International News Round-Up

August 30 2010

Mother of sick 3-year-old stranded in Gaza

The father of a 3-year-old girl suffering from cerebral atrophy is appealing for his wife and sons to be allowed to leave Gaza and return to the family home in the West Bank.

Osama Rasras, from Beit Ummar near Hebron, said his three children travelled with their mother to Gaza to visit his wife’s sick father. Israeli authorities would not allow them to leave for 18 months, during which time Dalal could not access medical treatment.

Read full story here

August 30 2010
Maoists kill ten policemen in India

At least ten policemen have been killed and several others have been wounded in a shoot-out with Maoist rebels in eastern India.

More than 150 Maoists attacked the police on patrol in the state of Bihar. Ten police officers were killed and seven others were seriously injured in the fighting.  Bihar is one of the several states in the east and central India where Maoist rebel groups are active. 

The rebels, who are supported by tribal groups and landless farmers, have fought against state and central governments for many years. Over 6,000 people have died in Maoist-related clashes over the past three decades.

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August 28 2010
DFLP supporters rally in Gaza against talks

Officials and supporters of a leftist Palestinian faction gathered in Gaza City on Saturday in protest over direct negotiations with Israel "in compliance with Israel and US preconditions."

Senior Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine leader Salih Zeidan spoke at the rally, affirming his party's rejection of talks scheduled to begin on 2 September in Washington. He called on President Mahmoud Abbas to "avoid yielding" to US and Israeli pressures.

"Negotiations have no reference, nor an international framework, and they do not preserve the Palestinian people's rights," Zeidan said.

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August 28 2010
Six children, three NATO soldiers killed in Afghanistan

Six children were killed in a NATO air raid in eastern Afghanistan and three coalition soldiers were killed in Taliban attacks, officials said Friday. 
'Six children were killed by NATO warplanes in Kunur province Thursday while they were collecting scrap metal in a mountainous area when aircraft dropped bombs,' provincial police chief Khalilullah Ziayee said. The incident took place Thursday. 

The alliance said it was investigating allegations of civilian causalities. A statement issued by NATO Friday said that four insurgents were killed when its forces came under insurgent fire in Darah-ye Pech, a district in the province.

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August 28 2010

How a Hero in New Orleans After Hurricane Katrina Was Arrested, Labeled a Terrorist and Imprisoned

Today, a personal story of a national tragedy. Five years ago, Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans. Abdulrahman Zeitoun, a Syrian-born New Orleans building contractor, stayed in the city while his wife and children left to Baton Rouge. He paddled the flooded streets in his canoe and helped rescue many of his stranded neighbors. Days later, armed police and National Guardsmen arrested him and accused him of being a terrorist. He was held for nearly a month, most of which he was not allowed to call his wife, Kathy.

Read full story here

August 28 2010

Russian Workers Strike To Demand Back Wages

Dozens of workers at the Ikar metal plant in the Russian city of Kurgan are on strike to demand their overdue salaries, RFE/RL's Russian Service reports.

Union leaders told RFE/RL that the number of strikers has risen from nine when the strike began on August 17 to 81. That is about 5 percent of the total work force of 1,700.

Union leader Stanislav Sorokin told RFE/RL that the plant's administration owed over 10 million rubles (about $329,000) to workers. He said the plant's leadership was avoiding direct talks with the union.

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August 28 2010

Tutu Calls for Overturning Conviction of Abu Rahmah

Archbishop Desmond Tutu, chair of The Elders, has expressed his concern about the conviction of Palestinian activist Abdallah Abu Rahmah by an Israeli military court. Abu Rahmah was convicted for his involvement in non-violent protests against the separation barrier in the West Bank village of Bil’in.

“I am deeply concerned about the conviction earlier this week of Abdallah Abu Rahmah by an Israeli military court. When I met him with my fellow Elders last year, we were very impressed by his commitment to non-violence and the wise leadership he showed.

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August 27 2010
Apartheid Wall Protest: Israeli hospitalized-medics detained  

An Israeli national was reportedly injured and evacuated to hospital in Ramallah on Friday, after a rubber-coated bullet lodged itself in his knee during a protest against the separation wall in the West Bank village of Bil'in.

Demonstrators, numbering 130 according to an Israeli military estimate, also protested rally organizer Ahmad Abu Rahma's conviction of incitement earlier in the week at an Israeli court. The conviction was viewed with concern by officials in the European Union.

Several protesters were wounded as Israeli forces fired tear gas canisters and rubber-coated steel bullets from three sides, the local popular committee said. Bassam Hamed, 30, and journalist Haitham Al-Khatib, 34, were hit by tear gas grenades, and Ashraf Khatib, 27, was taken to the Palestine Medical Center in Ramallah after he was hit but a rubber-coated steel bullet. Dozens more suffered from tear-gas inhalation, the committee added.

Journalists and medics detained in Nil'in

North of Bil'in, Witnesses and demonstrators in the neighboring West Bank village of Ni'lin said five Red Crescent medics were detained during a separate protest against the wall.

The Popular Struggle Organization committee issued a series of brief statements via Twitter, saying an Israeli camerawoman and a Palestinian cameraman were also arrested in Ni'lin.

An Israeli military spokeswoman said she was not aware of the detention of medics, but said she could "confirm that seven rioters were detained and transferred to the custody of Israeli police."

A journalist, who said he was tweeting from the scene, wrote that the two others detained were a photographer reporting on non-violent action and a member of the Israeli human rights group, B'Tselem. The reporter added that those detained were released at the scene.

Witnesses said teenagers from the village burned tires beside the wall, and noted four were injured by tear-gas and rubber-coated bullets.

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August 27 2010

Haniyeh: No negotiator can give up Jerusalem

"No negotiator who would give up Jerusalem has a national mandate," Gaza Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh told guests at an iftar dinner on Thursday evening.

The fast-breaking meal was organized by the Ar-Rahma Charitable Society in Khan Younis, honoring the families of Palestinian men and women in prison, those killed by Israeli forces and families with special needs children.

Haniyeh, who shared the meal, spoke when it was finished and told those in attendance that "Palestinians across the globe will not support any movement holding absurd talks with Israel."

Referring to his fellow guests, he said "prisoners, the injured and the families of martyrs will not authorize anyone who wants to give up Palestine and Jerusalem after they have sacrificed for years and struggled to keep it."

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August 27 2010

Palestine: One Child Injured, 8 Civilians Arrested This Week

This week Israeli attacks Palestinian communities in the West Bank and Gaza left one child injured the Palestinian Center for Human Rights said in its weekly report.Image  The report, which documents daily human rights violations in the occupied territories, covers the period of Thursday August 19th to Wednesday August 25th  2010. 

In the West Bank, Israeli troops  used force to disperse peaceful demonstrations organized by Palestinian civilians and international and Israeli human rights defenders in protest of the construction of the annexation wall and settlement activities. As a result, dozens of demonstrators suffered from tear gas inhalation or sustained bruises.

In the Gaza Strip, a Palestinian child was wounded when Israeli troops stationed at the border between the Gaza Strip and Israel fired at Palestinian workers who were collecting raw construction materials in the northern Gaza Strip.


During the reporting period, the Israeli army  conducted at least 14 military incursions into Palestinian communities in the West Bank, during which they arrested 8 Palestinian civilians, including two children. IOF also arrested two Palestinian civilians, 4 Israeli human rights defenders and an international one.

In the Gaza Strip, Israeli forces conducted a limited incursion into the northern Gaza Strip, during which they leveled areas of Palestinian land.

Restrictions on Movement:

Israel had continued to impose a tightened siege on the OPT and imposed severe restrictions on the movement of Palestinian civilians in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, including occupied East Jerusalem.

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August 27 2010
The U.S.-Made Mess in Somalia

The U.S. decision in 2006 to send Ethiopian troops into Somalia was one of the stupidest moves in a very stupid decade. This week, some of the chickens spawned by that decision came home to roost.

On Monday, the al-Shabaab militia launched a “massive war” against the 6,000 African Union peacekeep ers, most of them Ugandan, who are protecting the so-called government of Somalia. In reality, however, all it actually governs is a few dozen blocks in Mogadishu, and its members are just a group of Somali warlords and clan leaders who proclaimed themselves to be the “Transitional Federal Government” in 2004.

Six TFG “members of parliament” were among the 40 people killed when an al-Shabaab suicide squad stormed the al-Muna hotel in Mogadishu on Tuesday, but there will be no by-elections to replace them. They were never elected in the first place. The TFG made no progress in reuniting the country, and now its surviving members sit surrounded by al-Shabaab fighters who control most of the sprawling capital.

Southern Somalia has been trapped in an unending civil war since the last real government collapsed in 1991, but the current round of killing was triggered when the United States invited Ethiopia to invade the country in 2006. This was a bit high-handed, especially since Ethiopia was Somalia’s traditional enemy, but Washington’s aim was to destroy the “Islamic Courts ” in Somalia.

The TFG failed utterly to impose its authority and restore order in Somalia, but the Islamic Courts Union took a different approach. Its roots were in the merchant class in Mogadishu, who simply wanted a safer environment to do business in, and they understood that Islam was the only common ground on which all of the country’s fissiparous clans and militias might be brought together again.

The Islamic courts, applying Shariah law, were the instrument by which the society would gradually be brought back under the rule of law — and for about six months, it worked amazingly well. The zones of peace and order spread throughout southern Somalia, the epicenter of the fighting, and trade and employment revived. A made-in-Somalia solution had spontaneously emerged from the chaos.

Inevitably, some of the younger supporters of the Islamic Courts movement enjoyed ranting in public about the virtues of al-Qaida, the wickedness of Americans, and other matters of which they knew little. Almost every popular movement has a radical youth wing that specializes in saying stupid and provocative things. It is the job of the adults, inside and outside the organization, to contain their excesses and not to panic.

Alas, the United States panicked, or at least its intelligence agencies did. The mere word “Islamic” set off alarm bells in the Bush administration, which had the lamentable habit of shooting first and thinking later.

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August 27 2010
Sri Lankan maid returns from Saudi 
with 24 nails inside body
A Sri Lankan housemaid has returned home from Saudi Arabia with 24 nails embedded in her body after allegedly being tortured by her employer, officials said Wednesday.   A government minister said police were investigating a complaint from L. T. Ariyawathi, 49, that her Saudi employer tortured her and drove nails into her body as punishment.

"We are conducting an investigation and we will coordinate with Saudi authorities to have the suspects arrested," Economic Development Minister Lakshman Yapa Abeywardena told reporters.

The woman travelled to Saudi Arabia in March and returned home last week, complaining of abuse by her employer.  Abeywardena said doctors who examined the woman found the nails inside her body and she was currently being treated at a local hospital.

Some of the nails are about two inches (five centimetres) long, according to pictures of the X-rays published in the local press, and were driven beneath the skin of Ariyawathi's hands, feet and legs.

Read full story here

August 27 2010

South Africa: Fighting talk as Vavi threatens general strike

South African state workers seeking higher wages take part in a strike in Johannesburg August 26, 2010. South Africa's top labour federation COSATU threatened on Thursday to sever its long-standing alliance with the ruling African National Congress and widen a state workers' strike next week to key industries.

COSATU general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi's speech brought central Johannesburg to a standstill as thousands of public servants filled the streets in solidarity against government's wage offer. 


Usually busy roads were closed for about five hours as union members marched along them, singing struggle songs and handing memorandums to Gauteng Premier Nomvula Mokonyane and several MECs. 

As the strike entered its 10th day yesterday, Vavi threatened the state with a massive sympathy strike next Thursday. 

"We will not allow that you go back to your work places without a victory in your hands," he said. Listing Cosatu affiliates, Vavi said: "All the unions of Cosatu, they will issue notices to their employers to say they will be joining the public servants' strike". 

"In terms of [the] Labour Relations Act, unions must [give seven days' notice of their intention to strike]. So we say to the government today, you have only less than seven days. In seven days, the whole of this economy will stand still." 

Vavi challenged the government, saying: "Better phone us now, send an SMS, our phones are open. And please don't call us for 7% ... let's talk and let's talk serious money." 

Striking workers, who are demanding an 8.6% pay rise, came out in full song, insulting Public Service and Administration Minister Richard Baloyi.

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August 27 2010

Royal Dutch Shell’s Nigerian Delta operations at risk



Royal Dutch Shell’s major concern remains the militant armed efforts of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, as MEND attacks over the last several years have repeatedly forced Shell to declare force majeure and suspend production.

Royal Dutch Shell’s latest problems stem from a protest by local women in the Niger Delta’s Warri South-West Local Government Area in Escravos demonstrating over the community being bypassed for development, forcing Shell Petroleum Development Co. to shut down its Otumara-Escravos flow station, the Daily Trust reported Thursday. Last week they blocked access to Chevron Corp.’s new Escravos/Warri natural gas pipeline in the area.

The women said that they will continue to take possession of major oil facilities on their land until the government enters into meaningful dialogue with the community, giving both the Nigerian government and Royal Dutch Shell a major public relations debacle.

Read full story here


August 26 2010

Palestinian Authority intelligence forces shut down conference against negotiations in Ramallah


Palestinian Authority intelligence and police forces attacked, interrupted and shut down a Palestinian national conference against participation in direct negotiations with Israel in Ramallah on August 25, 2010. Organized by Palestinian political parties, independent figures and human rights organizations, the conference was convened in order to denounce the negotiations, to be held under the auspices of the U.S. government, as dangerous to the Palestinian national cause.

The meeting was held simultaneously a conference in Gaza City, where officials of various Palestinian parties also denounced te negotiations. Comrade Khalida Jarrar, member of the Political Bureau of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, spoke with Ma'an News at the conference, saying that participants in the meeting were confronted by Palestinian Authority (PA) forces in civilian uniform, who "attempted to thwart the event from the start, chanting slogans and leading event participants towards the center of Ramallah." Plainclothes security forces shouted loudly, disrupting the event, taking participants outside the hall, and preventing the news conference from continuing.

"We aimed to voice our dissent, and the PA decided to enter the conference hall and drag participants out to an unplanned rally," said Comrade Jarrar. She said that the Authority was "entirely responsible" for the shutting down of the event and the intimidation of the media. PA security forces attacked journalists and human rights organization members with cameras, confiscating their cameras, deleting their photos and footage, and assaulting journalists.

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August 26 2010

Blackwater Resurfaces in Pakistan. Operatives to infiltrate key cities

Pakistan’s Foreign Office succumbs to US blackmail in allowing notorious Blackwater operatives to infiltrate key cities

Not too long ago a wave of concern had swept through Pakistan when the local media began screaming about Blackwater's growing infiltration in the country and its dubious activities. Pressure mounted on the government to expel this infamous US defence contractor. Zardari government found itself in a corner. It could neither ignore public pressure nor could it displease its benefactors in Washington. It chose to vehemently deny these stories. Pakistan's interior minister, Rehman Malik, said on November 21 he will resign if Blackwater is found operating anywhere in Pakistan, as if his resignation would be a great loss for the people.

These stories were also denounced as false propaganda by US officials. Replying to accusations that the US Embassy was sponsoring Blackwater, the US Ambassador, Anne Patterson, denied this and insisted, "Blackwater is not operating in Pakistan." She claimed that Pakistani journalists were "wildly incorrect," and blamed them for compromising the security of US personnel in Pakistan. Secretary Clinton during her visit shortly thereafter also dodged questions on Blackwater.

In view of the information that has now emerged, it is time for Mr. Malik to abide by his promise and resign. It is also time that Ambassador Anne Patterson apologizes to the people of Pakistan for making false statements.

Who would know about Blackwater’s presence or absence in Pakistan better than the owner of Blackwater himself? And some time back he publicly admitted that his organization does operate in Pakistan.

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August 25 2010

Lieberman: Settlement Contraction To Continue In September

The Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman announced on Wednesday that there is no reason for not resuming construction in West Bank settlements in September.

The announced 10 month long halt in settlement construction in the West Bank is due to end in September. The freeze order was made due to presser from the U.S in order to boost the stalled peace talks. The freeze did not including Jerusalem settlements or houses that were approved before the order.

Lieberman said "We cannot punish tens of thousands of citizens who have served in the army and live in legal communities.” All Israeli settlements built on Palestinian land are illegal under international law.

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August 25 2010

Cosatu calls on workers to intensify strike action


The Congress of South African Trade Unions (Cosatu) has threatened a total shutdown of the economy with a secondary strike if the government fails to settle its dispute with public-service workers by next Thursday.

"We call on all workers to intensify their action. Every Cosatu-affiliated union must on August 26 submit notice to their employers to embark on a secondary strike," general secretary Zwelinzima Vavi said on Tuesday, referring to a seven-day notice period.

"So by next Thursday if the current strike is not resolved, the entire economy of South Africa will be shut down."

Vavi also noted the government's comments on the 8,5% wage offer. Until Monday, the government said it was offering a 7% increase, but government spokesperson Themba Maseko told reporters this was in "real terms" actually 8,5% -- a mere tenth of a percent short of what unions wanted. This was because the increase offer was bolstered by a 1,5% pay progression.

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August 25 2010

Barclays Burma Scandal Shows Need to Tighten Sanctions

The announcement that Barclay’s Bank has agreed with the US Department of Justice to pay a $298m fine for breaching sanctions on Burma and other countries shows yet again that international sanctions on Burma need to be made tighter and more comprehensive, according to the ITUC.

According to the ITUC-affiliated Federation of Trade Unions in Burma (FTUB), the announcement by the Burmese junta of the so-called elections on 7 November was made primarily to divert attention from a serious social and economic crisis brewing within the country. Discontent and divisions within the military over various issues, including financial problems, continue to mount.

The General Secretary of the FTUB, Maung Maung, has described the ongoing gross violations of fundamental human and trade union rights in Burma, as well as the Junta’s efforts to foment ethnic tension. “The regime uses slave labour, rape and torture to stay in power. Unions are banned and the jails are full with those who have dared to speak out.”

The time has come for the perpetrators of these heinous crimes to be held accountable. Instead of embarking upon uncritical engagement policies that could strengthen the regime, governments must finally bring the Burmese junta to implement the 12-year-old recommendations of the International Labour Organisation Commission of Inquiry on Forced Labour.

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August 25 2010

Swaziland - Three days of massive protests next month

In what is set to be the biggest protest action since the 1996 Jan Sithole-led strikes, labour and civil society organisations will again hold a massive protest action for three days next month.

The intended strike is scheduled for September 6 to September 8, 2010. Coincidentally, the country will be celebrating its 42nd year of independence at the time.

