| Now even US general who opened Guantanamo prison says shut it down!

U.S. general who opened Guantanamo prison says shut it down ~ Jane Sutton, Reuters.

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MIAMI (Reuters) – The U.S. general who opened the Guantanamo detention camp said Thursday it was a mistake and should be shut down because “it validates every negative perception of the United States.”

“In retrospect, the entire detention and interrogation strategy was wrong,” Marine Major General Michael Lehnert wrote in a column published in the Detroit Free Press.

Lehnert, now retired from the military and living in Michigan, was the first commander of the task force that opened the detention camp in January 2002 at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base in Cuba.

He said the United States opened it “because we were legitimately angry and frightened” by the September 11 hijacked plane attacks in 2001 and thought the captives sent there would provide “a treasure trove of information and intelligence.”

He quickly became convinced that most of them never should have been sent there because they had little intelligence value and there was insufficient evidence linking them to war crimes, he wrote.

“We squandered the goodwill of the world after we were attacked by our actions in Guantanamo, both in terms of detention and torture,” Lehnert wrote. “Our decision to keep Guantanamo open has helped our enemies because it validates every negative perception of the United States.”

Congress is debating an annual defense bill containing language that would give President Barack Obama more flexibility to repatriate or resettle Guantanamo detainees.

But the proposal maintains an “unwise and unnecessary ban” on transferring any to the United States, Lehnert said.

“Still, this is a step forward toward closing our nation’s most notorious prison — a prison that should never have been opened,” he wrote.

The first detainees arrived on January 11, 2002, one week after Lehnert was ordered to build the first 100 cells. The crude chain-link cages known as Camp X-Ray were used for about three and a half months and replaced by a series of more permanent prisons.

The United States has since held 779 men at the facility and 162 remain. Lehnert noted that many had been cleared for transfer by U.S. defense and intelligence agencies but were “stuck by politics.”

He said a handful should be transferred to the United States for prosecution or incarceration. He acknowledged the risk that some released detainees could go on to plan attacks against the United States, but said the U.S. Constitution and the rule of law trump that risk.

“It is time that the American people and our politicians accepted a level of risk in the defense of our constitutional values, just as our service men and women have gone into harm’s way time after time to defend our Constitution,” Lehnert wrote. “If we make a mockery of our values, it calls us to question what we are really fighting for.”

He added, “It is time to close Guantanamo. Our departure from Afghanistan is a perfect point in history to close the facility.”

(Reporting by Jane Sutton; Editing by Vicki Allen)

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| US + Israel lose Unesco voting rights for not paying dues!

US loses Unesco voting rights after failing to pay its dues ~ BBC.

UN cultural agency Unesco has suspended US voting rights after Washington skipped a deadline for paying its dues.

The US stopped its contributions, which make up about a fifth of the agency’s funding, when Unesco gave the Palestinians membership in 2011.

Israel, which halted its dues at the same time, has also had its Unesco voting rights suspended.

The US and Israel said admitting the Palestinians was a misguided attempt to bypass the Middle East peace process.

Unesco’s loss of $80m (£50m) a year in US funding has forced it to pare back American-led initiatives, including Holocaust education and a project to restore water facilities in Iraq.

‘Non-existing country’Paris-based Unesco is charged with designating World Heritage sites, promoting education and supporting press freedom, as well as countering extremism.

“Is this in the interest of the US, to be replaced?” ~ Elias SanbarPalestinian ambassador to Unesco

The American ambassador to Unesco, David Killion, told Reuters news agency: “We intend to continue our engagement with Unesco in every possible way.”

The US, however, has said it cannot legally contribute to a UN agency that implies recognition of a Palestinian state.

Israel’s ambassador to Unesco, Nimrod Barkan, told the Associated Press news agency that his country supported the US decision, “objecting to the politicisation of Unesco, or any international organisation, with the accession of a non-existing country like Palestine”.

The Palestinian ambassador to Unesco, Elias Sanbar, said other countries were beginning to make up for the funding vacuum left by the US.

But he added: “Is this in the interest of the US, to be replaced?”

The US suspension comes amid attempts by Washington to broker peace negotiations between Israel and the Palestinians.

The talks have hit a stumbling block in the last week over the continued Israeli expansion of Jewish settlements in the occupied West Bank and East Jerusalem.

More on This Story

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| Breaking: Widow proves Arafat was poisoned with polonium!

UPDATE 1-Palestinian leader Arafat was murdered with polonium – widow ~ Paul Taylor, PARIS.

(Reuters) – Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat was poisoned to death in 2004 with radioactive polonium, his widow Suha said on Wednesday after receiving the results of Swiss forensic tests on her husband’s corpse.

“We are revealing a real crime, a political assassination,” she told Reuters in Paris.

A team of experts, including from Lausanne University Hospital’s Institute of Radiation Physics, opened Arafat’s grave in the West Bank city of Ramallah last November, and took samples from his body to seek evidence of alleged poisoning.

“This has confirmed all our doubts,” said Suha Arafat, who met members of the Swiss forensic team in Geneva on Tuesday. “It is scientifically proved that he didn’t die a natural death and we have scientific proof that this man was killed.”

She did not accuse any country or person, and acknowledged that the historic leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization had many enemies.

Arafat signed the 1993 Oslo interim peace accords with Israel and led a subsequent uprising after the failure of talks in 2000 on a comprehensive agreement.

