11/28/2005

These WMD are Right in Front of Their Noses

May 12, 2003; America's Dirty Bombs By DAVE LINDORFF

The Pentagon has announced plans to send several thousand specialists into Iraq to join the search for those "weapons of mass destruction" of Saddam Hussein's--remember the ones that Iraq was supposedly brimming over with, and which were the stated reason for America's invasion? But while it is stepping up that effort, the Pentagon says it has no intention to do anything about the consequences of America's own "dirty bomb" campaign against Iraq. Although the U.S. and Britain reportedly dropped as much as 2000 tons of depleted uranium weapons on Iraq, including in the center of densely populated Baghdad, a Pentagon spokesman last month told the BBC that it has "no plans to do a DU clean-up in Iraq."

Nor is the U.S. allowing inspectors from the U.N. environmental Program into Iraq to look for signs of DU contamination. It seems that just as the U.S. government doesn't want U.N. weapons inspectors to come into Iraq where they might undermine any U.S. claims to have found evidence of Saddam's WMDs, they don't want any U.N. environmental inspectors to come in and find evidence of U.S. use of a weapon that the U.N. has condemned as a weapon of mass destruction.

If U.N. estimates of the quantity of depleted uranium ordinance used in the current war in Iraq are correct, it would mean six times as much of the super-toxic and carcinogenic substance was used this time as in 1991, and already there are disturbing reports of dramatically higher incidences of cancer and birth defects in Southern Iraq following the 1991 war. But at least in that war, virtually all the DU ammo was used against Iraqi armor out in the desert. This time, bunker busting bombs and anti-tank weapons were used in Iraqi cities, including Baghdad, putting in jeopardy tens or hundreds of thousands of civilians who might come in contact with the radioactive dust from those explosions. Of course, U.S. troops, now playing the role of an occupying army in those bombed cities, are also at risk. Many veterans of the last Iraq war suspect that the notorious "Gulf War Syndrome" that many came home with was the result of their having breathed in or injested uranium dust from the weapons used in that war.

The U.S. has been firing off "dirty bombs" in the form of depleted uranium (DU) weapons now since the 1991 Gulf War against Iraq. Depleted uranium, a radioactive metal that is part of the waste stream from nuclear weapons, turns out to be a highly effective armor-piercing material. 1.7 times as dense as lead, it also has the unusual property of self-sharpening: as a rod of the stuff slams into a sheet of steel or a wall of reinforced concrete, instead of mushrooming into a flat, broad projectile that then is slowed or stopped by the obstacle, uranium sheds its exterior layers and becomes sharper as it is propelled by momentum deeper and deeper into its target. Uranium is also highly flammable at the kinds of high temperature generated by a high-velocity collision, and so it incinerates whatever target it hits.

In the 1991 Gulf War, depleted uranium was used extensively in two types of weapons--the 120 mm anti-tank shells fired by Abrams tanks and other anti-tank cannons, and the 30 mm anti-armor guns on the A-10 Warthog ground attack jets. An estimated 300 tons of the stuff was fired off in the Iraqi and Kuwaiti desert during that war. In Kosovo, the same weapons were used, this time reportedly a total of about 12 tons, mostly in the form of small 30 mm projectiles fired by aircraft.

In Afghanistan, in addition to those two kinds of shells, the Pentagon introduced a third category of uranium weapon--the so-called bunker-busting bomb--a depleted uranium "smart bomb" or missile that can burrow deep into the ground or through thick concrete walls to hit heavily shielded shelters or cave hideouts. The Petagon has not released information about how much depleted uranium was used in weapons in Afghanistan, but estimates have ranged from several hundred tons to as much as 1000 tons--and this was in conflict that was tiny compared to the likely war in Iraq.

Critics of depleted uranium weapons--and these run the gamut from the U.N. World Health Organization to Gulf War veterans groups--note that the new use of uranium bunker buster bombs raises the danger of radioactive contamination dramatically, because of where such bombs get used.

For the most part, anti-tank weapons, at least to date, have been used where tanks are generally deployed, which is out in the open, where population density is low. Although when a depleted uranium round explodes, the uranium is incinerated, becoming a dangerous aerosol of minute inhalable particles of uranium oxide, out in the desert the risks are relatively low of many people becoming contaminated. Absent a wind, most of that radioactive residue settles within 50-100 yards of the target.

