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February 2013

Oakland Rapper Pope Emeritus Threatens Lawsuit

February 27, 2013

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borowitz-pope.jpgOAKLAND (The Borowitz Report)—The Vatican’s plan to call the retiring pontiff Benedict XVI “Pope Emeritus” hit a snag today, in the form of a threatened lawsuit by an Oakland-based rapper who has been recording under that name since 2006.

“I don’t care who he is, I ain’t let nobody mess with my brand,” said Mr. Emeritus, who prior to 2006 recorded under the name Notorious P.O.P.E.

While the Vatican said it was unaware that Mr. Emeritus had already claimed the name seven years ago, the Oakland rapper scoffed at that idea: “They should have done what I did before I picked it out: Google it.”

Furious at what he is calling a clear case of trademark infringement, Mr. Emeritus said that he has no intention of stepping aside for the former pontiff: “He’s the one who should step aside. Call himself P. Biddy or something. This is wack, yo.”

According to a source close to the Vatican, Benedict is likely to choose another name for himself rather than risk a legal tussle with the aggrieved rapper: “The last thing the Church needs right now is another lawsuit.”

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Photograph by Franco Origlia/Getty.

Aes Dana – Digitalys – Psychedelic Kaleidoscope Fractal Animation


Designer Wissam Al Jazairy (Syrian Revolution Arts)


The Mysterious Death of 9/11 Conspiracy Author and Expert Pilot Philip Marshall

In News on February 25, 2013 at 9:18 PM

Philip Marshall


White House Petition: Have the Justice Department investigate the murder of author Philip Marshall and his son and daughter in Murphys, CA.

Alex Jones welcomes investigative journalist and author Wayne Madsen to analyze the mysterious alleged murder-suicide of 9/11 conspiracy author and expert pilot Philip Marshall.

Madsen stated unequivocally that Marshall and his family were victims of a professional hit.

As evidence, he cited the close proximity of Marshall’s neighbors, who certainly would have heard any gunshots not muffled by a silencer. Marshall owned a gun but no silencer and, according to friends, no ammo either, Madsen reported.

He also pointed out that Marshall, a right-handed man, was found with a fatal gunshot wound to the left side of his head.

In addition, a door was unlocked even though Marshall was known to secure his home at night, the crime scene was thoroughly cleaned shortly after the initial investigation, and unusual vehicles were spotted around the house following the crime, Madsen explained.

He suggested that Marshall was murdered because of explosive information to be released in an upcoming book.


Rare Interview w/ Philip Marshall

White House Petition: Have the Justice Department investigate the murder of author Philip Marshall and his son and daughter in Murphys, CA.


“I Begged for Them to Stop:” Waterboarding Americans and the Redefinition of Torture

In News on February 25, 2013 at 3:21 PM



Try to remain calm — even as you begin to feel your chest tighten and your heart race. Try not to panic as water starts flowing into your nose and mouth, while you attempt to constrict your throat and slow your breathing and keep some air in your lungs and fight that growing feeling of suffocation. Try not to think about dying, because there’s nothing you can do about it, because you’re tied down, because someone is pouring that water over your face, forcing it into you, drowning you slowly and deliberately. You’re helpless. You’re in agony.

In short, you’re a victim of “water torture.” Or the “water cure.” Or the “water rag.” Or the “water treatment.” Or “tormenta de toca.” Or any of the othernicknames given to the particular form of brutality that today goes by the relatively innocuous term “waterboarding.”

The practice only became widely known in the United States after it was disclosed that the CIA had been subjecting suspected terrorists to it in the wake of 9/11. More recently, cinematic depictions of waterboarding in the award-winning filmZero Dark Thirty and questions about it at the Senate confirmation hearing for incoming CIA chief John Brennan have sparked debate. Water torture, however, has a surprisingly long history, dating back to at least the fourteenth century. It has been a U.S. military staple since the beginning of the twentieth century, when it was employed by Americans fighting an independence movement in the Philippines. American troops would continue to use the brutal tactic in the decades to come — and during the country’s repeated wars in Asia, they would be victims of it, too.

