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United Nations Investigation Indicates US Cover-up Of Airstrike
timesonline.co.uk -- AMERICAN forces may have breached human rights and then removed evidence after the so-called wedding party airstrike that killed more than 50 Afghan civilians this month, according to a draft United Nations report seen by The Times. A preliminary UN investigation has found no corroboration of American claims that its aircraft were fired on from the ground, and says there were discrepancies in US accounts of what happened. If the findings are upheld by a second, more detailed, UN investigation, they will cause huge embarrassment to the Pentagon. UN sources said that the findings pointed to an American cover-up, and suggested that American investigators were dragging their feet hoping that the issue would pass.
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posted by West 8:55 PM

We should all join the resistance against Disney
(Andrew Gumbel, The Independent, 24 July 2002)
Of course, there is nothing unusual about being bombarded with child-oriented marketing these days. It's an integral part of global capitalism. . . . Disney first came up with the idea of marketing tie-ins to its animated films . . . experts in the field cheerfully talk about parents succumbing to "pester power" and "the nudge factor". Even though he does not know it, and even though we, his parents, do our best to stop it, our son is a part of the vast, intricate machinery of corporate sales and marketing that latches on to kids while they are still in nappies. . . . Rowan Williams, the new Archbishop of Canterbury, is right: the cultivation of children as consumers has taken on monstrous proportions. The super-abundance of movie tie-ins, Happy Meals and plastic toys not only fills children's lives with useless junk; thanks to cross-marketing, the system also ensures that one purchase inevitably becomes a stimulus to further consumption, creating an endlessly expanding circle of insatiable consumerist desire. . . . The losers in all this are the children, who are encouraged to lose sight of all values other than consumerism, and gravitate inexorably towards junk food that can only make them pliant, fat and stupid. Just look at the childhood obesity figures: they tell their own story. Resisting my son in the supermarket may make me feel like a killjoy, but it is the only way I know to keep the garbage at bay
Boycott Disney!
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posted by Lorenzo 5:24 PM

BBC NEWS | US condemned for Afghan blunders
(BBC News, 21 July 2002)
The report says the civilian death toll could keep rising . . . Hundreds of Afghan civilians have been killed because of poor intelligence and the US military's reliance on overwhelming force, a survey has said. . . . The report lists more than 800 civilians killed in US air strikes, but says that figure is likely to rise as information comes in from more remote areas. . . . It accuses the Pentagon of relying on inaccurate or misleading information provided by Afghan warlords, and of preferring air strikes to ground operations that might put US forces at risk. . . . The survey said that even when genuine military targets were identified, civilian lives were still lost because of a disproportionate use of lethal force. . . . Professor Marc Herold of the University of New Hampshire said his research of news agencies, major newspapers and first hand accounts had yielded a death toll of almost 4,000 people. . . . Even in January, he described the estimated as "very, very conservative".
. . . Read more!

posted by Lorenzo 4:46 PM

Bush government halts family planning aid to U.N. Population Fund
WASHINGTON, July 22 (UPI) -- The Bush administration Monday announced it would withhold $34 million in funding set aside for the United Nations Population Fund, an overseas family planning initiative accused of supporting coercive abortions and involuntary sterilizations in China. Conservatives have accused the group of supporting practices that are illegal under U.S. law. Secretary of State Colin Powell decided that money earmarked for the U.N. Population Fund would instead be spent on programs administered by the United States Agency for International Development's Child Survival and Health Program Fund. "While Americans have different views on the issues of abortion, I think all agree that no woman should be forced to have an abortion," said State Department spokesman Richard Boucher. The U.N. Population Fund estimates that the $34 million from the United States would have allowed the agency to prevent 2 million unwanted pregnancies and more than 77,000 infant and child deaths. "The denial of these funds will, unfortunately, significantly affect millions of women and children worldwide for whom the life-saving services provided by the UNFPA will have to be discontinued. Women and children will die because of this decision," said Thoraya Obaid, executive director of the U.N. Population Fund. "We regret this decision by the administration and hope that the United States will reconsider its stand and rejoin the community of nations working through UNFPA to save women's lives, to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and to improve the quality of life for hundreds of millions of the world's poorest people," Obaid said.
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posted by West 8:45 PM

