December 03, 2009

US base divides Japan coalition government

Press TV - December 3, 2009

Japan's Social Democratic Party (SDP) says it will quit the ruling coalition if the government decides to keep a US military base in Okinawa.

SDP leader Mizuho Fukushima said on Thursday that "the Social Democratic Party and I will have to make an important decision" if the government decides to go ahead with the plan.

Tokyo is under pressure from Washington to implement a 2006 Japan-US deal, under which the military base would be replaced by a new one to be built elsewhere on Okinawa Island.

As a junior partner in the three-way coalition government, the SDP has advocated relocating the base elsewhere in Japan or overseas.

Since the new government took office, Prime Minister Yukio Hatoyama has formed a coalition with the pacifist Social Democrats, whose support he needs to pass legislation.

The premier noted that he would take the SDP's views seriously, and added, "Finding a solution in this situation will be no easy matter, but we must work hard."

Washington has about 47,000 troops based in Japan, more than half of them in Okinawa. Local residents have been angered by crimes committed by the US service personnel as well as the risk of accidents.

In 1995, the rape of a schoolgirl by three US servicemen infuriated residents of Okinawa. Demands to close the base on safety grounds rose when a US helicopter crashed in the grounds of a local university in 2004.

Japanese media reports predicted on Thursday that Hatoyama was likely to postpone the decision until next year.

Boycott of Ahava Dead Sea products makes an impact

Adri Nieuwhof, The Electronic Intifada, 2 December 2009

Bathrobe brigades in Amsterdam informing people about the dirty secrets of Ahava beauty products in front of a store that sells the product. (Cris Toala Olivares)

The international campaign to boycott Ahava beauty products has recently won the support of a Dutch parliamentarian and an Israeli peace group. During the past few months, activists in Canada, the UK, Ireland, Israel, the United States and the Netherlands have campaigned against the sale of Ahava products because of the company's complicity in the Israeli occupation.

The Stolen Beauty campaign has included protest actions by "bikini brigades" around the United States organized by the American peace group CODEPINK, and allied actions have taken place in London, Paris, Vienna, Montreal and Amsterdam. The Dutch "bathrobe brigades" that appeared in shopping centers in Amsterdam and Haarlem, not only caught the eye of the press, but also that of Dutch parliamentarian Harry van Bommel.

Ahava manufactures its cosmetics in a factory in the illegal Mitzpe Shalem settlement in the occupied West Bank. However, Ahava labels its skin care products imported into the EU as originating from "The Dead Sea, Israel." Van Bommel, concerned about this misleading labeling, asked Dutch minister of Foreign Affairs Maxime Verhagen to investigate the origin of Ahava cosmetics, and Verhagen agreed.

The settlements Mitzpe Shalem and Kalia, located deep within the Israeli-occupied West Bank, own 44 percent of the shares of the company. Before the June 1967 war, Palestinians lived on some of the lands that are now part of the two settlements; there were Palestinian communities in Nabi Musa where Kalia is now located and in Arab al-Taamira next to Mitzpe Shalem.

According to the Israeli group Who Profits From the Occupation? (, the mud used in Ahava products is taken from a site on the shores of the Dead Sea inside the occupied territory, next to Kalia. Ahava uses Palestinian natural resources without the permission of or compensation to the Palestinians. Meanwhile, Israel denies Palestinians access to the shores of the Dead Sea and its resources, although one-third of the western shore of the Dead Sea lies in the occupied West Bank.

This week Palestinian tourism minister Khouloud Daibes voiced her disagreement with Ahava's practices in the West Bank. In protest of Israel's aspirations to nominate the Dead Sea for the Seven Natural Wonders of the World competition, Daibes wrote her Israeli counterpart a letter to express her objection to "promoting the Dead Sea in the competition, alongside products like Ahava, which are produced illegally in the Israeli settlement on occupied Palestinian lands."

Recently, the international campaign to boycott Ahava beauty products received support from the Israeli peace group Gush Shalom, which sent an open letter on 17 November to Ahava's management, urging the company to move its operations out of the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Gush Shalom stated: "Your decision to locate in Occupied Territory and make use of natural resources which do not belong to Israel was a mistaken gamble which already harmed your interests and might harm them even much further. Sooner or later you will have to get out of this damaging and illegal location -- and the sooner, the better."

