Wednesday, March 16 Nine Circles of Hell!

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The Nine Circles of Hell! – all the news that gives you fits in print – for Wednesday, March 16, 2011, plus two bonus stories on the CIA spy charged with a double murder, and an extra story on the history of problems with Japan’s reactors, are:

Military doctors’ role in Bradley Manning detention questioned

British Ministry of Defence destroys Afghan war book

‘Blood money’ rumors as Pakistan frees CIA spy in murder case

Bahrain forces expel protesters in deadly clashes at landmark square

Pakistan’s disabled face harsh discrimination, fear of abduction

Wikileaks reveal ’08 Japan reactor warning, “covering up” accidents

Asylum seekers protest at Australia’s remote island detention center

International abused children porn-swapping ring busted

Biggest monthly US food price increase in over 35 years

Military doctors’ role in Bradley Manning detention questioned
Guardian
(3/15/11)

Bradley Manning’s military doctors accused over treatment

A leading group of doctors in the US concerned with the ethical treatment of patients has questioned the role of military psychiatrists in Quantico, Virginia, where the suspected WikiLeaks source Bradley Manning is being subjected to harsh treatment that some call torture.

The advocacy body Physicians for Human Rights has sounded the alarm over the role of psychiatrists at the brig in the marine base where Manning has been in custody since last July.

The group sees the psychiatrists as trapped in a situation of “dual loyalty”, where their obligations to the military chain of command may conflict with their medical duty to protect their patient.

Christy Fujio, author of a forthcoming report on the issue, said the main concern was that psychiatrists were allowing Manning’s continuing solitary confinement.

“Even if they do not officially approve it, by continuing to examine him and report back to the government on his condition, they are effectively taking part in security operations. Their failure to call it what it is, cruel and inhumane treatment, constitutes a violation of their ethical duties as doctors.”

Manning has been charged with passing a mountain of digital US state secrets to WikiLeaks. He is under a prevention of injury order, or PoI, that requires him to be kept alone in a cell for 23 hours a day and to be checked every five minutes. Since earlier this month, he has also been stripped naked each night and made to parade in front of officers.

Manning himself says the conditions amount to pre-trial punishment provoked by a sarcastic remark he made to guards.

Last night, Manning’s father, Brian, also denounced the way his son is being treated. He told the Frontline programme on US public television: “It’s shocking enough that I would come out of our silence as a family and say, ‘No, you’ve crossed a line. This is wrong.’” And he referred to the Guantánamo detention facility for terror suspects, saying: “They worry about people down in a base in Cuba, but here we have someone on our own soil under our own control, and they are treating him in this way”.

Official records kept at the brig, released recently by Manning’s lawyer, reveal that between last August and January military psychiatrists made no fewer than 16 recommendations to their military commanders that Manning should be taken off the PoI restrictions because he was no threat to himself.

Typical of the entries was that of 29 October 2010, which stated that Manning “was evaluated by the brig psychiatrist and found fit to be removed from prevention of injury classification from a psychiatric standpoint”.

British Ministry of Defence destroys Afghan war book
Guardian
(3/15/11)

Every copy of Afghanistan war book bought and pulped by MoD

The entire print run of a highly critical and embarrassing account of Britain’s role in southern Afghanistan has been bought and pulped by the Ministry of Defence at a cost of more than £150,000.

A new edition, with some 50 words taken out, will be published this week despite continued opposition from within the ministry, officials said on Monday.

Dead Men Risen: The Welsh Guards and the Real Story of Britain’s War in Afghanistan, by Toby Harnden, says Lieutenant Colonel Rupert Thorneloe, the most senior soldier killed in war since the Falklands, lacked adequate equipment – including anti-IED protection – and sufficient manpower to do the job his soldiers were asked to do.

Thorneloe, a family friend of the author and commander of 1st Welsh Guards, was killed on 1 July 2009. The book draws from memos he sent to his commanders, including criticism of the British strategy.

