7 days ago
Nine Circles of Hell!: Tuesday, December 13 Nine Circles of Hell!
The Nine Circles of Hell! – all the news that gives you fits in print – today’s nine most hellish news stories, for Tuesday, December 13, 2011, are:
“The recession has been a man-made disaster for vulnerable children”
The Christian Science Monitor
Homeless children at record high in US. Can the trend be reversed?
More children than ever before in America are going to sleep at night without a home to call their own.
One out of every 45 children – some 1.6 million – in the United States is homeless, according to a report released Tuesday by the National Center on Family Homelessness. The majority of the children are under age 7.
The number of homeless children in 2010 exceeded even the total in 2006, when thousands of families displaced by hurricanes Katrina and Rita produced a historic spike in homelessness. Last year, at least 60,000 more children were homeless.
Homelessness among America’s youths can have far-reaching consequences.
“If you believe that children are the future of our country, then you should be concerned because these homeless children have gradually become a prominent part of a third world that is emerging in our own backyards,” says Ellen Bassuk, president of the National Center on Family Homelessness in Needham, Mass.
The factors that can lead to child homelessness, such as extreme poverty and worst-case housing needs, have worsened with the economic recession – even though total housing capacity for families increased by more than 15,000 units in the past four years.
“The recession has been a man-made disaster for vulnerable children,” Ms. Bassuk says.
Federal judge calls Alabama immigration law “discriminatorily based”
Judge: Immigration law likely ‘discriminatorily based’
A federal judge in Montgomery has blocked a provision of Alabama’s immigration law that forbids local agencies from doing business with undocumented immigrants, saying the entire law is likely “discriminatorily based.”
U.S. District Court Judge Myron Thompson issued a preliminary injunction Monday afternoon against a part of the law that forbids state and local agencies from engaging in “business transactions” with undocumented immigrants. He found that a lawsuit challenging that part of the law — Section 30 — was likely to succeed on its merits.
The injunction came out of a lawsuit brought by two Mexican nationals currently residing in Elmore County. The men, who live in manufactured homes, sued the Department of Revenue and the Elmore County Probate Judge’s office last month, saying the documentation requirement made it impossible for them to register their homes and would drive them and their children, who are U.S. citizens, out of the state.
Thompson wrote that the provision put undocumented aliens “between a rock and a hard place.”
“They face civil and criminal liability for not paying their manufactured home tax, while simultaneously facing civil and criminal liability if they attempt to remove their homes from the state,” he wrote. “They can neither stay, nor can they go.”
The judge went on to rule that the statute, which he wrote would have adversely affected the children of the plaintiffs, departed from an established tradition in Alabama of assisting children regardless of their parents’ actions.
“Moreover, that HB 56′s treatment of children in mixed-status families, who are overwhelmingly Latino, is so markedly different from the state’s historical treatment of children in general suggests strongly that the difference in treatment was driven by animus against Latinos in general and thus that the statute was discriminatorily based,” Thompson wrote.
The judge also quoted several supporters of the law — including Rep. Micky Hammon, R-Decatur, and Rep. Kerry Rich, R-Albertville — as using the terms “illegal immigrant” and “Hispanic” interchangeably.
Were they terrorists or poor folks tempted by FBI cash?
Newburgh Four: poor, black, and jailed under FBI ‘entrapment’ tactics
Past This is Hell! guest Paul Harris writes …
Imam Salahuddin Muhammad could hardly miss Shahed Hussain when he first appeared three years ago at his mosque in the dilapidated town of Newburgh, just 60 miles up the Hudson River from New York.
Hussain was flash, drove expensive cars and treated people to gifts of cash and food. He also had radical opinions that stood out in a mosque that welcomed Shia and Sunni followers and had good relations with local Jewish and Christian communities.
“This guy said women should not be heard, not be seen. I thought that was strange,” Muhammad told the Guardian as he sat in his office inside Newburgh’s mosque.” Muhammad, who is a black American convert, had no idea how strange things would get.
