Thursday, August 26, 2010

Chernobyl Effects Could Last Centuries

By Pavol Stracansky (IPS)

Almost 25 years after the world's worst nuclear accident a series of new scientific studies have suggested the effects of the Chernobyl disaster have been underestimated.

Scientists last month published information that, contradicting previous claims, animal populations are declining in the exclusion zone surrounding the site of the former Soviet nuclear power plant, and that radiation contamination effects following the explosion had been "overwhelming".

The German government also reported that compensation payouts made to hunters capturing radioactive wild boar had quadrupled in the last two years as more and more animals were found to have high levels of caesium.

This came just months after doctors in the Ukraine and Belarus said they had seen a rise in cancer rates, mutations and blood diseases in patients they believe are linked to Chernobyl. And a separate U.S. study published in April claimed there had been a rise in birth defects thought to be linked to continuing exposure to low-level radiation doses.

Campaigners against nuclear power say that the studies show that people will be living with the devastating consequences of the disaster for decades, possibly centuries, to come.

Rianne Teule, a campaigner on nuclear issues at Greenpeace, told IPS: "This is a problem that will not go away in a few years, it will be here for hundreds of years to come.

"The new studies confirm that the problems, as presented in 2006 by the World Health Organisation and International Atomic Energy Agency, were really much bigger and will continue to exist and be shown up in other studies. It is not something that is going to go away soon."

When one of the blocks of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in what is today the Ukraine exploded in April 1986, it caused the world's worst nuclear disaster. It was estimated that the total radioactivity from Chernobyl was 200 times that of the combined releases from the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. The blast and following fires sent a huge radioactive cloud spreading across Europe, and 350,000 people in areas near the plant had to be evacuated.

The United Nations, World Health Organisation, International Atomic Energy Agency and other bodies later joined with the Russian, Belarus and Ukraine governments to set up the 'Chernobyl Forum' to undertake a major study into the effects of the disaster, and released their findings in 2006.

Their study claimed that there had been only 56 direct deaths (47 accident workers and nine children with thyroid cancer), and estimated a future 4,000 deaths due to the accident.

But the report was heavily criticised by other groups who said it grossly underestimated the deaths and potential future health effects of the disaster and had used selective reporting of data.

Some questioned the stance of the IAEA, which has backed the use of civil nuclear power for decades.

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Blackwater Provided 'Unauthorized' Training in Colombia

Erin Rosa reports for Narconews:

US State Department Claims Blackwater Corporation Gave Military Training in Colombia Without Agency's Permission

Blackwater, a corporation that specializes in providing military-style training and support to other businesses and governments, recently entered into a $42 million civil settlement with the State Department this month after the agency found that the company violated international arms trafficking and export regulations no less than 288 times.

The settlement is mainly focused on the company's business dealings in Iraq and Afghanistan, but within a 41-page document (PDF) of the State Department's findings on the case, the agency also claims that Blackwater provided at least one unauthorized military training in Colombia in 2005, allegedly in violation of International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR).

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Also in the document, under the heading “Unauthorized export of technical data and provision of defense services involving Military/Security training (conducted internationally),” the State Department goes into more detail about the training, stating that “between April 2005 and May 2005” Blackwater “without authorization provided security training to Colombian foreign persons.”

The details of this “unauthorized” training are made more disturbing when considering how the Colombian military and paramilitaries in the country continue to participate in well-documented human rights abuses, including assassinations, massacres, and political intimidation, mostly by using the drug war or Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC in Spanish initials) guerillas as an excuse.

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No Copyright Law - The Real Reason for Germany's Industrial Expansion?

Did Germany experience rapid industrial expansion in the 19th century due to an absence of copyright law? A German historian argues that the massive proliferation of books, and thus knowledge, laid the foundation for the country's industrial might.

The entire country seemed to be obsessed with reading. The sudden passion for books struck even booksellers as strange and in 1836 led literary critic Wolfgang Menzel to declare Germans "a people of poets and thinkers."

"That famous phrase is completely misconstrued," declares economic historian Eckhard Höffner, 44. "It refers not to literary greats such as Goethe and Schiller," he explains, "but to the fact that an incomparable mass of reading material was being produced in Germany."

Höffner has researched that early heyday of printed material in Germany and reached a surprising conclusion -- unlike neighboring England and France, Germany experienced an unparalleled explosion of knowledge in the 19th century.

