Bonus Critter Blogging: Primate
(Photo from Flying Monkeys)
A place for a tired old woman to try to figure things out so that the world makes a bit of sense.
A Bangladeshi man held at the US prison camp in Guantanamo Bay says he was tortured with electric shocks and accuses his guards of desecrating the Koran.
Mubarak Hussain Bin Abul Hashim, 32, was freed last Thursday after being returned from the United States in December and detained in Bangladesh for a further two months.
Describing his five years at Guantanamo as a "living hell," Mubarak, who denies any militant links, said his release was the "happiest day" of his life.
He was one of about 400 "enemy combatant" suspects detained at the base and later released after investigators there found no evidence he had links to Islamic militants. No terrorism charges were ever filed against him.
"I lived for five years in a perpetual state of fear but I thought Allah will save me because I am not a terrorist," he said, speaking to AFP at his middle-class family home in eastern Brahmanbaria district.
The former madrassa student echoed allegations by other former detainees about desecration of the Koran at the US camp.
"They (the guards) kicked the holy Koran and threw it in the toilet," he told AFP.
During interrogations, Mubarak also said he received electric shocks, was deprived of food and subjected to cold temperatures at Guantanamo.
"They used to give electric shocks, saying I had links with international terrorist groups. They gave electric shocks for a few seconds, several times in a day when they took me for interrogation," he said.
"There were air conditioners above the interrogation cells and they used to put us inside the cell at a cold temperature. Some prisoners used to be kept for months in those interrogation cells at low temperatures. I was kept for two days straight without food and without any clothes," he added.
Mubarak, who is single, said he did not have any immediate plans for his future and was still struggling to cope with the psychological strain of his detention.
"I still cannot sleep properly because these terrible memories haunt me," he said, adding he could not describe his happiness at finally being reunited with his family.
Other Guantanamo Bay detainees have made allegations of ill treatment. However, a US military probe into abuse allegations found no evidence of improper treatment of prisoners, US officials said last month.
In June 2005, 17 former prisoners returned home to Pakistan with some alleging that guards had desecrated the Koran.
One of the prisoners told AFP at that time he saw guards throw the Koran into a bucket full of urine and faeces. Another said guards had spat on the book.
A German-born Turk, Murat Kurnaz, in January told a German parliamentary committee that he was tortured with electric shocks while in US custody in Afghanistan.
The US Defense Department said in June 2005 an investigation it carried out found that overall US soldiers at Guantanamo Bay handled the holy book with respect, but added the Koran had been kicked and a copy sprayed with urine in separate incidents.
Mubarak was arrested in Pakistan after the September 11, 2001 attacks and flown to Guantanamo. Bangladesh police had said Muabark was picked up in the Pakistani city of Peshawar and then handed over to the United States.
The son of a Muslim cleric, Mubarak said he had gone to Peshawar to study at a madrassa.
Mubarak's father has said the US authorities "destroyed" his son's life. He said that his son was "a victim of the American war on terror."
Although Mubarak has not been indicted on an any terrorism-related offences in Bangladesh, he was charged in February with failing to produce a passport on his return to the south Asian country and is now on bail.
About 385 detainees are still being held at Guantanamo.
Russia's Foreign Ministry on Tuesday criticized the United States for what it called over-reliance on force and warned Washington against military action against Iran.
Russia criticized what it called "the creeping American strategy of dragging the global community into a large-scale crisis around Iran," saying that Iran helps maintain stability in Afghanistan and Central Asia.
King Abdullah's harsh - and unexpected - attack on the US military presence in Iraq could be a Saudi attempt to signal to Washington its anger over the situation in Iraq and build credibility among fellow Arabs.
The kingdom has taken an aggressive leadership role to quiet Mideast troubles, and wanted to show other Arabs it was willing to put their interests above its close ties to the United States.
The six-party talks came to an abrupt halt in Beijing on Thursday as North Korea boycotted negotiations until its US$25 million frozen at a Macau bank to be transferred to its account. The U.S. had agreed to unfreeze the money on March 19, and insisted that the delay was merely due to issues of a bureaucratic nature.
Bush administration officials have been congratulating themselves on the relative speed and deftness with which the latest sanctions resolution was pushed through the Security Council. They are right, in a way: The diplomatic campaign against Iran has been pretty successful by the usual diplomatic measures. Not only has the United States worked relatively smoothly with European partners with which it differed bitterly over Iraq, but it has also been effective lately in winning support from Russia, China and nonaligned states such as South Africa.[emphasis added]
Critics who lambasted the administration's unilateral campaign against an "axis of evil" a few years ago ought to be applauding the return to conventional diplomacy. We, too, think it's worth pursuing, especially when combined with steps short of a military attack to push back against Iranian aggression in the region. Still, two years after President Bush embraced the effort, it has to be noted: The diplomatic strategy so far has been no more successful than the previous "regime change" policy in stopping Iran's drive for a nuclear weapon.
The Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday fined the federal Energy Department $1.1 million over violations of an agreement to clean up the Hanford nuclear reservation, the nation's most polluted nuclear site.
The fine involved operations at a landfill that is the primary repository for contaminated soils, debris and other hazardous and radioactive waste from cleanup operations across the site.
After first shutting down operations upon discovery of the failures, the EPA has permitted the landfill to resume operations under strict oversight.
The EPA pointed out problems in a letter to the Energy Department on Tuesday, saying that workers did not perform weekly inspections that would reduce the risk of leaks in landfill liners and that operations did not comply with tests on compacted waste for structural stability.
The violations did not release any radioactive waste, said Nick Ceto, the EPA's Hanford Project Manager.
"Our cleanup agreement with the Department of Energy clearly defines what constitutes responsible, careful waste management practice," said Elin D. Miller, an EPA regional administrator. "Continued missteps at one of the country's most complex and difficult cleanup sites cannot, and will not, be tolerated."
Said Energy Department spokeswoman Colleen French: "We've said from the outset that we take these incidents at (the landfill) very seriously and are taking any and all actions necessary to make sure that nothing like this can happen again."
The federal government created Hanford in the 1940s as part of the top-secret Manhattan Project to build the atomic bomb. The site continued to produce plutonium for the nation's nuclear weapons arsenal through the Cold War.
Today, it is the nation's most contaminated nuclear site. Cleanup is expected to top $50 billion and continue through 2035.
Poorly written Justice Department documents cost the federal government more than $100 million in what was supposed to have been the crowning moment of the biggest tax prosecution ever.
Walter Anderson, the telecommunications entrepreneur who admitted hiding hundreds of millions of dollars from the IRS and District of Columbia tax collectors, was sentenced Tuesday to nine years in prison and ordered to repay about $23 million to the city.
But U.S. District Judge Paul Friedman said he couldn't order Anderson to repay the federal government $100 million to $175 million because the Justice Department's binding plea agreement with Anderson listed the wrong statute.
Friedman said he could have worked around that problem by ordering Anderson to repay the money as part of his probation. But prosecutors omitted any discussion of probation -- a common element of plea deals -- from Anderson's paperwork.
"I've come to the conclusion, very reluctantly, that I have no authority to order restitution," Friedman said. "I hope the government will appeal me."
Channing Phillips, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office, which prosecuted the case in cooperation with Justice Department headquarters, said the government would bring civil charges against Anderson.
European countries and Singapore have surpassed the United States in their ability to exploit information and communication technology, according to a new survey.
The United States, which topped the World Economic Forum's "networked readiness index" in 2006, slipped to seventh. The study, out Wednesday, largely blamed increased political and corporate interference in the judicial system.
József Cardinal Mindszenty — the stimulus for America’s early fascination with mind control — was released from prison in December 1956 and was allowed to take up residence in the US Embassy in Budapest to serve out his sentence. Mindszenty later told reporters that he was kept awake for 29 nights to force his confession. He called it ‘unspeakable brutality.’
Associated Press reporter William Oatis and American businessman Robert Vogeler also admitted to imagined crimes after days without sleep. One of the best descriptions of the effects of this torture comes not from these men, but from former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. In the 1930s, Begin was also imprisoned by the Soviets and kept awake for days. According to Begin:
In the head of the interrogated prisoner a haze begins to form. His spirit is wearied to death, his legs are unsteady, and he has one sole desire: to sleep, to sleep just a little, not to get up, to lie, to rest, to forget … Anyone who has experienced this desire knows that not even hunger or thirst are comparable with it … I came across prisoners who signed what they were ordered to sign, only to get what the interrogator promised them. He did not promise them their liberty. He promised them — if they signed — uninterrupted sleep!
As of November 2006, Australia’s David Hicks is still detained at Guantánamo Bay. In July 2006, his civilian lawyer, David McLeod, said Hicks was ‘very, very depressed.’ McLeod added:
He has to lie on the floor, the air conditioning is kept on full, he has very few clothes, and he shivers … All his letters and cards have been taken away from him and he’s not receiving any. He has no contact at all with the outside world.
Moazzam Begg, a former detainee who spoke with Hicks, recounted his poor mental state:
One of the things he said to me is, ‘Please, when you get out from here, please tell people that my sanity is at risk here.’ He used to tell me quite often that he felt like just banging his head so hard against the walls that he just ends up killing himself.
Mamdouh Habib told me that ‘there’s no way you’re gonna come out of Camp Five normal.’ Habib has sought treatment to deal with the psychological after-effects of the torture he endured. After several meetings with Habib, I was convinced that he still had a long way to go. While he looked down at his scarred right hand, he told me something I cannot soon forget.
‘I am here,’ he said, ‘but I am still not free.’
Labels: Justice Department
China has emerged as the Sudanese regime's protector on the UN Security Council, and may use its veto to prevent the formation of a UN force in Darfur. China has been quietly active in Sudan for decades, developing a close relationship with the current regime. Sudan already provides 10 percent of China's petroleum imports. Any attempt by the "crusaders" to bring Sudanese petroleum reserves under Western control could cause friction with China.
The regime of President Omar al-Bashir has bought time to implement its Darfur policy by aligning itself closely with the United States in the war on terrorism. Sudanese intelligence provides valuable information to U.S. security services, knowing that the U.S. desire to protect its homeland overrides human rights concerns in distant states. It is a calculating approach that requires considerable finesse, taking what one can, but never going too far. Allowing al-Qaeda back into the country is not just a step too far, but a jump into the volcano, particularly at a time when Washington appears to be taking a harder line on Khartoum.
In need of aid are some 4 million people in Darfur whom the U.N. says have been caught in the midst of fighting between rebels, the government and the pro-government janjaweed.
More than 200,000 people have been killed and more than 2 million displaced in four years of fighting, with janjaweed Arab militias held responsible for widespread atrocities against ethnic African civilians.
Employer-paid health care is exempt from federal and state taxes. That amounts to an average $2,778 subsidy per worker this year, or about $3,825 for a family plan, according to a study by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
President Bush, calling health-care spending "unsustainable," has proposed eliminating the tax break for employer health plans because it has "hidden from employees much of the growth in insurance premiums."
Cost-shifting to individuals sweetened by a tax deduction won't make it affordable. Although you can deduct health-account contributions, it can obscure the real cost of medical care.
Labels: Military Commissions Act
Labels: The Unitary President
Lawmakers would do well to demonstrate more understanding of the legitimate institutional concerns at stake here -- is the President not entitled to confidential advice on personnel matters? --and to remember that the tables could easily be turned, as they were not so many years ago, with a Republican Congress eager to rifle through the files of a Democratic administration.
A former White House official accused of improperly editing reports on global warming defended his editing changes Monday, saying they reflected views in a 2001 report by the National Academy of Sciences.
House Democrats said the 181 changes made in three climate reports reflected a consistent attempt to emphasize the uncertainties surrounding the science of climate change and undercut the broad conclusions that man-made emissions are warming the earth.
Philip Cooney, former chief of staff at the White House Council on Environmental Quality, acknowledged at a House hearing that some of the changes he made were "to align these communications with the administration's stated policy" on climate change.
The extent of Cooney's editing of government climate reports first surfaced in 2005. Shortly thereafter, Cooney, a former oil industry lobbyist, left the White House to work at Exxon Mobil Corp.
"My concern is that there was a concerted White House effort to inject uncertainty into the climate debate," said Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif., chairman of the House Government Reform Committee.
Cooney's appearance before Waxman's committee Monday was the first time he has spoken publicly, or was extensively questioned, about the issue.
Cooney said that many of the changes he made to the reports -- such as uncertainty about the regional impact of climate change and limits on climate modeling -- reflected findings of a 2001 National Academy of Sciences report on climate.
Waxman's committee also heard from James Hansen, director of NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies and one of the country's leading climate scientists, who said the White House repeatedly tried to control what government scientists say to the public and media about climate change.
"Interference with communications of science to the public has been greater during the current administration than at any time in my career," said Hansen, who was one of the first to raise concerns about climate change in the 1980s.
Hansen's battles with NASA and White House public affairs officials are not new and resulted in an easing of NASA's policies toward scientists talking to the media about their work.
But that was not always the case.
Hansen said that in 2005 he was told by a 24-year-old NASA public affairs official he could not take part in an interview with National Public Radio on orders from senior NASA public affairs officials. Instead, three other NASA officials were offered for the interview.
The young press officer, George Deutsch, now 26, sat next to Hansen at the witness table Monday and told the committee he had simply been "relaying" the views of higher-ups at NASA that Hansen was not to participate in the interview.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., suggested that Hansen was not being muzzled at all and that there is nothing wrong with government scientists being subject to some limits in what they say.
"You're speaking on federal paid time. Your employer happens to be the American taxpayer," Issa lectured Hansen. He said a Google search had shown Hansen cited on more than 1,400 occasions over a year in interviews and appearances.
Hansen said he accepted only "a small fraction" of the requests for interviews and appearances and that, as a matter of free speech, government scientists should not be restrained in their remarks or have public affairs officers listening in on interviews.
"It doesn't ring true," said Hansen. "It's not the American way. And it's not constitutional."