Friday, June 16, 2006

Absence

Just a quick note to inform you all that this is my last post for a few days . I am away until Monday evening (UK time). So any emails or responses required from me will not be processed until that time. I will leave you all in the more than capable hands of DJeb and Toby.

See you all Monday.

US death toll in Iraq hits 2,500

The number of US troops killed in Iraq has reached 2,500 with the death of a marine, the Pentagon has announced.





It did not identify the 2,500th casualty, in line with US policy not to release details until 24 hours after the family has been informed. A Pentagon statement said 1,972 of those who died were killed in action.

The campaign group Iraq Body Count estimates that the number of civilians killed since the outset of the conflict ranges between 38,355 and 42,747. It makes its calculation on the basis of media reports, and believes it to be a conservative estimate. Other reports put the number of civilian casualties much higher.

Thousands of Iraqi security forces, military personnel from other countries, and Iraqi and foreign insurgents have also died.

Here

John Pilger : War by Media

"During the Cold War, a group of Russian journalists toured the United States. On the final day of their visit, they were asked by their hosts for their impressions. “I have to tell you,” said their spokesman, “that we were astonished to find, after reading all the newspapers and watching TV, that all the opinions on all the vital issues were, by and large, the same. To get that result in our country, we imprison people, we tear out their fingernails. Here, you don't have that. What's the secret? How do you do it?”


Fascinating read here

US: JUDGE RULES IN FAVOR OF RACIAL PROFILING

US Federal Judge ruled in favor of racial profiling and unaccountable, prolonged detention of non-citizens in Turkmen v. Ashcroft, a lawsuit on behalf of people detained after the September 11th attacks brought by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and attorneys from Covington & Burlington. CCR intends to appeal the ruling.




"This ruling gives a green light to racial profiling and prolonged detention of non-citizens at the whim of the President. The decision is profoundly disturbing because it legitimizes the fact that the Bush Administration rounded up and imprisoned our clients because of their religion and race," said Rachel Meeropol, a CCR attorney in the case.

Yasser Ebrahim, a plaintiff in the case, described his reaction today: "I am very disappointed and shocked. I can't believe the court would allow this to happen. I am frightened for other Muslims in the United States, who could face the same discrimination and abuse that I suffered."

Source Here

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Marine apologises

From Democracy Now!:
[A] US marine has apologized for a widely-viewed video that shows him singing a song about killing Iraqi civilians. The marine, Corporal Joshua Belile, is seen performing the song to applauding troops. In a statement Wednesday, Belile said the song was intended as a joke and bore no connection to the killing of Iraqi civilians by US Marines in Haditha.
Corporal, if that song [lyrics including "As the bullets began to fly, the blood sprayed from between her eyes, and then I laughed maniacally."] constitutes comedy for you, you need a few decades in a padded cell.

None Of Us Are Free - If One Of Us Is Chained

4 Minute Video - Flash presentation.

Here

Religious Leaders Urge U.S. to Ban Torture

Twenty-seven religious leaders, including megachurch pastor Rick Warren, Nobel laureate Elie Wiesel and Cardinal Theodore E. McCarrick of Washington, have signed a statement urging the United States to "abolish torture now -- without exceptions."





The statement, being published in newspaper advertisements starting today, is the opening salvo of a new organization called the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, which has formed in response to allegations of human rights abuse at U.S. detention centers in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Titled "Torture is a Moral Issue," the statement says that torture "violates the basic dignity of the human person" and "contradicts our nation's most cherished values." "Nothing less is at stake in the torture abuse crisis than the soul of our nation. What does it signify if torture is condemned in word but allowed in deed?" it asks.

The signers come from a broad range of denominations and include notable religious conservatives, such as the Rev. Ted Haggard, president of the National Association of Evangelicals; Archbishop Demetrios, primate of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America; and the Rev. William J. Byron, former president of Catholic University.

By suggesting that recent abuse of prisoners may not be just an aberration but a reflection of U.S. policy, the statement contains an implicit challenge to the Bush administration, according to some signers.

