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Sat, 19 Oct 2019
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Egypt's army detaining and torturing protestors

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Military accused by human rights campaigners of targeting hundreds of anti-government protesters

The Egyptian military has secretly detained hundreds and possibly thousands of suspected government opponents since mass protests against President Hosni Mubarak began, and at least some of these detainees have been tortured, according to testimony gathered by the Guardian.

The military has claimed to be neutral, merely keeping anti-Mubarak protesters and loyalists apart. But human rights campaigners say this is clearly no longer the case, accusing the army of involvement in both disappearances and torture - abuses Egyptians have for years associated with the notorious state security intelligence (SSI) but not the army.

The Guardian has spoken to detainees who say they have suffered extensive beatings and other abuses at the hands of the military in what appears to be an organised campaign of intimidation. Human rights groups have documented the use of electric shocks on some of those held by the army.

Clock

Can Egypt's revolution stay the distance?

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© Associated Press
After 14 days of unrest, the protesting crowds were thinner yesterday morning, although numbers increased later in the day
Increasing signs of normality in parts of Cairo belie a continuing stalemate.

After thirty unbroken years as President of Egypt, it had seemed as if Hosni Mubarak's charmed career was finally coming to an end.

But yesterday, Cairo's famous traffic jams were back. Businesses, shops, and banks were open across the capital. Barack Obama spoke of the "progress" the Egyptian government was making towards reform. And though still in tens of thousands, the numbers at Tahrir Square were probably down on the previous day.

Meanwhile, Mr Mubarak, the great survivor, was using all the guile that has kept him in power for so long to produce a series of sweeteners - including a 15 per cent pay rise for state employees - to widen his public support. He even held the first meeting of his new cabinet: the group he had hastily cobbled together as another means of staving off the end. His regime was doing everything in its power to suggest that things were calm once more. In another symbolically conciliatory move, the regime released Wael Ghonim, a local marketing manager for Google, who is a prominent youth activist involved in the protests and was detained three days after they began.

Eye 2

Holocaust historian says massacre of Egyptian protestors is desirable

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© Yannis Behrakis/Reuters
A young opposition supporter kisses an Egyptian flag as he is carried on his father's shoulders among the crowd in Tahrir Square
A "Holocaust" historian and former Israeli kibbutznik, "Professor David Cesarani, floated the idea of there being a Tiananmen Square-style massacre in Egypt as a way of quelling potential post-Mubarak anarchy.

"And there has been no outrage. No Twitterstorm, no blog-based apoplexy, no heated radio phone-ins. Perhaps talking about the massacre of Egyptians is normal these days.

"Professor Cesarani was asked by Michael Portillo about the 'moral dilemma' of how to deal with what comes after Mubarak. What if it's worse than Mubarak? Should it be crushed?

"Professor Cesarani said that if one takes the 'wholly pragmatic view,' then 'the outcome of a Tiananmen Square-style crackdown is desirable and is predictable.' Because, he said, 'if you allow this popular democratic movement to run on unchecked, you cannot predict what's going to happen. But you can predict probably that after a short, sharp, massive clampdown at huge human cost, there will be a sullen stability.'

"Portillo was startled. 'Quite a lot of people would be quite shocked to hear what you said - that a Tiananmen-style outcome would be desirable.'

"Cesarani responded that, 'The West is no longer weeping that much over Tiananmen Square because we're doing a lot of business with China. So, many business interests would say, quietly, that, perhaps, well the way in which the Chinese managed their transition was preferable.'

"Another panellist, Matthew Taylor, former adviser to Tony Blair and now chief executive of the Royal Society of Arts, later described Cesarani's comments on Tiananmen Square as 'incredibly brave' and said: 'In a way, I can see his argument."

- Brendan O'Neill

Black Cat

The Deepening Mystery of Raymond Davis and Two Slain Pakistani Motorcyclists

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© A. Majeed, AFP/Getty Images
Activists of Shabab-i-Milli Pakistan shout slogans during an anti-U.S. protest against alleged U.S. consulate worker Raymond Davis in Peshawar on February 2, 2011.

The mystery of American Raymond A. Davis, currently imprisoned in the custody of local police in Lahore, Pakistan and charged with the Jan. 27 murder of two young men, whom he allegedly shot eight times with pinpoint accuracy through his car windshield, is growing increasingly murky. Also growing is the anger among Pakistanis that the US is trying to spring him from a Punjab jail by claiming diplomatic immunity. On Feb. 4, there were massive demonstrations, especially in Lahore, demanding that Davis be held for trial, an indication of the level of public anger at talk of granting him immunity.

Davis (whose identity was first denied and later confirmed by the US Embassy in Islamabad), and the embassy have claimed that he was hired as an employee of a US security company called Hyperion Protective Consultants, LLC, which was said to be located at 5100 North Lane in Orlando, Florida. Business cards for Hyperion were found on Davis by arresting officers.