German authors during this period wrote ceaselessly. Around 14,000 new publications appeared in a single year in 1843. Measured against population numbers at the time, this reaches nearly today's level. And although novels were published as well, the majority of the works were academic papers.

The situation in England was very different. "For the period of the Enlightenment and bourgeois emancipation, we see deplorable progress in Great Britain," Höffner states.

Equally Developed Industrial Nation

Indeed, only 1,000 new works appeared annually in England at that time -- 10 times fewer than in Germany -- and this was not without consequences. Höffner believes it was the chronically weak book market that caused England, the colonial power, to fritter away its head start within the span of a century, while the underdeveloped agrarian state of Germany caught up rapidly, becoming an equally developed industrial nation by 1900.

Even more startling is the factor Höffner believes caused this development -- in his view, it was none other than copyright law, which was established early in Great Britain, in 1710, that crippled the world of knowledge in the United Kingdom.

Germany, on the other hand, didn't bother with the concept of copyright for a long time. Prussia, then by far Germany's biggest state, introduced a copyright law in 1837, but Germany's continued division into small states meant that it was hardly possible to enforce the law throughout the empire.

Höffner's diligent research is the first academic work to examine the effects of the copyright over a comparatively long period of time and based on a direct comparison between two countries, and his findings have caused a stir among academics. Until now, copyright was seen as a great achievement and a guarantee for a flourishing book market. Authors are only motivated to write, runs the conventional belief, if they know their rights will be protected.

Yet a historical comparison, at least, reaches a different conclusion. Publishers in England exploited their monopoly shamelessly. New discoveries were generally published in limited editions of at most 750 copies and sold at a price that often exceeded the weekly salary of an educated worker.

London's most prominent publishers made very good money with this system, some driving around the city in gilt carriages. Their customers were the wealthy and the nobility, and their books regarded as pure luxury goods. In the few libraries that did exist, the valuable volumes were chained to the shelves to protect them from potential thieves.

In Germany during the same period, publishers had plagiarizers -- who could reprint each new publication and sell it cheaply without fear of punishment -- breathing down their necks. Successful publishers were the ones who took a sophisticated approach in reaction to these copycats and devised a form of publication still common today, issuing fancy editions for their wealthy customers and low-priced paperbacks for the masses.

A Multitude of Treatises

This created a book market very different from the one found in England. Bestsellers and academic works were introduced to the German public in large numbers and at extremely low prices. "So many thousands of people in the most hidden corners of Germany, who could not have thought of buying books due to the expensive prices, have put together, little by little, a small library of reprints," the historian Heinrich Bensen wrote enthusiastically at the time.

The prospect of a wide readership motivated scientists in particular to publish the results of their research. In Höffner's analysis, "a completely new form of imparting knowledge established itself."

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The War Over Plunder: Who Owns Art Stolen in War?

... The Swedish queen Christina wanted it all. On her orders, 500 paintings, 370 scientific instruments, 70 bronze statues, thousands of jewels, medals, and curios, and the live lion were loaded onto barges and shipped to Sweden. But most of all she wanted the books. "Do not forget to procure and send me the library and the rarities there in Prague," she told her military commanders. "These, as you know, are all I really care about." The Thirty Years War was all about plunder, and Christina wanted to get one last shipment in before the peace treaty was signed.

Fast-forward 362 years and the Silver Bible is still in Sweden (despite a brief sojourn to the Netherlands in the late 17th century), the most prized volume in the collections of the University of Uppsala and, indeed, the most valuable book in all of Sweden.

And the Czechs want it back.

After the collapse of communism, Czech president Vaclav Havel tried to persuade Sweden to return the Silver Bible and several other objects taken from Bohemia during the Thirty Years War. He was refused, leaving the Czechs despondent. As the director of the Czech National Library later put it, "If Vaclav Havel did not succeed then no one will succeed." Sweden has allowed another manuscript seized from Prague—the Devil's Bible, or Codex Gigas—to be exhibited in the Czech Republic, but has made it clear that the books and everything else their armies seized now belong to them.

Over the past two decades, globalization, changing attitudes, and the spread of both international law and civil lawsuits have emboldened aggrieved nations to demand the return of cultural property seized by enemy forces decades or even centuries ago, and a few holders of these spoils have complied. Five years ago, Japan returned a Korean monument on the centennial of its theft during the Russo-Japanese War; three years before that, Italy returned a 3,000-year-old obelisk taken during Mussolini's invasion of Ethiopia.