Say Goodbye To Privacy: British Schools Using Thumb-Scanners to Store Kids' Fingerprints
timesonline.co.uk -- IT PROMISED to be the high-tech saviour of the embattled primary-school librarian, an ingenious device that guaranteed no more lost library cards and fewer missing books. All a child had to do to borrow Topsy & Tim for the week was flick a thumb through an unobtrusive fingerprint scanner, so sensitive it could even recognise a pattern from under layers of sticky chocolate. There was only one snag: in many cases, parents were not told that schools were storing their children’s fingerprints. Parental outrage followed and, by last night, the school thumb-scanner being used by 1,000 British primary schools was being internationally condemned as a blatant breach of children’s human rights. The trouble began when the mother of an 11-year-old attending the Sacred Heart Roman Catholic School in Ruislip, West London, discovered that her son had been fingerprinted without her consent. Furious, the woman, who refused to be named, contacted civil liberties groups such as Privacy International and a child’s advocacy group, Action on Rights for Children in Education (Arch).
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posted by West 8:42 PM

Yahoo! News - Flaws in U.S. Air War Left Hundreds of Civilians Dead
KABUL, Afghanistan - The New York Times -- The American air campaign in Afghanistan, based on a high-tech, out-of-harm's way strategy, has produced a pattern of mistakes that has killed hundreds of Afghan civilians.

Intentional vs. Accidental: Are we any better than the terrorists we are fighting when we kill innocent civilians in the process? As clean cut as we would like to make the issue "in our defense of our (the American) way of life", when are we as a nation and ultimately a species going to stop assigning a relative value to human life. They like to call these civilian deaths "collatoral damage". I doubt the families left behind would agree that there loss is "collatoral".

[Hagerty comment: Collateral Damage Greater Than Combat Casualties

By early March 2002, the total number of U.S. service personnel who were killed in action in Afghanistan stood at nine. Afghan civilian deaths for the same period exceeded 3,700. So much for "smart bombs" and precision strikes by the U.S. This means that for every U.S. combatant who loses her or his life, we "accidently" kill over 418 innocent civilians. Is it any wonder that the Afghan people dislike America? If the U.S. isn't able to do better at sparing civilian populations in our world-wide, never-ending war on terror, we are going to have a lot of innocent blood on our hands. At our current combat loss to civilian death ratio, if we lose as many American lives in the war on terror as we did in Viet Nam, we will have murdered over 24 Million innocent children, women, and men in the process!

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posted by West 4:03 PM

The Pentagon's effort to create nonlethal weapons that hurt but don't kill has set off its own fire storm
time.com -- The U.S. armed forces don't do much shooting anymore. Even in Afghanistan, they engage in more advising and guiding than gunplay. Soldiers today are asked more often to keep the peace or defuse demonstrations, and the last thing they want in those situations is to fire a lethal weapon. That's why the Pentagon is spending more and more research-and-development dollars on weapons that stun, scare, entangle or nauseate — anything but kill. The U.S.'s nonlethal-weapons programs are drawing their own fire, mostly from human-rights activists who contend that the technologies being developed will be deployed to suppress dissent and that they defy international weapons treaties. Through public websites, interviews with defense researchers and data obtained in a series of Freedom of Information Act requests filed by watchdog groups, TIME has managed to peer into the Pentagon's multimillion-dollar program and piece together this glimpse of the gentler, though not necessarily kinder, arsenal of tomorrow.

. . . Read more!

posted by West 3:55 PM

A Concise Description of Flanders - Introduction
July 11, 2002 features the 700th anniversary of a -romanticized- battle of the county of Flanders against the French king and his knights. During the 19th century this day became a symbol for the recovering self esteem of the people of Flanders, after two or three centuries of cultural degradation. . . . Although Flanders is known by most as the northern part of Belgium, this is only the case since 1830, when Belgium was created as a buffer state between the big European Powers of that moment. During more than a millenary, Flanders had its own cultural and scientific history. Some important but too often forgotten facts are gathered on this pages. Misinformation about Flanders is probably largely due to certain factors, including: (1) for nearly one and a half century, information about Flanders was filtered by a French speaking ruling minority, (2) short stay visitors, who limit their visit to Brussels - a largely French speaking enclave in Flanders-, have the false impression to be in a French speaking country . . . For such a small region, Flanders was surprisingly fertile in cultural and scientific contributions to Western culture. This could be explained by several psychological, social and economic factors, including: a cross-fertilization between Latin and Germanic ways of thinking, a fertile region, an early rupture with suffocating feudal situations, attraction of many European businessmen and patrons, a self-confident but non-aggressive view of life. . . . Now that Brussels, situated in Flanders, is becoming Europe's capital you might want to learn more about the homeland of so many important scientists, writers, musicians, sculptors, painters, architects, and mystics.
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posted by Lorenzo 10:16 AM

