Detainee Torture Useless, Robotic Killers, New Name for "Global War on Terror"
Revealing News Articles
March 30, 2009
Below are key excerpts of important news articles you may have missed. These articles include revealing information on revelations that torture of detainees at Guantanamo has been useless, the rapid development of new robotic killers for future automated warfare, the official adoption of "Overseas Contingency Operation" to replace the name "Global War on Terror", and more. Each excerpt is taken verbatim from the major media website listed at the link provided. If any link fails to function, click here. Key sentences are highlighted for those with limited time. By choosing to educate ourselves and to spread the word, we can and will build a brighter future.
Detainee's Harsh Treatment Foiled No Plots
March 29, 2009, Washington Post
When CIA officials subjected their first high-value captive, Abu Zubaida, to waterboarding and other harsh interrogation methods, they ... succeeded in breaking him, and the stories he told of al-Qaeda terrorism plots sent CIA officers around the globe chasing leads. In the end, though, not a single significant plot was foiled as a result of Abu Zubaida's tortured confessions, according to former senior government officials who closely followed the interrogations. Nearly all of the leads attained through the harsh measures quickly evaporated, while most of the useful information from Abu Zubaida -- chiefly names of al-Qaeda members and associates -- was obtained before waterboarding was introduced, they said. Moreover, within weeks of his capture, U.S. officials had gained evidence that made clear they had [falsely accused] Abu Zubaida. Abu Zubaida was not even an official member of al-Qaeda, according to a portrait of the man that emerges from court documents and interviews with current and former intelligence, law enforcement and military sources. Rather, he was a "fixer" for radical Muslim ideologues, and he ended up working directly with al-Qaeda only after Sept. 11 -- and that was because the United States stood ready to invade Afghanistan. Since 2006, Senate intelligence committee members have pressed the CIA, in classified briefings, to provide examples of specific leads that were obtained from Abu Zubaida through the use of waterboarding and other methods, according to officials familiar with the requests. The agency provided none, the officials said.
Note: Was the torture of Abu Zubaida an error, or was it for some other purpose than extracting information from him? For many reports which raise similar questions about the so-called "Global War on Terror", click here.
Robot killers might be allowed to fire on their own
March 29, 2009, Sacramento Bee (the leading newspaper of California's capital city)
The unmanned bombers that frequently cause unintended civilian casualties in Pakistan are a step toward an even more lethal generation of robotic hunters-killers that operate with limited, if any, human control. The Defense Department is financing studies of autonomous, or self-governing, armed robots that could find and destroy targets on their own. On-board computer programs, not flesh-and-blood people, would decide whether to fire their weapons. "The trend is clear: Warfare will continue and autonomous robots will ultimately be deployed in its conduct," Ronald Arkin, a robotics expert at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, wrote in a study commissioned by the Army. Autonomous armed robotic systems probably will be operating by 2020, according to John Pike, an expert on defense and intelligence matters and the director of the security Web site GlobalSecurity.org in Washington. This prospect alarms experts, who fear that machines will be unable to distinguish between legitimate targets and civilians in a war zone. "We are sleepwalking into a brave new world where robots decide who, where and when to kill," said Noel Sharkey, an expert on robotics and artificial intelligence at the University of Sheffield, England. Human operators thousands of miles away in Nevada, using satellite communications, control the current generation of missile-firing robotic aircraft, known as Predators and Reapers. Armed ground robots, such as the Army's Modular Advanced Armed Robotic System, also require a human decision-maker before they shoot.
Note: For further reports from reliable sources on new weapons under development for future wars, click here.
