Why We Must Prosecute

Title says it all. From the Washington Post, written by a US Prosecutor of war crimes.

clipped from www.washingtonpost.com

Why We Must Prosecute

By Mark J. McKeon

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Torture Is a Breach Of International Law


On Sept. 11, 2001, when the twin towers were hit, I was sitting in a meeting in The Hague discussing what should be included in an indictment against Slobodan Milosevic for war crimes in Bosnia. I was an American lawyer serving as a prosecutor at the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia, and there was no doubt that Milosevic should be indicted for his responsibility for the torture and cruel treatment of prisoners. As the head of state at the time those crimes were committed, Milosevic bore ultimate responsibility for what happened under his watch.

While at The Hague, I felt myself standing in a long line of American prosecutors working for a world where international standards restricted what one nation could do to another during war, stretching back to at least Justice Robert Jackson at the Nuremberg trials. Those standards protected our own soldiers and citizens. They were also moral and right. So I didn’t understand why, a few months after the attacks in 2001, the Bush administration withdrew its consent to joining the International Criminal Court. Wasn’t accountability for war crimes one of the things America stood for? Although staying with the court did mean that the United States would be subject to being charged in that court, how likely was that to happen? Surely we would never do these things. And, in any event, the court could only assume jurisdiction over a person whose own government refused to prosecute him; surely, that would never happen in the United States.

And yet, seven years later, here we are debating whether we should hold senior Bush administration officials accountable for things they have done in the “war on terror.”

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Flu Pandemic Update

from Slate, authorJon Cohen.

As the WHO steps up their alert to level 4, the fear factor emerges.  Is the fear justified?   I don’t know, I guess we can only wait and see.  The 1918 flu pandemic is estimated to have killed fifty million people worldwide, that’s a scary thought.   The early indications are that this 2009 flu H1N1 is not as deadly as the 1918 flu strain.

Well, what is there to say.   The number of human beings on the planet today creates a really large ecosystem for pathogens and our extensive travel patterns create a tremendous number of vectors for spread of a contagious pathogen.  Those are the facts on the ground.

Stay home if you are sick.  Wash your hands frequently and use tissues.  The antibacterial hand lotions are reported to be effective.   Face masks?  I guess not.

Be well.

clipped from www.slate.com

Do Surgical Masks Stop Swine Flu?Probably not.

Viruses, including the coronavirus that scientists believe may be the cause of SARS, are so tiny that they can easily pass through such barriers. Several studies even have shown that surgical masks fail to prevent transmission of the much larger mycobacterium tuberculosis, which causes TB. While the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advises that people who have SARS wear these masks, they do not even recommend them for people in contact with those patients unless the infected person can’t wear one. Wearing surgical masks outdoors, where virus-laden particles easily disperse, has even less value.

Masked woman

To efficiently protect yourself from coronaviruses, you would need to wear a full-faced mask with a high-efficiency particle air filter. But such HEPA filter masks cause what Grinshpun calls “quite a discomfort” in short order.

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War Crimes, Pure and Simple

Ok, so they gave KSM a forced enema. Let me think. Aren’t they really trying not to say he was anally raped?

There is a good reason why the CIA guy Jose Rodriguez ordered the interrogation videotapes destroyed. Even if you thought the Abu Ghraib photos were disturbing, they would not have prepared you to watch the interrogation videotapes.

This is all simply completely immoral and illegal. No amount of discussion about risks, context of the time, etc. will change the simple fact that the treatment of the human beings was criminal, was torture, constituted war crimes.

Any discussion of the benefits of the treatment should be a non-starter. Or if you want to discuss the benefits, do it in a court of law and try to peddle a cost-benefit analysis defense to a jury.

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Effectiveness Of Harsh Questioning Is Unclear


During his first days in detention, senior al-Qaeda operative Khalid Sheik Mohammed was stripped of his clothes, beaten, given a forced enema and shackled with his arms chained above his head, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross. It was then, a Red Cross report says, that his American captors told him to prepare for “a hard time.”

Information provided by Khalid Sheik Mohammed has been cited by defenders of harsh interrogations.

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Flu Pandemic Possible

The success of the species, homo sapiens, has allowed the species to populate the planet at an unprecedented level. The population level is almost certainly not sustainable and yet the population continues to grow.

One of the constraints on population is disease. In the flu pandemic scenario, the population of human beings on the planet is essentially an ecosystem that can support an explosion of a virus population. The most “successful” virus population explosion is likely to be one that can spread through the air. A virus like HIV that spreads through body fluids is unlikely to match the infection numbers of an airborne pathogen.

Aside from the intrinsic contagious nature of a pathogen, the human population of the planet is highly mobile continuously creating vectors to spread a contagious pathogen across continents in a single day.

So, where is the good news in a story like this?

hmmm …. let me get back to you on that.

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Nuns in Mexico City's Zocalo plaza wear surgical masks to try to guard against infection. Many people stayed inside.


MEXICO CITY, April 25 — The World Health Organization rushed to convene an emergency meeting Saturday to develop a response to the “pandemic potential” of a new swine flu virus that has sparked a deadly outbreak in Mexico and spread to disparate parts of the United States.