But more often than not, the plunder has remained with the plunderer, despite near universal condemnation of the practice by some current belligerents. The Swiss canton of St. Gallen lobbied for years to force Zurich canton to return a 16th-century wooden globe seized in a 1712 invasion, but in 2006 had to settle for a replica. Sweden, which hasn't fought a war in two centuries, has been under pressure to return looted cultural items not only to the Czechs but also to Poland, Denmark, Norway, and even its own region of Skåne, which it seized from the Danes in 1658. (As one blogger puts it: "It cannot be acceptable that I should have to take my grandchild in the hand, travel 650 kilometers to [the Swedish town of] Skokloster in order to see and experience our own Scanian history and culture.")

Meanwhile, Germany has been angrily insisting that Russia return a vast trove of art looted at the end of World War II, even as Poland demands billions in compensation for cultural artifacts stolen or destroyed during the Nazi occupation.

Returning plunder to its rightful owner may sound straightforward, but in practice it is extremely difficult, particularly for objects seized in the distant past. Who the "rightful" owner is seems to depend largely on your point of view. After all, for much of human history, armies plundered the vanquished as a matter of course and sometimes went to war solely to do so. Well into the 17th century, armies survived by stealing crops, livestock, and other civilian property, their soldiers pilfering valuables in lieu of a proper salary or disability benefit. Virtually every belligerent participated, causing particular treasures to change hands over and over again, the original "owner" sometimes having been forgotten altogether, occasionally because their civilization had ceased to exist. Spanish conquistadors seized shiploads of Aztec gold artifacts that are now scattered in museums around the world, while European powers and American armies absconded with the cultural heritage of numerous African and Native American peoples by force of arms. In some cases, it is difficult or impossible to establish who would be a legitimate inheritor of these objects, even if the present owners agreed to return them.

Determining the legitimate owner of something as old as the Silver Bible can be a futile task. The Ostrogoths who created it died out centuries ago, and the Czechs weren't in control of Prague when the Swedes arrived in 1648, the city being part of the now extinct Holy Roman Empire. Sure, the bible belonged to German-speaking emperors for 60 years, but nobody knows how they extracted it from the Benedictines. The Swedes have at this point possessed the book six times longer than anyone in Prague ever did, so it is not surprising that they don't feel compelled to hand it over.

The fact is, there is no legal or customary basis to demand the return of anything plundered prior to the turn of the 20th century. Doing so successfully is ultimately a matter of public relations, of convincing whoever possesses the object that giving it back is the right thing to do.

"There's no source of international law that clearly goes back before the late 19th century, and there's no [international] statute of limitations that would get you back to the 15th, 16th or 17th centuries," says Patty Gerstenblith, director of the Center for Art, Mu­seum, and Cultural Heritage Law at the DePaul University College of Law. "There are examples of things being returned from long ago, but they were done on a cooperative or moral basis, not a legal one."

Indeed, moral campaigns can succeed, even when the law is fixed against them. Take the case of the ghost shirt of Glasgow. The sandy brown tunic adorned with eagle feathers was a magical object created in the 19th century by the Lakota (or Sioux) Indians and worn by followers of the Ghost Dance religion. Lakota Ghost Dancers believed the ghost shirts would make them invulnerable to Western weaponry, which, unfortunately for them, was not the case. On December 29, 1890, the U.S. 7th Cavalry ambushed a band of Lakotas at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, killing between 150 and 300, including women, children, and Ghost Dancers. (The army lost 25 men, most to friendly fire.) The bodies were looted and piled into mass graves. One of the plundered ghost shirts was acquired a month or so later by George Crager, a Lakota-speaking adventurer and journalist, who took it with him when he joined William "Wild Bill" Cody's traveling Wild West Show as a translator for Indian performers. While on tour in Scotland in 1892, Crager donated the bloodstained ghost shirt to the city of Glasgow, where officials placed it in their museum.

