village. At midnight Abdullah Abo Rahma, Ahmad Ibrahim Abo Rahma and Farhat Ibrahim Burnat were beaten and detained before being forced back to the other side of the fence. Israeli soldiers also attacked the house of Muhammed Tawfiq Al Khatib and arrested his son Tariq.
In related newes After a joint request by residents of Bilin and Jayyos villages supported by the Adalah-NY coalition UNICEF confirmed this week that it would no longer accept financial or other support from Liv Leviev or his corporate entities.
Leviev is a financial supporter of the illegal settlements of Modin Eilat and Zofim. Modin Eilat is built on land from Bilin village and Zofim settlement is built on land from Jayyos village and Abu Ghnaim Mountain. Representatives from Dubai have also been successfully petitioned to deny Leviev permission to open two stores there.
Non violent action
ghassanb at imemc dot org
Paul Joseph Watson
Wednesday, June 18, 2008
Shocking footage out of Cedar Rapids Iowa shows cops and government employee "strike teams" breaking into houses of flood victims and threatening anyone who questions their actions in complete violation of the 4th amendment right that protects against unlawful search and seizure.
No warrant, no knock home invasions are being carried out on the flimsy pretext of "checking for structural damage" as cops harass and threaten with arrest people who refuse to have their homes ransacked by thugs in uniforms.
Cedar Rapids police chief Greg Graham promised residents over the weekend that "Law enforcement officers are not entering homes," and that firefighters would only enter homes through unlocked doors and windows yet the video clearly shows locked houses being broken in to.
People who attempt to gain access to their home before it has been "cleared" by authorities are being apprehended, and those who attempt to drive around police checkpoints that have been set up in the affected areas are arrested at gunpoint."Each strike team consisted of six or seven people, including police, firefighters, utilities workers, andcity employees," reports the Iowa Gazette.
Angela Tague, a member of the STAR 1 search and rescue team from Ames, ran into any angry homeowner on E Avenue NW.
"He was saying ‘Where do you live?’ and ‘How would you like it if someone busted your door open?," Tague said.
Police Officer Josh Bell later had a heated exchange with the man, and told him that if he didn’t go back inside his house and stop harassing the strike team, he would be escorted out of the area.
The man was visibly agitated about his broken door and pointed at Bell.
"It’s wrong," the man said, over and over.
So people who are uncomfortable with jackbooted thugs breaking down their door without even knocking and express their distaste for it are to blame for "harassing the strike team"?
Respondents to the You Tube clip and the newspaper article expressed their outrage at the behavior of those in the video tasked with "helping" flood-stricken people yet doing nothing more than intimidating and invading their homes.
"You break down the door of my private residence and when I object you threaten to escort me off my own property. Fine example of police work. Did anyone think to knock first? Thomas Jefferson said that the main reason for citizens to be armed was to protect themselves from tyrannical government. If this isn’t tyranny then I don’t know what is. A man’s home is his castle," states Steve Delaloye.
"A sad day for America when government thugs abuse the trust of the citizenry like this," writes one.
"So these cops and fire fighters are part time structural engineers, or what?? What are they inspecting for in the structures? Gas and electric could be shut off at the source, and any spills are so diluted they wont catch fire. The police chief said no police would enter any homes, and what do you know, mr fat ass cop goes piling through the window thinking he’s T.J Hooker. Damn, this is just sad, sad , sad," adds another.
One Iowa resident expresses her anger that authorities will not let her re-enter her home.
"I sit here with tears streaming down my face. I have been trying to be patient and await to enter my home. Now today, I am told there will be no re-entry’s until further notice. I cannot express how ****ing mad I am. I understand the houses can be unsafe. Just let me at least see my house, so that I can assess if it hit my top floor. I have pictures and memories on my top floor of my deceased mother, all I want to do is rescue those," she writes.As we reported in 2005, Hurricane Katrina was exploited by the federal government and used as a martial law drill while victims were abused and treated like rats in a laboratory.
Door to door gun confiscations were ordered and cops ransacked homes and took weapons from multi-million dollar homes which were in the high and dry areas and completely unaffected by the hurricane. In some cases, residents were kicked out of their own homes for no reason.
Outrageous footage showed cops seizing handguns from the home of a grief-stricken old women as they assaulted and punched her in the face.
Where does the government think it derives the authority from to break into people’s homes whose lives have already been devastated by massive floods on the flimsiest of pretexts?
