Saturday, May 17, 2008

BRIC foreign ministers to meet again in fall

From Novosti :

The foreign ministers of Brazil, Russia, India and China, the so-called BRIC countries, have agreed to hold another meeting in September in New York, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Friday.

The agreement to meet in September on the sidelines of the 63rd UN General Assembly session was reached by the foreign ministers during their meeting on May 14-16 in the Russian Urals city of Yekaterinburg.

"The ministers agreed to continue quadrilateral cooperation, including within the framework of international organizations and forums," the Russian ministry said in a statement.

The term BRIC was first used in 2003 in a thesis published by the Goldman Sachs investment bank that named Brazil, Russia, India and China as the most rapidly developing economies in the world.

According to the thesis, by the year 2050, BRIC will overtake most of the present richest countries in the world. The overall gold and currency reserves of the four BRIC countries are estimated at over $1.3 trillion.

The first meeting of BRIC took place in 2006 in New York within the framework of the UN General Assembly session.

Anti-War Vets Testify for Hill Panel

Iraq Veterans Against The War's effort to document what it considers systemic abuses in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars took a major step forward Thursday as five Iraq veterans related their firsthand experiences to members of Congress.

Five members of the anti-war veterans group told a hearing of the Congressional Progressive Caucus -- not an official House committee but a group of the House's rising left-wing representatives -- about underreported or manipulated statistics concerning U.S.-caused civilian casualties, disproportionate fire and perceptions encouraged by their commanders that Iraqis are "subhuman." Presenting the results of months of inquiry into conditions in the two wars, Kelly Dougherty, Geoffrey Millard, Kristofer Goldsmith, Scott Ewing and Jason Lemieux were the first members of the Winter Soldier project to testify before members of Congress. The last time any such organization presented similar findings was in 1971, at the height of the Vietnam War -- and the testimony Thursday was familiar to anyone in attendance with memory of that earlier conflict.

Don't forget the F-word - by Erica Jong

We have spilled oceans of ink, cut down forests of trees, blazed through the internet in light, and the world is still dominated by the sex-bearing appendages rather than clefts. Why? That is the subject for a future book. But I can say that the hope I felt in 1968 has evaporated. Last week, a woman commentator on a supposedly progressive network called Hillary Clinton and Geraldine Ferraro "whores". She was suspended, but she'll be back. Women columnists still make their fortunes by attacking other women, as in the age of Clare Boothe Luce. It is, in fact, a time-honoured way to get a book contract or a political appointment. Trashing one's own gender remains a path to advancement.

There was a moment - 1968 to 1975, let's say - when it seemed that everything would change for women. We were studied, promoted, advanced like a trendy minority. Then came the backlash. "Is feminism dead?" screamed the cover of Time magazine. We were declared dead before we were even half born. The backlash against feminism has lasted longer than the brief flaring of feminism itself.

This has been the course of the movement for women's equality. Born in the 18th century with other movements for equality, our movement has ebbed and flowed with changing generations. We were scarcely enunciated before we became "the F-word" - the word that can't be articulated lest we sound too much like our hated mothers.

In the US, there has been a real ebbing of reproductive rights, equality of pay and equality at law. And women have assisted in their own demise, demonstrating against abortion and "for life", though they don't seem to care so much for the children already born as for those unborn. There has also been a flood of privileged women with law degrees and prosperous husbands returning to housewifery - albeit a housewifery aided by nannies and caterers. I have nothing against that. But I am astounded by the flight back to the nursery. In 1968, anti-feminist scolds used to predict that the pill would stop women from having babies in the future; quite the opposite has happened. Our daughters are having three, four and five children - if they can afford them. Good for them. But here is what amazes: even the most dependent years of childhood take up only a fraction of women's lives, and the cost of early childhood education, preschools, crèches and such would come nowhere near the cost of war, yet there is no political will in the US to make life healthier for childbearing women and children. That is the ultimate cost of the backlash - and once again, it targets the most vulnerable among us.

~ more... ~


'You have fired the first shot in our endless war against the favelas of the world'

I bring this up as our brave troops are engaged in some constructive urban renewal in Sadr City, a blighted and unproductive slum in Baghdad. Rather than risk the lives of our brave boys by storming militant strongholds, the Pentagon finds in more cost effective to call in airstrikes and destroy the buildings all together.

