31 Dec 2010
British diplomats feared Israel would use nuclear weapons in the event of another war with its Arab neighbours, secret files have shown.
In 1980, British officials were concerned that Israel could be heading for a new conflict, despite signing a peace treaty with Egypt the year before, according to official papers released from the National Archives after being kept secret for 30 years.
"The situation in the region is deteriorating and with it Israel's dangerous mood of isolation and defiance will grow," warned a cable from the British embassy in Tel Aviv, dated May 4.
"If they (Israel) are to be destroyed they will go down fighting this time. They will be ready to use their atomic weapon. Because they cannot sustain a long war, they would have to use it early."
Israel has never confirmed or denied reports that it has produced nuclear warheads.
About one in 50 adults in East Germany collaborated with the STASI - East Germany's Secret Police. Relative to population, it was the largest secret service in the history of mankind.
"Shield and Sword of the Party" is what the Stasi calls itself. the Party dictatorship never dares not to face its opponents.
Instead, the Stasi has to keep all dissenting opinions under control. The goal is a total surveillance society, everyone informing on everyone.
"STASI" takes a look at the extent of Stasi work: including the Ministry's enormous headquarters in Berlin, local offices, dentention facilities, disguised isolation camps, hidden bunkers, reconnaissance planes, eavesdropping stations and East Germany's secret execution site.
30 Dec 2010
An Israeli court found Moshe Katsav, the country’s former president, guilty of rape and other sexual offenses in a conviction of unprecedented gravity for a former head of state.
"Katsav's testimony was riddled with lies," the three-judge panel said in its ruling. "When a woman says no, she means no." Katsav, president from 2000 to 2007, had denied the charges of rape, molestation or harassment lodged by three ex-aides. Al Jazeera
"We looked behind the ears to see how much sores they had," said Radha Krishna Shrestha, one of the judges. "A lot of sores would mean that their mahout had hit them a lot to tame them."
He said the judges were happy with the elephants' general appearance and their ability to obey instructions, such as picking up a flag stuck on the ground, sitting down or standing up.
Police have asked the government for a new counter-terrorism power to stop and search people without having to suspect them of involvement in crime.
Senior officers have told the government the new law is needed to better protect the public against attempted attacks on large numbers of people, and are hopeful they can win ministers' backing.
A previous law allowing counter-terrorism stops without suspicion, section 44 of the Terrorism Act 2000, was scrapped this year by the home secretary, Theresa May, after European judges struck it down for breaching human rights.
But police, including the Metropolitan force, which leads the UK fight against terrorism, say they need a boost to their counter-terrorism powers, which they worry are now too weak.
Hungary’s newly adopted media law will impose potentially wide-ranging restrictions on freedom of expression.
In a move unprecedented within the European Union, the Law on Media and the Freedom of Press, coming into force on 1 January 2011, imposes the same restrictions on all media content, whether broadcast, print or web-based, whether public or privately owned. It also grants broad powers to a new media authority to enforce ill-defined standards.
“The breadth of the restrictions on media content, the lack of clear guidelines for journalists and editors, and the strong powers of the new regulatory body all risk having a chilling effect on the freedom of expression in Hungary,” said John Dalhuisen, Europe and Central Asia Deputy Program Director.
A newly created National Media and Communications Authority (NMHH) will have the power to impose heavy fines, ranging from up to 35,000 Euros for periodicals to up to 730,000 Euros for broadcast media, for content it considers to run counter to the “public interest”, “common morality” and “national order”. Fines can also be imposed for “unbalanced” news reporting.
None of these terms are clearly defined in the law and their interpretation is left to the NMHH. The NMHH also has the power to shut down news outlets.
As US officials investigated whether they can charge WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange under the 1917 US Espionage Act, a voice of remarkable experience with the controversial law spoke out in defense of the secrets proprietor, suggesting his indictment under the act would yet again transform "dissent into treason."
Robert Meeropol's parents were Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, two communists who became the first Americans to be executed under the Espionage Act, amid the country's descent into McCarthyism. Their sentences were carried out in 1953, after they were found guilty of conspiracy to commit espionage by passing nuclear secrets to the Soviet Union.
The case remains a highly controversial moment in US history.
"The 1917 Act has a notorious history," Meeropol write in a post to a blog run by the Rosenberg Fund for Children, a group founded to support the children of progressive activists targeted by the government for their dissent. "It originally served to squelch opposition to World War I. It criminalized criticism of the war effort, and sent hundreds of dissenters to jail just for voicing their opinions. It transformed dissent into treason."