A century later, an American tourist of Cherokee descent came across the museum exhibit and was stunned to find something "stolen from a dead body at Wounded Knee." The tourist contacted the Lakota, who were amazed to learn that a ghost shirt from the famous massacre had survived, and began a tenacious letter-writing campaign to have it returned to their reservation. Glasgow's city council was adamant that the celebrated artifact should stay put, its case backed up by a recently passed British law declaring all museum artifacts in the United Kingdom to be British property.

The Lakota had no legal footing, but they sent delegations of tribal members to Glasgow who performed solemn ceremonies to bless the shirt and took their case to the local media. Letters poured in to the museum and to newspapers expressing overwhelming support for the shirt to be returned. The Lakota's tragic story, introduced to the Scots by the wildly successful 1990 film Dances with Wolves, struck a chord in a nation that had itself been brutally subjugated by a more industrialized neighbor. "We as a nation have witnessed our own culture being ravaged and treated with disrespect and contempt," one writer declared. "The shirt should be handed back immediately." When the Lakota delegations returned to city hall in 1998, the city did just that. The ghost shirt is now being held at the South Dakota State Historical Society in Pierre until the Lakota complete a museum to house it. ...

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"Not Written in Stone: Learning and Unlearning American History Through 200 Years of Textbooks"

Hopefully, this insight will lead to a revision of the 'official' version of modern American history! From Eleanor J. Baader's review on Truthout:

...Tales of what actually happened vary depending on who is doing the telling and why they're talking. What's more, race, class, gender and personal identity impact the thing we call history. In the end, what one person chooses to emphasize will be deemed insignificant, or even irrelevant, by someone else.

Kyle Ward, director of social studies education at Minnesota's St. Cloud University, concludes, "every person involved in a historical event, from the original actors to the historians who have written about it, have been influenced by their own society/culture, no matter what era they wrote and did their research in."

His latest book, "Not Written in Stone," looks at the ways historical events have been presented to students over the past 200 years and offers textbook excerpts from multiple eras to illustrate the ways in which emphasis and details have changed over time. In 29 chapters, he elucidates the portrayal of everything from Native Americans to women alleged to be witches to Revolutionary and Civil War battles. He also examines Reconstruction, slavery, 19th century immigration and the early years of US industry. It's a fascinating read, made particularly startling because Ward adds almost no commentary to the segments he includes. He simply lets each excerpt stand alone, forcing the reader to acknowledge that our understanding of events and actions is completely reliant on the "facts" a particular historian chooses to present.

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The book's release is also extremely well timed. The religious right's current fight against liberalism and science - evidenced in the Texas school board's removal of the age of the universe from science textbooks, deletion of Cesar Chavez and Dolores Huerta from social studies books and whitewashing of Joseph McCarthy's anti-Communist antics from history texts - has brought the reality of educational manipulation into sharp focus.

Although Ward does not address this recent brouhaha, he believes that history is so complex that no single account can fully explain events either cataclysmic or small. Instead, he presents history as the slow unfolding of everyday life, a process that requires sifting through articles, books, original documents and eyewitness accounts to arrive at an understanding of what might have occurred.

"Not Written in Stone" opens with a chapter called "Images of Native Americans." He begins with a selection from a book penned by Noah Webster in 1831: "In general, a savage is governed by his passions ... He is remarkably hospitable to strangers, offering them the best accommodation he has and always serving them first ... Their religion was idolatry, for they worshipped the sun, the moon, the earth, fire, images and the like."

Eighty-one years later, cultural differences are played up even further: "The squaw's first duty was to care for the children. She had a queer-looking cradle, or cradleboard, for her papoose, as she called her child," Wilbur F. Gordy wrote in 1913. "Before the white man came, the Indian had never seen a sword, a gun, an iron axe, nor a knife made of metal ... They made life easier for him."

William Backus Guitteau's 1930 text, "Our United States," moved the focus from cultural exoticism to present Native Americans as brutal antagonists. "Their warfare was cruel almost beyond belief," he wrote. "The warrior scalped his dead foe and wore the scalp as a trophy and proof of his prowess. Captives were tortured with every cruelty that human ingenuity could devise."

By 1991, however, Clarence L. Ver Steeg's and Carol Ann Skinner's "Exploring America's Heritage" downplayed violence and instead focused on communal living and nurturance. "In almost every group," they wrote, "children learned without school buildings, books, or hired teacher. Parents, grandparents and elders were the teachers. The world was the classroom." The authors also address the longstanding environmental stewardship of native tribes. "They did not believe that people could own land. They felt that people - like air, land and water - were part of nature. The Indians felt that everyone must use these gifts of nature with care and honor."