Allegations of foul play surfaced immediately. Arafat had foes among his own people, but many Palestinians pointed the finger at Israel, which had besieged him in his Ramallah headquarters for the final two and a half years of his life.

The Israeli government has denied any role in his death, noting that he was 75 years old and had an unhealthy lifestyle.

An investigation by the Qatar-based Al Jazeera television news channel first reported last year that traces of polonium-210 were found on personal effects of Arafat given to his widow by the French military hospital where he died.

That led French prosecutors to open an investigation for suspected murder in August 2012 at the request of Suha Arafat. Forensic experts from Switzerland, Russia and France all took samples from his corpse for testing after the Palestinian Authority agreed to open his mausoleum.

“SMOKING GUN”

The head of the Russian forensics institute, Vladimir Uiba, was quoted by the Interfax news agency last month as saying no trace of polonium had been found on the body specimens examined in Moscow, but his Federal Medico-Biological Agency later denied he had made any official comment on its findings.

The French pathologists have not reported their conclusions publicly, nor have their findings been shared with Suha Arafat’s legal team. A spokeswoman for the French prosecutor’s office said the investigating magistrats had received no expert reports so far.

One of her lawyers said the Swiss institute’s report, commissioned by Al Jazeera, would be translated from English into French and handed over to the three magistrates in the Paris suburb of Nanterre who are investigating the case.

Professor David Barclay, a British forensic scientist retained by Al Jazeera to interpret the results of the Swiss tests, said the findings from Arafat’s body confirmed the earlier results from traces of bodily fluids on his underwear, toothbrush and clothing.

“In my opinion, it is absolutely certain that the cause of his illness was polonium poisoning,” Barclay told Reuters. “The levels present in him are sufficient to have caused death.

“What we have got is the smoking gun – the thing that caused his illness and was given to him with malice.”

The same radioactive substance was slipped into a cup of tea in a London hotel to kill defecting Russian spy Alexander Litvinenko in 2006. From his deathbed, Litvinenko accused Russian President Vladimir Putin of ordering his murder.

The British government refused to hold a public inquiry into his death after ministers withheld some material which could have shed light on Russia’s suspected involvement.

Barclay said the type of polonium discovered in Arafat’s body must have been manufactured in a nuclear reactor.

While many countries could have been the source, someone in Arafat’s immediate entourage must have slipped a miniscule dose of the deadly isotope probably as a powder into his drink, food, eye drops or toothpaste, he said.

BRIEF RECOVERY

Arafat fell ill in October 2004, displaying symptoms of acute gastroenteritis with diarrhoea and vomiting. At first Palestinian officials said he was suffering from influenza.

He was flown to Paris in a French government plane but fell into a coma shortly after his arrival at the Percy military hospital in the suburb of Clamart, where he died on Nov. 11.

The official cause of death was a massive stroke but French doctors said at the time they were unable to determine the origin of his illness. No autopsy was carried out.

Barclay said no one would have thought to look for polonium as a possible poison until the Litvinenko case, which occurred two years after Arafat’s death.

Some experts have questioned whether Arafat could have died of polonium poisoning, pointing to a brief recovery during his illness that they said was not consistent with radioactive exposure. They also noted he did not lose all his hair. But Barclay said neither fact was inconsistent with the findings.

Since polonium loses 50 percent of its radioactivity every four months, the traces in Arafat’s corpse would have faded so far as to have become untraceable if the tests had been conducted a couple of years later, the scientist said.

“A tiny amount of polonium the size of a flake of dandruff would be enough to kill 50 people if it was dissolved in water and they drank it,” he added.

The Al Jazeera investigation was spearheaded by investigative journalist Clayton Swisher, a former U.S. Secret Service bodyguard who became friendly with Arafat and was suspicious of the manner of his death.

Hani al-Hassan, a former aide, said in 2003 that he had witnessed 13 assassination attempts on Arafat’s life, dating back to his years on the run as PLO leader. Arafat claimed to have survived 40 attempts on his life.

Arafat narrowly escaped an Israeli air strike on his headquarters in Tunisia in 1985. He had just gone out jogging when the bombers attacked, killing 73 people.

He escaped another attempt on his life when Israeli warplanes came close to killing him during the 182 invasion of Beirut when they hit one of the buildings they suspected he was using as his headquarters but he was not there. In December 2001, Arafat was rushed to safety just before Israeli helicopters bombarded his compound in Ramallah with rockets.

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Al Jazeera exposes forensic results on Arafat’s death: http://aje.me/17MEioc

polonium2Al Jazeera exposes forensic results on Arafat’s death: http://aje.me/17MEioc

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| ZIONASTY Israeli forces manhandle EU diplomats + seize West Bank aid!

Israeli forces manhandle EU diplomats, seize West Bank aid ~ Noah Browning, KHIRBET AL-MAKHUL, West Bank, Reuters.

Israeli soldiers manhandled European diplomats on Friday and seized a truck full of tents and emergency aid they had been trying to deliver to Palestinians whose homes were demolished this week.

A Reuters reporter saw soldiers throw sound grenades at a group of diplomats, aid workers and locals in the occupied West Bank, and yank a French diplomat out of the truck before driving away with its contents.

“They dragged me out of the truck and forced me to the ground with no regard for my diplomatic immunity,” French diplomat Marion Castaing said.

“This is how international law is being respected here,” she said, covered with dust.

