Former president of Israel convicted of rape

Demonstrators supporting the women Katsav assaulted
Daylife/AP Photo used by permission

Israel’s former president Moshe Katsav has been found guilty of rape and sexual harassment following a year-long trial, largely held behind closed doors to respect the privacy of the three complainants, all former subordinates.

Political leaders and analysts praised the ruling, saying it showed that the law applied to everyone, including the president. But many expressed shame and embarrassment that a former head of state had been found guilty of such serious offences…

The sexual offences took place during Katsav’s terms as president and as minister of tourism. Complainant A accused him of raping her on two occasions, while complainants H and L accused him of sexual harassment. The verdict confirmed all the three accusations. Katsav was acquitted only of charges that he had harassed a witness…

The rightwing former president has portrayed himself as a victim of ethnic discrimination. Israeli political life has long been dominated by Jews of European origin, while Katsav and many of his supporters are of Middle Eastern origin.

Katsav became the eighth president of Israel in 2000 and was forced to resign in disgrace in July 2007, after the accusations emerged in 2006…

Outside court, women’s rights groups cheered…

The White House, Congress and the State Department ignored the event – as they do with anything negative about the government of Israel.

Research links rise in Falluja birth defects/cancers to US invasion

White phosphorus being used in Falluja

A study examining the causes of a dramatic spike in birth defects in the Iraqi city of Falluja has for the first time concluded that genetic damage could have been caused by weaponry used in US assaults that took place six years ago.

The research, which will be published next week, confirms earlier estimates revealed by the Guardian of a major, unexplained rise in cancers and chronic neural-tube, cardiac and skeletal defects in newborns. The authors found that malformations are close to 11 times higher than normal rates, and rose to unprecedented levels in the first half of this year – a period that had not been surveyed in earlier reports…

“We suspect that the population is chronically exposed to an environmental agent,” said one of the report’s authors, environmental toxicologist Mozhgan Savabieasfahani. “We don’t know what that environmental factor is, but we are doing more tests to find out.”

The report identifies metals as potential contaminating agents afflicting the city – especially among pregnant mothers. “Metals are involved in regulating genome stability,” it says. “As environmental effectors, metals are potentially good candidates to cause birth defects.

The findings are likely to prompt further speculation that the defects were caused by depleted uranium rounds, which were heavily used in two large battles in the city in April and November 2004. The rounds, which contain ionising radiation, are a core component of the armouries of numerous militaries and militias…

The report acknowledges that other battlefield residues may also be responsible for the defects. “Many known war contaminants have the potential to interfere with normal embryonic and foetal development,” the report says. “The devastating effect of dioxins on the reproductive health of the Vietnamese people is well-known….”

The United States has owned up to nothing to help the victims of that environmental poisoning.

The researchers believe that the figures understate what they describe as an epidemic of abnormalities, because a large number of babies in Falluja are born at home with parents reluctant to seek help from authorities…

An epidemic of birth defects is unfolding in Fallujah, Iraq,” said Savabieasfahani. “This is a serious public health crisis that needs global attention. We need independent and unbiased research into the possible causes of this epidemic.

RTFA. Having worked at thwarting the testing and development of DU weapons in New Mexico, I don’t need to be convinced of the dangers of depleted uranium ammo. It’s a pyrophoric metal that burns to dusty completion after ignition leaving it’s deadly structure blowing in the wind.

We lost Billy Taylor…

One of the few advantages of growing up in and around the Big Apple is the music. The most esoteric ethnic music, the world’s greatest classical musicians want to perform there, and more than anything – for me – it’s the center of the jazz universe.

I listened to Billy Taylor in clubs all over NYC, on the radio, the work he did on television. I was also fortunate to have a mutual friend who he’d visit a few times a year – and I would drop everything to hang out and enjoy whatever sessions and dialogue resulted.

Now, another part of the creative world has gone. We have Billy’s music forever. There just won’t be anymore added to that special catalogue of creativity.

Dumb Crook of the Day

A fraudster was caught by police after they found photos of him rolling in piles of bank notes when they searched his home. Plattini Stalone de la Torre Cordoso took a number of photos of himself with wads of cash, including one of him lying back on his bed covered in thousands of pounds.

Other photos – which helped send the 22-year-old to jail for four years – included ones of him lounging around with a laptop with a picture of sports car on it as he surrounded himself with money…

The Brazilian, who made tens of thousands of pounds selling forged passports, was arrested on July 7 this year after a routine stop by officers from British Transport Police (BTP).

Police found him in possession of two forged driving licences and two passports and marched him back to his home in Shadwell, East London, where they uncovered the photos of him surrounded by cash.

They also found equipment used to forge passports, identity cards, and driving licences and also 400 capsules of class C drug Fenproporex…

A police source said…”If he had any sense at all he would never have taken those photos and would have hidden his forging equipment somewhere other than his own flat.

“When he couldn’t give us a straight answer about where he got all the money he knew he was heading to jail.”

Which is obviously where he belongs.

Bankers fail to censor thesis exposing faulty security

A powerful bankers’ association has failed in its attempt to censor a student thesis after complaining that it revealed a loophole in bank card security.

The UK Cards Association, which represents major UK banks and building societies, asked Cambridge University to remove the thesis from its website, but the request was met with a blunt refusal…

The thesis by computer security student Omar Choudary, entitled “The smart card detective: a handheld EMV interceptor”, described a flaw in the chip-and-pin (personal identification number) security system that allows criminals to make fraudulent transactions with a stolen bank card using any pin they care to choose…

But in a reply to the UKCA, Ross Anderson, professor of security engineering at the university’s Computer Laboratory, refused to take down the thesis and said the loopholes had already been disclosed to bankers.

You seem to think we might censor a student’s thesis, which is lawful and already in the public domain, simply because a powerful interest finds it inconvenient. This shows a deep misconception of what universities are and how we work. Cambridge is the University of Erasmus, of Newton and of Darwin; censoring writings that offend the powerful is offensive to our deepest values,” Anderson wrote.

Right on, Professor Anderson!

Because British bankers are too cheap, too lazy, disinclined to fix problems of their own making – they try to censor those who would expose their incompetence at security.

Frankly, I think fear is a great motivator for lazy corporate interests who probably are more concerned about potential lawsuits from customers screwed by their security failure – than openness and discussion in the world of education and research.

Rabbis’ wives call on Jews not to date Arabs


An Israeli group of prominent rabbis’ wives has urged Jewish girls not to date or work with Arabs, underscoring the rising power of the religious Right and fuelling fears of growing racism in the country.

A letter, signed by 27 wives, called on Jewish girls not to go out with Arabs, work with them or perform national service in places where Arabs are employed…

Rabbi Gilad Kariv, the head of Israel’s Reform branch of Judaism, condemned the letter. “Israeli society is falling into a deep, dark pit of racism and xenophobia,” he warned.

Among the women who signed the letter were the wives and daughters of senior rabbis, including the daughter of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the spiritual head of the ultra-Orthodox Shas party, a member of Israel’s coalition government.

The letter was distributed by a group called Lehava (Flames), an organisation influenced by the ideology of Rabbi Meir Kahane, who was elected to Israel’s Knesset parliament in 1984 before his Kach party was outlawed as racist…

The incident is the latest in a series of anti-Arab initiatives by Israel’s religious Right. Earlier this month there was outrage after dozens of municipal rabbis signed a petition urging Jews not to rent or sell homes to non-Jews. The petition was widely condemned, including by Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister. But a poll published this week found that 44 per cent of Israeli Jews supported the rabbis’ call, while 48 per cent were opposed.

Racism and bigotry is always a useful adjunct to fascism. The Israeli government has learned well.

Vatican bank has new rule to combat money laundering

The Vatican will announce new rules to combat financial crime on Thursday as it continues to deal with a money-laundering probe that has seen 23 million euros frozen from its banking institution.

The Vatican said in a statement on Wednesday that Pope Benedict would issue a so-called apostolic letter on combating financial crime, money laundering and the funding of terrorism. The Holy See would create a financial information authority.

The Vatican bank, formally known as the Institution for Religious Works (IOR), has been under investigation for suspected violations of European Union money laundering rules since September. It denies any wrongdoing…

Finance police have frozen 23 million euros of the IOR’s funds held in an account in an Italian bank in Rome after authorities deemed that two transactions were suspicious.

Oh – the rule?

Thou shalt not hire crooks to run the bank!