28 de septiembre de 2009

Oklahoma Bombing Tapes Appear to Be Edited

A new controversy is surfacing over the disclosure of security tapes from the 1995 Oklahoma City bombings that appear to have been edited. A Salt Lake City attorney released the tapes after obtaining them under the Freedom of Information Act. The attorney, Jesse Trentadue, says tapes from four different cameras go blank right before the bombing took place. Trentadue has conducted his own inquiry into the bombings since his brother’s death in an Oklahoma City prison in 1995. Trentadue says his brother was beaten to death after FBI agents mistook him for a bombing suspect. Trentadue has accused the FBI of having prior knowledge of the bomb plot but doing little to prevent it.

US to Open Naval Bases in Panama

The US is reportedly set to announce an agreement to open two naval bases in Panama. The deal would mark the first large-scale US military presence in Panama since the closure of US bases there in 1999.

G-20 Concludes with Vague Pledges on Global Warming, Finance

The G-20 summit wrapped up in Pittsburgh Friday with pledges on a series of global issues. On climate change, world leaders vowed “strong action” but didn’t make specific commitments. The summit also called for a new era of balanced economic growth but didn’t offer much in the way of tangible steps toward that goal. On executive pay, G-20 leaders agreed to a deal that won’t cap bonuses but instead asks companies to stretch them out in deferred compensation. The final summit declaration also endorsed granting more voting rights to “underrepresented” countries at the IMF and World Bank. Around 200 people were arrested during the two-day summit. At one protest, unidentified law enforcement officers were filmed shoving a protester into a car and driving away. The officers were wearing army fatigues, but state officials say they weren’t military. The abducted protester is reportedly still behind bars.

Honduran Coup Regime Imposes Media, Protest Crackdown

The Honduran coup regime has intensified its grip on power in the face of growing pressure for restoring the elected President Manuel Zelaya. On Sunday, coup leaders issued a decree granting themselves broad authority to clamp down on free speech. Under the new rules, the regime can ban protests and suspend media outlets found to have committed “disturbances of the peace.” Meanwhile, the regime also refused entry to a delegation from the Organization of American States that had come to seek a negotiated solution to the crisis. Speaking from his hideout in the Brazilian embassy, Zelaya called for a massive national protest against the coup regime.

Honduran President Manuel Zelaya: “Today is the day in which we call for peaceful resistance, for demonstrations for twenty-four continuous hours. You, my dear Hondurans, can’t lose your rights because someone, or a coup, restricts public liberties, violates human rights, murders and detains.”

Zelaya has remained in the Brazilian embassy since defiantly returning to Honduras one week ago. Coup leaders have now given Brazil a ten-day deadline to hand over Zelaya or face the embassy’s closure. Brazil has rejected the ultimatum and says Zelaya will stay as long as he needs. The coup regime issued the threat as its soldiers continued to surround the embassy and limit the delivery of supplies. On Friday, the UN Security Council passed a resolution condemning the embassy siege.

UN Ambassador Susan Rice: “They condemned acts of intimidation against the Brazilian embassy and called upon the de facto government of Honduras to cease harassing the Brazilian embassy and to provide all necessary utilities and services, including water, electricity, food and continuity of communications.”

Zelaya supporters have continued to rally despite the government crackdown. On Saturday, hundreds marched in the capital demanding the coup regime’s ouster.

Protester: “There is an excitement in our people with hope that soon we will be able to reinstate constitutional order in the country. The people are constantly, permanently and positively mobilized, and, of course, peacefully.”

24 de septiembre de 2009

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Obama Won’t Seek New Indefinite Detention Authority

The Obama administration has announced it won’t ask Congress for new powers to jail terror suspects indefinitely and without charge. The White House will instead continue to use the indefinite-detention system established after the 9/11 attacks. Civil liberties groups have opposed the indefinite jailing but warned that a new system could have left prisoners with even fewer rights. Guantanamo Bay prisoners are currently able to challenge their imprisonment in US courts. Christopher Anders of the American Civil Liberties Union said, “Going to Congress with new detention authority legislation would only have made a bad situation worse.”

