JFP 2/14: Brennan delayed over drone strikes; Feinstein urged to hold public hearing

Just Foreign Policy News, February 14, 2013
Brennan delayed over drone strikes; Feinstein urged to hold public hearing

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I) Actions and Featured Articles

Could the Senate Intelligence Committee Do Oversight of CIA Drone Strikes?
Here's a straightforward reform of the drone strike policy: the Senate Intelligence Committee should do its job of CIA oversight. It can start with a public hearing. Such a hearing should attempt to establish whether it is true that the CIA counts all "military-age males" as "militants" when they are killed by a drone strike, and the implications of that for claims that civilian casualties are low.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/robert-naiman/senate-intelligence-committee-drone-strikes_b_2681116.html

Senator Feinstein: Hold a Public Hearing on CIA Drone Strikes
The Senate Intelligence Committee has never held a public hearing on CIA drone strikes. Maybe that's why Senator Feinstein wasn't aware of reports that the CIA was counting every "military-age male" killed in a drone strike as a militant. The committee should hold a public hearing. Amnesty International backs this demand. Sign our petition at SignOn.
http://signon.org/sign/senator-feinstein-hold?source=c.url&r_by=1135580

5 Broken Cameras is on Netflix
Five Broken Cameras, the Academy Award-nominated Palestinian-Israeli documentary about nonviolent resistance to land confiscation in Bilin, is on Netflix. Even if you don't have direct access to Netflix, you probably know someone who does. Why not organize a little viewing party? It's an incredibly powerful documentary. Encourage all your friends to see it. If you know anyone who gets to vote in the Academy Awards, encourage them to vote for 5 Broken Cameras as Best Foreign Documentary. If it wins, many millions of people around the world will see the film who will not see it otherwise.

Get the Facts: Land Confiscation and the Palestinian Protest Villages
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Summary:
U.S./Top News
1) The Senate Intelligence Committee will delay voting to confirm John Brennan as CIA director as the panel's chair demanded the White House turn over more details about lethal drone strikes, AP reports. Intelligence Chair Dianne Feinstein said the vote likely will be pushed off until late February. Feinstein said senators need to see more classified legal opinions that justify using the unmanned spy planes to kill al-Qaida suspects overseas, including American citizens. The Obama administration last week released two of nine classified Justice Department memos outlining the legal reasoning to Feinstein's committee just hours before Brennan's confirmation hearing. The Senate and House Judiciary committees also want to see the documents.

2) Sen. Rand Paul plans to block John Brennan's nomination to head the CIA until he more fully lays out his views about the executive branch's authority over its drones policy, Politico reports. Paul said he would place a hold on the nomination until Brennan declares whether he believes the US has the authority to use unmanned drones to conduct targeting killings of Americans in the US.

Paul said he was not yet satisfied with Brennan after he failed to clearly state his views under questioning from Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) during last week's confirmation hearing before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. "We're going to hold him until we get an answer – does he claim the authority to kill Americans in America with drone strikes?" Paul said.

3) Senate Republicans refused to allow a vote Wednesday on the nomination of Chuck Hagel to lead the Defense Department, staging the first filibuster against a president's choice to head the Pentagon since the agency was created, the Los Angeles Times reports. Democrats believe they have the votes necessary to ultimately confirm Hagel. To do so would require that at least five Republicans join the 55 Democrats and affiliated independents to move forward to a final vote.

4) The Pentagon is pushing a plan that would keep about 8,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan once the NATO military mission there ends in 2014 but significantly shrink the contingent over the following two years, the Washington Post reports. Before discussions about the phased reduction, White House officials had been considering plans to reduce the U.S. presence to as few as 2,500 troops by January 2015. Military commanders would prefer to retain as many as 3,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan in 2017 and beyond, but they appear to be willing to accept White House demands to keep the number under 1,000.

Commanders have argued that a large enduring force is necessary to support Afghanistan's army, the Post says. But White House advisers, and even some senior civilian officials in the Pentagon, have been skeptical that a few thousand more U.S. troops would be able to help transform the much-troubled Afghan army into an effective fighting force.

5) Dianne Feinstein kicked off Brennan's confirmation hearing by saying that the number of civilian casualties caused by US drone strikes each year has "typically been in the single digits," notes Ed Pilkington in the Guardian. But the Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates that over the past nine years, US drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia have caused at least 556 civilian deaths. New American Foundation data suggest the number of civilian casualties has been in double digits for every year since 2004 other than 2012.

