US President Barack Obama signs the US-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act in the Oval Office on July 27, 2012.
US President Barack Obama has signed a piece of legislation ratified by Congress that gives Israel another $70 million in military assistance, on top of the $3 billion the United States had already pledged to provide to the Israeli military this year.
On Friday, Obama signed the United States-Israel Enhanced Security Cooperation Act of 2012, which provides more US taxpayer dollars to help Israel expand its Iron Dome short-range rocket defense system, Xinhua reported.
The Iron Dome is a short-range rocket defense system designed to intercept rockets and artillery shells fired from a range of between four and 70 kilometers.
Representatives of the pro-Israeli lobby, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), and Israeli journalists were invited to the signing ceremony, which was held at the White House.
“I have made it a top priority for my administration to deepen cooperation with Israel across the whole spectrum of security issues — intelligence, military, technology,” Obama said before signing the bill in the Oval Office.
“And, in many ways, what this legislation does is bring together all the outstanding cooperation that we have seen, really, at an unprecedented level between our two countries that underscores our unshakeable commitment to Israel security,” he added.
According to a White House fact sheet published on Friday, Obama said that “despite tough fiscal times” he “fought for and secured full funding for Israel” in fiscal year 2012, including $3 billion in Foreign Military Financing.
The fact sheet also said that Obama secured an additional $205 million in 2011 to set up the Iron Dome system.
- US Gives Israel an Immediate $70 million for “Iron Dome” Systems (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israel Lobby Always Believes More Is Better (alethonews.wordpress.com)
China and Afghanistan agreed a deal on Friday to reinforce military cooperation between the two countries.
Beijing said it would continue to support Kabul both militarily and through aid out of respect for its sovereignty and independence.
Chinese News Agency Xinhua reported that Guo Boxyong, the vice president of the Central Military Commission for the Communist Party of China, held a meeting on Friday with Afghan defense minister Abdul Rahim Wardak in Beijing.
After the meeting Guo called for the strengthening of both countries’ armies, their strategic relations, and an active reinforcement of cooperation between the two nations.
Guo said, “both countries have seen remarkable results in cooperation in recent years,” adding that that military relations have been continuously increased.
The Chinese official commended Afghanistan for its support to China on issues related to its core interests, adding that Beijing constantly supported and actively participated in the reconstruction of Afghanistan.
China invited the national community to respect the will of the Afghan people. He declared China’s continued assistance to the country on the basis of respect, its independence, its sovereignty and its territorial integrity.
The Afghan minister thanked China for the aid given to his country, adding that maintaining healthy bilateral relations is conducive to protecting security and regional stability.
- Beijing, Kabul Sign Cooperation Pact (rferl.org)
Agent Orange Justice presents an extraordinary international exhibition and art auction for the innocent children being born now with horrific birth defects in Vietnam.
NSW governor Marie Bashir will open the exhibition on August 7 from 6pm, at the Mori Gallery, 168 Day St, Sydney.
Celebrated actor Kate Mulvany, a second-generation Agent Orange survivor, will recite extracts from The Seed, her autobiographical award-winning play about the daughter of an Australian Vietnam Veteran.
Agent Orange Justice helps children in Vietnam who suffer terrible birth defects as a result of this harmful chemical, which was used in the Vietnam War. To this day, the chemical remains in the soil.
The exhibition’s curator Carol Dance said: “We are overwhelmed by the support we’ve had by some of our best-known and prize-winning artists who have generously donated their work. And, over 30 contemporary works on paper have been sent from Vietnam specifically for the exhibition. More than 80 works will be sold by silent auction. All proceeds will go directly to facilities caring for children in Vietnam who are Agent Orange affected.”
Artists include Dobell and Archibald Prize winners and artists represented in national galleries and international collections. Some of the artists include Suzanne Archer, Elizabeth Cummings, Euan Macleod, Reg Mombassa, George Gittoes, Pamela Griffith, Mai Nguyen-Long, Susan Norrie, Peter O’Doherty, Bruce Petty, Larry Pickering, Alan Moir and Wendy Sharpe.