23 de septiembre de 2009

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Obama administration shields CIA torturers

In response to a public campaign by the CIA, the Obama administration has decided to further scale back an already narrow investigation of Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) torture during the Bush years that was announced last month by Attorney General Eric Holder.

In announcing the probe, Holder had made clear that it would be limited to CIA agents whose torture of alleged terrorists went beyond the bounds laid down by Bush administration directives. It would target neither the Justice Department lawyers who drew up findings providing a pseudo-legal justification for waterboarding, hanging prisoners from walls, placing them in boxes for hours on end, and similar crimes, nor the top Bush administration officials who ordered and oversaw such practices.

The CIA—including the current director and Obama appointee, Leon Panetta—and former Bush administration officials, led by former Vice President Dick Cheney, have denounced Holder’s token probe, claiming that it will hamstring US intelligence operations and give aid and comfort to the terrorists.

On Friday, seven former CIA directors sent a letter to President Obama demanding that he quash the Holder inquiry. Signing the letter were directors under both Democratic and Republican administrations: Michael Hayden, Porter Goss, George Tenet, John Deutch, R. James Woolsey, William Webster and James R. Schlesinger.

21 de septiembre de 2009

UN Body Urges Israel to Allow Nuclear Inspections

Overriding Western objections, a United Nations nuclear conference passed a resolution Friday directly criticizing Israel and its secret nuclear weapons arsenal. The UN body voted to urge Israel to accede to the Non-Proliferation Treaty and place all Israeli nuclear sites under UN inspections. The resolution cited “concern about the threat posed by the proliferation of nuclear weapons for the security and stability of the Middle East.” Israeli delegate David Danieli denounced the vote as “openly hostile to the state of Israel” and accused Iran and Syria of “creating a diplomatic smoke screen” to cover up their “pursuit of nuclear weapons.”

David Danieli: “The delegation of Israel deplores this resolution, which serves no purpose of the IAEA and its general conference. The state of Israel will not cooperate in any matter with this resolution, which is only aiming at reinforcing political hostilities and division lines in the Middle East region."

Iranian delegate Ali Asghar Soltanieh praised the UN vote.

Ali Asghar Soltanieh: “This is a very good news and a triumph of the oppressed nation of Palestine, that their voice was heard in the international community, in the IAEA, and action was made to let them know that they are not left alone, homeless, bombarded by Israelis, and being deprived from any basic rights.”

The UN meeting also adopted a resolution last week calling for a Mideast free of nuclear weapons in a near-consensus vote. Israel was the only nation to vote against the measure.

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CIA Expands Presence in Afghanistan

While the Pentagon is considering a further escalation of the war, the Los Angeles Times reports the CIA is deploying teams of spies, analysts and paramilitary operatives to Afghanistan as part of a broad intelligence “surge.” When complete, the CIA’s presence in Afghanistan is expected to rival the size of its massive stations in Iraq and Vietnam at the height of those wars.

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US President Barack Obama has extended the 47-year-old trade embargo against Cuba for another year.
In a statement, Mr Obama said that it was in the US national interest to extend the Trading With The Enemy Act which covers the trade embargo.

10 de septiembre de 2009

Israeli Group: 252 Palestinian Children Killed in Gaza Assault

In Israel and the Occupied Territories, an Israeli human rights group is echoing Palestinian figures on the number of Palestinian children killed during Israel’s US-backed assault on the Gaza Strip. The Jerusalem-based B’Tselem says Israeli forces killed 252 Palestinian children, nearly three times the number claimed by the Israeli military. B’Tselem says its workers conducted meticulous research, gathering death certificates, photographs and testimony for each of the victims. The study lists children as those sixteen and under. A report in May by the Palestinian Center for Human Rights said 313 children were killed under the age of eighteen. Overall, well over half the nearly 1,400 Palestinians killed were civilians. B’Tselem also says the Israeli military carried out a minimum of 2,360 air strikes on Gaza during the three-week assault.