The Guardian has obtained a copy of the book, which includes accounts of how civilians were killed by British forces. It describes a farmer being killed by a Javelin missile at night, how seven civilians, including six children, were killed by a 500lb bomb – an incident described by the Guardian from classified US material passed to WikiLeaks – and how eight civilians, including five children, were killed by a 500lb bomb fired by a French Mirage plane called in by British troops.

The book describes how in the summer of 2009 a British officer was mentoring Afghan troops who captured a six-man Taliban IED team. He later asked an Afghan sergeant major to see the prisoners so they could be tested for explosive residue, and charged, and processed.

The Afghan soldiers described how three of the prisoners were strangled to death as the others watched. The soldiers said the remaining three were shot in both kneecaps and ordered to crawl back to their villages to tell people what would happen to them if they laid IEDs.

‘Blood money’ rumors as Pakistan frees CIA spy in murder case
The Washington Post
(3/16/11)

CIA contractor leaves Pakistani prison after $2.3 million ‘blood money’ deal, officials say

An American CIA contractor who shot and killed two Pakistani men was released from prison Wednesday and left Pakistan after more than $2 million in “blood money” was paid to his victims’ families, defusing a dispute that threatened an alliance vital to defeating al-Qaida and ending the Afghan war.

In what appeared to be carefully choreographed end to a crisis that had stoked anti-Americanism to new heights, the U.S. Embassy said the Justice Department had opened an investigation into the killings on Jan. 27 by Raymond Allen Davis.

It thanked the families for “their generosity” in pardoning Davis. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton denied the U.S. had made any payments, but she didn’t dispute that the men’s families were compensated. A lawyer for the families said the money came from the Americans.

While the deal removed the most obvious obstacle to improved ties between the two nations, the affair revealed just how fragile the alliance is despite efforts by the Obama administration to secure Pakistan’s cooperation in the fight against extremism.

The main problem is their apparent differing strategic interests in Afghanistan, an issue that is becoming more acute as Washington eyes an end to the war. Pakistan’s chief concern is ensuring the country is not an ally of its long-term enemy, India, and has been reluctant to crack down on Afghan Taliban factions sheltering on its soil that it believes could be effective proxies down the line.

Antagonism was especially sharp between the CIA and Pakistan’s powerful Inter Services Intelligence, which says it did not know Davis was operating in the country. One ISI official said the agency had backed the “blood money” deal as a way to soothe tensions.

The Davis affair had been a staple for right-wing Islamist parties, who rallied around it as another example of U.S. brutality and their government’s subservience to Washington. They had urged the families to reject any “blood money” and called on the government to hang him.

Protesters took to the streets in major cities after nightfall, briefly clashing with police outside the U.S. consulate in Lahore, where officers fired tear gas at men burning tires and hurling rocks. Some called for larger protests Friday after noon prayers.

“I am not ready to buy that the families have struck a deal,” Hamid Gul, a former ISI chief turned cheerleader for right-wing causes, said on a popular TV talk show. “This is shameless surrender. We are being sold and not even told about, I appeal the people not only to condemn it, but also rise against it.”

Davis, a 36-year-old Virginia native, claimed he acted in self-defense when he killed the two men on the street in the eastern city of Lahore. The United States initially described him as either a U.S. consular or embassy official, but officials later acknowledged he was working for the CIA, confirming suspicions that had aired in the Pakistani media.

The U.S. said the two victims were robbers, but there has been persistent speculation they were employed by the ISI to trail him or were known to him, perhaps as his own informers in the city. Their families insisted they were regular citizens, but acknowledged one was carrying a gun.

The United States had insisted Davis was covered by diplomatic immunity, but the weak government here, facing intense pressure from Islamist parties, sections of the media and the general public, did not say whether this was the case — and now will presumably not have to do so at all.

