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European MPs and Ministers Assess Gaza Today


European MPs and Ministers Assess Gaza Today
By Stephen Lendman

During a recent visit, a 50-person European Campaign to End the Siege of Gaza (ECESG) assessed conditions on the ground firsthand, one year after Operation Cast Lead:

"to collect and document the facts, and then return to our respective countries and the European Parliament to push for actions that will bring immediate humanitarian relief and an end to the siege, as well as peace and justice to the Palestinian people," what they've long been denied under a repressive occupation.

ECESG calls itself:

"an umbrella body of non-governmental organizations across Europe that advocates (for) the fundamental right of the Palestinian people in Gaza to live in peace and dignity without being subjected to any form of collective punishment....ECESG supports the restoration of (Gazans') inalienable rights....and lobbies for pressure to be exerted on (Israel) to lift its siege and end the human tragedy there."

Meetings were held with Palestinian Legislative Council members, Prime Minister Ismail Haniya, and UNRWA Director of Operations, John Ging.

Areas toured were most affected, including Izbet Abet Rabu, the Al-Fakhoura School, and the Al-Salam neighborhood. Delegates also met with Al-Samouni family survivors who lost 23 members during the war.

They saw firsthand what human rights and various international organizations documented, including the UN Human Rights Council (HRC) Goldstone Commission's damning indictment of Israeli crimes of war and against humanity after its extensive 2009 fact finding mission.

The combination of destructive war, siege, and humanitarian crisis has been well reported. Nonetheless, ECESG's report is important because it's current and by 50 European parliamentarians and ministers, able to reach other high level officials at home, perhaps with enough clout for action - if not now, toward it happening sooner.

Kucinich: UK Elections Inspiration for Democracy


Kucinich: UK Elections Inspiration for Democracy | Press Release

Washington D.C. (April 26, 2010) – Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH) today made the following statement concerning the televised election debates in the United Kingdom:

“Just a few months ago the people of the UK seemed to have little enthusiasm for politics. Suddenly that’s changed.

“The UK has already had two serious and exciting debates that have engaged the public. Brits are now more aware of a real range of options as evidenced by reports of a last minute rush of voters registering.

“I will be watching the third debate with great interest, and take this opportunity to thank the UK for showing us how democracy is about real choice. It excites me that when people are given true alternatives more voters will participate,” said Kucinich.

Leading U.S. Rights Group Seeks to Intervene in Spanish Court’s Investigations into Bush Administration’s Torture Program


Leading U.S. Rights Group Seeks to Intervene in Spanish Court’s Investigations into Bush Administration’s Torture Program | Press Release

Madrid, April 27, 2010 – Today, the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed a motion with Spain’s national court (Audencia Nacional) seeking to intervene as a party (Acusación Popular) in the criminal investigation currently pending in Spain into the torture program conducted by the United States during the Bush Administration. Initiated in April of 2009 by Judge Baltasar Garzón, the investigation focuses on the torture and abuse of four former Guantánamo detainees, Hamed Abderrahman Ahmed, Ikassrien Lahcen, Jamiel Abdul Latif Al Banna and Omar Deghaye, each with strong ties to Spain. The investigation will examine what Judge Garzón described as “an approved systematic plan of torture and ill-treatment” and thus can encompass the torture that took place in Iraq, Afghanistan and U.S. run black sites around the world. Mr. Ahmed is a Spanish citizen and Mr. Ikassrien had been a Spanish resident for more than 13 years.

CCR has led the legal battle over Guantanamo and has represented plaintiffs who have been subjected to every facet of the United States’ torture program, from Guantánamo detainees to Abu Ghraib torture survivors, and victims of extraordinary rendition and CIA ghost detention. CCR has represented former detainees in U.S. federal courts in habeas corpus proceedings and civil actions, seeking habeas relief, injunctions or damages. It bases its motion to intervene on vast experience working on these issues on behalf of its clients

“For eight long years we have fought to redress the brutal, inhumane and illegal acts perpetrated against our clients but have been blocked at every turn by both the Bush and Obama administrations,” said CCR President Michael Ratner, who filed the first habeas corpus petition brought on behalf of a Guantanamo detainee in 2002. “We come to Spain in pursuit of nothing less than justice, which, sadly, is not available in the United States.”