6) Also addressing Feinstein's remarks about civilian casualties in the "single digits," Max Fisher of the Washington Post notes that according to data from the Web site Long War Journal, U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen killed a combined 31 civilians in 2008, 84 in 2009, 20 in 2010, 30 in 2011 and 39 in 2012, and that the New America Foundation says that U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan alone killed at least 25 civilians in 2008, 25 again in 2009, 14 in 2010, six in 2011 and five in 2012.

7) The unauthorized disclosure of a Justice Department White Paper on the legality of targeted killing of senior al Qaida operatives who are Americans had the effect of strengthening congressional oversight of intelligence, notes Steven Aftergood of the Federation of American Scientists. The leak not only fulfilled a stalemated congressional effort to provide information to the public, but it also catalyzed the long-sought disclosure of classified documents to the intelligence committees themselves.

Afghanistan
8) Officials are investigating two episodes in which as many as 11 Afghan civilians may have been killed in what appeared to be US-led military actions, the New York Times reports. Afghan officials said 10 civilians were killed overnight in Kunar Province in eastern Afghanistan in a village where two known Taliban commanders were visiting family members.

Iran
9) The majority of Iranians say sanctions have hurt Iranians' livelihoods a great deal, Gallup reports. But the majority of Iranians say Iran should continue its nuclear program regardless. This may indicate that sanctions alone are not having the intended effect of persuading Iranian residents and country leaders to change their stance, Gallup says. Iranians are most likely to hold the U.S. responsible for the sanctions.

Israel/Palestine
10) Richard Falk, UN Special Rapporteur for Palestinian Territories, called for the immediate release of three Palestinian detainees on hunger strike held by Israel without charges. Two of the prisoners are reportedly on the verge of death, Falk said. Falk noted that Israel currently holds at least 178 Palestinians in administrative detention.

Contents:
U.S./Top News
1) Senators delay Brennan CIA vote over drone memos
Kimberly Dozier, AP, Wednesday, 02.13.13
http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/02/13/3232936/senators-delay-brennan-cia-vote.html

Washington -- The Senate Intelligence Committee will delay voting to confirm John Brennan as CIA director as the panel's Democratic chairwoman demanded Wednesday that the White House turn over more details about lethal drone strikes on terror suspects and last September's attack in Benghazi, Libya, that left the U.S. ambassador there and three other Americans dead.

Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein said the vote likely will be pushed off until late February.

In a statement, the California Democrat said senators need to see more classified legal opinions that justify using the unmanned spy planes to kill al-Qaida suspects overseas, including American citizens. The Obama administration last week released two of nine classified Justice Department memos outlining the legal reasoning to Feinstein's committee just hours before Brennan's confirmation hearing in front of the panel.
Feinstein said the memos are necessary "in order to fully evaluate the executive branch's legal reasoning, and to broaden access to the opinions to appropriate members of the committee staff."
[...]
The Senate and House Judiciary committees also want to see the documents, and other lawmakers are pressing the White House for more for information on the Sept. 11 attack on a U.S. diplomatic post in Benghazi the killed Ambassador Chris Stevens.

2) Rand Paul says he'll block CIA nominee
Manu Raju, Politico, February 13, 2013 02:39 PM EST
http://www.politico.com/story/2013/02/rand-paul-says-hell-block-cia-nominee-87608.html

Sen. Rand Paul plans to block John Brennan's nomination to head the CIA until he more fully lays out his views about the executive branch's authority over its drones policy.
Paul said he would place a hold on the nomination until Brennan declares whether he believes the United States has the authority to use unmanned drones to conduct targeting killings of Americans - in the United States.

If Brennan and the White House refuse to provide the information, Paul said that he would object to efforts to schedule a vote, a move that would require Democrats to find 60 votes to advance the nomination.

"I'm going to object in any way we can until we find out whether or not the head of the CIA claims the authority to kill Americans without a trail with a drone in America," Paul, the libertarian-minded conservative, told POLITICO. "You would think the notion of that is so bizarre and absurd that he would immediately say no."
[...]
Paul said he was not yet satisfied with Brennan after he failed to clearly state his views under questioning from Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) during last week's confirmation hearing before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence. "We're going to hold him until we get an answer – does he claim the authority to kill Americans in America with drone strikes?" Paul said.

