Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir has accused South Sudan of playing into the hands of foreigners by “choosing the path of war” as border tensions between the two neighbors keep escalating.
“Our brothers in South Sudan have chosen the path of war, implementing plans dictated by foreign parties who supported them during the civil war,” Bashir said on Thursday, referring to the country’s internal conflicts before South Sudan seceded from Sudan in July, 2011.
“War is not the interest of either South Sudan or Sudan but, unfortunately, our brothers in the South are thinking neither of the interests of Sudan or of South Sudan,” Bashir said.
The comments follow three days of heavy fighting between the two sides, in what some fear might lead to an all-out war.
Earlier on Thursday, Sudanese warplanes attacked a strategic bridge near the South Sudanese town of Bentiu.
On Tuesday, South Sudan seized the oil-producing border town of Heglig.
The take-over prompted Sudan to pull out of crisis talks led by the African Union. The talks aimed at resolving the protracted dispute with Juba over oil, border demarcation, contested areas and citizenship issues.
On Wednesday, South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir threatened to seize the disputed oil region of Abyei on the border with Sudan if the United Nations failed to pressure Sudanese forces out of the area.
The African Union has expressed deep concern over the escalating security situation on the contested border, calling for a troop pullout from border zones and the resolution of the problem through peaceful means.
- South Sudan and Israel discuss bilateral cooperation (alethonews.wordpress.com)
FRESNO, California – Fresno police drowned a man by Tasering and hogtying him, then sticking a garden hose “onto (his) face and mouth” when he pleaded for water, the man’s two children claim in Federal Court.
The two minor children, I.R. and H.R., claim that in the summer of 2011 Fresno police restrained their father, Raul Rosas, at a friend’s house while responding to a domestic disturbance call.
The children say their father was not armed and “had not committed a crime.”
After an altercation with a John Doe officer, police pepper-sprayed Rosas and then Tasered him a “countless number of times,” the complaint states.
The children claim their father was Tasered “for eight to ten more minutes,” then he was “hogtied with his ankles tied to his handcuffs behind his back.”
The complaint continues: “Decedent was then slammed onto a table in the residence’s backyard face down. An officer was observed with his knee on decedent’s back while decedent was hogtied, handcuffed, and face down.
“Decedent stated that he couldn’t breathe and that he needed water; an officer ran water from a hose onto decedent’s face and mouth to the point of making it more difficult for decedent to breathe. Decedent tried to move his mouth away from the water and gasp for air. A witness yelled ‘He can’t breathe, you’re drowning him,’ but the officer continued running water over decedent’s face.
“After turning the water off, the Doe Officer(s) continued to press his knee against decedent’s back and continued to put pressure on it. Witnesses repeatedly asked officers to let decedent get up because he couldn’t breathe, but their cries for help were ignored.
“By now there were in excess of 15 deputies and officers on the scene.
“After some time passed, decedent had clear spit bubbles coming out of his mouth.
“Witnesses yelled at officers that decedent was not breathing and pointed to the clear spit bubbles but again were ignored. Doe officer claimed decedent was ‘faking it.’”
“Officers, after much pleading from witnesses, checked decedent’s pulse and discovered he had stopped breathing after not feeling anything when they touched decedent’s neck.
“Decedent had his handcuffs taken off and was untied and placed on his back on the ground. After some time had passed, an officer started doing chest compressions but none of the officers administered mouth-to-mouth resuscitation to the decedent. Ultimately a witness at the scene administered CPR to decedent.
“Some time later, an ambulance arrived and took over trying to revive decedent.”
Rosas’ children are represented by Brian Claypool of Pasadena.
They seek punitive damages for wrongful death, unreasonable search and seizure, due process violations, supervisory liability, negligence, battery, and violation of the Bane Act.
They sued through their guardians, Claudia and Nora Nava.
Named as defendants are the City of Fresno, the County of Fresno, and Does 1-10.
The City of Fresno did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
An Iranian lawmaker says it is time for the West to close Iran’s nuclear case as no non-civilian diversion has ever been found in the Islamic Republic’s nuclear energy program.
“Western countries have been investigating Iran’s nuclear activities for years and have conducted the highest number of inspections on the nuclear plants and the nuclear activities of Iran,” Zohreh Elahian, a member of Iran’s Majlis Committee on National Security and Foreign Policy said on Thursday.