Here

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

The Case of the Missing $21 Billion

During the days of the Nixon Watergate scandal investigation, reporter Bob Woodword was famously advised by his mysterious source, Deep Throat, to "follow the money" as a way of cracking the story.





Well, there is a lot of money to follow in the current scandal that can be best described as the Bush/Cheney administration, and so far, nobody's doing it.

My bet for the place that needs the most following is the more than $9 billion that has gone missing without a trace in Iraq--as well as $12 billion in cash that the Pentagon flew into Iraq straight from Federal Reserve vaults via military transports, and for which there has been little or no accounting

As word of massive corruption began to surface in 2003, Congress passed legislation creating an office of Inspector General, assuming that this new agency would monitor the spending on the occupation and reconstruction, and figure why all so much taxpayer money was disappearing, and why only minimal reconstruction was going on in destroyed Iraq, instead of a massive rebuilding program as intended. Bush named an old friend and supporter, Stuart Bowen, to the post--a move that should have put Congress on alert, given this administration's long history of putting cronies in positions of authority.

When the Coalition Provisional Authority was terminated in late 2004, with corruption still rampant and growing, Congress redefined Bowen's position as Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction.

Bowen, went to work. He uncovered some corruption in a report in early 2006 that sounded scathing enough. Bowen found cases of double billing by contractors, of payments for work that was never done, and other scandals. But he never came up with more than $1 billion or so worth of problems--a small fraction of the total amount of money that was vanishing.

Now we know why so little was done.

It turns out that Bowen was never really looking very hard.

Continue reading Here.

Gaza Beach investigation problems

From Democracy Now!:

AMY GOODMAN: Chris McGreal -- what is your understanding of what happened on the beach on Friday?

CHRIS MCGREAL: Well, that's becoming a highly politically contentious point. The -- as you said, the Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert initially apologized, said he regretted it. But he's in Europe at the moment, in Britain yesterday and today, going to France later today, and then on to the European Parliament. And those pictures that you were describing, the scene from the family being killed, have proved a severe embarrassment to him in Europe. He's been asked about it a lot. It seems that this panel has been quickly convened to absolve the army and to raise sufficient doubt for Ehud Olmert and his foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, who's also in Europe at the moment, to be able to say, “well, we're still investigating, we're looking into this, we can't say for certain.”

This has happened with previous extremely high-profile killings, perhaps the most memorable of which was Mohammed al-Dura, where the military set about trying to raise doubts. But the report that they’ve come up with, it has to be said -- it's full of holes. It's based on the idea that, in fact, they were blown up by a Hamas landmine planted under the sand to try and deter Israeli commanders from landing. A part of the flaw in that is, it would probably be very difficult for Hamas to know where Israeli commanders might land, and the idea would be that they would have several of them, and yet there are no other mines. Perhaps more interesting is that at the time this family was hit by shells -- a shell, which it undoubtedly was -- the Israeli army admits to having fired six shells. Three of them, you can see, landed on the beach, very close by. Probably no more than the closest -- 100 yards away. And essentially the army is then asking people to believe that the -- a sixth shell didn’t land on the family. That by pure coincidence, even though the beach was being shelled at the time, a Hamas mine happened to go off as well in the same area and at the same time.

Compounding this is the fact that the army admits it cannot account for the last of those six shells -- where it landed. And there is a military expert, an ex-Pentagon official from Human Rights Watch, New York-based human rights group, here at the moment. He's been looking into this. And he's come to his own conclusion: that it's almost undoubtedly an Israeli shell, based on, firstly the shrapnel, which he – he found a piece of shrapnel that says 155 millimeter on it, which is precisely the size of shrapnel shell that the Israelis use in their Howitzers, and also if you look at the size and the nature of the crater, it’s identical to those on the beach that -- from the other shells, including being lined with a white powder. So I think all of -- on the whole, the evidence points much more to Israeli responsibility.

From Human Rights Watch:
Israel should immediately launch an independent, impartial investigation of a June 9 Israeli artillery strike on a beach north of Gaza City, Human Rights Watch said today. Seven Palestinian civilians picnicking on the beach were killed that day and dozens of others were wounded.

Human Rights Watch researchers have visited the site to examine the fatal crater and have interviewed victims, witnesses, security and medical staff.

