Canada cites defence for Israel in blocking UN plan to curb nuclear weapons

Canada cites defence for Israel in blocking UN plan to curb nuclear weapons

Israel has expressed its gratitude to Canada for helping to block a major international plan towards diminishing the world's stockpiles of nuclear weapons.

Elsewhere, however, there was widespread international disappointment that Canada and Britain supported the United States in opposing the document at the United Nations review conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty.

The document called on the UN to hold a disarmament conference on the Middle East by 2016.

Such a conference could have forced Israel to publicly acknowledge that it is a nuclear power, something the Jewish state has never done.

Adopting the document would have required a consensus, but since none was reached, that means nuclear disarmament efforts have been blocked until 2020.

Canada's decision sends 'strong message': Nicholson

In a weekend phone call, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked Stephen Harper for what he called Canada's principled stand, Harper's office in Ottawa said in a statement.

"Prime Minister Harper reaffirmed Canada's commitment to disarmament and non-proliferation, including within the framework of the NPT," the statement said.

"He also stressed Canada's belief that a weapons-of-mass-destruction-free zone can only be truly effective if all countries in the Middle East participate freely and constructively in its establishment."

Foreign Affairs Minister Rob Nicholson said Canada's decision "sends a strong message about Canada's resolve not to compromise the integrity of a treaty to which we remain fully and deeply committed."

But there was widespread opposition and disappointment expressed by several countries that addressed the conference, which wrapped Friday after four weeks of meetings.

Austria, which spoke on behalf of 49 countries, said the result spoke to the wide divide over what nuclear disarmament should mean.

"There is a reality gap, a credibility gap, a confidence gap and a moral gap."

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WATCH: How the CIA Helped Make “Zero Dark Thirty”

WATCH: How the CIA Helped Make “Zero Dark Thirty”

May 15, 2015, 2:45 pm ET by Patrice Taddonio

When Zero Dark Thirty premiered in 2012, the Hollywood film about the hunt for Osama bin Laden became a blockbuster hit.

Behind the scenes, the CIA secretly worked with the filmmakers, and the movie portrayed the agency’s controversial “enhanced interrogation techniques” — widely described as torture — as a key to uncovering information that led to the finding and killing of bin Laden.

But in Secrets, Politics and Torture, premiering this Tuesday, May 19 on PBS, FRONTLINE reveals the many challenges to that narrative, and the inside story of how it came to be.

The documentary unspools the dueling versions of history laid out by the CIA, which maintains that its now officially-shuttered program was effective in combating terrorism, and the massive Senate torture report released in December 2014, which found that the program was brutal, mismanaged and — most importantly — didn’t work.

Watch the dramatic opening sequence of Secrets, Politics and Torture:

 

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NSA mass phone surveillance revealed by Edward Snowden ruled illegal

NSA mass phone surveillance revealed by Edward Snowden ruled illegal

The US court of appeals has ruled that the bulk collection of telephone metadata is unlawful, in a landmark decision that clears the way for a full legal challenge against the National Security Agency.

A panel of three federal judges for the second circuit overturned an earlier ruling that the controversial surveillance practice first revealed to the US public by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013 could not be subject to judicial review.

 

But the judges also waded into the charged and ongoing debate over the reauthorization of a key Patriot Act provision currently before US legislators. That provision, which the appeals court ruled the NSA program surpassed, will expire on 1 June amid gridlock in Washington on what to do about it.

The judges opted not to end the domestic bulk collection while Congress decides its fate, calling judicial inaction “a lesser intrusion” on privacy than at the time the case was initially argued.

“In light of the asserted national security interests at stake, we deem it prudent to pause to allow an opportunity for debate in Congress that may (or may not) profoundly alter the legal landscape,” the judges ruled.

But they also sent a tacit warning to Senator Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the Senate who is pushing to re-authorize the provision, known as Section 215, without modification: “There will be time then to address appellants’ constitutional issues.”

“We hold that the text of section 215 cannot bear the weight the government asks us to assign to it, and that it does not authorize the telephone metadata program,” concluded their judgment.

