Aletho News

ΑΛΗΘΩΣ

US State Department condemns Argentine expropriation of YPF Oil Company

Press TV – April 20, 2012

The US has joined Spain and Britain in condemning Argentina’s expropriation of the Spanish-owned oil and gas company, YPF, Press TV reports.

US State Department spokesman Mark Toner condemned Argentina’s nationalization of the oil company, saying his country views the act with negativity.

Toner also warned that the move would ultimately hurt Argentina’s economy.

However, the Argentine government has responded firmly to the criticism, arguing that the decision was taken based on the country’s national interests.

“The project aims at certain states’ rules to lead a strategic company. We do not govern on behalf of the US and the Spanish people,” Argentine Interior Minister Florencio Randazzo said.

Argentine President Cristina Fernandez has slammed the company for failing to re-invest in local oil and gas production, which forced Buenos Aires to pay more than USD 9 billion to import fuel last year.

On Monday, Fernandez announced the decision to reclaim YPF, which was formerly a state-owned Argentine oil company, at a meeting with her cabinet and provincial governors. She said that Argentina had to take back the oil company since it is the only nation in Latin America “that does not manage its natural resources.”

The move to declare YPF Gas a public utility by taking 51 percent of its shares is an extension of the takeover of YPF Oil Company, the major subsidiary of Repsol.

Repsol President Antonio Brufau said on Tuesday that the company would take legal action against Argentina, seeking compensation of about $10 billion.

Meanwhile, the Spanish government has also criticized the move by claiming that Argentina is taking a risk of becoming “an international pariah” if it takes control of the YPF, in which Repsol has a 57.4 percent stake.

April 20, 2012 Posted by | Economics | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Proposed Amendments to #CISPA Don’t Protect Privacy

By Michelle Richardson | ACLU | April 19, 2012

Yesterday, the House Intelligence Committee released proposed changes to the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act of 2011, also known as CISPA that, according to its sponsors, represent “huge progress” towards addressing the privacy and internet freedom community’s concerns.

But, many privacy advocates, including the ACLU, and groups including the Center for Democracy and Technology, Free Press, the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Constitution Project still maintain their opposition. The changes are so underwhelming that even the Obama administration issued a statement yesterday that their privacy concerns persist.

Here are some of the main problems with CISPA:

1. CISPA still allows companies to share lots of sensitive and private information about our internet use with the government. The proposal amended the definition of what could be shared by taking out its explicit reference to stealing “intellectual property.” But it still allows the sharing of Internet use records or the content of emails for “cybersecurity purposes” and unlike proposals drafted by Sens. Joe Lieberman and Dianne Feinstein or the Obama administration, CISPA does not require companies to even make an effort to remove information that could be tied to a specific individual.

2. CISPA still lets military agencies such as the National Security Agency directly collect the Internet records of American citizens who use the public, domestic, civilian Internet. The proposed changes state that the Department of Homeland Security should be cc’d when companies share our private details with the military and others, but this is no substitute for ensuring that a civilian agency is put in charge of collecting Americans’ information.

3. CISPA still lets the government use the private information it collects about us for any purpose it deems fit outside of regulation. For four months, the draft bill has remained the same: the government can use information collected under this broad new program for “any lawful purpose” so long as a “significant purpose” of its use is a cybersecurity or national security one. But as former federal and FISA court judge James Robertson said at a congressional briefing this week, this “significant purpose” limitation is meaningless. The Patriot Act inserted this language into our foreign intelligence surveillance laws, and since then, in Judge Robertson’s words, they’ve had a “hole you could drive a truck through.”

Hard to see the progress here.

CISPA is still expected to hit the House floor for “Cybersecurity Week” next week. You can find out more about the bills in this memo, and more importantly, help us spread the word on Twitter and write to your Member of Congress today. Let Congress know that in spite of the minor changes floated by the House Intelligence Committee, you still oppose CISPA.

April 20, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception, Full Spectrum Dominance | , , , | 1 Comment

UK annihilates records of colonial crimes

Press TV – April 20, 2012

Thousands of documents detailing some of the most shameful acts and crimes committed during the final years of the British empire were systematically destroyed to prevent them falling into the hands of post-independence governments, an official review has concluded.

Those papers that survived the purge were flown discreetly to Britain where they were hidden for 50 years in a secret Foreign Office archive, beyond the reach of historians and members of the public, and in breach of legal obligations for them to be transferred into the public domain.

The archive came to light last year when a group of Kenyans detained and allegedly tortured during the Mau Mau rebellion won the right to sue the British government.

The Foreign Office promised to release the 8,800 files from 37 former colonies held at the highly-secure government communications centre at Hanslope Park in Buckinghamshire.

