June 16th, 2007

The numbers in journalism

The project for excellence in journalism is an interesting site. Instead of focusing on the rhetoric it does a quantitative analysis on where the focus is in the media. Last week:

buildchartp2.jpg

Interesting huh? PH outdoing the cause of the king being a lame dead duck, and the demise of state finances by a long shot. What a mess. Speaking of finances. I tend to support the idea that it will be the Reps killing the $ for the war in Iraq, in a desperate move to cut loose the weight. Unless Cheney, who has been blatantly ignored the last couple of weeks, talks the crooks into bombing Iran; he’s already spreading (false) claims Iran is supplying the Taliban with weapons.

On a funny sidenote. Bush did get a ovational reception the other day. Where you ask? In Albania!

OK, I’ll stop. I have no right to comment on foreign leaders, although my government is so influenced by U.S. politics, I think I can now and then. 600 days to go. It’ll be a long 600 days.

June 8th, 2007

The secret prisons – part 3

Swiss senator Dick Marty published a report in Paris today about the secret prisons run throughout Europe by the CIA. He states prisoners were held and questioned there and brought to non-European countries, which is a violation of European law. According to Marty, the US and several European states (especially the “new” European states) signed bi-lateral agreements to this extend in 2001. He also states the highest authorities in Poland and Romania knew about it (they state it’s fiction).

Most information he presented in his previous report was deemed “fiction”, but turned out proved later. The CIA is said to have been in full and strict control and working on a need to know basis.

Part of the newspaper article

A CIA spokesman said they needed to study the report before commenting, but added that Europe gains a substantial advantage by the “energetic and legal” CIA-methods in anti-terror-combat. The European Commission asked Poland and Romania to start a detailed investigation in what went on.

Disclaimer: translation by me.

Added: Closing statement of the report

iv. Concluding thoughts

367. It is my sincere hope that my report this year will catalyse a renewed appreciation of the legal and moral quagmire into which we have collectively sunk as a result of the US-led “war on terror.” Almost six years in, we seem no closer to pulling ourselves out of this quagmire, partly because of the absence of factual clarity – perpetuated by secrecy, cover-up and dishonesty – about the exact practices in which the US and its allies have engaged, and partly because a lack of urgency and political will on both sides of the Atlantic to unite around consensus solutions.

368. By clarifying some of the unspoken truths that have previously held us back in this exercise, I hope I have spurred right-minded Americans and Europeans alike into realising that our common values, in tandem with our common security, depend on our uniting to end the abusive practices inherent in US policies like the “High-Value Detainee” programme.

Please don’t dismiss this post or the report as being cheap anti-Americanism. The report is concentrating on the European government’s willingness to import activities from the US, and that are illegal here too. Already on the first page Germany and Italy are slaughtered. Based on detailed proof, not allegations.

May 21st, 2007

The ranch

Jaap de Hoop-Scheffer. Who? Jaap de Hoop-Scheffer. He is the NATO secretary-general and a Dutchman. OMG!!! He is visiting the ranch! OMG!! How coooooooool!

George’s agenda: get more NATO servicemen into Afghanistan so American soldiers can be diverted to Iraq. Why? Well erm, the Brits will call it a day soon. Yoohoooooo, darlings, THE WAR IN IRAQ IS LOST, get it in your skulls.

March 16th, 2007

The flow of money looked upon

Almost all the banks in the world do business with a company called Swift. While they sort of claim they are a “message transfer” company, they are in effect the clearing house for all inter-bank transaction between bank that have no peer-to-peer relationship. Read: they process virtually all international money transfers. It’s headquarters is located in Belgium. It turns out that the FBI and the CIA can more or less without anything more than asking, look into all transactions done through Swift. Even worse, if say a Dutch bank has an office in New York, questions about transfers done entirely within the Netherlands would be answered without much hesitation. Without question this is illegal. While this has caused a row in many European countries, it has gone more or less unnoticed in my country. That has changed now. The banks need to stick to the law too. Not that money flows cannot be traced for crime investigation, but a court order is needed AND clients should be informed that especially international money transfers can be scrutinized by foreign security agencies. Now if you think “so what?” imagine mr. Putin’s lot going over your bank statements. No, that is not something different.

