Archive for August, 2008

Afghan official ‘saw bodies of 50 children’ killed in US strike

August 30, 2008

Source: The Daily Star, August 30, 2008

By Agence France Presse (AFP)

KABUL: An Afghan politician told AFP Friday how he had helped dig out the bodies of women and children after US-led air strikes a week ago, reiterating with another official that around 90 civilians were killed.

The US-led coalition disputes the number and says only five civilians died along with 25 Taliban. US officials have also reportedly questioned the figure because of a lack of physical evidence.

Speaking on the condition of anonymity to the Associated Press, US defense officials said that the Afghan and UN counts of the civilians killed in the raid were overstated. The sources said that the US administration was pushing for a joint probe into the incident in order to reconcile the conflicting accounts of the incident.

“I saw with my own eyes bodies of 50 boys and girls under 15 years of age,” said Herat provincial councillor Naik Mohammad Ishaq.

“I saw 19 women and seven men. I helped locals to dig them out [of rubble] the first day,” he told AFP.

He said he went to the area of the August 22 strikes in the district of Shindand hours after the attack and he was told that more bodies had been found the day after, taking the toll to 91.

“We lined up the bodies of 76 civilians the first day in the local mosque and the Afghan intelligence department took a video recording as proof that most of them were women, children and all civilians,” he said.

Ishaq said, however, that he did not have pictures of the dead.

The head of a delegation sent by Afghan President Hamid Karzai to investigate also defended the toll figure, similar to one reached by a United Nations team.

“There is no doubt that 90 civilians were killed in the US-led air strike,” said Mohammad Eqbal Safi, the head of the Lower House’s national defense committee.

The team had a list of the names and ages of all those killed, he said, and had interviewed locals and seen eight houses that were destroyed as well as fresh graves.

He claimed body parts – which he said were from civilians – were still at the site when his team arrived two days later.

The 2:00 a.m. strikes had hit people ahead of an event due the following day to mark the anniversary of the death of a fellow villager, Safi said.

“It was public knowledge that it was a gathering for the ceremony and there were no Taliban there.”

Safi said locals believed “agents” had deliberately given wrong information to the US-led and Afghan troops involved in the operation. – AFP

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Torture As Official Israeli Policy

August 30, 2008

Stephen Lendman | ZNet, August 30, 2008

Stephen Lendman’s ZSpace Page

The UN Convention against Torture defines the practice as:

“any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain and suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity….”

The US and Israel are the only two modern states that legally sanction torture. An earlier article covered America. This one deals with the Jewish state, but let there be no doubt:

Although its language in part is vague, contradictory and protects abusive practices, Section 277 of Israel’s 1977 Penal Law prohibits torture by providing criminal sanctions against its use. It specifically states in language similar to the UN Convention against Torture:

“A public servant who does one of the following is liable to imprisonment for three years: (1) uses or directs the use of force or violence against a person for the purpose of extorting from him or from anyone in whom he is interested a confession of an offense or information relating to an offense; (2) threatens any person, or directs any person to be threatened, with injury to his person or property or to the person or property of anyone in whom he is interested for the purpose of extorting from him a confession of an offense or any information relating to an offense.” However, Israel clearly discriminates against Palestinians, (including Israeli Arab citizens), denies them rights afforded only to Jews, and gets legal cover for it by its courts. More on that below.

Nonetheless, the Jewish state is a signatory to the 1984 UN Convention against Torture and other international laws banning the practice. It’s thus accountable for any violations under them to all its citizens and persons it controls in the Occupied Territories.

US statutes leave no ambiguity on torture. Neither do international laws like The (1949) Third Geneva Convention’s Article 13 (on the Treatment of Prisoners of War). It states:

They “must at all times be humanely treated. Any unlawful act or omission by the Detaining Power causing death or seriously endangering the health of a prisoner of war in its custody is prohibited….(these persons) must at all times be protected, particularly against acts of violence or intimidation….”

Third Geneva’s Article 17 states:

“No physical or mental torture, nor any other form of coercion, may be inflicted on prisoners of war” for any reasons whatsoever.

Third Geneva’s Article 87 states:

“Collective punishment for individual acts, corporal punishments, imprisonment in premises without daylight and, in general, any form of torture or cruelty, are forbidden.