The historian appointed to oversee the review and transfer, Tony Badger, master of Clare College, Cambridge, says the discovery of the archive put the Foreign Office in an “embarrassing, scandalous” position.

“These documents should have been in the public archives in the 1980s,” he said. “It’s long overdue.”

The papers at Hanslope Park include monthly intelligence reports on the “elimination” of the colonial authority’s enemies in 1950s Malaya; records showing ministers in London were aware of the torture and murder of Mau Mau insurgents in Kenya, including a case of aman said to have been “roasted alive”; and papers detailing the lengths to which the UK went to forcibly remove islanders from Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean.

April 20, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words, Including Your Location

By Hanni Fakhoury | EFF | April 20, 2012

At first blush, it seems obvious that a picture could reveal your location. A picture of you standing in front of the Golden Gate Bridge sensibly leads to the conclusion you’re in the San Francisco Bay Area when the photo was taken. But now that smartphones are quickly supplanting traditional digital cameras, and even traditional cameras now have wifi built in, many more pictures are finding their way onto the web, in places like Twitter, Flickr, Google+ and Tumblr. In a span of 10 days, popular photo social network Instagram added 10 million new users as a result of the release of its Android app and its acquisition by Facebook. And the location data hidden in these quick and candid pictures — even when your location isn’t as obvious as “standing in front of the Golden Gate Bridge” — is becoming another easy way for anyone, including law enforcement, to figure out where you are.

Take the case of “w0rmer,” a member of an Anonymous offshoot called “CabinCr3w,” for example. According to the federal government (PDF), “w0rmer” broke into a number of different law enforcement databases and obtained a wealth of sensitive information. In a Twitter post, “w0rmer” provided a link to a website that contained the sensitive information as well as a picture of a woman (NSFW) posing with a sign taunting the authorities. Because the picture was taken with an iPhone 4, which contains a GPS device built in, the GPS coordinates of where the picture was taken was embedded into the picture’s EXIF metadata. The FBI was able to use the EXIF data to determine that the picture was taken at a house in Wantirna South, Australia.

The FBI tracked down other online references to “w0rmer,” with one website containing the name Higinio Ochoa. The feds took a look at Ochoa’s Facebook account, which detailed that his girlfriend was Australian. Combined with the EXIF metadata, the government believed they had corroborated the identity of “w0rmer” as Ochoa, and in turn arrested him.

Even for photos not taken with a smartphone and not embedded with GPS coordinates (for example, point and shoot or SLR cameras that do not geotag), it’s still possible for the police to get location information through EXIF metadata. You can upload a picture here and see the metadata stored in a picture for yourself. Contained within that metadata is the camera’s serial number. Armed with that information, the police can easily scour the internet for other pictures tagged with the same serial number.  In Australia, a man whose camera was stolen was able to track it down using stolencamerafinder.com because the thief had taken a picture with the camera and uploaded it to Flickr, where had had listed his address. But even if the thief’s Flickr site didn’t contain his address, police could have subpoenaed Flickr – like law enforcement have attempted to do with Twitter – for information concerning a user’s temporarily assigned IP address, as well as session times and logs, to eventually determine where a person uploaded a picture from. All of which can be used to piece together a snapshot of not only your movements, but as in the case of “w0rmer,” potentially your identity. In the United States, police are being trained about the broader investigative (PDF) potential of this information.

It might be tempting to say the problem is overblown, because some social media sites, including Facebook and Twitter, strip the metadata out of photos uploaded by their members. But not all do. Twitpic‘s default is to use a picture’s location tag unless you opt out. Flickr gives you the option to hide a photo’s EXIF data, but many casual photographers tempted by the rapid growth of photo sharing may not understand what EXIF data is, and the implication of making it publicly available.

The bigger problem is that courts have been expanding the police’s right to search digital devices without a warrant under the “search incident to arrest” exception of the Fourth Amendment. While many of the cases involve warrantless searches of cell phones, there has been at least one case in California (PDF) where the police used the “search incident to arrest” exception to search a juvenile’s digital camera. And there are other reported incidents of photojournalists having their cameras confiscated and searched when covering political protests and rallies. If the cops have the physical camera (and thus the memory cards that store the photos), whatever scrubbing that happens when a photo is uploaded to the web is no obstacle.

So if you value your privacy, you should take steps to ensure the EXIF metadata in your pictures isn’t an easy way for anyone on the Internet to figure out your location. If you’re using a smartphone to take pictures, disable geotagging from your pictures. If you’re uploading your pictures to a website like Flickr or Twitpic that defaults to automatically include EXIF data and location information, take the steps to turn it off. And if you’re using a traditional SLR or point and shoot camera that doesn’t geotag, but does contain a breadth of EXIF data, the make sure you scrub its metadata before you upload it on the Internet. There are free online tools that will help you do precisely that. These simple steps will help ensure that the thousand words a picture describes doesn’t include your location.