A military spokesman contrasted our humanity with the enemy's inhumanity when he pointed out that, "The sole burden of responsibility lies on the shoulders of the militants who care nothing for the Iraqi people" because they insist on defending their homes that are located in the crowed slum, thus making it necessary for the U.S. military to level their homes in order to pacify the area. The spokesman then went on to ask, "What does that say about the enemy? He is heartless and evil."

Unfortunately, the author of the above article fails to understand the rationale behind our assault on Sadr City when, in speaking of our troops, he says, "Now, they are headed for nowhere, for the heart of a slum city which they cannot hold in a guerrilla war where the taking of territory and the occupying of neighborhoods is essentially beside the point. They are headed for oblivion, while trying to win the hearts and minds by shooting missiles into homes and enclosing people in giant walls which break families and communities apart, while destroying livelihoods."

What this writer fails to understand is that you are a thinker who thinks the big thoughts. And one big thought you've thought is the dilemma that is now facing humanity: the world population is growing as its resources are shrinking. There is no longer enough to go around. Humanity is afloat in an overcrowded lifeboat. Sacrifice is called for.

There is but one solution to this dilemma, and that is to reduce world poverty by euthanizing it.

SG urges denial in Indonesia case

From SCOTUSBlog :

The U.S. Solicitor General on Friday urged the Supreme Court not to get involved, at this stage, in a lawsuit in U.S. courts by villagers in Indonesia claiming they were abused by guards at a natural gas plant operated there by Exxon Mobil Corp. and affiliates.  Sol. Gen. Paul D. Clement said lower court rulings had significantly narrowed the lawsuit, and it does not present, as of now, any real threats to U.S. foreign policy interests and no claims against the Indonesian government.   The case is Exxon Mobil, et al., v. Doe, et al. (07-81). The U.S. government's views were sought by the Court on Nov. 13. The case has not yet been scheduled for consideration by the Court.

The government's amicus brief can be downloaded here.  An earlier post on this blog describing a denial in January by Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr., of a request to stop further evidence-gathering in the case in District Court can be read here.

The appeal in the case does not directly challenge the lawsuit, although the end of the case is the ultimate objective. Rather, the appeal seeks to test whether Exxon Mobil had a right to file an immediate appeal to the D.C. Circuit when a federal District judge refused to dismiss the case entirely.  The Circuit Court found that Exxon Mobil had not made a case for a right to appeal at this stage.

First Music Download Trial Verdict May Get Overturned

From the May It Please The Court Blog

Late last year, Jammie Thomas was found guilty by a Minnesota jury of pirating music and violating the record companies' copyrights in that music, and ordered to pay $220,000.  Next month, she may get a new trial.

Ruling from the bench right before the October 2007 trial, U.S. District Court Judge Michael J. Davis agreed with the record industry lawyers and issued a jury instruction that said making sound recordings available without the record companies' permission violates their copyrights "regardless of whether actual distribution has been shown."

Thomas' lawyers argued that only the record company downloaded the music allegedly copied by Thomas, and that no actual distribution occurred.  In reconsidering his ruling, Judge Davis indicated that a case relied on by the record companies was recently vacated.  Hearings are set for next month on the issue.

Torture's Blowback

The ghosts of interrogations past have come back to haunt the Bush administration. This week, the legal officer supervising the military trials at the U.S. detention center at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, dismissed capital charges against Mohammed al-Qahtani, who allegedly would have been the 20th hijacker during the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks had he not been prevented from entering the country. The decision has been widely reported as a serious setback for the administration's quest to bring terrorists to justice. It is much more and much worse than that: It is a palpable reminder of the inhumane acts committed by U.S. personnel and sanctioned by top officials in the name of protecting Americans from extremists.

