Last Thursday 18 year old shepherd Yasir Sulaiman Sal man Najadah was shot in the chest by Israeli soldiers taking part in military training exercises near the Tyraseer training zone.
If one walks towards the Bedouin community of Wadi al-Maleh in the Jordan Valley, they will see one of the 67 blocks of concrete placed by Israeli military in the area, the words “Danger – Firing Zone – Entrance Forbidden” audaciously inscribed.
The village is only a few hundred meters away from an Israeli military base, and the villagers of Wadi al-Maleh are frequently endangered as Israeli soldiers carry out military training. In the past year, the village has lost two young men, both killed whilst shepherding as they inadvertently triggered unexploded ordnance.
“I was standing in the field with 19 camels,” said Yasir. According to Yasir, army jeeps typically comb the area to alert herders before shooting exercises begin however on April 19th, no warnings were issued before the firing of live ammunition began. Yasir was shot at a distance of approximately 1 to 1.5 kilometers, and he believes that the soldiers saw him before shooting.
He did not see the soldiers and only became aware of their presence after the shooting began; he believes they were behind a nearby hill. After the bullet entered his chest, Yasir walked to his home where he was then driven to the training base by his father for medical attention.
Israeli soldiers refused to treat him and denied fault in the shooting. It was nearly two hours before Yasir received medical treatment in Rafadia Hospital in Nablus. Yasir spent 1 day in Rafadia Hospital and was then transferred to a hospital in Ramallah.
According to his doctor, Yasir is in stable condition but remains in the Palestinian Authority hospital ICU after the shooting.
Yasir is the eldest of eight children and left school after the 10th grade to tend to the family’s heard of camels and sheep which is the main source of income for his family. He says his father is too old to take care of the animals and is concerned that no one is tending to them while he is in the hospital. Despite being shot, Yasir says he must return to the area surrounding the Tyraseer training zone for grazing because it is the only spring-time grazing near his village.
Aref Dyragma chief of council in Wadi al-Maleh, was one of the first persons to be informed about the attack. As Dyragma shows us around al-Maleh, he described how the Bedouins are exposed to systematic violence.
“Life is like hell here”, he said. “We have no running water, no electricity and we are prohibited from building anything. Israel has taken control of all the natural water resources, which forces us to walk 15 kilometers to the city of Tamoun, where we can buy expensive water.”
The violence used against Palestinians in the Jordan Valley is part of process of ethnic cleansing. 130 families from the area have received demolition and evacuation orders – but Dyragma ensures that they will stay.
“We have no other choice – this our land and we cannot leave.”
- Palestinian teen shot during Israeli military training (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Israeli soldiers assault cycling group in Jordan Valley (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Jordan Valley Resident Forcibly Removed from Home (altahrir.wordpress.com)
- IOF planning eviction of Palestinian inhabitants in Jordan Valley (occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com)
The Reuters bureau chief in Iran is to appear before a Tehran court in the coming days over an earlier report by the London-based news agency describing female Iranian martial arts students as “assassins,” Press TV reports.
In a February 16 report, Reuters claimed that “thousands of female ninjas train as Iran’s assassins.”
The Reuters report also accused the Iranian government of training hired murderers, which the court will be addressing as well.
Judicial sources have told Press TV that Reuters bureau chief Parisa Hafezi will have to respond to the charges.
Earlier, a number of Iranian students shown in the Reuters video clip filed a lawsuit against the news agency over charges of defamation.
Iran has suspended the activities of the Reuters office in Tehran over the issue.
- Reuters fails to rectify manipulated report on female Iranian ninjas (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- France refuses to give Press TV team visas; no explanation offered (alethonews.wordpress.com)
MOSCOW – About 25,000 metric tons of chemical weapons, or 62 percent of Russia’s stockpile, have been destroyed by April 29, the day when the International Chemical Weapons Convention came into force.
In 15 years Russia destroyed about two thirds of its world-largest stockpile of 40,000 metric tons. The goal is to destroy 100 percent of chemical weapons in Russia by 2015.
The 188 states parties to the Convention initially planned to destroy all chemical weapons in the world by 2012. Russia and the United States, who have 40,000 and 27,000 metric tons of chemical weapons, respectively, said they were behind schedule and the deadline was postponed until December 31, 2015.
