Archive for November, 2010


Advertisements

Get your hands off me, TSA!

These airport so-called security measures amount to state-sponsored sexual harassment

From http://www.guardian.co.uk

TSA body scanner images 

Your picture here: images from a TSA scanner at Arlington, Virginia. Photograph: Getty Images/Chip Somodevilla

Listen to this: “My freely chosen bedmates and doctors are the only ones allowed to see my naked body or touch my genitalia.” For a sane person in a sane country that’s the ultimate in “no shit, Sherlock” statement. But not where I live.

Not the United States of America. Not since 11 September 2001, when the government reacted to an attack on its citizens by lashing out against the very citizenry it claims to protect. No bureaucracy better embodies that reactionary principle than the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), whose contempt for American citizens has grown so great that they now require we submit to government agents either photographing our, to them, visibly naked bodies or groping us in molestation-style patdowns if we ever want to fly again.  
 
I’m sick of the craven cliches TSA apologists have cited these past nine years:

“They protect us from terrorists.”

No, they impose pointlessly superstitious security theatre, trample Americans’ constitutional rights and make foreigners feel sorry for us. TSA protected nobody with its infamous “bathroom bans” after last year’s Christmas terror attempt; rules like “keep your lap empty and your hands visible at all times” only demonstrated the agency’s willingness to treat ordinary citizens like serial killers in supermax prison.
 
“You gave up your rights when you bought an airline ticket.”

I never gave up any rights. The government stole them while cowards egged them on.

“TSA agents are just doing their jobs.”

A lousy apologia and historically ignorant to boot; the civilised world established at Nuremberg that “just following orders” cuts no ice. And my fellow Americans are realising “it’ll stop terrorists” cuts none either, at least not to justify low-grade sexual harassment as standard behaviour for government agents.
 
It’s not hyperbole to call the enhanced patdown a low-grade sexual assault; if you don’t believe me, go find some woman’s boobs or man’s balls, start cupping and squeezing them according to new TSA standards, and count how many offences you’re charged with. Last month, an agent openly admitted that the purpose of the aggressive new patdowns was to intimidate people into choosing the nude scanners instead.
 
And Homeland Security director Janet Napolitano justified this Hobson’s choice – and abandoned all pretence of being a “servant” accountable to the public – in an insufferably arrogant column she wrote for USA Today, burying outright lies beneath eye-glazing bureaucratic prose. “The imaging technology that we use cannot store, export, print or transmit images,” she claimed – though this was proven untrue almost as soon as the scanners were put in use; last August, US marshals admitted to storing 35,000 images collected from one single courthouse – some of which have now been obtained by the website Gizmodo under a freedom of information request.

“Rigorous privacy safeguards are also in place to protect the travelling public.”

You can’t claim privacy points when ordering people to let you either see them naked or feel them up.

“The vast majority of travellers say they prefer this technology to alternative screening measures.”

No, the vast majority realise Napolitano’s gone too far this time, and the backlash has finally begun. November 24 – the eve of the Thanksgiving holiday, and one of the busiest flying days of the year – is National Opt-Out Day, whose organiser Brian Sodegren calls for all Americans to refuse the nude scanners and insist the patdown be done in full public view, so everyone can see how law-abiding travelers are treated in the Land of the Free. Sodegren points out the obvious:

“You should never have to explain to your children, ‘Remember that no stranger can touch or see your private area, unless it’s a government employee, then it’s OK.'”

Similarly, the group We Won’t Fly calls for my fellow Americans to “Jam TSA checkpoints by opting out until they remove the porno-scanners!”
 
I’ve flown only three times since the inception of the TSA, and only when I couldn’t avoid it: two business trips and a funeral I couldn’t drive to. But I won’t fly on vacation; and last winter, when I thought I’d need to cross the Atlantic, I made reservations in Canada – a 450-mile drive to the airport, but worth it to avoid the TSA.
 
I’m not alone. Industry leaders reportedly met with Napolitano to express their concerns; as one executive with the US Travel Association fretted, “We have received hundreds of e-mails and phone calls from travelers vowing to stop flying.”