CCR staff attorney and lead counsel in the action, Katherine Gallagher, added: “The purpose of the intervention is multi-fold: to pursue justice and accountability for egregious international law violations in a forum that is willing to exercise jurisdiction over the case, and to press the message that no one is above the law and that impunity cannot stand, even if the U.S. is unwilling to prosecute the crimes.”

"Fabricating Terrorism:" Victims of UK Injustice


"Fabricating Terrorism:" Victims of UK Injustice
By Stephen Lendman

Launched in October 2003, Cageprisoners is a human rights organization dedicated to raising the "awareness of the plight of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay" and other War on Terror victims. As a "comprehensive resource," six words explain its mission: "education, campaign, support, motivation, co-operation (and) prevention" for its efforts to educate the public, campaign for Guantanamo and other detainee repatriations or their asylum, and have prisoner rights guaranteed under international law, including humane treatment not to be:

  • tortured;
  • indefinitely detained;
  • disappeared; or
  • denied proper legal representation, due process, judicial fairness, and access to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), medical personnel and families.

In April 2009, its report titled, "Fabricating Terrorism II: British Complicity in renditions and torture" followed its same-titled 2006 report. Part I covered 13 cases with evidence based on detainee testimonies, interviews with security service officials, and other research.

Part II updated it (including 16 other cases - 29 in all), focusing on Britain's claim to be a human rights leader. Stating it ratified the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT) in 2003, its practices belie its commitment.

Prior to 9/11, Britain became complicit in America's War on Terror, and the worst of its crimes, including renouncing the rule of law, due process, and judicial fairness in persecuting innocent people, subjecting them to barbaric torture, other abuses, and long internments.

Muslims were targets of choice for their faith, ethnicity, prominence, activism, and at times charity. They've been singled out, hunted down, rounded up, held in detention, kept in isolation, denied bail, restricted in their right to counsel, tried on secret evidence and bogus charges, convicted in sham proceedings, then incarcerated as political prisoners for practicing Islam at the wrong time in America and Britain.

Targets were kidnapped, illegally detained, then extrajudicially disappeared to black sites, called extraordinary or irregular rendition, or the practice of forcibly transferring someone from one nation to another. The term is undefined in law.

Nuclear Weapons And Interceptor Missiles: Twin Pillars Of U.S.-NATO Military Strategy In Europe

Nuclear Weapons And Interceptor Missiles: Twin Pillars Of U.S.-NATO Military Strategy In Europe
Rick Rozoff Stop NATO | Blog site | April 23, 2010

The two-day NATO foreign ministers meeting in the Estonian capital of Tallinn on April 22-23 focused on the completion of the military alliance's first 21st century Strategic Concept and on the war in Afghanistan, the near-complete absorption of the Balkans into the bloc, and the expansion of operations at the Cooperative Cyber Defense Center of Excellence established by NATO two years ago in the same city.

The most important deliberations, however, were on the integrally related questions of U.S. nuclear weapons stored on air bases in five NATO member states and the expansion of the Pentagon's interceptor missile program to all of Europe west of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine.

Discussions on the role of nuclear arms in Europe a generation after the end of the Cold War are in line with the Nuclear Posture Review released last month by the U.S. Department of Defense. NATO has never been known to deviate from American precedents and expectations. Its role is to accommodate and complement Pentagon initiatives. A nation like the Netherlands or Poland proposes, Washington disposes.

While speaking at a press conference in the ministerial meeting's host city, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen directly tied together the retention of U.S. nuclear arms in Europe and NATO's cooperation with its dominant member on a continent-wide interceptor missile system:

"NATO’s core business, its raison-d’etre, is to protect our territory and our populations....And in a world where nuclear weapons actually exist, NATO needs a credible, effective, and safely managed deterrent.