Even so, there are reports from both the Basra area of Southern Iraq, where use of depleted uranium shells by British and U.S. forces in 1991 was heavy, and in Afghanistan, of higher than anticipated cancer rates and birth defects. There is also some suspicion that at least some of the cases of what has become known as Gulf War Syndrome among returned U.S. Gulf War veterans is the result of their having inhaled the residue of uranium weapons. Researchers from a British non-profit organization, the Uranium Medical Research Center, for example, claim that during an investigation of bombed areas in Kabul and especially Jalalabad, Afghanistan, they encountered widespread evidence of illnesses and birth defects which they said were consistent with uranium poisoning and radioactive contamination. They also reported finding elevated levels of uranium in the vicinity. They called their findings "shocking". Similar findings have been claimed in the area around southern Iraq where uranium anti-tank weapons were widely used.

But these reports of dirty bomb aftereffects could be dwarfed once reports start coming in of the effects of DU contamination in urban areas of Iraq. For one thing, the amount of uranium vaporized in an explosion of one bunker busting bomb would be vastly greater than any anti-tank shell. There are, for example, only about three kilograms of uranium in 120mm anti-tank round.

But the DU explosive charges in the guided bomb systems used in Afghanistan and now Iraq (for example Raytheon's Bunker Buster - GBU-28) reportedly can weigh as much as one and a half metric tons. Besides, U.S. troops, which had to fight their way into Baghdad and other heavily fortified Iraqi cities, made use of their uranium anti-tank weapons there too, not just out in the desert approaches to urban centers.

The notion of Baghdad, a city of five million, being dusted with uranium oxide, is grim, as it will likely produce widespread injuries and death, particularly among children, who are closer to the ground and who routinely play in the dirt.

No wonder the U.S. government is so anxious to keep U.N. environmental experts at bay. The risks of uranium weapons to soldiers and civilians is a topic of some controversy, even among critics, though no one except the Pentagon and NATO disputes that it is a health threat. Indeed, the Royal Society, whose studies the Pentagon spokesman cited in saying that fears of DU health threats have been debunked since 1991, pointedly disagreed, saying that in the society's view, DU poses both short and long-term risks in Iraq.

A government study prepared for Congress in the mid 1990s offered the following assessment of the dangers of the radioactive weapons: "As much as 70 percent of a DU penetrator can be aerosolized when it strikes a tank. Aerosols containing DU oxides may contaminate the area downwind. DU fragments may also contaminate the soil around the struck vehicle." It adds that there are many paths by which the resulting particles may enter the body - by inhalation, ingestion, or through open wounds. The report then states, "If DU enters the body, it has the potential to generate significant medical consequences. The risks associated with DU in the body are both chemical and radiological."

Once inside the lungs or kidneys, uranium particles tend to stay, causing illnesses such as lung cancer and kidney disease that may take decades to show up. According to Dr. J. W. Gofman, a leading expert and critic of low-level radiation risks, particles of uranium smaller than 5 micron in diameter can become permanently trapped in the lungs. By one estimate, a trapped, single uranium oxide particle of this size could expose the adjacent lung tissue to approximately 1,360 rem per year--about 8,000 times the annual radiation dosage considered safe by federal regulations for whole body exposure.

Uranium, which besides being carcinogenic is also highly toxic chemically (like lead or mercury), also concentrates in the kidneys and reproductive organs if ingested orally. Even Dan Fahey, of the Persian Gulf War Veterans Resource Center, a Navy veteran who has criticized some anti-war organizations' charges concerning the dangers of uranium weapons, says that they were "probably a contributor to Gulf War Syndrome" among returning U.S. Gulf War veterans. Although he debunks as "propaganda and science fiction," a report by the Uranium Medical Research Center, a U.K.-based organization which claims to have found uranium contamination and signs of radiation-sickness and radiation-induced birth defects in people who live around suspected uranium weapon targets in Kabul and Jalalabad, Afghanistan, Fahey himself is critical of the U.S. military's ever-expanding use of these weapons. In one article he wrote on the subject, he quotes a 1990 Pentagon memo on the health risks of exploded uranium ordinance which concludes that, in order to avoid criticism of the weapons' battlefield use, "we should keep this sensitive issue at mind when after action reports are written."

His conclusion, "The military's view is that unless you can prove something is dangerous, we'll keep using it. My view is that given the known health concerns about depleted uranium weapons, unless you can prove it's safe,don't use it."