Schroeder Says US Corporate Scandals 'Iceberg Tip'
LUDWIGSHAFEN, Germany (Reuters) -- German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder blamed U.S. corporate culture for recent accounting scandals and lauded Europe's model on Tuesday as President Bush launched new penalties for such abuses. Faced with a raft of accounting abuses, including at energy firm Enron and telecoms giant WorldCom, Bush unveiled a number of proposals on Tuesday aimed at fighting fraud and rebuilding confidence in corporate America's finances. A senior European Union official also blasted U.S. corporate practice saying American accounting rules had been used to raise share prices rather than reflect fair company values. Addressing employees at chemical giant BASF in the town of Ludwigshafen, Schroeder defended the German corporate system which encourages workers and employers to cooperate on the supervisory boards that steer the direction of their companies. "Now it has been revealed that egotism practiced at the top under the catchphrase 'shareholder value' is worth less in macroeconomic terms, but also as far as the companies themselves are concerned, than a system based on a fair balance between the interests of workers and employers," he said. Schroeder, who has often rejected calls to adopt what he calls U.S. "hire and fire" practices to help create more jobs in Germany, said the scandals at Enron and WorldCom showed that the American economic model should not always be emulated in Europe. "That is presumably just the tip of the iceberg and it has to do with a corporate culture which is different from here. There the individual employee is not valued and shareholder value is everything," he said. "Egoism at the top does not suffice to have lasting economic success," he said. "It must perhaps lie in the structure and not just individual lapses."
. . . Read more!

posted by West 5:36 PM

Britain to relax laws against marijuana use
LONDON (Reuters) - Britain will respond this week to a dramatic surge in cannabis use by easing laws and allowing millions of marijuana users to smoke without fear of arrest. Pressure from police, medical experts and politicians for Britain to take a less punitive approach has swayed Home Secretary David Blunkett, who is expected Wednesday to downgrade it to a low risk category C drug. The downgrade -- making cannabis a Class C rather than Class B drug -- will put the drug in the same category as anabolic steroids and growth hormones and make possessing small amounts of it or smoking it in private a non-arrestable offense.
. . . Read more!

posted by West 4:17 PM

Middle Eastern gulf separates EU and US
guardian.co.uk -- On either side of the Atlantic, fundamentally different attitudes towards the problems of Israel and Islamic unrest are hardening. When continents drift apart they usually move so slowly that nobody notices, but since George Bush became president the Atlantic has widened perceptibly. In the pre-Bush era, disputes between Europe and the US could often be passed off as differences of nuance rather than substance. What is emerging now, however, particularly in relation to the Middle East, is a fundamental difference of approach that will be hard to ignore or resolve.
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posted by West 10:37 PM

Why we should be worried about George W Bush (Euro-Aussebarf Alert!)
freerepublic.com -- THE world outside the US is now getting used to the fact Americans have a fraudulently elected nitwit as their president, but George W. Bush excelled himself this week with a "long-awaited" definitive speech on Middle East policies that stretched even the weirdest imaginations.
BRUCE WILSON in London reports.
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posted by West 9:25 AM

Israel has 400 nukes, building naval force
worldtribune.com -- A United States Air Force report asserts that Israel is building a nuclear naval force meant to respond to any nuclear strike by such countries as Iran or Iraq. It is the first time a U.S. military institution has stated that Israel has produced a hydrogen bomb. The number of purported Israeli nuclear weapons cited in the report is double that of previous assessments. The report, sponsored by the air force's Counterproliferation Center, asserts that the navy can deploy any of what it asserts is Israel's 400 atomic and hydrogen weapons, Middle East Newsline reported. The center is located in the Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama. In a report entitled "The Third Temple's Holy of Holies: Israel's Nuclear Weapons," U.S. Army Col. Warner Farr said Israel's nuclear arsenal has grown from an estimated 13 nuclear bombs in 1967 to 400 nuclear and thermonuclear weapons. Farr said Israel's navy could deploy nuclear weapons on the fleet of three German-built Dolphin-class diesel submarines.
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posted by West 9:13 AM