The 4th amendment states, "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."
Even if there was a legitimate reason to inspect homes, why on earth do they not even bother to knock on the door?
Cops immediately attempt to break in or climb through windows uninvited because this procedure is all about sending a message - when a crisis unfolds we are the bosses and you - the peasants - will yield to our tyranny.
Lawsuits need to be filed immediately by people in Iowa and elsewhere who have had cops invade their homes in complete violation of the 4th amendment and a pretext needs to be set that will put a stop to the government’s routine exploitation of natural disasters as an opportunity to impose martial law measures on needy victims that have already had their lives devastated.With reports indicating that the Mississippi river is in danger of bursting its banks, the precedent that was set with Hurricane Katrina could be set to advance as government minions and jackbooted thugs across the country lick their lips at the prospect of kicking down more doors and harassing innocent people.
Contact the Iowa ACLU and demand they pressure the authorities to stop these illegal home invasions immediately.
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martes, junio 17, 2008
|Children flying kites in the Gaza Strip. (Mohammed Omer)|
It's that time of the year. The holidays bring scores of children to play together -- across the dividing line. And despite the iron wall of separation, they form friendships.
Mahmoud has always known the border as a playground. This is where the family home was before it was demolished by Israel to make room for the border wall. "I always come here because this is where our house used to be," he says, launching his kite.
Most children still play from "home," where Block O, Yebna, Block J, or the al-Salam neighborhood used to be. The playground is that strip of no man's land known as the Philadelphia corridor, where more than 2,400 homes were razed ahead of the "disengagement" by Israel in 2005. That same "disengagement" made about 16,800 people homeless here, according to UN figures.
Only kites can now cross the border. And up in the skies one can tell some of the Gaza kites apart. They are the ones made with newspapers and plastic bags, with some thorns stuck on for the dogfight that happens in the sky. The usual materials like paper and glue used to make a kite are scarce in Gaza.
Khalid Zanoun, 12, like the others, always picks the spot where his house once stood. Up in the skies, he suddenly loses his kite in a dogfight. "He ran away from me!" he screams, looking at his disappearing kite, fists clenched. But soon he is beaming again, preparing another kite for the next battle with his unseen mates on the other side.
Curiosity led him some time back to scale the wall and see what his mates look like. "This is not allowed any more," he says. "The Hamas guards on our side and the Egyptian border guards on the other stop us."
Not entirely, though, because boys will be boys. If nothing, they climb up just to say hello to the Egyptian guards.
It's the better world on the other side. The Egyptian boys have better kites, and they have shoes. In Gaza, most children run barefoot on the sizzling hot soil. Shoes have been priced out of reach for most people, as so many things are nowadays as a result of the Israeli siege.
Mahmoud has four brothers working in Egypt. He dreams of joining them one day, of working in Egypt as an engineer, and not as day laborers as they do. "I have been to Egypt once," he says. That is when the border was breached for a few days in January. "I loved it."
But he's not so sure he can become an engineer. The family has no money to send him to university. His family came here as refugees in 1948 when Israel was created on the land where they lived. Now they have become homeless again, and are back in a refugee camp.
The UN agency for Palestine refugees, UNRWA, helped re-house the families, and helps even to make some summer games possible for children. But it is hard to provide for about a quarter of a million children in Gaza.
Another boy comes up to join Mahmoud. He lifts his shirt to show a wound he received from shrapnel during an Israeli assault. He too lost his home. Everyone knows why. But for the moment, his thoughts are on his kite.
Mohammed Omer, The Electronic Intifada, 16 June 2008
lunes, junio 16, 2008
This video may contain images depicting the reality and horror of war/violence and should only be viewed by a mature audience.
h/t: Jewish Peace News
Bilin Weekly Protest- Israeli Army Uses Live Rounds on Peaceful Protest.
F.F.J. June 13 2008- Today a young man from Bilin was shot with live rounds during the weekly Bilin Protest. Ibrahim Burnat who was shot in his right thigh was taken directly to Sheik Zaid Hospital in Ramallah and was described by doctors as being in critical condition. Ibrahim posed no threat to Israeli soldiers who shot him with live rounds simply for attempting to scale the Apartheid Wall as a symbolic gesture against the ongoing illegal occupation.
The protestors were shot with tear gas, rubber coated steel bullets, and finally live ammunition as the protest wound down. The Israeli peace activist Lee Lorian was injuried with a rubber bullet in the chest and another more seriously injured. In addition dozens were treated for tear gas inhalation.
