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الاثنين، 28 أبريل 2014

Suspect in USS Cole bombing was tortured, expert says

Suspect in USS Cole bombing was tortured, expert says

By CAROL ROSENBERG



The Saudi prisoner awaiting a death-penalty trial for the USS Cole bombing was tortured physically, mentally and sexually, an expert in treating torture victims testified Thursday at the war court.

Dr. Sondra Crosby offered the diagnosis in open court during carefully choreographed testimony that never once mentioned that Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, 49, got to Guantanamo after four years of CIA captivity, during which he was interrogated with waterboarding and threats to his mother and was threatened with a revving power drill.

"I believe that Mr. al-Nashiri has suffered torture - physical, psychological and sexual torture," Crosby said.

At issue is a defense claim - al-Nashiri's lawyers describe it as medical malpractice - that Guantanamo prison's military doctors have not treated him for the trauma he suffered at the hands of the CIA. A military medical board diagnosed him with post-traumatic stress disorder last year. Now his defense lawyers want the judge to freeze Dec. 4 trial preparations until he is treated.

Case prosecutor Navy Lt. Bryan Davis tried repeatedly to block the testimony of Crosby, an internist who said she treats victims of torture daily in her Boston-based practice and has seen more than 500 victims or possible victims in her career.

But the judge, Army Col. James L. Pohl, accepted her expertise and allowed her to describe in some detail the basis for the diagnosis. Prosecutors then chose not to challenge her finding through cross-examination.

Crosby, a Boston University medical school professor and member of Physicians for Human Rights, spent about as much time establishing her credentials as describing what she discovered in secret records plus more than 30 hours of Guantanamo prison camp interviews and physical examinations of al-Nashiri across three prison visits.

Al-Nashiri - a Saudi accused of orchestrating the Oct. 12, 2000, al-Qaida suicide bombing that killed 17 U.S. sailors on a warship off the coast of Yemen - sat through it emotionless, eyelids nearly closed, in the white prison camp uniform of a cooperative captive.

Crosby chose her words carefully in court because, in order to make her diagnosis, she was allowed to review top secret records and discuss with al-Nashiri what happened to him. So while she was not allowed to say in open court what she saw in a medical exam of him or what he told her, she was allowed to refer to unclassified government records to support her diagnosis.

"He suffers from chronic pain. He suffers from anal-rectal complaints," she said. He also has "difficulty defecating, hemorrhoids, pain in sitting for a long time," which she said are typical of "survivors of sexual assault."

Al-Nashiri has scars on his wrists, legs, ankles "consistent with the allegations and history that he gave me." And he suffers from wide mood swings - from "irritability, anger, extreme emotional intensity to silence" - that are "red flags" of trauma and torture.

But, she said, military medical staff treating him had failed to ask the right questions, if any.

"There was no trauma history in the records I read," said Crosby, who by judicial order was provided access to al-Nashiri's medical history since his arrival at Guantanamo. "They treated the symptoms without treating the cause."

As an example, she said, rather than understand the nature of al-Nashiri's nighttime cell sleeplessness, doctors offered him medication. In addition, she described the prison camp churn of Navy medical staff on nine-month rotations as an obstacle to developing a trusting therapeutic relationship.

It is prison policy not to comment specifically on what goes on at Camp 7, the secret prison with its own medical clinic where al-Nashiri and other former CIA captives are clandestinely kept.

But a soldier who escorts media around the detention center offered an endorsement of the care for the 154 captives in an article published on a Pentagon website Thursday. "I feel our guard force and the medical personnel are doing an outstanding job providing safe, humane, legal care and custody to the detainees," said Army Staff Sgt. Karen Kozub.

Testimony on the adequacy of the captive's medical treatment was expected to continue Friday with an anonymous naval officer in charge of prison medical staff called as a witness. Lawyers were also expected to argue over a prosecution bid to get the judge to scale back his sweeping discovery order requiring the government to turn over details of al-Nashiri's CIA detention - including names of medical staff who treated him there and nations where he was covertly kept.

In presenting her credentials, Crosby said she twice made presentations to a subcommittee on ethics of the Pentagon's Defense Health Board. The board was considering the military's forced-feeding policy of Guantanamo prisoners during a hunger strike by an undisclosed number of the 154 captives. The military now does not reveal any information regarding the number of captives considered to be hunger strikers or the number getting forced feedings.

Crosby said the forced-feeding policy provided a window into the restrictions that Navy medical staff work under at the prison, saying commanders, not medical professionals, determine the so-called involuntary enteral feed policy of systematically renourishing hunger strikers who resist in a restraint chair.

"Doctors are instructed to force-feed competent hunger strikers when it is against medical ethics and the rest of the Western world," she said.

In a separate description of non-medical command control of health care, she said an officer initially insisted that she conduct a physical exam of al-Nashiri while he was in shackles. She refused, citing a court order by Pohl that al-Nashiri be unshackled.

The officer then insisted that four guards be in the room and observe the full physical exam. She refused: "That would be a violation of a privacy, and I would not be able to do an adequate examination."

The officer, a "representative from camp leadership," relented as a "favor."

She examined al-Nashiri in privacy, with guards outside the room, as the judge had ordered.


