segunda-feira, 13 de setembro de 2010
He used to boast about all the "stuff" he had done in Iraq and about how easy it was for an American soldier to get away with almost anything in a war. Sergeant Calvin Gibbs, 25, a native of the US state of Montana, was the highest-ranking member of a group of five soldiers that he allegedly dubbed the "kill team". Gibbs had been in Iraq long enough to know how to impress his fellow soldiers.
All you have to do, he told them in December, is "toss a grenade" and you'll have killed a bunch of Afghans. The kill team apparently tossed its first grenade in January.
Now the team faces a military court in Seattle. The five men, who are aged between 19 and 29, are soldiers in the 2nd Infantry Division stationed in the Kandahar region. The men are facing charges of war crimes, including the premeditated murder of at least three Afghan civilians. Seven other soldiers in their battalion have been charged in connection with the conspiracy or with attempting to cover it up. If convicted, they could face prison sentences, possibly even life in prison. The alleged murderers could even face the death penalty.
America's Reputation at Stake
America has good reasons to be alarmed. Although it is still unclear as to how well-founded the allegations are, the case could have enormous repercussions for the entire country.
It involves more than a court imposing a just penalty for brutal murders, and more than compliance with the military code of honor and the Geneva Conventions. At stake is the reputation of a country that, after eight years under the administration of former President George W. Bush, had set out to liberate itself from charges of moral failure. Indeed, the Seattle case raises the question of whether the United States has really turned its back on the days when it gambled away its reputation with images of naked Iraqis forced to form human pyramids in Abu Ghraib prison.
If the claims made in the indictment are true, the crimes committed by the kill team went beyond the killing of Afghan civilians. In fact, the men allegedly devised "scenarios" for the killings, a kind of script that included plausible pretexts for the murders. Gibbs is believed to have been the planner, while the younger team members did the shooting. The men apparently treated killing as a sport.
They allegedly fired at their victims with gusto, collecting trophies that included finger and toe bones, and even a tooth. The charges outline senseless, horrific acts reminiscent of a former America, an America of waterboarding, torture scandals and Guantanamo Bay. They also raise the question of what exactly has changed since the election campaign in which then-candidate Barack Obama promised so much, including a more responsible approach to warfare and the closing of the military prison in Cuba, an important symbol of America's moral failings under former President George W. Bush.
The "kill team" scandal comes at the worst possible time, with the November midterm elections only two months away, elections that could take a high toll on Obama's Democrats.
So far the crimes in Kandahar appear to be isolated cases, with no indications that anyone sanctioned or even supported the attacks. They are the actions of young hooligans who had lost some of their perspective as a result of the war. In the battalion that includes the "kill team," a total of 33 soldiers have died in combat missions against insurgents. The members of the battalion had experienced the horrors of war, and some of them take drugs, including hashish, to cope. From this perspective, the murders can also be seen as the horrific crimes of crazed soldiers, who are out of touch with reality.
Similar things happened in Afghanistan almost 30 years ago, when the Soviet army invaded the country. Murders, robberies and looting were widespread at the time. Demoralized Soviet soldiers would rob Afghan civilians at checkpoints. Often they would kill their victims, claiming they were mujahideen.
Feeling helpless in their inability to counter the resistance of the Afghans, Moscow's troops turned to drugs and alcohol. Having lost their inhibitions, they committed atrocities they would never forget. In September 1982, a group of Russian soldiers burned 105 villagers alive in an irrigation canal south of Kabul. Women were thrown naked from helicopters. In a particularly horrific incident, soldiers doused a boy in kerosene and set him on fire in front of his parents.
The murders committed by the American soldiers in Kandahar also speak to a broader context. They reflect the general mood, the barbarization that has always accompanied wars that have dragged on this long -- in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.
Police hold press briefing to announce latest news and discoveries
The man taken into custody after an explosion at Hotel Jørgensen on Friday continues to do everything in his power to conceal his true identity.
At a press conference in Copenhagen today, inspector Svend Foldager said police still have no idea who the man is or his possible motive.
He did not have a mobile phone, credit cards or any other evidence indicating where he came from or where he may have been prior to arriving in Copenhagen. The only thing he did have on him was a Belgian ID card, but it turns out this card did not belong to him.