February 12th, 2007

The IT companies

Google’s latest service, google documents and spreadsheets is jar-on-floor once you are in collaboration-needy projects. Still, although they are basically and advertising company (shiver) they need to do everything to keep their image shiny. I mean think, they can pretty much track down who you are, and if docs breaks through, your documents and spreadsheets are there too.

The first crack in the image was google.cn. Banning terms because “Censored google is better for the Chinese than no Google”, well, maybe wasn’t too smart.

A new incident occured on Google owned YouTube the other day. A well know and popular atheist blogger was completely banned from YouTube because he posted a slideshow posting in his eyes violent but public passages from the koran. Mind you, not just this slideshow. I hope google’s crawler doesn’t present those koran results either, they might need to ban themselves. Is there nobody we can trust? Even a bit?

No evil right?

btw, somebody else uploaded it again of course.

Disclaimer: I am a techy, a Microsoft-un-enthousiast and atheist.

Mildly related addition: A higher Belgium court today confirmed a verdict that Google cannot repost news crawled from Begium newspaper sites on it’s news service. In France a similar case is being held in court June 6th. Is resistance slowly rising? Is this a European (or non maybe a non-US) thing?

Addition: google’s star seems to be falling slowly, but still faster??

February 5th, 2007

The Wiretappers of Europe

This country is the most “wiretapped” country in the world. European legislation is in the making requiring ISP’s and telephone companies to retain all traffic data for a year and a half. This is so wrong I cannot even start to rant about it. From “Webwereld”

… Where our administration errs, is that she treats information like potatoes and gives power she does not understands to people who she appointed herself and for purposes the technology was not meant for. The administration is very willing to treat on it’s civilians privacy if it comes in handy – lazy criminal catching from the armchair, who objects is target for suspicioun – but doesn’t understand how dangerous it is when it surpasses the individual case. (…) Nobody argues it can be helpful to tap a criminal suspects internet line . But to retain every citizen’s data for a year and a half just to be able to do some fine searching is asking for big trouble. The cure is worse than the illness. And it only springs to mind of policy makers bacause of the anonymous magic of technology: nobody would even think more than an second to state it’s unacceptable to follow every citizen’s move 24 hours a day.

… This is no democratic decision. It’s forced upon us. With fear on ones side, bad ideas get wings. Dataretentions is born out of lazyness and it creates a single point of entry for the bad guys. Even in The United States the government doesn’t dare to go this far, but in the Netherlands we want to go as far as possible. It is wrong an dit is based on lazyness, and the outcome can only be one of two: very harmful or fatal. (….) Data retention is criminogeen: it will create more crime than it will prevent or solve. If the law will pass it will only change the internet and the things that work now in policing will stop being effective too. Know what you ask for.

I couldn’t agree more.

December 1st, 2006

The secret prisons – continued

Let me try to translate and condense this newspaper item, which I am pretty sure did not run on your end.

In the first half of this year, European Union chair Austria  proposed to the the US in a meeting with John Bellinger to make some sort of arrangement for the so callled “renditions”, the secret transport of terror-suspects. Bellinger answered the US needed to “think about it”.

According to a EU Parliament member, high EU officials, a.o. foreign affairs coordinator Javier Solana have withhelt information. “There has been structural talks between the EU and th eUS about this”, where Solana had mentioned the subject was only touched once and with Condolica Rice.

A commision concluded some member states administrations must have known about the existence of those prisons, naming the UK, Poland, Italy and Germany. There is “serious circumstancial evidence there was a secret [CIA] prison in Poland. Also, there have been at leats 1245 secret transport flights over EU territory.

Solana and the Dutch EU anti-terror coordinator de Vries are said to have have insufficiently cooperated with the comission.
A rather vague newsitem, but something is cooking IMHO. I wrote about this earlier.
November 25th, 2006

The torture that was OK-ed

The Spanish paper El Pais published under the heading “Rumsfeld authorized torture in Iraq” an interview with Janis Karpinski, the former general in charge of 15 prisons, including the famous Abu Grahib, from June to November 2003. She seems to have stated in the interview (I don’t speak Spanish):

  • Rumsfeld himself OK-ed a tough approach of the prisoners (long time exposure to high volume music, keeping them on their feet for prolonged periods of time, etc
  • The Geneva convention was respected in the prison
  • The Geneva convention was NOT respected during interrogation by the intelligence service.