Locals where joined by International activists this week to protest against the Apartheid Wall and the expansion of Israeli Settlements. The weekly protestors raised the Palestinian flag and slogans against the occupation. The signs demanded the dismantling of the Apartheid Wall, land confiscation, and the expansion of Israeli Settlements. The protesters also demanded an end to Israel’s killing of unarmed Palestinian civilians, the closure of roads in the West Bank, and large scale imprisonment as a form of collective punishment.
domingo, junio 15, 2008
A spokesperson for the No campaign put it like this:
“The Irish people have spoken. Contrary to the predictions of social and political turmoil, we believe that hundreds of millions of people across Europe will welcome the rejection of the Lisbon Treaty. This vote shows the gulf that exists between the politicians and the elites of Europe, and the opinions of the people. As in France and the Netherlands, the political leaders and the establishment have done everything they could to push this through – and they have failed. The proposals to further reduce democracy, to militarize the EU and to let private business take over public services have been rejected. Lisbon is dead. Along with the EU Constitution from which it came, it should now be buried.” (Socialist Worker online)
News of the defeat has not been well received in England where the neoliberal government of has already indicated that it will reject the election results and "press ahead" in an effort to ratify the treaty. Neither Brown nor his friends in Brussels are likely to be deterred by anything as trivial as the will of the people. Labour MP and former Europe Minister Denis MacShane summed it up like this:
"I personally think that a vote in a foreign country should not determine the democratic decisions taken in the British Parliament."
MacShane's view is apparently shared by EC President Jose Manuel Barroso who said that EU member states should continue ratifying the Lisbon treaty even though more than half of Ireland's 43 constituencies rejected it outright. So much for democracy.
The Irish have plenty to celebrate today. They've thrown a spanner in the plans of the bankers and corporate mandarins who want to replace representative government and national sovereignty with their own skewed vision of capitalist Valhalla; a Euro-Utopia where short-term profits always take priority over the needs of ordinary people.
Mike Whitney is a frequent contributor to Global Research.
Palestinians are being regularly and illegally barred from reaching Dead Sea beaches in the occupied West Bank, according to a Supreme Court petition filed by Israel's leading civil rights organisation.
The Association of Civil Rights (Acri) in Israel is challenging what it says is the frequently imposed ban by the military on Palestinians seeking to swim or relax at beaches in the northern Dead Sea. The salt-saturated sea is the only open water accessible to Palestinians from the otherwise landlocked West Bank.
The petition says that the Israeli military is using the Beit Ha'arava checkpoint on Route 90 – the only open access route in the occupied West Bank for travel to the Dead Sea – to turn back Palestinians, mainly but not exclusively on weekends and Jewish holidays.
Acri says that the ban is to appease Israeli settlers operating concessions along the Dead Sea's northern shore. They fear losing Jewish customers if there are large numbers of Arabs using the beaches in territory seized by Israel during the Six Day War in 1967.
A Palestinian bus driver, Mohammed Ahmed Nuaga'a, described how he was turned back by the military with a party of children, aged between six and 12, on a school trip from the Hebron district to the Dead Sea last month. The outing had been officially co-ordinated with the Palestinian Authority education ministry and included 10 teachers and 15 parents. He returned a few hours later in the hope that the soldiers would relent but they did not do so. "I tried to explain to them that these are young pupils who came from very far to fulfil a big dream – to see the sea," he said.
"But the soldiers were aggressive, and started shouting at us that Palestinian passage is forbidden, whether children or adults. The pupils begged the soldiers to let them go for even 10 minutes just to see the sea and return, but nothing happened."
In the petition a senior Acri lawyer, Limor Yehuda, says: "We are dealing here with travel bans and entry prohibitions to public places in occupied territory which are tainted with discrimination and characteristic of colonial regimes. We have here prohibitions preventing the protected population of the occupied territory from using its own resources, while the very same resources are put at the disposal and enjoyment of the citizens of the occupying power."
The ban came to light after the testimony of two Israeli army reservists who said that at the beginning of their tour of duty in May they were told that the purpose of the checkpoint was to "prevent Palestinians coming from the Jordan Valley to the Dead Sea beaches".
