Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Chiquita Papers


Bogotá, Colombia, April 7, 2011 - Confidential internal memos from Chiquita Brands International reveal that the banana giant benefited from its payments to Colombian paramilitary and guerrilla groups, contradicting the company's 2007 plea agreement with U.S. prosecutors, which claimed that the company had never received "any actual security services or actual security equipment in exchange for the payments." Chiquita had characterized the payments as "extortion."

These documents are among thousands that Chiquita turned over to the U.S. Justice Department as part of a sentencing deal in which the company admitted to years of illegal payments to the paramilitary United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC)--a State Department-designated foreign terrorist organization--and agreed to pay a $25 million fine. The Archive has obtained more than 5,500 pages of Chiquita's internal documents from the Justice Department under the Freedom of Information Act and is publishing the entire set online today. Key documents from the Chiquita Papers are included in the recently-published document collection, Colombia and the United States: Political Violence, Narcotics, and Human Rights, 1948-2010, now available as part of the Digital National Security Archive from ProQuest.

The documents provide evidence of mutually-beneficial "transactions" between Chiquita's Colombian subsidiaries and several illegal armed groups in Colombia and shed light on more than a decade of security-related payments to guerrillas, paramilitaries, Colombian security forces, and government-sponsored Convivir militia groups. The collection also details the company's efforts to conceal the so-called "sensitive payments" in the expense accounts of company managers and through other accounting tricks. The Justice Department investigation concluded that many of Chiquita's payments to the AUC (also referred to as "Autodefensas" in many of the documents) were made through legal Convivir organizations ostensibly overseen by the Colombian army.

New evidence indicating that Chiquita benefited from the illicit payments may increase the company's exposure to lawsuits representing victims of Colombia's illegal armed groups. The collection is the result of an Archive collaboration with George Washington University Law School's International Human Rights and Public Justice Advocacy Clinics and has been used in support of a civil suit brought against Chiquita led by Earth Rights International on behalf of hundreds of Colombian victims of paramilitary violence.

"These extraordinary records are the most detailed account to date of the true cost of doing business in Colombia," said Michael Evans, director of the National Security Archive's Colombia documentation project. "Chiquita's apparent quid pro quo with guerrillas and paramilitaries responsible for countless killings belies the company's 2007 plea deal with the Justice Department. What we still don't know is why U.S. prosecutors overlooked what appears to be clear evidence that Chiquita benefited from these transactions."

Pat Robertson: Buddha is a Demonic False Idol


Musical Innerlube: The William Blakes - Secrets Of The State


Video for 'Secrets of the State', the first single from The William Blakes debut album 'Wayne Coyne'.

www.myspace.com/thewilliamblakes
www.speedofsound.dk

Musical Innerlube: Dead Milkmen - Commodify your dissent


Their first album in 15 years
http://www.deadmilkmen.com/thekinginyellow/

Commodify Your Dissent
Commodify Your Dissent
Who will sponsor my green revolution?
Will you buy the rights to my class war?
Purchase the t-shirts and the audio version of the book
They took your anger and polished up
Then they sold it back to you
They took your anger and repackaged it
And there's nothing you can do

Put your name on my new army's designer uniforms
Rebellion and subversion will make your Rom-Com cool
You'll capture that "indie" feel that the kids are crazy for
They took your frustrations and dressed them up
Before a focus group
They painted your frustrations in earth tones colors
And there's nothing you can do

Country music used to be about music and not about the county
There once was a time when rap was dangerous
Now flag-waving idiots and millionaire illiterates dance across the screen
Johnny Cash died for you

This sense of outrage can be yours if the price is right
Galleries and Poetry readings Jingles and cartoons
This is the river in which we've learned to swim
Sub-culture vultures circle above
The great unread white and blue
And there's nothing you can do

Country music used to be about music and not about the county
There once was a time when rap was dangerous
Now flag-waving idiots and millionaire illiterates dance across the screen
Jam Master Jay died for you

C'mon Bourgeoisie and get behind me
Captains of industry I'm waiting for your calls
Operators are standing by so don't delay
Your parents are reading hipster lit
And they try to dress like you
They took your anger and repackaged it
And there's nothing you can do

Punks, Goths, and Rivetheads disappeared into the mall
Just like the yippies, and the beatniks, and freaks
This is the river in which we've learned to swim
And this is the river in which we will all drown

Poetry And The Art Of Revolution

From Poetry of Revolution - Poetry as a Vehicle for Social Change

Throughout history, poetry has served as a call to arms for nations to unite in times of war and then as a romantic historical account of how those wars played out.