The U.S. said it had already destroyed about 90 percent of its chemical weapons. The Department of Defense, however, postponed the deadline for destroying the remaining 2,000 metric tons first until 2021 and then until 2023.
As of January 31, 2012, more than 50,000 metric tons of chemical weapons, or 73 percent of the global stockpile, have been destroyed.
The convention came into force on April 29, 1997, and 188 out of 195 UN member states have joined it. Myanmar and Israel are signatories to the treaty, but are yet to ratify it. Only Angola, North Korea, Egypt, Somalia and Syria are still outside the convention.
The countries that officially admitted having chemical weapons are Albania, Libya, Iraq, India, Russia, the United States and South Korea.
Google bosses were informed their Street View cars would collect e-mails, names, addresses and other personal data from Wi-Fi users around the world, a government report shows. But the company insists the message didn’t get through.
Neither a mistake nor the work of an unauthorized engineer was behind Google’s massive harvesting of Wi-Fi communications that included e-mails, passwords and other sensitive personal information across three continents in 2007-2010, indicates the recent report filed by the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
The supervisors of the Street View program were well aware Google cars would go beyond photographing streetscapes. Or at least they should have been.
On Saturday, the web giant releases their own version of report – with employees’ names blacked out. An earlier version provided by the FCC had whole blocks of text blacked out.
The search giant said it wanted a more transparent version to be shown to the public as evidence that any wrongdoing by the company was inadvertent. Apparently, the company wants to avoid speculation over what could have been withheld from the initial release and thus limit any damage.
The report confirms Google’s engineer behind the data-collecting software voluntarily embarked on a project to gather personal e-mails and Web searches of potentially hundreds of millions of people. Identified as Engineer Doe, the individual declined to speak to the FCC, invoking Fifth Amendment rights, which protects citizens from being compelled to testify against themselves.
The design document prepared by Engineer Doe clearly shows his intention to collect payload data in addition to taking panoramic snapshots, as Google’s cars drove by. The private data would “be analyzed offline for use in other initiatives,” like finding how well Google’s other services are used, the document said.
Privacy consideration did come to his mind. “A typical concern might be that we are logging user traffic along with sufficient data to precisely triangulate their position at a given time, along with information about what they were doing,” the document says.
Engineer Doe decided that no harm will be done because Google’s data harvesters would not remain in the vicinity of any particular Wi-Fi user for “an extended period of time.” Nevertheless he added the following “to do” item: “Discuss privacy considerations with Product Counsel.”
“That never occurred,” the FCC report says.
The employee also “specifically told two engineers working on the project, including a senior manager, about collecting payload data.” It actually appears that at least seven Street View engineers had “wide access” to the plan to collect payload data back in 2007.
Engineer Doe’s code was used to collect some 200 gigabytes of payload data across the US between January 2008 and April 2010. Similar logging of private data happened across the world, which made Google the butt of investigations by respective authorities.
The report further cites a number of other people involved in the project as failing to recall knowing that collecting of payload data was happening at the time. Those include an engineer, whose job was reviewing Engineer Doe’s code line by line for bugs and a senior manager, who said he pre-approved the man’s document before it was written.
Following the investigation the FCC fined Google $25,000 for obstructing its investigation, including withholding an email, that openly discussed the engineer’s review of payload data with a senior manager on the Street view project.
It ruled that since the payload data collected was not encrypted, the act didn’t violate American wiretapping law, but said it has “significant factual questions” about why this ever happened.
Google denied stonewalling the probe and blamed the FCC for any delays.
- Google staffers knew Street View cars collected private data (digitaltrends.com)
The Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) was dealt a major blow on April 12 when MEP David Martin, the European Parliament’s rapporteur for the agreement and member of the Committee responsible for delivering the recommendation [doc] to European Parliament to adopt or reject the agreement, announced that he would be recommending a “no” vote. While the prospects of the European Parliament ratifying the agreement seems to have fortunately lessened, it does not mean that it’s a fait accompli that the European Parliament will reject ACTA. As we’ve noted before, ACTA is a plurilateral agreement designed to broaden and extend existing intellectual property enforcement laws to the Internet. It was negotiated in secret by a handful of countries, in a process that intentionally bypassed the checks and balances of existing international IP norm-setting bodies without any meaningful input from national parliaments, policymakers, or their citizens. In our second post on the ACTA State of Play, we’ll look at what’s happening in Europe and why we should all be keeping a close eye on what’s happening in Brussels. (For those interested in US developments, please see our previous post here).
