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Right-To-Life Party, Christian, Anti-War, Pro-Life, Bible Fundamentalist, Egalitarian, Libertarian Left

Friday, December 31, 2004

Tsunami Survivors Face Serious Disease Risks - Doctors

Some Diseases Threatening Tsunami Survivors

HONG KONG (Reuters) - Survivors of the deadliest tsunami on record face serious water-borne diseases such as cholera, and will urgently need medicine and access to healthcare in the months ahead, doctors and health experts said on Friday.

Gandhimathi Jayaraman, a doctor with the Red Cross tending survivors in some of India's worst-hit areas, said while clean, safe water was now available to some people displaced by the tsunami, the real test would be in the months ahead.

"Now, a lot of small relief groups are taking care of them, it's like a honeymoon period. But when interest of the public wanes, then comes the problem," she told Reuters by telephone.

Gandhimathi was in the tsunami-ravaged district of Nagapattinam in Tamil Nadu this week, where about 25,000 people are now housed in seven shelters. She had not seen large outbreaks of disease but said it was only a matter of time.

"When these people restart their lives, definitely, viral diseases and other diseases through water contamination will increase. Everywhere is flooded, water is contaminated, it has taken along with it, everything in its way, including sewage," she said.

A 9.0 magnitude undersea quake off the Indonesian island of Sumatra on Sunday triggered a tsunami that slammed into Indonesia, India, Thailand, Sri Lanka, Malaysia and countries as far away as Africa, killing more that 126,000 people. Thousands of others are missing.

Many more are displaced and in India, Indonesia and Sri Lanka, survivors are most threatened by water-borne, gastrointestinal illnesses such as cholera, typhoid and hepatitis as well as infections from E. coli and salmonella, doctors say.

A growing threat is gastroenteritis, an intestinal infection caused by ingesting dirty food or water. Victims suffer diarrhoea, vomitting and dehydration, which could be fatal in the elderly and children.


"Gastroenteritis can be rapidly fatal for children. In absolute terms, children have very little water, so when they lose water, suffer diarrhoea, they can go into irreversible shock," said Fok Tai-fai, a paediatrician and dean of the Chinese University's medical school in Hong Kong.

"When refugees go back home, they should have safe drinking water and proper sanitation systems. That has broken down in many places," said Gandhimathi.

Fok called for the provision of antibiotics, which are necessary because survivors, weakened and probably malnourished, were susceptible to infections brought on by minor wounds.
He also warned of the outbreak of measles, of which there are already cases reported in Sri Lanka.

"Doctors are necessary, but without support, there is nothing a doctor can do. We need antibiotics, clean water, clothing, food, these are most important," Fok said.

Henry Yeung of the Hong Kong Doctors' Union warned of dengue fever in warmer places because dirty water will attract mosquitos.

"We need preventive measures, things like clothing, mosquito nets and coils," he said.

Tan Ee Lyn
© Reuters 2004. All Rights Reserved.

Not a Good Way to Start a Democracy

Serious questions must be asked about US influence in Ukraine

The core of democracy is tolerance of other people's views. Whether it is Rosa Luxemburg's call for respecting the "freedom of people who think differently" or Winston Churchill's pride in British parliamentary debate, left and right agree on this principle.
Alas, it is not much on display in Kiev. Egged on by their favourite, Viktor Yushchenko, crowds have been blocking the main government building and doing all they can to humiliate his rival, prime minister Viktor Yanukovich. Their man won the presidential election, but where is the respect for constitutional procedures they claim to support?

In a minuscule way, I felt the same intolerance when I criticised the street protests in these columns a month ago. The flood of ferocious emails, mainly from Yushchenko fans, exceeded the response to anything I had written before.

Although my article said Yushchenko would probably be a better president than Yanukovich and urged the EU to open its doors to Ukraine immediately (views that most of the Kiev protesters held), it caused outrage. I had dared to suggest that Yanukovich's voters were as genuine as Yushchenko's, and that Yushchenko's backers included oligarchs who had enriched themselves at the state's expense. Above all, it drew attention to the degree of funding by the US and other western governments for the campaign.