April 20, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Full Spectrum Dominance, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Slick Trick on the NDAA and Indefinite Detention; Don’t Be Fooled!

By Chris Anders | ACLU | April 19, 2012

It looks like there is slick little trick brewing in Congress. Supporters of locking people up without charge or trial are getting ready to play yet another trick on the American people.

Late yesterday, Congressman Scott Rigell and 26 other members of Congress introduced a bill, H.R. 4388, which he is trying to sell to the American people as a “fix” for the National Defense Authorization Act. But in fact, it is a useless bill that might actually end up causing harm.

That’s right. The plan in the House of Representatives seems to be to try to fool Americans into thinking that they are fixing the indefinite detention problems with the NDAA and the Authorization for the Use of Military Force, when in fact, they are doing nothing good.

Don’t be fooled!

Here’s how they hope their trick will work. H.R. 4388, which was sneakily mistitled as the “Right to Habeas Corpus Act,” states that no one in the United States will lose their habeas rights under the NDAA. That might sound like something good, but it’s meaningless.

The question with the NDAA was never whether habeas rights are lost. Instead, the question is whether and when any president can order the military to imprison a person without charge or trial. The NDAA did not take away habeas rights from anyone, but it did codify a dangerous indefinite detention without charge or trial scheme. And nothing in the proposed bill by Rigell would change it. The Rigell bill won’t stop any president from ordering the military lockup of civilians without charge or trial.

And there’s more. Not only is it a useless bill, but it could end up causing harm too. It doesn’t accurately and fully list who is entitled to habeas (for example, it doesn’t even mention American citizens traveling outside the country), which could end up causing confusion.

They are hoping you will fall for their trick and waste all your time and energy on something meaningless — and not fight for legislation that actually protects people from indefinite detention without charge or trial.

They are hoping you will ignore the bills that actually are first steps towards fixing the NDAA. Congressman Adam Smith and Sen. Mark Udall introduced H.R. 4192/S. 2175, which codifies a ban on the military imprisoning civilians without charge or trial or trying persons before military commissions within the United States, as well as repeals section 1022 of last year’s NDAA. Also, Congressman Ron Paul has sponsored H.R. 3785, which repeals section 1021 of the NDAA. Both are meaningful first steps towards fixing a problem.

Supporters of last year’s NDAA indefinite detention provisions hope you will fall for their trick. They want you to spend your time pushing for the Rigell bill, instead of working on something meaningful. For more information about our opposition to the bill, you can read the letter that we sent to congressional offices earlier this week. Retweet our tweet to Rigell to tell him to stop playing games with indefinite detention without charge or trial.

April 20, 2012 Posted by | Civil Liberties, Deception | , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Chinese Melamine and American Vioxx: A Comparison

By Ron Unz | The American Conservative | April 18, 2012

In contrasting China and America, pundits often cite our free and independent media as one of our greatest strengths, together with the tremendous importance which our society places upon individual American lives. For us, a single wrongful death can sometimes provoke weeks of massive media coverage and galvanize the nation into corrective action, while life remains cheap in China, a far poorer land of over a billion people, ruled by a ruthless Communist Party eager to bury its mistakes. But an examination of two of the greatest public-health scandals of the last few years casts serious doubt on this widespread belief.

First, consider the details of the Chinese infant formula scandal of 2008. Unscrupulous businessmen had discovered they could save money by greatly diluting their milk products, then adding a plastic chemical compound called melamine to raise the apparent protein content back to normal levels. Nearly 300,000 babies throughout China had suffered urinary problems, with many hundreds requiring lengthy hospitalization for kidney stones. Six died. A wave of popular outrage swept past the controlled media roadblocks and initial government excuses, and soon put enormous pressure on Chinese officials to take forceful action against the wrongdoers.

China’s leaders may not be democratically elected, but they pay close attention to strong popular sentiment. Once pressed, they quickly launched a national police investigation which led to a series of arrests and uncovered evidence that this widespread system of food adulteration had been protected by bribe-taking government officials. Long prison sentences were freely handed out and a couple of the guiltiest culprits were eventually tried and executed for their role, measures that gradually assuaged popular anger. Indeed, the former head of the Chinese FDA had been executed for corruption in late 2007 under similar circumstances.

Throughout these events, American media coverage was extensive, with numerous front-page stories in our leading newspapers. Journalists discovered that similar methods of dangerous chemical adulteration had been used to produce Chinese pet food for export, and many family dogs in America had suffered or died as a result. With heavy coverage on talk radio and cable news shows, phrases such as “Chinese baby formula” or “Chinese pet food” became angry slurs, and there was talk of banning whole categories of imports from a country whose product safety standards were obviously so far below those found in Western societies. The legitimate concerns of ordinary Americans were fanned by local media coverage that sometimes bordered on the hysterical.