Hussain would make Newburgh’s Muslim community famous when earlier this year four other black Newburgh Muslims were jailed for 25 years for a 2009 plot to fire a Stinger missile at US military planes. They also planted car bombs, packed with lethal ball bearings, outside Jewish targets in the wealthy New York suburb of Riverdale.
Prosecutors painted them as America-hating terrorists bent on slaughter. All four followed the instructions of Hussain, who meticulously organised the scheme: from getting the missile and bombs, to reconnaissance missions, to teaching the tenets of radical Islam.
The “Newburgh Four” now languish in jail. Hussain does not. For Hussain was a fake. In fact, Hussain worked for the FBI as an informant trawling mosques in hope of picking up radicals.
Yet far from being active militants, the four men he attracted were impoverished individuals struggling with Newburgh’s grim epidemic of crack, drug crime and poverty. One had mental issues so severe his apartment contained bottles of his own urine. He also believed Florida was a foreign country.
Hussain offered the men huge financial inducements to carry out the plot – including $250,000 to one man – and free holidays and expensive cars.
As defence lawyers poured through the evidence, the Newburgh Four came to represent the most extreme form of a controversial FBI policy to use invented terrorist plots to lure targets. “There has been no case as egregious as this. It is unique in the incentive the government provided. A quarter million dollars?” said Professor Karen Greenberg, a terrorism expert at Fordham University.
Lawyers for the Newburgh Four have appealed. Their case will now be heard early next year. It is sure to prompt a re-examination of the way Hussain and the FBI invented a terrorist plot involving impoverished black Muslims in an economically deprived city.
The case will question the new ethos of the FBI, which, since the terror attacks of 9/11, has focused on pre-emptive prosecution. It also raises serious questions as to how the FBI has treated Muslim communities in America, who it says are a key ally in fighting terrorism, and yet are subjected to such tactics.
If the appeal fails, some believe the Newburgh Four case could end up at the Supreme Court. That won’t be much comfort to Newburgh’s Muslim community. “It felt terrible being targeted,” said Muhammad. On his office walls hung several awards praising his work on inter-faith projects and promotion of peace. “We worked so hard to establish this place. Then our beautiful mosque is in newspapers all over the world,” he said.
‘New Egypt’ to determine fate of Guantanamo detainee
Egypt’s military rulers to decide fate of Guantanamo returnee
Adel el Gazzar emerged from his eight-year detention at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, with one leg, no U.S. charges against him and zero chance of returning to his native Egypt, where he was sure to have been locked up again by then-President Hosni Mubarak’s regime.
So, Gazzar was shipped instead to Slovakia and languished there in a holding center until last winter, when Mubarak became the second autocrat to fall in the Arab Spring uprisings. The revolt against three decades of authoritarian rule presented Gazzar with a gamble: Would the new Egypt grant a fair trial and eventual freedom to a man once branded as a terrorist?
His answer is expected Dec. 27, in a military court case that could set precedent for how Egypt deals with the Guantanamo detainees, former jihadists and other suspected militants who are trickling back now that the feared regime has collapsed.
“Egypt has an opportunity to, in a sense, wipe the slate clean when it comes to the human rights violations of the Mubarak years,” said Katie Taylor of Reprieve, a London-based advocacy group monitoring Gazzar’s case for its “Life After Guantanamo” project.
Other transitional North African governments are muddling through the same quandary as Egypt. Libya controversially integrated some former jihadist fighters into its new military, while one of the first decrees of the interim Tunisian government was amnesty for political prisoners, including former or current detainees from the U.S. Naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
In recent months, two Tunisian prisoners have returned safely from Guantanamo, while another former Guantanamo detainee was freed from a Tunisian jail where the old regime had kept him since his release from American custody in 2007.
Few analysts expect similar tolerance from Egypt’s ruling military council, which for years hyped the threat of Islamist extremism to Western allies as justification for Mubarak’s repressive police state. Since taking power in February, the council has outraged human rights advocates by putting some 12,000 Egyptians to military trials — more than in Mubarak’s entire time in office.
