Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Stop the US torture ship

British human rights campaigners Reprieve have urged the Spanish authorities to board and search US torture ship USS Bataan after it moored at the Palma de Mallorca holiday resort.

Reprieve said on Friday that the USS Bataan is one of the US government's most infamous "floating prisons" and will remain at the island until Saturday.

At least nine prisoners including John Walker Lindh, David Hicks and Ibn Al-Sheikh Al-Libi, who recently died in mysterious circumstances in Libyan custody, are confirmed to have been held aboard the USS Bataan.

Reprieve pointed out that, in January 2002, Mr Al-Libi was flown to the ship, which was then cruising the northern Arabian Sea, before his interrogation began.

From there, he was rendered to Egypt where he was forced under torture to confess that al-Qaida and Saddam Hussein were in league on weapons of mass destruction.

Details regarding the operation of prison ships have emerged through a number of sources, including the US military and other administration officials, the Council of Europe, various parliamentary bodies and journalists, as well as the testimonies of prisoners themselves.

Reprieve investigations also suggest that a further 15 ships have been used to hold prisoners beyond the rule of law since 2001. Prisoners are interrogated aboard the vessels and then rendered to other, often undisclosed, locations.

A former prisoner told Reprieve: "One of my fellow prisoners in Guantanamo was at sea on an American ship before coming to Guantanamo. He was in the cage next to me. He told me that there were about 50 other prisoners on the ship.

"They were all closed off in the bottom of the ship. The prisoner commented to me that it was like something you see on TV. The people held on the ship were beaten even more severely than in Guantanamo."

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Israel won't be aiding UN Gaza investigation

Tel Aviv has voiced disdain over the United Nations' authority to look into Israel's three weeks of military onslaught through the Gaza Strip.

"We don't approve of the mandate the committee was given to investigate war crimes," Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Defense Ehud Barak told UN's Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday, Jerusalem Post reported.

"I do not think Israel has to or will cooperate with this investigation," the minister added.

He also accused the four-member team, appointed by the UN's Human Rights Council for the purpose, would not be able to get far in investigating, what he called, the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas' 'terrorist operations' - an excuse which Israel used to subject the strip to continuous land and air assaults in late 2008 and early 2009 killing more than 1,400 Palestinians.

Hamas in the meantime made clear its preparedness to cooperate with the UN "to unveil the truth and bring out all the hidden details of what took place during the war, hoping to show the entire world the truth," the movement said in a statement, the Palestinian news agency Ma'an reported.

The statement added that "the Israeli rejection of dealing with such committees proves that they committed crimes in Gaza and they want [the truth] to be hidden."

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Kottonmouth Kings - 'Positive Vibes'



The KMK closed out their show at the 19th Cup with this rendition of Positive Vibes. Barry "Plunker" Adams, one of the counterculture hall of fame inductees is seen at the end blowing his ceremonial horn.

Ireland set to go bust, claims economic historian

A dire warning that the Republic is a prime candidate to go bust has come from one of the world's leading economic historians.

"The idea that countries don't go bust is a joke," said Niall Ferguson, Harvard professor and author of The Ascent of Money.

"The debt trap may be about to spring" he said, "for countries that have created large stimulus packages in order to stimulate their economies."

His chosen prime candidate to go bust is "Ireland, followed by Italy and Belgium, and UK is not too far behind".

Argentina is top of his list of shaky countries but "the argument that it can't happen in major western economies is nonsense".

Professor Ferguson believes the economists are ill qualified to analyse the current economic situation since they lack the overview of historians such as himself.

"There are economic professors in American universities who think they are masters of the universe, but they don't have any historical knowledge. I have never believed that markets are self correcting. No historian could."

The historian does not subscribe to the theory of the "Great Depression" repeating and says this scenario is unlikely because the Federal Reserve has "massively expanded the monetary base which is the opposite of what happened in the 1930s".

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Senator reveals Philip Morris co-authored FDA tobacco bill

Senator Mike Enzi, ranking member of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), confirmed May 21 that cigarette maker Philip Morris co-authored the bill currently under consideration in Congress, for the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to regulate tobacco products. Enzi was rebuffed in efforts to amend the bill to move regulatory authority over tobacco to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), saying the CDC was more appropriate since the "FDA cures, not poisons." Enzi criticized the HELP Committee's rush to "sign a peace treaty with Philip Morris," instead of "fighting tobacco head on."