In many cultures, poetry preserves the oral history of a tribe or a nation or an event. The strongest evidence of this emanates from the Arabian Peninsula, where the classical Arabic language reigned as the language of the culture and its popular poetry - a poetry that inspired gatherings and competitions of thousands of stanzas that many were able to memorize and repeat in one sitting.

Poetry as a Part of Culture

Poetry was a part of the culture itself. Conflicts were even known to be battled and settled in poetry. Within its verses, whole ideas can be disseminated - whether to convince, intimidate, impose or simply tell. Although no cameras existed at the height of Arab literary history, none were needed. The spoken poetry painted a picture in the air in front of the orator, as it still does today for the reader.

Battles came alive among the stanzas. Patriotism or ties of kinship were stirred up. It was easy to sympathize with the side of whichever poet you were listening to depending upon his skill as a poet, which is still a characteristic of argument in general that, while known today, is rather conveniently forgotten.

War, Freedom and Struggle Poems Across the Continents and Centuries

War poems can be found on every continent. They consist of pro-war poems, poems written by soldiers describing the ravages of war, poems written by the blood-thirsty, those written calling for justice, anti-war poems both by pacifists and those that did not see fairness nor cause for a war, calls for war to struggle against tyranny, occupation and injustice and those that may be considered simply political war poems written by politicians to entice people into a war who's cause is masked.

Revolutionary Poets Differ Only in Name

A common thread in revolutionary poetry is a call to a common cause - either to give courage to those who must face inevitable battle against evil (real or perceived) or to stir up the masses to a particular action and of which the encouragement of the obtainment of freedom is a final goal.

While the basic message is there, regardless of the language or time-period, these poets at times have been considered as criminals for their poetry and at other times heroes. This is along the same lines with the statement: One man's freedom fighter is another man's terrorist.



From Friday Links: Political Dissent in Arabic Literature, New (Revolutionary) Poetry in Translation, More

The End of a Discussion With a Prison-guard

by Samih Al-Qasim
translated by A.Z. Foreman

Through the eyehole of this little cell of mine
I can see the trees all smiling at me,
The rooftops crowded with my family,
The windows breaking into tears for me
And prayers for me.
Through the eyehole of this little cell of mine
I see your bigger cell just fine.


Two poems of the Libyan Revolution
Over at Jabal al-Lughat, Lameen Souag has posted—with commentary—two poems of the revolution, one in Berber and the other in Arabic.

The first is quite short:

Patience for the time
And hope for the future of the people
And he who is thirsty shall drink his fill!


From Poets speak out on Libya

Deejay-poets LSX, have blasted the western military intervention in Libya. During the group's headline performance at the Poetry Society of Jamaica's (PSJ) monthly fellowship last Tuesday, the group made their position on the matter known.

"The western societies are infiltrating eastern societies under the guise of caring for the peoples issues but their only concern is oil," stated member Sage who wore a keffiyeh or Arab scarf and aviation jumpsuit.


From Three Poems by Raúl Rivero

Manifesto for the General Customs
Office of the Republic


Don't try to prohibit my nostalgia
Don't decree that this internal pain is subversive.

Let me go on dreaming that I didn't go
Just as right now I'm dreaming that I went.

Allow the free flow of delirium
The coming and going of the spirit.

Don't let yourselves be seduced by papers
nobody is going to traffic with dreams.

Sincere phantasms don't use jewels.
Dogs don't perceive images.

