There has been so much news lately that it’s hard to know what to write about; but I decided to focus on a shocking story that hasn’t gotten much coverage in the corporate media–the mass hunger strikes at Guantanamo.
Last week The New York Times published a heart-rending cry for help from an inmate (dictated over the phone), Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel: Gitmo Is Killing Me. This man has been in Gitmo for 11 years with no charges and faces the terrible possibility that he will die there. How did he end up imprisoned by the U.S.?
When I was at home in Yemen, in 2000, a childhood friend told me that in Afghanistan I could do better than the $50 a month I earned in a factory, and support my family. I’d never really traveled, and knew nothing about Afghanistan, but I gave it a try.
I was wrong to trust him. There was no work. I wanted to leave, but had no money to fly home. After the American invasion in 2001, I fled to Pakistan like everyone else. The Pakistanis arrested me when I asked to see someone from the Yemeni Embassy. I was then sent to Kandahar, and put on the first plane to Gitmo.
He has been on a hunger strike since Feb. 10, and Americans are now force-feeding him. That is torture.
Last month, on March 15, I was sick in the prison hospital and refused to be fed. A team from the E.R.F. (Extreme Reaction Force), a squad of eight military police officers in riot gear, burst in. They tied my hands and feet to the bed. They forcibly inserted an IV into my hand. I spent 26 hours in this state, tied to the bed. During this time I was not permitted to go to the toilet. They inserted a catheter, which was painful, degrading and unnecessary. I was not even permitted to pray.
I will never forget the first time they passed the feeding tube up my nose. I can’t describe how painful it is to be force-fed this way. As it was thrust in, it made me feel like throwing up. I wanted to vomit, but I couldn’t. There was agony in my chest, throat and stomach. I had never experienced such pain before. I would not wish this cruel punishment upon anyone.
I am still being force-fed. Two times a day they tie me to a chair in my cell. My arms, legs and head are strapped down. I never know when they will come. Sometimes they come during the night, as late as 11 p.m., when I’m sleeping.
There are so many of us on hunger strike now that there aren’t enough qualified medical staff members to carry out the force-feedings; nothing is happening at regular intervals. They are feeding people around the clock just to keep up.
This is being done in our name. Our tax money is being spent on this.
On Saturday, The Guardian Observer published another inmate’s story, “Shaker Aamer: ‘I want to hug my children and watch them as they grow'”
As of today, I’ve spent more than 11 years in Guantánamo Bay. To be precise, it’s been 4,084 long days and nights. I’ve never been charged with any crime. I’ve never been allowed to see the evidence that the US once pretended they had against me. It’s all secret, even the statements they tortured out of me.
In 2007, roughly halfway through my ordeal, I was cleared for release by the Bush administration. In 2009, under Obama, all six of the US frontline intelligence agencies combined to clear me again. But I’m still here.
Every day in Guantánamo is torture – as was the time they held me before that, in Bagram and Kandahar air force bases, in Afghanistan. It’s not really the individual acts of abuse (the strappado – that’s the process refined by the Spanish Inquisition where they hang you from your wrists so your shoulders begin to dislocate, the sleep deprivation, and the kicks and punches); it’s the combined experience. My favourite book here (I’ve read it over and over) has been Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell: torture is for torture, and the system is for the system.
More than a decade of my life has been stolen from me, for no good reason. I resent that; of course I do. I have missed the birth of my youngest son, and some of the most wonderful years with all my four children. I love being a father, and I always worked to do it as best I can.
Shaker Aamer is a Saudi Arabian citizen and his family lives in London.
Jeffrey Kaye (AKA Valtin), who has been writing about U.S. torture for many years wrote a diary about Shaker Amer at DailyKos on Sunday that is well worth reading: British Press: US Conspires with UK & Saudis to Hold Detainee w/Evidence on Iraq War Lies.
Unlike the vast majority of detainees held at Guantanamo, Aamer speaks very good English. He is intelligent and motivated. That makes him dangerous to the authorities running Guantanamo. While President Obama’s administration and DoD officials maintain Guantanamo is run humanely, a blue-ribbon panel assembled by The Constitution Project, including former GOP officials, have determined that abuse still occurs, and have pointed out the the Army Field Manual’s Appendix M, a prime culprit in ongoing abuse, should be excised from that document and from DoD practice. (Link to the long and fascinating report.)
But it apparently is not only testimony about being tortured or seeing others tortured that Aamer can supply. That alone would probably not be enough to hold him forever. Instead, exposes this past weekend in the British press have indicated Aamer is being held indefinitely, or considered for “repatriation” to Saudi Arabia, because he can testify to the presence of British counter-terrorism agents from MI5 and MI6 at his own torture… and the torture of Ibn Shaikh al-Libi.
Al-Libi famously was tortured to give false evidence about Saddam Hussein’s pursuit of chemical weapons as part of the doctored evidence presented to US and world public opinion to justify the unprovoked invasion of Iraq by the US-dominated coalition in 2003. The invasion was responsible for the deaths of an untold number of Iraqis (estimates ranging from 100,000 to well over a million), an untold number of injured, produced millions of refugees, and generally destabilized the region.
In a recent Guardian expose, the culpability of high US officials in the organization and operation of death and torture squads by the Iraqis was documented. But in the United States, there appeared to be almost no interest in these developments.
President Obama supposedly ended Bush’s torture policies and vowed to close Guantanamo, but clearly these men are being tortured and there are no signs that Guantanamo will ever be closed. Here’s a piece by Jeremy Scahill published in 2009 that describes the “black shirts,” the “Thug Squad Still Brutalizing Prisoners at Gitmo Under Obama.” Clearly, it is still happening in 2013.