3) Republicans begin filibuster against Hagel
Michael A. Memoli, Los Angeles Times, February 13, 2013, 2:23 p.m.
http://www.latimes.com/news/politics/la-pn-hagel-senate-filibuster-20130213,0,4699178.story

Washington -- Senate Republicans refused to allow a vote Wednesday on the nomination of Chuck Hagel to lead the Defense Department, staging the first filibuster against a president's choice to head the Pentagon since the agency was created.

Majority Leader Harry Reid called the move "a shame" as he announced on the floor of the Senate that he was unable to reach an agreement with the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee to avoid such a delay. Reid filed a motion to end the filibuster, which he said he expected to vote on Friday, at which point Democrats believe they will have enough votes to confirm Hagel's appointment.

Only two Cabinet appointments have ever been filibustered: C. William Verity, President Reagan's choice for Commerce in 1987, faced a filibuster by conservative Republicans who said he was too favorable to trade relations with the Soviet Union; and Dirk Kempthorne, President George W. Bush's pick for Interior in 2006, was briefly delayed by two senators who objected to government policies regarding oil drilling. Both were ultimately confirmed easily – Kempthorne on a voice vote.

But although the move to slow the Hagel confirmation was a rare step, it was not a surprise, as Republican opponents of the nomination had long been threatening it. Although Hagel is a Republican, he angered many of his former GOP colleagues by opposing Bush's policies toward the Iraq war. His critics say he has been too critical of Israel and not critical enough of Iran.

Democrats believe they have the votes necessary to ultimately confirm Hagel. To do so would require that at least five Republicans join the 55 Democrats and affiliated independents to move forward to a final vote.
[...]

4) In Afghanistan pullout, Pentagon favors phased reduction over 3 years
Rajiv Chandrasekaran, Washington Post, Tuesday, February 12, 9:05 AM
http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/in-afghanistan-pullout-pentagon-favors-phased-reduction-over-3-years/2013/02/11/14a4faba-7484-11e2-95e4-6148e45d7adb_story.html

The Pentagon is pushing a plan that would keep about 8,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan once the NATO military mission there ends in 2014 but significantly shrink the contingent over the following two years, according to senior U.S. government officials and military officers.

The phased-reduction approach, which would define the shape of the United States' endgame in Afghanistan, represents an effort to strike a compromise between top military commanders, who had wanted to base about 10,000 U.S. troops in the country after 2014, and several of President Obama's senior civilian advisers, who have advocated a far smaller long-term U.S. presence.

Obama plans to announce in his State of the Union address Tuesday night that 34,000 U.S. troops will return from Afghanistan within a year, the Associated Press reported. That drawdown covers about half the U.S. forces currently deployed there and marks the next phase in the administration's plan to terminate the U.S. and NATO combat role in Afghanistan by the end of 2014, AP reported, citing two officials familiar with Obama's remarks.

As for the U.S. presence after 2014, military commanders fear that a drastic reduction in forces will erode hard-won battlefield gains, while administration officials worry that a large, enduring troop presence will come at too great a cost in dollars and lives.

Although a consensus is emerging among White House and Pentagon officials about the merits of a phased reduction, Obama's top aides and military commanders have not coalesced around the size of the trims after 2014, said the officials and officers, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive internal policy deliberations. The proposals under consideration call for reducing the U.S. presence by early 2016 to between 3,500 and 6,000 troops. One option under serious discussion envisages further reducing troop levels to under 1,000 by early 2017, with most of the personnel operating from the giant U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

Under that option, elite Special Operations commandos would not be based in Afghanistan after 2016, senior military officials said. They would swoop into the country from ships or bases in nearby nations to conduct counterterrorism missions, operating from facilities run jointly with Afghan forces.

Before discussions about the phased reduction, White House officials had been considering plans to reduce the U.S. presence to as few as 2,500 troops by January 2015.

Military commanders would prefer to retain as many as 3,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan in 2017 and beyond, but they appear to be willing to accept White House demands to keep the number under 1,000. "We can live with this," said a senior U.S. official aligned with the military leadership. A smaller troop presence in 2017 "doesn't really matter so long as you have the upfront guys for the first year."

