Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Even the Dalai Lama agrees with bin Laden assassination.

From the LA Times:
As the leader of Tibetan Buddhism, the 14th Dalai Lama says he practices compassion to such an extent that he tries to avoid swatting mosquitoes "when my mood is good and there is no danger of malaria," sometimes watching with interest as they swell with his blood.

Yet, in an appearance Tuesday at USC, he appeared to suggest that the United States was justified in killing Osama bin Laden.

As a human being, Bin Laden may have deserved compassion and even forgiveness, the Dalai Lama said in answer to a question about the assassination of the Al Qaeda leader. But, he said, "Forgiveness doesn't mean forget what happened. … If something is serious and it is necessary to take counter-measures, you have to take counter-measures."

Treasure trove of data seized from bin Laden's mansion.

From Irish Times:
US INTELLIGENCE officers have discovered unpublished statements from Osama bin Laden amid “a treasure trove” of computer hard drives, CDs, DVDs and papers seized from his safe house in Pakistan, an American government official claimed yesterday.

They believe they may also have found communications between al-Qaeda lieutenants and bin Laden which could reveal information about potential targets, strategic guidance of the terror network, and the whereabouts of its leadership and operatives.

US Navy Seals who raided the Abbottabad compound on Sunday and shot bin Laden and two others dead took away a range of “removable media” such as computer disks. The US government believes some of the hardware could have been used to get messages to and from bin Laden in the absence of an internet or phone link to the hideaway, a two-hour drive from Islamabad, the official said.

White House counter-terrorism chief John Brennan, in a briefing yesterday, said: “What we’re most interested in is seeing if we can get any insight into any terrorist plot that might be under way so that we can take the measures to stop any type of attack planning. Secondly, we’re trying to look and see whether or not there are leads to other individuals within the organisation, or insights into their capabilities.”

An urgent priority will be to find any evidence of attacks which bin Laden might have ordered in the event of his death, according to British sources familiar with the find. “The data could also help to clarify just how candid the Pakistanis have been about the knowledge of his movements,” a UK source said.

Another central question which the cache may help answer is the whereabouts of Ayman al-Zawahiri, al-Qaeda’s deputy leader, and the extent to which bin Laden continued to communicate with the outside world on both strategy and operations.

The US official familiar with the intelligence operation stressed the process of analysing documents was at an early stage, and would not say yet whether the bin Laden statements found were written or recorded on audio or video, or how recent they were – except to say they had not been seen before.

Video taken after the raid inside the house appeared to show broken computers in one room which had been stripped of hard drives. The discovery of the cache is being treated as a coup in intelligence circles, which could prove to be a vital reference document on al-Qaeda for years to come.

It is understood British computer forensics experts are on standby to help sift through what one US official described to the US news website as “the motherlode of intelligence”.

Pakistan blames rest of the world for their incompetence.

Let's hope Pakistan only harbored terrorists and didn't supply them with nuclear materials. Item.
Pakistan's prime minister says spy agencies worldwide share the blame for his country's failure to capture Osama Bin Laden, who was killed by US forces.

"We have intelligence failure of the rest of the world including the United States," PM Yousuf Raza Gilani said.

Pakistan has been criticised for not locating Bin Laden, who was living near the country's main military academy.

The CIA head has said the US did not tell Islamabad of the raid in advance, for fear it would be jeopardised.

[...] Speaking to reporters during a visit to Paris on Wednesday, Mr Gilani said: "There is intelligence failure of the whole world, not Pakistan alone."

He added that Pakistan needed "the support of the entire world" to combat militants.

"We are fighting and paying a heavy price," he said, adding that his government was "fighting not only for Pakistan but for the peace, prosperity and progress of the whole world".

Earlier his foreign minister questioned the suggestion by CIA Director Leon Panetta that Pakistan could not be trusted with details of the operation.

Pakistani Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir told the BBC that this view was "disquieting" and his country had a "pivotal role" in tackling terrorism.

He said the compound in Abbottabad where Bin Laden was shot dead had been identified as suspicious some time ago by Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI).

But it took the greater resources of the CIA to determine that it was the al-Qaeda leader's hiding place.

[...] The BBC's Aleem Maqbool in Abbottabad says that if Bin Laden had been there for as long as five years, it raises questions about the Pakistani authorities.

Either they were incredibly incompetent or were harbouring the al-Qaeda leader, our correspondent says.

North Korean political concentration camps growing.