There is no question about whether or not the US and British are using uranium weapons in the current war against Iraq. Robert Fisk quoted a U.S. general on the eve of battle as saying, "We have already begun to unwrap our depleted uranium anti-tank shells." (In the 1991 Gulf War, one in seven Iraqi tanks destroyed by the U.S. was hit by a uranium projectile. This time, the percentage of Iraq's 1800 tanks hit by uranium weapons was clearly far higher. As for the more serious use of uranium-tipped missiles and bombs in urban settings, the best evidence that they were used is that the Pentagon, absent rules that limit its behavior, uses whatever it has in its arsenal that the generals think works best--and clearly uranium-tipped weapons outperform any alternative in terms of their ability to penetrate armor and other heavy shielding. According to Pentagon studies, uranium projectiles are at least 10 percent more effective at penetrating shielded bunkers and armor than the next-best alternative--tungsten clad weapons. That alone was a powerful incentive to use them.

The Center for Defense Information reports that the patents for America's bunker-busting bombs include both tungsten and uranium-cladded versions, making it clear that these weapons exist in the U.S. military arsenal.

Given the Pentagon's public stance that uranium weapons pose no appreciable health risk, there is no reason to believe that these dangerous weapons of mass destruction were not used. Moreover, given the controversy surrounding DU, it seems likely that if the Pentagon had decided not to use DU weapons inside Iraqi cities, it would have trumpeted that fact. No such disavowal was made.

Civilians in the future "liberated" Iraq will likely be paying the price for years--maybe generations--to come. Meanwhile, after they're through watching their president play soldier on an aircraft carrier, American veterans of the Iraq war might want to consider the fate of those soldiers whom the Pentagon sent to participate in early nuclear weapons tests. Fifty years later, after most of those soldier/guinea pigs have died, many of them from suspicious cancers, the government is finally admitting that they received far larger radiation doses than it ever was willing to acknowledge.

Dave Lindorff is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal

Iran President: "Charge Bush for War Crimes"

By Nasser Karimi / Associated Press
TEHRAN, Iran - Iran's hard-line president said Saturday the Bush administration should be tried on war crimes charges, and he denounced the West for pressuring Iran to curb its controversial nuclear program. "You, who have used nuclear weapons against innocent people, who have used uranium ordnance in Iraq, should be tried as war criminals in courts," Mahmoud Ahmadinejad said in an apparent reference to the United States.

Since the Iraq war started in 2003, American forces have fired at least 120 tons of shells packed with depleted uranium, an extremely dense material used by the U.S. and British militaries to penetrate tank armor. Once fired, the shells melt, vaporize and turn to dust. "Who in the world are you to accuse Iran of suspicious nuclear armed activity?" Ahmadinejad said during a nationally televised ceremony marking the 36th anniversary of the establishment of Iran's volunteer Basij paramilitary force.

"They say Iran has to stop its peaceful nuclear activity since there is a probability of diversion while we are sure that they are developing and testing (nuclear weapons) every day," Ahmadinejad said. "They speak as if they are the lords of the world."

11/25/2005

Multinationals, not Iraqis, to reap oil fortune: report

LONDON (AFP) - Up to 113 billion dollars (96.6 billion euros) in Iraqi oil revenues are going to multinational oil companies under long-term contracts, and not to the Iraqi people, a social and environmental group alleged.
The group known as Platform said that oil multinationals would be paid between 74 billion pounds (43 billion dollars) and 194 billion pounds (113 billion dollars) with rates of return of between 42.0 percent and 162.0 percent under proposed production-sharing agreements, or PSAs."The form of contracts being promoted is the most expensive and undemocratic option available," Platform researcher Greg Muttitt said Tuesday.

"Iraq's oil should be for the benefit of the Iraqi people not foreign oil companies." Muttitt added: "Iraq's institutions are new and weak. Experience in other countries shows that oil companies generally get the upper hand in PSA negotiations with governments. "The companies will inevitably use Iraq's current instability to push for highly advantageous terms and lock Iraq to those terms for decades."

The report, titled "Crude Designs: The Rip-Off of Iraq's Oil Wealth", said the majority of Iraqis were against the large-scale involvement of foreign companies in the post-Saddam era.

