Sunday, December 23, 2007
Doctors Without Borders Releases Tenth Annual "Top Ten" Most Underreported Humanitarian Stories of 2007
New York, December 20, 2007 — People struggling to survive violence, forced displacement, and disease in the Central African Republic (CAR), Somalia, Sri Lanka, and elsewhere often went underreported in the news this year and much of the past decade, according to the 10th annual list of the “Top Ten” Most Underreported Humanitarian Stories, released today by the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).
The 2007 list also highlights the plight of people living through other forgotten crises, in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Colombia, Myanmar, Zimbabwe, and Chechnya, where the displacement by war of millions continues. It also focuses on the ongoing toll of medical catastrophes like tuberculosis (TB) and childhood malnutrition.
The complete text of the list is available at www.doctorswithoutborders.org/publications/reports/topten/
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According to Andrew Tyndall, publisher of the online media-tracking journal, “The Tyndall Report,” the countries and contexts highlighted by MSF on this year’s list accounted for just 18 minutes of coverage on the three major U.S. television networks’ nightly newscasts from January through November 2007. This figure does not include coverage of Myanmar or tuberculosis; both generated significant media attention, but very little of it focused on the medical humanitarian aspects of either context.
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TOP TEN UNDERREPORTED HUMANITARIAN STORIES – 2007
- Displaced Fleeing War in Somalia Face Humanitarian Crisis
- Political and Economic Turmoil Sparks Health-Care Crisis in Zimbabwe
- Drug-Resistant Tuberculosis Spreads As New Drugs Go Untested
- Expanded Use of Nutrient Dense Ready-to-Use Foods Crucial for Reducing Childhood Malnutrition
- Civilians Increasingly Under Fire in Sri Lankan Conflict
- Conditions Worsen in Eastern Democratic Republic of Congo
- Living Precariously in Colombia’s Conflict Zones
- Humanitarian Aid Restricted in Myanmar
- Civilians Caught Between Armed Groups in Central African Republic
- As Chechen Conflict Ebbs, Critical Humanitarian Needs Still Remain
A loss for privacy rights
28 Nov 2007The Constitution of the United States protects individuals against unreasonable searches, but for this protection to have practical meaning, the courts must enforce it. This week, the Supreme Court let stand a disturbing ruling out of California that allows law enforcement to barge into people's homes without a warrant. The case has not prompted much outrage, perhaps because the people whose privacy is being invaded are welfare recipients, but it is a serious setback for privacy rights.
San Diego County's district attorney has a program called Project 100 Percent that is intended to reduce welfare fraud. Applicants for welfare benefits are visited by law enforcement agents, who show up unannounced and examine the family's home - including the insides of cabinets and closets. Applicants who refuse to let the agents in are generally denied benefits.
The program does not meet the standards set out by the Fourth Amendment, which rejects unreasonable searches. For a search to be reasonable, there generally must be some kind of individualized suspicion of wrongdoing. These searches are done in the homes of people who have merely applied for welfare and have done nothing to arouse suspicion.
The Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, based in San Francisco, rejected a challenge brought by welfare recipients. In ruling that the program does not violate the Constitution, the majority made the bizarre assertion that the home visits are not "searches."
The Supreme Court has long held that when the government intrudes on a person's reasonable expectation of privacy, it is a search for the purposes of the Fourth Amendment. It is a fun-house mirrors version of constitutional analysis for a court to say that government agents are not conducting a search when they show up unannounced in a person's home and rifle through the bedroom dresser.
Judge Harry Pregerson, writing for himself and six other Ninth Circuit judges who voted to reconsider the case, got it right. The majority decision upholding Project 100 Percent, Pregerson wrote, "strikes an unprecedented blow at the core of Fourth Amendment protections." These dissenters rightly dismissed the majority's assertion that the home visits were voluntary, noting that welfare applicants were not told they could withhold consent, and that they risked dire consequences if they resisted.
The dissenting judges called the case "an assault on the poor," which it is. It would be a mistake, however, to take consolation in the fact that only poor people's privacy rights were at stake. When the government is allowed to show up unannounced without a warrant and search people's homes, it is bad news for all of us.