The commanders have argued that a large enduring force is necessary to support Afghanistan's army, which lacks many critical tools, including combat aircraft and medical evacuation helicopters, to aid soldiers fighting the Taliban. But White House advisers, and even some senior civilian officials in the Pentagon, have been skeptical that a few thousand more U.S. troops would be able to help transform the much-troubled Afghan army into an effective fighting force.

Once the White House and Pentagon reach a formal agreement, it will be presented to the Afghan government, which must grant permission for U.S. forces to operate in the country after 2014. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has voiced support for a continued U.S. military presence, though the decision - and the provision of immunity to American forces - may require the consent of the country's often-fractious parliament.

About 66,000 U.S. troops are deployed in Afghanistan.
[...]

5) Does Obama's 'single-digit' civilian death claim stand up to scrutiny?
Most of the evidence suggests the White House's assertion is inaccurate – but hard data on drones is difficult to come by
Ed Pilkington, Guardian, Thursday 7 February 2013 17.38 EST
http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2013/feb/07/drones-obama-single-digit-civilian-deaths

New York - If the John Brennan's confirmation hearing before the Senate intelligence committee was intended to be a probing investigation of his suitability to lead the CIA, it began on a shaky note. The Democratic chair of the committee, Dianne Feinstein, kicked off proceedings by saying that the number of civilian casualties caused by US drone strikes each year has "typically been in the single digits".

The Obama administration has long stuck to the line that the "targeted killing" programme has been responsible for "no" or "single-digit" civilian deaths. Brennan, who has been a key advocate of the use of drones to take out terrorism suspects in Pakistan and Yemen, said in 2011 that there had been no known incidents of civilian deaths.

But does that claim stand up to scrutiny? Hard data is scarce in the opaque world of drone strikes – a product of US military and CIA secrecy combined with the unwelcoming terrain of the Waziristan region of northern Pakistan where many of the attacks have been launched.
[...]
One of the most authoritative tallies is kept by the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the BIJ, which has compiled the best information it could gather from newspaper accounts and its own independent researchers in Waziristan to keep a running score of civilian deaths from 2004 to today.

BIJ estimates that over the past nine years, the US has carried out a total of up to 424 drone strikes in Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. The attacks have caused, the bureau calculates, at least 556 civilian killings and at most 1,128.

The Washington-based New American Foundation also keeps a count of civilian casualties from US drone strikes. But its calculations suggest the number of civilian casualties has been in double digits for every year since 2004 other than 2012.
[...]

6) Open-source data contradicts Feinstein on 'single-digit' civilian drone deaths
Max Fisher, Washington Post, February 7, 2013
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2013/02/07/open-source-data-contradicts-feinstein-on-single-digit-civilian-drone-deaths/

In her introductory comments to John Brennan's confirmation hearing to becoming director of central intelligence, Sen. Dianne Feinstein asserted that civilian casualties from U.S. drone strikes now number in the single digits annually. Those numbers are difficult to know with any certainty, and official U.S. estimates are secret. But some organizations do follow open-source reports on the strikes and attempt to track individual civilian casualties. At least some of their numbers, gathered by the scholar Micah Zenko for a Council on Foreign Relations report, appear to contradict Feinstein's assessment.

According to data from the Web site Long War Journal, U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen killed a combined 31 civilians in 2008, 84 in 2009, 20 in 2010, 30 in 2011 and 39 in 2012.

The New America Foundation, a Washington think tank, says that U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan alone killed at least 25 civilians in 2008, 25 again in 2009, 14 in 2010, six in 2011 and five in 2012.

The U.S. also maintains drone bases in West and East Africa and conducts drone strikes in Afghanistan and Somalia, so it's plausible that the civilian casualties would be even higher than the Long War Journal and New America Foundation stats reflect.
[...]

7) Leak of White Paper Boosts Intelligence Oversight
Steven Aftergood, Secrecy News/ FAS Project on Government Secrecy, February 11th, 2013
https://www.fas.org/blog/secrecy/2013/02/leak_boosts.html

The unauthorized disclosure last week of a Justice Department White Paper on the legality of targeted killing of senior al Qaida operatives who are Americans had the collateral effect of strengthening congressional oversight of intelligence.

The leak not only fulfilled a stalemated congressional effort to provide information to the public, but it also catalyzed the long-sought disclosure of classified documents to the intelligence committees themselves.

