Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Tell Your Member Of Congress To Oppose The Pardons Before Bush Absolves Himself

Because of the tens of thousands of our action page submissions in the last couple weeks, the mainstream media is actually talking about the prospect of blanket pardons, including the despicable act of Bush planning to pardon himself.

The White House has even been forced to issue a non-denial denial, saying that Bush is "disinclined" to issue such pardons.

Tell Your Member Of Congress To Oppose The Pardons Before Bush Absolves Himself

And because of your voices we are actually seeing movement in Congress as well. Representative Nadler has put forward H. Res. 1531, which has some really terrific text in it about the intent of the founders and how this all relates to impeachment, so there is a definite suggestion there that a self pardon in particular would be compelling grounds for impeachment. Please submit this action page as well to ask your House member to co-sponsor this.

In an article in the New York Times the other day, current attorney general Mukasey is quoted as asserting it would not be "necessary" to grant blanket pardons. But please take careful note he did not say it wouldn't happen, because unless we speak out now it WILL.

The one click form below will send your personal message to all your government representatives selected below, with the subject "Co-Sponsor H. Res. 1531 Against The Bush Blanket Pardons." At the same time you can send your personal comments only as a letter to the editor of your nearest local daily newspaper if you like.

To send E-mails to Representatives

Bush Trying to Avoid War Crimes charges.

Legal Scholars Outraged by Talk of Blanket Pardons

Thursday, December 4, 2008

141 states support Depleted Uranium Ban

141 states support Depleted Uranium Ban

Campaign Against Depleted Uranium

Sign Petition to Ban DU

What is DU?

  • Depleted Uranium is a waste product of the nuclear enrichment process.
  • After natural uranium has been ‘enriched’ to concentrate the isotope U235 for use in nuclear fuel or nuclear weapons, what remains is DU.
  • The process produces about 7 times more DU than enriched uranium.

Despite claims that DU is much less radioactive than natural uranium, it actually emits about 75% as much radioactivity. It is very dense and when it strikes armour it burns (it is ‘pyrophoric’). As a waste product, it is stockpiled by nuclear states, which then have an interest in finding uses for it.

DU is used as the ‘penetrator’ – a long dart at the core of the weapon – in armour piercing tank rounds and bullets. It is usually alloyed with another metal. When DU munitions strike a hard target the penetrator sheds around 20% of its mass, creating a fine dust of DU, burning at extremely high temperatures.

This dust can spread 400 metres from the site immediately after an impact. It can be resuspended by human activity, or by the wind, and has been reported to have travelled twenty-five miles on air currents. The heat of the DU impact and secondary fires means that much of the dust produced is ceramic, and can remain in the lungs for years if inhaled.

Who uses it?
At least 18 countries are known to have DU in their arsenals:

  • UK
  • US
  • France
  • Russia
  • China
  • Greece
  • Turkey
  • Thailand
  • Taiwan
  • Israel
  • Bahrain
  • Egypt
  • Kuwait
  • Saudi Arabia
  • India
  • Belarus
  • Pakistan
  • Oman

Most of these countries were sold DU by the US, although the UK, France and Pakistan developed it independently.

Only the US and the UK are known to have fired it in warfare. It was used in the 1991 Gulf War, in the 2003 Iraq War, and also in Bosnia-Herzegovina in the 1990s and during the NATO war with Serbia in 1999. While its use has been claimed in a number of other conflicts, this has not been confirmed.

Health Problems

  • DU is both chemically toxic and radioactive. In laboratory tests it damages human cells, causing DNA mutations and other carcinogenic effects.
  • Reports of increased rates of cancer and birth defects have consistently followed DU usage.
  • Representatives from both the Serbian and Iraqi governments have linked its use with health problems amongst civilians.
  • Many veterans remain convinced DU is responsible for health problems they have experienced since combat

Information from animal studies suggests DU may cause several different kinds of cancer. In rats, DU in the blood-stream builds up in the kidneys, bone, muscles, liver, spleen, and brain. In other studies it has been shown to cross both the blood-brain barrier and the placenta, with obvious implications for the health of the foetus. In general, the effects of DU will be more severe for women and children than for healthy men.

In 2008 a study by the Institute of Medicine in the US listed medical conditions that were a high priority to study for possible links with DU exposure: cancers of the lung, testes and kidney; lung disease; nervous system disorders; and reproductive and developmental problems.


What is missing from the picture is large-scale epidemiological studies on the effects of DU – where negative health effects match individuals with exposure to DU. None of the studies done on the effects on soldiers have been large enough to make meaningful conclusions. No large scale studies have been done on civilian populations.

In the case of Iraq, where the largest volume of DU has been fired, the UK and US governments are largely responsible for the conditions which have made studies of the type required impossible. Despite this, these same governments use the scientific uncertainties to maintain that it is safe, and that concerns about it are misplaced.

However, in cases where human health is in jeopardy, a precautionary approach should prevail. Scientific scepticism should prevent a hazardous course of action from being taken until safety is assured. To allow it to continue until the danger has been proved beyond dispute is an abuse of the principle of scientific caution.

Environmental Impacts
The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) has studied some of the sites contaminated by DU in the Balkans, but it has only been able to produce a desk study on Iraq. Bullets and penetrators made of DU that do not hit armour become embedded in the ground and corrode away, releasing material into the environment.

It is not known what will happen to DU in the long term in such circumstances. The UNEP mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina found DU in drinking water, and could still detect it in the air after seven years – the longest period of time a study has been done after the end of a conflict.