After the August 7 opening the exhibition continues over August 8 to 11, from 11am to 8pm.
- Dow Chemical: a stain on the Olympics? (english.ruvr.ru)
France’s largest car maker PSA Peugeot Citroen made a “disastrous” choice to sever ties with Iran, given Europe’s economic crisis and failing car markets, an expert says.
In February, the automaker decided to end relations with the Islamic Republic, losing the half-million vehicle sales Iran would have provided in 2012.
“Such a move, amid the European sovereign debt crisis and plummeting auto sales across the continent, seems like it could only be a disastrous business decision. And it is,” Ramin Mazaheri wrote in an article published on Press TV website.
Unable to replace the lucrative market, Peugeot was later forced to jettison 8,000 jobs to compensate for billions of euros it lost as a result, he noted.
Mazaheri dismissed the “strengthening of sanctions” against Iran and banking difficulties as the reasons behind the company’s decision.
“In exchange for selling seven percent of the company’s shares to General Motors, owned by the American government, the US insisted that Peugeot should stop selling cars to Iran,” he explained.
The analyst further referred to Iran’s policy of “economic protectionism,” which has helped the country to produce more cars than Italy or the UK and become the world’s 12th largest auto manufacturer.
Peugeot’s pullout will not affect the Iranian car industry as Iran will now continue to partner with other auto companies and to “improve the quality of Iranian vehicles by importing car kits to be assembled in Iranian factories,” according to Mazaheri.
“The 8,000 now-unemployed auto workers, as well as those who worked at the thousands of secondary jobs associated with the Peugeot plants” are the real victims of the company’s decision, he concluded.
- Sanctions on Iran force French auto job losses (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Iran Khodro says coping with Peugeot exit (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Peugeot First-Half Profit Plunges on Europe Sales Decline – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)
- Hollande’s Pledge to Block Firings Defied by Peugeot’s Reality – Bloomberg (bloomberg.com)
Today marks a decade in U.S. custody for Omar Khadr, a Canadian citizen who is Guantánamo’s youngest prisoner. Even though he has been eligible for transfer back to Canada for almost nine months pursuant to his October 2010 plea deal, he is still detained at Guantánamo. Khadr is the only one of the 168 remaining detainees who was a juvenile when transferred to Guantánamo.
Khadr has grown up at Guantánamo. Now 25, the full beard Khadr has grown since his imprisonment in 2002 obscures the fact that he was only 15 when he was shot and captured by U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
After his capture, Khadr was taken to Bagram near death: he had been shot twice in the back, blinded by shrapnel, and buried in rubble from a bomb blast. U.S. personnel interrogated him within days, while he was sedated and handcuffed to a stretcher. He was threatened with gang rape and death if he didn’t cooperate with interrogators. He was hooded and chained with his arms suspended in a cage-like cell, and his primary interrogator was later court-martialed for abuse leading to the death of another detainee. During his subsequent detention at Guantánamo, Khadr was subjected to the “frequent flyer” sleep deprivation program and he says he was used as a human mop after he was forced to urinate on himself.
In 2004, Khadr was charged with war crimes in the Guantanamo military commissions, accused of throwing a grenade that killed Sgt. 1st Class Christopher Speer. In October 2010, Khadr pled guilty to all charges against him, in an 11th-hour plea deal that averted the scheduled resumption of his military commission trial. If Khadr’s trial had gone forward, it would have been the first war crimes prosecution of a child soldier since World War II, and the first ever in U.S. history. Khadr pled guilty in exchange for an eight-year sentence, on top of the eight years he had already served at Guantánamo. Under his plea agreement, after serving one more year, he was eligible to apply to serve out the rest of his sentence in Canada. The arrangement required the assent of the Canadian government and an exchange of diplomatic notes between the U.S. and Canadian governments, which took place immediately before Khadr agreed to the plea deal.
According to his Canadian lawyer, Khadr’s acceptance of the plea deal was “a hellish decision” in order “to get out of Guantánamo Bay.” Self-incriminating statements that were coerced out of him by interrogators at Bagram and Gitmo were to be used against him at trial, and his case had been plagued by legal and procedural problems since he was first charged in 2004.