"Iraqi public opinion is strongly opposed to handing control over oil development to foreign companies," it said. "But with the active involvement of the US and British governments a group of powerful Iraqi politicians and technocrats is pushing for a system of long-term contracts with foreign oil companies which will be beyond the reach of Iraqi courts, public scrutiny or democratic control." Under PSAs, foreign companies provide capital investment, including drilling and the construction of infrastructure, and a proportion of oil extracted is allocated to the companies.But Platform's report alleged that financing oil development could be done instead though government budgetary expenditure, using future oil flows as collateral to borrow money, or using international oil companies through shorter-term and less lucrative contracts.

Louise Richards, chief executive of aid charity War on Want, said: "People have increasingly come to realise that the Iraq war was about oil, profits and plunder.""Iraq's oil profits, far from being used to alleviate some of the suffering the Iraqi people now face, are well within the sights of the oil multinationals."

11/24/2005

America tortures, breaks international law.

Nov. 18, 2005 — Harsh interrogation techniques authorized by top officials of the CIA have led to questionable confessions and the death of a detainee since the techniques were first authorized in mid-March 2002, ABC News has been told by former and current intelligence officers and supervisors.
They say they are revealing specific details of the techniques, and their impact on confessions, because the public needs to know the direction their agency has chosen. All gave their accounts on the condition that their names and identities not be revealed. Portions of their accounts are corrobrated by public statements of former CIA officers and by reports recently published that cite a classified CIA Inspector General's report.
Other portions of their accounts echo the accounts of escaped prisoners from one CIA prison in Afghanistan.
"They would not let you rest, day or night. Stand up, sit down, stand up, sit down. Don't sleep. Don't lie on the floor," one prisoner said through a translator. The detainees were also forced to listen to rap artist Eminem's "Slim Shady" album. The music was so foreign to them it made them frantic, sources said.
Contacted after the completion of the ABC News investigation, CIA officials would neither confirm nor deny the accounts. They simply declined to comment.
The CIA sources described a list of six "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques" instituted in mid-March 2002 and used, they said, on a dozen top al Qaeda targets incarcerated in isolation at secret locations on military bases in regions from Asia to Eastern Europe. According to the sources, only a handful of CIA interrogators are trained and authorized to use the techniques:

1. The Attention Grab: The interrogator forcefully grabs the shirt front of the prisoner and shakes him.
2. Attention Slap: An open-handed slap aimed at causing pain and triggering fear.
3. The Belly Slap: A hard open-handed slap to the stomach. The aim is to cause pain, but not internal injury. Doctors consulted advised against using a punch, which could cause lasting internal damage.
4. Long Time Standing: This technique is described as among the most effective. Prisoners are forced to stand, handcuffed and with their feet shackled to an eye bolt in the floor for more than 40 hours. Exhaustion and sleep deprivation are effective in yielding confessions.
5. The Cold Cell: The prisoner is left to stand naked in a cell kept near 50 degrees. Throughout the time in the cell the prisoner is doused with cold water.
6. Water Boarding: The prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet. Cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner's face and water is poured over him. Unavoidably, the gag reflex kicks in and a terrifying fear of drowning leads to almost instant pleas to bring the treatment to a halt.

According to the sources, CIA officers who subjected themselves to the water boarding technique lasted an average of 14 seconds before caving in. They said al Qaeda's toughest prisoner, Khalid Sheik Mohammed, won the admiration of interrogators when he was able to last between two and two-and-a-half minutes before begging to confess. "The person believes they are being killed, and as such, it really amounts to a mock execution, which is illegal under international law," said John Sifton of Human Rights Watch. (Hey, what else is new, right?)

The techniques are controversial among experienced intelligence agency and military interrogators. Many feel that a confession obtained this way is an unreliable tool. Two experienced officers have told ABC that there is little to be gained by these techniques that could not be more effectively gained by a methodical, careful, psychologically based interrogation. According to a classified report prepared by the CIA Inspector General John Helgerwon and issued in 2004, the techniques "appeared to constitute cruel, and degrading treatment under the (Geneva) convention," the New York Times reported on Nov. 9, 2005. It is "bad interrogation. I mean you can get anyone to confess to anything if the torture's bad enough," said former CIA officer Bob Baer. Larry Johnson, a former CIA officer and a deputy director of the State Department's office of counterterrorism, recently wrote in the Los Angeles Times, "What real CIA field officers know firsthand is that it is better to build a relationship of trust … than to extract quick confessions through tactics such as those used by the Nazis and the Soviets." One argument in favor of their use: time. In the early days of al Qaeda captures, it was hoped that speeding confessions would result in the development of important operational knowledge in a timely fashion. However, ABC News was told that at least three CIA officers declined to be trained in the techniques before a cadre of 14 were selected to use them on a dozen top al Qaeda suspects in order to obtain critical information. In at least one instance, ABC News was told that the techniques led to questionable information aimed at pleasing the interrogators and that this information had a significant impact on U.S. actions in Iraq. According to CIA sources, Ibn al Shaykh al Libbi, after two weeks of enhanced interrogation, made statements that were designed to tell the interrogators what they wanted to hear. Sources say Al Libbi had been subjected to each of the progressively harsher techniques in turn and finally broke after being water boarded and then left to stand naked in his cold cell overnight where he was doused with cold water at regular intervals.