The protest action will be led by the country’s three main labour organisations; the Swaziland Federation of Labour (SFL), Swaziland Federation of Trade Unions (SFTU) and the Swaziland National Association of Teachers (SNAT).

This protest action will be joined by other international organisations drawn from the Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU), International Trade Union Confederation (ITCU) Public Service International (PSI) as well as trade unions from Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, Australia and the United States of America (USA).

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August 25 2010

Malaysia: BN Youth wants minimum wage policy 



Barisan Nasional Youth chief Khairy Jamaluddin has called upon the government to introduce a minimum wage policy to assist those below the poverty line.

We came to know that 34% of the 1.3 million Malaysian workforce earns less than RM700 a month. How are we to attain high-income economy status when these people can't even pay for their basic needs?” he asked.

On Aug 5, Human Resources Minister Dr S Subramaniam said the government was currently mulling introducing a minimum wage policy as it realised that wages have not increased over the years.

The proposed minimum wage would not only cover local workers but also foreign workers employed in the country.

Speaking at a press conference at Putra World Trade Centre here, Khairy said the government could no longer allow market forces to dictate wages as the government had a moral obligation to address the low income workers.

“Our inflation rate has soared but our income level does not commensurate with the rising cost of living. For example, we found out that a multinational company down south is offering workers with SPM qualification a salary of RM540 monthly. How are they to sustain themselves with that salary?” he asked.

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August 24 2010

Norwegian Government Pension Fund Excludes More Israeli Companies
The Norwegian Government Pension Fund Global (GPFG) has divested from two Israeli companies, Africa Israel Investments and Danya Cebus, over their involvement in construction of illegal settlements in the West Bank . 
Image A government statement quoted the Norwegian Minister of Finance Sigbjørn Johnsen as saying “these companies are contributing to or are themselves responsible for grossly unethical activity.” This decision follows the Norwegian Ministry of Finance’s move one year ago to exclude Israeli military contractor Elbit Systems Ltd.  From the Governmental Pension Fund due to the company’s integral involvement in Israel’s construction of the illegal Wall on occupied territory. That move provoked a domino effect among financial institutions.

“Several United Nations Security Council resolutions and an International Court of Justice advisory opinion have concluded that the construction of Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territory is prohibited under the [Geneva] Convention. I have therefore accepted the recommendation of the Council on Ethics and am excluding Africa Israel Investments and Danya Cebus from the fund’s investment portfolio,” says Norway’s Minister of Finance Sigbjørn Johnsen . 

These companies have been target of campaigns from Palestine and around the world. The West Bank Palestinian villages of Bil’in and Jayyous and 11 national and international networks from Europe, Palestine, Israel and the US have sent letters calling on Norway to comply with its ethical guidelines and divest from its pension fund holdings in the company Africa-Israel, owned by the controversial diamond magnate Lev Leviev .

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August 24 2010
Colombian Trade Union President Assassinated

Luis German Restrepo Maldonado
The most dangerous country for trade unionists saw yet another assassination, 12 August, when Luis German Restrepo Maldonado, President of the Colombian packers’ union Sintraempaques, was shot in the head outside a café in public, in the city of Medellin, by a hit man who evaded arrest.

Prominent trade union leader Maldonado was 58 years old and had spent 40 years representing workers in the central Colombian district of Antioquia.

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August 24 2010

Moving Toward Land Reform, Food Sovereignty and Agroecology in Venezuela

Minister for Agriculture and Lands Juan Carlos Loyo (RNV)

A massive transformation of agriculture is occurring in Venezuela, a transformation that has lessons for every other country in the world. The Law of the Land and Agrarian Development, the Law of Food Sovereignty and Security, and the Law of Integrated Agricultural Health set out the agenda (they can be found on, in Spanish). The policies are based on the premises that farmers should have control of their land and product, that the country should produce its own food, and that chemical fertilisers and pesticides should not be part of agriculture.

Land in Venezuela has been in the hands of about 500 families and corporations since the 1800s and worked by an impoverished peasantry. Much of the land was underutilised as cattle ranching, pulpwood plantations, export crops such as sugar cane, or left idle. Most food was imported. This land is gradually being taken over by the government and handed to local communities who have been fighting for it for two centuries.

Food sovereignty is a key government policy, guaranteed in the constitution: “Food sovereignty is the inalienable right of a nation to define and develop priorities and foods appropriate to its specific conditions, in local and national production, conserving agricultural and cultural diversity and self sufficiency and guaranteeing food supply to all the population.” Food imports are only allowed if there is a shortfall of production in the country, and exports occur only after domestic demand is met.

Control over production is in the hands of the farmer cooperatives on the newly distributed lands. Assistance is provided by the government for cooperative management and to establish processing plants so the farmers are no longer victim to the powers of the processors and distributors to set prices. Agriculture is planned, at three levels: the National Agrarian Assembly, the Regional Agrarian Assemblies and the local Peasants and Producers Councils. The Regional Assemblies are elected by the Peasants and Producers Councils.

One goal is the elimination of chemical fertilisers and pesticides. Venezuela has had a long experience in their use and the change will be gradual. Agroecology colleges have been set up with the assistance of Cuban advisors, as Cuba went through this process twenty years ago and is now almost fully organic. Agroecology is promoted in all agricultural development projects, to producers and ins

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August 24 2010

Bil'in's Abdallah Abu Rahmah Cleared of Stone-Throwing; Convicted of Incitement

Protest organizer Abdallah Abu Rhamah from Bil'in was convicted of incitement and organizing illegal demonstrations today, after an eight months long military trial, during which he was kept behind bars. He was acquitted of a stone-throwing charge and a vindictive arms-possession charge.

Abdallah Abu Rahmah's verdict was read today in a packed military court room, concluding an eight months long politically motivated show-trial. Diplomats from France, Malta, Germany, Spain and the UK, as well as a representative of the European Union were in attendance to observe the trial. Many of his friends, supporters and family members showed up to send their support.

Abu Rahmah, the coordinator of the Bil'in Popular Committee Against the Wall and Settlements, was acquitted of two out of the four charges brought against him in the indictment - stone-throwing and a ridiculous and vindictive arms possession charge. According to the indictment, Abu Rahmah collected used tear-gas projectiles and bullet cases shot at demonstrators, with the intention of exhibiting them to show the violence used against demonstrators.  This absurd charge is a clear example of how eager the military prosecution is to use legal procedures as a tool to silence and smear unarmed dissent.

The court did, however, find Abu Rahmah guilty of two of the most draconian anti-free speech articles in military legislation: incitement, and organizing and participating in illegal demonstrations. It did so based only on testimonies of minors who were arrested in the middle of the night and denied their right to legal counsel, and despite acknowledging significant ills in their questioning.

The court was also undeterred by the fact that the prosecution failed to provide any concrete evidence implicating Abu Rahmah in any way, despite the fact that all demonstrations in Bil'in are systematically filmed by the army.

Under military law, incitement is defined as "The attempt, verbally or otherwise, to influence public opinion in the Area in a way that may disturb the public peace or public order" (section 7(a) of the Order Concerning Prohibition of Activities of Incitement and Hostile Propaganda (no.101), 1967), and carries a 10 years maximal sentence.

Abu Rahmah's case was the first time the prosecution had used the organizing and participating in illegal demonstrations since the first Intifada. Military law defines illegal assembly in a much stricter way than Israeli law does, and in practice forbids any assembly of more than 10 people without receiving a permit from the military commander.

Abu Rahmah's sentencing will take place next month, and the prosecution is expected to ask for a sentence exceeding two years.

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August 24 2010

Israeli settlers burn agricultural crops in Jalud village
 Savage Israeli settlers on Sunday went on the rampage in the Palestinian village of Jalud, south of Nablus, and torched more than 20 dunums of agricultural crops.
Local sources said the settlers came from Ahya settlement that was established illegally on Palestinian lands, and waged their attack under military protection.  It was not the first time Israeli settlers attacked this village, where they stormed it months ago and sabotaged the citizens' agricultural property. 

In the old city of Al-Khalil, Israeli settlers on Sunday evening flooded with water the house of a Palestinian citizen while he and his family were not home.  Eyewitnesses said that the house of Abd Sidr was deliberately flooded by Israeli settlers living in the Jewish neighborhood in Beit Hadassah, which led to the destruction of all furniture inside.

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August 23 2010

South Africa: SADTU Slams the Intimidation of Striking Members

As the strike by public service workers enters its second week, the South African Democratic Teachers’ Union (SADTU) has noted the increased use of violence by the state machinery against our members.

We are also concerned about the intimidating war talk being used by the employer. We believe this may be due to the misinterpretation of the court interdict issued over the weekend regarding essential services. Instead of concentrating on peripheral issues and playing to the gallery by misinforming the public, we urge the Government to focus on the key issues and respond to the demands of the workers in order to bring the strike to an end.

Our lawyers are in the process of drafting papers to contest some aspects of the interdict including the costs and the essential services issue on its broadness and will be awaiting the transcripts made by the DPSA so that other areas can be considered.

Demonstrations and pickets taking place in strategic places across this country have been met by arrests and shooting of our members by the police.

Our Northern Cape Provincial Secretary, his deputy and fifty members were arrested in Kimberly this morning while leading a peaceful picket.

On Friday, three SADTU members were shot with rubber bullets while picketing in Potchefstroom in the North West Province.

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August 23 2010

Hamid Karzai: U.S. Taxpayer-Funded Private Contractors
Engaging In Terrorist, Mafia-Like Activity

Afghanistan's embattled president Hamid Karzai said on Sunday that U.S. taxpayers were indirectly funding "mafia-like groups" and terrorist activities with the American government's support of private contractors inside his country.

In a rare U.S. media appearance, Karzai continued to press for the removal of the vast majority of U.S. private contractors by the end of this year. He argued that their continued presence inside Afghanistan was "an obstruction and impediment" to the country's growth, a massive waste of money, and a catalyst for corruption among Afghan officials.

"The more we wait the more we lose," Karzai said during an appearance on ABC's "This Week." "Therefore we have decided as an Afghan government to bring an end to the presence of these security companies... who are not only causing corruption in this country but who are looting and stealing from the Afghan people.

"One of the reasons that I want them disbanded and removed by four months from now is exactly because their presence is preventing the growth and development of the Afghan security forces -- especially the police force -- because if 40, 50,000 people are given more salaries than the Afghan police, why would an Afghan ... man come to the police if he can get a job in a security firm, have a lot of leeway without any discipline? So naturally our security forces will find it difficult to grow. In order for our security forces to grow these groups must be disbanded."

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August 23 2010
DFLP: Direct talks violate national consensus

A member of the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine said Monday his party rejected the resumption of direct talks with Israel without a full halt in settlement activity, a clear reference to international relations.

Saleh Zidan told reporters at the Media Freedom Center in Gaza City that the PLO's decision to accept a US invitation to relaunch negotiations without preconditions "violates the national consensus position determined by the PLO's Executive Committee, the Central Council, and other Palestinian politicians."

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August 23 2010

Striking S.Africa state workers defy court order

South African state workers including thousands of hospital staff are ignoring a court order to return to work, raising the stakes in a strike that could weigh on the continent's largest economy.

A spokesman for a health workers' union said on Monday that its members would stay off the job while other essential public sector employees who were ordered to return to work were also expected to extend their walkout.

The government said on Saturday that a labour court had granted an injunction banning state workers in essential services from taking part in the strike, which has shut schools and caused chaos at hospitals since it started on Wednesday.

The strike involves 1.3 million state workers, including teachers, police, prison guards, immigration officials and government clerks. The court order applies to a portion of the total, mostly health workers and other sectors categorised by the government as "essential".

"There is no one who is expected to be going back to work today. We will challenge that court order if its intention is to intimidate our members into submission," Sizwe Pamla, a spokesman for healthcare workers' union NEHAWU, told Reuters.

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August 23 2010

There Are No Heroes in Illegal and Immoral Wars

When the 4th Stryker Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division rolled out of Iraq last week, the colonel commanding the brigade told a reporter that his soldiers were "leaving as heroes."

While we can understand the pride of professional soldiers and the emotion behind that statement, it's time for Americans -- military and civilian -- to face a difficult reality: In seven years of the deceptively named "Operation Iraqi Freedom" and nine years of "Operation Enduring Freedom" in Afghanistan, no member of the U.S. has been a hero.

This is not an attack on soldiers, sailors, and Marines. Military personnel may act heroically in specific situations, showing courage and compassion, but for them to be heroes in the truest sense they must be engaged in a legal and morally justifiable conflict. That is not the case with the U.S. invasions and occupations of Iraq or Afghanistan, and the social pressure on us to use the language of heroism -- or risk being labeled callous or traitors -- undermines our ability to evaluate the politics and ethics of wars in a historical framework.

The legal case is straightforward: Neither invasion had the necessary approval of the United Nations Security Council, and neither was a response to an imminent attack. In both cases, U.S. officials pretended to engage in diplomacy but demanded war. Under international law and the U.S. Constitution (Article 6 is clear that "all Treaties made," such as the UN Charter, are "the supreme Law of the Land"), both invasions were illegal.

The moral case is also clear: U.S. officials' claims that the invasions were necessary to protect us from terrorism or locate weapons of mass destruction were never plausible and have been exposed as lies. The world is a more dangerous place today than it was in 2001, when sensible changes in U.S. foreign policy and vigorous law enforcement in collaboration with other nations could have made us safer.

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August 23 2010

Civilian workers go before Egyptian military tribunal

after protesting conditions at factory

Eight workers who protested poor safety conditions at a factory making Egyptian warplanes were brought before a military tribunal Sunday in a rare case of civilians facing military justice in Egypt, a labour rights group said.

Military tribunals normally handle cases related to terrorism and national security, and sentences are swift and harsh.

The workers are accused of attacking the factory director in response to an explosion of a gas canister that killed a colleague and wounded several others this month. They have also been charged with disclosing military secrets for allegedly discussing the explosion and their protest with news media.

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August 22 2010

PFLP rejects and calls for action against liquidationist return to direct negotiations

Comrade Maher al-Taher, member of the Political Bureau of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and leader of its branch outside Palestine, said on August 20, 2010 that the goal of direct negotiations between Israel and the Palestinian Authority is to liquidate the Palestinian cause, not to reach a political solution, noting that it is clear from the events and actions of Israel that it is impossible to reach a political solution with an entity that demands total control of all aspects of Palestinian existence.

Said Comrade Taher, "After 40 years of slogans demanding an independent Palestinian decision, today the Palestinian Authority is a subject of the U.S. and Israel and we are a nation of prisoners. This is a great risk to the Palestinian cause." It was clear, Comrade Taher said, that the Authority would enter these direct negotiations when the Higher Arab Follow-up Commission approved of them, saying that the statement issued by the Quartet in favor of these negotiations is farcical nonsense; it is clear that nothing will come of these negotiations except for harm to the Palestinian cause and such statements exist only to provide a fig leaf to cover the return to negotiations and an excuse for a shameful betrayal.

He emphasized that by returning to these negotiations, the Authority is entering a dark tunnel through which only it will provide concessions. Comrade Taher said, "What will come of these negotiations - the occupation will withdraw from Jerusalem?? It will recognize the right of return?? Unless there is to be any real gain, these negotiations are absurd!"

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August 22 2010

US Troops Say Goodbye to Iraq
Torture-Corruption-Civil war - America has certainly left its mark
by Robert Fisk

When you invade someone else's country, there has to be a first soldier – just as there has to be a last.

The first man in front of the first unit of the first column of the invading American army to reach Fardous Square in the centre of Baghdad in 2003 was Corporal David Breeze of the 3rd Battalion, Fourth Marine Regiment. For that reason, of course, he pointed out to me that he wasn't a soldier at all. Marines are not soldiers. They are Marines. But he hadn't talked to his mom for two months and so – equally inevitably – I offered him my satellite phone to call his home in Michigan. Every journalist knows you'll get a good story if you lend your phone to a soldier in a war.

"Hi, you guys," Corporal Breeze bellowed. "I'm in Baghdad. I'm ringing to say 'Hi! I love you. I'm doing fine. I love you guys.' The war will be over in a few days. I'll see you soon." Yes, they all said the war would be over soon. They didn't consult the Iraqis about this pleasant notion. The first suicide bombers – a policeman in a car and then two women in a car – had already hit the Americans on the long highway up to Baghdad. There would be hundreds more. There will be hundreds more in Iraq in the future.

So we should not be taken in by the tomfoolery on the Kuwaiti border in the last few hours, the departure of the last "combat" troops from Iraq two weeks ahead of schedule. Nor by the infantile cries of "We won" from teenage soldiers, some of whom must have been 12-years-old when George W Bush sent his army off on this catastrophic Iraqi adventure. They are leaving behind 50,000 men and women – a third of the entire US occupation force – who will be attacked and who will still have to fight against the insurgency.

Yes, officially they are there to train the gunmen and militiamen and the poorest of the poor who have joined the new Iraqi army, whose own commander does not believe they will be ready to defend their country until 2020. But they will still be in occupation – for surely one of the the "American interests" they must defend is their own presence – along with the thousands of armed and indisciplined mercenaries, western and eastern, who are shooting their way around Iraq to safeguard our precious western diplomats and businessmen. So say it out loud: we are not leaving.

Instead, the millions of American soldiers who have passed through Iraq have brought the Iraqis a plague. From Afghanistan – in which they showed as much interest after 2001 as they will show when they start "leaving" that country next year – they brought the infection of al-Qa'ida. They brought the disease of civil war. They injected Iraq with corruption on a grand scale. They stamped the seal of torture on Abu Ghraib – a worthy successor to the same prison under Saddam's vile rule – after stamping the seal of torture on Bagram and the black prisons of Afghanistan. They sectarianised a country that, for all its Saddamite brutality and corruption, had hitherto held its Sunnis and Shias together.

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August 22 2010
Ramadan in Aida Camp: Sitting, Waiting, Existing

From the barred windows of a four storey house string runs across the narrow main street of Aida Camp, well above head height, to the caged fence atop the walls of Aida Camp Basic Boys School. Small plastic Palestinian flags hang down limply from the string. The outside walls of the school are adorned with political graffiti, and its two white metal doors are scarred by bullet holes. Two towers dominate this stretch of the street. One is tall and thin, and green lights glow from its minaret. The second tower, at the end of the street, looks much sturdier and is without damage from gunfire, unlike Aida Camp’s mosque. No lights glow from this tower and it is impossible to tell if anyone is inside or not. The small windows in the bullet proof glass at the top of the tower are covered by thick caging with just a small purpose-built rectangular hole in the metal, its width is sufficient to accommodate the barrel of a US-funded M-16 when the IOF who use this watchtower in the Apartheid Wall decide it is time to shoot at the camp. The facing wall of the four-storey house provides testimony to the effectiveness of this practice.