However, the American media reaction had been quite different during an earlier health scandal much closer to home.

In September 2004, Merck, one of America’s largest pharmaceutical companies, suddenly announced that it was voluntarily recalling Vioxx, its popular anti-pain medication widely used to treat arthritis-related ailments. This abrupt recall came just days after Merck discovered that a top medical journal was about to publish a massive study by an FDA investigator indicating that the drug in question greatly increased the risk of fatal heart attacks and strokes and had probably been responsible for at least 55,000 American deaths during the five years it had been on the market.

Within weeks of the recall, journalists discovered that Merck had found strong evidence of the potentially fatal side-effects of this drug even before its initial 1999 introduction, but had ignored these worrisome indicators and avoided additional testing, while suppressing the concerns of its own scientists. Boosted by a television advertising budget averaging a hundred million dollars per year, Vioxx soon became one of Merck’s most lucrative products, generating over $2 billion in yearly revenue. Merck had also secretly ghostwritten dozens of the published research studies emphasizing the beneficial aspects of the drug and encouraging doctors to widely prescribe it, thus transforming science into marketing support. Twenty-five million Americans were eventually prescribed Vioxx as an aspirin-substitute thought to produce fewer complications.

Although the Vioxx scandal certainly did generate several days of newspaper headlines and intermittently returned to the front pages as the resulting lawsuits gradually moved through our judicial system, the coverage still seemed scanty relative to the number of estimated fatalities, which matched America’s total losses in the Vietnam War. In fact, the media coverage often seemed considerably less than that later accorded to the Chinese infant food scandal, which had caused just a handful of deaths on the other side of the world.

The circumstances of this case were exceptionally egregious, with many tens of thousands of American deaths due to the sale of a highly lucrative but sometimes fatal drug, whose harmful effects had long been known to its manufacturer. But there is no sign that criminal charges were ever considered.

A massive class-action lawsuit dragged its way through the courts for years, eventually being settled for $4.85 billion in 2007, with almost half the money going to the trial lawyers. Merck shareholders also paid large sums to settle various other lawsuits and government penalties and cover the heavy legal costs of fighting all of these cases. But the loss of continuing Vioxx sales represented the greatest financial penalty of all, which provides a disturbing insight into the cost-benefit calculations behind the company’s original cover-up. When the scandal broke, Merck’s stock price collapsed, and there was a widespread belief that the company could not possibly survive, especially after evidence of a deliberate corporate conspiracy surfaced. Instead, Merck’s stock price eventually reached new heights in 2008 and today is just 15 percent below where it stood just before the disaster.

Furthermore, individuals make decisions rather than corporate entities, and none of the individuals behind Merck’s deadly decisions apparently suffered any serious consequences. The year after the scandal unfolded, Merck’s long-time CEO resigned and was replaced by one of his top lieutenants, but he retained the $50 million in financial compensation he had received over the previous five years, compensation greatly boosted by lucrative Vioxx sales. Senior FDA officials apologized for their lack of effective oversight and promised to do better in the future. American media conglomerates quietly mourned their loss of heavy Vioxx advertising, but continued selling the same airtime to Merck and its rivals for the marketing of other, replacement drugs, while their investigative arms soon focused on the horrors of tainted Chinese infant food and the endemic corruption of Chinese society.

This story of serious corporate malfeasance largely forgiven and forgotten by government and media is depressing enough, but it leaves out a crucial factual detail that seems to have almost totally escaped public notice. The year after Vioxx had been pulled from the market, the New York Times and other major media outlets published a minor news item, generally buried near the bottom of their back pages, which noted that American death rates had suddenly undergone a striking and completely unexpected decline.

The headline of the short article that ran in the April 19, 2005 edition of USA Today was typical: “USA Records Largest Drop in Annual Deaths in at Least 60 Years.” During that one year, American deaths had fallen by 50,000 despite the growth in both the size and the age of the nation’s population. Government health experts were quoted as being greatly “surprised” and “scratching [their] heads” over this strange anomaly, which was led by a sharp drop in fatal heart attacks.

On April 24, 2005, the New York Times ran another of its long stories about the continuing Vioxx controversy, disclosing that Merck officials had knowingly concealed evidence that their drug greatly increased the risk of heart-related fatalities. But the Times journalist made no mention of the seemingly inexplicable drop in national mortality rates that had occurred once the drug was taken off the market, although the news had been reported in his own paper just a few days earlier.