Center for American Progress Backs Progressive Third Party

From ThinkProgress.org

With national elections approaching on May 6, the United Kingdom hosted its first-ever prime ministerial TV debate last week, featuring Prime Minister Gordon Brown of the Labour Party, David Cameron of the Conservative Party, and Nick Clegg of the Liberal Democrats. Heading into the debate, the election was "considered too close to call" and "likely to be a two-horse race between Labour and the Conservatives." But Clegg, who offered himself "up as the fresh and honest alternative to two tired old parties," was the clear winner in the post-debate polls, instantly altering the dynamics of the race. Clegg's debate performance and the subsequent surge in the polls for the Liberal Democrats has led some observers to compare him to President Obama and his rise in the 2008 campaign. The three leaders engaged in a second debate yesterday, in which Cameron and Brown both engaged Clegg more aggressively in an effort to stop what some have dubbed "Cleggmania." Though the Liberal Democrats are often labeled the "centrist party" in Britain, much of Clegg's surge has been attributed to his steadfast advocacy for progressive policy positions.

What the Doomsayers Haven't Been Telling You about Greece

By Steven Hill

The recent battle over health care reform in the United States, in which the Obama administration was barely able to pass weak reform, is just further proof of how far the U.S. has fallen behind Europe. Yet all the media has been able to obsess over for the last couple of months is -- THE GREEK DEBT CRISIS!

By now of course everyone knows that Greece is in really tough shape, right? Practically at the cliff's edge, ready to collapse? All the gloom and doomers like Simon Johnson and others have been telling us this for two months, not only in the mainstream media but on Huffington Post and other progressive media outlets. So it must be true. But before we pronounce it so, let's take a quick pop quiz:

* Which country has less inequality, Greece or the United States?
* Which country has lower rates of infant mortality, Greece or the United States?

NATO: Pentagon's Gateway Into Former Warsaw Pact, Soviet Nations

NATO: Pentagon's Gateway Into Former Warsaw Pact, Soviet Nations
Rick Rozoff | Stop NATO | Blog site

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization was founded in April of 1949 by a country not on the European continent, the United States, and eleven subordinates which had fought on both sides of the World War that had ended four years earlier: Belgium, Britain, Canada, Denmark, France, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway and Portugal. Greece and Turkey were added in 1952 after their service in the Korean War and West Germany joined in 1955.

Five days after the inclusion of the Federal Republic of Germany on May 9, in contravention of the 1945 Potsdam Agreement between Britain, the U.S. and the Soviet Union which explicitly demanded and meticulously detailed plans for the demilitarization of Germany, the Soviet Union established the Warsaw Treaty Organization (Warsaw Pact) in response. Fellow members were Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), Hungary, Poland and Romania. Albania formally withdrew in 1968, though it had not been a participating member since the early 1960s, and Romania had been a member in name only for at least twenty years before the pact's formal disbandment.

With the accession of Spain into the "military alliance of democratic states in Europe and North America" in 1982 the U.S.-led military bloc grew from its original 12 to 16 members. By that time the Warsaw Pact had shrunk from eight to seven members and some of the remaining ones were only selectively involved.

NATO had regularly conducted large-scale military exercises in alleged defense of Norway, Denmark and other members, but never deployed forces or conducted operations outside member states' territories, counting on the thousands of American nuclear warheads in European NATO states to respond to the Warsaw Pact's conventional military superiority in the event of armed confrontation. [1]

Military forces from the Warsaw Pact intervened in Czechoslovakia in 1968 and in the early 1980s it appeared they might do so again in Poland, and the Soviet Union sent troops to Hungary in 1956 after Prime Minister Imre Nagy withdrew his nation from the Warsaw Pact.

The Soviet Union's justification for those actions was that nations in Eastern Europe gravitating toward the West could be transformed into sites from which NATO, and especially its dominant member the U.S., would present a military threat on or near its borders.

Sciatica

By Michael Schwartz

Here is my account of my encounter with the British National Health Service while in London, and suffering from Sciatica:

With excruciating pain that left me in no position to sleep comfortably, I was forced to faced the nightmare of socialized medicine. With the detailed forewarnings supplied by Sarah Palin and Fox News, I girded my loins, enlisted the life-risking aid of my girlfriend Carol, and ventured into the labyrinthine bureaucracy of state controlled health care.

Happy Tax Day: Are Americans Getting Our Money's Worth?


Happy Tax Day: Are Americans getting our money's worth?
By Steven Hill

Most Americans seem to regard April 15 -- the day income tax returns are due to the Internal Revenue Service -- as a recurring tragedy akin to a Biblical plague. Particularly this year, with US government deficits soaring, everyone from the teabaggers to Fox News and Senate Republicans are sounding the alarm about a return to "big government." Recently former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani even stated that President Obama was moving us towards -- gasp -- European socialism.

