Yesterday private Israeli bulldozers arrived in the village of Al Ma’sara in the West Bank and destroyed a section of farm land belonging to the Brijia family, uprooting five grape trees and an abundance of wheat. The bulldozers were accompanied by Israeli military jeeps which belonged to an electrical company that was installing an underground cable to provide electricity to the nearby illegal settlement of Efrat. The family of farmers, who have legally owned the land since 1964 had been given no prior warning of the destruction and neither the workers nor the army could provide any paperwork when asked.
This latest destruction of property is a sad blow to a family who have already lost four dunums of their land to illegal Israeli construction.
Al Ma’sara, 13 km south of Bethlehem, is home to about 900 people. The village is situated in a mountainous and fertile rural area which enjoys an abundance of natural water resources. Construction and expansion of Gush Etzion – one of the nearby illegal settlements – has already confiscated a large portion of village lands.
Villagers believe that this latest destruction of land is part of the Israeli government’s bigger plan to expand the illegal settlements around Bethlehem and link them together, isolating Palestinian villages, who are already a minority in the area and strengthening Israel’s hold on the West Bank.
The language of bubbles has permeated the American media and the American psyche. That whole categories of financial flows can grow, glow and then burst revealing emptiness, waste and fraud is now an accepted model for understanding America in the 21st century.
What these modern bubbles, and most historical ones, seem to share is government “leadership” and government blessings, and a taxpayer (born and unborn) subsidy of this or that investment. Ponzi schemes of all kinds lead to bubbles, promises of easy gains for low risk that, when they come due or are discovered, collapse swiftly and painfully. Bubbles are the predictable result of lies being told about what is wise, what is worthy, and what is good for this or that entity. We are aware of the housing bubble, the financial bubble stemming from mortgage security swaps, the coming college and the municipal debt bubbles, and the bubble growing around the U.S. Federal Reserve notes.
Some bubbles are bigger than others, of course, and different groups are differently impacted when these bubbles explode and investors sort it out and reallocate any remaining pieces. Certainly, government intervention delays and warps any post bubble recovery. What is simple in many ways is made complicated and difficult to understand, but the fundamental facts will inevitably have their day.
Earlier this week I participated in a panel discussing military aid to Israel, and why it should be reduced drastically. One argument against this aid is that Israel misuses US developed technology by stealing it, selling it, trading on it, and using it to compete against U.S. defense and security firms for global sales. Another argument is that this aid ends up costing American taxpayers far more than the actual dollar amount by fomenting tension in the region, reducing American credibility and options, and by creating unnecessary enemies, and expensive but ultimately unnecessary supplicants and “allies” in the region.
When they are in the United States, Israel’s politicians and leaders, most recently Benjamin Netanyahu, pay repetitive lip service to the idea that Israel is a dedicated military ally and reliable friend of the United States. Yet, strangely, the United States and Israel do not have, and have never had, a treaty of mutual defense. Opposition to such a treaty comes largely from the Israeli side (and consequently, from Israel’s many standing and genuflecting ovationers in Congress) who tend to see any treaty as a possible limitation on Israeli government’s ability to conduct “defense.” Certainly, territorial expansion, barrier and road building, and control of human movement and trade far beyond the 1967 borders are seen as “defensive nation building” by many Israelis. For the U.S. to be a legally binding party to such activity would be an obvious and public violation of international law, and an open rejection of the ideas that emerged after World War II. Believe it or not, there was a broad-based recoil around the world at the shocking totalitarian abuses of human rights and liberty conducted by governments on all sides against their own people, and their neighbors, during those wars.
To put it plainly, if the United States president signed such a treaty with Israel, and the Congress ratified it, many elected leaders in the United States would be on record as supporting Israel’s “defense” strategy, rather than having it both ways as they do today. A defense treaty with Israel would instantly negate all that President Obama said last week about supporting peace and democratic progress in the Middle East, and specifically contradict his vague statement regarding the 1967 borders as a guide to a two-state solution. A defense treaty would be also a very honest and open thing to do, and it would codify the fundamental and brutal nature of the U.S.-Israel relationship, here and throughout the Middle East. Such a treaty would make the United States less of a hypocrite, and it would help the rest of the world and average Americans fully understand our Middle East basing policies and practices, and our various attempts to puppet-master, promote or topple other regional governments.
One of the key features of a bubble ready to pop is that a small number of intimate observers of the situation begin cry into the wilderness, often pointing to certain fundamental flaws, or unnoticed oversights. These observers and participants who warn of a coming collapse or bursting bubble may be thought of as canaries in a mineshaft. But unlike the humble canary, whose song is welcomed because it means the system parameters are still solid, the naysayers, the cautious critics, and the wise proactive analysts tend to be ignored by the “investors” when they sing, and these canaries are pressured to go silent.
