Tuesday, August 28, 2012

The Straits: Iran laughs to the bank despite sanctions

by Micah D. Halpern

THE Iranians are laughing at the US. Not chuckling, real belly laughing. They are laughing because the US has fallen right into the trap that they, the Iranians, laid out. And that was their plan.

Laughter is the only response Iran can have to the collision in the Iranian-controlled Straits of Hormuz between the USS Porter, a missile destroyer, and a Japanese oil tanker flying a Panamanian flag, earlier this month.

Photos that have been released show the extent of the damage. The collision left a humongous hole in the side of the destroyer.

The good news, as the US Navy was quick to announce, is that no one was hurt on either vessel and that no oil escaped into the sea.

The Straits of Hormuz is a narrow water passage with major responsibilities. On any given day 20-30 per cent of the entire world's oil supply passes through those waters. The straits are by no means international waters; they are controlled mutually by Oman and Iran.

For months the Iranians have murmured about and hinted that they would shut the straits. If they were to make good on their muted intentions, it would have a devastating impact on the price of oil. And actually, almost every time the Iranians do hint at closing the straits, the price of oil shoots up. That price increase bolsters the impact of the sanctions against them. The higher the cost of oil, the less Iran must sell to make their budget.

The way the Iranians have it figured, sanctions work for them, not against them. The US hasn't figured it out yet.

Instead, to protect the world's oil interests and the price of oil, the US has dispatched the 5th and 6th fleets to the tiny, narrow Straits of Hormuz.

In total the US now has four carrier fleets over there and the French have their ship called the Charles de Gaulle. The US also has the USS Lincoln, the Eisenhower, the Enterprise and the John Stennis. All but the Enterprise are Nimitz-class supercarriers, which means they each have 90 planes on them. The numbers for the US are staggering. For the Iranians, they are laughable.

And there's more. The US also has also deployed a slew of underwater minesweepers and submarines to try to gain some advantage over the Iranians. The ramming of the Japanese tanker shows just how hard that is to accomplish.

Iran's subs are tiny. They utilize rubber speedboats with high-calibre machineguns and rocket launchers. They swarm around and then they disappear. They are on and off the radar all the time and run circles around the big guns of the West. They are made for waters such as the Straits of Hormuz.

The West, on the other hand, is unfamiliar with those waters and those waters are very dangerous. At the narrowest point the Straits of Hormuz is only 21 nautical miles wide. And only six of those miles are wide and deep enough for a ship or tanker to sail through. The straits are divided into three sections. The centre section is a two-mile buffer to prevent collisions. Each side section has two, one-mile-wide lanes for travel in each direction.

Iran knows that the more ships clogging the waters, the more collisions there will be. And when the ships have no direction but are there, sitting, watching, waiting, collisions are even more likely. They remember how several years ago a US nuclear submarine called the USS Hartford rammed into another US ship called the USS New Orleans, an amphibious craft. The New Orleans is almost the size of an aircraft carrier. It was hard to miss.

The damage from that collision was extensive. The commanders of the ships were relieved from duty. The ship, the New Orleans, sustained $US2.3 million in damages.

The nuclear submarine, the Hartford, was damaged to the tune of nearly $US103m. That recollection is making the Iranians laugh even louder.

Iran rattles the sabre, tensions rise and so does the cost of oil. The US moves ships and then more ships into the region and the price of oil goes up again.

Even if they were to exert more power over the straits the Iranians would probably never close them; they are too shrewd for that. Knowing the Iranians, they would squeeze them or narrow them. They would force the lanes to become even thinner by "accidently" obstructing them.

They would do so to create a situation just short of being big enough to draw the US and Western allies into a conflict. They could, for example, invent an environmental emergency or produce a disabled ship or even uncover an old and dangerous minefield left over from the time of the Shah.

Each and every one of these potential scenarios would necessitate a clean-up or clearing out that would take days if not weeks to implement.

The result will always be the same: it would slow the flow of oil to the world market and increase the revenues of Iran.

The Iranians are masters of brinksmanship. The game of chess was invented by the Persians. Their forbears, the Iranians of today, have mastered the diplomatic version of the ancient game. And they are laughing all the way to the bank.

Micah D. Halpern is a columnist and a social and political commentator. His latest book is Thugs: How History's Most Notorious Despots Transformed the World through Terror, Tyranny, and Mass Murder

Seize BP Petition button

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Amnesty International is US State Dept. propaganda

Mistakenly considered by many as the final word on human rights worldwide, it might surprise people to know that Amnesty International is in fact one of the greatest obstacles to real human rights advocacy on Earth. In its most recent 2012 annual report (page 4, pdf), Amnesty reiterates one of the biggest lies it routinely tells:

“Amnesty International is funded mainly by its membership and public donations. No funds are sought or accepted from governments for investigating and campaigning against human rights abuses. Amnesty International is independent of any government, political ideology, economic interest or religion.”