Stars glisten in the clear night skies overhead but the air is still and stuffy. The heat is stifling even though the sun set several hours ago to break the Ramadan fast. Placed with their backs against the school wall are a range of battered chairs and broken sofas on which various residents of the house and assorted friends sit on every conceivable seat and broken sofa arm. Half-empty coffee cups rest alongside everyone’s feet. This open-air living room is completed by a small crackling portable TV which is powered thanks to a makeshift series of cables which lead down from the upper floors of the house via the narrow stairway. The evenings’ TV viewing is disturbed every few minutes as cars drive down the unaccommodating street slowly passing between the TV set and its and audience.

The family has setup this unconventional new ‘room’ to escape the stifling temperatures inside their overcrowded house. With around 30 people currently living inside the four apartments in this tall yet cramped building, and with air-conditioning nothing more than a dream, this house, as with most in Aida Camp, is uncomfortably hot at this time of year. Palestine is always hot in August, and inside the camps the tall buildings and overcrowding only increase this feeling of suffocation; a summer breeze is never felt inside the camp due to the overpopulated and lofty nature of its construction. Current temperatures are soaring with predictions of peaks reaching the mid-40’s over coming days. These temperatures, combined with the daily Ramadan fasting which includes abstaining from drinking water whilst the sun is in the sky, present serious challenges.

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August 22 2010

Kashmir: Crackdown on stone-pelters triggers more clashes

At least 40 people were arrested and dozens injured as protesters clashed with police at Bemina on Saturday, a day after government forces shot dead a man in Bijbehara.  Widespread protests broke out in Nund Resh Colony Bemina, on the outskirts of Srinagar, on Saturday afternoon when police arrested some local youths on charges of being stone-pelters.

Protesters took to the streets shouting slogans against the police who, they alleged, had entered their homes and arrested innocent youths and ransacked their houses.  Reports said the police arrested around 40 youths who are now being screened to ascertain how many of them have actually been involved in stone-pelting protests during the recent days.

More than two dozen people, including protesters and policemen, were injured in Bemina where police used batons and tear-gas to disperse the protesters.  Curfew was imposed in nine police station areas of Srinagar besides Anantnag and Bijbehera towns while restrictions are already in place in Sopore, Baramulla, Handwara and Kupwara towns, a police officer said here. Following information that miscreants and anti-social elements intend to disrupt peace and prompt the youths to violence, preventive measures have been taken to protect civilian life and property,” police said.

Protests and clashes were reported from Chanapora locality in Srinagar and north Kashmir’s Sopore and Baramulla towns as well. Protesters clashed with the police and paramilitary forces in south Kashmir’s Pulwama, Anantnag and Shopian towns also.  “Security forces used batons and burst tear smoke canisters at places where clashes erupted today, but nobody has sustained any serious injury anywhere,” a police spokesman said.  Authorities imposed restrictions on people’s movements in Bijbehara, Anantnag, Pulwama and Shopian, he added.

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August 21 2010

Palestine: Impact of Israeli Military Order No. 1650

Israeli police on Jerusalem street
Israeli police on Jerusalem street
Located at the European University Institute (EUI), the Robert Schuman Center for Advanced Studies (RSCAS) conducts "inter-disciplinary and comparative research (on) major issues facing the process of integration and European society."
Prepared by Asem Khalil, its new report is titled, "Impact of Israeli Military Order No. 1650 on Palestinians' Rights to Legally Reside in Their Own Country."

Taking effect in April 2010, it defined all West Bank residents as "infiltrators" (including native born ones), requiring they get IDF-issued permits.

Order No. 1650 (Prevention of Infiltration) and Order No. 1949 (Security Provisions) were issued in October 2009 as amendments to a 1969 Order No. 329 (Order regarding Prevention of Infiltration), declaring "infiltrator" state enemies from Jordan, Syria, Egypt and Lebanon would be imprisoned and/or deported.

Potentially, all West Bank and East Jerusalemites risk dispossession and expulsion, part of Israel's longstanding policy to seize all parts of Palestine it wishes, removing indigenous Arabs from their homeland illegally, controlling those remaining under an oppressive apartheid system critics call worse than South Africa's with good reason.

It's a sophisticated form of social, economic, political and racial discrimination, strangulation, and genocide, incorporating the worst elements of colonialism and apartheid as well as repressive dispossession, displacement, and state terrorism to separate Palestinians from their land and heritage, deny them their civil and human rights, and gradually remove or eliminate them altogether.

Apartheid is the worst form of racism, Israel's militarized occupation its most extreme form, incorporating violence, military incursions, land theft, home demolitions, targeted assassinations, indiscriminate murder, mass arrests, torture, destruction of agricultural land, and isolation - measures amounting to slow-motion genocide, including suffocating Gazans under siege.

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August 21 2010

Shell, Basf Ordered to Pay $354 Million in Brazil Plant Contamination Case

The Brazilian units of Basf SE and Royal Dutch Shell Plc. were fined a total of 622 million reais ($354 million) after former workers suffered health problems because of contamination at a plant in Paulinia, Sao Paulo state, from the 1970s to 2002.


Basf SA and Shell do Brasil will also have to pay 64,500 reais in damages to each former worker and any children born during or after their service at the plant, according to an e- mailed statement from the Paulinia Labor Court yesterday. The payments cover medical treatment, exams and individual damages.

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August 21 2010

Honduras Teachers' Strike Enters 16th Day

The Honduran teachers' strike entered its 16th day on Friday without reaching an agreement with the government of Porfirio Lobo.

Teachers are demanding that the government pays its debt to the sector of over $200 million, and that it raise the minimum wage, a demand shared by other trade unions.
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August 21 2010

Bangladeshi workers suffer in police crackdown

Bangladeshis are suffering in a low-wage economy 
Bangladeshi trade unionists are in hiding following a brutal police crackdown on garment workers fighting for a living minimum wage.  Unions said that at least 100 workers had been arrested since the strikes last month and 5,000 had been sacked.  Police confirmed they had arrested 20 people, including four union leaders and seven women workers, in the past two weeks alone. 

"Most of us are now on the run, living in fear as we are getting threats from the police," said Garment Workers Unity Forum president Mosherefa Mishu.  Security forces have launched a major offensive on behalf of the owners of textile factories hit by the walkouts. 

Their targets are some of the worst-paid workers in the world yet the clothes they make are sold by some of the West's biggest brands, including Tesco, H&M and Wal-Mart.  Police have mounted nightly rampages through the slums which house the impoverished employees.

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August 21 2010

The transformation of Latin America is a global advance

Nearly two centuries after it won nominal independence and Washington declared it a backyard, Latin America is standing up. The tide of progressive change that has swept the continent for the past decade has brought to power a string of social democratic and radical socialist governments that have attacked social and racial privilege, rejected neoliberal orthodoxy and challenged imperial domination of the region.

Its significance is often underestimated or trivialised in Europe and North America. But along with the rise of China, the economic crash of 2008 and the demonstration of the limits of US power in the "war on terror", the emergence of an independent Latin America is one of a handful of developments reshaping the global order. From Ecuador to Brazil, Bolivia to Argentina, elected leaders have turned away from the IMF, taken back resources from corporate control, boosted regional integration and carved out independent alliances across the world.

Both the scale of the transformation and the misrepresentation of what is taking place in the western media are driven home in Oliver Stone's new film, South of the Border, which allows six of these new wave leaders to speak for themselves. Most striking is their mutual support and common commitment – from Cristina Kirchner of Argentina to the more leftist Evo Morales – to take back ownership of their continent.

Two crucial votes in the next few weeks will put the future of this process to the test. The first are parliamentary elections in Venezuela, whose Bolivarian revolution has been at the cutting edge of Latin America's renewal since Hugo Chávez was first elected president in 1998. For all his popularity at home, Chávez has been the target for a campaign of vilification and ridicule throughout the US, European and elite-controlled Latin American media – which has little to do with his high-octane rhetoric and much more with his effectiveness in using Venezuela's oil wealth to challenge US and corporate power across the region.

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August 21 2010

Pakistan Floods: Airbase near Jacobabad under US control, Senate panel told

Health relief operations in Jacobabad are not possible because the airbase in the area is controlled by the US. The stunning statement was made by Health Secretary Khushnood Lashari during an appearance at the Senate Standing Committee on Health on Wednesday.

“Health relief operations are not possible in the flood-affected areas of Jacobabad because the airbase is with the United States,” Mr Lashari said while answering a question asked by Senator Semeen Yusuf Siddiqui of PML-Q. Dr Jahanzeb Aurakzai, coordinator of the Health Emergency Preparedness and Response Centre, said: “Foreign health teams could not start relief operations in remote areas because there are no airstrips close to several areas, including Jacobabad.”

The town has been evacuated and 500,000 to 700,000 people have been affected. People displaced from Jacobabad, Thul, Kandhkot, Kashmore, Ghouspur and Karumpur are camping in Dera Allahyar.

“It is very unfortunate that Americans can launch a drone attack from Shahbaz airbase but the government is helpless even in using the country’s base for relief operations,” Senator Semeen said while talking to this correspondent. She said the health ministry should have requested the army to ask the US to allow relief operation from the base.

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August 21 2010

Violence erupts as Zuma orders police to crush national strike

South Africa's schools and hospitals were transformed into battlegrounds yesterday as a nationwide strike escalated into a sometimes violent test of strength between the government and unions.

Police fired rubber bullets to disperse crowds blocking roads in one area while healthcare workers picketed hospitals, preventing patients from seeking help.

Public-sector unions have launched an indefinite strike demanding an 8.6 per cent pay rise, which the government has insisted the debt-stricken country cannot afford. The struggle could be critical to the future of President Jacob Zuma as well as damaging for sub-Saharan Africa's largest

"This is more than an industrial dispute," said Professor Sakhela Buhlungu, an expert on organised labour at the University of Johannesburg. "It is a political testing of strength in which Zuma can't be seen to be weak."

Crowds who blocked a main road near a hospital in Soweto, holding up traffic and blocking entrance to patients, were broken up by police firing rubber bullets and water cannons. Elsewhere in Johannesburg striking teachers threw bricks and stones at police, while nurses tore down a gate at one hospital as pickets struggled to block colleagues who wanted to go to work as normal.

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August 20 2010

Reformed Venezuelan Bank Law Separates Banks and Media


Yesterday, in an extraordinary sitting, the National Assembly passed a reform to the Bank Law which affirms that media owners and stock holders cannot manage banks. The law also slightly changed what institutions the law applies to so that the Sovereign People’s Bank (BPS) can be more accessible to communities. In a related matter, the National Assembly approved the nationalisation of an insurance company.

Previously, the BPS was regulated by its own internal rules; now it will come under Sudeban (the Superintendency of Banks and other Financial Institutions), will be incorporated into the National Financial System and will provide “socialised” banking where organised communities and individuals in communities can deposit, save, withdraw, and borrow from the bank, which will have “communal bank terminals” operated by locals.

The Chavez government founded the BPS in October 1999 as a bank that provided non-financial services such as training and micro financing to communities, small family companies and cooperatives, as part of a strategy to fight poverty.

Legislator Ricardo Sanguino said now the BPS would be able to cater to people who were previously excluded from the private banking system in what he called the “bankerisation” of the population.

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August 20 2010

Palestine: One Journalist Injured; 2 Activists Arrested During Weekly Protests

The Israeli military attacked the weekly anti wall protest in the central West Bank village of Bil'in.  Villagers along with international and Israeli supporters marched on Friday midday from the village to the wall gate that separate villagers from their land.

People demanded the prosecution of Eden Abergil, an Israeli soldier that published on facebook photos of her abusing Palestinian detainees. 
As soon as the protest reached the gate of the wall Israeli troops stationed there   fired sound and tear gas bombs at the unarmed civilians.

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 August 20 2010

Palestinian Female Prisoners and the Struggle for Freedom

Palestinian women have always stood side by side with their fathers, brothers, husbands, comrades to resist the Zionist occupation, to fight for freedom and legitimate rights. They are the first to go to the streets to protest the brutality of the Israeli military occupation, the first to organize sit-ins and marches demanding the release of their children, brothers and fathers from Israeli prisons. They are the protectors, the supporters, but most of all they are the comrades in the fight for a free Palestine. 

They protect their children, fathers, brothers and husbands from the Zionist invader come to kidnap, beat or kill. They support their families when their fathers, brothers or husbands are imprisoned or killed by the Israeli terrorist troops. They embrace the land and kiss the olive tree. They pave the way for resistance and shape it with their blood. They are the olive tree steadfast in the face of usurpers in Nablus, Jenin, Bethlehem and Al-Jalil. They are the poppy decorating Palestinian hilltops in Jerusalem, Hebron and Safad. They are the butterflies kissing the fields of Hebron, Jenin and Bisan. They are the fresh breeze of Haifa, Yaffa, Acca and Gaza.

They are the stone, powerful, strong and only taking leave of the soil to hit the usurper in the face. They are the daughters of Palestine; fearless, steadfast, patient. They are the mother, the sister, the daughter and the comrade of the martyr, the freedom-fighter and the prisoner. They are the martyr, the freedom-fighter and the prisoner. They are the guardians of the revolution and the symbol of steadfastness. They are Palestine embracing its children, protecting them and leading them. Since 1967 more than 800,000 Palestinians, including 15,000 Palestinian women, were detained by the Zionist entity.

During the First Intifada 3000 women were detained and during Al-Aqsa Intifada more than 900 women were locked up behind Israeli bars. There are daily raids and detentions. Sometimes the detained are released after a few days, after a few weeks or remain in detention indefinitely. Alone in June 2010 some 334 Palestinians were detained, including 4 women. Currently, there are 36 Palestinian female prisoners in the Israeli prisons Damon, HaSharon and Neve Tirza: 4 from Jerusalem, 3 from the Palestinian area occupied in 1948, 28 from the West Bank and 1 from the Gaza Strip. 6 of the prisoners await trial, 3 are administrative detainees, 27 are sentenced; of whom 5 are serving life sentences.

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August 20 2010

TUC calls for Barclays to come clean on Burma

Responding to the news that Barclays Bank has agreed to pay fines for breaching US sanctions against Burma, TUC General Secretary Brendan Barber said:

'It's a disgrace that Barclays has been violating US sanctions and doing business in Burma. Foreign financial services are helping Burmese generals to loot the country's natural wealth and to fund a military accused of committing horrendous crimes against humanity.

'Barclays must come completely clean on whether it has been a part of this, or no amount of London Cycle Hire schemes can save its reputation.

'It is a cause for concern that it took the US sanctions system to discover the shameful activities of a British bank. The UK and the EU urgently need to fix our weak rules. We need to put in place US-style financial sanctions and a rigorous monitoring system to prevent these sorts of scandals from happening again.'

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August 20 2010

BP oil spill: US scientist retracts assurances over success of cleanup

Bill Lehr, a senior scientist at the NOAA, appeared before Congress to repudiate an earlier report he wrote, which suggested the majority of the oil had been captured.

White House claims that the worst of the BP oil spill was over were undermined yesterday when a senior government scientist said three-quarters of the oil was still in the Gulf and a research study detected a 22-mile plume of oil in the ocean depths.

Bill Lehr, a senior scientist at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) departed from an official report from two weeks ago which suggested the majority of the oil had been captured or broken down.

"I would say most of that is still in the environment," Lehr, the lead author of the report, told the house energy and commerce committee.

The growing evidence that the White House painted an overly optimistic picture when officials claimed two weeks ago the remaining oil in the Gulf was rapidly breaking down fuelled a sense of outrage in the scientific community that government agencies are hiding data and spinning the science of the oil spill. No new oil has entered the Gulf since 15 July, but officials said yesterday the well is unlikely to be sealed for good until mid-September.

Under questioning from the committee chair, Ed Markey, Lehr revised down the amount of oil that went into the Gulf to 4.1m barrels, from an earlier estimate of 4.9m, noting that 800,000 barrels were siphoned off directly from the well.

August 20 2010    
UN Report: Israel's Military impose Restrictions On Access To Land And Sea In The Gaza Strip 

Gaza Harbour

Over the past ten years, the Israeli military has gradually expanded restrictions on access to farmland on the Gaza side of the 1949 ‘Green Line’, and to fishing areas along the Gaza Strip coast, with the stated intention of preventing attacks on Israel  by Palestinian armed factions, the United Nation’s Humanitarian affairs office,  OCHA, reported on Thursday.
Image This study aims at assessing the scope of these restrictions, as well as their impact on physical security, livelihood and access to services. The information and analysis presented is based on over 100 interviews and focus group discussions carried out during March-April 2010, and complemented  with analysis of quantitative data available from  other sources. 

Since late 2008, Palestinians have been totally or  partially prevented from accessing land located  up to 1,000-1,500 meters from the Green Line  (depending on the specific area), and sea areas  beyond 3 nautical miles from shore. Overall, the land restricted area is estimated at 17 percent of the  total land mass of the Gaza Strip and 35 percent of  its agricultural land. At sea, fishermen are totally prevented from accessing some 85 percent of the maritime areas they are entitled to access according  to the Oslo Agreements. 

An estimated 178,000 people - 12 percent of the population of the Gaza Strip - are directly affected  by the access regime implemented by the Israeli  military. This includes approximately 113,000  people affected by such measures in land areas, and  65,000 people affected by restrictions to maritime  areas. 

Access restrictions are primarily enforced by  opening live fire on people entering the restricted  areas. While in most cases it is ‘warning shots’ that  force people from the area, since the end of the “Cast  Lead” offensive in January 2009, the Israeli army has  also killed a total of 22 civilians and injured another  146 in these circumstances. Despite the potential for  civilian casualties, the Israeli authorities have not  informed the affected population about the precise  boundaries of the restricted areas and the conditions  under which access to these areas may be permitted  or denied. 

Additional risks to the affected population stem  from military activities of Palestinian armed factions  in the restricted areas and their confrontations  with the Israeli military. Since the end of the “Cast  Lead” offensive 41 Palestinian militants and four  Israeli soldiers were killed in the restricted area or  its vicinity in these circumstances and another 26  Palestinian militants and ten Israeli soldiers were  injured.