However CounterPunch has investigated and discovered the following information:

First, there is not and never has been any such company located at the 5100 North Lane address. It is only an empty storefront, with empty shelves along one wall and an empty counter on the opposite wall, with just a lone used Coke cup sitting on it. A leasing agency sign is on the window. A receptionist at the IB Green & Associates rental agency located in Leesburg, Florida, said that her agency, which handles the property, part of a desolate-looking strip mall of mostly empty storefronts, has never leased to a Hyperion Protective Consultants. She added, "In fact, until recently, we had for several years occupied that address ourselves."

Camera

Congressman Chris Lee Resigns After Shirtless Photo Posted on Craigslist

Chris Lee
© Gawker.com
A picture of Rep. Chris Lee that he sent in response to a Craigslist ad, according to Gawker.com.

Washington - Rep. Chris Lee, an upstate New York Republican, abruptly resigned from the House of Representatives Wednesday evening after the gossip website Gawker published flirtatious emails he sent to a woman on Craigslist while he was professing to be a divorced lobbyist.

There was no indication Mr. Lee, who is married and has a son, ever met the woman. The woman sent to Gawker the emails and a shirtless picture she said Mr. Lee had emailed her, the website said.

Mr. Lee, a second-term congressman from a district that stretches east from Buffalo along Lake Ontario to the Rochester area, announced he would step down "effective immediately."

Bizarro Earth

US: 'Disgusting' Mess Revealed as Snow Melts in East

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Piles of garbage mixed with snow still line New York streets like this one on Tuesday. Garbage service has been backlogged after the round of storms since Christmas.
The mountains of snow that have covered the Northeastern landscape for the past month and a half are finally melting, revealing oozing lumps of garbage, gaping potholes, bicycles, rat-infested sofas, discarded Christmas trees - even bodies.

More than 57 inches of snow has fallen on New York City this winter, its snowiest January ever, and the story is similar elsewhere around the Northeast. Residents welcomed warmer weather this week before an expected plunge back into the freezer, but they weren't so thrilled about the side effects.

"This is disgusting. I can't tell if it's snow or garbage or some sick other thing," said Karen James, 34, finding discarded bills, paper cups and sludge in the shrinking mound of snow and ice covering her car. "This stinks."

Since a post-Christmas blizzard dumped more than 2 feet of snow on parts of the city, the snow piles have become as familiar as taxis to New Yorkers, forcing pedestrians to weave single-file through snow-packed sidewalks.

Two bodies were found in vehicles last week. In both cases, a passer-by spotted someone slumped over the wheel after snow melted away from the windows. One man was found dead Feb. 1 of an apparent gunshot wound; he had been reported missing a week earlier. And on Friday, a day after he was reported missing, a man was found dead in the driver's seat of a BMW. Authorities believe he may have died of carbon monoxide poisoning.

At least one other body was discovered in the New York area in late January, in a parking lot in West Nyack. The man had been dead of hypothermia for several days before anyone noticed, police said.

The city Sanitation Department is responsible for plowing streets and crosswalks, while residents and businesses are expected to clear sidewalks. After grousing for weeks about the city's failure to plow enough snow, many New Yorkers are now griping about the garbage piles and big pieces of furniture, some crawling with rats.

Newspaper

Arianna Huffington's Ideological Transformation

Did Arianna Huffington just sell out her fellow progressives?

In the literal sense, she undoubtedly has: The sale of Huffington Post to AOL for $315 million (including a large pile of cash going to Huffington herself) means this powerful liberal voice is formally joining the "corporate media" its writers have long disparaged.

There are also some indications that she has sold out in the ideological sense and committed the Huffington Post to joining the mainstream media - the evil "MSM" of "HuffPo" blogger ire. Announcing the deal, she and her new boss went out of their way to say that the new Huffington Post would emphasize things other than the liberal politics on which the brand was built.

AOL Chairman Tim Armstrong said he thinks "Arianna has the same interest we do, which is serving consumers' needs and going beyond the just straight political needs of people." Huffington agreed, boasting that only 15 percent of her eponymous site's traffic is for politics (that's down from 50 percent a couple of years ago), and she emphasized that politics is just one of two dozen "sections," including a new one devoted to covering divorces.

"It's time for all of us in journalism to move beyond left and right," Huffington said Monday on PBS's "NewsHour." "Truly, it is an obsolete way of looking at the problems America is facing."

That is almost exactly what Huffington said in 2000, when she was making her last ideological transformation, from a conservative Republican into a liberal icon. "The old distinctions of right and left, Democrat, Republican, are pretty obsolete," she told Fox News then.