The (1949) Fourth Geneva Convention’s Article 27 (on the treatment of Civilian Persons in Time of War) states:

Protected persons “shall at all times be humanely treated, and shall be protected especially against all acts of violence or threats thereof….”

Fourth Geneva’s Articles 31 and 32 state:

“No physical or moral coercion shall be exercised against protected persons.”

“This prohibition applies to….torture (and) to any other measures of brutality whether applied by civilian or military agents.”

Fourth Geneva’s Article 147 calls “willful killing, torture or inhuman treatment….grave breaches” under the Convention and are considered “war crimes.”

All four Geneva Conventions have a Common Article Three requiring all non-combatants, including “members of armed forces who laid down their arms,” to be treated humanely at all times.

The (1966) International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Article 7 states:

“No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

Its Article 10 states:

” All persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity….”

The (1984) UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment is explicit in all its provisions. It prohibits torture and degrading treatment of all kinds against anyone for any purpose without exception.

Various other international laws affirm the same thing, including the UN Charter with respect to human rights, 1945 Nuremberg Charter on crimes of war and against humanity, the (1948) Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the (1988) UN Body of Principles for the Protection of All Persons under Any form of Detention or Imprisonment, the UN (1955) Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, and (1990) UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. So does Article 5 of the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) Rome Statute with regard to crimes of war and against humanity. Torture is such a crime – the gravest of all after genocide.

Continued . . .

A UK Window on CIA Abuses

August 30, 2008

The Case of Binyam Mohamed

By JOANNE MARINER | Counterpunch, August 29, 2008

Britain’s High Court will hold a hearing to assess whether the UK government should be ordered to hand over secret documents to lawyers for a Guantanamo detainee. The detainee in question, Binyam Mohamed, faces possible charges of conspiracy and material support for terrorism before a military commission at Guantanamo.

Mohamed, an Ethiopian national and former UK resident, was arrested in Pakistan in April 2002. Transferred to US custody, he was reportedly rendered by the CIA to Morocco, detained there secretly for over a year, and then moved for several months to a secret CIA detention site in Afghanistan. He then spent a few months in military detention at Bagram air base in Afghanistan, and was ultimately brought to Guantanamo Bay in September 2004.

Mohamed claims that he was brutally tortured during his time in secret detention, and that the evidence that will likely be used to prosecute him is a result of that torture. He also claims that the UK government has information that supports his claims of abuse.

Last week, in an important judgment, the UK High Court ruled in Mohamed’s favor. It found that the British government was under a legal obligation to disclose to Mohamed’s counsel the information it possesses relating to Mohamed’s whereabouts, treatment, and interrogation between April 2002 and May 2004. The court emphasized that this information is “not merely necessary but essential” to Mohamed’s defense against military commission charges.

While the court stopped short of ordering the foreign secretary to hand over the information—allowing additional time for the national security implications of disclosure to be considered—it will reach the mandatory disclosure question at its hearing this week.

From Britain to Pakistan to the Prison of Darkness

Binyam Mohamed came to Britain in 1994, when he was a student, after having spend a short period in the United States. He converted to Islam while in the UK, and in mid-2001 he left the UK for Pakistan and Afghanistan. He claims that he traveled to the region because he wanted to kick a drug habit.

The military commission charges that have been sworn against Mohamed allege that he attended an Al Qaeda training camp in Afghanistan, and later received training in building remote-controlled explosive detention devices in Pakistan. While living at an Al Qaeda safe house in Lahore, Pakistan, the charges say, Mohamed allegedly agreed to be sent to the United States to conduct terror operations.

Mohamed was arrested at the Karachi airport on April 10, 2002, as he attempted to leave Pakistan to fly to London. Although he was initially detained in Karachi, he claims that he was interrogated there by US agents. The UK High Court has also confirmed that a British agent visited Mohamed in Pakistani custody on May 17, 2002.

Mohamed claims that he was rendered by the CIA to Morocco in July 2002. There, he claims, he was beaten, repeatedly cut on his genitals, and threatened with rape, electrocution and death. Interrogators reportedly asked him detailed questions about his seven years in London, based on information that his lawyers believe came from British sources.

In late January 2004, Mohamed says, he was sent to Afghanistan, where he was held in a secret CIA prison—called the “Prison of Darkness”—until May 2004. At that point, he was transferred to military detention, first at Bagram air base in Afghanistan, then at Guantanamo, where he remains.