Uranium has a half life of 4.5 billion years, so DU released into the environment will be a hazard for unimaginable timescales.

Decontaminating sites where DU has been used requires detailed scrutiny and monitoring, followed by the removal and reburial of large amounts of soil and other materials. Monitoring of groundwater for contamination is also advised by UNEP. CADU calls for the cost of cleaning up and decontaminating DU affected sites to be met by the countries responsible for the contamination.

The Campaign
CADU is a founder member of the International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons (ICBUW) – now comprising over 102 member organisations in 27 countries.

CADU and ICBUW campaign for a precautionary approach: there is significant evidence that DU is dangerous, and faced with scientific uncertainty the responsible course of action is for it not to be used. To this end CADU and ICBUW are working towards an international treaty that bans the use of uranium in weapons akin to those banning cluster bombs and landmines.

Through the efforts of campaigners worldwide the use of DU has been condemned by four resolutions in the European Parliament, been the subject of an outright ban in Belgium, and brought onto the agenda of the United Nations General Assembly.


Sign Petition to Ban DU

International Campaign to Ban Uranium Weapons

141 states support second uranium weapons resolution in UN General Assembly vote

The United Nations General Assembly has passed, by a huge majority, a resolution requesting its agencies to update their positions on the health and environmental effects of uranium weapons.
December 2 2008

The resolution, which had passed the First Committee stage on October 31st by 127 states to four, calls on three UN agencies - the World Health Organisation (WHO), the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to update their positions on uranium weapons. The overwhelming support for the text reflects increasing international concern over the long-term impact of uranium contamination in post-conflict environments and military ranges.

In the 17 years since uranium weapons were first used on a large scale in the 1991 Gulf War, a huge volume of peer-reviewed research has highlighted previously unknown pathways through which exposure to uranium’s heavy metal toxicity and radioactivity may damage human health.
Throughout the world, parliamentarians have responded by supporting calls for a moratorium and ban, urging governments and the military to take a precautionary approach. However the WHO and IAEA have been slow to react to this wealth of new evidence and it is hoped that this resolution will go some way to resolving this situation.

In a welcome move, the text requests that all three agencies work closely with countries affected by the use of uranium weapons in compiling their research. Until now, most research by UN member states has focused on exposure in veterans and not on the civilian populations living in contaminated areas. Furthermore, recent investigations into US veteran studies have found them to be wholly incapable of producing useful data.

The text also repeats the request for states to submit reports and opinions on uranium weapons to the UN Secretary General in the process that was started by last year’s resolution. Thus far, 19 states have submitted reports to the Secretary General; many of them call for action on uranium weapons and back a precautionary approach. It also places the issue on the agenda of the General Assembly’s 65th Session; this will begin in September 2010.

The First Committee vote saw significant voting changes in comparison to the previous year’s resolution, with key EU and NATO members such as the Netherlands, Finland, Norway and Iceland changing position to support calls for further action on the issue. These changes were echoed at the General Assembly vote. Once again Japan, which has been under considerable pressure from campaigners, supported the resolution.

Of the permanent five Security Council members, the US, UK and France voted against. They were joined by Israel. Russia abstained and China refused to vote.

The list of states abstaining from the vote, while shorter than in 2007, still contains Belgium, the only state to have implemented a domestic ban on uranium weapons, a fact that continues to anger Belgian campaigners. It is suspected that the Belgian government is wary of becoming isolated on the issue internationally. Two Nordic states, Denmark and Sweden continue to blow cold, elsewhere in Europe Poland, the Czech Republic, Portugal and Spain are also dragging their feet, in spite of a call for a moratorium and ban by 94% of MEPs earlier this year. Many of the abstainers are recent EU/NATO accession states or ex-Soviet republics such as Kazakhstan.

Australia and Canada, both of whom have extensive uranium mining interests and close ties to US foreign policy also abstained.

The resolution was submitted by Cuba and Indonesia on behalf of the League of Non-Aligned States.

Voting results in full

In favour:

Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Barbados, Belarus, Belize, Benin, Bhutan, Bolivia, Botswana, Brazil, Brunei Darussalam, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cape Verde, Chile, Colombia, Comoros, Congo, Costa Rica, Côte d’Ivoire, Cuba, Cyprus, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Djibouti, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Finland, Germany, Ghana, Grenada, Guatemala, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Iceland, India, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Ireland, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Jordan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Liechtenstein, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Malta, Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mauritius, Mexico, Mongolia, Montenegro, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Nauru, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Niger, Nigeria, Norway, Oman, Pakistan, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Rwanda, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, San Marino, Sao Tome and Principe, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Serbia, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Switzerland, Syria, Tajikistan, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Togo, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago, Tunisia, Turkmenistan, Tuvalu, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United Republic of Tanzania, Uruguay, Uzbekistan, Vanuatu, Venezuela, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe.


France, Israel, United Kingdom, United States.


Albania, Andorra, Australia, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Micronesia (Federated States of), Palau, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Russian Federation, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Turkey, Ukraine.

Absent: Central African Republic, Chad, China, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Fiji, Gabon, Gambia, Kiribati, Monaco, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Seychelles, Sierra Leone, Somalia.


Depleated Uranium Information

Or Google it there is tons of information out there.

Be sure to encourage those who are still not supporting the ban, that is something that needs to be banned.

This is an extremely dangerous form of Pollution.

We, the people, need to let governments and the United Nations know that these weapons can have no part in a humane and caring world. Every signature counts!