Europe frequently plays the punching bag role during these moments because there is a perception that the poor Europeans are overtaxed serfs. But a closer look reveals that this is a myth that prevents Americans from understanding the vast shortcomings of our own system.

A few years ago, an American acquaintance of mine who lives in Sweden told me that, quite by chance, he and his Swedish wife were in New York City and ended up sharing a limousine to the theater district with a southern U.S. Senator and his wife. This senator, a conservative, anti-tax Democrat, asked my acquaintance about Sweden and swaggeringly commented about "all those taxes the Swedes pay." To which this American replied, "The problem with Americans and their taxes is that we get nothing for them." He then went on to tell the senator about the comprehensive level of services and benefits that Swedes receive.

"If Americans knew what Swedes receive for their taxes, we would probably riot," he told the senator. The rest of the ride to the theater district was unsurprisingly quiet.

The fact is, in return for their taxes, Europeans are receiving a generous support system for families and individuals for which Americans must pay exorbitantly, out-of-pocket, if we are to receive it at all. That includes quality health care for every single person, the average cost of which is about half of what Americans pay, even as various studies show that Europeans achieve healthier results.

Sauk Centre Veteran Recalls Nightmarish Scene He Witnessed During World War II

Sauk Centre veteran recalls nightmarish scene he witnessed during World War II
By David Unze | Sauk Centre Times

Excerpts:

  • Motzko and his brother Jerry joined the Long Prairie National Guard in 1940, and in February 1941 they left Clarissa for California. Ed was sent overseas in September 1944 as a member of the 102nd Infantry Division of the 9th U.S. Army. They started in the Netherlands, and by April 1945 they were marching through German land on their way to the Elbe River to meet the Russians.

  • The Gardelegen prisoners were forced to march 600 miles in 20 days as the Russians chased their Nazi captors. There was little food and little sympathy for anyone who tired, or got injured. “They were starved, and the bulk of them died,” Motzko said. “The ones that didn’t die, they killed. It was torture, torture, torture,,,

  • More than 1,000 prisoners died at Gardelegen when the Nazis herded them inside a barn filled with gasoline-soaked straw and lit a match. Motzko, 89, was part of the effort to rescue the few survivors and nurse them back to health. And as the world today recognizes Holocaust Remembrance Day, Motzko continues to share his story with the hope that the world will take notice and prevent future genocides..
  • He has shared that story with author Michael Hirsh in a new book called “The Liberators: America’s Witnesses to the Holocaust.” Read more.

Debt Burden Weighs On Developed Nations

Debt burden weighs on developed nations
By Howard Schneider and Anthony Faiola | Washington Post

Excerpts:

  • Economists at the International Monetary Fund project that the amount of government debt held in the world's advanced economies will soon be so great that it surpasses the value of what they produce in a year.
  • In the United States, where the federal government's debt has reached 84 percent of GDP, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben S. Bernanke spelled out the risks in a speech this week calling for restraint of public spending on entitlement programs.
  • But the same discourse is being heard across the world's mature economies, and IMF officials have begun to spell out the options -- tax hikes that might amount to as much as 3 percent of total economic output, a cap on increases in health and retirement benefits, and restrictions on spending on all other government programs.
  • Economists disagree on the level at which government debt becomes a problem. Even the amounts currently forecast -- an average of 118 percent of GDP among the world's top developed economies by 2014 -- might be sustained if countries were willing to pay the price of high interest costs and slower growth. Some see 90 percent of GDP as a point at which government debt begins to influence growth.  Read more.

UK Conservatives May Reopen Probe Into Iraq War Whistleblower’s Death

UK Conservatives may reopen probe into Iraq war whistleblower’s death
By Daniel Tencer | Raw Story

The death of a whistle-blower who said the UK government had "sexed up" a dossier on Saddam Hussein's military capabilities in order to sell the Iraq war has been one of the most intriguing and confusing elements of the war's history.

Now the UK's Conservative Party is signaling that it plans to reopen the inquiry into the death of Dr. David Kelly if it wins the next election. The move could potentially harm the ruling Labour Party, which championed the Iraq war effort and is now trailing in the polls for this spring's election.