“Such a monumental shift in our approach to combating terrorism requires a clearer signal from Congress than a recycling of oft‐used language long held in similar contexts to mean something far narrower,” the judges added.

“We conclude that to allow the government to collect phone records only because they may become relevant to a possible authorized investigation in the future fails even the permissive ‘relevance’ test.

“We agree with appellants that the government’s argument is ‘irreconcilable with the statute’s plain text’.”

The ruling, one of several in federal courts since the Guardian exposed the domestic bulk collection thanks to Snowden, immediately took on political freight.

Senator Rand Paul, a Republican presidential candidate who has made opposition to over-broad surveillance central to his platform, tweeted: “The phone records of law abiding citizens are none of the NSA’s business! Pleased with the ruling this morning.”

The White House stressed that it too supported an overhaul of the program, though declined to comment on the blow to the NSA’s existing legal authority.

“We are in the process of evaluating the decision handed down this morning,” assistant press secretary Ned Price told the Guardian.

“Without commenting on the ruling today, the president has been clear that he believes we should end the Section 215 bulk telephony metadata program as it currently exists by creating an alternative mechanism to preserve the program’s essential capabilities without the government holding the bulk data.

“We continue to work closely with members of Congress from both parties to do just that, and we have been encouraged by good progress on bipartisan, bicameral legislation that would implement these important reforms,” added Price.

But opponents in Congress were emphatic that the ruling represented a breakthrough in their fight to rein in executive overreach on surveillance.

“Today’s court decision reaffirms what I’ve been saying since the Snowden leaks came to light. Congress never intended Section 215 to allow bulk collection,” said Republican Jim Sensenbrenner.

“This program is illegal and based on a blatant misinterpretation of the law. It’s time for Congress to pass the USA Freedom Act in order to protect both civil liberties and national security with legally authorized surveillance.”

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Guatemalans deliberately infected with STDs sue Johns Hopkins University for $1bn

Guatemalans deliberately infected with STDs sue Johns Hopkins University for $1bn

Nearly 800 plaintiffs have launched a billion-dollar lawsuit against Johns Hopkins University over its alleged role in the deliberate infection of hundreds of vulnerable Guatemalans with sexually transmitted diseases, including syphilis and gonorrhoea, during a medical experiment programme in the 1940s and 1950s.

The lawsuit, which also names the philanthropic Rockefeller Foundation, alleges that both institutions helped “design, support, encourage and finance” the experiments by employing scientists and physicians involved in the tests, which were designed to ascertain if penicillin could prevent the diseases.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine held “substantial influence” over the commissioning of the research program by dominating panels that approved federal funding for the research, the suit claims.

The lawsuit asserts that a researcher paid by the Rockefeller Foundation was assigned to the experiments, which he travelled to inspect on at least six occasions.

The suit also claims that predecessor companies of the pharmaceutical giant Bristol-Myers Squibb supplied penicillin for use in the experiments, which they knew to be both secretive and non-consensual.

The experiments, which occurred between 1945 and 1956, were kept secret until they were discovered in 2010 by a college professor, Susan Reverby. The programme published no findings and did not inform Guatemalans who were infected of the consequences of their participation, nor did it provide them with follow up medical care or inform them of ways to prevent the infections spreading, the lawsuit states.

Orphans, prisoners and mental health patients were deliberately infected in the experiments.

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New Report Debunks 'Myth' That GMOs are Key to Feeding the World

New Report Debunks 'Myth' That GMOs are Key to Feeding the World

Study upholds value of traditional methods 'shown to actually increase food supplies and reduce the environmental impact of production'

by Lauren McCauley, staff writer

The biotechnology industry "myth" that feeding billions of people necessitates genetically engineered agriculture has been debunked by a new report out Tuesday by the nonprofit health organization Environmental Working Group.

The report, Feeding the World Without GMOs (pdf), argues that investment in genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, has failed to expand global food security. It advocates more traditional methods "shown to actually increase food supplies and reduce the environmental impact of production."

Over the past 20 years, the report notes, global crop yields have only grown by 20 percent—despite the massive investment in biotechnology.