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August 20 2010

Colombian policeman admits ‘manipulating’ FARC laptop

Aftermath of Colombia's bombing of neighbouring Ecuador

A Colombian police investigator has admitted to tampering with data on the laptop computer used as evidence against two of the country’s highest profile political prisoners.

Ronald Coy, a police captain in the investigations branch of the national police, confirmed to the prosecutor in the trial of Liliany Obando that he had, according to the prosecutor’s question, “opened the information and manipulated it before it was submitted to the legal authorities”. Ms Obando’s defence lawyer is now pressed for the evidence to be ruled inadmissible.

Liliany Obando was arrested in August 2008 and accused of links to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrillas, after the authorities announced they had discovered evidence incriminating her and other critics of the government on a laptop belonging to senior FARC official Raul Reyes. The computer was seized in a Colombian military raid on a FARC camp in Ecuador in March 2008, during which Reyes was killed.

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August 20 2010
Santhal militants take to Maoism

Maoists in Assam are making rapid inroads among the Santhals, who were brought to the state 200 years ago and coerced into working in tea plantations. Intelligence agencies say the rebels have propped up a relatively new adivasi (tribal) militant outfit called Santhali Tiger Force (STF). The outfit has begun to spread its influence across five western and northern Assam districts.

The indoctrination and the initiation process are taking place at two camps along the Assam-West Bengal border.

“The STF was formed by the adivasi youth across the tea belt in Kokrajhar and adjoining districts. The outfit has a few seasoned rebels from other outfits, and we have information it is being supported by Maoists,” said Kokrajhar district police chief P.K. Dutta.

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August 20 2010
India employing Israeli oppression tactics in Kashmir

A Kashmiri protestor raises his fist to Indian forces during a protest
in Srinagar

The 2010 summer in the disputed area of Jammu and Kashmir, administered by India, has been marked by popular protests by Kashmiris and crackdowns by India's military. The stream of violence has left more than fifty dead, mostly young protestors. The situation in Kashmir has some parallels with Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza Strip, even borrowing the term intifada to describe the uprising. But the connection is more than analogy -- Israel's pacification efforts against Palestinians have proven valuable for the Indian police, army and intelligence services in their campaigns to pacify Jammu and Kashmir with numerous Indian military and security imports from Israel leading the way.

India and Israel had a limited relationship prior to 1992. India, as a prominent member of the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), had helped to form the NAM political positions on Palestine as part of the "struggle against imperialism, colonialism, neo-colonialism, apartheid, racism, including Zionism and all forms of expansionism, foreign occupation and domination and hegemony" (1979, Havana Declaration). Beyond its anti-colonial and Third World solidarity politics, India also had realpolitik reasons for keeping a distance from Israel. The nation had a developing economy with a huge need for petroleum resources, of which it had no domestic source. Good relations with the Arab League and the Soviet Union helped to secure access to resources necessary for India to become the regional and global economic power it aspires to be.

With the beginning of the Oslo negotiations process between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization in the mid-1990s and the end of the Cold War, India was free to pursue relations with Israel from a NAM standpoint. An end to the Israeli occupation was assumed a formality under Oslo by most international observers, especially early on -- and had, by that time, gained the economic strength to pursue a policy taking it, as described in a US Army War College (USAWC) analysis, "from a position of nonalignment and noncommitment to having specific strategic interests taking it on a path of 'poly-alignment.'" The report states that India has been in a "scramble to establish 'strategic relationships' with most of the major powers and many of the middle powers," including Israel.

Israel rendered limited military assistance to India in its 1962 war with China and the 1965 and 1971 wars with Pakistan. It was not until after the Oslo process began though, that the limited military contacts developed into a fuller strategic relationship. According to The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, in 1994 "India requested equipment to guard the de facto Indo-Pakistan Kashmiri border. New Delhi was interested in Israeli fences, which use electronic sensors to track human movements" (Thomas Withington, "Israel and India partner up," January/February 2001, pp.18-19). The remaining years of the decade were peppered with arms sales from Jerusalem to New Delhi, most notably unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and electronic warfare systems.

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August 20 2010

Kurdish Rebel, Pleased By Opposition Party, Upset by Kurdish Government’s Policy Towards Iran

Iranian Kurds protest in Erbil on May 10, against the killing of Four Kurdish rebels, including two women, a week before after they battled Iran's Revolutionary Guards in the western province of Kermanshah

The militant opposition group of Iran known as PJAK is positive about policies employed by the major Iraqi Kurdish opposition party regarding Iran, considering them a more pan-Kurdist approach.  PJAK, which stands for Party for Free Life of Kurdistan, prefers the approach taken by the opposition party of Gorran (Change) regarding the Kurdish question of Iran to the ones taken by the two ruling parties here in Iraqi Kurdistan.

A spokesperson of PJAK says that Gorran has brought human rights violations committed against the Iranian Kurds to its media spotlight while the two ruling parties has often swept them under the carpet.  "We hope Gorran continues these policies and do not make mistakes against my party,” said PJAK spokesperson Rezan Javid.  “The other political parties have made mistakes against us and the Kurdish people of Eastern [Iranian] Kurdistan,” he added.

Nawshirwan Mustafa, former deputy-leader of the party of Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, leads Gorran. His movement has often taken a critical approach against the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) since July 2009’s elections where it achieved almost one third of the parliament seats.  Safin Mala-Qara, a Gorran leader, ruled out having any relations with PJAK but confirmed that his party had refused to listen to a demand of the Iran’s consul in Erbil to end broadcasting the shelling of the border villages of Iraqi Kurdistan where Iran says PJAK fighters are based.

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August 20 2010

Kashmir: Fresh clashes leave over 30 wounded


About 30 persons were injured, most of them with bullet wounds, as fresh violence broke out in the Kashmir Valley Thursday while one boy, injured last week, died in the hospital today. A young boy, Milat Ahmad, who was injured in paramilitary forces’ firing at Harnag Anantnag on August 14, and was later shifted to Sher-e-Kashmir Institute of Medical Sciences (SKIMS) at Soura, died this morning, leading to massive protests in his native village Wanpora and adjoining areas in Kulgam district.

Hundreds of people offered his Nimaz-e-Jinazah which was addressed by Hurriyat (G) chairperson, Syed Ali Geelani in telephone. A police spokesman said protestors pelted stones on a paramilitary patrolling party at Seloo, Sopore, in north Kashmir district of Baramulla this afternoon. Paramilitary troops retaliated with tear smoke-shells which had no impact on the demonstrators who continued stone pelting, police said, adding that the paramilitary forces subsequently fired some non-lethal rubber bullets “in self-defence” in which five persons were injured. Among the injured people, one identified as Farooq Ahmad has been admitted to Bones and Joints Hospital at Barzulla in Srinagar.

Police said a mob also pelted stones on Karvan-e-Aman bus, carrying two Pakistan-administered Kashmir (PaK) guests at Sangrma, causing damage to window-panes of the bus. Meanwhile, people at Jehab Sahib Soura in the city outskirts defied curfew and took to streets in the afternoon, raising anti-India and pro-freedom slogans. The locals alleged that CRPF people had broken window panes of their houses without any provocation.

When the demonstrators were marching towards the main chowk, police and paramilitary forces swung into action and resorted to ‘lathicharge’ which had no impact. Later teargas shells were also fired to disperse the demonstrators who were pelting stones on nearby roadside bunker, following which a group of paramilitary personnel while chasing away protestors opened fire which left three people including two women injured. While as police spokesman said “security forces opened fire in self-defence after the demonstrators continued stone-pelting on bunker”, locals however refuted this claim saying CRPF personnel fired indiscriminately while chasing away protestors.

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August 20 2010

A Trip to Prison to See One of the Cuban Five



From the Ontario California airport some 60 miles east of downtown Los Angeles we drove north on Highway 15, the road to Las Vegas. Cars with expectant amateur gamblers and loaded big rigs climb and descend the mountains where the Angeles and San Bernadino National Forests meet. To the east lies the high desert some 4,000 feet above sea level. Amidst junipers, Joshua trees and sagebrush, we turn off from the man-made freeway to the jester’s creation of a shopping mall in Hesperia where we pick up Chavela, Gerardo Hernandez’ older sister. (Danny changes trousers because the prison doesn’t allow visitors to wear khaki).

We pass fast food joints with chain names, nail and hair salons, tattoo parlors, gas stations and min-marts (a drive by of American culture) going west and then north on 395 to the six year old US. Federal Penitentiary Complex, a 630,000 square foot high-security prison ($101.4 million); designed to cage 960 male inmates. In the institutional grey visitors’ lobby a guard hands us forms with numbers on top, nods at a book to sign and eye-signals to a pile of pens. We write, hand him back the forms (Danny had to stand against the wall while a guard recorded his photo onto the prison computer) and sit in the gray waiting room with other visitors – all black and Latino. (Saul’s and Chavela’s pix were already stored in the prison computer from previous visits).

We wait for twenty minutes. A guard calls our number. We empty our pockets except for money. (Danny checks his car keys; Saul hands over a pen fastened to his shirt pocket). We pass through a sensitive airport-type screening machine, pick up our belts and eyeglasses that have gone through Xray, and extend our inner forearms for stamping by another uniformed guard. Two black women and an elderly Latino couple get the same treatment. We exchange nervous smiles. Visitors in a strange land!

He passes our ids through a drawer connected to another sealed room on the opposite side of a thick plastic window. A guard there checks the documents and pushes buttons to open a heavy metal door. The group enters an outdoor passage. Blinding late morning sun and desert heat shocks our bodies after the air-conditioned chambers. We wait. A guard confers through a small slit in the door of the building housing the inmates – gun towers on each side; masses of rolled barbed wire covering the tops of concrete walls.

We wait, get hot, then enter another air cooled chamber; finally, a door opens into the visitor room. A guard assigns us a tiny plastic table, surrounded by three three cheap plastic chairs, on one side (for us) and one on the other for Gerardo. African American and Latino children exchange places on their fathers’ laps as daddies in khaki prison overalls chat with their wives. Chavela spots him 20 minutes later, waving, and bouncing across the room. Chavela almost crying says “He’s lost weight.” He seems the same weight as when Landau saw him in the Spring. Gerardo hugs and kisses his sister, embraces Saul and then Danny, thanking him for his efforts to spring him from the hole, where he spent 13 days in late July and early August.

Two FBI agents who were investigating an incident unrelated to his case, he informs us, questioned Gerardo in prison. Then, prison authorities tossed Gerardo into the hole although there existed no evidence, logic or common sense that could possibly have implicated him into the alleged occurrence. The temperatures inside the hole rose to the high nineties. “I had to use my drinking water to keep me cool, pouring it on head,” Gerardo told us. “It didn’t help my high blood pressure. I couldn’t even take my medicine. But, I think, thanks to the thousands of phone calls and letters from people everywhere they let me out.”

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August 19 2010

Fire in the Hole: How India's economic rise turned an obscure communist revolt into a raging resource war

Indian Maoist Guerilla Training Camp

The richest iron mine in India was guarded by 16 men, armed with Army-issued, self-loading rifles and dressed in camouflage fatigues. Only eight survived the night of Feb. 9, 2006, when a crack team of Maoist insurgents cut the power to the Bailadila mining complex and slipped out of the jungle cover in the moonlight. The guerrillas opened fire on the guards with automatic weapons, overrunning them before they had time to take up defensive positions. They didn't have a chance: The remote outpost was an hour's drive from the nearest major city, and the firefight to defend it only lasted a few minutes. 

The guards were protecting not only $80 billion-plus worth of mineral deposits, but also the mine's explosives magazine, which held the ammonium nitrate the miners used to pulverize mountainsides and loosen the iron ore. When the fighting was over and the surviving guards rounded up and gagged, about 2,000 villagers who had been hiding behind the commando vanguard clambered over the fence into the compound and began emptying the magazine. Altogether they carried out 20 tons of explosives on their backs -- enough firepower to fuel a covert insurgency for a decade. 

Four and a half years after the attack in the remote Indian state of Chhattisgarh, the blasting materials have spread across the country, repackaged as 10-pound coffee-can bombs stuffed with ball bearings, screws, and chopped-up rebar. In May, one villager's haul vaporized a bus filled with civilians and police. Another destroyed a section of railway later that month, sending a passenger train careening off the tracks into a ravine. Smaller ambushes of police forces on booby-trapped roads happen pretty much every week. Almost all of it, local police told us, can be traced back to that February night. 

The Bailadila mine raid was one of India's most profound strategic losses in the country's protracted battle against its Maoist movement, a militant guerrilla force that has been fighting in one incarnation or another in India's rural backwaters for more than 40 years. Over the course of the half-dozen visits we've made to the region during the past several years, we've come to consider the attack on the mine not just one defeat in the long-running war, but a symbolic shift in the conflict: For years, the Maoists had lived in the shadow of India's breakneck modernization. Now they were thriving off it. 

Only a decade ago, the rebels -- often, though somewhat inaccurately, called Naxalites after their guerrilla predecessors who first launched the rebellion in the West Bengal village of Naxalbari in 1967 -- seemed to have all but vanished. Their cause of communist revolution looked hopelessly outdated, their ranks depleted. In the years since, however, the Maoists have made an improbable comeback, rooted in the gritty mining country on which India's economic boom relies. A new generation of fighters has retooled the Naxalites' mishmash of Marx, Lenin, and Mao for the 21st century, rebranding their group as the Communist Party of India (Maoist) and railing against what the rebels' spokesman described to us as the "evil consequences by the policies of liberalization, privatization, and globalization."
Although it has gotten little attention outside South Asia, for India this is no longer an isolated outbreak of rural unrest, but a full-fledged guerrilla war. Over the past 10 years, some 10,000 people have died and 150,000 more have been driven permanently from their homes by the fighting. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told a high-level meeting of state ministers not long after the Bailadila raid that the Maoists are "the single greatest threat to the country's internal security," and in 2009 he launched a military surge dubbed "Operation Green Hunt": a deployment of almost 100,000 new paramilitary troops and police to contain the estimated 7,000 rebels and their 20,000-plus -- according to our research -- part-time supporters. Newspapers run stories almost daily about "successful operations" in which police string up the bodies of suspected militants on bamboo poles and lay out their captured caches of arms and ammunition. Many of the dead are civilians, and the harsh tactics have polarized the country.

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August 19 2010

International Transport Federation pass motion in support of Cuba

Amid the great upheavals in the Mexican government and it’s attacks on the trade unions of Mexico, in particular, the out of hand, sacking of 44 thousand electricity workers and their struggle for reinstatement. The 42nd International Transport Federation met at the Hilton Reforma Hotel in Mexico City.

As part of its progressive policies the ITF wishes to rise to the challenge of embracing countries like China, Vietnam and Cuba that are seen by some, as ideological enemies. If the ITF are truly to become a global organisation it cannot continue to ignore the trade unions in these countries. To this end on the very last day of conference the ITF passed a resolution proposed by the British Rail & Maritime Transport Workers Union (RMT), pointing out Cuba’s ongoing medical cooperation and ongoing involvement in the Haiti earthquake disaster, it also called for the involvements of the Cuban trade unions into the ITF and a wider programme of educating ITF members about the day to day struggles of the Cuban people due to the illegal blockade of Cuba. Also to promote solidarity visits to Cuba.

As part of the RMT’s delegation and a member of the Cuba Solidarity Campaign’s executive committee, I was given the honour to move the motion in front of over 600 international delegates. I am pleased to say it was welcomed by delegates. Many of whom approached me after the motion was carried, stating unanimously that we needed to embrace Cuba and the Cuban people. It was quite clear to me that the overwhelming majority delegates were of the opinion that “It was about time”.

Read full story & text of motion here

August 19 2010
Israeli Fighters Launch 4 Attacks on Gaza 

Two of the Tuesday assaults hit near Rafah and north of the city of Khan Yunis, near the border with Egypt, AFP reported, citing Palestinian security sources and witnesses. 

Targets near the Zeitoun district, east of Gaza City, as well as the Deir al-Balah refugee camp in the centre of the impoverished territory were also hit during two other attacks. 

Earlier in the day, security officials with the Palestinian resistance movement, Hamas, said six Israeli tanks had crossed into an area in the south of the coastal sliver, Reuters had reported. 

The incursion reportedly saw one of the tanks firing shells at a house also in the proximities of Khan Yunis and an Israeli soldier piercing through the bordering security fence. The Palestinians, in return, fired mortars toward the Israelis, wounding two soldiers. 

Read full story here


August 19 2010

Tensions Rise in Greece as Austerity Measures Backfire

The austerity measures that were supposed to fix Greece's problems are dragging down the country's economy. Stores are closing, tax revenues are falling and unemployment has hit an unbelievable 70 percent in some places. Frustrated workers are threatening to strike back.

The feast of the Assumption of Mary on Aug. 15 is the high point of summer in the Greek Orthodox world. Here in one of the country's many churches, believers pray to the Virgin for mercy, with many of them falling to their knees.

The newspaper Ta Nea has recommended that the Greek government adopt the very same approach -- the country's leaders have to hope that Mary comes up with a miracle to save Greece from a serious crisis, the paper writes. Without divine intervention, the newspaper suggested, it will be a difficult autumn for the Mediterranean state. 

This dire prognosis comes even despite Athens' massive efforts to sort out the country's finances. The government's draconian austerity measures have managed to reduce the country's budget deficit by an almost unbelievable 39.7 percent, after previous governments had squandered tax money and falsified statistics for years. The measures have reduced government spending by a total of 10 percent, 4.5 percent more than the EU and International Monetary Fund (IMF) had required. 

The problem is that the austerity measures have in the meantime affected every aspect of the country's economy. Purchasing power is dropping, consumption is taking a nosedive and the number of bankruptcies and unemployed are on the rise. The country's gross domestic product shrank by 1.5 percent in the second quarter of this year. Tax revenue, desperately needed in order to consolidate the national finances, has dropped off. A mixture of fear, hopelessness and anger is brewing in Greek society.

Read full story here

August 19 2010
The U.S. Spreads the Misery to Yemen

It is thanks to a New York Times front-page story Sunday that Americans learned that the United States is now engaged in an undeclared war in Yemen, on its way to joining Iraq and Afghanistan as a third major war in the region, unless Israel or the United States attacks Iran first.

Among our major achievements in the Yemen war we have managed to accidentally kill the deputy governor of Marib Province, Jabir al-Shabwani, in an air strike. That would be the equivalent of some foreign military force killing the lieutenant governor of an American state in an air strike.