One more link to a piece at Truthout by Jason Leopold, who has also been writing about torture for years: Inmates Rising: Worsening Gitmo Mass Hunger Strike in Prisoners’ Own Words.
Yesterday, I started to read Kurt Eichenwald’s latest book, 500 Days Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars. I got up to page 137 before I called it a night and went to bed. It is heartbreaking to read about all the lost opportunities to intervene and possibly stop the attack, but the Bush administration just did not pay attention, or blatantly and cockishly refused to even hear the warnings from CSC…Counterterrorist Center.
Since I am only in the first part of the book, I will link to a review from the New York Times Book Review: ‘500 Days,’ by Kurt Eichenwald
Doug Mills/Associated Press
President Jacques Chirac of France and President George W. Bush, November 2001.
This book is misleadingly titled. “500 Days: Secrets and Lies in the Terror Wars” seeks to provide a global account of the period after 9/11, leaping from a prison cell in Syria to the nightclub bombing in Bali, but it’s best and most informative when depicting how the Bush administration, and especially its lawyers, suffered a protracted nervous breakdown during that time. In that respect, it is an ambitious undertaking and a valuable resource.
With each piece of evidence, it becomes clearer that in late 2001 and in 2002, President Bush and Vice President Cheney had begun panicking. Mistaking rumors and lies fabricated by victims of torture as actionable information and elbowing aside skeptics, they gave rein to their fears that the worst was yet to come — and their hysteria spread to and infected parts of the national security establishment.
Give that review a quick read. I will give you two quotes from the book, that so far has struck me as very telling.
In discussing John Ashcroft and his “priorities,” of which terrorism was not even part of, Eichenwald writes about Tom Picard, the acting director of the FBI and Dale Watson, head FBI in charge of counterterrorism:
Despite Ashcroft’s apparent indifference, Pickard tried to hammer home the magnitude of the terrorist threat almost every time they met. But at this latest briefing, Pickard told Watson, the attorney general had gone off the rails.
“I was telling him about the high level of chatter and how it suggested something big was about to happen,” Picard told Watson. “And then he interrupted me and said, ‘I don’t want to hear about that anymore.”
This was two months prior to the attacks. And, one of many warnings about bin Laden and his big plans within the last 12 months…since Bush became the Republican nominee and received his first intelligence briefing.
The other quote is shortly after the attacks, when one of Ashcroft’s top aides is caught reading a book in his office:
The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Understanding Islam. Omigod. That is not a good sign.
Again, I am only at the beginning but wow…and that is just a couple of examples from the Department of Justice. We are not even mentioning Cheney and his crew.
I just finished reading Eichenwald’s earlier book, The Informant, and if you are up for some real unbelievably f’d up cooperating witnesses, involved in price fixing and embezzlement, then please read the book. (The movie with Matt Damon does not really touch the surface…)
Here are a couple of reviews for the book:
Anyway, I also sat through the entire Bill O’Reilly and Jon Stewart Debate. It was awesome…if you have not seen it, you need to.
Just one more link for you tonight, this is sad…Danny DeVito, Rhea Perlman split after 30 years
Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlmanare breaking up.
A spokesman for DeVito says the couple is separating after 30 years of marriage. Publicist Stan Rosenfield offered no other details.
DeVito and Perlman married in 1982 and have three adult children. The couple worked together on TV’s “Taxi” from 1978 to 1982.
Together, the couple established the production company Jersey Films, which counts “Pulp Fiction,” ”Erin Brockovich” and “Out of Sight” among its credits.
‘Stunned,” “shocked,” “totally surprised” and “so sorry to hear it” — just a few of the comments veteran Hollywood insiders were using Monday as news broke Danny DeVito and Rhea Perlman had separated after 30 years of marriage.
“For Hollywood — hell, for anywhere in America — breaking up after 30 years is practically unheard of,” said one of the biggest producers in the entertainment business, who has worked with both DeVito and Perlman. “I am devastated to hear about this. They are both good friends and will remain so. I’m just sorry they apparently were unable to overcome whatever issues they had.”A second Tinseltown source who recently worked with DeVito speculated the couple’s work has kept them apart, “as often is the case out here.” Beyond confirming the split, DeVito’s spokesman,
I’ve read rumors of a possible connection to DiVito’s alcoholism, but I guess we will find out later on…
This is an open thread.
I tell you, last night’s top three New Hampshire primary results sound more like the beginning of a joke…two Mormons and a neo-confederate walk into a bar…you see what I mean. (Actually, this post was originally entitled, Two Mormons and A Guy Wearing A Hood…but I thought that was a bit over the top.)
Yes, we all expected Romney to win, I was just amazed at how fast it took the news media to declare Romney the winner. Just an hour after the polls close. Granted, it looks like the turnout was a bit lower than predicted, which has some on the Right (Fox News) a bit concerned.
Ron Paul came in second, which makes his quote at the NH speech even more ironic: “We are dangerous…”
“There’s no way to stop the momentum we have,” Rep. Paul told the crowd, admitting that “I sort of have to chuckle when they describe you and me as being dangerous.” “They are telling the truth,” he concluded. “We are dangerous to the status quo.”
I would also add dangerous to women and minorities…but you can read more about that over at Cannonfire.
At this writing, Paul will probably win second place in the New Hampshire primary. I don’t expect much from the Republicans — but is it really too much to ask the party of Lincoln to favor the concept of maintaining the union under any and all circumstances? Apparently so. (As we shall see, some alleged “liberals” also have no problem rationalizing Paul’s treasonous instincts.)
What have we come to? What would Honest Abe think about Paul’s popularity?
Modern conservatives are a contradictory bunch: They continually threaten to upend the very ideals they claim to cherish.