Water Torture in Vietnam

For more than a decade, I’ve investigated atrocities committed during the Vietnam War. In that time, I’ve come to know people who employed water torture and people who were brutalized by it. Americans and their South Vietnamese allies regularly used it on enemy prisoners and civilian detainees in an effort to gain intelligence or simply punish them. A picture of the practice even landed on thefront page of the Washington Post on January 21, 1968, but mostly it went on in secret.

Long-hidden military documents help to fill in the picture. “I held the suspect down, placed a cloth over his face, and then poured water over the cloth, thus forcing water into his mouth,” Staff Sergeant David Carmon explained in testimony to Army criminal investigators in December 1970. According to their synopsis, he admitted to using both electrical torture and water torture in interrogating a detainee who died not long after.

According to summaries of eyewitness statements by members of Carmon’s unit, the prisoner, identified as Nguyen Cong, had been “beat and kicked,” lost consciousness, and suffered convulsions. A doctor who examined Nguyen, however, claimed there was nothing wrong with him. Carmon and another member of his military intelligence team then “slapped the Vietnamese and poured water on his face from a five-gallon can,” according to a summary of his testimony. An official report from May 1971 states that Nguyen Cong passed out “and was carried to the confinement cage where he was later found dead.”

Years later, Carmon told me by email that the abuse of prisoners in Vietnam was extensive and encouraged by superiors. “Nothing was sanctioned,” he wrote, “but nothing was off-limits short of seriously injuring a prisoner.”

It turns out that Vietnamese prisoners weren’t the only ones subjected to water torture in Vietnam. U.S. military personnel serving there were victims, too. Documents I came across in the U.S. National Archives offer a glimpse of a horrifying history that few Americans know anything about.

“I had a ‘water job’ done on me,” one former American prisoner told a military investigator, according to a 1969 Army report. “I was handcuffed and taken to the shower… They held my head under the shower for about two minutes and when I’d pull back to breath, they beat me on the chest and stomach. This lasted for about 10 minutes, during which I was knocked to the floor twice. When I begged for them to stop, they did.”

Another said that his cellmate had rolled their cigarette butts together to fashion a full cigarette. When the guards discovered the “contraband,” they grabbed him and hauled him to the showers. “Three of the guards held me and the other one held my face under the shower,” he testified. “This lasted quite a while and I thought I was going to drown.” Afterward, he said, the same thing was done to his cellmate who, upon returning, admitted that “he confessed” as a result of the torture.

Still another captive testified that handcuffed prisoners were taken to the showers. “The guards would hold the prisoner’s head back and make him swallow water,” he explained. “This treatment would cause the prisoner to resist which would give the guards an excuse to punch the prisoner.” He also testified that it was no isolated incident. “I have witnessed such treatments about nine times.”

“Cruel or Unusual”

This wasn’t, in fact, the first time Americans had been subjected to water torture while at war in Asia. During World War II, members of the Japanese military used water torture on American prisoners. “I was given what they call the water cure,” Lieutenant Chase Nielsen testified after the war. When asked about the experience, he answered: “I felt more or less like I was drowning, just gasping between life and death.”

The same tortures were also meted out to American pilots captured during the Korean War. One described his treatment this way: “They would bend my head back, put a towel over my face, and pour water over the towel. I could not breathe… When I would pass out, they would shake me and begin again.”

For their crimes against prisoners, including water torture, some Japanese officers were convicted and sentenced to lengthy prison terms, while others were executed.

The legal response to torturers in Vietnam was very different. While investigating allegations against Staff Sergeant Carmon, for instance, Army agents discovered within his unit a pattern of “cruelty and maltreatment” of prisoners that went on from March 1968 to October 1969. According to an official report, Army agents determined that the evidence warranted formal charges against 22 interrogators, many of them implicated in the use of water torture, electrical torture, beatings, and other forms of mistreatment. But neither Carmon nor any of the others was ever charged, court martialed, or punished in any way, according to the records.