Once described by the administration as one of the "worst of the worst," Mr. Qahtani was captured in late 2001 and has been held by the United States ever since. In trying to squeeze information from the Saudi national, U.S. personnel obtained permission from then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to threaten Mr. Qahtani with dogs, force him to withstand prolonged stress positions, interrogate him for 20 hours a day and subject him to sexual humiliation in order to break him psychologically. By most accounts Mr. Qahtani is now indeed a broken man, unable to communicate meaningfully even with those who would help him. Susan J. Crawford, who dismissed the charges against him, either came to believe that Mr. Qahtani's statements were unreliable and inadmissible because they were coerced; or, perhaps, that the proceedings against Mr. Qahtani had to be halted to keep a litany of abuses from being recounted within earshot of the rest of the world.

~ full editorial ~


Please, Somebody Sell Justice Scalia Some Stock - Ann Woolner

For Chief Justice John Roberts, it's Hewlett-Packard. Stephen Breyer has Colgate-Palmolive, Bank of America, IBM, Nestle. Samuel Alito: Bristol-Myers Squibb and Exxon Mobil.

Those companies are among 33 that went to the U.S. Supreme Court in hopes of killing a lawsuit against them. Victims of South Africa's brutal apartheid era are suing American companies they say aided racist repression there.

But when the businesses asked the Supreme Court to consider reversing a lower court ruling that keeps the case alive, the justices couldn't muster a quorum.

Four stepped aside, the court reported this week. Anthony Kennedy presumably declined to participate because his son is a banker at Credit Suisse Group, one of the companies bringing the appeal. Fine.

Roberts, Breyer and Alito, on the other hand, apparently removed themselves from the roster because they hold stock in at least one of the companies bringing the appeal.

[ ... ]

But all those reasons are precisely why justices should avoid creating unnecessary conflicts of interest.

If these people put their responsibility to their rather important jobs above their portfolios, they would have sold their shares and done the work they were selected to do. As for tax implications, a 2006 law lets them defer capital gains tax when selling stock to avoid a conflict of interest.

It isn't as if they are filing clerks or bat boys. And given how many of the tough questions have been decided by 5-4 votes in recent years, every justice counts.

Yes, going on the court usually requires financial sacrifice, and a big one at that. In private practice until 2001, Roberts pulled down more than $1 million a year. As chief justice he earns a mere $217,400.

That is paltry compensation for this important work done by these bright and accomplished people.

But, please. They knew that going in. And the job does have other forms of compensation, like helping set the legal landscape of the nation for decades to come.

~ more... ~


Evidence Points to Routine Use of Torture by Ugandan Government

Denmark's Ambassador to Uganda was away when his wife looked out the window and saw a young man fall from the sky and land on her garden. She made a frantic call to her husband, Stig Barlyng, who immediately sped home to his residence in a posh suburb in Kampala. But by the time Barlyng arrived home, the guards from the Chieftaincy of Military Intelligence (CMI) headquarters next door had already overpowered Barlyng's guard and recaptured their escapee. "I went next door and I started yelling a bit, to put it mildly," recalls Barlyng, who is months away from wrapping up his ambassadorship. Barlyng had reason to be upset -- "the presence of torture in Uganda was handed to me on a silver platter," he says.

Though not picked up by any international media outlets when it occurred in early 2006, the 30-foot jump of Ronald Kasekende onto Barlyng's compound was reported in the country's independent daily. For six months, the newspaper reported, Kaskende, a university student and an alleged spy for the opposition, was "severely beaten and subject to other forms of torture" in hopes that he would release the names of his accomplices. Shortly after his escape attempt, exposed to diplomatic and press circles, Kasekende was officially charged with treason and detained in an actual prison. Today, he still lives in Kampala and is wary of speaking to the media. When asked how his experiences in an illegal detention center have affected him, he only had this to say: "I tell my friends the hardware is the same but the software is all messed up."

'Dettol Man' died of cleaning obsession

A man died after becoming obsessed with cleaning his home and himself with Dettol.

Recluse Jacques Niemand, 42, used vast amounts of the disinfectant for keeping his home clean and washing himself, an inquest heard.

The inquest in Manchester was told that Jacques' over-exposure to the cleaning agent resulted in a fatal lack of oxygen getting into his system.

His sister Ruth Bain said she wouldn't go into the flat in Pine Court, Lapwing Lane, Didsbury, because it was 'stifling'.

And several police officers who went in the flat following his death later went off sick with aches and pains after being 'overpowered' by the smell of cleaning products.

