Wednesday, September 14, 2011

BP continues to spill oil in Gulf, continues to lie


No end in sight for oil releases in Gulf, fishing industries dead, dying

Al Jazeera
By Dahr Jamail
09/13/2011

Fifteen months after BP's crippled Macondo Well in the Gulf of Mexico caused one of the worst environmental disasters in US history, oil and oil sheen covering several square kilometers of water are surfacing not far from BP's well.

    Al Jazeera flew to the area on Sunday, September 11, and spotted a swath of silvery oil sheen, approximately 7 km long and 10 to 50 meters wide, at a location roughly 19 km northeast of the now-capped Macondo 252 well.

    According to oil trackers with the organization On Wings of Care, who have been monitoring the new oil since early August, rainbow-tinted slicks and thicker globs of oil have been consistently visible in the area.
    "BP and NOAA [National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration] have had all these ships out there doing grid searches looking at things, so hopefully now they'll take a look at this," Bonny Schumaker, president and pilot of On Wings of Care, told Al Jazeera while flying over the oil.

Oiled flag at Gulf Shores, Alabama
 Schumaker has logged approximately 500 hours of flight time monitoring the area around the Macondo well for oil, and has flown scientists from NASA, USGS, and oil chemistry scientists to observe conditions resulting from BP's oil disaster that began in April 2010.

Edward Overton, a professor emeritus at Louisiana State University's environmental sciences department, examined data from recent samples taken of the new oil.

Overton, who is also a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) contractor, told Al Jazeera, "After examining the data, I think it's a dead ringer for the MC252 [Macondo Well] oil, as good a match as I've seen."

    He explained that the samples were analysed and compared to "the known Macondo oil fingerprint, and it was a very, very close match."

    While not ruling out the possibility that oil could be seeping out of the giant reservoir, which would be the worst-case scenario, Overton believes the oil currently reaching the surface is likely from oil that was trapped in the damaged rigging on the seafloor.

A pelican dies slowly, covered in oil
 He said the oil could either be leaking from the broken riser pipe that connected the Deepwater Horizon to the well, or that oil is leaking from the Deepwater Horizon itself.

But other scientists remain concerned that the new oil could be coming from a seep from the same reservoir the Macondo well was drilled into. The oil field, located 64 km off the coast of Louisiana, is believed to hold as much 50 million barrels of producible oil reserves.

    Natural oil seepage in the Gulf of Mexico is a natural phenomenon and can cause sheens, but the current oil and sheen is suspect due to their size and location near the Macondo well.

    "From what I've seen, this new oil and sheen definitely seemed larger than typical natural seepages found in the Gulf of Mexico," Dr Ira Leifer, a University of California scientist who is an expert on natural hydrocarbon oil and gas emissions from the seabed told Al Jazeera. "Because of the size and its location, there is a greater concern that should require a larger public investigation."

    Fishermen and residents of the four states most heavily affected by BP's disaster continue to struggle to regain a sense of normalcy in their lives. Many continue to experience health problems they attribute to chemicals in BP's oil and the toxic dispersants used to sink it.

Oil explodes from BP's  Deepwater Horizon well
 Shrimpers and oyster fishermen have seen their catches drop dramatically, and in some areas entire oyster populations have been annihilated.

"Crabs are dying in fishermen's traps, and of those that make it to the docks, 40 per cent of die before they can be sorted," Dr Ed Cake, a biological oceanographer, as well as a marine and oyster biologist, told Al Jazeera while on a fact-finding mission to check oyster beds for signs of recovery. 

    Al Jazeera asked Cake how the shrimping industry in Louisiana was doing.


    "The issue with the shrimpers is that the spawning ground for the shrimp was out where BP used most of the dispersants to sink the oil," Cake said. "As far as how the industry is doing?"

    He pointed to rows of shrimp boats tied up to a nearby dock.

    BP's Gulf of Mexico disaster is, to date, the largest accidental marine oil spill in the history of the petroleum industry. BP has used at least 1.9 million gallons of toxic dispersants to sink the oil, in an effort the oil giant claimed was aimed at keeping the oil from reaching shore.

Oiled Hermit Crabs die in the sun
The dispersants are banned in at least 19 countries, including the UK.

Meanwhile, fresh oil, either from natural seeps, oil platform wreckage, the Macondo 252 reservoir itself, or all four, continues to flow into the Gulf of Mexico.

    Al Jazeera spotted two BP "research vessels" in the area in question.

    "These vessels are conducting research on natural oil seeps as part of the Natural Resources Damage Assessment [NRDA] process," Tom Mueller, a press officer with BP America, told Al Jazeera. "They were parked over a known natural seep on the bottom of the Gulf, collecting samples and documenting the natural seep activity in that area using a remote operated submarine and acoustic sensing equipment."

    According to Mueller, the intent of the NRDA study is to learn more about the locations of natural seeps and test samples taken from them, and the current study should conclude the end of October.

A BP research vessel floats in oil sheen in the area near the site of the April 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster [Erika Blumenfeld/Al Jazeera
BP, whose Macondo well gushed at least 4.9 million barrels of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico last year after the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded and sank to the bottom, has
denied that the oil is coming from their well.

"We can tell you that we recently sent a remote operated submarine down to inspect the Macondo well cap and the relief well cap," Mueller, added, "Both are intact and show no evidence of any oil leak. So no oil is leaking from the Macondo well."

    Leifer remains concerned that the seep, given its proximity to the Macondo well, could be oil in the reservoir that entered a layer of mud and has migrated into a natural pathway that leads to the seabed.

    "I see these new observations [of the seep] as the canary in the coal mine that indicates something could be changing at the seabed and should not be ignored and hope it goes away," he said.

    Given Overton's findings that the oil does appear to be from Macondo, Leifer added, "It's not necessary to be alarmist, but this is something that deserves setting an alarm off to investigate".

    His concerns are that if the seep increases in volume, "It could be a persistent, significant, continuous oil spill again, and that would require BP to go back and re-drill, and block off the pipeline even deeper than they already did, or else they would be liable for whatever the emissions are, forever, because it's not going to stop for a very long time."

Oil covered dead sea turtle
 Dr Ian MacDonald, a professor of biological oceanography at Florida State University who uses satellite remote sensing to locate natural oil releases on the ocean surface, confirmed that there are natural seeps in this region of the Gulf of Mexico, but believes more investigation is necessary in order to determine the cause and source of this particular site.

    "The question for science is: Are the rates of seepage consistent with what they were prior to the blowout?" MacDonald told Al Jazeera. "Is the amount of oil we're seeing now unusual with respect to historic levels? Can this oil be traced back to these formations?"

    MacDonald sees the heightened attention to the way the oil industry operates in the Gulf of Mexico that occurred as a result of BP's oil disaster as a silver lining, but said, "It's never the case that the natural processes [seeps] excuse pollution that human activities add to the water."

    He added, "The ecosystem is adjusted to the natural seeps, and the bottom communities have adapted over thousands of years, and that's not the case with these blowouts".
 
    Leifer, like MacDonald, pointed to the natural seeps in the area.

   "There is natural migration in the area around Macondo, and one of the sites we've studied is MC118, about 18 km away," but added, "The concern is not that human activities caused a fault, but by creating pathways outside the [well] casing, they are allowing oil to travel along the well pipe then migrate horizontally until it intersects an existing vertical fault migration pathway, then reach the sea bed."

Unidentified oil covered seabird dies a horrible, lingering death
 His concern, shared by other scientists, is the possibility that the volume of oil flowing from the seep, if it is related to the Macondo area, could increase with time.