One of the reservists, Doron Karbel, testified that as a "side note", the Jordan Valley Brigade Commander, Colonel Yigal Slovik, had said the reason for the checkpoint was that "when Jews and Palestinian vacationers were sitting on the beaches side by side it hurt the business of the surrounding yishuvim [Jewish communities]."
Mr Karbel added: "In a conversation I later had with the Brigade Commander, he told me that he could come up with or find a security justification if he needed to."
From Ein Gedi southwards, the beaches on the Dead Sea's western side are in sovereign Israeli territory. But the popular beaches of the northern Dead Sea are Israeli-run and visitors could easily – but erroneously – imagine they are also in Israel rather than in occupied territory. In April this year, the British Advertising Standards Authority required the Israel Ministry of Tourism to alter the wording of an advertisement suggesting that Qumran, close to the northern shore, and the site of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls, was in Israel.
In the Acri petition, Ms Yehuda says: "The illegality of the actions and orders of the army cries out to the heavens. This is a clear case of misusing security considerations as camouflage for achieving other goals which are unrelated to security matters and unacceptable."
Israel has also been criticised for segregating roads used by Israeli motorists in the West Bank for stated reasons of security. Israeli officials reject claims that this is racial discrimination, partly because Arabs with Israeli citizenship are permitted to use the roads. They also frequent the Dead Sea beaches.
The Israeli military declined to comment in detail while judicial proceedings are under way, but said in a statement that "the network of security crossings in the West Bank was erected in response to the extreme terrorist threat and violence during the second intifada." Since the violence had "ebbed" crossings were "under review".
lunes, junio 02, 2008
Posted with permission by Green Left Weekly
by Franz Chavez
Green Left Weekly
31 May 2008
Bolivia may have its first-ever indigenous president, but racism is alive and well in this country, as demonstrated by the public humiliation of a group of around 50 indigenous mayors, town councillors and community leaders in the south-central city of Sucre.
The incident, which shook the country but received little attention from the international press, occurred on May 25, when President Evo Morales, an Aymara Indian, was to appear in a public ceremony in Sucre to deliver 50 ambulances for rural communities and announce funding for municipal projects.
But in the early hours of May 25, organised groups opposed to Morales began to surround the stadium where he was to appear. Confronting the police and soldiers with sticks, stones and dynamite, they managed to occupy the stadium.
The president cancelled his visit, and the security forces were withdrawn to avoid bloodshed.
But violent elements of the Interinstitutional Committee, a conservative pro-autonomy, anti-Morales civic group that is backed by the local university and other bodies, continued to harass and beat supporters of the governing Movement Towards Socialism (MAS) and anyone who appeared to be indigenous.
A mob of armed civilians, partially made up of university students, then surrounded several dozen indigenous Morales supporters, including local authorities who had come from other regions to attend the ceremony.
The terrified indigenous people, who had sought refuge in a poor neighbourhood on the outskirts of Sucre, were stripped of their few belongings and forced to walk seven kilometres to the House of Liberty, a symbol of the end of colonial rule in Bolivia that was declared there in 1825.
In the city’s main square, they were forced to kneel — shirtless — and apologise for coming to Sucre. They were also made to chant insults like “Die Evo!”
They were surrounded by activists from the pro-autonomy movement, who set fire to the blue, black and white MAS party flag, the multicolour flag of the Aymara people and colourful hand-woven indigenous ponchos seized from the visiting Morales supporters.
Sucre Mayor Aidee Nava and the Interinstitutional Committee immediately apologised after the incident. Morales called on Sucre officials to bring those responsible to justice.
Indigenous people in Bolivia have long suffered discrimination. They were not even allowed to vote until 1952, when the government of the Nationalist Revolutionary Movement (MNR) abolished pongaje — a system of forced labour for indigenous people in rural areas.
South America’s poorest country is divided between the western highlands, home to the poor indigenous majority, and the much wealthier eastern provinces that account for most of the country’s natural gas production, industry and agribusiness. The population of eastern Bolivia tends to be of more European and mixed-race descent.
Santa Cruz, Bolivia’s richest province, is at the vanguard of an autonomy movement that involves six of the country’s nine regions. People in Santa Cruz voted in favour of regional autonomy in a May 4 referendum, and three other eastern provinces will hold similar referendums in June.
Analysts say that underlying the autonomy movement, which is spearheaded by the right-wing business and political elites who governed Bolivia for decades, is the question of control and use of Bolivia’s natural resources.