29 Dec 2010
Salon's Glenn Greenwald tore into two CNN personalities Monday for their framing of a discussion about secrets outlet WikiLeaks. First, Greenwald blasted CNN's Jessica Yellin for suggesting that WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange was profiting from the disclosure of classified information. Assange has said that he agreed to a $1.3 million book deal to help defray legal costs. Then he tore into CNN contributor and former Bush Homeland Security Advisor Fran Townsend, calling out her lie that WikiLeaks had dumped 250,000 US State Department cables without redacting sensitive information. It was all downhill for CNN, right from the interview's start
There have been “new and astonishing developments in the case of Prisoner X," writes Richard Silverstein on the Eurasia Review website, claiming that a source within the “inner circle” of Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak has identified the prisoner as retired Iranian general Ali-Reza Asgari .
According to Silverstein, Asgari may have been murdered, and not committed suicide as reports of the prisoner's mysterious death suggested.
“Mysterious suicide behind bars: A man committed suicide two weeks ago by hanging [himself] in the solitary cell where he was held in Ayalon Prison. This is the 13th prisoner this year who successfully commits suicide while in custody or detention, and the second this month. His death remains a mystery and no details on the identity of the man [have been provided],” an earlier report by the Ynet news agency said, before the article was removed from the site.
"According to the standard version, he committed suicide in his cell within the past week or so. Ynet reported the suicide story and noted that it was under gag order. Of course, this story was erased from the internet," writes the journalist.
Nevertheless, Silverstein questions the circumstances surrounding the death of the inmate who, the journalist says, "is Asgari, and not some other secret security prisoner."
Silverstein says Israel held Asgari while telling the world he was enjoying his new life as a defector in Virginia.
Also see: Iranian executed for spying for Israel - Ali Akbar Siadat was accused of providing Israel with classified information (The Guardian)
Julian Assange, the co-founder of the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks - which is currently releasing over 250,000 confidential American diplomatic cables - is in the UK fighting extradition to Sweden where he is wanted on charges for sexual assault.
He joins Sir David to talk about a host of issues, from his personal situation to the role of WikiLeaks as a bastion of transparency, championing the right to reveal government secrets, when it is in the publics' interest.
Doesn't it seem like almost everything is becoming a crime in America now? Americans are being arrested and charged with crimes for doing things like leaving dog poop on the ground, opening up Christmas presents early, not recycling properly, farting in class and having brown lawns. But is it healthy for our society for the police to be involved in such silly things? Every single day the United States inches closer to becoming a totalitarian society.
#12 A U.S. District Court judge slapped a 5oo dollar fine on Massachusetts fisherman Robert J. Eldridge for untangling a giant whale from his nets and setting it free. So what was his crime? Well, according to the court, Eldridge was supposed to call state authorities and wait for them do it.
#13 Once upon a time, a food fight in the cafeteria may have gotten you a detention. Now it may get you locked up. About a year ago, 25 students between the ages of 11 and 15 at a school in Chicago were taken into custody by police for being involved in a huge food fight in the school cafeteria.
#14 A few years ago a 70 year old grandmother was actually put in handcuffs and hauled off to jail for having a brown lawn.
28 Dec 2010
Eddie Izzard talks about intelligent design
A new report released by the Israel Bar Association (IBA) says the situation in Israeli prisons is terrible for inmates and that the detention centers look more like dungeons than prisons.
Most solitary cells are crammed, windowless and dim, giving the impression that prisoners are held in the cells for severe punishment rather than imprisonment, Israeli daily Ha'aretz reported on Monday.
"It's difficult to ignore the feeling that isolation as practiced today serves a function of punishment rather than imprisonment," the report said.
Michael Atia, the chairman of the prison service committee at the IBA, and Moran Kabalo, the chief of criminal law for the association, released the year-long review as official inspectors delegated by the IBA to the prison service visited prisons and spoke to inmates.
The report also noted that prolonged detention in locations isolated from the general prison population has profound psychological impacts on the inmates.
"Many isolated inmates testified to have developed paranoia, a tendency for uncontrollable fits of rage, and eyesight problems because of the lack of natural light through most hours of the day," lawyers wrote.
The report said the use of isolation cells as a routine "to hold isolation prisoners for extended periods of time is against the orders."
It also stated that most of the isolation and solitary confinement cells in prisons fail to live up to minimal standards and are unfit for human habitation.