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Thousands at risk of starvation in Yarmouk, UN warns

Thousands at risk of starvation in Yarmouk, UN warns

Maureen Clare Murphy


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The queue for food in the ruins of Yarmouck Camp

uruknet.info

The United Nations agency for Palestine refugees, UNRWA, was permitted to make a delivery of 300 food packages to Yarmouk camp near Damascus today, after 15 days of being denied access by the Syrian government.
However, the delivery is a drop in the ocean of what is needed in in the besieged refugee camp, where an estimated 18,000 civilians remain trapped. The camp was once the largest population center of Palestine refugees in Syria, as well as home to thousands of Syrians.
UNRWA says it needs to deliver 700 food parcels per day to prevent starvation in the camp, where many residents have already died of hunger, the Guardianreported last weekend. However, an average of only 100 parcels per day have been delivered since the beginning of the year, despite the UN Security Council’s adoption of Resolution 2139 on 22 February requiring all parties in Syria’s civil war to allow unfettered humanitarian assistance.
According to a joint statement issued yesterday by UN agencies attempting to alleviate the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria, there are "at least one million people [who] are now in need of urgent humanitarian assistance in Aleppo alone."

"Starvation as weapon"

On HuffPost Live yesterday, spokespersons with UNRWA and the World Food Program and a researcher for Amnesty International said responsibility for the crisis lay with various parties.
Neil Sammonds, Syria researcher with Amnesty International, said that the "Main problem is the Syrian government," which is not allowing food aid to come through its borders. He added that the government is "using starvation as a weapon of war to achieve its ends."
Abeer Etefa of the World Food Program said that communities in Aleppo, Syria’s most populous city, are being completely cut off by both government and opposition forces. However, the agency was able to reach four million people in Syria in March.
Christopher Gunness of UNRWA emphasized that if it was within the UN Security Council’s power to implement an agreement to rid Syria of its chemical weapons stockpile, "with thousands of people possibly facing the risk of starvation, surely the Council can adopt an equally robust approach in getting Resolution 2130 implemented …"
Gunness added that the UN charter states: "the organization is there to save succeeding generations fromt he scourge of war and the fact is that tonight the people of Yarmouk are not being saved from the scourge of war and the credibility of all of us in the UN is at grave danger as are the lives of those poor, besieged civilians trapped in Yarmouk."

Months of siege

report published by Amnesty International last month details the events leading up to the Syrian government’s siege on Yarmouk in December 2012 and its impact on its residents.
Titled "Squeezing the Life Out of Yarmouk: War Crimes Against Besieged Civlians," the 37-page report states:
Scores of civilians are reported to have died in Yarmouk as a direct result of the siege or have been killed in attacks by Syrian government forces. Amnesty International has obtained information about 194 individuals, all said to be civilians, who have lost their lives since government forces tightened the siege in July 2013. Starvation, lack of adequate medical care and shooting by snipers are the three main causes of death reported to Amnesty International.
Many other Yarmouk civilians have been wounded or maimed, or have fallen victim to illnesses caused by the severe conditions to which they have been exposed for so long. Yarmouk’s civilians have been brought to the brink of starvation, forced to forage for any food that they can find. They have few and diminishing medical facilities available to treat their sick and wounded. Every day they face uncertainty about their future and what the Syrian government forces may do to them if and when the siege ends. Elsewhere, other communities in Syria remain under siege by government troops and face similar privations and fears. Within the context of the siege, Syrian security forces have also arrested scores of Yarmouk residents, many of whom they have subjected to enforced disappearance. Some have died in custody in suspicious circumstances. Those arrested include at least 12 medical workers; six of whom were subjected to enforced disappearance and remain unaccounted for and another who died in the custody of Syrian security forces. All appear to have been targeted by the Syrian security forces on account of their activities as medical workers. Other medical and health workers have been killed and injured in apparently targeted or indiscriminate attacks by the Syrian government forces besieging Yarmouk.
The plight of the Palestinian refugees of Syria is a catastrophe within the wider catastrophe of Syria. Almost two thirds of Syria’s 530,000 Palestinian refugees have once again been displaced. Approximately 270,000 Palestinians are internally displaced in Syria. More than 50,000 are reported to have fled to Lebanon, 11,000 to Jordan, 6,000 to Egypt, 1,000 to Libya, 1,000 to Gaza and others to Turkey, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia and other countries. As early as July 2013, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA), which provides protection and assistance to some 5 million Palestinian refugees across Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, the West Bank and Gaza Strip, described the community as "unravelling and in acute distress".
Two-thirds of the fatalities identified by Amnesty were the cause of starvation. The group also noted cases of residents, including a child, foraging for edible plants being shot and killed by snipers.
Because of the depletion of stocks of food, the cost of a kilogram of rice skyrocketed to $70-100 in late 2013, according to the report.
One resident told Amnesty: "The last time I ate vegetables was more than eight months ago."
Food poisoning and disease has resulted from residents being "forced to exist on a diet of leaves and weeds."
The camp’s medical infrastructure has been badly impacted by the siege and medical workers killed and arrested.
The main hospital currently functioning in the camp, the Palestine Hospital run by the Palestine Red Crescent Society (PRCS), has been damaged by bombing and lost many of its staff and thus its capacity has reduced, according to Amnesty:
One health worker at the hospital told Amnesty International that it has been bombed a number of times by Syrian government forces: "On one occasion, a rocket hit the fourth floor and destroyed the generator. Another time a bomb fell at the front entrance." He said that rockets had also struck the area surrounding the hospital several times, including one that hit a nearby building, causing damage to the door of the hospital and wounding one of the hospital’s staff. By February 2014, the Palestine Hospital’s capacity and services had been severely diminished by the months of siege; it had only two doctors, depended for its electricity on generators that were kept going using diesel fuel provided by residents from their own diminishing stocks, and was running low on medicines and other medical supplies, including fluids for intravenous therapy, locally referred to as "serum". Yet the hospital continued to receive casualties – victims of shooting by government snipers and people suffering from a wide range of siege-related injuries and illnesses as well as others whose existing ailments have been exacerbated by the shortages of food, water, electricity and medicines arising from the siege.
Before the siege, the Palestine Hospital carried out around 600 surgical operations each month, including plastic surgery, ear, nose, throat and eye operations. Today, however, after months of siege, no surgeons remain and the hospital lacks proper medication for surgery patients; even so, according to a PRCS medical worker in Yarmouk who spoke to Amnesty International, "any necessary surgery is carried out by nurses who are learning by experience and study." Unsurprisingly, another medical worker said "many have already died here due to a lack of serum and other medication."
A PRCS-S volunteer told Amnesty International: "People are dying from injuries sustained from being shot by snipers, or in explosions, particularly if they were hit in the head or chest, since there is no one able to treat them. Other civilians are dying specifically due to the lack of medical equipment and supplies such as defibrillators, incubators, blood bags and serum. We also lack gauze and simple sterilizers." A PRCS worker added that "babies are dying because there is no milk, neither powder nor from their mothers" and that hospital staff were trying to remedy this by arranging for other mothers who were successfully lactating to breastfeed several children in addition to their own.
According to one PRCS health worker, three women and five newborn babies died due to complications during pregnancy and childbirth in December 2013 and January 2014 because the hospital was unable to give them the medical treatment they required. There has been an increase in miscarriages due to food shortages and poor nutrition for pregnant women, and due to the collapse of antenatal facilities and care under the siege. A medical worker told Amnesty International that the hospital possesses an aged ultrasound machine but has no doctor to operate it; consequently, it cannot be used to identify potential foetal problems prior to birth. The lack of gynaecologists and surgeons means that the hospital cannot carry out Caesarean births; at least one pregnant woman is reported to have haemorrhaged to death. The hospital has just two midwives to advise and assist women during pregnancy and birth.
The Palestine Hospital’s two remaining doctors continue to treat patients with internal illnesses or injuries, to provide anaesthetics and first aid, but they have virtually no medical supplies. One of the hospital’s two stores of medical supplies has been exhausted while the other was seized, apparently for their own use, by armed men believed to be members of Suqour al-Jolan, an FSA-linked armed opposition group.
One medical worker told Amnesty International that he witnessed the armed men removing the store of medical supplies provided by the PRCS: "I saw their van full of our medical supplies stamped with 'Ramallah’ on them." The same armed opposition group is also reported to have been responsible for seizing the Palestine Hospital’s entire fleet of five ambulances.