  1. An immediate end to the use of uranium weapons.
  2. Disclosure of all locations where uranium weapons have been used and immediate removal of the remnants and contaminated materials from the sites under strict control.
  3. Health surveys of the ‘depleted’ uranium victims and environmental investigations at the affected sites.
  4. Medical treatment and compensation for the ‘depleted’ uranium victims.
  5. An end to the development, production, stockpiling, testing, trade of uranium weapons.
  6. A Convention for a Total Ban on Uranium Weapons.

The life you save may be your own.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Geothermal Energy in Iceland's

November 20 2008

by Stephen Lacey, Staff Writer
Reykjavik, Iceland

Drive around Iceland's capital city of Reykjavik on any cold night and look at the houses and apartment buildings lining the streets. The first thing you may notice is how many windows are wide open, allowing the frigid outdoor air to mix with the warm indoor heat. In most places, the scene may seem a bit strange. But in a city that hosts the world's largest geothermal district heating system, it's a normal occurrence.

"We go beyond just energy. We use it to promote tourism, we use it for health and wellness, we use it for heavy industries and we also use it for educational purposes."

-- Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, President of Iceland

“Energy is cheap and it's abundant. We don't have any shortages so we do tend to leave our lights on and our windows open. It's not something we think about as much,” says Hannes Pálsson, a resident of Reykjavik.

One generation ago, Icelanders didn't have the luxury of passively thinking about their energy use. The isolated island country imported all of its coal and oil for heat and electricity, putting it in a very vulnerable position. But now the country gets 99 percent of its electricity and 78 percent of its primary energy from hydro and geothermal resources. While many Icelanders have watched this dramatic evolution of the country's energy landscape, there are just as many young citizens who have grown up not understanding Iceland's formerly delicate position. (Image, left: The Hellisheidi Power Plant sends plumes of steam into the sky on a rare calm morning in Iceland.)

“I'm not from the generation that grew up with anything else but [geothermal and hydro],” says the 31-year old Palsson. “It's ubiquitous, it's everywhere and we know about it. But I think we also take it for granted. Still, we are proud of what we have done.”

Now Iceland has the opportunity to share that pride with other countries. And leaders in the industry are more than happy to share their knowledge.

“We have much to offer in know-how and technological support,” says Iceland's President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, speaking on the Inside Renewable Energy podcast. “It is important for us to continue to establish relationships with countries that are serious about geothermal. As a leader, Iceland can help in many areas.”

To hear more from Iceland President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson and a line-up of geothermal experts in the country, listen to this week's Inside Renewable Energy podcast. The show features an audio collage that examines the Icelandic geothermal experience.

This spirit of cooperation is part of the Icelandic culture, says Albert Albertsson, Deputy CEO of Hitaveita Sudurnesja, the owner and operator of two large geothermal plants in the country. If world leaders are going to get serious about combating climate change — a problem that is already visibly altering the weather and glacial landscape of the country — Icelanders believe it's important to export the lessons they have learned over the last 70 years. (Image, right: The Strokkur geyser blows its top, illustrating Iceland's very active geology.)

“We work very openly. All our research and development is open to the international society — so in that way we contribute a lot to understand better how we can harness this extremely valuable resource,” says Albertsson.
One important lesson to learn from Iceland, says President Grímsson, is to think about utilizing geothermal in multiple ways — not just for heat and electricity. The Icelandic government and geothermal businesses have worked very hard to use the resource to create as many value streams as possible.

“We go beyond just energy. We use it to promote tourism, we use it for health and wellness, we use it for heavy industries and we also use it for educational purposes. This more interactive, holistic approach is much different than we see elsewhere,” says Grimsson.

These additional value streams will be more important for Iceland as the country begins a potentially long, painful recession due to the global credit crunch. That makes a renewed focus on the domestic geothermal industry and an aggressive approach to exporting Icelandic knowledge that much more important, says Pálsson. (Image, below: A frigid morning at the Jokulsarlon Glacier Lagoon.)

“One of the things that keeps us positive is our access to energy — the fact that we can do so much with it and the fact that we know so much about it. I definitely believe that we should be exporting our knowledge all over the world,” he says.

With the door closing on Iceland's economy, perhaps geothermal energy will allow Icelanders to keep the window of opportunity open and keep the country moving during these tough times.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Barack Obama on 60 minutes

It will take a few moments to load be patient.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The Omar Khadr Case: Redefining War Crimes

October 31, 2008

By Audrey Macklin of the University of Toronto Faculty of Law, who recently observed the US military commissions at Guantanamo Bay for Human Rights Watch, says that the prosecution's argument in the case against Canadian national Omar Khadr that all acts of war by unlawful combatants are by definition war crimes points toward the “heads I win; tails you lose” quality of the entire military commissions process....

George W. Bush’s term as president is coming to an end, and he has little to show by way of meting out justice for the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Perhaps this is why his administration seems so desperate to score a victory on the judicial battleground of the military commissions. That its target is Omar Khadr, a child soldier at the time of the alleged offenses, makes the spectacle all the more pathetic to the observer, and tragic for Khadr.

The charges against Khadr include “murder in violation of the laws of war,” and providing material support to the enemy. The most serious allegation against him is that on July 27, 2002 in Afghanistan, he threw a grenade that killed US soldier Sergeant Christopher Speer. Indeed, until a few months ago, the official story went unchallenged in the public domain. Thanks to an inadvertent government leak, we have since learned of evidence supporting at least two alternate scenarios, namely that another combatant might have thrown the grenade or that Sgt. Speer was killed by “friendly fire.”