According to the UK High Court, the military commissions case against Mohamed is based on confessions Mohamed made while in military custody—after May 2004—not on anything he said while being interrogated by the CIA. Mohamed claims, however, that it was the abuse in CIA custody that induced him to confess while in military custody, and so proof of those CIA abuses are crucial to his defense.

Refusal to Disclose

As part of a continuing effort to cover up the CIA’s misdeeds, US officials have refused to provide Mohamed or his lawyers any information whatsoever about his treatment or whereabouts from the time of arrest in April 2002 until he was transferred to Bagram in May 2004. To date, the UK government has similarly refused to provide Mohamed’s lawyers any such information, although it has acknowledged that some documents in its possession might be exculpatory.

In last week’s ruling, the High Court noted that the UK foreign secretary had acknowledged that Mr. Mohamed had established an arguable case that he had been subject to illegal rendition and torture. The court also found that the British security forces had facilitated Mohamed’s interrogations by supplying information and questions to US officials, even while they knew that Mohamed was being held incommunicado in a non-military detention facility overseas.

The court found, in short, that the relationship of the UK government to the US authorities with regard to Mohamed “was far beyond that of a bystander or witness to the alleged wrongdoing.” Because the UK was in some way a participant, not simply an observer, the court held that the UK is legally obligated to provide Mohamed with information relating to his abuse.

Not only did the court deem this information to be “essential” to Mohamed’s ability to adequately defend himself, it emphasized the need for the government to provide the necessary information as soon as is practically possible. The reason for the hurried timing lies in the military commissions’ timetable. At present, military commission charges against Mohamed have been prepared, but the commission’s convening authority has not yet signed off on them. In order to potentially affect the charging decision, Mohamed has a important interest in getting exculpatory information to the convening authority before that decision is made.

The Prospect of Mandatory Disclosure

The UK court decried the fact that the US authorities have failed to provide this potentially exculpatory information to Mohamed’s counsel, particularly since both his counsel are security-cleared. But it recognized, as well, that the United States’ failure is no excuse for Britain’s inaction.

Unless the UK foreign secretary voluntarily provides the relevant documents to Mohamed’s counsel, the High Court will consider ordering disclosure. Such an order, which the court seems presently inclined to grant, would open an important crack in the wall of secrecy that surrounds the CIA’s rendition, detention, and interrogation abuses.

Joanne Mariner is a human rights attorney.

U.K. Government Must Provide Information About Rendition, Disappearance and Torture, Urges Amnesty International

August 30, 2008

CommonDreams.0rg

WASHINGTON – August 29 – Amnesty International today called on the government of the U.K. to give the lawyers for Binyam Mohamed, a former U.K. resident imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, information which it holds and which might help him to show that he has been a victim of torture and other ill-treatment in the U.S.-led program of renditions and secret detention.

“Providing this information would be a first step towards accountability for the U.K.’s involvement in the U.S. program of rendition and secret detention, as well as in the torture and other ill-treatment of terrorist suspects,” said Halya Gowan, a spokesperson on Europe at Amnesty International.

Binyam Mohamed was arrested at Karachi airport in April 2002 and transferred to U.S. custody three months later. In July 2002, he was transferred on a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)-registered plane to Morocco, where he was held for about 18 months. There, Binyam Mohamed reports he was tortured, including having his penis cut by a razor blade. He was allegedly subjected to further torture after his further rendition to the “dark prison” in Kabul, Afghanistan, in January 2004. After five months, he was transferred to the U.S. airbase in Bagram, and suffered further alleged ill-treatment there. Binyam was transferred in mid-September 2004 to Guantanamo where he has remained ever since.

“Statements that Binyam Mohamed made in the course of his unlawful detention will form the basis of charges against him if he is tried before a military commission at Guantanamo Bay – a trial which would be unfair, and could involve charges which could be punishable by death. Any information the U.K. authorities have which relates to violations of his human rights or could affect Binyam Mohamed’s defense should be disclosed to his lawyers without any further delay,” said Gowan.