Mr. Shabwani happened also to have been a friend of the president of Yemen, Ali Abdullah Saleh, although Mr. Saleh appears so far to have gotten over the U.S. action. Al-Qaida in the Arabia Peninsula, some of whose leaders were the putative targets of the air strike, blew up a pipeline in Yemen in revenge.

In fact, U.S. attacks have had no apparent impact on al-Qaida or on anyone else in Yemen, apart from its civilian population who have taken casualties in badly targeted attacks. Al-Qaida in the Arabia Peninsula is now putting out an English-language, online magazine called Inspire, playing up the U.S.-caused damage.

The same New York Times article indicated that U.S. operations, partly military "Special Access Programs" by Special Operations Forces and partly CIA, are active in Afghanistan, Algeria, Iran, Kenya, Lebanon, Morocco, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Sudan, Tajikistan and Yemen.

Actions in one country -- for example, Somalia -- can lead to targets' retaliation in another country, for example, Uganda, where Somalis killed 36 in a retaliatory attack in Kampala, the capital. U.S. forces are using a range of weapons, including unmanned drone aircraft armed with missiles, commando teams, cruise missiles firing cluster bombs and Harrier fighter jets. Personnel include contractors as well as U.S. armed forces.

None of the mini-wars have been authorized by the U.S. Congress under the War Powers Act, which President Barack Obama has felt as free to ignore as President George W. Bush did, making some of those who voted for Mr. Obama in 2008 wonder what the difference is.

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August 19 2010
Too Big To Fail : Too Big To Jail

Now, Barclays is coughing up $298 million for violating a US trade law. A judge is still deliberating on a settlement that may cost Citi $70 million to $100 million for misleading investors about $40 billion in sleazy subprime holdings.

Last week, it was Wells Fargo settling for $200 million after being caught gouging their own customers. This follows a  $550 million settlement on the part of Goldman Sachs and then a $600 million deal involving Countrywide and Bank of America.

If this keeps going, we will soon be talking about real money – but for what? What have these settlements settled other than payoffs substituting for criminal prosecutions?  

Bear in mind that very little, if any, of this money wrested from the banksters by the Securities and Exchange Commission and other agencies goes back to the people who were ripped off in the first place.  

Some of the bankers consider this extortion, but it certainly isn’t justice.  The avaricious banks remain too big to fail and, unfortunately, too big to jail. 

While I don’t think filling our prisons with white-collar criminals will fix the economy, it might lead to overdue improvements in shameful prison practices. It also might send an overdue signal.

This issue is still off the media agenda. If the bankers were Moslems who wanted a mosque in the lobby of JP Morgan Chase, this might change. 

For now, the problem of accountability and transparency in the world of big money doesn’t interest the networks who are making money head over fist by pandering and inciting racial and religious prejudice.  They are also tied into to many of these institutions.

Their “logic”: Better to keep the anger focused on distractions rather than the financial practices that really hurt average Americans. 


Read full story here

August 19 2010
Kashmir - Another day of curfew and clashes
Sporadic clashes were reported between stone-pelting mobs and police and paramilitary forces Wednesday even as the authorities once again imposed curfew and restrictions in all major towns of the Valley including parts of Srinagar to foil the protests and marches called by Hurriyat-G.

Authorities imposed curfew in all major towns of the Valley except Ganderbal, Handwara and Shopian to prevent protests called by the Syed Ali Shah Geelani’s faction of Hurriyat Conference.

Shops, businesses, educational institutions, banks and post offices remained shut while public and private vehicles were also off the roads due to the separatist-sponsored shutdown and official restrictions and curfew here.
Read full story here

August 19 2010 

John Pilger: Why Wikileaks must be protected

On 26 July, Wikileaks released thousands of secret US military files on the war in Afghanistan. Cover-ups, a secret assassination unit and the killing of civilians are documented. In file after file, the brutalities echo the colonial past. From Malaya and Vietnam to Bloody Sunday and Basra, little has changed. The difference is that today there is an extraordinary way of knowing how faraway societies are routinely ravaged in our name. Wikileaks has acquired records of six years of civilian killing for both Afghanistan and Iraq, of which those published in the Guardian, Der Spiegel and the New York Times are a fraction.

There is understandably hysteria on high, with demands that the Wikileaks founder Julian Assange is “hunted down” and “rendered”. In Washington, I interviewed a senior Defence Department official and asked, “Can you give a guarantee that the editors of Wikileaks and the editor in chief, who is not American, will not be subjected to the kind of manhunt that we read about in the media?” He replied, “It’s not my position to give guarantees on anything”. He referred me to the “ongoing criminal investigation” of a US soldier, Bradley Manning, an alleged whistleblower. In a nation that claims its constitution protects truth-tellers, the Obama administration is pursuing and prosecuting more whistleblowers than any of its modern predecessors. A Pentagon document states bluntly that US intelligence intends to “fatally marginalise” Wikileaks. The preferred tactic is smear, with corporate journalists ever ready to play their part.

On 31 July, the American celebrity reporter Christiane Amanapour interviewed Secretary of Defence Robert Gates on the ABC network. She invited Gates to describe to her viewers his “anger” at Wikileaks. She  echoed the Pentagon line that “this leak has blood on its hands”, thereby cueing Gates to find Wikileaks “guilty” of “moral culpability”. Such hypocrisy coming from a regime drenched in the blood of the people of Afghanistan and Iraq – as its own files make clear – is apparently not for journalistic enquiry. This is hardly surprising now that a new and fearless form of public accountability, which Wikileaks represents, threatens not only the war-makers but their apologists.

Their current propaganda is that Wikileaks is “irresponsible”. Earlier this year, before it released the cockpit video of an American Apache gunship killing 19 civilians in Iraq, including journalists and children, Wikileaks sent people to Baghdad to find the families of the victims in order to prepare them. Prior to the release of last month’s Afghan War Logs, Wikileaks wrote to the White House asking that it identify names that might draw reprisals. There was no reply. More than 15,000 files were withheld and these, says Assange, will not be released until they have been scrutinised “line by line” so that names of those at risk can be deleted

Read full story here

August 19 2010
UK, Irish artists saluted for principled boycott stance
The Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI) salutes the British dance group Faithless for declining to play in Israel this summer. The cancellation of the group's Israeli gig is the latest in a string of cancellations of performances in Israel by artists and musicians of conscience, artists who say no to normalizing relations with Israel, no to business as usual with a state that practices the most pernicious forms of occupation, colonialism and apartheid.

We applaud Faithless frontman Maxi Jazz for the unequivocally clear message explaining the band's decision:

"While human beings are being wilfully denied not just their rights but their NEEDS for their children and grandparents and themselves, I feel deeply that I should not be sending even tacit signals that this is either 'normal' or 'ok.' It's neither and I cannot support it. It grieves me that it has come to this and I pray everyday for human beings to begin caring for each other, firm in the wisdom that we are all we have."

This statement brings to focus the fact that performing in a state that practices occupation, colonization and apartheid, as Israel does, cannot be regarded as a purely artistic act, if any such act exists. Regardless of intentions, such an act is a conscious form of complicity that is manipulated by Israel in its efforts to whitewash its persistent violations of international law and Palestinian rights. This is because artistic performances in Israel promote a "business as usual" attitude that normalizes and sanitizes a state that has committed war crimes over several decades -- in Gaza, Jerusalem, the Naqab (Negev), and recently in the high seas against international humanitarian relief workers aboard the Freedom Flotilla.

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August 18 2010

Palestinian factions reject US/Zionist pressure for direct negotiations

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine joined with Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the DFLP and 7 other Palestinian factions to issue a joint statement in Damascus in opposition to the resumption of negotiations, direct or indirect, with Israel on August 15, 2010. The joint statement, read at a press conference by Comrade Dr. Maher al-Taher, member of the Political Bureau of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine and leader of its branch in exile, warned of "serious repercussions of continuing the policy of concessions and compromises of Palestinian national rights."

The 11 factions, including the PFLP, Hamas, Islamic Jihad, the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, the General Command and others, met on Sunday in order to discuss the issue of a potential Palestinian Authority return to negotiations and to make it clear that resuming such negotiations under U.S. authority, whether direct or indirect, places the fundamental rights of the Palestinian people as subject to the dictates of the U.S. and Zionism. The factions' statement was issued jointly and read by Comrade Taher; it said that the goal of the U.S. and its strategic ally, the Zionist state, "aims at the liquidation of the national rights of the Palestinian people, while covering up the criminal practices of the occupation in building settlements, Judaizing Jerusalem, and besieging Gaza." The statement went on to say that the occupation intends to create "facts on the ground" whereby the perennial presence of occupation Israeli forces on Palestinian land is legitimized through such negotiations.

Comrade Taher said, "The Zionist/U.S. pressure to conduct direct negotiations is an attempt to provide cover for the U.S. and Israel's aggressive plans for the region." The statement went on to say that "in a time of a growing international movement in solidarity with the Palestinian people and their just cause, and increasing isolation of Israel as a racist state, the U.S. and Israel are insisting on direct negotiations in order to provide a lifeline to lift the isolation of the criminal occupation state."

The statement called for an end to internal division and urged that instead of negotiations, the Palestinian Authority concentrate on building national unity, "and to stop betting on the futile negotiations, and instead adhere to Palestinian national rights and constants and the choice of resistance to liberate the land and end the occupation." 

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August 18 2010
Palestinian minors held 3 weeks on suspicion of arson

One of the arrested minors, aged 16, with his mother

Palestinian minors suspected of perpetrating even minor crimes against settlers are subject to extreme pressure during detention and interrogation in an effort to extract a confession, the Palestinian branch of Defense for Children International claims.

The group, which represents hundreds of minors in Israeli military courts every year, cites as an example the case of two 16-year-olds from Assira al-Qibalya, near Nablus, who were suspected of setting fire to a field near the settlement of Yitzhar. They were each detained for a total of three weeks, including 10 days in a Shin Bet security service facility in Petah Tikva. Six of those 10 days were spent in isolation. In the end, they were released without charge.

The fire near Yitzhar started on June 2. At 2 A.M. on June 10, the army raided the boys' homes and arrested them.  Both were handcuffed, M.M. in front, but F.A. from the back - even though army regulations forbid handcuffing people from the rear. They were blindfolded and taken to a lock-up in Hawara, where they were held for two weeks. At that facility, they said, the food was insufficient and almost inedible, and they were allowed outside for only half an hour a day.

From Hawara, they were taken twice to the army's Salem lock-up, where an interrogator who called himself "Jihad" threatened to torture them with electric shocks unless they confessed, the boys said. F.A. said Jihad also threatened to charge him with illegal possession of a rifle and stone-throwing if he did not confess to the arson.

On June 17, Capt. Gil Elharar of the Salem military court remanded them for another eight days. That hearing was the first time since their arrest that they had seen their parents, though they were not allowed to speak with them.

On June 21, bound hand and foot, the boys were taken to the Shin Bet facility in Petah Tikva. When M.M. told his interrogators that he was at school taking an exam when the fire started, they claimed F.A. had already incriminated him. F.A. in turn was told that people had seen him start the fire.

Read full story here

August 18 2010

Trinidad and Venezuela Sign Border Gas Field Deal

Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela signed a long-awaited agreement in Caracas on Monday to develop natural gas reserves on their maritime border.  The “unitization of reserves” accord gives Venezuela 7.3 trillion cubic feet (TCF) and Trinidad 2.7 TCF of the Loran-Manatee field, which is estimated to hold 10 TCF.

Negotiations on developing the field, which straddles the maritime frontier between the two oil producing neighbors, stalled several times during recent years.  Trinidad lies just 7 miles (11 km) from Venezuela's most eastern point but relations between the two Caribbean nations were cool under former premier Patrick Manning, who was replaced by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar in May.

“For Trinidad, this means the continuity of their extraordinary plans for natural gas development,” Venezuelan Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez told reporters after the signing.  “Trinidad has been a pioneer in this sector for our continent, and for Venezuela this means we will be able to have access to the quantities of gas we have on our side,” he said.

Unitization of reserves deals are aimed at avoiding and resolving conflicts about how much belongs to each side. Technical teams from both countries had already agreed how to divide the gas reserves ahead of Monday's meeting.

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August 17 2010

Palestinian farmers along with international supporters protested on Tuesday the Israeli buffer zone near the town of Biet Hanoun in northern Gaza Strip


The protest started on Tuesday midday; people marched against the buffer zone and in support of the farmers that Israeli is destroying their lands to create this buffer zone.

Protesters reached about 150 meters away from the security fence and the Eriz border crossing worth Israeli before soldiers opened fire at the people; no injuries were reported.

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August 17 2010

The Military bombards Homes In Gaza ; Arrest Civilians From The West Bank


Israeli tanks stationed near the southern Gaza borders shelled on Tuesday Palestinian homes in the town of Abassan near Khan Younis. The shelling targeted a number of homes, the house of Hashem Al Doghma was totally destroyed by the shelling other homes sustained damage. Al Doghma's house was damaged during an Israeli shelling targeting Abassan four months ago.

Also on Tuesday Israeli troops searched and ransacked a number of homes during invasions targeting West Bank communities. During today’s invasions Israeli troops arrested eight Palestinian men and took them to unknown locations.

Palestinian sources reported invasions to the cities of Nablus and Jenin, northern west Bank in addition to Hebron in the south.

Read more here

August 17 2010

Spanish steps towards general strike say two biggest trade union confederations

Spanish steps towards general strike say two biggest trade union confederations.

If you are holidaying in Spain this year you may learn a couple of new words - huelga general. In the coming days and weeks the Spanish for general strike will be splashed across posters and on the lips of thousands of trade union activists who are campaigning in workplaces, the streets and even the beaches for a mass protest on September 29.

The strike, called by the country's two biggest trade union confederations - Comisiones Obreras and Union General de Trabajadores - is against the socialist government's labour market reforms which will make it easier to hire and fire. These are among a raft of reactionary measures, including a 5 per cent cut to public servants' pay and a freeze on pensions, that Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero pushed through parliament last month with the aid of conservative regional parties.

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August 17 2010

Safety at risk in Mexico offshore industry

The oil spill of Florida in the Gulf of Mexico might not be the last, unions warn.

Lack of trade union freedoms, insurance and health coverage, low wages, poor training and corrupt practices prevail in Mexico's private oil industry, putting lives and the environment at risk.

"Workers hired by private contractors do not have the training for offshore drilling," Ysmael García, interior secretary of the Mexican seafarers' union, OCPNRM said.

Read full story here

August 17 2010

Bangladesh Arrests 21 After Rallies

The police in Bangladesh have arrested three garment industry labor leaders and 18 other people on charges that they organized and participated in violent protests last month.

Garment workers demonstrated July 30 in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh and a center of the growing garment industry.

International advocacy groups like Human Rights Watch and the International Labor Rights Forum have criticized the arrests, calling them a tactic for intimidating workers in a powerful industry that supplies Western retailers like Wal-Mart Stores and H&M. The protesters were angry over a recent increase in the minimum wage, calling it inadequate.

The arrests, made over the last several weeks, came after street protests in the Bangladeshi capital, Dhaka, and other hubs of the fast-growing clothing industry. Garment-making, with about three million workers, employs more people than any other industrial segment in Bangladesh, a largely agrarian country of 160 million.

Read full story here

August 17 2010

Construction Workers Protest in Cambodia

More than 100 disgruntled workers staged a protest along National Road 2 in Meanchey district’s Chak Angre Leu commune yesterday, after local construction firm KC Gecin Enterprises allegedly dismissed 27 employees last week for attempting to form a union.

Chum Yean, 27, who was among the group of workers fired by the company last Friday, said colleagues had demanded they be reinstated immediately.

It is an injustice that we were fired. The company discriminated against us because we were planning to set up a union” he said.

The protest lasted into the evening, but participants said 10 commune police officials tore up their banners.

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August 17 2010

The Jordan Valley is a microcosm of Israel’s colonisation


The Jordan Valley, stretching all the way down the West Bank’s eastern side, is a microcosm of Israel’s discriminatory policies of colonisation and displacement. For 40 years, settlements have been established, military no-go areas declared, and Palestinians’ freedom of movement restricted. There are now 27 colonies in the Jordan Valley – most of them had been established by the late 1970s under Labour governments. There are also nine “unauthorised” outposts. In the 1990s, the size of territory afforded to the settlements increased by 45%.

As we watch yet another bout of periodic, though tempered, enthusiasm about “direct negotiations”, Israel is doing as much as possible to determine the Bantustan borders – policies exemplified in the Jordan Valley, a substantial area of the West Bank almost isolated from the rest of the occupied territories. In 2006, B’Tselem noted how the Israeli military “made a distinction between the ‘territory of Judea and Samaria’ (ie the West Bank) and ‘the Jordan Valley’, indicating that Israel does not view the two areas as a single territorial unit”.

While there are areas of the West Bank which have witnessed the removal of some checkpoints, according to a senior UN official in June, “it hasn’t improved at all when it comes to moving towards the east” and the Jordan Valley. Without a special permit, Palestinians who are not registered as Jordan Valley residents are prohibited from crossing the four key checkpoints controlling the area north of Jericho in their private vehicles.

The presence of the valley’s Palestinians is a “problem” that Israel approaches with the tools of evacuation orders and bulldozers. Amnesty International, among others, has noticed an intensification of home demolitions and evictions, while B’Tselem sees “the current wave” as “part of Israel’s ongoing efforts to remove” Bedouin Palestinians from the Jordan Valley. As Luisa Morgantini, former vice-president of the European parliament, put it recently, “an area cleansed of its inhabitants today is more easily annexed tomorrow”.
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August 17 2010 
 Venezuelans Mourn Deaths of Top Socialist Party Official Muller Rojas and Pro-Chavez Legislator Tascón

Alberto Muller Rojas
Luis Tascón

The former vice president of the United Socialist Party of Venezuela (PSUV), General Alberto Muller Rojas, died on Friday at age 75, and National Assembly Deputy Luis Tascón died on Thursday at age 41. Both men were well-known allies of President Hugo Chavez who in recent years became critical of what they saw as corrupt and right-wing elements within the PSUV.
President Chavez attended Muller Rojas’s funeral in a military fort in Caracas on Monday and announced that he would posthumously promote the retired army general to the highest possible rank in the Venezuelan military, General-in-Chief.

Chavez called his close political ally “a true revolutionary soldier, a patriot to the bone,” and said he was “always an irreverent man, a permanently critical thinker, a teacher of rebellious thought and transformative action.” Chavez also wrote of Muller Rojas in his weekly Sunday opinion column yesterday, saying, “I really loved him as if he were my father, and I will always have him in my heart.”