  • Another Washington Post article, “CIA contractor Raymond Davis freed after ‘blood money’ payment,“ has “US officials” backs up the rumors. This Post story also has denials from just about everyone involved:
    A CIA security contractor who fatally shot two Pakistani men in January was released Wednesday after relatives of the victims received “blood money” as compensation and agreed to pardon him, U.S. officials said …
    Punjab province law minister Rana Sanauallah told a Pakistani news channel that Davis was set free by the court after the blood money was accepted by the families of those killed, in accordance with Islamic Sharia law.
    He said, “The members of the families of killed persons appeared before the court and independently confirmed that they have forgiven Davis.”
    When asked where Davis is now after his release, Sanaullah said, “He is a free American citizen and it is up to his own desire wherever he wants to go.”
    He also denied any role of Punjab government in the settlement of the issue. “This is also baseless that the families of those killed were pressurized to sign the papers as for the acceptance of ‘blood money,’ ” he said.
    A second U.S. official said that the U.S. government had yet to make any payments in connection with the case, apparently because the terms and initial payments were handled by Pakistani officials.
    “To date the U.S. government has not paid anybody anything,” the U.S. official said. “We expect to receive a bill.” The U.S. official said that no other concessions had been made.
    “There was no quid pro quo between the Pakistani and U.S. government” in connection the attempts to get Davis freed, the U.S. official said.
  • In an earlier Associated Press story, “US to probe CIA contractor killings in Pakistan,” we learn what’s next for Davis:
    The American Embassy says the Justice Department has opened an investigation into the killings of two Pakistani men by a CIA contractor in Pakistan.

Bahrain forces expel protesters in deadly clashes at landmark square
The Associated Press
(3/16/11)

Bahrain crackdown routs protesters; clashes kill 5

Soldiers and riot police expelled hundreds of protesters from a landmark square in Bahrain’s capital on Wednesday, using tear gas and armored vehicles to try to subdue the growing movement challenging the 200-year-old monarchy. At least five people were killed as clashes flared across the kingdom, according to witnesses and officials.

The unrest that began last month has increasingly showed signs of a sectarian showdown: The country’s Sunni leaders are desperate to hold power, and majority Shiites are calling for an end to their dynasty. A Saudi-led force from Gulf allies, fearful for their own regimes and worried about Shiite Iran’s growing influence, has grown to more than 1,000 soldiers.

Wednesday’s full-scale assault was launched at dawn in Pearl Square, the center of the uprising inspired by Arab revolts in Egypt and Tunisia. Hours later, security forces were picking through burned debris and other remains of the protest camp.

In another area of Bahrain, one witness described police in a village “hunting” Shiites in what could be part of a wider campaign of intimidation.

The king’s announcement Tuesday of a three-month emergency rule and the crackdown on Pearl Square sent a message that authorities will strike back with overwhelming force in the strategic island nation, which hosts the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet …

During the attack, protesters fled for cover into side streets and security forces blocked main roads into Manama. Mobile phones were apparently jammed in central Manama during the height of the attack and Internet service remained at a crawl.

Hamid Zuher, a 32-year-old protester who slept at the square, said riot police first moved in on foot.

“They fired tear gas and then opened fire,” Zuher said. “We lifted our arms and started saying ‘Peaceful, Peaceful.’ Then we had to run away.

Pakistan’s disabled face harsh discrimination, fear of abduction
IRIN News
(3/14/11)

PAKISTAN: Disabled – and at risk of being trafficked

It is tough enough living with a disability in the Pakistani city of Karachi, but being targeted by traffickers has added a new challenge: Hundreds of people with disabilities are being trafficked to neighbouring countries to beg there, according to the police. Many come from the southern province of Sindh, and are destined for Iran.

In the past few months, said Khadim Hussain Rind, a district police officer in the Khairpur District of Sindh, 200-300 disabled persons have been “transported to Iran for beggary”. The numbers could be higher but some cases are not reported to police.

“The gang of traffickers is spread all over the province,” said Salam Dharejo, child labour manager with the NGO Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child. Trafficking, he added, was a growing problem in both Khairpur and Shikarpur districts.

A recent survey by the NGO found that some poor parents were being paid a lump sum of Rs 10,000-20,000 (US$117-235), and offered a share in proceeds from begging, in exchange for allowing their disabled children to be taken to Iran.