A cursory examination of the most recent 15 years worth of national mortality data provided on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website offers some intriguing clues to this mystery. We find the largest rise in American mortality rates occurred in 1999, the year Vioxx was introduced, while the largest drop occurred in 2004, the year it was withdrawn. Vioxx was almost entirely marketed to the elderly, and these substantial changes in national death-rate were completely concentrated within the 65-plus population. The FDA studies had proven that use of Vioxx led to deaths from cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and strokes, and these were exactly the factors driving the changes in national mortality rates.

The impact of these shifts was not small. After a decade of remaining roughly constant, the overall American death rate began a substantial decline in 2004, soon falling by approximately 5 percent, despite the continued aging of the population. This drop corresponds to roughly 100,000 fewer deaths per year. The age-adjusted decline in death rates was considerably greater.

Patterns of cause and effect cannot easily be proven. But if we hypothesize a direct connection between the recall of a class of very popular drugs proven to cause fatal heart attacks and other deadly illnesses with an immediate drop in the national rate of fatal heart attacks and other deadly illnesses, then the statistical implications are quite serious. Perhaps 500,000 or more premature American deaths may have resulted from Vioxx, a figure substantially larger than the 3,468 deaths of named individuals acknowledged by Merck during the settlement of its lawsuit. And almost no one among our political or media elites seems to know or care about this possibility. A recent Wall Street Journal column even called for relaxing FDA restrictions aimed at avoiding “rare adverse events,” which had been imposed after the discovery of “unanticipated side effects of high-profile drugs like Vioxx.”

There are obvious mitigating differences between these two national responses. The Chinese victims were children, and their sufferings from kidney stones and other ailments were directly linked to the harmful compounds that they had ingested. By contrast, the American victims were almost all elderly, and there was no means of determining whether a particular heart attack had been caused by Vioxx or other factors; the evidence implicating the drug was purely statistical, across millions of patients. Furthermore, since most of the victims were anyway nearing the end of their lives, the result was more an acceleration of the inevitable rather than cutting short an entire young life, and sudden fatal heart attacks are hardly the most unpleasant forms of death.

But against these important factors we must consider the raw numbers involved. American journalists seemed to focus more attention on a half-dozen fatalities in China than they did on the premature deaths of as many as 500,000 of their fellow American citizens.

The inescapable conclusion is that in today’s world and in the opinion of our own media, American lives are quite cheap, unlike those in China.

April 20, 2012 Posted by | Corruption, Deception, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , | 3 Comments

Israel’s Mental Illness

They Can’t Stop Building Walls

By FRANKLIN LAMB | CounterPunch | April 20, 2012

Beirut – It may be that researchers would want to examine as long ago as the period from the 3rd century BC until the beginning of the 17th century in order to find a regime so frenetically building walls and barriers in a hopeless quest to hold onto stolen lands as we in Lebanon may soon witness in the south of the country.  It was back in 221 BC that in order to protect China from the land claims of the Xiongnu people from Mongolia, the Xiongnu tribe being China’s main enemy at that time who sought the return of lands they claimed the Chinese had stolen, that the emperor Qin Shi Huang ordered the construction of a wall to guard China’s territorial gains.

Lots of walls have been built throughout history to preserve occupied lands.The Romans built Hadrian’s Wall in England  to keeep the Picts out and the East Germans built the Berlin wall to keep the people in. But no regime in history has built, in the span of six decades, the number of walls as the paranoid regime in Tel Aviv has erected. And it plans at least five more “anti-terrorist protective walls” including one slated to begin soon along the Lebanese-Palestine border at the Lebanese village of Kfar Kila. And that one may present a problem.

The decision to build a wall “to replace the existing Israeli technical fence” along the Blue Line near the town of Kfar Kila was announced last month by Tel Aviv.  The announcement followed a meeting between the Israel military and UNIFIL and both are keeping fairly mum about what it knows about this latest wall but UNIFIL spokesman Neeraj Singh hinted to this observer that the first section will be about half a mile long and approximately 16 feet high.

Some south Lebanon residents are strongly objecting for among other reasons that the high wall will block the scenic views into Palestine.  Others are ridiculing the reasons for the wall expressed by the US-Israeli lobby that will ask the American taxpayer to pay for it.

Israel firster, David Schenker, from the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, set up by AIPAC, told a Congressional hearing recently: “South Lebanon is obviously a very sensitive area [for Israel], being so close to Metula and the possibility of infiltration by Hezbollah and Palestinians is a legitimate concern. The Israeli government believes that this wall will prevent terrorists from launching direct line-of-sight firing of things like RPGs and mortars. Even the throwing of stones which some tourists visiting the area are in the habit of doing.”

Local observers, UNIFIL officials and experts like Timor Goksel, who worked as UNIFIL’s spokesman for 24 years along the blue line, expressed surprise at why Israel is claiming that Kfar Kila is a particularly dangerous area that needs a wall.