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August 17 2010
Failing Haiti

The "international community" is in charge of rebuilding Haiti, and one thing has become clear: they are not interested in any kind of democracy there, not even the low level of "democracy" that they have committed to in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Haiti's provisional electoral commission (CEP) has now decided once again that the country's largest political party, Fanmi Lavalas, will not be allowed to participate in parliamentary elections scheduled for November.

This is the equivalent of excluding the Democratic Party (actually something quite a bit larger) from U.S. Congressional elections in November.

So far there are no indications that the Obama administration, which has - to put it mildly - enormous influence over the government of Haiti, has any objections. They had supported the last elections in April 2009 which also excluded Fanmi Lavalas, even though the exclusion led to a boycott of some 90 percent of voters.

To follow the historical thread, Fanmi Lavalas is headed by Jean-Bertrand Aristide, who became Haiti's first democratically elected president in 1990. He was overthrown by the military seven months later, in a violent coup that had a lot of Washington's fingerprints on it. President Clinton restored Aristide three years later, but Aristide offended Washington by, among other things, getting rid of Haiti's brutal army - which was not so much a military force as an instrument of political violence on behalf of Haiti's ruling elite.

Paul Farmer of Harvard Medical School is Bill Clinton's Deputy Special Envoy at the UN. His "Partners in Health" has nearly 5,000 people in Haiti. Testifying recently at a Congressional briefing, he described what happened after Aristide and his party were elected for a second time, in 2000:

"Beginning in 2000, the U.S. administration sought . . . to block bilateral and multilateral aid to Haiti, having an objection to the policies and views of the administration of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, elected by over 90% of the vote . . . Choking off assistance for development and for the provision of basic services also choked off oxygen to the government, which was the intention all along: to dislodge the Aristide administration."

It was the second Bush administration that finally overthrew Aristide for the second time - in the coup of March 2004. But as Farmer notes, the process was initiated under the Clinton administration in 2000. And the Obama administration is currently silent on Aristide's forced exile from Haiti, a violation of Haiti's constitution.

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August 17 2010

Puntland Government Bans Media Coverage Of Islamic Rebels

The region of Puntland, in northeastern Somalia, has banned journalists from interviewing al-Qaida-linked rebels currently battling the semi-autonomous state.  While officials say the restriction is necessary for the region's security, media rights groups have condemned the ban as an attack on press freedoms.

At a press conference in Puntland's commercial capital, Bosaso, Information Minister Abdihakin Ahem Guled issued a ban on the release of news concerning Islamist insurgent leader Mohamed Said Atom and his forces.  Guled told the Puntland media it was obligated to help maintain peace in the semi-autonomous region and warned that any outlets found disobeying the order would face serious consequences.

The ban comes two days after the arrest of several employees of Bosaso radio station Horseed FM, after it broadcast an interview with Atom on Friday evening.

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August 17 2010

Does Hess' Deportation Mean Turkey's Tough on Journalists?

Jake Hess
As U.S. freelance journalist Jake Hess waited today for the Turkish government to finish the paperwork necessary to deport him, his detention has prompted some to wonder whether press freedom has taken a turn for the worse in Turkey.

Hess was detained Wednesday in the Kurdish majority city of Diyarbakir only weeks after writing articles highly critical of the Turkish government's treatment of Kurds in the country's southeast. The government cited his alleged links to illegal Kurdish organizations in its warrant for detention.

Turkey fell to 122nd place in Reporters Without Borders' annual ranking of press freedom last year -- its lowest showing since the ranking began in 2002 -- after comparative gains in mid-decade. "The reputation has been improving, but the fear is that this is back to the bad old days," said Andrew Finkel, a British journalist and columnist at Today's Zaman, an English-language newspaper based in Istanbul. "It is a reminder that Turkey is a country where you can't access YouTube. The government does try to control the press; there is no doubt about it."

In Turkey, local journalists are routinely arrested and put on trial for a variety of reasons, including defamation of the state or military. In June, Turkish journalist Irfan Aktan was sentenced to 15 months in jail for "making propaganda for a terrorist organization through the press." Aktan had interviewed members of the Kurdish Workers' Party, or PKK, for an article that also included a quotation from one of the group's publications: "There will be no solution without struggle."

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August 17 2010

5,000 foreign workers in Malaysia protest against employer

Some 5,000 foreign workers from a computer hardware plant in Tebrau, a sub-division of the Johor Bahru district, held a protest against their employer Monday.

The protesters not only went on strike at their hostel, but also demolished a guard post and threw items including glass bottles, water bottles, iron cabinet, shoes and chairs onto the roads.

They even used fire extinguishers to spray the building, shocking people in the vicinity as they thought either fire was set on the building or tear gas was fired to disperse the crowd.

Meanwhile, the workers, mainly from Nepal, Myanmar, Vietnam, India and Bangladesh, also set up blockade at the main entrance of the hostel to prevent outsiders from entering the building.

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August 17 2010

Formalizing Israel’s Land Grab


Time is running out for Israel. And the Israeli government knows it. The Jewish Diaspora, especially the young, has a waning emotional and ideological investment in Israel. The demographic boom means that Palestinians in Israel and the occupied territories will soon outnumber Jews. And Israel's increasing status as a pariah nation means that informal and eventually formal state sanctions against the country are probably inevitable.
Desperate Israeli politicians, watching opposition to their apartheid state mount, have proposed a perverted form of what they term "the one-state solution." It is the latest tool to thwart a Palestinian state and allow Israel to retain its huge settlement complexes and land seizures in East Jerusalem and the West Bank. The idea of a single state was backed by Moshe Arens, a former defense minister and foreign minister from the Likud Party, in a column he wrote last month in the newspaper Haaretz asking "Is There Another Option?" Arens has been joined by several other Israeli politicians including Knesset Speaker Reuven Rivlin.

The Israeli vision, however, does not include a state with equal rights for Jewish and Palestinians citizens. The call for a single state appears to include pushing Gaza into the unwilling arms of Egypt and incorporating the West Bank and East Jerusalem into Israel. Palestinians within Israeli-controlled territory, however, will remain burdened with crippling travel, work and security restrictions already in place. Palestinians in the occupied territories, for example, cannot reclaim lost property or acquire Israeli citizenship, yet watch as Jews born outside of Israel and with no prior tie to the country become Israeli citizens and receive government-subsidized housing. Palestinians in the West Bank live in a series of roughly eight squalid, ringed ghettos and are governed by military courts. Jews living in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, like all full Israeli citizens, are subject to Israeli civilian law and constitutional protection. Palestinians cannot serve in the armed forces or the security services, while Jewish settlers are issued automatic weapons and protected by the Israel Defense Force. 

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August 17 2010

There’s Nothing Wrong with Social Security that Taxing the Rich Fairly Wouldn’t Fix


New York Times columnist and economist Paul Krugman, in his column today, is right to expose the attacks on Social Security as being the work of right-wing ideologues eager to destroy a government program that works, backed by cowardly Democrats who want to show their fiscal "responsibility" by getting tough with future pensioners.

But he doesn't go the extra step to point out that this program, founded 75 years ago as a cornerstone of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal, could be much more fair and even generous to elderly and disabled retirees, and also placed on a much sounder economic footing, by a few simple reforms that would not cost most people a penny, or require hard working folks to work one day longer before retiring.

There is a problem facing Social Security, which Krugman doesn't mention. The Novel economist is correct that the system has built up a huge multi-trillion-dollar surplus over the years. And he is correct in noting that this surplus--the Trust Fund--is big enough to fund the system probably indefinitely, even during the huge bulge in retirement that is starting now that the Baby Boomer generation is hitting retirement age. What he fails to mention is that the Trust Fund has all been stolen (okay, technically borrowed) by the federal government to fund its own annual deficits, and given the national attitude towards taxes, it will never be repaid. That's why the right is able to create a panic by falsely claiming that Social Security is going to go "bankrupt" when current workers' Social Security taxes can no longer pay for the benefits of current retirees.

But there is a simple solution to even this deception, which is to eliminate the cap on income which is subject to the Social Security tax.


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August 17 2010

Some in Merkel's Party Want to Talk with the Taliban


General David Petraeus made a plea for patience on Sunday and said that the roots of progress have been established in Afghanistan. But with public support of the war down across NATO, some politicians, including those from German Chancellor Merkel's own party, want to negotiate with the Taliban.

It has not been a good couple of months in Afghanistan. July was the deadliest month for US troops there since the campaign started almost nine years ago, with 66 soldiers losing their lives. Furthermore, the website reported over the weekend that 2,000 coalition troops have now died in Afghanistan. And the violence is getting worse. Whereas 521 soldiers were killed in 2009, making it the deadliest year since the beginning of the war, 434 have already been killed in 2010.

And still, there is no real end in sight. In an interview with NBC television aired on Sunday, the US commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David Petraeus asked for patience and said that there were "areas of progress" that now had to be linked together and extended.

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August 17 2010

The Myth of the Free Market

Millions of Americans are today unemployed because the free market is not working for them. Millions of Americans have lost their homes because the free market did not work for them or for the banks. Before the health care bill passed last January millions could not get health care because the free market worked for them when they were healthy but often did not work at all when they needed care.

The free market sent jobs to China and Mexico, India and Taiwan. The free market encouraged subprime mortgages and collateralized debt obligations that were collages of numbers that the market itself did not understand. The free market encouraged insurance companies to compete for ways not to pay for health care rather than to encourage ways to provide health care.

During the years of the Bush administration's free market advocacy, Bear Stearns collapsed, Merrill Lynch failed, and Lehman Brothers collapsed. The free market enabled Goldman Sachs to act as if it believed in securities that it sold to others while at the same time betting with its own money that these securities would fail. To knowingly induce buyers with misinformation is intentional fraud, but the free market did not and has not ever protected against intentional fraud.

In a free market, British Petroleum risked environmental catastrophe in order to save money on expensive cement or time-consuming testing and used cheaper designs rather than safer ones for the most complex drilling apparatus in the world. Transocean obeyed the demands of the market by not fixing 390 maintenance items that were back-listed, ignored a leak in the control pod of the blowout preventer, and avoided the delay caused by its gas detection alarms by simply shutting them off. 

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August 16 2010
Israeli TV screens joint drill with US marines

Israel's Channel 2 TV aired previously unseen footage Sunday of a joint military drill by US marines and Israeli forces at a base in the Negev a day earlier.

The drill simulated the occupation of a village in the region. The participating marines were reportedly preparing for deployment in Afghanistan.

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August 16 2010
Ecuador to World: Pay Us $3.5 Billion to Not Drill Oil

Two years ago, we were given a lesson on how the price of oil correlates with risk. The cost of a barrel of oil also depends on demand, the quality of crude, and the temperament of the market. Whatever your take is on fossil fuels, the vagaries that affect the giant yo-yo of oil prices is fascinating. One country, however, is turning the assumptions over the price of oil on its head.

Ecuador has told the world to put a price on oil that will never hit the market. Yesterday the small South American nation signed a deal with the United Nations Development Program that leaves a huge amount of oil reserves untouched in exchange for the approximate sum of US$3.5 billion.

Under Yasuni National Park lies about 850 billion barrels of crude oil. Smack in the middle of the Ecuadorian Amazon, the park ranks among the most bio-diverse regions on the planet. Among the countless species of plants, animals, birds, and insects are two tribes who are among the few peoples still not in contact with the modern world. What does Ecuador receive in return? A windfall from wealthy countries, led by Germany and Spain, that will go towards renewable energy programs, environmental and social development projects, and eco-tourism.

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August 16 2010
Opposition pollster predicts Chávez crushing victory
According to the latest survey carried out by opposition pollster Datanalisis, reported in Ultima Noticias concerning the September 26th National Assembly elections in Venezuela, President’s Chavez’s United Socialist Party (PSUV) and its allied Venezuelan Communist Party (PCV) are set to rout the right wing opposition camp for the thirteenth time in fourteen elections since December 1998.

The Datanalisis’ national survey indicates that chavismo will win 124 (75.15%) seats out of the 165 up for grabs, whereas the opposition will win 41 (24.85%). This will give the parties of the Bolivarian Revolution more than the 110 seats required for a 66.7% qualified majority in the National Assembly which will allow organic legislation to be passed into law without having to make any deals with other parties. 

The PSUV and PCV will sweep the board in states such as Portuguesa (6 – 0), Sucre (6 – 0), Trujillo (5 – 0) and Amazonas (4 – 0) according to the poll. In other states where President Chavez and his socialist policies enjoy wide support the opposition will be limited to just one seat in the following states: Apure, Aragua, Barinas, Bolívar, Guárico, Falcón, Vargas and Yaracuy. The opposition’s best results will be in Táchira (5-2), Zulia (8-7) and Miranda (6-6). This information was published today, August 15th 2010, in the Venezuelan national daily, Ultimas Noticias.

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August 16 2010
Jobless Millions Signal Death of the American Dream for Many
Richard Gaines is one of the best-known faces on Camden's Haddon Avenue. It is a rough-and-tumble street, lined with cheap businesses and boarded-up houses, and is prey to drug gangs. Gaines, 50, runs a barbershop, a hair salon and a fitness business. He works hard and is committed to his community. But Haddon Avenue is not an easy place to make a living in the best of times. And these are far from the best of times.
Just how badly the great recession has struck this fragile New Jersey city, which is currently the poorest in America, was recently spelled out to Gaines. In happier times – whatever that might mean for a city as destitute as Camden – local businesses on Haddon Avenue could at least rely on a bit of trade from those who made their money on the street.
Young men bought flashy clothes and got sharp haircuts and always paid in cash. But no longer. The economy is now so bad in Camden that even the criminals are struggling and going short. "Even the guys who got money from illegal means really don't want to spend it," Gaines said.
Such a development, though, is just a snapshot of the deep problems still hitting the wider American economy. Growth rates are stuttering and a recovery is struggling to take hold. It may even now be showing signs of going backwards again, as countries such as Germany start to power forward. Joblessness has taken hold in America, with the numbers of long-term unemployed reaching levels not seen since the Depression of the 1930s. The figures are frightening and illustrate a society that remains in deep trouble.

The headline jobless figure of 9.5% is bad enough but does not begin to convey the problem as it fails to measure those who have stopped looking for work. Over the past three months alone more than a million Americans have fallen into that category: effectively giving up hope of finding a job and dropping out of the official statistics. Such cases now number some 5.9 million and their ranks are likely to grow as millions more find their jobless status becoming a permanent state of hopelessness. Surveys show that with each passing week on the dole their chances of finding a job get slimmer.

Though corporations, especially in the banking sector, are posting healthy profits, they are not hiring new workers. At the same time, government cuts are sweeping through city and state governments alike, threatening tens of thousands of jobs and slicing away at services once thought vital. Schools, street lighting, libraries, refuse collection, the police, fire services and public transport networks are all being scaled back.

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August 16 2010
US Death Squads Roam The Globe 

At first, the news from Yemen on May 25 sounded like a modest victory in the campaign against terrorists: an airstrike had hit a group suspected of being operatives for Al Qaeda in the remote desert of Marib Province, birthplace of the legendary queen of Sheba.

But the strike, it turned out, had also killed the province’s deputy governor, a respected local leader who Yemeni officials said had been trying to talk Qaeda members into giving up their fight. Yemen’s president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, accepted responsibility for the death and paid blood money to the offended tribes.

The strike, though, was not the work of Mr. Saleh’s decrepit Soviet-era air force. It was a secret mission by the United States military, according to American officials, at least the fourth such assault on Al Qaeda in the arid mountains and deserts of Yemen since December.

The attack offered a glimpse of the Obama administration’s shadow war against Al Qaeda and its allies. In roughly a dozen countries — from the deserts of North Africa, to the mountains of Pakistan, to former Soviet republics crippled by ethnic and religious strife — the United States has significantly increased military and intelligence operations, pursuing the enemy using robotic drones and commando teams, paying contractors to spy and training local operatives to chase terrorists.

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August 15 2010
One Injured, Two Arrested During Anti Wall Protests Near Bethlehem 

A Palestinian man sustained light wounds two others arrested by Israeli soldiers during the weekly anti wall protest in Al Walajah village between Jerusalem and Bethlehem.
Village residents along with international and Israeli supporters marched after the midday Friday prayers and headed towards the construction site of the wall being built on their lands.

As soon as the protesters reached the gate of the nearby Israeli settlements Israeli troops attacked them using tear gas and sound bombs.

The tear gas forced people back to the village a group of Israeli soldiers followed some protesters into a house at the entrance of the village and beat them up before arresting two local youth.
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August 15 2010

Netanyahu approves building new classrooms in settlements 


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday approved the erection of 23 mobile classrooms in West Bank settlements, even though there is no official construction plan that would allow this move.  

Netanyahu declared a 10-month freeze on construction in West Bank settlements in November of last year in efforts to relaunch stalled peace talks with the Palestinians. The Palestinian leadership has demanded a complete halt to Israeli construction on land slated for a future Palestinian state.

The prime minister's decision comes in the wake of an aggressive debate between the Ministry of Justice and the Defense and Education ministries.

The Education Ministry has announced that there is a need for 23 new buildings, in 12 different West Bank settlements, to cater to the needs of the local education authorities. The Defense Ministry has confirmed these needs, but the deputy attorney general ultimately rejected the request due to the absence of proper construction authorization. He explained that even the most dire of educational needs mustn't circumvent the law.

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August 15 2010
Iran and Turkey bombardments push Kurdish families into refugee camps
As Iran and Turkey bomb border villages regularly-now almost daily-the refugee camps for villagers expand since villagers cannot be guaranteed a safe return to their homes and farms.

In the afternoon heat, families unload their belongings out of a pickup truck. An old woman sets up on the rocky ground a tent that she received from the UNHCR. Children in threadbare clothes run around in bare feet and try to cool down in the stream that runs through the camp.

These newcomers join hundreds of families that have already found refuge in the camp near the town of Ranya, northwest of Suleimaniya in Iraqi Kurdistan. "We were all so afraid, and our children could not sleep at night," said Musa Ghatun, who has lived in the camp for two months. "We have no money to build a house elsewhere; we have no chance to start a new life. And doesn't everyone want to be in his own village?"

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August 15 2010
Jordan Valley village to be razed for third time

Several rebuilt structures in a Jordan Valley village will be razed again, after Israel's Civil Administration handed out demolition warrants Sunday morning, an official said.

Less than a month ago, the Al-Farisiya village saw 120 structures demolished, belonging to 28 residents. The structures were rebuilt by the Palestinian Authority, but six were razed again by the Civil Administration.