In Iran, the disabled Pakistanis, both children and adults, are taken to beg outside shrines or mosques.

Others are simply kidnapped. In February, 28-year-old Raham Ali, who is paralysed in his right arm and leg, was brought back to Khairpur following complaints to the police by an aunt. The traffickers were later arrested.

“My nephew was kidnapped and Rs. 100,000 ($1,176) demanded for his return,” the aunt, Lal Pari Gopang, said.

Relatives of other people living with disabilities are scared of similar incidents. “We have heard about the abductions, and it is disturbing since my 12-year-old son, who was born with deformed legs, goes out to beg near a hospital here,” Siddiqa Bibi, 35, told IRIN. “He is terrified he will be abducted; these stories are circulating among beggars” …

“From childhood, disabled people are told they are good for nothing and must always depend on others,” Ghulam Nabi Nizamani, head of the Karachi-based Pakistan Disabled Peoples Organization, told IRIN.

“They are severely disadvantaged in terms of access to education and those from poor families often end up as beggars. There are also physical challenges, like the lack of ramps for wheelchair users.”

Social attitudes, educational disadvantages and a lack of acceptability, he added, meant people living with disabilities are most often pushed to the fringes of society.

In 2009, the government said there were only 6,789 disabled people in Pakistan, but Nizamani and development agencies say this number is inaccurate. A study by the Japanese development agency, JICA, put the figure at 2.49 percent of a population of 165 million.

The government presented a different story, saying security forces came under attack from about 250 “saboteurs” hurling gasoline bombs and later fired back with tear gas. It said no live ammunition was used.

In Shiite villages, people went to mosques and held protest prayers. Others lit fires in anger. Clashes were reported in other mostly Shiite areas of the country, where traffic was tightly controlled by military forces in an apparent attempt to prevent gatherings or a surge of people toward the capital.

In Sitra, resident Rania Ali said police were charging after Shiites even as they ran for shelter.

“I’m scared. I can’t move from my house,” said Ali, who is a Sunni married to a Shiite man. “I saw them chasing Shiites like they were hunting … It is a cleansing war against our Shiite brothers.”

Roadblocks around the country also prevented injured protesters from reaching the main state hospital, which was surrounded by security forces and medical staff were told they cannot leave. The Salmaniya complex has become a political hotspot — with the mostly Shiite personnel seen by authorities as possible sympathizers of the protesters. The staff, however, claim it only seeks to live up to its responsibilities and treat all who need care.

But there have been moments of open anger. As overwhelmed teams treated the injured from Tuesday’s clashes, many broke out in spontaneous calls to topple the monarchy.

For Bahrain’s authorities, clearing Pearl Square would be more of a symbolic blow against protesters than a strategic victory. Opposition groups can still mobilize marches and take other actions against the leadership.

Bahrain’s sectarian clash is increasingly viewed as an extension of the region’s rivalries between the Gulf Arab leaders and Iran. Washington, too, is pulled deeply into the Bahrain’s conflict because of its key naval base — the Pentagon’s main Gulf counterweight to Iran’s growing military ambitions.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Wednesday denounced the Bahraini government’s crackdown and the presence of the Saudi-led force.

“The people’s demands for change must be respected. How is it possible to stop waves of humanity with military force?” Ahmadinejad said, according to Iranian state TV.

Iran has no direct political links with Bahrain’s main Shiite groups, but Iranian hard-liners in the past have called the tiny island nation the “14th Province” of the Islamic Republic.

Wikileaks reveal ’08 Japan reactor warning, “covering up” accidents
The Telegraph
(3/16/11)

Japan earthquake: Japan warned over nuclear plants, WikiLeaks cables show

Japan was warned more than two years ago by the international nuclear watchdog that its nuclear power plants were not capable of withstanding powerful earthquakes, leaked diplomatic cables reveal.

An official from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in December 2008 that safety rules were out of date and strong earthquakes would pose a “serious problem” for nuclear power stations.

The Japanese government pledged to upgrade safety at all of its nuclear plants, but will now face inevitable questions over whether it did enough.