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Trying to Escape the Surveillance State

Britain is one of the world's leading surveillance states. Privacy International, an advocacy group, ranks the U.K. right behind flagrant offenders like Russia and China. But such concerns didn't hit home for British filmmaker David Bond until the U.K. government lost a slew of data on his newborn daughter. In response, Bond decided to see what it would take to escape detection for a month in his data-happy homeland. The experiment turned into a documentary, Erasing David, now available for download from iTunes and Bond sat down with TIME to talk about his film.

What made you finally want to get off the grid?

I got a letter from the U.K. government in 2007, saying they had lost my daughter's details. It was pretty stressful experience — they lost her name, her date of birth, my name, my bank account details, our address. It really freaked me out and made me think that if that type of data can be lost with a kid that age, what risk are the rest of us at?

It seems like privacy is an oft-discussed concern in Britain. What has the government done that's been cause for alarm?
There's always a balance between privacy and security. You've got to know where you want to draw that line, and for various reasons, the British government has drawn the line in a pretty frightening place. I think those reasons are terrorism, fear of crime and also the fact that we didn't we have the problems in the Second World War that our European neighbors did. We don't have the kind of collective memory of what its like to live in a state that surveils its population.

How'd you structure your escape for the film?

We went looking for private investigators, and found these amazing guys called Cerberus, who are known as a group who always find their man. They took on the challenge. From that point, we had to plan the date the disappearance would be and give them very limited information about me — just my name and photo.

Did you meet with anyone or get any tips before the chase started?
I had some obvious advice like, "Don't use your cell phone," and some then some really cool advice like, "Don't take tons of cash because you might lose it all. Instead, use an ATM, but only use it right before you travel." The other people I met were victims of the database state, people who had suffered as a result of details being lost or misappropriated. I met a girl who couldn't get a job because she's on some criminal database as a shoplifter, but she never did that. I met a guy who was caught up in an operation to do pornography on the web, but his name was just spelled wrong. These nightmare stories result from the increasingly digitized world that we live in. (See the top 10 Ye Olde British criminal trials.)

So once the chase began, what was the first day like?

I took pretty serious precautions. I booked a ticket on Eurostar — the train to Paris — in someone else's name, and then I immediately went to the Eurostar station and switched the ticket to my name and left. I was out of the country within forty minutes. But I knew I had to come back, because I didn't want to do a film about whether you could live privately abroad. The PIs did say to me, "Go anywhere in the world. We'll catch you." But I ended up coming back to Britain.

Did they set up traps for you along the way?

They came up with a bunch of really cunning stuff. They set up a website called and sent me an e-mail saying, "Hey, we know where you are! And here it is on this website!" I knew that they might track me if I visited it, but I went to an Internet cafe and checked it out, and sure enough, they had loads of information on me about where I'd already been. They were hoping to pin me on my IP address but they also were driving me into a state of nervousness and paranoia. I also had deleted my Facebook page before I went away — I thought it would be an easy way to get to me. But they'd managed to harvest my friend's details from Facebook. Even when you delete your profile, loads of data stay up there. They made a fake profile of me called Phileas Fogg, as in the guy from Around the World in 80 Days, and they sent it to my friends saying, "Hey, I'm on the run, I'd love to get in touch." And loads of them responded.

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Oedipus Complex 2.0: Like it or not, parents shape their children's sexual preferences

On June 6, 1969, a detective in southern Michigan, apparently sensing some scholarly significance in the unusual case report before him, sat down at his desk and typed up a matter-of-fact, single page cover letter to an associate at the Kinsey Institute for Sex Research  at Indiana University in Bloomington. The detective was writing with regard to a male patient who was being held voluntarily at a Kalamazoo psychiatric ward, a polite, self-confessed “rubberphile” who, in the darkest burrows of his own deep shame and mortification, with the electric summer hum of cicadas, the shrill of rusted gurney wheels and the groans of fellow patients as an orchestra for his thoughts, had for several long weeks before sat hunched over in his bed trying furiously to expurgate his sexual demons through his pen. “ This report is my soul and will save my life ,” wrote the patient. And it's this report that came to land soon after on the detective's desk, was looked at askance and stuffed in a manila envelope, borne off by airmail to Bloomington and eventually shelved discreetly with tens of thousands of other such reports in the Kinsey Institute's unpublished archives.

