Red Cross says Israel’s blockade is illegal


Israeli border guards demonstrate their respect for civil dissent
Daylife/Getty Images used by permission

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has described Israel’s blockade of the Gaza Strip as a violation of the Geneva Conventions and called on the Israeli government to lift it.

The organisation called the blockade “collective punishment“, a crime under international law. It described Gaza as a territory plagued by frequent power cuts, a ruined economy, and a collapsed health care system…

“Gazans continue to suffer from unemployment, poverty and warfare, while the quality of Gaza’s health care system has reached an all-time low…”

Beatrice Megevand-Roggo, the head of the ICRC’s Middle East operations, told Al Jazeera that the organisation – which traditionally remains neutral – was reluctant to publicly criticise the blockade. But she said three years of quiet efforts to ease the embargo did not result in any progress.

“The result has not been what we expected, and we thought that after three years the situation was dire enough, serious enough, to speak out publicly to try to break this closure of Gaza,” she said…

In Luxembourg on Monday, foreign ministers from the European Union condemned the Gaza blockade as “unacceptable and counterproductive,” and called for immediate and unconditional opening of crossings for humanitarian aid…

B’Tselem, an Israeli human rights organisation, released its own report on Monday documenting dire conditions in the Palestinian territories. The group noted that 95 per cent of Gaza’s factories have closed, that 98 per cent of residents suffer from blackouts, and that 93 per cent of Gaza’s water is polluted…

Meanwhile, Congress and the White House works to maintain a special relationship founded in guilt from 3 or 4 generations ago.

If the U.S. government, today, lived up to the standards it admits to selling out – when 20 million Jews and Slavs, Eastern Europeans and Russians were being slaughtered by Nazi Germany – unconditional support of the Israeli government would come an immediate halt.

Church ceiling falls on True Believers

A dozen people were taken to the hospital Sunday, some with serious injuries, after the ceiling collapsed on worshipers at a Hickory, NC, church, officials said.

“They were right in the middle of services when part of the ceiling tiles in the back, near the doors, fell,” Adams said. “They collapsed down onto people in the pews.”

The Rev. Antonio Logan, pastor of the church, said he was collecting an offering for the church’s new public address system when the ceiling fell. “I led off with the first offering in the plate,” he said. “When I looked up, the whole ceiling was falling. The people who were sitting there couldn’t even see what hit them. It was horrifying…”

Dust and debris flew over the congregation “like a miniaturized 9-11,” Logan said, and people initially panicked. But he said the worshipers quickly started listening to directions as church leaders moved them to the exits.

Twelve people were taken by ambulance to hospitals around Hickory, fire department officials said. Some were seriously injured, but all were expected to survive. Logan said most of the injured suffered head wounds and cuts.

I guess that signifies something about offending thy God by not putting enough on the collection plate, eh?

Huge mineral wealth discovered in Afghanistian. How soon did we say we’re leaving?

The United States has discovered nearly $1 trillion in untapped mineral deposits in Afghanistan, far beyond any previously known reserves and enough to fundamentally alter the Afghan economy and perhaps the Afghan war itself, according to senior American government officials.

The previously unknown deposits — including huge veins of iron, copper, cobalt, gold and critical industrial metals like lithium — are so big and include so many minerals that are essential to modern industry that Afghanistan could eventually be transformed into one of the most important mining centers in the world, the United States officials believe.

An internal Pentagon memo, for example, states that Afghanistan could become the “Saudi Arabia of lithium,” a key raw material in the manufacture of batteries for laptops and BlackBerrys…

While it could take many years to develop a mining industry, the potential is so great that officials and executives in the industry believe it could attract heavy investment even before mines are profitable, providing the possibility of jobs that could distract from generations of war…

This will become the backbone of the Afghan economy,” said Jalil Jumriany, an adviser to the Afghan minister of mines…

The Pentagon task force has already started trying to help the Afghans set up a system to deal with mineral development.

You betcha!

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The Torture Papers

Following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the Bush administration initiated new human intelligence collection programs. To that end, it detained and questioned an unknown number of people suspected of having links to terrorist organizations. As part of these programs, the Bush administration redefined acts, such as waterboarding, forced nudity, sleep deprivation, temperature extremes, stress positions and prolonged isolation, that had previously been recognized as illegal…to be “safe, legal and effective” “enhanced” interrogation techniques (EITs).

Bush administration lawyers at the Department of Justice’s (DoJ’s) Office of Legal Counsel (OLC) accomplished this redefinition by establishing legal thresholds for torture, which required medical monitoring of every application of “enhanced” interrogation. Medical personnel were ostensibly responsible for ensuring that the legal threshold for “severe physical and mental pain” was not crossed by interrogators, but their presence and complicity in intentionally harmful interrogation practices were not only apparently intended to enable the routine practice of torture, but also to serve as a potential legal defense against criminal liability for torture.