During his decade of detention, Khadr was abused, interrogated more than 100 times, and slated for trial by the discredited military commissions, instead of being held separately from adult detainees and enrolled in education, reintegration and rehabilitation programs as required by international law. Without access to those programs, Khadr told a government-hired psychiatrist that he is studying GED books and textbooks well-wishers have sent him, but has found it difficult to teach himself: “Since I stopped school at eighth grade and it’s been eight years, some things are hard to learn by myself.”
Our government’s treatment of Omar Khadr flies in the face of international law and policy that recognizes child soldiers as victims and candidates for rehabilitation. In contrast, the former Pentagon official who served as chief prosecutor for the U.N. war court convened to prosecute those responsible for wartime atrocities in the 90’s in Sierra Leone chose not to prosecute anyone under 18 at the time of their crimes. Although children committed some of the most heinous abuses of the Sierra Leonean civil war, including murder, rape, and amputation of limbs, that war crimes court instead entered these child soldiers in rehabilitation programs and they became witnesses in the war crimes trials against the adults who recruited or used them during the war. Author Ishmael Beah, a former child soldier from Sierra Leone who, like Khadr, was captured when he was 15, has criticized the U.S. government’s treatment of Khadr. Beah admits that during the civil war he killed “too many people to count,” but since a stint in a rehabilitation center he has written a best-selling memoir, graduated from Oberlin, and served as a UNICEF ambassador. Beah has said he struggles to understand the dramatic difference between the compassion shown him and the lack of compassion shown Khadr.
Khadr has now been eligible for transfer back to Canada for almost nine months—since October 31, 2011—but the Canadian government has yet to request the transfer. Canadian Public Safety Minister Vic Toews has reportedly refused to authorize it, saying Khadr’s potential threat to Canadians needs to be evaluated. Instead, Khadr has had to turn to the courts in an effort to force the Canadian government to keep the promise it made to let him return to Canada. Last week Khadr’s lawyers filed a new application asking a Canadian court to order Minister Toews to make a decision.
Canadian Senator Romeo Dallaire recently circulated an online petition to bring Khadr to Canada, which has garnered significant public support.
- Canadian Senator: ‘Bring Omar Khadr home’ (alethonews.wordpress.com)
Imagine for a moment what would happen if former President George W. Bush were to give an interview on television and declare that his invasion of Iraq, and the ensuing nine years of death and mayhem that resulted from that war, had been the wrong thing to do. Imagine if he were to say “mistakes were made.”
Well, something equally momentous happened yesterday when Sanford I. Weill, the former CEO of Citigroup back when it was the nation’s largest bank, announced in an interview on the cable network CNBC, that banks should never have been permitted to merge with insurance companies and investment banks. Discussing the financial crisis that continues to wreak havoc in the US and the global economy, he said, “What we should probably do is go and split up investment from banking. Have banks done something that’s not going to risk the taxpayer dollars, that’s not going to be too big to fail.”
Incredibly, this shocking comment, surely as big as Bush announcing that he was wrong to invade Iraq, was buried on the business page in the New York Times. Many other major newpapers, including the Philadelphia Inquirer, didn’t even run the story!
Sanford Weill, it must be recalled, was the Wall Street financier who pushed the government to the wall to get banks deregulated, and to end the Depression-era law, called Glass-Steagall, that since 1933 had barred them from engaging in investment banking and dealing in insurance.
As principle shareholder and head of Travelers Group, an insurance company and brokerage he had acquired for less than $5 billion, Weill thumbed his nose at the law and arranged a merger with Citicorp, in which the big bank bought the Travelers Group for $72 billion. The merger was a blatant violation of the law, but Weill and Citicorp CEO John S. Reed didn’t care.
They pushed the deal through and essentially dared the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Justice Department to stop them. The SEC and Justice Department, as well as Congress and the president at the time, who was Bill Clinton, were “rolled” by Weill and Reed, who together hired former Republican President Gerald Ford and Former Clinton Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin to lobby for the repeal of Glass-Steagal, which happened in 1999. There followed a wave over the next decade of ever bigger mergers between banks and investment banks, and a decade of increasingly wild gambling by bankers who played with dodgy derivatives and with other people’s money.