Forty years later, under the soft glow of fluorescent lighting in the Institute's library, I happened across this fetishist's handwritten sexual autobiography—along with the detective's austere covering note—while working on my new book Perv, and I must say that this man's presentation of his condition was an articulate, startling self-exorcism. In a document still effervescent with fear and spanning some fifty pages of lucid, densely packed prose peppered with biblical scripture, this tortured forty-one-year-old rubber-lover—who'd been arrested for various rubber-related crimes, the most minor of these being his making thousands of indecent phone calls to department store saleswomen, inquiring about rubber bikinis for his imaginary wife while fondling laminated advertisements of elastic-clad models with one hand and himself in the other—worked feverishly to understand the origins of his own insatiable desire for rubber and flesh. To the best of his knowledge, it all started when, at the age of seven, he'd stumbled upon his mother's glistening white rubber bathing suit hanging on a clothesline on the back porch, an arousing event that coincided with his first becoming aware of that strange stirring in his loins.

What began as an innocent enough youthful peccadillo, however, would eventually grow horns and become a highly fetishistic—and criminal—adult sexual identity. “He would type on a 3X5 card that he liked to squirt sperm into rubber caps or rubber girdles,” wrote the detective, who in clichéd administrative dishevel left the signature stain of a coffee mug on the police station memo. “Then [he would] place the cards in the victims' mail box and sometimes under the windshield wiper of their cars.” You may think this pathological rubber-lover is an extreme case of sexuality gone awry, which it may very well be. But in studying the sexually abnormal, researchers can gain unique insight into the nuanced, otherwise hidden mechanisms of standard human sexual development and psychosexuality. The rubberphile's early childhood exposure to his mother's bathing suit, an impossibly white piece of material still beaded with lake water and fragrant with her perspiration, was perhaps simply coincident with a happenstance erection. Yet this alchemy was so powerful that once he massaged that elastic between his little thumb and forefinger, all was forever lost.

This basic developmental system, one in which certain salient childhood events “imprint” our psychosexuality, may not be terribly uncommon. In fact, that early childhood experiences mould our adult sexual preferences—specifically, what turns us on and off, however subtle or even unconscious these particular biases may be—could even be run-of-the-mill. And just like the institutionalized rubber-lover, the more carnally humdrum and vanilla among us might also owe our more secret preferences in the bedroom to our becoming aroused, at some point in the distant past, by our own parents, relatives or childhood friends.

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Stryker soldiers allegedly plotted to kill Afghan civilians

In one of the most serious war-crimes cases to emerge from the Afghanistan war, five soldiers from a Stryker infantry brigade based at Joint Base Lewis- McChord are now charged with murder for their alleged roles in the random killings of three Afghan civilians.

Last December, Army Staff Sgt. Calvin Gibbs began joking with other soldiers about how easy it would be to "toss a grenade" at Afghan civilians and kill them, according to statements made by fellow platoon members to military investigators.

One soldier said it was a stupid idea. Another believed that Gibbs was "feeling out the platoon."

Others told investigators Gibbs eventually turned the talk into action, forming what one called a "kill team" to carry out random executions of Afghans.

In one of the most serious war-crimes cases to emerge from the Afghanistan war, five soldiers from a Stryker infantry brigade based at Joint Base Lewis-McChord are now charged with murder for their alleged roles in killing three Afghan civilians.

In two of the incidents, grenades were thrown at the victims and they were shot, according to charging documents. The third victim also was shot.

The soldiers allegedly killed the three Afghans while out on patrol, and anyone who dared to report the events was threatened with violence, according to statements made to investigators.

The Seattle Times has reviewed court documents — filed by a defense attorney with a U.S. Army magistrate — that summarize some of the evidence in the case. The Times also has interviewed attorneys for three of the defendants. The documents give new insight into how the murder plot may have evolved, but they give few clues about motives.

All five soldiers are awaiting court-martial proceedings. If convicted, they face the possibility of life imprisonment or death.

