Pakistan has allowed four trucks containing office supplies for the US Embassy in Kabul to cross into Afghanistan, which is the first time the supply routes have been opened since Islamabad closed them six months ago.
Pakistani officials, speaking condition of anonymity, said that the four trucks recently crossed Pakistan’s Torkham border into Afghanistan, AFP reported on Friday.
“I can confirm that three trucks have gone to Afghanistan and there are also reports about the crossing of the fourth one on Friday,” said one of the officials.
Islamabad closed the border crossings used to transfer NATO supplies to landlocked Afghanistan in November 2011, after 24 Pakistani soldiers were killed in US-led airstrikes on two checkpoints on the Afghan border.
Pakistan has called on the United States to apologize for the November attack, but Washington has refused to do so.
Meanwhile, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has left the country and is traveling to the US at the invitation of NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen to attend the May 20-21 NATO summit in Chicago, during which he will discuss future ties with NATO countries.
The Lebanese army has seized a consignment of weapons and explosives near the Syrian border, apparently destined for armed gangs fighting against the Damascus government.
According to Lebanese sources, the weapons were seized after the army intercepted a pickup truck in the village of Joura in the border region of Masharih al-Qaa late on Thursday.
One gunman was killed and a Lebanese soldier was injured in the exchange of fire between the two sides.
Lebanese troops also discovered a car laden with explosives in the southern city of Sidon.
Several people have been arrested in connection with the incidents.
Syria, which has been experiencing unrest since last year, has repeatedly said that weapons used by armed groups fighting against the government of President Bashar al-Assad are being smuggled into the country from Turkey and Lebanon.
Syria has also accused Saudi Arabia and Qatar, of fueling unrest in the country by funding and arming the anti-Syria gunmen.
Last month, the Lebanese navy intercepted a Sierra Leone-registered ship, Lutfullah II, and confiscated a large consignment of arms and ammunition it was carrying. It is believed that the weapons were bound for armed groups in Syria.
The ship’s owner said it was due to unload in Tripoli in northern Lebanon.
- Huge Weapons Cache Aboard Italian Ship in North Lebanon (alethonews.wordpress.com)
The Arab 48 News Agency reported today that US Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, announced on Thursday that the United States will provide Israel with $70 million in immediate aid for the purchase of additional Iron Dome rocket defense batteries. This was needed for Israel to meet its fiscal requirements for 2012. In addition, he said that the US was in talks with Israel about the possibility of establishing a multi-year budget plan to assist Israel in purchasing additional batteries.
Panetta made the announcement following a meeting with Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak at the Pentagon. Barak was in Washington for talks aimed at coordinating strategy with the US ahead of the second round of talks between western powers and Iran scheduled to open next week in Baghdad.
Since the deployment of the system last year, Iron Dome batteries have intercepted over 90 Katyusha and Kassam rockets fired into Israel from the Gaza Strip.
The new aid package comes after the Obama administration gave Israel $205 million in 2011 and comes on top of the $3 billion Israel receives in annual foreign aid from the United States.
Barak thanked the US for its support and said that Israeli-US defense ties had never been as strong as they were today under the Obama administration. “The US decision to support further enhancing Israel’s security is an important demonstration of the unbreakable bonds between the United States and Israel,” Barak said.
In an interview late Wednesday, Barak told CNN the United States and Israel are essentially “on the same page” over the Iranian nuclear program. “We say loud and clear, the Americans say the same, the president says the same – a nuclear military Iran is unacceptable,” he said. “We are determined to prevent them from turning nuclear. And that no option except for containment, no option should be removed off the table in order to achieve this objective.”
Action on PREA Can End the Violence
Today the Department of Justice released the long-awaited Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) regulations, representing the first time that the federal government has issued national standards to help end sexual abuse in correctional facilities. The regulations are two years late and a lot of harm has been done in their absence, but now that they’ve finally been released they can help us protect important constitutional and human rights and ensure safe and fair correctional facilities that assist prisoners in rehabilitation rather than needlessly brutalizing them. The ACLU supports the Department’s efforts to protect and prevent sexual abuse in places of detention, although we regret that immigration facilities are not yet included in these standards.
Sadly, the problem of prison rape is just as pressing now as it was when Congress passed PREA in 2003. Below is the shameful index of prison rape in prisons, jails and youth detention centers across the country. These numbers reflect a national tragedy. But PREA gives us the critical tools to stop rape in our corrections facilities. Now, federal, state and local governments and the public must take strong and continued action to ensure that the promise of PREA becomes a safe and secure reality.