People like Weill became rich beyond human imagining, and enormous bubbles were created, first in the start-up technology industry where gambling on initial public offerings of stock in companies that had no appreciable sales or profits to show (remember the dot.com boom and bust, featuring the epic collapses of Enron and Worldcom?), and then in residential and commercial property. It was all designed to enrich the executives at these unregulated banking giants, who then would leave their posts, if possible, before the inevitable crash and collapse.
Weill did that handily. In 2005, after he had left Citicorp, he was ranked 72nd among Forbes Magazine’s list of the world’s richest people.
Some journalists are writing now that it is “ironic” that Weill would now be calling the elimination of the barrier between banks and investment banks and other financial industries a “mistake.”
It may be something else though–something more calculated than ironic: a case of the architect of the biggest theft in the history of mankind trying to get away before an increasingly desperate and angry public starts to call the criminals to account.
The American public, in particular, is slow to explode. Years of meaningless elections and deliberately dumbed-down news and dumbed-down campaign debates have left most people feeling helpless and powerless politically. Where Greeks and Spaniards and even the French are quick to take to the streets in huge numbers to protest against government outrages, Americans are more apt to sign an internet petition and then turn on the TV to escape from the harsh reality of shrinking paychecks and shrinking home values.
But the continuing recession, which has left nearly one-in-five Americans still jobless or underemployed after six years of an unrelenting economic collapse, and which has erased some $7 trillion in home equity from family balance sheets, is finally starting to light a fire, especially amid growing concern that the country could be heading for another economic slide, and a new rise in unemployment numbers.
Calls for bankers to be arrested and punished are starting to be heard, and even though the news media don’t say much about the arrest of bankers in Iceland and Ireland, word of those country’s moves to prosecute criminal bankers is spreading.
The latest scandal, involving the conspiracy among the big US and European banks to artificially manipulate the setting of LIBOR, the interest rate that is a benchmark for many if not most mortgages and other loans with floating interest rates, has made people even angrier and has widened the list of targets of that anger to include the politicians and bank regulators — Democrat and Republican — who knew of the bankster fraud and either encouraged it or did nothing to stop it.
At a time when people are talking about putting bankers in jail, Weill’s mea culpa on CNBC may have been not ironic, but rather a deliberate attempt to try and remove the target from his own back.
He shouldn’t get away with it. It should stay there.
Ynet reports (Hebrew) that the Shin Bet detained a 26 year-old Irish woman at Dublin airport when she arrived three hours prior to flight time (in order to go through the security check). She’d hoped to fly to Israel for a romantic reunion with her Israeli boyfriend, Alon, who she’d met in South America. It was to be her first visit to Israel.
When the Shin Bet security interrogators asked her why she was flying to Israel and she told them, they actually called her boyfriend in Israel to confirm this. They asked personal questions about the nature of their relationship. But that wasn’t enough.
At first, she was told she could board the flight, but without any personal electronic devices. Then, she was told she couldn’t bring any luggage at all. When offered this option, after the decidedly chilly reception she’d experienced from the Israeli security apparatus, she said: thanks, but no thanks. The distinct impression she got from her inquisitors was that the only reason she was treated this way is that she isn’t Jewish.
Keep in mind that her boyfriend is a former IDF officer who served his country and understood the need for security precautions.
During her trip to South America, she’d met many Israelis who told her about the bad rap that Israel got in the world media. They assured her that the real Israel was something else entirely.
The Shabak claims that it told the woman she could board the flight without her baggage and could send it separately via London. She denies they made this offer. They also claim that they couldn’t allow her luggage aboard because it required scanning by a special device which local airport security didn’t make available to them. I’d venture to say that if any Irish journalist picks up on this story and queries officials at Dublin airport they’ll find this is a crock. But the way the Shin Bet works, it only has to deflect criticism for a day or so for the embarrassing incident to be forgotten (or so they expect). That’s why they often don’t even make a pretence of having a credible story.