In point of fact the area has not been a particularly hazardous or “sensitive” one historically, even when the PLO controlled the area in the 1970’s.  Goksel explained; “In my 24 years’ experience, there were never any attacks there because it’s adjacent to a Lebanese village, so any attack there will make life for the Lebanese difficult. I don’t think anybody has ever thought of doing anything there. Moreover, even if you cross into Israel at Kifa Kula there, you’re not going to come across an Israeli position for a long time, so it doesn’t make sense for anyone to attack from there. What are you going to attack? There’s no target.”

Some local observers are speculating that the real reason Israel wants the barrier in Kfar Kila might be to stop its troops from bargaining for drugs in exchange for weapons and classified military information, as the IDF’s drug problem among its “northern command” soldiers has escalated since the battering it took in the July 2006 war.

Israel’s newest frontier wall will follow the one being erected along the 150-mile boundary between the Sinai and Negev deserts.  That wall building project is due to be completed by the end of this year of 2012. Once the Kfar Kila wall is finished, Israel will be almost completely enclosed by steel, barbed wire and concrete, leaving only the southern border with Jordan between the Dead and Red Seas without a physical barrier. But that too, may be walled in the future according to Shenker. He testified that the reason was due to the uncertainty in Jordan and its increasingly wobbly government.

Yet another wall, approximately seven miles from the Mediterranean along the southern border will meet the fence Israel has already been built around Gaza.  This wall runs for 32 miles, with a buffer zone, which Palestinians are forbidden from entering, and extends close to 1,000 meters inside the narrow Gaza Strip, walling off more prime Palestinian agricultural land. This   “security war” has caged Palestinians inside Gaza but did not prevent the cross-border capture of IDF soldier Gilad Shalit in 2006.

Along the Palestine-Lebanon border, a barrier built by Israel in the 1970s along the boundary was reconstructed, after Israel was forced out of Lebanon in 2000 following a 22-year occupation. This barrier did not prevent Hezbollah in a cross-border ambush in 2006, capturing two Israeli soldiers in order to negotiate a prisoner exchange. Nor did it prevent Hezbollah from firing of thousands of rockets during the ensuing 33-day war in retaliation for Israel bombing much of south Lebanon.

And the “protective walls”  rise like mushrooms after a summer rain.

Further east from Lebanon, an Israeli barrier has been constructed on the ceasefire line drawn at the end of the 1973 Yom Kippur war, running between the Golan Heights, which Israel has illegally occupied for nearly 45 years, and Syria.  It was here that hundreds of pro-Palestinian demonstrators entered occupied Palestine last May, in the Golan and along the Lebanese border. More than a dozen people were killed and scores injured when Zionist forces opened fire on the unarmed civilians.

A crossing at Quneitra, now operated by the UN, does allow some movement of UN personnel, truckloads of apples, a few Druze students and the occasional Syrian bride in white.

A few miles north of Quneitra is Shouting Hill, where Druze families in the Golan yell greetings across the barrier to relatives in Syria.

Moving south through heavily mined fields and hills, the 1973 ceasefire line is bordered by Israeli military bases and closed military zones, and shells of tanks from past battles, until it connects with the border with Jordan. It then joins with one of Israel’s first walls, constructed in the late 1960s, which now stretches almost from the Sea of Galilee down the Jordan Valley to the Dead Sea. Most of this line is not Israel’s border, but rather a barrier separating Jordan from the Israeli-occupied West Bank.

Around a third of the way down this stretch, the barrier joins the infamous huge steel-and-concrete West Bank wall. This runs along or inside the 1949 armistice line, swallowing up tracts of Palestinian agricultural land, slicing through communities and separating farmers from their fields and olive trees. As with its other 18 walls and barriers, the Zionist regime claims it is simply a security measure, but many believe it marks the boundaries of a future Palestinian state, consuming an additional 12 per cent of the West Bank. Approximately two-thirds of its 465-mile length is complete, mostly as a steel fence with wide exclusion zones on either side. According to the current route, 8.5 per cent of the West Bank territory and 27,520 Palestinians are on the “Israeli” side of the barrier. Another 3.4 percent of the area (with 247,800 inhabitants) is completely or partially surrounded by the barrier.

Two similar barriers, the Israeli Gaza Strip barrier and the Israeli-built  7-9 meter (23 – 30 ft) wall separating Gaza from Egypt (temporarily breached on January 23, 2008), which is currently under Egyptian control, are also widely condemned by the international community.

Returning to the subject of the latest wall project, increasingly the Zionist regime opposes discussions, hearings, visits, expressions of solidarity with Palestinians, and even the viewing its garrison state from south Lebanon.  Cutting off a view that people throughout history have marveled at represents a continuation of its isolation and xenophobia.