Although the intelligence committees received the White Paper in June 2012, they proved powerless on their own to gain its broader public release, or to acquire their own copies of the underlying legal memoranda.

"I have been calling for the public release of the administration's legal analysis on the use of lethal force–particularly against U.S. citizens–for more than a year," said Sen. Dianne Feinstein, the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee in a February 5 statement. "That analysis is now public…."

In other words, what the chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee was unable to accomplish for over a year was achieved by a resourceful reporter (Michael Isikoff of NBC) along with a cooperative source. That is a peculiar fact that ought to prompt some soul-searching on the part of the Committee, which has been relentlessly critical of intelligence-related leaks.

But the disclosure did more than just make the White Paper available to the public and launch a substantial public debate on its contents. It also enhanced the ability of the intelligence committees themselves to gain access to additional classified records on which oversight depends.

Specifically, it was the leak of the White Paper that enabled the belated disclosure of two classified Office of Legal Counsel memoranda to the intelligence committees last week.

The causal relationship between the leak and the release of the OLC memos was made explicit by White House press secretary Jay Carney at a February 7 press gaggle.

"I mean, there has always been some interest, obviously, but there has been heightened interest. I think that what you've seen in the - because of the public disclosure of the white paper, is that that interest reached higher levels than in the past, and therefore this decision was made to make this extraordinary accommodation to provide classified Office of Legal Counsel advice," Mr. Carney said.

This statement neatly illustrates the synergy that can exist among robust national security reporting, public awareness and effective intelligence oversight.

Yet the Senate Intelligence Committee in particular seems to have lost sight of the benefits for its own work of press attention and public engagement. The February 7 hearing on the nomination of John Brennan to be Director of CIA marked the end of a period of more than one year - dating from January 31, 2012 - without a public hearing. This may be an unprecedented hiatus in the history of the Senate Committee. (The House Intelligence Committee has held public hearings more frequently.) In light of last week's events, the nearly exclusive emphasis on closed hearings should perhaps be reconsidered.

Afghanistan
8) 11 Afghans Killed in Military Actions Near Pakistan Border
Alissa J. Rubin, New York Times, February 13, 2013
http://www.nytimes.com/2013/02/14/world/asia/international-military-officials-investigate-afghan-deaths.html

Kabul, Afghanistan - International military officials are investigating two episodes in which as many as 11 Afghan civilians may have been killed in what appeared to be American-led military actions.

In the more lethal episode, 10 civilians were killed overnight in Kunar Province in eastern Afghanistan in a village where two known Taliban commanders were visiting family members, Afghan officials said.

"Ten civilians were killed last night in a joint Afghan and American operation that took place in Chogam Valley in Shigal District," said Fazlullah Wahidi, the provincial governor. He said four women, one man and five children between the ages of 8 and 13 were killed; four teenagers were wounded, three of whom were girls.
[...]
Local officials in Kunar said that Shahpour was believed to have links to Al Qaeda and narrowly escaped being killed last year when the Americans attacked another Al Qaeda-linked Taliban commander known as Abu Hafez Al-Najde, who also went by the name Commander Ghani. Shahpour was the Taliban leader in charge of nearby Dangam district but was visiting relatives at the time of the raid.

People from Chogam, who brought injured civilians from the remote village where the attack took place to the main hospital in the provincial capital, Asadabad, described a precise but damaging hit on two adjacent houses.

"Two homes were totally destroyed; air power was used during the operation," said a man who brought a boy with cuts to the hospital for treatment, but refused to give his name. "There are still dead bodies under the rubble and human flesh scattered in the area."

The other episode in which an Afghan civilian was killed by foreign troops occurred on Tuesday during the daytime.

It took place as NATO-led forces were checking a stretch of heavily traveled highway between Kandahar and Spinbaldak for explosives during a road clearance mission and shot at an oncoming car that did not stop when signaled to do so, Major Wojack said.

Taj Mohammed, the local Afghan border police commander, corroborated much of the ISAF account, but did not see the shooting himself. He said the car was carrying people from a wedding party.

Major Wojack said that the forces followed standard procedure of signaling to the car to stop. After the driver stopped, he started to accelerate toward the convoy, at which point the ISAF soldier shot at the car, Mr. Wojack said.