On the other hand, it continues, in recent decades "the dominant source of yield improvements has been traditional crossbreeding, and that is likely to continue for the foreseeable future."

As the report states, "seed companies' investment in improving yields in already high-yielding areas does little to improve food security; it mainly helps line the pockets of seed and chemical companies, large-scale growers and producers of corn ethanol."

After examining recent research on GMO crop production, the report also found:

  • Genetically modified crops—primarily corn and soybeans—have not substantially contributed to global food security and are primarily used to feed animals and cars, not people.
  • GMO crops in the US are not more productive than non-GMO crops in western Europe.
  • A recent case study in Africa found that crops that were crossbred for drought tolerance using traditional techniques improved yields 30 percent more than genetically engineered varieties

 

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US soldier admits killing unarmed Afghans for sport

US soldier admits killing unarmed Afghans for sport

An American soldier has pleaded guilty to being part of a "kill team" who deliberately murdered Afghan civilians for sport last year.

Army Specialist Jeremy Morlock, 23, told a military court he had helped to kill three unarmed Afghans. "The plan was to kill people, sir," he told an army judge in Fort Lea, near Seattle, after his plea.

The case has caused outraged headlines around the world. In a series of videotaped confessions to investigators, some of which have been broadcast on American television, Morlock detailed how he and other members of his Stryker brigade set up and faked combat situations so that they could kill civilians who posed no threat to them. Four other soldiers are still to come to trial over the incidents.

The case is a PR disaster for America's military and has been compared to the notorious incidents of torture that emerged from the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq. This week the German magazine Der Spiegel published three pictures that showed American soldiers, including Morlock, posing with the corpse of a young Afghan boy as if it were a hunting trophy.

Some soldiers apparently kept body parts of their victims, including a skull, as souvenirs. In a statement issued in response to the publication of the photos the US army apologised to the families of the dead. "[The photos are] repugnant to us as human beings and contrary to the standards and values of the United States army," the statement said.

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NSA planted surveillance software on hard drives, report says

NSA planted surveillance software on hard drives, report says

Security vendor Kaspersky outs a group capable of inserting spying software onto hard drives around the world, while Reuters fingers the NSA as the culprit.

by Lance Whitney @lancewhit February 17, 2015 9:56 AM PST

The National Security Agency is able to infect hard drives with surveillance software to spy on computers, Reuters said on Tuesday, citing information from cyber researchers and former NSA operatives.

In a new report, Kaspersky revealed the existence of a group dubbed The Equation Group capable of directly accessing the firmware of hard drives from Western Digital, Seagate, Toshiba, IBM, Micron, Samsung and other drive makers. As such, the group has been able to implant spyware on hard drives to conduct surveillance on computers around the world.

In a blog posted on Monday, Kaspersky said this threat has been around for almost 20 years and "surpasses anything known in terms of complexity and sophistication of techniques." The security researcher called the group "unique almost in every aspect of their activities: they use tools that are very complicated and expensive to develop, in order to infect victims, retrieve data and hide activity in an outstandingly professional way, and utilize classic spying techniques to deliver malicious payloads to the victims."

Surveillance software implanted on hard drives is especially dangerous as it becomes active each time the PC boots up and thus can infect the computer over and over again without the user's knowledge. Though this type of spyware could have surfaced on a "majority of the world's computers," Kaspersky cited thousands or possibly tens of thousands of infections across 30 different countries.

Infected parties and industries include government and diplomatic institutions, as well as those involved in telecommunications, aerospace, energy, nuclear research, oil and gas, military and nanotechnology. Also, included are Islamic activists and scholars, mass media, the transportation sector, financial institutions and companies developing encryption technologies.

 

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The Cowardly and Despicable American Presstitutes

The Cowardly and Despicable American Presstitutes

There is a brouhaha underway about an American journalist who told a story about being in a helicopter in a war zone.  The helicopter was hit and had to land.  Which war zone and when I don’t know.  The US has created so many war zones that it is difficult to keep up with them all, and as you will see, I am not interested in the story for its own sake.