While the EU and 22 of its 27 member states signed ACTA in January, the European Parliament must vote to adopt it for it to become part of European Union law. A complex process is underway involving five European Parliamentary committees. The first step involves four committees: the Committee on Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE), the Committee on Industry, Research and Energy (ITRE), the Legal Affairs Committee (JURI), and the Development Committee (DEVE). Each must each review ACTA according to their Committee’s particular subject matter expertise, and deliver an opinion to the fifth and lead Committee, the International Trade Committee (INTA).
The INTA Committee plays the key role of recommending ACTA’s adoption or rejection to European Parliament. While INTA’s opinion is highly influential, it is not binding. The final step in the ratification process is a plenary vote of the Members of European Parliament. MEPs must decide whether to adopt or reject ACTA in its entirety; no amendments are allowed. The vote is currently scheduled for early July, but it may occur later. Here are two great infographics from the European Parliament and from French organizations La Quadrature du Net and Owni.eu which illustrate the whole process.
Apart from this process at the EU level, individual EU member states must decide whether or not to ratify ACTA. This is because the agreement requires countries to put in place broader criminal sanctions for those who infringe IP, and for those who aid and abet them. EU law is not harmonized in relation to criminal penalties for IP infringement. Criminal laws are within the exclusive legislative power of the individual EU member states and so they must ratify ACTA for those provisions to be given effect. Five member states have now suspended ratification of ACTA (Latvia, Poland, Czech Republic, Slovakia, the Netherlands and Bulgaria) and Germany has said that it will wait to see how the European Parliament votes before deciding to ratify.
There are many moving pieces in this puzzle and they each exert different levels of influence on the European Parliament’s vote. The European Commission referred ACTA to the European Court of Justice, the highest court in Europe, on February 22 for an opinion on its compliance with EU law. The European Parliament’s INTA Committee, at the instigation of MEP David Martin, the current Rapporteur of ACTA within the European Parliament, considered but rejected its own referral of ACTA to the European Court of Justice in March. If this had gone ahead, it would have delayed the European Parliament’s plenary vote beyond July. The European Data Protection Supervisor issued an opinion [pdf] on the European Parliament’s proposed accession to ACTA on April 24 that obliquely criticized ACTA by noting that it permits measures for indiscriminate monitoring of communications that would be disproportionate for small scale infringements. Specifically, it includes voluntary cooperative enforcement measures that would permit ISPs to process personal data beyond what is permitted under EU law, and lacks the necessary limitations and safeguards to protect EU citizens’ personal data under EU law.
On April 12, the Rapporteur of ACTA within the European Parliament, MEP David Martin of the INTA Committee, announced that he would be recommending that the European Parliament vote no on ACTA, but suggested that the Commission could negotiate an alternative proposal. His recommendation concluded that:
Your rapporteur therefore recommends that the European Parliament declines to give consent to ACTA. In doing so, it is important to note that increased IP rights protection for European producers trading in the global marketplace is of high importance. Following the expected revision of relevant EU directives, your rapporteur hopes the European Commission will therefore come forward with new proposals for protecting IP.
While this should indeed be seen as a major blow to the prospects of a speedy ratification by the European Parliament and a rebuke to the European Commission which took the lead in negotiating ACTA for the EU, it does not mean that ACTA is dead in the EU.
Last week, several of the four committees involved in the first step of the process were scheduled to publish their opinions and deliver them to the INTA committee. These opinions are likely to be heavily influenced by the appointed Rapporteur for each committee. They are reportedly equally divided. Two of the four Rapporteurs oppose ACTA and two are strong supporters. EDRi has posted a draft opinion of the influential Legal Affairs Committee (JURI) rapporteur, MEP Marielle Gallo, who is a strong ACTA supporter. She had previously been proposing a fast vote on her draft opinion within JURI, but on April 26, she pushed instead for JURI to postpone its vote on the opinion. This seems like a further delaying tactic by ACTA supporters to slow down the process within the European Parliament until they’ve got the numbers for a yes vote while the fierce lobbying campaign continues apace in Brussels.