Certainly this is the case of those who challenge the idea that the congressionally forced U.S. taxpayer funding of Israel’s defense industry is a worthwhile investment in American security. The $3 billion in annual financial military financing and other military aid, and the other lending of diplomatic and military credibility to the Israeli government, no matter what that government does, or how it does it, is an expensive policy. Unlike most other military aid doled out around the world, the United States attaches no substantive conditions on this and the massive in-kind gifts to, and cached weapons we store in, Israel. We require no U.S. basing rights, no standing overflight rights, and do not require, as we do for all other FMF, that the tax money be 100% spent on U.S.-produced products and services. We do not require that Israel abide by international law or norms in the use of American military products, such that American cluster bombs and white phosphorus artillery shells may end up used on civilians or on civilian infrastructure, incriminating the American taxpayer in collateral maiming and murder, and illegal destruction of habitats and economies. Instead, Israel has been able to game the free money system such that today, 25% of the assistance may be spent solely on the burgeoning Israeli defense industry, which competes with the major American defense sector for customers around the world – without the constraints U.S. companies have in selling goods, services, and technologies to the United States’ antagonists and sanctionees of the day.
As we speak of bubbles yet unpopped, I will suggest two. In general, the United States defense industry constitutes a bubble, even as contrarians accurately understand that governments in financial trouble and facing a discrediting national collapse tend to go to war to silence domestic critics and squeeze the last nickel from the collective coffers for their political and corporate friends, and as both parties fight to save the industry as a last ditch “jobs” program for the children. It is the way of all empires, and will be so for us. Thus ultimately, big state debt- and deficit-funded defense spending is a bubble overdue for a collapse, a sputtering and then a raging rush away from this wasteful, unnecessary and over-hyped industry. When during budget debate time, every other radio advertisement you hear in Washington demands you heart Boeing, Lockheed Martin and Raytheon, overwhelming even the incessant push for antidepressants, one can sense the concern that someone will find out about this house of cards, and observe that it struts upon the stage, as Shakespeare would say, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
Far more vulnerable to an imminent pop, with few tears by average Americans, will be foreign financial aid to all countries, including Israel, the largest recipient of such aid. AIPAC is stale and aging, an old man’s commiseration club, sufferable only because it is habitual. Christian Zionists, some of whom I witnessed earlier this week engaged in verbal and physical violence towards a CNIF member, are losing their cool in more ways than one. For the first time, I met an infamous supporter of U.S. tax-funded assistance to Israel and its geographical expansion, a retired three star Army general and helpful contributor to our current pro-Israel policy that includes several wars and occupations in the Middle East, and our torture and rendition of detainees. He worked as a second to Stephen Cambone and was part of the neocon cadre so prominent in the Pentagon and Executive corridors in 2002 and afterwards. The portly and emotion-driven Jerry Boykin must have been a weak and angry shadow of his former self, I thought to myself.
But indeed, he is what he is, and what he always was. What changed was my perception of him, my new and concrete awareness that he was a fraud, a walking sales pitch for more war and war spending when, in fact, none was or is necessary. Oil will be pumped, processed and traded, and Israel will survive and prosper, even as the United States withdraws financial aid and symbols of military might from the region. The great build-up of bases in the region, from Saudi Arabia to Iraq, in Bahrain and Kuwait, in North Africa and Afghanistan – all without a serious defensive debate or justification is amazingly typical of a bubble in the months and years before it decisively collapses. It’s the hurry up and get on board phase of the Ponzi scheme, the mad rush to get in on the deal, because it is almost too good to be true.
Americans are beginning to ask questions, and the answers they are getting from the U.S. Government, the Israel lobby and Israel’s political leadership amount to “…move along, nothing to see here, folks.” When pressed for details, Americans are getting congressional obsfucation, bumper sticker-style labels, and a bit of self-righteous anger. By now, Americans know all about the nature of bubbles, and hopefully they won’t be surprised by these coming collapses.
For Omar Said, the time he spent in the custody of Israeli secret service agents — and the emotional ordeal that accompanied his interrogation and detention — won’t soon be forgotten.
“You can’t imagine how many hours and how many questions. [The secret service agents] were all the time with me. It’s like your shadow, all the time with you,” Said told The Electronic Intifada. “This measure is very, very heavy and very, very effective. Many of the people can be convinced [to confess to anything] just to get some rest.”
A pharmacologist and expert in traditional Arab medicine based in the Galilee region, Said was arrested by agents from Israel’s General Security Service (GSS, also known as the Shin Bet or Shabak, according to its Hebrew acronym) on 24 April 2010 at the King Hussein/Allenby border crossing with Jordan.
Shortly after being stopped at the border, Said explained that Shabak agents searched his car, home and office and seized files and computers, including those of his children. He later learned that he was being accused of having contact with a foreign agent — a man with connections to the Lebanese resistance movement Hizballah — while on vacation in Egypt. He was also accused of endangering the security of the State of Israel.