His statements became part of the basis for the Bush administration claims that Iraq trained al Qaeda members to use biochemical weapons. Sources tell ABC that it was later established that al Libbi had no knowledge of such training or weapons and fabricated the statements because he was terrified of further harsh treatment.
"This is the problem with using the waterboard. They get so desperate that they begin telling you what they think you want to hear," one source said.
However, sources said, al Libbi does not appear to have sought to intentionally misinform investigators, as at least one account has stated. The distinction in this murky world is nonetheless an important one. Al Libbi sought to please his investigators, not lead them down a false path, two sources with firsthand knowledge of the statements said.
When properly used, the techniques appear to be closely monitored and are signed off on in writing on a case-by-case, technique-by-technique basis, according to highly placed current and former intelligence officers involved in the program. In this way, they say, enhanced interrogations have been authorized for about a dozen high value al Qaeda targets — Khalid Sheik Mohammed among them. According to the sources, all of these have confessed, none of them has died, and all of them remain incarcerated.
While some media accounts have described the locations where these detainees are located as a string of secret CIA prisons — a gulag, as it were — in fact, sources say, there are a very limited number of these locations in use at any time, and most often they consist of a secure building on an existing or former military base. In addition, they say, the prisoners usually are not scattered but travel together to these locations, so that information can be extracted from one and compared with others. Currently, it is believed that one or more former Soviet bloc air bases and military installations are the Eastern European location of the top suspects. Khalid Sheik Mohammed is among the suspects detained there, sources said.
The sources told ABC that the techniques, while progressively aggressive, are not deemed torture, and the debate among intelligence officers as to whether they are effective should not be underestimated. There are many who feel these techniques, properly supervised, are both valid and necessary, the sources said. While harsh, they say, they are not torture and are reserved only for the most important and most difficult prisoners. According to the sources, when an interrogator wishes to use a particular technique on a prisoner, the policy at the CIA is that each step of the interrogation process must be signed off at the highest level — by the deputy director for operations for the CIA. A cable must be sent and a reply received each time a progressively harsher technique is used. The described oversight appears tough but critics say it could be tougher. In reality, sources said, there are few known instances when an approval has not been granted. Still, even the toughest critics of the techniques say they are relatively well monitored and limited in use.
Two sources also told ABC that the techniques — authorized for use by only a handful of trained CIA officers — have been misapplied in at least one instance.

The sources said that in that case a young, untrained junior officer caused the death of one detainee at a mud fort dubbed the "salt pit" that is used as a prison. They say the death occurred when the prisoner was left to stand naked throughout the harsh Afghanistan night after being doused with cold water. He died, they say, of hypothermia.
According to the sources, a second CIA detainee died in Iraq and a third detainee died following harsh interrogation by Department of Defense personnel and contractors in Iraq. CIA sources said that in the DOD case, the interrogation was harsh, but did not involve the CIA.
The Kabul fort has also been the subject of confusion. Several intelligence sources involved in both the enhanced interrogation program and the program to ship detainees back to their own country for interrogation — a process described as rendition, say that the number of detainees in each program has been added together to suggest as many as 100 detainees are moved around the world from one secret CIA facility to another. In the rendition program, foreign nationals captured in the conflict zones are shipped back to their own countries on occasion for interrogation and prosecution.
There have been several dozen instances of rendition. There have been a little over a dozen authorized enhanced interrogations. As a result, the enhanced interrogation program has been described as one encompassing 100 or more prisoners. Multiple CIA sources told ABC that it is not. The renditions have also been described as illegal. They are not, our sources said, although they acknowledge the procedures are in an ethical gray area and are at times used for the convenience of extracting information under harsher conditions that the U.S. would allow.
ABC was told that several dozen renditions of this kind have occurred. Jordan is one country recently cited as an "emerging" center for renditions, according to published reports. The ABC sources said that rendition of this sort are legal and should not be confused with illegal "snatches" of targets off the streets of a home country by officers of yet another country. The United States is currently charged with such an illegal rendition in Italy. Israel and at least one European nation have also been accused of such renditions.