Following last week’s ruling by the High Court of England and Wales, that the United Kingdom has a duty to disclose this information to lawyers for Binyam Mohamed, today the High Court postponed its decision on an application made by the U.K. Foreign Secretary to be allowed to withhold this information. The Foreign Secretary claimed that its disclosure would damage the U.K.’s intelligence-sharing arrangements with the United States, and thus threaten the United Kingdom’s national security. The Foreign Secretary has been given another week to provide the court with a fuller explanation for continuing to withhold this information.

Binyam Mohamed’s lawyers need the information now, before a decision is taken about whether he should be tried by a military commission in the United States. It is essential to their claim that the information on which the charges against him are based was improperly obtained.

Recent revelations of secret detainee transfers through Diego Garcia, and around the Untied Kingdom’s involvement in the rendition and secret detention of U.K .residents Bisher al-Rawi and Jamil el-Banna, show that the United Kingdom can no longer hide its involvement in these human rights violations.

“Secrecy with the excuse of protecting diplomatic relations can no longer be used to justify the failure to investigate the involvement of U.K. agents in human rights violations,” Gowan said.

Amnesty International calls on the U.K. authorities to immediately instigate a genuinely independent and impartial public inquiry into all allegations of U.K. involvement in the renditions program.

BACKGROUND

Binyam Mohamed, an Ethiopian national, claims that he was subjected to torture and other ill-treatment in Pakistan, Morocco, Afghanistan and Guantanamo. The detainee claims that statements he made–which, as the High Court affirmed, will form the basis of evidence against him if he is tried by a military commission -were the products of his unlawful detention, torture and ill-treatment.

In August 2007, after a sustained campaign by human rights activists and lawyers in the United Kingdom, the U.K. government requested the release from Guantanamo Bay a number of former U.K. residents, including Binyam Mohamed. Although three men were returned in December 2007, the U.S. authorities refused the request for the release and return of Binyam Mohamed. The U.K. authorities say that they are continuing to request the release and return of Binyam Mohamed.

The U.K. government has disclosed the information that it holds about Binyam Mohamed to the U.S. authorities; and the U.S. authorities have given the U.K. a promise that this information will be given to Binyam Mohamed’s military lawyer in the event that his case should be sent for trial before a military commission. But to date neither the United Kingdom nor the United States has disclosed that information–relevant to the rendition of Binyam Mohamed and his subsequent treatment in detention–to his lawyers.

Amnesty International believes that the military commission procedures at Guantanamo Bay are fundamentally unfair, and has called for the military commission system to be abandoned, and for all those still held at Guantanamo Bay to be released or given a genuinely fair trial before federal civilian courts without delay.

For more information, please visit Amnesty International’s website at www.amnestyusa.org or contact the AIUSA media office.

Georgia is the graveyard of America’s unipolar world

August 30, 2008

Russia’s defiance in the Caucasus has brought down the curtain on Bush senior’s new world order – not before time

Seumas Milne |The Guardian, Thursday August 28 2008

If there were any doubt that the rules of the international game have changed for good, the events of the past few days should have dispelled it. On Monday, President Bush demanded that Russia’s leaders reject their parliament’s appeal to recognise the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Within 24 hours, Bush had his response: President Medvedev announced Russia’s recognition of the two contested Georgian enclaves.

The Russian message was unmistakable: the outcome of the war triggered by Georgia’s attack on South Ossetia on August 7 is non-negotiable – and nothing the titans of the US empire do or say is going to reverse it. After that, the British foreign secretary David Miliband’s posturing yesterday in Kiev about building a “coalition against Russian aggression” merely looked foolish.

That this month’s events in the Caucasus signal an international turning point is no longer in question. The comparisons with August 1914 are of course ridiculous, and even the speculation about a new cold war overdone. For all the manoeuvres in the Black Sea and nuclear-backed threats, the standoff between Russia and the US is not remotely comparable to the events that led up to the first world war. Nor do the current tensions have anything like the ideological and global dimensions that shaped the 40-year confrontation between the west and the Soviet Union.

But what is clear is that America’s unipolar moment has passed – and the new world order heralded by Bush’s father in the dying days of the Soviet Union in 1991 is no more. The days when one power was able to bestride the globe like a colossus, enforcing its will in every continent, challenged only by popular movements for national independence and isolated “rogue states”, are now over. For nearly two decades, while Russia sunk into “catastroika” and China built an economic powerhouse, the US has exercised unprecedented and unaccountable global power, arrogating to itself and its allies the right to invade and occupy other countries, untroubled by international law or institutions, sucking ever more states into the orbit of its voracious military alliance.

