Monthly Archives: January 2010

Defense Secretary Robert Gates Confirms Blackwater in Pakistan

Rebel Reports By Jeremy Scahill

In an interview with the Pakistani TV station Express TV, Defense Secretary Robert Gates confirmed that the private security firms Blackwater and DynCorp are operating inside Pakistan. “They’re operating as individual companies here in Pakistan,” Gates said, according to a DoD transcript of the interview. “There are rules concerning the contracting companies.  If they’re contracting with us or with the State Department here in Pakistan, then there are very clear rules set forth by the State Department and by ourselves.”

This appears to be a contradiction of previous statements made by the Defense Department, by Blackwater, by the Pakistani government and by the US embassy in Islamabad, all of whom claimed Blackwater was not in the country. In September, the US Ambassador to Pakistan, Anne Patterson, denied Blackwater’s presence in the country, stating bluntly, “Blackwater is not operating in Pakistan.”

Please follow Jeremy Scahill’s blog Rebel Reports so you will not miss his latest updates on this important report.

Last decade warmest ever: NASA

Relax News  Sunday, 24 January 2010

The past decade was the warmest ever on Earth, a new analysis of global surface temperatures released by NASA showed Thursday. A view of Tanzania's Mount Kilimanjaro.

The US space agency also found that 2009 was the second-warmest year on record since modern temperature measurements began in 1880. Last year was only a small fraction of a degree cooler than 2005, the warmest yet, putting 2009 in a virtual tie with the other hottest years, which have all occurred since 1998.

According to James Hansen, who heads NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, global temperatures change due to variations in ocean heating and cooling.

“When we average temperature over five or 10 years to minimize that variability, we find global warming is continuing unabated,” Hansen said in a statement.

A strong La Nina effect that cooled the tropical Pacific Ocean made 2008 the coolest year of the decade, according to the New York-based institute.

In analyzing the data, NASA scientists found a clear warming trend, although a leveling off took place in the 1940s and 1970s.

The records showed that temperatures trended upward by about 0.36 degrees Fahrenheit (0.2 Celsius) per decade over the past 30 years. Average global temperatures have increased a total of about 1.5 degrees Fahrenheit (0.8 Celsius) since 1880.

“That’s the important number to keep in mind,” said Gavin Schmidt, a climatologist with the institute.

“The difference between the second and sixth warmest years is trivial because the known uncertainty in the temperature measurement is larger than some of the differences between the warmest years.”

Last year’s near-record temperatures took place despite an unseasonably cool December in much of North America and a warmer-than-normal Arctic, with frigid air from the Arctic rushing into the region while warmer mid-latitude air shifted northward, the institute said.

The analysis was based on weather data from over a thousand meteorological stations worldwide, satellite observations of sea surface temperatures and Antarctic research station measurements.

But the newly released figures were unlikely to quell a heated climate debate.

The so-called “climategate” controversy that exploded last fall on the eve of UN-sponsored climate talks unleashed a furor over whether the planet was heating and, if so, at what pace.

Hundreds of emails intercepted from scientists at Britain’s University of East Anglia, a top center for climate research, have been seized upon by skeptics as evidence that experts twisted data in order to dramatize global warming.

World powers agreed at the Copenhagen climate summit last month to seek to prevent average global temperatures from rising beyond 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit (two Celsius) above pre-industrial levels in order to halt the most devastating effects of global warming.

“There’s a contradiction between the results shown here and popular perceptions about climate trends,” Hansen said. “In the last decade, global warming has not stopped.”

NGOs Welcome BASIC Stance on Climate Change

Posted by Vamban on Jan 24th, 2010 22:11:01 and filed under National

New Delhi, Jan 24 – International NGOs Sunday welcomed the decision of Brazil, South Africa, India and China (BASIC countries) to support the Copenhagen Accord but to have the agreement as part of a legally binding global treaty to combat climate change that would be negotiated by all countries.

‘Greenpeace welcomes the position taken by the ministers of the BASIC group that met today (Sunday) in New Delhi to continue negotiations on a fair and ambitious climate agreement within the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change,’ said Siddharth Pathak, Greenpeace India’s climate and energy policy officer.