The head of Haiti's voodoo religion appealed to authorities on Thursday to halt bloody lynchings of voodoo priests by people who blame them for causing the Caribbean country's deadly cholera epidemic.
Since the epidemic started in mid-October, at least 45 male and female voodoo priests, known respectively as "houngan" and "manbo," have been killed. Many of the victims were hacked to death and mutilated by machetes, Max Beauvoir, the "Ati" or supreme leader of Haitian voodoo, told Reuters.
"They are being blamed for using voodoo to contaminate people with cholera," Beauvoir said.
He said the killers accused voodoo priests of spreading cholera by scattering powder or casting "spells" and complained that local police and government officials were not doing enough to halt the lynchings and punish the killers. Voodoo is recognized and protected by the constitution as one of Haiti's main religions.
"My call is to the authorities so they can assume their responsibilities," said Beauvoir, who fears more attacks against voodoo devotees. Most of the lynchings occurred in the southwest of Haiti but also in the center and the north.
27 Dec 2010
A judge in Moscow has found former Russian oil tycoon Mikhail Khodorkovsky and his business partner guilty of corruption charges, state-run RIA-Novosti and Interfax news agencies said Monday. The trial, which began in March 2009, was the second for the two men.
Khodorkovsky and his business partner, Platon Lebedev, were charged with embezzlement and laundering of stolen property.
They are accused of stealing billions of dollars' worth of oil from Yukos production subsidiaries from 1998 to 2003, oil on which he's already been convicted of underpaying tax.
Ahead of the verdict, hundreds of supporters gathered outside the central Moscow courthouse.
Security officers, who maintained a heavy presence outside the building, whisked several people away while others stood in -5 C (22F) temperature chanting "Freedom" and "Russia without Putin" -- referring to the prime minister.
Khodorkovsky had expressed a desire to run for office at the time and funded opposition political parties. And he has said the trial was part of a Kremlin campaign to destroy him and take the company he built from privatization deals of the 1990s.
The Kremlin has denied any role.
26 Dec 2010
They are condemned as witches and warlocks, the demon seed of sorcery. Denounced, shunned and ejected from their homes. Yet they’re children as young as 4 and 5, tossed onto the scrapheap of street life to fend for themselves, chased by predators and running away from police.
Platini — named grandiosely for a former soccer star – is 14 and for the past three months has been sleeping in the doorway of a bakery in Makala, one of the capital’s poorest communes, where he can smell the aroma of fresh-baked bread and beg for morsels.
“My mother died when I was little and they said I killed her, that I ate her from the inside,’’ the youth explains in his native Lingali tongue through an interpreter. This accusation – feeding off the internal organs of a relative who’s died from an undiagnosed illness – is a common motif in the mystic anthropology of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the growing phenomenon of “child witches’’ driven from their homes.
Platini’s father remarried. His new wife wanted nothing to do with the boy and resurrected rumours of the child’s possession by evil spirits. She beat him remorselessly — 16 surgical staples required at one point, for a broken joint and an attack with the jagged edge of a smashed bottle.
More on Melvinburgess's Blog
The Dropa (also known as Dropas, Drok-pa or Dzopa) are, according to certain controversial writers, a race of dwarf-like extra-terrestrials who landed near the Chinese-Tibetan border some twelve thousand years ago. Skeptics note, however, a number of problems with the case (and a lack of corroborative evidence), which offers significant doubt as to the reality of the more sensationalistic Dropa claims. Mainstream critics argue that the entire affair is a hoax.
Alleged Discovery -- Chi Pu Tei, a professor of archaeology at Beijing University, and his students were on an expedition to explore a series of caves in the pathless Himalayan mountains of the remote Bayan-Kara-Ula in Qinghai on the border of China and Tibet. The caves may have been artificially carved to be a system of tunnels and underground storerooms. The walls were squared and glazed, as if cut into the mountain with great heat.
There were no epitaphs at the graves, but instead hundreds of one foot wide stone discs ("Dropa Stones") were found having 3/4 inch wide holes in their centres. On the walls were carved pictures of the rising sun, moon, stars, the land, mountains, and lines of pea-sized dots connecting the earth with the sky. Along with the discs, the cave drawings had been determined to be about 12,000 years old.
More on Crystalinks
25 Dec 2010
The hallucinogenic fly agaric mushroom is one of the favourite foods of the arctic circle reindeer (domesticated caribou) in Scandinavia.