“They took me to [Shabak prison in] Petach Tikva [for investigation]. They put me in a very small cell. It’s very dirty and it was cold all the time because they used air conditioning. The light was on all the time,” said Said, who is also active in the Balad party, a Palestinian political party in Israel.
After spending several days on virtually no sleep and under continued interrogation, Said explained that he was transferred to another Shabak-run prison facility in Ashkelon. There, the interrogations continued.
“They [held] me 18 or 17 days without meeting my lawyer. I felt it was like two years when you are there alone, you feel isolated and [like] you will be a victim [because they can do anything they want]. This is a very, very, very dangerous situation,” Said said.
Around the time that Said was arrested, Haifa-based Palestinian political activist Ameer Makhoul was also detained by Shabak and interrogated under the same pretenses: that he had made contact with an agent of Hizballah and was a danger to Israeli security.
Makhoul signed a plea deal in his case late last year, and was sentenced to nine years in prison in January 2011. Said, for his part, was charged with “servicing an illegal organization” after agreeing to a plea bargain and sentenced to seven months in prison.
He was released in September 2010.
“[Shabak] can do whatever they want but I think they are also very, very careful,” Said told The Electronic Intifada. “They can choose their targets. There is logic behind this. It’s not just to take people and put them in prison. They want to send a message to the people.”
Challenging inhuman and degrading conditions
Adalah, the Legal Center for Arab Minority rights in Israel, and Nadi al-Aseer, the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club, filed a pre-petition on 11 May demanding an end to detention in prison facilities run by Shabak.
Presented to the Israeli Attorney General, the Minister of Internal Security and the Head of the Israeli Prison Service (IPS), the pre-petition argued that holding detainees in Shabak-run facilities — the Ashkelon, Jalameh, Petach Tikva and Russian Compound facilities — should stop due to “the inhuman and degrading conditions to which detainees are subjected in them” (“Adalah and Nadi al-Aseer Demand an End to the Detention of Palestinian Detainees in Shabak Facilities Due to Inhuman and Degrading Conditions,” 12 May 2011).
“The pre-petition is targeting the physical conditions of the Shabak interrogation cells,” Adalah attorney Abeer Baker, who presented the pre-petition on behalf of Adalah, told The Electronic Intifada.
“What we asked first is to close these cells as long as the conditions there are not improved. The second issue we said [is] that all of the physical conditions of the detainees should be equal, whether they are security or criminal detainees. We asked a demand for external supervision of these cells,” she added.
Baker explained that after Shabak agents interrogate security detainees — detainees who are suspected of being a security threat to the State of Israel — the detainees are sent into very narrow cells, similar to cells used for solitary confinement, in an attempt to break their spirit.
According to Baker, the Shabak facilities are also not inspected or supervised by external bodies. Human rights organizations examine the physical conditions of prisons of every other Israeli prison in the country, but not the Shabak facilities, thereby making them exempt from outside scrutiny and accountability, Baker said.
“These bad conditions are made on purpose in order to affect the personality of the detainee and make him confess and break him, break his spirit,” Baker said.
“We are talking about the dignity of detainees, a process that should be monitored by law,” Baker added. “We are not talking about something which is not embodied in law. We are talking about the right for dignity. These are the basic constitutional rights of every detainee.”
In the case of detainees and prisoners, Article 10 of the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that “all persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person.”
Regarding Palestinians from the occupied West Bank and Gaza who are also often detained and interrogated by Shabak agents inside Israel, Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention stipulates that “individual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory to the territory of the Occupying Power or to that of any other country, occupied or not, are prohibited, regardless of their motive.”
“They violate international law which demands that putting people under custody must maintain dignity. Especially people from occupied territories, you have the Geneva Conventions which demands this also,” Baker said.
“By interrogating these people in these facilities, they are facilitating the process to criminalize the Palestinian people to put them behind bars. It’s political.”
Shabak impunity cemented in Israeli law
In 1987, the Landau Commission — an Israeli governmental commission charged with examining the interrogation methods used by the Israeli General Security Services — found that the continued use of “physical force” in interrogations was acceptable.
Twelve years later, in 1999, the Israeli high court finally prohibited torture of any kind in Israel, and outlawed certain interrogation techniques. In “ticking time bomb” situations, however, the court found that the use of physical force could be justified.
This caveat, otherwise known as “the necessity defense,” has been used to justify the use of physical force and torture by Shabak interrogators since the high court’s ruling. While meant only for use in extreme cases, human rights groups have criticized the “ticking time bomb” defense for its widespread and inappropriate use.
The GSS argues that its agents should be exempt from criminal prosecution during these types of situations due to Article 34K of Israel’s Penal Code, which states that “no person shall bear criminal responsibility for an act that was immediately necessary in order to save his own or another person’s life, freedom, bodily welfare or property from a real danger of severe injury, due to the conditions prevalent when the act was committed, there being no alternative but to commit the act.”