None of those questions, however, were the subject of the October 22 pre-trial hearing. Most of the time was consumed by arguments about scheduling of the actual trial. The prosecution accused the defense of what, in hockey parlance, is called “ragging the puck”: stalling until the game is over. They cite defense counsel Lt. Cmdr. William Kuebler’s efforts to petition the Canadian government to seek the repatriation of its citizen (as every other industrialized country has done with respect to Guantanamo detainees) as evidence that the defense has no interest in proceeding to trial, and every intention of delaying the onset of the trial indefinitely in the hopes of an eventual political resolution. The defense counters that it is unable to prepare properly for trial because the prosecution has systematically refused to fulfill its obligations to disclose relevant and exculpatory evidence.

The prosecution has also criticized the defense for wanting to obtain a psychological evaluation of Khadr by independent experts, rather than relying the government’s own professionals.

Arguments about delay are standard fare in ordinary litigation, and it is symptomatic of a military commission that is both like and unlike a normal trial. In a normal trial, it would not be unusual for the prosecution to accuse the defense of using discovery as a fishing expedition, and to suggest that the defense has no reasonable basis for requesting the information. In the Khadr hearing, the prosecution argued that the defense was engaging in just such a fishing expedition by seeking access to the intelligence interrogators who interviewed Khadr at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan and at Guantanamo Bay.

Here is how the argument went: the prosecution stated that it intends to rely at trial solely on statements made by Khadr to law enforcement interrogators, not to intelligence interrogators. Therefore, defense does not need access to the intelligence interrogators, and their evidence is irrelevant.

The defense’s main response was that, before and after Khadr was interrogated by law enforcement officials (under relatively benign conditions), he was subject to coercion (including possibly cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment and torture) by intelligence interrogators. This experience of recent past abuse and the fear of imminent future abuse by intelligence interrogators would have saturated the environment within which Khadr was interrogated by law enforcement officials. On this theory, statements made by Khadr to law enforcement officials could not be construed as free from coercion, in light of Khadr’s past interrogation and fear of future interrogation at the hands of intelligence interrogators. These interrogators included the notorious Sgt. C, who was subsequently implicated in the torture and murder of another detainee around the same time. Therefore, discovery of the intelligence interrogators was crucial to establishing a foundation for a motion to suppress certain statements Khadr made during interrogation.

The prosecution’s reply? That defense counsel’s position regarding the use of coercive techniques by intelligence interrogators was mere speculation and assertion without factual support. So, the motion to obtain discovery of seven intelligence interrogators who interviewed Khadr during three discrete periods (Bagram in July-August 2002, Guantanamo Bay in October 2002 – February 2003, and late 2004) was an overly broad request built on unsubstantiated conjecture that intelligence personnel employed coercive interrogation techniques against detainees. Only at Guantanamo Bay could a lawyer be heard to make such an assertion without a trace of irony.

This is not a normal trial.

The other issue argued before the judge, Col. Patrick Parrish, is more complex, and exposes the incoherence produced by a legal order designed not to produce justice, but to secure convictions. The question was whether murder committed by an “unlawful enemy combatant” is automatically a war crime, or whether something more is required to turn murder into a violation of the laws of war.

Under the Geneva Conventions, members of a state’s armed forces who kill enemy combatants on the battlefield may not be prosecuted for murder under the domestic laws of the enemy state. That protection is called the “combatant’s privilege”. Individuals who take up arms that are not part of a state’s armed forces, so-called unlawful (or, more properly, unprivileged) combatants, enjoy no such immunity from domestic criminal prosecution. This means that the US government could have charged Khadr under US criminal law and tried him in a US federal court. The government chose not to do so.

Khadr was instead charged under the Military Commissions Act with murder and attempted murder “in violation of the laws of war.” While it is not a war crime to kill an enemy combatant on the battlefield, the prosecution insists that it becomes a war crime – a serious violation of the laws of armed conflict – if committed by an unlawful enemy combatant. Defense counsel Rebecca Snyder argued that a battlefield killing only becomes a war crime when a combatant – privileged or otherwise – targets a person with protected status, or uses prohibited methods of killing. Protected persons include civilians, all persons in custody, incapacitated military personnel, or military medical or religious personnel. Prohibited methods include the use of human shields, poison gas, or intentional deception designed to induce the enemy into believing that one is a protected person (which is known as perfidy). Therefore, unless the prosecution can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Sgt. Speer was a protected person when killed (which the prosecution does not contend), or that Khadr used prohibited methods of killing (which has also not been argued), his alleged actions could not constitute murder “in violation of the laws of war” even if he were an unlawful enemy combatant at the time.

The prosecution seems to claim that international law does not matter. It claims that Congress can create a new war crime under US law – and has in the Military Commissions Act – even if it has never been considered a war crime under international law in this century or the last.

Arguing that all acts of war by unlawful combatants are by definition war crimes points toward the “heads I win; tails you lose” quality of the Military Commissions process. Khadr is a combatant when it comes to detaining him indefinitely (even if acquitted of the charges against him), but not when it comes to providing him the privileges and immunities of combatants. He is a criminal defendant when it comes to charging him with murder, but not when it comes to furnishing him with the rights and protections due to anyone charged with a crime.

One status that Khadr can claim unambiguously is his Canadian citizenship. Yet Canada has thus far failed to regard him as a citizen entitled to the protection of his state. It has failed to demand his fair treatment, failed to insist that he be tried in a fair process, and failed to seek his repatriation absent compliance with these requests. Canada, it seems, is missing in action.