The more polite emailers made the point that the vast crowds in Kiev's streets were fed up with corruption and electoral cheating, and foreign funding was irrelevant. Others claimed I had been bribed. Many were viciously anti-Russian (anti-Russianism is as unpleasant as anti-Americanism in my book). But the overwhelming reaction was a crude tone of "If you're not with us, you're against us". It tolerated no criticism, nuance or scope for reasoned disagreement. In short, no democracy.

In spite of the anger it provoked, the article had benefits. It seemed to prompt a more balanced and less romantic tone in some foreign reporting. A few people went to listen to the hopes and fears of people in Donetsk and other non-Yushchenko areas. After all, assuming last Sunday's vote was free, 44% voted for Yanukovich - not exactly a trivial minority that can be swept aside by the political Darwinists who dismiss their opponents as "post-Soviet hold-outs and nostalgics" who will soon die off.

Best of all, the piece was followed by a belated discussion of the role of foreign governments in elections. The way the US has exploited and financed "people's power", first in the Philippines in 1986, to a lesser extent in eastern Europe in 1989, and strongly in Serbia, Georgia, and Ukraine since 1999, came under the spotlight.

As with "humanitarian interventionism", which was much debated in the 90s, "electoral interventionism" needs to be thrashed out. Why is so much of it selective? Why do western governments (for they are the prime interferers) that claim to be fostering democracy take only one side, rather than being above the fray? Why are only certain countries picked? Georgia, but not Azerbaijan. Serbia, but not Croatia. Zimbabwe, but not Egypt.

Of course, it is a travesty to suggest, as some commentators do, that critics of this interventionism support dictators, despise their courageous opponents, or are ideological cynics. The issue is how foreign power is used and with what motives. More constructively, we ought to discuss alternatives.

Calling for transparency and for "spies to keep out", as Timothy Garton Ash did in these pages recently, is not enough. The whole idea that foreign governments, with or without their intelligence agencies, should be involved so directly in choosing targets has to be questioned.

The major role should go to the United Nations. For all its flaws, including the fact that it is often manipulated by the big powers itself, the UN is the only international institution with credible impartiality. Can it be empowered to work through a genuinely representative management board to foster electoral practice around the world? Will the west give money, but not insist on control?

The Stockholm-based International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance also has a reputation for fairness. It needs better funding. The Council for Europe could do more. There are many options, but the key point is this: democracy is too important to be left to individual governments with special agendas.

Jonathan Steele
Friday December 31, 2004
The Guardian

UN Asks Israel to Stop Violating Lebanese Airspace

Israeli warplanes flew over large parts of Lebanon on Thursday, the Lebanese Army said, prompting the United Nations to again urge the Jewish state to stop sending its military aircraft over this Arab country in breach of the UN-drawn Lebanese-Israeli border.

Three Israeli fighter jets flew for about 45 minutes over areas in eastern and southern Lebanon, Mount Lebanon and Beirut before returning to Israel at 12:05 p.m. (1005 GMT), a Lebanese Army statement said. It was unclear if Lebanese military forces fired on the jets.

A Lebanese army spokesman, speaking on condition of anonymity, said 13 Israeli warplanes have violated Lebanese airspace in the past three days.

The Israeli military declined to comment on the reports.

The United Nations expressed "deep concern" over the repeated Israeli air violations of the Blue Line, a reference to the Lebanese-Israeli border drawn by the world body following Israel's troop withdrawal from southern Lebanon in 2000.

A "large number" of Israeli aerial violations of the Blue Line took place Wednesday, said a statement issued in Beirut by UN envoy Staffan de Mistura, the personal representative of the UN secretary general for southern Lebanon.

The statement reiterated the United Nations' call on Israel "to halt these violations of the Blue Line and reminds all parties that one violation cannot justify another."

Since Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon, Israeli planes have frequently violated Lebanese airspace on reconnaissance missions, drawing anti-aircraft fire from the Lebanese army and anti-Israeli Hezbollah guerrillas.

In response to repeated Israeli air violations, Hezbollah, a Shiite Muslim group backed by Iran and Syria, on Nov. 7 sent its first unmanned reconnaissance drone into Israeli territory, flying over Jewish towns.