According to a December 2009 report released by the Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI), Shabak interrogators “are protected by layers of concealment, the withholding of information, and immunity shielding them like the layers of an onion.”
Titled “Accountability Denied: The Absence of Investigation and Punishment of Torture in Israel,” the PCATI report found that the levels of protection include the fact that Shabak employees are not required to identify themselves, that Shabak interrogations are exempt from any video or audio documentation, and that detainees are denied from speaking with an attorney or anyone else from the “outside world” during most of the interrogation process (“Accountability Denied,” December 2009 [PDF]).
A “facade of investigations into complaints of torture and abuse” also points to the impunity with which Shabak (GSS) interrogators operate, the report found.
“Complaints of torture by GSS interrogators submitted to the Attorney General are forwarded for inspection by the Officer in Charge of GSS Interrogee Complaints (OCGIC), a function filled by a GSS agent. Thus complaints of torture during GSS interrogations are examined by a GSS employee who does not constitute an independent or impartial investigator,” the report stated.
As such, more than 600 complaints have been submitted between 2001 and 2008 about mistreatment by Shabak interrogators, but not a single complaint has developed into a criminal investigation, according to the PCATI report.
In late March of this year, various nongovernmental organizations — including Adalah, Physicians for Human Rights-Israel and PCATI — petitioned the Israeli high court to investigate the mistreatment and torture of detainees at the hands of Shabak interrogators.
According to PCATI, this latest petition aims to bring an end “the long standing refusal of the Attorney General to open criminal inquiries into cases of alleged torture and ill treatment which has effectively granted long-term immunity from prosecution to interrogators who use illegal methods that have and continue to include torture and ill treatment” (“PCATI Petitions the High Court of Justice: Order the Attorney General to Investigate Torture and Ill treatment,” 23 March 2011).
Cutting ties to the outside world
According to Omar Said, while he wasn’t tortured during Shabak custody, his interrogation and imprisonment were extremely difficult experiences that still affect him today.
“A man like me who was arrested many times, it was very hard and difficult for me. I can’t imagine what will happen to other people who haven’t been arrested before [to be arrested by Shabak],” Said said.
By persecuting Palestinian political leaders, Shabak is trying to intimidate the Palestinian community inside Israel and cut its ties to the wider Arab world, Said said.
“He told me from the beginning: we will teach the Arab population here how to behave and who [they can] contact. The first day, the Shabak interrogator said that. He said, ‘We cannot live with that connection that you made, and the Arabs here made, with the Arabs outside Israel,’” he recalled.
“We are activists in our societies and we represent the new generation of the community and we have wide connections with Arab activists and social activists. They want to cut these relationships.”
MONTREAL, QUEBEC - The Canadian Boat to Gaza (CBG) is dismissing Foreign Affairs Minister Baird’s misinformation about the upcoming flotilla, and is promising to sail with the Freedom Flotilla II next month. John Baird, newly appointed Canadian Foreign Affairs Minister, has taken to discouraging Canadians from participating in the upcoming flotilla, which aims to break the siege of Gaza.
CBG views Minister Baird’s statement as an attempt to abdicate the Canadian Government’s obligation to ensure the safety of the Canadians who will be on board the flotilla, including the Canadian boat Tahrir and to justify, in advance, any crimes Israel may commit against peaceful unarmed civilians from Canada and all over the world, as it did a year ago tomorrow.
“We are sailing to change the unjust and illegal situation Israel imposes on Gaza and to challenge the Canadian government’s support for those policies,” says Wendy Goldsmith, CBG steering committee member.
“Baird has characterized the Freedom Flotillas as “provocative”. How is aid provocative? How is standing up for international law and social justice provocative? How is it provocative to work for the freedom of the 1.5 million Palestinians in the open air prison of Gaza?” asks Ehab Lotayef, a CBG spokesperson.
“What’s provocative is the government of Israel’s impunity and systemic violations of international law,” says Lotayef. “What’s provocative is the Harper government acting as an apologist for all of Israel’s actions, even when they are illegal and immoral, like the siege of Gaza. CBG and the flotilla are nonviolent direct responses to Israeli provocation.”
In his statement Mr. Baird mentions Israel’s right to prevent the smuggling of weapons. “What is he trying to imply?” asks Goldsmith. “If Mr. Baird has any doubts about our mission or what we will carry, we invite him or any Canadian body to inspect the Canadian Boat to Gaza.” She added.
“We would like to remind Mr. Baird that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), one of the official channels to send aid to Gaza, has itself said: “all States have an obligation to allow and facilitate rapid and unimpeded passage of all relief consignments, equipment and personnel [into Gaza],” not just those passing through channels approved by the government of Israel.”  said Lotayef.