Reindeer are central to the lives of the indigenous Saami peoples who herd them. The shamanic traditions of the Saami include eating the mushrooms and contacting the "Great Reindeer Spirit."
Ingesting fly agaric mushrooms can produce a sensation of flying. It is thought that the 19th century myth of Santa Claus may have its roots in older Saami traditions.
China's young and savvy consumers have turned Christmas into a lucrative business.
Christmas shopping has been so frenetic that in Chengdu, Taobao and Alibaba, two of China's biggest online trading companies, grossed 90 million yuan ($13.5 million) in three days leading up to Christmas, according to the Sichuan Daily.
But what does Christmas mean to the Chinese? "It's a festival in the West, right?" surmised Zhao Jing, a young salesgirl, who hails from rural Shanxi province.
"I know it's the birthday of Jesus Christ, as written in the Bible," said a middle-aged Beijing woman, surnamed Chen, as she shopped for a New Year's gift for her husband.
And the Shengdan Laoren? "He brings gifts, like candies and toys," gushed a boy with his mother on a shopping trip.
24 Dec 2010
In Baghdad, as well as the northern cities of Mosul and Kirkuk, Christmas services have been cancelled for fear of further violence. Church leaders said they would not put up Christmas decorations or celebrate midnight mass. They told families not to decorate their homes, for fear of attack after al-Qaida reiterated its threat to target Christians earlier this week.
"Now more than 80% of Christians are not going to the churches," said the head of Iraq's Christian Endowment group, Abdullah al-Noufali. "There is no more sunday school, no school for teaching Christianity. Yesterday we had a discussion about what we would do for Christmas. We took a decision just to do one mass. In years before we had many masses."
Iraq's Christian population has halved since the ousting of Saddam Hussein. But in the past two months, the rate of departure has soared. The United Nations High Commission for Refugees is reporting high numbers of registrations by Christians in Syria, Jordan and Lebanon. And in Iraq's Kurdish north, the number of refugees is overwhelming. Christians have been arriving since the president of the Kurdish regional government, Massoud Barazani, offered them protection and refuge days after the massacre.
See more about Iraq's partition on opendemocracy.net and salon.com and U.S. Senate approves partition plan in Iraq on Chron
The recent repeal of the US military policy of "Don't ask, don't tell" is far from being the human rights advancement some are touting it to be. I find it intellectually dishonest, in fact, illogical on any level to associate human rights with any military, let alone one that is currently dehumanising two populations as well as numerous other victims of it's clandestine "security" policies.
Placing this major contention aside, the enactment of the bill might be an institutional step forward in the fight for "equality"; however institutions rarely reflect reality.
Do we really think that the US congress vote to repeal the act and Obama signing the bill is going to stop the current systemic harassment of gays in the military?
While I am a staunch advocate for equality of marriage and same-sex partnership, I cannot - as a peace activist - rejoice in the fact that now homosexuals can openly serve next to heterosexuals in one of the least socially responsible organisations that currently exists on earth: The US military.
There are fresh demonstrations in Madrid against severe budget cuts as the country tries to reduce its massive debt. Spain has been tipped as the next Eurozone economy at risk of needing a bailout, but some say it could be too big to save. RT talks to Jim Corr, a political activist and musician from the Irish band the Corrs.
23 Dec 2010
A Swiss judge called Thursday for the indictment of three engineers, all from one family, for their alleged role in a black market nuclear trafficking ring which aided Libya and Iran.
The three, according to the judge's report, were involved in the smuggling business of Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, whose rogue operations were closed in late 2003 largely due to efforts by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and other Western agencies.
Following a two-year investigation, Federal Magistrate Andreas Mueller concluded that Friedrich Tinner and his sons Urs and Marco should be charged for trafficking goods for the development of nuclear weapons programmes.
North Korea's minister of armed forces has said its military is prepared to wage a "holy war" against South Korea using its nuclear deterrent after what he called Seoul's attempt to initiate conflict.
Minister Kim Yong-chun repeated Pyongyang's charge on Thursday that the South is preparing to start a war by conducting the live fire drills close to the border of the North.
He was quoted by North Korea's KCNA news agency, which regularly threatens the South, but which had up to now been relatively restrained in its criticism of the miltiary drills.
In a show of military might, South Korea started a major land drill in the Pocheon region on Thursday morning, between Seoul and the heavily armed demilitarised zone (DMZ) separating the two Koreas.