After Jacques' death last July Mrs Bain found a suitcase crammed with around 100 bottles of Dettol.

Empty bottles were also littered around the flat, as well as several buckets containing the fluid.

Mrs Bain said her brother, who was known as 'The Dettol Man', had suffered from an obsessive cleaning disorder for years.

Internet obsession or addiction

An Israel psychiatrist believes behaviors such as — craving your computer mouse as the first thing you do after awakening, or obsessively checking email in the middle of the night – is better described as an addiction rather than an obsession.

Experts estimate ten percent of all Internet surfers are afflicted with "Internet addiction disorder," a pathological condition that can lead to anxiety and severe depression.

Dr. Pinhas Dannon, a psychiatrist from Tel Aviv University's Sackler Faculty of Medicine, recommends the disorder be grouped with other extreme addictive disorders such as gambling, sex addiction, and kleptomania.

[ ... ]

The symptoms of Internet addiction in both groups are vague and are often difficult to diagnose. Sufferers may experience loss of sleep, anxiety when not online, isolation from family and peer groups, loss of work, and periods of deep depression.

Treating Internet addiction can only be done effectively, believes Dr. Dannon, if the condition is treated like any other extreme and menacing addiction. For example, a clinician could use talk therapy or prescribe medication such as Serotonin blockers and Naltrexone, which are also effective against kleptomania and pathological gambling.

~ more... ~


An indictment of US torture

Only one interviewee, the former Pentagon lawyer Doug Feith, expresses some distrust of him ("the problem with moral authority is people who should know better, like yourself, siding with the assholes") but even he cannot quite bear to show Sands the door.

Instead, Feith sets him straight - by describing at great length just how central a role he played in sidelining the Geneva Conventions after the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Such loquacity is central to Sands's narrative. It was not skulking renegades who emboldened ordinary Americans to strip and leash their captives, to pin images of World Trade Centre victims to their bodies, to expose them to snarling dogs, and to half-drown them. It was suited attorneys, who still proudly proclaim their fidelity to US law.

Their objection was not to legality, but to the "quaint" terms used by human rights treaties - and they thought it perfectly legal to disregard past international interpretations of those treaties, unless and until a US court told them otherwise.

Sands's suggestion is that they still betrayed their calling. Even assuming that American rules were all that counted, they remained professionally obliged to flag up aspects of their advice that others might consider controversial - and by choosing to characterise preordained political goals as settled law, they crossed the line that separates the advocate from the accomplice.

[ ... ]

As Dick Cheney was instructing America that it should prepare to "work through... the dark side" and Fox television had begun broadcasting 24, a programme that celebrated righteous torture, the first practical proposals came from a Harvard professor and former civil rights champion, Alan Dershowitz.

The time had come, he argued, to consider thrusting needles under the fingernails of terrorist suspects. "Pain", he said, was "overrated". In the name of moral clarity, moral blindness had descended - and the shadowy course to Abu Ghraib was set.

~ more... ~


'Even some of the most hardcore conspiracy debunkers have had their beliefs shaken to the core by the former Defense Secretary's admission'

Rumsfeld On Tape: Terror Attack Could Restore Neo-Con Agenda
Former Defense Secretary's conversation with military analysts on political problems - "The Correction For That...Is An Attack"
Paul Joseph Watson
Prison Planet
Friday, May 16, 2008

Shocking excerpts of confidential recordings recently released under the Freedom of Information Act feature former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld talking with top military analysts about how a flagging Neo-Con political agenda could be successfully restored with the aid of another terrorist attack on America.

The tape also includes a conversation where Rumsfeld and the military analysts agree on the possible necessity of installing a brutal dictator in Iraq to oversee U.S. interests.

The tapes were released as part of the investigation into the Pentagon's "message force multipliers" program in which top military analysts were hired to propagandize for the Iraq war in the corporate media.

In attendance at the valedictory luncheon Rumsfeld hosted on December 12, 2006 were David L. Grange, Donald W. Sheppard, James Marks, Rick Francona, Wayne Downing, and Robert H. Scales, Jr. among others.

The most extraordinary exchange takes place when Lt. Gen. Michael DeLong bemoans shrinking political support for Neo-Con war plans on Capitol Hill and suggests that sympathy for the Bush administration's agenda will only be achieved after a new terror attack.