Suffering doesn't appear on the flat
and gray X-ray screens.

Your special agents
do they figure out metaphors?


From Resisting Poems: Expressions of Dissent and Hegemony in Modern Basque Bertsolaritza

Among many practices rooted in the principle of improvisation, the popularity of improvised sung poetry in the Basque Country (known as bertsolaritza in the Basque language) is especially striking. For anyone unfamiliar with this peculiar combination of poetry, music, and sport, the December finals of the 1989 bertsolaritza championships conjure up images of the festive community-bonding atmosphere typical of a European major-league soccer game.1 On the day of the event, approximately 12,000 people gathered in the largest arena of Donostia (San Sebastian in Spanish, the urban cultural hub of the Basque region) in order to hear eight competitors improvise poetry in Basque during two three-hour sessions. The event was the culmination of several well-attended qualifying competitions that began the previous spring in multiple locations within the French and Spanish Basque regions. It was broadcast simultaneously by Basque television and radio stations, and was covered in the daily Basque newspaper Egin in a twelve-page supplement. The audience, representing all ages, genders, and social backgrounds, travelled from every part of the Basque country (Laborde, “Joutes”).2 As of 2005, the championship final has moved to Bilbo (Bilbao in Spanish, the largest city in the Basque Country) to accommodate its growing popularity; bertsolaritza is arguably the most successful expression of Basque culture today (Retortillo and Aierdi 20).

While the formal aspects of bertsolaritza have largely been documented and analyzed by scholars of Basque culture, and many studies have focused on the lyrical content of Basque improvised verses, fewer studies have focused on the socio-political relevance of the contemporary practice of bertsolaritza in the context of the globalizing of Basque society. This article contributes a modern theorization of the implications and potential significance for Basque society of bertsolaritza’s popularity both inside and outside the Basque Country’s borders. For recent developments of bertsolaritza, the process of institutionalization has been a paramount factor, particularly given the creation of an association, Bertsozale Elkartea, which regulates most of the improvised poetry practiced in the Basque Country today.


From Erotic Subversion, Communal Poetry of Pashtun Women (Part 2)

The landay which means “little one” in Pashtun, is composed and sung by women when they are gathered, usually for work, since leisure is the prerogative of males. In the landay, the Pashtun woman is no longer confined in a burqa, and she is no longer constrained by the bonds of society or religion.

Gather some wood and make a great fire
For it is my wont to give myself in the bright light.

The heart, as well as tenderness and loyalty, are reserved for the lover, not the husband, “the little horror”.


Quickly my love, I want to offer you my mouth!
Death is roaming through the village and could carry me off.

Come, my beloved, and come quickly!
The “little horror” lies in slumber and you may kiss me now.


From Poetry: Protest, Dissent and Subversion

In our fairly complex world the pathways towards meaning are not too straight. With poetry things can at times become even more complex. Art and aesthetics can clutter up things further. They have their own dimensions, their own fads, fashions, even doctrines. For instance, I am told that if you rhyme the honchos of the avant garde will rip you into shreds. When we talk of subversion, the question that crops up is what is there to subvert? In fact after the media have done their bit, the sensational TV channels, the tabloids, the yellow press of the moffussil, what is there left to subvert?

Well firstly you subvert order. Now order itself has become a dirty word. We need order and we don't need anarchy. And a lot of poetry in the sixties and seventies was anarchic—they were the decades of LSD and Hash. I have somewhere defined order as "the corpse and the coffin-maker at their appointed places." You can subvert values, mythologies, dynastic rule, and sycophancy. —you could subvert history itself. And you can subvert pomposity, lies, totalitarianism and a host of other things.


From Using politics to fire your poetry, and poetry to give voice to your politics

Know what you want to say

Nothing waters down political poetry faster than vague generalisations. Political poetry is at its emotionally rousing best when it directly addresses the everyday world of current political events.

These events don’t necessarily need to be up-to-the-minute reflections - case in point, you can address, say, the Vietnam War, if you wish to tie it into a present day wartime poem scenario.