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Democracy is Dead

Democracy is Dead

Margaret Kimberley

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uruknet.info

A new study confirms the obvious: the will of the people carries no weight in the United States. Within the nation’s borders democracy is everywhere proclaimed but nowhere to be found. These truths we hold to be self-evident: "ordinary citizens have virtually no influence over what their government does in the United States."
"The notion that this country is a democracy has become openly farcical."
Too many Americans love to boast that the United States is a democracy. That idea is accepted uncritically and celebrated as proof of this country’s superiority. Every public activity and event is an opportunity for the false narrative to be repeated and indulged. Events as disparate as elections, holiday celebrations, advertisements, school commencements and religious worship are all used to propagandize and create false belief about the degree of power the average citizen has vis a vis their government.
Of course all evidence shows that this narrative is and always was a lie. Dictionaries define democracy as government representing the citizens through elected representatives, or as majority rule, or a society which provides equal rights to all. The history of this country has rarely lived up to any of those descriptions but in the recent past the notion that this country is a democracy has become openly farcical. We have nothing but meaningless trappings and any power exercised by the people is sadly in short supply.
This state of affairs has been obvious to anyone who has been paying close attention. Americans not only don’t get what they want from the political system, they actually get the opposite of what they want. The pace of the oligarchic state has quickened lately but the dynamic has been evident for quite some time.
"Money talks and those without money have no voice."
Even elite academia is taking notice and has given official imprimatur to a conversation that had been ignored. Professors Martin Gilens of Princeton University and Benjamin Page of Northwestern University are the authors ofthe study "Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens." While their work does not as news stories suggest use the word oligarchy, the authors are quite clear about their findings. Professor Gilens gave this brief summary of their conclusions:
"I'd say that contrary to what decades of political science research might lead you to believe, ordinary citizens have virtually no influence over what their government does in the United States [italics mine]. And economic elites and interest groups, especially those representing business, have a substantial degree of influence. Government policy-making over the last few decades reflects the preferences of those groups – of economic elites and of organized interests."
While this study has however briefly changed public discourse, it is important to note that the disregard of popular will is obvious for all to see. If this were not true, the minimum wage would be higher, there would be no cuts to entitlement programs, and Americans would have a single payer health care system. There would be no NAFTA or TPP free trade agreements which force a race to the bottom for workers, destroy entire eco-systems and violate national and popular sovereignty. If this country were truly democratic, the city of Detroit would not have filed for bankruptcy for the simple reason that voters in Detroit and in the state of Michigan voted to repeal the emergency manager law which brought bankruptcy into being.
Americans don’t want the increasingly frequent interventions abroad forced upon by them by president after president yet that is what they get. We want to address the problems created by human made climate change. We don’t want hydraulic fracturing, or the pollution or earthquakes that come with it, but that is what we have. We don’t want rich people to control the political process but the Supreme Court has said time and again that money equals speech and those decisions prove the point of the study. Simply put, money talks and those without money have no voice.
"If the average person had any say in the matter, the big time banksters would now be behind bars."
If that were not the case, American workers would not be poorer than their counterparts in the rest of the world. The so-called middle class workers in this country had the distinction of being better off than their peers around the world. That is no longer the case with stagnating wages and job loss and a country that does not practice income distribution that would keep people out of poverty. In a democratic country, Walmart and its low wages would not be the largest employer. The manufacturing that once dominated the economic landscape would still employ the bulk of the work force with its higher wages and other benefits that provide economic security.
In a democracy, the financial services industry that created the worldwide economic meltdown would not have been bailed out. Workers would be bailed out. Corporations wouldn’t get tax breaks and other government subsidies. Workers would get them. And if the average person had any say in the matter, the big time banksters would now be behind bars.
The myth of American democracy is just one of many that are cherished out of ignorance and suspension of disbelief but that is not a reason to continue the confusion and self-delusion. The only time we get any taste of democracy is when we proclaim that we don’t have it but assert plainly and loudly that we intend to get it.
The phony narrative wears thin as the quality of life diminishes. The United States of America is not a democratic nation if the only right that citizens have is to go to a polling place every few years. It is time to stop fetishizing what clearly does not work for the majority of people and start talking about something new. After all, the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different result. The only result we have to show is rule by the elites and if that is acceptable then the people have gone truly insane.


