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Backward at Bagram

Backward at Bagram (The New York Times) 31 May 2010 One of the most vital jobs of the federal courts is to check excessive claims of presidential power. The courts have stepped up to the task at important times since President George W. Bush embarked on a campaign after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to create an imperial presidency. Sadly, a recent ruling by a federal appeals court on the American military prison at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan was not one of those times. What makes the ruling especially distressing is that the extravagant claim of executive power upheld by the court -- to create a law-free zone at the Bagram lockup -- was dreamed up by Mr. Bush and subsequently embraced by President Obama. The appellate court ruled that there was no right to federal court review for the detainees, who say they were captured outside of Afghanistan, far from any battlefield, and then shipped to Bagram to be held indefinitely in harsh conditions.

CIA drones claim 'licence to kill' with impunity: UN expert

CIA drones claim 'licence to kill' with impunity: UN expert 02 Jun 2010 A UN human rights expert on Wednesday urged the United States to sideline the CIA from targeted killings using drones, warning that the practice amounted to "a licence to kill without accountability". In a report to the UN Human Rights Council, Philip Alston, the special rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, warned that the "prolific" US use of targeted killings, mainly by unmanned aircraft, was setting a damaging example that other countries would follow.

BP Oil Leak May Last Until Christmas

BP Oil Leak May Last Until Christmas 02 Jun 2010  BP Plc’s failure since April to plug a Gulf of Mexico oil leak has prompted forecasts the crude may continue gushing into December in what President Barack Obama has called the greatest environmental disaster in U.S. history... The ultimate worst-case scenario is that the well is never successfully plugged, said Fred Aminzadeh, a research professor at the University of Southern California’s Center for Integrated Smart Oil Fields who previously worked for Unocal Corp. That would leave the well to flow for probably more than a decade, he said in a telephone interview.

Gaza flotilla attack: Israeli ambassador compares raid to Second World War

Gaza flotilla attack: Israeli ambassador compares raid to Second World War 02 Jun 2010 Israel's ambassador to the United States, Michael Oren, has compared the Gaza flotilla attack with America's fight against Nazi Germany in the Second World War. In an interview with Fox News, he described the operation, in which nine people died, as "perfectly legal, perfectly humane – and very responsible". He defending the attack in open waters, saying: "Israel acted in accord with international law. Any state has the right to protect itself, certainly from a terrorist threat such as Hamas, including on the open seas. "The US acted under similar international law when it fought the Germans and the Japanese in World War Two." [In psychology, we call that 'projection.' --LRP]

Lawsuit Seeks Full Disclosure of Dispersant Impacts on Gulf's Endangered Wildlife

Lawsuit Seeks Full Disclosure of Dispersant Impacts on Gulf's Endangered Wildlife 02 Jun 2010 The Center for Biological Diversity today filed an official notice of its intent to sue the Environmental Protection Agency for authorizing the use of toxic dispersants without ensuring that these chemicals would not harm endangered species and their habitats. The letter requests that the agency, along with the U.S. Coast Guard, immediately study the effects of dispersants on species such as sea turtles, sperm whales, piping plovers, and corals and incorporate this knowledge into oil-spill response efforts. "The Gulf of Mexico has become Frankenstein’s laboratory for BP’s enormous, uncontrolled experiment in flooding the ocean with toxic chemicals," said Andrea Treece, an attorney with the Center for Biological Diversity. "The fact that no one in the federal government ever required that these chemicals be proven safe for this sort of use before they were set loose on the environment is inexcusable."

BP Hires Former Dick Cheney Spox to Run PR Ops

BP Hires Former Dick Cheney Spox to Run PR Ops 01 Jun 2010 BP, struggling to maintain its image while taking responsibility for the worst oil disaster in U.S. history, has hired someone new to head its American public relations operation: Anne Womack-Kolton, the former campaign press secretary for Vice President [sic] Dick Cheney. Womack-Kolton ran Cheney's press shop during the 2004 campaign, and worked as an assistant press secretary in 2000. She was also an assistant in the White House press office.

U.S. Opens Criminal Inquiry Into Oil Spill

U.S. Opens Criminal Inquiry Into Oil Spill 01 Jun 2010 The Obama administration said Tuesday that it had begun civil and criminal investigations into the massive oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, as the deepening crisis threatened to define President Obama’s second year in office. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. said in New Orleans that he planned to "prosecute to the fullest extent of the law" any person or entity that the Justice Department determines has broken the law in connection with the oil spill.