CBG is a civilian to civilian initiative funded by citizens and civil society organizations and did not benefit from any government funding or taxpayers funds as some misinformed media reports mentioned lately.
The full list of endorsements and supporting individuals and organizations is online at www.tahrir.ca.
A Reckless Denial of Reality
The national organization Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), committed to protecting public health, demands the de-commissioning of all currently operating nuclear plants in the US and urges members of Congress to refuse to subsidize the construction of new ones with loan guarantees and liability insurance. Why? Here is the scientific/common sense justification for such an uncompromising position:
1. After the accident at the Three Mile Island (TMI) plant, the official Columbia U. study found no increased health effects among the surrounding population, consistent with the officially accepted exposure levels as estimated by the TMI plant operators and applying the internationally accepted radiation risk factors, derived from the long-term follow-up of the externally exposed A-bomb survivors. Contradicting these findings, a subsequent study by Wing et al found statistically significant excess cancers. These cancers have affected the lives of real persons. Yet, Wing’s results were angrily dismissed by the radiation establishment and government health agencies because risk assessments, based on “current radiological science,” precluded that the officially accepted, very low levels of population exposures (doses) released from the TMI reactor could induce the observed excess cancers. The possibility that combining flawed dose estimates with flawed risk models could predict flawed numbers of cancers that might be off by several orders of magnitude (factors of ten), was never considered by the Columbia U. investigators.
Following a tradition illustrated nearly 400 years ago by Gallileo’s fate, accepted beliefs and supporting theoretical models, combined with vested interests, trumped observation. Questioning assumptions in adopted radiobiological models and radiation risk assessments would be equivalent to heresy.
2. All over the former Soviet Union increased incidence of cancers and a multiplicity of other serious health detriment, associated with varying levels of environmental radioactivity from the Chernobyl disaster, have been documented by clinical reports and public health statistics. Until recently, the majority of those studies, however, could only be published in Russian scientific/medical journals and these were arrogantly ignored by the Western radiation health establishment. Instead, the nuclear technology promoting United Nation’s (UN) agency: International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) (the World Health Organization (WHO) is not permitted to conduct independent studies on radiation health) published report after report with estimated numbers of Chernobyl radiation victims that are orders of magnitude smaller than those observed and documented in the recently published compendium of the Russian data in English (Yablokov et al., Annals of the NY Academy of Sciences, 2009, usefully summarized by the German equivalent of PSR). The UN Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation (UNSCEAR) (and the WHO) had accepted IAEA assertions of very low numbers of radiation victims, purportedly based on the world’s most reliable current radiobiological and radiation risk models. Thus, mainstream radiation health scientists proclaim that the variously documented large numbers of radiation-associated health effects after the Chernobyl catastrophe in the former Soviet Union “cannot be caused” by radiation, rather they must be the result of psychosomatic traumas.
Similarly, in far away Western European countries for which UNSCEAR had estimated very low fallout doses after the Chernobyl explosion, a multitude of excess health effects have been reported in refereed medical/scientific journals, such as neo-natal mortality, Down’s syndrome or lowering of child IQ. However, mainstream radiation regulating and protection agencies, quoting the IAEA/WHO reports, deny any causal relationship between Chernobyl fallout and most of those observations. Vested political and financial interests, cherished theoretical models, mixed with intolerable arrogance, again trump reality.
3. Several years ago, the German government commissioned a team of prestigious government-employed health scientists to design a state-of-the-art study of children <5 years who lived in the proximity of any of the 16 German normally operating nuclear power reactors. Presumably, the study was meant to assuage with maximum credibility the continuing citizens’ concerns about observed childhood leukemia clusters around some of these reactors. Therefore, to my knowledge, it is the only government-sponsored radiation study ever that was designed with full input from and oversight by an independent scientific commission, including several members who had publicly supported the citizens’ concerns. Contrary to their expectations, the government scientists found irrefutable evidence that for <5 year old children there exists an association between residence within 10 km of any of these reactors and a more than doubling of risk for contracting leukemia or other cancers. This amazing finding caused quite a stir in the German media (and remains underreported and unacknowledged in the US), but it has never been credibly refuted. Some defensive (“ecologic”) studies with negative outcomes around power reactors in France and England claim to have cast doubt on the German results, but critical analysis of their data shows them to lack the necessary statistical power (i.e. sensitivity to detect an effect) to invalidate the German findings. Desperate for an “out,” the government researchers, the health agencies involved and the German government then declared these excess cases of early childhood leukemia and cancers in the proximity of nuclear plants to be “inexplicable” at this time. They claim that according to “currently accepted radiobiological models” the initiation of these excess malignancies would require levels of radioactive emissions to be three orders of magnitude larger (1,000 times) than what the reactor operators claimed to have been released. However, (1) officially accepted radiation risk factors do not take into account the extreme radio-sensitivity of the developing fetus and of very young children (R.H. Nussbaum and I. Fairlie).