11/21/2005

Iraq on the record

Finally a website that bundles the lies that got the U.S. in a war not worth fighting for. Bush allready proved to be very vengeful for the religious man he claims to be. Here you can see he's also quite good at falsifying the truth. That's another sin. At least he looks like he respects his parents, but as far as the other ten commandments are concerned there probably aren't many Georgie didn't break since being in power.

11/18/2005

Judge makes ruling to show ex-animal rescuer what it was like for the kittens she abandoned

Michelle Murray will now have the opportunity to experience what the dozens of kittens felt the night she abandoned them at two Lake Metroparks in September.Painesville Municipal Court Judge Michael A. Cicconetti on Thursday sentenced Murray, 25, of Painesville Township, to jail time.But he added a stipulation to ensure that Murray "suffer the same consequences as those kittens.""You can listen to the coyotes, hear the raccoons in the dark of night," said Cicconetti, who grew increasingly annoyed at Murray's apology attempts in court.On the night before Thanksgiving, when Murray reports to the Lake County Jail in Painesville, she will be forced to spend a night alone in a remote area of a Lake County Metropark, according to Cicconetti sentence.Being allowed only water, she will not be provided with food, beverage or shelter. Murray must remain in that location until "the light of dawn on Nov. 24," according to the sentence.Ranger Chief Mike Burko said he has not yet chosen the Metropark, but will provide her with a walkie-talkie in case of emergency.Cicconetti, known for his unusual sentences, gave Murray the maximum sentence of 90 days in jail. But the judge suspended 60 days and allowed 15 days to be served under house arrest. After returning from the wild on Thanksgiving, she will serve 14 days in the Lake County Jail.

The suspended jail time hinges on two conditions:
- Murray may not own or care for any animals in the next three years.
- She must pay $3,200 to the Lake County Humane Society and $500 to the Metropark rangers for costs they incurred due to her actions.

"I'm sorry. I truly am sorry. I never meant for any of this to happen," Murray told the judge before the sentence.She said she tried to contact the Lake County Humane Society, but eventually panicked after three cages of cats were dropped off at her home."It doesn't make any difference," the judge said. "People panic and commit crimes, they use drugs, they commit domestic violence. But this wasn't one incident. You did it again the next day."Murray admitted to using another alias on a Web site to try to adopt out another stray cat since she pleaded guilty to abandoning domestic animals on Oct. 13. She said she used the fake name because nobody would take a cat from her if she used her own name. That cat was eventually adopted by the Humane Society, but was so ill, it was euthanized the day it came in.Candace Hertzel, executive director of the Lake County Humane Society, said 15 of the kittens that were rescued had been adopted; 12 still remain without homes."We're very pleasantly surprised by the sentence. It's a small piece of justice suffered for some of these already deceased kittens," Hertzel said outside the courtroom following the sentence.Prosecutor Russ Meraglio said he was pleased as well. He had recommended jail time for the second-degree misdemeanor.Sharon Moten, who gave a mother cat and four kittens to Murray 10 days prior to her abandoning the animals, still felt the guilt of not knowing the fate of all of her cats."I told her to call me if she couldn't handle them," Moten said.She hoped the sentence would prompt donations to the Humane Society."It's one of the only ways I can feel better about what happened," she said.

11/17/2005

Global warming really starts speeding up but it's only the poorest that suffer

By Patricia Reaney (Wed Nov 16, 1:10 PM ET)
LONDON (Reuters) - Global warming poses an enormous ethical challenge because countries that produce the least amount of greenhouse gases will suffer the most from climate change, scientists said on Wednesday.