On Sunday, Dominic Grieve, the Conservative Party's "shadow" justice minister, said members of the public "have not been reassured" that Kelly's death was a suicide, and if his government wins the election, he would want to reopen the case, reports the UK's Daily Mail.

Kelly, a weapons expert with Britain's Ministry of Defence, was found dead in a forest near his home in Oxfordshire in 2003, shortly after he gave an interview to the BBC in which he said that the British government was lying about its claim that Saddam Hussein could launch biological and chemical weapons within 45 minutes of giving the order.

Kelly's death sparked suspicions that he may have been killed for undermining the government of then-Prime Minister Tony Blair as the British leader stood with US President George W. Bush in pushing for an invasion of Iraq. Read more.

Grand Iraqi Dreams - for Whom?

Grand Iraqi Dreams - for Whom?
By Nick Mottern | Truthout

The Joint Operating Environment 2010 report, of the US Joint Forces Command, released March 15, 2010, expressed this view:

The economic importance of the Middle East with its energy supplies hardly needs emphasis. Whatever the outcome of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. forces will find themselves again employed in the region on numerous missions ranging from regular warfare, counterinsurgency, stability operations, relief and reconstruction, to engagement operations. The region and its energy supplies are too important for the U.S., China, and other energy importers to allow radical groups to gain dominance or control over any significant portion of the region.

Engineers of Technital SpA, the Italian firm that designed the system to save Venice from flooding, are working on the future of Iraq as embodied in their plan for the "New Al Faw Grand Port" at the southern tip of Iraq, a $6 billion major deep-water port on the Persian Gulf that will be the largest in the Gulf.

At the same time, officials of Deutsche Bahn, the German railway system, are hoping to work with the Iraqi government on a rail system that would link Al Faw to Europe. It is possible that the system might carry crude oil and petroleum products as well as dry freight to the West to augment existing pipelines and avoid ocean shipment through choke points such as the Straits of Hormuz, the Bab el-Mandab and the Suez Canal.

These plans point to a dramatically different Iraq from the emotionally, culturally and economically drained nation that it is today, horribly wounded by the US-led 2003 invasion. The Iraq of the planners will earn billions from its oil reserves, the third largest in the world, and it will attract billions from investors seeking to capitalize on its economically strategic location at the top of the Persian Gulf. Read more.

British Military Intelligence 'Ran Renegade Torture Unit In Iraq'

British military intelligence 'ran renegade torture unit in Iraq'
Secret operation 'reporting only to London' deprived prisoners of sleep, documents show
By Andrew Johnson | Independent.co.UK

Fresh evidence has emerged that British military intelligence ran a secret operation in Iraq which authorised degrading and unlawful treatment of prisoners. Documents reveal that prisoners were kept hooded for long periods in intense heat and deprived of sleep by defence intelligence officers. They also reveal that officers running the operation claimed to be answerable only "directly to London".

The revelations will further embarrass the British government, which last month was forced to release documents showing it knew that UK resident and terror suspect Binyam Mohamed had been tortured in Pakistan.

The latest documents emerged during the inquiry into Baha Mousa, an Iraqi hotel worker beaten to death while in the custody of British troops in September 2003. The inquiry is looking into how interrogation techniques banned by the Government in 1972 and considered torture and degrading treatment were used again in Iraq.

Lawyers believe the new evidence supports suspicions that an intelligence unit – the Joint Forward Interrogation Team (JFIT) which operated in Iraq – used illegal "coercive techniques" and was not answerable to military commanders in Iraq, despite official denials it operated independently. Read more.

Don't They Know There's A War On

From the Stop The War Coalition:

DON'T THEY KNOW THERE'S A WAR ON?

The main political parties in the coming general election don't want to mention the war in Afghanistan. They all support it, but they know it is opposed by the majority of the electorate, who want all the British troops withdrawn.

The Afghan war has led to the deaths of 280 British soldiers and an estimated 30,000 Afghans. As the death toll and the levels of expenditure rise, the politicians' silence is matched by a consensus between the three main parties over proposed savage cuts in public services.

This year the government will spend £3.8 billion on the war in Afghanistan, almost the same amount it plans to cut from the National Health Service.