Residents, along with Israeli and international peace activists, rebuilt the structures two weeks ago but they face demolition again, head of the Al-Malih village council and the Bedouin neighborhoods Aarif Daraghma said. 
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August 15 2010

100 hurt as workers, police clash in Bangladesh
More than 100 people, including 17 policemen, were injured on Saturday in a clash between police and garment factory workers in Bangladesh, Xinhua reported. Violence broke out in Narayanganj district, 17 km southeast of Dhaka, when thousands of workers of the ACS Textiles took to the streets to demand reduction in work time from 15 to 11 hours.
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August 14 2010 
Fidel meets with Colombian senator Piedad Córdoba
COMANDANTE en Jefe Fidel Castro Ruz met yesterday with the Colombian senator Piedad Córboba, leader of the Colombian peace movement (Columbianos y Colombianas por la Paz).

Fidel meets with Colombian senator Piedad CórdobaIn the fraternal meeting they exchanged ideas on the peace process in Colombia, the situation in our region and the dangers of war in the world. The two public figures both expressed optimism in the triumph of peace and in the construction of a new world in which human beings utilize their intelligence and the knowledge they have accumulated.

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August 14 2010
 5 detained as Hebronites demand city back

Three Israeli citizens and two foreign nationals were detained from a protest in the Old City of Hebron on Saturday, organized by the local group Youth Against Settlements.

The protest was a group call for the re-opening of Ash-Shuhada street, largely closed off to Palestinian residents of the city following the establishment of illegal Israeli settlements, many in Palestinian homes from which previous residents were expelled. Shops in the area where settler moved in were closed in the 1990s by military order and dozens of families left following violence. 
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August 14 2010

Turkey Accused of Using Chemical Weapons against PKK

German experts have confirmed the authenticity of photographs that purport to show PKK fighters killed by chemical weapons. The evidence puts increasing pressure on the Turkish government, which has long been suspected of using such weapons against Kurdish rebels. German politicians are demanding an investigation.

It would be difficult to exceed the horror shown in the photos, which feature burned, maimed and scorched body parts. The victims are scarcely even recognizable as human beings. Turkish-Kurdish human rights activists believe the people in the photos are eight members of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) underground movement, who are thought to have been killed in September 2009.

In March, the activists gave the photos to a German human rights delegation comprised of Turkey experts, journalists and politicians from the far-left Left Party, as SPIEGEL reported at the end of July. Now Hans Baumann, a German expert on photo forgeries has confirmed the authenticity of the photos, and a forensics report released by the Hamburg University Hospital has backed the initial suspicion, saying that it is highly probable that the eight Kurds died "due to the use of chemical substances." 
Did the Turkish army in fact use chemical weapons and, by doing so, violate the Chemical Weapons Convention it had ratified?

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August 13 2010

Afghanistan: villagers block road after claims of civilian deaths


A crowd of about 300 villagers blocked a main road in eastern Afghanistan Aug. 12 and chanted "Death to the US!" The protest came after a raid by US forces in which they said three innocent villagers were killed at Zarin Khil, Sayed Abad district, Wardak province. Village elders said US troops stormed into a family’s house and shot three brothers—all young men—and then took their father into custody. Local police are said to be investigating the allegations. NATO forces rejected the claim, saying those killed in the overnight raid were "suspected insurgents", and that a local Taliban commander was detained.
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August 13 2010

3 troops killed in Afghanistan 


Three international coalition service members were killed in the south of Afghanistan, while U.S. and Afghan forces stepped up operations in the east against a Taliban faction linked to al-Qaeda, arresting several key militants, military officials said Friday.

Britain's Ministry of Defense said one British soldier was killed Friday by small-arms fire in the Sangin district of Helmand province. Another serviceman who was injured Tuesday in an incident involving a helicopter at a patrol base in the Nahri Sarraj district of Helmand died Thursday at a hospital in Britain, it said.

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August 13 2010
Army shuts down peaceful rallies across West Bank
Israeli soldiers used force to shut down weekly non-violent anti-wall protests in villages across the West Bank on Friday.

International, Israeli and Palestinian activists in Bil’in, Nil’in, and An-Nabi Salih, near Ramallah, and in Al-Ma’sara, near Bethlehem, were met with tear-gas grenades as they marched towards the separation wall to protest the confiscation of their lands.

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August 13 2010

Venezuela: Ending farmer exploitation

The Venezuela government has taken possession of a massive country estate formerly belonging to the wealthy banker and fugitive from justice, Nelson Mezerhane.  The announcement was made by president Hugo Chavez last Sunday during his weekly television broadcast, Alo Presidente.

The Hato Santa Elena, located in a remote area of the state of Apure, consists of more than 38,000 acres and will be converted into a Socialist Production Center.  Mezerhane fled Venezuela last June after violating numerous financial laws related to his ownership of the private bank, Banco Federal. He is currently taking refuge in the United States.

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August 13 2010
Cuban Antiterrorist Praises Danny Glover’s Solidarity
Cuban antiterrorist fighter Gerardo Hernandez praised US actor Danny Glover’s solidarity with him and his four comrades who remain unjustly imprisoned in the United States since 1998 when they were arrested and given harsh and unjust sentences for monitoring anti-Cuba extreme right-wing groups planning and carrying out terrorist actions against the island. Glover, who visited Gerardo last Sunday at the federal prison of Victorville in California, has played an active role in spreading the truth about the case of the Cuban Five

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August 13 2010

Canadian postal workers put stamp of approval on bid to break Gaza blockade

The union for Canada's postal workers is sending a message of support to the Gaza Strip, backing a plan that would take a ship through the blockade of the Palestinian territory in the wake of Israel's suspension of mail delivery there.

The Canadian Union of Postal Workers on Thursday called on Canadians to co-ordinate with Canada Boat Gaza, a coalition of Islamic and human-rights organizations that are planning to sail a ship through the Israeli blockade this autumn to deliver aid to the Gaza Strip.

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August 13 2010

Youth Unemployment a “Social Time-Bomb”



The ITUC has described the high and rising levels of youth unemployment globally as a “social time-bomb”, which risks damaging the social, economic and political fabric of countries around the world. New figures released by the International Labour Organisation today, the United Nations Youth Day, underline the dramatic increase in the number of young jobless as the employment impacts of the global economic crisis continue to worsen.

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August 13 2010
Honduras Down the Memory Hole

A year after a military coup removed democratically elected President Manuel Zelaya from office, Hondurans are still living under a repressive government—but the U.S. is pushing Latin American countries to join it in normalizing relations with the regionally ostracized nation.

Reporting from a meeting of the Organization of American States (OAS), the New York Times (6/8/10) dutifully relayed Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s assertion that “we saw the free and fair election of President [Porfirio] Lobo,’’ noting on the other hand that “several foreign ministers inveighed against Mr. Lobo’s government, which they said had violated human rights.” The Times left it up to readers to guess who might have been right. The Washington Post (6/8/10) reported that this debate is simply an indication of “how difficult it is to bridge regional divisions.”

Such coverage is no surprise, given the media’s enthusiastic response to Lobo’s election in January. After the June 28, 2009, coup, the U.S. and many Latin American countries said they would refuse to recognize the elections in November if Zelaya wasn’t restored to office to finish out his term (Washington Post, 9/4/09). Given that the elections would be held under the auspices of a coup regime, the UN, the OAS, the EU and the Carter Center didn’t send observers (Real News Network, 4/08/10).

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August 13 2010

Huge Oil Deposit Discovered in Northern Afghanistan


Officials in the Ministry of Mines and Industries say their studies have shown that a large deposit of oil with the capacity of 2 billion barrels is discovered in northern Afghanistan 
After the technical studies of this oil deposit is over, it will be handed over to the private sector, the Ministry says.

"We conducted two important geological operations which we call artificial earthquake, with the cooperation of our international professionals and with the help of the international community, to determine the exact volume of gas deposits in these areas," the Minister of Mines and Industries, Wahidullah Shahrani told TOLOnews.

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August 12 2010

The Raid on Food Stamps

On Tuesday, President Obama signed a $26 billion bill to help state and local governments cover Medicaid payments and avoid having to lay off teachers and other public employees. In what passes for high drama in Washington, the House of Representatives was called back from its summer recess to vote on the package, and the successful outcome was hailed as a major Democratic victory. "We can't stand by and do nothing while pink slips are given to the men and women who educate our children or keep our communities safe,'' Obama said. "That doesn't make sense.''
No, it doesn't. But only by the occluded standards of contemporary Washington could this aid package be considered a victory. What began three months ago as a $50 billion emergency spending bill limped to the president's desk at half that size and was largely paid for - "offset'' in the clinical terminology of the budget - by cutting $12 billion from the food stamp program. In other words, a measure designed to help one group struggling in the recession came at the expense of another that is even worse off - and growing rapidly.

The number of people receiving food stamps stands at a record 41 million, or one out of every eight Americans. Driven by the downturn, that number has risen every month for the past 18 months. Last year alone, it grew by 20 percent. It's grown by 50 percent since the recession began.

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August 12 2010

International Transport Federation calls for Action on Illegal Israeli Settlements

The International Transport Federation (ITF) passed a resolution yesterday at its 42nd congress in Mexico, calling on transport workers to stop the transport of all goods and persons to illegal Israeli settlements in the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

The Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) welcomes this important step forward in the campaign against the ongoing building of illegal settlements and against the Occupation.

The resolution was tabled by the Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions (PGFTU) and seconded by the RMT - the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers.  The ITF represents 759 unions, with over 4,600,000 transport workers in 155 countries.

RMT General Secretary and PSC patron, Bob Crow, said the vote was unanimous, with full support from all represented unions including railway and shipping unions.

For more information on the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) click here

August 12 2010

(New Zealand) PSA warns against public-private partnerships


Public private partnerships (PPP) for infrastructure projects could create unnecessary and expensive long term-risks, the Public Service Association says.  Finance Minister Bill English announced the new policy yesterday, saying government agencies would have to consider PPPs for projects costing more than $25 million.  He said it wouldn't lead to privatising state assets. 

PSA national secretary Richard Wagstaff said rigid long-term contracts with private providers could hamper planning around demographic and social changes and prevent timely responses to technological advances. Private procurement options already exist, he said. 

"The Government is once again presenting PPPs as a more efficient, value for money option but international evidence suggests these assumptions are wrong."  PPPs bring financial risk to the government and taxpayers and cause loss of public control over services and facilities, Mr Wagstaff said.  "Private companies are answerable to their shareholders while public services are accountable to both government and the public."

Read full story here

August 12 2010

A worker-run energy plan in Venezuela

During an inspection of the power plant La Mariposa, Venezuelan Energy Minister Ali Rodriguez reported that the facility would soon have the capacity to produce 45 megawatts (MW) of electricity, enough to supply the residents of the neighborhood of Altos Mirandinos and southeast Caracas.

The plant was taken over by Venezuelan workers in March in response to the electricity crisis that had been affecting the country over the past year.

“In addition to reestablishing the machinery that was inactive, we are installing a new generation capacity to satisfy the demand that we foresee due to population growth, industrial development and an improving living standard for residents of the country”, explained Vice President Elias Jaua last Thursday.

Cuban workers from their country’s Electric Union have assisted the Venezuelans in the rehabilitation of the plant, which had been neglected for more than 20 years.

 Read full story here


Colombia: Teacher trade unionist killed as violations continue

Education International has expressed dismay as news emerged that another teacher trade unionist has been killed in Colombia. This latest murder brings to 17 the total number of teachers that have been killed in 2010 alone.

The teacher trade unionist, Fernando Loboa Aragon, from Santander de Quilchao in Cauca province, was killed on 31 July when he was leaving a higher education institution. Another teacher, Elcira Burgos, who was with him at the time, was also wounded.

EI and its member organisation, the Federación Colombiana de Educadores (FECODE), have condemned the murder and reiterated their demand on the government to increase protection for teachers and trade unionists in Colombia.

Read full story here

August 12 2010
Indian Trade unions call for general strike on September 7 
CPI MP Gurudas Dasgupta (right) at a convention of the Joint Committee of Trade Unions in Bangalore on Wednesday.
Communist Party of India MP Gurudas Dasgupta has urged trade union activists to mobilise workers in the State for the general strike, which has been called for September 7 against the “anti-people policies of the Union Government.”
Addressing a workers' convention organised by the Joint Committee of Trade Unions here on Wednesday, Mr. Dasgupta said, “This strike is not about bonus or any wage-related demand, it is about fighting on behalf of the Indian people against the economic policies pursued by the Government.”

Read full story here

August 11 2010
  US -- Venezuela: The Empire Strikes Back (and Loses)
US policy toward Venezuela has taken many tactical turns, but the objective has been the same: to oust President Chavez, reverse the nationalization of big businesses, abolish the mass community and worker based councils and revert the country into a client-state.

Washington funded and politically backed a military coup in 2002, a bosses’ lockout in 2002-03, a referendum and numerous media, political and NGO efforts to undermine the regime. Up to now all of the White House efforts have been a failure – Chavez has repeatedly won free elections, retained the loyalty of the military and the backing of the vast majority of the urban and rural poor, the bulk of the working class and the public sector middle class.

Washington has not given up nor reconciled itself to coming to terms with the elected government of President Chavez. Instead with each defeat of its internal collaborators, the White House has increasingly turned toward an ‘outsider’ strategy, building up a powerful ‘cordon militaire’, surrounding Venezuela with a large-scale military presence spanning Central America, northern South America and the Caribbean. The Obama White House backed a military coup in Honduras, ousting the democratically elected government of President Zelaya (in June 2009), a Chavez ally, and replacing it with a puppet regime supportive of Washington’s anti-Chavez military policies. 
The Pentagon secured seven military bases in eastern Colombia (in 2009) facing the Venezuelan frontier, thanks to its client ruler, Alvaro Uribe, the notorious narco-paramilitary President. In mid 2010 Washington secured an unprecedented agreement with the approval of right wing President Laura Chinchilla of Costa Rica, to station 7000 US combat troops, over 200 helicopters, and dozens of ships pointing toward Venezuela, under the pretext of pursuing narco-traffickers. Currently the US is negotiating with the rightist regime of President Ricardo Martinelli of Panama, the possibility of re-establishing a military base in the former Canal Zone. Together with the Fourth Fleet patrolling off shore, 20,000 troops in Haiti, and an airbase in Aruba, Washington has encircled Venezuela from the West and North, establishing jumping off positions for a direct intervention if the favorable internal circumstances arise.

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August 11 2010 
IDF chief: Future Gaza flotillas will be blocked by Israel's defensive shield

IDF Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi
Future aid flotillas traveling to Gaza to break the naval siege on the territory will be blocked by the Israel Navy's defensive shield, Israel Defense Forces Chief of Staff Gabi Ashkenazi said on Wednesday. 

"If they come, they will be stopped by our defensive shield," Ashkenazi said in his address at the naval graduation ceremony in Haifa. "There is no doubt that you will manage to stop the nearing threats," he told the graduates.

Earlier Wednesday, Ashkenazi testified before an internal probe into Israel's deadly raid on the Gaza-bound aid ship, the Mavi Marmara, saying that the raid quickly became "chaotic," and the soldiers had no choice but to "continue with the plan."

Read full story here

August 11 2010
Huge mass grave uncovered in Colombia 
Human rights NGOs, politicians and local communities used a public audience at the weekend to denounce the existence of a mass grave which is believed to contain as many as 2,000 corpses of victims of extra-judicial executions which date from 2005 onwards. The audience had the participation of an international delegation made up of MPs from the UK, the European parliament, Spain and the US, as well as trade unionists and several highly renowned human rights defenders from both Colombia and abroad. 
On January 26th, Spanish newspaper Publico reported the discovery of the grave of up to 2000 bodies which date back to 2005. The newspaper says that the bodies were buried there by the Colombian army, who have a heavy presence in the area around the site in the town of La Macarena, in Meta department, about 200km south of Bogota. It is one of the biggest mass graves discovered in the history of conflicts in South American. Jairo Ramirez, from the Committee for the Permanent Defence of Human Rights, said, “The army commandant told us that they (the bodies) were guerrillas fallen in combat, but people in the region have told us about the large number of social leaders, campesinos and community defenders who disappeared without a trace”

 Read full story here

August 11 2010

Launch of IPSC "Irish artists' pledge to boycott Israel"


The Ireland Palestine Solidarity Campaign (IPSC) has drawn up the following pledge, signed by over 130 Irish creative and performing artists, whereby they undertake to boycott the Israeli state under present circumstances:
"In response to the call from Palestinian civil society for a cultural boycott of Israel, we pledge not to avail of any invitation to perform or exhibit in Israel, nor to accept any funding from any institution linked to the government of Israel, until such time as Israel complies with international law and universal principles of human rights."
This pledge will be launched in Meeting House Square, Temple Bar, Dublin 2, this Thursday 12th August at 1pm in the presence of a number of the signatories. 
Read full story here

 August 10 2010
The "banality of evil" and Israel's destruction of al-Araqib

 In the early hours of 10 August, Israeli forces destroyed -- for the third time -- the Bedouin village of al-Araqib in the northern Negev desert. Israel had first destroyed the village on 27 July as EI reported, and each time the villagers have attempted to rebuild. Joseph Dana witnessed the latest destruction.

We arrived in the darkness. The horizon was blurred from the desert night sky and all that could be seen was ruin. Piles of concrete, steel reinforcing bars and wood in places where the village once sat. In this maze of construction material there were small makeshift living spaces, barely suitable for the harsh desert climate. Simple tent structures consisting of four wood shafts and a black tarp was the only remains of this village.

We, Israeli and international activists, were invited to sit in these tents through the night and sip coffee in the cool desert night with the villagers. They told us about their livelihood now that the village is constantly facing demolition. Some talked about their military service in the Israeli army and their disbelief that the country they served could behave in such a way as to destroy their entire village. Others expressed hope that at least some Israelis understood the grave nature of their government and were standing arm in arm with them.
Read full story here

August 10 2010
Naomi – the blood diamonds in Ireland aren't "dirty-looking pebbles"
by Sean Clinton

 Both the print and broadcast media have given a lot of coverage to the saga of Naomi Campbell’s encounter with blood diamonds, allegedly given to her by the former Liberian ruler and accused war criminal Charles Taylor. The controversy surrounds what Campbell described as a few “dirty looking pebbles” she received in the middle of the night while attending a dinner party hosted by former South African President, Nelson Mandela.