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Translation, the Fed doesn't know what is going on, but they are really scared

From The big collapse could be very near

The Federal Reserve appears to be increasingly nervous about the long term bond market. This is serious. How panicked are they? After leaking a story on Friday, they are back at it on Sunday.

The Federal Reserve leaked to CNBC's Steve Liesman on Friday that they weren't targeting long rates. Why such a leak? Probably because the Fed did not want to appear impotent in controlling the long rate. So they put out the word through Liesman that they weren't targetting the long rate. Can you imagine what would happen to the markets if it sensed long rates were beyond the control of the Fed?

The Fed can of course print money to buy up every Treasury bond in existence, but the inflationary ramifications would be Zimbabwe like, and crush the dollar on international currency markets. Are we near the phase where all hell breaks loose? I have never even answered, maybe, to this question before. It's always been, "no." Now it's maybe.

What really has me spooked is another article out this afternoon (on a Sunday) that Drudge has even picked up. It's a Reuters story by Alister Bull. The headline: Federal Reserve puzzled by yield curve steepening.

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Four states adopt 'no-smiles' policy for driver's licenses

Stopping driver's license fraud is no laughing matter: Four states are ordering people to wipe the grins off their faces in their license photos.

"Neutral facial expressions" are required at departments of motor vehicles (DMVs) in Arkansas, Indiana, Nevada and Virginia. That means you can't smile, or smile very much. Other states may follow.

The serious poses are urged by DMVs that have installed high-tech software that compares a new license photo with others that have already been shot. When a new photo seems to match an existing one, the software sends alarms that someone may be trying to assume another driver's identity.

But there's a wrinkle in the technology: a person's grin. Face-recognition software can fail to match two photos of the same person if facial expressions differ in each photo, says Carnegie Mellon University robotics professor Takeo Kanade.

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8 New ways you might be insane

Midnight snacker? Compulsive shopper? Bitter? The new edition of the mental health bible may classify you as having a psychological disorder.

The most controversial issue at last week’s annual meeting of the American Psychiatric Association in San Francisco was the upcoming publication of the DSM-V, the revised edition of the APA’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder. The bible for the mental-health industry—originally published in 1952 and revised about once a decade—the DSM has been translated into 13 languages and is recognized around the world as the authoritative text on mental health.

Even though the APA asked the psychiatrists working on the manual’s revision to sign a nondisclosure agreement, leaked proposed additions to the new version have already stirred debate. “Psychiatrists manufacture mental diagnoses the way the Vatican manufactures saints,” says Dr. Thomas Szasz, an outspoken critic of modern psychiatry and author of Psychiatry: The Science of Lies. This view may be extreme, but some of the new “mental illnesses” under consideration for the new edition nonetheless sound a little…crazy.

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Rembetica & revolution

We arrived back to the hotel late last night, around 3:00 AM, after Michael spoke for 3-4 hours on parecon (more on this below). But it was somewhat disconcerting to see a row of 15-20 riot cops on the corner of our hotel facing the polytechnic school. The police presence in the area has seemed to grow each day so it was a little unsettling this early morning. We are staying in the area where the group calling itself Revolutionary Struggle shot and wounded a riot police officer last January in an attack on a police unite guarding the Culture Ministry. We are on the same street as the ministry but just a couple blocks away from the building. So far there have been police on both the corner of our hotel and the back of the polytechnic every day. The first couple days there were police in blue uniforms and yesterday they were in green, which I'm told means they have more power (I think like the U.S. national guard). Tonight there were many more on our street but and, again, on both the front and back of the polytechnic.

I don't want to spend anymore time on this, but simply wanted to note the oddity. Perhaps it is a show of force in the area, which, since this is historically an anarchist and anti-authoritarian stronghold, is a provocative measure by the police.