Now, pumped up with petrodollars, Russia has called a halt to this relentless expansion and demonstrated that the US writ doesn’t run in every backyard. And although it has been a regional, not a global, challenge, this object lesson in the new limits of American power has already been absorbed from central Asia to Latin America.

Continued . . .

It is martial law in Kashmir: Mehbooba

August 29, 2008

Greater Kashmir, August 29, 2008

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Tough time for Kashmiris: Omar

Srinagar, Aug 28: Aghast over the prevailing situation in Kashmir, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and National Conference on Thursday demanded lifting of curfew and curbs on media forthwith. PDP president Mehbooba Mufti described the present situation as “martial law,” while National Conference President Omar Abdullah said it was a “very tough time” for Kashmiris.

” It seems as if martial law has been imposed in the Valley,” the PDP President Mehbooba Mufti told Greater Kashmir. “People have been restricted within the four walls of their homes. News channels have gone off the air and no newspapers are being published. Such things don’t happen in a democratic set up. It is obviously martial law,” Mehbooba added.

Warning New Delhi of dire consequences if it continues to suppress the voice of people, Mehbooba said, “New Delhi has failed to suppress the people of Kashmir by subjugating them for past 20 years. If New Delhi feels that by resorting to oppression they can suppress the people of Kashmir then they are living in a fool’s paradise.” Mehbooba said that it’s unfortunate that old mindset of New Delhi is coming to fore again and the section people there who wanted Kashmir issue to be resolved peacefully have become weak. “Hardliners are once again ruling the roost and if they continue with the same policy it can have far reaching consequences,” she said. The PDP president said that the present movement is different from nineties. “Today it’s a people’s movement and there are no guns. New Delhi needs to understand it. If it continues to use force and hold people of the Valley as hostages within their homes situation will worsen and it will add to further alienation.” Mehbooba accused New Delhi of once again trying to deceive the people of Kashmir. “Instead of resolving the issue, New Delhi is once again trying to suppress the present mass uprising by using force,” she said, adding, “Some people with vested interests once again want to handle Kashmir situation with an iron hand.” Mehbooba demanded that curfew and restrictions on local news channels and press be lifted forthwith.

President of National Conference Omar Abdullah described the present situation as a very strict situation. “People told me that it’s for the first time that such a curfew has been imposed,” Omar said, adding, “It’s unfortunate that troopers are barging into the houses of people and are resorting to hooliganism. They should learn to respect people.” However, the NC president stopped short of saying that it’s a “martial law” like situation. “It’s a strict situation but it’s not military rule yet.” Accusing government of adopting double standards, the NC President said, “It’s strange that curfew is enforced strictly in Kashmir and in Jammu it is vice-versa. This is sheer discrimination.” Terming the imposition of curfew as surprising, Omar said, “Authorities should have clamped the curfew on August 11 to prevent the situation from taking an ugly turn. Had they done so many people would not have died and things could have been better.” Omar said that authorities should hold dialogue with the separatist leaders rather than imposing curfew. “Dialogue only can resolve the present crisis.” Terming restrictions on media as unfortunate, Omar said, “It should not have happened. Restrictions should be revoked and curfew should be lifted

Putin: US orchestrated conflict in Georgia

August 29, 2008

Putin: US orchestrated Georgia conflict, suggests motive was to affect US president election

STEVE GUTTERMAN | AP News Aug 28, 2008 19:36 EST

Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin accused the United States on Thursday of instigating the fighting in Georgia and said he suspects a connection to the U.S. presidential campaign — a contention the White House dismissed as “patently false.”

In a decision he said was unrelated to unraveling Russia-U.S. ties, Putin also ordered that 19 American poultry producers be barred from selling their products to Russia. He said the unnamed companies ignored demands that they correct alleged deficiencies.

Putin, the former president and architect of an assertive foreign policy that has stoked East-West tension, suggested in an interview with CNN that there was an American presence amid the combat with a potential domestic U.S. political motive.