Investigation and analysis of US government documents by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) provides evidence indicating that the Bush administration, in the period after Sept. 11, conducted human research and experimentation on prisoners in US custody as part of this monitoring role. Health professionals working for and on behalf of the CIA monitored the interrogations of detainees, collected and analyzed the results of those interrogations, and sought to derive generalizable inferences to be applied to subsequent interrogations. Such acts may be seen as the conduct of research and experimentation by health professionals on prisoners, which could violate accepted standards of medical ethics, as well as domestic and international law. These practices could, in some cases, constitute war crimes and crimes against humanity…

The use of human beings as research subjects has a long and disturbing history filled with misguided and often willfully unethical experimentation. Ethical codes and federal regulations have been established to protect human subjects from harm and include clear standards for informed consent of participants in research, an absence of coercion, and a requirement for rigorous scientific procedures. The essence of the ethical and legal protections for human subjects is that the subjects, especially vulnerable populations such as prisoners, must be treated with the dignity befitting human beings and not simply as experimental guinea pigs.

The HMO I used for the past 23 years has decided the Santa Fe market isn’t profitable enough for them to maintain a presence. They’ve become a physician-owned-practice and I guess they need to make more money than rolled in over the last half-century. So, I’m casting about, having to find a new doctor.

In case you wondered, questions like those provoked by this study – are part of how I choose a personal physician. I don’t require that my doctor join me in demonstrations against war, bigotry and environmental destruction – though my original doctor at the old Lovelace Clinic was someone I would in fact bump into at demonstrations. He left to work for Doctors Without Borders.

I’m making appointments, this week, with a few local doctors trying to find someone to carry me through my remaining years. I hope to meet someone with a conscience and backbone stronger than the sonsabitches who collaborated with the Bush/Cheney years of torture.

Plastic Fantastic antibody – passes animal tests

Scientists are reporting the first evidence that a plastic antibody – an artificial version of the proteins produced by the body’s immune system to recognize and fight infections and foreign substances – works in the bloodstream of a living animal. The discovery, they suggest in a report…is an advance toward medical use of simple plastic particles custom tailored to fight an array of troublesome “antigens.” Those antigens include everything from disease-causing viruses and bacteria to the troublesome proteins that cause allergic reactions to plant pollen, house dust, certain foods, poison ivy, bee stings and other substances.

In the report, Kenneth Shea, Yu Hosino, and colleagues refer to previous research in which they developed a method for making plastic nanoparticles, barely 1/50,000th the width of a human hair, that mimic natural antibodies in their ability to latch onto an antigen. That antigen was melittin, the main toxin in bee venom. They make the antibody with molecular imprinting, a process similar to leaving a footprint in wet concrete. The scientists mixed melittin with small molecules called monomers, and then started a chemical reaction that links those building blocks into long chains, and makes them solidify. When the plastic dots hardened, the researchers leached the poison out. That left the nanoparticles with tiny toxin-shaped craters.

Their new research, together with Naoto Oku’s group of the University Shizuoka Japan, established that the plastic melittin antibodies worked like natural antibodies. The scientists gave lab mice lethal injections of melittin, which breaks open and kills cells. Animals that then immediately received an injection of the melittin-targeting plastic antibody showed a significantly higher survival rate than those that did not receive the nanoparticles. Such nanoparticles could be fabricated for a variety of targets, Shea says. “This opens the door to serious consideration for these nanoparticles in all applications where antibodies are used,” he adds.

Wow!

If you’re up for it, read the original report. The link is just above.

Woman used cruise line job to plan burglaries


And while you’re away…

A former Royal Caribbean Cruise Line employee has been arrested and charged with burglarizing the homes of 24 vacationers who were spending time at sea.

Police in Palm Beach County say the employee accessed personal information about reservations to find out when the vacationers would be away.

Bethsaida Sandoval, 38, a Royal Caribbean vacation planner, has been charged with 24 counts of burglary across Palm Beach County, including Boca Raton, Jupiter and Palm Beach Gardens, Florida. Sandoval’s husband, John Lopez, acted as her accomplice, according to the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office…

People were on vacation, and when they returned home, they found they were burglarized,” said Teri Barbera, a spokeswoman for the sheriff’s office. “One common factor was that they were all on vacation with Royal Caribbean.”

Investigators believe that the burglaries took place on the first night of the cruises, while the homeowners were at sea.

Shouldn’t surprise anyone.

We live in a society and time when I think it’s foolish to notify the Post Office or local law enforcement when you’re going to be away on vacation. We had a couple of deputy sheriffs a couple counties away who specialized in this kind of burglary.

Just one more thing to worry about.