"We should be having sonar works done of that area, and the public needs to be informed of the findings," Leifer said. "That survey should be repeated every three or six months to confirm that the seepage is not becoming larger and more widespread."

"Worst crisis I've ever seen"

    As concerns about the possibility of new oil persist, fishermen and scientists continue to deal with the aftermath of BP's disaster.

   "We are in the worst crisis I've ever seen," Brad Robin, a sixth-generation fisherman and seafood proprietor told Al Jazeera while out on a boat surveying the crippled oyster population where he fishes, "The [oyster] industry might do 35 per cent this year."

    Dr Cake, who along with University of New Orleans oyster biologist Prof Tom Soniat, invited Al Jazeera to accompany them, Robin, and Robin's son Brad along to check for recovering oyster populations.

    The marsh area outside of Yslovskey, Louisiana, was severely affected by massive fresh water diversions that were made from the Mississippi River. The choice was made in an effort to flush the marsh in order to prevent oil from washing in, but the fresh water has killed all the oysters, and Cake believes dispersed oil came in anyway.

Dead Hawkbill:  COREXIT?
Further complicating things, Cake has pinpointed at least two invasive species that do not bode well for a recovery of Louisiana's oysters.


"We are finding sponges growing on our oysters," Cake told Al Jazeera, "They encrust the oyster shell and that prevents new spat [baby oysters] from attaching to grow new oysters. We don't know why this is happening, but we think it came in response to the fresh water and oil. This is the first time we've seen it."

    The sponge is chalinula loosanoffi, and is from Ireland, the upper East Coast of the US, and in The Netherlands.

    Cake has also found a worm, poydora aggregata, from Maine, that attaches itself to oysters and fouls their shells.

    "I'm worried these sponges and worms could wreak havoc on the industry," Cake said.

    Last year's oyster harvest in Louisiana was cut in half, to a 44-year low, due to BP's oil disaster. Scott Gordon, Mississippi's director of the Shellfish Bureau of the Office of Marine Fisheries, said this summer, "I fully expect to have 100 per cent mortalities of the oysters in the western Mississippi Sound".

    Prof Soniat explained that the oyster industry is afflicted with "multiple impacts."

   "First the oil spill took away their fishing season," he said of the banning of fishing in the wake of BP's disaster. "Second, the fresh water diversion took away the oysters; and third, the program of having oystermen harvest shells from their leases to try to re-seed other areas killed the oyster reefs."

   Meanwhile, concern over ongoing oil seeps, whether they be natural or anthropogenic, persists, and scientists are calling for further investigations.

    "I don't understand why we're seeing so much more oil out there right now than we’ve seen in the past," MacDonald said. "We need to dig in and investigate and see what is going on."

    Leifer said that the amount of oil out near the Macondo site "definitely seems larger than typical natural seepages found in the Gulf of Mexico; both because of that and its location, there is a greater concern that should require a larger public investigation."

    The possibility that brings the greatest concern is that oil is leaking from the reservoir straight out of the ground. This situation could be impossible to stop, because the vent would increase in size over time due to the highly pressurised reservoir.

Follow Dahr Jamail on Twitter: @DahrJamail

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Fukushima Continues to Spew Deadly Radiation Around World


Japan government lies regarding Fukushima radiation releases will remove it from civilized world

Counterpunch
By  HARVEY WASSERMAN
09/13/2011


The horrible news from Japan continues to be ignored by the western corporate media.

    Fukushima’s radioactive fallout continues to spread throughout the archipelago, deep into the ocean and around the globe—including the US. It will ultimately impact millions, including many here in North America. 

Japanese govt. tries to restrict sale of Geiger counters
The potentially thankful news is that Fukushima’s three melting cores may have not have melted deep into the earth, thus barely avoiding an unimaginably worse apocalyptic reality.


    But it’s a horror that humankind has yet to fully comprehend.

    As Fukushima’s owners now claim its three melted reactors approach cold shutdown, think of this:
  • At numerous sites worldwide—including several in the US—three or more reactors could simultaneously melt, side-by-side. At two sites in California—Diablo Canyon and San Onofre—two reactors each sit very close to major earthquake faults, in coastal tsunami zones.
  • Should one or more such cores melt through their reactor pressure vessels (as happened at Fukushima) and then through the bottoms of the containments (which, thankfully, may not have happened at Fukushima), thousands of tons of molten radioactive lava would burn into the Earth.
  • The molten mass(es) would be further fed by thousands of tons of intensely radioactive spent fuel rods stored on site that could melt into the molten masses or be otherwise compromised.
  • All that lava would soon hit groundwater, causing steam and hydrogen explosions of enormous power.
  • Those explosions would blow untold quantities of radioactive particles into the global environment, causing apocalyptic damage to all living beings and life support systems on this planet. The unmeasurable clouds would do unimaginable, inescapable injury to all human life.
    
    Fukushima is far from over. There is much at the site still fraught with peril, far from the public eye. Among other things, Unit Four’s compromised spent fuel pool is perched high in the air. The building is sinking and tilting. Seismic aftershocks could send that whole complex—and much more—tumbling down, with apocalyptic consequences.

Japanese government continues to lie about releases
Fukushima’s three meltdowns and at least four explosions have thus far yielded general radioactive fallout at least 25 times greater than what was released at Hiroshima, involving more than 160 times the cesium, an extremely deadly isotope.

     Reuters reports that fallout into the oceans is at least triple what Tokyo Electric has claimed. Airborne cesium and other deadly isotopes have been pouring over the United States since a few scant days after the disaster.

Japanese government liar extrordinare:  Yukio Edano
Overall the fallout is far in excess of Chernobyl, which has killed more than a million people since its 1986 explosion.

    

    Within Japan, radioactive hotspots and unexpectedly high levels of fallout continue to surface throughout the archipelago. The toll there and worldwide through the coming centuries will certainly be in the millions.

Fukoshima reactors continue to burn
In the US, in the past few months, an earthquake has shaken two Virginia reactors beyond their design specifications. Two reactors in Nebraska have been seriously threatened by flooding. Now a lethal explosion has struck a radioactive waste site in France.

    

    We have also just commemorated a 9/11/2001 terror attack that could easily have caused full melt-downs to reactors in areas so heavily populated that millions could have been killed and trillions of dollars in damage could have permanently destroyed the American economy.

    The only thing we now know for certain is that there will be more earthquakes, more tsunamis, more floods, hurricanes and tornadoes….and more terror attacks.

    Horrifying as Fukushima may be, we also know for certain that the next reactor catastrophe could make even this one pale by comparison.

Entire "mainstream media" has lied from day one

 Japan will never fully recover from Fukushima. Millions of people will be impacted worldwide from its lethal fallout.

But the next time could be worse—MUCH worse.

    The only good news is that Japan, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Sweden and others are dumping atomic power. They are committing to Solartopian technologies—solar, wind, tidal, geothermal, ocean thermal, sustainable bio-fuels, increased efficiency and conservation—that will put their energy supplies in harmony with Mother Earth rather than at war with her.

    The rest of humankind must do the same—and fast. Our species can’t survive on this planet—ecologically, economically or in terms of our biological realities—without winning this transition.

    The only question is whether we do it before the next Fukushima times ten thousand makes the whole issue moot. 

Harvey Wasserman, a co-founder of Musicians United for Safe Energy, is editing the nukefree.org web site. He is the author of SOLARTOPIA! Our Green-Powered Earth, A.D. 2030, is atwww.solartopia.org. He can be reached at: Windhw@aol.com.