Meanwhile, in the Netherlands, parliamentarian Van Bommel told The Electronic Intifada he welcomes the international Ahava campaign. "It might appear a minor issue, but it is important as an example of [Israel] economically hampering the realization of a Palestinian state." He added that he would welcome initiatives in other EU countries to raise the issue in their parliaments. "Subsequently, the pressure on Israel will increase and more importantly, we can engage the public in the debate."

Adri Nieuwhof is an independent consultant based in Switzerland.

December 02, 2009

Israeli police demolish the only shelter of evicted Palestinian family for the fourth time

International Solidarity Movement - 2 December 2009

At approximately 9am this Wednesday, four police vehicles containing eight Jerusalem police and four border police armed with automatic weapons came to Sheikh Jarrah and demolished the Gawi tent for the fourth time. The demolition took place as there were several people sleeping in the tent. The police failed to alert those sleeping to their destructive actions. The Palestinian family’s possessions were confiscated and removed in police pick-up trucks and golf carts. One hour later, a British national was arrested. The Gawi family has lived in the tent for four months now, since 2 August 2009 when they were forcefully evicted from their home, now occupied by settlers.

This action comes in the wake of yesterday’s settler invasion of the front section of the al-Kurd family home. As the settlers moved some of their possessions from the occupied Gawi home to the newly-confiscated al-Kurd home, the police were destroying and stealing the blankets, chairs, mattresses, lights and shelter from the evicted Gawi family. The settlers have also run electrical wires from the confiscated Gawi house to the confiscated al-Kurd house. As the constant crowd watched the settlers’ actions and those of the police, a British national was arrested, seemingly, for standing in the entrance of the al-Kurd family’s garden.

DuPont Accused of Massive Water Pollution

December 2, 2009

COLUMBUS, Ohio (CN) - DuPont has been covering up and refusing to take responsibility for its toxic pollution of the Ohio River for a quarter of a century, and the poisons it uses to make Teflon stay in the environment for 2,000 years, a nonprofit water association claims in Federal Court.

The Little Hocking Water Association says that air and water emissions of perflourinated compounds from DuPont's Washington Works Plant have been polluting its wellfields since 1984.

These chemicals, which DuPont uses to make Teflon products, stay in the environment for up to 2,000 years, and accumulate in the tissue of living things, causing developmental and immunological problems, the water group says.

It claims at least four wells on 45 acres along the Ohio River were polluted by DuPont's disposal of hazardous waste in landfills, injection wells and burn pits.

The water association claims that DuPont hid the threats of perfluorooctanoic acid, or PFOA, despite knowing of its risks - including the birth of deformed babies to its employees in 1981.

DuPont allegedly acknowledged the contamination by buying out one local water supplier, but refused to extend such an offer to Little Hocking. DuPont for many years also refused to allow the single laboratory with the ability to test for such substances to do so, the group says.
Little Hocking claims that in 1991 DuPont set a "community exposure guideline" for the chemical, a liver toxin, at 1 part per billion. Sampling from the water association's wellfields in 2001 showed levels of 7.69 ppb, the complaint states. Current tests put that figure as high as 78 ppb.

A March 2009 level of .4 ppb, set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, is not enough to protect the water association's 12,000 consumers, it says, due to their chronic exposure and potential "synergistic" effects with other perflourinated compounds in the water.
The group cites a 2003 class action in which the court determined that DuPont's release was active and intentional. Little Hocking says that an EPA consent order does not adequately protect its customers.

The Water Association says it has suffered financial hardship since 2001, when it began to address the problem on its own. This includes funding a bottled water program, for which it claims DuPont promised to it; it says DuPont stopped doing so in 2007.

The water association wants DuPont ordered to stop polluting, clean up what it has done, and conduct a scientific study on the effects of PFOA. It is represented by David Altman of Cincinnati.