The suspect has told police that he is a vegetarian and although he has not given evidence of following any one kind of religion, he asked for a Koran and a Bible.
Police have also found out that the suspect scratched out the serial number on his prosthetic leg. The leg, which wears on his right leg, seems to be an expensive model from western Europe.
Lastly, police found a multitool and a gun on the man. The tool was found at the man’s hotel room and the gun he had on him at the time of his arrest in Ørstedsparken.
Police are currently seeing if they can use the gun and the ammunition in the gun to trace down any locations where he has been.
Police said that they have no other suspects in the case.
The Copenhagen Post
Japan's ruling party is due to vote in a leadership election that could give the country its third prime minister in a year.
Veteran power-broker Ichiro Ozawa has challenged Prime Minister Naoto Kan for the top job in the wake of poor results in July's upper house elections.
Reports from Japan suggest that the race is too close to call.
Mr Kan is more popular with the public than his rival, but Mr Ozawa commands support from a large party faction.
The Democratic Party of Japan's (DPJ) 411 members of parliament, local DPJ lawmakers and party members will choose between the two men on Tuesday afternoon.
Reports suggest MPs - whose votes carry much more weight - are evenly split between the two men, while Mr Kan has more support from local lawmakers and party members.
Whoever becomes party leader will become the prime minister, because the DPJ has a majority in the lower house of parliament.
The Pentagon is set to notify the US Congress of a $60bn (£39bn) weapons sale to Saudi Arabia, reports quoting US officials say.
The deal to sell advanced military aircraft to the Saudi kingdom is aimed at shoring up an Arab ally against Iran, the Wall Street Journal reported.
The arms deal, set to support 75,000 US jobs, would be among the largest yet.
The notification will set off a review where lawmakers could push for changes, impose conditions or block the trade.
Pentagon spokesman Col Dave Lapan said Congressional notification was expected within "the next week or so" but he declined to comment on details of the proposed package.
The BBC's Paul Adams in Washington says the administration is unlikely to encounter much opposition to the sale of weaponry to a traditional ally and will probably argue that it is all part of a strategy to bolster friendly Arab governments in the face of growing strategic threats from Iran.
Off the record, defence officials say the administration will authorise the sale of dozens of aircraft, including F-15 fighter jets and Apache, Black Hawk and Little Bird helicopters.
Saudi Arabia would reportedly initially purchase about $30bn worth of aircraft, but could buy more at a later date.
One of France's most respected newspapers, Le Monde, says it is filing a lawsuit accusing the office of President Nicolas Sarkozy of spying on its journalists.
The paper says the presidency used the intelligence service to identify one of its sources.
Le Monde says the government was angry about its coverage of a funding scandal involving Mr Sarkozy's party.
The president's office rejected all of the paper's claims.
It said it had "never given a single instruction" to investigate Le Monde's sources.
The newspaper says the president's office was annoyed by a story it ran in July naming Labour Minister Eric Woerth in connection with an investigation into the finances of France's richest woman, L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt.
The authorities are investigating whether she made illegal donations to Mr Sarkozy's election campaign in 2007.
The president and Mr Woerth, who was the treasurer of Mr Sarkozy's party at the time, have denied any wrongdoing.
Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair is to be awarded one of the US's highest private honours for his role in the Northern Ireland peace process.
Mr Blair will be given the Liberty Medal by the National Constitution Center in Philadelphia on Monday.
The award comes as Mr Blair has cancelled promotional events for a new autobiography amid protests by critics of his role in the US-led Iraq war.
Officials with the centre acknowledge Mr Blair is a contentious choice.
The Liberty Medal is to be awarded to Mr Blair on Monday evening by former President Bill Clinton. Mr Blair has already been awarded the Congressional Gold Medal by the US government.
Mr Blair is currently serving as envoy for the international Quartet of Middle East peace mediators, the US, UK, EU and Russia.
The Global Policy Forum in Yaroslavl, attended by the heads of Russia and South Korea, as well as the Italian prime minister, has managed, in quite a curious way, to reinforce the conclusions made a few days ago by several Valdai Discussion Club members who toured a number of Russian regions and met with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin. Incidentally, some of the Valdai participants also attended the public meetings in Yaroslavl and President Dmitry Medvedev's meeting with political analysts.