Whether it is an increase in poor health from diseases such as malaria or shrinking water supplies, nations in sub-Saharan Africa, Asia and South America are vulnerable to the consequences of changes in global temperatures.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has estimated that climate change leads to more than 150,000 deaths every year and at least 5 million cases of illness. In a review of the impact of global warming on public health, researchers at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the WHO predict countries in Africa and coastal nations along the Pacific and Indian Oceans will be hardest hit. "Those most at risk from global warming are also those least responsible for causing the problem. There is a real ethical message from the paper," said Jonathan Patz of the UW-Madison's Nelson Institute for Environmental Studies.
"Global warming is not only an environmental problem but a serious health threat," he added in an interview. Greenhouse gases are expected to increase global average temperature by about 6 degrees Fahrenheit by the end of the century, causing extreme flooding, more droughts and intense heatwaves. The researchers said model-based forecasts suggest the risk of climate-related disease assessed by the WHO will more than double by 2030. Flooding will affect the lives of up to 200 million people by the 2080s and heat-related deaths in California will more than double by 2100. "Many of the most important diseases in poor countries, from malaria to diarrhea and malnutrition are highly sensitive to climate," said Diarmid Campbell-Lendrum, of the WHO, and a co-author of the report published in the science journal Nature.

DISAPPEARING GLACIERS
In addition to increasing health problems, warmer temperatures will reduce glaciers and snow packs which could disrupt water supplies in some regions of the world.
More water will fall as rain, rather than snow, so reservoirs will fill earlier than normal. Water shortages could result in areas where reservoirs and dam capacities are insufficient, according to a separate review in the journal. "Mother nature is not going to act like a reservoir as it has in the past and when the water comes out all at once, there isn't enough capacity to contain it," said Tim Barnett, of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego. Along with scientists at the University of Washington, Barnett said vanishing glaciers will have the most impact on water supplies in the future in China, India and other parts of Asia, which has the third largest ice mass in mountainous areas on Earth. In South America, many people living west of the Andes mountains will also be at risk of shrinking water supplies. "Climate warming is a certainty for our future and ... the long-term prognosis is clear and very dire," Barnett said in a statement. "It's especially clear that regions in Asia and South America are headed for a water supply crisis because once that fossil water is gone, it's gone," he added.

11/16/2005

Belgian Red Cross steps out of consortium for emergency relief

The Belgian Red Cross acknowledges its withdrawal from the Belgian Consortium for emergency relief on january 1th 2006. The consortium regrets the decision. Less than one year after the unprecedented success of the 'tsunami1212'-action and after 25 years of cooperation on more than 10 successful campaigns the consortium finds it hard to understand the decision and its motives. That can explain why four other organisations continue the cooperation: Unicef, Handicap Int., Caritas and Oxfam.

At the core of the issue would be a decision to not organise a benefit for the victims of the earthquake in Pakistan. The consortium organised campaigns for Ethiopia, Kosovo and the tsunami in Asia. Bringing together five different aid organisations brings about reduced strength in action. In these last months we've noticed many difficulties in setting equal priorities in emergency relief", said Axel Vande Veegaete, head of International Affairs at the Belgian Red Cross. "It seems like some regions are more important than others."

11/15/2005

A betrayal of our most precious values

By LEONARD PITTS Well, I guess that settles that. "We do not torture," President Bush said on Monday. Never mind all those torture pictures from Abu Ghraib. Never mind all those torture stories from Guantanamo Bay. Never mind the 2002 Justice Department memo that sought to justify torture. Never mind reports of U.S. officials sending detainees to other countries for torture. Never mind Dick Cheney lobbying to exempt the CIA from rules prohibiting torture. "We do not torture," said the president. And that's that, right? I mean, if you can't believe the Bush administration, who can you believe? No torture. Period, end of sentence.

But . . . What does it say to you that the claim even has to be made? Bush spoke in Panama on the last day of a five-day swing through Latin America to promote free trade. He was addressing controversy over secret CIA prisons in foreign countries. America, Bush reminded us in case it had slipped our minds in the 20 minutes since he last reminded us, is at war. Guess that would explain all the dead people. And yes, war is not a nice business under the best of circumstances. It is less so when you fight a stateless enemy that strikes from shadows.

But we've been at war before, nasty, brutish wars, one war with civilization itself on the line, yet somehow we always managed to be the good guy. That is not to say our soldiers and sailors and fliers were always good, immune from committing atrocities. It is not to say our officials were always good, untouched by dirty deeds done in clandestine ways. Finally, it is not to say our cause was always good, free from the taint of imperialism or expedience. But we - the collective we, the official we, the face shown in light of day we - were the good guys. It occurs to me that maybe I've larded that statement with so many caveats as to drain it of meaning. I'm not trying to be cute. Rather, I'm trying not to sound naive while at the same time getting at something important:

We were the nation of moral authority, the nation of moral high ground, the nation that lectured other nations about human rights. And you know what? People believed us. They rush to our shores because there is freedom here, yes; because there is opportunity here, yes; but also because we stood for something, which was more than the tin-pot tyrants who ran their countries could ever say.