Give this post a bit of your time. We have been talking about Paul for weeks now…as we head to South Carolina, I can’t help but think Paul will do well in the state that started the Secession movement.
Here are a couple more links for you, if you haven’t gotten you fill yet.
Lets move on to world news for a moment. Syria is still a hotbed of violence. The latest word from the UN is very disturbing, Syria conditions dire says U.S. United Nations Abassador Susan Rice.
United States Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice made a statement today strongly condemning the ongoing stream of violence in Syria.
The statement was made following a Tuesday January 10, 2012 UN Security Council briefing on the serious situation in the region lead by Lynn Pascoe, Head of the United Nations Department of Political Affairs.
“The briefing we received was alarming…” says Ambassador Rice during a UN Press communique released on Tuesday covering the UN Security Council briefing.
“The [UN] Under-Secretary-General noted that in the days since the Arab League monitoring mission has been on the ground, in fact an estimated 400 additional people have been killed, an average of 40 a day, a rate much higher than was the case even before their deployment,” Rice continued to tell press following her appearance at the briefing.
Rice points out that activist bloggers are one of the targets in the Assad regime.
Internet freedom has also been curtailed as blogger Ms. Razan Ghazzawi was arrested and released after bail was paid following her days in detention. Other bloggers have also been arrested in a string of crackdowns since April that have been directed at bloggers to prevent them from speaking under restrictions limiting freedom of the press in the region. Ms. Tal Al-Mallohi, who’s twenty-first birthday fell on January 4 this year, has been serving a five year sentence since her arrest in 2009 on charges that were made against her because of her blog posts.
“This [Tal Al-Mallohi] is a deeply disturbing case,” said Kate Allen UK Director for Amnesty International in a September 2010 news release report on Al-Mallohi. “No-one should be detained just for discussing freedom of expression and if this is why Tal al-Mallohi is behind bars then it’s an absolute disgrace.”
It was the Assad Speech of the Year. There was an international conspiracy against Syria. True. Arab states opposed to Syria were under “outside pressure”. True, up to a point. Nobody could deny the seriousness of these plots. True. After all, the Syrian government itself registers 2,000 dead soldiers, while the UN estimates civilian dead at 5,000. And when Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan warned that the violence in Syria was “heading towards a sectarian, religious war”, there were few supporters of President Assad who would disagree with him.
Fisk goes on to connect Assads control over journalist and media, with the leaks of Youtube videos that find their way out to the world via the internet and Al Jazeera.
Assad’s government, however, has still found itself unable to deal with the news side of the crisis. By allowing few international journalists to enter the country, officials have allowed the stunning YouTube images of the opposition to lead public opinion. When Al Jazeera can broadcast a Muslim imam in a crowded mosque shouting “Assad’s soldiers – God curse them – say Assad is their God; if that doesn’t make you angry, what will?” and then give specific details of protesters’ demonstration tactics in a suburb of Damascus, the Syrian Ministry of Information has a real problem.
The President can say – as he did yesterday – that “according to the law, nobody should open fire – only in self-defence or in a battle with an armed person”, but dozens of YouTube phone videos on Al Jazeera suggest that such laws are widely ignored by the regime.
Of course, Al Jazeera is funded by the Emir of Qatar, and the Qatari royal family’s influence has now reached its zenith in the Arab League – which has threatened to allow the whole bloody business to go to the UN Security Council. It’s not difficult to see how – from a sparse Baathist drawing room – this looks more like conspiracy than coincidence. The League has been boasting of its sense of resolution, while Assad believes it was his idea to bring the League’s monitors to Syria. And that’s exactly what he told us all yesterday. The Kuwaitis, meanwhile, said that two of their League military monitors in Syria had been slightly wounded by “unidentified protesters”. It would be interesting to know whom the protesters were protesting against.
Boston Boomer had a post a couple of days ago that focused on Guantanamo. Well, a new report has been released from Amnesty International: Guantánamo: A decade of damage to human rights | Amnesty International
The failure of the US government to close the detention facility at Guantánamo Bay is leaving a toxic legacy for human rights, Amnesty International said on the 10th anniversary of the first detainees being transferred to this notorious US prison.
In a report published ahead of the anniversary, Guantánamo: A Decade of Damage to Human Rights, Amnesty International highlights the unlawful treatment of Guantánamo detainees and outlines the reasons why the detention centre continues to represent an attack on human rights.
“Guantánamo has come to symbolize 10 years of a systematic failure by the USA to respect human rights in its response to the 9/11 attacks. The US government disregarded human rights from day one of the Guantánamo detentions. As we move into year 11 in the life of the detention facility, this failure continues,” said Rob Freer, Amnesty International’s researcher on the USA.
Despite President Obama’s pledge to close the Guantánamo detention facility by 22 January 2010, 171 men were being held there in mid-December 2011. At least 12 of those transferred to Guantánamo on 11 January 2002 were still held there. One of them is serving a life sentence after being convicted by a military commission in 2008. None of the other 11 has been charged.
I want to post some updates on a few things we have discussed here on the blog. This past Sunday, I had posted a link about the ultra-light plane being grounded while it was escorting migratory Whooping Cranes to Florida.
The article I linked to was from MSNBC: ‘Whooping cranes plane’ runs afoul of FAA – US news – Environment – msnbc.com By reading this article, you would assume that the group flying the birds down to Florida have been doing this for 10 years, and all of a sudden there is a problem with the FAA. No where in this article does it mention that this particular trip, the pilot is being paid. See this here: Legal Problem Grounds a Bird Migration – NYTimes.com
For 11 years, conservationists have used ultralights to guide the birds from Michigan to Florida. The birds are essentially orphans, raised in captivity without parents, but if they can be shown the 1,200-mile route once, they will find their way back to Michigan the following fall on their own, and fly unescorted for the rest of their lives.
