Category - Global

World-wide, International

‘More Questions Than Answers’: MSF Not Buying Pentagon Probe into Hospital Attack

What about the hour-long attempts to stop the bombing? Why is this damning report being released the day before Thanksgiving? And what does this say about the competency of the U.S. military?

Common Dreams, By Lauren McCauley, November 25

Doctors Without Borders is challenging the Pentagon over the findings of internal probes into the bombing of a hospital in the Afghan city of Kunduz on October 3, saying the military’s conclusions offer “more questions than answers” and that claims of “human error” simply don’t correspond to the available facts.

The pair of investigations, which trickled out by way of the mainstream media, reduced the attack on the Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) hospital to series of human errors and technical glitches. The findings claim to show that despite the medical charity’s documented efforts to alert commanders to the onslaught, those signals did not reportedly reach the trigger team until it was “too late,” resulting in the deaths of at least 31 civilians and injuring 28 more.

Among observers—including the head of MSF—the findings have raised some eyebrows as well as questions such as: What about the hour-long attempts to stop the bombing? How does this compare to MSF’s own investigation? Why are these damning reports being released the day before Thanksgiving? And what does this say about the competency of the U.S. military?

Paris attacks: State of emergency could restrict public demonstrations during Paris climate talks, By Peter Burton, November 17

What impact will the attacks have on the Paris Climate Change Conference scheduled to begin in 12 days?

While already complicated, the talks will now take place within a state of emergency that is threatening to limit public participation.

Events in Paris continue to unfold at a dizzying pace. But in the coming days we will learn a lot by paying attention to how parties use (and abuse) the language of freedom and liberty.

Burning Hell Coming for Mideast Deserts

Discovery News, By Eric Niiler, October 26

If any place could be described as a living hell, it might be the desert regions of the Middle East. Hot, dry, dusty and arid, these harsh landscapes still manage to support cities populated by tens of millions of people who rely on air conditioning to survive.

Now scientists say that by the end of the century, the effects of climate change will push the region into a zone that surpasses the limits of human survival. They believe that most any outdoor activity will be hazardous.

“This is a significantly more severe type of heat wave than what people have experienced before,” said Elfatih Eltahir, professor of civil and environmental engineering at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Quick! Get the oil out before it gets too hot!

Nature Climate Change: Future temperature in southwest Asia projected to exceed a threshold for human adaptability

A Massive National Security Leak Just Blew the Lid off Obama’s Drone War

The Intercept just published a huge expose of the Pentagon’s drone program.

Mother Jones, By AJ Vicens and Max J. Rosenthal, October 15

On Thursday, the Intercept published a major package of stories that reveals the inner workings of the US military’s drone program, including how and why people are targeted for assassination on the amorphous battlefields of Yemen, Somalia, and other countries. “The Drone Papers,” according to the Intercept, is based on a trove of a classified documents leaked by a whistleblower who grew concerned by the government’s methods of targeting individuals for lethal action.

“This outrageous explosion of watchlisting—of monitoring people and racking and stacking them on lists, assigning them numbers, assigning them ‘baseball cards,’ assigning them death sentences without notice, on a worldwide battlefield—it was, from the very first instance, wrong,” the source said.

The package is a deep look into how the US military has conducted its counterterrorism operations around the world, and it comes on the same day that President Barack Obama cited the counterterrorism mission against Al Qaeda as one of the two reasons to keep nearly 10,000 soldiers in Afghanistan for at least another year.

Amnesty International called for an immediate congressional inquiry into the drone program, saying the leaked documents “raise serious concerns about whether the USA has systematically violated international law, including by classifying unidentified people as ‘combatants’ to justify their killings.”

ProPublica: Drone Papers: Leaked Military Documents Expose US ‘Assassination Complex’

The Intercept: The Drone Papers

Alone in Alabama: dispatches from an inmate jailed for her son’s stillbirth

Since becoming one of a growing number of women in the state sentenced for ‘chemical endangerment’, Amanda Kimbrough has sent letters from prison

The Guardian, By Ed Pilkington, October 7

New York – On 29 April last year Amanda Kimbrough sat down in her cell inside the notoriously tough Tutwiler women’s prison in Wetumpka, Alabama, and began writing a letter in which she described her feelings of loss and remorse. It was a poignant moment, as six years earlier to the day her only son Timmy had been born prematurely and had died from complications at birth after only 19 minutes.

“Tim Jr would be six years old [today],” she wrote, “and not a day goes by I don’t think of him. While I was out we keep his grave decorated and kept up, my husband and family do while I’m here.”

That Kimbrough – Alabama offender 287089, as the state branded her – should be thinking of her son on the anniversary of his death needs no explanation. But the poignancy of the letter is heightened by the knowledge that it was because of Timmy’s stillbirth at 25 weeks that she was locked up in the first place.


Later, the profound legal issues raised by the case would rise up through appeals all the way to the Alabama supreme court, the highest judicial panel in the state, where it would set a new precedent. In effect, it renders all pregnant women vulnerable to prosecution for any harm they might cause their fetus at any time after the moment of conception.

ProPublica: Take a Valium, Lose Your Kid, Go to Jail

A Philosopher Looks at the Syrian Refugee Issue

One of my favorite blogs is Justin Smith. He’s always worth reading but this is particularly good.

One of the memes circling around the French Internet shows the mayor of the town of Roanne telling a huddled group of refugees that they cannot stay, since they are not Christian. “Neither are you,” is the reply.

Yes, some people are so ignorant as to believe that all Syrians are Muslims, but the most relevant clarification is not that some are not, but that that is irrelevant to the refugee crisis.