“We have serious grounds to think that there were U.S. citizens right in the combat zone” during Russia’s war with the U.S.-allied ex-Soviet republic, he said the interview broadcast on state-run Russian television. “And if that’s so, if that is confirmed, it’s very bad. It’s very dangerous.”

Putin’s acid attack on the United States came as Moscow’s bid to redraw Georgia’s borders hit an obstacle among its Asian allies who refused to recognize the two Russian-backed breakaway regions of Georgia. France, meanwhile, said the European Union is considering sanctions against Russia for its conduct in the Caucasus.

Putin said that Russia had hoped the U.S. would restrain Georgia, which Moscow accuses of starting the war by attacking South Ossetia on Aug. 7. Instead, he suggested the U.S. encouraged the nation’s leadership to try to rein in the separatist region by force.

“The American side in fact armed and trained the Georgian army,” Putin said. “Why hold years of difficult talks and seek complex compromise solutions in interethnic conflicts? It’s easier to arm one side and push it into the murder of the other side, and it’s over.

“It seems like an easy solution. In reality it turns out that it’s not always so,” he said.

The United States has close ties with the Georgian government and has trained Georgian units. The Pentagon has said that the U.S. had about 130 trainers in Georgia when the fighting erupted earlier this month, including a few dozen civilians who were all working to prepare the Georgian forces for deployment to Iraq.

But Russian officials have made statements aimed to convey the idea that Americans may have directly supported Georgia’s offensive.

At a briefing Tuesday, the deputy chief of Russian military general staff, Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn, showed off a color copy of what he said was a U.S. passport found in a basement in a village in South Ossetia among items that belonged to Georgian forces.

 

“We found a passport for Michael Lee White,” Nogovitsyn said. “He’s a Texan.”

The U.S. Embassy in Georgia said it had no information on the matter.

In an interview with France 24 to be aired Friday, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili said there were no American “commanders or even advisers” in the conflict zone. He said the conflict had nothing to do with the U.S., but “the aggression of the Russians.”

Putin appeared to link claims of an American presence amid the combat with a potential domestic U.S. political motive.

“If my guesses are confirmed, then that raises the suspicion that somebody in the United States purposefully created this conflict with the aim of aggravating the situation and creating an advantage … for one of the candidates in the battle for the post of U.S. president.”

Putin did not name a party or candidate. Some pro-Kremlin Russian politicians have claimed U.S. Republicans hoped the war would help keep Democrat Barack Obama out of the White House by fomenting concern among voters over security, which some of the Russians consider to be a strong-suit of Republican candidate John McCain, a strong Kremlin critic.

White House press secretary Dana Perino called Putin’s contentions “patently false.” She said “it also sounds like his defense officials who said they believe this to be true are giving him really bad advice.”

She added: “To suggest that the United States orchestrated this on behalf of a political candidate just sounds not rational.”

Perino said Russia is facing the consequences of a diminished global reputation and that “there will be other” consequences as well. She refused to say what they would be and said there is no timetable.

The Russian leader maintained that the poultry decision was unrelated to the Georgia issue. He said that the 19 producers ignored the demands to correct the problems following inspections. He said another 29 producers would receive warnings.

“We try and keep our industry out of politics and into marketing opportunities, but sometimes it’s very difficult to separate the two,” said Jim Sumner, president of the U.S.A. Poultry & Egg Export Council. He said Russia is a major market for American producers.

U.S. producers supply nearly 75 percent of the total poultry import quota set by Russia, which stands at 1.2 million tons. Russia represented the largest export market for chicken broilers made by U.S. producers in the first half of this year, Sumner said.

Sumner said he expected the alleged plant deficiencies to be corrected within weeks or a few months and said the stoppage would not have a major impact on U.S. producers.

 

Russia is an important market for many poultry producers, including the nation’s largest chicken producer, Pilgrim’s Pride Inc., as well as Sanderson Farms Inc. and Tyson Foods Inc., the world’s largest meat company.

 

Shares of many meat producers, including top hog producer Smithfield Foods Inc., tumbled Thursday on worries about potential cuts by Russia.

“At this point if Russia were to walk back from certain agreements they have made, it would clearly delay any future aspirations they have of joining the World Trade Organization,” said Sean Spicer, spokesman for U.S. Trade Representative Susan Schwab.