Airline executives are rich. Maybe they’ve got the clout to stop TSA bullying. Napolitano clearly doesn’t care if ordinary Americans quit flying altogether; at Ronald Reagan National Airport, she openly offered “travel by other means” as the only option for people who won’t submit to the new TSA probes.
 
That’s what we’ve been reduced to in America: security measures lifted from bad porn plots, and hoping this latest outrage inconveniences enough rich guys with political connections to get it repealed.

GORDON DUFF: THE “CALIFORNIA MYSTERY MISSILE”

November 17, 2010 posted by Gordon Duff  from http://www.veteranstoday.com

weather balloon soars into space

AN EPIC AMERICAN FAILURE

By Gordon Duff STAFF WRITER/Senior Editor

The submarine launch of an ICBM off the California coast on November 8 is a milestone in American history.  The immediate denials that it was an American test were a public relations disaster.  America’s government does little but lie to its people, 9/11, Osama bin Laden, we could go on forever.  In fact, nothing coming out of Washington or the press is remotely credible and it has finally been proven.

A submarine comes approaches America’s heavily guarded coast, through a network of defenses costing billions, and launches an ICBM capable of carrying up to 10 hydrogen bombs, launches the missile 2 minutes from Los Angeles, and we are utterly unaware?  This is the same military we trust our children’s lives to?

This is the same military that spent a 9 years hunting for Osama bin Laden, knowing he was dead, hundreds of millions of dollars, endless lives lost, all over a lie.  Keeping bin Laden’s death secret is a deception not unlike the phony Yemen bomb scare and the “crotch bomber” last Christmas, “third rate boogeyman” ploys to justify wasted money and airport passenger abuse.

This is the same military that killed 5000 Americans in Iraq over more lies, always known to be lies.  Behind the flag waving and patriotic blithering is a pack of greedy incompetents, many religious extremists, most up to their necks in right wing politics and too many willing to send us to war for their own personal reasons.  A patriot wouldn’t last 5 minutes in Americas military.

They would tear the place down around them, screaming “thieves, liars and cowards” as they did it.  This, however, this last insult, is just too much.   The America people expected a decent lie.  It is now nearly 10 days later and the military believes they can simply put their pointy little heads in the sand and the rest of us can go to hell?  Not hardly!

Laid bare is the level of post Cold War leadership in the Pentagon, accustomed to wasting money,  fabricating war news and trying to lie their way to empty victory in wars without plan or purpose, long proven unwinable.

WHO DID IT

A Veterans Today independent analysis of the film by missile specialists indicates that the launches was submarine based, the missile was a large ICBM and the contrail coloration indicated other than NATO origin.

Wayne Madsen, says the missile was fired from a Chinese submarine.  Madsen has a fairly good track record on such things.  There are 5 nations, all permanent members of the UN Security Council, that have such capabilities.  (India soon)  Madsen’s claim that China launched the missile just prior to announcing the lowering of America’s credit rating from A+ to AA, just above “junk bonds” is part of the story and certainly explains the timing.  America’s ability to play world bully with someone else’s money is at an end.

However, it is more than economics, the moved by the Federal Reserve to buy up its own debt, a shady currency manipulation aimed at China, or the push to continue the Bush era “free ride” tax breaks, all make America an unreliable investment.  There are 5000 criminals in Wall Street that, if they lived in China, would have gotten a bullet in the brain.  In stead, America gave them 2 trillion dollars in borrowed from China and jailed poor old Bernie Madoff.  There are other reasons for China to mistrust America, a nation they clearly see as under the control of gangsters and extremists.

Thus the warning.

IS IT REALLY CHINA?

There is only one reason that the United States didn’t announce the usual “weather balloon” or “box cutters” cover stories.  It means that the nation responsible, assuming it is China, warned us that they would go public and that the American military had to live with the humiliation as a punishment.

There is no other explanation.  There also is no other “suspect” than China, who has the interests in the Pacific region, the technical capability and the complex “love-hate” relationship with the United States.  China finances Americas debt, they are our largest trading partner, certainly our primary business partner in the world today in every way and are still continually presented to the American people as an enemy.  Our homes are filled with Chinese products, without China, our local Walmarts would stand empty.