It also continues with naval live fire exercises 100km south of the maritime border with North Korea.
Former Argentine military ruler Jorge Videla has been sentenced to life in prison for crimes against humanity.
A court in the central Argentine city of Cordoba found Gen Videla, 85, guilty of murdering dissidents during the country's period of military rule between 1976 and 1983.
The general has been accused of being the main architect of what became known as Argentina's "Dirty War".
Up to 30,000 people were tortured and murdered under military rule.
22 Dec 2010
Victims of clerical sex abuse have reacted furiously to Pope Benedict's claim yesterday that paedophilia wasn't considered an “absolute evil” as recently as the 1970s.
In his traditional Christmas address yesterday to cardinals and officials working in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI also claimed that child pornography was increasingly considered “normal” by society.
“In the 1970s, paedophilia was theorised as something fully in conformity with man and even with children,” the Pope said.
“It was maintained — even within the realm of Catholic theology — that there is no such thing as evil in itself or good in itself. There is only a ‘better than'
Thousands of secret reports on New Zealand UFO sightings have been released, detailing mysterious unexplained sightings from the public and military personnel.
The files include every witness account of unidentified flying objects reported to authorities since early 1952, including the infamous 1978 Kaikoura mystery.
Detailed in more than 2000 pages of files are letters from people who claim to be in touch with alien beings, sketches from witnesses and media reports.
Chinese officials have vowed to ramp-up efforts to control the weather, announcing on Thursday that they intend to try to use technology to reduce natural disasters and combat droughts.
According to the Xinhua news agency, Zheng Guoguang, the director of the China Meteorological Administration (CMA), said that the weather-manipulation program will be used to aid the country's agricultural and rural development, provide additional airborne water resources, improve the ecology, and help prevent environmental calamities from occurring.
"By the mid 21st century, China will be a country short of water, with a per capita water source of 1,700 cubic meters," Zheng told Xinhua reporters on Friday, "thus we need to control the weather."
21 Dec 2010
The British government has been training a Bangladeshi paramilitary force condemned by human rights organisations as a "government death squad", leaked US embassy cables have revealed.
Members of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), which has been held responsible for hundreds of extra-judicial killings in recent years and is said to routinely use torture, have received British training in "investigative interviewing techniques" and "rules of engagement".
Details of the training were revealed in a number of cables, released by WikiLeaks, which address the counter-terrorism objectives of the US and UK governments in Bangladesh. One cable makes clear that the US would not offer any assistance other than human rights training to the RAB – and that it would be illegal under US law to do so – because its members commit gross human rights violations with impunity.
More on The Guardian
A culture war has broken out at the UN over whether gay people should be offered the same protections as other minorities whose lives are threatened.
The issue will come to a head today when the general assembly votes on renewing its routine condemnation of the unjustified killing of various categories of vulnerable people.
It specifies killings for racial, national, ethnic, religious or linguistic reasons, and includes refugees, indigenous people and other groups.
But because of a change promoted by Arab and African nations and approved at committee level, the resolution drops "sexual orientation" and replaces it with "discriminatory reasons on any basis".
The US government says it is incensed at the change, as are gay rights campaigners. "Even if those countries do not support gay rights, you would think they would support our right not to be killed," said Jessica Stern of the New York-based International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission.
This film explores the evolution of propaganda and public relations in the United States, with an emphasis on the "elitist theory of democracy" and the relationship between war, propaganda and class.
Journalists in Hungary have criticised a new law which they say tightens government control over the country’s media. The legislation creates the new National Media and Communications Authority which will be in charge of monitoring all news production.
Opponents say it will be dominated by officials loyal to the ruling Fidesz party. Media Law Expert Marton Nehez-Posony says the new law will not require a complaint to start a procedure. He says that means “the press will need to be extremely cautious about what it prints, what it publishes.”
The new body will have the power to fine media companies up to 90 thousand euros, enough to shut down a small organisation.
Belgium to shift EU rotating presidency to Hungary
Belgium is set to shift a six- month rotating presidency of the European Council to Hungary at the end of the year, with the latter vowing to promote a "strong Europe with a human touch." xinhuanet.com
Scientists have long been the greatest skeptics of any sort of spiritual prophecy. However, these scientists are adopting prophesies as they warn of the earth ending by December the year 2012.
Galaxy Seven from Taiwan preannounces 2012 Declaration of Psychic Science. He is also the author of this declaration.