The idea is a bit weird; the pilots dress up to look like birds so the fledglings will be “imprinted” with them. But everybody seems to like it; this year’s trip is underwritten in part by the Southern Company, a big utility.
But now it turns out that some of these do-gooder flights face a legal challenge.
The Federal Aviation Administration classifies the ultralights as “light sport aircraft,” a category with simplified licensing rules. Such aircraft can carry only one or two people, cannot fly in congested areas and cannot fly for hire, among other restrictions.
The question is, are the pilots flying for hire?
The updated news is that the FAA did grant the exemption. Whooping cranes are cleared for takeoff after getting FAA exemption –
Noting that the flock was stuck in an incorrect location for the past month, the FAA Tuesday green-lighted Operation Migration to continue the journey to the St. Marks and Chassahowitzka national wildlife refuges in Florida.
According to an FAA statement, “Because the operation is in ‘mid-migration,’ the FAA is granting a one-time exemption so the migration can be completed. The FAA will work with Operation Migration to develop a more comprehensive, long-term solution.”
Duff said the FAA has two criteria for issuing a waiver of this regulation: first, that it does not impede safety; and second, that it is a benefit to the American people. Duff believes Operation Migration’s flights meet both criteria, noting their three pilots practice all safety measures and the organization is assisting with the eco-tourism business and reintroducing an endangered species, which he believes does benefit the American people.
The FAA and Operation Migration will work to resolve the situation in the near future, but for now, this year’s new flock continues the journey south for the winter.
You may also remember that police where investigating the Natalie Wood case, Natalie Wood probe yields no new evidence
Nearly two months after they began a controversial new investigation into Natalie Wood‘s death while sailing off Santa Catalina Island in 1981, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department detectives have found no evidence to suggest that the cause was anything but accidental.
Although the case has not been closed, a top Sheriff’s Department official said it’s highly unlikely any new ground will be broken on how the actress died.
“At this point, it is an accidental death,” said William McSweeney, the sheriff’s chief of detectives. “Nothing has been discovered to suggest changing that at this time.”
We learned yesterday, that a Texas Appeals Court is forcing women to adhere to the Abortion law while the case is waiting to be heard. I wanted to give you this link to the RH Reality Check Action Page. Letter to TX Media: Women can make their own reproductive choices | RH Reality Check
This next link caught my eye when I was looking for new info on the Texas Abortion crapola, The Barbie Syndrome: Interchangeable Fundamentalist Wives Easily Replaced by the New Model
It was written prior to the Michelle Duggar miscarriage, just keep that in mind as you give it a read:
…most of the online discussion of how dangerous her playing maternal Russian roulette actually is no one seemed to hit upon my first thought, how quickly would Jim Bob replace her with a newer, younger, prettier model.
I mean, really, it’s like shooting dice, eventually snake eyes is going to come up. Bad things happen if you keep repeating the same risky behavior. Look at the last of her pregnancies. Something did go wrong. It’s just simple statistics that sometimes things go haywire and we can’t do much about them. But why put yourself in those types of risky situations in the first place?
Back when I was with my old church I got to see this numerous times. Lady either gets pregnant that probably shouldn’t be or would contract a very serious illness. They’d start praying, asking for prayer but refusing medical monitoring or intervention by the medical world at all. They say the same things Michelle Duggar does about this is God’s will and God would either deliver her safely or He would heal her.
One of the saddest cases of this was a lady named Christina who contracted breast cancer and refused all medical treatments, saying only God alone would heal her. She wasn’t going to have any surgery, no chemo, no radiation, she would simply rely on God.
Calulu, the author of this post says that everyone at the church supported Christina, except her…being a breast cancer survivor, Calulu writes that…
Not getting health care while you have children in the home to finish raising is just irresponsible.
But the men of the church always had medical intervention, and it never seemed to strike anyone there that was some sort of warped double standard. I never understood why that was so I’m guessing the lack of serious health care was because in the world of Fundy-Gelicals women were without intrinsic value and considered interchangeable.
Christina died after an agonizing torturous 18 months. What did did Mr. Christina do? He did what I’ve witnessed a number of Patriarchal men have done. He collected that big insurance check, bought a sports car and within six months married a much younger, better looking, newer model. And the cycle continued. Even our Pastor did it, boom, wife dies of cancer, 9 months later Pastor has another wife and life goes on as before.
Then and now it struck me as a basic lack of respect for any woman to hold them all so interchangeable. The Barbie Syndrome. The sad part is that we all put up with this behavior at the time and thought we were holding up the image of the Good Christian Woman, never realizing that culture considers us as unique as an assembly line of Barbies.
For my last link today I’m going to bring it from Christian Barbies to this article over at Wall Street Journal. Is Your Personality Making You Put on Pounds?
Losing weight is simple: Eat less and exercise more. Why that’s so difficult for so many people is embedded deep in the human psyche.
A growing body of research is finding intriguing connections between personality traits and habits that can lead to obesity. The same parts of the brain that control emotions and stress response also govern appetite, several studies have shown. Early life experiences also set the stage for overeating years later, researchers have found.
“If we can understand how personality is contributing to weight gain, we can develop interventions to help people deal with it,” says Angelina R. Sutin, a researcher at the National Institute on Aging who led a study published last year comparing the body mass index, or BMI, and personality traits of nearly 2,000 Baltimore residents over 50 years.
In the study, those who scored high on neuroticism—the tendency to easily experience negative emotions—and low on conscientiousness, or being organized and disciplined, were the most likely to be overweight and obese. Impulsivity was strongly linked to BMI, too: The subjects in the top 10% of impulsivity weighed, on average, 24 pounds more than those in the lowest 10%. People who rated themselves low on “agreeableness” were the most likely to gain weight over the years. The study was published in July in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
It breaks down several personality traits…I am posting them below, click the link to find ways to fix them.