It turns out that the journalist has remembered incorrectly.  He was in a helicopter in a war zone, but it wasn’t hit and didn’t have to land.  The journalist has been accused of lying in order to make himself seem to be “a more seasoned war correspondent than he is.”

The journalist’s presstitute colleagues are all over him with accusations.  He has even had to apologize to the troops.  Which troops and why is unclear. The American requirement that everyone apologize for every word reminds me of the old Soviet practice, real or alleged by anti-communists, that required Soviet citizens to self-criticize.

National Public Radio (February 5, 2015) thought this story of the American journalist was so important that the program played a recording of the journalist telling his story.  It sounded like a good story to me. The audience enjoyed it and was laughing.  The journalist telling the story did not claim any heroism on his part or any failure on the part of the helicopter crew.  It is normal for helicopters to take hits in war zones.

Having established that the journalist had actually stated that the helicopter was hit when in fact it wasn’t, NPR brought on the program a psychologist at the University of California, Irvine, an expert on “false memory.”  The psychologist explained various reasons a person might have false memories, making the point that it is far from uncommon and that the journalist is most likely just another example.  But the NPR presstitute still wanted to know if the journalist had intentionally lied in order to make himself look good.  It was never explained why it made a journalist look good to be in a helicopter forced to land. But few presstitutes get to this depth of questioning.

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Nevada girl, 5, dies from flu strain she was vaccinated against

Nevada girl, 5, dies from flu strain she was vaccinated against

A five-year-old girl from the Las Vegas area died Tuesday after coming down with the strain of flu she had been vaccinated against earlier this year.

Kiera Driscoll started showing symptoms including a cough and fever on Jan. 18, according to KVVU. Her family took her to a walk-in clinic on Monday, and she was given a nebulizer and steroids.

However, Kiera collapsed later that day. Her mother performed CPR while they waited for the ambulance.

The little girl’s health worsened after she was hospitalized and she passed away on Tuesday from influenza A, her family said.

Kiera’s family said the spirited kindergartner had received her flu shot and did not have any underlying illnesses.

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Japan pledges $100m to rebuild Gaza

Japan pledges $100m to rebuild Gaza

During a visit to the region, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged $100 million for the reconstruction of the Gaza Strip.

In a joint press conference with the Palestinians Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, Abe announced the Japanese pledge to help reconstruct the Gaza Strip, which was destroyed during a 51-day Israeli war last summer.

The Israeli war left more than 2,260 Palestinians dead and around 11,000 others wounded. It also caused the partial or complete destruction of more than 100,000 houses.

Abe said: "We are concerned about the deteriorating situation between the two sides since the last year. I exchanged views with Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu and Abbas and found they are real friends."

Abbas thanked Japan for its role in enhancing peace opportunities in the Middle East. "Palestinians will never forget Japan's support for Palestine, which started when it aided Palestinian refugees and continued after the Oslo Accords," he said.

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UN accuses Israel of razing homes of 77 Palestinians

UN accuses Israel of razing homes of 77 Palestinians

Jerusalem (AFP) - The United Nations has accused Israel of illegally demolishing the homes of 77 Palestinians, mostly children, this week in annexed east Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank.

"In the past three days, 77 Palestinians, over half of them children, have been made homeless," the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a statement issued Friday evening.

"Some of the demolished structures were provided by the international community to support vulnerable families.

"Demolitions that result in forced evictions and displacement run counter to Israel's obligations under international law and create unnecessary suffering and tension. They must stop immediately," said OCHA.

The demolitions took place in east Jerusalem and the districts of Ramallah, Jericho and Hebron, it added.

OCHA said that during 2014 Israel carried out a record number of demolitions in east Jerusalem and a zone of the West Bank under full Israeli control known as Area C.

"In 2014, according to OCHA figures, the Israeli authorities destroyed 590 Palestinian-owned structures in Area C and east Jerusalem, displacing 1,177 people -- the highest level of displacement in the West Bank since OCHA began systematically monitoring the issue in 2008."

It did not specify how many of the structures were homes or animal shelters or other outbuildings.