Assuming China, and without a denial from the Pentagon, we must assume China, what could the United States have done to push them this far?  Is China telling the United States that we are ‘mad dogs’ ready to be “put down?”

WHO IS CHINA?

America’s ignorance of history will continue to assure that America remains a victim of history’s lessons.  China forgets nothing.

The Opium Wars of the 19th century were an announcement to the world that China was open for business, not trade, certainly not development but for crime and exploitation at the hands of the colonial powers of Europe, Russia and Japan.  Over the next half decade, culminating in the Boxer Rebellion, China was carved up, piece at a time, humiliated and crushed.  Nobody stood up for China, nobody but the United States.  American missionaries were in every region of China, running schools, orphanages and earning the trust and affection of the Chinese people.  It is one of those bright spots in American history.

McKinley’s Secretary of State, John Hay sided with China against the ravages of the colonial powers with his Open Door circulars.  America’s policy toward China was one of open and free trade, something impossible under the system of “treaty ports” and “extrality” being used to subjugate China into a checkerboard of “interest zones.”

China learned to hate the west but not America.  American’s were raised on the books of Pearl Buck who presented the countless generations of suffering and perseverance of the Chinese people in an idyllic manner.  These were the books I read as a child, before that, read by my mother, who grew up with them in a coal mining camp in Kentucky.  Millions of Americans knew more of China than they did their own country, felt a bond, a kinship and a partnership of spirit.

With the Japanese invasion and its endless atrocities America was divided on China.  Franklin Roosevelt and the majority of the American people sided with China.  Wall Street and the oil companies sided with Japan and kept sending oil, scrap metal and other vital resources which allowed Japan to build a military machine to control, not only China but huge portions of the Pacific as well.  This would lead to period of unpleasantness between Japan and the United States culminating with the incineration of most of Japan’s cities.

Every child in China is taught about the AVG, the American Volunteer Group, the “Flying Tigers.”  American pilots, under the leadership of General Claire Lee Chennault, provided the only resistance to Japanese bombing attacks on Chinese cities.

Describing the tumultuous period of Chinese history during the 20s and 30s is a task best left elsewhere.  Suffice it to say, the struggle between the Nationalists under Chiang kai-shek  and the communist forces under Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai are filled with twists and turns.  During the 1920s, they were forced to worked together for awhile but Chiang turned on the communists who escaped his trap in what is now called “the Long March.”  Later, when America entered the war, the Nationalists and communists joined forces under the supervision of American General Joseph Stillwell.

It is noted that the communists under Mao made far better allies than Chiang’s nationalists.  A recommended read on this is Edgar Snow’s Red Star Over China.

With the advent of the Cold War and American misconceptions about the nature of Soviet and Chinese communism, America chose the disastrous policy of supporting the hopeless Nationalist cause and, eventually, direct military confrontation with a fully communist China during the Korean war.  China could just as easily have been an American ally against the Soviets, even with its communist government, if it weren’t for the McCarthy witch hunt and the leadership failures of the Truman administration, some being deeply paralleled by President Obama today.

China had never been America’s enemy.  It took “ping pong diplomacy” and Richard Nixon to restore balance and sanity to American policy after decades of childish blithering about the menace of “Red China,” an imaginary threat, being continually harped on by neo-cons even today, whenever the public tires of the fictions about Islamic extremism.

Today, China’s friendship for America is all that is keeping the United States afloat.

IS AMERICA A “RABID DOG?”

China, once a country where, in famine years, baby girls were abandoned in fields to die, is now the richest country in the world.  Where millions had starved each year, Chinese tourists can now be seen anywhere in the world.  Their progress is a marvel and one of the greatest success stories in the history of mankind.  China’s government is a hybrid of privatization and communism, ruled by a “technocracy” that manages the economy and maintains an unaligned position in world affairs.

China’s policies are based on both security of its borders and people and the assurance of access to natural resources, oil and minerals in particular, without which China’s “bubble” might well burst.