We have now had nine years of wars that the British public did not support, and Stop the War is asking its supporters and local groups to take every opportunity to make sure the issue is not ignored by election candidates seeking our votes.

Email office@stopwar.org.uk
Tel: 020 7801 2768
Web: http://stopwar.org.uk
Twitter: http://twitter.com/STWuk

Special Relationship? Why Britain's Affair With the U.S. Is Over

Special Relationship? Why Britain's Affair With the U.S. Is Over
By Catherine Mayer | Information Clearing House

March 29, 2010 "Time" -- If anyone still doubts that George Bush and Tony Blair were the closest of allies, the text of a July 2002 note from the U.K. premier to the U.S. President, revealed in a new book, should dispel any lingering skepticism. "You know, George, whatever you decide to do [about Iraq], I'm with you," Blair assured his friend.

The End of the Party, an account by British political commentator Andrew Rawnsley of how Britain's Labour government came to squander a huge popular mandate to face possible defeat in the forthcoming parliamentary elections, identifies a multiplicity of contributory factors. Blair's unwavering determination to stand "shoulder to shoulder" with a martial U.S. is prominent among them. (See pictures of the Bush-Blair friendship.)

The damage may be permanent. On March 28 an influential cross-party committee of MPs in Britain weighed in on the wider impact of that policy. "The perception that the British Government was a subservient 'poodle' to the U.S. Administration leading up to the period of the invasion of Iraq and its aftermath is widespread both among the British public and overseas," states the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee. "This perception, whatever its relation to reality, is deeply damaging to the reputation and interests of the U.K."

The committee goes further, with a call to jettison the term "special relationship" as ruthlessly as colonists once dumped tea into Boston Harbor. The expression was coined by no less a person than Winston Churchill in 1946 to describe the intricate skeins of mutual interest, cultural heritage and sometimes gloopy sentiment that bind Washington and London. Globalization and "shifts in geopolitical power" mean that both countries are inevitably forming new and deep alliances with other players, and talk of a "special relationship" is increasingly misleading, says the report. "The overuse of the phrase by some politicians and many in the media serves simultaneously to devalue its meaning and to raise unrealistic expectations about the benefits the relationship can deliver to the U.K." (See the top ten most outrageous MP expense claims.) Read more.

The War On WikiLeaks And Why It Matters

The war on WikiLeaks and why it matters
By Glenn Greenwald | Salon

A newly leaked CIA report prepared earlier this month (.pdf) analyzes how the U.S. Government can best manipulate public opinion in Germany and France -- in order to ensure that those countries continue to fight in Afghanistan. The Report celebrates the fact that the governments of those two nations continue to fight the war in defiance of overwhelming public opinion which opposes it -- so much for all the recent veneration of "consent of the governed" -- and it notes that this is possible due to lack of interest among their citizenry: "Public Apathy Enables Leaders to Ignore Voters," proclaims the title of one section.

But the Report also cites the "fall of the Dutch Government over its troop commitment to Afghanistan" and worries that -- particularly if the "bloody summer in Afghanistan" that many predict takes place -- what happened to the Dutch will spread as a result of the "fragility of European support" for the war. As the truly creepy Report title puts it, the CIA's concern is: "Why Counting on Apathy May Not Be Enough": Read more.

CIA 'Suggests' Europe Should Understand Suffering Of Women Under Taliban

CIA 'suggests' Europe should understand suffering of women under Taliban
European Nato governments should emphasise the suffering of women under Taliban rule to counter domestic calls for troop withdrawal a leaked CIA analysis suggests.
By Ben Farmer | Telegraph.co.UK | Submitted by Michael Munk | www.MichaelMunk.com

A steep increase in French and German casualties this summer could trigger public anger at their involvement and calls for a military pull out the document warns.

Paris and Berlin should start a targeted propaganda campaign to "forestall or at least contain" a backlash by stating the benefits of military action.

French voters could be made to feel guilty about abandoning civilians and refugees, while both nations' electorates are reluctant to "disappoint" Barack Obama, it concludes.

Afghan women are "ideal messengers in humanising the [international coalition] role" and should be put in front of European media for their "ability to speak personally and credibly about their experiences under the Taliban, their aspirations for the future, and their fears of a Taliban victory."