'Global War On Terror' Is Given New Name
March 25, 2009, Washington Post
The Obama administration appears to be backing away from the phrase "global war on terror," a signature rhetorical legacy of its predecessor. In a memo e-mailed this week to Pentagon staff members, the Defense Department's office of security review noted that "this administration prefers to avoid using the term 'Long War' or 'Global War on Terror' [GWOT.] Please use 'Overseas Contingency Operation.' " Senior administration officials had been publicly using the phrase "overseas contingency operations" in a war context for roughly a month before the e-mail was sent. The Bush administration adopted the phrase ["Global War on Terror"] soon after the Sept. 11, 2001. But critics abroad and at home, including some within the U.S. military, said the terminology mischaracterized the nature of the enemy and its abilities. Some military officers said, for example, that classifying al-Qaeda and other anti-American militant groups as part of a single movement overstated their strength. Last month, the International Commission of Jurists urged the Obama administration to drop the phrase "war on terror." The commission said the term had given the Bush administration "spurious justification to a range of human rights and humanitarian law violations," including detention practices and interrogation methods that the International Committee of the Red Cross has described as torture.
Spanish Court Considers Criminal Case Against Ex-Bush Officials
March 29, 2009, Fox News/Associated Press
A Spanish court has agreed to consider opening a criminal case against six former Bush administration officials, including former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, over allegations they gave legal cover for torture at Guantanamo Bay, a lawyer in the case said Saturday. Human rights lawyers brought the case before leading anti-terror judge Baltasar Garzon, who agreed to send it on to prosecutors to decide whether it had merit, Gonzalo Boye, one of the lawyers who brought the charges, told The Associated Press. The ex-Bush officials are Gonzales; former undersecretary of defense for policy Douglas Feith; former Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff David Addington; Justice Department officials John Yoo and Jay S. Bybee; and Pentagon lawyer William Haynes. Spanish law allows courts to reach beyond national borders in cases of torture or war crimes under a doctrine of universal justice. Garzon became famous for bringing charges against former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet in 1998, and he and other Spanish judges have agreed to investigate alleged abuses everywhere from Tibet to Argentina's "dirty war," El Salvador and Rwanda. The officials are charged with providing a legal cover for interrogation methods like waterboarding against terrorism suspects at Guantanamo, which the Spanish human rights lawyers say amounted to torture. Yoo, for instance, wrote a series of secret memos that claimed the president had the legal authority to circumvent the Geneva Conventions.
Note: It is encouraging that at least Spanish courts view it as their responsibility to prosecute torturers. For more on torture and other attacks on civil liberties, click here.
Handling Of 'State Secrets' At Issue
March 25, 2009, Washington Post
Civil liberties advocates are accusing the Obama administration of ... adopting the same expansive arguments that his predecessor used to cloak some of the most sensitive intelligence-gathering programs of the Bush White House. The first signs have come just weeks into the new administration, in a case filed by an Oregon charity [accused] of funding terrorism. President Obama's Justice Department not only sought to dismiss the lawsuit by arguing that it implicated "state secrets," but also escalated the standoff -- proposing that government lawyers might take classified documents from the court's custody to keep the charity's representatives from reviewing them. The suit by the al-Haramain Islamic Foundation has proceeded further than any other in challenging the use of warrantless wiretaps, threatening to expose the inner workings of that program. In his campaign plan to "change Washington," Obama criticized the Bush administration, saying that it had "ignored public disclosure rules" and that it too often invoked the state-secrets privilege. Now, Obama's claim of state secrets has prompted criticism. "There [have] to be other ways to protect secret information without having to block accountability," said Erwin Chemerinsky, a law professor at the University of California at Irvine. He said that "state secrets" has become a sort of "talismanic phrase" uttered by government officials who want to dispose of inconvenient or troubling challenges to their authority.
Note: For many reports from major media sources on government secrecy, click here.
Navy scientist announces possible cold fusion reactions
March 23, 2009, Houston Chronicle (Houston's leading newspaper)
A U.S. Navy researcher announced today that her lab has produced "significant" new results that indicate cold fusion-like reactions. If the work by analytical chemist Pamela Mosier-Boss and her colleagues is confirmed, it could open the door to a cheap, near-limitless reservoir of energy. Devising a fusion-based source of energy on Earth has long been a "clean-energy" holy grail of physicists. A small group of scientists has [tried] to produce fusion reactions at low temperatures. If such experiments did produce fusion reactions, they would generate highly energetic neutrons as a byproduct. These are what Mosier-Boss says her San Diego-based group has found. "If you have fusion going on, then you have to have neutrons," she said. "But we do not know if fusion is actually occurring. It could be some other nuclear reaction." Today's announcement is based partly on research published by Mosier-Boss' group last year in the journal Naturwissenschaften. The announcement may turn heads, given its stage at the American Chemical Society's big meeting and the fact that the organization promoted it to science journalists in advance. "It's big," said Steven Krivit, founder of the New Energy Times publication, which has tracked cold fusion developments for two decades. "What we're talking about may be more than anybody actually expected," he said. "We're talking about a new field of science that's a hybrid between chemistry and physics."