Israeli hubris vs. the US

DUBAI -- The latest spy tale in Washington, DC, involving Larry Franklin, an intelligence analyst at the Defense Department, and some of Israel's most important lobbyists in America, is becoming deeper by the week.

Spy stories are always like that, but this one packs an intricate tale of a trusted ally betraying America, a White House intent on using the misstep to leverage its influence, and an American intelligence community that feels it has been made to wear horns. Clearly Israel has aroused the formidable bull and will be made to pay a price. One can speculate from what we already know.

It started in late July this year, when a Catholic Pentagon analyst, Franklin, telephoned a Jewish acquaintance of his who worked at a pro-Israel lobbying group, the very influential American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

The two men knew each other professionally. They spoke of US policies on Iran and Iraq periodically. That call was monitored by American intelligence authorities who did not like what they heard, and it led to a chain of events including an investigation of passing secret intelligence information to Israel via intermediaries.

A report recently published by The Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA) asserts that matters have progressed to a point that a grand jury investigation is underway and may lead to the indictment of several prominent Jewish lobbyists in the United States on charges of passing secret information to Israel.

Other reports and leaks published in the US media suggest that Franklin has been singing like a canary under questioning and has agreed to deliver facts and testimony against pro-Israeli lobbyist friends in return for some leniency.

Still more reports suggest that he was all along a plant, a tool, used by the American intelligence community to ensnare the Israelis and their network of spies among the vast community of 52 American Jewish organizations totally devoted to control American Middle East policies for the benefit of Israel.

The JTA report speaks of some serious damage already done. It states: "With senior officials at America's top pro-Israel organization facing the specter of federal indictments, staffers at other groups are beginning to waver in their support and are warning that the mounting legal scandal could damage the political credibility of the entire Jewish community."

You see, there is an iron-clad agreement that Israel shall never spy on its best friend and greatest financial backer in the world, America, particularly as American intelligence cooperates broadly with Israeli intelligence for free.

But whenever greed and hubris take over, Israelis have gotten themselves and their friends in trouble. With this particular White House of George W. Bush, which takes no prisoners, the price Israel may be forced to pay is make some concession to the Palestinians.

Immediately after his re-election, Bush said he had "accumulated enough capital" in his first term that he plans to use it in his second term to advance the peace process between Israelis and Palestinians.

Among other things, he may indeed have been hinting, friends in the intelligence community tell me, at the "Franklin" affair.

Bush does not need to have an outcome to this investigation. He just needs to have a process whereby accusations keep hanging in the air, while he demands to cash in his capital. Bush is like that. He plays hard, even with friends. Even with Israel.

As usual, Israel is denying all charges, which is a mistake because in espionage and affairs of state, it is very important to manage a catastrophe once it has happened, not go into denial.

At the moment, the US intelligence community - including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency and other counter-spying organizations - are going for a kill, knowing their president needs to hold cards in hand against friends and foes.

For these guys this is also payback time, especially as the Israelis are once again caught with their hands inside American top-secret files.

The fierceness of their response was demonstrated back in 1985, when Jonathan Pollard, a Jewish American naval intelligence analyst, was arrested he was crying like a baby at the gate of the Israeli Embassy in Washington, DC Pollard had been an Israeli agent, meeting with Israeli handlers for years supplying super-secret documents from naval intelligence. When he was caught, and sought refuge with his wife, the Israelis would not even open the door for him in his hour of need. He was dragged away screaming and kicking, with his wife, to jail.

Pollard is now serving a life sentence without parole as a spy. Two American presidents, Bill Clinton and the current George Bush, have firmly rejected repeated Israeli and Jewish lobby requests to pardon him. The US intelligence community has said, "No way." Scores of petitions and websites offering daily support and calls for a pardon have not made a dent in this seemingly iron will. And intelligence sources, to make sure Pollard stays in jail, periodically leak reminders to their media friends that he has done irreparable harm to the vital interests of the United States.

The real message to Israel and its supporters is: "Thou shall not spy against America." It seems to be the same message being delivered now over the Franklin affair to American Jewish Organizations.

But the episode also appears to have become a bargaining chip that the White House and the intelligence community will squeeze like a lemon to get Israeli concessions with the full support from a chastised American Jewish lobby. If no such support is forthcoming, the administration seems to signal more investigations, a trial, indictments etc.

Stay tuned.

Youssef M. Ibrahim, a former Middle East correspondent for the New York Times and energy editor of the Wall Street Journal, is managing director of the Dubai-based Strategic Energy Investment Group.

Acknowledgement to Gulf News

Justice Issues Rewritten Memo on Torture

WASHINGTON (AP) — A prisoner doesn't have to undergo excruciating pain to be considered a victim of torture, the Justice Department now says. But it's not clear whether this revised, broader definition of torture will change the treatment of foreign detainees.
The White House says the new Justice Department memo defining torture doesn't reflect a change in policy because the administration has always abided by international laws that prohibit the mistreatment of detainees. (Memo: Legal Standards On Torture)

And critics of the administration, while welcoming the memo, dated Thursday, say policies that seemed to condone abuse of prisoners in Iraq or Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, have already done their damage.

"They've been down there for three years and they've squeezed everything out of these people, despite saying that they were treating them humanely," Mary Cheh, a constitutional law professor at George Washington University, said of those detained in Cuba.

The memo's biggest impact could be on next week's Senate confirmation hearings for chief White House counsel Alberto Gonzales, who was nominated by President Bush to replace John Ashcroft as attorney general.

Gonzales and other administration lawyers wrote memos that said the president's wartime powers superseded anti-torture laws and treaties. Human rights advocates say those memos effectively condoned abuse and set the stage for the mistreatment of inmates at the Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq and at Guantanamo Bay.

The Justice Department in June specifically disavowed an August 2002 memo to Gonzales that said cruel, inhumane and degrading acts may not be considered torture if they don't produce intense pain and suffering.

That memo was replaced by the Dec. 30 memo from Daniel Levin, acting chief of the Office of Legal Counsel. It opens by bluntly stating: "Torture is abhorrent both to American law and values and to international law."

The 17-page memo does not address two of the most controversial assertions in the first memo: that Bush, as commander in chief in wartime, had authority superseding anti-torture laws and that U.S. personnel had legal defenses against criminal liability in such cases.

Levin said those issues need not be considered because they "would be inconsistent with the president's unequivocal directive that United States personnel not engage in torture."

But the new document contradicts the previous version, saying torture need not be limited to pain "equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death."

Instead, the memo concludes that anti-torture laws passed by Congress equate torture with physical suffering "even if it does not involve severe physical pain" but still must be more than "mild and transitory." That can include mental suffering under certain circumstances, but it would not have to last for months or years, as the previous document said.

The White House said Friday that the United States has operated under the spirit of the Geneva Conventions, which prohibit violence, torture and humiliating treatment.

"It has been U.S. policy from the start to treat detainees humanely and in accordance with the Geneva Conventions or under the spirit of the conventions where they do not apply," said White House deputy press secretary Trent Duffy.

Walter Dellinger, who served as acting solicitor general in the Clinton administration, praised the memo's candor. "It expressly corrects what were seen as some of the sloppiest legal analyses of the earlier opinion," he said.

He predicted the opinion "will certainly induce significant caution in the use of interrogation techniques."

Douglas Kmiec, a former legal counsel to President Reagan and the first President Bush, said the new memo "removes any doubt that the president meant what he said" in rejecting torture. He praised Gonzales for having "the courage — even in the face of national embarrassment — to admit error, and correct it" without undermining the president's authority.

But Michael Ratner of the New York Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents some detainees, said the repudiation of the earlier memos makes it clear that Gonzales' nomination should be withdrawn.

"That first memo took us back to the Middle Ages and so it first makes you say, what are we doing putting this guy in as attorney general of the United States," he said.

The American Civil Liberties Union also called for a rigorous review to determine Gonzales' role in the earlier memos and his positions on the use of torture.

"The new memo raises more questions about Mr. Gonzales than it answers," said Anthony D. Romero, ACLU's executive director.

Copyright 2004 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.