The trial of Khadr before the Military Commission is now scheduled to commence on January 26, six days after the inauguration of the next US president. Both candidates have vowed to bring to an end the disastrous experiment in injustice that is Guantanamo Bay. Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has remained steadfastly impervious to the growing chorus of Canadians who deplore the continued detention of Khadr in Guantanamo Bay and call upon Prime Minister Harper to seek his repatriation. Harper has preferred instead to follow docilely in the trench dug by the current US president. Perhaps the most viable hope for Khadr is that the next US president will swiftly honor his commitment to close Guantanamo Bay and that Harper will continue to defer to his US counterpart.

Audrey Macklin is a law professor at the University of Toronto. She was observing the military commissions last week for Human Rights Watch.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Theft of the 2008 Election Part 1 and 2

BBC Newsnight journalist Greg Palast goes on the trail of the missing votes from Colorado to New Mexico to Michigan. Broadcast on BBC Newsnight UK and America.

Theft of the 2008 Election Part 1

Theft of the 2008 Election Part 2 

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Bush Trying to Avoid War Crimes Charges

Violations under the Geneva Convention are a Felony.
Bush is trying to have himself and his administration exempt from this.
How disgusting. They should be tried for war crimes and crimes against humanity and they want to give themselves immunity. Well in the eyes of the rest of the world I can only hope we see the truth, of this rogue administration.
This in of itself, in my mind is yet another Bush crime. I do not think the rest of the world should tolerate this kind of act by any country or person anywhere.
Not only have they committed crimes against victims in Guantanamo Bay and other prisons but have also attacked Pakistan and now Syria.

Friday, October 17, 2008

5 anti-sealing activists found not guilty

October 17 2008
Seal hunters approach their vessel off Prince Edward Island in February 2008.

A judge has found five animal-rights activists not guilty of getting too close to seal hunters during the 2006 hunt off Canada's east coast.

The five were charged with coming within 10 metres of seal hunters on March 26, 2006, while filming the annual slaughter in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, not far from Cape Breton.

"It is extremely difficult on the seas ... to figure out the distance [between boats]," Quebec Judge Jean-Paul Décoste said in handing down the decision Friday.

There are "few or no reference points on which to rely," he said.

The five defendants are representatives of Humane Society International and Humane Society of the United States. Canadians Rebecca Aldworth and Andrew Plumbly; Americans Chad Sisneros and Pierre Grzybowski; and British citizen Mark Glover all pleaded not guilty.

The charge of violating terms of an observer permit under the Marine Mammal Regulations carries a maximum fine of $100,000.

The trial was held on Îles de la Madeleine and Décoste's decision was broadcast in Toronto via teleconference.

Clayton Ruby, one of Canada's best-known defence lawyers, represented the five.

Earlier, federal prosecutors had dropped a charge of obstructing the hunt.

High-profile protest

The 2006 hunt was marked by high-profile protests by pop music superstar Paul McCartney and retired French actress Brigitte Bardot.

On the ice floes, there were frequent clashes between sealers and protesters opposed to the hunt, which the federal government insists is a humane enterprise that brings much-needed cash to families that supplement their meagre incomes during the winter.

Animal welfare activists say the annual commercial hunt is cruel and provides little economic benefit once government costs associated with policing and supporting the hunt are factored in.



Myth #1: The Canadian government allows sealers to kill whitecoat seals.

Reality: The image of the whitecoat harp seal is used prominently by seal hunt opponents. This image gives the false impression that vulnerable whitecoat pups are targeted by sealers during the commercial hunt.

The hunting of harp seal pups (whitecoats) and hooded seal pups (bluebacks) is illegal – and has been since 1987. The Marine Mammal Regulations prohibit the trade, sale or barter of the fur of these pups. The seals that are hunted are self-reliant, independent animals.

Myth #2: Seals are being skinned alive.

Reality: A 2002 independent veterinarians’ report published in the Canadian Veterinary Journal

Sometimes a seal may appear to be moving after it has been killed; however seals have a swimming reflex that is active – even after death. This reflex gives the false impression that the animal is still alive when it is clearly dead – similar to the reflex in chickens.
and numerous reports mentioned by the Malouf Commission (1987) indicate that this is not true.

Myth #3: The club – or hakapik – is a barbaric and inhumane tool that has no place in today’s world.

Reality: Hunting methods were studied by the Royal Commission on Seals and Sealing in Canada and it found that the clubbing of seals, when properly performed, is at least as humane as, and often more humane than, the killing methods used in commercial slaughterhouses, which are accepted by the majority of the public.

A 2002 report published in the Canadian Veterinary Journal found that the club or hakapik is an efficient tool designed to kill the animal quickly and humanely.

Myth #4: The Canadian government is allowing sealers to kill thousands of seals to help with the recovery of cod stocks.

Reality: Several factors have contributed to the lack of recovery of Atlantic cod stocks, such as fishing effort, poor growth and physical condition of the fish, and environmental changes.

In addition, there are many uncertainties in the estimates of the amount of fish consumed by seals. The commercial quota is established on sound conservation principles, not an attempt to assist in the recovery of groundfish stocks.

Myth #5: The hunt is unsustainable and is endangering the harp seal population.

Reality: Since the 1960s, environmental groups have been saying the seal hunt is unsustainable. In fact, the harp seal population is healthy and abundant. The Northwest Atlantic harp seal population is currently estimated at 5.5 million animals, nearly triple what it was in the 1970s.

DFO sets quotas at levels that ensure the health and abundance of seal herds. In no way are seals - and harp seals in particular – an “endangered species”.