The analysis, marked "confidential" and not for release to foreign nationals, comes amid American concern that heavy fighting this summer could prompt a "precipitous" departure of Nato allies. Read more.

UK To Launch $3 Billion Green Investment Bank

UK to launch $3 billion green investment bank
By Matt Falloon | Reuters

The Labour government will unveil a 2 billion pound ($3 billion) "green" investment bank in Wednesday's budget to help Britain's transformation to a low carbon economy, a government source said on Sunday.

Finance minister Alistair Darling has said there will be no pre-election giveaways in the budget, with polling day expected on May 6, but he wants more investment to encourage future sources of economic growth after an 18-month recession.

The green bank, designed to help finance projects such as railways, offshore wind power generation and eco-friendly waste management, will be half-funded from government asset sales with the remaining one billion pounds coming from the private sector.

"The high risk profile of these investments, which are in new and unproven technologies means an initial government investment is needed to draw in investors," the source said.

"By providing an initial investment of government capital it will reduce the risk profile for investors and increase the incentive for the private sector to enter the market at the scale and pace needed." Read more.

Boo! The Scary, Scary Social Security 'Crisis' is Back!

By Dave Lindorff

Get ready kids. It’s time for more scare stories about Social Security.

The New York Times weighed in today with a dire warning that this year, six years ahead of what had been predicted only a few years ago, the Social Security system would be (cue scary music) paying out more in benefits than it takes in from the payroll tax. The reason for this earlier-than-anticipated event is the Great Recession, the paper explained.

Legal Loopholes Allow European Companies To Trade In 'Tools Of Torture'

Legal loopholes allow European companies to trade in 'tools of torture' | Press Release

European companies are participating in the global trade in types of equipment widely used in torture or other ill-treatment, according to evidence presented in a new report by Amnesty International and the Omega Research Foundation.

Fixed wall restraints, metal "thumb-cuffs", and electroshock "sleeves" and "cuffs" that deliver 50,000V shocks to detained prisoners are amongst the "tools of torture" highlighted in the report, From Words to Deeds.

Such activities have continued despite the 2006 introduction of a Europe-wide law banning the international trade of policing and security equipment designed for torture and ill-treatment. Read more.

Blair's fight to keep his oil cash secret

Former PM's deals are revealed as his earnings since 2007 reach £20million
By JASON GROVES

Tony Blair waged an extraordinary two-year battle to keep secret a lucrative deal with a multinational oil giant which has extensive interests in Iraq.

The former Prime Minister tried to keep the public in the dark over his dealings with South Korean oil firm UI Energy Corporation.

Mr Blair - who has made at least £20 million since leaving Downing Street in June 2007 - also went to great efforts to keep hidden a £1 million deal advising the ruling royal family in Iraq's neighbour Kuwait.

In an unprecedented move, he persuaded the committee which vets the jobs of former ministers to keep details of both deals from the public for 20 months, claiming it was commercially sensitive. The deals emerged yesterday when the Advisory Committee on Business Appointments finally lost patience with Mr Blair and decided to ignore his objections and publish the details.

Georgia: Simulating War Or Provoking It?

Georgia: Simulating War Or Provoking It?
Rick Rozoff | Stop NATO | Blog site

On the evening of March 13 Georgia's Imedi television channel ran a 30-minute prime time "simulated" newscast about a Russian invasion of the South Caucasus nation complete with a report that the country's mercurial and (if not megalomaniacal) president - Mikheil Saakashvili - had been assassinated.

The show was aired "by the Imedi TV's weekly program Special Report, which started just a couple of minutes before 8pm - the time when Imedi TV runs its usual news bulletin Kronika." {Unless otherwise indicated, all quotes are from Civil Georgia reports of March 14, 2010.)

The Special Report's regular news anchor, Natia Koberidze, opened the program with the words: "Have you ever thought about the end of Georgian statehood? Probably yes, because we have already seen this threat in the summer of 2008."

The reference was to the five-day war fought between Georgia and Russia after the first launched an all-out assault on neighboring South Ossetia on August 8, killing hundreds of civilians and scores of Russian soldiers stationed there.