20 Dec 2010
According to David Icke's postulation regarding the Moon Matrix, and based on the research of many others who've studied the moon's many anomalies, the moon is an artificial orb that was pulled here for specific gravitational and other earth controlling purposes.
The recent striking NASA photos of the moon give a very clear impression.
First, it's obvious the moon is hardly geographically similar to the earth. You see no huge irregular ridges like earth's massive mountain ranges or deep trenches such as those within our oceans. But even more than that, the moon very much does look like a metallic sphere with a dust covering that has been hit many times over but only to a specific depth--much like the affect of rain drops on a hard surface with a substantial covering of dust.
Alexander Lukashenko has won a fourth term as the president of Belarus following an election marred by a violent police crackdown on demonstrators and the arrest of opposition challengers.
The state electoral commission said early on Monday that Lukashenko had won 79.7 per cent with 100 per cent of votes counted in the former Soviet republic. It put voter turnout in sub-zero temperatures at more than 90 per cent.
Separately, Russian election observers invited by the Belarus leader ruled that the election was legitimate.
But international observers and western governments accused Belarus' leader of using fraud and violence to remain in power after more than 16 years of repressive rule, saying on Monday that Lukashenko's re-election had been seriously flawed.
US and European leaders have criticized Lukashenko for a wave of violence directed at rival presidential candidates and their supporters in the hours after the election.
The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) said the count in Sunday's vote was "bad or very bad'' in half the country's precincts.
It also strongly criticised the violent dispersal by riot police of a post-election protest rally.
Lukashenko on Monday bristled at the criticism of how police handled the demonstration, saying it was beyond the OSCE election observers' mandate. "What does what happened at night have to do with the election? The election was over,'' he said at a news conference. Al Jazeera
This is no ordinary bank. The ATMs are in Latin, priests use a private entrance, and a life-sized portrait of Pope Benedict XVI hangs on the wall. Nevertheless, l'Istituto per le Opere di Religione (the Institute for Religious Works) is a bank, and it is under harsh new scrutiny, including money-laundering allegations that led police to seize €23m (£19.5m) in Vatican assets in September. Critics say the case shows that the "Vatican Bank" has never shed its penchant for secrecy and scandal.
The Vatican calls the seizure of assets a "misunderstanding" and expresses optimism that it will be cleared up quickly. But court documents show that prosecutors say the Vatican Bank deliberately flouted anti-laundering laws "with the aim of hiding the ownership, destination and origin of the capital". The documents also reveal investigators' suspicions that clergy may have acted as fronts for corrupt businessmen and the Mafia. The documents pinpoint two transactions that have not been reported: one in 2009 involving the use of a false name, and another in 2010 in which the Vatican Bank withdrew €650,000 from an Italian bank account but ignored bank requests to disclose where the money was headed.
The new allegations of financial impropriety could not have come at a worse time for the Vatican, already hit by revelations that it sheltered paedophile priests. The corruption probe has also given new hope to Holocaust survivors who tried unsuccessfully to sue the Vatican in the US, alleging that Nazi loot was stored in the bank.
If you think drones are just for blowing up Pakistani civilians as Obama & Co search for Osama & Co., you might have missed this...
Houston police just ordered their own drones. And did their level best to hide that unsavory fact from the public. Ooops. Didn't work.
19 Dec 2010
Thousands of opposition protesters in Belarus have tried to storm the government headquarters, following the country's presidential election.
The demonstrators smashed windows and the doors of the building in Minsk, but were later pushed back by riot police.
Earlier the police broke up a smaller rally. Opposition candidate Vladimir Neklyaev was seriously injured.
Incumbent Alexander Lukashenko is widely expected to win the poll, which the opposition claims has been rigged.
Exit polls suggest he is far ahead of his nearest rival in Sunday's vote, having secured more than 70% of the vote.
Under the authoritarian leader now seeking his fourth term, the former Soviet republic has never held a poll seen as fair by international monitors.
Drawings from the Gulag consists of 130 drawings by Danzig Baldaev (author of the acclaimed Russian Criminal Tattoo Encyclopaedia series), describing the history, horror and peculiarities of the Gulag system from its inception in 1918. Baldaev's father, a respected ethnographer, taught him techniques to record the tattoos of criminals in St. Petersburg's notorious Kresty prison, where Danzig worked as a guard. He was reported to the K.G.B. who unexpectedly offered support for his work, allowing him the opportunity to travel across the former U.S.S.R. Witnessing scenes of everyday life in the Gulag, he chronicled this previously closed world from both sides of the wire. With every vignette, Baldaev brings the characters he depicts to vivid life: from the lowest "zek" (inmate) to the most violent tattooed "vor" (thief), all the practices and inhabitants of the Gulag system are depicted here in incredible and often shocking detail. In documenting the attitude of the authorities to those imprisoned, and the transformation of these citizens into survivors or victims of the Gulag system, this graphic novel vividly depicts methods of torture and mass murder undertaken by the administration, as well as the atrocities committed by criminals upon their fellow inmates.
18 Dec 2010
Mark Thompson, the BBC's director general, said British broadcasters should be free to launch an equivalent to Fox News in the UK because existing rules to guarantee impartiality in television were becoming outdated in the era of the internet. The Guardian
Outfoxed examines how media empires, led by Rupert Murdoch's Fox News, have been running a "race to the bottom" in television news. This film provides an in-depth look at Fox News and the dangers of ever-enlarging corporations taking control of the public's right to know.
The three bone fragments turned up on a deserted South Pacific island that lay along the course Amelia Earhart was following when she vanished. Nearby were several tantalizing artifacts: some old makeup, some glass bottles and shells that had been cut open.
Now scientists at the University of Oklahoma hope to extract DNA from the tiny bone chips in tests that could prove Earhart died as a castaway after failing in her 1937 quest to become the first woman to fly around the world.
Omar al-Bashir, Sudan's president, has transferred up to $9bn out of the African nation, with much of it sent to banks in the United Kingdom, according to leaked US diplomatic cables reported in the Guardian newspaper.
A US diplomatic cable released by the WikiLeaks whistleblowing website on Saturday details a conversation between Alejandro D. Wolff, the former US ambassador to the United Nations, and Luis Moreno-Ocampo, the chief prosecutor to the International Criminal Court (ICC).
During a meeting in March 2009, Moreno-Ocampo is quoted as saying that the disclosure of the alleged "illegal accounts" could help garner support for al-Bashir's arrest.
"Ocampo suggested if Bashir's stash of money were disclosed [he put the figure at $9bn], it would change Sudanese public opinion from him being a 'crusader' to that of a thief," the cable says.
"Ocampo suggested exposing Bashir had illegal accounts would be enough to turn the Sudanese against him."
Sudan is one of the poorest countries in the world with an estimated 40 per cent of the population living below the poverty line, despite being a sizable exporter of oil.
17 Dec 2010
Earlier this week, allegations surfaced that Army private Bradley Manning, who is accused of leaking a massive trove of secret government documents to WikiLeaks, is being held in "inhumane" conditions while awaiting trial.
A report on Salon.com said Manning is being held in solitary confinement 23 hours a day, is under constant surveillance, is not allowed to exercise, and has not been allowed a pillow or bed sheets despite not having been convicted of a crime.
"Manning has been subjected for many months without pause to inhumane, personality-erasing, soul-destroying, insanity-inducing conditions of isolation similar to those perfected at America's Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado: all without so much as having been convicted of anything," wrote Salon's Glenn Greenwald.
The United Nations is considering whether to set up an inter-governmental working group to harmonise global efforts by policy makers to regulate the internet. Establishment of such a group has the backing of several countries, spearheaded by Brazil.
At a meeting in New York on Wednesday, representatives from Brazil called for an international body made up of Government representatives that would to attempt to create global standards for policing the internet - specifically in reaction to challenges such as WikiLeaks.
The Brazilian delegate stressed, however, that this should not be seen as a call for an "takeover" of the internet. India, South Africa, China and Saudi Arabia appeared to favour a new possible over-arching inter-government body.
However, Australia, US, UK, Belgium and Canada and attending business and community representatives argued there were risks in forming yet another working group that might isolate itself from the industry, community users and the general public.
"My concern is that if we were to make a move to form a governmental-only body then that would send a very strong signal to civil society that their valuable contribution was not required or was not being looked for," an un-named Australian representative told the meeting.
A man on Oklahoma's death row for the 2001 slaying of his cellmate is believed to be the first US inmate set to be executed using a sedative commonly used to euthanise animals.
John David Duty is set to die at 0000 GMT on Friday at the Oklahoma state penitentiary in McAlester. A federal appeals court earlier this week upheld a judge's ruling that allows the state to substitute
pentobarbital for sodium thiopental, an anaesthetic normally used in the state's lethal injection formula.