Everything comes down to how MEPs vote in the Parliamentary plenary vote. MEPs in European Parliament are members of political parties, and analysts in Europe are now trying to tabulate how the political party groups will vote on ACTA. As Joe McNamee, the Brussels-based Advocacy Co-ordinator for European Digital Rights noted in an insightful piece last week, the numbers look closer than you might think: 52.5% of the Parliament opposed to ACTA, to 47.5% in favor, if you extrapolate from the views of the Rapporteurs of the four committees involved in the first ratification step:
To put it in another way, if just 20 MEPs have their minds changed as a result of the massive lobbying campaign currently underway and organised by the European Commission and big business interests, then ACTA will be adopted. The situation becomes even more precarious when we consider that it often happens that more than 5% of MEPs do not vote (either absent or abstaining) meaning that the chances of the current tiny majority being sufficient are more a matter of luck than anything else.
We are at a stage where every single vote in the European Parliament is of huge value. If the pro-ACTA message of the rapporteurs in the Legal Affairs and (shockingly) the Development Committee prevail, this will create a new momentum and will be used to “prove” that ACTA is a legitimate proposal.
Assuming that the anti-democratic elements in the European Parliament will not be allowed to have their way, there are two possible outcomes. The first is the anti-ACTA campaign will be anesthetised by complacency – assuming victory, citizens will stop contacting Parliamentarians, will not take part in demonstrations and will reassure MEPs that our attention span is so short that we can be ignored on ACTA, that we can be ignored on the upcoming IPRED Directive, that we can be ignored on the upcoming Data Retention Directive. And we reassure our opponents that no future democratic movement will be able to sustain a campaign as long as needed. We lose. Europe loses.
Or we do our duty for European democracy and maintain our pressure right up until the vote. And then we win. And Europe wins.
The future of ACTA as an international agreement will be decided in Europe. While recent media reports have led many people to conclude that ACTA is dead, this is unfortunately not true. Worse, it’s quite a dangerous misconception to have rebounding through the zeitgeist at a time when we need every possible vote in the European Parliament for ACTA to be rejected in July. Citizens in Europe and elsewhere must now clearly and loudly voice our concerns about this agreement to our elected representatives to counter-balance the content industry lobbyists that are hard at work in Brussels shoring-up support for ACTA. Now is the time to make your views heard. If you’re in the EU, contact your MEPs and urge them to vote no on ACTA.
More information on how to have your views heard is at the following resources:
EDRI’s ACTA campaign page
La Quadrature du Net’s ACTA campaign page
GAZA CITY – Hamas politburo chief Khalid Mashaal on Monday said Israel had broken its promises to improve detainees’ conditions under the last swap deal.
Speaking to reporters after meeting the Egyptian foreign minister in Cairo, Mashaal said the October 2011 deal –which was brokered by Egypt — included pledges to end solitary confinement and other restrictions.
Israel had toughened conditions for Palestinian detainees in a bid to pressure Hamas to release soldier Gilad Shalit. He was freed in October in exchange for 1,047 Palestinian prisoners.
Palestinian detainees launched a mass hunger-strike on April 17 to protest their conditions, with prisoner groups estimating that 2,000 people are now refusing food.
After meeting Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi on Sunday, the leaders decided to petition the UN on the issue of Palestinian and Arab prisoners in Israel.
On Monday, Mashaal briefed Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohammad Kamel Amr on the situation of Palestinian prisoners.
He thanked Egypt for following up on Palestinian affairs, and stressed the importance of seeing through the Egyptian-brokered reconciliation deal with rival party Fatah.
The national government headed by President Mahmoud Abbas — as agreed between the leaders in Doha in February — must be put into place immediately, he said.
The Hamas chief’s agreement that the Fatah leader should head the government caused uproar in Hamas ranks, sparking a new impasse for the embattled reconciliation deal.
- Mishaal discusses prisoners issue with Al Arabi | #PalHunger (occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com)
- Ex-Palestinian prisoner: captivity in Israel, living in graves (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Netanyahu: Abbas must choose between Hamas and peace (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Resheq: Hamas launches broad international campaign to support prisoners’ issue | #PalHunger (occupiedpalestine.wordpress.com)