The Israeli army and police declined to comment.French diplomat Marion Castaing lays on the ground after Israeli soldiers carried her out of her truck containing emergency aid, in the West Bank herding community of Khirbet al-Makhul, in the Jordan Valley September 20, 2013. REUTERS-Abed Omar Qusini

Israeli soldiers carry French diplomat Marion Castaing after removing her from her truck containing emergency aid, in the West Bank herding community of Khirbet al-Makhul, in the Jordan Valley September 20, 2013. REUTERS-Abed Omar Qusini
Israeli soldiers pull a Palestinian off a truck loaded with items European diplomats wanted to deliver to locals in the West Bank herding community of Khirbet al-Makhul, in the Jordan Valley September 20, 2013. REUTERS-Abed Omar Qusini

French diplomat Marion Castaing lays on the ground after Israeli soldiers carried her out of her truck containing emergency aid, in the West Bank herding community of Khirbet al-Makhul, in the Jordan Valley September 20, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Abed Omar Qusini

Locals said Khirbet Al-Makhul was home to about 120 people. The army demolished their ramshackle houses, stables and a kindergarten on Monday after Israel’s high court ruled that they did not have proper building permits.

Despite losing their property, the inhabitants have refused to leave the land, where, they say, their families have lived for generations along with their flocks of sheep.

Israeli soldiers stopped the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) delivering emergency aid on Tuesday and on Wednesday IRCS staff managed to put up some tents but the army forced them to take the shelters down.

Diplomats from France, Britain, Spain, IrelandAustralia and the European Union’s political office, turned up on Friday with more supplies. As soon as they arrived, about a dozen Israeli army jeeps converged on them, and soldiers told them not to unload their truck.

“It’s shocking and outrageous. We will report these actions to our governments,” said one EU diplomat, who declined to be named because he did not have authorization to talk to the media.

“(Our presence here) is a clear matter of international humanitarian law. By the Geneva Convention, an occupying power needs to see to the needs of people under occupation. These people aren’t being protected,” he said.

In scuffles between soldiers and locals, several villagers were detained and an elderly Palestinian man fainted and was taken for medical treatment to a nearby ambulance.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said in a statement that Makhul was the third Bedouin community to be demolished by the Israelis in the West Bank and adjacent Jerusalem municipality since August.

Palestinians have accused the Israeli authorities of progressively taking their historical grazing lands, either earmarking it for military use or handing it over to the Israelis whose settlements dot the West Bank.

Israelis and Palestinians resumed direct peace talks last month after a three-year hiatus. Palestinian officials have expressed serious doubts about the prospects of a breakthrough.

“What the Israelis are doing is not helpful to the negotiations. Under any circumstances, talks or not, they’re obligated to respect international law,” the unnamed EU diplomat said.

(Writing by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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| Egypt degenerates: Blast near interior minister’s home wounds four!

Security sources: Blast near interior minister’s home wounds four ~ Reuters, Al Jazeera.

A blast near the home of the Egyptian interior minister in Cairo’s Nasr City district injured at least four people, but the minister was not nearby at the time, three security sources told the Reuters news agency.

The cause of the blast, in an area just outside central Cairo, was not immediately clear, the sources said.

[Source: Reuters]

Explosion in front of Minister of Interior House on Moustafa Nahass Street in Nasr City / Al Jazeera
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| Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro found hanged in prison cell!

Cleveland kidnapper Ariel Castro found hanged in prison cell ~ Kim Palmer, CLEVELAND, Reuters, Yahoo News.

CLEVELAND (Reuters) – Ariel Castro, sentenced to life in prison for the kidnapping, rape and beatings of three Cleveland women he held captive in his house for a decade, was found hanged in his prison cell late Tuesday, a state corrections official said.

The former school bus driver, who pleaded guilty to 937 offenses in July, was under protective custody and isolated from other inmates at the Correctional Reception Center in Orient. Prison staff found him hanged at about 9:20 p.m. CDT on Tuesday (0220 GMT, Wednesday), officials said.

 

File photo of Ariel Castro, 53, sitting in the courtroom during his sentencing for kidnapping, rape and murder in Cleveland

.Ariel Castro, 53, sits in the courtroom during his sentencing for kidnapping, rape and murder in Cleveland, …

A review of the incident, which came a month after a death row prisoner was found hanged at another Ohio prison, was underway.

Castro was sentenced on August 1 to life plus 1,000 years in prison without the possibility of parole for abducting the three women and keeping them imprisoned in the dungeon-like confines of his house, where they were starved, beaten and sexually assaulted for about a decade.

The house where the three were held, bound with chains and ropes for periods of time, has been torn down.

Police found a suicide note and confession written by Castro when they searched his home in May. His lawyer said on Wednesday that prison authorities repeatedly denied him a psychologist.

“We requested the opportunity for our retained independent psychologist to see and evaluate Mr. Castro in both the county jail and in the prison reception center, where he was being held. We were denied and thwarted in each of our attempts by the state and county,” defense attorney Jaye Schlachet told Reuters.

After prison medical personnel tried to resuscitate him, Castro, 53, was transferred to a hospital and pronounced dead about 90 minutes later, officials said.

“If the state of Ohio is going to incarcerate an individual they should protect that individual from themselves and others,” Schlachet said.

“This is not good for the system and not good for the families,” the lawyer said.

Castro was taken into custody in May, just after Amanda Berry, 27, Gina DeJesus, 23, and Michelle Knight, 32, were freed with assistance from neighbors who heard Berry’s cries for help.

Also rescued was Berry’s 6-year-old daughter, fathered by Castro and born during her mother’s captivity.