Rwanda, the RPF and the Myth of Non-Intervention

originaliy published at lenin's tomb

Jamie reports on a recent UN conference on the doctrine of 'Responsibility to Protect', attended by Gareth Evans, Noam Chomsky, Jean Bricmont and Ngugi wa Thiong’o. In the course of the debate, an interesting one as these things go, the assertion is repeatedly made by Evans, and accepted by others, that the story of the Rwandan genocide was one of non-intervention. The 'West', or the Euro-American powers so designated, demonstrated 'indifference'. They considered it just another example of ancient tribal hatreds finding an outlet in a new blood-letting, failing to accept that what was taking place was a genocide that demanded urgent intervention to protect the innocent. (These racist spiels about ancient tribal hatreds are certainly culpable, but I wonder if the reactionary discourse of 'good-vs-evil' that imperialists are fond of is really any better?) The lesson drawn from this by those advocating 'humanitarian intervention' is that new norms of intervention, mandating the use of military force in emergency cases, have to be elaborated and embedded in international law. Now, even if it were true that the 'West' had not intervened, it would by no means follow that it should: you have to make another series of assumptions to justify that conclusion. But it isn't true, and the widespread acceptance of this idea cultivates the claim of US innocence, the obverse of 'indifference'. Jamie links to this blog, obviously looking for a post where I have dealt with the myth of non-intervention. I did write a bit about the background to the genocide, but the only occasion on which I discussed this particular issue was briefly in this interview. So, this post deals with two themes. The first is the nature and conduct of the RPF before and during the 1990 invasion of Rwanda, and the second is the nature of US support for the RPF. I won't have much to say about French intervention - a crucial part of the story, but one familiar enough to us, I hope.

Our narrative does not conveniently begin on the night of April 6-7, 1994, following the assassination of Habyarimana, when the first massacres were reported by observers. It doesn't begin with the invasion of Rwanda by armed Tutsi exiles from Uganda in 1990, either. As usual, a much wider historical perspective is called for. As the origin of the 'ethnic'* conflict in colonial rule has already been discussed here, though, we can confine ourselves to a number of simple points to start from. (And if you really want a good account of that history and its implications, see Mahmood Mamdani's When Victims Become Killers, Princeton, 2001). First, Belgian rule had created a sort of bipolar order of ethnicity, in which a minority of Tutsis were integrated into the elite, while most Hutus were subject to degrading forms of forced labour, including corvée. Secondly, the Tutsi diaspora was created by the overthrow of a monarchical ruling caste after the defeat of Belgian rule, and the repressive policies pursued by the new Hutu rulers. Thirdly, institutional discrimination against the Tutsi minority was accompanied by several refugee waves in response to state repression: in 1959-1961 immediately after the overthrow of the Belgians; in 1963-64 after an attempted insurgency by Tutsis from Burundi and Uganda, which the government responded to with violent repression; and in 1972-1973, just before Habyarimana's coup d'etat, during the genocide against Hutus in Burundi. The latter was the result of an attempt by a failing regime to brand itself as a friend of Hutus, and was effectively aborted by the coup.

Tens of thousands of Tutsis had been killed in these waves of repression, and hundreds of thousands driven out. For approximately two decades, though, that violence more or less abated. Most of the repression under Habyarimana was class-based. Nonetheless, the forms of institutional discrimination mattered enough to maintain certain forms of separation, discouraging intermarriage for example - if a Hutu's daughter married into a Tutsi family, it was sure that she would suffer from lack of education, jobs and prospects. And Habyarimana did ban the return of refugees based in Uganda in 1986. (See Catherine Newbury, 'Background to Genocide: Rwanda', Issue: A Journal of Opinion, Vol. 23, No. 2, Rwanda, 1995; Mamdani, When Victims Become Killers, pp. 3-18; Mamdani, 'From Conquest to Consent as the Basic of State Formation: Reflections on Rwanda', New Left Review, March-April 1996).

The exiles in Uganda also faced repression and expulsions, particularly under Obote's two presidencies. For that reason a minority allied with the Idi Amin regime from 1971 to 1980, and then with Yoweri Museveni's National Resistance Movement which overthrew the second Obote presidency in 1985. It was in this period that the Rwandese Alliance for National Unity (RANU) was formed as the precursor to the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF). Representing a minority of the exiles, this movement initially tried to build a broad movement that could transform the Rwandan state. They articulated their goals in a quasi-marxist language, though this was later dropped, expressing what they believed were potentialy popular, liberatory aims. By 1987, RANU was still trying to find a mass base, emphasising that it was 'non-political' and merely wanted to unite all Rwandans. It was in that spirit that it re-branded itself the Rwandan Patriotic Front and restricted its agenda to eight core aims, including democracy and national unity. But in private, it seems, the leadership had settled on a military option. And by 1988, Tutsis integrated into the Ugandan army were openly preparing to invade Rwanda. (Alan J Kuperman, 'Explaining the Ultimate Escalation in Rwanda: How and Why Tutsi Rebels Provoked a Retaliatory Genocide', delivered to the American Political Science Association in August 2003; 'Wm Cyrus Reed, 'The Rwandan Patriotic Front: Politics and Development in Rwanda', Issue: A Journal of Opinion, Vol. 23, No. 2, Rwanda, 1995; Mamdani, 2001, pp 159-185). Increasingly, the RPF had became a project for conquering Rwandan state power. The question is, how did this happen? Part of the explanation is that the victory of the NRM in Uganda had proven that a small, self-sustaining military force could defeat an internationally recognised government. But this could not have become a successful strategy had the RPF not become the proxy army of United States intervention in Rwanda.

