Sunday, February 27, 2005

Quick rundown on this morning's New York Times

Moving quickly (and we'll offer no links to the Times -- see General Note on why we are moving quickly) through this morning's Times.

Check out Paul von Zielbauer's "As Health Care in Jails Goes Private, 10 Days Can Be a Death Senatence."

Page A13 contains an AFP release noting that Condi Rice feels we can get back into bed with Indonesia. Apparently the abuses that are ongoing in the region aren't important. Maybe she read about them in a document but felt the document was "historical." Or maybe she read documenation and then forgot about them, not unlike 'yellow cake,' and this time George Tenent isn't around to jog her memory.

From Democracy Now!'s "With Tsunami Death Toll in Indonesia Possibly Rising Over 200,000, Military Crackdown In Aceh Continues:"

ALLAN NAIRN: Well, it's now 20 days after the tsunami, and the president of Indonesia, General Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, is still refusing to lift the state of siege, the de facto martial law. There's an interesting op-ed piece in the "Wall Street Journal" by a German doctor, Norbert Vollertsen who has done medical work in North Korea. He's now in Aceh, and he compares the current military control in Aceh to the situation in North Korea, the environment. And that's the least of it. Because he's only seeing a part of Banda Aceh, now that it's been open to the outside world. If he could have seen rural Aceh before, it would have been even worse. But it's not a bad comparison. Specifically now, it appears that Kopassas, the red berets, the special forces of the Indonesian army, the most feared units who specialize in torture and kidnapping and political rape and who are also trained by the U.S. Green berets in tactics such as urban warfare, and advanced sniper technique, the Kopassas and also the Indonesian military intelligence unit, S.G.I., also quite feared. They are now getting directly involved in the distribution of aid. I just spoke to an Acehnese activist just returned from West Aceh, who said that aid supplies are being taken directly to the Kopassas and S.G.I. barracks. These barracks are torture centers where Acehnese are routinely brought in and worked-over for interrogation. And now these supplies are being piled up there and either resold by the Kopassas and S.G.I. intelligence people or, as the person that I spoke to put it, used as a political instrument in the villages. They go out to the villages and first demand that villagers present their special I.D. card issued by the police, given only to people who are certified as not being opponents of the army, and they demand they swear allegiance to the state of Indonesia and collaborate with the army. Specifically, this is apparently now going on in Meulaboh, in West Aceh, in Aceh Jaya and rural areas of Banda Aceh, such as Leupnung, Krueng Raya, and also in the east in the outskirts of Pidie and Lhokseumawe. In Meulaboh. There's a report of forced labor by the local district military commander, who is requiring survivors to pick up the dead bodies and some who have refused to do this, have been tortured.
JUAN GONZALEZ: Allan, what do you make of first the insistence of the Indonesian government that all foreign troops get out by March, and then yesterday, U.S. officials saying they think that that’s actually a reasonable request?
ALLAN NAIRN: Well, it's probably a little confusing to people looking from the outside. The Indonesian military is a client of the U.S. military. Their regime came to power in 1965-1967 with U.S. backing. At that time they consolidated their power and put in General Suharto as the ruler of Indonesia by killing anywhere from 400,000 to 1 million Indonesian civilians and Washington and the Pentagon and also the U.S. press openly expressed their delight. They gave extensive military aid. But at the same time, because of the internal politics of Indonesia, where nationalism is very important, the Indonesian military has to pretend that it's independent of the U.S., even dislikes it. So they're often rhetorical clashes of this kind. It's very ironic now because when you speak to Acehnese in Aceh, they're very grateful for the fact that American troops have come in on helicopters, have come ashore and are delivering food aid, but if the White House and the Pentagon have their way, those Acehnese are in for a cruel trick, because the White House and Pentagon are now pushing to restore full military aid to Jakarta, which means that in addition to food being brought in off those ships, and delivered to Acehnese, weapons and military expertise would be brought in from those ships and the Pentagon they represent and given to the military, which has been, the Indonesian military, which has been killing the Acehnese. That is, if the White House and Pentagon succeed, and in fact this Wednesday, Paul Wolfowitz, who is the Deputy Defense Secretary, had a series of meetings in Washington with top generals and brought in some outside consultants where they planned a campaign to restore the U.S. military aid to Indonesia. Wolfowitz himself has personally been three times to Aceh. He's about to go over to Indonesia.
AMY GOODMAN: We're talking to award-winning journalist, Allan Nairn, who has won numerous journalistic honors for exposing the Indonesian military, recently returned from Indonesia and Aceh, about the situation in Aceh now, the tsunami-ravaged Aceh. You talk about deputy director of defense, Paul Wolfowitz who's headed over there now. Well-known for being one of the architects of the invasion of Iraq, was a former ambassador to Indonesia, so knows well what was going on. What was his role and how does it continue today now?
ALLAN NAIRN: Wolfowitz was a big backer of Suharto and the Indonesian military and at every stage he has pressed for further backing for the Indonesian armed forces. So, now he is going to try to use this opportunity to break the current congressional restrictions. Right now, due to grassroots activism all across the United States, and due to bipartisan congressional response to that activism, there are severe restrictions in place on what the Pentagon can actually do for the Indonesian armed forces. They're not allowed to sell almost all categories of weapons. They're not allowed to finance weapons sales. They're not allowed to provide most categories of training. There are very tough restrictions. These were put in after the various massacres in East Timor. But Wolfowitz is now trying to break them to further equip the Indonesian military, which would be disastrous for people in Aceh and also in Papua where the Indonesian military is doing similar operations.