Castro pleaded guilty in July to kidnapping, rape, felonious assault and aggravated murder under a fetal homicide law for the forcible miscarriage of one of his three victims.

His plea deal with prosecutors spared Castro a possible death penalty for murder.

Castro had been incarcerated since August 5 at the Correctional Reception Center, a prison processing facility outside Columbus, the state capital, about 150 miles southeast of Cleveland.

He was to remain there while undergoing mental and physical evaluation before being transferred to a permanent lockup, prison officials said.

OVERCROWDED PRISONS

The Ohio prisons are at 130 percent capacity, a prison watchdog group says, and the Castro hanging closely follows two other high-profile deaths.

An Ohio death row inmate, Billy Slagle, 44, was found hanged in his prison cell at another Ohio prison on August 4, three days before he was due to be executed for the 1987 murder of a babysitter. An investigation into Slagle’s death has been completed and was due to be publicly released, Rehabilitation and Correction Department spokeswoman JoEllen Smith said.

James Oglesby, 32, who was serving a life sentence for aggravated murder and kidnapping, died August 22 at a Toledo hospital after being beaten with baseball bats in the recreation yard at Toledo Correctional Institution. He became the third man killed in the past year in the overcrowded state system.

Ohio’s prison system had one confirmed homicide in 2010, two in 2011 and three in 2012, according to Joanna Saul, executive director of the Correctional Institution Inspection Committee, a state legislative group that monitors prisons.

(Editing by Steve Gorman, Daniel Trotta and Jeffrey Benkoe)

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| Egypt: Troops committed ‘mass unlawful killings’, watchdog says – live!

Egypt: Troops committed ‘mass unlawful killings’, watchdog says – live ~  and theguardian.com.

• Mubarak lawyer says former president could be freed
• New charges against Morsi, Reuters reports 
• 25 police officers executed in Sinai 
• Read the latest blog summary

Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak waves to his supporters inside a cage in a courtroom at the police academy in Cairo, in this file picture taken April 13, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer/FilesFormer Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak waves to his supporters inside a cage in a courtroom at the police academy in Cairo, in this file picture taken April 13, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer/Files

7.09pm BST

Basil El-Dabh of Daily News Egypt observes Cairo observing the nightly curfew:

Zamalek, 8 pm pic.twitter.com/ivSFL9PaRL

— Basil الضبع (@basildabh) August 19, 2013

6.57pm BST

McClatchy’s Hannah Allam is tracking today’s US State Department briefing, dominated so far by Egypt:

Q. Are US and #SaudiArabia on opposite sides in #Egypt? State: We all want to get Egypt back on track, nothing further for you on this

— Hannah Allam (@HannahAllam) August 19, 2013

State Dept: We have a decades-long relationship w/#Egypt that we hope will continue. We hope they can cont on path to sustainable democracy

— Hannah Allam (@HannahAllam) August 19, 2013

Updated at 6.58pm BST

6.50pm BST

Sara Hussein of the AFP files a harrowing report from Zeinhom morgue in Cairo, overwhelmed by decaying bodies, frustrated family members and angry onlookers:

Outside a morgue in Egypt’s capital, a woman mediates between her parents. Her mother cannot believe the decomposing body before them is their son. Her father insists that it is.

“What’s going on? Why hasn’t anyone claimed this body,” shouts one man, a surgical mask pulled below his mouth.

“The family can’t decide if it’s him,” another man yells back.

“The father says it’s his son, but the mother says it isn’t.”

A woman in a black dress and head scarf clutching a picture of a young man agrees to try to identify the body.

“I’m the daughter,” she says, reluctant at first to see the face of the body lying wrapped in a white sheet inside a crude wooden box.

The situation at #Cairo‘s Zeinhom morgue is so distressing. Completely overwhelmed, and local thugs there stirred up trouble for media.

— Sara Hussein (@sarahussein) August 19, 2013

Clouds of flies hover above it, some landing on the chunks of ice placed on top of the corpse in an attempt to slow decomposition.

“Does he have a mark by his eye?” she asks the men standing around the body, in an apparent bid to avoid having to view the corpse.

Some say yes, others say no, and so the sheet is unwrapped, revealing a face dark and different, but still that of the young man in her photo.

Read the full report here.

6.42pm BST

Earnest is asked about the announcement Sunday by Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal that Saudi Arabia would fill any financial gaps left by Western countries withdrawing aid from Egypt. Reuters reported on the Sunday announcement:

Speaking to state news agency SPA in Jeddah after visiting France on Sunday, Prince Saud also accused Western countries of tacitly encouraging Muslim Brotherhood violence with their criticism of the Egyptian military.

“To those who have declared they are stopping aid to Egypt or are waving such a threat, the Arab and Muslim nations are wealthy with their people and resources and will not shy away from offering a helping hand to Egypt,” he said.

The White House spokesman pleads ignorance of the announcement: “I haven’t actually seen that announcement from the Saudis,” Earnest says.

6.35pm BST

“No decision has been made to withhold any aid,” Earnest says.

6.35pm BST

Earnest restates the White House condemnation of the security forces’ killing of protesters:

“It is evident that a large number of people who were peaceful protesters were the victims of violence that was committed by the interim government of Egypt,” he says. The action, Earnest says, “does not reflect [the interim government] commitment to begin an inclusive process to make that transition back to democracy.”

6.32pm BST

Earnest is asked what real force there is behind the US threat to cancel aid to Egypt, given the much greater flow of money toward Cairo from the Gulf. Earnest skips the question and gives a pat answer about how the US will make aid decisions based on its interests and the law.