In Tajikistan, China and four Central Asian nations criticized the West, but wary of separatists at home, they stopped short of heeding Russia’s call to recognize the breakaway Georgia regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Moscow had appealed to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization — whose members are Russia, China, and four Central Asian countries of Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan — for unanimous support of Moscow’s response to Georgia’s “aggression.”

Alexei Malashenko, an analyst at the Carnegie Moscow Center, said the summit highlighted Russia’s isolation.

“The Soviet Union was not so alone even in 1968,” he said on Ekho Moskvy radio, referring to the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia.

Western leaders have added condemnation of Russian recognition to their accusations that Moscow used disproportionate force in its Georgia offensive and has fallen far short of its withdrawal commitments under an EU cease-fire deal.

The EU is “trying to draw up a strong text signifying our unwillingness to accept” Russia’s stance, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said Thursday. “Sanctions are being considered … and many other means as well,” Kouchner said.

 

The Foreign Ministry said later that France was not behind a sanctions proposal.

___

Associated Press Writers Peter Leonard and Olga Tutubalina in Dushanbe, Tajikistan; Jim Heintz and Misha Dzhindzhikhashvili in Tbilisi, Georgia; and Catrina Stewart, Nataliya Vasilyeva, David Nowak, Doug Birch and Mansur Mirovalev in Moscow, Natasha Metzler in Washington and business writer Emily Fredrix in Milwaukee contributed to this report.

Why was Cheney’s guy in Georgia before the war?

August 29, 2008

By James Gerstenzang | Los Angeles  Times, August 27, 2008

Cheney aide was in Georgia before war began. What was a top national security aide to Vice President Dick Cheney doing in Georgia shortly before Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili’s troops engaged in what became a disastrous fight with South Ossetian rebels — and then Russian troops?

Not, according to the vice president’s office, what you might think — if your thinking takes you into the realm of Cheney giving his blessing to the Georgian’s military operation.

To be sure, Cheney has been a leader of the hardliners in the administration when it comes to standing up to Russia — to the point that the man who ran the Pentagon as the Cold War came to an end during the administration of the first President Bush has been seen as ready to renew that face-off with Moscow.

It was Cheney who visited the Georgian embassy in Washington last week to sign a remembrance book as a demonstration of the administration’s support.

And yes, Joseph R. Wood, Cheney’s deputy assistant for national security affairs, was in Georgia shortly before the war began.

But, the vice president’s office says, he was there as part of a team setting up the vice president’s just-announced visit to Georgia. (It is common for the White House to send security, policy, communications and press aides to each site the president and vice president will visit ahead of the trip, to begin making arrangements and planning the agenda.)

The White House disclosed on Monday that Cheney would hurry over to Azerbaijan, Georgia, Ukraine and Italy next week, almost immediately after addressing the Republican National Convention on Labor Day.

And so it was that a team from the vice president’s office, U.S. security officials and others were in Georgia several days before the war began.

It had nothing to do, the vice president’s office said, with a military operation that some have said suggests a renewal of the Cold War.


An appeal from Kashmir against Indian oppression

August 29, 2008

A humanitarian crisis is unfolding in Kashmir, the disputed region partitioned by India and Pakistan. Dozens of unarmed Kashmiri protesters have been killed and hundreds injured by Indian security forces in the last few weeks.

The vicious crackdown is part of its attempt to stamp out mass demonstrations that have shaken the valley. These demonstrations may have been sparked by the Amarnath land transfer controversy, but have snowballed into a province-wide uprising against the ongoing Indian military occupation.

Hundreds of thousands of men, women and children are taking to the streets, day after day, demanding “azadi” (freedom) and their right to self-determination. In response, the Indian government has imposed a round-the-clock curfew in all of Kashmir, creating the conditions for a humanitarian disaster.

Protesters demanding "azadi" confront riot police on the streets of Jammu in KashmirProtesters demanding “azadi” confront riot police on the streets of Jammu in Kashmir

IN VIEW of the deteriorating humanitarian situation and the media blackout of the events in Kashmir, we call upon the international humanitarian agencies, particularly the UN bodies and world press, to intervene immediately to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe in Kashmir.

Owing to the strict curfew, hundreds of the injured lying in various hospitals of Kashmir, are not able to get critical medicines and the attendants are without food.