If that’s how revolutionary Egypt treats its civilians, Gazzar’s family worried, then a bearded Islamist fresh out of Guantanamo stood little chance for a smooth repatriation.
“They paid no consideration to his age or his health,” said Gazzar’s wife, 40, who asked to be indentified as Um Abdul Rahman, a nickname. “If he was cleared and released by America, then why try him again and imprison him for three more years? They were supposed to have cleared him as soon as he got back.”
Gazzar, 46, made his risky return to Egypt in June, four months after Mubarak’s fall, against the advice of family members who warned him that the old regime’s vast security and intelligence apparatus remained intact. Sure enough, Gazzar was arrested upon arrival at the Cairo airport — he was allowed a few moments with his wife and four children, their first meeting in a decade, and then disappeared once again into Egypt’s prisons.
Gazzar’s latest detention stems from his conviction in absentia in 2002 for militant activities in a group known as the Waad Cell. Authorities had opened the case right after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States. Egyptian political analysts say Mubarak’s government ginned up or greatly exaggerated the threat posed by the defendants to prove to Washington it was a reliable ally in the fight against terrorism.
Settlers commit “homegrown terror” against Israeli military, Palestinians
Israeli military base attacked by Jewish extremists in West Bank
A gang of 50 Jewish settlers and rightwing activists have broken into an army base near the Israeli settlement of Kedumim in the West bank, setting fire to tyres and hurling rocks at both Israeli soldiers and Palestinians.
One settler forced open the door of a jeep carrying the Efraim Regional Brigade’s commander, who was hit in the head with a rock and suffered minor injuries. Soldiers managed to force the group back outside the base after several minutes but by the time Israeli police arrived at the scene, most of the attackers had fled. Only two were arrested.
The attack is the latest in a wave of violent retributions exacted by extremist Jewish settler groups against Palestinians and the Israeli Defence Forces in response to government policy to evacuate illegal outposts in the West Bank. A spokesperson for the Israeli military said it was the most serious assault on its forces by Jewish activists to date.
Israel’s defence minister, Ehud Barak, described the incident as “homegrown terror”, which he warned would not be tolerated. “We will capture those responsible and they will stand trial,” he vowed. “They endangered lives and their actions threaten to damage the delicate relations Israel has with its neighbours.”
Hours after the attack, prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu called an emergency meeting to address the mounting threat posed by extremists. “The situation is intolerable,” he told assembled ministers. “We must take care of these rioters with a firm hand. We will not tolerate a situation in which IDF officers and soldiers are attacked and distracted from protecting Israeli citizens.”
Iran threatens to close world’s most important oil shipping lane
‘If the world wants to make the region insecure, we will make the world insecure’: Iran threatens to shut Strait of Hormuz with military exercise
Iran is threatening to close off the world’s most important oil shipping lane as tensions between it and the West mount following the capture of an unmanned American spy plane.
Parviz Sarvari, a member of the Iranian parliament’s National Security Committee, said his country was preparing to close off the crucial Strait of Hormuz as part of a military exercise.
Around a third of all shipped oil passes through the four mile-wide Strait between Oman and Iran and U.S. warships patrol the area to ensure safe passage.
Most of the crude exported from Saudi Arabia, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait and Iraq – together with nearly all the liquefied natural gas from lead exporter Qatar is transported through the channel.
Mr Sarvari told the Iranian student news agency ISNA: ‘Soon we will hold a military manoeuvre on how to close the Strait of Hormuz. If the world wants to make the region insecure, we will make the world insecure.’
After a news agency mistakenly reported the straight had already been closed, crude oil prices leapt by almost $2 to $100.45/per barrel, but they later stabilised.
Last month, Iran’s energy minister told Al Jazeera that Tehran could use oil as a political tool in the event of any future conflict over its nuclear program.
Tensions over the program have increased since the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported on November 8 that Tehran appears to have worked on designing a nuclear bomb and may still be pursuing research to that end. Iran strongly denies this and says it is developing nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.