Israel says such demolitions are carried out because the structures have been built without the required construction permits. Palestinians and rights groups say such authorisation is routinely denied, forcing unlicensed building.

"The planning policies applied by Israel in Area C and east Jerusalem discriminate against Palestinians, making it extremely difficult for them to obtain building permits," said OCHA.

"As a result, many Palestinians build without permits to meet their housing needs and risk having their structures demolished.

"Palestinians must have the opportunity to participate in a fair and equitable planning system that ensures their needs are met," it said.

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Stephen Hawking's boycott hits Israel where it hurts: science

Stephen Hawking's boycott hits Israel where it hurts: science

What really winds up Israel is that this rejection comes from a famous scientist, and it is science that drives its economy, prestige and military strength

Stephen Hawking's decision to boycott the Israeli president's conference has gone viral. Over 100,000 Facebook shares of the Guardian report at last count. Whatever the subsequent fuss, Hawking's letter is unequivocal. His refusal was made because of requests from Palestinian academics.

Witness the speed with which the pro-Israel lobby seized on Cambridge University's initial false claim that he had withdrawn on health grounds to denounce the boycott movement, and their embarrassment when within a few hours the university shamefacedly corrected itself. Hawking also made it clear that if he had gone he would have used the occasion to criticise Israel's policies towards the Palestinians.

While journalists named him "the poster boy of the academic boycott" and supporters of the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement celebrated, Ha'aretz, the most progressive of the Israeli press, drew attention to the inflammatory language used by the conference organisers, who described themselves as "outraged" rather than that they "regretted" Hawking's decision.

That the world's most famous scientist had recognised the justice of the Palestinian cause is potentially a turning point for the BDS campaign. And that his stand was approved by a majority of two to one in the Guardian poll that followed his announcement shows just how far public opinion has turned against Israel's relentless land-grabbing and oppression.

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‘Baird you are not welcome in Palestine': Protesters hurl eggs and shoes at Canada’s foreign minister

‘Baird you are not welcome in Palestine': Protesters hurl eggs and shoes at Canada’s foreign minister

John Baird, the Foreign Minister, was pelted with eggs and shoes thrown by angry protesters as he left a meeting at the Palestinian Authority’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Ramallah on Sunday.

He was unhurt, and managed to get into a vehicle as an egg splattered on the roof, with another striking a wall behind him. No shoe came close, but the embarrassing episode, which lasted a few seconds as security minders realized they were being egged and quickly drove off, punctuated the cold reception the Canadian delegation has received from the Palestinian Authority during its brief visit.

Mr. Baird laughed it off. “I was in Mike Harris’ cabinet for four years, I’ve had rougher,” he later told reporters, referring to the former Progressive Conservative Ontario premier, whose spending cuts Mr. Baird helped enact. But Saeb Erekat, the chief Palestinian negotiator, hinted at a grander significance to the insult, saying in a statement that Canada was on “the wrong side of history by blindly supporting the Israeli occupation and its apartheid policies.”

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‘CIA killed prisoners, made it look like suicide’ – Guantanamo guard

‘CIA killed prisoners, made it look like suicide’ – Guantanamo guard

A former Guantanamo Bay prison guard and Marine explained in details what makes him believe three problematic detainees were killed at CIA black site in Guantanomo and their death was covered up as a triple suicide.

Army Staff Sergeant Joseph Hickman was on duty at the notorious prison camp when the three men died, and insists the official version of events is “impossible,” he told Vice News.

The three men were Salah Ahmed Al-Salami, 37, from Yemen, Mani Shaman Al-Utaybi, 30, from Saudi Arabia, and Yasser Talal Al-Zahrani, 22, also from Saudi Arabia. None of them had been charged with any crime.

He explained in an incendiary interview with Vice News that the three men would have had to have committed suicide at exactly the same time in a cellblock where guards check on detainees every four minutes.

They would have had to all three tie their hands and feet together, shove rags down their throats, put a mask over their face, made a noose, hung it from the ceiling on the side of the cellblock, jumped into the noose and hung themselves simultaneously,” he said.

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