'Israeli commandos are wild dogs'

'Israeli commandos are wild dogs' --Ahmadinejad calls for strong UNSC resolution over flotilla raid. 01 Jun 2010 The Iranian president on Tuesday demanded a strong UN Security Council resolution against Israel over its raid on an aid flotilla bound for the Gaza Strip. In a speech broadcast live on state TV, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad called on the Security Council to adopt a resolution that would "cut off" Israel's hands, thus preventing it from committing more "crimes."

Several blasts near peace meet in Kabul

Several blasts near peace meet in Kabul 02 Jun 2010 Several blasts have been heard in Kabul as Afghan President Hamid Karzai was speaking at the opening of a long-delayed peace meeting known as "jirga." According to AFP, at least one rocket hit near the Intercontinental Hotel, not far from a giant tent where the conference of tribal elders, religious leaders and members of the parliament is being held.

Iraqi civilian toll in May highest this year

Iraqi civilian toll in May highest this year 01 Jun 2010 The number of Iraqi civilians killed in acts of violence in May was the highest monthly tally so far this year, figures released on Tuesday showed. Overall, 337 people -- 275 civilians, 45 police and 17 soldiers -- died as a result of attacks in May, according to data compiled by the health, interior and defence ministries.

Deep Underwater, Oil Threatens Reefs

Deep Underwater, Oil Threatens Reefs 01 Jun 2010 The reef lies just 20 miles northeast of BP’s blown-out well, making it one of at least three extensive deepwater reefs lying directly beneath the oil slick in the gulf... The latest research team in the gulf to detect these plumes observed one extending roughly 22 miles northeast of the well site, in the vicinity of at least two major deepwater reefs. Preliminary images of the plume show layers of it touching the sea floor. Marine scientists have no firm grasp yet on what the impact on the corals will be, but they are bracing for catastrophe. "The worst-case scenario is that there’s oil coating some of the corals," Dr. Cordes said. "It would basically suffocate them."

U.S. authorities take custody of man removed from flight amid security risk

U.S. authorities take custody of man removed from flight amid security risk --Flight made sudden stop in Canada after American officials asked that it be diverted from U.S. 01 Jun 2010 A man whose presence on a transcontinental flight last weekend caused the plane to be grounded in Montreal has been abruptly shipped to the United States. The Canada Border Services Agency and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security confirmed that Abdirahman Ali Gaal was turned over to U.S. officials at 4 p.m. Tuesday. "Mr. Gaal, a legal permanent resident (of the U.S.), was returned to the United States where he is currently being questioned by DHS," department spokesman Matt Chandler wrote in an email from Washington.

Commodities’ Biggest Drop Since Lehman Is Bear Signal

Commodities’ Biggest Drop Since Lehman Is Bear Signal 01 Jun 2010 The biggest slump in commodities since Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. collapsed is undermining Wall Street forecasts for accelerating economic growth and higher prices for everything from copper to crude oil. The Journal of Commerce Industrial Price Commodity Smoothed Price Index that tracks the growth rate of steel, cattle hides, tallow and burlap plunged 57 percent in May, two years after a decline that foreshadowed the worst recession in half a century.

'Next time we'll use more force'

'Next time we'll use more force' --Navy prepares for expected arrival of 2 more activist ships. 01 Jun 2010 Israel will use more aggressive force in the future to prevent ships from breaking the sea blockade on the Gaza Strip, a top Navy commander told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday. "We boarded the ship and were attacked as if it was a war," the officer said. "That will mean that we will have to come prepared in the future as if it was a war." [Ok, if it's a war, the activists have every right to properly prepare themselves for that war, and I better not hear any simpering, sycophantic media trolls yelp about how the activists were 'armed.' --LRP]