Increasingly, Museveni was under pressure to expel Rwandans from senior positions in the national government, and the sabre-rattling of the RPF was becoming a liability. For that reason, he dismissed General Rwigenya from his position of army chief-of-staff in November 1989, and relieved General Kagame of his title of military intelligence chief in Kampala. Both of these were RPF leaders, but it was Kagame who then made his way to Fort Leavenworth in Kansas to be trained by the US military. Having spent months in training by Special Forces, he departed to assist the invasion of Rwanda, already in progress. Kagame was not the only RPF member to be trained under the IMET programme, but as the effective leader of the invasion following Rwigenya's death on the battle field, his presence there has been widely noted. (According to journalist and former naval attache Wayne Madsen's testimony to Congress, in 1999, Kagame's subordinates were also given training at Luke Air Force base in Arizona, in such matters as the deployment of surface-to-air missiles.) As far as I can gather, however, the main way in which the US supported the RPF was through the application of its diplomatic muscle - with important consequences, as we will see. The RPF's martial adeptness and armaments mainly derived from the support it received from the Ugandan military (another US ally)

Initiatives undertaken between Museveni and Habyarimana to prevent an invasion resulted in pledges of political liberalisation, the legalisation of opposition parties, and proposals for the staged return of refugees, but these were flatly ignored by the RPF. In fact, it was a trifle inconvenient for them that the Rwandan state was suddenly prepared to, cautiously, address the issues that supposedly motivated the insurgents, for they were no longer interested merely in reforms: they wanted a share of state power. Reportedly, the RPF even went to the extent of assassinating Tutsis who supported compromise deals. The steps taken by the Habyarimana regime could have something to do with the timing of the invasion, which was partially intended to thwart compromises of this kind. (Kuperman, 2003; Newbury, 1995). Three days before the invasion, Habyarimana declared before the UN that Rwanda would grant citizenship documents and travel rights to refugees, and that it would repatriarte those who did return. Again the RPF did not respond. (Mamdani, 2001, p 159). I suppose it's worth highlighting that at the time, the RPF were the 'good guys' as far as the British press were concerned. A report in the Independent claimed that "The rebel movement ... aims to overthrow President Habyarimana and his clique ... and replace it with a democratic, honest non-tribal regime." Ah, bless.

When the invasion was launched, the RPF discovered to their chagrin that Hutu peasants weren't altogether eager to 'liberated', and generally fled from guerilla zones. Habyarimana had responded to the invasion by locking up tens of thousands of political opponents, both Hutu and Tutsi, and launching a violent crackdown that killed hundreds of civilians. This didn't work to the RPF's advantage since they had no base and most, barring a section of the Hutu opposition, resented them for bringing this repression down on them. The RPF began to rely on coercion, driving thousands of refugees into Uganda (irony alert) to create free-fire zones, and engaging in forced recruitment. They could not, unlike Museveni's NRA, form alternative structures of government based on 'resistance councils' because they lacked a mass base. Most Rwandans suspected that the RPF was about to re-impose Tutsi domination, a fact that Hutu nationalists could use to their advantage in opposing Habyarimana's efforts at compromise. (Mamdani, pp 188-189).

It was often assumed in the early literature on the genocide that a lengthy and bloody battle with the Rwandan military was completely unanticipated by the RPF. Thus, Rene Lemerchand wrote: "On the eve of the October 1, 1990 invasion, no one within the RPF had the slightest idea of the scale of the cataclysm they were about to unleash." (Lemerchand, 'Rwanda: The Rationality of Genocide', Issue: A Journal of Opinion, Vol. 23, No. 2, Rwanda, 1995). In retrospect, this was false - perhaps it was an image that the RPF preferred to project at that time. However, since then Alan Kuperman of Johns Hopkins has interviewed a number of senior RPF members who participated in the invasion and subsequent war. He writes that, in fact: "Rwigyema and other senior rebel officials anticipated a protracted struggle against a more numerous and better equipped Rwandan army." (Kuperman, 2003). But just as the RPF was being forced into retreat and looked weakest, the US stepped in and told the Habyarimana government that it should treat the RPF not as an invading army but as a legitimate opposition. This wasn't just friendly advice: it came with America's immense clout, including its ability to disburse aid and loans. In response to Rwandan concessions, Bush's ambassador to Rwanda announced an increase of aid from $11.6m to $20m. (Barrie Collins, 'New Wars and Old Wars? The Lessons of Rwanda', in David Chandler, ed., Rethinking Human Rights: Critical Approaches to International Politics, Palgrave Macmillan, 2003, p. 161)

In stressing the concessions and negotiations available to the RPF, I will not imply that the Habyarimana regime was somehow the 'nice guy' of the conflict - far from it. The pogroms and massacres unleashed by the government even in the early years of the insurgency were part of a strategy of attempting to undermine the leverage of the invaders by punishing the Tutsi population. Their sole rationale for making any concessions at all was self-preservation. But the RPF believed they could gain more, and were determined to press for maximum advantage. During the negotiations they had improved their military capability, and they now found that the world's sole superpower was backing them. They launched a new offensive in March 1992 and continued with further attacks throughout the year. At the behest of the US, the Habyarimana government intensified negotiations at Arusha in July 1992. A seven month ceasefire ensued, broken by the RPF in February 1993. Claiming that they were responding to pogroms and massacres of Tutsi civilians by the Rwandan military and death squads (which certainly happened), they doubled the amount of territory under their control, and came within 20 miles of the capital, killing Hutu civilians as they did so and displacing about a million people.

At this point the Habyarimana regime was faced with an internal opposition that considered that he had conceded far too much to the RPF. This sentiment was galvanising the nationalists, increasing their standing among the general population. And after the RPF's attacks in Spring 1993, even those elements of the Hutu opposition that were sympathetic to the RPF expressed a feeling of betrayal, and were forced on the retreat. Faustin Twagiramungu, the leader the opposition MDR party, criticised the RPF for being exactly like Habyarimana's party, seeking total control rather than a negotiated settlement. Even so, the military successes of the RPF ensured further concessions, and the resulting agreement at Arusha was nothing short of a coup for the Front. If the accords had actually succeeded, the RPF would have been given a total of five cabinet seats out of a total of 21, and eleven seats in the transitional national assembly out of a total of 70, putting it on par with the ruling MNRD. This reflected military leverage, not popular support. During the Arusha negotiations, moreover, successful offensives by the RPF enabled [them] to demand that their representation in the army be increased from 40% to 50%. (they gained 50% representation in the officer corps, but 40% in the proposed combined army). (Kuperman, 2003; Collins, p 166).

US negotiators were fully aware that such concessions were impossible for Habyarimana to defend, but insisted that he offer them or risk losing the support of the 'international community' (the US). If he lost the 'international community', he would lose aid, and potentially lose the war. This is a crucial point: the US knew that nothing was surer to drive hardline factions in the army and state into a paranoid abyss than forcing them to accept what amounted to an effective coup. The RPF's "unceasing demand that Habyarimana hand over to them effective political and military control of Rwanda" was hardly balanced by the few concessions on their part. If Habyarimana went through with it, he was sure to wind up dead: so he did the only thing that he could be counted on to do for the sake of his own political survival. He signed, but did everything he could to avoid implementation. He co-opted all the Hutu nationalist currents behind his 'Hutu Power' alliance, and - in light of ongoing attacks - could make a resonant case that success for the RPF represented an existential threat to the country's Hutu population. (This can't be reduced to the propaganda of a dying regime - it was because people could easily believe that this was what was at stake that substantial layers of the Hutu population, well beyond the small circles that planned the genocide, later participated in its execution. ) At the same time, according to former RPF officer Jean-Paul Mugabe, the RPF were advising their soldiers not to take the Arusha accords seriously and to prepare for a 'final' conflict with the Rwandan government. (Kuperman, 2003; Collins, p 167-171).

The RPF at this point had a choice, as Kuperman puts it: "They could finally make concessions in their demands for power – for example, by letting the now dominant Hutu Power wings pick the opposition parties’ representatives in the transitional government – in the hope of averting massive retaliatory violence against Tutsi civilians. Or the rebels could maintain their hard line and prepare a final military offensive to conquer Rwanda. They chose the latter." Their escalation and the atrocities that they certainly committed (especially during their final sweep to power) only assisted the invocation of an existential peril faced by the Hutu population. Even as the genocide was promulgated, they treated "retaliation against Tutsi civilians as the price of achieving" their goals "even as the price climbed much higher than expected." The Front did make some belated efforts to win over those it had expelled or mistreated, and even to try and organise some self-defence for the anticipated victims of the genocide. But that was secondary. As Kuperman argues: "the battle plan was designed to conquer the country, rather than to protect Tutsi civilians from retaliatory violence". The insurgents avoided the areas where genocide was being perpetrated, or where people were at most risk, for fear of the military costs that they would bear. Instead, they swept through the eastern half of the country, bypassing most of the fighting army units, and took the capital as the Hutu military was disintegrating. They accomplished their goal, capturing state power - though, of course, at a tremendous price.

To state the obvious, again, in stressing the RPF's responsibility for its own decisions, there is no attempt to 'balance' their conduct with that of the Hutu Power faction that promulgated genocide. The responsibility for the annihilation of 80% of the Tutsi population of Rwanda lies first and foremost with those who planned it, and those who executed it. Nothing could mitigate that responsibility. But the RPF's role was destructive, and American intervention on its behalf made it far more destructive than it might have been. And the reason for their ruthless conduct was rooted in their nature as an elitist military outfit that sought, through alliances with local and international powers, to impose minority rule on Rwanda regardless of the consequences for the Tutsi population. In fact, this is exactly what it succeeded in doing. The resulting regime continued to benefit from US military training, has become one of the closest allies of the UK and US in the continent, has been party to genocidal violence in the Congo and has violently repressed opponents. If the Rwandan Patriotic Front had been a liberation movement of the kind sought in the early RANU, with popular interests at heart, it would have shown in their strategy, their tactics of war, their relationship to the masses, and their subsequent mode of rule. It did not: they were not. If there had been no 'Western' intervention, as is often asserted, the 'civil war' that resulted from the invasion would probably have resulted in far less bloodshed. But the actual intervention that took place, so far from proving an excellent antidote to genocide, as 'Western' intervention is supposed to be, helped bring it about.

*The category of ethnicity almost always demands scare quotes. In this case it is particularly problematic since the terms 'Hutu', 'Tutsi' and 'Twa' were historically highly changeable in their meaning and tended, under colonial rule, to shade into 'racial' categories. This polysemy has had implications for the course of present history. Mahmood Mamdani recalls that: "one of the issues hotly debated in the Rwandese Alliance for National Unity (RANU), formed by refugees in Uganda in 1979, was whether the difference between Bahutu and Batutsi was one of class or ethnicity". (Mamdani, 'From Conquest to Consent as the Basic of State Formation: Reflections on Rwanda', New Left Review, March-April 1996)

This article is at, where it was entered in a contest for the best political blog posting of 2008. Visit the site and cast a vote. Hat tip - BAR

Bhopal water still toxic 25 years after deadly gas leak, study finds

By Randeep Ramesh
December 1, 2009

Groundwater found near the site of the world's worst chemical industrial accident in Bhopal is still toxic and poisoning residents a quarter of a century after a gas leak there killed thousands, two studies have revealed.

Delhi's Centre for Science and the Environment said that water found two miles from the factory contained pesticides at levels 40 times higher than the Indian safety standard.

In a second study, the UK-based Bhopal Medical Appeal (BMA) found a chemical cocktail in the local drinking water – with one carcinogen, carbon tetraflouride, present at 2,400 times the World Health Organisation's guidelines.

Around 5,000 people were killed when clouds of toxic gas escaped from Union Carbide's pesticide plant at midnight on 3 December 1984. 15,000 more died in the following weeks, and activists say that the disaster is still poisoning a new generation of victims.

The Sambhavna clinic, a charity campaigning in Bhopal, has conducted a survey of 20,000 people and says it has found alarmingly high rates of birth defects. A preliminary study suggests as many as one child in 25 is born with a congenital defect.

"We are seeing birth defects at 10 times the incidence at national levels," said Satinath Sarangi, of the Sambhavna clinic.

"The government have been trying to say that the factory is safe and open for the public to tour it. But these results show how polluted the site has become."

Earlier studies have also pointed out that boys who were either exposed as toddlers to gases from the Bhopal pesticide plant or born to exposed parents were prone to "growth retardation".

Survivors in Bhopal have received meagre compensation: most of them got a Rs 25,000 cheque (£310) for a lifetime of suffering caused by damage to their lungs, liver, kidneys and the immune system.

Mohini Devi, 52, spent three months in hospital after inhaling the gas. For 25 years she has had difficulty breathing and suffered shooting pain through her abdomen. Her children have all been affected – one died from "gas complications" 15 years ago.

"My real worry is my grandchildren. Already some have been born without eyes. Why is nobody doing anything for us?" she said.

In Bhopal the legacy of the city's night of death is there for all to see. The disused Union Carbide factory remains a rusty symbol of bureaucratic indifference, legal actions and rows over corporate responsibility. Not only did the government wind up research into the after effects of the poison gas in 1994, it failed to gather evidence of culpability in the case against the US company.

Campaigners say the site now contains about 8,000 tonnes of carcinogenic chemicals that continue to leach out and contaminate water supplies used by 30,000 local people. Union Carbide says it is no longer responsible for the factory and pointed out it has already made a settlement of $470m (£284m).

The company's chief executive at the time, Warren Anderson, was briefly arrested after the leak 25 years ago but was released and fled India. He has been declared "untraceable" by Indian consular authorities although his address in a New York suburb is publicly listed.

The Indian government has also drawn fire for trying to pass the disused factory off as a tourist spot – with local politicians last month proposing to build a Hiroshima-like memorial there depicting a detailed account of the disaster. Adding insult to injury, India's environment minister, Jairam Ramesh mocked activists on a visit to the city by picking up a fistful of waste and saying "see, I am alive".

Sarangi says the government has been trying to tempt Union Carbide's successor, Dow Chemical, back to India and to secure $1bn of investment.

In return, say campaigners, the government plans to let Dow evade its responsibility to clean up the Bhopal plant site. "This is all about the money. Politicians in India would rather do this than fight for people who suffered," Sarangi said.

Swiss Daily: Israel Eavesdropped on UN Sessions over Hariri’s Assassination

Al - Manar TV

A Swiss newspaper said that a number of UN employees in Geneva have concluded that Israel is eavesdropping on UN court sessions. The Neue Zuericher Zeitung (NZZ) added that bugging devices have been found in the organization’s deliberations room in the Swiss capital.

The newspaper pointed out that during regular maintenance procedures on the electrical network, three years ago, two bugging devices were found in a room set for the UN Disarmament Committee meetings. It added that ‘secret’ meetings were also held in the room over the Second Gulf War and the assassination of former Lebanese PM Rafik Hariri. NZZ revealed that other spying devices have also been found in other parts of the building, including courtrooms. The daily quoted UN employees as saying that Israel was behind planting the devices. UN security experts estimate that the planting process might have taken at least two days with the collaboration of UN employees. An expert in intelligence affairs told NZZ that the “technical level of the [spying] system and the great danger inherent in it, indicates that the planting decision was taken at the highest [Israeli] level.” The Neue Zuericher Zeitung said that only seven countries could have been behind the incident: The United States, Britain, France, Chinaa, Russia, North Korea, and Israel. “If I had to estimate which country was behind it, I would say Israel,” an intelligence officer told NZZ.

A European diplomat supported the conclusion saying: “I’ve always been amazed at the level of good information the Israeli mission posses.”

The Israeli newspaper, Yedioth Aharonoth, quoted Israeli diplomats as denying any connection to the issue.

Daimler Workers Protest Against Relocations to U.S.

Jobs could move to factory in Alabama, union said

December 1, 2009

About 12,000 Daimler workers demonstrated on Dec. 1 against the possible partial relocation of output to a plant in the U.S., a works committee spokeswoman said. "Three thousand jobs are threatened" by plans to move production from Sindelfingen, in southwestern Germany where the rally took place, to a factory in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, spokeswoman Silke Ernst said.

The Sindelfingen plant employs more than 28,000 workers.

Daimler executives might decide to move production of the Class C sedan in 2014, the works committee said.

The automaker declined to comment.

Daimler seeks to rebound from the global auto crisis in part through a cost-cutting plan that initially sought to save four billion euros (US$6 billion), an amount which could be raised before the end of the year.

Producing the car in the U.S. would also reduce foreign exchange effects that have weighed on Daimler's accounts.

Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2009

Canada: Redactions hamper Afghan detainee probe

Unreadable documents make meaningful inquiry ‘almost impossible’ and reflect government efforts to keep record a secret

A detainee captured by the Afghan Army on a joint patrol with Canadian troops sits by a wall at a Canadian Forward Operating Base in Howz E Madad in Zhari District, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan.

A detainee captured by the Afghan Army on a joint patrol with Canadian troops
Louie Palu/ZUMA Press

By Paul Koring
Globe and Mail
Nov. 30, 2009

The Harper government has blacked out large sections of relevant files handed over to the independent inquiry probing allegations of transfer to torture of detainees in Afghanistan, despite the fact that its investigators have the highest levels of national security clearance.

The heavily redacted documents, obtained by The Globe and Mail, underscore the sweeping nature of the government's efforts to keep the documentary record from the Military Police Complaints Commission, which is attempting to conduct an inquiry into allegations that Canada knowingly transferred prisoners to likely torturers in Afghanistan.

The MPCC's repeatedly thwarted effort to get to the heart of the detainee-transfer issue – it has faced attempts by the Harper government to gag witnesses, limit the scope of the investigation and withhold documents – prompted opposition politicians to open their own limited probe through a parliamentary committee, leading to last week's explosive testimony by diplomat Richard Colvin. But that committee's efforts have been similarly stymied, since it has no power to compel the government to deliver the documentary record and no real opportunity to cross-examine witnesses.

In the material delivered to the MPCC, government blackouts render unreadable many of the documents, some drafted by Mr. Colvin. The sweeping redactions were imposed even though everyone who works with or serves on the MPCC must have at least “secret” clearance and all of the senior investigators, as well as the panelists who would conduct the inquiry, have the highest security clearances.

“I'm not sure ‘cover-up' is the right word but someone is going to considerable lengths not to disclose what was known,” said Stuart Hendin, an expert in the law of war and international-rights issues who represented now-retired Brigadier-General Serge Labbé, one of the most senior Canadian officers embroiled in the Somalia affair 16 years ago.

“It's almost impossible for any independent authority to conduct a meaningful inquiry” with documents rendered so unreadable, Mr. Hendin added. “It all suggests someone knew there were issues.”

Some documents dating back to spring of 2006, a full year before ministers and senior officers said they first heard of abuse allegations, are entirely blacked out. Others have whole sections censored.

The redactions aren't based on freedom-of-information or privacy laws, but on an untested claim that the government can block access by the MPCC, an independent investigative body created in the wake of a high-level cover-up that was partly exposed by the Somalia inquiry before it was shut down in 1997.

The government contends that Section 38 of the Canada Evidence Act gives it the latitude to withhold some documents – and heavily redact others – even through the MPCC was created by Parliament with a structure and investigators capable of dealing with highly classified issues involving the military police, who are responsible for the custody and transfer of prisoners captured on the battlefield.

Until recently, the government routinely provided documents with such classifications to the MPCC, investigators say. But when it sought to investigate allegations that Canadian military police had been ordered by ministers and senior bureaucrats to transfer detainees to Afghan authorities knowing they would probably be abused and tortured, the government claimed in Federal Court that the commission had exceeded its mandate.

Transfer to torture is a war crime under the Geneva Conventions. It is also outlawed by international convention.

The Globe has only a limited number – roughly 80 documents – totalling fewer than 200 pages out of thousands sought by the MPCC. Most of the heavily redacted documents carry low-level security designations, such as “CEO,” which means “Canadian Eyes Only” – a level below secret. “Many have top secret and we have secure facilities to allow for rigorous security,” said Nancy-Ann Walker, a spokeswoman for the MPCC.


Defence Minister Peter MacKay has chosen not to renew Mr. Tinsley's appointment as chairman of the MPCC, despite the fact it is in the midst of the most complex and serious case in its 10-year history.

Full article

Lithuanian Govt. Investigation Confirms News Report on Secret CIA Prison

Nov. 30, 2009

A Lithuanian government investigation has confirmed an exclusive ABC News report that the CIA operated a secret black site prison in the country, according to a report on Lithuanian television.

According to Lithuania's LNK TV, sources have told investigators that state security was involved in coordinating the construction of the prison, and have also provided the code name of the operation to transport terror detainees to the prison.

Arydas Anusauskas, head of the parliamentary committee investigating the prison, told ABC News he would not comment on the investigation until it is completed. He has previously said the results of the probe will be made public Dec. 22.

Full article


VIDEO: CIA Secret 'Torture' Prison Found at Fancy Horseback Riding Academy