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Israel Capitulates: Palestinian Hunger Striker Khader Adnan Avoids Death by Starvation

© Carlos Latuff
The human rights victory draws sharp attention to Israel's politics.

International media attention over the hunger strike of a Palestinian father named Khader Adnan, has opened the world's eyes once again to the Jewish state's unbalanced sense of political justice.

After refusing food for more than 66 days, Mr. Adnan's attorneys finally reached an agreement with the Israeli government, and unless these officials have any other tricks up their sleeves, he will be released on 17 April, which ironically, is 'Prisoner's Day' in Palestine; all the while never having been charged.

The incredible image below that was posted on Twitter, expresses in visual terms, the story of dedicated, political hunger. This is not the 'power-hungry' political aspiration we know so well in America, but a political act where the desire to refrain from eating itself... is what becomes insatiable. This act of sacrifice, almost always conducted behind bars, has moved mountains, ending suffering and strife on a wide scale. Starvation for the benefit of others is the act of Khader Adnan.

How does it feel to live in a country that supports rules in another country, that Hitler would be proud of? What country you say...? Sadly, the answer is Israel.


Canada: U.S. Law Panel Urges Harper to Avoid 'Costly Failure' of Mandatory Minimum Pot Punishments

Stephen Harper
© Reuters/Chris Wattie
Stephen Harper
A high-profile group of current and former U.S. law enforcement officials has sent a letter to the Harper government with a surprising message: Take it from us, the war on drugs has been a "costly failure."

The officials are urging the Canadian government to reconsider mandatory minimum sentences for "minor" marijuana offences under its "tough-on-crime bill" and said a better approach would be to legalize marijuana under a policy of taxation and regulation.

"We are ... extremely concerned that Canada is implementing mandatory minimum sentencing legislation for minor marijuana-related offences similar to those that have been such costly failures in the United States," the letter reads. "These policies have bankrupted state budgets as limited tax dollars pay to imprison non-violent drug offenders at record rates instead of programs that can actually improve community safety."

The letter was signed by more than two dozen current and former judges, police officers, special agents, drug investigators and other members of the advocacy group Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.


UK: Tony Blair's Wife Cherie Sues News Corp., Convicted Phone-Hacker Mulcaire

Tony Balir, Cherie Blair
© unknown
Tony Blair with wife Cherie Blair
Former U.K. Prime Minister Tony Blair's wife Cherie sued News Corp. (NWSA) and a former private investigator for its now-defunct News of the World tabloid for hacking into her phone.

The lawsuit, filed Feb. 21 against the company's U.K. unit and Glenn Mulcaire, comes as News Corp. prepares for the first civil trial over the scandal, scheduled to start next week in London. The company has already settled phone-hacking claims by Blair's former press chief, Alastair Campbell, and former Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott.

News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch shuttered the News of the World in July in a bid to contain public anger after it was revealed the tabloid hacked into the voice mails of a murdered schoolgirl. While most of the current lawsuits have settled, the company may face claims by more than 800 possible victims identified by police.

"If it is true that a former prime minister's family have been targeted by Rupert Murdoch's hackers, then it is clearly a significant moment in the scandal," Tom Watson, a Labour Party lawmaker who is on a parliamentary committee investigating the scandal, said in an e-mail.

A message left with the press office of News Corp.'s U.K. unit, News International, wasn't immediately returned. Mulcaire's lawyer, Sarah Webb, didn't immediately return a call seeking comment. Mulcaire was jailed in 2007 for hacking phones of members of Britain's royal family.


Journalists Among Dozens Killed as Bombing Continues in Syrian city of Homs

© unknown
 French photographer Remi Ochlik and American journalist Marie Colvin were killed in Homs, activists and a French government spokeswoman said.
Syrian forces continued to bombard the city of Homs on Wednesday, as international outrage at the growing death toll increased pressure on the government of President Bashar al-Assad ahead of a meeting of world leaders Friday to discuss the crisis.

Ignoring the International Committee of the Red Cross's call for daily two-hour cease-fires to allow medicine and food into civilian areas that are increasingly deprived of basic supplies, Syrian authorities defiantly asserted Wednesday that terrorist groups and sanctions were responsible for any lack of medical care.