“There has been much speculation about the cause of the beach killings, but the evidence we have gathered strongly suggests Israeli artillery fire was to blame,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, director of the Middle East and Africa division at Human Rights Watch. “It is crucial that an independent investigative team, with the necessary expertise, verify the facts in a transparent manner.”

The independent investigation should involve the use of external, international experts. Human Rights Watch called on the Palestinian Authority to permit such an investigation, including allowing access to the site by the investigative team. Israel has carried out an internal army probe into the incident and released its findings this evening, saying the explosion was not caused by an Israeli artillery shell. However, such internal investigations by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) have generally fallen short of international standards for thorough and impartial investigations and have rarely uncovered the truth or held to account the perpetrators of violations, as documented in a 2005 Human Rights Watch report, Promoting Impunity: The Israeli Military’s Failure to Investigate Wrongdoing.

The head of the IDF’s southern command, General Yoav Galant, has said that IDF forces fired six artillery shells at an area described as approximately 250 meters away from the fatal incident between 4:32 p.m. and 4:51 p.m. on Friday, June 9. Human Rights Watch investigations indicate that the evidence overwhelmingly supports the allegations that the civilians were killed by artillery shells fired by the IDF.

The attack at the beach comes amidst an intensified Israeli response to Qassam rocket attacks by Palestinian armed groups operating in the area. Human Rights Watch, which is also investigating the use of Qassams against Israeli civilians, has previously called on Palestinian armed groups to cease such unlawful attacks. The Qassam attacks violate international law because they fail to discriminate between military targets and civilians. Qassam rockets are highly imprecise, homemade weapons that are incapable of being targeted at specific objects.

Human Rights Watch researchers currently in Gaza interviewed victims, witnesses, Palestinian security officers and doctors who treated the wounded after the incident. They also visited the site of the explosion, where they found a large piece of unoxidized jagged shrapnel, saatamped “155mm,” which would be consistent with an artillery shell fired by the IDF’s M-109 Self-Propelled Artillery.

Human Rights Watch spoke to the Palestinian explosive ordnance disposal unit who investigated three craters on the beach, including the one where the civilians were killed. According to General Salah Abu `Azzo, head of the Palestinian unit, they also gathered and removed shrapnel fragments consistent with 155mm artillery shells.

Eyewitnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch described between five and six explosions on the beach between 4:30 p.m. to 5 p.m., the time frame when the IDF fired artillery onto the beach and when the seven civilians were killed. Two survivors said they heard the sound of an incoming projectile and saw a blur of motion in the sky before the explosion that killed the seven civilians. Residents of northern Gaza are familiar with the sounds of regular artillery fire.

Doctors also confirmed to Human Rights Watch researchers that the injuries from the attack, which were primarily to the head and torso, are consistent with the heavy shrapnel of artillery shells used by the IDF. Doctors said the shrapnel they removed from Palestinian patients in Gaza was of a type that comes from an artillery shell.

According to readings from a Global Positioning Satellite taken by Human Rights Watch, the crater where the victims were killed was within the vicinity of the other artillery craters created by the IDF’s June 9 artillery attack and was the same shape and size. One crater was 100 meters away from the fatal crater, and the rest were 250 to 300 meters away.

Some Israeli officials have suggested the explosion may have been caused by a mine placed by Palestinian militants, rather than one of their artillery shells, despite the fact that they cannot account for the final landing place of one of their six shells.

However, according to on-site investigations by Human Rights Watch, the size of the craters and the type of injuries to the victims are not consistent with the theory that a mine caused the explosion. The craters are too large to be made by bounding mines, the only type of landmines capable of producing head and torso injuries of the type suffered by the victims on June 9. Additionally, Palestinian armed groups are not known to have, or to have used, bounding mines; the Palestinian government bomb squad said it has never uncovered a bounding mine in any explosive incident.

Since its September 2005 pullout from Gaza, the IDF has regularly struck northern Gaza with artillery shelling, in response to Qassam rocket attacks from the area by Palestinian armed groups. In the last 10 months, Israel has admitted to firing more than 5,000 artillery shells into the area. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs puts the number at 5,700 IDF shells fired since the end of March 2005.