There was similar impunity for — in one of the more bizarre uses of water torture — Americans who tortured Americans in Vietnam. Although a 1969 Army Inspector General’s report into “alleged brutality and maltreatment” noted that “the water treatment was administered as a form of punishment and constitutes a form of maltreatment of prisoners,” those who water-tortured American personnel were never tried, let alone sentenced to long prison terms or executed for their crimes. In fact, those implicated — Army guards working at the American detention facility informally known as Long Binh Jail — apparently escaped any punishment whatsoever.

This record of impunity has continued in more recent years. While the CIA hasacknowledged its use of waterboarding after 9/11 and President Obama has unambiguously stated that the practice is a method of torture, his administration declared that no one would be prosecuted for utilizing it or any other “enhanced interrogation technique.” As a CIA spokesperson pointed out to ProPublica last year, after reviewing the Agency’s treatment of more than 100 detainees, the Department of Justice “declined prosecution in every case.”

The 1969 Inspector General’s report on American torture of American prisoners unequivocally defined the “water treatment” meted out to jailed American military personnel as “cruel or unusual.” Bush administration lawyers in the post-9/11 years, however, attempted to redefine the drowning of defenseless prisoners as something less than torture, basically turning the clock back to the ethical standards of the Spanish Inquisition.

At least that 1969 report noted that water torture “was administered without authority” to those American prisoners. The current situation has been radically different. In recent years, it wasn’t merely low-level brutalizers and their immediate superiors who sanctioned and approved torture techniques, but senior White House officials, including National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Vice President Dick Cheney. From George W. Bush’s own memoir, we know that the previous president gave an enthusiastic order (“Damn right!”) to subject other human beings to water torture, just as we know that President Obama has made certain no one in the government involved in ordering or facilitating such acts would ever answer for any of them.

In 1901, an American officer was sentenced to 10 years at hard labor for waterboarding a Filipino prisoner. By the late 1940s, the centuries-old practice was so reviled that significant prison time or even death lay in store for those using it. In the late 1960s, it was still viewed as a cruel and unusual punishment, even if U.S. troops who tortured Vietnamese and American captives weren’t subject to prosecution for it. In the twenty-first century, as water torture moved from Southeast Asian prison showers to the White House, it also morphed into an “enhanced interrogation technique.” Today, the president’s pick to head the CIArefuses even to label waterboarding as “torture.”

What does it say about a society when its morals and ethics on the treatment of captives go into reverse? What are we to make of leaders who authorize, promote, or shield such brutal practices or about citizens who stand by and allow them to happen? What does it mean when torture, already the definition of “cruel,” becomes usual?

Via TruthOut


After Palestinian dies in Shin Bet hands, time to question the interrogators


For years, Palestinian detainees and prisoners have complained about sleep deprivation, painful and prolonged handcuffing, humiliation, beatings and medical neglect. By international standards, this is torture.

By Amira Hass | Feb.25, 2013 | 1:30 AM | 12

Arafat Jaradat, 30, died while under interrogation by the Shin Bet security service. Every week dozens if not hundreds of Palestinians start down the road he began on February 18.An Israeli actor is seen demonstrating one of several standard torture techniques reportedly used by the Shin Bet. Photo by AP

Dozens of Israelis whose names are unknown are on a parallel track: the soldiers who make the arrest in the dead of night, the military doctor who examines the new detainee, Shin Bet interrogators in their changing shifts; Israel Prison Service guards, workers at the prison clinic, and the judge who extends the remand.

True, thousands of others take this road or sometimes a longer and harder one – and stay alive. This is probably what the Shin Bet and the prison service will say in their defense. But from the Palestinian perspective, every stop on the road of detention and interrogation involves enormous physical and psychological pain that the army, the police, the Shin Bet and the prison service inflict intentionally.

This goes well beyond the suffering that should be caused by taking away a person’s liberty and issuing an indictment. For years, Palestinian detainees and prisoners have complained about sleep deprivation, painful and prolonged handcuffing, humiliation, beatings and medical neglect. By international standards, this is torture.

Jaradat was not a ticking bomb. He was arrested on suspicion of throwing stones and an incendiary device at Israeli targets. After three days of interrogation the police asked the court (in the name of the Shin Bet) to extend his remand for another 15 days for questioning. The remand hearing took place on Thursday, February 21, at the Shin Bet’s Kishon interrogation facility, in front of a military judge, Maj. David Kadosh. The judge ordered the remand for 12 days.

Unclear confession

Kamil Sabbagh, an attorney for the Palestinian Authority’s Prisoner Affairs Ministry, asked the police investigator at the hearing whether there were other suspicions against his client; he was told there were not. He asked whether Jaradat had confessed, and the police investigator answered: “partially.” Sabbagh concluded that Jaradat had confessed to throwing stones.

Experience shows that the additional days of interrogation – many, considering the minor nature of the offenses – were not intended merely to extract more confessions, but to get Jaradat to implicate others or to gather personal information, even of an embarrassing nature, to use in the future. From reports by detainees to their attorneys, it’s clear that sleep deprivation combined with painful and prolonged handcuffing is very common. As we learn at military court and elsewhere, people confess to things they haven’t done or implicate others falsely, only to be allowed to sleep.

In the short time Jaradat and his attorney had before the remand hearing, Jaradat, who was suffering from a herniated disc, was able to tell Sabbagh that he was in pain from prolonged sitting. Judge Kadosh knew about the pain from a secret report he had been shown.While the judge was writing his decision, Jaradat told Sabbagh that conditions were difficult for him in isolation and he wanted to be moved to another cell. Sabbagh had the impression that Jaradat was under severe psychological stress, and told the judge this.

The judge then added to his decision: “The defense attorney requests the court’s permission to present the matter of the suspect’s mental health while in a cell alone, and his concerns about psychological damage. He requests that the suspect be examined and properly attended to.”

The role of informants

The remand hearing took place at 10 A.M. Thursday. As of Sunday, Sabbagh did not know when Jaradat had been moved to Megiddo Prison, where he died. Palestinian organizations representing prisoners say one possibility is that he was placed in a cell with informants at Megiddo.

Unlike Shin Bet interrogations, which are documented in memos, the existence of informants is not officially acknowledged by the authorities. Informants use various means to extract information, whether true or false. They boast about their exploits as members of Palestinian organizations, they suggest that the detainee is a collaborator because he does not discuss his actions with them, and they threaten him.

The investigation of Jaradat’s death must go through all phases of his detention and interrogation – and those of thousands of others. But any interrogation will be flawed from the outset because, by authorization of the High Court of Justice, Shin Bet interrogations are not filmed.

Only two weeks ago, on February 6, justices Asher Grunis, Hanan Melcer and Noam Sohlberg turned down a petition by four human rights groups demanding the annulment of a 2003 law letting the police forgo the filming or audiotaping of security suspects’ interrogations. The organizations also asked the court to require the Shin Bet to visually document the questioning of suspects. The justices said that because the law was now under scrutiny, “the time has not yet come to examine the petitioners’ arguments themselves.”

The Palestinians do not need an Israeli investigation. For them, Jaradat’s death is much bigger than the tragedy he and his family have suffered. From their experience, Jaradat’s death isn’t proof that others haven’t died, it’s proof that the Israeli system routinely uses torture. From their experience, the goal of torture is not only to convict someone, but mainly to deter and subjugate an entire people.

A prisoner is dead, a martyr is born

There is dying a martyr’s death. And then there is dying a martyr’s death under questioning by the Shin Bet security service. This is as lofty as it gets.

By Chaim Levinson | Feb.25, 2013 | 11:58 AM

Rioting on Policeman’s Square, Hebron, February 24, 2013. Photo by Emil Salman

Perhaps as a bleak gesture to Purim, on Sunday the stone-throwers of Hebron stockpiled quantities of detonators and firecrackers and hurled them at soldiers. The stores were closed: a strike by all commerce had been declared for the first time in years, as a mark of solidarity with Arafat Jaradat, the Palestinian who died at Megiddo Prison.

Policeman’s Square, the city’s main center of commerce since the Israel Defense Forces shut down the shops on Shuheda Street in 1994, was empty. It looked for all the world like a kind of Palestinian Yom Kippur, but for the roughly 200 teens engaging in a tenacious battle of stones with the army.

Riots in Policeman Square have been a recurring scene of late. Yesterday’s incidents were different in one factor: the Palestinian police didn’t show up.

Usually, after half an hour of letting the steam escape, Palestinian Authority policemen come along and shoo the youngsters home. This time they looked on from afar.

The local police force, which in any case has recently been struggling to sustain its legitimacy, can hardly use force to suppress demonstrations protesting Jaradat’s death.

The IDF deployment at the scene showed supreme restraint. The forces in the field were under the command of an officer who organized a small group of sharpshooters and personally approved every single rubber bullet filed at the main rioters.

Overnight Jaradat has become a symbol of the Palestinian prisoners’ struggle. Paradoxically, this most inconsequential of prisoners, a man arrested for throwing stones, a man who belonged to no organization and of whom no one had ever heard, is the one uniting Palestinian society.

There is dying a martyr’s death. And then there is dying a martyr’s death under questioning by the Shin Bet security service. This is as lofty as it gets.

As in the debate about whether the Jews crucified Jesus, the facts no longer matter. At most, that will be the fief of historians. What matters are emotions and imagination.

Insult to the dead

The demonstrators at Policeman Square yesterday are confident that Jaradat was tortured to death by Shin Bet investigators. Israel’s official version, that he died of heart failure, was scornfully rejected. It was an insult to the dead.

Ultimately, the day passed in relative quiescence. Postponing the deceased’s funeral by 24 hours calmed tempers a bit. But after the funeral, going by precedent, extensive unrest can be expected.

In the meantime disturbances are establishing themselves at every location where there is a permanent military presence, such as the Hwara roadblock at the entrance to Nablus, and the Jalma roadblock at the entrance to Jenin. Stone-throwing along the roads traveled by settlers is rising a notch.

Weapons have not yet been taken out of storage. Armed men have not been seen in the streets. On Saturday a picture of armed men marching came out of the Balata refuge camp but they covered themselves from head to toe, like a bride in Mea She’arim, signaling fear of arrest, be it by the Palestinian Authority or by Israel.

For now, the masses are staying home. One might have expected that in an obstinate city like Hebron, where all the stores have joined the strike to mark Jaradat’s death, more people would have taken to the streets. The army is making a supreme effort not to fuel the protests with more dead and funerals. In the meantime the incidents are like public opinion polls: They are indicative mainly of trends.

The author

Chaim Levinson is a Haaretz correspondent, covering the Jewish settlements in the West Bank.
Previously, he was the Yedioth Ahoronot correspondent for Religious Affairs and the Orthodox communities.
Levinson received his B.A. in Social and Humanities Studies at the Open University and is currently studying for his M.A. in Interdisciplinary Democracy Studies.

BBC Close Up:Syrian Diaries:Women of the Uprising.


Syrian Stories: Armed with a Mic and Camera

Amal Hanano  –  February 22, 2013

On April 25, 2011, a man held up a video camera in Deraa. He was not an experienced videographer and he did not have a tripod.