Health

At Gulf oil disaster forum, health problems on dramatic display

When I first saw Paul Doomm at a health forum of Gulf residents in New Orleans, he was flat on his back, gasping for air from a seizure that had suddenly overcome him. His mother, father and 11-year old brother were at his side consoling him in the meeting hall of the First Unitarian Church, trying to keep his head from banging against the hard floor as his body went into convulsions.

His parents, Matthew and Kathy Doomm, a registered nurse, remained calm as they attended to their son. They said the seizures happened several times a day. They had been to 14 hospitals, Kathy explained, but no one could tell them what was causing his seizures. But they wondered about the oil and dispersant polluted water that washed up on their beaches, beaches they avoided but Paul did not.

I felt helpless watching him as he writhed on the floor while his family attended to him with a bag full of medicines and a head rest. They had been through this drill many times before, and they assured everyone he would be fine. As more people gathered around, Paul's seizure began to pass and his family helped him back into his wheelchair. It was a daily ritual, they said. It had already happened during the 200-mile drive from their home in Navarre Beach, FL. They had come all this way hoping to get answers about what was causing their son's uncontrollable seizures. They would go anywhere to get them.

But this was not the last time we would witness Paul's seizures that day.

Watch this video of Paul Doomm's speech during the Truthout for the Gulf health forum in New Orleans. Video shot and provided courtesy of Jerry Cope and Guardians of the Gulf.


Ambulance

Cholera Travels to New York City

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© IStockphoto
Three New Yorkers who traveled to the Dominican Republic for a wedding brought cholera back home with them, city health officials confirmed over the weekend.

The Dominican Republic shares an island with Haiti, where thousands have died from the disease. (The New York Times first reported the cholera news on Sunday.)

WSJ's Health Blog takes a look at the cholera developments. New York is not alone, it turns out: at least two Boston residents came back from a wedding at a Dominican resort with cholera cases last month. The Health Blog's Katherine Hobson explains the connection to Haiti:

Light Sabers

Church of Scientology fires a second salvo against the New Yorker

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The Church of Scientology reacted to today's New Yorker article claiming that the FBI is investigating it for suspected people trafficking with quiet restraint.

Only joking! It's senior staff, who say they are unaware of any investigation and deny all allegations of wrongdoing, have instead hit the gilded roofs of their many properties. This morning, they issued a statement branding the Oscar-winning screenwriter and director Paul Haggis (left), the source of much of the 25,000-word piece, a "disaffected former member" making "sensationalist" claims.

This evening, meanwhile, their spokesman Tommy Davis issued a second statement. This one drew attention to a piece on the affair by AOL security correspondent Allan Lengel. In an easily-overlooked line, buried half way down, Mr Lengell claims that his own FBI sources have informed him that no human-trafficking charges are likely to be filed against the Church, or its leader David Miscavige (right).

A copy of the Davis statement is below. Either the Church of Scientology has discovered a piece of killer evidence here, which will discredit the entire New Yorker article, or... it hasn't. I guess that, some day, the issue will eventually mulled over by a court.

I've no idea how Mr Lengel will react to being thrown to the center of this increasingly ugly dispute, but you can read his actual piece here. The Independent's original news story (published before Davis issued his second statement) is here. And if you have 45 minutes to spare, I can heartily recommend the original New Yorker article, published (gloriously free from the constraints of English libel law) here.

Comment: Something else Davis said in The New Yorker article caught our attention:
Davis [Tommy Davis, the chief spokesperson for the Church of Scientology International] acknowledged that some of Hubbard's medical records did not appear to corroborate Hubbard's version of events. But Scientology had culled other records that did confirm Hubbard's story, including documents from the National Archives in St. Louis. The man who did the research, Davis said, was "Mr. X."

Davis explained, "Anyone who saw 'J.F.K.' remembers a scene on the Mall where Kevin Costner's character goes and meets with a man named Mr. X, who's played by Donald Sutherland." In the film, Mr. X is an embittered intelligence agent who explains that the Kennedy assassination was actually a coup staged by the military-industrial complex. In real life, Davis said, Mr. X was Colonel Leroy Fletcher Prouty, who had worked in the Office of Special Operations. (Oliver Stone, who directed "J.F.K.," says that Mr. X was a composite character, based in part on Prouty.) In the eighties, Prouty worked as a consultant for Scientology.

"We finally got so frustrated with this point of conflicting medical records that we took all of Mr. Hubbard's records to Fletcher Prouty," Davis told me. "He actually solved the conundrum for us." According to Davis, Prouty explained to the church representatives that, because Hubbard had an "intelligence background," his records were subjected to a process known as "sheep-dipping." Davis explained that this was military parlance for "what gets done to a set of records for an intelligence officer. And, essentially, they create two sets." He said, "Fletcher Prouty basically issued an affidavit saying L. Ron Hubbard's records were sheep-dipped." Prouty died in 2001.