Then a more provocative question: Is the White House worried that if it stops aid to Egypt, the generals will stop protecting US assets in Egypt?

“I would characterize the relationship as important beyond just the military cooperation,” Earnest says. As examples, he redundantly mentions economic support and IMF assistance, then he says ensuring tourism is an important (mutual?) concern. Not on Earnest’s list: the security of Israel.

6.21pm BST

Earnest is asked about whether the US is considering changing its approach on Egypt. He says there are ongoing high-level conversations and the US side has told Egypt that they must “transition back” to a democratically elected government. He mentions the delay of the F-16s delivery and the cancellation of joint military exercises.

Nothing new there.

6.17pm BST

White House Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest has opened the daily briefing.

First question about possible Mubarak release and Morsi detention. How alarming is that for the president?

I don’t have any specific conversations to read out to you, Earnest says. Then he declines comment on Mubarak:

The legal proceedings against former president Mubarak.. that is an Egyptian legal matter, and something that I’ll leave for them to determine. It’s not something that I’m gonna weigh in on from here.

5.59pm BST

Ahmed Maher and Joanna Mikhail, filmmakers with the Atlantic Council group EgyptSource, interview Egyptians about lethal security forces raids to break up pro-Morsi sit-ins, the resignation from the government of Mohamed ElBaradei and the burning of churches.

Visit the EgyptSource web site here.

(h/t: @nfm)

5.38pm BST

Al-Jazeera has published an interactive timeline of clashes on the Sinai peninsula going back to the shooting death by government forces of a Bedouin protester in January 2011.

5.23pm BST

In a new report, Human Rights Watch says government forces killed “at least 377” people at Raba’a al-Atawiya mosque last Wednesday as troops broke up pro-Morsi demonstrations, in what the report calls a “massive use of lethal force,” “the most serious incident of mass unlawful killings in modern Egyptian history” and “a serious violation of international standards”:

The ongoing Human Rights Watch investigation indicates that the decision to use live ammunition on a large scale from the outset reflected a failure to observe basic international policing standards on use of lethal force and was not justified by the disruptions caused by the demonstrations or the limited possession of arms by some protesters. The failure of the authorities to provide safe exit from the sit-in, including for people wounded by live fire and needing urgent medical attention, was a serious violation of international standards, Human Rights Watch said.

Based on first-hand documentation and interviews with health workers by Human Rights Watch, and lists of the dead obtained by the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights, the death toll during the dispersal of the Rab’a sit-in appears to be at least 377, significantlyhigher than the latest Rab’a death toll of 288 announced by the Health Ministry.

Read the full report here.

Updated at 5.42pm BST

4.58pm BST

Summary

Here’s a summary of developments so far today in/on Egypt. On the horizon for this afternoon is the daily White House briefing scheduled for 1pm ET.

• State prosecutors have brought new charges against President Mohamed Morsi for an alleged role in “violent acts” committed during protests last December, state news reported. Morsi, who has not been heard from in seven weeks and whose location is unknown, faces several layers of charges directed by the government that replaced him.

• Reports of the new charges emerged as activist groups called for an investigation into the killing of 36 Morsi supporters while they were in state custody. It was the fourth mass killing since last Wednesday. In all an estimated 1,000 people, mostly Morsi backers, have been killed in clashes and executions in the last week.

• 25 off-duty police officers were killed in Sinai in an ambush by unidentified militants. The militants stopped two buses carrying the officers, removed them and executed them.

• As Morsi fades out, Mubarak fades in: the fallen strongman’s lawyer said Mubarak could be freed within 48 hours, although that estimate conflicted with reports of procedural matters, at least, that would delay any release. An Egyptian court was said to order that Mubarak be released.

• The EU is meeting today to “urgently review” its relations with Egypt,  British foreign secretary William Hague said.

4.36pm BST

The new charges against Morsi tie him to “violent acts,” according to the state news as quoted by Reuters:

Egypt’s public prosecutor ordered on Monday the detention of deposed President Mohamed Mursi for 15 days pending an investigation into allegations he participated in “violent acts”, state news agency MENA said.

On Thursday, Egyptian judicial authorities extended Mursi’s detention period for 30 days in a separate case.

Mursi, who was overthrown by the army on July 3, is being held at an undisclosed location on allegations of murder and spying. The new case centres on protests that took place in front of the presidential palace last December, MENA said.

The palace was the scene of huge opposition – as in anti-Morsi-government opposition – protests last December.

4.26pm BST

Tom McCarthy in New York here taking over for Sam Jones in London.

Reuters is reporting new charges against deposed President Mohamed Morsi: “Egypt prosecutor orders deposed President Morsi detained for 15 days in new case of inciting violence.”

The irony of Morsi being accused of inciting violence as hundreds of his supporters are killed in the streets is potent. Morsi, of course, is already under detention and has not been publicly seen or heard from in seven weeks.

Updated at 4.28pm BST

3.29pm BST

More on the press conference Ian Black mentioned before.

This morning the Egyptian Anti-Coup Alliance called for a formal investigation into yesterday’s killing of dozens of imprisoned protesters, reports al-Jazeera.

In an address to the media the group, which comprises supporters of Morsi, demanded an “international investigation into this horrific crime, in addition to other crimes committed by leaders of the 3rd of July [coup].”