Not only did their assessments of the problems facing and prospects for Russia's modernization tally, but the questions they posed matched as well. Valdai participants also devoted the lion's share of their time to Russia's history and its repercussions (alas often negative) for ongoing developments. Now, President Medvedev, who met with political analysts "on the sidelines" of the Yaroslavl Forum, has again pointed out the "high level of inertia" in history, which to a large extent continues to determine the country's development. Russia had never been a democracy before the last two decades, RIA Novosti quoted him as saying. "We are a country with a thousand years of authoritarian history," he said, adding that Russia is an interesting example of how a democracy can develop against the backdrop of a powerful authoritarian past.
Yet, does the fact that never before has there been democracy in Russia automatically imply that Russians have no individual freedom and have never had it? Certainly not. Adam Michnik, the editor in chief of Warsaw's Gazeta Wyborcza, who has long described himself as "an anti-Soviet Russophile," was very convincing when he talked about this during the Valdai Forum. Europe has in fact long tended to distinguish between the Russian state and the Russian people. Although often fair, this practice also serves as a fig leaf for Russophobia. As people claim it's only the Russian government they dislike, not Russians in general, and their isolation of the whole nation is highly regrettable, but unavoidable.
Still, even the fiercest critics of Russia cannot claim that there is no individual freedom in the country. Other Valdai participants agreed, citing the famous 19th century historian Vasily Klyuchevsky, whose books are still relevant because they lack all political bias, and were entirely impartial, devoid of obsequious loyalty to the regime or opposition rhetoric.
First deputy head of the Kremlin staff Vladislav Surkov commented on this at the Yaroslavl Forum: "I don't know if I am a democrat. But I know that I am a free individual," he was quoted by Rossiiskaya Gazeta as saying.
Cuba will slash more than half a million excess jobs in the public sector in 2011, the Central Labor Union of Cuba (CTC) said on Monday.
In early August, Cuban President Raul Castro announced plans to gradually slash as many as one million jobs (some 20% of Cuba's work force). Some experts view the move as a step towards the transformation of Cuba's communist economic model into a more market-oriented one.
Cuban Economy Minister Marino Murillo has said however that that the country's economy will remain planned and centralized, although he admitted that the government could loosen its tight control over small businesses.
"In line with the process of actualizing the economic model and economic plans for 2011-2015, it is planned to cut more than half a million jobs in the public sector and employ [the redundant workers] in the private sector," the CTC said in a statement.
According to Cuban government statistics, about 75% of the country's labor force is employed by the state.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Barroso agreed on Monday to cooperate in modernizing the Ukrainian gas transportation system.
The Soviet-era gas transit system pumps 141 billion cubic meters of gas to Europe annually.
Ukraine has previously discussed the issue of modernizing its pipelines with Russia's Gazprom, but the sides have not yet come to an agreement. Gazprom CEO Alexei Miller said the Russian energy giant may fund the modernization if Ukraine's gas company Naftogaz merges with Gazprom.
Speaking after a meeting with Barroso in Kiev, Yanukovych said "we have an intention to invite partners from other countries, besides Russia, and make the Ukrainian gas transportation system work transparently".
Ukrainian authorities have also proposed creating a consortium involving Ukraine, Russia and the EU to operate its gas transit system.
Russian officials, including Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, have said that Russia was still interested in Ukraine's gas transportation system, despite the construction of the South Stream pipeline intended to pump Russian gas to Europe under the Black Sea bypassing Ukraine.
After a showing of Inception, at least half the audience leaves the theater feeling bewildered. Not that the plot twists are impossible to follow, if you aren’t distracted by your girlfriend and popcorn. But it’s clear that the creators spent $160 million (plus another $100 million in advertising) to make a movie that is intentionally perplexing. The main problem with reviewing Hollywood blockbusters is that they seem irrelevant compared to the films’ looming budgets. Inception, Avatar, Clash of the Titans and other Hollywood blockbusters rely on the adrenalin rush they give to audiences: even if you fail to grasp the point of catharsis in the character development of Dom Cobb (Leonardo DiCaprio) or if you’ve forgotten exactly which layer of the dream world the heroes are on at the moment, you still get your fair share of thrills and chills from the mass destruction and sublime love.
