This is Israel today
Posted: 29 Dec 2010 03:54 PM PST



Why states are happy to pass security jobs to private armies
Posted: 29 Dec 2010 05:23 AM PST

Privatised mercenaries are largely beyond international law and that’s the way they like it. The UN has set up a working group to find ways to regulate a massively increasing industry. Jose L. Gomez del Prado spoke in Geneva in November and articulated the challenges of controlling a world that many governments love:

In the course of our research, since 2006, we have collected ample information which indicates the negative impact of the activities of “private contractors,” “private soldiers” or “guns for hire,” whatever denomination we may choose to name the individuals who are employed by private military and security companies as civilians but are also generally heavily armed. In the cluster of human rights violations allegedly perpetrated by employees of the companies the Working Group has examined, one can find: summary executions, acts of torture, cases of arbitrary detention, trafficking of persons and serious health damages caused by PMSC employee activities, as well as attempts against the right of self-determination. It also appears that PMSCs, in their search for profit, neglect security and do not provide their employees with their own basic rights and often put their staff in situations of danger and vulnerability.


Here’s an idea; let’s get mercenaries from Iraq and send them to another war
Posted: 29 Dec 2010 05:17 AM PST

Just what the world needs; another privatised war with unaccountable players:

Somalia’s transitional government is using private security firms and Arab governments to train and fund a paramilitary force to battle pirates in the region that have threatened international shipping.
A lawyer representing Somalia’s Transitional Federal Government (TFG) said on Tuesday that a security contractor, Saracen International, is being paid by a Muslim government to train an anti-piracy force in Bosaso, a town in the northern Somali province of Puntland on the horn of Africa. The TFG is also looking into training another, similar force in Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital.
“The goal of the TFG and the donor is to strengthen the mechanism in order to bring some law and order into Somalia,” Pierre Prosper, the lawyer, told The Washington Times. “Many of the trainers have experience and were contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan.”
Mr. Prosper said the agreement between Saracen and the TFG/Puntland government is for security training. “The donor is paying for the services of Saracen. The only contract I am aware of is between Saracen and the Somali government to provide the services,” he said.
Mr. Prosper, who was President George W. Bush’s ambassador at large on war-crimes issues between 2001 and 2005, would not disclose the identity of the donor.


Government and media are different?
Posted: 29 Dec 2010 04:59 AM PST

For many corporate “journalists”, pleasing power is all in a day’s work. Glenn Greenwald is spot-on:

It’s not news that establishment journalists identify with, are merged into, serve as spokespeople for, the political class:  that’s what makes them establishment journalists.  But even knowing that, it’s just amazing, to me at least, how so many of these “debates” I’ve done involving one anti-WikiLeaks political figure and one ostensibly “neutral” journalist — on MSNBC with The Washington Post‘s Jonathan Capehart and former GOP Congresswoman Susan Molinari, on NPR withThe New York Times‘ John Burns and former Clinton State Department official James Rubin, and last night on CNN with Yellin and Townsend — entail no daylight at all between the “journalists” and the political figures.  They don’t even bother any longer with the pretense that they’re distinct or play different assigned roles.  I’m not complaining here — Yellin was perfectly fair and gave me ample time — but merely observing how inseparable are most American journalists from the political officials they “cover.” 


Yes, Murdoch paper makes up stories
Posted: 29 Dec 2010 04:52 AM PST

What a shock:

The Sun has owned up to what I guess we in the journalism trade realised the moment we saw it – its splash about the pre-Christmas live episode Coronation Street being targeted by al-Qaeda was false.


Damascus had hand in Prophet Mohammed outrage
Posted: 29 Dec 2010 04:38 AM PST

Causing trouble:

The government of Syria was active in organizing the 2006 riots that erupted across the Arab world following the publication of controversial cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed, Oslo daily Aftenposten reported Monday, quoting US diplomatic cables released by website WikiLeaks.
The cartoons were originally published in neighboring Denmark in 2005. Their publication resulted in violent protests, including attacks on several embassies in Damascus in early February 2006. Embassies targeted included those of Norway, Denmark and Sweden.
A US diplomatic cable published by Aftenposten said the Syrian premier had, “several days before the demonstrations, instructed the Grand Mufti Sheikh Hassoun to issue a strongly worded directive to the imams delivering Friday sermons in the mosques of Damascus.”
The riots ended when Syria “felt that ‘the message had been delivered’,” the cable said, quoting a Sunni sheikh whose name was blacked out.


How much racism can a “democracy” take?
Posted: 29 Dec 2010 04:28 AM PST


Palestinian detainees are systematically denied the right to meet a lawyer during interrogations by Shin Bet, the Israeli internal security service, according to a report published today by an Israeli and a Palestinian rights group.
The Public Committee Against Torture in Israel (PCATI) and the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club say detainees from the occupied West Bank are cut off from the rest of the world in Israeli detention facilities. The report also cited cases of “systematic violence” and torture.
Between 70% and 90% of the detainees in the years 2005 to 2007 were not allowed to meet a lawyer able to provide advice and assistance prior to signing a confession, say the organisations. The average time prisoners represented by the group were isolated from the outside world was 16.7 days. Irit Ballas, a lawyer and one of the report’s authors, said the situation has remained the same for the past three years. “The information we receive from our lawyers tells us that the incommunicado detention has not decreased,” he said.


A new survey has revealed that a full 44% of Israeli Jews support a letter issued by leading Israeli rabbis published earlier this month forbidding the sale or rental of properties to non-Jews. The survey reported that 48% of Israeli Jews oppose the rabbis’ religious edict.


As if the Rabbis’ edict against renting homes to Arabs wasn’t enough, a new letter, made public yesterday, has some 30 well-known wives of Orthodox Rabbis warning Jewish girls against dating Arabs or even working with them.


History repeats itself over Wikileaks
Posted: 28 Dec 2010 11:00 PM PST

A fine historical reminder in the UK Guardian:

There is a precedent for Julian Assange’s predicament. Australian journalist Wilfred Burchett in the late 60s was banned from Australia for reporting the Vietnam war from the North, and for allegedly asking prisoners taken during the Korean conflict to confess to Chinese interrogators. Authorities attempted to turn the accusations into charges but to no avail, the ban stayed. He wanted to return to Australia to face his detractors. For a time he was stuck in New Caledonia.
I was working for Gordon Barton’s The Sunday Observer and had been impressed by Burchett’s revealing stories for several decades. After the bombing of Japan at the end of the second world war he travelled to a site, under great personal danger, where he managed to see the wounded. He observed that survivors of the blast were dying of radiation sickness. Scientists in the New York Times disputed this but the rest is history.
I approached Barton to bring Burchett to Australia to test the government’s fortitude in the face of growing media unrest over the ban. Our first concern was that an Australian citizen without criminal convictions could be banned from his country. Burchett stated his passport had been stolen by ASIS.
Burchett had also been attacked by members of the Liberal government who for days blithely libelled and defamed him. We announced that we were going to bring him back with or without permission to leave the country … or to enter it again. To make the story short, the government caved in and we legally flew him to Brisbane in a small plane, despite bomb threats.
Assange has his rabid homicidal detractors, his vague accusers, and for a time was banned from entering Australia by the confused prime minister Julia Gillard. Both Assange and Burchett are, and were, fighting to reveal truths.
Several weeks after he arrived in Australia, Burchett travelled voluntarily to Washington where he was questioned (not interrogated) by Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger about conditions in North Vietnam. Apparently the meeting was civilised, not something Assange can expect. No doubt for him water-boarding will be considered. We tend to persecute those who show us the lies.
Bill Green
Talbot, Victoria, Australia

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