While it responded to the warnings by building an emergency response centre at the Fukushima plant, it was only designed to withstand magnitude 7.0 tremors. Friday’s devastating earthquake was a magnitude 9.0 shock.

The news is likely to put further pressure on Japan’s Prime Minister, Naoto Kan, who has been criticised for “dithering” over the country’s response to the ongoing crisis at the Fukushima nuclear power plant …

Warnings about the safety of nuclear power plants in Japan, one of the most seismologically active countries in the world, were raised during a meeting of the G8′s Nuclear Safety and Security Group in Tokyo in 2008.

A US embassy cable obtained by the WikiLeaks website and seen by The Daily Telegraph quoted an unnamed expert who expressed concern that guidance on how to protect nuclear power stations from earthquakes had only been updated three times in the past 35 years …

Warnings about the safety of nuclear power plants in Japan, one of the most seismologically active countries in the world, were raised during a meeting of the G8′s Nuclear Safety and Security Group in Tokyo in 2008.

A US embassy cable obtained by the WikiLeaks website and seen by The Daily Telegraph quoted an unnamed expert who expressed concern that guidance on how to protect nuclear power stations from earthquakes had only been updated three times in the past 35 years.

The document states: “He [the IAEA official] explained that safety guides for seismic safety have only been revised three times in the last 35 years and that the IAEA is now re-examining them.

“Also, the presenter noted recent earthquakes in some cases have exceeded the design basis for some nuclear plants, and that this is a serious problem that is now driving seismic safety work.”

The cables also disclose how the Japanese government opposed a court order to shut down another nuclear power plant in western Japan because of concerns it could not withstand powerful earthquakes …

Another cable reported to Washington local concerns that a new generation of Japanese power stations that recycle nuclear fuel were jeopardising safety …

The cables also disclose how Taro Kono, a high-profile member of Japan’s lower house, told US diplomats in October 2008 that the government was “covering up” nuclear accidents.

He alleged that the government was ignoring alternative forms of energy, such as wind power.

The cable states: “He also accused METI [the Ministry of Economy, Trade, and Industry] of covering up nuclear accidents, and obscuring the true costs and problems associated with the nuclear industry.” He added that the Japan’s “extensive seismic” activity raised safety concerns about storing nuclear material.

Mr Kan was not in office at the time the nuclear warnings were made. He became science and technology minister in 2009 and prime minister in June 2010.

TIME’s “Fukushima Reactor Flaws Were Predicted – 35 Years Ago,” dates knowledge of the reactor’s problems back much farther than Wikileaks:
The failings of the Fukushima nuclear reactor were so substantial that three General Electric scientists who helped design the now imperiled reactors resigned from the company.
Dale Bridenbaugh helped assess the design of the Mark 1 nuclear reactor upon its creation back in 1975. His findings portray an extreme lack of confidence in the reactor’s ability to contain pressure in case of a meltdown. Bridenbaugh and two engineering colleagues couldn’t handle the pressure themselves, leading them to drop out of the project and resign their positions with the company.
The Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant contains six total reactors, five of which are Mark 1s. And the problem the reactors are facing – a loss of power, leading to cooling uranium rods and rising pressure inside the core – is precisely the issue that drove Bridenbaugh’s resignation from General Electric. The reactors “did not take into account the dynamic loads that could be experienced with a loss of coolant,” Bridenbaugh told ABC News.
GE says the problems were rectified in the early 80s, but it may be weeks before the full extent of the quake damage to the reactors is determined.

Asylum seekers protest at Australia’s remote island detention center
Agence France Presse
(3/15/11)

Fresh riot by asylum seekers on Australian island

Australia’s remote Christmas Island detention centre was hit by a second night of riots on Tuesday, with up to 200 asylum seekers destroying closed-circuit television cameras.

It followed a “significant and serious incident” on Monday when police used tear gas to quell a protest of 300 detainees.

“We saw more protests last night. We saw some damage to property: some buildings were damaged, including by a fire, and some CCTV equipment was damaged last night,” Immigration Minister Chris Bowen said.