Note: For a powerful documentary showing a major cover-up around cold fusion, click here. Many highly esteemed scientists have repeatedly demonstrated the reality of cold fusion, only to have their research sometimes ruthlessly shut down. For many hopeful reports from reliable sources on the array of new energy developments currently underway, click here.
IRS defends drop in audits of millionaires
March 22, 2009, MSNBC/Associated Press
The Internal Revenue Service is not living up to its pledge to crack down on wealthy tax cheats, an IRS watchdog group says, citing a drop in audits of millionaires last year. Those with incomes of $1 million and above had a 5.6 percent chance of getting audited in fiscal year 2008, which ended last September, down from 6.8 percent the previous year, according to IRS figures. The actual number of millionaires audited fell from 23,200 to 21,874; the number of millionaires filing tax returns grew from 339,138 to 392,776. "In the face of growing federal deficits and public calls to lower the tax gap – the amount of taxes due but not reported and paid – the drop in millionaire audits is surprising," said the Syracuse University-based Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse in a report Monday. It said the significant drop in audits of richer Americans contrasted with IRS statements last year that it was making strong progress in enforcement, especially of those with incomes of more than $1 million. The TRAC report said focus on high earner returns is critical because of the huge rewards. Among those millionaire audit cases where additional taxes were recommended, the average was $198,000 after face-to-face audits and $137,000 for audits done through correspondence. In total, the IRS collected $56.4 billion in enforcement revenues last year, down from $59.2 billion in 2007 and the first decline in collections in a decade.
Note: The highly important statistic only mentioned in passing here is "the number of millionaires filing tax returns grew from 339,138 to 392,776." That's an over-15% increase in the number of millionaires in one year, while most everyone else seems to be losing money. Hmmmm. Makes you wonder.
Israel soldier calls order during Gaza assault 'murder'
March 21, 2009, Los Angeles Times
Israelis on Friday got a fuller dose of rank-and-file angst over their army's winter assault on the Gaza Strip, as newspapers elaborated on allegations that commanders created a permissive attitude toward the killing of civilians. Soldiers' accounts of two killings of women and children appeared Thursday in Haaretz and Maariv. Both papers followed up Friday with lengthy excerpts of the soldiers' comments about confusion and doubt over the rules of engagement during the 22-day offensive, which left an estimated 1,400 Palestinians dead. The accounts came from a Feb. 13 discussion at a military preparatory academy. AVIV: At first the specified action was to go into a house ... with an armored personnel carrier ... and start shooting inside. I call this murder. We were supposed to go up floor by floor, and any person we identified, we were supposed to shoot. I initially asked myself, "Where is the logic?" They said it was permissible because anyone who remained in the sector was in effect condemned, a terrorist, because they hadn't fled. I didn't really understand. They don't have anywhere to flee to. ... This scared me a bit. I tried to exert some influence I try to explain to the guy that not everyone in there is a terrorist, and that after he kills, say, three children and four mothers, we'll go upstairs and kill another 20 or so people. I tried to explain why we had to let them leave. It didn't really help. This is really frustrating, to see that they understand that inside Gaza you are allowed to do anything you want.
Note: For many revelations of the realities of the wars in the Middle East and Afghanistan, click here.