" ... QUESTION: Today, you have been saying that relations between Russia and Greece are developing successfully on almost all fronts. At the same time, some EU officials have criticized Greece for its contacts with Russia, considering them to be too close. In this regard, how do you see the development of further contacts between your two countries?
VLADIMIR PUTIN: Recently, I have been involved with the government’s attempts to balance the budget for 2008, 2009, and 2010, with social problems, with pensions. And somehow I have not had the opportunity to acquaint myself with the views of these particular officials, even the distinguished ones who work in Brussels, and do not intend to comment on them.
On the whole our relations with the European Union are developing reasonably well. We are satisfied with them. I hope that soon we will be able to sign the agreement on long-term cooperation that Russia wants. We are hoping for the understanding and support of our European partners. Europe, too, is interested in this. With regard to bilateral relations between Greece and Russia, we are pleased with our relationship and the nature and pace of its development. It yields tangible results for our economies and our citizens. Not to mention energy: Greece will be able to satisfy its needs in the energy sector in large measure by drawing on our energy resources.
But there are other very important and promising directions. And in this sense both Russia and Greece can play a very important role in Europe by supporting the stability of the European energy market. And if we implement major infrastructure projects in this area, then it should be quite clear that we are working not only for our countries but also for the benefit of all of Europe. I think that we can ignore those who have not properly understood the nature of our cooperation and not bother trying to make sense of their concerns.
KONSTANTINOS KARAMANLIS: Greece is a European country which operates within the framework of European policy. However, bilateral relations are conducted on the basis our country’s national interests. Having a particularly good relationship with Russia is good for our country, and I would like to believe that it is good for Russia and useful for all of Europe. Thus, Greece is one of the countries that has actively worked to realize the benefits of closer cooperation between Russia and the European Union. ... "
~ Link ~
And we do have a gaggle of prophets busily at work like a swarm of termites gnawing away at democracy’s support beams.
All prophets, both old and new, foresaw the eminent collapse of a way of life. The prophets of the Bible saw the fall of Israel because she had strayed from God. Our prophets see the collapse of the United States because of corporatism’s multiple excesses. Where old prophets demanded change, our demand that we stay the course.
Our prophets whispered in 1974, and nobody heard. That was when the SRI Center for the Study of Social Policy issued their report, Changing Images of Man. The document was spurred by the knowledge among our elite that our economic system was headed for an eventual collapse. Warnings about peak oil had surfaced, we were busily making enemies around the world by funding coups, death squads and torture chambers, and capital’s need to consolidate and increase its wealth was beginning to widen the gap between rich and poor.
The report was grounded on the fallacy that makes the term “social science” one of history’s great oxymorons: that man is a passive lump of soft clay that can be molded into any shape that best serves the elite.
Attempting to Destroy CIA Tapes, Cheney Burns Down White House
The White House, one of the most historic structures in the nation’s capital, burnt to the ground today after Vice President Dick Cheney attempted to incinerate a cache of CIA interrogation tapes in his office.
According to White House aides, the blaze started shortly after twelve noon, minutes after Mr. Cheney slipped out of a cabinet meeting, saying that he had to “hit the head.”
But rather than using the bathroom as he had stated, the vice president instead went to his office and put a blowtorch to a pile of CIA interrogation tapes which the White House had feared might be subpoenaed in the near future.
“I started burning those things and boom, they went up like a rocket,” an apologetic Mr. Cheney later told reporters.
The accidental blaze quickly spread from the videotapes to a nearby stack of transcripts of phone conversations involving Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and singer Barbra Streisand that Mr. Cheney had obtained via a warantless wiretap.
“Once those transcripts caught on fire, I knew the building was a goner,” Mr. Cheney said. “There were literally thousands and thousands of pages of that stuff.”
Speaking in front of the charred remains of the historic building, administration spokesperson Dana Perino said that the White House might have been saved had it not been for an unfortunate bureaucratic mix-up: “Instead of calling the fire department, President Bush called FEMA.”