This is categorically false. Amnesty international is indeed funded and run by not only governments, but also immense corporate-financier interests, and is not only absolutely entwined with political ideology and economic interests, it is an essential tool used for perpetuating just such interests.

Amnesty International’s Funding

Finding financial information on Amnesty International’s website is made purposefully difficult – specifically to protect the myth that the organization is “independent.” Like any organized criminal operation, Amnesty separates compromising financial ties through a series of legal maneuvers and shell organizations. Upon Amnesty’s website it states:

“The work carried out through Amnesty International’s International Secretariat is organised into two legal entities, in compliance with United Kingdom law. These are Amnesty International Limited (“AIL”) and Amnesty International Charity Limited (“AICL”). Amnesty International Limited undertakes charitable activities on behalf of Amnesty International Charity Limited, a registered charity.”

And it is there, at Amnesty International Limited, where ties to both governments and corporate-financier interests are kept. On page 11 of Amnesty International Limited’s 2011 Report and Financial Statement (.pdf) it states (emphasis added):

“The Directors are pleased to acknowledge the support of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Oak Foundation, Open Society Georgia Foundation, the Vanguard Charitable Endowment Programme, Mauro Tunes and American Jewish World Service. The UK Department for International Development(Governance and Transparency Fund) continued to fund a four year human rights education project in Africa. The European Commission (EuropeAid) generously awarded a multi-year grant towards Amnesty International’s human rights education work in Europe.”

Clearly then, Amnesty does take money from both governments and corporate-financier interests, one of the most notorious of which, Open Society, is headed by convicted financial criminal George Soros. In March, 2012, it was reported that a Bloomberg’s report, “Soros Loses Case Against French Insider-Trading Conviction,” indicated that an appeal based on a “human rights” violation against Wall Street speculator George Soros had been rejected by the “European Court of Human Rights.”

Soros, whose Open Society also funds Human Rights Watch and a myriad of other “human rights” advocates, literally attempted to use the West’s human rights racket to defend himself against charges of financial fraud in perhaps the most transparent illustration of just how this racket operates.

Soros, who was convicted and fined for insider trading in 2002 regarding French bank Société Générale shares he bought in 1988, has built an empire out of obfuscating global criminal activity with the cause of “human rights.” His support, as well as that of the British and European governments, of Amnesty International aims solely at expanding this obfuscating.

Amnesty International’s Leadership

Amnesty’s leadership is also telling of its true agenda. Suzanne Nossel, Executive Director of Amnesty International USA, for instance was drawn directly from the US State Department – again, utterly contradicting Amnesty’s claims of being “independent” of governments and corporate interests. Nossel continued promoting US foreign policy, but simply behind a podium with a new logo, Amnesty International’s logo, attached to it. Amnesty International’s website specifically mentions Nossel’s role behind US State Department-backed UN resolutions regarding Iran, Syria, Libya, and Cote d’Ivoire.

Same lies, different podium. Suzanne Nossel previously of the US State Department, is now executive director of Amnesty International USA. Her primary function of dressing up aspirations of corporate-financier global hegemony as “human rights advocacy” has not changed.

It has been documented at great length how these issues revolve around a decades long plan devised by corporate-financier interests to divide, destroy and despoil these nations who are seen as obstacles to US global hegemony. In the case of Syria specifically, it was revealed that the current “human rights” catastrophe stems back to a malicious 2007 conspiracy documented by “New Yorker” journalist Seymour Hersh, between the US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia which sought to purposefully fund, arm, and deploy sectarian extremists to undermine and overthrow the Syrian government – this, knowing full well the human tragedy that would unfold.

Nossel’s “contributions” then are simply to dress up naked military aggression and the pursuit of global corporate-financier hegemony with the pretense of “human rights” advocacy.

A glance at AmnestyUSA.org reveals that each and every front the US State Department is currently working on and has prioritized is also coincidentally prioritized by Amnesty International. This includes rallies and campaigns to support US State Department-funded Russian opposition groups(currently fixated on “Pussy Riot“), undermining the Syrian government, toppling the government of Belarus, and supporting the Wall Street-London created Aung San Suu Kyi of Myanmar (still called by its British Imperial nomenclature of “Burma” by Suu Kyi herself).

Amnesty International Betrays Real Human Rights Advocacy

Amnesty does indeed cover issues that are critical of US foreign policy, toward the bottom of their websites and at the back of their reports. Likewise, the corporate-media selectively reports issues that coincide with their interests while other issues are either under-reported or not reported at all. And it is precisely because Amnesty covers all issues, but selectively emphasizes those that are conducive to the interests of immense corporate-financiers that makes Amnesty one of the greatest impediments to genuine human rights advocacy on Earth.