America, on the other hand, seems to be moving backward, hopelessly in debt, continually embroiled in military adventures and clearly a failed democracy at home, moving inexorably toward totalitarianism and extremism.  Sound far fetched?  This is how the world sees America, not just the Islamic world but Canada, Britain, Western Europe and Russia.  The question now, does China see America as a threat, a “rabid dog?”  Are America’s adventures in the Middle East and South Asia, which have killed hundreds of thousands, maybe more, a threat to China?

IRAN AND PAKISTAN

China and the world have seen Iraq and Afghanistan destroyed.  They are watching Pakistan be destroyed by an American policy that can have no purpose other than to see Pakistan dismembered and crushed.  America’s covert war against Pakistan, a nation that has been an American ally since its inception, is a senseless policy.  Now, with the “sea change” toward increased Israeli influence in America’s government, the onset of the new extremist “Tea Party” wing of “Israeli firsters,” an attack on Iran, one of China’s closest allies and largest suppliers of crude oil, is expected at any time.

China has no doubts that America, as it is currently “misgoverned,” stands ready to do anything as a pretense for war even though its last two military adventures are both “unresolved,” a generous term for “failed.”

It is also clear to China and others that America’s ruling cabal, calling it a government is a certain misnomer, no longer functions in the national interest.  If the Chinese missile launch, providing it was the Chinese, was a warning of something, it was a warning based on this knowledge.

“If America can’t be trusted to take care of its own people and exercise its position as world superpower with sensibility and restraint, “there’s a new sheriff in town.”

The Fed & Stock Market Manipulation

Jeremy Grantham: “The Fed Has Spent Most of the Last 15, 20 Years Manipulating the Stock Market”

From  http://www.washingtonsblog.com

Legendary investor Jeremy Grantham – Chief Investment Strategist of Grantham, Mayo, Van Otterloo- told CNBC last week:

What I worry about most is the Fed’s activity and — QE2 is just the latest demonstration of this. The Fed has spent most of the last 15, 20 years— manipulating the stock market whenever they feel the economy needs a bit of a kick. I think they know very well that what they do has no direct effect on the economy. The only weapon they have is the so-called wealth effect. If you can drive the market up 50 percent, people feel richer.

***

This is what the Fed wants by the way.

It wants us to go out there and buy stocks, which are overpriced because bonds they have manipulated into being even less attractive. So, we’re being forced to choose between two overpriced assets.

***

And what the Fed is trying to do is to make cash so ugly that it will force you to take it out and basically speculate. And in that, it’s very successful, of course, with the hedge funds. They’re out there speculating. Finally, the ordinary individuals are beginning to get so fed up with having no return on their cash that they’re beginning to do a little bit more purchasing of equities. And that’s what the Fed wants.

It wants to have the stocks go up, to make you feel a bit richer so that you’ll spend a little more and give a short-term kick to the economy. But, it— it’s a pretty circular argument. For every dollar of wealth effect you get here, as stocks go from overpriced to worse, you will give back in a year or two. And you’ll give it back like it— like it happened in— in ’08 at the very worse time.

All of the kicker that Greenspan had engineered for the ’02, ’03, ’04 recovery and so on was all given back with interest. The market overcorrected through fair value. The housing market that was a huge driver of economic strength and a— actually masked structural unemployment with all those extra, unnecessary houses being built. All of that was given back similarly at the same time. It couldn’t have been worse.

Grantham also slams the Fed for blowing bubbles and for encouraging moral hazard:

[Question:] So, what should the federal government be doing then? I mean, the housing industry, for example, missing in action. What is it going to take to get housing moving again? What is it gonna take to get businesses hiring again? If it’s not the job of the Federal Reserve, what policy should we be seeing coming out of the government?

[Grantham:] I think the Federal Reserve has— is in a very strong position to move against bubbles. Bubbles are the most dangerous thing— asset-class bubbles that come along. They’re the most dangerous to investors. They’re also the most dangerous to the economies of— as we have seen in Japan and in 1929 and now here. You’ve got to stop them.

The Fed has enormous power to move markets. And it— not necessarily immediately, but give them a year and they could bury a bull market. They could have headed off the great tech bubble. They could have headed off the housing bubble. They have other responsibilities— powers. They— they could have interfered with the quantity and quality of the sub-prime event. They chose not to.