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Maliki: One of the Wrongest Horses the US Ever Backed

Maliki: One of the Wrongest Horses the US Ever Backed

Russ Wellen

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In yet another definitive piece for the New Yorker titled What We Left Behind, Dexter Filkins writes about Iraq today, especially Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, who the United States helped install. Many Americans blame Iraqis for killing their fellow citizens simply because they’re of a different sect of Islam. But we need to remember: besides perpetrating a huge amount of the violence ourselves, by invading Iraq the United States effectively freed an evil genie – excuse any cultural insensitivity the metaphor may conjure up – out of its bottle. When it subsequently rampaged across the land wreaking death and destruction, the United States took little responsibility for catching it and stuffing it back in.
The best that can be said for the United States is that when it left Iraq, the murderous sectarian strife between the Sunnis and Shiites had lowered in intensity. But Shiites have been protesting against Maliki’s Shiite government and he has responded with a heavy hand that has sparked violence on a scale that harkens back to the worst of when the U.S. was still there. Filkins writes:
When Maliki became Prime Minister, some Iraqis hoped that he might help unify the country. He brought members of parliament into his coalition by promising to reach out to Sunnis and Kurds. But, far more often, Maliki used his position to continue the war for the Shiites, fighting what he sees as an irreconcilable group of Sunni revanchists.
Here’s an example of the resurgence in violence and how Maliki deals with dissidents. In 2011, shortly after the Americans left, he sent in troops to clear protesters from Ramadi.
Anbar Province erupted, along with the rest of Sunni Iraq, and the violence has not ceased. A wave of car bombers and suicide bombers struck Baghdad; in January, more than a thousand Iraqi civilians died, the overwhelming majority of them Shiites, making it one of the bloodiest months since the height of the American war. In the effort to put down the upheaval, Maliki ringed the province’s two largest cities, Falluja and Ramadi, with artillery and began shelling.
Another example:
[Maliki’s] government responded savagely to the new round of protests. In April [of this year], after a soldier was killed in the Sunni town of Hawija, troops attacked an encampment of protesters there, killing at least forty-four people. In a televised speech, Maliki warned of a "sectarian war," and blamed the violence on "remnants of the Baath Party." Hundreds of Iraqis, most of them Sunni civilians, were killed as the crackdown continued.