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Perry’s ‘Ponzi Scheme’ Kept 14 Million Seniors Out Of Poverty Last Year

Not content shooting himself in foot, Rick Perry goes for head-shot

Think Progress
By Pat Garofalo 
September 13, 2011 - 2:15 pm EDT

During last night’s GOP presidential primary debate, Texas Gov. Rick Perry tried to walk a fine line between sticking to his characterization of Social Security as a “Ponzi scheme,” yet reassuring seniors that he doesn’t actually want to eliminate the program upon which so many of them depend. However, he ultimately fell back on the position espoused in his book, which is that Social Security was a unconstitutional overstep.

Perry:  Hates old SSN recipients
    But the idea that we have not had the courage to stand up and look Americans in the face, young mid-career professionals or kids that are my children’s age and look them in the eye and said, listen, this is a broken system. It has been called a ponzi scheme by many people long before me. But no one’s had the courage to stand up and say, here is how we’re going to reform it.

    If what you’re trying to say is that back in the ’30s and the ’40s that the federal government made all the right decision, I disagree with you. And it’s time for us to get back to the constitution and a program that’s been there 70 or 80 years, obviously we’re not going to take that program away. But for people to stand up and support what they did in the ’30s or what they’re doing in the 2010s is not appropriate for America.

    That program that Perry deems inappropriate for the federal government, according to the latest data from the U.S. Census Bureau, kept nearly 14 million seniors out of poverty last year, as well as 1.1 million children.


    The poverty data released today presented a sobering picture of the economic struggles Americans face. A record 46.2 million people were in poverty last year and median incomes are lower today than they were in 1997. But Perry and many other Republicans want to slash and burn, from raising the retirement age to privatize Social Security, would take away yet one more piece of the social safety net that has helped millions of Americans stay economically afloat.

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Wayne Madsen Report: Soros's and Sunstein's joint censorship strategy: SLAPP lawsuits

Soros Does NOT Take Kindly To Criticism

Wayne Madsen Report
By Wayne Madsen
09/12/2011

WMR has recently learned that international financier George Soros, a major backer of President Obama and other Democrats, does not take criticism lightly. In fact, Soros has been engaging in a tactic usually favored by right-wing corporations: shutting down critics with a legal instrument known as a "strategic lawsuit against public participation (SLAPP)." SLAPP suits are intended to silence critics by forcing them into expensive litigation stemming from charges of libel. Ultimately, the charged parties are forced to retract unfavorable articles of be faced into bankruptcy as the result of costly judgments.

Soros:  Bitchy
The SLAPP tactics of Soros have been aimed at websites that criticize globalization and Soros's role in it. Obama's chief of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Cass Sunstein, wrote in his 2003 book, Why Societies Need Dissent, about how dissent benefits society. However, Sunstein has flip-flopped on his previous stances and now favors proactive disruption of web sites critical of the government, measures he has labeled "cognitive infiltration."

    The information disruptors of the so-called "progressive left," including Soros, appear to be taking Sunstein's censorship tactics to a new level by engaging in SLAPPs. WMR knows of one case where Soros is suing a bona fide progressive organization for $500,000 for an article suggesting that one of Soros's foundations has promoted violence by supporting certain "themed" revolutions.

    WMR is on record in many past articles citing the same violent elements embedded in Soros's support for themed revolutions, many of which dovetailed and were coordinated with CIA, National Endowment for Democracy (NED), and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) political disruption operations. The violence associated with Soros's themed revolution activities were particularly noticeable in Iran, Tibet, Burma, Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region of China, and more recently, in Egypt, Libya, and Syria.


Cass Sunstein
Sunstein's wife, White House National Security Council adviser Samantha Power, was one of the driving forces behind Obama's decision to engage militarily in Libya at the outset of the rebellion, part of which was supported by Soros's vast array of non-governmental organizations. Many of these NGOs have adopted the "Responsibility to Protect" (R2P) doctrine of Powers and the doctrine was behind the activities of various factions in the "Lotus Revolution" in Egypt and the "Jasmine Revolution" in Tunisia. The Libyan rebels' use of Facebook, a common tactic for the Soros gang, had some dubbing the Libyan revolution the "Facebook Revolution" at its outset.

    Soros and his lawyers have not shown any signs of backing down in its SLAPP tactics against critics of his themed revolutions. However, with more publicity, George Soros's Internet disruption tactics may go the way of Righthaven, a company that specialized in using copyright infringement lawsuits against websites and bloggers availing themselves of Fair Use provisions in order to force them into costly litigation and ultimate bankruptcy.

    Righthaven, facing legal blow-back from its activities, recently filed for bankruptcy. Hopefully, Mr. Soros will also face such blow-back with his insidious scheming and relationship to Obama's and Sunstein's draconian information policies being exposed for all the world to see.

Taliban Hit U.S. Forces in broad daylight, Attack U.S. Embassy, Hammer Kabul

Despite recent upbeat (bogus) reports from U.S. "mainstream media," Taliban on attack:  "No place safe in Afghanistan"

Al Jazeera
14 Sep 2011 00:06

Heavy gunfire continued to be heard late into the night as Afghan forces battled to clear a building in the city's diplomatic quarter which had been taken over by heavily armed fighters. Rockets have reportedly been fired at the US and other embassies in the area.  At least three policemen and four civilians have been killed and many others injured, according to police and hospital sources.
Taliban attack in broad dayllight
Police surrounded the occupied building, calling in air support to flush out gunmen inside the building. NATO has confirmed that they are providing Afghan forces ground and air support in the operation.

Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, condemned the attacks and and said it could not not hamper the security transition from NATO to Afghan forces.

    "The attacks cannot stop the process [transition] from taking place and cannot affect, but rather embolden our people's determination in taking the responsibility for their country's own affairs," Karzai said in a statement.

"Multiple Explosions"

    Only an hour after the attack near the US embassy, heavy explosions were heard in other parts of the city.

   Just a few kilometers away in the west of Kabul, a suicide bomber detonated himself near a police building,  killing one policeman. 

Taliban attack from this building
A second suicide bomber wounded two people when he detonated himself near Habibia high school also in the west of the city.

"The primary targets of the attackers are the intelligence agency building and a ministry," Zabihullah Mujahid, spokesperson for the Taliban, told the Reuters news agency on Tuesday from an undisclosed location.

The US embassy in Kabul said no personnel had been reported injured.

 NATO's International Security Assistance Force's present (ISAF) headquarters in Kabul was also one of the targets in the ongoing Taliban attack in the center of the city, a Western military source told the AFP new agency.

    Mohammad Zahir, head of Kabul's Crime Investigation Unit, said: "There has been an explosion and gunfire, there are several armed attackers in Abdul Haq Square. There could be suicide bombers but it is unclear at the moment."

    Police and other security officials blocked roads around the US embassy and other diplomatic missions.

"Security Transition"

    The White House said US President Barack Obama was briefed on the attacks targeting the US embassy and NATO headquarters.

Afghan forces:  "Spray and Pray"
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called it a "cowardly attack" that would not deter US efforts.

"We will take all necessary steps, not only to ensure the safety of our people, but to secure the area and to ensure that those who perpetrated this attack are dealt with," Clinton told reporters.

   Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO's secretary-general, said he was confident Afghan forces could deal with the Taliban assault.

    He added that efforts by Taliban fighters to derail NATO's handover of security responsibility to Afghan forces by 2014 would not work.