Myth #6: The seal hunt provides such low economic return for sealers that it is not an economically viable industry.

Reality: Seals are a significant source of income. For some individual sealers and for thousands of families in Eastern Canada at a time of year when other fishing options are limited at best, sealing can represent as much as 35 per cent of a sealer’s annual income in some coastal communities. Sealing also creates employment opportunities for buying and processing plants.

Myth #7: Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) provides subsidies for the seal hunt.

Reality: DFO does not subsidize the seal hunt. Sealing is an economically viable industry. All subsidies ceased in 2001. Even before that time, any subsidies provided were for market and product development, including a meat subsidy, to encourage full use of the seal. In fact, government has provided much less subsidization to the sealing industry than recommended by the Royal Commission on Seals and Sealing.

Myth #8: The seal hunt is loosely monitored and DFO doesn’t punish illegal hunting activity or practices.

Reality: The seal hunt is closely monitored and tightly regulated. Fishery Officers conduct surveillance of the hunt by means of aerial patrols, surface (vessel) patrols, dockside inspections of vessels at landing sites and inspections at buying and processing facilities.

Infractions are taken seriously and sealers who fail to comply with Canada’s Marine Mammal Regulations are penalized. The consequences of such illegal actions could include court-imposed fines and the forfeiting of catches, fishing gear, vessels and licences.

Myth #9: The majority of Canadians are opposed to the seal hunt.

Reality: Animal rights groups currently campaigning against the seal hunt cite a 2004 Ipsos Reid poll stating that the majority of Canadians are opposed to the hunt. In fact, Canadians support federal policies regarding the seal hunt. An Ipsos-Reid survey conducted in February 2005 concluded that 60 per cent of Canadians are in favour of a responsible hunt.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Nato airstrike blamed for deaths of 18 civilians in Afghanistan

A Nato airstrike in Helmand this afternoon may have killed as many as 18 women and children, according to local officials in the province.

Angry local people brought the bodies of at least six women and children, some of them badly disfigured, to the provincial capital Lashkargar and placed the bodies outside the house of the provincial governor, according to witnesses who spoke to The Times in Lashkargar.

There were protests in the city during the afternoon by crowds condemning British forces and the Afghan Government.

A spokesman for the British forces, Lieutenant-Colonel Woody Page, confirmed that Nato forces were deployed in an operation in Nad Ali, close to Lashkargar, today and that an airstrike took place at 12.40pm. “We are unable to confirm whether there were any civilian casualties,” he said.

An investigation into the incident was under way.

A spokesman for the Helmand Governor told The Times that the state of the bodies did not prove whether they had died as a result of an airstrike and he suggested that they might have died when a house accidentally collapsed.

“We have investigated this incident,” said Daoud Ahmadi. “We haven’t seen any bullet holes in the house and no explosive material in the house. The belief is that it collapsed itself and that the enemies of Afghanistan [the Taleban] are trying to take advantage of this.”

The Provincial Police Chief, Assadullah Sherzad, told the Associated Press that he believed an airstrike had killed several women and children in the area. He was not able to name a figure for the dead.

Civilian casualties in airstrikes have been a source of repeated friction between the Karzai Government and its Western backers and have sparked violent anti-Western protests in the past.

In the most recent such incident, separate investigations by the Afghan Government, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission and the United Nations all concluded that more than 90 civilians died when US Special Forces raided a village in the western province of Herat on August 22.

US forces initially reported five civilian deaths, a figure amended to 33 deaths after mobile phone camera footage of the aftermath showing rows of dead including many women and children came to light.

89 Afghan civilians die in coalition airstrike

25 Civilans killed as US bombs village in Afghanistan

McCain War Hero or War Criminal?

By Robert Richter

October 16, 2008

As character assassination attacks on Sen. Barack Obama have now taken over Sen. John McCain's campaign, and because McCain cites his military experience as of prime importance, now is the time to focus closer attention on a facet of the Arizona Senator's own character. This is related to his 23 combat missions for Operation Rolling Thunder - the Pentagon's name for U.S. bombing of North Vietnam.

I will never forget how stunned I was when Gen. Telford Taylor, a chief U.S. prosecutor at the Nuremberg trials after World War Two, told me that he strongly supported the idea of trying the U.S. pilots captured in North Vietnam as war criminals - and that he would be proud to lead in their prosecution.

An ardent opponent of the Vietnam conflict, Taylor spoke with me in the fall of 1966 when I was looking into producing a documentary on this controversy for CBS News, where I was their National Political Editor. While he did not mention any pilot's name, then U.S. Navy Lieut. Commander John McCain who was captured a year later, would have been among the group Taylor wanted to prosecute.

Why would anyone have wanted to prosecute McCain and the other captured pilots? Taylor's argument was that their actions were in violation of the Geneva conventions that specifically forbid indiscriminate bombing that could cause incidental loss of civilian life or damage to civilian objects. Adding to the Geneva code, he noted, was the decision at the Nuremberg trials after World War Two: military personnel cannot defend themselves against such a charge with a claim that they were simply following orders.

There were questions raised about whether the Geneva conventions applied to the pilots, since there had been no formal declaration of war by the U.S. against the Hanoi regime - and the Geneva rules presumably are only in force in a “declared” war.

Anti-war critics at the time claimed that despite the Pentagon's assertion that only military targets were bombed, U.S. pilots also had bombed hospitals and other civilian targets, a charge that turned out to be correct and was confirmed by the New York Times' chief foreign correspondent, Harrison Salisbury.