According to Egyptian security forces, the protesters died from suffocation after tear gas was fired to stop them from escaping. But the Anti-Coup Alliance have disputed this version of affairs. Al-Jazeera has reported a statement, which says:

The true account is not out yet, we have received three contradictory statements.

On Sunday the Anti-Coup Alliance said they had “obtained evidence of the assassination of anti-coup detainees in a truck transferring them to Abu Zaabal prison.”

In this morning’s conference, the Anti-Coup Alliance are reported to have said:

We approached the chief attorney and requested a commission be formed and as we speak, the chief prosecutor has not taken any steps.

3.26pm BST

A bit more on Mubarak, courtesy of Reuters:

The former president’s trial has continued despite the army intervention against Islamist rule but, perhaps tellingly, the families of those killed in the uprising have ceased to attend the court.

One lawyer who has acted for those families said Mubarak is unlikely to be freed given the political divisions that have shaken the country since the army overthrew Morsi.

Mohammed Rashwan told Reuters that there remained some pending legal suits that could give the judiciary enough latitude to refuse Mubarak’s release. He said:

This is bigger than a legal problem. This is a political problem because Mubarak’s exit at this moment would tip the situation in favour of the Brotherhood. This is not a desirable outcome and one the current regime would not allow.

If Mubarak comes out at this time, the Brotherhood will exploit it to the utmost extent and claim that what is happening in Egypt is a return to the former regime.

3.22pm BST

Egypt's interim deputy prime minister and defence minister, armed forces General Abdel Fatah al-Sisi (centre) and its interior minister, Mohammed Ibrahim, (left) attend a meeting with Egypt's interim President Adli Mansour.
Egypt’s interim deputy prime minister and defence minister, armed forces General Abdel Fatah al-Sisi (centre) and its interior minister, Mohammed Ibrahim, (left) attend a meeting with Egypt’s interim President Adli Mansour. Photograph: HANDOUT/REUTERS

3.17pm BST

IRAQ

Iraq’s justice ministry says it has hanged 17 convicted prisoners, all but one for “terrorism”, shrugging off calls from international human rights organisations to reconsider using capital punishment.

In a statement issued on Monday, the ministry said that authorities had executed 15 Iraqis and an Egyptian convicted of terrorism for “carrying out crimes against Iraqi people”.

The last was convicted of another unspecified criminal offence. Two of those hanged were women. It didn’t say when the executions were carried out.

The hangings brought the total number of executions in Iraq this year to 67. (Via AP)

3.10pm BST

In a very bleak blog, Neil Durkin of Amnesty International asks whether Egypt is “teetering on the edge of something worse”.

One basic thing needs to be said very clearly. While there have been attacks on the security forces (including on police stations), the Egyptian security forces have generally behaved with reckless trigger-happiness and on a massive scale. People – men, women and children – have been burned to death in their protest tents. Snipers in black uniforms have shot at people from rooftops, apparently sometimes firing at whoever was in their sights. A hospital and other medical facilities have been attacked as if they were military targets. Doctors have been stopped from getting urgent medical help for gravely wounded people. These are serious crimes from a security apparatus already saturated in the blood of (mostly) peaceful protesters (read some testimonies here).

The perpetrators – whether from the Interior Ministry’s Central Security Forces (CSF), its Special Forces, or some other wing of the police-army establishment – need to be brought to justice. Amnesty has called for outside intervention, including from Christof Heynes, the UN’s senior specialist on extrajudicial executions, and the scale of events surely warrants this. Plus the authorities have a dire track record of investigating past killings of this kind. With the country looking as if it could to be on the edge of something even worse – a descent into street fighting and martial law?, a “new dark age” of repressive military dictatorship?, a civil war? – this is surely the time for outside experts to try to avert the worst and undo some of the damage.

3.03pm BST

A very interesting tweet from the BBC security correspondent Frank Gardner.

#Saudi reportedly ready with other Arab nations to increase $ to #Egypt if western nations cut aid over crackdown

— Frank Gardner (@FrankRGardner) August 19, 2013

2.55pm BST

One of the odder consequences of the unrest comes courtesy of the Times of Israel, which reports that several Egyptian television channels have decided to boycott popular Turkish dramas and soap operas after Turkey’s prime minister called for Egypt’s military leaders to be tried for their role in the ongoing violence.

Tarek Nour, who owns the Al-Kahera Wal Nas television channel, told Aal-Arabiya that the financial loss that his station would likely suffer for the boycott was a price worth paying to protest what he called Turkey’s “narrow-minded” view of Egyptian events.

As most Turkish soap operas are privately produced, the boycott is considered unlikely to affect the government directly, but Nour said that hopefully the move would nevertheless apply pressure to Ankara.

2.41pm BST

Israel is quietly and carefully watching the turmoil in Egypt while maintaining close contacts with the Egyptian military amid concerns that the escalating crisis could weaken their common battle against Islamic militants in the Sinai Peninsula, reports AP.

As the week’s death toll in Egypt rises, this alliance has put Israel in a delicate position. Wary of being seen as taking sides in the Egyptian military’s standoff against Islamist supporters of the ousted president, Israel also needs the Egyptian army to maintain quiet along their shared border and to preserve a historic peace treaty.

The 1979 peace treaty, Israel’s first with an Arab country, has been a cornerstone of regional security for three decades. It has allowed Israel to divert resources to volatile fronts with Syria, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories. For Egypt, it opened the way to billions of dollars in US military aid.