When a poet chooses their political subject matter, they need to reference their chosen topic in a voice that speaks directly to their audience. The writer needs to keep in mind that political poetry addresses often controversial subject matters. Political poetry equals dissent: whatever ‘side’ the poet’s political voice takes, that voice needs to speak directly from the wellspring of the poet’s inner heart and mind. The political poet’s personal ethics, morals, and ideology must come directly into play. If they do not, the end result can often sound hollow or even worse, pre-fabricated.


From Lecture highlights political power of poetry

She explained to her audience that being a poet in politically oppressive Eastern Europe was dangerous.

"Writers were considered unacknowledged legislatures," she said. "Poets were always busy articulating the woes of the oppressed nation, but becoming the voice of the people has its downsides."

Radicalism was shunned in Eastern Europe, and any literature containing the slightest allusion to radical ideas was taboo. The opposition to radicalism remains ingrained in Soviet culture. As an undergraduate studying in the Soviet Union, Cavanagh chose to memorize a poem called "The Giraffe" by Nikolai Gumilev for one of her classes.

"I had no idea he was shot by the Soviets in 1921 for radical activities," she said. "He had never been published and no one could mention his name. They looked at me like I dropped an H-bomb. They thought I was trying to be a little counter-revolutionist."

Audience members were intrigued by Cavanagh's notion of poets as political figures.

"She explains the role of literature in the Slavic world in a way that is very eye opening," said Tony Lin, a former student of Cavanagh's at Northwestern University. "She reminds us that the most monumental individuals in Eastern Europe are not always presidents or politicians, but that they are often writers."

Cavanagh has translated numerous works from Polish to English. She feels that it is important for people to understand their nation's poets, for the famous writers of the past were writing about the same things people worry about today. Political dissent is omnipresent, no matter what the society, but poetry puts it into perspective.


From Liu Xiaobo, Freedom of Speech and the Crime of Writing

It is easy to take the act of writing, the pleasure of reading for granted. As easy as it to presume the liberty to speak, the liberty to listen, the liberty to weave disparate views into a workable and strong social fabric. But freedom of speech and the associated freedoms that come with it – the freedom to hear disparate views, to challenge to power, to name abuse – can never be taken as given. They are rights that have been hard won in every country where citizens have the right to speak out. In countries where freedom of expression is denied, it is always the first step towards democracy. When Aung Sang Suu Kyi was released from house arrest in Burma in November, 2010, her first statement paid tribute to the fundamental importance of freedom of expression.

This past Sunday, March the 20th, the Berlin-based Peter Weiss Foundation of Art and Politics commemorated of the Anniversary of the Political Lie. (The first political lie was the weapons-of-mass-destruction whopper that led to the invasion of Iraq.) There is a surfeit of political lies to choose from each year, but this year coordinated worldwide readings were held to pressurize the Chinese government to release Liu Xiaobo, the writer and activist.

The South African PEN Writers in Prison Committee and Poetry International South Africa joined with more than 90 organisations around the world to protest Liu Xioaboa’s ongoing detention. A number of South African writers with firsthand experience of prison shared their own writing.

Liu Xiaobo is currently the world’s only winner of the Nobel Peace Prize still held in detention. In 2009, after co-authoring ‘Charter 08’, a manifesto calling for greater freedoms and democracy in China, He was sentenced to eleven years in prison on a spurious charge of ‘inciting subversion of state power’. 1936 was the last time neither the winner, German journalist and pacifist Carl von Ossietzky, nor any of his family members, could go to Oslo to collect the Nobel Peace Prize. They were all barred from leaving Nazi Germany. This is an uncomfortable historical twinning.


From POET, PROPHET AND REDNECK REVOLUTIONARY: JOE BAGEANT R.I.P.

From Joe Bageant’s Lafayette Park Blues:

America: When we first stepped onto this playground of the national soul together, I truly believed you were not a bully, that you were the protector of queers and thick-tongued immigrants and laboring spiritual hoboes like me. I have tossed down your dreams straight from the bottle with no chaser, then bought a round for the house, because this is the goddam land of the free where even a redneck boy from Virginia can dream the dreams of bards, call himself a writer then walk away from dark ancestral ghosts to actually become one.

I believed it all, America. And I still fall for it if I let my guard down, just like the abused wife who believes she will not be punched again for that thousand and first time. All the neighbors — whole nations — believed in you too, despite the muffled screams of the black slave and the Red Indian coming from within your own house. But now you are lurking on the neighbors’ porches smelling of the halls of Abu Gharib and gun grease and there are no cops to call because you ARE the cops, so they are going to break down the doors and cut your balls off.


From The Poetics of Anarchy: David Edelshtat's Revolutionary Poetry by Ori Kritz [Review]

First written as a thesis, The Poetics of Anarchy is especially valuable for the amount of biographical research it contains, especially translations from the Yiddish anarchist press and Yiddish books, both anarchist and literary. Kritz does a good job, even if when she mentions “Karl Marx, with whose writing Edelshtat was no doubt familiar” (p129), it makes me want to know for sure: and to know what else he read. If you write something interesting, people will want to know more!

Edelshtat’s anarchism was militant, uncompromising and self-sacrificing. The imagery of storms and blood-stained banners is probably alien to most contemporary anarchists. More alien will be the expectation of a final battle: “that success is near, and more importantly, absolute” (p116). Although Edelshtat was capable of falling in love, he refused be distracted from the cause (p44). This is the attitude Emma Goldman reacted against in her celebrated “I want freedom, the right to self-expression, everybody’s right to beautiful radiant things” outburst (Living my life p56). Edelshtat has a lot in common with Alexander Berkman. Both were Russian-speaking Jews who brought to anarchism the moral fire of Russian populism. Of course there are differences: Berkman’s father was a successful businessman, Edelshtat’s a cantonist (a 25-year conscript in the tsar’s army). By the end of 1892 Berkman was beginning fourteen years of imprisonment; and Edelshtat was dead.


From Poetry Of The Revolution



Poetry is a far more important part of Iran's culture than our own. In the Arab world, political and social movements have long adopted the art as a means of galvanizing support and bringing unity and focus to a cause. Thus, it's no surprise that when the head of Iran's Security Council threatened opposition candidate Mir Hossein Mousavi with death, his wife Zahra, who herself has become a powerful symbol for change in Iran, responded with a poem that she twittered out to millions:

Let the wolves know that in our tribe
If the father dies, his gun will remain
Even if all the men of the tribe are killed
A baby son will remain in the wooden cradle.


From Egypt's Revolutionary Poetry

Imperious despot, insolent in strife,
Lover of ruin, enemy of life!
You mock the anguish of an impotent land
Whose people’s blood has stained your tyrant hand,
And desecrate the magic of this earth,
sowing your thorns, to bring despair to birth

-Abul Qasim al-Shabi


While protesters in Tunisia chanted these words, written by the poet Abul Qasim al-Shabi, two weeks ago, Iraqi poets staged a reading in solidarity. In Egypt, where al-Shabi’s verses had become a rallying cry, Al Jazeera reported poetry readings in the middle of the protests at Tahrir Square.

The readings and poetic chants in Tunisia and Egypt are only the latest instance in a long history of political poetry in the Middle East, going back all the way to pre-Islamic times, when the sa-alik (roughly translated as “vagabond”) wrote about living outside the tribal system. In modern times, poetry has been a tool for creating a sense of political unity, giving voice to political aspirations, and excoriating governments and leaders. Maybe most surprising to an American used to poetry’s increasing confinement to college campuses, poetry is a tool for galvanizing people to political action.


From The revolutionary poetry and life of Roque Dalton

Remembering the Salvadoran poet Roque Dalton, 1935-1975

“Yes, anguish exists.
Like despair
crime
or hate.
Who should the poet’s voice be for?”