To an extent, Maliki is fighting yesterday’s war. Before the Iraq invasion, he engineered attacks against the hated Saddam from outside the country and is described by Filkins as obsessed.
From the beginning, Maliki was fixated on conspiracies being hatched against him – by his Iraqi rivals, by the Baathists he imagined were still in the Iraqi Army, even by the Americans. A former American diplomat described it as "Nixonian paranoia," adding, "We had a hundred and fifty thousand troops in the country, and he was obsessed that a few dozen former Baathists were going to try to overthrow him."
Yet, "Maliki has grown steadily more imperious, reacting violently to the slightest criticism. He often claims to have files on his rivals, filled with evidence of corruption and killings." In fact
Maliki has even resurrected a Saddam-era law that makes it a criminal offense to criticize the head of the government. He has filed defamation suits against scores of journalists, judges, and members of parliament, demanding that they spend time in prison and pay damages.
In conclusion
Among many Iraqis, the concern is that their country is falling again into civil war, and that it is Maliki who has driven it to the edge. On April 30th, Iraqi voters will go to the polls to choose a parliament and ultimately a Prime Minister; after eight years in office, Maliki is seeking a third term. … The recent violence, along with Maliki’s growing authoritarianism, has prompted many to imagine the future in the darkest terms.
Maliki may not be as bad as Saddam Hussein, but he can scarcely be viewed as an improvement, only slightly less worse.
When Maliki became Prime Minister, some Iraqis hoped that he might help unify the country. He brought members of parliament into his coalition by promising to reach out to Sunnis and Kurds. But, far more often, Maliki used his position to continue the war for the Shiites, fighting what he sees as an irreconcilable group of Sunni revanchists.
Here’s an example of the resurgence in violence and how Maliki deals with dissidents. In 2011, shortly after the Americans left, he sent in troops to clear protesters from Ramadi.
Anbar Province erupted, along with the rest of Sunni Iraq, and the violence has not ceased. A wave of car bombers and suicide bombers struck Baghdad; in January, more than a thousand Iraqi civilians died, the overwhelming majority of them Shiites, making it one of the bloodiest months since the height of the American war. In the effort to put down the upheaval, Maliki ringed the province’s two largest cities, Falluja and Ramadi, with artillery and began shelling.
Another example:
[Maliki’s] government responded savagely to the new round of protests. In April [of this year], after a soldier was killed in the Sunni town of Hawija, troops attacked an encampment of protesters there, killing at least forty-four people. In a televised speech, Maliki warned of a "sectarian war," and blamed the violence on "remnants of the Baath Party." Hundreds of Iraqis, most of them Sunni civilians, were killed as the crackdown continued.
To an extent, Maliki is fighting yesterday’s war. Before the Iraq invasion, he engineered attacks against the hated Saddam from outside the country and is described by Filkins as obsessed.
From the beginning, Maliki was fixated on conspiracies being hatched against him – by his Iraqi rivals, by the Baathists he imagined were still in the Iraqi Army, even by the Americans. A former American diplomat described it as "Nixonian paranoia," adding, "We had a hundred and fifty thousand troops in the country, and he was obsessed that a few dozen former Baathists were going to try to overthrow him."
Yet, "Maliki has grown steadily more imperious, reacting violently to the slightest criticism. He often claims to have files on his rivals, filled with evidence of corruption and killings." In fact
Maliki has even resurrected a Saddam-era law that makes it a criminal offense to criticize the head of the government. He has filed defamation suits against scores of journalists, judges, and members of parliament, demanding that they spend time in prison and pay damages.
In conclusion
Among many Iraqis, the concern is that their country is falling again into civil war, and that it is Maliki who has driven it to the edge. On April 30th, Iraqi voters will go to the polls to choose a parliament and ultimately a Prime Minister; after eight years in office, Maliki is seeking a third term. … The recent violence, along with Maliki’s growing authoritarianism, has prompted many to imagine the future in the darkest terms.


Source
 

Divestment passes at University of California at Riverside

Divestment passes at University of California at Riverside

Nora Barrows-Friedman



Last night, the student senate at the University of California at Riverside voted to support a resolution sponsored by Students for Justice in Palestine calling on the university to pull its investments from US companies profiting from Israel’s occupation.
Just before midnight Wednesday, student senators voted to uphold the resolution by a narrow margin — eight in favor, seven against — during an evening in which three separate California universities held divestment resolution hearings, dubbed a "divestapalooza" by student activists and boycott advocates on social media. UC Riverside, UC Santa Barbara and San Diego State University held simultaneous resolution hearings but only UC Riverside passed divestment.
With limited resources, and organizing under pressure by university administrations and sustained intimidation efforts by Israel lobby groups on and off campus, student activists across the US are continuing to build divestment campaigns and push for justice, equality and human rights for Palestinians.

"Come back fighting"

This was the second time that a divestment resolution passed at UC Riverside.
In March 2013, the student senate voted in favor of divestment. Immediately after the vote, Zionist groups and Israel advocates had begun calling and emailing the student senators, claiming that the divestment resolution was "divisive" and that it "misrepresented" the student body. In April 2013, the student senate voted to rescind the divestment resolution. Activists with Students for Justice in Palestine at Riverside and the wider SJP-West coalition vowed to "come back fighting."
And this time, despite intense intimidation by anti-Palestinian individuals and groups reported by student activists to The Electronic Intifada, and despite the insistence by Zionist individuals testifying against the resolution during the hearing that it should be defeated, the senators voted in favor of a "resolution of neutrality and disassociation from US corporations profiting from occupation." A one-minute video of the moment divestment was passed was posted to Facebook.
In the video, students can be seen in the audience holding signs that read "Divest now" and "Don’t make me fund the oppression of my family" while cheering and celebrating loudly after the announcement of the vote’s results.
Here are some selected tweets from supporters all over the world after last night’s divestment votes at UC Riverside, UC Santa Barbara and San Diego State University.


























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الأحد، 27 أبريل 2014

UN Report on Palestine: Military Occupation, Apartheid, and Torture

UN Report on Palestine: Military Occupation, Apartheid, and Torture

By Ludwig Watzal


uruknet.info

The outgoing Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967, Richard A. Falk, submitted in accordance with Human Rights Council (HRC) resolution 5/1 his last report on the dire conditions under which the Palestinian people have to live. Falk’s final presentation addresses Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, the wall in the eyes of the Advisory Opinion of the International Court of Justice, and considers Israel’s policies and practices in Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) in light of the prohibition on segregation and apartheid. It also addresses concern in relation to the deterioration of the human rights situation of Palestinians living under the Israeli blockade in the Gaza Strip. 