In fact, Greenspan led the charge to deregulate this, deregulate that, deregulate everything, which was most— ill advised, and for which we have paid an enormous price. So, they can— they can stop bubbles, and— and they should. It’s easy. It’s a huge service. What you do now is— is— I like to say it’s a bit like the Irish problem.

I wouldn’t start the journey from here if I were you when you ask— the way. You— you really shouldn’t allow the— situation to get into this shape. You should not have allowed the bubbles to form and to break. Digging out from a great bubble that has broken is so much harder than preventing it in the first place.

***

And unless we’re lucky, we will have yet another crisis without being able to lower the rates ’cause they’ll still be low, without being able to issue too much moral hazard promises from the Fed because people will begin to find it pretty hollow. Cycle after cycle, the Fed is making basically— is flagging the same intention. Don’t worry, guys. Speculate. We’ll help you if something goes wrong. And each time something does go wrong and it gets more and more painful.

Finally, Grantham slams low interest rates and quantitative easing:

Let me point out that the Fed’s actions are taking money away from retirees.They’re the guys, and near retirees, who want to part their money on something safe as they near retirement. And they’re offered minus after-inflation adjustment. There’s no return at all. And where does that money go? It goes to relate the banks so that they’re well capitalized again. Even though they were the people who exacerbated our problems.

***

I— I think, therefore, under these conditions, low rates is actually hurting the economy. It’s taking more money away from people who would have spent it —retirees — than are being spent by passing it on to financial enterprises and being distributed as bonuses to people who are rich and, therefore, save more.

So, I think it’s a— a— bad idea at any time and a particularly bad idea now.

Here’s the interview:

One in 7 US households hit by hunger issues in 2009
By Jerry Norton From http://www.alertnet.org

 Emergency food pantry use up sharply in recent years

* Food stamps used by 15 million families a month in 2009  Emergency food pantry use up sharply in recent years

* Food stamps used by 15 million families a month in 2009

WASHINGTON, Nov 15 (Reuters) – The number of U.S. households that reported getting emergency food from a food pantry almost doubled between 2007 and 2009, at the height of the recession, a government report said on Monday.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture said the number of households jumped to 5.6 from 3.9 million.

“Households also accessed additional assistance through USDA’s 15 food and nutrition assistance programs,” the article in the USDA Economic Research Service (ERS) “Amber Waves” said.

The USDA oversees the government’s food stamp program, also known as SNAP or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, for low-income families and other domestic feeding programs like school lunches.

In the 2009 fiscal year, “15.2 million households participated in SNAP in an average month, up from 12.7 million in FY 2008,” the article said.

In a separate report, the ERS said the percentage of U.S. households without food security — access to enough food for an active, healthy life — at some point during the year hit a record in 2009.

It said more than 50 million people, including at least 17 million children, lived in households uncertain of having or getting enough food at some point because of insufficient money or other material resources.

The 14.7 percent of households without food security at some time in 2009 was up from 14.6 percent in 2008 and 11.1 in 2007, and was the highest since data-keeping on the subject began in 1995, according to the ERS report. (http://www.ers.usda.gov/Briefing/FoodSecurity/)

Some 9 percent of households had low food security, meaning they relied on such strategies as “eating less varied diets, participating in Federal food assistance programs,” or getting emergency food help.

About 6 percent had very low food security, meaning they had the normal eating patterns of one or more members disrupted and reduced at times during the year.

For about a quarter of food-insecure households and one-third of those with very low food security, “the occurrence was frequent or chronic,” the ERS report said.

It said that among states, food insecurity ranged from a 6.7 percent level in North Dakota to a 17.7 percent high in Arkansas, as measured over a three year period through 2009. Very low food security ranged from North Dakota’s 2.6 percent to Alabama’s 6.8 percent.

(Editing by Peter Bohan and Sandra Maler)

Redeeming Role for a Common Virus: Ability to Kill Cancer

From http://www.sciencedaily.com

ScienceDaily (Nov. 14, 2010) — A common virus that can cause coughing and mild diarrhea appears to have a major redemptive quality: the ability to kill cancer. Harnessing that power, researchers at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center, part of Georgetown University Medical Center, are conducting a clinical trial to see if the virus can target and kill certain tumor types.

