Archive for June, 2010

Restrictions to freedom of expression create climate of fear in Cuba

June 30, 2010

Amnesty International, June 30, 2010

Cuba has tried to justify its failure to protect human rights by  blaming the US embargo

Cuba has tried to justify its failure to protect human rights by blaming the US embargo

© Lode Rummens

Cuba’s repressive legal system has created a climate of fear among journalists, dissidents and activists, putting them at risk of arbitrary arrest and harassment by the authorities, Amnesty International said in a report released on Wednesday.

The report Restrictions on Freedom of Expression in Cuba highlights provisions in the legal system and government practices that restrict information provided to the media and which have been used to detain and prosecute hundreds of critics of the government.

“The laws are so vague that almost any act of dissent can be deemed criminal in some way, making it very difficult for activists to speak out against the government. There is an urgent need for reform to make all human rights a reality for all Cubans,” said Kerrie Howard, Deputy Americas Director at Amnesty International.

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Where have all the Peaceniks Gone?

June 30, 2010

By Cindy Sheehan, Urknet.info, June 29, 2010

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I believe it is human nature to want to be right (as in “correct” not “conservative). I like to be right. I also like to research my facts because being wrong to me is embarrassing. The one time I would have loved to be in error, though, was in a conviction that began over two years ago.

I was convinced that Barack Obama was not the progressive-peace-savior that many of my friends and colleagues were making him out to be.

But, I was right about that, and I think the facts have borne me out: the Overseas Contingency Operation (formerly known as George’s War OF Terror) has become even more of a quagmire under the new regime; healthcare was not so much reformed or overhauled as it was a handout to the health insurance companies; the oppressive police state is increasing; no accountability for war criminals (few people will prosecute themselves); torture continues; financial industry reform looks like it is guaranteed for further rich v. poor conquest; and this administration has proven to be as good a friend to Big Oil as the last one.

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Petraeus signals escalation of US military violence in Afghanistan

June 30, 2010

By Joe Kishore, wsws.org, June 30, 2010

In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee on Tuesday, General David Petraeus, Obama’s new commander in Afghanistan, said he would reconsider the rules of engagement as part of an intensification of the US assault on the Afghan people. He also made clear that American troops would remain in the country well beyond the July 2011 date set by the administration to begin a withdrawal.

Petraeus received fawning praise from Democratic and Republican senators alike. He was rapidly confirmed by the Armed Services Committee Tuesday afternoon and is expected to be confirmed by the full Senate on Wednesday.

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Fidel Castro: Finding out the truth in time

June 30, 2010

Reflections of Fidel

Granma, June 28, 2010

WHEN I was writing one of my previous reflections, as a disaster for humanity was rapidly approaching, my greatest concern was to fulfill the elemental duty of informing our people.

Today I feel calmer than 26 days ago. As things continue happening in the short term, I can reiterate and enrich information to national and international public opinion.

Obama promised to attend the quarter-final game on July 2 if his country won in the second round. He must know, more than anybody, that those quarter finals could not take place if extremely grave events should happen beforehand, or at least he should know that.

Last Friday, June 25, an international news agency of known attention to detail in the information that it provides, published statements from “…the naval commander of the elite corps of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards, General Ali Fadavi…” warning that “… if the United States and its allies inspect Iranian ships in international waters ‘they will receive a response in the Persian Gulf and the Strait of Hormuz.’”

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‘Worse than Gaza’: Conditions in West Bank Areas Reach Crisis Point

June 30, 2010
by Bernard Smith, Al Jazeera-English, June 30, 2010

Children living in the poorest parts of the West Bank face significantly worse conditions than their counterparts in Gaza, a study conducted by an international youth charity has found.

The report by Save the Children UK, due to be released on Wednesday, says that families forced from their homes in the West Bank are suffering the effects of grinding poverty, often lacking food, medicine and humanitarian assistance.

The European Commission funded study found that in “Area C”- the 60 per cent of the West Bank under direct Israeli control – the poorest sections of society are suffering disproportionately because basic infrastructure is not being repaired due to Israel’s refusal to approve the work.

Homes, schools, drainage systems and roads are in urgent need of repair, but instead of work being allowed, families are being forced to live in tents and do not have access to clean water.

Restrictions on the use of land for agriculture have left thousands of Palestinian children without enough food and many are becoming ill as a result, the study found.

Crisis point

Conditions in Area C have reached “crisis point”, the charity said, with 79 per cent of the communities surveyed lacking sufficient food – a greater proportion than in blockaded Gaza, where the figure is 61 per cent.

The lack of proper nutrition is having a major impact on the health of children growing up in the area, with 44 per cent of those surveyed for the study suffering from diarrhoea, the world’s biggest killer of children under the age of five.

Many children living in such communities are showing signs of stunted growth, with the figure running at more than double Gaza’s rate, and more than one in ten children surveyed for the study were found to be underweight.