Following the extensive inspections and supervision by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), even a single case of violation has not occurred and no document proving the Western claim of military diversions in Iran’s nuclear program has been found, she added.
“Therefore, it is time for Iran’s nuclear case to be declared closed once and for all,” Elahian added.
“According to documents, Iran has offered the highest degree of cooperation with the inspectors of the IAEA,” she said, adding that the IAEA’s inspections have gone far beyond Iran’s legal commitments to the international nuclear agency, but Tehran has agreed to such inspections in order to demonstrate its goodwill.
“Western countries should pay heed to the fact that if Iran was to retreat and give up its rights, it would have done that by now,” Elahian said.
The Iranian lawmaker’s remarks come as Iran is expected to resume its multifaceted talks with the P5+1 – the US, the UK, France, Russia, China, and Germany – in Istanbul on April 14.
On April 9, Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) announced that the first round of fresh talks between Tehran and the P5+1 would be held in the Turkish port city of Istanbul, and the second would be in Baghdad.
Earlier the same day, Iran’s Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi had stressed that Tehran would not accept any preconditions for the negotiations with the P5+1, expressing hope the new round of talks would yield win-win results.
Iran and the P5+1 have held two rounds of multifaceted talks, one in Geneva in December 2010 and another in the Turkish city of Istanbul in January 2011.
- Iran honestly cooperating with IAEA: Britain’s former IAEA envoy to Iran (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Iran Questions IAEA’s Resolve and Impartiality (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- ‘Nuclear assassinations disgrace IAEA’ (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Iran: ‘No preconditions’ to nuclear talks will be accepted (rt.com)
Today, 34 civil rights, religious, and health organizations and experts joined together to condemn an extraordinarily degrading body search used on women prisoners. After every meeting with a family member, religious worker, or lawyer, and at other times, prisoners confined in Michigan’s Women’s Huron Valley prison are forced to remove all of their clothing and use their hands to spread open their vaginal lips as a guard peers into their vaginal cavities. This search — used routinely only in Michigan and in no other jurisdiction — has devastating emotional effects on women prisoners, the majority of whom are survivors of sexual or physical abuse.
A striking fact about Michigan’s spread-labia vaginal search is that it doesn’t serve any practical purpose, in part because the procedure is piled on top of two standard strip search maneuvers that already permit officials to detect any items smuggled in body cavities. Despite being even more degrading than those methods, the spread-labia search doesn’t add any measure of security. It’s therefore not surprising that the search doesn’t appear to yield any contraband. When we asked for records of contraband found during these searches, the Michigan Department of Corrections refused to turn any over, claiming that no log of recovered contraband is kept. In fact, subjecting women to such a humiliating search actually endangers security, because it traumatizes the women and risks increasing tensions between prisoners and staff.
But is it fair to characterize the spread-labia search as sexual assault by the state? Yes, for many reasons. Although the search doesn’t serve any legitimate purpose, women are forced to submit through the threat — or the actuality — of force. If a woman resists taking off her clothing or opening her vagina, she can be physically subdued and searched, or punished with solitary confinement. In most cases, the threat of force is enough to coerce women to comply. It’s important to note that the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, and courts, define sexual assault as a violation of the sexual integrity or dignity of the victim. It doesn’t have to give sexual gratification to the perpetrator, or even involve touching. The point of sexual assault is domination and control, asserted by means of the victim’s body. Decades ago, the eminent sociologist Erving Goffman described how body searches are used in prisons and similar institutions to humiliate and degrade inmates through what he called “forced interpersonal contact.” By breaking down a person’s sense of self, compulsory body searches make prisoners easier to control.
The similarities between the spread-labia search and sexual assault don’t end there. The effects of degrading body searches on the women forced to undergo them are uncannily similar to the effects of rape. In studies, both rape survivors and prisoners subjected to invasive searches reported damaged self-esteem, a sense of helplessness, anger, and feelings of disgust toward their own bodies. Both groups experience repetitive phenomena like flashbacks and nightmares. And without proper care, both can respond to the intense pain with self-destructive coping behaviors like self-harm and drug abuse. The words of the women themselves show that they experience the spread-labia search as sexual assault.
A broad coalition of rights and religious groups has given Michigan’s prison officials a clear choice: If officials are truly interested in rehabilitating prisoners and thereby reducing crime, they must stop sadistically undoing the hard work of rehabilitation through this patently abusive search. You can stand up against the spread-labia vaginal search by learning more about this extreme civil rights violation, and taking action to end the search for good.