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The 2010 Conference Concerning Ritual Abuse, Secret Societies, and Mind Control

The issue of ritual abuse, an issue once forbidden to discuss, is coming to the forefront the more we learn about the issue of human trafficking, and with books such as that written by Randy Noblitt and Pamela Perskin Noblitt entitled Ritual Abuse in the 21st Century, more info is coming to the surface as people have started to understand what it is like to be treated like an animal on a daily basis- and the Stockholm effect that it has over the victim, keeping them quiet and complacent. However, after attending the 2010 Conference Concerning Ritual Abuse, Secret Societies, and Mind Control, I discovered how uphill the battle to expose this vile treatment of our fellow human beings has become.

Take for example, the website Wikipedia. Invested in the concept that ritual abuse should only be associated with the moral panics of the 80s and 90s, it has decided to blacklist and ban all websites that deal with the issues concerning such cases. These websites are,,, and It says something when you consider the censorship that is occurring with regards to the issues brought up by the victims and their supporters. Neil Brick, founder of SMART, (standing for Stop Mind Control and Ritual Abuse Today), was the primary leader of the conference this year- as he has been for over a decade, and has dedicated much of his life to exposing and trying to stop this inhumane practice that is not just a problem abroad, but also right here in America.

The conference was a collection of professionals who are tops in their perspective fields- many of them published, as well as victims of the practice of not only ritual abuse, but also satanic ritual abuse- a practice not even those in the field dare whisper of fear of the repercussions that could result in speaking of such things. Honest, dedicated individuals who, although they may have been scarred by their childhoods or what they may have faced professionally- shined beautifully in the retelling of their experiences while they offered hope to those of us who are still struggling with coming to terms with what happened to us, and I came away with such a feeling of community that I feel compelled to share with others some of what I experienced this past weekend at the conference.

Discussing such topics as how ritual abuse can occur in any household and doesn't have to be connected in any way to a group, although thousands of such cases exist- brought home the fact that ritual abuse encourages isolation, and the victims that are experiencing it now- today- most likely feel as alone as I did back then. It is true that I am a product of SRA (satanic ritual abuse), but- because of the situations surrounding my family and Omaha, Nebraska; I sometimes forget that the effects of ritual abuse are the same for all abused victims, and that we all need to stand together so that even the most frightened will be empowered to come forward- regardless of the circumstances of their abuse.

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German army abandons investigation of officer who ordered Kunduz massacre

No one is to be held accountable for the single biggest massacre carried out by German soldiers since the Second World War.

Following the lead of the federal prosecutor, the army has also abandoned its investigation into Colonel Georg Klein, who almost a year ago ordered an air attack near the northern Afghan city of Kunduz that claimed up to 142 mostly civilian victims. Preliminary investigations had produced no evidence of a breach of discipline, the Defence Ministry in Berlin said last week. Consequently, there would be no disciplinary proceedings against Klein.

In April, the federal prosecutor had concluded that the dropping of two 500-pound bombs onto two immobilised tankers that were clearly surrounded by numerous people, did not constitute a violation of “international humanitarian law”. Klein had not infringed international law nor had he breached Germany's criminal code, the federal prosecutors claimed in order to justify their decision.

The abandonment of all investigative and disciplinary proceedings against Klein equates to a “first class acquittal” according to Spiegel Online. The website accuses the military investigators of acting out of a “misunderstanding of the esprit de corps”. The colonel will not even receive a warning, although a NATO investigative report shows he clearly violated the existing rules of engagement.

At the same time the proceedings against Klein were abandoned, the parliamentary committee of inquiry supposed to investigate the background of the massacre in Kunduz has been transformed into a farce.

On formal grounds, the Federal Court of Justice dismissed a request by opposition representatives to invite Defence Minister Karl-Theodor zu Guttenberg (Christian Social Union, CSU) and former Bundeswehr (Armed Forces) General Inspector Wolfgang Schneiderhan and ex-Defence Secretary Peter Wichert before the committee to clarify contradictions in their previous statements.

Previously, the Bundeswehr had refused to provide the inquiry with any information concerning the role of the KSK (Special Forces Command) and other important information, for “security reasons”. It decided autocratically what parliamentarians should be told and to what extent they may distribute and publish information.

This says a great deal about the real relationship between the army and parliament. Contrary to the spirit of the post-war German constitution and political practice, it is not parliamentarians who review the legality of military operations and hold the army leadership to account, but the military that dictates what information should be released to parliament and the public.