Ordinary people are given the false impression that “someone is watching out” for human rights abuses, when in reality, all Amnesty and other organizations like it are doing, is managing public perception selectively of global human rights abuses, fabricating and/or manipulating many cases specifically to suit the agenda of large corporate-financier interests. This can be seen when entire reports out of Amnesty or Human Rights Watch consist solely of “witness reports” compiled from accounts of US-backed opposition groups.

In the rare instance that a report includes references to actual photographic, video, or documented evidence, such as Human Rights Watch’s 2011 “Descent into Chaos” (.pdf) report, deceptive language is intentionally included along with throwaway passages to enable selective reporting and spinning by not only the Western corporate media, but by a myriad of faux-NGOs funded and run by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch’s sponsors and affiliates. The Descent into Chaos report, regarding Thailand, was promptly and amply spun and manipulated by US State Department-funded faux-NGO and “rights advocate” Prachatai.

When people erroneously believe that credible organizations are handling “rights advocacy” they will not only become complacent, they will become negligent of their own responsibilities to objectively examine potential abuses and speak out against them. Wall Street and London’s corporate-financier interests have filled a void - that should be occupied by their greatest opponents – instead with a large advocacy racket of their own creation. Not only are they given a free pass to abuse human rights globally, they’ve actually used their controlled opposition to attack their opponents.

It is clear that Amnesty International is by no means an “advocate” of human rights, but rather an affront to human rights advocacy. It goes without saying that it should be boycotted out of existence and at the very least, identified as illegitimate and fraudulent – from its funding to its compromised leadership.

Additionally, we the people must tackle real violations of each others rights at the grassroots – because it is absolute folly to believe that global spanning organizations, funded by corporate-financiers, echoing the agenda of governments driven by special interests has our best interests and rights in mind.

Seize BP Petition button

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Crumbs; That’s what lazy people get—Zambians, Africans, the entire Third World.

By Field Ruwe

They call the Third World the lazy man’s purview; the sluggishly slothful and languorous prefecture. In this realm people are sleepy, dreamy, torpid, lethargic, and therefore indigent—totally penniless, needy, destitute, poverty-stricken, disfavored, and impoverished. In this demesne, as they call it, there are hardly any discoveries, inventions, and innovations. Africa is the trailblazer. Some still call it “the dark continent” for the light that flickers under the tunnel is not that of hope, but an approaching train. And because countless keep waiting in the way of the train, millions die and many more remain decapitated by the day.
“It’s amazing how you all sit there and watch yourselves die,” the man next to me said. “Get up and do something about it.”

Brawny, fully bald-headed, with intense, steely eyes, he was as cold as they come. When I first discovered I was going to spend my New Year’s Eve next to him on a non-stop JetBlue flight from Los Angeles to Boston I was angst-ridden. I associate marble-shaven Caucasians with iconoclastic skin-heads, most of who are racist.
“My name is Walter,” he extended his hand as soon as I settled in my seat.
I told him mine with a precautious smile.
“Where are you from?” he asked.
“Zambia!” he exclaimed, “Kaunda’s country.”
“Yes,” I said, “Now Sata’s.”
“But of course,” he responded. “You just elected King Cobra as your president.”

My face lit up at the mention of Sata’s moniker. Walter smiled, and in those cold eyes I saw an amenable fellow, one of those American highbrows who shuttle between Africa and the U.S. “I spent three years in Zambia in the 1980s,” he continued. “I wined and dined with Luke Mwananshiku, Willa Mungomba, Dr. Siteke Mwale, and many other highly intelligent Zambians.” He lowered his voice. “I was part of the IMF group that came to rip you guys off.” He smirked. “Your government put me in a million dollar mansion overlooking a shanty called Kalingalinga. From my patio I saw it all—the rich and the poor, the ailing, the dead, and the healthy.”

“Are you still with the IMF?” I asked. “I have since moved to yet another group with similar intentions. In the next few months my colleagues and I will be in Lusaka to hypnotize the cobra. I work for the broker that has acquired a chunk of your debt. Your government owes not the World Bank, but us millions of dollars. We’ll be in Lusaka to offer your president a couple of millions and fly back with a check twenty times greater.”
“No, you won’t,” I said. “King Cobra is incorruptible. He is …”
He was laughing. “Says who? Give me an African president, just one, who has not fallen for the carrot and stick.”