Rumsfeld agrees that the psychological impact of 9/11 is wearing off and the "behavior pattern" of citizens in both the U.S. and Europe suggests that they are unconcerned about the threat of terror.

DELONG: Politically, what are the challenges because you're not going to have a lot of sympathetic ears up there until it [a terror attack] happens.

RUMSFELD: That's what I was just going to say. This President's pretty much a victim of success. We haven't had an attack in five years. The perception of the threat is so low in this society that it's not surprising that the behavior pattern reflects a low threat assessment. The same thing's in Europe, there's a low threat perception. The correction for that, I suppose, is an attack. And when that happens, then everyone gets energized for another [inaudible] and it's a shame we don't have the maturity to recognize the seriousness of the threats...the lethality, the carnage, that can be imposed on our society is so real and so present and so serious that you'd think we'd be able to understand it, but as a society, the longer you get away from 9/11, the less...the less...

Click here for the audio clip.

In another exchange, after assuring that comments are "off the record," Rumsfeld and one of the military analysts agree that Iraq could use a "Syngman Rhee" to take control of Iraq. Syngman Rhee was the ruthless authoritarian dictator of South Korea from after World War II through the Korean War to 1960. If the invasion of Iraq was about liberating the Iraqis from a tyrant in the form of Saddam Hussein why is Rumsfeld talking about installing an even more brutal dictator?

Click here for the audio clip. Newsvine has the recording in full.

Rumsfeld's admission that the correction for dwindling support of the Neo-Con imperial crusade is another terror attack is perhaps the most startling and blatant indication that 9/11 was an inside job.

How much more evidence do we need to confirm that the Neo-Con hierarchy in control of the U.S. government are instigating and exploiting terror in the pursuit of their own domestic and geopolitical agenda?

As Jerry Mazza writes today, "In the seven years since the day, exhaustive and still growing evidence proves beyond any reasonable doubt that the US government, spearheaded by the Bush administration, planned, orchestrated and executed the 9/11 false flag operation. As openly advocated by wide swaths of elites, from the Project for the New American Century (PNAC), of which Rumsfeld has been a member, to the likes of Zbigniew Brzezinski (in his The Grand Chessboard), only an attack "on the order of Pearl Harbor" would, in Brzezinski's words, cause the American people to support an "imperial mobilization," and a world war."

Placing the new evidence against previously revealed 9/11-related acts on the part of Rumsfeld, his guilt is overt and obvious. Recall that it was Rumsfeld who enthusiastically penned the "Go Massive" memo, gleefully declaring the Bush administration finally had the green light to kill: "Not only UBL (Usama bin Laden). Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not."

The longing for a new terror attack to corral the masses back behind the Neo-Con agenda is a shared fetish amongst Neo-Cons, policy wonks and academics alike.

In August last year Philadelphia Daily News columnist Stu Bykofsky openly called for "another 9/11" that "would help America" restore a "community of outrage and national resolve".

Lt.-Col. Doug Delaney, chair of the war studies program at the Royal Military College in Kingston, Ontario, told the Toronto Star last July that "The key to bolstering Western resolve is another terrorist attack like 9/11 or the London transit bombings of two years ago."

The same sentiment was also explicitly expressed in a 2005 GOP memo, which yearned for new attacks that would "validate" the President's war on terror and "restore his image as a leader of the American people."

Also in July 2007, former Republican Senator Rick Santorum suggested that a series of "unfortunate events," namely terrorist attacks, will occur within the next year and change American citizen's perception of the war.

And the month before that, the new chairman of the Arkansas Republican Party Dennis Milligan said that there needed to be more attacks on American soil for President Bush to regain popular approval.

Comments posted on the left-wing Huffington Post website in response to the Rumsfeld tape indicate that even some of the most hardcore conspiracy debunkers have had their beliefs shaken to the core by the former Defense Secretary's admission.

"I have been a very staunch opponent of conspiracy theories," writes one, "but to hear the man most responsible for stopping foreign threats to American lives musing that a successful attack on the USA is somehow a "cure" for us... it almost makes me want to make a tinfoil hat with the nuts I made fun of."



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