The report focuses on the wall and the 2004 Advisory Opinion; Israeli colonies and the fragmentation of occupied Palestine, the besieged Gaza Strip, the Question of apartheid and segregation, concluding observations and recommendations. Falk regrets that Israel even refused minimal cooperation in the last six years. The Zionist government expelled Falk in December 2008 when he tried to enter Israel to fulfill his mission as a UN Special Rapporteur. "Such humiliating non-cooperation represents a breach of the legal duty of members of the United Nations to facilitate all official undertakings of the Organization." There has been no protest of the U. S. or any Western nations that usually are to head the protest front wherever human rights violations occur, with the only exception of the State of Israel.

Regarding the wall and the UN advisory opinion of July 2004 Falk hints at the obligations of the UN member states to urge the Israeli government to bide by the ruling. "The Court stated that all States are obliged not to recognize the illegal situation arising from the wall, and that States parties to the Fourth Geneva Convention of 1949 were obliged to ensure compliance by Israel with that Convention." The International Court of Justice (ICJ) suggested that the United Nations, the General Assembly and the Security Council should consider further action to overcome this illegal situation. 

Although 85 per cent of the planned route of the wall lies within the West Bank, and will cut off and isolate 9.4 per cent of the West Bank territory, including East Jerusalem and so-called No-Man’s land, the Israeli Ministry of Defense states that the "Security Fence" does not annex territories to the State of Israel, nor will it change the status of the residents of these areas. Israel pretends that the wall was built out of security reasons, however, the ICJ came to the conclusion that "the grave infringements of the rights of Palestinians caused by the wall in the OPT were not necessary to satisfy legitimate Israeli security requirements". The wall inflicted further hardship to the residents of the OPT, especially hard hit are the people who are isolated from the rest of the West Bank. They are living under a strict permit regime and other restrictions. In addition, they are exposed to the whims and caprice of the border guards. 

Richard Falk shows that the expansion of settler colonies continues unabated, in defiance of its international law obligations. The Israeli NGO, Peace Now, calls attention to "Bibi’s Settlements Boom". Falk sees the settlement announcements as "provocative" because they were accompanied by the release of prisoners; or they were used to expose the Obama administration publicly. Special problems are the so-called outposts, which are considered also illegal by Israeli law.

According to Falk, the Israeli government does everything to change the demographic balance in East Jerusalem. "Israel actively seeks to undermine the Palestinian presence to serve its goal of preserving a Jewish majority in East Jerusalem." The methods are to revoke the resident status and the right to live in East Jerusalem and to demolish houses. Since 1996, an estimated 11,023 Jerusalemites lost their right of residence in East Jerusalem, and from 2004 to 2013, 479 housing units were destroyed in East Jerusalem, displacing 1,892 Palestinians. 

The hardest hit Palestinians live in the besieged Gaza Strip. Although Israel withdrew its occupying forces unilaterally from the Gaza Strip in 2005, this territory is still considered "occupied" by the United Nations. Israel has locked up not only 1.6 million inhabitants of the Gaza Strip, but it also controls the area on water, on land and from the air. No one can leave this open-air prison without a permit from the Israelis. The Special Rapporteur mentions also the military attack "Cast Lead" from December 2008 to January 2009, which killed 1,400 people and caused heavy damage on the infrastructure, and "Pillar of Defense" in November 2012. 

Already Falk’s predecessor, John Dugard, recommended that the ICJ should be asked to assess whether the prolonged occupation possess elements of "colonialism", "apartheid" and "ethnic cleansing" inconsistent with international human rights law (IHL) in circumstances of belligerent occupation and the denial of the right of self-determination of the Palestinian people. Since no advisory opinion has been sought, Richard Falk discusses Israeli policies and practices, through the lens of the international prohibition upon ethnic discrimination, segregation, and apartheid. According to international law and all relevant conventions Israel met all the requirements of these three allegations. 

The UN report mentions also the ill-treatment and torture of Palestinian detainees, and an UNICEF report, which Falk quotes, sates the same for children, too. Palestinian children are tried under military law, whereas Israeli law applies to Israeli children in the occupied territories. The report still counts a large number of further human rights violations by the Israeli occupying regime and speaks of a policy of "systematic oppression". 

Falk concludes: "Through prolonged occupation, with practices and policies of apartheid and segregation, ongoing expansion of settlements, and continual construction of the wall arguably amounting to de facto annexation of parts of the occupied Palestinian territory; the denial by Israel of the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people is evident." Israel’s violations of Palestinians human rights are "deliberate, organized, and institutionalized", writes the Special Rapporteur. 

Despite the devastating findings of the UN report on Palestine, the Abbas regime is still continuing the so-called peace talks. They might be dragging on till year’s end. The political result will be nil, and a possible "agreement" will be null and void because the Abbas men lack legitimacy. The Clique in Ramallah is not democratically elected, whereas the elected Prime Minister is "imprisoned" in Gaza. The only body, which has the right to negotiate with the Israeli government, is the Palestinian National Council (PNC) that could speak for all the Palestinians in the world. The PNC has to be reinstated by democratic elections, which will take a while. Until then, there must be no further "peace talks".

Secret American base in Libya reportedly seized by jihadists

Secret American base in Libya reportedly seized by jihadists

Russia Today


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A secret base in Libya that has reportedly been used up until recently by United States special operations forces may have been taken over by local militants linked to Al-Qaeda, a new report suggests.
The Daily Beast’s Eli Lake claims that a team led by longtime Al-Qaeda affiliate Ibrahim Ali Abu Bakr Tantoush has seized a base 27 kilometers west of Tripoli that was established by the US in the summer of 2012 "in order to hone the skills of Libya’s first Western-trained special operations counter-terrorism fighters."
Lake says his allegations — published in a report on the Daily Beast’s website on Wednesday this week — stem from local media accounts, Jihadist web forums and US officials. If it proves to be accurate, then a veteran Al-Qaeda member considered by both the US and United Nations to be a supporter of terrorism has taken the helm of a hush-hush base that has been the host of US-led training missions for two years following its refurbishment by American Green Berets.
An Arabic-language news report published earlier this month and cited by Lake suggests that Tantoush has recently taken command of the base and, according to the Beast writer, "he was heading a group of Salifist fighters from the former Libyan base."
Lake went on to say an unnamed US defense official told The Daily Beast that the Libyan report was on par with what American intelligence knew, and a second official said he could not yet corroborate the facts of the matter. A third official with the US Africa Command declined to comment, and the message boards referenced by the reporter were not cited again elsewhere in his article.
On Tuesday evening, Lake added, Tantoush appeared on Libyan television and confirmed that he was in the country but not involved whatsoever in the camp. Another US official speaking on condition of anonymity, however, told The Daily Beast that the camp to the west of Tripoli is considered to be a "denied area" which American forces would not be able to easily gain access to.
Last September, Fox News reported that the base — the same one, according to Lake — was raided multiple times in August likely by terrorists who had taken a cache of equipment and weapons used by US Special Forces stationed in the region.
A grand jury in the Southern District of the New York indicted Tantoush and four others back in 2000 for conspiracy related to terrorist attacks carried out by Al-Qaeda, and since 2002 he has been included on a Department of the Treasury list of foreign persons sanctioned for terroristic activity as outlined in an UN treaty.
"No one at the State Department wanted to deal with the situation if any more went wrong, so State pulled its support for the training program and then began to try and get the team moved out of the country," Fox reportedly heard from an unnamed source.
Speaking to Lake, Al-Qaeda expert Seth Jones said "There are a number of training camps for a wide range of Al-Qaeda and jihadist groups that have surfaced in southwest Libya, northwest Libya in and around Tripoli and northeast Libya in and around Benghazi." Only now, however, have militants reportedly taken hold of a formerly US-run base that had been launched to counter those same terrorists.


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In Yemen, Drones Don't Kill Innocents

In Yemen, Drones Don't Kill Innocents

By Peter Hart


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When US military strikes kill civilians, it seems there's always someone ready to claim that US weaponry doesn't kill anyone who doesn't deserve it.
Over the weekend, there were reports that noncombatants were among the dead after the US carried out drone strikes in Yemen on what were said to be suspected Al-Qaeda affiliates. And, sure enough, one of the first CNNsegments managed to find  someone to deny that this could happen.
On CNN Newsroom (4/19/14), host Fredricka Whitfield interviewed Christopher Hill, former US ambassador to Iraq:
WHITFIELD: So in your view, how significant is this strike, hitting three well-known operatives?
HILL: Well, first of all, I think our services do quite a job tracking these people. And, you know, coming a few days after that brazen effort by the Al-Qaeda leadership to show that they're around, we, I think, demonstrated that we can hunt them down.
I have seen a number of these strikes, and it is amazing how accurate and how well-targeted they are. I mean, the idea that innocents are being killed, it's really not the case.
But even by initial government accounts coming out of Yemen, that first strike did in fact kill three civilians, as CNN (4/19/14) and plenty of other outlets were reporting.
CNN's Barbara Starr
CNN's Barbara Starr
But even when that issue of civilian deaths came up, there was a curious spin on the news. Here's how Pentagon correspondent Barbara Starr  (4/19/14) explained it:
It looks like three civilians were killed, and that is always a big problem for the United States, because the government of Yemen is very sensitive to these drone strikes.
Perhaps one could see the US government killing innocent people as a "big problem" even if those people's government was not "very sensitive" to the issue of a foreign military killing its citizens by remote control?
On the other hand, CNN terrorism analyst Peter Bergen (4/20/14) did point out on the following day that there are reasons to be skeptical of any of the official claims: 
You know, one of the themes of the program is if you're a military-age male in an area where a drone strike is happening, the US will often regard you as a combatant when often that is not the case. Not every military-age male is, in fact, part of Al-Qaeda in Yemen.
Nonetheless, the reporting on shadowy military strikes that are part of a program that US government does not officially speak about is bound to rely on mostly unnamed government officials, either here in the US or in Yemen.
Just look at today's New York Times story (4/22/14), with the headline "US Drones and Yemeni Forces Kill Qaeda-Linked Fighters, Officials Say." The paper explains that those targeted were "militants who were planning to attack civilian and military facilities, government officials said in a statement." TheTimes report, entirely reliant on official sources, seemed to acknowledge its own limitations:
Given that the administration would not even confirm that American drones carried out the strikes over the weekend, it was unclear how the people targeted in the strike posed a threat to Americans.
While it's possible that the strikes are indeed targeting and killing terrorists on the verge of launching attacks, history suggests that initial claims can be flat-out wrong.
When a US drone struck a wedding convoy in Yemen last December, for example, the Times offered a sketchy account that backed the official line–"Most of the dead appeared to be people suspected of being militants linked to Al-Qaeda," the paper explained (FAIR Blog12/13/13)
A 2009 US attack that included cluster bombs was initially reported by theTimes as an attack on an Al-Qaeda camp. On-the-ground reporting (Bureau of Investigative Journalism3/29/12) later disclosed that the attack had killed 41 civilians, including 22 children and five pregnant women.


