Focal Points Blog

Amanda Knox Trial: Italian Judiciary Attempts to Save Face, Winds up With More Egg on It

Rudy Guede, convicted in the murder of Meredith Kercher.

Rudy Guede, convicted in the murder of Meredith Kercher.

As most who follow the news or social media know, Amanda Knox was originally found guilty, along with two others, of murdering housemate Meredith Kercher in Perugia, Italy. She served four years in Italian prison, but was released when the verdict was overturned on appeal. After Ms. Knox returned to the United States, she (in absentia) and her then boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito were retried ― some technicality prevented that from being considered double jeopardy ― in Florence. On Thursday, the guilt verdict was reinstated. Bear in mind no actual evidence has been found. Afterwards, Ms. Knox’s attorney, Ted Simon, said:

“The bottom line is, there is no evidence. There was no evidence, and there never will be any evidence, and that’s why this is such a gross miscarriage of justice.”
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How the UN Can Ignore 8,000 Deaths in Haiti

Haitian Minister of Public Health Dr. Alex Larsen with patient. Image Wikimedia Commons

Haitian Minister of Public Health Dr. Alex Larsen with patient. Image Wikimedia Commons

Since its independence in 1804, Haiti has suffered from a multitude of ailments—poverty, corruption, instability—common among the developing countries of the world. However, cholera was not one of them. Cholera is an infection of the small intestine that is contracted from drinking water that has been contaminated by human waste. Symptoms include vomiting, diarrhea, and sometimes death.

In October 2010, the first cases of cholera began springing up around the Artibonite River—a life source for thousands of Haitians in the central plateau region—and the first patients began arriving at St. Nicolas Hospital in St. Marc. After rumors begin to spread that UN peacekeepers from Nepal were to blame, Associated Press reporter Jonathan Katz went to the Nepalese base and found that human waste was leaking into the river.
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United Nations Description of Burma’s Rohingya as “Friendless” All Too True

Rohingya

Few days back, I read about yet another vicious attack on Myanmar’s helpless and persecuted Rohingya minority. This time, the venue was Du Chee Ya Tan village in the Rakhine state, which lies pretty close to Bangladesh. Just in case you are thinking that the rioters shamelessly justified their misdeeds by claiming that the victims were illegal Bengalis trying to sneak into Myanmar — yeah, you’re right.

For the past many years, nothing new has happened in Myanmar. Each time, it is the same old story: angry Buddhist mobs attack the Rohingya masses (the latter being in minority). Thereafter, the carnage follows: kill, rape, loot, massacre, and so on. This time, news sources claim that members of the Rohingya community had dared to protest against the atrocities after certain local Rakhine officials had kidnapped, raped and killed eight Rohingya women last week. Needless to say, the protesters were rewarded with brutal acts of slaughter.
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Demoralized “Missileers” Unwittingly Make Case for Disarmament

NuclearWarhead

On January 17, I posted:

For the past couple of years, Robert Burns of the Associated Press has been chronicling what he describes as the “deliberate violations of safety rules, failures of inspections,” and “breakdowns in training” of the United States nuclear missile force. He’s also found “evidence that the men and women who operate the missiles from underground command posts are suffering burnout.”

His latest discovery:

In what may be the biggest such scandal in Air Force history, 34 officers entrusted with land-based nuclear missiles have been pulled off the job for alleged involvement in a cheating ring that officials say was uncovered during a drug probe.
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The Tiguentourine Natural Gas Facility Attack in Algeria One Year Later

Tiguentourine natural gas facility

Tiguentourine natural gas facility

Cross-posted from Counterpunch.

1. With Washington  and London by his side “in spirit” – Bouteflika initiates one of the biggest purges in modern Algerian history.

A year after the attack on the Tiguentourine natural gas processing complex, in In-Amenas commune within the Illizi Province of Southeastern Algeria, the consequences of those events are still reverberating.