Douglas Jehl & David Johnston's front page story ("Within C.I.A., Growing Fears of Prosecution") details some of the concern about responsibilities the C.I.A. may face for actions in Iraq. From that article:

In one of the cases that contributed to the removal of the station chief, an Iraqi named Manadel al-Hamadi died under C.I.A. interrogation in a shower room at Abu Ghraib on Nov. 4, 2003. It is probably that he died of wounds inflicted by commandos of the Navy Seals who struck him in the head with rifle butts after they and C.I.A. officers captured him. But former intelligence officials said there were still questions about the role played by the C.I.A. officer and contract interrogator who had taken custody of Mr. Jamadi and were questioning him at Abu Ghraib at the time of his death.
Mr. Jamadi had not been examined by a physician at the time he was brought to Abu Ghraib, because the C.I.A. officers had circumvented procedures in which he was to have been registered with the military.
[Me: Polite wording for ghost detainees, something the Red Cross has rightly objected to.]
The death was among the most notorious to emerge from the incidents at Abu Ghraib that became public last spring, in part because the man's body was photographed wrapped in plastic and packed in ice.

From Democracy Now!'s February 18th "Headlines:"

Iraqi Prisoner Died in Handcuffs During CIA Torture
A major expose by the Associated Press has revealed that an Iraqi whose corpse was photographed with grinning U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghraib died under CIA interrogation while suspended by his wrists, which had been handcuffed behind his back. The death of the prisoner, Manadel al-Jamadi, became known last year when the Abu Ghraib scandal broke. The U.S. military said back then that it had been ruled a homicide. But the exact circumstances of the death were not disclosed at the time.
According to investigative documents reviewed by the AP, the prisoner died in a position known as "Palestinian hanging." It is unclear whether that position- which human rights groups condemn as torture - was approved by the Bush administration for use in CIA interrogations. The Justice Department and the CIA refused to comment on the story.
Al-Jamadi was one of the CIA's so-called "ghost" detainees at Abu Ghraib -prisoners being held secretly by the agency. His death in November 2003 became public with the release of photos of Abu Ghraib guards giving a thumbs-up over his bruised and puffy-faced corpse, which had been packed in ice. According to the documents, Al-Jamadi died in a prison shower room during about a half-hour of questioning, before interrogators could extract any information. The documents consist of statements from Army prison guards to investigators with the military and the CIA's Inspector General's office.
One Army guard, Sgt. Jeffery Frost, said the prisoner's arms were stretched behind him in a way he had never before seen. Frost told investigators he was surprised al-Jamadi's arms "didn't pop out of their sockets." Frost and other guards had been summoned to reposition al Jamadi, who an interrogator said was not cooperating. As the guards released the shackles and lowered al-Jamadi, blood gushed from his mouth "as if a faucet had been turned on," according to the interview summary.
Navy SEALs apprehended al-Jamadi as a suspect in the Oct. 27, 2003, bombing of Red Cross offices in Baghdad that killed 12 people. His alleged role in the bombing is unclear. According to court documents and testimony, the SEALs punched, kicked and struck al-Jamadi with their rifles before handing him over to the CIA early on Nov. 4. By 7 a.m., al-Jamadi was dead.
According to the documents seen by the AP, Al-Jamadi was brought naked below the waist to the prison with a CIA interrogator and translator. A green plastic bag covered his head, and plastic cuffs tightly bound his wrists. Guards dressed al-Jamadi in an orange jumpsuit, slapped on metal handcuffs and escorted him to the shower room, a common CIA interrogation spot.
There, the interrogator instructed guards to attach shackles from the prisoner's handcuffs to a barred window. That would let al-Jamadi stand without pain, but if he tried to lower himself, his arms would be stretched above and behind him.
The documents do not make clear what happened after guards left. After about a half-hour, the interrogator called for the guards to reposition the prisoner, who was slouching with his arms stretched behind him. The interrogator told guards that al-Jamadi was "playing possum" -faking it - and then watched as guards struggled to get him on his feet. But al-Jamadi was already dead.