Wasilla paper warns Palin expose writer of law allowing use of deadly force

Wasilla paper warns Palin exposé writer of law allowing use of deadly force 01 Jun 2010 Former Alaskan governor Sarah Palin's hometown newspaper has in an editorial posted on its website warned journalist Joe McGinniss that there is a law that allows the use of deadly force to defend one's property. McGinniss had moved into the house next door to Palin's as he conducts research for a book on her. The editorial, titled "Wasilla fence fascinating for national media outlets", paints a disparaging portrait both of McGinniss's work and the national media's coverage of his controversial decision to take up temporary residence so close to Palin. "Finally, those who are fond of Joe McGinnis [sic] might remind him (if he doesn't already know) that Alaska has a law that allows the use of deadly force in protection of life and property," the concluding sentence of the post read. [And, the nation --as well as every polar bear and wolf on the planet -- hopes that Joe McGinniss is cognizant of the law, too. --LRP]

Egypt opens Gaza border after Israel ship clash

Egypt opens Gaza border after Israel ship clash 01 Jun 2010 Egypt will open its border with the Gaza Strip to let Palestinians cross, officials said on Tuesday, following a storm of international criticism of Israel's bloody enforcement at sea of its blockade on the enclave. The decision, urged by the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas against whom the embargo has been directed, prompted dozens of people to race to the crossing point in the southern Gaza Strip town of Rafah, although the gates remained closed.

Red Cross visits wounded activists

Red Cross visits wounded activists 01 Jun 2010 Representatives of the International Committee of the Red Cross for Israel and Gaza went on Tuesday to hospitals where foreign civilians from countries without diplomatic relations with Israel who were injured in the Mavi Marmara ship conflict attack were being treated. They were also given access to detention centers where those who were not wounded were being held.

Gaza flotilla - Eye witness accounts of Israeli raid

'They came up and used plastic bullets, we had beatings, we had electric shocks, any method we can think of, they used.' Gaza flotilla - Eye witness accounts of Israeli raid 01 Jun 2010 Passengers aboard the Gaza-bound aid flotilla have been describing the drama of the moment that Israeli forces raided their ships. Speaking on their return to Germany, Greece and Turkey on Tuesday, the activists said that commandos had administered electric shocks and beaten passengers during the assault.

Israel raid on Flotilla like 9/11: Turkey

Israel raid on Flotilla like 9/11: Turkey 01 Jun 2010 Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu draws a parallel between an Israeli attack against a Gaza-bound aid convoy and the September 11 terrorist attacks on the US. "Psychologically this attack is like 9/11 for Turkey," said Davutoglu, who is in Washington for talks with US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. The minister also expressed Turkey's dissatisfaction with the US stance after Washington only regretted "the loss of life" aboard the Freedom Flotilla aid convoy.

High Court Limits Miranda in 5-4 Ruling

High Court Limits Miranda in 5-4 Ruling

Silence Right Must Be Invoked Explicitly, Court Says 01 Jun 2010 Criminal suspects must explicitly invoke their right to remain silent to force police to stop questioning, a divided U.S. Supreme Court ruled. The 5-4 decision upholds the Michigan murder conviction of a man who sat silent throughout most of a three-hour interrogation by police. The ruling blunts the force of the landmark 1966 Miranda v. Arizona decision, which required police to inform suspects of their rights. The ruling divided the court along what have become familiar lines, with Chief 'Justice' John Roberts and 'Justices' Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito joining Kennedy in the majority.

Hundreds detained at Ashdod port

Hundreds detained at Ashdod port --Soldiers, officers bring passengers of Marmara ship under arrest at Ashdod port, first questioning each separately and then transferring them to Beersheba Prison 01 Jun 2010 IDF and police forces continued efforts Tuesday to bring the 500 passengers of the Mavi Marmara ship to Ashdod port. Hundreds disembarked at the dock, including seven Israelis. Four of them were arrested, among them the head of the Islamic Movement's northern branch, Sheikh Raed Salah, who was taken in for questioning.

Israel jails 480 Gaza aid activists

Israel jails 480 Gaza aid activists 01 Jun 2010 Israel has jailed 487 international activists captured during its deadly commando strike on a Gaza aid convoy, while 48 others are to be "expelled." Those detained remain in custody at the southern Israeli prison of Ashdod, while the other 48 will be taken to Ben Gurion international airport to be sent back to their home countries, AFP quoted a report by Israel's public radio as saying on Tuesday. The international activists were interrogated by Israeli police on Tuesday, a day after the Gaza-bound flotilla they traveling on was stormed by Israeli forces in international waters, 150km (90 miles) from Gaza.