The aim of the left-wing Morales government is to distribute the nation’s wealth more evenly, in order to improve the living conditions of the country’s indigenous people — most of whom live in appalling poverty.
According to MAS representatives and an independent analyst who spoke to Inter-Press Service, the May 25 incident has encouraged Morales supporters to redouble their efforts to bring about structural changes aimed at eradicating inequality and discrimination.
“We are witnessing a backlash by the oligarchy”, Rene Navarro, a MAS representative in the constituent assembly that is rewriting the Bolivian constitution, told IPS. Navarro predicted more violence against indigenous people by the right.
The right is attempting in the media to portray the Sucre violence as part of a government-fomented campaign aimed at further polarising the country along regional lines. But Navarro argued that the racist violence is “a blow to all citizens alike”. He said that the government should publicise what it has achieved over the last two-and-a-half years.
MAS lawmaker Jose Pimentel, a former leader of the country’s miners’ union, told IPS that it was urgently necessary to get the draft constitution approved in a referendum, with the support of the rural indigenous peasants in alliance with the urban poor.
Independent analyst Franco Gamboa agreed that the only option open to the government is to continue forging ahead with the new constitution, the vote on which is being delayed by the autonomy referendums as well as plans for a recall referendum for Morales, his vice president, and the country’s nine provincial governors.
The aim of the new constitution, whose draft was approved by the MAS majority in the constituent assembly in a December vote boycotted by the right, is to create a unified but decentralised state that recognises Bolivia’s cultural and ethnic diversity, while ensuring greater political participation and access to land and other resources by indigenous people.
Gamboa said the reaction of conservative groups in Sucre and the autonomy movements in eastern provinces reflect opposition to the greater political independence and expanded land rights that the new constitution would grant indigenous people — which represent a challenge to the privileges enjoyed by the landowning and business elites.
The new constitution would recognise greater autonomy for the provinces, municipalities and indigenous communities, while the anti-Morales provinces only want decentralisation at the municipal and provincial levels.
Pimentel stressed that “the fact that Morales was elected as the country’s first indigenous president is not sufficient to do away with a racist, neo-colonial state, which is why it is important to reform the constitution”.
Juanita Ancieta, a leader of the Women’s Federation of the Tropico de Cochabamba, told IPS that “we are not going to allow them to divide Bolivia, and we are not going to sit back with our arms crossed, doing nothing”.[Originally published by the Inter-Press Service on May 28, abridged fromhttp://bolivisarising.blogspot.com.]
BEIRUT: German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told reporters on Sunday after meeting newly elected President Michel Suleiman that he saw "signs of hope" in Lebanon.
"The Doha agreement is a very important first step to end the crisis," Steinmeier said, referring to the May 21 accord between rival Lebanese factions that ended a 18-month political crisis that had turned deadly.
"The election of a president and the formation of a government are signs of hope," he said, emphasizing that the deal reached in Qatar says that force and weapons should not be used to resolve conflict.
Lebanon's long-running political standoff sparked sectarian clashes last month that left at least 65 people dead. Until Suleiman's election a week ago, the country had been without a head of state since November.
Also on Sunday, Israel freed and then deported to Lebanon Nassim Nisr, convicted by Israel of spying for Hizbullah, and the group handed over what it said were the remains of Israeli soldiers killed in Israel's 34-day war on Lebanon in 2006.
"I hope this is a step in the direction of a prisoner exchange," Steinmeier told reporters after meeting Prime Minister Fouad Siniora later on Sunday.
"I am happy that preliminary steps were taken in that direction and hope that this creates a positive dynamic, building mutual trust. Quick progress will be in the interest of the victims and concerned parties," he said.
Germany is acting as mediator in negotiations between Hizbullah and Israel on a prisoner exchange.
Beirut is the minister's first stop on a Middle East tour that will also take in Occupied Jerusalem and Ramallah.
Steinmeier said it was "encouraging" that Suleiman's inaugural speech supported establishing the international court to try those behind the assassinations of former Premier Rafik Hariri.
Syria maintained a military presence in Lebanon for almost three decades until it was forced to withdraw by the outcry over Hariri's 2005 assassination, which was widely blamed on Damascus. Syria strongly denies any involvement.
Steinmeier underlined that Suleiman's inaugural speech "spoke of a new beginning in relations with Syria."
"I hope there will be a normalization of relations and that later there will be an exchange of ambassadors and that Syria treats Lebanon as a sovereign country," Steinmeier said.