Night owls also tend to skip, or sleep through, breakfast, missing an important chance to get their metabolism going early, and they often snack far into the night. That sets the stage for “night-eating syndrome,” when people consume a significant portion of their daily intake after dinner, which is associated with obesity and diabetes.
The Stress Junkie
People who thrive on competition and deadline pressure may seem high-powered, but what powers them internally are adrenaline and cortisol. Those stress hormones supply quick bursts of energy in fight-or-flight situations, but when the alarm is unrelenting, they can they can cause health problems, including obesity.
Cortisol stimulates a brain chemical called neuropeptide Y, which boosts carbohydrate cravings. It also makes the body churn out excess insulin and accumulate fat, particularly in the belly where it raises the risk of diabetes, heart disease, stroke and other diseases. People who feel chronically stressed often use food for energy and comfort and rationalize that they’ve earned it.
The Mindless Multitasker
People who habitually work, read, drive, watch TV or do anything while dining often eat more than they realize. “Anything that takes our focus off the food makes us more likely to overeat without knowing it,” Brian Wansink, an expert on food, marketing and consumer behavior, wrote in his 2006 book, “Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think.”
He now directs the Food and Brand Lab at Cornell University. His research shows that few people overeat because they’re hungry, but because of myriad other subconscious cues, from family and friends to plates and packages.
People who constantly put other people’s needs ahead of their own often become emotionally depleted and seek solace in eating. Eating coach Karen Koenig, author of “Nice Girls Finish Fat,” writes that many of the clients in her Sarasota, Fla., practice are “ultranurturing, self-effacing, unselfish, generous and caring to a fault.” Food works because it’s close, it doesn’t require burdening others, and it signals comfort and love. But because it doesn’t really fill the emotional void that givers have, they keep eating more and more.
Some “givers” also live in fear of disappointing other people or engaging in conflict, so they try to stifle their own feelings with food.
Like givers, people who drive themselves to be perfect often use food to relieve the pressure. And many set themselves up for failure with impossible weight and fitness goals. Bariatric surgeons say they see a high correlation between perfectionism and obesity; experts in eating disorders say perfectionism is often at the root of anorexia, bulimia and binge eating. Many perfectionists also engage in all-or-nothing thinking that leads them to get discouraged easily with dieting and seek solace again in food.
That is it for this night owl…catch y’all later in the comments after I sleep in. What are you all reading and blogging about today?
Well the week certainly crept by me! I spent yesterday with the cable guy and the day before with the electric guy and both had to change the wires from the pole to my house. Most neighborhoods have been fighting to get the utility wires buried for years but the only place they will do that is in the Quarter. High winds and hurricanes always manage to mess things up and the electric company butchers the live oaks on avenues like mine every spring to protect the wires. Still, they’ll do anything to avoid spending the money. Dividends and bonuses must be paid, you know!! Both companies seem to just let the infrastructure rot until the very last wire has gone. It was exhausting and way too reminiscent of post Katrina life. I hope it lasts for awhile. It was a cold day for me to be without the furnace. I’m still a bit cranky.
Evidently Former President George W Bush is going to venture outside the country and head off to visit Africa for charity. Amnesty International is calling for his arrest as a war criminal.
Amnesty International is calling for the arrest of former President George W. Bush while he is traveling overseas in Africa.
The human rights group issued a statement Thursday calling for the governments of Ethiopia, Tanzania or Zambia to take the former president into custody. According to Amnesty, the 43rd president is complicit in torture conducted by the United States during his administration and should be held pending an international investigation.
“International law requires that there be no safe haven for those responsible for torture; Ethiopia, Tanzania and Zambia must seize this opportunity to fulfill their obligations and end the impunity George W. Bush has so far enjoyed,” said Amnesty senior legal adviser Matt Pollard in a statement.
Bush is traveling overseas in Africa to raise awareness for HIV/AIDS, cervical and breast cancer across the continent.
In a continuation of the violation of rights in the name of terror prevention, the US Senate passed a disturbing addendum to a Defense spending bill. The “Senate Declines to Clarify Rights of American Qaeda Suspects Arrested in U.S.” which means any of us could be shipped off to Gitmo without due process. Be sure to check who voted for what because some of them will surprise you.
The Senate on Thursday decided to leave unanswered a momentous question about constitutional rights in the war against Al Qaeda: whether government officials have the power to arrest people inside the United States and hold them in military custody indefinitely and without a trial.
After a passionate debate over a detainee-related provision in a major defense bill, the lawmakers decided not to make clearer the current law about the rights of Americans suspected of being terrorists. Instead, they voted 99 to 1 to say the bill does not affect “existing law” about people arrested inside the United States.
“We make clear that whatever the law is, it is unaffected by this language in our bill,” said Senator Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat who helped shape the detainee-related sections of the bill with Republicans on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The disputed provision would bolster the authorization enacted by Congress a decade ago to use military force against the perpetrators of the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. It says the government may imprison suspected members of Al Qaeda or its allies in indefinite military custody.
Because the section includes no exception for suspects arrested domestically, the provision prompted a debate about whether it would change the law by empowering the government, for the first time, to lawfully arrest people inside the United States and hold them indefinitely in military custody, or whether it would change nothing because the government has that power already.
The debate brought new attention to the ambiguous aftermath of one of the most sweeping claims of executive power made by the Bush administration after Sept. 11: that the government can hold citizens without a trial by accusing them of being terrorists.
Bostonboomer sent me this interesting link to an article at HuffPo by Soraya Chemaly on the widespread violence against women in the world. These statistics are beyond overwhelming. They are appalling.