- RCASA Friday Facts: Sexual Abuse of Women in U.S. State Prisons (rcasa.wordpress.com)
- Virginia Prison Guard To Face Charges Of Having Sex With Inmate (washington.cbslocal.com)
BETHLEHEM – The mayor of Bethlehem on Tuesday urged Israel not to humiliate hundreds of tourists invited to a week-long tour of Palestine.
Some 25 Palestinian organizations have invited internationals to visit Palestine from April 15 – 21 and Mayor Victor Batarseh urged Israel to let them enter and not to humiliate them, at a news conference in Bethlehem.
“We demand our international friends have access to Bethlehem,” the mayor said. “It is our right to welcome visitors.”
Israel’s public security minister, Yitzhak Aharonovitch, said Tuesday that guests of the Welcome to Palestine initiative would be detained and deported, the Israeli news site Ynet reported.
“If they arrive in Israel they will be identified, removed from the plane, their entry into Israel will be prevented and they will be moved to a detention facility until they are flown out of Israel,” Aharonovitch said.
Israeli police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld told Ma’an on Wednesday that police were preparing for the visitors’ arrival and implementing measures inside and outside the airport. He did not elaborate.
Palestinian organizations have arranged a week-long program, starting Sunday, which includes helping to build a school in Bethlehem and day trips to Hebron, the Jordan Valley, Ramallah and Jerusalem.
All visitors to the West Bank must first pass Israeli border control and many arriving in Tel Aviv’s Ben Gurion airport do not tell Israeli security if they will be visiting Palestinian areas as this leads to interrogation and often deportation.
But the “Welcome to Palestine” campaign has asked its guests to be open about their plans to visit the West Bank.
Coordinator Abdul-Fatah Abu Srour told reporters in Bethlehem the participants are declaring their right to say they are coming to Palestine and “we are not hiding it, we are not going to lie about it.”
Organizer Mazim Qumsiyeh added: “We cannot understand why Israel wants people to lie about why they are coming.”
Qumsiyeh emphasized that the visitors were “normal average Europeans willing to visit people under occupation.”
“These are peaceful people that want to visit us here in Bethlehem and the Holy Land,” he added.
At least 1,500 people from over 15 countries have booked tickets to participate in the program, organizers say, adding that up to 2,000 could arrive. Most are flying in from Europe but visitors are also coming from Australia, New Zealand, the US and Canada.
The Welcome to Palestine campaign organized a similar program in July 2011 but Israel sent lists of participants to foreign airports who refused to let blacklisted passengers board. Over 120 participants who arrived in Ben Gurion airport were detained and deported by Israel.
Minister Aharonovitch told Israel’s Channel 1 on Wednesday that Israel would send blacklists to foreign airports again this week.
But Qumsiyeh said airlines had agreed not to cooperate with Israel’s blacklists after facing legal challenges over their refusal to let passengers board last year.
Another Welcome to Palestine organizer told reporters the initiative sent a message to European governments that Israel was “dismissing” their citizens’ freedoms.
Israel violates bilateral agreements by deporting Europeans, she said, noting that European countries allowed Israelis to enter freely.
“We reject all attempts to isolate us,” Abu Srour added
- Israel demolishes buildings, pylons near Bethlehem (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- ‘Israel cannot legally ban pro-Palestinian activists bound for West Bank’ (altahrir.wordpress.com)
- Israel To Deny Entry To Pro-Palestinian Activists, Again (lezgetreal.com)
- Israeli police escort Harvard tour from Bethlehem village (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- #Airflotilla2 | Mission “Welcome to Palestine”: The detailed program (altahrir.wordpress.com)
The U.S. military is pushing more troops into Colombia to assist in that country’s war with insurgent groups and narcotraffickers, the Pentagon’s top military officer said Friday.
“It’s certainly in our interest to do what we can to help the nations of this region to break [these] networks,” Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey told reporters while on travel in the country this week.
That effort will include U.S. assistance to a handful of new, Colombian-led joint task forces in the country, according to Pentagon spokesman Col. David Lapan.
At those outposts, American combat commanders will help train their Colombian counterparts on the finer points of counterinsurgency and counterterrorism operations.
Those lessons will be based on nearly 10 years of combat experience dealing with insurgents in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The Pentagon has similar U.S.- run task forces operating in the Horn of Africa, the Trans-Sahara, Southern Philippines and elsewhere around the world.