On A10, James C. McKinley Jr. has "Prosecutors in Mexico Reopen Inquiry in Rights Lawyer's Death" which they indeed should. Twice, they've ruled it a suicide.

For those not familiar, Digan Ochoa (human rights attorney) killed herself, according to two investigations. Apparently, she started out by shooting herself in the leg. And the, like someone at a hair salon saying, "You know I think another inch off would be better," she decided to shoot herself in the head. And apparently concerned with something (the resale value of the gun?) she did so wearing plastic gloves. The investigations previous have not dealt with the bruises on her face, an anonymous note threating other human rights attornies that was found on the scene, or any other issues (such as the kidnapping of Ochoa and past threats against her). The family doesn't have much hope for this latest investigation.

If your new to this story, here's this from Human Rights First:

Digna Ochoa was one of Mexico’s frontline defenders in the truest sense of the phrase. As a staff attorney at the Miguel Agustín Pro Juárez Human Rights Center (PRODH) in Mexico City, she took on the most sensitive issues facing Mexico as it transitions from its authoritarian past towards a more democratic future. Working primarily in the southern Mexican states of Guerrerro and Oaxaca, she documented, denounced and judicially challenged the army’s takeover of rural policing for counterinsurgency purposes. Her cases often highlighted the illegal influence of economic interests over the criminal justice system to target social activists.
. . .
In 1999, Digna was abducted twice and once held hostage in her home for nine hours of interrogation before being left to die, bound hand and foot in front of an opened gas valve. On this occasion, she managed to free herself and escape.
On October 19, 2001, Digna was shot and killed in her Mexico City office. Several of the PRODH’s past and present staff received death threats after her murder, reminding them that they should no longer ignore the many warnings to abandon their work.

Lastly, somewhere in the print edition (told you that we're moving fast), Robert Pear has an article about Bill Gates's decision to provide matching funds to high schools meeting certain criteria. Reading the article, I couldn't help but wonder what Bill Gates is thinking?

With the underfunding of science in the public schools, one would think Gates (if he were tossing around money) would be addressing that issue and addressing it in a way that demonstrated how he himself benefitted. Gates' plan (as reported) struck me as being about as useful (and meaningful to him) as funding the training of hair stylists. Now obviously, Gates has never visited a hair stylist. So why would he waste money on training them?

Just as obvious, Gates benefitted from project learning. One would expect that Gates would be more likely to fund some sort of super-national-science-fair to stress project based learning and the sciences. Instead, he appears to be focusing on lesson plans that will be evaluated by some sort of standarized testing.

If it's unclear why I find Gates' proposal so distasteful (I'm hurrying, admittedly) let me break it down in simplified language: He's stressing closed circuit learning despite the fact that his life, career and riches are based on open circuits. It strikes me as a huge contradiction.

In the longer version of this (the one that disappeared in the posting stage -- "This page cannot be displayed"), we discussed in greater length these stories and more. (And had links to them and to stories in The Nation, Amnesty Internationl, CounterPunch, Bloomberg wire service and The Washington Post.) Maybe there's a lesson here for me that I shouldn't attempt to summarize and discuss the entire main section? The links provided are due to the fact that they were still on open screens. But I'm too tired and in too much pain (see General Note prior to this) to go through the trouble of recreating the entire post. As Kat would say, it is what it is.

But I will note that Rob wanted to be quoted (four other people weighed in, only Rob wanted to be quoted) on the Times' new look. He likes it. (Three didn't, one other besides Rob did.) He compares it to the difference between web pages (like this one) and those using Moveable Type.
(I have no idea what MT is and probably spelled it wrong. On that, proper names mispelled will be corrected if they're brought to my attention. Other typos can stand.)

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