In late 1966 Salisbury described the widespread devastation of civilian neighborhoods around Hanoi by American bombs: "Bomb damage...extends over an area of probably a mile or so on both sides of the highway...small villages and hamlets along the route [were] almost obliterated." U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara conceded some years later that more than a million deaths and injuries occurred in northern Vietnam each year from 1965 to 1968, as a result of the 800 tons of bombs a day dropped by our pilots.

In one of his autobiographies McCain wrote that he was going to bomb a power station in “a heavily populated part of Hanoi” when he was shot down.

If Gen. Taylor tried McCain, would he have defended himself as “just following orders” despite the Geneva conventions barring that kind of bombing and the Nuremberg principles negating “just following orders?“

The targets McCain and his fellow pilots actually bombed in Vietnam and his justification then or now for the actions that led to his capture, are no longer simply old news. They are part of what must be taken into account today, as voters weigh support for him or Obama to be the next President of the United States.

This is not about the hugely unpopular war in Vietnam. It is about the character of a man who seeks to be U.S. President, who perhaps was not simply a brave warrior, but a warrior who by his own admission, bombed and was ready to bomb targets in violation of the Geneva conventions and Nuremberg principles.

When I passed along Gen. Taylor's comments to my network superiors the program was scrapped: too hot to handle. Instead Air War Over the North was telecast, about “precision bombing” North Vietnam military targets by U.S. pilots. A few years after that broadcast, a Pentagon public information executive gleefully told Roger Mudd in The Selling of the Pentagon that he, the Pentagon official, not only had persuaded CBS to produce Air War Over the North, he even chose those to be interviewed and coached them about what they should say. This unethical collaboration and intercession by the Pentagon in the news media is sadly all too familiar a tactic repeated in the Bush-Cheney years.

The American Way of Life is Dead

By Stanislav Mishin

October 10, 2008

The American way of life is dead and like a beheaded corpse, still stumbling around, it has yet to come to that realization that should be obvious to anyone.

The American way of life, a system unsustainable by any stretch of the imagination, was facilitated on two facts: cheap gas and a valuable currency, the currency then morphing into cheap credit.

Since the US signed a deal with Saudi Arabia to value oil only in US dollar, something that happened in 1948, the US dollar has been a powerful currency, quickly rising to the level of the world reserve currency. As soon as all nations needed the dollar to purchase oil, there seemed to be no end as to how many dollars could be printed and what first the US government and than the ever down sized taxpayer, could afford...just add the cheap credit.

Godless consumerism never really took off the way it did until Nixon took the US off the gold standard in 1973. From then to now, there was no stopping it. Add to this, the cheap gas, partially guaranteed by that God forsaken deal between America and the worst of the worst of the Islamic jihadists, and the far flung suburban life style, with houses packed full of cheap priced and even cheaper quality Chinese goods, was born.

Of course, anyone with half an understanding of reality and economics knew it could not go on forever and so it has come to an end. However, the elite oligarchies of America, must be congratulated that they were able to keep it going for so long. Of course the estimated $500 Billion in plundered Russian wealth, from the early and mid 1990s, sure did help.

However, the era of the dollar is over and with it US power. The dollar has been in a steady free fall for the better of the past 6 years, faster than the steady decline of the preceding 30 years. How is it, that with a prolonged war, costing close to $1 trillion, no new taxes have been raised? Well, that's what printing presses are for and why since 2004, the Fed has stopped issuing the M3 report.

Due partially to this dieing dollar, the falling US power that has stopped being able to pressure Arabs into pumping more, increase in demand world wide and the resurgence of Russian industry drinking up their own oil, the price of oil has skyrocketed. It sure does not hurt that the US idiocy of having cake and eating too is still fully in the swing: that would be the plan to be foreign oil independent while not drilling your own oil or to build nuclear power plants.

The era of big spending, large houses, long commutes and giant SUVs and trucks are over. Sure, the contraction back into tightly packed cities and small modest houses, budgeted spending and compact cars will not come over night and it is equally sure that the indebted and breaking US consumer will fight it every step of the way, but it is over.

The first thing to already go is the big trucks and SUVs. Sure there are plenty still on the roads, but sales of new ones are falling fast, actually collapsing out right would be a more proper term. Next, considering the absolute lack of public transportation in most US urban and suburban areas and for that matter the very city centers, next will come the car pooling fad, as smaller cars still eat gas, a commodity still climbing in price.

Sooner or later this will reach a tipping point as well, where even car pooling will no longer work, as incomes will never keep up with inflation. Incomes will further degrade as the cycle of cut backs by suppliers followed by cut backs and layoffs by businesses continues. Fewer hours and less real pay will make the expense of far flung large yards, expensive to heat and cool large houses and high gasoline bills, seem rather infuriating and pointless to support.

A final hit upon the suburbanite will be the high increase in the cost of goods around him. Since rail head are limited and diesel is sailing far ahead of gasoline, the best prices on goods will be those around the inner city, closest to the rail heads. Goods that have to be trucked out to the various far flung stores will bare the price of the fuel that delivers them. Many stores will close driving not only jobs away from the suburbs but also the ability to live comfortably.

As more and more suburbanites return to live in the city, the property they sell will have massive downward pressure on their neighbors' property values. This in turn will force more of their neighbors to equally move out. Would be farmers should take note, perfectly good farm land will be rather cheap to come by...just have to burn off the ply wood massive shacks on it.