From BBC News:
A rights group has published satellite images of what it says are North Korea's political prison camps, saying they appear to be growing in size.

In a linked report, Amnesty International also provides new witness testimony to shed light on the conditions in the camps.

The document details accounts of torture, starvation and mass executions of political inmates.

Amnesty has urged the secretive state to immediately close all the camps.

It also calls on Pyongyang to publicly admit the existence of the camps.

The North Korean government - which has denied the existence of mass political prison camps - has not publicly commented on the report's findings.

The new images show four of the six camps occupying huge areas of land in vast wilderness sites in the provinces of South Pyongan, South Hamkyung and North Hamkyung, Amnesty says.

A comparison of the latest pictures with satellite imagery from 2001 indicates "a significant increase in the scale of the camps", it adds.

"These are places out of sight of the rest of the world, where almost the entire range of human rights protections that international law has tried to set up for the last 60 years are ignored," said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty's Asia Pacific director.

"As North Korea seems to be moving towards a new leader in Kim Jong-un and a period of political instability, the big worry is that the prison camps appear to be growing in size."

Amnesty says its report is also based on testimony from 15 former inmates and prison guards and a number of other people.

The former prisoners at one camp at Yodok said they were forced to work in conditions approaching slavery and were frequently subjected to torture and inhumane treatment.

Kim, a former prisoner in Kwanliso 15 at Yodok, says: "Everyone in Kwanliso witnessed executions. All those who tried to escape were caught. They were interrogated for two to three months and then executed."

Amnesty also says it has been told of several accounts of people in the camps eating rats or picking corn kernels out of animal waste purely to survive amid severe food shortages.

Monsanto's Roundup herbicide may be dangerous to plants, animals, and humans.

From Alternet:
Dr. Don Huber did not seek fame when he quietly penned a confidential letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack in January of this year, warning Vilsack of preliminary evidence of a microscopic organism that appears in high concentrations in genetically modified Roundup Ready corn and soybeans and "appears to significantly impact the health of plants, animals and probably human beings." Huber, a retired Purdue University professor of plant pathology and U.S. Army colonel, requested the USDA's help in researching the matter and suggested Vilsack wait until the research was concluded before deregulating Roundup Ready alfalfa. But about a month after it was sent, the letter was leaked, soon becoming an internet phenomenon.

Huber was unavailable to respond to media inquiries in the weeks following the leak, and thus unable to defend himself when several colleagues from Purdue publicly claiming to refute his accusations about Monsanto's widely used herbicide Roundup (glyphosate) and Roundup Ready crops. When his letter was finally acknowledged by the mainstream media, it was with titles like "Scientists Question Claims in Biotech Letter," noting that the letter's popularity on the internet "has raised concern among scientists that the public will believe his unsupported claim is true."

Now, Huber has finally spoken out, both in a second letter, sent to "a wide number of individuals worldwide" to explain and back up his claims from his first letter, and in interviews. While his first letter described research that was not yet complete or published, his second letter cited much more evidence about glyphosate and genetically engineered crops based on studies that have already been published in peer-reviewed journals.

The basis of both letters and much of the research is the herbicide glyphosate. First commercialized in 1974, glyphosate is the most widely used herbicide in the world and has been for some time. Glyphosate has long been considered a relatively benign product, because it was thought to break down quickly in the environment and harm little other than the weeds it was supposed to kill.

According to the National Pesticide Information Center, glyphosate prevents plants from making a certain enzyme. Without the enzyme, they are unable to make three essential amino acids, and thus, unable to survive. Once applied, glyphosate either binds to soil particles (and is thus immobilized so it can no longer harm plants) or microorganisms break it down into ammonium and carbon dioxide. Very little glyphosate runs off into waterways. For these reasons, glyphosate has been thought of as more or less harmless: you spray the weeds, they die, the glyphosate goes away, and nothing else in the environment is harmed.

But Huber says this is not true. First of all, he points out, evidence began to emerge in the 1980s that "what glyphosate does is, essentially, give a plant AIDS." Just like AIDS, which cripples a human's immune system, glyphosate makes plants unable to mount a defense against pathogens in the soil. Without its defense mechanisms functioning, the plants succumb to pathogens in the soil and die. Furthermore, glyphosate has an impact on microorganisms in the soil, helping some and hurting others. This is potentially problematic for farmers, as the last thing one would want is a buildup of pathogens in the soil where they grow crops.