Number of people imprisoned in the United States: 2.3 million
Number of victims of rape or sexual abuse in U.S. prison, jails and juvenile detention facilities in the past year according to the Justice Department: 216,600 (the DOJ admitted it was likely “underestimating the extent of the problem”)
Number of victims of rape or sexual abuse in U.S. prison, jails and juvenile detention facilities since the initial PREA legislation as signed into law (Sept. 4, 2003): 1,884,909
Number of days past the Department of Justice’s deadline (June 23, 2010) for establishing the final standards: 717
Number of victims of rape or sexual abuse in U.S. prison, jails and juvenile detention facilities since the Department of Justice missed its deadline to establish regulations: 411,332
Percentage of youth in state juvenile facilities and large non-state facilities who experienced one or more incidents of sexual victimization in the past 12 months: 12%
Percentage of youth sexually victimized by a corrections staff member: 10.3%
Percentage of former state prisoners reporting one or more incidents of sexual victimization while in jail, prison or post-release community treatment facilities: 9.6%
Percentage of male former state prisoners who identified as homosexual or gay who reported being sexually victimized by another inmate: 39%
Percentage of male bisexual former state prisoners who reported being sexually victimized by another inmate: 34%
Percentage of transgender prisoners reporting being sexually assaulted in prison or jail according to a national survey: 15%
Percentage of black transgender prisoners reporting being sexually assaulted in prison or jail according to a national survey: 34%
Percentage of former state prisoners who experience retaliation in the form of disciplinary charges after reporting sexual victimization by a staff member: 46.3%
Percentage of former state prisoners who reported no facility response at all, after reporting sexual victimization by another prisoner: 37%
Number of states which allow cross-gender pat downs: 30
Number of reported incidents of sexual abuse in immigration detention facilities since 2007: 185
Number of organizations which urged President Obama to instruct the Department of Justice to extend PREA coverage to immigration detention facilities: 38
Number of members of the National Sheriff’s Association, which called on the Department of Justice to extend its PREA regulations to Department of Homeland Security detention centers: 18,000
Who Are the Evil Ones?
Remember that they (the evil ones) hate our freedoms.
Remember, too, that in the aftermath of 9/11, the war criminals told us this repeatedly. Here’s an example from George W. Bush:
They hate what they see right here in this chamber: a democratically elected government. Their leaders are self-appointed. They hate our freedoms: our freedom of religion, our freedom of speech, our freedom to vote and assemble and disagree with each other.
We must be strong and we must be decisive. We must stop the evil ones, so our children and grandchildren can know peace and security and freedom in the greatest nation on the face of the Earth… We know we’re one people; we know we’re one country. We’re united from coast to coast by a determination and a firm resolve to see that right prevails.
Remember, too, that this freedom, inspiring all that hatred, is enshrined in the Constitution:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
Remember that the words “freedom” and “evil ones” also are enshrined in the language of corporate media “stars” and politicians.
Recall the words Barack Obama spoke during his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech:
The service and sacrifice of our men and women in uniform has promoted peace and prosperity from Germany to Korea, and enabled democracy to take hold in places like the Balkans. We have borne this burden not because we seek to impose our will. We have done so out of enlightened self-interest — because we seek a better future for our children and grandchildren, and we believe that their lives will be better if others’ children and grandchildren can live in freedom and prosperity.
There’s the word “freedom” again. But in this paragraph, it refers to providing liberty to those whose countries we invade and occupy because we “seek” whatever (?) good transpires from granting “freedom and prosperity” to others.
Now, make note that the United States has departments and legislation to protect freedom to prevent the evil ones from inflicting harm. Here’s a list:
Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
Transportation Security Administration (TSA)
Total Information Awareness (TIA)
Military Commissions Act
Homegrown Terrorism Act
House Resolution 347
National Defense Authorization Act
And think about the NATO Summit in Chicago—May 20th and 21st. But first read an article by John LaForge for a stomach-lurching look at NATO’s “mission accomplishments”.
I just took a break from writing this, checked my mail, and read the following from Free Press:
Whether you’re a credentialed journalist, a protester or a bystander with a smartphone, you are guaranteed freedom of speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of access to information. Your right to document public events must also be protected.
Unfortunately, not everyone sees it this way. Conflicts are escalating between those trying to bear witness on one side and local police and government officials on the other. All too often, the First Amendment is caught in the middle.
As protests and election-year events unfold in 2101, we must guard these rights and protect the networks that help us voice our political beliefs. Our First Amendment right to record must extend to everyone.
But Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel has put his official boot on this prerogative (the freedom for which the evil ones hate us) with certain ordinances that will remain in force after the summit:
- Authorization for the Mayor to purchase and deploy surveillance cameras throughout the city, without any type of oversight.
- Restrictions on public activity, including amplified sound and morning gatherings.
- Restrictions on parades, including the requirement to purchase an insurance policy worth $1 million and to register every sign or banner that will be held by more than one person.
- The power to deputize many different types of law enforcement personnel other than the Chicago Police Department.
After 9/11, fear and loss-of-liberty threats became a perfect petri dish for the corporatocracy and a miasma of secrecy, surveillance, intimidation, punitive measures, and endless war.
Pay close attention to the “Police Forces” section in the Wikipedia piece. Along with this and all of the above, the truth about this freedom-hating propaganda strobe lights the impoverishment of loss. So many of the hallowed freedoms have been eliminated by the real enemies—Wall Street criminals and their puppets who reside in US government positions of “leadership.”
If “they” attacked us only because they hated our freedoms, there’s nothing to hate anymore.
Missy Beattie lives in Baltimore, Maryland. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
A German news website has revealed that the German government has been pushing for Eurozone countries to adopt a more active role in backing the current Venezuelan opposition coalition, the Roundtable of Democratic Unity (MUD), in the run up to this year’s presidential elections.
In an article published by Amerika21 earlier this week it was revealed that German diplomats had taken advantage of a recent European Union Council meeting on Latin American affairs to call on members to offer “greater and more open support” to the MUD and its candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski, who will stand against incumbent President Chavez in October.
According to the website, German delegates at the meeting in April had said that support for Venezuela’s opposition “should not be hidden from the public”, despite calls from other European nations such as France and Portugal who argued for a “more discreet” approach.
The news was disclosed as a team of representatives from the German Parliament took part in a governmental delegation to Venezuela, where they met solely with members of the country’s political opposition.
According to Prensa Latina news, which had access to the delegation’s agenda, the diplomats met with leading figures from the Venezuelan political opposition such as MUD Secretary General, Ramon Guillermo Aveledo, and other leading figures from opposition parties such as Democratic Action (AD).
The representatives are also reported to have met with anti-government NGOs during their stay, including organizations such as the Venezuelan Prison Observatory, which has previously been accused of carrying out acts aimed at sabotaging the national government and receives funding from the US government.
Meetings with the head of Venezuela’s business federation, Fedecamaras, and the head of Venezuela’s chamber of commerce, were also amongst the delegation’s agenda. “In Venezuela we met almost exclusively with opposition forces, while in Chile, our next stop, we met with people from the government”, reported German representative Heike Hansel from the German Socialist Party, Die Linke, in an interview with Prensa Latina.
The German government currently led by Angela Merkel has recently come under fire for its open backing of French rightwing candidate, Nicolas Sarkozy, who lost his bid for reelection to socialist candidate, Francois Hollande, earlier this month.
The MUD currently receives direct financial support from US institutions such as USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), although President Chavez has warned that the US government may expand its support for the opposition into other areas as the elections draw nearer.
The Venezuelan President has also stated that the MUD is developing a strategy to contest this October’s election results in league with the US government.
- US Shelters Venezuelan Fugitive, Criticises Existence of “Drug Kingpins” in Venezuela (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- CNN: The Latest Outlet for Roger Noriega’s Paranoid Speculations (alethonews.wordpress.com)
WASHINGTON – A congressional committee in the United States House of Representatives voted to cut off aid to any state that hosts Sudanese president Omer Hassan al-Bashir who is wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for his alleged role in Darfur war crimes.
The amendment to the fiscal year 2013 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill was pushed for by Frank Wolf who is one of Bashir’s most vocal critics.
“Women are being abused and killed for the color of their skin,” Wolf shouted according to ’The Hill’ website.
“This is a moral issue,” he added and threatened to send gruesome videos of violence in Sudan to any committee member who voted down the amendment.
“One lady she pinched her skin and said, ’I’m black. Get Bashir!’ ” the US Republican lawmaker said.
Wolf’s office released his prepared remarks in support of this provision which he said is necessary to further American interests.
“In a time when the foreign affairs budget is being squeezed, I believe our assistance should be a direct reflection of American values and priorities,” he said.
“Surely we can all agree that bringing a war criminal to justice is in our national interest. Leveraging our foreign assistance in this way sends a powerful message,” Wolf added.
The approval of the amendment does not guarantee that it will be included in the final appropriations bill especially as the Democrat-controlled Senate will produce its own version which will later have to be reconciled with the House version and voted on.
The issue has already drawn concern by some of Wolf’s peers in light of its implications on US foreign policy.