-- From “The Art of Poetry”


Roque Dalton was a great poet, a Salvadoran, and a revolutionary Marxist. He spent his short lifetime in a profound engagement between the theory and practice of art and revolution. The facts of his life—which ended 32 years ago today—remain the stuff of legend and myth.

Dalton was born in the capital city of El Salvador in 1935. He was the son of a member of the Dalton gang, a legendary bank-robbing gang from Kansas, who had fled the country with a suitcase full of money.

Though he carried his father’s name, he was raised by his mother, a registered nurse. Her salary earned him relative privilege, most importantly a Jesuit education. From the very beginning, he was deeply political. Chosen valedictorian of his elite high school, Dalton delivered his address in the form of a withering critique of his instructors for their prejudice and elitism.

[ ... ]

If a crystallizing slogan is to be found amidst the book’s pages, perhaps it comes from a piece called “Poetic Art”:

“Poetry
Forgive me for having helped you understand
You’re not made of words alone.”



A Stasi Expert Advises Egypt on Secret Police Legacy

By Frank Hornig, Spiegel Online

Two decades ago, Herbert Ziehm helped storm the headquarters of the East German secret police, the Stasi. Now, he is advising Egypt on how to deal with its own legacy of official abuse. History, it would seem, is repeating itself.

Herbert Ziehm has traveled a long way to meet his past. Finally, standing in front of his destination, the building that houses the Egyptian state security service in Cairo, his composure cracks.

It is 10 a.m. on a Sunday morning and Ziehm has donned a gray jacket for the visit. He is well groomed; clean shaven with a neatly tied knot in his flower-patterned tie. He is a German civil servant under the hot Egyptian sun. All that is missing from the stereotypical image is his briefcase, which he left at the hotel.

The most momentous day in his life was 21 years ago, in January 1990, when he and other demonstrators occupied the East Berlin headquarters of former East Germany's notorious secret police, the Stasi. The activists formed citizens' committees and prevented informers' reports from being destroyed. Afterwards, Ziehm simply stayed on and organized the archives. Over the years, he has seen so many files that nothing can shock him anymore.

High Walls, Watchtowers and Tanks

"There is an inner logic to evil," he said shortly before boarding his flight to Cairo. He is a man who has grown accustomed to rationally and abstractly analyzing the horrors of the Stasi. Ziehm is 64 years old and, with retirement just around the corner, he spends a great deal of time at his cottage in the countryside outside Berlin. "Things have become a little boring at the office," he says about his work for Germany's federal commission that oversees old Stasi documents.

But suddenly the past comes roaring back to him. And it is not an abstract version of the past, but tangible: High walls, watchtowers and tanks with poised machine guns protect a windowless concrete fortress and a number of administrative buildings extending for hundreds of meters. It is the headquarters of Amn al-Dawla, the Egyptian State Security Investigations Service. It looks like the Stasi under palm trees. The gates remain closed and visitors are not wanted. Here there is no civilian oversight, the military rules.

Ziehm falls silent. He gets back into the car and wants to keep going. He looks away with moist eyes, folds his hands, anxiously twiddles his thumbs. He does not notice that the photographer is asking him questions, he is too lost in his memories. Ziehm prefers to keep his feelings to himself. "I first need to take a deep breath of air," is all he says, and remains silent for the rest of the drive.

Facing Up to the Past

Poland, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria have all sought his advice, wanting to know what he recommends they do with old secret police files. Coming to terms with the former East German dictatorship has effectively become a sought-after German export. Ziehm quickly gave up his profession as an engineer and traveled throughout Eastern Europe until interest waned and the upheaval of 1989 and the fall of the Berlin Wall became a topic for historians.

Can his model now also be applied to the Middle East? What can Egyptians and Tunisians learn from Ziehm? Will Libyans and Syrians soon also require their own agencies to deal with old secret police files?

In early March, hundreds of demonstrators stormed Amn al-Dawla headquarters in Cairo. They found deserted offices, empty prison cells and shredded files -- but also many secret reports that were still intact. For a few hours, the revolutionaries enjoyed what felt like a victory over the state security agency. Then the military took control.