Alon’s girl still wants to reunite with him–anywhere but Israel. So think about this, if Alon and his girlfriend someday marry, where do you think they’ll live? Anywhere but Israel. But that won’t bother the racist thugs who control entry to the ‘Jewish homeland.’ They prefer their guests and betrothed to be Jewish. Non-Jews need not apply. The needs of the national security state trump love and romance.
There are two lessons to be learned from this story. First, don’t fly to Israel on an Israeli airline. Second, if I were Irish authorities I’d demand the head of whoever was responsible for this mess. In South Africa, when a flyer was abused racially, the authorities threatened to ban the airline from flying to South Africa. That got Israel’s attention.
Since I published this story, Maan reporter George Hale told me he received the exact same treatment. He was told on two separate occasions that he could only fly without luggage (that’s besides the regular strip searches). The Shin Bet official told him he could retrieve it “the next time you’re in Zurich.” That didn’t sit too well with George since it was everything he needed to practice his profession.
When he arrived at Ben Gurion he filed a complaint with the Press Office and the Shin Bet relented and returned his effects (which included all his electronic reporting gear). The Irish lass’ story is, unfortunately, not unique.
- Shin Bet Goes on Palestinian Arrest Spree (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Defending Privacy at the Israeli Border: Information for Travelers Carrying Digital Devices (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Knesset Exempts Shin Bet from Recording Interrogations (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israeli Supreme Court Rubber Stamps Shin Bet Impunity (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Shin Bet Crackdown on Israeli Arab Unrest in Nazareth, Golan (richardsilverstein.com)
HEBRON – Israeli forces have closed several roads in the south Hebron hills, after Israel ordered the demolition of eight villages in the area to use the land for military training, local official said.
Israeli troops closed roads leading to Khirbet al-Majaz, Khirbet al-Tabban, Khirbet al-Fakheit, Halaweh, Mirkez, Jinba and Kharoubeh, a spokesman for Yatta municipality Abed Abu Fannar told Ma’an.
Abu Fannar said Israeli military bulldozers were closing the entrances to all the villages. He added that he was detained by Israeli soldiers while inspecting the area and warned not to return.
Israeli troops have informed residents of the villages that the region is a closed military zone, Abu Fannar said, and military vehicles are deployed throughout the area.
Israel’s High Court of Justice heard Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak’s plans to demolish the villages on Sunday, the Israeli daily Haaretz reported.
Residents of the south Hebron villages will be allowed to access their land for farming on weekends and Jewish holidays, and during two one-month periods each year, when the Israeli army is not training in the area, Haaretz reported.
Israel regards the 1,500 residents of the villages as squatters, although the villages predate the establishment of the state of Israel by over 100 years, Haaretz said.
Previous evacuation orders issued against the villages were frozen by Israel’s High Court of Justice.
- Israeli kills 2 Palestinians near Hebron (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israel orders demolition of eight Palestinian villages for military training sites (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- French activist injured as Israeli troops attack Hebron (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israeli forces order Hebron village demolished after settler case (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Susiya: Another Casualty of Israeli Occupation? (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israel Plans Demolition of Entire Palestinian Village (alethonews.wordpress.com)
The Justice Department’s inspector general found at least seven instances of federal employees engaging in illegal attempts to hire family members at the agency, according to a report issued Thursday.
The report is the third investigation in less than a decade that has found numerous examples of illegal hiring practices, amounting to nepotism, within the DOJ.
The latest series of nepotistic attempts came after Rep. Frank Wolf (R-Va.) alerted the IG to complaints he received in 2010 from a former DOJ employee-turned-whistleblower.
Wolf said the report was “alarming” and called on the DOJ employees, whose attempts at hiring relatives are exposed in the IG’s report, to be punished by the department.
“The report issued by the Department of Justice Inspector General today is alarming, especially given that the department has twice been warned about these illegal practices before,” said Wolf, the chairman of the House Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the DOJ’s budget, in a statement.
“I expect for the employees involved in this nepotism ring to be punished under full extent of the law. I also expect the department to move quickly to enact the necessary reforms to prevent this from happening again.”
Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), the ranking member on the Senate Judiciary Committee, criticized the DOJ in the wake of the IG’s report, saying that the agency is running “wild.”