Iran has warned it will respond to any attack by hitting Israel and U.S. interests in the Gulf and analysts say one way to retaliate would be to close the Strait of Hormuz.
Iran indicts 15 alleged US and Israel spies
Iran English Radio
Iran indicts 15 US, Israeli spies
Tehran Prosecutor Abbas Jafari-Dolatabadi on Tuesday said that Iran’s Judiciary has issued indictments against 15 individuals on charges of spying for the United States and the Israeli regime.
According to IRNA, the Iranian official said, “The accused in the case were individuals that committed acts of espionage against the Islamic Republic of Iran.”
On May 21, Iran’s Intelligence Ministry announced that a network of 30 individuals were detained on charges of spying for the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) and 42 CIA operatives were identified as having links with the network.
The network, which was set up by a considerable number of seasoned CIA operatives in several countries, attempted to deceive citizens into spying for the agency under the guise of issuing visas, assisting with US permanent residency, and offering employment and study opportunities in American institutions.
The intelligence ministry added that the dismantled network mainly targeted the nuclear energy field as well as sensitive oil and gas centers, noting that “one of their major objectives was sabotage.”
Massive release of greenhouse gas that’s 20 times more potent
Shock as retreat of Arctic sea ice releases deadly greenhouse gas
Dramatic and unprecedented plumes of methane – a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide – have been seen bubbling to the surface of the Arctic Ocean by scientists undertaking an extensive survey of the region.
The scale and volume of the methane release has astonished the head of the Russian research team who has been surveying the seabed of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf off northern Russia for nearly 20 years.
In an exclusive interview with The Independent, Igor Semiletov, of the Far Eastern branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said that he has never before witnessed the scale and force of the methane being released from beneath the Arctic seabed.
“Earlier we found torch-like structures like this but they were only tens of metres in diameter. This is the first time that we’ve found continuous, powerful and impressive seeping structures, more than 1,000 metres in diameter. It’s amazing,” Dr Semiletov said. “I was most impressed by the sheer scale and high density of the plumes. Over a relatively small area we found more than 100, but over a wider area there should be thousands of them.”
Scientists estimate that there are hundreds of millions of tonnes of methane gas locked away beneath the Arctic permafrost, which extends from the mainland into the seabed of the relatively shallow sea of the East Siberian Arctic Shelf. One of the greatest fears is that with the disappearance of the Arctic sea-ice in summer, and rapidly rising temperatures across the entire region, which are already melting the Siberian permafrost, the trapped methane could be suddenly released into the atmosphere leading to rapid and severe climate change.
‘God particle’ may have been glimpsed
LHC: Higgs boson ‘may have been glimpsed’
The most coveted prize in particle physics – the Higgs boson – may have been glimpsed, say researchers reporting at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) in Geneva.
The particle is purported to be the means by which everything in the Universe obtains its mass.
Scientists say that two experiments at the LHC see hints of the Higgs at the same mass, fuelling huge excitement.
But the LHC does not yet have enough data to claim a discovery.
Finding the Higgs would be one of the biggest scientific advances of the last 60 years. It is crucial for allowing us to make sense of the Universe, but has never been observed by experiments.
This basic building block of the Universe is a significant missing component of the Standard Model – the “instruction booklet” that describes how particles and forces interact.
Two separate experiments at the LHC – Atlas and CMS – have been conducting independent searches for the Higgs. Because the Standard Model does not predict an exact mass for the Higgs, physicists have to use particle accelerators like the LHC to systematically look for it across a broad search area.
At a seminar at Cern (the organisation that operates the LHC) on Tuesday, the heads of Atlas and CMS said they see “spikes” in their data at roughly the same mass: 124-125 gigaelectronvolts (GeV; this is about 130 times as heavy as the protons found in atomic nuclei).
“The excess may be due to a fluctuation, but it could also be something more interesting. We cannot exclude anything at this stage,” said Fabiola Gianotti, spokesperson for the Atlas experiment.