Stasi Expert Export

It was around this time that Andreas Jacobs had the idea of bringing a German Stasi expert into the country. Jacobs heads the Egyptian office of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, which has close ties to Germany's center-right Christian Democratic Union (CDU). He aims to foster civil society and, with Ziehm's help, maybe even bring some much-needed momentum into Egypt's process of democratization. Jacobs says the movement towards democracy is stagnating. "Perhaps you are coming too early. Nobody wants to see you here," he said when he greeted Ziehm three weeks later. Jacobs says that the secret police don't want to speak with the visitor from Germany and the Egyptian Interior Ministry is putting up resistance. Many of the same old people are still in positions of power.

~ more... ~

America and EU Agree: Raise Radiation Levels for Food

By Brandon Turbeville, Activist Post

On March 28, 2011, I wrote an article entitled EPA to Help Mainstream Media Obscure The Truth About Radiation Exposure to Americans, in which I discussed the changes to the PAGs (Protective Action Guides) being proposed by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) that would raise the acceptable levels of radiation allowed in the environment, food, and even the general public themselves in the event of a nuclear emergency.

Interestingly enough, an article was published on April 3, 2011, by Alexander Higgins citing Kopp Online and Xander News, stating that a similar rule change was occurring in the European Union.

PAGs are policies and guidelines established by the EPA that guide the agency’s response in the event of a radioactive emergency. Specifically, PAGs deal with how the EPA should enforce laws such as the Clean Air and Water Act in relation to the disaster. Although PAGs had already been established by the EPA in 1992, the agency now plans to amend these guidelines to much higher levels of acceptable radiation.


Better Morality Through Pharmaceuticals

From Manipulating morals: scientists target drugs that improve behaviour by Amelia Hill, Guardian

Researchers say morality treatments could be used instead of prison and might even help humanity tackle global issues

A pill to enhance moral behaviour, a treatment for racist thoughts, a therapy to increase your empathy for people in other countries - these may sound like the stuff of science fiction but with medicine getting closer to altering our moral state, society should be preparing for the consequences, according to a book that reviews scientific developments in the field.

Drugs such as Prozac that alter a patient's mental state already have an impact on moral behaviour, but scientists predict that future medical advances may allow much more sophisticated manipulations.

The field is in its infancy, but "it's very far from being science fiction", said Dr Guy Kahane, deputy director of the Oxford Centre for Neuroethics and a Wellcome Trust biomedical ethics award winner.

"Science has ignored the question of moral improvement so far, but it is now becoming a big debate," he said. "There is already a growing body of research you can describe in these terms. Studies show that certain drugs affect the ways people respond to moral dilemmas by increasing their sense of empathy, group affiliation and by reducing aggression."

Researchers have become very interested in developing biomedical technologies capable of intervening in the biological processes that affect moral behaviour and moral thinking, according to Dr Tom Douglas, a Wellcome Trust research fellow at Oxford University's Uehiro Centre. "It is a very hot area of scientific study right now."

Interpol chief calls for global electronic identity card system


The head of INTERPOL has emphasized the need for a globally verifiable electronic identity card (e-ID) system for migrant workers at an international forum on citizen ID projects, e-passports, and border control management.

Speaking at the fourth Annual EMEA ID WORLD summit, INTERPOL Secretary General Ronald K. Noble said that regulating migration levels and managing borders presented security challenges for countries and for the world that INTERPOL was ideally-placed to help address.

"At a time when global migration is reaching record levels, there is a need for governments to put in place systems at the national level that would permit the identity of migrants and their documents to be verified internationally via INTERPOL," said Secretary General Noble.

"The vast majority of migrants are law-abiding citizens who would like to have their identities verified in more than one country using the same identity document. If countries were to issue work and residence permits in an e-ID format that satisfied common standards internationally, then both the migrant workers and the countries themselves would benefit because efficiencies would improve, security at the national and global level would improve and corruption would be reduced."

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