Think there aren’t men who really hate women or think of them, because they are not male, as subhuman, which makes violence somehow more acceptable or inevitable? Maybe you think this is a third world problem, a race or a class specific problem? I know that there are readers who will immediately assume that I’m condemning all men for the actions of a few. In any of these cases, you might want to consider these statistics*:
Consider femicide, which is the murder of women because they are women:
- In the United States, one-third of women murdered each year are killed by an intimate partner.
- In South Africa, a woman is killed every six hours by an intimate partner.
- In India in 2007, 22 women were killed each day in dowry-related murders.
- In Guatemala, two women are murdered, on average, each day.
- Honor killings, the murder of women for bringing shame to their families, happen all over the world, including the US.
What about slavery, which is what trafficking is?
- Women and girls comprise 80 percent of the estimated 800,000 people trafficked annually, with the majority (79 percent) trafficked for sexual exploitation.
- This number is on the low end. The U.N. International Labor Organization (ILO) estimates that 2.5 million people worldwide are victims, of which over half live in Asia Pacific.
- Trafficking, in the form of the importation of female sex slaves and use of children as sex workers, is on the rise in the U.S. and internationally has reached epic proportions.
Still not outraged? Because if not, there are always euphemistically titled “harmful practices” — which are violent forms of torture and rape. For example:
- Approximately 100 to 140 million girls and women in the world have experienced female genital mutilation/cutting. Every year more than 3 million girls in Africa are at risk of the practice.
- Over 60 million girls worldwide are child brides, another euphemism if I ever heard one, married before the age of 18, primarily in South Asia (31.1 million and Sub-Saharan Africa (14.1 million).
- These numbers don’t include bride burning, suspicious dowry-related “suicides” and “accidental” deaths or other hateful acts.
Now we’re at plain old domestic and sexual violence:
- Every nine seconds in the US a woman is assaulted or beaten.
- According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, women experience about 4.8 million intimate partner-related physical assaults and rapes every year.
- Around the world, at least one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused during her lifetime.
- As many as one in four women experience physical and/or sexual violence during pregnancy, for example, which increases the likelihood of having a miscarriage, stillbirth and abortion.
- Up to 53 percent of women in the world are physically abused by their intimate partners – defined as either being kicked or punched in the abdomen.
- In Sao Paulo, Brazil, which is so much fun to visit, a woman is assaulted every 15 seconds.
- In Ecuador, adolescent girls reporting sexual violence in school identified teachers as the perpetrator in 37 per cent of cases.
According to the US Department of Justice, someone is sexually assaulted every two minutes in the U.S. (overwhelmingly women). One out of every six American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape in her lifetime. That is almost 20 percent of our population and the US Justice Department acknowledges that rape is the most underreported crime in the nation.
Hillary Clinton has been making all kinds of inroads in her trip to Myanmar. She even brought a peace offering to Aung San Suu Kyi’s dog who is said to be cute but not
very friendly . Madam Secretary was told to keep her distance by the human rights activist and Nobel prize winner. The dog got a US chew toy according to Reuters corespondent Andrew Quinn. Clinton emphasized the importance of democracy on her last day of the visit and her hope that one day relations between the countries will normalize. More progress is needed from the Myanmar who has been run by a group of Generals for some time.
Clinton met President Thein Sein on Thursday and announced a package of modest steps to improve ties, including U.S. support for new International Monetary Fund and World Bank needs assessment missions and expanded U.N. aid programs for the country’s struggling economy.
She also said the United States would consider reinstating a full ambassador in Myanmar and could eventually ease crippling economic sanctions, but underscored that these future steps would depend on further measurable progress in Myanmar’s reform drive.
“It has to be not theoretical or rhetorical. It has to be very real, on the ground, that can be evaluated. But we are open to that and we are going to pursue many different avenues to demonstrate our continuing support for this path of reform,” Clinton told a news conference on Thursday in the capital, Naypyitaw, before arriving in Yangon.
If you want a really wonky post on how bad it could get in the US and the world if the Eurozone doesn’t take care of it’s problems, you can read this analysis of UBS analysis at Zero Hedge.
Despite the very short term bounce in markets on yet another soon to be failed experiment in global liquidity pump priming, UBS’ Andrew Cates refuses to take his eyes of the ball which is namely preventing a European collapse by explaining precisely what the world would look like if a European collapse were allowed to occur. Which is why to people like Cates this week’s indeterminate intervention is the worst thing that could happen as it only provides a few days worth of symptomatic breathing room, even as the underlying causes get worse and worse. So, paradoxically, we have reached a point where the better things get (yesterday we showed just how “better” they get as soon as the market realized that the intervention half life has passed), the more the European banks will push to make things appear and be as bad as possible, as the last thing any bank in Europe can afford now is for the ECB to lose sight of the target which is that it has to print. Which explains today’s release of “How bad might it get“, posted a day after the Fed’s latest bail out: because instead of attempting to beguile the general public into a false sense of complacency, UBS found it key to take the threat warnings to the next level. Which in itself speaks volumes. What also speaks volumes is his conclusion: “Finally it is worth underscoring again that a Euro break-up scenario would generate much more macroeconomic pain for Europe and the world. It is a scenario that cannot be readily modelled. But it is now a tail risk that should be afforded a non-negligible probability. Steps toward fiscal union and a more proactive ECB, after all, will still not address the fundamental imbalances and competitiveness issues that bedevil the Euro zone. Nor will they tackle the inadequacy of structural growth drivers and the deep-seated demographic challenges that the region faces in the period ahead. Monetary initiatives designed to shore up confidence can give politicians more time to enact the necessary policies. But absent those policies and sooner or later intense instability will resume.”