There are many indications that the massacre in Kunduz was intentionally and consciously brought about on the part of the army leadership in order to force politicians to step up support for a war that is rejected by two-thirds of the population.

From the start, the federal government and military top brass have done everything in order to conceal the facts surrounding the massacre. It was only when press releases and statements from the US authorities appeared that the true scale of the massacre was gradually revealed.

The then Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung (Christian Democratic Union, CDU) was forced to resign last year because for days he had denied there were any civilian casualties, despite his knowledge to the contrary. His successor, Karl Theodor zu Guttenberg, had initially defended Klein's conduct but then later had to correct himself, calling the attack “militarily inappropriate”. He dismissed the most senior military figure, General Inspector Wolfgang Schneiderhan, along with State Secretary Wichert, because they had allegedly withheld documents.

If the Ministry of Defence now absolves Klein of all guilt, it is giving a free hand to the army to commit similar massacres with impunity. This “first class acquittal”, writes Stern Online, “will impact on the Bundeswehr mission in Afghanistan as a whole.”

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Half the Sky: how the trafficking of women today is on a par with genocide

Nicholas Kristof is not the kind of person you would expect to be a slave owner. As a columnist on that most august of newspapers, the New York Times, he belongs to an elite within an elite, the embodiment of journalistic seriousness. Yet there he was, in 2004, blithely forking out $150 (£96) for Srey Neth and $203 for another teenager, Srey Momm; handing over the money to a brothel keeper in exchange for a receipt and complete dispensation to do with the two girls as he would. Nick Kristof: double Pulitzer prize winner, bestselling author, slave owner. But that, as is made clear in his new book, written with his wife Sheryl WuDunn, is just the start of it.

At the time of his purchase, Kristof had been travelling to a wild and dangerous part of north-western Cambodia, and had checked into an $8-a-night hotel-cum-brothel in the town of Poipet. He arranged to see Neth, who had been in the brothel for a month, having been sold to its owner by her own cousin. Thin and fragile, she had no idea how old she was, but looked to Kristof about 14. Her virginity had been auctioned to a Thai casino manager who later died of Aids, and now she was on offer to local punters at a premium price by dint of her youth and light skin.

Kristof arranged to buy her, as well as Momm from a different brothel. Momm was a frail girl further down the line of misery, having been forced into prostitution five years previously. Amid floods of tears and rage, she pleaded with Kristof to be bought, freed and taken back to her village on the other side of Cambodia. He took both girls back to their villages and, with the help of an American charity, attempted to ease them back into society.

The story of Neth and Momm is just a small indication of the lengths Kristof and WuDunn are prepared to go to expose the injustices that they see in the modern world. Buying up child prostitutes is pretty extreme, but no more than the message they are seeking to deliver in their groundbreaking book, Half the Sky.

In it, they argue that the world is in the grip of a massive moral outrage no less egregious in scale or in the intensity of despair than the African slave trade of the 18th and 19th centuries or the genocides of the 20th. They believe this outrage is a key factor behind many of the most pressing economic and political issues today, from famine in Africa to Islamist terrorism and climate change. Yet they say the phenomenon is largely hidden, invisible to most of us and passing relatively unreported. At worst it is actively tolerated; at best it is ignored.

~ more... ~

Greeks 'discover Odysseus' palace in Ithaca, proving Homer's hero was real'

Odysseus – known to the ancient Romans as Ulysses – famously took 10 years to return home to Ithaca after the fall of Troy.

On his journey, he was twice shipwrecked and encountered a cyclops, the spirit of his mother and tempting Sirens before returning to Ithaca, where he found his wife, Penelope, under pressure to remarry from a host of suitors who had invaded the royal palace.

With the help of his father, Laertes, and his son, Telemachus, he slaughtered his rivals and re-established his rule.

But despite the fantastical details in the Greek epic, a team of archaeologists has claimed the tale is anchored in truth - and that they have discovered his home on the island of Ithaca, in the Ionian sea off the north-west coast of Greece.

Nearly 3,000 years after Odysseus returned from his journey, the team from the University of Ioannina said they found the remains of an extensive three-storey building, with steps carved out of rock and fragments of pottery. The complex also features and a well from the 8th century BC, roughly the period in which Odysseus is believed to have been king of Ithaca.

The location "fits like a glove" with Homer's description of the view from the fabled palace, the archaeologists claim.

~ more... ~


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