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Fri, 31 Mar 2023
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Israeli PM orders eviction of Palestinian activists outside Jerusalem

© Photograph: Baz Ratner/Reuters
The tent village in the area known as E1, near Jerusalem.
Move follows creation of village comprising around 20 tents on piece of land earmarked for settlement development.

The Israeli state has swung into action against a group of Palestinian activists who set up a tent village on a rocky hillside east of Jerusalem, with the prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, ordering the military to evict the protesters and impose a closed military zone in the area.

Netanyahu demanded the Israeli supreme court overturn an injunction preventing the removal of the protesters, and ordered the closure of access roads in the area pending a full-scale evacuation.

Around 200 Palestinian activists set up the village, named Bab al-Shams ('gate of the sun') and comprising around 20 tents, early on Friday morning on a highly sensitive swath of land known as E1 which Israel has earmarked for settlement development. The protesters' actions echoed the tactics of radical settlers when establishing wildcat outposts in the West Bank.

In a statement, the protesters said: "We, the sons and daughters of Palestine, declare the founding of the village Bab al-Shams, by order of the people, without permission from the occupation, or any other body, because this land is ours, as is the right to build on it."


French soldier killed in Somalia commando raid

© Ian Langsdon/European Pressphoto Agency
Jean-Yves Le Drian, the French defense minister, at press conference in Paris on Saturday.
As French forces continued air and ground operations in support of the government of Mali, French special forces failed early Saturday in a hostage rescue mission in southern Somalia.

At least one French commando died in the raid along with 17 of the Shabab militiamen who were holding the hostage, whose fate is unclear, France's defense minister, Jean-Yves Le Drian, said.

Mr. Le Drian insisted that the rescue mission, on the eastern edge of the continent, far from Mali, was unconnected to French military action against Islamist radicals who were threatening to seize more of Mali, but Islamist groups holding up to eight French hostages in northern Africa have threatened to kill them if the French intervene militarily on the continent.

The Somalia operation was carried out by the D.G.S.E. intelligence agency to rescue one of its own, an agent using the name Denis Allex, who was taken hostage July 14, 2009, from a hotel in the Somali capital, Mogadishu. He was working as a security consultant to the transitional government in Somalia, the French said.


China mysteriously quadruples rice imports, continues to stockpile commodities

Yesterday, it was reported that China - not currently suffering from any food shortages - is amassing rice stockpiles. This past year, the country mysteriously imported four times the rice over 2011 purchases:
United Nations agricultural experts are reporting confusion, after figures show that China imported 2.6 million tons of rice in 2012, substantially more than a four-fold increase over the 575,000 tons imported in 2011. The confusion stems from the fact that there is no obvious reason for vastly increased imports, since there has been no rice shortage in China. The speculation is that Chinese importers are taking advantage of low international prices, but all that means is that China's own vast supplies of domestically grown rice are being stockpiled. Why would China suddenly be stockpiling millions of tons of rice for no apparent reason? Perhaps it's related to China's aggressive military buildup and war preparations in the Pacific and in central Asia.


Weekly anti-nuclear rallies resume in central Tokyo

© Satoru Ogawa
Anti-nuclear protesters outside the prime minister's office in Tokyo on Jan. 11, the first rally this year.
In their first mass protest this year, anti-nuclear protesters rallied outside the prime minister's office Jan. 11 and denounced the Shinzo Abe administration for failing to commit to reducing Japan's reliance on nuclear energy.

Organizers of the Friday-evening rallies, which began in March 2012 and were held throughout the year, say the protests will continue.

"Abe is putting economic measures first, but those who benefit from spending on public works will be general contractors," said 61-year-old Osamu Ishigaki from Yokohama, who joined the rally straight from work. "Investing in renewable energy would offer better prospects for the overall economy."

War Whore

Inside the terror factory

© Illustration: Jeffrey Smith
Award-winning journalist Trevor Aaronson digs deep into the FBI's massive efforts to create fake terrorist plots.

Editor's note: This story is adapted from The Terror Factory, Trevor Aaronson's new book documenting how the Federal Bureau of Investigation has built a vast network of informants to infiltrate Muslim communities and, in some cases, cultivate phony terrorist plots. The book grew from Aaronson's award-winning Mother Jones cover story "The Informants" and his research in the Investigative Reporting Program at the University of California-Berkeley.

Quazi Mohammad Nafis was a 21-year-old student living in Queens, New York, when the US government helped turn him into a terrorist.

His transformation began on July 5, when Nafis, a Bangladeshi citizen who'd come to the United States on a student visa that January, shared aspirations with a man he believed he could trust. Nafis told this man in a phone call that he wanted to wage jihad in the United States, that he enjoyed reading Al Qaeda propaganda, and that he admired "Sheikh O," or Osama bin Laden. Who this confidant was and how Nafis came to meet him remain unclear; what we know from public documents is that the man told Nafis he could introduce him to an Al Qaeda operative.

It was a hot, sunny day in Central Park on July 24 when Nafis met with Kareem, who said he was with Al Qaeda. Nafis, who had a slight build, mop of black hair, and a feebly grown beard, told Kareem that he was "ready for action."

"What I really mean is that I don't want something that's, like, small," Nafis said. "I just want something big. Something very big. Very, very, very, very big, that will shake the whole country."

Nafis said he wanted to bomb the New York Stock Exchange, and with help from his new Al Qaeda contact, he surveilled the iconic building at 11 Wall Street. "We are going to need a lot of TNT or dynamite," Nafis told Kareem. But Nafis didn't have any explosives, and, as court records indicate, he didn't know anyone who could sell him explosives, let alone have the money to purchase such materials. His father, a banker in Bangladesh, had spent his entire life savings to send Nafis to the United States after his son, who was described to journalists as dim by people who knew him in his native country, had flunked out of North South University in Bangladesh.

Eye 2

CIA drones have already killed at least 40 since the start of the year

© AFP Photo/S.S Mirza
Pakistani demonstrators shout anti-US slogans during a protest in Multan on January 8, 2013, against the drone attacks in Pakistan's tribal areas.
The CIA has escalated its use of drones in Pakistan, launching seven deadly strikes during the first 10 days of 2013 and killing at least 40 people, 11 of which may have been civilians.

The flurry of strikes has raised speculation that the Obama administration is accelerating attacks in the wake of the 2014 withdrawal from Afghanistan, in fear of losing the capacity to carry them out.

In 2012, the US launched 43 drone strikes in Pakistan with an average 7 to 8 days between strikes. At the current rate, the US is set to kill far more people than last year.

This year's drone attacks have so far done little to spare civilians: the Long War Journal found that US drones have killed at least 11 civilians since Jan. 1, which exceeds the number of civilians US officials say were killed in all of 2012.

US intelligence officials claim the increase in drone strikes is an initiative to take out as many possible opponents of the Afghan government because of the looming 2014 withdrawal of 66,000 US troops.

Red Flag

Drones over New York? NYPD chief admits he's interested in an UAV

© Reuters/AAI Corporation
The head of the New York City Police Department announced this week that the largest local law enforcement agency in the United States might soon rely on spy drones for conducting surveillance.

During an open conversation held Thursday between Reuters editor-in-chief Stephen Adler and NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, the chief of police confirmed that New York's boys in blue aren't entirely opposed to acquiring an unmanned aerial vehicle for the sake of security.

"We're looking into it," Kelly reportedly told an audience at the 92nd Street Y Thursday evening. "Anything that helps us."

Jill Colvin, a producer for the website DNAinfo, says Kelly told his crowd that adding an UAV to their arsenal of surveillance tools could come in handy during future mass protests in the Big Apple. For starters, she reports, Kelly said cops could begin with using basic civilian models that are available for purchase online and in stores.

"You can go to Brookstone and buy a drone," Kelly told the crowd.

Comment: It's almost certain that New York City, and other large metropolitan areas, already have drones flying over them surveilling Americans. This is just an attempt to either do it publicly or to float it to the press to gauge the response of the public. Either way, this is already happening and whether or not they publicly admit it isn't going to change the fact that Americans are spied on by their government every day.


Military punishes service members involved in Colombia prostitution scandal

The U.S. military's Southern Command on Friday said it had handed down non-judicial punishments for three of the dozen noncommissioned officers involved in a prostitution scandal during President Obama's April trip to Cartagena, Colombia.

All three service members were reprimanded for relations with prostitutes, and one of the cases involved adultery, according to a command press release.

The command said it will dock two months base pay from two of the soldiers, both of whom also received letters of reprimand and 45 days of extra duties.


Report: Navy uniforms very flammable, top officials have known

© Photo credit – MOHD RASFAN/AFP/GettyImages
The Virginian-Pilot reports that the U.S. Navy’s standard uniforms are very flammable, and that the top military brass has been aware
A recent test of the U.S. Navy's standard-issue blue camouflage uniforms found they are extremely flammable and will melt onto the skin if burning - and the Navy brass allegedly were aware of this danger.

The Virginian-Pilot reports that Navy officials released findings of a December test that found their standard uniforms are not designated flame-resistant, and will burn "robustly until completely consumed" when subjected to flames.

"We knew when we designed this uniform that it wasn't flame-resistant," Rear Adm. John Kirby, the Navy's top spokesman, told the paper. "When we were making the uniform, sailors wanted a uniform that was comfortable, that didn't require maintenance and would stand up under a lot of washing, and one of the ways to get that is a nylon-cotton blend."

Kirby added that there was no requirement for a fire-resistant uniform in the Navy's working environment.


Federal judge approves agreement to overhaul troubled New Orleans Police Department against City wishes

A federal judge Friday approved a long-awaited consent decree to reform the New Orleans Police Department, but the far-reaching and expensive agreement is already running into objections by the city.

Buried in the "order and reasons" issued by U.S. District Judge Susie Morgan is a note that the city intends to seek relief from the 123-page agreement.

"The City has informed the court that it intends to file a motion seeking relief from the judgment entered in connection with this order under the Federal Rules of Procedure," Morgan wrote.

The parties to the consent decree gathered in Morgan's chambers today to finalize the agreement, but according to multiple sources, objections by the city were set in motion before the ink was dry on Morgan's signature.

"The judge signed the consent decree, but under very, very difficult circumstances," Mayor Mitch Landrieu said. "It's not a done deal." (See Landrieu's full statement)