Also, (2) the officially assumed levels of radioactive emissions ignored, e.g., large releases of radioactive Noble Gases (e.g. Krypton) and of Tritium (radioactive hydrogen). Both of these radioisotopes can easily enter the human body via the food chain. Equally important is the fact (3) that the traditional measure of radiation exposure, the concept of dose (absorbed energy averaged over a unit mass of exposed human tissue), which is a fundamental macroscopic concept in current radiation risk estimates, is clearly inadequate to describe a variety of known injurious microscopic cellular/molecular mechanisms that can be triggered, in particular, by internally lodged radioactivity.
Those who deny or deceptively play down the catastrophic threats to public health from all phases of the nuclear power cycle, from mining to the lack of any proven solution to permanent and safe disposal of very long-term deadly spent nuclear fuel, recklessly ignore the medical/scientific lessons we should have learned from current and previous nuclear accidents. The international radiation health science establishments, such as IAEA or ICRP, many of whose members are solidly enmeshed with nuclear arms and nuclear energy production, have for decades deliberately ignored observed detriment from radioactive emissions. Their estimates of the public health impact from environmental radioactivity are based on partially outdated and flawed theoretical models that had been developed decades ago to quantify the effects of exposures to external radiation, such as those suffered by the Japanese A-bomb survivors. In agencies that are mandated to protect public health a mindset that denies reality is intolerable.
In addition to unacceptable long lasting effects on public health, even if operating normally (see section 3), nuclear energy technology can only be financed by taxpayers worldwide because private capital considers it too risky and refuses to underwrite it. The nuclear power industry holds citizens hostage to protect its profits. The industry’s safety claims and its new marketing gimmick of modular design reactors are largely deceptive, since it has nothing to offer in terms of safe disposal of spent nuclear fuel rods.
It is particularly tragic that the current Japanese population is again a study cohort for the devastating effects of a very different mix of environmental radioactive contamination.
Rudi H. Nussbaum is a Professor emeritus of Physics and Environmental Sciences at Portland State University.
NYT Blames America’s Debt Crisis on Social Security and Medicare
It was kind of disappointing–even shocking–to read Gretchen Morgenson’s latest New York Times article reporting on a new “study” by Peterson Institute for International Economics Senior Fellow Joseph Gagnon, warning about the nation’s growing debt crisis.
The Peterson Institute, founded by Wall Street tycoon Peter Peterson, has long been gunning for the Social Security and Medicare systems, which he, and the rest of the Wall Street gang, see as unfairly competing with Wall Street for the assets of the public, and as destructive of the “free market.”
Peterson’s basic schtick is that the two critical support systems for the elderly and infirm are going to bankrupt the country as they pay out benefits that exceed what retirees paid into the system, and that the solution is to cut back on those benefits, increase the taxes collected, or better, to privatize both systems.
Given Peterson’s and his institute’s long-standing agenda to gut Social Security and Medicare, it’s not surprising that Gagnon, as a fellow there, would say the solution to the nation’s growing debt is to either raise taxes or cut those two hugely successful, critically important and broadly popular social programs.
Morgenson is too smart not to know better, and yet not once in her article did she look outside of Gagnon’s narrow definition of the problem at the real cause of the national debt: the country’s outlandish military budget and a decade of unfunded wars, which have been piling up debt at a rate of some $150 billion a year (and that’s just the principal!).
Real cause of the deficit: the Pentagon, not “Entitlements”
After all, the country has been piling up this debt for several decades, and especially over the last decade, but during all this time, Social Security and Medicare have been paying out their benefits from current dedicated payroll taxes and by drawing on the trust funds that had built up because of the years that more was being collected than paid out in benefits.
Get the point? Nobody, including Gagnon, Morgenson or the Social Security and Medicare-hating members of Congress like Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), will acknowledge the fact that not one dime of the huge US deficit has been caused by a benefit check paid by Social Security (and the only parts of Medicare that are funded by general tax revenues are doctors bills and the prescription drug benefit–Medicare Part D–a lousy measure promoted by President George W. Bush and the Republicans in Congress which bars the government from negotiating discounts from the pharmaceutical companies–a problem easily fixed by improved legislation).
It’s the wars, stupid!
If the US would just cut its military spending down to size, instead of spending as much as the rest of the world combined on war or preparing for war–say by 75%–it would free up more than $450 billion a year that could go towards funding things like improved education, research into alternative energy, improving health care access, and paying down the deficit, too. Toss in cuts in the outsized $40+ billion annual secret intelligence budget, in the nation’s obsolete and dangerous nuclear weapons program and other ancillary military-related expenditures, and we’re talking about saving half a trillion dollars a year!
Morgenson should be ashamed at carrying water for the likes of Peterson and Gagnon.