At an executive committee meeting on Thursday, Grassley called on Attorney General Eric Holder to take legal action against the employees cited in the report. Grassley has butted heads with Holder for most of the attorney general’s time in office, saying that the DOJ constantly “stonewalls” his requests for information and action.
“This is another example of the Justice Department run wild,” said Grassley. “It is troubling to me how employees within the Department colluded and schemed to hire one another’s relatives in order to avoid rules against nepotism.
“At the very least, the Attorney General needs to hold these employees accountable — with more than just disciplinary action,” he said. “Laws were broken and false statements were made. The Department can’t simply sweep this under the rug. Employees need to be punished.”
The IG’s report found seven examples of employees within the DOJ’s Justice Management Division (JMD) attempting to hire the family members of their fellow employees.
According to the IG’s report, in two separate instances a pair of employees, who worked in different sections of the DOJ, engaged in schemes to hire the other’s child. In another example, a DOJ employee tried to secure employment for his cousin and nephew.
The IG released two prior reports on nepotistic hiring practices in 2004 and again in 2008, in which they found that employees manipulated the DOJ’s hiring process to favor certain candidates.
In 2008, the IG recommended that the department conduct ethics training and establish a “zero-tolerance” policy for future attempts at illegal hiring.
In a memorandum issued earlier this week, Assistant Attorney General for Administration Lee Lofthus wrote the IG to say that he would strengthen and clarify training for employees, with particular attention on the agency’s nepotism rules.
Lofthus also said that by Friday his office would be implementing a three-prong set of disclosure forms that would require DOJ employees to disclose any family member who they are aware of applying for a job within the agency. It would also require any DOJ applicant to reveal a family member who works for the department.
Lofthus said, according to the IG report, the actions of illegal hiring were a result of intentionally “bad behavior” and not ignorance of the rules or a lack of training on the DOJ’s part.
“The OIG report concludes by saying most of the misconduct identified in the report did not stem from ignorance of the rules, but rather was the result of bad behavior by individuals insufficiently impressed with the principles of fair and open competition.”
Israeli daily Ha’aretz is reporting that the Israeli military has called for the demolition of a Palestinian village under the pretext that it is built on an archaeological site.
The village in question is Zanuta located in the South Hebron Hills region of the West Bank, situated close to the construction route of the annexation wall. The village falls under the designation of Area C, meaning that the Israeli military has full control of both administrative and security affairs under the guise of the so-called Civil Administration.
Ha’aretz states that the area was designated an archaeological area under the British Mandate, the period following the fall of the Ottoman empire till 1948 when several parts of the Middle East, including Palestine, where subject to occupation by the United Kingdom.
The military is claiming that the homes in the village, which comprise numerous improvised structures, were built without permission and that no master plan for the village is registered with the Civil Administration thus making all construction illegal.
Furthermore, the military has stated that it is not possible to grant retro-active permission and legalisation to the area despite many Israeli settlements and outposts receiving such leniency under the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank that is ongoing following the 6 Day War of 1967.
The South Hebron Hills region of the West Bank has had numerous villages targeted for demolition under the pretext that the villages are illegal under Israeli law, while the aforementioned settlements are given legal status despite the construction of outposts without preapproval from the State of Israel is illegal under Israeli law and all settlement construction on occupied land is illegal under international law.
In addition to discriminatory practices by the State of Israel and its military, Palestinians living in the area come under frequent attack from settlers residing in the area, who fall under the categorization of ‘ideological’, i.e. those Israelis who move to the West Bank as they believe that all of the occupied Palestinian territories should be annexed by Israel as part of a ‘greater Israel’, rather than those who reside in the West Bank due to subsidized housing provided by the Israeli government.
Alongside attacks to their persons and property such as their homes and vehicles, Palestinians in the South Hebron Hills whose sole income is dependent on shepherding live stock, regularly find their animals are stolen or killed during night time attacks.
- Israel orders demolition of eight Palestinian villages for military training sites (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Susiya: Another Casualty of Israeli Occupation? (alethonews.wordpress.com)