Boy, are we surprised. The loyalty in the chain of command seems to be crumbling.

November 18th, 2006

The ball that bounced

Our government was one of the fiercest and first to criticize the US government for the treatment of Iraqi and Afghan prisoners. Now a little but possibly devastating affair has emerged, 5 days before elections. In 2003, Dutch troops in Iraq “prepared” 15 Iraqi prisoners for interrogation by the intelligence service by keeping them out of their sleep using loud music, bright light, hosing them and blindfolding them with ski-sunglasses so “they could not recognize their capturers”. The Geneva convention is very clear about this. It’s torture and illegal (although some dispute this claim). While one could argue it is a relatively small incident, the fact that the matter was handled internally (with no consequences by the way) and the fact that interrogation was explicitly not part of the mission there and the protests of our administration about the US invented “illegal combatants” category and the carefully guarded concept of The Hague being the Juridical Capital of the world, makes it embarrassing at best and explosive at worst.

Some people who expressed their opinion to me about this followed a line of thinking like “jeez, what the hell are we even talking about?”. I am saying: as soon as this starts, not only are we sliding downhill rapidly, we are also giving our opponents weapons to counter us in a way even worse than explosives and bullets.

October 11th, 2006

The fleeing children who were shot

Remember the (rightful) outrage when then Eastern German border guards shot people trying to cross the wall, flee the country? It still happens every day, including children. Status so far of this incident: 2 (or 3) killed, 9 or 10 children arrested, diplomatic silencing efforts.

A Tibetan monk who managed to reach Nepal was quoted in the paper as saying: “We started walking early through the Nangpa La Pass. Then the soldiers arrived. They started shooting and we ran; there were 15 children from eight to 10; only one escaped arrest.

“I just ran to save my life by praying to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. I think the soldiers fired for 15 minutes.”

“They were shouting, but I did not hear them … I just heard gunshots passing my ears. I don’t remember how many people were shot.”

Another said: “When the Chinese started shooting, it was terrifying. We could only hear the gunfire and our friends screaming. We tried to take care of the seven-year-old girl with us.”

The nun who was killed, Kelsang Namtso, 17, was leading the children. A 13-year-old boy was also gunned down during 15 minutes of shooting witnessed by Western climbers, including two British policemen, 1,000 yards away at Cho Oyu camp.

Later three Chinese soldiersmarched the children through the camp – some 12 miles west of Mount Everest – as climbers and Sherpas looked on. None of the Westerners tried to help the Tibetans.

Hey but we need Beijing to control North Korea right? Well in my opinion this is sickening.

P.S: I regularly chat with a Chinese student in Beijing. Very nice person. I will try to blog in a while over the difference that a lot of people are unable to make between disliking a country (read: administration) or it’s people. I sense a lot of US citizens, with a little help from their administration, seem to be in the “they hate us” mode, whoever “they” might be.

Update: Interestingly, public radio here was broadcasting this news today. No way this can be silenced I guess. And there is more. They interviewed a Romanian ProTV camera man who filmed the whole massacre through a tent-window. According to him, not 2 but 8 people were slaughtered and 2 wounded, out of a group of almost 60. The bodies were left on the mountain, but the Chinese police came back next day and buried them in the glacier. He said “he never let the Chinese know he was filming to avoid being buried as another dead tibetan. Later, he found out one of the group had managed to flee and hide in the camp’s toilet and he interviewed him. According to him, the group was enroute to the Daya Lama, their spiritual leader, their “pope”, as he called him.

Now what is interesting in my opinion is this. Assuming the cameraman is bona fide and his filmed report will show on Romanian television soon, it will of course show up on YouTube in no time. But given google’s giving in to the Chinese regime’s request to ban i.e. all posts about Falun Gong (sp) AND their acquisition of YouTube, how much will really be shown? And will it be shown in China?

Update: Boing Boing picked it up, including a link to the Romanian video, which as been posted on the stations website. Still growing.

Update: Found and added the YouTube link. Not nice I must warn you. ProTV’s own link doesntseem to work anymore.