Although diplomatic relations have never been close, the two militaries have had a good working relationship. These ties have only strengthened since longtime President Hosni Mubarak was ousted two and a half years ago. With both armies battling extremist Jihadi groups in the Sinai Peninsula, near the Israeli border, Israeli security officials often say that relations with their Egyptian counterparts are stronger than ever.

With so much at stake, Israel has remained quiet since the Egyptian military ousted Mubarak’s Islamist successor, Mohammed Morsi, last month.

Israel has not commented on this week’s bloodshed, in which the Egyptian troops killed hundreds of Morsi’s supporters who were rallying against the coup and demanding that he be reinstated.

Giora Eiland, a former chairman of Israel’s National Security Council, said:

Israel does not have to support the (Egyptian) regime, especially not publicly. It is not our place to defend all the measures taken, this is not our business.

At the same time, Eiland suggested the international condemnations of the Egyptian military’s actions have been excessive. He said Israeli and Western interests were “much closer” to the interests of Egypt’s military leader, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi and his secular allies.

Even if we don’t share the same values, we can share the same interests. The Israeli interest is quite clear. We want a stable regime in Egypt.

Updated at 2.55pm BST

2.35pm BST

A Palestinian protester carries a placard during a rally in support of ousted Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi, in Gaza City on Monday. Photograph: Ashraf Amra/ZUMA Press/Corbis
A Palestinian protester carries a placard during a rally in support of ousted Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi, in Gaza City on Monday. Photograph: Ashraf Amra/ZUMA Press/Corbis
 

| Manning, Snowden + the gods of war: Don’t believe the hype!

The gods of war: don’t believe the hype ~ Neil Harrison, COUNTERFIRE.

The US empire’s illusion of benign omnipotence has been broken by the heroic acts of Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden writes Neil Harrison.

 

In god we trust

 

The grotesque climax to the manifest destiny dream. Invisible in the sky, malevolent and capricious, an Old Testament-style god rains arbitrary, brutal fate upon unsuspecting civilians.

On that Baghdad street, on that day, god existed. The Reuters journalist and his driver, gunned down for carrying an extended camera lens; the father killed taking his children to school; his children – injured and forced to witness their father’s abject death. For all of these people and more, god existed that day and his name was America.

 

Bradley ManningBradley Manning

Of course, this was the footage which finally convinced the troubled Private Bradley Manning to begin a campaign of, in his own words, “shattering the fantasy.” Thanks to Manning, no serious observer of this video, or of USA foreign policy in general, could now continue to indulge in the fantasy of America as the world’s friendly policeman, not without excercising some serious double-think. Especially not while listening to the Apache helicopter‘s crew gloat and laugh as they kill and maim innocents (it somehow gets worse the more you see it).

 

Arguably, the video was the most important thing that Bradley Manning leaked before his arrest and incarceration. Footage of other Apache helicopter attacks in Iraq were already available on Youtube, transcripts from the attack had already been printed elsewhere in a book and the world already knew that the Reuters journalists had been killed by American forces, but images and sounds have a visceral impact which mere words often lack. A worldwide, large-scale audience was, for this particular video, guaranteed by the involvement of Wikileaks – Julian Assange‘s flair for understated drama publicly piled up embarassment for the US military. Headline status meant that millions could now no longer continue with the ‘fantasy’ anymore than they could ‘unsee’ the footage. Therefore, by the time Manning’s subsequent leaks (including the war logs and the notorious diplomatic cables) came to light, they were being registered by a global public already primed with enlightened eyes and a deep sense of scepticism.

The convergence of a multitude of factors provided Manning with motive and opportunity to inflict one of the biggest clusterfucks in the American god-machine’s history of propaganda war- US government paranoia post 9/11 meant that, due to their insistence on inter-department ‘sharing,’ anyone with clearance could access virtually all government information. Manning’s genius with computers allowed him to trawl for his quarry with ease. Moreover, he felt desperately isolated. In the Mesopotamian desert, thousands of miles from home, among unsympathetic colleagues – it was far from the perfect situation for a very young man suffering deep personal turmoil. Most importantly of all, however, and the thing we should remember above all else, is that Private Bradley Manning cared.

He cared that he may have been complicit in a regime which employed (or contracted out) torture, “I was actively involved in something that I was completely against…” He cared that his fellow Americans were deliberately being kept ignorant of the true nature of their government’s foreign policy, I want people to see the truth…without information, you cannot make informed decisions as a public. Manning cared enough to risk pissing off a god.

 

Edward SnowdenEdward Snowden, the NSA whistleblower. Photograph: Guardian

As this week’s verdict of guilty on twenty counts (though, symbolically, not ‘aiding the enemy,’ which begs the question – if no ‘enemy’ was ‘aided’ where the hell is the crime?) could potentially result in over 130 years jail time for him, and bearing in mind the dreadful incarceration he has already endured, this god is at pains to ensure few follow suit.

 

The American god-machine sent its son to the Middle-east. Once there, he made a stand for truth and human compassion. For his sacrifice he is now being symbolically martyred. Does this sound familiar? You would be forgiven for finding these comparisons somewhat contrived (put it down to artistic licence). However, before dismissing the notion entirely, consider a couple of further examples.

Firstly, thanks to the actions of another brave whistleblower, Edward Snowden, we now know something of American pretensions to omnipotence. America’s National Security Agency, it is becoming ever more apparent, are now able to read private emails and listen in on telephone conversations not only in the US. but across the globe. For reasons of security, in order to protect you, the NSA needs to be able to hear your weekly takeaway order. America-god knows your favourite pizza toppings. Feel safer?