Crime will also initially sky rocket, especially in the far flung neighborhoods. The satellite cities that grew up around the big cities will be hardest hit and many will bankrupt as their tax base continues to erode. With bankruptcy will come cut backs in services, to include the police force. Gun rights advocates should take heart as more and more Americans will quickly come to depend on self protection for their sole source of protection.

Large quantities of second hand goods will also come on the market, as people move away from large stuffed houses in the suburbs to smaller, some times much smaller, apartments and houses in the cities. Craig's List, Ebay and garage sale hunters will greatly benefit, at least in the short term.

But there will be massive problems in the cities. Over crowding is the most obvious one. But with little industry, little money and only the service economy to rely on, the cities will be poor, angry and dangerous, as well as over crowded. The country side will become once again lonely and manageable and small towns and villages a lot more inviting. A return to America cira 1920s is more likely.

Illegal aliens take note: not only will American workers compete more directly with you over jobs than any time in the past 50 years, but they will fully view you, and correctly to boot, as the usurpers you are of their livelihood. Illegals' lives are going to get very dangerous and violent.

Tourism will of course suffer, so all those far flung, well developed tourist hot spots, that also happen to be in hurricane paths, will become lonely and decayed. It will become harder and harder for the government to pay for their almost annual rebuilding or even to justify it. Nature will be a big winner in all this.

But one final issue must be faced, the one issue that could easily launch those over packed cities into full scale revolt: veterans. Yes, with bankruptcy of the great big world wide empire, some one million well trained and often enough, well armed, veterans will be returning to the cities where their chances of jobs are slim at best. If they take arms, things in the America of the 2010s will be rather interesting and lively indeed.

Additional Thoughts on the Bailout

By Paul Craig Roberts
October 16, 2008

Just as the Bush regime’s wars have been used to pour billions of dollars into the pockets of its military-security donor base, the Paulson bailout looks like a Bush regime scheme to incur $700 billion in new public debt in order to transfer the money into the coffers of its financial donor base. The US taxpayers will be left with the interest payments in perpetuity (or inflation if the Fed monetizes the debt), and the number of Wall Street billionaires will grow. As for the US and European governments’ purchases of bank shares, that is just a cover for funneling public money into private hands.

The explanations that have been given for the crisis and its bailout are opaque. The US Treasury estimates that as few as 7% of the mortgages are bad. Why then do the US, UK, Germany, and France need to pour more than $2.1 trillion of public money into private financial institutions?
If, as the government tells us, the crisis stems from subprime mortgage defaults reducing the interest payments to the holders of mortgage backed securities, thus driving down their values and threatening the solvency of the institutions that hold them, why isn’t the bailout money used to address the problem at its source? If the bailout money was used to refinance troubled mortgages and to pay off foreclosed mortgages, the mortgage backed securities would be made whole, and it would be unnecessary to pour huge sums of public money into banks. Instead, the bailout money is being used to inject capital into financial institutions and to purchase from them troubled financial instruments.

It is a strange solution that does not address the problem. As the US economy sinks deeper into recession, the mortgage defaults will rise. Thus, the problem will intensify, necessitating the purchase of yet more troubled instruments.

If credit card debt has also been securitized and sold as investments, as the economy worsens defaults on credit card debt will be a replay of the mortgage defaults. How much debt can the Treasury bail out before its own credit rating sinks?

The contribution of credit default swaps to the financial crisis has not been made clear. These swaps are bets that a designated financial instrument will fail. In exchange for “premium” payments, the seller of a swap protects the buyer of the swap from default by, for example, a company’s bond that the swap buyer might not even own. If these swaps are also securitized and sold as investments, more nebulous assets appear on balance sheets.

Normally, if you and I make a bet, and I welsh on the bet, it doesn’t threaten your solvency. If we place bets with a bookie and the odds go against the bookie, the bookie will fail, as apparently happened to AIG, necessitating an $85 billion bailout of the insurance company, and to Bear Stearns resulting in the demise of the investment bank.

Credit default swaps are a form of unregulated insurance. One danger of the swaps is that they allow speculators to purchase protection against a company defaulting on its bonds, without the speculators having to own the company’s bonds. Speculators can then short the company’s stock, driving down its price and raising questions about the viability of the company’s bonds. This raises the value of the speculators’ swaps which can be sold to holders of the company’s bonds. By ruining a company’s prospects, the speculators make money.
Another danger is that swaps encourage investors to purchase riskier, higher-yielding instruments in the belief that the instruments are insured, but the sellers of swaps have not reserved against them.

Double-counting of assets is also possible if a bank purchases a company’s bonds, for example, then purchases credit default swaps on the bonds, and lists both as assets on its balance sheet.
The $85 billion Treasury bailout of AIG is small compared to the $700 billion for the banks, and the emphasis has been on banks, not insurance companies. According to news reports, the sums associated with credit default swaps are far larger than the subprime mortgage derivatives. Have the swaps yet to become major players in the crisis?

The behavior of the stock market does not necessarily tell us anything about the bailout. The financial crisis disrupted lending and thus comprised a threat to non-financial firms. This threat would reflect in the stock market. However, the stock market is also predicting a recession and declining earnings. Thus, people sell stocks hoping to get out before share prices adjust to the new lower earnings.

The bailout package is a result of panic and threats, not of analysis and understanding. Neither Congress nor the public knows the full story. If the problem is the mortgages, why does the bailout leave the mortgages unaddressed and focus instead on pouring vast amount of public money into private financial institutions?

The purpose of regulation is to restrain greed and to prevent leveraged speculation from threatening the wider society. Congress needs to restore financial regulation, not reward those who caused the crisis.