    "We are witnessing that the Taliban try to test transition but they can't stop it. Transition is on track and it will continue," he told reporters after talks with  Andris Berzins, the Latvian President.

Taliban hands ISAF it's ass
The attack in Kabul follows a huge truck bomb attack on a NATO base in central Afghanistan in which four Afghan civilians were killed and 77 US troops wounded, on the eve of the anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

    Last month, Taliban attackers laid siege to the British Council, killing at least nine people during an hours-long assault on the 92nd anniversary of Afghanistan's independence from British rule.
  
    Violence in Afghanistan is at its worst since US-backed Afghan forces toppled the Taliban government in late 2001, with high levels of foreign troop deaths and record civilian casualties.

 
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Cantor Voted For Billions To Rebuild Schools In Iraq, Now Opposes Funding School Construction In America

Deluded politicians continue to commit political suicide with regressive legislation;   Do they even care?

Think Progress
Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) voted for over $120 billion to rebuild Iraq and Afghanistan, funds that were used to construct and repair schools, roads, bridges, and other critical infrastructure. 

    Now, Cantor is opposing Obama’s proposal to spend $30 billion to modernize 35,000 American schools.

Cantor regresses even more
 U.S. House Republican Leader Eric Cantor said on Monday he will not support President Barack Obama’s proposal to renovate U.S. schools as part of the administration’s bill to spur job growth.

He added that Obama should focus instead on cutting federal regulations that he says kill U.S. jobs…
Obama's proposal is a modest effort. The total maintenance and repair backlog at U.S. schools is estimated at $270 billion to $500 billion. While the funding Obama is proposing is fully offset, Cantor voted to build schools in Iraq and Afghanistan with deficit spending.

    Construction and building projects generally create about 10,000 jobs per billion spent. At a time of high unemployment, the funding that Cantor opposes would create about 300,000 jobs. Economist Jared Berstein explains that funding to modernize schools is “a smart way to get a lot of people who really need jobs back to work, fix a critical part of our institutional infrastructure, save energy costs, provide kids with a better, healthier learning environment, and do so in way that everyone can see and feel good about each morning when they drop their kids at school.”

    Contact your member of Congress and tell them that it is time to rebuild america now. You can do so: HERE.

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Poverty rate hits 15.1 percent, highest since 1993

Poverty Rate Increases (no surprise there)
 
By Agence Frace Presse
Tuesday, September 13th, 2011 -- 6:32 pm

WASHINGTON — The US poverty rate rose in 2010 to 15.1 percent, the highest since 1993, according to census data showing a record number of Americans classified as poor and highlighting a struggling economy after the end of the Great Recession.

    The Census Bureau report released Tuesday showed a sharp increase in the poverty rate from 14.3 percent in 2009, and a fourth consecutive rise in the number of people below the poverty line, to 46.2 million.

    The number of people living in poverty was the highest since data collection began in 1959, although the rate was 7.3 percentage points lower than in 1959.

Third World Status:  America
The US definition of poverty is an annual income of $22,314 for a family of four, and $11,139 for a single person in 2010.

The survey showed struggles for the rest of Americans, with median annual household income falling 2.3 percent to $49,445.

The Census Bureau also said the number of people without health insurance coverage rose to 49.9 million in 2010 from 49.0 million in 2009, while the percentage without coverage -- 16.3 percent -- was not statistically different from the rate in 2009.

    The census report said there was no "statistically significant" change in inequality between 2009 and 2010 based on its index.

    The poverty rate for blacks and Hispanics was much higher than for the overall population at 27.4 percent and 26.6 percent, respectively. Among regions, the South had the highest poverty rate at 16.9 percent and the highest percentage without health insurance, 19.1 percent.

    The Asian population saw a decline in poverty to 12.1 percent from 12.5 percent a year earlier.

    The poverty rate increased for children under 18 to 22 percent from 20.7 percent in 2009.

    The Children's Leadership Council, an advocacy group, called the news "unacceptable in America."

    "We are paying the price for child poverty today, and we will pay the price for decades to come," said the organization, calling for lawmakers to avoid further cuts to child welfare.

Starvings Kids:  coward parents too afraid to revolt

"The rising numbers of children living in poverty is a direct result of the choices made by political leaders who put billionaires before kids," the group said. "America's children should be our top priority."

The report, showing the first full year since the recession officially ended in June 2009, supports the notion that Americans have been losing ground economically. It showed real median incomes fell 6.4 percent from pre-recession levels in 2007 and were 7.1 percent below the peak in 1999.

    Ron Haskins, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, said the report shows "the news on economic well-being in the US is not good," and that the trend is likely to continue.

    "Given the widely accepted projections that both unemployment and in particular long-term unemployment will continue at high rates for the next several years, we can expect this pattern of continuing low income and high poverty rates for many years," Haskins said.

In San Fransisco it is illegal to be homeless
"Safety net programs run by the federal and state governments are helping millions of families avoid poverty, but these programs could be subject to cuts at the federal and state level because of continuing deficit and debt problems," he said.  "The main message of today's release in income and poverty numbers from the Census Bureau is that if we don't like the way things are now, we better get used to it."

    A Brookings analysis shows that the poverty rate is projected to approach 16 percent in 2014, "meaning that the Great Recession will have added nearly 10 million people to the ranks of the poor by mid-decade."

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“Just Don’t Call It a Militia”

Afghanistan:  In the Throes of Modernization  (Part 1)

Human Rights Watch
09/14/2011


     "What we should not do is take actions that will reintroduce militias of the former power brokers. There has been some good work here to get those things back in the box and we shouldn’t seek to go back there." 

    —US Gen. Dan McNeil, commander of the International Security Assistance Force, rejecting a British plan to create tribal militias, January 2008

    "We have a proverb about a child who is always sick. Instead of trying to cure his sickness, his family changed his name. We are doing the same thing with ALP [Afghan Local Police]. We have all these problems in society, like warlords and mafia, but we do not treat them, we give them a new name."

    —Maj. Gen. Esmatullah Dawlatzai, senior Ministry of Interior official, October 26, 2010

    ALP is the exit strategy.

    —International civilian official, Kabul, October 9, 2010

    In Afghanistan armed groups are proliferating. A decade after the US-led invasion of Afghanistan following the attacks of September 11, 2001, the Taliban-led insurgency has intensified in many parts of the country. In response, the Afghan government and its international supporters, as part of the international exit strategy, are expanding the national army and police at high speed. The government has reactivated various irregular armed groups, particularly in the north. Hundreds of small militias have also been created, by powerful local figures and sometimes by communities themselves, to respond to the deteriorating security situation in many parts of the country. International forces operating in Afghanistan work closely with militias, many of which have been accused of human rights abuses.

Afghan Militias:  Uncontrollable even now
For decades, Afghans have suffered serious human rights abuses at the hands of local militias, which include a diverse array of irregular forces ranging from armed groups working for tribal leaders to private security companies, criminal gangs, and insurgent groups. The closest Afghan word for militia is arbaki (see note on terms on page 17). This term also encompasses irregular forces created by formal government programs. Militias of all varieties have participated in murderous tribal vendettas, targeted killings, smuggling, and extortion. Rapes of women, girls, and boys have been frequent.

    Militias are usually controlled by men described as local strongmen or warlords—typically former mujahideen commanders who built up power bases during the anti-Soviet jihad—whose source of protection extends into the heart of local and national government. Abusive militias have alienated Afghans from the national government and in some places contributed to the expansion of the insurgency even as the growth in the insurgency has occasioned periodic spikes in government reliance on militias. It is a classic vicious circle.