Iran
9) Iranians Feel Bite of Sanctions, Blame U.S., Not Own Leaders
Most support nuclear program despite sanctions
Mohamed Younis, Gallup, February 7, 2013
http://www.gallup.com/poll/160358/iranians-feel-bite-sanctions-blame-not-own-leaders.aspx

Washington, D.C. -- A majority of Iranians (56%) say sanctions the United Nations, the U.S., and Western Europe imposed have hurt Iranians' livelihoods a great deal, and an additional 29% say sanctions have hurt somewhat, according to a Gallup survey conducted in Iran in December 2012. Separately, 48% say sanctions have affected their own personal livelihoods a great deal and another 35% say somewhat.
[...]
Over the years, international sanctions have taken a serious toll on Iran's economy and people. Since the U.S. first acted to freeze Iranian assets in 1979 under President Jimmy Carter, then again under President Ronald Reagan in 1987, the U.S. has been leading efforts to use military and economic sanctions in an attempt to influence the country's policies.

For the past decade, the U.S., U.N., and other nations have used sanctions to target Iran's nuclear capabilities program. The U.N. specifically has since 2006 worked to isolate Iran from crucial gas and oil markets worldwide. Last year, the European Union adopted an oil embargo against Iran, which is costing the country $4 to $8 billion per month. Consequently, 2012 was a disastrous economic year for Tehran: Oil and gas exports provide roughly 50% of Iran's government revenue, but by October of last year, the country's oil exports had dropped by more than 40%. During the first week of that same month, the country saw its currency devalue by 40% from the previous week's value.

President Barack Obama on Thursday signed into law a new round of sanctions that aim to further isolate Iran from the global economy by targeting its energy and media sectors. The Obama administration has imposed the toughest sanctions Iran has ever faced. For an oil-producing country that strategically sits between East and West, the sanctions will no doubt limit Iran's role in the global economy.
[...]
Despite Effects of Sanctions, Many Iranians Support Nuclear Program

The majority of Iranians are so far seemingly willing to pay the high price of sanctions. Sixty-three percent say that Iran should continue to develop its nuclear program, even given the scale of sanctions imposed on their country because of it. In December, one in two Iranians supported their country developing its own nuclear power capabilities for nonmilitary uses.
[...]
Iranians Hold U.S. Most Responsible for Sanctions

Iranians are most likely to hold the U.S. (47%) responsible for the sanctions against Iran. One in 10 Iranians says their own government is most to blame for sanctions.
[...]
Iranians report feeling the effect of sanctions, but still support their country's efforts to increase its nuclear capabilities. This may indicate that sanctions alone are not having the intended effect of persuading Iranian residents and country leaders to change their stance on the level of international oversight of their nuclear program. Iran, as one of the most populous nations in a region undergoing monumental shifts, will remain a key country in the balance of power for the Middle East. Thus, the United States', Russia's, and Europe's relationship with the Iranian people remains a matter of strategic interest. The effect of sanctions on Iranians' livelihoods and the blame they place on the U.S. will continue to be a major challenge for the U.S. in Iran and in neighboring countries such as Iraq. Recent reports that Tehran and Washington might enter into direct talks were short-lived when Iran's supreme leader made a statement strongly rejecting them. With Iran preparing for elections later this year, a turning point is needed to get leaders on both sides out of the current stalemate on the country's nuclear program.
[...]

Israel/Palestine
10) Urgent UN Press Statement: Release Palestinian Hunger Strikers Now
Richard Falk, UN Special Rapporteur for Palestinian Territories, 13 February 2013
http://richardfalk.wordpress.com/2013/02/13/urgent-un-press-statement-release-palestinian-hunger-strikers-now/

The following press statement was issued 13 February 2013 under the auspices of the UN Human Rights Council in my capacity as Special Rapporteur for Palestinian Territories Occupied since 1967. This nonviolent resistance to unlawful and abusive detention practices by Israel is a human rights outrage that should be the occasion of media attention and a worldwide outcry. I encourage all who can to exert pressure on Israel before these individuals die in captivity. They are currently reported to be in grave condition. Please use all social networking tools to alert contacts.
**********************************

Press Statement - UN expert calls for the immediate release of three Palestinian detainees on hunger strike held by Israel without charges

Geneva (13 February 2013) – United Nations Special Rapporteur Richard Falk today called for the immediate release of three Palestinian detainees held without charges by Israel. Mr. Falk expressed deep concern for the fate of Tarek Qa'adan and Jafar Azzidine, who are on their 78th day of hunger strike, and Samer Al-Issawi, who has been on partial hunger strike for over 200 days.