The report says that for many Palestinians, international humanitarian assistance is far harder to access in the West Bank than in Gaza, with almost half the households surveyed in Area C reporting that they had no access to foreign aid assistance.

Save the Children warned that with the blockade of Gaza dominating headlines in recent months, the international community risked forgetting the fate of the poorest communities in the West Bank.

“The international community has rightly focused its attention on the suffering of families in Gaza but the plight of children in Area C must not be overlooked,” Salam Kanaan, Save the Children’s director in the occupied Palestinian Territories, said.

“Palestinians in the West Bank are widely thought to enjoy a higher standard of living but tragically many families, particularly in Bedouin and herder communities, actually suffer significantly higher levels of malnutrition and poverty.”

The organisation called for Israel to immediately cease home demolitions and land confiscations in the West Bank and said the Palestinian authority should take “urgent action” to develop services and improve food security in Area C.

“Palestinian children cannot wait for the stalled peace talks between the Palestinian Authority, Israel, and the United States to find solutions to this crisis,” Kanaan said.

Pockets of poverty

Cairo Arafat helped devise the Palestinian Authority’s action plan for children before starting part-time work with Save the Children, and is now a spokesperson for Palestinian Authority. She told Al Jazeera the figures in the report did not reflect the conditions in the West Bank as a whole, but were still a major cause for concern.

“The overall conditions, if you look at health indicators and education indicators, are better than what is normal for the reigion,” she said.

“The problem is we are beginning to see a regression.”

The West Bank had “pockets of poverty,” she said, that left around around 10 per cent of the 240,000 children in the territory at risk of ill-health.

“There are certain parts of the West Bank were the situation is much worse than in Gaza, with a lack of access to water and shelter,” she said.

Arafat said that the Palestinian National Authority (PNA) was attempting to tackle the issue in the face of “excessive” obstruction from the Israeli authorities, particularly in areas near settlements and close to the separation barrier built by the Israeli military.

“The PNA is investing in a number of different programs in Area C and near where the wall is being built to improve the situation,” she said.

“But there are certain areas where the Israelis won’t allow infrastructure to be built.”

© 2010 Al-Jazeera-English

Let’s take no orders to slash and burn from this G20 club

June 29, 2010
An institution dreamed up by finance ministers is trying to hand over the bill for the banking crisis to society’s poorest

Naomi Klein, The Guardian/UK, June 29, 2010

My city feels like a crime scene, and the criminals are all melting into the night, fleeing the scene. No, I’m not talking about the kids in black who smashed windows and burned cop cars on Saturday.

I’m talking about the heads of state who, on Sunday night, smashed social safety nets and burned good jobs in the middle of a recession. Faced with the effects of a crisis created by the world’s wealthiest and most privileged strata, they decided to stick the poorest and most vulnerable people in their countries with the bill.

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Death of Dr David Kelly: The damning new evidence that points to a cover-up by Tony Blair’s government

June 29, 2010

By Miles Goslett and Stephen Frost, Daily Mail/UK, June 26, 2010

The official story of Dr David Kelly is that he took his own life in an Oxfordshire wood by overdosing on painkillers and cutting his left wrist with a pruning knife.

He was said to be devastated after being unmasked as the source of the BBC’s claim that the Government had ‘sexed up’ the case for war in Iraq.

A subsequent official inquiry led by Lord Hutton into the circumstances leading to the death came to the unequivocal conclusion that Kelly committed suicide.

Yet suspicions of foul play still hang heavy over the death of the weapons expert whose body was found seven years ago next month in one of the most notorious episodes of Tony Blair’s premiership.

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Israel’s Mossad Abusing the Living and Dead

June 29, 2010

Middle East Online,  June 29, 2010

A Mossad agent claiming to be Michael Bodenheimer, the grandson of a German Jewish Holocaust survivor, secured a German passport which he later used to enter the UAE where he was involved in the murder of Mahmoud al Mabhouh, notes James Zogby.

I am not easily shocked. I’ve been doing this work for too many years and I’ve seen too much to become outraged by bad behavior or acts of indecency or inhumanity. But two stories that recently came across my desk were so disgraceful, and in some ways dangerous, that I feel compelled to write about them. Both featured players in the Middle East crassly abusing the living and the dead.

The first of these involved Israel’s Mossad and a practice they used to secure a fraudulent passport for one of their agents who participated in the January 19, 2010 assassination of Mahmoud al Mabhouh in Dubai.

German law offers citizenship and a passport to the descendants of pre-World War II German Jewish citizens who were forced to flee the country to escape the horrors of the Holocaust. Taking advantage of this provision, a Mossad agent claiming to be Michael Bodenheimer, the grandson of a German Jewish survivor, secured a German passport which he later used to enter the UAE where he was involved in the murder of al Mabhouh.