The diamond industry has tried to convince the world that the trade in blood diamonds was largely eliminated following the introduction of the Kimberley Process system of self-regulation in 2003. However, as evidenced by the recent failure of KP members to ban diamond exports from Zimbabwe where Global Witness has documented gross human rights abuses, the KP is unable and unwilling to prevent vast quantities of diamonds that fund human rights abuses from entering the market. Vested interests ensure that the KP definition of a blood diamond is tightly ring-fenced and only applies to “rough diamonds used by rebels” thereby allowing their blood diamonds to slip under its radar and be sold to unsuspecting consumers as KP-compliant and “conflict free” diamonds.

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August 10 2010
Political Prisoners in America
Noted journalist HL Menchen described "The most dangerous man to any government (as someone) who is able to think things out for himself, without regard to the prevailing superstitions and taboos. Almost inevitably he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane, and intolerable," yet resisting, he faces recrimination - political imprisonment for his beliefs and activism, officials tolerating no opposition to their authority, no matter how extreme or lawless.

In his book "Race to Incarcerate," Marc Mauer focuses on America's obsession with imprisonment, punishment, and the commodification of prisoners to fill beds - harming society's most vulnerable, targeted for supporting ethnic justice, racial emancipation, and political, economic and social equality across gender and color lines, locked away in the "Land of the Free." In submitting a new report to the UN, National conference of Black Lawyers activist/attorney Stan Willis said:

"The United States is very, very concerned when its citizens begin to raise questions in these international forums, because (America) still prefers to posture itself, including the Obama administration, as the leader of the free world and that they don't have any human rights violations, and they certainly don't have any political prisoners, and we have to dispel that notion in the international community."

American officials don't "want to have these issues reach the world's people. How do you go into Iraq (and) Afghanistan telling people about their democracy when (you've got innocent people) locked down in prison for 30 - 40 years as political prisoners....(activists) against social injustice, colonialism, and/or imperialism, (incarcerated for) their political commitments."
Read full story here

August 10 2010

Bangladesh: Government Must Support Decent Minimum Wage  and Cease Harassment of Union Rights Supporters


The ITUC is calling on the Government of Bangladesh to support decent wages and living standards for the country’s workers, particularly in the garments sector, and cease harassment of trade unionists and other worker-rights advocates.
Thousands of workers in the ready-made garments sector, a key industry exporting to countries around the world, protested against a government announcement in July that the minimum wage would only be increased to Taka 3,000 per month instead of the 5,000 proposed by unions, and to delay implementing the increase until November. The ITUC is particularly concerned over arrest warrants issued against leaders of the Bangladesh Center for Workers Solidarity (BCWS), who are currently in hiding. The government had already cancelled the BCWS registration as an ngo in early June, confiscated its property and frozen its bank account. A BCWS staff member was subsequently detained and severely beaten by security police before managing to escape. Factory owners supplying some of the biggest names in global retailing are thought to be behind the repression.
Read full story here

 August 10 2010

Activists charged with blockading Israeli-owned beauty shop acquitted in court

Four activists charged with aggravated trespass for blockading the Israeli-owned cosmetics shop, Ahava, in Covent Garden, London, in 2009, were today acquitted of all charges against them.

The four –Bruce Levy, Tom Ellis, Jo Crouch and Tahir Alam Hussein, all from London – had locked themselves to concrete-filled oil drums inside the shop, closing it down for a day each time in September and December 2009.   

They appeared at Highbury Corner Magistrates Court, London, this week, and were acquitted this afternoon when the primary witness for the prosecution, Ahava’s store manager, refused to attend court to testify, despite courts summons and threats of an arrest warrant. 

Activists have held fortnightly demonstrations outside the Covent Garden store throughout 2010, in protest at its complicity in the occupation of Palestinian territory.

The Ahava factory, which uses mud from the Dead Sea to make beauty products, is based in the illegal Israeli settlement of Mitzpe Shalem in the Palestinian West Bank. It mislabels its products ‘Dead Sea: Israel’.

Sarah Colborne, director of campaigns and operations at the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, which supports the fortnightly protests, said: ‘Ahava is profiting from Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, an occupation which is illegal under international law, while also ensuring the financial survival of the illegal settlement in which it sits.

‘As such, it is the owners of Ahava who should be in court, not just for their role in helping to cement an unlawful occupation, but for violating the Fourth Geneva Convention by exploiting the natural resources of an occupied territory for profit.’

Ms Colborne added: ‘We call on all people of conscience to join a mass protest outside Ahava this Saturday to show that no court action will deter us from highlighting Ahava’s abuses of international law.’

Ahava has been the subject of worldwide protests, including in the United States, Holland and within Israel itself.

Photocall: Saturday 14 August 2010
      Demonstration outside Ahava, 39 Monmouth Street, Covent Garden,      
      London, WC2H 9DD

For more information on the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC) click here

August 10 2010
Foundation says hundreds of tombstones disinterred

Israeli bulldozers entered the Mamilla (Ma'man Allah) cemetery in West Jerusalem on Monday night, and began taking down headstones from Muslim graves, a statement from the Jerusalem-based Al-Aqsa Foundation for Waqf and Heritage said.

The destruction of graves was the third in just over a week, with Israeli officials telling Ma'an that initially, graves were destroyed because they were "built illegally with the aim to take over the plot."

Read full story here

August 10 2010

The Quiet Revolution: Venezuelans Experiment with Participatory Democracy


Communal Council Assembly in Santa Rosa
Selling goods to passersby on the street, Jenny Caraballo describes her local communal council. “Some of our members are homemakers who want their community to be pretty,” Caraballo says while trying to make eye contact with potential clients in 23 de Enero, a barrio popular that is one of many rough areas in Caracas, Venezuela.

The balmy weather southwest of Caracas, in the state of Táchira, does not stop Pedro Hernandez, 77, from playing chess with his retired friends in San Crist—bal’s city square. “Before, the government didn’t help the people,” he says. “Now they give us benefits. “Now there is culture, dance and programs free to the public and organized by our communal council.” Hernandez does his part by organizing chess tournaments.

And in the picturesque mountain town of Merida, Alidio Sosa says: “The councils are a symbol of how the old parties are dead and won’t ever come back—the parties of the past never concerned themselves with the community.”

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August 10 2010

Strikers face legal obstacles

Cambodian Labour Confederation President Ath Thun said yesterday that more than 50,000 garment workers had thumbprinted statements in favour of a strike to protest against the industry’s new minimum wage. A government official, meanwhile, said unauthorised strikes would be met with legal action.

A decision last month by the Labour Advisory Committee, a body of government officials and industry representatives, set the minimum wage for garment workers at US$61 per month. This ruling increased the previous minimum wage, established in 2006, by $5.

“If they do not give us the chance to hold new negotiations, we will still hold the strike,” Ath Thun said. “It is not my decision – it is the decision of the workers, so I will follow them.”

Anthony Pa, a member of the Council of Jurists at the Council of Ministers, warned that the government would consider bringing lawsuits and criminal charges against any who engage in unlawful demonstrations.

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August 9 2010

Press Censorship: How the Truth Was Hidden About Nagasaki 


Nagasaki, which lost over 70,000 civilians (and a few military personnel) to a new weapon sixty-five years ago today, has always been The Forgotten A-Bomb City. No one ever wrote a bestselling book called Nagasaki, or made a film titled Nagasaki, Mon Amour. Yet in some ways, Nagasaki is the modern A-bomb city. For one thing, when the plutonium bomb exploded above Nagasaki it made the uranium-type bomb dropped on Hiroshima obsolete. In fact, if it had not exploded off-target the death toll in the city would have easily topped the Hiroshima total.

Hiroshima has always drawn the vast majority of press, public and historical interest, even though many who support the first atomic bombing have expressed severe misgivings about number two because of the failure of United States to give the Japanese at least a few more days to consider surrender after the first blast (and the Soviets' declaration of war). Kurt Vonnegut Jr. once said in an interview that the "nastiest act by this country, after human slavery, was the bombing of Nagasaki."
But Nagasaki was "forgotten" from the very start, thanks to a blatant act of press censorship.

Read full story here

August 9 2010

The US tank crew wanted for murder

The Spanish government wants a three-man US army tank crew to stand trial for the death of cameraman Jose Couso in Baghdad in 2003. 

High Court judge Santiago Pedraz has issued three international arrest warrants for the soldiers after they fired at the Telecinco employee, fatally wounding him.

The judge is confident that Barack Obama's administration will want to co-operate with the investigation. But while Washington is quick to criticise other nations' non-compliance with what it deems justice, it has no enthusiasm for handing over its citizens to be subject to foreign justice systems - just ask the people of Bhopal. 

Read full story here

August 9 2010
The Suffering of Fallujah

And so it turns out that there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, though not until we arrived and started using them. 

Along with whatever else we did to Fallujah exacted collective punishment on a defiant city (a war crime) in November 2004, killed thousands of civilians, shattered the infrastructure (nearly six years later, the sewage system hasn't been repaired and waste flows in the streets) -- we also, apparently, nuked the city, leaving a legacy of cancer, leukemia, infant mortality and genetic abnormality. 

Freedom isn't free. Remember when that was the go-to phrase of the citizen war zealots among us, their all-purpose rebuttal when those of us appalled by this insane war cited civilian casualty stats? Discussion over. Thought stops here.

 Read full story here

August 9 2010

The Big Lie: Venezuela and Labor

The biggest obstacle to the attempt first by the Bush Administration, and now by the Obama Administration, to achieve passage of the long-stalled Free Trade Agreement with Colombia is that country’s long-standing shameful reality as “the most dangerous country in the world for trade unionists,” to use the words of the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC), the largest union confederation in the world, representing 176 million workers in 156 countries and territories.

Since 1986, over 2800 unionists have been assassinated in Colombia. The clear and ever-present danger to organized labor in Colombia is the most salient and undeniable fact about the U.S.’s favorite nation in the region.

Read full story here

August 9 2010
Farmers reclaim land from settlement

Aided by the Palestinian Agricultural Relief Committee, farmers from a southern West Bank village have reclaimed lands inside an illegal Israeli settlement.

Imad Ash-Shaer, 42, from Husan village, said he gave up hope 10 years ago that he would be able to farm his land, annexed by an Israeli military base at the entrance to Betar Illit settlement.

Read full story here

August 9 2010
Guantanamo detainee set to be tried 

Omar Khadr, a Canadian captured as a teenager by US troops in Afghanistan, is set to go on trial at the US military base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The hearing this week will be the first of a Guantanamo detainee before a military tribunal under Barack Obama, the US president.

US forces captured Khadr in Afghanistan in July 2002, when he was just 15 years old.

"Omar Khadr could potentially be the first child soldier to be prosecuted for war crimes in modern history," Al Jazeera's Monica Villamizar said, reporting from Guantanamo Bay.

Read full story here

August 9 2010
Contract Workers Killed at Colombia’s Cerrejón Mine, Renewing Cry for Unionisation
A deadly accident killed four maintenance workers at the Carbones del Cerrejón mine complex in La Guajira department, north-eastern Colombia, on Wednesday, 4 August. The ICEM affiliated trade union at the mine, Sintracarbón, represents 3,500 direct employed workers, and has been fighting to organise many of the 4,000 outsourced at Cerrejón, Latin America’s largest coal mine.

As prior ICEM reports indicated, organising efforts were countered with harassment and persecution by contractors, while Carbones del Cerrejón management refused to intervene.

Read full story here

August 9 2010

Palestinians rally against Gaza buffer zone
The Popular Resistance Campaign marched toward Israel's no-go zone Monday in Khan Younis, southern Gaza, in protest over land confiscation and prohibited access to farm land.

The march began at the Absan Al-Jadeda village east of Khan Younis toward to the zone, with protesters waving Palestinian flags and banners denouncing Israel's ban on access to the area that it considers a live combat zone.

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August 8 2010

Jailed Fatah Leader Marwan Barghouthi:  Talks Harm Palestinians
Charismatic imprisoned Fatah leader Marwan Barghouthi said this week that the Palestinian Authority's negotiations with Israel are counterproductive and unlikely to yield an agreement.
Barghouthi, who is considered one of Fatah's most credible and popular leaders, has been in an Israeli prison since 2002 for allegedly arranging attacks on Israelis.
Read full story here

August 8 2010

Vanunu released after 3 months

Mordechai Vanunu, the man who spent 18 years in jail after being convicted of treason and espionage was released from Ayalon Prison in Ramle Sunday after serving a further three months.

Upon his release, Vanunu stated that he held no nuclear secrets and maintained that the Israeli government should leave him alone.

Read full story here

August 8 2010

Dublin - Solidarity With Sheikh Jarrah Protest 
On Sunday 8th of August, on a sunny day in Dublin, around 30 members and supporters of the Ireland-Palestine Solidarity Campaign gathered at the Spire on O'Connell Street to take part in the international day of solidarity with the people of Sheikh Jarrah. 

Read full story & watch video footage here

August 8 2010
Reporters stage Mexico protest 

More than 1,000 Mexican journalists have marched through the country's capital to protest the killing and disappearance of their colleagues amid escalating drug violence that is increasingly targeting reporters.

Carrying signs reading "Not one more!", they demanded protection on Saturday to do their work in a country international media groups say is one of the most dangerous for practising journalism.

"We're a little late - 64 killings late - but we've finally decided to practice our right to protest, to seek justice for our colleagues who have died or disappeared and to end the impunity for crimes against journalists," Elia Baltazar, a protest organiser and co-editor of the local newspaper Excelsior, told the Associated Press.

Read full story here

August 8 2010

Displacing the Bedouin 


Twice last week employees of the Israel Lands Administration, with the help of a large police contingent, demolished the homes of around 300 residents in the unrecognized Bedouin village of Al-Arakib in the Negev. Most of them, citizens of the State of Israel, including many children, were left not only without homes, but humiliated, frustrated and shocked. Both times the police were brutal, and neither time did the state offer an alternative, compensation or assistance, either material or psychological, for the people whose village was demolished and world was destroyed. That's how a country treats its citizens. 
Read full story here


August 8 2010
Cuba's Castro addresses parliament 
Fidel Castro, the former president of Cuba, has addressed the national assembly for the first time since stepping down as leader.
The ailing Castro, who remains head of the Communist Party, last made an official government appearance four years ago, before falling seriously ill and having to hand over the presidency to his brother Raul Castro

Read full story here

August 7 2010
Israeli Troops Suppress Anti Wall Protests In The West Bank 
On Friday anti wall protests were reported in the villages on Bil’in and Nil’in, central West Bank, also in the village of Artas in southern west Bank.
The villagers of Ni'lin near Ramallah in the West Bank organized their weekly nonviolent protest Friday at noon.

This week's activity was dedicated to commemorate the death of Yousef 'Amira who was killed by Israeli troops in 2008 during a nonviolent protest in the village.

Read full story here

August 7 2010

FARC attack Pan - American Highway

Alleged guerrillas of the FARC bombed the Pan-American highway between the southern Colombian cities of Cali and Popayan on Saturday.

Read full story here

August 6 2010

Uribe's appointment to flotilla probe guarantees its failure
José Antonio Gutiérrez and David Landy, The Electronic Intifada, 6 August 2010 

Colombian President Álvaro Uribe Vélez
At the beginning of this month the Israeli government announced it would cooperate with one out of two international UN-sponsored investigation commissions into the 31 May Gaza Freedom Flotilla massacre, a move which UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon claimed was "unprecedented." However, the details of this commission and who will take part in it -- particularly the notorious outgoing president of Colombia, Álvaro Uribe Vélez -- cast doubt over its impartiality.

Read full story here

August 6 2010
Hiroshima anniversary remembered by activists

The atomic bombing of Hiroshima is being remembered in Oak Ridge, the once secret city that fueled that first nuclear weapon used in war.  Today marks the 63rd anniversary of the destruction of the Japanese city, a pivotal event that helped end World War II.

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August 6 2010 
Choice of “investigators” into Flotilla massacre controversial, say Palestinian and Latin American rights groups 
MV Mavi Marmara

Palestinian and Latin American rights campaigners in Ireland have reacted strongly to the appointment of outgoing Colombian President Alvaro Uribe Velez to one of two United Nations commissions set up to inquire into the Mavi Marmara massacre on May 31 in international waters while they approached the besieged Gaza Strip. 

Read full story here

August 5 2010

Tony Blair Must Be Prosecuted 
by John Pilger

Tony Blair must be prosecuted, not indulged like his mentor Peter Mandelson. Both have produced self-serving memoirs for which they have been paid fortunes. Blair’s will appear next month and earn him £4.6 million. Now consider Britain’s Proceeds of Crime Act. Blair conspired in and executed an unprovoked war of aggression against a defenseless country, which the Nuremberg judges in 1946 described as the "paramount war crime." This has caused, according to scholarly studies, the deaths of more than a million people, a figure that exceeds the Fordham University estimate of deaths in the Rwandan genocide.  

Read full story here

August 5 2010

US Interference in Venezuela Keeps Growing

Despite President Obama’s promise to President Chavez that his administration wouldn’t interfere in Venezuela’s internal affairs, the US-funded National Endowment for Democracy (NED) is channeling millions into anti-Chavez groups.

Foreign intervention is not only executed through military force. The funding of “civil society” groups and media outlets to promote political agendas and influence the “hearts and minds” of the people is one of the more widely used mechanisms by the US government to achieve its strategic objetives.

Read full story here

August 5 2010

Israel destroys Bedouin village, again
Bedouin in al-Araqib attempt to rebuild their village days after it was destroyed by Israeli forces, 31 July 2010
Bulldozers returned to the village of al-Araqib in the northern Negev on Wednesday, 4 August, and demolished approximately ten new structures residents and supporters had built a week after Israeli forces completely destroyed the village on 27 July.

Hundreds of Bedouin Palestinians, who hold Israeli citizenship, were made homeless last week after Israeli police, supported by bulldozers, helicopters and busloads of cheering Israeli civilians, razed the entire village to the ground. Investigative journalist Max Blumenthal revealed that not only were Israeli civilians brought in busloads to inspirit the destruction of al-Araqib on 27 July, but Israeli youth were employed by a private security outsourcing firm to physically assist in the ethnic cleansing project itself ("A Tale of Two Summer Camps and One Dark Future, 3 August 2010).

Read full story here

August 4 2010 

Miami Five prisoner released from 'hole'

Gerardo Hernandez

US authorities bowed to international pressure on Tuesday night and released Miami Five prisoner Gerardo Hernandez from his 3ft by 7 ft punishment cell. Mr Hernandez has now been returned to the general prison population at the Victorville high security jail in California.
Read full story here