    For example, Kunduz province in northeastern Afghanistan, long one of the more secure parts of the country, is now beset with militias. The rise of militias there has been in part a local response to a rapid decline in security as the Taliban and other insurgent groups have infiltrated and occupied significant parts of the province since 2008. But their rise has also been a deliberate policy of the National Directorate of Security (NDS), which has reactivated militia networks of previous decades, primarily through the Shura-e Nazar (“Supervisory Council” of the north, formerly led by Ahmed Shah Masood) and Jamiat-i Islami networks. The NDS has provided money and guns without requisite oversight. With patronage links to senior officials in the local security forces and the central government, these groups operate with impunity.

Assassinated in 2001:   Amhad Shah Massood
 In Kunduz the spread and power of militias has become pernicious. Human Rights Watch received a number of allegations of human rights abuses by militias in Kunduz province, including killings, rape, beatings, and extortion. In most cases, no action has been taken against the perpetrators. For example, in Khanabad district in August 2010, a militia killed a young man who refused to join the force. The local prosecutor refused to make any arrests because of the commander’s connection to the provincial chief of police and a local strongman, Mir Alam, who is closely involved with abusive armed groups.

    Into this mix, the United States and the Afghan government are now also providing military weaponry, training, and salaries to thousands of men in a new village-level force, the Afghan Local Police (ALP). Created at the behest of and funded by the US, the ALP is officially designed to “secure local communities and prevent rural areas from infiltration of insurgent groups.” It is supposed to supplement national security forces by providing community defense, but without law enforcement powers. It is seen by the US military as a way to deal with the immense time pressures of trying to hand control of security to the Afghan government by 2014 while maintaining stability in remote parts of the country.

    In creating the ALP, the Afghan government and the US say they have learned the lessons of the past and that this time things will be different. Supporters point in particular to what they describe as more rigorous measures to involve the local community in selecting and vetting recruits, as well as efforts to avoid empowering pre-existing militias and heavy oversight by US special operations forces for most of the new forces. While such goals are laudable, not enough is being done when creating new ALP units to address the factors that permitted past government-backed militias to commit abuses with impunity, sabotaging community trust, and undermining larger security objectives. Indeed, many Afghans have told Human Rights Watch that this new force is hard to distinguish from arbakai (plural for arbaki).

    The constant resort to militias as a quick security fix suggests a lack of understanding of how oppressive even a small militia can be when it operates without proper oversight and with impunity when it commits abuses. When militias engage in rape, murder, theft, and intimidation, and when there is little or no recourse to justice for victims, the creation of militias doesn’t decrease insecurity, it creates it.

    This report first provides an overview of the often negative consequences of government attempts over the past decade to create civilian defense forces. Since the fall of the Taliban, such forces have included the Afghan National Auxiliary Police, Afghan Social Outreach Program forces, Community Defense Forces, Community Defense Initiative/Local Defense Initiative forces, and Interim Security for Critical Infrastructure units. We look in detail at and present new evidence of recent abuses by a diverse group of local militias that have developed in Kunduz and by Afghan Public Protection Program (AP3) forces in Wardak, the most recent experiment in creating a civilian defense force, which is now an ALP force.

Afghan Public Protection Program (AP3) forces 
While some community defense force programs have been more successful than others, all have been plagued by failures of vetting and oversight, and, too often, impunity for human rights abuses. In different ways and to different degrees, all of the programs have at times been hijacked by local strongmen or by ethnic or political factions, spreading fear, exacerbating local political tensions, fueling vendettas and ethnic conflict, and in some areas even playing into the hands of Taliban insurgents, thus subverting the very purpose for which the militias were created.

    Against this backdrop, the report then provides a detailed account of the ALP one year after it was created. Based primarily on interviews in Kabul, Wardak, Herat, and Baghlan, with additional interviews in Kandahar, Kunduz, and Uruzgan, we conclude that unless urgent steps are taken to prevent ALP units from engaging in abusive and predatory behavior, the ALP could exacerbate the same perverse dynamics that subverted previous efforts to use civilian defense forces to advance security and public order. The creation of the ALP is a high-risk strategy to achieve short-term goals in which local groups are again being armed without adequate oversight or accountability.  

    By highlighting shortcomings in the current program and instances of abuse by ALP units, we do not mean to minimize the high loss of life and terror wrought by Taliban bombings, targeted killings, executions, and kidnappings of the civilian population, as documented in previous Human Rights Watch reports. [1] We have long raised concern about how desperate Afghans are for better security. But as this report makes clear, insecurity does not come only from “anti-government” elements. Poor governance, endemic corruption, human rights abuses, and impunity for government-affiliated forces are key drivers of the insurgency, which need to be addressed if development and true stability are to come to Afghanistan.

The Afghan Local Police

    The ALP was approved by the Afghan government in July 2010 and established by presidential decree on August 16, 2010. According to the US military and the Afghan government, the ALP is being rolled out across the country to defend rural communities in areas where there is limited Afghan national army and police presence and while the national forces strengthen their capabilities. The Afghan government has an official target to hire 10,000 men for the ALP; the US Congress has approved funding for 30,000. As of August 2011, 7,000 men had been recruited to the ALP.

    The term “police” in the title of the ALP is a misnomer, as the ALP is not really a police force. Its terms of reference state that it is a “defensive force” that does not have law enforcement powers. Those supportive of the program say that it was created largely as a short-term fix for the Afghan National Police (ANP) and to free up the Afghan security forces to focus on offensive operations rather than defensive deployments. Afghan security forces will be expected to take the entire burden of such operations as the international troops withdraw. As one international official told Human Rights Watch, “ALP is the exit strategy.”

6th Time’s the Charm? NATO Tries, Again, to Train Afghan Militias

Proponents of the ALP point to safeguards, such as Ministry of Interior control over the ALP, village shura (council) nomination and vetting of members, and training and mentoring by US special operations forces. ALP units are also supposed to report to the district chief of police. But Ministry of Interior officials have conceded to Human Rights Watch that many such safeguards had also been promised for previous initiatives that ended in failure.

    An assumption under-girding creation of the ALP appears to be that the national police will be able to control ALP forces, despite weak command and control structures, and the fact that the ALP often far outnumber the national police in the districts where they operate. Furthermore, the ALP forces often have separate, informal channels to powerful government officials and local strongmen who can protect them from official accountability.

    The directive creating the ALP is vague about its powers. Rules about the ALP’s right to search and detain, where individuals can be detained, the length and conditions of detention, and the process for handing over detainees to the national police are unclear. ALP units undergo three weeks of training compared to the six weeks (soon to be eight weeks) for basic patrol officers in the national police force. The current ALP plan also lacks clear guidelines for the planned demobilization or transfer of ALP members to the national police when the ALP is wound up. The ALP is now a year old and the original 2010 plan envisioned the ALP to last from two to five years.

    The US military is the funder and primary driver behind the creation of the ALP, which it sees as a critical element of its current strategy in Afghanistan, particularly the goal of transitioning security to Afghan forces by 2014. In his testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee in March 2011, Gen. David Petraeus called the ALP “arguably the most critical element in our effort to help Afghanistan develop the capability to secure itself.”