WHO Cites Potential for Swine Flu Pandemic

By Joshua Partlow and Rob Stein

Washington Post Foreign Service
Sunday, April 26, 2009


Health officials reported that at least eight students at a private high school in New York City had “probable” swine flu. They also confirmed three new cases — two in Kansas and one in California — bringing the total number of confirmed U.S. cases to 11. The president of Mexico, where the outbreak has killed as many as 81 people, issued an order granting his government broad powers to isolate patients and question travelers.

“In the assessment of the WHO, this is a serious situation that must be watched very carefully,” she said. “It has pandemic potential.”

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Industry Ignored Its Scientists on Climate

So, according to journalist Andrew Revkin the Global Climate Coalition made claims that its own scientists did not believe.

Is prevarication too strong a word to use in this instance? Whenever these same people stand up and start talking in public again, is there any reason not to ask them if they were lying for a decade about the science of global warming?

Are any of these people to be believed in the future?

clipped from www.nytimes.com
For more than a decade the Global Climate Coalition, a group representing industries with profits tied to fossil fuels, led an aggressive lobbying and public relations campaign against the idea that emissions of heat-trapping gases could lead to global warming.
“The role of greenhouse gases in climate change is not well understood,” the coalition said in a scientific “backgrounder” provided to lawmakers and journalists through the early 1990s, adding that “scientists differ” on the issue.
“The scientific basis for the Greenhouse Effect and the potential impact of human emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2 on climate is well established and cannot be denied,” the experts wrote in an internal report compiled for the coalition in 1995.
But a document filed in a federal lawsuit demonstrates that even as the coalition worked to sway opinion, its own scientific and technical experts were advising that the science backing the role of greenhouse gases in global warming could not be refuted.

“The scientific basis for the Greenhouse Effect and the potential impact of human emissions of greenhouse gases such as CO2 on climate is well established and cannot be denied,” the experts wrote in an internal report compiled for the coalition in 1995.

The coalition was financed by fees from large corporations and trade groups representing the oil, coal and auto industries, among others. In 1997, the year an international climate agreement that came to be known as the Kyoto Protocol was negotiated, its budget totaled $1.68 million, according to tax records obtained by environmental groups.

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The Corporate Green Motivation

Slate ran this interesting piece about the consumer quandary in trying to go green versus the corporate wi$h to $tay in the green through labeling and marketry.

Bottom line, if you are shopping for environmentally responsible products, and you see a label that says green, don’t just toss it in the shopping cart. Taking an environmentally irresponsible product and reformulating it or adding a green dye and label does not make the new “green” product environmentally responsible.

Shop Smart. Shop S Mart. (hat tip to Bruce Campbell and to Slate and Amy Tennery)

clipped from www.thebigmoney.com

The Four Biggest Enviro-Scams

In greenwashing, as in life, there are seven sins. There’s the sin of the hidden trade-off, for example, the sin of vagueness, and the sin of no proof. So says sinsofgreenwashing.org, which takes on companies that offer seemingly green benefits–often at a hefty price tag–with little results. As the green trend continues, companies in almost every industry vie for a piece of the green market, even the embattled General Motors (GM) has taken a chance on its own green product initiative.
But as the field of green products grows, so does the number of impostors. The following is a list of some of the most perplexing green products out there-and an assessment of just how scammy they might be:
A few of the wares in the line also contain synthetic dyes, which were included because of what Clorox (CLX) Company representative Aileen Zerudo described as “consumer feedback.”

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War Crimes, Pure and Simple

Torturing people is a war crime. Ordering the torture of a person is a war crime. The US must appoint a special prosecutor to investigate the torture and war crimes.

This is not about politics or retribution. This is about whether the US is a nation of laws.

clipped from www.nytimes.com

Divisions Arose on Rough Tactics for Qaeda Figure

WASHINGTON — The first use of waterboarding and other rough treatment against a prisoner from Al Qaeda was ordered by senior Central Intelligence Agency officials despite the belief of interrogators that the prisoner had already told them all he knew, according to former intelligence officials and a footnote in a newly released legal memorandum.
The escalation to especially brutal interrogation tactics against the prisoner, Abu Zubaydah, including confining him in boxes and slamming him against the wall, was ordered by officials at C.I.A. headquarters based on a highly inflated assessment of his importance, interviews and a review of newly released documents show.
A footnote to another of the memos described a rift between line officers questioning Abu Zubaydah at a secret C.I.A. prison in Thailand and their bosses at headquarters, and asserted that the brutal treatment may have been “unnecessary.”

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Let’s Concede the Obvious, Greenhouse Gases Pose a Threat

In a victory for science so basic it’s almost not science at all, the Obama EPA has acknowledged the obvious: global warming is a threat to the planet and the emission/accumulation of greenhouse gases is a significant cause of global warming.

It’s a start. I am happy to see it.

clipped from www.washingtonpost.com

EPA Says Emissions Are Threat To Public

Finding Could Lead to Greenhouse Gas Limits

By Juliet Eilperin

Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 18, 2009


The Environmental Protection Agency yesterday officially adopted the position that carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions pose a danger to the public’s health and welfare, a move that could trigger a series of federal regulations affecting polluters from vehicles to coal-fired power plants.

The EPA’s action marks a major shift in the federal government’s approach to global warming. The Bush administration opposed putting mandatory limits on carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases, on the grounds that they would hurt business, and the EPA had resisted identifying such emissions as pollutants under the Clean Air Act.

Officials from the industries that stand to be most affected indicated yesterday that they would rather help shape standards through the legislative process than defer to federal regulators.

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