Finally, there exists the reality of ritual appeasement. In Slavoj Zizek‘s The Year of Dreaming Dangerouslyhe describes how the US must:

‘…suck up a daily influx of one billion dollars from other nations to pay for its consumption and is, as such, the universal Keynesian consumer that keeps the world economy running. (So much for the anti-Keynesian economic ideology that seems to predominate today!) This influx, which is effectively like the tithe paid to Rome in antiquity (or the gifts sacrificed to the Minotaur by the Ancient Greeks), relies on a complex economic mechanism: the US is “trusted” as the safe and stable center, so that all the others, from the oil-producing Arab countries to Western Europe and Japan, and now even the Chinese, invest their surplus profits in the US. Since this trust is primarily ideological and military, not economic, the problem for the US is how to justify its imperial role – it needs a permanent state of war, thus the “war on terror,” offering itself as the universal protector of all other “normal” (not “rogue”) states.'[1]

Herein lies the truth of the matter. America is not a god, it simply wears this diguise of ‘justification,’ therefore maintaining the inflated faux-capacity, to attempt to behave like one. In truth, the US is becoming increasingly desperate to appease and control its own economic god.

But who benefits from this global arrangement? The American people? Maybe we should ask the citizens of Detroit that one?

If we in the ‘liberal’ West really are benefitting from this international tithe-paying/war-making economic regime, then at least now, thanks to Manning and Snowden, we can appreciate the true cost it incurs. Perhaps we may yet glimpse our own future therein, because the only people who have ever genuinely benefitted, who will ever benefit, from the system Zizek describes, are in a tiny and exclusive minority. In the words of Allen Ginsberg, they are:

The Secret,

The Drunk,

The Brutal,

The Dirty Rich.

Describing the way in which “emancipatory politics,” such as socialism or feminism, work “by reaching for a future,” Terry Eagleton invokes [2] a useful image:

“[They insert] the thin end of the wedge of the future into the heart of the present. They represent a bridge between present and future , a point where the two intersect.”

This is exactly what Manning and Snowden have achieved. They have given us a brief view of a future in which no state can be unaccountable for its actions, however clandestine, however obscure its motives – not even the most powerful on Earth.

Our immediate task for the future is to continue forcing the ‘wedge,’ to ensure that the illusion continues to be shattered. Let no motive of those who would make war go uninterogated. Let no action of those who hoard wealth at the expense of the pain, suffering and even the lives of others go unchallenged. This is how best to honour the bravery and sacrifices of Manning, Snowden and others like them. This is how we will display our solidarity with them as they face uncertain futures. This is how we will consign the gods to history.

Notes

[1] Slavoj Zizek, The Year of Dreaming Dangerously, p. 10

[2] Terry Eagleton, Why Marx Was Right p. 69

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BradM1

| UK mosque bombing suspect also accused of Muslim man’s murder!

Day 131 - West Midlands Police - Murder Appeal

Day 131 – West Midlands Police – Murder Appeal (Photo credit: West Midlands Police)

UK mosque bombing suspect also accused of Muslim man’s murder ~ Reuters.

(Reuters) – A Ukrainian man, detained this week over the bombing of mosques in central England, has also been accused of the murder of an elderly Muslim man stabbed to death on his way home from evening prayers three months ago, police said on Saturday.

The 25-year-old was arrested along with another Ukrainian man, 22, on Thursday on terrorism charges after explosions at two mosques near the city of Birmingham, one in June and the other last week.

Police said the older man was now also accused of killing Mohammed Saleem in the Small Heath area of Birmingham in April. The 75-year-old was stabbed three times in the back as he left his local mosque in what police described as a “swift, vicious attack”.

“The murder of Mohammed Saleem now forms part of the wider West Midlands Counter Terrorism Unit Investigation,” said Marcus Beale, Assistant Chief Constable of West Midlands Police.

The murder was being treated as an act of terrorism, the police said.

There have been several attacks on Islamic buildings in Britain since the murder of soldier Lee Rigby on a south London street in May stoked community tensions.

Birmingham, Britain’s second largest city and home to a large Muslim population, has been at the forefront of concerns.

The two suspects are accused of being behind a suspected nail bomb attack on a mosque in Tipton, which took place on the same day as Rigby’s funeral, and another blast at one in Walsall. Neither caused any casualties.

Police believe there was also another explosion at a third mosque in June, and offensive slogans were daubed on another Islamic centre.

On Saturday, the right-wing anti-Islamist English Defence League (EDL) held a demonstration in Birmingham which it argues is a hotbed of extremism.

Some 1,000 police were on hand to keep apart EDL supporters and anti-fascist groups holding a counter-demonstration, and four people were arrested in scuffles.

(Reporting by Michael Holden; Editing by Sonya Hepinstall)

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| Sen. Leahy: US aid is cut off when a democratically elected government is deposed by military coup or decree.”

Key U.S. Democratic senator sees review of Egypt aidReuters,

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate subcommittee that oversees foreign aid, said on Wednesday that his panel would review the $1.5 billion in annual assistance the country sends to Egypt in the wake of the ouster of Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi.

“Egypt’s military leaders say they have no intent or desire to govern, and I hope they make good on their promise,” Leahy said in a statement. “In the meantime, our law is clear: U.S. aid is cut off when a democratically elected government is deposed by military coup or decree.”

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; editing by Jackie Frank)

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