Amazingly enough, Christopher Nolan’s film actually manages to capture the zeitgeist. Humanity has been keenly aware of the relativity that defines human life ever since the time of Albert Einstein (or perhaps Prince Hamlet). This cultural category has been one of the most popular in the realm hovering between mainstream and underground throughout the second half of the 20th century. The magical realism of Julio Cortazar, Jorge Luis Borges and Gabriel Garcia Marquez was destined to invade the film industry, where it culminated in The Matrix and other movies in which the heroes are forced to constantly question reality (Vanilla Sky is with the film most closely related to Inception in my mind). The relativity of truth has become a part of the mainstream, like post-nuclear dystopias and space odysseys, largely thanks to Nolan. The dream theme is always a winner, even if it is rather hackneyed by now, and Inception offers a profoundly original treatment of the theme – at least by Hollywood standards. The absence of pseudo-Freudian dream interpretations in the film is especially welcome. In short, Inception is a skillful blend of time-tested themes and devices.
Among the stylistic merits of Inception is Nolan’s choice to shoot it on a good old 35 mm camera, though the movie would have grossed even more with a 70 mm. But then, the realist’s ideals take precedence over profit. As for visual effects, they are not conceptually original either. The novelty of the plot makes them striking, however. The characters freely travel through all four dimensions and create their own reality in a dream they all share – all with the hallmarks of your classic American blockbuster: nonstop shootouts that the good guys make it through unscathed, car chases through cities, slow motion action sequences, etc. But to its credit, the film is one of the few action movies in which the effects are not superfluous thrills but are intricately related to the plot dynamics and the underlying idea.
But every proper Hollywood movie needs at least one completely original shtick. Cobb and his team enter the dreamscape with the help of a device in a nickel-plated suitcase they always have with them. The descent into the dream world begins with an intravenous injection. The allusion to heroin addiction is clear. For instance, when the team recruits the architecture student Ariadne to construct dreamscapes, the girl rushes off in horror after her first experience but comes back soon enough to experience new horizons…or something like that. Those who indulge in the drug-induced dreamscapes are no longer able to dream without it. The theme of drug addiction, even if metaphorical, has become a trend of the cinematic mainstream.
PHOENIX, Sept. 13 (UPI) -- Arizona has indicted 16 alleged members of a Mexican drug cartel on charges of smuggling contraband through Arizona to many states, authorities say.
Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard announced the state grand jury indictment Monday, KTAR-TV, Phoenix, reported.
The defendants are charged with conspiracy, illegally conducting an enterprise and other crimes related to their alleged involvement smuggling cocaine, marijuana and heroin across the Mexico-Arizona border into Illinois, North Carolina and other states.
Among those indicted were Roque Aceves-Beltran, 45, Rey Cuen-Villareal, 38, and Teresa Cuen-Leon, 33, all of Phoenix, Evodeio Cruz-Beltrain, 39, of Los Angeles and Jose Munoz-Alcaraz, 49, of Mexico, KTAR said.
GUANGZHOU, China, Sept. 13 (UPI) -- The cargo hold of a China Southern Airlines plane after passengers had boarded at an airport in Guangzhou, China, airline officials said.
No one was hurt in the 8 a.m. Monday incident, which preliminary findings concluded was caused by "combustibles" in the cargo hold of the plane being loaded at Gungzhou Baiyun International Airport in Guangzhou, capital of Guangdong, the Chinese state-run news agency Xinhua reported.
Officials refused to name the type of aircraft or number of passengers on board Flight CZ3533, which was scheduled to fly to Qingdao City in Shandong province.
It was the second incident in 24 hours for the airline, Xinhua said.
NEW YORK, Sept. 13 (UPI) -- CBS says it has reached an agreement to broadcast the Tony Awards show, which celebrates the best of Broadway theater, through 2013.
The prize presentation has aired on CBS the past 32 years.
The American Theatre Wing's "65th annual Tony Awards," presented by the Broadway League and the American Theatre Wing, is to be broadcast live on CBS in a 3-hour ceremony in June.
"For more than three decades, the Tony Awards has been an annual CBS showcase and a big part of our ongoing commitment to support the performing arts on television," Jack Sussman, executive vice president of specials, music and live events for CBS Entertainment, said in a statement Monday. "We look forward to continuing this great partnership and bringing the best of Broadway to our viewers for many years to come".