Among dozens of people reported killed Wednesday in Homs, a center of opposition to Assad and a target of intermittent heavy artillery fire for almost three weeks, were journalist Marie Colvin of Britain's Sunday Times and photojournalist Remi Ochlik from France.

The two, who had traveled into Syria without official permission, were killed and three other reporters were injured when a hail of missiles hit the house in which they were working Wednesday morning. Their deaths came less than a week after the demise of award-winning New York Times correspondent Anthony Shadid, from an apparent asthma attack, in northern Syria and a little more than a month after French journalist Gilles Jacquier died in violence in Homs.

Comment: To get a better picture of what's really going on in Syria, please read the Sott Focus "Syria's Bloody CIA Revolution - A Distraction?"


Venezuela's Chavez Says His Cancer is Likely Back

Hugo Chavez
© Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
Hugo Chavez
President Hugo Chavez has raised serious doubts about whether he'll have the stamina for a successful re-election bid, revealing that he needs to return to Cuba to have a lesion removed that is probably malignant.

Chavez was meeting with top aides today to plan for his absence while expressions of support poured in from his allies around the region.

Venezuela's foreign ministry said Chavez had received messages of concern from Presidents Daniel Ortega of Nicaragua, Francisco Mujica of Uruguay, Evo Morales of Bolivia and Cristina Fernandez of Argentina.

Chavez told Venezuelans yesterday that doctors in Cuba had over the weekend found a two-centimetre (less than an inch) lesion is in the same place where they removed a cancerous tumour last year.

The socialist president, who hopes to extend his 13 years in power with another six year term in the October 7 elections, said he will likely need radiation therapy.


Assassination Attempt on Abkhazia President Fails

Alexander Ankvab
© The Associated Press/Mikhail Metzel
Alexander Ankvab
Unidentified assassins tried Wednesday to kill the president of Abkhazia, a Russian-backed rebel Georgian enclave, employing automatic rifles, grenade launchers and a powerful roadside bomb in an assault that raised fresh questions about Moscow's ability to preserve order there.

The president, Alexander Ankvab, survived the attack without injury, but at least one bodyguard died and two more were seriously wounded. It was the sixth attempt on Ankvab's life in less than a decade, a testament to the volatility of Abkhazia.

Reached by telephone at his office in Abkhazia's capital, Ankvab's voice was faint and shaky.

"I'm sorry, I can't talk right now, especially about this topic," he said. The attack was likely to provoke new anxiety in Moscow, which has been struggling to damper recent political tremors in Abkhazia and another breakaway Georgian enclave, South Ossetia.

Officials in Abkhazia had no immediate information on possible suspects in the attack. Ankvab took office in August and immediately began a campaign against criminal groups that he alleged had infiltrated government agencies.

Evil Rays

Britain at Risk From EMP Attack From Space, MPs Warn

Russian Topol-12M mobile nuclear missile
© Reuters
A Russian Topol-12M mobile nuclear missile.
Britain's critical national infrastructure could be crippled in a high-altitude space attack by a rogue state or terrorists, MPs have warned.

A nuclear device detonated up to 500 miles above the earth's surface could generate an electro-magnetic pulse (EMP) with a "devastating" effect on power supplies, telecommunications and other vital systems, the Commons Defence Committee said.

It warned that countries such as Iran - which is resisting international pressure to end its nuclear programme - and even eventually some "non-state actors" could acquire the technology to mount such an attack, in a scenario akin to the plot of the 1995 James Bond film GoldenEye.

Terrorists could also build a "crude" non-nuclear EMP weapon, with the power to cause disruption over a more limited area.

But despite the vulnerability of the UK to such an attack, the committee accused the Ministry of Defence of appearing "complacent" and "unwilling to take these threats seriously".

It said ministers should start work on "hardening" the infrastructure to protect against an EMP attack "as a matter of urgency".