The Greek Civil War
" ... In November 1944, six ministers of the EAM, most of whom were KKE members, resigned from their positions in the "National Unity" Government. Fighting broke out in Athens on 3 December 1944 during a demonstration, organised by EAM, involving more than 100,000 people. According to some accounts, the police, covered by British troops opened fire on the crowd. According to other accounts, it is uncertain if the first shots were fired by the police or the demonstrators. More than 28 people were killed and 148 injured. The "Dekembriana", "the December events"), as this incident is known, was the beginning of a 37-day full-scale fighting in Athens between ELAS and the Government forces.
The British tried to stay neutral but when the battle escalated they intervened, with artillery and aircraft being freely used. At the beginning the government had only a few policemen and a brigade without heavy weapons. On December 4 Papandreou attempted to resign but the British Ambassador convinced him to stay. By December 12 ELAS was in control of most of Athens and Piraeus. The British, outnumbered, flew in the 4th Infantry Division from Italy as reinforcements. During the battle with the ELAS, local militias fought alongside the British, triggering a massacre by ELAS fighters. It must be noted that although the British were fighting openly against ELAS in Athens there were no fights in the rest of Greece. In certain cases like Volos some RAF units even gave equipment to ELAS fighters.
Conflicts continued throughout December with the British slowly gaining the upper hand. Curiously, ELAS forces in the rest of Greece did not attack the British. It seems that ELAS preferred a legitimate rise to power, but was drawn into the fighting by the indignation and, at the same time, the awe of its fighters after the slaughter on December 3, aiming at establishing its predominance. Only this version of the events can explain the simultaneous struggle against the British, the large-scale ELAS operations against trotskyists and other political dissidents in Athens and many contradictory decisions of EAM leaders. Videlicet, KKE's leadership was supporting a doctrine of 'national unity' while eminent members, e.g. Stringos or Makridis and even Georgios Siantos, were elaborating revolutionary plans.
This outbreak of fighting between Allied forces and an anti-German European resistance movement, while the war in Europe was still being fought, was a serious political problem for Churchill's coalition government of left and right, and caused much protest in the British press and in the House of Commons. To prove his peace-making intention, Churchill himself arrived in Athens on December 25 and presided over a conference, in which Soviet representatives also participated, to bring about a settlement. It failed because the EAM/ELAS demands were considered excessive and, thus, rejected.
In the meanwhile, the Soviet Union remained surprisingly passive about the developments in Greece. True to their "percentages agreement" with Britain, the Soviet delegation in Greece wasn’t encouraging or discouraging EAM’s ambitions, as Greece belonged to the British sphere of influence. Pravda didn’t mention the clashes at all. If this position of the Soviet leadership had been brought home to KKE’s leadership, the Dekemvriana might have been averted. It seems that Stalin didn’t have the intention to avert the Dekemvriana, as he would profit no matter the outcome. If EAM rose to power, he would gain a country of major strategic value. If not, he could use the British actions in Greece to justify to the Allies any intervention in his own sphere of influence. ... "
I have a running hypotheses that the plan is to physically track each individual’s position on the ground, at all times. In AT&T Invents Programming Language for Mass Surveillance, I speculated that the mobile phone data might be the way that it is being done.
Well, there’s no need to speculate about what They want to do. The Washington Post article blurts it right out:
At the West Virginia University Center for Identification Technology Research (CITeR), 45 minutes north of the FBI’s biometric facility in Clarksburg, researchers are working on capturing images of people’s irises at distances of up to 15 feet, and of faces from as far away as 200 yards. Soon, those researchers will do biometric research for the FBI.
Covert iris- and face-image capture is several years away, but it is of great interest to government agencies.
In other words, once you have been declared and enemy of the state, there will be no way to hide. You won’t see the eye scanners, or know when one has provided the state with your present location.
Here’s another interesting coincidence:
The FBI is building its system according to standards shared by Britain, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
The countries that run ECHELON, the largest civilian communications surveillance program in the world, have developed unified standards for biometric identification.
See how this might look in the future by looking at Iraq. That’s the beta testing phase for what’s in store for the rest of us. See Mobile Labs to Target Iraqis for Death Using Biometric Data.
Via: Washington Post:
The FBI is embarking on a $1 billion effort to build the world’s largest computer database of peoples’ physical characteristics, a project that would give the government unprecedented abilities to identify individuals in the United States and abroad.
Digital images of faces, fingerprints and palm patterns are already flowing into FBI systems in a climate-controlled, secure basement here. Next month, the FBI intends to award a 10-year contract that would significantly expand the amount and kinds of biometric information it receives. And in the coming years, law enforcement authorities around the world will be able to rely on iris patterns, face-shape data, scars and perhaps even the unique ways people walk and talk, to solve crimes and identify criminals and terrorists. The FBI will also retain, upon request by employers, the fingerprints of employees who have undergone criminal background checks so the employers can be notified if employees have brushes with the law.
“Bigger. Faster. Better. That’s the bottom line,” said Thomas E. Bush III, assistant director of the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division, which operates the database from its headquarters in the Appalachian foothills.
The increasing use of biometrics for identification is raising questions about the ability of Americans to avoid unwanted scrutiny. It is drawing criticism from those who worry that people’s bodies will become de facto national identification cards.
“It’s going to be an essential component of tracking,” said Barry Steinhardt, director of the Technology and Liberty Project of the American Civil Liberties Union. “It’s enabling the Always On Surveillance Society.”
If successful, the system planned by the FBI, called Next Generation Identification, will collect a wide variety of biometric information in one place for identification and forensic purposes.
Three Democratic members of the House Judiciary Committee—Robert Wexler of Florida, Luis Gutierrez of Illinois, and Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin—have called on committee chair John Conyers to begin impeachment hearings against Vice President Dick Cheney. We host a discussion on impeachment with Conyers and former CIA analyst Ray McGovern.
RAY McGOVERN: Well, we not only have the obstruction of justice, but we have the President’s former spokesman saying that he was involved in the outing of Valerie Plame. We also have the President threatening World War III on bogus evidence that Iran was developing a nuclear weapons development program. So, you know, it’s sort of like outreach fatigue. Where do you begin?
Well, where I would begin is with the demonstrably impeachable offenses—first and foremost, the President’s not only admission, but his bragging about violating laws against eavesdropping on Americans without a court warrant. He bragged that he did that thirty times. That was one of the articles of impeachment voted against President Nixon. Similarly, disregarding subpoenas, that, too, was one of the articles voted against President Nixon in the Judiciary Committee, where Congressman Conyers, of course, served very loyally. So you have those two right there.
And that’s not even mentioning, you know, forging, manufacturing, coming up with false intelligence to deceive congressmen and senators out of their constitutional prerogative to declare or to otherwise authorize war. I mean, it doesn’t get any worse than that. And so, my sense is that our founders are probably turning over in their grave at this point, because they put the impeachment clause in the declarative mood, not the subjunctive mood. They didn’t say that—
JUAN GONZALEZ: But, Ray McGovern, what about the argument that Congressman Conyers raises that given the short amount of time left in the term of the President and the difficulty of actually being able to vote out an impeachment, that it would divert much of the attention of the Democratic Party in a way that would not necessarily lead to victory?
RAY McGOVERN: I think what I hear Congressman Conyers saying is that Fox News would have a field day if he didn’t get 218 votes right off the bat. That is not an explanation, in my view. If you read Article II, Section 4 of the Constitution, which I think should be the document we abide by, it says the President, Vice President, other senior officials shall be removed from office upon impeachment for and conviction of high crimes and misdemeanors. Congressman Conyers and his staff, a year ago, came up with a 350-page indictment of all the offenses against the Constitution that Bush had already been guilty of. So I don’t really understand the delay.
I’m wondering if there isn’t some sort of crass political reason for it, namely, don’t make any waves. The President’s numbers are in the toilet. The Vice President’s numbers are flushed down the toilet. Just don’t do anything at all, so that Fox News will have nothing to seize upon in accusing the Democrats of being divisive or something like that. I don’t think that’s the right constitutional approach, and I feel very strongly about that, and many of my colleagues do, as well.
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