8 de septiembre de 2009

Israel to build new houses in settlements

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will approve the construction of hundreds of new housing units in Israeli settlements in the West Bank in the coming days as a prelude to a building freeze of six to nine months aimed at restarting peace talks with the Palestinians, senior Israeli officials said on Friday.

The plan is an attempt to ease pressure on Mr. Netanyahu from within his own Likud Party, which wants settlements to continue unimpeded, and from Washington, the Palestinian Authority and the rest of the Arab world, which want a total halt to such construction.

5 de septiembre de 2009

Settlement Freeze No Longer Required?

The US has decided to be ‘flexible' regarding its once touted call for a total Israeli freeze on the expansion of its occupied territories' settlements, all illegal under international law.

A senior official spoke to reporters on condition of anonymity on August 27. "It was more important that the scope of a settlement freeze was acceptable to the Israelis and the Palestinians than to the United States," Reuters reported, citing the senior official. This means that peace negotiations can resume while Israeli bulldozers are carving up Palestinian land, demolishing homes and cutting down trees.

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NATO Airstrike in Afghanistan Kills Up to 90

A U.S. jet blasted two fuel tankers hijacked by the Taliban in northern Afghanistan, setting off a huge fireball Friday that killed up to 90 people, including dozens of civilians who had rushed to the scene to collect fuel, Afghan officials said.

3 de septiembre de 2009

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US Extends Blackwater Contract in Iraq

ABC News, is reporting the Obama administration has extended the private military firm Blackwater’s contract in Iraq. The State Department will reportedly continue to use Blackwater to transport embassy officials around Iraqi areas. The contract was due to expire this month. Its extension is said to be indefinite until another deal with the military firm DynCorp is enacted. The news comes just two weeks before the second anniversary of the Baghdad killings of seventeen innocent Iraqis by Blackwater guards.

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US Plans 14,000 Additional Combat Troops in Afghanistan

The figures come amidst news the Obama administration is planning to vastly increase its reliance on contractors in Afghanistan in order to minimize the size of a new troop deployment. The Los Angeles Times reports the Pentagon has drawn up plans to add as many 14,000 combat troops in Afghanistan by having them replace support units engaged in non-combat duties. Under the plan, the US would avoid a major troop increase by replacing the non-combat soldiers with contractors. The “outsourcing” wouldn’t completely offset an expected troop increase but could reduce its size. A recent CNN poll, meanwhile, shows 57 percent of Americans now oppose the Afghan war, an eleven-point increase from the end of last year.

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CIA Won’t Release Docs on Bush Admin Role in Torture, Secret Prisons

The Central Intelligence Agency is refusing to release a series of key documents about its secret prison and torture program. The announcement came in response to a court-imposed deadline in a case brought by the American Civil Liberties Union. The CIA says releasing information on its so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” would jeopardize national security by exposing classified intelligence sources and methods. The refusal comes one week after the Justice Department released a previously classified CIA report on torture at overseas prisons and launched a probe into the conduct of CIA interrogators. The investigation has been criticized for focusing on low-level operatives and not the Bush administration officials who authorized the practices the operatives carried out. The documents that the CIA wants kept under wraps could provide a wealth of information on the Bush administration’s role. The documents include President George W. Bush’s September 2001 authorization for jailing CIA prisoners abroad, cables between CIA officials in the secret prisons and their superiors in Washington, and memos by CIA lawyers on the operations’ legality. Alex Abdo of ACLU’s National Security Project said, “The Obama administration must…release all crucial documents that would shed further light on the origins and scope of the Bush administration’s torture program. The American public has a right to know the full truth about the torture that was committed in its name.”