‘However, Greenpeace wants to insist to the BASIC countries that such an agreement also needs to be legally binding in order to ensure its implementation,’ he added.

‘Greenpeace is encouraged by the willingness of the BASIC group to support vulnerable countries, both by ensuring their participation in open and transparent negotiations and by providing technological and or financial support,’ Pathak said.

Greenpeace, he added, ‘calls upon the BASIC countries to make this support more tangible by its next meeting in April.’

The NGO called upon BASIC countries ‘to ensure they take the responsibility that comes along with the renewed power from their alliance. Greenpeace expects these countries to demonstrate leadership, both in furthering negotiations on a fair, ambitious and legally binding agreement, and in terms of both pushing industrialized counties to urgently reduce greenhouse gas emissions and making their own appropriate contributions in emission reductions, in order to avoid dangerous climate change.’

The India chapter of World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) also welcomed the move by BASIC countries. The head of its climate unit Shirish Sinha said: ‘WWF welcomes the early lead on continuing climate negotiations and the level of commitment shown by the BASIC group of countries to a fair and effective UN-based outcome to climate change this year.’

‘It is highly encouraging that these key emerging economies intend to further outline their voluntary mitigation actions by January 31, and that they now declare an intention of taking climate action together in areas like technology, adaptation and research.’

Kim Carstensen, leader of WWF global climate initiative, said: ‘This presents a good challenge to developed countries, who must also announce of carbon emission reduction targets, and who must also live up to their promises of providing financial support to the vulnerable countries.’

‘WWF will watch them closely to see whether their commitments actually match their assertions in Copenhagen that they are committed to keep the world below the level where the risk of climate catastrophe becomes unacceptable,’ Carstensen said.

Women make up half of new Bolivian cabinet

GEO World Women make up half of new Bolivian cabinet Updated at: 1525 PST,  Sunday, January 24, 2010
Women make up half of new Bolivian cabinet LA PAZ: Leftist Bolivian President Evo Morales on Saturday swore in a new cabinet of 20 ministers, half of whom are women — a first in the macho Andean nation.

“My great dream has been fulfilled, half of my cabinet are women, the other half men,” said Morales, speaking at a ceremony at the Quemado presidential palace.

Morales, 50, was sworn in for a second five-year term on Friday after he was easily re-elected on December 6.

Female members of his cabinet include Labor Minister Carmen Trujillo; Justice Minister Nilda Copa; Transparency and Anti-Corruption Minister Nardy Suxo; and folk singer and activist Zulma Yugar as minister of culture.

The only precedent in Latin America for a similar split was under President Michelle Bachelet in Chile, who after her 2006 election divided her cabinet of 26 ministers equally among men and women.

Since coming to power in January 2006 as Bolivia’s first indigenous head of state, Morales, a former coca farmer and union leader, has steadily increased his control over his country.

Like Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, he has also wielded fierce anti-US rhetoric, and has kicked out the US ambassador and US anti-narcotics officials.

Morales also ratified Foreign Minister David Choquehuanca in his post, as well as Finance Minister Luis Alberto Arce.

GEO Television Network

Political Cartoons Mr. Drinkwater’s Winston’s World

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UN and WHO concerned with Gaza healthcare

UN, WHO concerned with Gaza healthcare
Wed, 20 Jan 2010 17:48:06 GMT
Palestinian children hit a poster showing Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak (R) and the head of Kadima Party Tzipi Livni.
The United Nations and the World Health Organization (WHO) voice concern about the blows the Israeli-imposed blockade have dealt to the Gazan healthcare system.

“We are deeply concerned about the current health system in Gaza and in particular its capacity and ability to deliver proper standards of healthcare to the people of Gaza,” the UN Humanitarian Coordinator Max Gaylard was quoted by AFP as saying on Wednesday.

“This adverse situation is not like Haiti. Haiti has been destroyed by an earthquake…. The circumstances here are entirely man-made and can be fixed accordingly,” he added in an apparent reference to the iron-cast Israeli blockade which has deprived the Gazans of their basic needs since mid-June 2007.