By the age of five, most people have been exposed to the virus, called reovirus. For some, it can trigger brief episodes of coughing or diarrhea while many other don’t develop any symptoms. The body simply overpowers the virus. But what scientists have discovered is that the virus grows like gangbusters inside tumor cells with a specific malfunction that leads to tumor growth. That finding led researchers to ask: Is it possible to use the virus as a treatment?

At Lombardi, researchers are collaborating with other institutions to look for an answer by conducting a phase II clinical trial for people with advanced or recurrent non-small cell lung cancer with a specific tumor profile.

“With reovirus, we’re able to accentuate the positive and attenuate the negative,” says the study’s lead investigator at Lombardi, Deepa Subramaniam, MD, interim-chief of the Thoracic Medical Oncology Program. In other words, researchers have genetically altered the virus so that it won’t replicate in a healthy cell (attenuated), which is what makes a person sick. “What’s left is a virus in search of a host, and reovirus loves the environment inside a specific kind of cancer cell,” explains Subramaniam.

That specific kind of cancer cell is one with malfunctioning machinery called KRAS or EGFR mutation.

“These mutations leave the cancer vulnerable to a viral take-over. Once it’s in, the reovirus exploits the cell’s machinery to drive its own replication. As a result, the cell is filled with virus particles causing it to literally explode.”

Volunteers in the clinical trial will receive reovirus (REOLYSIN®) in addition to paclitaxel and carboplatin. The physicians will watch to see if the cancer shrinks while also seeing if this combination of drugs causes serious side effects.

“This is a subset of cancer where we haven’t had many successes in terms of finding drugs that extend life after diagnosis,” says Subramaniam. “This trial represents an attempt to seek and destroy cancer by choosing a treatment based on specific tumor characteristics. Preliminary data from the study should come quickly.”

Researchers are also studying the effect of reovirus in other cancer types.

Editor’s Note: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment

White House Says Child Soldiers Are Ok, if They Fight Terrorists

by Michelle Chen From http://colorlines.com

“You cannot be completely happy with all these wounds—both in your body and in your mind.”
15 year-old child soldier

The phenomenon of child soldiers, like genocide, slavery and torture, seems like one of those crimes that no nation could legitimately defend. Yet the Obama administration just decided to leave countless kids stranded on some of the world’s bloodiest battlegrounds.

The administration stunned human rights groups last month by sidestepping a commitment to help countries curb the military exploitation of children. Josh Rogin at Foreign Policy reported that President Obama issued a presidential memorandum granting waivers from the Child Soldiers Prevention Act to four countries: Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sudan and Yemen. The memo instructed Secretary of State Hilary Clinton that it is in our “national interest” to continue extending military aid to those countries, despite their failure to comply with the rules Congress passed and George W. Bush signed in 2008. 

A thumbs-up for child soldiers from the pen of President Obama? Whitehouse spokesperson P.J. Crowley explained it was a strategic decision to ease the 2008 law. The rationale is that on balance, it’s more effective for the U.S. to keep providing military assistance that will help countries gradually evolve out of the practice of marshaling kids to the battlefield, rather than isolating them.

According to the Christian Science Monitor, Crowley argued, “These countries have put the right policies in place… but are struggling to correctly implement them.” The New York Times reported that administration spokespeople also cited the countries’ crucial role in global counter-terrorism efforts. 

Strategically granting certain countries a pass on child rights reflects Washington’s warped attitude toward the global human rights regime. The U.S. has failed to ratify, or simply ignored, numerous human rights protocols, and our ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child has languished. Human Rights Watch points out, “Only the United States and Somalia, which has no functioning national government, have failed to ratify the treaty.” (Although we did ratify two optional protocols in 2002, relating to child soldiers and other forms of exploitation.)

Somalia, by the way, is one of just two countries that the White House allowed to be sanctioned under the 2008 law; the second was Burma. Presumably this is because Somalia is not receiving direct military funding, reports the Monitor. Yet the U.S. continues to support Somali government forces as they fight Islamic insurgents—with the help of a large force of child soldiers. (To their credit, Somalia has at least promised the U.N. they”ll stop arming kids eventually, according to the Washington Post).