Following the joint meeting at Kkar Kila noted above, UNIFIL Major-General Serra said: “The meeting was called to assist Israel in putting in place additional security measures along the Blue Line in the Kafr Kila area in order to minimize the scope for sporadic tensions or any misunderstandings that could lead to escalation of the situation.”

In fact, the opposite with likely happen.  In a recent visit to Ahmad Jibril’s Palestinian camp in the Bekaa Valley, and in discussion with salafist groups in Saida, it’s plain the wall will likely become an object of target practice and further strain UNIFIL and Hezbollah efforts to keep the border calm.

In a scathing commentary in Yedioth Ahronoth, Israel’s biggest-selling newspaper, defense analyst Alex Fishman recently wrote: “We have become a nation that imprisons itself behind fences, which huddles terrified behind defensive shields.” It has become, he said, a “national mental illness”.

Franklin Lamb is doing research in Lebanon and is reachable c/o  fplamb@gmail.com

April 20, 2012 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Timeless or most popular | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Military Abuse Video You Haven’t Heard About

By Lindsay Pollard Post | PETA | January 31, 2012

Americans and Afghans alike are rightly outraged over a video circulating on the Internet that allegedly shows U.S. Marines urinating on Taliban corpses. Pentagon officials are scrambling to do damage control, fearing that the video will hinder peace talks, and military officials are promising that those involved will be punished to the highest extent. But another video that surfaced recently also merits outrage and action: It shows a soldier viciously beating a sheep with a baseball bat while other soldiers laugh and cheer.

Blow after metallic, stomach-churning blow rains down on the terrified sheep’s skull. The convulsing and kicking animal tries in vain to rise and flee, but the man with the bat just keeps swinging. A local boy in the background jumps up and down in apparent delight while the sheep struggles on the ground. After much public outcry, military officials are finally investigating the video.

Animals don’t start wars. They don’t have political views, militaries or weapons. Yet they are often the victims of cruelty in combat zones. In 2008, video surfaced of a smiling Marine who hurled a live puppy off a cliff while another Marine laughed. Thankfully, after a massive public outcry and pressure from PETA, the puppy-tossing Marine was expelled, and another Marine in the video faced disciplinary action.

The same year, video that was allegedly taken from a CD found in Baghdad’s Green Zone depicts what appear to be U.S. soldiers taunting and tormenting a dog whose back legs were apparently crippled. The laughing men threw rocks at the dog, who snarled and yelped in pain before making a desperate attempt to flee on two legs. One of the men in the video said the dog’s attempt to run was “the funniest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.” Many other similar incidents of abuse have been recorded on video, and many more likely never see the light of day.

Whether the abuser is a military service member or a regular Joe, cruelty to animals isn’t “normal” behavior, and it must be taken seriously, for everyone’s safety. People who find pleasure or humor in harming animals aren’t just cruel; they’re also cowards because they target “easy victims” who don’t have any hope of fighting back.

Mental-health and law-enforcement professionals know that animal abusers’ disregard for life and indifference to suffering indicate a dangerous psychopathy that does not confine itself to animal victims. A history of cruelty to animals regularly shows up in the FBI records of serial rapists and murderers, and a study by Northeastern University and the Massachusetts SPCA found that people who abuse animals are five times more likely to commit violent crimes against humans. Violence is a fact of war, but the depravity shown by the sheep-beating soldier and the sick pleasure the onlookers seemed to derive from watching the beating are red flags.

All the students who have opened fire on their classmates have histories of cruelty to animals. “BTK” killer Dennis Rader, who was convicted of killing 10 people, admitted that he was cruel to animals as a child and apparently practiced strangling dogs and cats before moving on to human victims. Serial killer and cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer tortured animals and impaled cats’ and dogs’ heads on sticks. The Boston Strangler, Albert DeSalvo, used arrows to shoot cats and dogs who were trapped inside crates.

Whether it occurs at home or in a war zone, there is never an excuse for harming animals. The stakes of cruelty to animals are far too high to ignore it, to excuse it or to let those who commit it go unpunished. It’s time for the military to treat acts of cruelty to animals with the seriousness that they deserve.

April 20, 2012 Posted by | Militarism, Subjugation - Torture, Timeless or most popular | , , , , | Leave a comment

More than 1 Million Venezuelans Benefit from Land Reform Program

Correo del Orinoco International | April 20, 2012

The President of Venezuela’s National Land Institute (INTI), Luis Motta Dominguez, affirmed that more than 224,000 families have benefited from redistributed farmlands made available through the Chavez administration’s agrarian reform program.

The announcement was made during an interview with state television on Tuesday when Motta gave an update on the progress being made with respect to the country’s land redistribution program.