The comments were echoed by those of WHO, which says the embargo has made certain medication scarce, delayed or blocked the entry of vital equipment and spare parts, and kept doctors and nurses from pursuing advanced training, AFP added.

Referring to Israel’s refusal to allow many Palestinian requests for decent medical attention, Tony Laurence, the organization’s head for the Palestinian territories said, “If that happened in my country, in the UK, in Europe, in Israel, if an individual who needed urgent treatment was unable to get out because of a bureaucratic obstacle, it would be a scandal.”

“Here it happens to 300 or 400 people every month,” he added.

The WHO figures show that some 231 such applications were denied by the Israeli officials last month. The world body claims 27 Palestinians died last year, queuing up for the permission.

Gaza’s main Al-Shaifa hospital is reportedly in a near-collapse condition, as patients die because of a lack of specialist doctors and basic medical equipment. The hospital is not safe from the threat of Israeli offensives amid claims by Israeli intelligence sources that Palestinian fighters were hiding in its basement.

The three-week-long Israeli raids on the enclave in December 2008-January 2009, which left more than 1,400 Palestinians dead, and the Zionist regime’s sporadic attacks ever since have worsened the humanitarian catastrophe, which threatens the lives of some 1.5 million Gazans.

Last week, Israeli forces attacked a clinic and children’s hospital. The attack on the al-Dorra children’s hospital was in defiance of a UN Security Council call for ceasefire.

A Progressive Agenda to Stop the Right in 2010 – January 30, 2010 Conference

Don’t miss ‘A Progressive Agenda to Stop the Right in 2010’, a Conference hosted by Ken Livingstone.

Speakers include:
George Galloway MP; Hugh Lanning – Chair, Palestine Solidarity Campaign; Anas Altikiriti (British Muslim Initiative); Dr. Karma Nabulsi; Kate Hudson (CND); Bruce Kent (CND);Professor Avi Shlaim and Samuel Moncada, the Venezuelan Ambassador to Britain join a wide range of leading writers, commentators, campaigners and politicians.

Sessions include:
Gaza 1 year on; The cost of war; There is no progressive imperialism and many more sessions

Click here to register now

Registration – £6 unwaged, £10 waged.

Conference on 30th January,
10am–5.30pm Registration from 9am
Congress House, Great Russell St
London WC1 (nearest tube Tottenham Court Road)

A Progressive Agenda to Stop the Right in 2010 is hosted by Ken Livingstone and will also debate the progressive alternatives that help us restore growth to the economy, protect public services, work together to continue to achieve social progress, protect the planet from climate change and campagin against racism and discrimination.

Progressive London was initiated by Ken Livingstone in 2008 as a cross-party, multi-community forum involving politicians, artists, trade unionists, bloggers, community activists and campaigners to promote social progress in the capital.

MIT-educated newroscientist on trial for alleged plot

My children were tortured, this trial is a sham: Aafia Siddiqui
Wed, 20 Jan 2010 02:18:01 GMT
Aafia Siddiqui
Demonstrators in Pakistan call for the release of Aafia Siddiqui.
Pakistani citizen Aafia Siddiqui has told jurors at her trial that she was held in a secret prison in Afghanistan, her children were tortured, and the case against her is a sham.

On Tuesday, Siddiqui was thrown out of the New York courtroom where her trail is being held after shouting the remarks at the jurors.

The MIT-educated neuroscientist is currently on trial, facing charges of trying to kill US soldiers and FBI agents in Afghanistan in 2008 and connections with Al-Qaeda operatives.

She was ejected from her federal court trial after her second outburst, Bloomberg reported.

“Since I’ll never get a chance to speak,” she said in the courtroom. “If you were in a secret prison, or your children were tortured…”

She insisted that she knew nothing about a plan to carry out terrorist attacks on targets in New York, The New York Daily News reported.

“Give me a little credit, this is not a list of targets of New York,” she said. “I was never planning to bomb it. You’re lying.”

Siddiqui vanished in Karachi, Pakistan with her three children on March 30, 2003. The next day it was reported in local newspapers that she had been taken into custody on terrorism charges.

US officials allege Aafia Siddiqui was seized on July 17, 2008 by Afghan security forces in Ghazni province and claim that documents, including formulas for explosives and chemical weapons, were found in her handbag.