"Continuing to hold Mr. Qa'adan, Mr Azzidine and Mr. Al-Issawi under these conditions is inhumane. Israel is responsible for any permanent harm," warned the independent expert designated by the Human Rights Council to monitor and report on Israeli rights violations in Palestine. "If Israeli officials cannot present evidence to support charges against these men, then they must be released immediately."

"Mr. Qa'adan and Mr. Azzidine are reportedly on the verge of death, with the threat of a fatal heart attack looming," the expert noted, recalling that both men were arrested on 22 November 2012 and began their hunger strikes on 28 November, after being sentenced to administrative detention for a period of three months. They were transferred to Assaf Harofi Hospital near Tel Aviv on 24 January 2013 after their conditions deteriorated sharply.

This is the second time that Mr. Azzidine and Mr. Qa'adan have undertaken hunger strikes against administrative detention, since they took part in the mass hunger strike of Palestinians from 17 April to 14 May 2012. Mr. Qa'adan had been released after 15 months of detention on 8 July 2012 and Mr. Azzidine had been released on 19 June 2012 after three months of detention, before being re-arrested.
"Israel must end the appalling and unlawful treatment of Palestinian detainees. The international community must react with a sense of urgency and use whatever leverage it possesses to end Israel's abusive reliance on administrative detention," urged the Special Rapporteur.

Mr. Falk noted that Israel currently holds at least 178 Palestinians in administrative detention.
**********
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KEEPING THINGS IN PERSPECTIVE

On October 4, 2011 Erin Burnett gave a CNN report on the OCCUPY Movement. The biased report purposely portrayed the OCCUPY Movement in a negative light. It was titled "Seriously".

Last night, Burnett's value system and world view surfaced again. She gave a report that seemed endless. Could this be the final Apocalypse - the end of times. The CNN report titled, "Hell on the High Seas", went on and on and on for hours. Amazing, could it be another Tsunami? Comets, asteroids, and now hell on the high seas. Would we be back to the stone age - the end of humanity. Would thousands be killed?

No, it was just a cruise ship having electrical problems. There were not enough generators. The air conditioning went out. The lighting system did not work. Gourmet meals could not be prepared. And most traumatic of all, some of the passengers were instructed to pee in the shower. Think of the emotional impact. No doubt, some of the vacationers will need psychiatric help after such an insult to human sensibilities. Will the DSM now have a new classification listed as "DVS" - Disappointing Vacation Syndrome.

During the night-long news reports - no matter how hard one tried, it was difficult to feel a lot of sympathy. Life's hardships, which everyone experiences, are a matter of degree. Some people have vacations that are disappointing. Some people have never had a vacation. That's just life for many of the struggling class in the USA and around the world.

Who really needs a vacation? Maybe the families in Gaza who have been bombarded with bombs for longer than most can remember. Maybe all those living in Occupied Territories need a vacation. Maybe the families of the kids we kill with Drones need a vacation from the aggressive foreign policy of the US.

How about a vacation for the Chagossians. All they want is to go home. The government of the USA/UK sent them into exile how many years ago? Was that 40 years ago - or 50 years ago. Compare 50 years in exile to five days of discomfort on a luxury liner.

Maybe all political prisoners need a vacation. How about a day at the beach for Bradley Manning and Julian Assange.

All who have been falsely convicted need a vacation. Think of Lynne Stewart, Mumia Abu Jamal, and the thousands of others in US prisons. No need to give all prisoners a vacation, just those who were falsely convicted. There are thousands.

Those who still have no permanent housing after Superstorm Sandy need a vacation. A few weeks in a warm climate would help the displaced families.

All who are living with inadequate heat in cold houses need a vacation.

Back to the cruise ship passengers - will Hallmark set a special printing for the 'victims'? They might need sympathy cards.
The inside verse could go something like this.

"Sorry that your vacation was ruined
You now have PTSD
Next year's cruise will be a whole lot better
You won't have to go to the shower to pee"

Rosemarie Jackowski
dissent@sover.net
Rosemarie Jackowski is an Advocacy Journalist, a Peace and Justice Activist, and author of BANNED IN VERMONT.

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