Security Council slams Gaza aid raid

Security Council slams Gaza aid raid 01 Jun 2010 The UN Security Council has condemned Israel's deadly attack on a Gaza-bound aid convoy, demanding the immediate release of the ships and the civilians onboard. The Security Council condemned "those acts which resulted in the loss of at least 10 civilians and many wounded," AFP quoted a statement by the Council's President. The UN body further called for the immediate release of all ships and civilians held by Israel, urging an impartial investigation into the Israeli attack against the aid flotilla.

Polar bear population could fall by 30 per cent in a year: study

Polar bear population could fall by 30 per cent in a year: study 27 May 2010 A mathematical analysis for the first time has uncovered the prospect of a sudden, dramatic decline among Canadian polar bears as they starve to death. "This is much, much different. This is not a gradual change," said Dr. Andrew Derocher, one of the world’s leading polar bear authorities and co-author of the study. "We’re looking at a decrease by 20 or 30 per cent or even much more in a year."

American general to take command of British troops in Helmand province

American general to take command of British troops in Helmand province 01 Jun 2010 An American general will today take over command of all British forces in Helmand province in a symbolic move that underlines Britain’s diminished role in southern Afghanistan. The handover may also signal the beginning of the end of the British mission in Helmand -- where the majority of the 289 British deaths in Afghanistan have occurred -- as 20,000 US Marines exercise increasing authority across the south.

Royal Marine killed in bomb blast on foot patrol near Sangin

Royal Marine killed in bomb blast on foot patrol near Sangin 31 May 2010 A Royal Marine was killed last night in a bomb blast while on a foot patrol near Sangin, a notorious area of northern Helmand that will come under direct US command from tomorrow. The Marine, from 40 Commando Royal Marines, is the eighth British service personnel to die over the past month, a sign that the annual summer fighting season is gathering pace.

Two French journalists held in Peshawar

Two French journalists held in Peshawar 28 May 2010 Security agencies on Friday arrested two foreign journalists from Peshawar over charges of making videos of sensitive locations. According to sources, they were detained in the limit of Police Station East when they were recording videos of sensitive buildings. Both journalists are French, says sources. They were shifted to an unknown location for investigation.

BP Lacked Well Control Six Weeks Before Blowout, E-Mails Show

BP Lacked Well Control Six Weeks Before Blowout, E-Mails Show 30 May 2010 BP Plc told U.S. regulators six weeks before its Gulf of Mexico well blew out that workers had difficulty maintaining control, according to e-mails released today by the House Energy and Commerce Committee investigating the spill. A March 10 e-mail to Frank Patton, the Minerals Management Service’s drilling engineer for the New Orleans district, from BP executive Scherie Douglas said the company planned to sever the pipe connecting the well to the rig and plug the hole.

Barack Obama and BP warn of risks in oil spill 'open heart surgery'

Barack Obama and BP warn of risks in oil spill 'open heart surgery' --Operation to cut broken pipe deemed too risky earlier --BP boss describes 'open heart surgery on TV for everyone' 31 May 2010 Under immense pressure to plug its catastrophic American oil leak, BP is preparing for a hazardous last-ditch salvage operation that risks making the gush of crude into the Gulf of Mexico even heavier if its robotic submarines fail in an inch-perfect exercise to cut through a broken pipe a mile beneath the ocean's surface. After the failure of a "top kill" effort to stuff the leak with mud and rubbish, BP's managing director, Bob Dudley, stressed the difficulty of a new plan to pipe spurting oil to a ship on the ocean's surface, describing it as highly challenging for engineers who will be asked to perform "the equivalent of open heart surgery on television for everyone".

UN Chief Lambastes Israeli Assaults

UN Chief Lambastes Israeli Assaults 31 May 2010 UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has condemned a fatal Israeli attack on a humanitarian aid convoy en route to the impoverished Gaza Strip. "I condemn this violence," Ban said on Monday. "It is vital that there is a full investigation to determine exactly how this bloodshed took place." "I am shocked by reports of killings and injuries of people on the boats carrying supplies," said the UN chief. The Israeli navy stormed the Freedom Flotilla earlier on Monday, killing at least 20 people, mostly Turkish nationals and injuring 50 others, al-Aqsa television reported.

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