Syria and Lebanon have no diplomatic representation.
Germany is a former commander and current member of the UN naval force patrolling Lebanese waters to keep the peace with Israel. - AFPMonday, June 02, 2008 By Agence France Presse (AFP)
domingo, junio 01, 2008
The French documentary, called “The world according to Monsanto” and directed by independent filmmaker Marie-Monique Robin, paints a grim picture of a company with a long track record of environmental crimes and health scandals.
The story starts in the White House, where Monsanto often got its way by exerting disproportionate influence over policymakers via the “revolving door”. One example is Michael Taylor, who worked for Monsanto as an attorney before being appointed as deputy commissioner of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 1991. While at the FDA, the authority that deals with all US food approvals, Taylor made crucial decisions that led to the approval of GE foods and crops. Then he returned to Monsanto, becoming the company’s vice president for public policy.
Thanks to these intimate links between Monsanto and government agencies, the US adopted GE foods and crops without proper testing, without consumer labeling and in spite of serious questions hanging over their safety. Not coincidentally, Monsanto supplies 90 percent of the GE seeds used by the US market.
Monsanto’s long arm stretched so far that, in the early nineties, the US Food and Drugs Agency even ignored warnings of their own scientists, who were cautioning that GE crops could cause negative health effects. Other tactics the company uses to stifle concerns about their products include misleading advertising, bribery and concealing scientific evidence.
Monsanto was founded in 1901 as a chemical company. Its history is intimately linked to the production and promotion of highly toxic chemicals such as Agent Orange (used as a chemical weapon in the Vietnam war) and PCBs (widespread toxic pollutants). Robin’s movie reveals that Monsanto already knew about the “systematic toxic effects” of PCBs for decades, but instructed its salespeople to stay silent because, “we can’t afford to lose one dollar.”
More recently Monsanto received a bad reputation for the promotion of growth hormones from GE organisms known as rBGH, which the company sells in the US under the brand name Posilac. Monsanto claims that Posilac holds, “benefits to consumers”. The reality is that, rBGH growth hormones were banned in Europe and Canada after the authorities found out about the health risks resulting from drinking milk from cows treated with rBGH hormones. Monsanto's way of "addressing" this problem was to sue the Oakhurst dairy company in the state of Maine (US) - attempting to force them, and other dairies, to stop labelling diary products “rBGH-free” and “rBST-free”.
Global reach, control
Over the last decade, Monsanto aggressively bought up over 50 seed companies around the globe. Seeds are the source of all food. Whoever owns the seeds, owns the food. The process of genetic engineering allows companies, such as Monsanto, to claim patent rights over seeds. Ninety percent of all GE seeds planted in the world are patented by Monsanto and hence controlled by them.
Patents on seeds give companies like Monsanto unprecedented power. Monsanto prohibits farmers saving patented GE seeds from one crop to replant the next season, an age-old practice. To ensure that farmers do not reuse seeds, Monsanto created its own 'gene police', and encourages farmers to turn in their neighbors.
Even farmers that do not use GE seeds are not safe. According to an investigative report by the Centre for Food Safety (CFS) farmers have even been sued for patent infringement after their field was contaminated by pollen or seed from someone else’s GE crop.
But Monsanto’s influence doesn't stop at the US border. “The world according to Monsanto”, documents the devastating impact of Monsanto's malpractices around the world. Among others, it includes the real-life stories of cotton farmers in India that ended up in hopeless debts after using Monsanto genetically engineered (so called Bt) cotton, and of a family in Paraguay, South America whose dreams have turned to nightmares after their farm became surrounded by fields planted with Monsanto’s GE soya.
A much needed expose
Monsanto wouldn’t address these issues on camera for Robin, instead referring to the "Monsanto Pledge" posted on their website (which we debunk here).
After seeing “The world according to Monsanto”, Greenpeace International campaigner Geert Ritsema said:
“Mrs. Robin should be congratulated for revealing the sinister practices of the world’s leading producer of genetically engineered seeds. Her film is alarming and should be a call to action for everybody who cares about the quality of our food and a healthy future for our planet.”
The movie will be shown for the first time on ARTE TV (in German and French) on Tuesday 11 March at 21.00. You can order a DVD of it (in English, French and Spanish) here.