Maybe you could argue that the U.S. is so “advanced” it needn’t bother with rules about children’s rights to education and whatnot. Obama’s waivers might be seen as realpolitik in areas like Yemen, whose military we support as part of our sprawling counter-terrorism operations. But the bottom line is that the administration has carved out an exception to a law intended to ethically guide the flow of U.S. aid money around the world.

According to the Coalition to Stop the Use of Child Soldiers, which holds America to the same scrutiny that countries like Uganda and DRC routinely face in the media, we benefit indirectly and directly from the exploitation of child fighters:

In 2006 the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) registered 59 children in detention during 16 visits to five places of detention or internment controlled by the USA or the UK in Iraq. US soldiers stationed at the detention centres and former detainees described abuses against child detainees, including the rape of a 15-year-old boy at Abu Ghraib, Iraq, forced nudity, stress positions, beating and the use of dogs. Following US troop increases in Iraq in early 2007, US military arrests of children there rose from an average of 25 per month in 2006 to an average of 100 per month. Military officials reported that 828 were children held at Camp Cropper by mid-September, including children as young as 11. A 17-year-old was reportedly strangled by a fellow detainee in early 2007. 

In August 2007 the USA opened Dar al-Hikmah, a non-residential facility intended to provide education services to 600 detainees aged 11-17 pending release or transfer to Iraqi custody. US military officials excluded an estimated 100 children from participation in the program, apparently on the grounds that they were “extremists” and “beyond redemption”.

Omar Khadr, the young Canadian detainee at Guantanamo Bay, remains trapped in a Kafkaesque quasi-judicial system without regard to the fact that he was a child when captured. Rights advocates like Monia Mazigh in Ottowa have called for Khadr to be recognized as a child soldier, but the administration seems to think securing a conviction in Kangaroo Court takes precedence over international law. And because Khadr, like the other Gitmo prisoners, is identified with that faceless dark horde the U.S. has branded “terrorists,” Americans aren’t even inclined to see him as a human being, let alone as a juvenile soldier deserving of sympathy.

So America’s hypocrisy on children in war has many layers. Obama condemns the practice in theory, then undermines federal law by issuing waivers for our partners in Africa and the Middle East. And of course, Washington sees no problem with punishing child soldiers as adults when they’re aligned with the terrorists who are bent on destroying America.

UN Treaties alone obviously won’t demobilize all the world’s child soldiers, but their main role is to put down a legal placeholder. And it’s that moral guidepost that the U.S. undermines every time it waives parallel U.S. laws based on the “national interest.”

Obama’s memorandum may look jarring on paper, but it’s grimly consistent with Washington’s agenda of waging war indefinitely, without boundaries, against an enemy we can no longer really define. The U.S. supports warfare that uses children as weapons, warfare that kills civilian children indiscriminately, warfare that ultimately sends our own children to perish on foreign soil. And so America marches on in a world of conflict where the first casualty is innocence itself.

Chinese workers build 15-story hotel in just six days

From http://news.yahoo.com

As the United States and China battle over the finer points of currency manipulation at the G-20 summit, American negotiators may want to take note of this startling testimonial to the productivity of Chinese workers: A construction crew in the south-central Chinese city of Changsha has completed a 15-story hotel in just six days. If nothing else, this remarkable achievement will stoke further complaints from American economic pundits that China’s economy is far more accomplished than ours in tending to such basics as construction.

[Related: China sets record with new supercomputer]

Meanwhile, it’s easy to imagine the disorientation of Changsha residents who’d gone away, or who just hadn’t recently ventured into the downtown neighborhood of the new Ark Hotel: “Honey, I don’t remember a hotel there, do you?”

The work crew erected the hotel — a soundproofed, thermal-insulated structure reportedly built to withstand a magnitude 9 earthquake — with all prefabricated materials. In other words, a crew of off-site factory workers built the sections, and their on-site counterparts arranged them on the foundation for the Ark project.

Despite the frenetic pace of construction, no workers were injured — and thanks to the prefab nature of the process, the builders wasted very few construction materials. Below is a time-lapse video that shows the hotel being built from the ground up in less than a week: