Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Iraq’s Abandoned Chemical Weapons

The Secret Casualties of Iraq’s Abandoned Chemical Weapons


The United States had gone to war declaring it must destroy an active weapons of mass destruction program. Instead, American troops gradually found and ultimately suffered from the remnants of long-abandoned programs, built in close collaboration with the West.

The New York Times found 17 American service members and seven Iraqi police officers who were exposed to nerve or mustard agents after 2003. American officials said that the actual tally of exposed troops was slightly higher, but that the government’s official count was classified.

Friday, October 10, 2014


UPDATE - 6 September 2013

The Colombian government has just announced that it is suspending Resolution 970, which was the subject of massive public outcry in recent weeks thanks to the huge peasant mobilisation launched on 19 August. The Resolution, adopted in 2010 and sometimes referred to as Law 970, made it illegal for Colombian farmers to save seeds in order for private companies and transnational corporations to gain monopoly control over the market.
Resolution 970 will be suspended for a period of two years, and this will only apply to domestically produced seeds (not imports). The government says it will use the two-year freeze to write new rules on seed use "which will not affect small farmers".

This is NOT a reversal of policy. It is a public statement from the government. People are waiting to see it written into a document with legal force, and are reiterating calls for the Resolution to be repealed instead.

Sources (in Spanish):
On 19 August, Colombian farmers' organisations initiated a massive nationwide strike. They blocked roads, dumped milk on cars and basically stopped producing food for the cities. The problem? Farmers are being driven out of existence by the government's policies.
The state provides almost no support for the small-scale farming sector.
1 Instead, it embraces a social and economic model that serves the interests of a wealthy elite minority. Recent free trade agreements (FTAs) signed with the US and the EU are undercutting Colombian producers, who can't compete with subsidised imports.
2 The Colombian government has been actively promoting land grabbing by large corporations, many of them foreign (Monica Semillas from Brazil, Merhav from Israel, Cargill from the US), to promote export-oriented agribusiness at the expense of family farming oriented towards food sovereignty.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

slavery and the Qatar 2022 World Cup

We are so excited to tell you that your campaigning over the last few days has well and truly paid off: Krishna Upadhyaya and Ghimire Gundev, the activists that disappeared in Qatar, have been released and will shortly be on their way home. We’ve heard from Krishna’s family in the last few hours and Krishna himself posted this status on Facebook last night: “Just released, will fly in two days' time!”1

Your support was invaluable in bringing pressure to bear on the Qatari authorities and shining a light on the legitimate and important work of anti-slavery activists. Over 55,000 of you sent messages straight to the Qatari Minister of the Interior and Prime Minister to call on the authorities to investigate Krishna and Ghimire’s disappearance. 48 hours later we heard they were safe. Now we know they are coming home. This just goes to show what we can achieve when we speak out together with other anti-slavery activists and organisations around the world.

As someone that has taken action to end modern slavery in Qatar before, we know you know how important the work of researchers like Krishna and Ghimire is in uncovering the exploitation of migrant workers there. Thank you for continuing to support these efforts by calling for their release.

We’ll keep you updated as we hear more from Krishna and Ghimire when they return home, but we wanted to let you know as soon as possible that your campaigning has made a big difference in the fight to end modern slavery, once again.

In solidarity,

Jayde, Joanna, Fleur, Olly and the whole Walk Free team

P.S. Although it’s incredible news that Krishna and Ghimire are on their way home, the exploitation of migrant workers in Qatar that they were investigating continues. We’re currently planning the next stages of the campaign to end modern slavery fuelling the Qatar 2022 World Cup and will let you know soon the next way you can take action. Thank you again for your continued support on this issue.

Dear Friend,

“I am being followed by the police here. Looks like they will give me troubles now.”1

This is one of the ominous final messages Krishna Upadhyaya sent before he and his colleague Ghimire Gundev disappeared in Qatar four days ago -- they haven’t been heard from since.

Krishna and Ghimire are British campaigners, working in Qatar on behalf of the Norwegian human rights organisation Global Network for Rights and Development (GNRD). They had been researching the plight of migrant labourers constructing facilities for Qatar’s 2022 World Cup, conducting interviews with Nepali labourers and investigating the terrible working conditions. 

On Sunday they vanished. Krishna was last in touch with a friend who has since said: “He was feeling unsafe to leave the hotel premises and according to him there were many police, most likely undercover ones, coming in very close to him every time he spoke to anyone on the phone. He expressed that he felt very insecure about what might happen when he left the hotel for the airport.”2

Krishna checked out of his hotel but did not board a planned flight back to Norway. Both are now feared to be detained by the Qatari security forces. Their whereabouts remain undisclosed by Qatari authorities despite repeated efforts by their families, and GNRD to obtain their location.3 In short -- it’s feared that they may have been subjected to enforced disappearance.

Take action now: call for the immediate safe return of Krishna Upadhyaya and Ghimire Gundev.

As someone that has previously taken action to end modern slavery in Qatar fuelled by the Qatar 2022 World Cup, you know how vital the work of researchers like Krishna and Ghimire is. 

Krishna and Ghimire were working hard to keep the world’s attention on migrant workers trapped in conditions of modern slavery in Qatar. We cannot allow their mistreatment to continue. As fellow anti-slavery activists, we must take a stand and add to mounting pressure on the Qatari authorities to ensure Krishna and Ghimire are found. 

Please join us in calling on the Qatari authorities to act by:
  • Immediately investigating the whereabouts of Krishna and Ghimire and ensuring that they are allowed immediate access to their family members, a lawyer of their choice and to any medical treatment they may require. 
  • Ensuring that they are protected from all forms of torture or other ill-treatment.
  • Recognising that labour standards apply to all migrant workers, including the workers on Qatar 2022 World Cup infrastructure projects.
The next few hours are vital in finding and protecting Krishna and Ghimire -- once you have taken action, please ask as many of your friends and family as possible to do the same.

In solidarity,

Jayde, Joanna, Fleur, Olly and the whole Walk Free team
Walk Free is a movement of people everywhere, fighting to end one of the world's greatest evils: Modern slavery.

Today FIFA officials are meeting in Switzerland and we are running out of time to make our message heard. We need to act now to end the modern slavery trapping the people that are working to bring the world the Qatar 2022 World Cup.

Send a message to FIFA President Sepp Blatter demanding immediate action to tackle Qatar 2022 World Cup slavery.

This is where we'd typically go into a lot more detail on the situation but we're only hours away from being out of time (we’ve included the email we sent you on Monday below for more background).

But did we want to take a couple of minutes to share Narayan Nepali's story. Narayan is a migrant worker from Nepal who has since returned home after working in Qatar.

Mostly Nepalese are despised and we’re treated like slaves. Our passports were confiscated the day that we arrived.

I’d like to tell the government of Qatar to realise that migrant workers have played a significant role in Qatar’s development. They should therefore pay migrant workers better and treat them with more respect.”1

No one should be treated this way, especially to bring us a sporting event. FIFA must take responsibility for awarding the 2022 World Cup to a country with historic issues of forced labour and worker exploitation.

Please stand with workers in Qatar and call on FIFA to help the end modern slavery that is fuelling the 2022 World Cup.

In solidarity,

Debra, Jayde, Mika, Joanna, Amy & the Walk Free team

P.S. We have a crucial window of opportunity to influence FIFA as they hold their Executive Committee meeting RIGHT NOW. Send President Sepp Blatter a message to let him know we expect action against modern slavery in Qatar.

On Mon, Mar 17, 2014 at 13:27 AM, Debra Rosen wrote:

At the end of last year, our community was celebrating. 172,407 of us sent messages to FIFA calling on the body to tackle the modern slavery fuelling the 2022 World Cup construction projects in Qatar – and FIFA listened. Joseph ‘Sepp’ Blatter pledged that FIFA would work with the International Trade Union Confederation to improve the unacceptable situation for workers there and we welcomed his declaration that "fair working conditions with a lasting effect must be introduced quickly in Qatar".2

Unfortunately these words have not yet been followed by action.

Latest reports show that migrant workers from Nepal and India continue to die in record numbers on Qatari construction sites since the country won its World Cup bid.3 A new "Worker’s Charter" released by Qatar 2022 organising authorities last month has been acknowledged as a starting point, but falls short of the significant reforms needed to tackle the shocking conditions for migrant workers.4 And at a recent hearing at the European Parliament FIFA was far from reassuring, asking: "What do you expect of a football organisation? FIFA is not the lawmaker in Qatar."5

We expect FIFA to take responsibility for its decision to award the 2022 World Cup to a country with historic issues of worker exploitation and forced labour. In just three days, top FIFA officials meet at their headquarters in Switzerland to discuss World Cup preparations: will you join us in demanding that ending modern slavery in Qatar be top of the agenda?

Call on FIFA President Sepp Blatter to take meaningful action against the modern slavery that is fuelling the Qatar 2022 World Cup.

The Walk Free community helped push FIFA to commit to end worker exploitation; now we have the chance to put that commitment into action. FIFA’s Executive Committee is meeting on Thursday and Friday – top representatives from national football associations around the world will be there and the press will be reporting developments closely, with all eyes on FIFA’s President Sepp Blatter. This is a significant opportunity to get our message heard.

The time has come for FIFA to act – Sepp Blatter must use his influence over World Cup organisers to ensure all future FIFA World Cups are slavery free and that includes Qatar as a top priority.

FIFA should:
  • Call for an end to the exploitative kafala system in its current form in Qatar, specifically by allowing workers to freely change jobs and leave the country without their employer’s permission.
  • Demand that fundamental labour rights are protected as a requirement for countries to be selected to host World Cups.
  • Call on the Qatar 2022 organising authorities to establish a complaints mechanism that allows migrant workers to report abuses and secure justice.
It’s time for FIFA to play ball and help end modern slavery in Qatar – add your voice now.

If you agree that no one should die or be enslaved to bring us “the beautiful game”, please take action and help spread the word by asking three of your friends to do the same.

Thank you in advance for your support,

Debra, Jayde, Mika, Joanna, Amy & the Walk Free team

P.S. Right now, workers in Qatar are living, working and dying in modern slavery to bring us the 2022 World Cup. Please take action to help stop this. 
Walk Free is a movement of people everywhere, fighting to end one of the world's greatest evils: Modern slavery.

This morning, at one end of Kathmandu’s international airport, proud parents will bid farewell to their sons leaving Nepal in search of better jobs. But for the last month, the scene has been very different at the arrival terminal where wailing parents are met with the bodies of construction workers who died working in Qatar. Three to four bodies arriving daily.1
Is this just the beginning? Experts estimate over 1 million migrant workers could be at risk of modern slavery in Qatar between now and the 2022 World Cup; an average of twelve workers could die per week2 unless action is taken at this critical stage in the construction process.
We might have an opportunity to stop this crisis before it gets any worse… but time is short. Recent media coverage has caught the attention of international leaders and the Qatari government and most importantly – FIFA.3
Qatar was chosen to host the 2022 World Cup by FIFA. With their formidable leverage, FIFA could help ensure slavery is not tolerated in Qatar or in any country FIFA seeks partnership.
Click here to call on FIFA to help ensure construction for the Qatar World Cup does not use slave labour.
Reports of modern slavery from World Cup 2022 construction in the Qatari desert are chilling:
  • In a matter of weeks, 44 construction workers have died.
  • Thousands of Nepalese workers are being forced to work in 50C/122F degree heat with no access to food or water, not paid, passports held to prevent them from leaving.4
  • And just last week, investigative journalists were detained and questioned by Qatari authorities.5
Historically, there have been serious challenges to protecting migrant workers from modern slavery in Qatar. But with the prestige of hosting the World Cup on the line, there has never been a better chance to push the Qatari government for change.
This is our moment. If FIFA takes advantage of this opportunity for policy reform, workers could be protected from falling into the nightmare of modern slavery in Qatar for generations to come. This could be the break we have been waiting for in the entire region.
It all comes down to us – ask FIFA to join our call to help end slavery in Qatar.
We’re asking FIFA to:
  1. Call on the Qatari Supreme Committee for Qatar 2022 to update contracts to meet international labour standards.
  2. Include audit requirements for all contracts affiliated with FIFA sporting events that include large-scale construction projects for cases of modern slavery with the initial bidding process. 
  3. Publicly report the findings of audits for cases of modern slavery.
The tagline of FIFA’s World Cup is “Expect Amazing”. Tell FIFA you expect them to help end slavery in Qatar.
Thank you in advance for your support. Once you have taken action, please forward this message on to everyone you know. Together we have helped changed policy all over the world; together we can help end slavery in Qatar.
In solidarity,
Debra, Mich, Jess, Kamini, Sarah, Nick, Kate, Kyle and the Walk Free Team
[2][3] Fédération Internationale de Football Association 

NSA Freedom of Information Act and Privacy Act Office

Published time: November 18, 2013 17:37
The number of Freedom of Information Act requests filed with the National Security Agency has increased by 888 percent this fiscal year, according to USA Today, indicating an even broader interest exists in the NSA’s domestic surveillance programs.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Christians have no greater ally than Israel

Religion News Service | By Lauren Markoe
Posted: 09/11/2014 1:17 pm EDT Updated: 09/11/2014 1:59 pm EDT

(RNS) After he said “Christians have no greater ally than Israel,” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, was heckled off the stage at a Wednesday night (Sept. 10) gala to raise awareness of beleaguered Mideast Christians.

Cruz, the keynote speaker at the Washington, D.C., dinner, sponsored by In Defense of Christians, a new organization spearheaded by Catholic and Orthodox Christians, prompted boos and cries of “stop it!” and “enough” and “no!” as an increasingly louder crowd told him to get off the stage.

The incident, first reported by the online news organization The Daily Caller, was captured on video by EWTN, the Catholic television network. The video shows that Cruz tried to continue speaking, but many in the audience, in a hotel ballroom, expressed anger when he included Hamas in the list of militants out to destroy religious minorities in the Middle East.

Middle Eastern Christian leaders condemn 'barbaric' persecution

Published 10 September 2014  |   

Politicians, policy makers and faith leaders have urged the international community to step up its response to religious persecution in the Middle East.

Meeting for the inaugural IDC (In Defence of Christians) Summit in Washington this week, representatives from Middle Eastern churches condemned global inaction, insisting all nations must immediately address the growing crisis in Iraq and Syria.

According to the Washington Post, Patriarch Mar Bechara Boutros Cardinal Rai, Maronite patriarch of Antioch and all the East, said: "Far too long the world has stood there watching these atrocities without lifting a finger while the local government has proved to be utterly incapable of saving the lives of its citizens."

The plight of Christians in the region has been of particular concern after being targeted specifically by Islamic State (IS) militants in a bid to create a caliphate.

Last week, Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby noted that the Middle East is the "birthplace of Christianity, and home to indigenous Christian communities that have been an indispensible part of its history".

He warned that the region is "in desperate danger of losing an irreplaceable part of its identity, heritage and culture."

The IDC summit yesterday echoed this sentiment, with Aram I Keshishian, Catholicos of the Holy See of Cilicia of the Armenian Apostolic Church, branding the crisis a "global evil".

"Religious freedom is not just an American right, it's a universal right," Cardinal Patriarch Rai, speaking before several members of Congress, added.

Friday, September 12, 2014

The 'Gharkad' tree

Nitraria retusa

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Nitraria retusa
Nitrariaceae Nitraria retusa.png
N. retusa, from Vegetation der Erde(1910)
Scientific classification
Species:N. retusa
Binomial name
Nitraria retusa
(Forssk.) Asch.
Nitraria retusa is a salt-tolerant shrub or bush in the Nitrariaceae family. The plant grows to 2.5m tall, although it is usually less than 1m in height.[1] It has tiny, white to green, fragrant flowers,[1] and small edible red fruit.[2] The plant is native to desert areas of northern Africa, where it grows in primary succession on barren sand dunes.[3]


  1. ^ Jump up to:a b "Nitraria retusa". Flora of Pakistan. Retrieved 2008-12-30.
  2. Jump up^ Centre for Mediterranean Cooperation. A guide to medicinal plants in North Africa. International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources. p. 256. ISBN 978-2-8317-0893-5.
  3. Jump up^ Zahran, M.A.; A.J. Willis (2008). The Vegetation of Egypt. Springer. p. 440. ISBN 978-1-4020-8755-4.

No Innocents in Gaza: Israeli Army :

Chabad rabbi: Jews should kill Arab men, women and children during war:

Chief Jewish Rabbi Eliyahu advocates carpet bombing Gaza civilians:

Jewish Rabbis tell Israeli army to "Kill all Palestinian civilians":

Jewish Rabbi calls for "hanging Arab children":

Rabbi Eliyahu: Life of one yeshiva boy worth more than 1,000 Arabs:,7...527410,00.html

Israeli spokesperson says children are legitimate target:

UN: "Israel knew they were bombing a school:

Israel Uses Gazans as Human Shields:

Israeli soldiers say Palestinians are not human:

UN levels war crimes warning at Israel:

Jewish colonists tie Palestinian teacher to a pole and savagely beat him up:

Israeli IDF shoot Palestinian in point blank range, caught on video:

If Americans Knew - what every American needs to know about Israel/Palestine:

CNN: Israel Broke Gaza Cease-Fire:

United Nations representative confirms Israel broke the truce:

Hamas answers Israeli air raid with rockets as truce ends early:

Pro-Israel commentators on the Internet being directed by Israeli government: