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JFP 8/27: TPP Threatens Generics; Egypt talks to Iran on Syria; US faults Israel on Corrie
Submitted by Robert Naiman on 27 August 2012 - 7:04pm
Just Foreign Policy News, August 27, 2012
TPP Threatens Generics; Egypt talks to Iran on Syria; US faults Israel on Corrie
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I) Actions and Featured Articles
Romney-Ryan "Ploughshares to Swords" Budget Would Cost America At Least 530,000 Jobs
If we could only make the Ryan plan stick to the principle of at least one dollar in military cuts for every dollar in domestic cuts, that would reduce the job loss of the Ryan plan by at least 12.9% - saving 530,000 jobs. That's on the scale of the jobs at stake in last year's fight over continuing the stimulus.
*Action: Urge the NYT to Investigate Four Questions on the WikiLeaks Case
Four questions are crucial to judging official claims that there is no connection between the British-Swedish legal pursuit of Julian Assange and the threat of U.S. prosecution of WikiLeaks: why won't Sweden question Assange in the U.K.? why won't Sweden say it won't extradite Assange to the U.S.? why won't the U.K. say it will oppose a U.S. extradition request? why won't the U.S. say it won't seek Assange's extradition from Sweden?
Let's Help WikiLeaks Liberate the Trans-Pacific Partnership Negotiating Text
Our "crowdsourced" reward for WikiLeaks to publish the text is now over $20,000.
video: Al Jazeera: Will Colombia's protesting workers be heard?
As former GM workers sew their mouths shut to dramatize their hunger strike in protest over their dismissal after being injured on the job, Al Jazeera talks to Witness for Peace, WOLA and labor journalist David Bacon about labor rights in Colombia under the US-Colombia trade agreement.
681 days of cholera in Haiti
681 days, 7,533 dead, 588,596 ill since the UN brought cholera to Haiti. Still there has been no apology, no compensation, no implementation of an effective plan to eradicate the disease. Now the UN is considering renewing the mandate for UN troops in Haiti. Shouldn't addressing the cholera crisis caused by the UN be a condition for renewing the mandate for UN troops?
1) The Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement is being packaged as a "free trade" agreement, writes Dean Baker at the Guardian. In reality, the deal has almost nothing to do with trade: actual trade barriers between these countries are already very low. The TPP is an effort to use the holy grail of free trade to impose conditions and override domestic laws in a way that would be almost impossible if the proposed measures had to go through the normal legislative process.
The pharmaceutical industry wants stronger and longer patent protection and also increased use of "data exclusivity," Baker notes. This is a government-granted monopoly, often as long as 14 years, that prohibits generic competitors from entering a market based on another company's test results that show a drug to be safe and effective. Stronger copyright and patent protection, along with data exclusivity, is the opposite of free trade. They involve increased government intervention in the market; they restrict competition and lead to higher prices for consumers. While tariffs or quotas rarely raise the price of a product by more than 20-30%, patent protection for prescription drugs can allow drugs to sell for hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars per prescription when they would sell for $5-10 as a generic in a free market. Patent protection increases what patients pay for drugs in the United States by close to $270bn a year (1.8% of GDP). In addition to making drugs unaffordable to people who need them, the economic costs implied by this market distortion are enormous.
2) For the TPPA's chapter on intellectual property, the US is proposing that the rights of patent holders (mainly big drug companies) should be tremendously elevated, writes Martin Khor for The Star in Malaysia. This would be at the expense of generic drug producers, governments which often prefer to buy the generic drugs for their hospitals and clinics and, most of all, patients.
According to MSF, the US wants to make it easier to patent new forms of old medicines that offer no added therapeutic efficacy for patients, Khor notes. The US proposal on "data exclusivity" would prevent generic drug companies from using existing clinical research data (that had been submitted earlier by the originator drug company) to gain regulatory approval of their medicines, forcing them to perform duplicate clinical trials or wait for the "data monopoly" period to end. The situation is urgent, because the TPPA negotiations are taking place at a rapid pace and are scheduled to end this year, Khor writes.
4) Gwenyth Todd was working as a political adviser to the U.S. Fifth Fleet in Bahrain in 2007 when she says she helped block an effort by Vice Adm. Kevin Cosgriff and neocons in the Bush Administration to provoke a military confrontation with Iran, the Washington Post reports. Todd and others say the plan was backed by Admiral Fallon, then head of Centcom, who later told Esquire that he and others were working to "put the crazies back in the box" - i.e. block people in the Bush Administration who sought war. Fallon rejected the account, but refused to answer questions about it, WaPo says. After another confrontation in which Todd discredited an intelligence report that Bahraini Shiites were seeking to threaten U.S. personnel on behalf of Iran, she was stripped of her security clearance and her career was ended, which she attributes to retaliation for helping to block efforts to provoke war with Iran. The current head of the Fifth Fleet said he is looking into her allegations.
5) US Ambassador to Israel Dan Shapiro has told Rachel Corrie's family that that the US government remains dissatisfied with the Israeli army's decision to close its official investigation into her killing in Gaza in 2003, the Guardian reports. Shapiro told Corrie's parents and her sister that the U.S. did not believe the Israeli military investigation had been "thorough, credible and transparent," as had been promised by Israel. A verdict in the Corrie's civil lawsuit is expected Tuesday.
6) Polls indicate majority support in Washington and Colorado for ballot initiatives in November to legalize and regulate the use of marijuana like alcohol, Reuters reports. A July poll by Survey USA in Washington state said 55 percent backed the marijuana legalization ballot measure. Rasmussen Reports said its June poll of likely Colorado voters showed 61 percent supported legalizing and regulating pot. Ballot measures in the two states and Oregon would legalize marijuana for people 21 and older, impose state-level taxes on the drug and allow sales of the drug at special pot stores.
7) Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi is reaching out to Iran and other regional powers in an initiative to halt the escalating violence in Syria, the New York Times reports. The initiative is centered on a committee of four that also includes Turkey and Saudi Arabia. "Obviously, you need channels to the Assad regime - people who are uncomfortable with the way things stand and would like to be seen as playing a more positive role," said Peter Harling, a Syria researcher at the International Crisis Group, speaking of Iran. "And any effort to reach Iran can't include the Western camp; it would be impossible if the U.S. was involved."
8) An influential Israeli rabbi has called for prayers for Iran's destruction, Reuters reports. "(When) we ask God to 'bring an end to our enemies', we should be thinking about Iran, those evil ones who threaten Israel. May the Lord destroy them," Rabbi Ovadia Yosef was quoted as saying by Israeli media. Yosef, a former Israeli chief rabbi, is the spiritual leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, a key member of Netanyahu's governing coalition, and wields significant influence over Shas's lawmakers, who seek his guidance on policy. Yosef has stirred controversy by likening Palestinians to snakes, calling for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to "perish from this world" and describing non-Jews as "born only to serve us."
9) Israeli authorities prevented the entry of more than a hundred international peace activists to the West Bank at the Jordan bridges, Gush Shalom reports. "Violent settlers, those who under the name of 'price tag' set olive trees and mosques on fire, are all the time getting reinforcements from abroad. For the settlers' friends, Jews and Christians, Israel's border crossings are wide open. From the airport they go to the settlements," said Gush Shalom Spokesperson Adam Keller. "When the Palestinians living under Israel's rule try to invite guests to come and visit them, the government of Israel instructs the army and police to block their way…. But by so doing, the government ends up emphasizing and demonstrating to the entire world that – despite the so- called 'judicial report' which the government commissioned from Judge Edmond Levy - the territory is indeed under an oppressive occupation".
10) The Israeli veterans organization Breaking the Silence has published 50 testimonies on the Israeli military's treatment of Palestinian children, the Independent reports. For the past eight years, Breaking the Silence has been taking testimonies from former soldiers who witnessed or participated in human rights abuses in the occupied territories. Two months ago, a report from a team of British lawyers, funded by the UK Foreign Office, accused Israel of serial breaches of international law in its military's handling of children in custody.
1) The Pacific free trade deal that's anything but free
The draft TPP deal may grant new patent privileges and restrict net freedom, but it's secret – unless you're a multinational CEO
Dean Baker, Guardian, Monday 27 August 2012 11.11 EDT http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2012/aug/27/pacific-free-trade-deal
"Free trade" is a sacred mantra in Washington. If anything is labeled as being "free trade", then everyone in the Washington establishment is required to bow down and support it. Otherwise, they are excommunicated from the list of respectable people and exiled to the land of protectionist Neanderthals.
This is essential background to understanding what is going on with the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP), a pact that the United States is negotiating with Australia, Canada, Japan and eight other countries in the Pacific region. The agreement is packaged as a "free trade" agreement. This label will force all of the respectable types in Washington to support it.
In reality, the deal has almost nothing to do with trade: actual trade barriers between these countries are already very low. The TPP is an effort to use the holy grail of free trade to impose conditions and override domestic laws in a way that would be almost impossible if the proposed measures had to go through the normal legislative process. The expectation is that by lining up powerful corporate interests, the governments will be able to ram this new "free trade" pact through legislatures on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.
As with all these multilateral agreements, the intention is to spread its reach through time. That means that anything the original parties to the TPP accept is likely to be imposed later on other countries in the region, and quite likely, on the rest of the world.
At this point, it's not really possible to discuss the merits of the TPP since the governments are keeping the proposed text a secret from the public. Only the negotiators themselves and a select group of corporate partners have access to the actual document. The top executives at General Electric, Goldman Sachs, and Pfizer probably all have drafts of the relevant sections of the TPP. However, the members of the relevant congressional committees have not yet been told what is being negotiated.
A few items that have been leaked give us some insight as to the direction of this pact. One major focus is will be stronger protection for intellectual property. In the case of recorded music and movies, we might see provisions similar to those that were in the Stop Online Privacy Act (Sopa). This would make internet intermediaries like Google, Facebook and, indeed, anyone with a website into a copyright cop.
Since these measures were hugely unpopular, Sopa could probably never pass as a standalone piece of legislation. But tied into a larger pact and blessed with "free trade" holy water, the entertainment industry may be able to get what it wants.
The pharmaceutical industry is also likely to be a big gainer from this pact. It has decided that the stronger patent rules that it inserted in the 1995 WTO agreement don't go far enough. It wants stronger and longer patent protection and also increased use of "data exclusivity". This is a government-granted monopoly, often as long as 14 years, that prohibits generic competitors from entering a market based on another company's test results that show a drug to be safe and effective.
Note that stronger copyright and patent protection, along with data exclusivity, is the opposite of free trade. They involve increased government intervention in the market; they restrict competition and lead to higher prices for consumers.
In fact, the costs associated with copyright and patent protection dwarf the costs associated with the tariffs or quotas that usually concern free traders. While the latter rarely raise the price of a product by more than 20-30%, patent protection for prescription drugs can allow drugs to sell for hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars per prescription when they would sell for $5-10 as a generic in a free market. Patent protection increases what patients pay for drugs in the United States by close to $270bn a year (1.8% of GDP). In addition to making drugs unaffordable to people who need them, the economic costs implied by this market distortion are enormous.
There are many other provisions in this pact that are likely to be similarly controversial. The rules it creates would override domestic laws on the environment, workplace safety, and investment. Of course, it's not really possible to talk about the details because there are no publicly available drafts.
In principle, the TPP is exactly the sort of issue that should feature prominently in the fall elections. Voters should have a chance to decide if they want to vote for candidates who support raising the price of drugs for people in the United States and the rest of the world, or making us all into unpaid copyright cops. But there is no text and no discussion in the campaigns – and that is exactly how the corporations who stand to gain want it.
There is one way to spoil their fun. Just Foreign Policy is offering a reward, now up to $21,100, to WikiLeaks if it publishes a draft copy of the pact. People could add to the reward fund, or if in a position to do so, make a copy of the draft agreement available to the world.
Our political leaders will say that they are worried about the TPP text getting in the hands of terrorists, but we know the truth: they are afraid of a public debate. So if the free market works, we will get to see the draft of the agreement.
2) Concerns over dearer drugs
Many health, medical and patient groups are protesting against proposals in the TPPA to boost patent rights and severely limit generic medicines.
Martin Khor, The Star (Malaysia), Monday August 27, 2012
Public health and patients' groups around the world have been protesting against free trade agreements that the United States and European Union are negotiating with developing countries, because of their effects on raising the prices of medicines, including for life-threatening diseases.
These bilateral or regional agreements would make it very difficult or even impossible for governments and patients alike to have access to the much cheaper generic versions of the medicines.
As a result, millions of patients could be deprived of life-saving drugs since they, and their governments, cannot afford to buy the branded products.
Their most recent concerns are focused on the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPPA), which is being negotiated by the US, Australia, Malaysia, Brunei, Vietnam, Singapore, New Zealand and Peru.
For the TPPA's chapter on intellectual property, the US is proposing that the rights of patent holders (mainly big drug companies) should be tremendously elevated. This would be at the expense of generic drug producers, governments which often prefer to buy the generic drugs for their hospitals and clinics and, most of all, patients.
In the World Trade Organisation's (WTO) TRIPS Agreement, governments have the right to set their own standards for patents and to reject applications that they do not consider to be real inventions.
But the rules also allow governments to provide "compulsory licences" to other drug companies to produce generic versions of the patented medicines, on several grounds, including if the patent holder does not enable others to produce on reasonable terms, if there is an anti-competitive situation, and if the licence is in the public interest.
In some countries, like India, people are allowed to raise objections before and after a patent is granted.
In the TPPA negotiations, the US has proposed that the TPPA requires the countries to have patent laws that are stricter than the WTO's TRIPS agreement. They would increase the privileges given to drug companies that own the patents, and to curtail the ability of the governments to make use of the "flexibilities" that are allowed under the WTO.
An interesting paper by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), the Nobel prize-winning medical group, explains various ways in which the US proposals, if accepted in the TPPA, would threaten health interests.
It points out the importance of generic drugs. The first generation of HIV drugs have come down in price by 99% over the last decade, from US$10,000 (RM31,000) per person per year in 2000 to roughly US$60 (RM186) today, thanks to generic production in India, Brazil and Thailand, where these drugs were not patented.
This dramatic price drop enabled HIV/AIDS treatment to be scaled up for over six million people in developing countries.
According to MSF, the US proposals in the TPPA would cause the following problems.
First, it would broaden the scope of patentability: the US wants to make it easier to patent new forms of old medicines that offer no added therapeutic efficacy for patients. The WTO rules allow governments to decide what type of "innovation" deserves to be protected by patents.
However, the US proposal limits this ability to define what is "patentable" by requiring the patenting of a "new form, use, or method of using" an existing product – even if there is no increase in efficacy.
Second, the US wants countries to allow patents for plants and animals, and diagnostic, therapeutic and surgical methods for the treatment of humans, although the WTO's TRIPS Agreement allows countries to exclude patents for these.
Third, the US proposes restrictions on pre-grant patent oppositions, even though the WTO rules allow for this.
Fourth is the proposal to have new forms of IP enforcement, such as allowing customs officials to seize shipments of drugs, even if they are in transit, on mere suspicion of that they are counterfeit products, and to increase damages for IP infringement.
Fifth, and most seriously, is the US proposal on "data exclusivity". This would prevent generic drug companies from using existing clinical research data (that had been submitted earlier by the originator drug company) to gain regulatory approval of their medicines, forcing them to perform duplicate clinical trials or wait for the "data monopoly" period to end.
Sixth, the US would like the term of the patents to be more than the 20 years in the WTO rules. The US is expected to seek to extend the patent period to compensate for administrative delays in the regulatory process.
Seven, the US is seeking to link patents with drug safety regulation, thus turning drug regulatory authorities into "patent police", according to MSF. In Malaysia, several patient and medical groups have issued a joint statement opposing the US proposals which they say will reduce access to medicines.
"We categorically oppose US demands for longer and stronger patents on medicines and medical technologies that are essential to save Malaysian lives," said leaders from the National Cancer Society Malaysia, Breast Cancer Welfare Association, Malaysian AIDS Council, MTAAG+, Malaysian Thoracic Society and Malaysian Mental Health Association.
The TPPA is being negotiated entirely in secret. These negotiations affect public health and must be conducted with adequate levels of transparency and public scrutiny, according to many organisations.
The situation is urgent, because the TPPA negotiations are taking place at a rapid pace and are scheduled to end this year.
3) Why was a Navy adviser stripped of her career?
Jeff Stein, Washington Post, August 21
Gwenyth Todd had worked in a lot of places in Washington where powerful men didn't hesitate to use sharp elbows. She had been a Middle East expert for the National Security Council in the Clinton administration. She had worked in the office of Defense Secretary Dick Cheney in the first Bush administration, where neoconservative hawks first began planning to overthrow Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein.
But she was not prepared a few years later in Bahrain when she encountered plans by high-ranking admirals to confront Iran, any one of which, she reckoned, could set the region on fire. It was 2007, and Todd, then 42, was a top political adviser to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet.
Previous 5th Fleet commanders had resisted various ploys by Bush administration hawks to threaten the Tehran regime. But in spring 2007, a new commander arrived with an ambitious program to show the Iranians who was boss in the Persian Gulf.
Vice Adm. Kevin J. Cosgriff had amassed an impressive résumé, rising through the ranks to command a cruiser and a warship group after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Following a customary path to three stars, he had also spent as much time in Washington as he had at sea, including stints at the Defense Intelligence Agency and as director of the Clinton White House Situation Room.
Cosgriff - backed by a powerful friend and boss, U.S. Central Command (Centcom) chief Adm. William J. "Fox" Fallon - was itching to push the Iranians, Todd and other present and former Navy officials say.
"There was a feeling that the Navy was back on its heels in dealing with Iran," according to a Navy official prohibited from commenting in the media. "There was an intention to be far more aggressive with the Iranians, and a diminished concern about keeping Washington in the loop."
Two people who were there said Cosgriff mused in a staff meeting one day that he'd like to steam a Navy frigate up the Shatt al Arab, the diplomatically sensitive and economically crucial waterway dividing Iraq and Iran. In another, they said, he wanted to convene a regional conference to push back Iran's territorial claims in the waterway, a flash point for the bloody Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.
Then he presented an idea that not only alarmed Todd, but eventually, she believes, launched the chain of events that would end her career.
Cosgriff declined to discuss any of these meetings on the record. This story includes information from a half-dozen Navy and other government officials who demanded anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter, many parts of which remain classified.
According to Todd and another witness, Cosgriff's idea, presented in a series of staff meetings, was to sail three "big decks," as aircraft carriers are known, through the Strait of Hormuz - to put a virtual armada, unannounced, on Iran's doorstep. No advance notice, even to Saudi Arabia and other gulf allies. Not only that, they said, Cosgriff ordered his staff to keep the State Department in the dark, too.
To Todd, it was like something straight out of "Seven Days in May," the 1964 political thriller about a right-wing U.S. military coup. A retired senior naval officer familiar with Cosgriff's thinking said the deployment plan was not intended to be provocative.
But Todd, in an account backed by another Navy official, said the admiral "was very, very clear that we were to tell him if there was any sign that Washington was aware of it and asking questions."
For the past year, the air had been electric with reports of impending U.S. or Israeli attacks on Iran. If this maneuver were carried out, Todd and others feared, the Iranians would freak out. At the least, they'd cancel a critical diplomatic meeting coming up with U.S. officials. Todd suspected that was Cosgriff's aim. She and others also speculated that Cosgriff wouldn't propose such a brazen plan without Fallon's support.
Retired Adm. David C. Nichols, deputy Centcom commander in 2007, recalled in an interview last year that Fallon "wanted to do a freedom-of-navigation exercise in what Iran calls its territorial waters that we hadn't done in a long time." Nothing wrong with that, per se, but the problem was that "we don't understand Iran's perception of what we're doing, and we haven't understood what they're doing and why," Nichols said. "It makes miscalculations possible."
Todd feared that the Iranians would respond, possibly by launching fast-attack missile boats into the gulf or unleashing Hezbollah on Israel. Then anything could happen: a collision, a jittery exchange of gunfire - bad enough on its own, but also an incident that Washington hawks could seize on to justify an all-out response on Iran.
Preposterous? It had happened before, off North Vietnam in 1964. In the Tonkin Gulf incident, a Navy captain claimed a communist attack on his ship. President Lyndon Johnson swiftly ordered the bombing of North Vietnam, touching off a wider war that turned the country upside down and left more than 58,000 U.S. servicemen dead.
Don't tell anybody? No way. Todd picked up the phone and called a friend in Foggy Bottom. She had to get this thing stopped.
Nichols and his seccessor as 5th Fleet commander, Adm. Patrick Walsh, had been determined to avoid rhetoric or maneuvers that could lead to an unintended clash with Iran. In one instance, Todd recalled, commanders in Bahrain had used her to leak one inflammatory plan from Washington to Time magazine. It was derailed.
But Cosgriff seemed as eager as the Bush administration hawks to mix it up with the Iranians.
When Cosgriff instructed Todd and other staff not to tell the State Department about his plan to marshal the big decks (two aircraft carriers, an amphibious helicopter assault carrier and five supporting warships) that May in 2007, Todd said, it was just too much. She immediately called a family friend at the State Department's Iran desk. Her contact alerted superiors, according to sources familiar with events, and Cosgriff was told to stand down, at least until the critical conference with the Iranians was over. He was also told to notify the Saudis and other gulf allies before resuming the maneuver.
The armada passed through the strait a week later, on May 23, without incident. Likewise, in Baghdad, Iranian and American diplomats met as scheduled.
Cosgriff was furious about "the [expletive] storm" coming down on him from Washington because of the leak, according to Todd and another staff member.
Cosgriff declined to comment for the record, but a retired senior naval officer said Cosgriff "was collaborating with ... Adm. Fallon" and had "taken a little heat. ... It was a 'lessons learned' thing - you gotta notify people."
Administration officials privy to the affair, meanwhile, said they were surprised when Fallon portrayed himself, in a much-talked-about 2008 Esquire interview, as nearly single-handedly stopping Bush administration hawks from starting a war with Iran. Because of the uproar over the article, he resigned shortly after.
As for the big-decks conspiracy scenario presented by Todd and others, Fallon called it "B.S." in an e-mail, but declined to answer further questions.
Months passed. Todd heard nothing more from the FBI. But at work, she believed Cosgriff started freezing her out.
Then, on Dec. 13, 2007, he summoned her to his office. An intelligence report had come in about a possible Iran-backed attack on U.S. personnel in Bahrain. The report, which she guessed originated with the local CIA station, said the attacks were to be led by Bahrain's top Shiite religious figure, Isa Qassim.
Todd thought the report was fishy. Although Bahrain's Shiites did oppose the U.S.-backed Sunni monarchy, they're Arabs, eternal enemies of the Persian Iranians. And Qassim himself, it happened, had warned Todd just the previous day that anti-monarchy demonstrators might attack places frequented by U.S. personnel.
The report "looked like a fabrication by someone trying to kill two birds with one stone, by making the Bahraini Shia appear to be anti-U.S. terrorists who also happened to be taking orders from Iran," Todd said. "I knew, really knew, that the Bahraini Shia were trying to ensure U.S. personnel were nowhere near the possible violence." She suspected the intelligence report was cooked up by Bush administration hawks.
Cosgriff "asked me if I could go out and verify the information at the source - an informant in Dirza, a Shia village - saying that he realized it was dangerous," Todd said.
Cosgriff declined to answer questions for the record about his meeting with Todd; a retired senior naval officer familiar with his thinking said he did not issue an order.
Todd's boss, Martin Adams, recalled the event. "I saw the incoming report," Adams said. "Someone - I do not remember who, but it was a junior officer - brought it to the office I shared with Gwenyth and showed it to her and to me. Subsequently, Gwenyth got a call, asking her to go down and see Cosgriff - an unusual event in itself. When she returned, she said she had to work that evening, as Cosgriff had asked her to go out to confirm the information in the report."
But first, they called Cmdr. Carl Inman, the assistant Fleet N2, or intelligence officer. "He was very surprised Cosgriff had called me, not him," Todd said. Inman said he could not recall that.
According to Todd and Adams, however, the three decided that going at night to Diraz, a restive Shiite area seven miles north of Manama, was too dangerous. Instead, she'd try a foreign businessman in town who had good contacts among leading Shiites.
That night, she met at a Manama restaurant with the businessman and a Shiite dissident, a man the CIA station chief had once warned her was a "terrorist" but who she was confident was not. It soon became clear they were being watched by Bahraini security men, she said.
The dissident batted away the report. The last thing the Bahraini Shiites wanted, he said, was to antagonize the Americans. But violence definitely could erupt between protesters and security forces, he said. U.S. personnel should steer clear.
Todd returned to the base at 10:30, but at the gate, her security badges didn't work. A glitch, she thought. She talked the guard into letting her in and wrote up a warning report.
At 2 a.m., Inman came in. "This is important," she remembered him saying. "It has to go out now."
Inman did recall that "we then made sure the right people had her information, her observations and her analysis."
Exhausted, Todd walked out of her office - for the last time, it turned out.
At 7:30 the next morning, her badge still wasn't working. Again she wangled her way past a guard. An "agitated" Inman appeared.
Go home, he said. "The front office is very upset." He couldn't say more.
"Freaking out," Todd went to a nearby Starbucks. She called Cosgriff, but got shunted to an adjutant, who told her: "You have to come in for an explanation."
Now wary, Todd refused.
The next day, her computer access was shut down. The day after that, Cosgriff's chief of staff called to demand she come in to turn in her badges. Instead, she gave them to Adams for delivery.
Then came a stunning revelation: Todd said she learned from a friend that her access had been suspended the same day Cosgriff had dispatched her into the night to verify the threat report.
What? Todd said she felt the room spin. Cosgriff had given her a sensitive assignment - to meet a suspect Shiite - after her clearances had been suspended? It didn't make sense.
Ten days later, on Christmas Eve, her contract was abruptly terminated without explanation. Stripped of clearances, she was not only out of a job, it appeared, but finished altogether, her career in tatters.
She wondered if maybe the whole Bahrain catastrophe came down to the FBI trying to pressure her to give up information they thought she had on Cabelly.
On the other hand, she thought it curious that the FBI man had showed up only days after she had been quoted in the New York Times harshly criticizing the Bush administration's Bahrain policy, which was "consciously ignoring at best the situation of Bahraini Shiites."
Was somebody in Washington still smarting over her Dec. 13, 2007, refutation of its intelligence report linking Shiite protesters to Iran?
Or was hers a classic Washington tale of a strong woman slapped down for standing up to powerful men? "Sisterhood" wasn't a word that came easily to Todd's lips, but now she felt a kinship to Valerie Plame, the CIA operative outed by Bush officials because her diplomat husband challenged their case for invading Iraq.
Todd swings from theory to theory.
"If you want my opinion, I am 100 percent convinced that this is about my thwarting plans to provoke war with Iran," Todd said at one point.
One former official familiar with the events in Bahrain agreed. "She got on the wrong side of some powerful people," he said on condition of anonymity in exchange for discussing anything about the case.
After a Freedom of Information Act request, the Navy Central Command said it has no records of Cosgriff and Fallon discussing a plan to move the big decks, no records of the intelligence report on Shia unrest, no warning report by Todd and Inman on Dec. 14, and no "records related to the revocation of Ms. Todd's security clearance."
The Defense Security Service indicated that the Naval Criminal Investigative Service had a classified file on her; NCIS says it is working on a FOIA response.
In desperation in February 2011, Todd wrote to two high-ranking Navy officers, including Miller, who had provided her such a glowing recommendation in 2009. "Can either of you help me?" Todd beseeched. "I do not want to cause more damage, but this whole situation is un-American. I just want to know the facts, and then I will shut up."
Miller, who assumed command of the 5th Fleet this year, told her he would look into it. She is certain he will. As of press time, however, help has yet to come.
5) Israeli inquiry into Rachel Corrie death insufficient, US ambassador tells family
US government does not believe military inquiry was 'thorough, credible and transparent', as family await verdict in civil suit
Matthew Kalman, Guardian, Friday 24 August 2012 10.45 EDT
Jerusalem - The US ambassador to Israel has told the family of an American pro-Palestinian activist who was killed in Gaza in 2003 that the US government remains dissatisfied with the Israeli army's decision to close its official investigation into the incident.
Rachel Corrie, 23, an activist with the International Solidarity Movement, was crushed to death as she tried to stop an Israeli army bulldozer from destroying Palestinian houses in Rafah, on the Egypt-Gaza border.
In 2005 Corrie's family filed a civil suit in the Haifa district court against the Israeli government over the incident. A verdict is expected on Tuesday.
At a meeting at the US embassy in Tel Aviv last week, the ambassador, Dan Shapiro, told Corrie's parents and her sister that the government did not believe the Israeli military investigation had been "thorough, credible and transparent", as had been promised by Israel. The investigation concluded that Corrie's death was an accident and that she had endangered herself by entering a combat zone.
"The lawsuit is just a small step in our family's nearly decade-long search for truth and justice," said Craig Corrie, Rachel's father. "The mounting evidence presented before the court underscores a broken system of accountability.
"We're responsible as a family to do whatever we can to get at the truth of what happened to Rachel and to try to get some accountability. It's been a very difficult process for us. The testimony by the defence witnesses has been erratic. Their stories never agreed with each other. We hope the judge will reach a reasonable conclusion."
6) Legal marijuana backers raise $3 million in two states
Alex Dobuzinskis, Reuters, Sat, Aug 25, 2012
Campaigns to become the first U.S. states to legalize marijuana for recreational use in Washington and Colorado have raised $3 million ahead of a November vote, far outpacing the opposition.
Proponents of pot legalization in Washington state have raised nearly $2 million since the initiative qualified for the ballot in January, and about $1 million in Colorado since its measure earned a place on the ballot the following month, according to the most recent state campaign figures.
In Oregon, where a voter referendum qualified in July, the legalization campaign reported less than $1,000 in contributions. All three state measures go on the ballot in November, when Americans vote for president and other offices.
With their war chests, backers of legalization drives in Washington state and Colorado have already bought television ads in a bid to convince voters, especially those who have never smoked pot, of merits of legalizing and taxing it.
Legalizing the drug for recreational purposes would run afoul of the federal government, which says that marijuana is a dangerous narcotic.
The referendums in the three Western states, among the 17 that already allow marijuana for medical purposes, comes as some states battle with the federal government over its raids of medical marijuana dispensaries.
"If one of these initiatives wins, it will really be a breakthrough," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance, which seeks alternatives to the current U.S. policy to combat drug use. "And in the end, just as there has been a federal-state conflict involving medical marijuana, we anticipate there will be similar conflicts when states begin to legally regulate marijuana like alcohol," he said. "But the only way we think change can happen is through this process."
Polls indicate support in Colorado and Washington for legalizing pot.
A July poll by Survey USA of 630 registered voters in Washington state said 55 percent backed the marijuana legalization ballot measure. The margin of error was 4 percent.
Rasmussen Reports said its June poll of likely Colorado voters showed 61 percent supported legalizing and regulating pot. The survey had 500 respondents and a margin of 4.5 percent.
The ballot measures in all three states would legalize marijuana for people 21 and older, impose state-level taxes on the drug and allow sales of the drug at special pot stores.
7) Egyptian Leader Adds Rivals of West to Syria Plan
David D. Kirkpatrick, New York Times, August 26, 2012
Cairo - Staking out a new leadership role for Egypt in the shaken landscape of the Arab uprisings, President Mohamed Morsi is reaching out to Iran and other regional powers in an initiative to halt the escalating violence in Syria.
The initiative, centered on a committee of four that also includes Turkey and Saudi Arabia, is the first foreign policy priority taken up by Mr. Morsi, the Islamist who became Egypt's first elected leader two months ago.
Following failed efforts by the Arab League and United Nations to stop Syria's descent into civil war, Mr. Morsi's plan sets a notably assertive and independent course for an Egypt that is still sorting out its own transition.
"We are determined to make this committee of four successful," Yasser Ali, a spokesman for Mr. Morsi, said Sunday. He called the Syria crisis the main issue in the Egyptian president's coming visit to China, which along with Iran and Russia has been a pillar of support for President Bashar al-Assad of Syria as his military assaulted opposition strongholds. "Part of the mission is in China, part of the mission is in Russia and part of the mission is in Iran," Mr. Ali said.
Coming at a moment of acute hand-wringing in the Western capitals over how an Islamist leadership of the largest Arab state might alter the American-backed regional order, Mr. Morsi's focus bisects Washington's customary division of the region, between Western-friendly states like Egypt and Saudi Arabia on the one hand and Iran on the other, said Emad Shahin, a political scientist at the American University in Cairo.
But although it involves collaboration with American rivals, Mr. Morsi's specific initiative, in particular, also appears largely harmonious with the stated Western objective of ending the Syrian bloodshed.
"This is a reconfiguration of the regional and international politics of the region," Mr. Shahin said. "It will, of course, raise concerns in Washington and Tel Aviv, but I don't think this is a confrontational foreign policy. It is a regional foreign policy, tacking a regional problem through the capitals of the four most influential regional states, without looking through the prism of Washington and Tel Aviv."
Mr. Morsi has already called for Mr. Assad to leave power and end the bloodshed in Syria. The escalating violence there has taken on all the trappings of a proxy war that threatens to destabilize the entire region, with Iran among the main backers of the Assad government and Saudi Arabia and Turkey among the main backers of the rebels.
Despite the failure of the Arab League and United Nations initiatives in Syria, some analysts argued that Mr. Morsi's regional approach may have a better chance to broker a peace, in part because of the mutual hostility between Iran and the West.
"Obviously, you need channels to the Assad regime - people who are uncomfortable with the way things stand and would like to be seen as playing a more positive role," said Peter Harling, a Syria researcher at the International Crisis Group, speaking of Iran. "And any effort to reach Iran can't include the Western camp; it would be impossible if the U.S. was involved."
The Egyptian foreign minister had already contacted his counterparts in the other three countries to arrange a preliminary meeting, Amr Roshdy, a Foreign Ministry spokesman, said Sunday. Mr. Morsi first proposed the initiative this month at a meeting of Muslim nations in Mecca, and Iranian state news media has reported that Iranian officials have publicly lauded the plan.
Still, Mr. Ali called the inclusion of Iran in the regional contact group on Syria "an opportunity, because Iran is an active party in the Syrian issue."
"Iran could be part of the solution rather than part of the problem," he said. "If you want to solve a problem, you have to gather all the parties that have a real influence on the problem."
9) Israeli rabbi calls for prayers for Iran's destruction
Jeffrey Heller, Reuters, Sun, Aug 26, 2012
Jerusalem - An influential Israeli rabbi has called for prayers for Iran's destruction, a week after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared to court his support for a possible attack on a nuclear program Israel sees as an existential threat.
The sermon by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef added to a flurry of recent rhetoric from Israeli officials that has raised international concern that Israel, widely believed to be the Middle East's only atomic power, might attack Iran's nuclear facilities.
"(When) we ask God to 'bring an end to our enemies', we should be thinking about Iran, those evil ones who threaten Israel. May the Lord destroy them," Yosef was quoted as saying by Israeli media on Sunday.
Last week, Netanyahu sent his national security adviser to brief Yosef, 91, on Iran's nuclear activities in what was widely seen as an effort to win his backing for any future military strike, possibly before the U.S. presidential vote in November.
Yosef, a former Israeli chief rabbi, is the spiritual leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, a key member of Netanyahu's governing coalition.
Yosef issued his call in a sermon late on Saturday in which he said Iran should be included in a traditional Jewish New Year blessing next month over food in which God is asked to strike down Israel's enemies. Netanyahu's security cabinet, which Israeli officials have said is divided over the question of launching a go-it-alone attack on Iran, includes a Shas minister as one of its eight members.
Yosef wields significant influence over Shas's lawmakers, who seek his guidance on policy.
In the past, the Baghdad-born Yosef has stirred controversy by likening Palestinians to snakes, calling for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to "perish from this world" and describing non-Jews as "born only to serve us".
But he has also spoken out in favor of Israel ceding occupied land for peace with the Palestinians in order to end conflict and save Jewish lives.
9) At the Jordan Bridges border crossings, Israeli authorities prevented the entry of more than a hundred international activists.
Gush Shalom: "The country's border crossings are wide open to the international friends of the violent settlers"
Gush Shalom, 27/08/12
About 7.30 pm, more than a hundred activists from all over the world arrived from Jordan to the Israeli border crossings at the Allenby/King Hussein Bridge, telling that they on their way to Bethlehem at the invitation of its Palestinian governor and of civil society organizations there, and that they were carrying with them notebooks and school equipment for Palestinian pupils about to begin their school year. However, their entry into the West Bank was denied. In the Israeli-controlled area of the Allenby Bridge was seen a major alert of military forces, and journalists there were told that the area had been declared "a closed military zone".