At the popular level in Europe, there is both dispiriting xenophobia and its opposite, a seemingly unprecedented preparedness to welcome the refugees and to take responsibility for their well-being. State officials have so far tended to play to the interests of the xenophobes, mostly not by expressing outward xenophobia (with plenty of exceptions of course, as with the mayor of Roanne, or with Hungarian president Viktor Orbán), but by classic buck-passing, insisting that the crisis is someone else’s problem. This is particularly the case for the poorer countries of the EU to its south and east, which are of course also the countries that are so placed as to first receive the refugees travelling by land (and, more perilously, by water). The absence of any obvious authority, either at the union-wide level or in each individual member state, reveals, like no other situation has since the EU’s expansion to include former Soviet Bloc states, that transnational body’s utter impotence and irrelevance.

American liberals and progressives love to fawn over the great liberal democracies of northern Europe with their advanced welfare states and their commitment to fair distribution of resources to all citizens. Yet as long as these societies continue to adhere to a sharp political and moral distinction between citizens and outsiders, between those who are in the system and those who are outside of it, what they have accomplished is scarcely any more worthy of praise than the sort of ‘socialism’ we see practiced within major corporations. European social democracies that extend medical care and education to everyone who has theirpapers in order, while expelling irregular migrants in nighttime raids and strong-armed police operations, are not truly egalitarian societies, but protection rackets. The extent that European citizens are today, en masse, resisting this arbitrary distinction between citizen and non-citizen, in order to come to the direct aid of the Syrian refugees, is precisely the extent to which Europe is living up to its claim to be Christian.

Exxon’s Own Research Confirmed Fossil Fuels’ Role in Global Warming Decades Ago

Top executives were warned of possible catastrophe from greenhouse effect, then led efforts to block solutions.

Inside Climate News, By Neela Banerjee, Lisa Song & David Hasemyer, September 16

At a meeting in Exxon Corporation’s headquarters, a senior company scientist named James F. Black addressed an audience of powerful oilmen. Speaking without a text as he flipped through detailed slides, Black delivered a sobering message: carbon dioxide from the world’s use of fossil fuels would warm the planet and could eventually endanger humanity.

“In the first place, there is general scientific agreement that the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels,” Black told Exxon’s Management Committee, according to a written version he recorded later.

It was July 1977 when Exxon’s leaders received this blunt assessment, well before most of the world had heard of the looming climate crisis.

A year later, Black, a top technical expert in Exxon’s Research & Engineering division, took an updated version of his presentation to a broader audience. He warned Exxon scientists and managers that independent researchers estimated a doubling of the carbon dioxide (CO2) concentration in the atmosphere would increase average global temperatures by 2 to 3 degrees Celsius (4 to 5 degrees Fahrenheit), and as much as 10 degrees Celsius (18 degrees Fahrenheit) at the poles. Rainfall might get heavier in some regions, and other places might turn to desert.
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El Salvador: Home of the world’s strictest anti-abortion law

The Globe & Mail, By Stephanie Nolen, September 18

San Salvador – It’s been nearly a year since Myrna Ramirez walked out of jail for the last time, but she still can’t quite believe she is free. She can’t believe, in fact, any of it: that she served nearly 13 years in jail for attempted murder, that she nearly bled to death in police custody, that she missed her daughter’s childhood – all because she went into premature labour at home one night, asked a neighbour for help, and that neighbour reported her to authorities for attempting to terminate a pregnancy.

She joined a prison wing full of women who ran afoul of El Salvador’s abortion law, perhaps the most restrictive in the world. “It’s like some kind of nightmare,” Ms. Ramirez says.

In 1998, after the civil war, El Salvador adopted a new law that outlawed abortion in all circumstances. Unlike the law it replaced, there are no exceptions for cases of rape, severe fetal abnormalities or threat to the mother’s life from pregnancy. Only six other countries in the world, all in Latin America and the Caribbean, have similarly prohibitive laws; in one, Chile, the President is pushing an easing of the law to allow abortion in some situations.

El Salvador, however, has the most active enforcement of its abortion law. Here authorities investigate and prosecute women whose pregnancies end before 40 weeks in what may be miscarriages or stillbirths or preterm labours, such as Ms. Ramirez’s. Judges have sentenced women convicted of terminating pregnancies to prison terms of up to 40 years.

Exclusive: 50 Spies Say ISIS Intelligence Was Cooked

The Daily Beast, By Shane Harris & Nancy Youssef, September 9

It’s being called a ‘revolt’ by intelligence pros who are paid to give their honest assessment of the ISIS war—but are instead seeing their reports turned into happy talk.

More than 50 intelligence analysts working out of the U.S. military’s Central Command have formally complained that their reports on ISIS and al Qaeda’s branch in Syria were being inappropriately altered by senior officials, The Daily Beast has learned.

The complaints spurred the Pentagon’s inspector general to open an investigation into the alleged manipulation of intelligence. The fact that so many people complained suggests there are deep-rooted, systemic problems in how the U.S. military command charged with the war against the self-proclaimed Islamic State assesses intelligence.

“The cancer was within the senior level of the intelligence command,” one defense official said.

Two senior analysts at CENTCOM signed a written complaint sent to the Defense Department inspector general in July alleging that the reports, some of which were briefed to President Obama, portrayed the terror groups as weaker than the analysts believe they are. The reports were changed by CENTCOM higher-ups to adhere to the administration’s public line that the U.S. is winning the battle against ISIS and al Nusra, al Qaeda’s branch in Syria, the analysts claim.