Press TV – May 30, 2011
Bahraini female doctors have detailed the humiliations and beatings they suffered after being arrested on suspicion of supporting anti-government protests.
Recently freed from prison but in fear of being rearrested, the doctors said they were released only after they agreed to sign every confession papers they were given after days of brutal torture and being subjected to verbal abuse, AFP reported.
They were also forced to sign many pledges, including not to take part in any protests and not to talk to the media. [...]
“I advise you that we will get you to say whatever we want, either by you saying it willingly, or we will beat you like a donkey and torture you until you say it,” AFP quoted a female doctor as saying, citing her interrogator.
Another female doctor, who spent over 20 days in detention, said she was severely beaten by her interrogators after she refused to sign a confession paper reading that doctors themselves killed two anti-government protesters while trying to “expand (their) wounds in order to make them look bad,” for cameras.
Manama officials claim that the two protesters had arrived at the hospital suffering only minor injuries.
“I couldn’t tell on which side of my head the slaps would land,” said the doctor adding that she was made to stand blindfolded in the interrogation room, where she claimed she was repeatedly called a “wh**e.”
Another doctor said she was forced to testify against some male doctors accusing them of mobilizing medics to join anti-regime protests. … Full article
InFocus | May 29, 2011
This program is about the claims, when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian issue, the BBC is biased to Israelis. The edition of InFocus provides some examples as proof and raises the question whether the bias is an internal agenda or an external pressure. However, the BBC management dismisses the claim and says the network has always followed professionalism. Experts on this program say otherwise.
Forces bulldozed the home and barn of Abdul Qader Farda, village council president Salem Abu Farda told Ma’an.
The local official said officers from Israel’s civil administration claimed to have notified Qader Farda that his home would be demolished. But he never received any notices, the council president said.
Abu Farda said Israeli authorities were trying to force the local population from the area to expand the nearby Jewish-only Alfe Menashe settlement.
He urged human rights groups to visit the area, and said residents would not leave their land.
A spokesman for Israel’s civil administration said he would look into the report.
On Friday the 27th of May, five days after an overwhelming victory by centre-right political parties in the local and regional elections across Spain, the country woke up to the bitter reality of how nonviolent movements calling for economic democracy, political justice and peace are going to be dealt with by the country’s police forces in this new era of right-wing political dominance.
Just twenty-four hours after Spain’s largest telecom company, Telefonica, announced a new round of layoffs affecting 8,500 people, 25 percent of the work force, and as the G8 was meeting in Deauville, France, to discuss amongst other things the discontent sweeping across Europe, the Catalan police force—the Mossos d’Esquadra—following orders from the Town Hall’s new Catalan Nationalist Party (CiU) government, surrounded the nonviolent citizens camped at the Plaza Cataluña in Barcelona’s city centre. Armed with full riot gear, batons and machine-guns with rubber bullets, the police kettled in the protestors, making it impossible for them to leave or others to enter.
With the excuse of cleaning up the square for safety reasons, in preparation for Saturday’s Champions League soccer final between Barcelona and Manchester United, the city government called for the dispersal of the crowds in order to allow for clean-up teams to enter. Although this was the official stance, it soon became apparent that cleaning garbage from the square was not the true intent, and that the real aim of the operation was to seize computers, printers and documents from the movement’s steering committees, and to put an end to this popular uprising which is posing a threat to the country’s political and economic elites.
As soon as the police surrounded the crowds and the news aired on local television stations and radios, citizens from across the city began to leave their work places and made their way to the square in order to show their solidarity with those being harassed by the police. The scene they encountered resembled one of Gandhi’s legendary acts of civil disobedience—the demonstrators sitting on the floor, in silence, with their legs crossed and hands up in the air, symbolizing their defiance to the oppressive and brutal nature of this unannounced police action.
Unlike during pre-election campaigning time, 11 days ago, when the 15M Movement began to congregate in city squares across the country with shouts of indignation, this time the police did not hesitate, the orders were clear. The police began to point their guns at those outside the square that were shouting “This is our democracy,” and one by one they began to pull those sitting down inside the square—beating them with their batons. I have just heard that economics professor Arcadi Oliveras, was amongst those on the receiving end of the police’s indiscriminate use of batons.
At the time of writing, thousands of citizens are making their way to the square in Barcelona, and following two arrests and 99 injured, around 5,000 protestors have already reclaimed the city square. In Madrid Esperanza Aguirre, who presides over the autonomous region and who also heads Madrid’s Partido Popular, has asked the ministry of the Interior to evict the protestors at the Puerta del Sol. On their part, the protestors at Madrid’s plaza have sent messages of solidarity to those being attacked in Barcelona. The police force in the city of Lerida has also evicted the crowds camped in the city square using water canons, and two protesters have been arrested. While in the city of Granada, the town hall is in negotiations with the central government about how to empty the city’s square.