Quett Masire’s name popped up. “Oh, him, well, we never got to him because he turned down the IMF and the World Bank. It was perhaps the smartest thing for him to do.”
At midnight we were airborne. The captain wished us a happy 2012 and urged us to watch the fireworks across Los Angeles. “Isn’t that beautiful,” Walter said looking down.
From my middle seat, I took a glance and nodded admirably.
“That’s white man’s country,” he said. “We came here on Mayflower and turned Indian land into a paradise and now the most powerful nation on earth. We discovered the bulb, and built this aircraft to fly us to pleasure resorts like Lake Zambia.”

I grinned. “There is no Lake Zambia.” He curled his lips into a smug smile. “That’s what we call your country. You guys are as stagnant as the water in the lake. We come in with our large boats and fish your minerals and your wildlife and leave morsels—crumbs. That’s your staple food, crumbs. That corn-meal you eat, that’s crumbs, the small Tilapia fish you call Kapenta is crumbs. We the Bwanas (whites) take the cat fish. I am the Bwana and you are the Muntu. I get what I want and you get what you deserve, crumbs. That’s what lazy people get—Zambians, Africans, the entire Third World.” The smile vanished from my face.

“I see you are getting pissed off,” Walter said and lowered his voice. “You are thinking this Bwana is a racist. That’s how most Zambians respond when I tell them the truth. They go ballistic. Okay. Let’s for a moment put our skin pigmentation, this black and white crap, aside. Tell me, my friend, what is the difference between you and me?” “There’s no difference.” “Absolutely none,” he exclaimed. “Scientists in the Human Genome Project have proved that. It took them thirteen years to determine the complete sequence of the three billion DNA subunits. After they were all done it was clear that 99.9% nucleotide bases were exactly the same in you and me. We are the same people. All white, Asian, Latino, and black people on this aircraft are the same.”

I gladly nodded. “And yet I feel superior,” he smiled fatalistically. “Every white person on this plane feels superior to a black person. The white guy who picks up garbage, the homeless white trash on drugs, feels superior to you no matter his status or education. I can pick up a nincompoop from the New York streets, clean him up, and take him to Lusaka and you all be crowding around him chanting muzungu, muzungu and yet he’s a riffraff. Tell me why my angry friend.” For a moment I was wordless. “Please don’t blame it on slavery like the African Americans do, or colonialism, or some psychological impact or some kind of stigmatization. And don’t give me the brainwash poppycock. Give me a better answer.” I was thinking.

He continued. “Excuse what I am about to say. Please do not take offense.”
I felt a slap of blood rush to my head and prepared for the worst.
“You my friend flying with me and all your kind are lazy,” he said. “When you rest your head on the pillow you don’t dream big. You and other so-called African intellectuals are damn lazy, each one of you. It is you, and not those poor starving people, who is the reason Africa is in such a deplorable state.”
“That’s not a nice thing to say,” I protested.

He was implacable. “Oh yes it is and I will say it again, you are lazy. Poor and uneducated Africans are the most hardworking people on earth. I saw them in the Lusaka markets and on the street selling merchandise. I saw them in villages toiling away. I saw women on Kafue Road crushing stones for sell and I wept. I said to myself where are the Zambian intellectuals? Are the Zambian engineers so imperceptive they cannot invent a simple stone crusher, or a simple water filter to purify well water for those poor villagers? Are you telling me that after thirty-seven years of independence your university school of engineering has not produced a scientist or an engineer who can make simple small machines for mass use? What is the school there for?”

I held my breath. “Do you know where I found your intellectuals? They were in bars quaffing. They were at the Lusaka Golf Club, Lusaka Central Club, Lusaka Playhouse, and Lusaka Flying Club. I saw with my own eyes a bunch of alcoholic graduates. Zambian intellectuals work from eight to five and spend the evening drinking. We don’t. We reserve the evening for brainstorming.”

He looked me in the eye. “And you flying to Boston and all of you Zambians in the Diaspora are just as lazy and apathetic to your country. You don’t care about your country and yet your very own parents, brothers and sisters are in Mtendere, Chawama, and in villages, all of them living in squalor. Many have died or are dying of neglect by you. They are dying of AIDS because you cannot come up with your own cure. You are here calling yourselves graduates, researchers and scientists and are fast at articulating your credentials once asked—oh, I have a PhD in this and that—PhD my foot!”
I was deflated.

“Wake up you all!” he exclaimed, attracting the attention of nearby passengers. “You should be busy lifting ideas, formulae, recipes, and diagrams from American manufacturing factories and sending them to your own factories. All those research findings and dissertation papers you compile should be your country’s treasure. Why do you think the Asians are a force to reckon with? They stole our ideas and turned them into their own. Look at Japan, China, India, just look at them.” He paused. “The Bwana has spoken,” he said and grinned. “As long as you are dependent on my plane, I shall feel superior and you my friend shall remain inferior, how about that? The Chinese, Japanese, Indians, even Latinos are a notch better. You Africans are at the bottom of the totem pole.”

He tempered his voice. “Get over this white skin syndrome and begin to feel confident. Become innovative and make your own stuff for god’s sake.”
At 8 a.m. the plane touched down at Boston’s Logan International Airport. Walter reached for my hand. “I know I was too strong, but I don’t give it a damn. I have been to Zambia and have seen too much poverty.” He pulled out a piece of paper and scribbled something. “Here, read this. It was written by a friend.”

He had written only the title: “Lords of Poverty.”
Thunderstruck, I had a sinking feeling. I watched Walter walk through the airport doors to a waiting car. He had left a huge dust devil twirling in my mind, stirring up sad memories of home. I could see Zambia’s literati—the cognoscente, intelligentsia, academics, highbrows, and scholars in the places he had mentioned guzzling and talking irrelevancies. I remembered some who have since passed—how they got the highest grades in mathematics and the sciences and attained the highest education on the planet. They had been to Harvard, Oxford, Yale, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), only to leave us with not a single invention or discovery. I knew some by name and drank with them at the Lusaka Playhouse and Central Sports.

Walter is right. It is true that since independence we have failed to nurture creativity and collective orientations. We as a nation lack a workhorse mentality and behave like 13 million civil servants dependent on a government pay cheque. We believe that development is generated 8-to-5 behind a desk wearing a tie with our degrees hanging on the wall. Such a working environment does not offer the opportunity for fellowship, the excitement of competition, and the spectacle of innovative rituals.
But the intelligentsia is not solely, or even mainly, to blame. The larger failure is due to political circumstances over which they have had little control. The past governments failed to create an environment of possibility that fosters camaraderie, rewards innovative ideas and encourages resilience. KK, Chiluba, Mwanawasa, and Banda embraced orthodox ideas and therefore failed to offer many opportunities for drawing outside the line.

I believe King Cobra’s reset has been cast in the same faculties as those of his predecessors. If today I told him that we can build our own car, he would throw me out.
“Naupena? Fuma apa.” (Are you mad? Get out of here)
Knowing well that King Cobra will not embody innovation at Walter’s level let’s begin to look for a technologically active-positive leader who can succeed him after a term or two. That way we can make our own stone crushers, water filters, water pumps, razor blades, and harvesters. Let’s dream big and make tractors, cars, and planes, or, like Walter said, forever remain inferior.

A fundamental transformation of our country from what is essentially non-innovative to a strategic superior African country requires a bold risk-taking educated leader with a triumphalist attitude and we have one in YOU. Don’t be highly strung and feel insulted by Walter. Take a moment and think about our country. Our journey from 1964 has been marked by tears. It has been an emotionally overwhelming experience. Each one of us has lost a loved one to poverty, hunger, and disease. The number of graves is catching up with the population. It’s time to change our political culture. It’s time for Zambian intellectuals to cultivate an active-positive progressive movement that will change our lives forever. Don’t be afraid or dispirited, rise to the challenge and salvage the remaining few of your beloved ones.

Field Ruwe is a US-based Zambian media practitioner and author. He is a PhD candidate with a B.A. in Mass Communication and Journalism, and an M.A. in History

Seize BP Petition button

Saturday, August 18, 2012

In Israel; scorching desert jail for African asylum seekers

"While Eritrean asylum seekers cannot be deported due to the risk they would face upon return, the new Prevention of Infiltration Law enables Israel to keep them in prison indefinitely. New arrivals, most having faced rape and torture en route to Israel, are presently being held in a prison in the desert, and nobody knows how long they’ll be kept there."

By Yonatan Berman

Almost three years ago, I wrote about how much I hate the journey to Ketsiot prison; how frustrating it is there, even for the fleeting visitor who knows that at the end of the day he’ll be free and safe in Tel Aviv. I wrote about the despair of the asylum seekers, who are locked up for days on end, not knowing until when. Although I know the right thing to do is to visit again and again, as often as possible, lately I have been doing so less and less, for my own peace of mind. Because even though in the three years since I poured out my bitterness most of the Prison Service staff was replaced, the situation in this desert prison has only deteriorated.

But sometimes there is no choice, like yesterday, when Mesi, Yuval and I were forced to return to that awful place. The thermometer in Yuval’s car read 39 degrees Celsius as we were getting out. We waited in the central courtyard of the growing prison. To the north (or so at least it seemed to me), they had already added two-story buildings to hold additional asylum seekers. The detainees are currently imprisoned under the new Prevention of Infiltration Law, which allows for the administrative detention of immigrants without legal status for an unlimited period of time (or for a minimum period of three years).

In the two months since the authorities began to use this draconian new instrument for detention, not one person has been released. The Detention Review Tribunal, which has judicial oversight over the detention of asylum seekers under the Prevention of Infiltration Law, has become the law’s rubber stamp. In practice, there are no circumstances under which the new law enables the release of detainees, so all that is left for the judges to do is to see detainee after detainee, to hear his or her story, and to inform him or her that they have no option but to approve the detention order.

The heat in the courtyard is unbearable, and one can only imagine what it feels like in the prison wings, and particularly for the women and children, who are held in tents during this scorching summer. Most of the detainees are Eritrean. “They’re not refugees,” we’re told by the interior minister and the prime minister, who in the same breath admit that we can’t deport them, because deportation would place their lives at risk. The camp, therefore, is not meant for the “illegal immigrants” awaiting deportation, but intended to exhaust and discourage the asylum seekers who can’t be deported.

The camp exhausts and discourages us, too. Most of the Eritreans here endured many months of severe torture at the hands of the smugglers in Sinai, in order to extort money from their families. Most of the Eritrean women were brutally raped, repeatedly, by the smugglers in Sinai. The first asylum seeker we interview recounts being cuffed at the hands and feet, electrocuted, having cigarettes extinguished on his arms, being hung by his arms and burned with white hot iron rods. These descriptions are familiar, from conversations with other asylum seekers, from a Physicians for Human Rights – Israel report and the Hotline for Migrant Workers’ report. Yet this firsthand account terrifies us. But when we get to the third interviewee who tells us the same horror story, I’m already whispering to Yuval, “Compassion fatigue.” Yuval nods. Our psychological defenses have kicked in.

The High Court of Justice recently recommended that the State set out guidelines addressing the rights of Eritreans, whom it is forbidden to deport. The State’s response, which finds its expression in Ketsiot prison, is: “They have no rights; eternal detention for all.” If once we could take comfort in the fact that the Eritreans we met in prison fell under the “temporary protection” policy, and would be released soon, today we have no words to comfort those we meet. All that is left for us to say to them is that we don’t know how long they will wait in this boiling hell, and that we know how hard it is for them to be there. (Although we don’t really know, and apparently never will know quite how hard.)

One can assume that in the interior and justice ministries, they will read these lines and smile with satisfaction, saying that this was their very intention – for people to know they won’t be released for years, and to send a message: “Don’t come.” Yet anyone with even the slightest experience and understanding of migration issues knows that’s not how it works – walls, prisons, starvation and degradation have never deterred immigrants, whether they’re refugees or economic migrants. These instruments are good for satisfying public opinion thirsty for a heavy hand, and for shaking off a sense of idleness, but they do not prevent migration. The Interior Ministry is already boasting about the drop in entries into Israel in the last month, but if you want to know the reason for this ebb, you had better turn your attention to what’s happening in the Sinai Peninsula and Libya. This ebb has nothing to do with Bibi and Yishai’s magic tricks.

Around the prison, a huge area is being prepared for construction of a new facility, which will be able to hold thousands more asylum seekers. Making the desert bloom, indeed – bloom that is entirely evil. When we leave after a depressing day, we photograph the construction going on around us for awhile and travel north, leaving the men and women we met behind, where they’ll be staying for quite a while longer.

Joseph Carens wrote, over two decades ago, that citizenship in the “West” today is comparable to feudal privileges – a hereditary status that improves one’s chances in life. For those not born with this status, it is almost impossible to acquire. Like hereditary feudal privileges, this is very difficult to justify.

When I return to my two-room apartment in Tel Aviv after the visit to Ketsiot, it really does feel like a palace.

*Yonatan Berman is the director of the Immigrant Rights Clinic at the Academic Center of Law and Business. This post originally appeared in Hebrew on the blog Laissez Passer, and was translated by Caroline Beck.

Seize BP Petition button

Friday, August 17, 2012

Bill Gates on quest to reinvent the toilet

Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has launched a search for a new toilet better suited to developing countries to help prevent disease and death.

A charitable foundation founded by Gates and his wife kicked off a "Reinvent the Toilet Fair" in Seattle and awarded prizes for promising innovations.

"Toilets are extremely important for public health and, when you think of it, even human dignity," Gates said.

"The flush toilets we use in the wealthy world are irrelevant, impractical and impossible for 40 per cent of the global population, because they often don't have access to water, and sewers, electricity, and sewage treatment systems."

The Toilet Fair was described as a swirl of about 200 inventors, designers, investors, partners and others passionate about creating safe, effective, and inexpensive waste management systems.

Universities from Britain, Canada, and the United States were awarded prizes in a competition launched a year ago challenging inventors to come up with a better toilet.