Baha Mousa inquiry: Eight or more civilians died in British custody

Legal chief tells of killings and torture in early days of invasion
By Richard Norton-Taylor, guardian.co.uk

Eight or more civilians died in the custody of British troops in the weeks after the invasion of Iraq, despite frequent warnings by the army's most senior legal adviser there about unlawful treatment of detainees, an inquiry has heard.

In devastating evidence to an official inquiry, Lieutenant Colonel Nicholas Mercer described the way Iraqi detainees were intimidated and hooded by British soldiers as "repulsive". He said that 10 days after the invasion in March 2003 he saw 20 or 30 detainees lined up with sandbags on their heads.

READ THE REST.

UK: The Anti-War Majority Ignored By Politicians

THE ANTI-WAR MAJORITY IGNORED BY POLITICIANS

As Seumas Milne reported last week in The Guardian, "the gulf between people and politicians could scarcely be wider" on the issue of the war in Afghanistan.

The British Army is taking casualties at a level not seen since the 1950s, with six British soldiers killed in as many days earlier this month. The United Nations reported recently that Afghan civilian deaths doubled in 2009.

The UK costs of the war are spiralling: the current estimate for 2009/2010 is £3.7 billion, up from £2.5 billion last year.

Two thirds of the British public believe the war is unwinnable and all the troops should be brought home by Christmas.

And yet, despite the imminent general election, as Seumas Milne points out, "the political class seems determined to cling to Nato and its US patron, rather than represent the now settled will of the voters". And it does so supported by much of the media.

In the coming weeks, Stop the War aims to campaign as widely as possible to make the war in Afghanistan a central issue in the election, reflecting the view of the vast majority of electors.

We are encouraging local Stop the War groups to organise debates, meetings, days of action, lobbying of MPs in their constituencies, hustings etc. We need to take every opportunity to raise the profile of the anti-war voice in an election in which all three main political parties are united in supporting the government's war policies.

Rasmussen In Poland: Expeditionary NATO, Missile Shield And Nuclear Weapons

Rasmussen In Poland: Expeditionary NATO, Missile Shield And Nuclear Weapons
Rick Rozoff | Stop NATO | Blog site

"[W]e must develop an effective missile defence. In the coming years, we will probably face many more countries – and possibly even some non-state actors - armed with long-range missiles and nuclear capabilities. Therefore, I believe that NATO’s deterrent posture should include missile defence.

"That’s why deterrence and defence need to go together. And why we have the obligation to look into missile defence options."

The civilian chief of the world's only, and history's first self-proclaimed global, military bloc is having a busy month.

North Atlantic Treaty Organization Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen delivered an address in Washington, DC on February 23 on the military alliance's new 21st century Strategic Concept along with U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, her predecessor twice-removed Madeleine Albright and National Security Adviser James Jones, the last-named a former Marine Corps general and NATO Supreme Allied Commander. [1]

At the seminar and on the preceding evening at Georgetown University in what is arguably NATO's true capital, Rasmussen sounded familiar themes: Highlighting the need to prevail in Afghanistan, NATO's first ground war and first armed conflict outside of Europe. Applauding the work of the bloc's new cyber warfare center in Estonia, ostensibly to protect the comparatively new member state against attacks emanating from Russia. Identifying Iran and North Korea for particular scrutiny.

He also spoke of "deepening our partnerships with countries from across the globe" and affirmed "NATO is a permanent Alliance...." [2]

The bloc's chief announced the creation of "a new division at NATO Headquarters to deal with new threats and challenges." [3]

UK PM Brown Makes Surprise Visit To Afghanistan


UK PM Brown makes surprise visit to Afghanistan | CNN

On the invasion of Iraq itself and the British role in it, Brown said Friday the decision to go to war "was the right decision and it was for the right reasons."

The inquiry, which began last year, is expected to be the most thorough investigation yet into decisions that led up to the war and governed Britain's involvement, analysts have said.

It is not a court of law, so the inquiry cannot find anyone criminally responsible or even apportion blame. But inquiry members will be able to judge the legality of the conflict.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown paid a surprise visit to British troops in Afghanistan on Saturday, his office said.

He went to Camp Bastion, the main British base in Helmand province, as well as a police training college and a British forward operating base, or outpost, according to 10 Downing Street.

Brown's office told news outlets of his visit to Afghanistan while he was in the country but asked that it not be reported until he left. CNN complied with the request. Read more.

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