“We all agree that the situation in Sudan is deplorable, that President Bashir must be held accountable for his crimes,” Democratic Representative Nita Lowey said.
She noted that Bashir has visited many countries including Ethiopia, China, Egypt, Chad, Malawi, Qatar, Libya, Saudi Arabia and Iraq.
“My colleague’s amendment would cut off US funding to all of these countries, some of them strategic allies,” had it already been in effect when the visits were made, Lowey said.
Last March, the US announced that it is suspending $350 million allocated to Malawi through the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) citing reasons which included receiving Bashir last year.
This month Malawi’s new president Joyce Banda asked the African Union (AU) not to invite Bashir to this year’s summit hosted by her country for fear of its implications on aid Malawi receives.
The Sudanese president denies the ICC charges and refuses to recognise the jurisdiction of the court which he denigrates as a tool of neo-colonialism by the West.
- US suspends aid to Malawi over governance and receiving Sudanese president (alethonews.wordpress.com)
President Barack Obama is expected to unveil a $6 billion international public-private partnership to extend the Green Revolution to Africa.
The initiative, which is linked to this weekend’s G-8 summit, aims to lift 50 million people out of hunger and poverty within a decade by investing in modern agricultural methods and technologies. Rich countries are expected to commit to spending $3 billion – the U.S. share is around $850 million over three years – while three dozen international and African companies will pledge a similar amount in investments such as fertilizer production, grain silos and new food products.
“We’re now putting together a fundamentally new approach to tackling hunger and poverty in sub-Saharan Africa,” said Rajiv Shah, administrator of the USAID.
Shah said the effort was a continuation of the Green Revolution of the 1970s and 80s, which saved countless lives in Latin American and Asian countries that were facing widespread starvation.
“The effort never made it to Africa, for a broad set of reasons,” Shah said. “Private companies never really invested in Africa in this sector. Public partners abandoned Africa in this sector. And African leaders themselves stopped thinking of agriculture as the solution. This really represents a change in that mindset.”
African heads of state from Ethiopia, Ghana, Tanzania and Benin will participate in the announcement, as well as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, U2′s Bono, U.S. Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and officials from the UN World Food Programme and other international organizations. And three dozen companies – including U.S. giants Cargill,and Monsanto – will pledge to invest millions of dollars in African agriculture.
Such investments, Shah said, will provide long-term savings for donor nations.
“Across the board, countries view their investments in development – especially around food security – as being in the long-term defense of their national interests,” he said. “It is much cheaper to invest in agricultural development in the Horn of Africa than it is to provide food aid in a time of crisis, as we’ve had to do last year.”
The partnership does raise some concerns, however.
One is whether donor countries will stick to their promises.
“Significant progress was made at the G-8 summit in L’Aquila, Italy, in 2009,” World Vision U.S. President Richard Stearns wrote in an op-ed submitted to The Hill on Thursday. “Global leaders committed to provide $20 billion over three years to help farmers in the poorest countries grow the food those countries need. However the 2011 G8 accountability report found that only 22 percent of funds have been disbursed and the majority of countries have not fulfilled their commitments.”
Another is the African partner nations’ ability to make the reforms necessary to make the private sector investments work.
Ethiopia, in particular, has been under fire for years for its human rights record. This week, Amnesty International urged Obama to use the G-8 summit to press Ethiopian leader Meles Zenawi on his government’s crackdown on critics.
“Prime Minister Zenawi is greeted with open arms around the world for the progress his government claims they have made on economic growth, development and counter-terrorism,” Washington office head Frank Jannuzi said in a statement. “But while he is warmly welcomed in his travels, at home the people of Ethiopia are subjected to ever increasing restrictions on their basic rights.”
Shah said U.S. aid is conditioned on every partner living up to their end of the bargain.
African leaders, he said, “will make public a set of policy reform commitments that will tackle corruption in their bureaucracies, that will create a more open business climate for companies, that will change some of their policies on price-setting and export restrictions that will allow for us to be successful together tackling this issue.
“We’re very results-oriented in how we do this work,” he said. “So if the conditions are not in place for the private investments to happen and for our investments to work, then we won’t make them. And neither will the private companies. So it’s a collective action challenge.”
In the end, he said, Africans are the ones who want the partnership to succeed most of all.
“Nobody wants to be receiving a hand-out when they could be investing in their capacity to grow themselves out of poverty and hunger,” Shah said. “We talk about it in terms of saving money, but it really speaks to a far more aspirational concept of human dignity. Everybody wants to be proud of their ability to feed their children and feed their families.”