First place went to the California Institute of Technology for designing a solar-powered toilet that generates hydrogen gas and electricity.

Loughborough University came in second for a toilet that transforms waste into biological charcoal, minerals, and clean water.

Third place went to the University of Toronto for a toilet that sanitises human waste and recovers minerals and water.

Gates said approximately 2.5 billion people worldwide do not have access to safe sanitation systems and this contributes to severe health problems.

"Beyond a question of human dignity, this lack of access also endangers people's lives, creates an economic and a health burden for poor communities, and hurts the environment," Gates said.

Food or water tainted with faecal matter causes intestinal diseases that kill 1.5 million children annually - a figure higher than deaths from AIDS and malaria combined, according to Gates.

"Inventing new toilets is one of the most important things we can do to reduce child deaths and disease and improve people's lives," Gates said.

"It is also something that can help wealthier countries conserve fresh water for other important purposes besides flushing."

My comment at source: "First place went to the California Institute of Technology for designing a solar-powered toilet that generates hydrogen gas and electricity.

Loughborough University came in second for a toilet that transforms waste into biological charcoal, minerals, and clean water.

Third place went to the University of Toronto for a toilet that sanitises human waste and recovers minerals and water."

Hahaha! Are you thinking what I'm thinking? First place is for a bomb that'll blow the crap out of you literally. 2nd and 3rd places are for transformation of waste and its recovery to clean water etc. The clincher? "Food or water tainted with faecal matter causes intestinal diseases that kill 1.5 million children annually - a figure higher than deaths from AIDS and malaria combined, according to Gates." Now you know where this eugenics freak is headed. He arrogantly states it to our face.

Seize BP Petition button

Thursday, August 16, 2012

China Replaces United States As Nigeria’s Number One Crude Oil Importer

The Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Mr. Andrew Yakubu, has said China had become the alternative market for Nigeria’s crude oil, following dwindling imports by the United States, which was the major buyer of Nigeria’s crude oil.

Speaking at the sidelines of a recent oil and gas conference in Lagos, Yakubu stated that China was a very good market for any shortfall in the United States’ imports.

“The decision of the United States is not driven by the fact that they don’t want to buy our oil; they have other issues. The Shale gas has been discovered and it is a major source of energy. But of course, the good news is that there are other parts of the world that are interested. As you know, major demand growth is going to come from China and the east. So, that is a very good replacement of whatever shortfall we have with the United States,” he said.

Nigeria’s crude oil export to the United States, which was over one million barrels per day (bpd) in December 2009, had declined to 352,000bpd, representing a loss of about 70 per cent of the United States’ market.

Statistics indicate that Nigeria was the third-largest supplier of crude oil to the United States in 2010, with the US accounting for 43per cent of Nigeria’s exports.

In September 2011, Nigeria’s crude export to the United States dropped to 580,000bpd, with the country assuming the sixth position, after Canada, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Venezuela and Russia.

Nigeria’s crude export to the United States further dwindled to 352,000bpd as at February 2012.

Though refiners in Asia are said to be increasing crude oil imports, it is more difficult to ship crude oil from Nigeria to Asian countries than to the United States because of the long distances.

For instance, the distance from the Shell’s Bonny Export terminal in Rivers State, to Tianjin, China, is 12,172 miles, compared with 5,847 miles to New York Harbour in the United States.

With these long distances, Asian refiners are said to be demanding for discount to buy Nigeria’s crude.

Refiners that use Nigeria crude oil are also closing plants on the United States East Coast, the main destination for Nigerian exports, amid falling returns on investment.

Recent reports indicate that Sunoco stopped production at the 194,000-barrel per day Marcus Hook plant in Pennsylvania on December 2011.

ConocoPhillips stopped its 190,000-barrel per day Trainer, plant site on September 30, 2011 and the two facilities together accounted for half of East Coast crude oil processing capacity.

In recent years, China has demonstrated increasing appetite for Nigeria’s oil and gas resources.

Chinese National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), one of China’s largest state-run oil and gas producers, had agreed to buy a 45per cent stake in the license covering the Oil Mining Lease (OML) 130 field, which is owned by South Atlantic Petroleum.

CNOOC has been scouting for overseas oil and gas assets to supply China’s growing domestic market, as the country’s appetite for oil and gas is said to be second only to that of the United States.

CNOOC Chairman and Chief Executive, Mr. Fu Chengyu, had stated that the purchase would give CNOOC access to “an oil and gas field of huge interest and upside potential, located in one of the world’s largest oil and gas basins”.