How Israelis, Islamists dehumanize each other
March 21, 2009, Toronto Star
Two Israeli newspapers published disturbing accounts this week about misconduct by Israeli soldiers during this country's January offensive in Gaza – and one statement ... conveyed an over-riding state of mind, one that enabled at least some Israeli soldiers to carry out some thoroughly loathsome deeds while they were deployed in Gaza – including, it seems, the cold-blooded murder of Palestinian civilians. "I don't know how to describe it," said the soldier in question, a squad leader who is clearly troubled by much of what he saw. "The lives of Palestinians, let's say, is something much, much less important than the lives of our soldiers." Psychologists have at least a couple of terms for the tendency of humans to view their adversaries as springing from a lower order of being. Known either as pseudo-speciation or dehumanization, the phenomenon is as ancient as the Bible and as common nowadays as olive trees in the Holy Land. If there is one man in this country who has explored the dark side of Israel's heart, it is Yehuda Shaul, director of Breaking the Silence, an organization that collects and publishes accounts by Israeli soldiers about their sometimes brutal behaviour while on duty in the Palestinian territories. Shaul says ... "The soldiers say: `Everyone is an enemy. Everyone here is a legitimate target.' That was the notion."
Note: For a former Marine Corps general's analysis of the purposes served by the dehumanizaton of the "enemy" inculcated in soldiers by their officers, click here.
Hope in the Mountains
March 25, 2009, Washington Post
Yesterday was a great day for the people of Appalachia and for all of America. In a bold departure from Bush-era energy policy, the Obama administration suspended a coal company's permit to dump debris from its proposed mountaintop mining operation into a West Virginia valley and stream. In addition, the administration promised to carefully review upward of 200 such permits awaiting approval by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Mountaintop-removal coal mining is the greatest environmental tragedy ever to befall our nation. This radical form of strip mining has already flattened the tops of 500 mountains, buried 2,000 miles of streams, devastated our country's oldest and most diverse temperate forests, and blighted landscapes famous for their history and beauty. Using giant earthmovers and millions of tons of explosives, coal moguls have eviscerated communities, destroyed homes, and uprooted and sickened families with coal and rock dust, and with blasting, flooding and poisoned water, all while providing far fewer jobs than does traditional underground mining. The Corps has been working overtime to oblige impatient coal barons by quickly issuing the pending permits. Each such permit amounts to a death sentence for streams, mountains and communities. Taken together, these pending permits threatened to lay waste to nearly 60,000 acres of mountain landscape, destroy 400 valleys and bury more than 200 miles of streams. The Corps already had issued a dozen permits before the White House stepped in.
Cafe owner thrives with no-pricing policy
March 17, 2009, CNN
Cafe owner Sam Lippert has come up with an innovative way to cope with the recession: He's done away with pricing and simply asks customers to pay what they want. Lippert says sales and customer count has increased markedly since the change, and he's looking at adding more staff. John Roberts: So you run the Java Street Cafe. You actually own the Java Street Cafe there in Kettering, Ohio. And you've got a menu that's got no prices on it. People pay what they think the food is worth. How did you come up with that idea? Sam Lippert: Well, actually, that was thanks to my girlfriend. She is from Bulgaria, and she says it's a common practice in certain cafes in Europe to allow the patrons to decide how much to pay for their meal. Roberts: So, in terms of paying for something, if somebody gets a sandwich or maybe a bowl of soup or something like that, typically how close to the old menu price would they get in what they pay? Lippert: Well, sometimes people shoot a few dollars over, and sometimes it's a few dollars under. And, you know, at the end of the day, it works out for me. ... It works out even. Roberts: Yes, so, does anybody try to game the system? You know, they'll get a big meal that would be worth $10, $12 and then give you 50 cents for it? Lippert: Well, you know, they have to look me in the eye and say that that's what they think is fair. And, you know, that's a big incentive. When someone's at the counter and you say, you get to pay what you think is fair, very few people are going to take advantage of that situation.
Special Note: For more on the intriguing magnetic motor which spins continuously with no input, click here. The inventor has made this open source, describing in detail how he made it with the hope that others will verify and improve upon his design. The implications of this development are phenomenal for our energy future.
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Detainee Torture Useless, Robotic Killers Coming, New Name for "Global War on Terror"