According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, IDF artillery fire has killed 47 Palestinians, including 11 children and five women, and injured 192 others since September 2005. It has also damaged dozens of homes in northern Gaza.

Human Rights Watch researchers visiting the area say almost every house on the periphery of areas of Beit Hanoun and Beit Lahia in northern Gaza has holes in it indicative of Israeli artillery shrapnel. In a June 10 interview with the New York Times, General Aviv Kochavi, the Israeli commander for the south, indicated that the purpose of the artillery shelling is to deter future attacks and punish area residents: “The message we are trying to convey, you can call it deterrence, but it’s ‘Ladies and gentlemen, there is an equivalence: so long as you shoot qassams at us, we’ll shoot at you.’”

International law requires attacking forces to distinguish between soldiers and civilians, targeting only the former. It prohibits indiscriminate attacks, which use a method or means of warfare that cannot distinguish between the two groups. It also prohibits disproportionate attacks in which the civilian harm outweighs military necessity.

“The IDF has a legal duty to do everything feasible to verify that targets are military objectives and to avoid civilian deaths,” Whitson said. “The investigation should determine how the beach picnickers died and whether international law was violated. If that’s the case, it must consider how best to compensate the victims and how to prevent future deaths.”

Human Rights Watch researchers have been in Sderot and Gaza on a fact-finding mission documenting the impact of Palestinian Qassam fire from Gaza into Israel and Israeli artillery shelling into northern Gaza. In Israel, the team was in Sderot when the town was hit by two Palestinian Qassams on Thursday, June 8, and also witnessed two more Qassams hitting Nativ Ha’asara the same day; there were no apparent injuries as a result of those attacks. Since Human Rights Watch’s visit to the Western Negev, the Israeli media has reported that 54 Qassam rockets have been fired at Sderot. According to news reports, on Sunday one rocket seriously wounded Yonatan Engel, a 60-year-old resident of Sderot.

World sees US in Iraq bigger danger than Iran-poll

The world increasingly fears Iran's suspected pursuit of a nuclear bomb but believes the U.S. military in Iraq remains a greater danger to Middle East stability, a survey showed on Tuesday.



As Washington campaigns to highlight the threat it sees from Tehran, the good news for the United States in a Pew Research Centre poll of 17,000 people in 15 countries is that publics, particularly in the West, are worrying more about Iran.

The bad news is people worldwide think the U.S. presence in Iraq is an even bigger threat and support in most countries for President George W. Bush's war on terrorism is either flat or falling.

And after some signs anti-Americanism had been abating, in part because of goodwill generated by U.S. aid for victims of a late-2004 tsunami in Asia, favourable opinions of the United States have since fallen back in most countries.

Widespread concern over U.S. detainee treatment in Iraq and places such as Guantanamo, is a key drag on America's overall image, according to the survey.

Bush himself received the lowest marks for international leadership compared with his counterparts in Britain, Germany, France and Russia, and confidence in him has slipped in most countries -- to as low as three percent in Turkey.

The survey of global attitudes by the respected research group was conducted from March 31 to May 14 in Britain, France, Germany, Spain, Russia, Indonesia, Egypt, Pakistan, Jordan, Turkey, Nigeria, Japan, India, China and the United States.

With a margin of error ranging from two percent to six percent depending on the country, the poll made comparisons to similar surveys it had conducted in the last few years.

Source Here

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

US insists on right to develop arms for outer space

The United States on Tuesday reasserted its right to develop weapons for use in outer space to protect its military and commercial satellites and ruled out any global negotiations on a new treaty to limit them.


In a speech to the Conference on Disarmament, a senior State Department arms control official insisted that such weapons systems would be purely defensive.

Washington sees no need for negotiations to prevent an arms race in space as a 40-year-old international treaty banning weapons of mass destruction in space remains adequate, he said.

John Mohanco, deputy director of the office of multilateral, nuclear and security affairs, said the United States faced a threat of attacks from the earth or from other countries' spacecraft. He did not name any potential attackers.