They say that while she was being interrogated, she grabbed a US warrant officer’s M-4 rifle and fired two shots at FBI agents and military personnel but missed and that the warrant officer then fired back, hitting her in the torso.

She was brought to the United States to face charges of attempted murder and assault. Siddiqui faces 20 years in prison if convicted.

However, human rights organizations have cast doubt on the accuracy of the US account of the event.

Many political activists believe she was Prisoner 650 of the US detention facility in Bagram, Afghanistan, where they say she was tortured for five years until one day US authorities announced that they had found her in Afghanistan.


Eight people fatally wounded by gunshot in Virginia, USA

Eight dead in Virginia shooting

US police are hunting an armed man after eight people were shot dead in the state of Virginia.

Police named the suspect as Christopher Speight and said that he had fled into woods after the attack at a house in the town of Appomattox on Tuesday.

The assailant shot at a police helicopter, rupturing its fuel tank, as it circled the woods trying to track him down.

Officials found three dead bodies inside the home and four outside it.

The eigth victim, who was found by the side of a road, died after being taken to hospital.

“When the deputy arrived on scene, the deputy heard several gun shots and he in turn contacted his dispatch centre and they dispatched several more of their deputies to the scene along with contacting the Virginia state police for assistance,” Thomas Molnar, a spokesman for the Virginia State police, said.

“They are searching the area and will continue until the suspect is apprehended,” he said.

“There is just one male suspect.”

Police have not suggested a motive for the attack, given details of the dead or made comments about the suspect’s background.

Residents of the area where the attack took place were warned to remain indoors and more than 150 law enforcement officers were reportedly involved in the search.

“The perimeter has been established and we believe the suspect is within the quarantined area,” Molnar said.

Joe Sacco Creator of war-reportage comics An Interview

Interview: Joe Sacco
By Laila El-Haddad
When he first learnt about the massacres, Sacco questioned why he had not heard of them before[Joe Sacco]

When it comes to the world of cartooning, Joe Sacco is considered a luminary. Sacco, who is hailed as the creator of war-reportage comics, is the author of such award-winning books as Palestine and Safe Area Gorazde.His latest work, Footnotes in Gaza, is an investigation into two little-known and long-forgotten massacres in 1956 in the southern Gaza Strip that left at least 500 Palestinians dead. It is a chilling look back at an unrecorded past and an exploration of how that past haunts and shapes the present – including the beginning of mass home demolitions in 2003 in Rafah.

Sacco navigates the fuzzy lines between memory, experience and visual interpretation almost seamlessly all while painting an intimate portrait of life under occupation and in spite of occupation – a life not only of repression and anger but one full of humour and resilience.

My mother narrowly escaped death during the 1956 massacre in Khan Yunis. Yet I struggled to find any information or record of this event as I grew older. Why do you think that is?

I was curious about the same thing.

What led me to this is a UN document referenced in books about the Suez War according to [which] up to 275 [Palestinians] were killed in Khan Yunis and then a few days later, about 111 in Rafah.

These are large mass killings the UN is alleging. And it was a surprise to me that I had read very little about them.

I thought clearly some of the people who lived [through] this must still be alive. Why not go and try to actually make an attempt to gather their stories?

The book speaks a lot to the inexhaustible nature of this conflict. As you state in the book, headlines written 10 years ago could very well be today’s headlines. To what extent do some of the book’s themes – exploitation, massacre, subjugation, occupation, disenchantment, survival – repeat themselves till this day?

I think you see a lot of those elements.

Palestinians are very weary of other Arab regimes. They’re weary of their own government. And I think you see that in the parts about 1956, about the Egyptian army not putting up much up a fight, and even the fedayee basically coming to the conclusion that the Egyptians were using them which is probably the case.

And today, you see the fact that a lot of Arab regimes give lip service to the Palestinian cause but then you see what the Egyptians are doing on the border with the help of the US army corp of engineers; obviously in their mind it’s clear the Egyptian government has thrown in its walk on the side of the blockaders. So yes, there are certain themes that are repeated.

What is your favorite scene? . . .

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