Colombian forces have been waging a counterinsurgency against the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a Marxist separatist group bent on overthrowing the government in Bogota, since the 1960s.
“The challenges they face are not unlike, to be sure, the challenges we’ve faced in the passed 10 years in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Gen. Dempsey told reporters.
The new influx of U.S. troops could be in Colombia as early as June and conduct two-week rotations to help assist with the new joint task forces in the country, Lapan said.
However, Dempsey stressed, those troops will only advise and assist local military forces. They will not actively participate in any combat operations against FARC rebels.
One base, Joint Task Force-Vulcano, has already been built by Colombian forces and is situated along the country’s border with Venezuela.
Venezuela has been a key regional ally to Iran. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has made multiple diplomatic visits to Caracas in recent years.
Tehran has also expanded its network of embassies and cultural centers in Venezuela, as well as in Ecuador, Bolivia and Nicaragua over the past six years, Southern Command chief Gen. Douglas Fraser told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee on March 12.
Moving more of the U.S. military’s counterinsurgency and counterterrorism specialists into South America and Africa was a key piece of the White House’s new national security strategy released in February.
While focused mainly on the Pacific region, the new DOD strategy introduced “innovative methods” to support local counterterrorism forces and expand American influence in those two continents, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said at the time.
- Small-Scale Miners Face Crackdown as Foreign Companies Set Sights on Colombia (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Colombia: Obama’s Bloodiest Betrayal? (alethonews.wordpress.com)
“Buy land, they’re not making it anymore.” - Mark Twain
There are three main trends in the international political economy that are currently shaping land use and value. The first is the increasing demand for land from the emerging economies of China and India alongside Korea, Japan, and the petro-dollar states of Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, and Qatar. These countries are buying and renting lands in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, particularly Brazil and Argentina, for bio-fuels and other cash-crops. The second and third trends are the increased use of land for mining and speculation. Land has become the hottest commodity on the global market. It is as if the world capitalist class has only just heard Mark Twain’s advice: “Buy land, they’re not making it anymore.”
Consequently more land is being put to the service of biofuel crops and mining. Over the last decade alone, over 560 million acres in Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia, that were previously dedicated to food production, are now catering to biofuels and mineral extraction. Mostly multinational corporations and sovereign funds now own this land, which is equivalent to the size of the combined territories of Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, Portugal, Spain, and Switzerland. The entire forested area of the United States, including Alaska, is almost 490 million acres. Perhaps with these figures we can appreciate the magnitude of these trends.
U.S.-based Drummond Co. coal mine in Colombia (Al.com)In February, the Colombian Geological Service issued a report in which it revealed that in Colombia, a mining rich country, 18 multinational mining companies own the rights to mine on over 12 million acres of land. This figure is a partial assessment and does not include the subsidiaries of these corporations. The gold mining companies Anglo Gold Ashanti and Mineros SA have the rights to the largest amount of land, according to the report. Combined they control about 59% of these areas. Other multinationals such Eco Oro (formerly known as Greystar) and Leyhat, both Canadian companies, are not far behind. The latter owns the rights to mine on nearly 100,000 acres in the Colombian departments of Santander and North Santander. Oil multinational corporations, which were not included in the report, were granted over 90 million acres for oil exploration and production across Colombia.
Meanwhile, Cargill, the world’s largest agribusiness, recently bought over 220,000 acres in the Colombian department of Meta where it is already producing grains. The Israeli company Merhav has invested $300 million in buying and preparing nearly 25,000 acres in Magdalena Medio for the production of sugar cane to produce ethanol.
In Colombia over 280,000 acres have been sold to foreign companies for biofuel crop production, as well as nearly 250,000 acres of forest land that is now owned by Timberland Holdings (Swiss-Ecuadorian company), Smurfit-Kappa (Irish), the Chilean-based companies Agrícola de La Sierra and Reforestadora del Sinú, and the Colombian companies Inverbosques and Forest First. According to the November 2011 Peace Brigades International Colombia Newsletter, today, 40% of Colombia’s 280 million acres of land “has been licensed to, or is being solicited by, multinational corporations.”
The far reaching implications of such a profound shift in land use puts the future of Colombia’s food security in jeopardy, as well as the livelihood of millions of people across the globe. If these trends are not reversed they are a major threat to global peace and security.
- Small-Scale Miners Face Crackdown as Foreign Companies Set Sights on Colombia (alethonews.wordpress.com)