He stood in front of a group of Syrian army soldiers with tanks and filmed them shooting their machine guns towards civilian targets. Each time he watched the clip on his laptop, he noticed the footage was shaky due to his trembling hand, so he would go back to his exposed vantage point to film once more.

He did this 24 times before he made this passably stable clip:

His name was Mohamed “Abu al-Nimer” Masalmeh.

On January 18, 2013 – after 22 months of reporting as a citizen journalist from Deraa – he was killed by army snipers in the village of Busra al-Harir.

He was armed with a microphone and his camera.

Once, before the revolution ignited from his home city, Mohamed, 32, had been detained for four months in the Air Force intelligence center in Damascus.

He was released during the first weeks of the Arab Spring in time to witness an ousted dictator in Tunisia and a roaring Tahrir Square threatening Mubarak.

A group of underground activists, including Mohamed, began meeting at a farm to discuss how to begin a similar revolution in Syria.

As they did, 15 schoolboys — influenced by both their older brothers’ secret discussions and the protests in Egypt and Libya — famously wrote on school walls in Deraa, an event many call the official start of the uprising.

“The people want to topple the regime,” they scrawled. They were arrested and tortured.

On Wednesday, March 15, 2011, Mohamed joined a group of 30 men to protest the schoolboys’ arrest in Deraa’s main square, in front of the courthouse.

Intelligence officers had already heard about the plan, and swarmed the area. The protest was silently aborted. On March 18, they tried again, this time emerging from the Hamza and Abbas Mosque after Friday prayers, chanting: “freedom, freedom, freedom!”

Thousands joined them. Security forces opened fire, two protesters were killed, and a revolution was born.

Mohamed picked up a camera to film the events unfolding in the city. He joined the growing Sham News Network (SNN) as a citizen journalist.

His reports were tributes to the destruction of his city. He took to wearing disguises during his television reports: a black wig; a scarf; large sunglasses.

But this son of Deraa, with his round face and kind eyes, was known to his city and to the circling shabiha. He was a wanted man.

Last year, Mohamed began reporting for Al-Jazeera. He felt Deraa had been forgotten in the media as violence raged across the country.

His reports from the ground exposed the suffering of southern Syria.

A week before his death, his wife returned to Deraa to visit him. They took walks on the snow-covered streets and he drew a heart in the snow.

Her name meant loyalty. Her husband was known for his generosity, often returning home with emptied pockets after walking the city’s streets.

Although he was the city’s most prominent media activist, he never upgraded his old Nokia phone.

“This phone understands me and I understand it,” he told people.

Mohamed once said that he thanked God “that I was blessed to be one of the men to leave the Hamza and Abbas Mosque chanting, ‘freedom.’”

He insisted on mentioning martyrs’ names in his reports, lest anyone forget, including the names of other sons of Houran: Ali Masalmeh, Mahmoud Jawabrah and Husam Abd al-Wali Ayyash.

When four Shaam journalists were killed in May 2012 in Damascus, Mohamed protested in Deraa, without a disguise, holding a sign that read, simply: “We are all Sham.”

In his last few weeks, his friends begged him to leave Deraa; it had become too dangerous. He replied, “I’ll leave, but first I need to go to Busra al-Harir so I can rest.”

Busra al-Harir, 50 kilometers east of Deraa, was the site of intense fighting between Bashar al-Assad’s regime forces and the Syrian rebels.

In his final video, below, he stands on a street corner with armed Free Syrian Army fighters.

He is unarmed, in regular clothes, holding a microphone with a makeshift Al-Jazeera logo. A fighter tests the situation and darts across the street first. He arrives safely to the other side.

Mohamed is next; he is visibly nervous. He puts his head down and runs. Three shots break the silence. Three bullets catch him before he reaches to safety. He falls; his body convulses. The video ends.

Mohamed was shot twice in the torso and once in his leg. There were no doctors or an adequate medical facility to treat him. He bled to death.

Deraa paused one day in January to mourn a man who had finally found a place to rest.

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