Under intense pressure from the United States, Great Britain and Norway the Algerian government has been forced to make major concessions to international oil companies. Tiguerntourine is run jointly by British Petroleum (BP) and Statoil (the Norwegian state oil company) in conjunction with the Algerian government’s energy company, Sonatrach.
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Foreign Policy Thin-Sliced (1/24)

 Than Shwe, former head of Burma’s junta


Than Shwe, former head of Burma’s junta

Accuracy Is Not the Issue With Drones, It’s the Video

What the public needs to understand is that the video provided by a drone is not usually clear enough to detect someone carrying a weapon, even on a crystal-clear day with limited cloud and perfect light. This makes it incredibly difficult for the best analysts to identify if someone has weapons for sure. One example comes to mind: “The feed is so pixelated, what if it’s a shovel, and not a weapon?”

I worked on the US drone program. The public should know what really goes on, Heather Linebaugh, the Guardian
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Forget the Final Status Issues

Kerry and Israeli Officials

Secretary of State John Kerry with Israeli officials/Wikimedia Commons

Editor’s note: “Final status” refers to the last step toward completing a full peace agreement between Israel and the state of Palestine.

For decades the international community — led by the United States — has been stuck on the notion that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict can only be resolved through a long, drawn-out negotiation process culminating in a comprehensive agreement to settle the full range of final status issues. This idea has become so ingrained in the way the conflict is discussed, that the process itself is now considered something inherently valuable and worth fighting for, rather than just a means to an end.
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Will Discovery of Torture Trove Weaken Syria’s Hand at Geneva II?

Assad, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier

One shudders at the phrases “systematic” and “industrial-scale” killing used by the three lawyers who prepared a report on torture and killing of detainees by the Assad regime. (Yet another huge story broken by the Guardian.) A military policeman secretly working with a Syrian opposition group smuggled out 55,000 images of 11,000 bodies tortured and/or starved to death. It gets worse.

Many other photographers are attached to security units elsewhere in the country and are likely to have been asked to provide visual evidence of deaths.

Even just trying to imagine the suffering is unimaginable. One can only hope it will put Syria on the defensive at the upcoming Geneva II peace talks. It already bodes ill for Assad when Secretary of State John Kerry says, as he did yesterday:

“The right to lead a country does not come from torture. . . . The only thing standing in the way is the stubborn clinging to power of one man.”

Why were these pictures taken? As proof that detainees were tortured and killed. Just like the Nazis, Syria finds itself tripped up by a perceived need for recordkeeping.

Algeria’s Energy Company Sonatrach: 50 Years of Corruption

Algeria’s In Amenas natural gas facility

Algeria’s In Amenas natural gas facility

Cross-posted from the Colorado Progressive Jewish News.

Note: What follows is an English translation of an open letter (original in French) to the Algerian people reflecting on the 50th anniversary of the founding of Sonatrach, the Algerian energy company.
― Rob Prince

Sonatrach: Algeria’s Energy Company, 50 Years Later1 by Hocine Malti2

December 25, 2013

In a few days, Sonatrach, the Algerian energy company, will celebrate its 50th anniversary. I am not sure how to begin reflecting upon its half century of history. Should 31 December [2013] be cause for celebration? Or should it be more somberly noted that on that date, the national oil company marked its 50th year of existence. A celebration usually includes a formal ceremony that takes place in an atmosphere of joy, if not jubilation.

Does such an atmosphere exist today in Sonatrach or even in Algeria? Obviously not!
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No, Really, the Sarin Attack Wasn’t Assad’s

Chemical weapon in Syria. Image Wikipedia Commons

Chemical weapon in Syria. Image Wikipedia Commons

Benghazi has given conservatives another chance to sink their teeth into a conspiracy (and Hillary Clinton’s pant leg) and hold on for dear life. Its most recent installment is their “knee-jerk claim,” as Media Matters’ Eric Boehlert referred to it earlier this month, that David Kirkpatrick’s Times series, A Deadly Mix In Benghazi, “was really an elaborate effort to aid Hillary Clinton if she runs for president in three years.”

In the meantime, conservatives are neglecting another controversy that’s morphing into a conspiracy ― allegations that Syria’s Assad regime launched a sarin gas attack on Damascus’s Ghouta suburb. The Obama administration was prepared to use that as a pretext for military intervention (until, of course, Secretary of State Kerry said of Assad, “He could turn over every single bit of his chemical weapons to the international community in the next week” and Russia jumped into the void).
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