USA: THE ROGUE STATE - Legendary foreign correspondent JOHN PILGER on America's bid to control the world
mirror.co.uk -- FOR 101 days, Royal Marines have been engaged in a farcical operation as mercenaries of the United States whose lawlessness now qualifies it as the world's leading rogue state. Shooting at shadows, and the occasional tribesman, blowing up mounds of dirt and displaying "captured" arms for the media, all have been part of the Marines' humiliating role in Afghanistan - a role foisted upon them by the Blair government, whose deference to and collusion with the Bush gang has become a parody of the imperial courtier. Gang is not an exaggeration. The word, in my dictionary, means "a group of people working together for criminal, disreputable ends". That describes accurately George W Bush and those who write his speeches and make his decisions and who, since their rise to power, have undermined the very basis of international law.
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posted by West 9:05 AM

Wild at heart
(Jonathan Glancey, The Guardian, June 29, 2002)
"The long-term effect of US culture as it spreads to every nook and cranny in every desert and every mountain valley will be the end of mankind. Our extraordinary greed for material possessions, the ways we go about nurturing that greed, the lack of balance in our lives, and our cultural arrogance will kill us off within a century unless we learn to stop and think. It may be too late." The car, [Wilfred Thesiger] believes, has done more than almost anything else to destroy traditional cultures. Where the peoples he photographed looked lean and beautiful in their nakedness or stunning local costumes, today they too are part of a global tribe that wears baseball caps, chews gum, gawps at TV and yaks into mobile phones.
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posted by Lorenzo 6:53 PM

Congress unites in fear of world 'government'
timesonline.co.uk -- AMERICA’S conservatives see the creation of the first global criminal court as another step towards a sinister “world government” that threatens US sovereignty. They denounce the new tribunal as a “kangaroo court” set up by a deeply suspect United Nations. “The White House is bowing to conservatives who have a kneejerk reaction to any international body that has even the most remote authority to tell the United States what to do,” The New York Times commented.
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posted by West 10:09 AM

A page in the history of humankind is being turned
UNITED NATIONS, New York -- The world's first permanent criminal court for the prosecution of dictators and war criminals became a reality Thursday, more than half a century after such a tribunal was first proposed in the ruins of World War II. "The long-held dream of the International Criminal Court will now be realized," said Secretary-General Kofi Annan. "Impunity has been dealt a decisive blow. " The court closes a gap in international law by holding individuals, not nations or armies, responsible for the most horrific crimes, Mr. Annan said, speaking at a news conference in Rome, where more than 100 countries met in 1998 to propose the establishment of the tribunal. The court is expected to take shape in The Hague over the next year, beside the International Court of Justice, which rules in disputes between countries. The establishment of the International Criminal Court, which assumes jurisdiction over genocide and war crimes cases, beginning July 1, has been broadly welcomed by most democratic nations, American lawyers' associations and human rights groups. But it has an implacable foe in President George W. Bush's administration, which appears to be on the verge of, not only renouncing the tribunal, but also removing the signature of the United States from the treaty that created it. The treaty, White House officials say, will never be sent to the Senate for ratification. Congress has already passed a law forbidding Americans at all levels of government from cooperating with it. Michael Posner, executive director of the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights, said in an interview that rescinding the signature from the treaty would be a terrible precedent. "No American president in 200 years has unsigned a treaty, as far as we can find," he said. "It would also send a signal to other governments around the world that treaties they signed are unsignable." Arms control advocates fear that the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which bars nuclear explosions, might be next in line.
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posted by West 5:06 PM

World's First Permanent War Crimes Court Opens for Business
AMSTERDAM, Netherlands -- A four-member team opened for business Monday at the temporary office of the world's first permanent war crimes court, as international criticism mounted against U.S. opposition to the tribunal. Armed only with a fax machine and a phone, the staffers went to work in a single room of the 16-story office complex set aside as the court's headquarters in The Hague until a permanent court is built. Their main task will be keeping track of complaints until permanent representatives are appointed early next year. On Sunday, the United States took the extreme step of vetoing the renewal of the mandate for peacekeeping operations in Bosnia after failing to win an exemption for its troops from any proceeding at the new International Criminal Court. The U.S. move was denounced, even by some of Washington's closest allies, with only Israel fully supporting the American position.
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posted by West 4:58 PM

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