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US Soldier Accused of Killing Unarmed Teens in Iraq

US Soldier Accused of Killing Unarmed Teens in Iraq

By GENE JOHNSON Associated Press


Witness: Iraqi Teens Posed No Threat Before Death

Two unarmed Iraqi brothers posed no threat as they herded cattle in a palm grove where a U.S. Army reconnaissance team was hidden one day seven years ago, a former soldier said Wednesday at a preliminary hearing.

But then-Staff Sgt. Michael Barbera took a knee, leveled his rifle and killed them — from nearly 200 yards away, former Spc. John Lotempio testified.

"Oh my God — why?" he said when a prosecutor asked him to describe his reaction to the killings. "They didn't see us."

Barbera, 31, now a sergeant first-class, faces a mandatory sentence of life in prison if convicted of premeditated murder in a case that raised concerns about a possible cover-up. Two years after the killings, Army criminal investigators looked into the case, but commanders decided to give Barbera a letter of reprimand instead of a court martial.

It was only after a Pittsburgh newspaper, The Tribune-Review, published an investigation about the matter in 2012 that the Army took another look. The story described how some of Barbera's fellow soldiers remained troubled that he was never prosecuted, and it prompted calls from Congress for the Army to review the matter.

As the hearing began Wednesday at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, south of Seattle, Barbera's attorney, David Coombs, called the allegations baseless and highlighted the lingering questions about why it has taken so long to bring the case to court. An investigating officer, Lt. Col. Charles N. Floyd, is considering whether Barbera should face a court martial.

Coombs alleged that the newspaper's "hit piece," which won an investigative reporting award, and congressional pressure had improperly influenced the Army's decision to file charges against Barbera last fall.

Barbera's fellow soldiers didn't begin to come forward to report concerns about the shooting until 2009, and a criminal investigation was conducted then. The matter was "somehow put to bed by administrative action," Capt. Ben Hillner, an Army prosecutor, said in his opening statement.

Hillner did not elaborate on that decision by commanders at Fort Bragg, N.C., where Barbera was then based.

Lotempio, who said he witnessed the shootings, said he didn't report them at the time because "I don't think I knew the proper way to go about it. I didn't want to think about it." He has suffered from nightmares about the killings, he said, and he felt guilty because he was the one who first noticed the boys and woke up Barbera, who promptly shot them.

"If I didn't wake him up, they'd still be alive," he said.

He said "absolutely not" when asked if the boys posed a threat: "They looked to be about 10 or 11."

Even if the boys were acting as scouts for Iraqi fighters, they couldn't have seen the soldiers, especially from such a great distance, because they were behind a log and thoroughly covered with tall grass, Lotempio said.

After Barbera killed the first boy with a single shot to the head, the second waved to them with one hand and yelled, "Hello, mister! Hello!" Lotempio said. Barbera fired a second shot that killed him.

Lotempio said the shootings contravened the rules of engagement for the mission, which was not to fight unless the enemy had the means, opportunity and intent to cause harm.

Coombs, who represented Chelsea Manning, the Army private convicted of leaking a massive trove of information to Wikileaks, argued in his opening statement that even though the soldiers' rules of engagement required them to report violations, it was two years before any raised concerns.

Further, he said, the reporter who wrote the stories, a former Marine named Carl Prine, was too ready to believe what Barbera's former comrades told him.

Prine was called as a witness Wednesday to testify about an allegation that Barbera threatened his wife in 2011, saying words to the effect of: "For your own personal safety, you need to tell your husband to back off the story," Hillner said Wednesday.

That's the basis of another charge against Barbera, conduct prejudicial to good order and discipline. He's also accused of trying to get a soldier in 2009 to tell investigators that the dead boys might have been wearing suicide vests.

Prine told the investigating officer that he did not expect his newspaper would be willing to turn over videotapes of interviews conducted for the story, in particular interviews of the boys' relatives he conducted in Iraq.

The shootings were near the village of As Sadah, in Diyala Province. Barbera was the leader of an eight-man reconnaissance team that had planned to remain secreted in the grove for two to three days monitoring possible enemy activity.

After the brothers were killed, Barbera's group also killed their cousin, who approached the scene along a footpath. No charges were filed in that shooting. The first witness to testify Wednesday, former Army medic Andrew Harriman, fired the shot that killed the cousin and said it appeared the man had been reaching for a weapon.

Contrary to Lotempio's story, Harriman testified that Barbera fired five or six shots at the boys. Harriman didn't see where Barbera was shooting, and he said he only learned after the fact from another soldier, Pfc. Dary Fink, that Barbera had killed two unarmed boys.

Harriman said he believed he urged Fink to report the shootings. Nevertheless, Harriman also testified that he believed his immediate commanders would have swept the matter under the rug.

The victims were identified as Ahmad Khalid al-Timmimi, 15; his brother Abbas, 14; and their cousin, Muhamed Khaleel Kareem al-Galyani.


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