What a difference a presidency makes. "We do not torture," he says. When I heard that, my first thought was a one-liner: he's been torturing me for years. But you know, this just ain't funny. In the name of fighting terror, we have terrorized, and in the name of defending our values, we have betrayed them. We have imprisoned Muslims in America and refused to say if we had them, why we had them, or even to provide them attorneys. We have passed laws making it easier for government to snoop into what you read, who you talk to, where you go. We have equated dissent with lack of patriotism, disagreement with treason. And we have tortured. Yes, Bush says we don't do that kind of thing but, to paraphrase Groucho Marx, who you going to believe, him or your lying eyes?

We ignore our lying eyes, I think, because we are afraid, because we saw what happened Sept. 11 and we never want to see it again. I'd never suggest we ought not fear terrorism. But we should also fear the nation we are becoming in response. We should fear the fact that we have abrogated moral authority, retreated from moral high ground, become like those we once chastised.

"We do not torture," says the president. I can remember when that went without saying.

Pat Robertson Warns Town of Disaster

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. - Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson warned residents of a rural Pennsylvania town Thursday that disaster may strike there because they "voted God out of your city" by ousting school board members who favored teaching intelligent design.

All eight Dover, Pa., school board members up for re-election were defeated Tuesday after trying to introduce "intelligent design" — the belief that the universe is so complex that it must have been created by a higher power — as an alternative to the theory of evolution.
"I'd like to say to the good citizens of Dover: If there is a disaster in your area, don't turn to God. You just rejected him from your city," Robertson said on the Christian Broadcasting Network's "700 Club."

Eight families had sued the district, claiming the policy violates the constitutional separation of church and state. The federal trial concluded days before Tuesday's election, but no ruling has been issued. Later Thursday, Robertson issued a statement saying he was simply trying to point out that "our spiritual actions have consequences." "God is tolerant and loving, but we can't keep sticking our finger in his eye forever," Robertson said. "If they have future problems in Dover, I recommend they call on Charles Darwin. Maybe he can help them."

Robertson made headlines this summer when he called on his daily show for the assassination of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. In October 2003, he suggested that the State Department be blown up with a nuclear device. He has also said that feminism encourages women to "kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians."

11/07/2005

Paris riots make France look like Iraq

"Once upon a time Beirut was called the Paris of the Middle East. Now Paris is Beirut on the Seine."
GRIGNY, France - Youths fired at police and hurled flaming Molotov cocktails at churches, schools, cars and a daycare center as violence peaked in an 11th night of unrest in France, sending a “shock wave across the country,” the national police chief said Monday. Vandals burned 1,408 vehicles across France, setting a new high for overnight arson attacks since the unrest started Oct. 27, Michel Gaudin told a news conference. The figure was an increase from the 1,295 vehicles torched the night before.“We are witnessing a sort of shock wave that is spreading across the country,” Gaudin said, noting that the violence appeared to be sliding away from Paris and worsening elsewhere in France.

Outburst of anger
Australia became the latest country to issue a travel warning, joining the United States and Russia in warning citizens to stay away from violence-hit areas. The unrest began Oct. 27 in the low-income Paris suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois, after the deaths of two teenagers of Mauritanian and Tunisian origin. The youths were accidentally electrocuted as they hid from police in a power substation. They apparently thought they were being chased. Much of the youths’ anger has focused on Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy, who inflamed passions by referring to troublemakers as “scum.” In Strasbourg, youths stole a car and rammed it into a housing project, setting the vehicle and the building on fire. “We’ll stop when Sarkozy steps down,” said the defiant 17-year-old driver of the car, who gave his name only as Murat. Under arrest, he and several others awaited a ride to the police station as smoke poured from the windows of the housing project behind them. Sarkozy said he planned to visit the two hospitalized police officers. One was wounded in the neck, the other in the legs. The tough-talking interior minister said police must restore law and order to France, or gangs and extremists would fill the void. The violence has prompted soul-searching about how to ease anger and frustration among troubled youths in France’s grim public housing estates, where many residents are minorities. Educators met the French prime minister to think of ways to help.