The protests followed some 70 people breaking out of the centre, which sits on an Indian Ocean island some 2,500 kilometres (1,550 miles) northwest of Perth, on Friday, and a further 100 on Saturday.

All have since returned to the site, which houses some 2,539 boat people awaiting the processing of their applications to stay in the country …

More than 6,500 refugees — mostly from Iraq, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka — arrived in Australia last year on boats from Indonesia, crowding centres to capacity and inflaming debate on Canberra’s tough mandatory detention policy.

International abused children porn-swapping ring busted
BBC News
(3/16/11)

‘World’s largest paedophile ring’ uncovered

International police led by a UK team say they shut down the largest internet paedophile ring yet discovered.

The global forum had 70,000 followers at its height, leading to 4,000 intelligence reports being sent to police across 30 countries.

The operation has so far identified 670 suspects and 230 abused children.

Detectives say 184 people have been arrested – 121 of them were in the UK. Some 60 children have been protected in the UK.

The three-year investigation, Operation Rescue, was led by investigators from the UK’s Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre (Ceop).

Speaking at a news conference at The Hague in the Netherlands, investigators said the network hid behind a legal online forum which operated out of the country – but its members came from around the world.

Along with the Netherlands and the UK, suspects have been identified in Australia, Italy, Canada, New Zealand and Thailand.

The members of the network went into a private channel, boylover.net, and then used its secret systems to share films and images of abused children, said Rob Wainwright, director of European police agency Europol.

However, child abuse investigators, including a team from Ceop, had already infiltrated the network and were posing as paedophiles to gather intelligence.

In the UK, the 240 suspects include police officers, teachers and a karate teacher. One of the suspects in the UK is a woman.

Biggest monthly US food price increase in over 35 years
The Christian Science Monitor
(3/16/11)

Food costs soaring in US after harsh winter. Will higher prices last?

After several years of almost no inflation, many Americans may be surprised to find some of their favorite foods, from burgers to pizza to a glass of orange juice, rising in price this year.

The producer price index, which measures changes in wholesale prices, rose 1.6 percent last month, mainly because of a jump in food prices, the Department of Labor Statistics reported on Wednesday. The food segment, up 3.9 percent, saw the biggest monthly increase since November 1974, with soaring vegetable prices responsible for about 70 percent of that jump. On Thursday, the government will report the consumer price index.

In the year ahead, expect to see the largest food price increases in the protein group: chicken, beef, and pork, as well as dairy items. One key reason: The price of corn, used as feed by ranchers and farmers, has doubled in the past year. But vegetarians won’t get off easy: Produce and orange juice are rising sharply, as well …

The US Department of Agriculture expects the average price of food in 2011 to be 4 percent higher than last year. Some private forecasters say that, by December, prices could be as much as 6 percent higher than in December 2010.

“If food inflation comes in at 6 percent, it would be the most dramatic increase since 1982,” says William Lapp, a consumer foods economist with his own firm, Advanced Economic Solutions in Omaha, Neb. “We had a 10-year period, from 1972 to 1981, when annual food prices rose sharply – including a two-year period when increases averaged 8.7 percent.”

Three reasons food costs more

Mr. Lapp attributes the expected price increases to three main factors:

•The expanding middle class in rapidly developing countries such as Brazil, India, and China is boosting its consumption of protein, driving up demand.

•The US dollar has been weaker, helping American farmers to export their products but potentially leaving less for domestic consumption.

•Almost 40 percent of the US corn crop is now used to produce ethanol instead of food, although the farm lobby denies that diverting corn to ethanol production raises food prices.

Harsh winter weather is responsible for some of the food-price hikes. In December, cold weather in Florida wiped out the pepper, tomato, and green bean crops. A freeze in Mexico knocked out produce from there as well …

For low-income Americans, a jump in food prices means food stamps don’t buy as much. Groups who support food pantries feel the pressure as well. “It’s scary for us; our dollars don’t go as far,” says Ross Fraser, a spokesman for Feeding America, a hunger-relief charity in Chicago.

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