I’ve been meaning to do a post explaining what the FED and the five other central banks did to prevent a credit market lock up for the past two days, but, see the first paragraph. I was reliant on my blackberry for internet access AND phone calls for two days so it didn’t happen. I’ll try to do it today if any one is interested. Basically, this could be another Lehman Brothers scenario because there are sings that interbank lending has slowed to a trickle. The extra push of world currencies is supposed to get banks around the world to lend again. If they don’t lend to each other, than the banks will scramble to cover their reserves and basically rescind and short term loans to corporations for things like inventory, working capital and payroll shortages. We’re technically not bailout out Europe and we’re trying to prevent another bailout of our usual suspect financial institutions with global exposure. This wouldn’t be as widespread as the mortgage meltdown since the exposure to that was country wide (no pun intended). The Fed can maneuver a lot here. What this could do is create some inflation which has pluses and minuses. They also are debasing the dollar which is good for exporters bad for importers and people that like to buy cheap foreign goods. Merkel and the Germans have gotten a little stiff on the plans again so the deal still isn’t made. They’re not keen on the idea of Eurobonds. Increased fiscal integration is slow tracked.
“I personally, and the whole government believes, that eurobonds are the wrong method — and even harmful — in this phase of European development,” Merkel told the General Anzeiger newspaper.
She also emphasised the independence of the European Central Bank and said it was up to the ECB to decide how to ensure currency stability.
I guess the nasty results of the German bond float last week didn’t really sink in afterall.
Okay, so this is incredibly long now and possibly way too depressing for a Friday. However, you can add the cheery bits down thread. What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
There’s some news up from Wikileaks and WAPO on the current status of detainees held at Gitmo that I thought worth mentioning. First, WAPO had a big feature up on Sunday explaining why Obama may have difficulty dealing with the remaining detainees and why the the facility hasn’t been closed.
This account of the unraveling of Obama’s pledge to close Guantanamo is based on interviews with more than 30 current and former administration officials, as well as members of Congress and their staff, members of the George W. Bush administration, and activists. Many of them would speak about internal or sensitive deliberations only on the condition of anonymity.
The one theme that repeatedly emerged in interviews was a belief that the White House never pressed hard enough on what was supposed to be a signature goal. Although the closure of Guantanamo Bay was announced in an executive order, which Obama signed on Jan. 22, 2009, the fanfare never translated into the kind of political push necessary to sustain the policy. “Vulnerable senators weren’t going out on a limb and risk being Willie Hortonized on Gitmo when the White House, with the most to lose, wasn’t even twisting arms,” said a senior Democratic aide whose boss was one of 50 Democrats to vote in 2009 against funding to close Guantanamo. “They weren’t breathing down our necks pushing the vote or demanding unified action.”
UK’s The Telegraph has this latest Wikileak on the detainees themselves and the loosie goosie rationale used to hold them. It now seems that many will never see trial let alone a release date.
Al-Qaeda terrorists have threatened to unleash a “nuclear hellstorm” on the West if Osama Bin Laden is caught or assassinated, according to documents to be released by the WikiLeaks website, which contain details the interrogations of more than 700 Guantanamo detainees.
However, the shocking human cost of obtaining this intelligence is also exposed with dozens of innocent people sent to Guantanamo – and hundreds of low-level foot-soldiers being held for years and probably tortured before being assessed as of little significance.
Both articles are long but well-worth the read. There is additional information in the NYT in their “Guantanamo Files” section that demonstrates the unreliability of information gained through torture. It also shows how many of the detainees were held or considered risks. You’ll be horrified by the thin evidence. Just about anything was considered proof of Al Quaeda membership.
The guide shows how analysts seized upon the tiniest details as a potential litmus test for risk. If a prisoner had a Casio F91W watch, it might be an indication he had attended a Qaeda bomb-making course where such watches were handed out — though that model is sold around the world to this day. (Likewise, the assessment of a Yemeni prisoner suggests a dire use for his pocket calculator: “Calculators may be used for indirect fire calculations such as those required for artillery fire.”) A prisoner caught without travel documents? It might mean he had been trained to discard them to make identification harder, the guide explains. A detainee who claimed to be a simple farmer or a cook, or in the honey business or searching for a wife? Those were common Taliban and Qaeda cover stories, the analysts were told. And a classic Catch-22: “Refusal to cooperate,” the guide says, is a Qaeda resistance technique.
While we’re already reading the Brit Press, I’d like to give a shout out to a really interesting article at The Independent which looks at the mystery that is Easter Island. Evidently there is a new theory about the moai and the ecology on the island.
In their new book, The Statues that Walked: Unravelling the Mystery of Easter Island, to be published in June, Dr Lipo and Professor Hunt present their evidence that Polynesian colonists arrived in 1200, up to 800 years later than the conventional theory claims, and immediately modified the environment with slash-and-burn agriculture. The effect this had on the giant palm forest was magnified by the rats that arrived with them. The rodent population, feeding extensively on palm seeds, exploded. Dr Lipo argues that deforestation didn’t make things much worse for humans. Rapa Nui was no tropical paradise. It’s an old volcanic island and many of the nutrients in the soil had already been washed away. Burning the giant palms actually helped, but the settlers soon turned to a technique called stone mulching, in which freshly broken volcanic rocks are planted in the poor soil to add nutrients and cut down on erosion. The same people who used rock mulching and greeted the Dutch could have moved the moai from Rano Raraku, the quarry where they were carved, to the shore, he says. The statues seem designed to allow small groups of men to move them by rocking them, as you would a refrigerator. Similar suggestions have been made in the past, but experiments indicated that the moai would have been worn away by the time they got to the coast. Dr Lipo, aided by anthropologist Sergio Rapu, the island’s first native governor under Chilean rule, thinks he has found a way around this, with more rocking and less shuffling.