The ambiance in Barcelona’s plaza is now jovial, once the city showed its support to the protestors, the police were forced to leave, and despite the fact that they have confiscated many laptops and pamphlets, and have destroyed tents and equipment, which the protestors have been using for their popular assemblies, people intend to stay. A large banner in the middle of the square reads in Spanish: “You have cleaned up our exhaustion and now we are back”
Despite the fact that the political elites in Spain, in this new era of right-wing dominance are showing their mass use of force, they have encountered a well-organized nonviolent movement. If the movement holds to its principles, and other European countries join in the struggle, it will be the European Union which will be forced to restrain this police brutality, and which will eventually have to make concessions to democratic citizens fighting non-violently for change. If the movement spreads, as many signs already seem to indicate, European political and economic elites will have to decide between reform and revolution.
Pablo Ouziel is a sociologist and freelance writer based in Spain.
BETHLEHEM — A statement from The Free Gaza movement welcomed Sunday a call from UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urging Israel to end its blockade on Gaza, but responded to his call on world nations to stop aid ships by insisting the mission would go ahead as planned.
“We are not engaged in illegal activity in the in the Mediterranean; it is Israel’s blockade of 1.5 million Palestinians that is illegal,” a statement from organizers read.
Through a spokesperson on Friday, Ban called “on all governments” in the region to use to their influence to push against the new flotilla of ships expected to try to break Israel’s continued blockade on Gaza.
The secretary general was said to be “following with concern media reports of potential flotillas to Gaza,” said his spokesman Martin Nesirky.
“As head of the United Nations, [Ban] knows that the UN High Commission for Human Rights produced a report that identified the blockade of Gaza as collective punishment and a war crime,” the lawyer for the Free Gaza flotilla reminded in the organization’s statement.
“We would remind the Secretary-General that the flotilla violates no international laws or laws of the sea and so an outright ban on our sailing to Gaza is essentially a statement against the rights of the Palestinian people to control their own ports, and lives,” it continued.
“We do not sail just to deliver humanitarian supplies to Gaza. Palestinians don’t want humanitarian aid, they want the right to trade and have open borders and come in and out of their territory without walls and gunboats and snipers shooting at them,” Huwaida Arraf, chair of Free Gaza added.
Israel has maintained a sea blockade on Gaza since 2006, with naval ships constantly patrolling what has been reduced to an area three nautical miles from the shoreline.
Several attempts have been made to break the blockade, which also keeps Gaza’s port sealed from any outside traffic, since the first ship sailed from Cyprus in 2009.
The first three voyages were successful, and landed to much fanfare in Gaza City throughout 2008. Israel’s 2008-9 offensive targeting the Gaza Strip marked a turning point in the flotilla project, with ten ships turned back, rammed, damaged or seized at sea in the past two and a half years.
Last week a Malaysian ship was stopped and turned around, and in May 2010, Israeli forces boarded a boat in the last Free Gaza flotilla consisting of six ships. The largest boat, the Mavi Marmara, resisted the seizure in international waters, and Israeli commandos descending from helicopters before dawn shot and killed nine passengers.
NABLUS — Israeli soldiers escorted 1,600 Jewish settlers into the northern West Bank city of Nablus overnight Sunday to visit a shrine in the area, known to many Jews as Joseph’s Tomb.
While accompaniment by Israeli forces remains mandatory according to laws governing settlers, an additional 200 Jewish worshipers entered Palestinian neighborhoods without coordinating with Israeli authorities, an Israeli military spokesman said.
During the visit, around 50 settlers barricaded themselves inside the West Bank city, and an army spokesman said confrontations erupted between the settlers and Israeli soldiers trying to evacuate them.
On Sunday, an Israeli military investigation into fire that caused the death of a settler – who was found by Palestinian Authority police to be sneaking into the tomb along with 30 others – was labeled “unwarranted,” Israeli military chief of staff Lieutenant General Benny Gantz said in a statement.
Under the Oslo accords, Nablus is in Area A and is part of the 17 percent of the West Bank under Palestinian civil and security control.
Israeli soldiers generally coordinate the visit, requesting that PA police evacuate the area. Palestinian security sources told Ma’an, however, that the Sunday night visit was not coordinated with the PA.
Witnesses said Ultra-Orthodox settlers were among the visitors. Locals said the Huwwara checkpoint, south of Nablus, was closed at midnight and Palestinian drivers were not allowed to use the main road from the city.
Israeli forces set up several flying checkpoints in the area, locals and an Israeli military spokesman said.
The army spokesman said Palestinians had filed complaints over property damage caused by Israeli settlers during the visit. He said all complaints would be “thoroughly examined by the relevant authorities.”
Nablus residents said around 50 military vehicles escorted the Israelis, who arrived at around 1 a.m. and left at 5 a.m.