Betrayus?  More like "Betrayed them" (ALP)
The program follows US counterinsurgency doctrine. The US military manual, “Tactics in Counter Insurgency,” published in 2009, recommends local paramilitary forces in situations to make up for weak national forces, with no mention of the potential for blowback:

    If adequate HN [host nation] security forces are not available, units should consider hiring and training local paramilitary forces to secure the cleared village or neighborhood. Not only do the members of the paramilitary have a stake in their area’s security, they also receive a wage. Providing jobs stimulates the economy. Having a job improves morale and allows locals to become a potential member of the local governmental process.

Abuses by the ALP


    US special operations forces who are training and overseeing the new forces say that the new forces have begun to deliver improvements in security in a number of areas including places such as Gizab and Arghandab where they had previously established the “Local Defense Initiative” (LDI), a precursor to the ALP. While this report highlights areas of concern, some interviewees warmly welcomed efforts to support local security solutions, even in areas where they were concerned about the individuals empowered by ALP. The real test of the impact for the ALP in terms of insurgent presence and attacks will take place when the presence of international forces is reduced.

    In the provinces where we conducted investigations there is reason for serious concern. In Shindand district in Herat province, for example, which has a reputation for being a vipers’ nest of intertwined militias, criminal gangs, and insurgents, Human Rights Watch received numerous complaints about failures of vetting and criminal or insurgent elements being absorbed into the ALP. Allegations of abuse by ALP members surfaced soon after the program began. In October 2010, an ALP member and a man linked to the Taliban were alleged to have killed two men in Bakhtabad village. The family members of one victim said that police officials informed them that nothing could be done because US special operations forces were backing the ALP unit. When the family approached US forces they were told it was an Afghan police matter, reinforcing the common perception among Afghans that armed groups linked to US forces can act with impunity. In another incident, in February 2011, an ALP unit raided several houses in Shindand, stealing belongings, beating residents, and illegally detaining six men. In June 2011, two boys were detained overnight by the ALP beaten and one of them had nails hammered into his feet while in ALP custody.

Targeted:  15 year old boy
In Baghlan province, security has deteriorated in recent years as a result of increased insurgent presence, criminal activity, and abusive government-backed militias. Former Hezb-i-Islami fighters, including local strongman Nur-ul Haq, were among the first recruits of the ALP. Haq and his men were working with US troops prior to being officially approved as ALP members. Haq and his forces were quickly implicated in numerous abuses. In August 2010, on a joint patrol with US forces in the Shahabudeen area, Haq and his men raided a house and unjustifiably killed the owner’s nine-year-old son. In April 2011, four armed ALP members in Baghlan abducted a 13-year-old boy on his way home from the bazaar and took him to the house of an ALP sub-commander where he was gang raped. He escaped the next day. Although the assailants’ identities were well-known, no arrests have taken place. The ALP in Baghlan has also been implicated in another murder and disappearance, but the police have told Human Rights Watch that they have been unable to question suspected ALP members due to their relationship with special operations forces.

    In Uruzgan province in December 2010, a local strongman detained six elders after they refused to agree to provide men to the ALP. Some members of the ALP in Khas Uruzgan have been implicated by local officials and residents in illegal raids, beatings, and forcible collection of tax.

   These cases raise serious concerns about ALP vetting, recruitment, and oversight. They also raise questions about the relationship of US forces with abusive members of the ALP and other groups and the lack of willingness of the district chief of police to investigate abusive ALP members. Many Afghans with whom Human Rights Watch spoke expressed concerns that criminal and insurgent elements were being absorbed into the force. When their concerns were raised with US and other foreign officials, reassurances were usually offered that the involvement of local shuras would guard against such problems. At both the policy and operational level, few questions appear to have been asked or assessments made about the composition of the shuras themselves or their ability to play an effective role against more powerful local forces.

US forces training ALP
Officials and elders in some communities told Human Rights Watch that they had been pressured into accepting the ALP in their area. Local officials in Shindand and Baghlan objected to the deployment of the ALP, with the district council telling the Ministry of Interior that the ALP would be destabilizing. Local councilors complained to Human Rights Watch that the council had come under pressure from the government to accept otherwise unacceptable recruits into the ALP because the recruits had a close working relationship with US forces. The head of the Baghlan provincial council told Human Rights Watch that he had made his objections known to US forces without success:

    I spoke with Captain Andy from Special Forces. I told him that you are here to support Afghan people, not give them guns, they are criminals…. Captain Andy responded that they are not criminals. I was surprised that Special Forces are backing these people.

    US special operations forces talk about communities signing up for the ALP as drawing a “line in the sand”—that is, sending a clear signal to insurgents that the community in question backs the government. Communities are being asked to make a choice: you are either with us or against us. But for many Afghan communities the choice is not binary. In some parts of the country this decision means either supporting a government-backed militia that has raped, killed, and robbed, or the Taliban, which has carried out bomb attacks, assassinated civil servants, and threatened to kill teachers in girls’ schools.

    US and ISAF military forces in Afghanistan have compounded this unpalatable choice since they entered Afghanistan in 2001 by elevating abusive armed groups in security partnerships or giving them lucrative contracts in logistics or reconstruction. International forces can appear to be blind about these relationships. In other cases they are in active collusion, even as they talk about their fight against “the bad guys.”

U.S. Fire Support Mission in Afghanistan
For the Afghan government and international allies who are currently promoting reintegration of Taliban and other insurgent fighters, the lure of the Afghan Local Police is almost irresistible. Not only do reintegrated fighters need jobs, but they also need security to protect themselves from retaliatory attack. But, for communities, this means seeing individuals and groups that have been their attackers or opponents for many years suddenly donning the uniforms of their protectors. If a community sees that there is no accountability for the members of the government’s new security force, and no certainty that their loyalties have now changed, they are unlikely to trust them or offer support.

The Ghosts of Militias Past

    Since the formation of the Karzai government in 2002, the Afghan government and its international backers periodically have made formal commitments to disarm and demobilize irregular armed groups. But these efforts have been largely tokenistic and ineffective, stymied by powerful vested interests in government and undermined by the financial, logistical, and military support of militias by the US and other international forces. Disarmament efforts have also been undermined by the growing insurgency, which has left many communities feeling too vulnerable to disarm so long as the national army, police, and international forces are unable to protect them.

Obama/Karzai
As security has deteriorated and public confidence in the government has eroded, Afghan and foreign policymakers have turned again and again to the idea of tribal militias or community defense forces. The experiments have usually ended in failure. There are several instructive examples. Launched in 2006, the Afghan National Auxiliary Police (ANAP) was barely trained, had poorly defined rules of engagement, underwent minimal vetting, and was famously corrupt. It was officially advertised as “community policing,” but in reality ANAP was used as an ill-prepared paramilitary force. One former Ministry of Interior official interviewed described them as “shields of meat.” Defection rates were high. They were abusive, hijacked by warlords, and open to infiltration by the Taliban.

    The Afghan Public Protection Program in Wardak province, launched in 2009, highlights the risks of a community defense force being hijacked by local strongmen. Wardak is an ethnically mixed province that has seen a steep decline in security since 2008. The AP3 was expected to provide public protection and discourage insurgent activity but initially had very few Pashtun members. It was only after Ghulam Mohammad, who had been associated with the Taliban and an Islamist political party, Harakat-i-Inqilab-i-Islam, joined the force that it was able to recruit among ethnic Pashtuns. This too has carried a cost.