In some happy news, Representative Giffords has the okay from her doctors to watch the launch of Space Shuttle Endeavor. The congresswoman’s recovery from shots to the head continues to astound many.
Friday, the Arizona congresswoman will witness her husband’s own inspiring moment: Commanding the space shuttle Endeavour on its last launch. Doctors have cleared Giffords, who was shot in the brain at a January 8 event in Tucson, to attend the scheduled launch in Florida, a source close to her said Sunday. The source told CNN Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen that Giffords will be accompanied by a nurse. There will be no doctor or medical assistance on board. The source was not sure what kind of plane Giffords will be going on, but it will not be a commercial airliner. “She’ll probably be going either Wednesday or Thursday,” the source said. Asked by “The CBS Evening News With Katie Couric” what Giffords’ reaction was to the decision allowing her to go, Kelly replied, “I think she said, ‘awesome’ and she pumped her fist.”
The Democracy contagion in the MENA region continues. Peaceful protesters in Morocco are demanding constitutional reforms.
Thousands of protesters have participated in rallies in cities across Morocco, demanding social and economic reforms. They called for an end to corruption, and want more jobs for the increasing number of university graduates who face joblessness. The peaceful protests are predominately working class in tone, demanding constitutional reforms and new parliamentary elections. The marches on Sunday were organised by the February 20 movement, which has led protests for the past two months, with support from Morocco’s best-known Islamist movement, Adl wal Ihsan, which is barred from politics in the North African kingdom. Morocco’s King Mohammed VI has already pledged changes to the constitution for the first time in 15 years, but protesters remain sceptical about the possibility of real change.
The government of Kuwait has donated $180 million to the rebels in Libya. They have not yet formally recognized the rebel shadow government but are trying to help within the limits of the UN resolution.
Kuwait on Sunday gave 50 million dinars ($180 million) to the Libyan opposition Transitional National Council (TNC), its chief Mustafa Abdel Jalil said. “This amount will help us pay part of the salaries of employees,” Jalil told reporters after talks with Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah. “We are in need of urgent assistance.” Kuwait’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Mohammad Sabah al-Salem al-Sabah said “Kuwait will provide large and urgent humanitarian aid through the national council.” Sheikh Mohammad said Kuwait and the TNC “will work closely so that it becomes the legitimate channel of the Libyan people,” but stopped short of officially recognising the council. “Recognition is a secondary issue,” Abdel Hafiz Ghoqa, spokesman for the TNC in Benghazi told reporters, adding that the quality of cooperation with Kuwait showed the friendly nation’s “approval” for east Libya’s nascent government. France, Gambia, Italy and Qatar are the only countries so far to have recognised the TNC, Libya’s parallel government.
Isn’t it amazing how one storekeeper in Tunisia who was frustrated with his government turned into the spark that lit a match that put so many people on fire for democratic reform? Most of these countries are either ruled by monarchs or dictators. The middle class and well-educated are tired of no opportunity and all the looting of national treasure for the benefit of the very few. Even with the violence and loss of life, it is exciting to read about ordinary people who have just had enough and are taking their future into their own hands. It makes you want to fight for what we’re losing every day.
So, that should get things started! What’s on your reading and blogging list today?
Ahh…those days of Koolaid and hope…were they really only 2-1/2 years ago?
Here is the video Michelle Manning made for Barack Obama back in February, 2008.
She was so inspired by Barack Obama that she went all out, according to Andy Ostroy at Huffpo.
Back in 2008, a very pregnant Michelle, who’s little brother was fighting in Iraq, protested the war and rallied hard for Obama. She took part in out-of-state get-out-the-vote campaigns. She produced the above video at her own $8,000 expense. And she sent the maximum contribution allowed by law. She was one of those people who were ridiculed as Obamacons. She took the Kool-Aid pitcher right up to her face and guzzled until she was drunk on “Change We Can Believe In.” No doubt about it, Michelle was hard-core.
And then something happened after the election. There was change, alright, but not the kind that Michelle, and millions like her, expected. The president they loved and fought for was letting them down. He hadn’t ended the war, as promised. He escalated the war in Afghanistan. Dropped health care reform’s public option. Didn’t support gay marriage. Took forever to repeal Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. Folded like a $2 lawn chair on repealing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy. They grew angrier as he seemed to care more about placating Republicans than the die-hard progressives who put him in office. And now they’re upset that he’s gotten the United States embroiled in a third war, in Libya.
Here is what Michelle Manning has to say in 2011 about supporting Obama for a second term as President:
I can’t anymore. I worked too hard for him. I gave too much. I stood out in the freezing rain on Super Tuesday in Union Square holding a sign seven months pregnant begging for votes all day. I knocked on doors in Pennsylvania for two days begging for votes while I was nursing my new newborn baby, taking breaks to pump milk with a portable breast pump and a cooler in my car every three hours. I was a maxed out donor. I made two videos I put up on YouTube at my own production expense. He owes me. He needs to at least keep his promises, and he hasn’t. I haven’t wanted to say anything so as not to betray my party, but I am an American first, and a Democrat second, and keeping my mouth shut is wrong. We need another option in 2012. I’m afraid Mr. Obama is a one term president, and the sooner we recognize that and start working on Plan B, the better off we will be when the time comes. Pretending he’s doing a good job isn’t helping anyone, and I’m afraid the “give him time” grace period is over. It’s reelection time already. I want another option.
Ostroy asks if Hillary might decide to run again, and claims Michelle and others like her would support Clinton this time. I’m afraid it’s too late for that, but I think Obama is going to have to deal with people in the media bringing up the possibility again and again for the next few months.
Follow me below the fold. Read the rest of this entry »