Russia Warns Against 'Hasty Conclusions' Over Iran

© The Associated Press/Ronald Zak
Herman Nackaerts, Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Safeguards of the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA, is interviewed as he arrives after his flight from Iran at Vienna's Schwechat airport, Austria, on Wednesday Feb. 22, 2012.
Russia said Wednesday the world should not draw "hasty conclusions" over Iran's most recent rebuff of U.N. attempts to investigate allegations the Islamic Republic hid secret work on atomic arms, but the U.S. and its allies accused Tehran of nuclear defiance.

Under international pressure to show restraint, Israel, which has warned repeatedly that it may strike Iran's nuclear facilities, pointedly urged major world powers to mind their own business, saying it alone would decide what to do to protect the Jewish state's security.

France said Iran's continued stonewalling of the International Atomic Energy Agency "is contrary to the intentions" expressed by Tehran in its recent offer to restart talks over its nuclear activities.

In Washington, White House spokesman Jay Carney said while world powers have not yet reached a decision on those talks, Iran's refusal to cooperate with the investigation "suggests that they have not changed their behavior when it comes to abiding by their international obligations."

The IAEA's acknowledgment of renewed failure came early Wednesday at the conclusion of the second trip in less then a month aimed at investigating suspicions of covert Iranian nuclear weapons work.

The IAEA team had hoped to speak with key Iranian scientists suspected of working on the alleged weapons program, break down opposition to their plans to inspect documents related to nuclear work and secure commitments from Iranian authorities to allow future visits.


Mom Visits Amir Hekmati, Former US Marine Sentenced to Death in Iran

© ABC News
Mom Visits Amir Hekmati, Former US Marine Sentenced to Death in Iran
The mother of the former U.S. Marine sentenced to death in Iran was allowed to visit her son, who she said looked gaunt and terrified on death row.

Amir Hekmati's mother, Benhaz, went to Tehran in late January, according to a report posted late Tuesday by The New York Times, three weeks after an Iranian court sentenced the 28-year-old Arizona-raised Iranian-American to death for "cooperating for a hostile country... and spying for the CIA."

"While he is disappointed by the circumstances he finds himself in, he is hopeful that the truth will be known and he will be able to come home very soon," Hekmati's mother said in a statement, according to The Times. She described the Iranian officials she met as "hospitable" and "respectful," but said her son looked thinner and shocked by his ordeal.

Hekmati's family has publicly maintained Hekmati's innocence, as first voiced by his father to ABC News in an exclusive interview before the death sentence came down.

"My son is no spy. He is innocent. He's a good fellow, a good citizen, a good man," Hekmati said in December. "These are all unfounded allegations and a bunch of lies."

Bad Guys

US: New York Police Department monitored Muslim students all over Northeast

© Ted Shaffrey - Associated Press
This Thursday, Feb. 16, 2012 photo shows Jawad Rasul near the City College of New York where he is a student. Rasul’s name ended up in a New York Police Department report after an undercover officer accompanied him and other Muslim students on a whitewater rafting trip in upstate New York.
New York - One autumn morning in Buffalo, N.Y., a college student named Adeela Khan logged into her email and found a message announcing an upcoming Islamic conference in Toronto.

Khan clicked "forward," sent it to a group of fellow Muslims at the University at Buffalo, and promptly forgot about it.

But that simple act on Nov. 9, 2006, was enough to arouse the suspicion of an intelligence analyst at the New York Police Department, 300 miles away, who combed through her post and put her name in an official report. Marked "SECRET" in large red letters, the document went all the way to Commissioner Raymond Kelly's office.

The report, along with other documents obtained by The Associated Press, reveals how the NYPD's intelligence division focused far beyond New York City as part of a surveillance program targeting Muslims.

Police trawled daily through student websites run by Muslim student groups at Yale, the University of Pennsylvania, Rutgers and 13 other colleges in the Northeast. They talked with local authorities about professors in Buffalo and even sent an undercover agent on a whitewater rafting trip, where he recorded students' names and noted in police intelligence files how many times they prayed.

Asked about the monitoring, police spokesman Paul Browne provided a list of 12 people arrested or convicted on terrorism charges in the United States and abroad who had once been members of Muslim student associations, which the NYPD referred to as MSAs. They included Jesse Morton, who this month pleaded guilty to posting online threats against the creators of the animated TV show South Park. He had once tried to recruit followers at Stony Brook University on Long Island, Browne said.