"They did not even let us get off the bus," said Olivia Zemor of Paris, one of the organizers of the visit. "They collected our passports and a few minutes later returned them with each and every passport stamped 'Entry denied'. The soldiers refused to give any explanation, they just said - that's it, your entry is denied, go back to Jordan." Zemour noted that last year, when she and her fellows tried to reach the Palestinian Territories through Ben Gurion Airport, they were told, "Why don't you come through the Jordan bridges?". "So we did try to get through the Jordan bridges, and now we got a definite answer from the government of Israel."
"Violent settlers, those who under the name of 'price tag' set olive trees and mosques on fire, are all the time getting reinforcements from abroad. For the settlers' friends, Jews and Christians, Israel's border crossings are wide open. From the airport they go to the settlements" says Adam Keller, Gush Shalom Spokesperson. "When the Palestinians living under Israel's rule try to invite guests to come and visit them, the government of Israel instructs the army and police to block their way. The government has the power and the ability to act in such a belligerent and arbitrary way. But by so doing, the government ends up emphasizing and demonstrating to the entire world that – despite the so- called 'judicial report' which the government commissioned from Judge Edmond Levy - the territory is indeed under an oppressive occupation".
10) Israel breaks silence over army abuses
Ex-soldiers admit to appalling violence against Palestinian children
Donald Macintyre, The Independent, Sunday 26 August 2012
Hebron - Hafez Rajabi was marked for life by his encounter with the men of the Israeli army's Kfir Brigade five years ago this week. Sitting beneath the photograph of his late father, the slightly built 21-year-old in jeans and trainers points to the scar above his right eye where he was hit with the magazine of a soldier's assault rifle after the patrol came for him at his grandmother's house before 6am on 28 August 2007.
He lifts his black Boss T-shirt to show another scar running some three inches down his back from the left shoulder when he says he was violently pushed – twice – against a sharp point of the cast-iron balustrade beside the steps leading up to the front door. And all that before he says he was dragged 300m to another house by a unit commander who threatened to kill him if he did not confess to throwing stones at troops, had started to beat him again, and at one point held a gun to his head. "He was so angry," says Hafez. "I was certain that he was going to kill me."
This is just one young man's story, of course. Except that – remarkably – it is corroborated by one of the soldiers who came looking for him that morning. One of 50 testimonies on the military's treatment of children – published today by the veterans' organisation Breaking the Silence – describes the same episode, if anything more luridly than Hafez does. "We had a commander, never mind his name, who was a bit on the edge," the soldier, a first sergeant, testifies. "He beat the boy to a pulp, really knocked him around. He said: 'Just wait, now we're taking you.' Showed him all kinds of potholes on the way, asked him: 'Want to die? Want to die right here?' and the kid goes: 'No, no...' He was taken into a building under construction. The commander took a stick, broke it on him, boom boom. That commander had no mercy. Anyway the kid could no longer stand on his feet and was already crying. He couldn't take it any more. He cried. The commander shouted: 'Stand up!' Tried to make him stand, but from so much beating he just couldn't. The commander goes: 'Don't put on a show,' and kicks him some more."
Two months ago, a report from a team of British lawyers, headed by Sir Stephen Sedley and funded by the UK Foreign Office, accused Israel of serial breaches of international law in its military's handling of children in custody. The report focused on the interrogation and formal detention of children brought before military courts – mainly for allegedly throwing stones.
For the past eight years, Breaking the Silence has been taking testimonies from former soldiers who witnessed or participated in human rights abuses in the occupied territories. Most of these accounts deal with "rough justice" administered to minors by soldiers on the ground, often without specific authorisation and without recourse to the military courts. Reading them, however, it's hard not to recall the Sedley report's shocked reference to the "belief, which was advanced to us by a military prosecutor, that every Palestinian child is a 'potential terrorist'".
The soldier puts it differently: "We were sort of indifferent. It becomes a kind of habit. Patrols with beatings happened on a daily basis. We were really going at it. It was enough for you to give us a look that we didn't like, straight in the eye, and you'd be hit on the spot. We got to such a state and were so sick of being there."
Finally, Hafez's brother Mousa, 23, a stone cutter who joined his aunt at the second house, recalls a second army jeep arriving and one soldier taking Hafez's pulse, giving Mousa a bottle of water which he then poured over Hafez's face and speaking to the commander in Hebrew.
"I understood he was protesting," says Mousa. This was almost certainly the 'sensitive' medic whom the soldier describes as having "caught the commander and said: 'Don't touch him any more. That's it.'" The commander goes: 'What's with you, gone leftie?' And he said: 'No, I don't want to see such things being done. All you're doing to this family is making them produce another suicide bomber. If I were a father and saw you doing this to my kid, I'd seek revenge that very moment.'"
In fact Hafez, did not turn into a "suicide bomber". He has never even been in prison. Instead, the outcome has been more prosaic. He no longer has nightmares about his experience as he did in the first two months. But as a former mechanic he is currently unemployed partly because there are few jobs outside construction sites and the Hebron quarries, where he says his injuries still prevent him from carrying heavy loads, and partly because he often does "not feel I want to work again". And he has not – so far – received any compensation, including the more than £1,100 he and Mousa had to spend on his medical treatment in the two years after he was taken.
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