A nationwide shortage of sodium thiopental led Oklahoma to alter its three-drug cocktail.
Attorneys for Duty, 58, and two other death-row inmates challenged the state's decision to use pentobarbital, arguing during a November federal court hearing that it had not been done before in executions and could be inhumane.
16 Dec 2010
US officials had evidence of widespread torture by Indian police and security forces and were secretly briefed by Red Cross staff about the systematic abuse of detainees in Kashmir, according to leaked diplomatic cables released tonight.
The dispatches, obtained by website WikiLeaks, reveal that US diplomats in Delhi were briefed in 2005 by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) about the use of electrocution, beatings, sexual humiliation against hundreds of detainees.
Other cables show that as recently as 2007 American diplomats were concerned about widespread human rights abuses by Indian security forces, who they said relied on torture for confessions.
The revelations will be intensely embarrassing for Delhi, which takes pride in its status as the world's biggest democracy, and come at a time of heightened sensitivity in Kashmir after renewed protests and violence this year.
The founder of whistle-blowing website Wikileaks, Julian Assange, has vowed "to continue my work and to protest my innocence" after being freed on bail.
The 39-year-old was granted bail on Tuesday but prosecutors objected. He is fighting extradition to Sweden over sex assault allegations made by two women. He denies any wrongdoing.
Mr Justice Ouseley ordered Mr Assange be released on payment of £240,000 in cash and sureties and on condition he resides at an address in East Anglia.
Speaking on the steps of the High Court to dozens of journalists, Mr Assange said: "It's great to feel the fresh air of London again." He went on to thank "all the people around the world who had faith" in him, his lawyers for putting up a "brave and ultimately successful fight", people who provided money in the face of "great difficulty and aversion", members of the press and the British justice system. "If justice is not always an outcome, at least it is not dead yet," he added.
"I hope to continue my work and continue to protest my innocence in this matter and to reveal as we get it, which we have not yet, the evidence from these allegations."
Mr Assange had spent the past eight nights in prison.
Former defence secretary Bob Ainsworth today called for the government to consider legalising drugs, saying prohibition has failed to protect the public.
The war on drugs has been "nothing short of a disaster" and it is time to study other options, including decriminalising possession of drugs and legally regulating their production and supply, Ainsworth said.
Referring to the legalisation of alcohol in the United States after 13 years of prohibition, he said: "After 50 years of global drug prohibition it is time for governments throughout the world to repeat this shift with currently illegal drugs."
The Labour backbencher, who was previously a Home Office drugs minister, went on: "Politicians and the media need to engage in a genuine and grown up debate about alternatives to prohibition, so that we can build a consensus based on delivering the best outcomes for our children and communities.
A US Food and Drug Administration advisory committee said Wednesday that the agency should look at updated data on mercury amalgam dental fillings that may indicate possible medical problems for patients.
The panel -- after hearing two days of testimony from experts, members of the public and dental professionals -- recommended the FDA look at information updated since the agency ruled in 2009 that the mercury in dental fillings is not harmful.
Committee members noted, however, that the FDA's decision was solid, based on information available at the time. The committee also stressed that more studies need to be done on amalgam fillings, especially in children.
Public pressure prompted the panel's review, initiated less than 18 months after the agency's decision.
The decision to have Julian Assange sent to a London jail and kept there was taken by the British authorities and not by prosecutors in Sweden, as previously thought, the Guardian has learned.
The Crown Prosecution Service will go to the high court to seek the reversal of a decision to free the WikiLeaks founder on bail, made by a judge at City of Westminster magistrates court.
It had been widely thought Sweden had made the decision to oppose bail, with the CPS acting merely as its representative. But the Swedish prosecutor's office told the Guardian it had "not got a view at all on bail" and that Britain had made the decision to oppose bail.
Lawyers for Assange reacted to the news with shock and said CPS officials had told them it was Sweden which had asked them to ensure he was kept in prison.
15 Dec 2010
"A Wave of Reason" is the seventh instalment in the Symphony of Science music video series. It is intended to promote scientific reasoning and scepticism in the face of growing amounts of pseudoscientific pursuits, such as Astrology and Homeopathy, and also to promote the scientific worldview as equally enlightening as religion. It features Carl Sagan, Bertrand Russell, Sam Harris, Michael Shermer, Lawrence Krauss, Carolyn Porco, Richard Dawkins, Richard Feynman, Phil Plait, and James Randi.