A few weeks back the Jerusalem Post reported that the real Michael Bodenheimer, an Orthodox rabbi who emigrated from the United States to Israel, claimed that his identity had been stolen by the Mossad agent, and that he had “never asked for a German passport…[and] never had one”. The real Michael Bodenheimer and his family were, of course, concerned that their name was implicated in an assassination. More than just this abuse of one innocent citizen, there is the concern with the Mossad’s cavalier abuse of the German citizenship provision. Israel’s behavior in this regard is dangerous. It put the real Michael Bodenheimer at risk while casting suspicion on an entire class of people, Jews who have in the past, and who may in the future, seek German citizenship. As such, it callously exploits those who were murdered and the descendants of those who survived.

Then there are the recent revelations about the Iranian woman who was murdered in the demonstrations that erupted protesting last year’s Iranian elections. The woman, Neda Agha-Soltan, quickly became internationally recognized as a martyr and symbol of the “Green revolution”. Her face was used on CNN and BBC and plastered on the front pages of newspapers around the world where it appeared with the tagline “the Angel of Iran”. This photo was picked up by the Voice of America and spread to Iran where it appeared on posters and T-shirts.

The story is true, Neda Agha-Soltan was murdered, but the picture that spread virally is not of her. Careless journalism, to be kind, picked up the Facebook photo of one, Neda Soltani, a quite lovely Iranian teaching assistant and student of English Literature at Tehran University. Despite the mistaken identity, the photo stuck.

A piece on Foreign Policy’s website last week carefully traces not just the carelessness that lead to the mistaken identity, but more disturbingly the consequences for the living Neda who is the innocent victim of this error. As she sought to reclaim her identity and her face, the Iranian regime sought to exploit her situation, claiming that “Neda lives”, vainly arguing that the entire episode was a hoax – that no murder had been committed. When she went online demanding that her picture be taken down, she received threats and abusive responses from supporters of the revolt who argued that she was threatening to deny their cause the martyred “Angel of Iran”.

And when the parents of the murdered Neda attempted to replace the mistaken photo with that of their daughter, they found that neither their efforts nor the truth could compete with the “symbol”.

Fearing pressure from the regime, and frustrated by the loss of her identity, the living Neda has been forced to flee Iran and take refuge in Germany where she currently lives.

As disturbing as these stories are, equally troubling is the lack of attention they have received here in the United States. With the exception of the Foreign Policy piece, the story of Neda has received scant attention when compared with the coverage given to the use of the original photo last summer—while the Bodenheimer story has not been covered at all.

The lesson that emerges from all of this is when governments, media and movements abuse the living and dead to pursue their ends, truth and innocent people pay the price.

Dr. James Zogby is president of the Arab American Institute and author of the forthcoming book Arab Voices: What They Are Saying to Us And Why It Matters (Palgrave-Macmillan, October 2010). For comments or information, contact James Zogby.

U.S. Congress Jumps to Israel’s ‘Self-‘ Defense

June 29, 2010

By Stephen Zunes, Foreign Policy In Focus,  June 25, 2010

Gaza FlotillaPosted as a complement to Stephen Zunes’s Foreign Policy in Focus piece Israel’s Dubious Investigation of Flotilla Attack.

In a letter to President Barack Obama date June 17, 329 out of 435 members of the U.S. House of Representatives referred to Israel’s May 31 attack on a humanitarian aid flotilla in international waters, which resulted in the deaths of nine passengers and crew and injuries to scores of others, as an act of “self-defense” which they “strongly support.” Similarly, a June 21 Senate lettersigned by 87 out of 100 senators — went on record “fully” supporting what it called “Israel’s right to self-defense,” claiming that the widely supported effort to relieve critical shortages of food and medicine in the besieged Gaza Strip was simply part of a “clever tactical and diplomatic ploy” by “Israel’s opponents” to “challenge its international standing.”

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Lenin on Imperialism

June 29, 2010

Shaun Harkin, Socialist Worker, October 10, 2003

THE MARXIST approach to understanding war as a product of economic rivalries spilling over into political and military conflicts has long been dismissed as out of date, even by some people on the left. But the military occupation and corporate takeover of Iraq has put this view back at the center of discussion. SHAUN HARKIN explains why the Russian revolutionary Lenin and the theory that Lenin developed about the rise of imperialism–remains so relevant today.

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LENIN WROTE his influential pamphlet Imperialism, the Highest Stage of Capitalism in 1916, during the carnage of the First World War. Sometimes, imperialism is defined very broadly to mean the domination of weaker states by stronger ones. But empire building, colonialism and military competition have existed ever since states have existed.

By contrast, Lenin’s definition of imperialism was historically specific. For Lenin, imperialism was distinct because it represented–and was the product of–a new stage in the development of capitalism.

The internal composition of capitalism had changed dramatically in the years around the turn of the last century. Responding to competition and economic crisis, capitalism in the U.S., Germany, Britain, Japan and France tended to become more concentrated and dominated by massive monopolies.

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