Due to the aggressive enforcement of the curfew, the sick and injured (by the Indian armed forces) are not able to reach hospitals, resulting in deaths. Attendants of dozens of dead in various hospitals in Kashmir are awaiting their transportation to their homes for the final rites. Two pregnant women died since yesterday when the ambulances carrying them were prevented by the Indian armed forces to reach maternity hospitals. Beating up the drivers of the ambulances and their inability to reach hospitals has compounded the situation. Medical personnel of various hospitals in Kashmir are not able to attend their duties, as identity cards and curfew passes are not being honored by the hostile troops deployed on the streets.

There is a serious dearth of medicines, baby milk, foodstuffs, milk and other essential commodities in the market due to the curfew and the blockade of the only road link to Kashmir. In view of the four days of stringent restrictions on people’s movement and heavy clampdown by the state forces across the 10 districts of Kashmir, including Srinagar city, we appeal to the international community to ask the government of India to immediately ease curfew restrictions so that people are able to access basic essentials. Children going without milk and the sick without medicines are matters of serious concern.

We condemn the use of heavy force to thwart peaceful protests, resulting in killings of 50 civilians in Kashmir. We also condemn the violent attack allegedly by militants in Jammu on Wednesday, which has resulted in the death of three innocent civilians.

The flow of information has completely stopped for the first time in the history of Kashmir, and no newspaper has been able to publish in last three days, because of these indiscriminate restrictions imposed by the government. The communications blockade has been compounded by the banning of news and current affairs programs on local cable TV channels, and a ban on SMS services. This communications blockade is resulting in loss of news about the unfolding events, a blackout of significant happenings in Kashmir’s countryside–where currently, the media has no access, and which is tightly controlled by the army. We call upon the international community to call upon the government of India to lift the communications blockade without any delay.

Signed by: Jammu and Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society, Chamber of Commerce and Industries Kashmir, Kashmir Hotel and Resturant Owners Federation, Valley Citizen’s Council (Zareef Ahmed Zareef), Naagar Nagar Coordination Committee, Ahad Zargar Research Foundation, Himayat Trust, JK People’s Development Trust, Kashmir Thinker’s Guild, Dr. Altaf Hussain, Dr. Shaikh Showkat Hussain (Faculty of Law, University of Kashmir), Prof. N.A. Baba (Faculty of Political Science, University of Kashmir), Arjimand Hussain Talib (Columnist), Z.G. Mohammad (Columnist), Dr. Mubarik Ahmed (Social Activist), Noorul Hassan (Ex-Chief Conservator), Jamiat Hamdania, Firdous Education Trust for Orphans, Doda Peace Forum, Poonch Initiave for Peace and Justice, Ehsaas (A Developmental Organization)

US: ‘100 Taliban killed’ in Helmand

August 29, 2008
Al Jazeera, Aug 29, 2008

Increasing volence and threats from the Taliban in Helmand has displaced hundreds [GALLO/GETTY]

US-led coalition and Afghan forces have killed more than 100 Taliban in the southern Afghan province of Helmand during three days of fighting, the US military has said in a statement.

The fighting began after patrols came under attack from small arms, rocket propelled grenades and mortars in the southwestern province, the US military said in a statement on Thursday.

The patrols returned fire and called in close-air support, it said.

“Heavy casualties were inflicted during fierce fighting between Afghan soldiers and insurgents, but the exact number of casualties is not known,” the Afghan defence ministry said.

Violence has surged in Afghanistan with more than 2,500 people, including 1,000 civilians, killed in the conflict in the first six months of this year, according to aid agencies.

Mainly British troops have been engaged in fighting with Taliban fighters in Helmand province for three years.

Opium crop

The province is home to two-thirds of Afghanistan’s opium crop, the raw ingredient of heroin, and the site of frequent clashes involving local Taliban fighters.

In the southern province of Zabul a day earlier, 12 Taliban fighters were killed and six wounded by Afghan and US-led soldiers in clashes in the district of Arghandab, the Afghan defence ministry said in a statement.

The ministry also said Afghan soldiers killed 10 Taliban fighters in Helmand’s Girishk district the same day.

One Afghan soldier was killed and another wounded during the fighting, which was part of a larger operation aimed at finding drug traffickers in the area, officials said.

One US-led coalition soldier was killed while on patrol on Wednesday in southern Afghanistan, the US military said in a statement.


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