Two days ago we went to the Nosotros social space to conduct some TV interviews with some local media. Afterward we were introduced to Greek cheese pies as, apparently, the sandwich that I grabbed from the cafe around the corner that morning was "unacceptable" for my Greek friends. And the cheese pies (and cream pies, and sausage pies, etc.) were all very much appreciated by me as indicated that they have been breakfast for the last three days.

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Mozambique: Police still investigating 'orgonite'

Maputo — The Mozambican police have asked their South African counterparts to analyse samples of the "orgonite" which members of the New Age cult "Orgonise Africa" were dumping into the Cahora Bassa lake in April.

National police spokesperson Pedro Cossa said at a Maputo press briefing on Tuesday that samples had gone to Pretoria, and he did not know when the results of the analysis would be received.

Last week Cossa said the four people arrested (on 20 April) had been putting a "highly corrosive" substance in the lake in an attempt to sabotage the Cahora Bassa dam. He said the detainees themselves told the police that orgonite corrodes concrete (although, as far as AIM is aware, only one of the four speaks Portuguese).

Websites of orgonite enthusiasts (followers of the crazed Austrian psychiatrist Wilhelm Reich, whose fraudulent "orgone therapy" led to his incarceration in an American prison, where he died in 1957) tell us how to make orgonite - it consists of polyester resin, quartz crystals and metal (in this case aluminium) shavings, none of which are remotely corrosive.

Mozambican laboratory tests have already shown the orgonite to be inert, and essentially harmless. Nonetheless, the police have decided to use the more sophisticated laboratory equipment available in South Africa, for a second opinion.

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From DIS interest in Cahora Bassa alleged saboteur raises eye-brows

The Directorate of Intelligence Services (DIS) this week sent an agent to Mozambique, allegedly to try and secure the release of former Botswana Defence Force (BDF) pilot, Captain Tino Phuthego.

Phuthego, who in 2006 led the Botswana Defence Force C-130 crew to the Dafur region of Sudan to support the African Union peace keeping mission there, was two weeks ago arrested with three other men in Mozambique on suspicion of trying to sabotage the Cahora Bassa Dam, one of the largest hydro-electric dams in Africa.

The other three were a German soldier and architect, a South African herbalist and a Portuguese hotelier. The quartet was caught with 500 kg of unidentified powder, trying to feed it to the turbines of the dam. The powder, which has been confiscated by Mozambique police officers, was initially believed to be corrosive material designed to damage the Cahora Bassa Dam.

Information, however, started emerging on Friday that, contrary to initial suspicions, the four men are not members of a private terrorist militia but are in fact members of a lunatic fringe group called "Orgonise Africa". It has also emerged that there was nothing clandestine about this group's visit to the Cahora Bassa Lake. They advertised it on their Internet websites, where they called the journey "Operation Paradise".

[ ... ]

The group to which the four men belonged, Orgonise Africa, believes that everything wrong with the planet is due to a lack of orgone. To set matters right, the dedicated followers of the organization engage in "orgone gifting". This involves dumping "gifts" of a substance called orgonite into the place - in this case, Cahora Bassa Lake - that is to be cured of its orgone deficiency.

Orgonise Africa is a band of dedicated followers of the Austrian psychiatrist Wilhelm Reich, who died in an American jail in 1956. Reich did some valuable work on human sexuality in the early part of his career, but in his later years switched his political allegiance from left to right, and showed signs of mental illness and paranoia.

He claimed that he had discovered a universal form of energy which he called orgone. This energy - undetected by science both then and in the 52 years since Reich's death - was responsible for everything from the weather to gravity and the formation of galaxies. Reich built machines called orgone accumulators which were supposed to concentrate orgone energy. This would be a good thing since, according to Reich, illness and diseases are caused by insufficient orgone.


From Quotes of the week

JOHANNESBURG - A selection of quotes of Southern African interest. This feature moves every Thursday.

“The idea was to go with the own boat up the dam to Zumbo and back and drop orgonite pieces all the way, to improve the quality of etheric energy (life force) of the dam... It revitalises the water... it’s a very subtle thing.” -- Friederike Ritschl explaining that her husband Georg, one of four people arrested for trying to sabotage Mozambique’s Cahora Bassa dam, was merely trying to cleanse the water.

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