07 March 2008 GREEN PEACE
A hitherto latent rivalry between Iran and Israel thus has been transformed into an open struggle for dominance in the Middle East. The result has been the emergence of some surprising, if not bizarre, alliances: Iran, Syria, Hizbullah, Hamas and the American-backed, Shiite-dominated Iraq are facing Israel, Saudi Arabia, and most of the other Sunni Arab states, all of which feel existentially threatened by Iran's ascendance.
The danger of a major confrontation has been heightened further by a series of factors: persistently high oil prices, which have created new financial and political opportunities for Iran; the possible defeat of the West and its regional allies in proxy wars in Gaza and Lebanon; and the United Nations Security Council's failure to induce Iran to accept even a temporary freeze of its nuclear program.
Iran's nuclear program is the decisive factor in this equation, for it threatens irreversibly the region's strategic balance. That Iran - a country whose president never tires of calling for Israel's annihilation and that threatens Israel's northern and southern borders through its massive support of proxy wars waged by Hizbullah and Hamas - might one day have missiles with nuclear warheads is Israel's worst security nightmare. Politics is not just about facts, but also about perceptions. Whether or not a perception is accurate is beside the point, because it nonetheless leads to decisions.
This applies in particular when the perception concerns what the parties consider to be threats to their very existence. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's threats of annihilation are taken seriously in Israel because of the trauma of the Holocaust. And most Arab governments share the fear of a nuclear Iran. Earlier this month, Israel celebrated its 60th birthday, and US President George W. Bush went to Jerusalem to play a leading part in the commemoration. But those who had expected that his visit would mainly be about the stalled negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians were bitterly disappointed. Bush's central topic, including his speech to Israel's Knesset, was Iran. Bush had promised to bring the Middle East conflict closer to a resolution before the end of his term this year. But his final visit to Israel seemed to indicate that his objective was different: he seemed to be planning, together with Israel, to end the Iranian nuclear program - and to do so by military, rather than by diplomatic, means.
Anyone following the press in Israel during the anniversary celebrations and listening closely to what was said in Jerusalem did not have to be a prophet to understand that matters are coming to a head. Consider the following:
First, "stop the appeasement!" is a demand raised across the political spectrum in Israel - and what is meant is the nuclear threat emanating from Iran.
Second, while Israel celebrated, Defense Minister Ehud Barak was quoted as saying that a life-and-death military confrontation was a distinct possibility.
Third, the outgoing commander of the Israeli Air Force declared that the air force was capable of any mission, no matter how difficult, to protect the country's security. The destruction of a Syrian nuclear facility last year, and the lack of any international reaction to it, were viewed as an example for the coming action against Iran.
Fourth, the Israeli wish list for US arms deliveries, discussed with the American president, focused mainly on the improvement of the attack capabilities and precision of the Israeli Air Force.
Fifth, diplomatic initiatives and UN sanctions when it comes to Iran are seen as hopelessly ineffective.
And sixth, with the approaching end of the Bush presidency and uncertainty about his successor's policy, the window of opportunity for Israeli action is seen as potentially closing.
The last two factors carry special weight. While Israeli military intelligence is on record as saying that Iran is expected to cross the red line on the path to nuclear power between 2010 and 2015 at the earliest, the feeling in Israel is that the political window of opportunity to attack is now, during the last months of Bush's presidency.
Although it is acknowledged in Israel that an attack on Iran's nuclear facilities would involve grave and hard-to-assess risks, the choice between acceptance of an Iranian bomb and an attempt at its military destruction, with all the attendant consequences, is clear. Israel won't stand by and wait for matters to take their course.
The Middle East is drifting toward a new great confrontation in 2008. Iran must understand that without a diplomatic solution in the coming months, a dangerous military conflict is very likely to erupt. It is high time for serious negotiations to begin.
The most recent offer by the six powers - the UN Security Council's five permanent members plus Germany - is on the table, and it goes very far in accommodating Iran's interests. The decisive question, however, will be whether it will be possible to freeze the Iranian nuclear program for the duration of the negotiations to avoid a military confrontation before these negotiations are completed. Should this newest attempt fail, things will soon get serious. Deadly serious.
Joschka Fischer, Germany's foreign minister and vice chancellor from 1998 to 2005, led
Germany's Green Party for nearly 20 years. THE DAILY STAR publishes this commentary in collaboration with Project Syndicate-Institute for Human Sciences (c) (www.project-syndicate.org).
Friday, May 30, 2008 THE DAILY STAR