Seize BP Petition button
Johnson and Johnson to remove potentially cancer-causing chemicals from products by 2015

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) - Johnson & Johnson plans to remove potentially cancer-causing and other dangerous chemicals from nearly all its adult toiletries and cosmetic products worldwide within 3 1/2 years.

The health care giant late last year pledged to remove "chemicals of concern" from its baby products sold around the world after being pressed to do so for more than three years by a large coalition of health and environmental groups.

The company told The Associated Press in an exclusive interview Tuesday that it remains on track to have baby products, including its Johnson's No More Tears baby shampoo, reformulated with safer ingredients by the end of 2013. Adult products will be reformulated by the end of 2015.

"We want people to have complete peace of mind when they use our products," said Susan Nettesheim, vice president of product stewardship and toxicology for J&J's consumer health brands.

Those include Johnson's baby lotion and bath products and Desitin for diaper rash, as well as adult skin care brands including Aveeno, Neutrogena, RoC, Clean & Clear and Lubriderm. J&J, based in New Brunswick, N.J., also makes prescription drugs and medical devices.

The Campaign for Safe Cosmetics began pushing J&J in May 2009 to remove harsh and toxic chemicals from its brands to protect consumers and workers. The coalition includes more than 175 nonprofit groups representing about 1.7 million members, from the Environmental Working Group and Friends of the Earth to the American Nurses Association and Physicians for Social Responsibility...

Research by the Environmental Working Group found most cosmetic and personal care products - other than those from small companies in the fast-growing natural products niche - contain potentially dangerous chemicals.

The key ones in question are 1,4 dioxane and the preservative formaldehyde, which is slowly released by a chemical called quaternium-15 to kill bacteria. Both 1,4 dioxane and formaldehyde are probable human carcinogens; formaldehyde also is a skin, eye and respiratory irritant.

By 2015 Johnson & Johnson will phase out those two chemicals and others of concern, including triclosan, phthalates and parabens, as well as fragrance ingredients, which aren't disclosed on product labels. However, it will allow chemicals that release formaldehyde when no safe alternative will work and is reducing levels of 1,4 dioxane to below 10 parts per million.

Seize BP Petition button

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Swarm of bees tells Hillary Clinton to ‘buzz off’

Hillary Clinton’s six-and-a-half hour trip to Malawi literally went by in a buzz. The US Secretary of State has received not-so-warm welcomes from several countries she’s visited, but in Malawi she was reportedly chased onto her plane.

Chased onto her plane by a swarm of bees, that is.

Clinton ran for cover and boarded her jet to escape the bees, which attacked her at Malawi’s international airport, the local Nyasa Times quotes witnesses as saying. The Secretary was preparing to board a Johannesburg-bound flight when the stinging swarm forced her to make a quicker entry than planned.

Clinton wasn’t the only one spooked by the bees: “There was a slight panic as the bees winged across the airport. People could be seen running away to keep cover as the Secretary of State swiftly boarded her plane to avoid any stings,” a witness told the Nyasa Times.

The Secretary of State visited Malawi as part of an 11-day tour of Africa. While there, Clinton held bilateral talks with President Joyce Banda and pledged $36 million to strengthen Malawi’s agricultural value chain, the Nyasa Times reported.

Clinton began her African tour in Senegal, and has already been to Uganda, South Sudan and Kenya. She is expected to end her tour in Ghana on August 10, where she will attend the funeral of the country’s President John Atta Mills, who died on July 24.

Though her visit to Malawi was just a few hours long, Clinton will likely remember the trip for a while to come.

Seize BP Petition button

Saturday, August 04, 2012

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Easy rider: This biker practically has the road to himself.

Incredible: London Bridge Underground station was also totally clear during the supposed rush hour

Quiet: Streets in the central shopping area of Greenwich looked almost deserted as the final stages of the team equestrian event got under way

London City; vehicle barren

A usually heavily congested Blackwall Approach is virtually deserted

Roomy: Pedestrians walk on the pavement but there was a surprising lack of cars on London Bridge at 2pm

This shows the A4 close to Earl's Court

Empty: The scene on Millbank, outside Westminster Palace, at 6pm, when the roads are normally congested

This picture shows an empty Spitalfields Market during lunchtime

Worrying: Restaurants in Covent Garden are suffering a down turn in trade as customers stay away from the area

Clear run: Despite a packed Games schedule coinciding with the start of the working week, London's usually packed roads were at times as empty as they are on Christmas Day

Subdued: The normally bustling Carnaby Street in London's Soho has looked very different since the Olympics began at the weekend

Open: Westminster Bridge appears almost empty of pedestrians and vehicles during morning rush hour in central London

Central reservations: Foreign visitors in Trafalgar Square, with the National Gallery in the background. Major attractions have reported a fall in attendance around the Olympic period

Seize BP Petition button