    From the start a number of elders and officials voiced their opposition to Ghulam Mohammad’s involvement in AP3 because of his men’s abusive record (and some degree of political or ethnic rivalry). Human Rights Watch received a number of allegations that abusive behavior—beatings and intimidation—continues. Local residents claimed that many of Ghulam Mohammad’s men were criminals or members of the Taliban. One elder told Human Rights Watch: “These men were his men during the Taliban time, during the Jihad, and they are still with him as arbakis.” Ghulam Mohammad was removed from his command of AP3 in 2010, but his men are now members of the ALP.

    The ALP is touted as a sensible response to the immediate security needs in conflict areas. However, many Afghans interviewed by Human Rights Watch fear that the ALP could be a destabilizing force if it strengthens local strongmen who act with impunity; our research suggests that this is already happening in some areas. Avoiding incorporating abusive forces into the ALP requires a commitment and strategic vision to tackle impunity, corruption, and factionalism within the government.

    Yet this vision has been in short supply. Almost 10 years after the fall of the Taliban government, it is striking how little has been accomplished in building effective state institutions, particularly those that deliver justice and rule of law. The Karzai government has shown little appetite for confrontations with corrupt officials or those who protect abusive forces. The US and other governments have not chosen to spend their political capital on demanding and then following through on reforms. The US government has obligations under the “Leahy Law” to ensure that no military unit receiving US assistance is involved in gross human rights abuses for which it is not held accountable. The US Department of Defense is largely funding the Afghan Local Police program, so needs to be fully apprised of US obligations under the Leahy Law.

    Instead of taking serious actions against abuses, short-term fixes have been the norm, as standards have been watered down. Consistent pressure to reduce US troop levels and concerns about the costs of US engagement in Afghanistan are encouraging resort to a quick fix. This thinking is to the detriment of long-term needs in Afghanistan. As the US prepares for transition of security to the Afghan government, it should be giving priority to ensuring a sustainable security strategy that will best secure the human rights of all Afghans.

    The concerns General McNeil expressed in the quotation at the start of this report that local paramilitary forces could end up empowering local strongmen and warlords should be at the forefront of evaluations of the ALP and the Afghan government’s strategy of promoting militias. The ALP should be judged on whether it can bring security without violating the rights of the local communities it has been tasked to defend. If it becomes just another abusive militia, it will not only cause immense harm to local communities, but risks undermining support for the central government and inflaming ethnic and political fault lines. Or, as one elder from Shindand suggested, it “will drive us to the Taliban.”

US Gen. Dan McNeil
Despite past failures and the entreaties of many Afghans, the strategy of creating new local forces, with all their inherent risks, persists. How the Afghan government and its international backers deal with the ALP and other armed groups will be a major test. Sadly, it is still not clear that either has the patience to implement sustainable policies that will protect local communities from both insurgents and government-backed predatory forces, no matter which side commits the abuses.
Key Recommendations

    To provide for the short- and long-term security of the population, and promote and protect human rights in Afghanistan, the Afghan government and its international allies should sever all ties with irregular armed groups and abusive commanders, and take immediate steps to create well-trained, properly vetted security forces that operate within the rule of law and are held accountable for their actions.

To the Government of Afghanistan:

    Disband irregular armed groups, investigate them for abuses, and hold accountable individuals implicated in criminal offenses.

    Ensure that all allegations of abuses by ALP personnel or violations of operational rules, including unauthorized arrest, detention, or use of firearms, are seriously investigated. Suspend ALP personnel against whom there are credible allegations of abuse, improper use of force or unauthorized raids until the allegations are properly investigated and appropriate disciplinary action or criminal prosecutions are carried out.

    Create an external complaints body to allow members of the public to report abuses by the ALP and other police forces. This body should have dedicated provincial staff to proactively monitor the ALP and pay particular attention to areas where the national police cannot provide effective oversight or in remote areas where oversight is otherwise challenging.

    Amend the June 2011 Ministry of Interior ALP directive to strengthen provisions on recruitment, vetting, and rules of engagement. In particular, ensure that all recruits are individually vetted, even if they have previously been members of a similar local defense forces, and that there are no exceptions to the rules, including those who have been through the reintegration program.

    Ensure that vetting of new recruits for the ALP, including those that were former combatants and have reintegrated, includes checks for past allegations of human rights abuses. If there are credible allegations of serious human rights abuses, ensure that those individuals are refused admission into the ALP until the allegations have been criminally investigated and the individuals held accountable as appropriate.

    Create an independent panel to carry out an assessment of the adequacy of ALP recruitment and vetting, including whether individuals responsible for human rights abuses have been recruited as members of the ALP; whether the ALP has adhered to its operational rules in areas including law enforcement, arrest and detention, interrogations, and involvement in military or paramilitary operations; and whether the ALP is empowering regional warlords and local strongmen. This panel should include a wide range of government officials, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), representatives of civil society, and UNAMA observers.

    Prevent reintegrees who go through the Afghan Peace and Reintegration Program (APRP), from joining the ALP for a minimum of one year after they have reintegrated in order to discourage the ALP recruitment safeguards being undermined by the political imperatives of reintegration, and to persuade communities that those reintegrating are committed to their renunciations of violence. Ensure that no ALP recruitment rules are bypassed in order to have them accepted. Ensure that Afghan officials who play a role in APRP, including governors and other local officials, do not promise or provide jobs in the ALP to combatants without going through the official recruitment and vetting process.

To the United States and the International Security Assistance Force

    Ensure that pressure for the ALP to show “results” and legitimate concerns about governance challenges do not lead to shortcuts in recruitment, vetting, and adherence to operational rules. Focus on long-term solutions to local policing and protection of civilians that adhere to the rule of law and international best practices.

    Develop or clarify internal guidelines to receive complaints when allegations of abuse by armed groups, including the ALP, are received by US troops. Ensure that all allegations of abuses by armed groups are fully investigated or are passed to the appropriate Afghan government authorities for appropriate action. Be transparent with local government officials regarding actions being taken and follow-up on the status of investigations by US or Afghan officials.

    Work with the Afghan government to put in place adequate oversight mechanisms, including designated personnel in every district where the ALP is created and trained by the US forces, to prevent, monitor, and respond to human rights violations by ALP units.

    Ensure increased and adequate training for the ALP to ensure a full understanding and commitment to the ALP rules of engagement, including that the ALP does not have powers to detain, arrest, or interrogate individuals, as well as limitations on the permissible use of firearms.

    Ensure that adequate mechanisms are in place to prevent, monitor, and respond to human rights violations by the ALP or other armed groups funded and trained by US forces. Fully implement the Leahy Law, which prohibits the provision of military assistance to any unit of foreign security forces where there is credible evidence that such unit has committed gross violations of human rights, such as torture or cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, and “flagrant denial of the right to life, liberty or the security of the person” and that no “effective measures” are being taken to bring those responsible to justice.

Methodology

    This report is based on research in Afghanistan primarily between October 2010 and June 2011 by a Human Rights Watch researcher, a consultant, and two research assistants. As noted above, detailed interviews were carried out in Baghlan, Herat, Kabul, Kunduz, and Wardak, with additional interviews in Kandahar, Uruzgan, and Washington DC. Although most ALP sites are in the southern provinces of Afghanistan, due to security concerns Human Rights Watch conducted only limited research in those provinces.

    Many of the interviews were conducted in Dari or Pashto, while others were conducted through the use of interpreters. In total, over 120 interviews were carried out with victims of abuses and family members, village elders, witnesses to abuses, nongovernmental organization workers, Afghan security, human rights and government officials, foreign military officials and diplomats, journalists, and Afghanistan analysts.

    Because many of the interviewees fear reprisals, we often use pseudonyms, making it clear in the text or footnotes when we do so. In some cases certain other identifying information has been withheld to protect privacy or safety. Some Afghans working in an official capacity requested that they not be named in the report. Many foreign military officials and diplomats did not wish to be named and gave off-the record interviews.

    Verifying allegations of abuse was challenging in remote areas, where security officials and human rights investigators have limited access and interviewees feared reprisals. Some serious allegations were omitted from this report because the information could not be verified.  

     Interviewees at times interchangeably referred to arbakai and the ALP. Human Rights Watch cross-checked allegations with local security officials to help differentiate acts attributed to arbakai, the ALP, and others as well as to corroborate allegations. Some local officials, however, would not speak with Human Rights Watch. Some international officials declined to assist with distinguishing ALP from other arbakai on the grounds that this might put ALP members in danger because they are targeted by the Taliban.
A Note on Terminology: Militia and Arbaki.

    The Merriam-Webster English dictionary defines a militia simply as “a body of citizens organized for military service.” In Afghanistan the word has come to be applied to a wide range of armed groups, from lightly armed village defense forces to powerful private armies of warlords. This report uses “militia” in this broad Afghan sense of the term.

    The Afghan word “arbaki” generally has fewer of the negative connotations of lawlessness and abusive conduct than the word “militia” usually carries in Afghanistan, though this varies throughout the country. The most positive association the word arbaki carries is the traditional ideal of a small, village-based group that can be raised when required to defend the community. One analyst describes the responsibilities of the arbakai (plural for arbaki) as being the implementation of a jirga’s decisions, maintaining law and order, and defending the borders and boundaries of the tribe or community.[2] This interpretation is primarily associated with the country’s southeast.

    In other parts of Afghanistan, the term arbaki has a far less positive connotation, in part because of the erosion of the tribal system and other conflict-related changes to the social fabric in recent decades. Many interviewees referred to “Najibullah’s arbakai,” referring to the armed groups that operated in the last years of the Najibullah regime in 1995-96. His forces were implicated in numerous war crimes and other serious human rights abuses, particularly in Wardak, Logar, and Paghman, primarily aimed at Hezb-i-Islami supporters or fighters.[3]

    Foreign government and international officials tend to reject the suggestion that ALP units or other community defense forces created since 2001 are “militias,” largely because of the pejorative connotations of the word in Afghanistan.[4] US officials note that “militia” is “a term often used in Afghanistan to refer to large offensive forces under the command of individual warlords,” rather than small village-based forces whose leaders are nominated by village elders.[5]

    Recognizing that a direct translation of arbaki  to militia may cast a more negative light than an interviewee intended, we have used the word arbaki  when repeating what we were told in Pashto or Dari as well as outside verbatim quotations when referring generically to local irregular forces.

    “Community defense programs” is sometimes used to describe the collection of past programs aimed at raising citizen armed groups in local areas with a defensive mandate. This is generous: many would be far better described, in the Afghan sense of the term, as government-backed militias.

    This report distinguishes between “warlords” and “strongmen.” Warlord is used to refer to a military commander who controls a significant part of the country and has a private army or militia. Strongman is used to refer to someone who wields considerable political or economic influence in a geographic area, but which may be far smaller than that of a warlord. A strongman’s power is generally backed by a force—which could be a private security company or a militia—which has the ability to directly or indirectly influence local government.

[1] See Human Rights Watch, The “Ten Dollar Talib” and Women’s Rights: Afghan Women and the Risks of Reintegration and Reconciliation (July 2010); The Human Cost: The Consequences of Insurgent Attacks in Afghanistan (April 2007); Lessons in Terror: Attacks on Education in Afghanistan  (July 2006).

[2]Mohammed Osman Tariq, “The Tribal Security System (Arbakai) in Southeast Afghanistan,” Crisis States Research Centre (December 2008), p. 3, http://www2.lse.ac.uk/internationalDevelopment/research/crisisStates/download/op/OP7Tariq.pdf (accessed May 17, 2011).

[3] Afghanistan Justice Project, “Casting Shadows: War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity: 1978-2001,” 2005, p. 53. http://www.afghanistanjusticeproject.org/warcrimesandcrimesagainsthumanity19782001.pdf (accessed January 9, 2010).

[4] Human Rights Watch interview with General Phil Jones, Head of the Force Reintegration Cell, ISAF, Kabul, September 25, 2010.

[5] Department of Defense, “Report on Progress Toward Security and Stability in Afghanistan - Report to Congress In accordance with section 1230 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 (Public Law 110-181), as amended,” November 2010, p. 67, http://www.defense.gov/pubs/November_1230_Report_FINAL.pdf (accessed February 9, 2011).

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ANDREW KREIG: EXPERTS REJECT FIRE AS CAUSE FOR 9/11 WTC COLLAPSES

The real truth on 9/11 slowly continues to bleed out

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Technical experts are mounting major challenges to official U.S. government accounts of how three World Trade Center skyscrapers collapsed in near-freefall after the 9/11 attacks 15 years ago.

Many researchers are focusing especially on the little-known collapse of

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The Geopolitics Of The United States, Part 1: The Inevitable Empire

The Empire and the inevitable fall of the Obama criminal regime

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STRATFOR Editor’s Note: This installment on the United States, presented in two parts, is the 16th in a series of STRATFOR monographs on the geopolitics of countries influential in world affairs.

Like nearly all of the peoples of North and South America, most Americans are not originally from the territory that became the United States.

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Geopolitics Of The United States Part 2: American Identity And The Threats of Tomorrow

A look back at 2011 predictions for the future in order to put events of today into perspective

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We have already discussed in the first part of this analysis how the American geography dooms whoever controls the territory to being a global power, but there are a number of other outcomes that shape what that power will be like. The first and most critical is the impact of that geography on the American mindset.

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By Robert S. Finnegan

This e-mail outlines and confirms the acts of espionage against Indonesia and Indonesians by Akiko Makino and the others involved both in Kobe University and in AI Lab at University of Airlangga, Surabaya; Bahasa Indonesia original follows English translation...

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UPDATED 01/07/2015 : New Analysis Challenges Tamiflu Efficacy; Hong Kong Corona Virus Outbreak

UPDATED 01/07/2015 : FOX NEWS CORPORATE PHARMA SHILL MEGAN KELLY AND FOX NEWS QUACK DOCTOR NOW PUSHING TAMIFLU FOR PREGNANT WOMEN AND CHILDREN;

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THE 5TH ESTATE UNEQUIVOCALLY WARNS THE PUBLIC NOT TO TAKE OR GIVE THIS PROVEN DANGEROUS, INEFFECTIVE DRUG TO ANYONE

Obama criminals now resulting to biowarfare in quest to destroy Chinese and ASEAN economy; "novel virus substrain" points directly to a Kawaoka / Fouchier / Ernala-Ginting Kobe lab virus weaponized and genetically altered to specifically target and infect the Asian population: Ribavirin...

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The 5th Estate has just purchased a library on H5N1 "Novel" virus pandemics, there are dozens of PDF and Exel documents we feel will assist you in saving lives following intentional releases of the H5N1 and now MERS viruses; we will begin by printing those that appear to be extremely relevant here: H5N1 Kobe-Kawaoka-Ernala series continues soon with more "Smoking Gun" e-mails from Teridah Ernala to The 5th Estate . . .

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By Robert S. Finnegan

On October 12, 2002 the Indonesian island of Bali experienced a terrorist attack that rocked the world. It was unquestionably well-coordinated and executed, the largest in the country's history.

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