“It we take an average of 5 people per family, then we’re talking about 1.3 million people who have benefited from the redistribution”, the INTI President said while interviewed on the program Toda Venezuela (All of Venezuela).

Venezuela’s agrarian reform began in November 2001 when President Hugo Chavez signed by decree the Land Law, mandating the break up of fallow landed estates, known in Spanish as latifundios. The law gives the state the legal authority to expropriate any lands underutilized or illegally acquired and redistribute them to farming collectives comprised of wage workers previously without access to their own parcels.

According to Motta, INTI has been able to regularize some 7.7 million hectares (19 million acres) of land over the past 11 years and redistribute some 1.1 million (2.7 million) of those to rural laborers involved in state projects.

“The expropriation of these lands happens when there is a latifundio. We need to act so that these lands that were once concentrated in the hands of a single person and weren’t being used are handed over to the small producer”, the Land Institute President declared.

In addition to providing land and meaningful work to rural laborers, Venezuela’s land redistribution program is also designed to help decrease the country’s reliance on imported food items, a historical problem in the OPEC member state.

This is done, Motta informed, by turning the once underutilized lands into productive tracts in line with the country’s needs.

“All those lands that are not productive are being rescued. They’re being handed over to collectives or to agro-ecological projects in order to consolidate the food security and development. There is a constant monitoring and we’ve seen how production has increased throughout the national territory”, he said on Tuesday.

Recently, the government introduced a new program, Mission AgroVenezuela, with a similar goal – to stimulate agricultural production by providing assistance to any farmer willing to dedicate their land to domestic production.

The assistance comes in the form of low-interest credits through state financing as well as access to technical aid, supplies and farming machinery such as tractors and harvesters.

These initiatives along with continual evaluation and rescue of fallow lands have led, Motta argued, to greater work opportunities and higher living standards for Venezuela’s small farmers.

April 20, 2012 Posted by | Economics, Timeless or most popular | , , , | Leave a comment

Palestinian teen shot during Israeli military training

Ma’an – 20/04/2012

TUBAS – Israeli soldiers shot an 18-year-old shepherd in the chest on Thursday evening during military training exercises in the northern West Bank, medics said.

Yasir Suleiman Nijad Kaabnah was shot while herding sheep and camels near Wadi al-Maleh in the northern Jordan Valley, medics told Ma’an.

Salem Kaabneh, the victim’s uncle who was with him when he was shot, told Ma’an that Israeli troops who were training in the area fired at Suleiman injuring him in the chest.

Medical officials said soldiers refused to help the wounded teenager and he was taken in a private car to hospital in Tubas. He was transferred to Rafadea Hospital in Nablus, where he is in a critical condition in intensive care.

An Israeli military spokeswoman was not immediately familiar with the incident.

Palestinian Authority police have opened an investigation into the shooting.

The local village council said Israeli military training in the area had caused several casualties because shepherds were not warned when or where the exercises would take place.

The council urged human rights groups to pressure the Israeli army not to train near civilian populations.

April 20, 2012 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Subjugation - Torture | , , | Leave a comment

Report: Greek aid likely conditioned on arms deals

Press TV – April 20, 2012

Financial aid to cash-strapped Greece is suspected to have been conditioned on the country’s managing to clinch arms deals with Germany and France, a report reveals.

“Speculation is rife that international aid for the country was contingent on Greece following through on agreements to purchase military hardware from Germany and France,” The Guardian said on Thursday.

Germany’s biggest arms market in Europe is Greece with around 15 percent of its total arms sales heading there.

Earlier in January, German Chancellor Angela Merkel told a joint news conference with French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Berlin, “We must see progress on the voluntary restructuring of Greek debt.”

Merkel and Sarkozy both insisted to press ahead with a greater “fiscal compact” in Europe, and tougher penalties for the countries that violated the eurozone’s budget rules.

Greece’s Deputy Prime Minister Theodore Pangalos regretted during a May 2010 visit by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that Athens was spending so much money on arms.

He said the country was being “forced to buy weapons” and that the deals made him feel “national shame.”

Thanos Dokos, a leading Greek defense expert, said the country had 1,300 tanks, more than twice the number in the UK and far beyond its needs.

Greece has the highest debt burden in proportion to the size of its economy in the 17-nation eurozone. Despite austerity cuts and bailout funds, the country has been in recession since 2009.

In order to secure an EUR-130-billion bailout package funded mostly by the eurozone member states and the International Monetary Fund, the country had to adopt harsh austerity measures, including massive cuts to its private and public sector wages, pensions, as well as health and defense spending, which have worsened the economic recession, leading to thousands of job losses.

April 20, 2012 Posted by | Corruption, Economics, Militarism | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 519 other followers