Source Here

Raid brother tells of death fears (video)

The man who was shot during an anti-terrorist raid in east London has said he feared he would be killed. Abul Koyair, 20, and his injured brother Mohammed Abdul Kahar, 23, were released without charge a week after the raid on their Forest Gate home.



Mr Kahar said: "I thought one by one they're going to kill us. At that time I thought I was going to die." The police earlier said they were acting on "specific intelligence" that a chemical device was in the house.

According to the brothers' lawyer, the unsuccessful police search included digging up plants in the garden and drilling holes in the shower. Mr Kahar said he "had no idea" who spoke to the police, prompting the raid.

"From my point of view the person who did this they have terrorised me and my family," he said. Speaking at a press conference, Mr Kahar said he was in great pain when he was taken to the hospital with a gunshot wound, saying: "It seemed like fire. I was burning."

At one point Mr Kahar broke down in tears as he described the raid, involving 250 police, which he initially thought was a robbery.

He described the moment when he was shot. "We both had eye contact, he shot me straight away," he said. "I just saw an orange spark and a big bang. I flew into the wall, slipped down. There was blood coming down my chest. I knew I was shot.

Source Here : Press conference video Here ( watch if you can )

'Killing themselves was unnecessary. But it certainly is a good PR move'

The Bush administration stared down a new wave of international condemnation of Guantánamo yesterday, dismissing the suicides by three inmates of the prison camp as a "good PR move" on their part and an "act of asymmetrical warfare".




The deaths of two Saudis and a Yemeni, who used knotted bedsheets to hang themselves in their solitary cells, brought renewed calls from European governments and human rights organisations to bring the 460 inmates to trial, or close down the camp. But Bush administration officials rejected suggestions that the three had killed themselves in despair over their indefinite confinement.

"It does sound like this is part of a strategy - in that they don't value their own lives, and they certainly don't value ours; and they use suicide bombings as a tactic," Colleen Graffy, the deputy assistant secretary of state for public diplomacy, told BBC's Newshour yesterday. "Taking their own lives was not necessary, but it certainly is a good PR move."

On Saturday, the camp's commander, Navy Rear Admiral Harry Harris, said the suicides were an al-Qaida tactic. "They have no regard for life, neither ours nor their own. I believe this was not an act of desperation, but an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us," he said.

The hard line from an administration official comes at a time of increasing international criticism at the handling of terror suspects at Guantánamo. The Danish prime minister, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, a staunch ally of the US in Iraq, said that Guantánamo was damaging America's image in the world, and undermining the global war on terror. "I think it would be to the benefit of our cause, and our fight for freedom and for democracy, if the facilities at Guantánamo were closed down," the Danish leader told CNN.

In Stockholm, Sweden's foreign minister, Jan Eliasson, voiced similar concerns about the lack of due process. "It shows the importance of letting the prisoners free or giving them a statutory trial."

In Saudi Arabia, officials at the semi-official human rights organisation accused the prison administration of torturing the men to death. "Even if the suicide story is true, I have no doubts that they were pushed to it by torture and the lack of attention paid to the health of the detainees," said Saleh al-Khathlan of the Saudi human rights group.

Lawyers for the detainees called the comments by administration officials deeply offensive. Gitanjali Gutierrez, a lawyer for the Centre for Constitutional Rights, which represents most of the detainees, said: "It's very clear that any human being who is kept in indefinite detention over four years, not given any kind of hearing, and whose life and fate is subject to such uncertainty, inevitably will contemplate suicide, and the fact that three of them finally succeeded comes as no surprise. This is not an act of warfare, it is a consequence of inhumane and immoral treatment of human beings by the United States."

In Britain, Massoud Shadjareh, of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, said of the US officials' remarks: "This is the sort of statement that SS officers in Nazi Germany would have been envious of." Inayat Bunglawala, of the Muslim Council of Britain, deplored the "incredibly insensitive and callous" comments. "The deaths of these three people was not an act of war, it was an act of desperation."

Continue reading Here

The suicides were in fact an act of asymmetrical warfare waged against us . sheez now that's some spin and a half for you all .If it was not human lives we were talking about it would be a a scene from a comedy show.

Where the heck is Mr Orwell when you need him.

Video Death On A Gaza Beach:

A 7 year old Palestinian girl screams in horror as she watches her dead parents and other family members being removed from the beach: - Warning -This video should only be watched by a mature audience.

Here

Monday, June 12, 2006

Tim Hortons in Afghanistan


Canadian soldiers will soon be able to order that large double-double they've been longing for. An aircraft carrying a Tim Hortons trailer landed in Afghanistan Monday and will open its doors on Canada Day.

Troops had lobbied for the coffee chain's presence to Chief of Defence Staff Gen. Rick Hillier, who passed the message on to the company.

The Canadian Forces Personnel Support Agency, the morale and welfare arm of the Canadian Forces, will help operate the trailer, which will contain most of the selections of a typical outlet.

The group organizes many events for soldiers and staff, including movie and Stanley Cup hockey nights.

Approximately 50 people — including some military wives — have been training at CFB Kingston to work at the new Tim Hortons. Training was a little more intense than usual, as staff had to learn safety precautions relating to the dangerous environment in addition to the coffee chain's requirements for food and beverage preparation and customer service.

Source here

For those who don't quite know what Tim Hortons is, think of it like this; imagine if a Krispy-Kreme doughnut shop was established at an American military base in Iraq. Too me, this seems a little excessive.

Yeah, I'll get a large coffee and a glazed doughnut to go; wonder what happens if you get jelly on your gun?

Maryland Man Arrested in Bomb Plot

From Democracy Now!:
And a 25-year-old Maryland man will be in court today on charges connected to a plot to bomb an abortion clinic in College Park Maryland. The man Robert Weiler was arrested last week after his own father contacted the FBI. Police said Weiler admitted he was planning the bombing and told investigators that he also intended to "shoot doctors who provided abortions." Last week police detonated a pipe bomb that Weiler had built at a friend’s house. According to the National Abortion Federation there have been 11 bombings, 25 attempted bombings and 35 arsons at the offices of abortion providers nationwide over the past decade.

Hamas ends 16-month truce

After the beach bombing that killed seven Palestinian civilians, Hamas has ended it's 16-month truce. Here's the latest from Ha'aretz:
Defense Minister Amir Peretz last night blocked a proposal by the Israel Defense Forces' top brass for a broad Israeli offensive in the Gaza Strip in response to the Qassam rocket blitz against Sderot and its environs.

The IDF is increasingly concerned that the Hamas intends to further step up the use of rockets against Israeli towns and supplement these with possible suicide bombing attacks inside the Green Line.

During a meeting called by Peretz and senior IDF and Shin Bet officers, a proposal for a large-scale air campaign against Gaza was raised. Chief of Staff Dan Halutz recommended a serious escalation in response to the Qassam rocket attacks, which would include the targeting of those responsible for the launches, including senior Hamas operatives.

The defense minister rejected the proposal and decided that at this stage, pinpoint attacks against active Qassam rocket crews would suffice. He added that if the rocket attacks continued, he would reconsider.

Peretz also instructed the IDF and the Shin Bet to complete plans to strike at all those involved in the firing of rockets, "from decision-makers to those carrying out the launching of the rockets and other attacks."

The statement was a veiled threat against the Hamas leadership, which is in line with comments Peretz made during the cabinet meeting earlier yesterday. There he declared that "no one is immune, including members of Hamas."

World Cup of human rights

Secretive Chinese arms exports stoking conflict and repression

From Amnesty International:
China is fast emerging as one of the world’s biggest, most secretive and irresponsible arms exporters, according to a new report issued today by Amnesty International.

The report shows how Chinese weapons have helped sustain brutal conflicts, criminal violence and other grave human rights violations in countries such as Sudan, Nepal, Myanmar and South Africa. It also reveals the possible involvement of Western companies in the manufacture of some of these weapons.

“China describes its approach to arms export licensing as `cautious and responsible`, yet the reality couldn‘t be further from the truth. China is the only major arms exporting power that has not signed up to any multilateral agreements with criteria to prevent arms exports likely to be used for serious human rights violations,” said Helen Hughes, Amnesty International’s arms control researcher.

China’s arms exports, estimated to be in excess of US$1 billion a year, often involve the exchange of weapons for raw materials to fuel the country’s rapid economic growth. But it is a trade shrouded in secrecy; Beijing does not publish any information about arms transfers abroad and hasn’t submitted any data to the UN Register on Conventional Arms in the last eight years.
Amoung the equipment sold:
  • More than 200 Chinese military trucks -- normally fitted with US Cummins diesel engines -- shipped to Sudan in August 2005, despite a US arms embargo on both countries and the involvement of similar vehicles in the killing and abduction of civilians in Darfur;
  • Regular Chinese military shipments to Myanmar, including the supply in August 2005 of 400 military trucks to the Burmese army despite its involvement in the torture, killing and forced eviction of hundreds of thousands of civilians;
  • Chinese military exports to Nepal in 2005 and early 2006, including a deal to supply nearly 25 thousand Chinese-made rifles and 18,000 grenades to Nepalese security forces, at the time involved in the brutal repression of thousands of civilian demonstrators;
  • An increasingly illicit trade in Chinese-made Norinco pistols in Australia, Malaysia, Thailand and particularly South Africa, where they are commonly used for robbery, rape and other crimes.
“As a major arms exporter and a permanent member of the UN Security Council, it is high time that the Chinese authorities live up to their obligations under international law. They must introduce effective laws and regulations banning all arms transfers that could be used for serious human rights violations or breaches in international humanitarian law,” said Helen Hughes.

U.S. National Nuclear Safety Administration hacked

From Reuters via Common Dreams:
A computer hacker got into the U.S. agency that guards the country's nuclear weapons stockpile and stole the personal records of at least 1,500 employees and contractors, a senior U.S. lawmaker said on Friday.

The target of the hacker, the National Nuclear Safety Administration, is the latest agency to reveal that sensitive private information about government workers was stolen.

The incident happened last September but top Energy Department officials were not told about it until this week, prompting the chairman of the House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Committee to demand the resignation of the head of the NNSA.

...

The NNSA is a semi-autonomous arm of the Energy Department and also guards some of the U.S. military's nuclear secrets and responds to global nuclear and radiological emergencies.

...

Earlier this week the Pentagon revealed that personal information on about 2.2 million active-duty, National Guard and Reserve troops was stolen last month from a government employee's house.

That comes on top of the theft of data on 26.5 million U.S. military veterans, the Department of Veterans Affairs has said.

Let's hope they are being honest about the extent of the break in.

Sunday, June 11, 2006

Israeli Human Rights Organizations: End Killing of Civilians

From B'Tselem:
Five Israeli human rights organizations demanded today in an urgent appeal to the Prime Minister and the Minister of Defense that they take immediate action to end the killing of Palestinian civilians in the Occupied Territories, and to eradicate the factors contributing to these killings.

The organizations (B’Tselem, ACRI, PCATI, HaMoked and PHR-Israel) state that the killing of a family at the Gaza seashore on Friday (a father, mother and five children), apparently by a shell fired by Israeli soldiers, is a terrible addition to an already horrifying statistic: according to B'Tselem data, since the onset of the second Intifada, 3,431 Palestinians in the Occupied Territories have been killed by Israeli security forces. Of those, 698 were minors under the age of 18 years. At lease 1,645 of those killed were in no way taking part in the fighting at the time they were killed (and an additional 244 people were the targets of targeted killings). These dismal figures result directly from a series of Israeli policies, including illegal expansion of Israel's open-fire regulations, deliberate vagueness and double messages regarding the use of force, violation of the principle of proportionality and the failure to conduct independent investigations into civilian deaths.

The organizations add that it is indeed Israel's obligation to take all legitimate steps at its disposal to defend the lives and security of its citizens from attacks by Palestinian organizations. These attacks by Palestinian groups, which deliberately target civilians, constitute a war crime for which there can be no justification. However, it is unconscionable that a sovereign state should use illegal means, some of which reach the level of war crimes. The organizations reiterate that one of Israel's central obligations under international humanitarian law is to minimize the impact of military action on the civilian population, and to ensure the life and security of Palestinian civilians, also during armed conflict.